Saturday, May 01, 2004

I'm worried about the city council campaign. I went to the NAACP-sponsored council forum and was struck by the low turn-out and the poor quality of the Republican candidates. Kenneth (Ann Reineke kept calling him "Kenny") Jackson was offensive and ill-informed, and yet powerfully condescending. Reineke actually made some policy statements, focused on the city budget. She said that property taxes were too high and business taxes were too high, and this hurt affordability and the job market. Which I agree with. She also said that police and teachers should get better pay and benefits. Which I also agree with. She also said that the city shouldn't spend $6 million on new software. I think she means the city should stay outdated, but I think Waldo Jaquith's suggestion of pursuing freeware makes a great deal more sense. So I agree with everything she said should happen, but the only way I can imagine her achieving these conflicting priorities of lower taxes and better pay and benefits is by cutting critical social services. As Kevin Lynch pointed out, Charlottesville is the main provider of social services for the entire region of central Virginia. We provide a crucial public good that benefits us and especially our neighbors. This was fine when the nation funded the states and Virginia funded Charlottesville, but since the state went into a budget crisis of its own, and Bush's unfunded educational mandates, we've been left with greater responsibilities and fewer resources to meet them. So I heard two options. The Democrats propose that we maintain the line. We suffer high local taxes and keep Charlottesville a world class city. The Republicans didn't make a clear proposal, but it appears that they wish to mimic the federal and state governments by lowering taxes and cutting services. I understand their position, we've definitely been put in an unfair spot, but I'm unwilling to budge an inch and give up the things that the city pays for that make Charlottesville great. Like the wonderful work that city landscaping does, or what little social safety net we have that keeps homelessness low enough for affluent people to be comfortable in public spaces. This is one of the many things that make the Downtown Mall work, like Friday's After Five. So, I'm backing the Democratic ticket, but I really think that we're going to need some creative solutions and major lobbying at the state and federal level to get Charlottesville back off the financial razor edge that it's been left at. None of candidates seem to be saying this, but my impression of the Republicans ability to work well with city Democrats is very poor. Also, I've been noticing some Meredith Richards write-in signs next to Reineke and Jackson signs. If I were Meredith, I'd be offended. Though it would be ironic if Meredith were elected by Republicans.

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