Saturday, October 22, 2011

Is Charlottesville City Council race about party, issues, or what the council voting majority will be?

The Charlottesville City Council race has taken on a new dimension with independent candidate Bob Fenwick publicly endorsing Dede Smith, one of the Democratic Party candidates in the race.

Both Fenwick and Smith are both active members of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan that promotes dredging of the Rivanna Reservior and opposes the construction of the proposed earthen dam at Ragged Mountain. The water plan issue is one of the several controversial issues before city council.

Bob Fenwick's endorsement of Dede Smith is an effort to get a majority of council that will ensure that the water plan is developed on the basis of basic planning information that is now available, but not included in development of the currently proposed plan. He is asking voters to vote for both Dede Smith and himself so that a majority of councilors will have a similar commitment to considering all relevant data in this and other controversial infrastructure decisions.

On the current council, Kristin Szakos, Satyendra Huja and David Brown all support the current proposal to build an earthen dam at Ragged Mountain and also support moving forward with the equally controversial VDOT plans for the proposed Meadowcreek Parkway. Majority support for these projects will likely continue if Democratic Party candidates Huja and Kathy Galvin are elected to join Szakos on council.

Some local news stories state that Bob Fenwick is endorsing an opponent in the council race, but coalitions are not uncommon in this race where three candidates will be successful. Fenwick is aware that one candidate needs to be part of a majority to be successful in getting action on council and he clearly does not consider Dede Smith to be an opponent - but rather the candidate he would best be able to work with on council among the other candidates.

If the campaign is presented as an opportunity to select a voting majority on council on these very expensive and controversial projects, voters have on November 8 the opportunity to form a Szakos-Huja-Galvin majority or a Norris-Smith-Fenwick majority. I expect that the decisions council will make regarding all of the infrastructure decisions before council will clearly reflect which voting majority is on council.

I encourage Charlottesville voters to consider not only the strengths and weaknesses of each individual candidate, but which three candidates they believe will best work with two incumbent councilors not up for re-election this year.