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Six candidates seek two seats on City Council

Council candidates discuss their platforms ahead of Nov. 7 election

As Charlottesville has processed the aftermath of the Aug. 11 and 12 white nationalist rallies, many students and community members have expressed a desire for stronger local leadership and a more definitive direction for the city’s recovery. 

This means the upcoming City Council election has particular salience, as people look to the six candidates and determine who they will elect to fill two open seats on the five-member council. Issues of key importance to the candidates range from affordable housing, to transportation, to criminal justice reform, among other local issues. 

The election will take place Nov. 7. 

Heather Hill (D): Heather Hill is currently the president of Charlottesville’s North Downtown Residents Association and has lived in the city for the past 12 years, during that time also serving in several local community organizations. Hill formerly served on the board of directors of Charlottesville Tomorrow, a local nonprofit news organization that reports on city development, education and politics. Hill also supported the Shelter for Help in Emergency — an area group that provides food, shelter, clothing and counseling services to women and families fleeing from domestic violence — through her work with the Charlottesville Design House. 

Hill’s campaign includes a focus on increasing transparency and dialogue between City Council and the public, as well as bettering city transportation and infrastructure. Additionally, ensuring Charlottesville remains a friendly environment for families and businesses alike is a key aspect of the candidate’s platform.

“More than ever, our city needs strong leaders who are committed to taking responsibility, finding the answers we desperately seek, and working with our community to solve the city’s most complex issues,” Hill said. “I am that kind of leader.”

Specifically in regards to the violent event of Aug. 11 and 12, increasing the accountability of local government to the people is essential for Hill.

“As leaders we need to work together to foster a culture of city responsiveness and accountability,” Hill said. “[A] lack of communication from the city has resulted in heightened anxiety and misaligned expectations. Looking forward, there must be answers and action plans for how these circumstances can be prevented in the future — through internal processes and local policies as well as holding our elected officials and city staff responsible.”

According to campaign finance information from the Virginia Public Access Project, a public venue that provides data on elections throughout the state, Hill’s campaign has raised $26,599 as of Sept. 30.

Kenneth Wayne Jackson (I): Kenneth Jackson is a Charlottesville native, and over the years has served in multiple community service organizations throughout the city. Jackson also holds roughly 30 years of experience in business management, and previously ran as a Republican in the 2004 City Council election.

Jackson’s campaign is heavily focused on bettering Charlottesville’s public safety and infrastructure, as well as fostering a greater sense of responsibility on the part of the city government toward its residents. A graduate of local public schools, Jackson is also committed to improving Charlottesville’s education system, a key component of the candidate’s plans to improve the city’s economy.

Particularly in light of recent events, continuing to maintain accountability and a steady dialogue between citizens and the city’s leadership is also critical to Jackson’s platform, according to his website. 

According to information from the Virginia Public Access Project, Jackson’s campaign has raised a total of $11,002 as of Sept. 30.

The Cavalier Daily was unable to schedule an interview with Jackson prior to the print deadline of this article. 

Amy Laufer (D): Amy Laufer has been on the Charlottesville School Board for the past six years, and is seeking to bring that experience to a position on City Council. Since she and Heather Hill won their party’s nomination, they have campaigned together for the two open seats on Council. 

Laufer’s key platform issues include the public transportation system, providing city funds for graduating high school students in “fair standing” to attend Piedmont Virginia Community College, improving water quality at the local level and increasing the amount of available affordable housing. 

“We’ve had times when we’ve built a lot, times when we haven’t, but ultimately what we’re seeing is that people can’t afford to live here primarily because there’s not enough housing,” Laufer said. “U.Va. puts a lot of pressure on us because they don’t offer enough student housing so a lot of our residential areas become student housing and this is kind of a constant thing that we’re working with — trying to provide enough student housing but then having enough housing for our own residents.” 

Laufer said she plans to work with the Virginia Housing Development Authority on providing more affordable housing, and hopes to see Habitat for Humanity’s efforts expanded as well.

As for the events of Aug. 11 and 12, Laufer said it is difficult to judge the actions the city took at the time under constraints citizens may not be aware of, but said she hopes to help conduct a more thorough investigation moving forward.

“We have a group of very energized citizenry that is feeling like they’re not being listened to and I want to help facilitate more dialogue with them that is not just happening at City Council meetings but is happening wherever they are,” Lauffer said. “We need answers so that we can know what happened so we don’t repeat it … I really hope that the city and U.Va. and the county can work together to do that.” 

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Laufer has raised $26,853 for her campaign as of Sept. 30. 

Nikuyah Walker (I): Nikuyah Walker is an independent running for City Council hoping to improve equity and progress in Charlottesville. 

According to Walker’s website, her goals include increased transparency, building additional low-income housing, closing the health gap and guaranteeing all city residents a living wage. 

“I want to work with you,” Walker says on her website. “We need to create living wage jobs, improve our schools, and make true affordable housing a top priority. I know what it takes to navigate complicated governmental agencies and get things done."

Walker’s main goal listed is to create a citizen-centered assessment tool to evaluate city departments and non-profit organizations which provide services to Charlottesville schools. 

“I know this is a huge undertaking, but we need to change the City allocation process and implement accountability,” Walker said on her website. 

Walker has also expressed concern about those affected by the criminal justice system, writing on her website that she “will ensure that our resource-rich community disrupts the school to prison pipeline.” Walker said that Charlottesville must also be willing to hire those who were formerly involved in the criminal justice system. 

In all of her goals, Walker said she hopes to engage the community.

“To create a Charlottesville that we can all believe in, we need citizens to hold City government accountable and demand systemic changes,” Walker said on her website. 

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Walker has raised $19,915 as of Sept. 30 for her campaign. 

Nikuyah Walker was unable to speak with The Cavalier Daily for this article. 

Paul Long (I): This is Paul Long’s third time to run for a position on City Council — the last times being in 2011 (a race he withdrew from) and 2009. He has lived in Charlottesville for 19 years and worked at the University Medical Center for 17 years, but is now retired. 

Long’s main goal is to improve public transit for both environmental and economic reasons. If community members reduce their use of cars by using the public transit system, the amount of carbon emissions will decrease. Additionally, Long argues a better public transit system will create jobs, which will bring about economic benefits for the city. 

“If more people can get around thoroughly throughout the metropolitan area using public transit, they will have access to more jobs and more economic options than if we didn't have that system,” Long said.

Additionally, Long is opposed to incarcerating non-violent drug users. Instead, he said non-violent drug users should be enrolled in rehabilitation programs

“I believe that drug use should be a health issue as opposed to a justice issue,” Long said.  

Lastly, Long said he wants to create more affordable housing, as prices for rent have gone up exponentially. He plans to do this using the city’s Affordable Housing Fund.

Long said he has been a Democrat all his life but now he is running as an independent because of his frustration with the current Democratic City Council members who he claims to be too subservient to big business. 

He also expressed extreme disappointment in the current members’ actions before and after the events of Aug. 11 and 12. In retrospect, he said there should have been a more adequate warning of potential violence, and he criticized the police response, suggesting the responsibility lies with the council because of their failure to control the situation. 

“I believe someone gave the police department an order to stand down and not intervene,” Long said. “City Council should have taken more management.” He said these alleged actions were criminal and calls for the removal of all five members of City Council from office.

City officials have refuted the claim that a stand-down order was issued.

The Virginia Public Access Project shows Long has raised $450.

John Edward Hall (I): John Edward Hall is running for a position on City Council as an Independent. This is his first time to run in for this position.

Originally from Winchester, Va., Hall attended Texas A&M for his undergraduate degree, then moved to Charlottesville where he got his graduate degree from the University of Virginia. He is a design engineer for Home Medical. Hall has six patents, two copyrights and one other patent pending. 

As for matters of the city, he said is particularly concerned with transportation and condition of roads, and overhanging lights that would allow people to walk home safely at night and for University students to run and jog in comfort. Hall would also like to improve parking around the city, especially downtown. 

“We need to have more garages,” Hall said. “It would get more [cars] off the streets.”

With many goals on his agenda, Hall said he is the right person for the position because of his commitment to hard work.

“I work hard, and I try to prepare, to plan, to have a comprehensive plan of what I want to do,” Hall said.

Hall said he wants to make sure he hears the concerns of community members and create a dialogue. 

In response to the events of Aug. 11 and 12, Hall said the current City Council members were trying to do something that wasn’t necessary in taking down the Confederate statues. 

Hall said he does not have a source of funding, as he has not received any contribution to his campaign. Currently, he is personally funding his campaign.

“I got into this without knowing the best way of taking care of finances,” Hall said. “I did it for the experience and to see how well I could relate to people in town and grow with them and understand them.”

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Hall has raised $0 towards his campaign. 

This article has been updated with fundraising totals for each candidate using data from the Virginia Public Access Project. 

Correction: This article previously noted “Jackson did not respond to request for comment for this article.” Jackson did, however, return the request for comment, but there were scheduling issues with arranging an interview. The article has been updated to note The Cavalier Daily was unable to schedule an interview with Jackson prior to the print deadline of this article.