Mallek challenged: White Hall candidates gently spar at forum

Three Board of Supervisors candidates showed up for a Senior Statesman forum: incumbent Ann Mallek and Steve Harvey for White Hall, and Donna Price for the Scottsville District. (Photo: Staff Photo) Three Board of Supervisors candidates showed up for a Senior Statesman forum: incumbent Ann Mallek and Steve Harvey for White Hall, and Donna Price for the Scottsville District. (Photo: Staff Photo)

Longtime Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek hasn’t had a challenger to represent the White Hall District for the past two elections. That changed with Republican Steve Harvey, whose nickname is “Super Steve.” At a September 11 Senior Statesman forum, the former Army helicopter pilot drew some clear lines about his priorities.

In his introduction, after listing his wife and three children, he announced, “I am a Christian,” a declaration of faith that doesn’t usually come up in county races.

Harvey grew up in Albemarle County and attended Meriwether Lewis Elementary while his father studied at the JAG school at UVA. After a spinal cord injury sustained while flying a Blackhawk helicopter, he returned to Albemarle and built a home on 14 acres in the Earlysville area.

Like many other tractor-riding residents who showed up at a Mallek town hall in 2018, he was upset with the county plan to enact a stormwater utility fee in the rural area. When asked if he’d support a pledge to oppose the now-tabled “rain tax,” Harvey responded, “Not just yes. I’m a heck yes.”

Mallek stressed that she’d changed her position on the stormwater fee, and that having those funds come from  general revenue was the right solution.

And Scottsville District Dem candidate Donna Price, an attorney and retired Navy captain who was there without Republican opponent Mike Hallahan, said, “I try to avoid words like ‘always’ and ‘never,’” noting the “existential threat to the environment.”

Harvey also went after Mallek for the county’s mostly uncontested 1.5-cent-per-$100 property tax rate increase this year. “When the rate goes up, it goes up forever,” he said. With the 4 percent increase in real estate assessments, he found the hikes “particularly pernicious.”

He asserted that at the same time, “We’ve lost jobs by the hundreds” because regulations “improperly” stymied economic growth.

Mallek said she looked forward to reading the study that says Albemarle has lost so many jobs, mentioning WillowTree and Perrone Robotics, both of which are expanding  in the county.

She reminded attendees that during the recession in 2010, the county zeroed out its capital budget for three years and made no infrastructure expenditures. It also lost 15 percent of its staff. “We are now crawling our way back out of that deficit,” she said.

Harvey is also ready to challenge the vexing-to-county-residents, yet ironclad revenue-sharing agreement with Charlottesville. Albemarle agreed in 1982 to hand over a portion of its property tax revenue every year (roughly $15 million in the 2019 fiscal year) in exchange for the city not annexing county land. He said the agreement should be renegotiated every 10 years, and railed against a deal that was agreed to exist in perpetuity.

“Every new supervisor who’s been elected has revisited this issue,” said Mallek. “I agree it was awful.”  She said she worked with Delegate Steve Landes to overturn it—to no avail.

Price said she’d been asked if she’d join a lawsuit. “If there was a legal basis to overturn it, someone would have overturned it. We need to change the Dillon Rule,” which mandates that a locality only has the powers bestowed upon it by the General Assembly.

The candidates ended with a debate on the more beautiful district—White Hall or Scottsville.

Price urged support of local businesses, and said that both Democrats and Republicans had wanted her to work on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I can work across the aisle.” Harvey said the 6-0 votes by the Board of Supervisors need to change, and he vowed again to oppose the stormwater fee.

Albemarle is growing by 1,500 people a year, said Mallek. The areas with the highest populations have the highest taxes and demand for services, she said.

The election is November 5.

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