Board of Supervisors Race: Focus on Rivanna District: Hunting for public input

Board of Supervisors Race: Focus on Rivanna District: Hunting for public input

The toss itself is at once casual and perfect. The dog biscuit has just enough arc to land about 6′ in front of the barking dog in the driveway, bounce once and then find enough purchase on the blacktop to skid to a stop at the dog’s feet. Mid-bark, it bends its head down to sniff at and eventually snap up the treat. Now pacified, it munches contentedly, as the tosser, Marcia Joseph, walks past the dog to yet another front door.

Marcia Joseph

“You are good and beautiful,” says Joseph, and the dog eyes her for another treat.

Armed with campaign fliers, fans and dog biscuits, Joseph is spending a bright and quickly warming Saturday afternoon knocking on doors to pitch her Albemarle Board of Supervisors candidacy. Having already canvassed the Key West and Fontaine neighborhoods, among others, she and Cynthia Neff are out in South Forest Lakes on Teakwood Drive, just off of Route 29N past Polo Grounds Road.

Joseph, the current chair of the Albemarle Planning Commission, has her finger on the pulse of the central issue in the county races—growth and development.

“One of the things people are saying to me that I picked up on is that we don’t have to approve anything that doesn’t improve the county,” she says as she walks up another driveway. “What a lot of people are thinking is, ‘Why do I have to pay for growth now? Why are my water rates going up? Why are my taxes going up?’ We’re paying for all this stuff we expect to happen, and that’s where we have to come to some sort of decision in the community of who is going to pay for it. I just don’t think that everybody here should do that.”

She gets to the door and rings the bell. A women opens up, looking skeptical. Joseph’s pitch is short and sweet: Here’s my literature, here’s what I’m running for, can I answer any questions? No one will have any questions today. Joseph smiles and points out the contact information on the flier.

Another woman walks across her yard, laptop balanced on her forearm, making sure her daughter gets out of the street. Danger averted, Joseph steps up to make her pitch.

“Can I accost you as you walk?” Sure, the woman says. Joseph introduces herself and hands her the flyer. Both smile at each other as they part.

“Things need to benefit the entire community,” Joseph says. “I’m not anti-developer. People need to make money, and people are going to keep coming here. But I don’t know that we have to approve things at such a rapid rate without really thinking it all through.”

Joseph is championing more public input. She points to the early-morning approval of Biscuit Run, the largest development in the county’s history. “I’ve heard from people who were furious, honestly,” she says. “They said, ‘How dare they make such an important decision at 1 in the morning when nobody’s there?’

“One of the things I really want to do—truly, truly—is a quarterly town hall meeting. And if people show up, terrific. If they don’t, that’s O.K. too.”

Joseph hikes up a steep driveway. At first glance, nobody’s home, but then there is a rustle in the trees to the right. Turning the corner, Joseph comes upon two women working in a beautiful frontyard garden hidden from the street.

“Hi,” says Joseph. “I’m one of your local prospective politicians.”

The lady smiles and takes her materials. “I hope I will vote in the primary,” she says. “I’ll try to do my civic duty.”

“You know, it’s the closest you’ll get to your government,” says Joseph. “You’ll see me around town, you can call me and blah, blah blah. You know all that stuff.” They share a laugh.

“I also understand that people get really busy,” says Joseph, “and unless there’s an issue directly affecting them…”

“Yeah,” says the lady, finishing Joseph’s sentence. “You just kind of float along.”

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