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tonight’s charlottesville city council candidates forum is hosted by the sierra club and will focus on environmental issues
i’m really excited for the june 11 primary but only because these forums will stop for a while.
tonight’s forum is not being livestreamed. unlike the forum hosted the people’s coalition & CLIHC, only the 5 democratic primary candidates are here.
this is the lowest turnout i’ve seen at one of the forums, with the exception of the one held at UVA on a rainy weekday afternoon
lloyd snook says he thought for a while he would be an environmental lawyer before realizing his “real vision” for himself “was as atticus finch.”
everything this man says makes me cringe to a degree that is physically painful.
snook says he decided to run because of the “chaos and disorder” going on with city council, and seeing “decisions not being made intelligently.”
michael payne is a community organizer with indivisible and the charlottesville low income housing coalition. he says environmental issues have been a big part of his organizing and has been heavily involved in the campaign to get the city to divest from fossil fuels.
payne, the youngest candidate by far, says this issue is important to his generation. many of his peers talk about not wanting to have children because of the climate crisis.
brian pinkston never fails to mention his conservative upbringing in the deep south.
and pinkston cited MLK. true to my word, i’ll find an antiracist cause to give $5 to later.
first question goes to fenwick first. he says the city is behind the county and the university.

of city policies: “they seem to come out of nowhere and amount to nothing
fenwick says the city must double or triple the number of bus shelters.

of the business of council he says, “there is a lot of stuff that goes on down the hallway there that really holds us back,” he says, gesturing toward the hallway where city staff work
magill says UVA has a bus system that works & the city could learn a lot from them. she agrees we need more bus shelters - “i’ve shown up to work soaking wet.”
the city & county need a regional transit authority, which the state authorized in 2009.
snook is gesticulating a little too wildly for how close he’s sitting to michael. he nearly hit him in the face just now.
he says the thing about these forums is they all start to adopt each other’s ideas.
weird that snook didn’t answer this question about buses with his previously stated plan to build all affordable housing out in the county & use buses to bring the poor folks into town to work 🤷‍♀️
payne says ridership is low because the transit system isn’t easily used. ridership increases when it’s reliable & buses come every 15min. he too says we need to establish the regional transit authority.
pinkston says he doesn’t have much to add to what’s already been said. (he’s said this in response to questions at several forums)
he says he never thought about transit growing up, “we had cars and we got around just fine.”
pinkston said at a recent democratic party event that he didn’t know until he was canvassing during this election that there are whole neighborhoods where you can’t buy food. he is incredibly out of touch.
question number two goes to magill first. this is a WILD question.

magill says the current water system can accommodate a population of 71k, but that doesn’t account for business & hotel use (specifically breweries & distilleries - these are big water users)
magill says we need to be mindful of what our infrastructure can handle. she says we can currently support a population of 55-60k (the current population is close to 50k)
snook says he is going to duck the question, asking, “over what timeframe?” the population was 40k in 1990. we’re now at 49k. “if we were to build out to our zoning,” we would be at about 70k
he says the primary driver of growth is UVA, which the city has no control over.
pinkston say the question is challenging “and ultimately it gets down to what our values are.” “we certainly don’t want manhattan here.” he’s reading some boring stats about population density.
(my phone keeps changing pinkston to pinkerton and snook to snooki and both are hilariously inappropriate)
payne says growth is happening and inevitable. the challenge is how to we plan for it strategically. we have to preserve green space & plan for transit. density itself is not bad.
payne: “if you haven’t planned,” you get urban sprawl, luxury developments displacing people, and the destruction of green space.
fenwick says “we’re sort of edging to the conclusion that we have to have density,” and asks if the people in this room have any say in that. “we’re just about maxed out.”
fenwick: people complain about cut through traffic, lack of parking... “that’s an indication that the policy is not driving anything”
(i can’t tell exactly what he’s getting at)
fenwick: “don’t make the SUPs automatic.”
“when you have more density, you will have more cars.” he says allowing SUPs to cut mandatory parking requirements is “throwing gas on the fire.”
question three goes to payne first. he supports a ban on single use plastics. the challenge is that this isn’t something the city can do under the dillon rule without permission from he state.
we can encourage businesses to do these things with social pressure.
payne: we shouldn’t limit ourselves by giving up on the issue just because the general assembly limits the city’s ability to legislate changes like this. the city should lobby the general assembly more actively.
snook says the legislative agenda should ask for localities to be given more power. “it would be the world’s biggest earthquake” if the dillon rule got abolished (but delegate candidate @SallyLHudson believes it can be done!)
snook says the legislative agenda was put together too late by last year, “another instance of disorganization.”
he says the city can lead by example by making greener choices - citing using comparable cutlery at city events.
fenwick says there are places where we can start reducing plastic. “we are an attractive destination for many vendors.”
he says there is community support for using less plastic, saying he’s seen people using reusable bags at the grocery store.
pinkston says he doesn’t really feel the need to add to what’s already been said, then restates much of what’s already been said.
magill agrees with the responses already given, but adds that we need community compost facilities. what good is compostable cutlery if no one is composting? “if you make things easy for people, they’ll do them.”
question 4 goes to snook first. he says yes, but with a “well, actually” corollary.
he says he supports the recommendation to use goats to eat invasive plants (i love goat busters! use goats not chemicals!)
magill says she has goats! she supports the integrated pest management program.
she says she would support a return to a more natural environment in city parks & supports native plant species - lose the bradford pears (that alone is worth your vote 🌳)
pinkston says “yes i support the IPM.” the moderator asks him, “is that it...?” and he says yes.
payne says he supports the IPM. the program has been successful. the city has decreased use of pesticides by 75%. most pesticide use still happening at city schools is on athletic fields because of league regulations about weeds.
fenwick says he absolutely supports funding for the integrated pest management program and then shifts into talking about the agency budget review team process for funding nonprofits. i don’t think this project is funded that way? but i could be wrong.
question five goes to pinkston first.
he says all planning going forward needs to include “the notion of the unexpected.”
“bringing the idea of resilience into our thinking is an important paradigm shift,” says pinkston, who has a doctorate in philosophy and no clear policy positions.
payne says the emphasis is too often on emissions reductions targets, but people don’t talk enough about how dire the inevitable effects of climate change are. the city needs to plan for this in terms of stormwater runoff, infrastructure, etc.
payne says the city should have a comprehensive plan for dealing with climate change.
it’s also an equity issue - much of affordable housing is built on flood plains.
snook says when he was on the planning commission in the 80s, they updated the hydrological studies. he says the study IDed an area that could flood. he didn’t believe them, it later flooded. he said it was eye opening that someone knew something he didn’t 😒
fenwick says we need to make sure we have achievable goals. “one of the worst examples is the superfund,” saying there are 8 cleaned superfund sites out of 1700 IDed sites. “it’s great when somebody reaches for the stars and actually grabs a star,” but goals should be achievable.
magill says she’d like to ensure the zoning code allows for new building materials, saying there is interesting work being done around mushroom based building materials. we should make sure we’re allowing for innovative solutions.
magill says we need to support renters - many city residents rent. making sure renters have access to energy efficient solutions is important. [i don’t know about you, but my landlord doesn’t give a shit that i have to run my dryer 3x to dry my clothes]
now on to audience questions. the first one is about affordable housing and it goes to snook first.
snook says there are 3-4 pieces to his plan. “where we can build more units in town, we should build more units in town.” “but that’s not gonna get us to the problem.”
snook says redevelopment may get us 500 units, easing the process of developing ADUs may get us 500 more... and then disdainfully says his plan isn’t “busing poor people” but then describes busing poor people.
payne says this is a tremendous issue facing the city. he personally pays 50% of his income on rent. we risk becoming a small town version of seattle or san francisco, a playground for rich tech company employees, with everyone else forced out into outlying counties.
payne says we need to finish the comprehensive affordable housing strategy. “we need a ladder” of opportunities, starting with investments from the city in programs like habitat for humanity.
payne: zoning reform is also a key piece of solving the problem. it hasn’t been updated meaningfully since the early 2000s and isn’t conducive to apartments, duplexes, and other options.
fenwick says what we really need to talk about is subsidized housing. “i think it’s time we started subsidizing people who really need help.” he says he has bought & renovated abandoned houses & rented them to section 8 voucher recipients and “made a good living” doing it
magill says on her work at region 10 & PACEM she has helped people find housing. the issue is close to home for her.
“our zoning code is broken,” it needs to be simpler & clearer.
magill says there is room in the city for infill. we need to build duplexes & triplexes and develop accessory dwelling units.
pinkston says “affordable housing is THE issue” of this election - it has come up at every conversation, at every door he’s knocked.
“it’s important that we avoid nostalgia,” about past charlottesville, but also “simplistic answers”
pinkston says it is a regional problem. we need to work with the TJ planning district & the county. he says rehabbing existing public housing is an ethical issue & must be done.
he is in favor of softening R1.
“we need to be up in the grill, as it were” of the university about their impact on the city’s housing crisis, pinkston says
the next audience submitted question is about transit. payne says frequent stops are the only way this works. moving toward a regional transit authority will increase funding capacity to make this possible.
fenwick says we need more bus shelters and smaller buses.
“even during rush hour,” there are 4-5 people on a bus (then shouldn’t the solution be increasing ridership?)
magill shrugs, i assume in acknowledgement of the fact that this is a question they’ve all already answered. bus shelters. make the bus more usable.
she says at a previous forum they were challenged to use the bus for a week... and candidates mostly said they can’t right now because they are campaigning and the bus isn’t efficient.
magill says the buses need to run 7 days a week, they need to run late at night, they need to run regularly.
snook says ten years ago he never wouldn’t thought UVA students would be willing to live out on 5th st ext. apartments like eagles landing proved him wrong. the shuttle buses they run are part of students’ willingness to live that far out.
pinkston says it really comes down to “changing the mindset” so that “public transit is built into the fabric of the city.”
he says increasing funding to transit & changing zoning to make it harder to have a car could get us to that mindset shift.
(i think brian struggles with something that truly plagues me - he can’t seem to think straight if there is significant background noise. i know the feeling.)
the next question asks candidates to briefly outline one good idea another candidate supports.
fenwick says magill managed 220 cases when she worked at region 10. this is how the city viewed the work being done at region 10. he doesn’t clearly articulate any actual policy or idea... i guess he just means we should support region 10 more.
pinkston gives broad vague praise to the idea of democracy. he says he has learned a lot from payne about housing, magill has made great points about ADUs, snook has good points about “a really well functioning city council”
(he’s just listing surface level ideas, no depth)
magill, like pinkston, lists one good idea for each of her competitors (except fenwick?)
snook says everyone’s ideas have started to converge. “there’s a limit to how many times we can be creatively saying the same things” and says he’s probably stolen ideas “from three of these four” people (i wonder whose ideas he thinks are shit?)
instead of talking about anyone else’s ideas, as the question asked, he’s talking about his own idea about the importance of civility, under the guise of it being about michael’s talking point about restoring trust in city government.
no closing remarks from candidates. so that concludes tonight’s forum! i have two on my calendar for next week. i heard a candidate say there are 3, though? i’ll make it to at least one.
just a reminder that @CvilleDSA’s city council candidate guide is available online and it is as beautiful as it is informative!

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