Michael Payne, a Democrat who has championed working families and affordable housing since he was elected to City Council in 2019, announced Monday that he would be seeking a second term.
“I think there’s a lot of unfinished work,” Payne told The Daily Progress.
Payne, now 30, was 26 when he was first elected, making him the youngest councilor in Charlottesville’s history since the city abandoned the mayor-council form of government in 1922.
Since he was elected four years ago, Payne said he’s grown concerned by the 25% increase in property tax assessments over the past two years and called for a continuation of Charlottesville’s investments in affordable housing, an effort that has, he said, received $10 million in city funding annually in recent years.
An early advocate of the zoning overhaul that is now getting subjected to public scrutiny, Payne said he hopes the proposed rezoning fulfills its promise of increasing density without displacing the lower and middle classes.
“We have to allow more diverse housing types,” he said. “We have to allow smaller apartment complexes, duplexes, as part of the affordability solution.”
Payne said that the recent rise in gun violence in the city can be traced to Charlottesville’s “systemic problems.”
There have been three reported homicides within city limits since the start of the year, two of which occurred in broad daylight and a third which killed a member of the city’s B.U.C.K. Squad, a group dedicated to removing gun violence from Charlottesville’s streets.
The city’s police chief has increased patrols in hot-spot neighborhoods and announced a community forum on gun violence to be held the same day Payne announced his reelection bid.
Payne said he supported more community policing so long as it was “really intentional.”
Payne added that City Council could fight gun violence by supporting youth mentorships and job opportunities, assisting disadvantaged neighborhoods and contributing more to anti-violence groups such as the B.U.C.K. Squad.
“Unfortunately,” Payne said, “I don’t think there’s any easy overnight solution.”
Among the successes of his first term in office, Payne listed the city’s recent adoption of a collective bargaining ordinance, a tenant-directed public housing renovation and the city’s decision to spend some federal pandemic relief funds on affordable housing and fighting evictions.
He also expressed pride in successfully stopping the construction of a second Market Street parking garage arranged by a previous City Council that would have closed a city street, demolished the Lucky 7 convenience store and the Guadalajara Mexican restaurant, and, Payne said, didn’t seem needed after the pandemic changed commuting patterns.
Payne noted that the money saved by nixing the parking project freed up funds for school reconfiguration. As part of that process, the city may spend about $70 million to renovate and rebuild Buford Middle School, a project currently open for bidding until March 14.
Payne said he will seek a nomination in the Democratic primary, which is slated for June 20.
Four years ago, when three seats were open as they will be this fall, Payne led the Democratic primary but finished third in the 2019 general election behind fellow Democrats Sena Magill and Lloyd Snook.
Magill, who won the most votes, left council abruptly in January of this year citing family needs. Magill’s successor, Leah Puryear, who takes office Feb. 27, has not said whether she will seek election after her 10-month term ends in December. Snook, who currently serves as mayor, is expected to announce his bid for reelection Tuesday.
A Democratic primary win in Charlottesville typically leads to a victory in the general election. Charlottesville last saw a Republican elected in 2002 and its first independent elected in 69 years in 2017.
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