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Three candidates vying for two City Council seats on Election Day

Charlottesville is less than a week away from meeting its new City Council. Two Democrats and an independent are vying for a seat in City Hall.

Democrat Brian Pinkston, a project manager at the University of Virginia who ran for the council in 2019, is leading the candidates in fundraising. Fellow Democratic nominee Juandiego Wade has served on the school board for 14 years. Challenger Yas Washington, an independent, is an entrepreneur who founded Rocket Science Integrated, a marketing agency.

The three candidates are vying for two seats on City Council that are currently held by councilor Heather Hill and Mayor Nikuyah Walker. Hill announced early this year that she would not seek a second term. Walker chose to withdraw from the election last month.

However, due to the timing of Walker’s decision, her name still appears on the ballot because the ballot had already been printed.

Acting City Registrar Taylor Yowell said the Department of Elections is doing everything it can to inform voters of the change. Signs are currently posted in the registrar’s office and slips of paper announcing Walker’s withdrawal were included in each absentee ballot that was sent out. Notices are also posted on each privacy screen in the ballot marking stations.

The Daily Progress sent all three City Council candidates a questionnaire about their views on key issues facing the city ahead of Tuesday’s election. A PDF of the candidates’ full responses to our questionnaire can be viewed on The Daily Progress website, including their answers to questions about housing, the climate and the future of the Confederate statues.

Here are some highlights from their responses:

Changing the culture of City Hall

All three candidates named the current instability in the government with changing leadership as the most pertinent issue facing the city. They each voiced a strong desire to use their position, if elected, to help change the culture of City Council and City Hall, especially when it comes to hostility between councilors and filling the numerous open staff positions.

“Charlottesville’s political climate is hostile [and] causing a disruption across all municipal offices. We are in desperate need of restoration as we build the infrastructure of city leadership to effectively manage city affairs as we maintain public safety through development,” Washington said.

Wade said he believes hiring strong leaders for the vacant positions will help mitigate problems.

“I think the most critical issue is stability on City Council and a loss of senior leadership in local government. I think if this is addressed, many of the other issues will begin to fall into place, but we must hire and maintain competent leadership,” Wade said.

Pinkston shared a similar sentiment.

“To make progress, I will work with my fellow Councilors to establish collegial, positive relationships among ourselves. This will demonstrate to City staff and to the City more broadly that we as elected officials are committed to stable, thoughtful, and effective leadership at the highest level. I envision a ‘virtuous circle,’ such that we are then able to recruit and retain high quality personnel within the City government,” he said.

Police reform

All three candidates agreed that police reform including de-escalation training should be a priority.

“We need a modern force, one that is focused on serving and protecting, rather than on policing as traditionally understood. We need our officers to be absolutely up-to-speed on, and fully committed to, self-awareness of implicit bias, tactics for de-escalation, community-oriented policing, and other “best practice” approaches. The goal is to minimize the use of force and to build trust in the community,” said Pinkston.

Pinkston and Wade said they would support a mental health emergency response system separate from the police department. Wade advocated for a program similar to the CAHOOTS mental health response model in Eugene, Oregon. Pinkston said he’d like the city to work with the Region Ten Community Services Board to help bolster their existing mental health program.

Washington said she would like for police officers to receive additional crisis intervention training so they are better equipped to respond to mental health emergencies.

School reconfiguration

All three candidates support reconfiguration of the city schools, but differ on their support of establishing the 10 cent property tax rate increase proposed by city staff to fund this project.

Wade said he supports a tax rate increase. Washington said she is opposed to it.

Pinkston said he’d support a sales tax to fund the project, but wanted more information about the need for a property tax rate increase.

“I would want to first ensure I understand the Budget Department’s assumptions underlying this stated need. I would also take into account the ‘covert’ tax increase already underway via rising housing assessments. Property owners are already under stress, due to rising assessments,” Pinkston said.

Make a plan to vote

On Nov. 2, polls will be open 6 a.m. – 7 p.m. Yowell said voters should be sure to bring a valid form of ID with them.

Early voting is open at the City Hall Annex in Room 142 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Thursday, early voting will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The city will also hold a Saturday early voting day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 30. This is the last day for in person early voting.

“We’ve had a steady stream of traffic but there hasn’t been any significant line like last November,” Yowell said.

Voters can hand-deliver their mail-in ballots to the City Hall Annex and a drop box located in front of the main entrance will be available 24/7 until 7 p.m. Nov. 2. All mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2.

Masks are not required but “we are strongly recommending it,” Yowell said. Polling places will also have masks available.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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