Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sierra Club Questionnaire Response

I recently completed a questionnaire for the Piedmont Sierra Club, and thought I'd share it here as well.

Survey of Candidates for Charlottesville City Council

1. What is your position on the preservation of McIntire Park in its entirety?
a. Do you support construction of the parkway in McIntire Park?

I believe the Meadow Creek Parkway was ill-conceived and should never have been approved in its current design. Had I been on the Council at any time in the past 40 years, I would have voted against running the Parkway through McIntire Park, and would have insisted on a bypass for Route 29 and a connector to Route 20 and 64 as a prerequisite for any north-south cut-through. However, I was not on Council when these issues were voted on, and a majority of councilors throughout this period have repeatedly voted to approve the project, resulting in the current design. I plan to work hard during my term on Council to mitigate the effects of the road both on McIntire Park and on the neighborhoods downstream from it, both through an ongoing commitment to preservation and expansion of park space in the city and through reducing traffic with safe and efficient alternatives to single-car use. I will continue to push for a 29 bypass and/or connector to Route 64 to reduce the traffic load on the urban 29/250 corridors.

b. What is your position on the proposed YMCA in McIntire Park?

I fully support the placement of the YMCA in McIntire Park. I believe this is exactly the kind of facility that belongs in a public park, and am delighted that we have reached a cooperative agreement with the Y to provide positive, healthy, constructive activities for our community’s young people. As I’ve listened to people in Charlottesville’s neighborhoods, a common theme has been the need for recreational activities for the older youth. The YMCA’s location within walking distance of the high school will make these activities accessible to the very population that needs them most.
On a philosophical level, I believe that urban parks like McIntire should serve the community. Unlike rural wilderness areas, whose value lies in their remaining in a purely natural state, urban parks are meant to be used for recreation and leisure activities while providing access to green space. If that use involves the construction of a building that furthers these same purposes, I believe that is well within their mission. Community recreation centers at Tonsler and Washington parks show the value of this model. At McIntire Park, the golf course has a far more “un-natural” impact on the environment than will the new YMCA.

2. What would you do to encourage alternative transportation and to improve pedestrian and bicycling safety?

Buses: The current system of public transportation in the City is one where all buses meet at a central location and most drive hourly routes. I support planning to develop a system of “trunk lines” with feeder routes, in which buses on main routes run frequently, while smaller buses bring people from outlying areas as often as ridership demands. This more urban model is needed if we hope to encourage people who have cars to leave them at home and ride the bus, critical if we hope to reduce traffic congestion in the city. I would also love to see regular buses running between Charlottesville and nearby communities like Crozet, Earlysville, Lake Monticello – even Staunton and Waynesboro, where many of our city’s workers live. In the short term, we need to add routes to areas not currently served by the city buses, including McIntire Park and Greenbrier.

Sidewalks: Parts of Charlottesville are very walkable while others are not. We need to make sure that all our City’s children can walk in their neighborhoods without having to walk in the street. Becoming a truly walkable city will allow Charlottesville to further reduce traffic congestion and protect the lives of our children. In addition to city funding, we need to continue accessing programs like Safe Walk to School as well as new funding sources.

Bike lanes and trails: Bicycles provide exercise and quick transportation without polluting the air or crowding the parking lots. We need to encourage people to ride bikes by ensuring that all major streets are bicycle-friendly and safe. I also want to continue exploring off-road bike trails, such as along rail lines through the city and expansions of the trail system in place, to allow bicyclists – and pedestrians – to get through the city safely and quickly.

Encouraging use of alternative transportation: In addition to the infrastructure improvements, we need to continue – and improve – our messaging and encouragement for using non-car transportation. We can increase publicity for programs like Community Bikes and Ride Share’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, as well as bike safety and walking fitness programs for kids.

3. The City of Charlottesville has sought to promote marketing of locally produced foods. Are there any steps you believe the City should take to support local production and sale of healthful foods.

The City Market is definitely outgrowing its space, and we should do all we can to make sure it grows and thrives. In addition, Buy Fresh/Buy Local initiatives should receive the city’s full support. I also will advocate for community gardens, urban farming (chickens, bees) and compost sharing.

4. Do you believe the City Council should support the determination of an optimum sustainable population size, such as the one proposed by Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, and use this information for future planning?

No. I believe we should reduce the ecological footprint of each resident in our region rather than trying to limit the number of people we will allow to live here.

5. The City of Charlottesville is surrounded by Albemarle County and the environments of the two localities are intertwined. Is there any environmental issue in which you believe additional City-County cooperation should be sought?

I hope that the city and county can collaborate on some of the green jobs and green energy initiatives coming from the federal level. Regional collaboration makes these projects more efficient, more effective, and ultimately more attractive to funding agencies. I would also love to see a strengthened collaboration between city and county in buy-local initiatives and community composting. Of course regional public transportation and infrastructure planning are always critical, and should be supported. As a greater community, we need to emphasize the intersection of ecology and economy, making environmental issues important to everyone – not just environmental activists.

6. Would you support reconsidering the Community Water Supply Plan if the dredging study shows restorative dredging is economically and environmentally feasible?

I already support reconsidering the Community Water Supply Plan, though I don’t at this point advocate starting completely over. I believe that two of the critical figures in the initial plan – demand in light of conservation and the cost and efficacy of dredging the South Fork reservoir – must be reassessed before we can move on with a decision on the size of the Ragged Mountain dam and reservoir. I don’t think we should revisit the decision about abandoning the pipeline from the Sugar Hollow reservoir, and I believe the Ragged Mountain reservoir is an appropriate place to look for increased capacity and storage, but if dredging is economically and environmentally feasible and we are serious about conservation, I believe it will reduce the scope of the dam at Ragged Mountain.

7. Will you work to increase parkland acquisition in the City?

Absolutely. Ideally, every child in Charlottesville should be able to comfortably and safely walk to a park. Neighborhood parks can increase the amount of time kids spend outside engaged with each other and the natural world, and can serve as focal points for neighborhood activities.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Kristen,

    I appreciate you approaching these issues head on. However, I want to comment on your position with respect to the Meadow Creak Parkway. City council granted VDOT an easement for the land to build the road based on several important conditions, which the County has not met (see council meeting report: As such, this road is proceeding unlawfully, and without the City's best interests represented. In such a case I think it would be your responsibility to revisit this issue. I strongly oppose this road, and will vote for Bob Fenwick unless you change your stated position on this issue.