May 22, 2021 • 10M

May 22, 2021: Mayor Walker will seek second term; Three Democrats appear at Martha Jefferson forum

It's the penultimate Saturday of May!

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Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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On today’s show:

  • Charlottesville Mayor Walker will seek a second term on Council following soul searching  

  • Three Democrats seeking two party nominations answer questions from the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood

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In February 2020, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker declared she would seek a second term back, but has so far not participated in any of the candidate forums that have been open to all candidates. Earlier this week, Walker said she would decide on whether to run by the end of the week. On Friday, she once again took to Facebook Live to tell her followers that City Council has always been fractious. 

“But of course when you put a Black woman at the center of this, and a Black woman who is really unafraid to kind of be on the frontlines of a battle by herself, that has really changed the lengths of what people are willing to go to attempt to destroy me,” Walker said. 

Walker said she has felt under attack her entire time on Council, but has been ready to do the work. She ran as an independent in 2017 and was the top vote-getter in a race for two seats with 7,906 votes. 

The person who came in second that year, Heather Hill, opted not to run for re-election. That makes Walker the first incumbent to seek re-election since Kathy Galvin in 2015.

Results from the 2017 election on the cvillepedia page for that event

Walker said will run again in order to carry on her fight against racism, despite the toll public service has taken on her.

“I’m not choosing me, even though I’m exhausted, my hair is turning gray, someone asked me last night ‘what is your body is telling you?’, and my body is telling me that you all will destroy me,” Walker said. ”But then there’s a flip side to all of the people who I talk to when I see them randomly who say ‘I’m a little more comfortable in this world’ because I get to watch you in it.’”

Walker will be on the ballot with fellow independent Yas Washington. Washington had campaigned as a Democrat but failed the qualify for the ballot in the June 8 primary. 

Three other Democrats did qualify, and they met on Thursday at a campaign forum held by the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association. UVA Project Manager Brian Pinkston and Locust Grove resident went first when it was time to give speeches. Pinkston ran for the Democratic nomination in 2019 and placed fourth.

“The reason I’m running for Council is simply because I think I have something to offer,” Pinkston said. “I feel like my professional background and my personal temperament and just the desire to see good things happen for the city are such that I have something to contribute.”  

Pinkston said he is a good listener who can work toward compromise. He said he would work to implement the affordable housing plan adopted by Council in March, which includes an annual $10 million in projects to bring the cost of housing below market. Pinkston also supports the reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools and reopening the search for a new city manager next year. 

“We’ve been really fortunate to have Chip Boyles in the position now but we’re going to have to recruit for that position so I want that process to be open [and] transparent,” Pinkston said.

Carl Brown is a native Charlottesville resident whose grandfather C.H. Brown was a builder back in the 1960’s. 

“My grandfather was a stable in helping the first housing crisis that they had back in the 60’s when they were transferring from Vinegar Hill to Westhaven so my grandfather was able to be creative and create cinderblock homes in the 12th Street area for low-income housing so I have some ideas about community service and work and what needs to be done at the ground level,” Brown said. 

Brown said he is a team player and cited experience playing sports at Charlottesville High School. He said he has been working behind the scenes for nearly 30 years on legal and housing issues.

“I run my own consultant business and so I do management development consulting and I still work with the reentry population, the schools, just getting kids to have a vision of their own success,” Brown said. 

Juandiego Wade came to Charlottesville to get a master’s in urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia. He met his wife and opted to settle here. He’ll finish sixteen years on the Charlottesville School Board at the end of 2021. Wade said Charlottesville is a diverse community, based on who is being educated now.

“Fifty-one languages are spoken at Charlottesville High School and so it represents our community,” Wade said. “I had the vision to serve Charlottesville last year when the shutdown happened. I recall it vividly last March, the second week of the shutdown. I was walking through the 10th and Page neighborhood and I I knew I wasn’t going to serve on the school board again but I wanted to continue to serve the city.” 

Topics covered at the forum include whether there’s been enough Comprehensive Plan, increasing the amount of subsidized housing units, and what recent decisions by Council they did not agree with. 

On the latter point, Carl Brown said the city should have been more strategic in pursuing removal of Confederate statues by changing the legislation at the General Assembly rather than being drawn into an expensive legal process.

“Now the state has now said that [we] can do it and so we wasted a lot of money in litigation,” Brown said. 

Wade said he disagreed with Council’s decision in 2013 to study the possibility of replacing the Belmont Bridge with a tunnel under the railroad tracks. 

“And I think that we’ve finally come to a resolution but i think we need all our digits to count the number of studies they’ve done on that over the last years,” Wade said.

Last week, Council voted to use an additional $4.28 million in bridge repair funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation to bridge a shortfall between the lowest bid and the project budget of $31 million. That $31 million includes $7.5 million in capital improvement funds to help pay for the years of design work. 

Pinkston did not single out one issue, but said there is a missing dynamic among the five people elected to make decisions for Charlottesville. 

“For whatever reason, this past Council and the Council before that, recent Councils have just struggled to work as a team.” Pinkston said. 

The final joint candidate event before the June 8 primary will be held virtually on May 27 and will be hosted by Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum and myself. Register here to attend!

Other campaign forums so far this season:

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