So far, seven people seem eager to devote their Monday nights to City Council meetings. The race for two open seats now held by Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos, who is not seeking another term, has drawn three Democrats—Fenwick, Heather Hill and Amy Laufer—for the June 13 primary. Traditionally the primary winners are shoo-ins for the November election in the Dem-heavy Charlottesville.
But this year the city teems with activist groups, as well as a new political group. EPIC—Equity and Progress in Charlottesville—has been recruiting candidates outside the Democratic machine, and already Nikuyah Walker, who was encouraged to run by the late Holly Edwards, an EPIC founder, has announced a run as an independent, joining Dale Woodson. Also jumping on the November ballot are Nancy Carpenter and Paul Long. Will the independents be able to break the Dem stranglehold on City Council?
It’s not surprising that The Haven’s homeless prevention coordinator would list housing as her first priority in her council campaign. “It’s basic to everything,” says Carpenter. “It’s a right, not
Carpenter was on the EPIC steering committee up until the time she filed her council paperwork, and her independent run was inspired by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who carried Charlottesville, and the Occupy movement.
She’s calling for open and accountable government, and uses last year’s changes in public comment as an example of council acting without public input. And she wants mindful growth that’s aware of gentrification and the impact upon historic neighborhoods a proposed development makes.
Carpenter is a native Virginian who spent most of her adult life in Culpeper before moving here in 2008.
“It was a perfect storm,” she says. “It was time to step up and do public service.” Carpenter cites her “old-fashioned” belief that “the highest thing one can do in a democracy is to do things for the public good.”
Former UVA Medical Center patient transporter Long retired in 2015, but he’s still focused on transportation, and thinks public conveyance should
be expanded in the city. Long is making his third run for council as an independent after an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 and dropping out of the race in 2011 because he thought then-candidate Brandon Collins was voicing his concerns.
“I’ve listened to the candidates throwing their hats into the ring,” he says. “None are talking about the issues I’m concerned about.” Top of the list is homelessness.
And Long has long advocated for decriminalization of drug possession, even though that’s not an issue local government legislates. “City Council could be influential on state and federal levels,” he says. “It’s a public health issue. And enforcement of those laws is under their purview.”
Long has not made a formal announcement—and when he contacted C-VILLE, he was still about 15 valid signatures short of the 125 he needs to get on the ballot, but he has until June 13 to get them. He plans a rally at 3pm April 24 at the Landmark on the Downtown Mall, because he objects to giving developer John Dewberry $1 million to finish the long-derelict project.