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Charlottesville council candidates make final pitches to voters, discuss stabilizing the city

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 9:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A police chief, a fire chief, and six employees within the City Manager’s office have left Charlottesville in just the last two years.

The three people running for two city council seats in Tuesday’s election say they must fill vacancies and stabilize the city.

Independent Yas Washington and Democrats Juandiego Wade and Brian Pinkston are on thousands of ballots in Charlottesville, and the new faces on council will have to find new faces for other roles.

Right now, the city is without a police chief and city manager, among other positions.

Wade, a current city school board member, says his success will depend on how those positions are filled.

“I think that if we can do that, provide the stability, let the residents know that yes, the city has heard them and they understand them and that they’re moving the city forward, I think that that will be the ultimate success” Wade said.

Wade is running on the same ticket as Pinkston, who has worked in project management and says he’s the right choice the represent the city because of his “steadiness” and “calmness.”

“It needs to start with a level of collegiality among the five of us [on city council]” Pinkston said. “People will see they’re not going to be attacked on social media. People will see within their city government that city council has their backs.”

While Wade and Pinkston tout their experiences, Washington, a former campaign staffer and the youngest candidate, says she has the perspective of an entrepreneur that would be helpful in making these decisions.

“It’s definitely a little rocky right now, but we’re working to hire a chief of police” Washington said. “Being able to have a CPD that works and is able to, you know, maintain safety at large is definitely important”

The following excerpts from NBC29′s interviews with each candidate have been lightly edited for clarity.

Brian Pinkston on...

...the Future Land Use Map: “I don’t think there’s anyone in the city who thinks that housing is inexpensive. I don’t think there’s anyone in the city who doesn’t feel like that’s an issue that we need to tackle. What we’ve got are different perspectives on how we get there. And so what I really hope to do is to just bring a steadiness, and a calmness, and a willingness to listen to folks and try to find common ground and compromise. I think that’s what the city’s looking for right now. I think the city’s looking for common-sense solutions, based on consensus. Based on less rhetoric and more action.”

...a new chief of police: “I would be looking for the chief of police to demonstrate a series of professional growth -- a sequence of demonstrated progression in a career where they can show me that they’ve done work like what we’re looking for and are ready to take it to the next level. I would be looking for someone who can show me what it’s like to convince a police force that we need new policing, we need 21st century policing. Being able to pull it off -- this is the trick, the hard part -- being able to pull that off while still getting the day-to-day work done of running a police department.”

...what will be a successful first two years on council: “If we have stabilized the city, found a city manager that we feel confident is going to take us forward for the next five or 10 years -- that’s what success looks like for me. Stabilizing City Council, stabilizing city government, but also putting in place the senior levels -- not only the city manager but those other high-level people. I think success also looks like getting the schools [reconfiguration project] started and it also looks like figuring out how we navigate the financial climate over the next couple of years.”

Juandiego Wade on...

...what qualities he can bring to council: “I think that with Juandiego Wade what they will get is a 30-year track record of proven steady leadership. Someone who loves this community has been working in this community for many years, working with the city, the county, the university, numerous nonprofits, but most importantly the residents -- helping the residents working in the trenches moving this city forward.”

...policy priorities: “We want to continue to work with the Future Land Use Map, with the residents and staff, to get that in place to adopt the zoning ordinance. We can have that in place so that there’s a plan for us to go by so that staff and us as the city council will have a plan that we can go by. Secondly, I would like to support the economic development plan so we can support our businesses so that they can then hire staff. That can enrich the entire city, not only the business but also most importantly, the residents that they will be hiring.

...what will be a successful first two years on council: “I think that if we have adopted a Future Land Use Map and we have in place -- for at least, let’s say, two years, 18 months -- city manager, police chief, and we have several other division and department heads that we need to fill. If they’re in place and they’re implementing the policy, the vision, that we have set at city council and that the city is moving forward, I think that if we can do that, provide the stability, let the residents know that yes, the city has heard them and they understand them and that they’re moving the city forward, I think that that will be the ultimate success.”

Yas Washington on...

...why she’s running: “I knew that I wanted to start a career in politics after working on [Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney] Jim Hingeley’s campaign. It was really amazing being able to help be a part of something, obviously, way bigger than myself, which is governing Charlottesville, specifically Albemarle County. It was really great being able to learn more about our legislative system in regards to criminal justice reforms being made to end mass incarceration. From that, being able to leap on [Democratic candidate for Congress] Cameron Webb’s campaign and mold my own personal lens of equity and what I think that looks like, and how we can provide solutions that are going to work to tackle the issues that are long-standing here in the locality. With COVID and everything, I thought that it was a little hectic at first, but then I was like, ‘you know what, I know this is what I want to do, and I want to work to enhance the quality of living here and be able to make some economic-political changes through my recommendations or through public policy that are going to help drive Charlottesville the direction it has been headed in.’”

...what she can bring to council, and policy priorities: “We need a business-minded individual who’s going to help with passing through these projects so that we don’t find ourselves in a place where we’re having to forfeit on any of the inherited commitments -- whether that’s reconfigurations or whether that’s a part of our community improvement program of investing in West Main or even working to revitalize the public housing or government-sponsored dwellings. All those things are very important as well as ‘how do we continue to provide equity?’ We want to make sure that there is no disruption in regards to individuals being able to get to work and having childcare care be an issue. Moving forward with universal pre-K programs to top off the reconfigurations is definitely a step forward into equity and education. So I definitely would love to be able to prioritize that, but not only introducing it. I would love to be able to follow through on that promise. So that we’re able to offer some relief to our individuals who are working class.”

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