City Council candidate responses
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Michael PayneBrian PinkstonBob FenwickSena MagillLloyd Snook
Briefly, tell us why are you running for City Council?I'm running to help city council unify around solutions to Charlottesville's crises of displacement, skyrocketing inequality, and gentrification. I've worked on affordable housing for Habitat for Humanity Virginia and am an active member of the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition. I bring direct experience in implementing policy solutions that match the scale of the problems facing our community. It's clear that not everyone is benefiting from Charlottesville's economic growth: According to the Orange Dot Report, 1 in 4 residents are unable to afford basic necessities. I myself spend half my income on rent and worry about my ability to afford to live in Charlottesville. But it doesn't have to be this way: if we unify around bold policy solutions, we can make Charlottesville a national leader in fighting inequality.1) I want our City to catch a vision of the Common Good. One where we recognize that we’re connected in myriad ways; that it makes much more sense for us to pull together than apart; and that what affects one affects all. I want to strengthen common goods -- schools, infrastructure, housing, commerce, government and governance, transportation, and so on -- so that each person in the City, no matter their history or location, has the opportunity to thrive. 2) I combine both empathy and compassion on the one hand, with technical and managerial expertise on the other. I can connect “heart and head” in the context of governance. 3) I understand -- and can identify with -- both the passion and the aims of the activist community and also the expectations and needs of voters out in the neighborhoods. I can be a link between these.
It is painful to stand by and watch the dysfunction of elected individuals when they put their personal ambitions and conflicts ahead of the interest of the city at large.  I have the management skills and temperament to honestly represent the citizens of Charlottesville. The men and women on council don't get to choose their colleagues - the citizens do that.  My time on council was characterized by an ability to respect different personalities, different perspectives in putting the city first and reaching a consensus on raising the minimum wage to a livable wage in city government, in recognizing that citizens are at least as important as new buildings and out of town consultants in making policy decisions.  I introduced the first grant for mentoring and diversion programs which was used to launch the Mental Health Court. My approach was always representation, not imposition.I grew up here, my daughter is growing up here and I want this to be a city she is proud of.  We have lived in 10th and Page for over 15 years and I love my community. Having worked at Region Ten (community service board) and PACEM (cold weather homeless shelter) as well as living in my neighborhood I know Charlottesville has things we have to work on to be a great place to live for everyone.  I want to be part of facing these problems and solving them so my daughter grows up in a diverse and equitable environment. I believe I can use my experience in human services as well as my experience as a business owner to serve on council with balance. 8/11/17 my husband was hurt and as he healed we decided the time was now to take a more active part in the city as a whole.  More info:, SenaforCville on FB or Twitter.In the past 6-8 years, Charlottesville’s central government – Council, City Manager, department heads – has been chaotic and ineffectual.  A 2017 study identified 83 problems at the top level of government; another said that “lack of managerial capacity” was holding back our affordable housing efforts.  Our Councilors admit that they don’t like each other, don’t trust each other, don’t work well together, and often don’t talk to each other. With three new Councilors, a new City Manager, and a fairly new City Attorney and Police Chief, we have a chance to start over.  I have experience on boards, commissions, and church vestries where we had to learn to work together. I want to get our government running well, and then together we can tackle affordable housing and the achievement gap in the schools.
List up to five things you’ve done, professionally or on a volunteer basis, within the last three years to help Charlottesville or the surrounding community.1) I worked as a project manager at Habitat for Humanity Virginia where I helped manage grant programs to rehab foreclosed homes to sell to low-income families. 2) As a member of the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition (CLIHC), I helped organize successful campaigns to get the city of Charlottesville to draft a comprehensive affordable housing strategy, complete a local housing needs assessment, and invest in redevelopment of public housing. 3) I co-founded Indivisible Charlottesville and helped organize campaigns to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, elect Democrats throughout Virginia to the General Assembly in 2017, and oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 4) I canvassed extensively for Leslie Cockburn's congressional campaign in 2018
1) I have been active in the Charlottesville Democratic party, first as a member of the Committee of 100 and then as a co-precinct captain in Walker. 2) I volunteered in Kellen Squire’s campaign in 2017. 3) After the (disastrous, heartrending) election in November 2016, I participated for a time in events with Indivisible, Together Cville, and OneVirginia2021. However, I soon shifted my energies to the efforts noted above.

1) I served on Charlottesville City Council from 2014 through 2017 focusing on, honesty, transparency and using the city budget to transfer political words into life changing action. 2) I joined Believers and Achievers to welcome back into civic life men and women returning from incarceration and hired and mentored men in the construction trades. 3) I started an effort (Charlottesville Rick Shaw Service) at the City Market to train a cadre of youngsters (accompanied by a parent or guardian) to offer their services to primarily Seniors in carrying their purchases to their cars. This presented a safe way for them to earn summer spending money close to home. 4) I was the lone voice on Council to question budget cuts of Social Services when millions of dollars were readily available for grandiose plans that went nowhere. 5) I started Charlottesville Sparkles and enlisted service fraternities at UVA, downtown businesses and residents to 'spring clean' and make the city 'sparkle' coming out of winter.

In the last 3 years I have worked at On Our Own (peer recovery specialist), served on the Region Ten Board, volunteered with Cavaliers Against Cancer, served as the Cville Dems Carver Co-Chair, & helped with my daughters Girl Scout Troop.  I attended the June 2017 Rally countering the KKK and marched to reclaim our city 8/11&12/18. Regretfully I was recovering from a torn artery in 2016, then caring for my husband after his stroke Aug. 2017, then caring for his dying mother in 2018.  Additionally I have used my past experience from working 11 years @Region Ten, 4 Years @PACEM, serving on the Barrett Board & Oasis village board to help people in our community on a regular basis. I am often contacted to help problem solve an issue due to the knowledge I have gained over the years of our local resources and avenues for assistance.1) In my law practice as court-appointed defense counsel, I have been litigating, amongother issues, racially discriminatory traffic stops. 2) I give (free) advice non-profits like Black Lives Matter, ReadyKids, PHA, Habitat forHumanity, MACAA, and OAR (plus giving advice to Indivisible organizers on 5th District Democratic Committee organizing). 3) I served on the Boards of PHA (12 years, including 5 years as President), ReadyKids(6 years), and the Bar Association (4 years, including 1 as President).
4) The City Attorney asked my advice on First Amendment issues and how to oppose the Unite the Right Rally (advice that they rejected), and helped on the amicus brief that tried to convince the judge to move or cancel it. 5) The Tinsley Scholarship Committee has given more than $100,000 in scholarships toCHS students.

State legislators have a huge impact on what the City can do, from what minimum wage we can enact, to gun laws, to statues. Have you been involved in any state-level campaigns in the last two election cycles? If so, list what campaign(s) and what role(s) you played?I volunteered for multiple state-level campaigns in 2017, including the House of Delegates campaigns of Kellen Squire, Angela Lynn, Lee Carter, and Tracy Carver. I canvassed extensively for those campaigns in order to help flip Republican-held seats in the General Assembly and build progressive political power throughout central Virginia. In addition, I help organize text banking events for Democratic General Assembly candidates across Virginia in 20171) As noted above, I volunteered with Kellen Squire’s campaign. I served initially as his chief of staff but eventually transitioned to more general efforts like canvassing. 2) After the (disastrous, heartrending) election in November 2016, I participated for a time in events with Indivisible, Together Cville, and OneVirginia2021. However, I soon shifted my energies to the efforts noted above.
I have worked for David Toscano and Leslie Coburn and Democratic candidates in Central Virginia door to door, phone banking and literature drops.  While working for them I tried to get them to refer to 'gun safety' instead of the above characterization as a means to correct what I felt was an incorrect and self defeating articulation of the issue.  This election cycle I will do what I can to flip the Virginia legislature. If that happens many of the concerns mentioned in this questionnaire will become more manageable.I have spent most of my time working on more local problems and with individuals.  I have written letters to my representatives. I volunteered with the citizen led campaign for the ERA, which included direct outreach with postcards.  I have not attended any marches or rallies out of town and few in town(except for august 2018) as my daughter has become terrified after her father was hurt.  I was a committed volunteer on Leslie Cockburns campaign, canvassing, running a weekly phone bank, training callers and entering the data that is vital to a campaign.I am not sure what you mean by “state-level campaigns in the last two election cycles.” I have supported OneVirginia2021, Tom Perriello’s campaign, and the Democratic ticket financially, but I have not campaigned for or against a ballot initiative.  I have lobbied legislators on criminal law topics of importance to my clients, such as adequate criminal discovery (I think we have finally won that one) and adequate compensation for court-appointed counsel (hasn’t happened yet). I worked on a project with LAJC to help people get their licenses back when they had been taken for failing to pay court costs, and we documented how hard it was to get a driver’s license back – part of the successful groundwork to repeal the provisions that suspended licenses for nonpayment of court costs.
Affordable housing is a crisis in Charlottesville. What is one concrete solution you see to start alleviating the problem?Redevelopment of public housing. Our public housing is in a state of shameful disrepair. AC problems, mold, and sewage backup harm our public housing residents on a daily basis. By investing in redevelopment of public housing, we can improve quality of life and create wealth building opportunities for hundreds of Charlottesville's low-income residentsLobby UVA to follow the recommendations put forward by the UVA Community Working Group ( as that concerns housing. I see requiring both first and second year students to live on Grounds as a crucial piece of this. The impact this would have on the housing market, by driving down demand in the City, not to mention reducing the financial incentives to build what are essentially private student dorms on West Main Street, would be significant.There is a requirement in the development process that developers who want a zoning change for higher density or a decrease in parking space have to dedicate a certain number of 'units' of affordable housing.  That requirement has never been met. The developers have negotiated the required 'units' down to about 10% of the requirement. In acquiescing to this the Council has lost up to 200 affordable units in the past few years.  The Council has also accepted the definition of 'unit' to mean a fraction of what the actual cost of construction per unit is. One concrete solution is to immediately start holding developers to the law. They can still make a profit.....they have for years and we would make a dent in the huge deficit of affordable housing.  No new programs, no additional expenditures, just obey the law as a start while we continue the discussion on 'affordable' housing. I am the only candidate in Central Virginia who has actually added affordable housing units to the mix when I rehabbed, renovated or built houses as a Class A Virginia Contractor.
Making Accessory Dwelling Units  (ADU’s) easier for homeowners, both financially and in planning is one thing.  Changing discriminatory zoning around ADU's, making the process easier to navigate and working with banks for a loan program, combined with property tax easement while the ADU is rented at an affordable rate.  Pre-approved plans at NDS that come with a building list of materials. Partnering with agencies like Habitat or AHIP to build the units. This provides needed housing inventory & help for struggling families, reducing gentrification.PHA’s plans to add 300 units of affordable housing to Friendship Court notwithstanding, we will not build our way out of our affordable housing problems. The future of affordable housing has to include a regional solution, with adequate bus service to get those people to jobs or to the University. If anyone had asked me 10 years ago whether Wahoo West and Eagle’s Landing could be viable options to house 1,000 students, I would have said “No.  UVA students won’t take a bus; they want to walk to class.” I was wrong. We need to plan with the City and the University to build housing in places that can then be served by good bus service. This problem will not be solved in the City alone. The University has more vacant land – most in the County – than we do. The University should be looking at building workforce housing.
Single-family-only zoning in Charlottesville has a racist past and continues to have significant ramifications for wealth disparity. Are you in favor of eliminating single-family-only zoning as other cities have done?Yes. Over half the city is zoned for single-family-only, yet over 60% of the city are renters. We're a growing city, yet we're zoned as if we're a small suburban community. We can follow the lead of cities like Minneapolis by eliminating single-family zoning and allowing by-right development of duplexes. Doing so in a sensible way can create more affordable housing while also preserving neighborhood character.No, I am not - at least not to the extent being called for by some activists. The vast majority of people living out in the neighborhoods appreciate being able to own homes in an R-1 context. They see this as a way to build community for families with children, to keep Charlottesville as a vibrant city, and to maintain the physical character of historic areas. I am, however, fully in favor of a Comprehensive Plan, and the zoning laws to back that up, that will provide targeted areas for significantly increasing housing density (for example, at the eastern “entrance” to the City at Free Bridge. I am also in favor of “softening” R-1 contexts though incentivizing Accessory Dwelling Units.

Those of us who have worked in social advocacy are always looking for the silver bullet and our work becomes so difficult and frustrating that we abandon efforts like childhood education, budget fairness, social diversity and the like in the hope that a new program will finally bear fruit.  Eliminating single family only zoning is being touted as the newest silver bullet. Our racial harmony is much more challenging than that. Charlottesville has a past that is racist in more ways than just zoning. Education, economic opportunity, personal safety, redlining to name a few. There are many avenues to work to make improvement.  To deliver on the promise "in order to form a more perfect union" those of us who have worked for racial equality have to guard against jumping from place to place in our advocacy. I have advocated to pick your goals for action and focus, stay on message and don't get discouraged that change doesn't happen overnight. This is another situation of overlooking the simple and immediate and existing in favor of over promising a speculative outcome.Yes. We need to have the flexibility to be able to have triplexes and quad-plexes with shared green space.  The move to the urban center is only going to increase and while we are landlocked that is our only option. Greater density,  done properly will allow for a richer, more vibrant urban life, help preserve our green spaces, create opportunities, facilitate public transport, and reduce inequity. We also must be protecting our affordable housing inventory, which is our older housing stock.  We need creative problem solving to utilize what land we have.I’d like to make it easier to have accessory dwelling units in single-family zones, and I’d favor some type of form-based code that would allow multiple dwelling units in the same house. But I will not promise to support ANY repeal of single-family zoning, or ANY form-based zoning code, because the devil is in the details. Eliminating single-family zoning in Fifeville, for example, would make it EASIER for UVA students to buy up the property and evict long-time residents. I lean toward “Yes” on this one, but I want to see what the ordinance to “eliminate single-family-only zoning” would look like before I say “Yes.” But let’s take the easy first – it should not take a year to get a permit to have an accessory dwelling unit. The permit should be practically routine, and then NDS can process the applications quickly and cheaply.
UVA recently announced a living wage of $15 per hour. Do you support a living wage for Charlottesville and, if so, how would you go about encouraging/supporting that?I support a living wage for Charlottesville. $15 per hour is just a start: the Orange Dot Report showed that a living wage for a family in Charlottesville would be over $20 per hour. The Dillon Rule prevents Charlottesville from implementing a citywide living wage, but we can continue to increase wages for city employees. I would also support efforts to create a local 'Living Wage Certification' campaign where businesses that pay a living wage would post signage letting customers know they pay fair wages. I'd also support UVA's efforts to pursue legal action to require UVA contractors pay a living wage. Finally, I would work to support Democrats running for the General Assembly throughout central Virginia and actively lobby the General Assembly to create a Dillon Rule exemption that allows Charlottesville to implement a citywide living wageYes, I support this. However, as I understand things, since Virginia is a “Dillon Rule” state, only the General Assembly can mandate a wage of $15 per hour. I think there is scope to encourage contractors who work for the City to pay such a wage. Ultimately, I see efforts like PVCC’s Network2Work program as the long-term, sustainable solution. This program connects people who possess a high school diploma or less with both the credentials they need to get into the workforce and then on to employers who need these workers.

I support a living wage.  On the first three city budgets (out of four) I worked on I voted 'NO' because the other councilors wanted to balance the budget by taking money from Legal Aid, Ready Kids, mentoring programs, etc.  I introduced a motion to raise the minimum wage while also raising the money for necessary social programs. The city survived this 'radical' idea and is better for it. Better to raise the pay for city workers, most of whom live and shop and pay their bills in the city, than to waste money on ill conceived multi million dollar programs whose consultants take millions out of our city back to their hometown.The Current City Budget is calling for a raise to $15.00/hour for full time salary employees (not part-timers).  However, basic models for calculating a living wage based on local cost of living suggest that a true living wage for our area is currently closer to $21.00 an hour.  I would like to see the city set an example & be an employer people aspire to work for. This means keeping up with living wages, for all positions (part time also), providing a healthy environment to work in with supportive management & adequate staff and training for the job.I assume that the gist of this question is that you want Council to do something to get to a living wage of $15 an hour for all private employees, not just the City employees (which we already do). I would be happy if private employers would raise wages to that level, but the City has no power to force it on anyone except private employers who contract with the City (which we already do). One thing that we can do to encourage it across the City is to continue to raise wages and benefits for City workers, both to provide a role model and to provide competition for workers, such that those private employers may see the need for them to raise their wages. We have the power of a bully pulpit, and we can try to create a bandwagon, but given the limits of local authority, that may be about all that we can do.
How, specifically, would you support better public transportation in Charlottesville?I support creating a Regional Transit Authority that brings together UVA, JAUNT, and Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) in order to coordinate routes and funding sources. I would lobby the General Assembly to provide any Regional Transit Authority with a permanent funding source. As immediate actions, I would support the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission's new 'Regional Transit Partnership' and advocate for Charlottesville to put covers over all bus stops and improve CAT's app1) Work to implement the Comprehensive Plan’s vision about integrating public transportation networks throughout the entire City. 2) Invest in infrastructure like bus stops that “sideline” buses out of the way of traffic while they’re stopped. 3) Reduce the incentive to own a car through changes to zoning laws. This would increase usage of public transportation by everyone in the City. Public transportation would no longer be viewed as primarily a need for less well-off people only.

I will propose doubling the number of new bus shelters.  Potential riders don't stand in the rain to catch a bus. While installing these I would propose purchasing smaller buses.  I have never seen a current bus full with the exception of football games or the 'trolley bus' which by the way is free.This issue is intertwined with affordable housing. I support greater direct investment in our bus system, but mass transit does not work well if a city is improperly zoned. We need a certain density as well as properly interconnected neighborhoods, commercial, and mixed use to allow all of our residents to use public transportation to get around efficiently and at a reasonable cost to the City. Public transit is also a challenge the surrounding localities, where many who work or need services in Charlottesville live, and the city should work together on.We need to get over the idea that bus service will be made to pay for itself – no bus service in the world does. Spending on public transportation is part of the cost of operating as a city. People will not leave their cars at home if buses only run once an hour. Some developers have visions of attracting a thousand or more high-tech workers to Downtown Charlottesville, but we have no place to put their cars, either on roads or in parking lots. This is a multi-year proposition, and it may take 10 years before land use patterns adapt to a beefed-up bus service. New apartment buildings and developments need to have as a part of the site plan a requirement for room for a bus stop. And the balance on the provision of on-site parking in the site plan ordinance may need to be tweaked.
Local services have been chronically underfunded at the state and federal level. What actions should be taken at the local level to compensate for that funding gap?The Trump administration is actively cutting resources to affordable housing, infrastructure, and healthcare. As local communities, we can't give in to the austerity politics being pushed by Trump and extremist Republicans in Congress. We have to be willing to create robust local revenue streams so that we can invest in our local communities and ensure that no members of our community are left behind due to the Trump administration's policiesThis is a very good question, one without a simple answer. Homeowners already see an effective increase in their real estate taxes due to rising valuations. Business owners see increasing the meals and lodging taxes (as just done) as pushing business out into the County. There is scope to better leverage the non-profit sector, as well as University resources. On the “demand” side of the equation, there are always opportunities to reduce costs within the government itself. We also need to understand the costs associated with endless studies, the inability to be decisive about projects like the Belmont Bridge, and dysfunction on Council. We need to be radically honest and transparent about funding priorities within the City’s budget. Elected officials must do the hard work of engaging the entire community to help them understand that effective services must be paid for.

We have no choice but to pick up the slack and the number of citizens who volunteer testify to our fundamental generosity in money and time.  People and businesses that come to our city and stay in our city do so because of the character of the city. Bridges rusting and brick roads clanking and cracking worsen our competitive position in attracting new business and retirees.  There are citizens who depend on rent subsidies, particularly the elderly, children who depend on food stamps, single parent families that depend on rental assistance to survive. It is just not fair or just or moral to stand idly by while a senior citizen, who has spent her entire life working and/or raising a family, has to choose between food or medicine or rent. The easy answer is to raise taxes.  That would also be the wrong answer.  Any tax increases are ultimately born by those who can least afford it and exacerbate the wealth disparity we talk about.  As an example real estate tax increases are passed down to renters. It's time to discuss saving money which surprisingly will be a very energetic conversation. In our personal budgets finding ways to save money is frequently a necessity and we get pretty good at it.
I would like to see progressive local taxation (Dillan Rule allowing).  We cannot fail to ignore the pressure that our high cost of living exerts on people into middle income.  Restricted housing supply means tax increases are passed to tenants and small businesses often pay“triple net”. I will work to maximize resources & leverage partnerships with local service groups. Many Charlottesville residents have positive change ideas for our ABART process, my professional experience gives me the perspective on what it is like to be representing such an organization coming to the city. I know which questions to ask, and I know where the bottlenecks are.If the gist of this question is “Surely you want to raise local taxes to make up for state and federal failures,” I am not going to go there. All of our local taxes are regressive, and increasing any of them is regressive. Plus, we couldn’t raise taxes enough to address inequities in some underfunded areas like medical care. Let’s pick one area where additional local efforts CAN make a difference – let’s mobilize volunteers and existing non-profits to tackle disparities in reading readiness. We have two models – ReadyKids’ PlayPartners program, and the schools’ Book Buddies program. We have hundreds of people here who would help kids learn to read – a whole cadre of unfulfilled grandparents. A volunteer coordinator is a force multiplier. Spending, say, $200,000 to set up such a program could offer substantially greater benefits.
The Charlottesville Police Department is being pressured to be more open with data, including releasing arrest statistics that include data about race. Should the Council help increase transparency? If so, how?City Council should help increase transparency by supporting a robust, well-funded Civilian Police Review Board (CRB) that has access to arrest data, an active role in civilian complaints against the police department, and input on local policing practices. A strong CRB will help rebuild trust between the local community and the Charlottesville Police Department.I see the recently created Police Civilian Review Board as a very good thing. It’s a way to foster both transparency and trust. Supporting the Police CRB through continued funding is a way Council can help, overall, with both transparency and trust. It is not clear to me why the issue of data has become such a sticking point. Having completely open and unfettered to all police data seems problematic from legal and personnel perspectives. However, I do believe that including statistics about race and arrests is completely appropriate.
The Police Department works under the City Manager who works under the City Council which formulates city policy.  Since I'm campaigning to be a representative of the people I would insure the people have the major say in how the Police Department relates to citizens.  There has been progress on information that is released. Information in the form of numbers or categories doesn't harm anyone. Information in the form of names is a different matter.   What shouldn't be released is 'raw' data that is transcribed immediately after a service call that could disclose identities of informants, rumors used to discredit innocent people or information that would normally take a court order or subpoena to obtain.I personally am a fan of transparency in all areas of government. I am also a fan of data. Let’s take a look at the data and see what is collected; we should make a point to observe statistics with a scope around race. Data also guides us in seeing what is happening in our community clearly.  Without it we are guessing & can not come up with an effective action plan. The current data released by the police department on arrests only shows part of the picture, it needs to be correlated with stop and frisk data, traffic stop data & 911 call data at least.Yes. We should encourage our City Manager to tell the Police Chief to accept the free help that has been offered by some data pros. But while people are sorting out that data issue, the CRB could take some low-hanging fruit – discretionary police practices that are applied discriminatorily. For example, officers may say to someone whom they have stopped (usually a young black man), “I smell marijuana.  I’m going to search.” Courts allow it, even though the officer may have no ability to actually smell marijuana (and usually, there is no marijuana). If the CRB identified practices like this that are subject to abuse, perhaps they could persuade the Police Chief to instruct her officers to stop them. If we think we have a Police Chief who is willing to end discriminatory practices, we should make it easy for her to do so.
Should the City divest from fossil fuels?Yes. Charlottesville should divest from both fossil fuels and weapons manufacturers. I don't just support divestment in theory: I've actively organized rallies and public campaigns to demand Charlottesville divest.I’m not precisely clear as to what the question means. If we’re talking investment portfolios, yes. Completely eliminating the City’s reliance on fossil fuels -- both by the government and by the actual businesses, homes, and vehicles within the City -- will be a major effort over the course of the next two decades at least. But we need to get on with it. We need to work with both the County and the University, as an integrated whole.  Yes.Yes, we have local companies who specialize in socially responsible investing.  Socially responsible investing is not only good for our environment, it is also lucrative and can provide a good return on investment. However, we can make an even larger impact on our carbon footprint and actually reduce our contribution to Climate Change by supporting meaningful changes in city planning and supporting public transportation. The city must set the example, Climate Change is an imminent threat and we need to take action in every way we can.Yes.  I have signed on to David Swanson’s letter about this.