Local Politics and CAAR’s endorsements

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors elections are upon us again – this time with two hotly-contested races.

CAAR has decided to endorse two candidates, Christian Schoenwald in the Jack Jouett District and David Slutzky in the Rio District. We typically do not vocally and visibly support candidates. We have a PAC that we use frequently to fund candidates, but the step of endorsing and campaigning for candidates is a rare one. I happen to be the Chair of our Government Affairs committee and was impressed with the candidates and our process.

This election is an opportunity for our organization (~1200 strong) to speak with one voice that we want our County to grow wisely and efficiently. This was not a flippant decision. There was a very detailed and thorough chain of events within our organization that interviewed and vetted the candidates and decided that we could not pass up this opportunity. Christian Schoenwald and David Slutzky, in addition to being intelligent and articulate, demonstrated and ability and willingness to both listen to and cooperate with the public and their fellow Board members.

Note also that this was not a party-line decision. Realtors are often portrayed as all conservative Republicans. Not true. Our endorsements reflect a decision-making process that essentially disregarded party affiliations.

Local politics are one area where the public can actually have an impact. Rather than wait for the next County decision to simply “happen,” take this opportunity to have your voice heard. Apathy is not an excuse. Decisions made by the Board of Supervisors directly impact residents of Albemarle, the City and the surrounding counties – decisions that affect affordable housing and transportation needs, needs that currently are not being adequately met.

In 2001, 3,021 votes were cast in the Jack Jouett District and 4,003 votes were cast in the Rio District. Tell me now that “my vote won’t count.” Source.

Leaders must lead, and this is an opportunity to help shape the direction of the County of Albemarle in a positive way. Leaders have an obligation to lead, the public have a responsibility and right to vote – especially if you live in the Rio or Jack Jouett District!

Below are notes from Monday night’s candidate forum held at Broadus Wood Elementary. Thanks to the Free Enterprise Forum for the notes.

CAAR endorsed David Toscano. A podcast of their debate is at CPN.

Update: Charlottesville Tomorrow has posted a podcast of Monday’s Candidate forum.

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What:              October 3rd Candidate Forum
Where:            Broadus Wood Elementary School , Earlysville

The forum was attended by approximately thirty members of the public. The public questioning ran for about 2 hours.

Three candidates running for election to the House of Delegates (Robert Bell and Steve Koleszar from the 58th district, David Toscano representing the 57th District) and five candidates for the Board of Supervisors (Christian Shoenewald and Dennis Rooker running in the Jack Jouett District and David Slutsky, Gary Grant and Tom Jakubowski running in the Rio District) were present and answered questions generated by the public.

Q: We currently have a surplus in the state budget, how should those surplus dollars be spent? Should they be given back to the public?

Koleszar: the money should be put into education. The state’s funding of education is inadequate. It would be imprudent to give money back to the public, as the House cannot predict the future financial situation of the state.

Toscano: Surpluses should be invested as one-time expenses ie. to build a road or a school. More money in the budget is needed for education.

Bell : The money should be given back or placed in a rainy day fund.

Do you support alternative sentencing and the abolition of parole?

Toscano: Some level of flexibility should be given to judges to assign alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.

Koleszar: The prison system costs a lot in taxpayer dollars. It is good economic policy to give alternative sentences ie. drug court. Also supports measures to prevent crime and criminal activity.

Bell : Public safety is a main priority. The state should do a better job keeping sex offenders in jail. Parole is not appropriate for sex crimes.

Board of Supervisors

Q: What will you do to protect the country-side and farms? Do you support the phasing of development in rural areas?

Rooker: Thinks development should be clustered. He wants to work to implement mountain ridge protection ordinances. Development should be phased so that the change is gradual and the infrastructure and populace can adapt to the change.

Schoenewald: Because of restrictions on the designated growth areas made by the Neighborhood Model and county regulations, it is easier to develop rural areas, having the opposite effect of the intent of regulation. He stated his strong support for property rights of the owner and low property taxes. He does not support the use of Eminent Domain in any case.

Grant: Need to balance prosperity with protection of the environment. Most important to consult community members

Slutsky: Need to preserve the agricultural uses of farm land, does not support further development of rural areas. He stated his support of private property rights. He believes development should be directed into the growth areas and that the county needs to provide more specific instruction to developers regarding the Neighborhood Model. New neighborhoods should not negatively impact existing neighborhoods.

What should be done about the water shortage? What do you see as our future water supply source?

Grant: rain storage

Slutsky: thinks we need better storage capabilities. He does not favor the James River plan because it would make the area to reliant on what happens in localities upstream.

Jakubowski: doesn’t understand why there wasn’t dredging in the reservoir during the last draught. He believes Tom Frederick and the RWSA will do what is best for citizens.

Rooker: No dredging occurred because it was not approved by the corps of engineers. He believes the best solution is to increase storage capacity at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. He agrees that it is a storage, not shortage issue.

Schoenewald: Seems like everyone agrees about the storage of water

Should the county expand the designated growth areas? What should be done about 29?

Grant: In general no, but willing to entertain certain exceptions. He thinks there needs to be some kind of way around Charlottesville . In favor of the Berkmar Drive extension. Not in favor of interconnectivity of neighborhoods.

Slutsky: Would need to see a specific proposal of why the designated growth area would need expansion, but thinks there is enough room for development in the current designated growth areas. He is not in favor of the Western Bypass. He thinks the money could be better spent. Premature to invest in mass transit, but as growth is inevitable and gas prices skyrocket, mass transit will become more viable. The county should work now to provide for the future.

Jakubowski: In favor of anything that will limit traffic on 29, including interconnectivity. Traffic is a regional problem, in favor of Hillsdale and Berkmar extension.

Rooker: Not in favor of expanding designated growth areas. He believes we must create alternative corridors, but not through neighborhoods. Many people have good ideas about transit, but there is a funding crisis. In favor of Hillsdale drive extension.

Schoenewald: The community is not served by expansion of the designated growth areas at this time, need to create side corridors, would favor a western bypass, especially now since there is so much development in Crozet. The government wastes too much time moving on transportation projects.

Q: Should the county join TJPED?

Schoenewald: Yes, TJPED is a good resource for the county and it will enhance cooperation between the county and other localities.

Rooker: No, governments should not involve themselves with private advocacy groups, especially one that lobbies on issues before the board. Members of the BOS are prohibited from sitting on the board of TJPED. Public money isn’t needed to stimulate growth in Charlottesville .

Slutsky: Although TJPED is an agenda driven non-profit, gives an opportunity to collaborate with other jurisdictions, so yes, although cautiously.

Grant: Yes, TJPED gives excellent organizational assistance.

What changes would you make to the Neighborhood Model?

Schoenewald: Too difficult for developers, must make it easier, partner with developers.

Rooker: the Neighborhood Model is a result of three years of collaboration between citizens, developers, real estate agents, the planning commission, BOS. Reads principles of the model and concludes there is not much to disagree with. Neighborhood Model can be flexible if the Planning Commission approves exceptions.

Jakubowski: Should not make the process easier for developers.

Slutsky: Likes the Neighborhood Model, but feels that the requirements of the county could be made clearer to developers. He favors clear communication between county staff and developers. He is opposed to interconnectivity.

Grant: The Neighborhood Model should be a model, not the model.

All Candidates

What is your top priority? What is the biggest threat to the quality of life?

Toscano: Education should be promoted. Dangerous not to invest in education.

Koleszar: State has to meet obligations instead of dumping responsibilities on the localities. Transportation and education are underfunded. Two-fold threat: squeeze on the middle class and lack of good jobs.

Bell : Fiscal responsibility and education. Biggest threats are the breakdown of the family and security.

Schoenewald: Wants to keep NOVA out of Albemarle . Control growth, but protect property rights.

Rooker: Funding for transport and education. The state is underfunding in these two areas. Important to deal with the water supply problem and build the Meadow Creek Parkway and interchange.

Jakubowski: Sprawl is a big problem, land use and taxes. Against property taxes, should raise amount of money seniors can make before getting tax relief.

Slutsky: Managing sprawl and controlling development is important. Must be careful of environmental degradation, will reduce quality of life. He is concerned about Ivy Landfill. He also cited his concern regarding air pollution.

Grant: biggest threat is politicians who don’t listen to people. He also mentioned his continued concerns about transportation.

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