Natalie Oschrin, one of two political newcomers vying for a Democratic nomination in this fall’s City Council elections, made her pitch to the public on Monday on the Downtown Mall. With at least two local officials nearby bearing her campaign signs, Oschrin shared a vision of affordable urbanism.
“Regular, hardworking folks should be able to find a place to live in the city where they work,” Oschrin said while standing on a small riser at Central Place. “It should be safe to walk on continuous sidewalks and bike in lanes that aren’t afterthoughts. Our public transit system should be frequent, reliable and usable.”
Three supporters showed up to Oschrin’s announcement on e-bikes. One of them was Josh Krahn.
“I support Natalie, because I support her vision for a walkable, bikeable, denser, more affordable Charlottesville,” Krahn told The Daily Progress.
Oschrin, 33, works as wedding sales manager at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards in North Garden in Albemarle County outside of the city. She faces two incumbents, one former city council member and another young political novice. Of these five Democratic party contenders, Oschrin is only woman vying for one of the three seats that are going up for a vote.
“Since 1971, there has always been at least one woman on City Council,” she said. “I intend to keep that streak alive.”
Oschrin was backed by several supporters, including two Charlottesville School Board members bearing her campaign signs Sherry Kraft and Jennifer McKeever, with the latter introducing the candidate.
“She is exceptionally capable and has a really amazing vision for our community,” said McKeever. “Her voice is desperately needed on our council.”
One of the hot topics that has already challenged the pro-density candidate is a developer’s plan to build a 245-unit apartment complex near her home. Variously called the “circus grounds development” or “0 East High St.,” the proposal has attracted widespread controversy for its attempt to build inside the Rivanna River’s 100-year floodplain.
Oschrin has said the project’s amount of parking is a key concern.
“My nightmare concerning that building — because they do have the right to do it by right — is that they are going to listen to everyone’s concerns and then downsize that building but keep a large amount of parking,” she told The Daily Progress on Monday.
Oschrin said she was encouraged by the city’s pending zoning overhaul for its willingness to reduce mandated parking minimums. She said that she hoped her candidacy would “jump-start” the discussion of lessening car dependence in Charlottesville.
“We live in a community that wants to walk, that wants to bike, that wants to easily use public transit, that wants to address the climate crisis, that wants to reduce traffic and pollution,” she said. “We have the resources to make big changes; we just need the will.”
The four other Democratic contenders this year are incumbents Michael Payne and Mayor Lloyd Snook, former city councilor Bob Fenwick and fellow political newcomer Dashad Cooper.
The Democratic primary is slated for June 20, a date that is also the deadline for Republican and other party and independent candidates to submit their paperwork to get their names listed on the Nov. 7 ballot.
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