Thus far I'm underwhelmed by the candidates seeking to join Charlottesville's City Council this year, as well as, of course, by the current members. In the wake of the fascist rallies, the electoral system does not seem to be responding particularly well.
I don't go in for the usual moronic popularity contest wherein we're supposed to figure out which candidate we'd most like to be friends with. Instead, I try to approximate direct democracy by figuring out which candidate will do the things I would do if I were in their position and engaged with every issue they will have the chance to deal with.
This idiosyncratic approach requires a bit of guesswork or a great deal of education. That is to say, I either have to take the time to determine the best position on every issue, including things I know next-to-nothing about. Or I have to give some extra weight to the few issues I know something about, find out the candidates' plans on those matters, and extrapolate from there.
With U.S. presidents this is easy. They put up websites laying out lots of positions, some of which I know a lot about. And those positions are so hideous I could never vote for them (not the candidates most people have heard of anyway).
With Congressional candidates it's a little trickier, because, even though they spend on foreign policy over half of the money that they choose to spend, their websites usually discuss only domestic policies, as if wars, peace, sanctions, treaties, diplomacy, and all questions international just don't exist.
With Charlottesville City Council, it's often possible to actually ask the candidates what they plan to do about particular things, so that even if their websites leave you scratching your head, you can find out some kind of position. Having asked each of them a few questions, here's my run down. I cannot, on this basis tell you whom to vote for. I'm not sure I'll bother voting.
Nikuyah Walker has the most substantive, informative website. That's saying very little. Her positions are vague and general. But they are good ones. She favors an (unspecified) living wage. She favors hiring people who've been through the "justice" system. She favors better environmental policies of some kind. She wants to create affordable housing (somehow) and stop catering to the very wealthy (somehow). Under the heading of "Transparency," she says that she wants to create citizen groups to oversee the effectiveness of city agencies. That sounds encouraging and democratic. More discouraging is that Walker was the hardest person to get any answers to my questions from. I sent her the same three questions I sent the other candidates. I emailed her repeatedly over five days. On the sixth day I asked if she could respond that day, and she finally replied, but only to say that no, she wouldn't have time. Yet she might have given something of an answer in no more seconds than it took her to reply that she wouldn't. This doesn't strike me as the absolute apex of transparency.
Amy Laufer has the second most useful website. On it she proposes some actual concrete things, including free tuition for college: "If a student graduates from CHS with a GPA of 2.5 or better, and the student's family resides in the city and earns the local median income ($63,000/year) or less, the city will pay the graduating student's tuition to attend a certificate program or an associate degree program at Piedmont Virginia Community College." On the environment, she wants to ban plastic bags, but only from city events. On affordable housing, Laufer is more vague. She did, however, reply to my questions.
Kenneth Wayne Jackson tells us very little on his website about what he would do if elected. But he did reply to my questions.
Heather Hill also tells us next to nothing about what exactly she would do -- but she tells us next to nothing at much greater length. She did, however, reply to my questions.
John Edward Hall and Paul Long seem to be candidates without websites, and therefore without obvious means of contacting them. If someone would please point me toward their websites and/or email addresses I'd be most grateful.
Banning Weapons for Rallies in Charlottesville
The first question I asked was whether the candidates would support banning weapons for rallies in Charlottesville. Here's an expert legal opinion that doing so (as is often done all over the U.S.) is legal. Not only does this seem obvious, but it was published prominently in the only daily newspaper in Charlottesville. The same paper has reported on Richmond, Virginia, actually doing this. Meanwhile, the current City Council apparently wants to ban rallies rather than weapons -- an idea that is not just dumb but also a clear violation of the First Amendment, unless the idea is to ban rallies by those threatening violence, in which case wouldn't you also ban weapons at rallies to cover those cases in which groups do not make open threats?
Amy Laufer replied: "I have heard that there are ways to do this with the permitting process and I would be interested in pursuing such angles. I believe what we witnessed on 8/12 showed an extreme example of open carry and it was frightening and not something we would want to see again in our streets. I would like to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Kenneth Wayne Jackson replied: "There are laws on the books which allows government to not allow weapons on local, state or federal areas; the city well aware of this chose not to enforce this, even when they knew weapons were going to be at these rallies. I would have used this law."
Heather Hill replied: "I would absolutely support pursuing legislation or local ordinances to ban weapons for rallies in Charlottesville. I have also been interested to learn more about the efforts underway through a lawsuit seeking the court to order groups operating like private militias or military organizations not to return to Charlottesville or anywhere else in Virginia and engage in paramilitary activity."