Since the 2009 election that replaced Democrats David Slutzky and four-term supe Sally Thomas with Republicans Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has learned a thing or two about 4-2 votes.
Cynthia Neff, the Democratic challenger for Boyd’s Rivanna seat, says a different Board of Supervisors would have held more discus-sions about the Western Bypass before holding a vote on the matter.
Last year, Thomas and Snow voted with Rivanna Republican Ken Boyd and Scottsville Democrat Lindsay Dorrier to maintain a 74.2 cent tax rate. In June, the four voted to cancel the county’s membership in a nonprofit organization that monitors local greenhouse gas emissions. And, with Dorrier as a swing vote, the same four-vote block removed language from a Metropolitan Planning Organization document that had barred the Western Bypass for nearly a decade.
“When Duane and Rodney won, for the first time in a generation, we had a majority on the board who were conservative,” state delegate Rob Bell recently told a Keswick crowd during a fundraiser for Boyd’s re-
election campaign. Bell, who referred to Boyd as the “intellectual godfather” of the board, added that conservatives “now regularly win 4-2 votes.”
However, come November, the BOS may need to learn its lessons all over again. If Democrat Cynthia Neff unseats Boyd, and Scottsville’s next supervisor swings left, then Albemarle’s GOP block may find itself in the minority.
“When you look at what he’s been able to get done in a pretty moderate community with his 4-2 vote, it’s pretty amazing,” says Neff. “I don’t think that this conservative bent that the board has been on the last couple of years is reflective of the people who live here.”
Asked whether the Western Bypass vote would have played out differently had it been held after the November election, Neff says yes.
Last week, Republican Supervisor Ken Boyd (pictured) formed a citizens task force to provide input on the Western Bypass’ northern terminus. “This is not a Board of Supervisors’ committee,” said Boyd. “This is a supervisor’s committee.” Five of the group’s 12 members are residents of Forest Lakes, a major precinct in Boyd’s district.
“I think it would have been done differently as well,” she adds. “I think if we had a different makeup on the board, then we would have had far more discussions with constituents and residents of Albemarle County about the overall situation before anybody would have voted ‘yes.’”
Rodney Thomas agrees. The former county planning commissioner, who beat Slutzky in 2009, told C-VILLE that the Western Bypass vote needed to happen when it did to happen at all.
“If we lose one vote of our majority, nothing will change, because we’ll still have 3-3,” says Thomas of the upcoming election. “If it comes back to having two of these four, it most likely will change.”
The key to the Rivanna District may be Forest Lakes, a residential development where both Boyd and Neff will likely focus their campaigns. Boyd won election in 2007 by fewer than 200 votes; the bulk of the difference came from the Hollymead precinct, home to Forest Lakes, where Boyd nabbed 925 votes to opponent Marcia Joseph’s 809. Last week, Boyd appointed five Forest Lakes residents to a task force he created to provide the Department of Transportation with input on the Western Bypass’ northern terminus.
“Forest Lakes’ importance is not lost on either Ken Boyd or myself,” says Neff of the 1,400-home development. “I’ve been knocking on doors there, he’s been knocking on doors there. We’re both trying to have a presence there and to try to get those folks to vote for us.”
Democrats won’t have an explicit 4-2 majority. Independent Dennis Rooker, who joined White Hall Democrat Ann Mallek in each minority for the votes mentioned earlier, won’t face reelection until 2013. And in Scottsville, Democrat Christopher Dumler and Republican Jim Norwood have both emphasized their non-partisan support for the district’s residents. Ultimately, the next two years may rest heavily on who wins Rivanna, and which side of the aisle can sway Scottsville.