Council Candidates on Funding

Brent Finnegan -- October 13th, 2008

This is part on the ongoing Q&A series with City Council candidates. We’ll be emailing candidates questions and posting answers periodically throughout the month of October. All responses are listed unedited, in the order in which they were received.

What (if anything) do you see as the most under-funded needs in the city? What is a specific solution to fund those shortfalls?

Dave Wiens: In any city, there is always a critical shortage of money to the extent that few, if any, agencies, departments, programs can be funded to the optimum level . What governments have done is to not eliminate programs but to cut programs across the board so as to be able to provide services in a number of areas although probably not to the level they would prefer. This is probably the only way to address this problem. Having said that, I would be concerned that salaries not be cut. We do not want to be in the position where we have the most inexperienced police officers, fire fighters, teachers, public works employees, etc. In the long run, this would make the city much less livable.
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Roger Baker: Roads need more funding. I would move funds around, looking first at outside agencies.
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Charles Chenault: The most underfunded need in the city is one that most citizens are unfamiliar with and that is social services which includes the following: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Auxiliary Grants for the Aged, Disabled, and Blind, General Relief, Energy/Fuel Assistance, State-Local Hospitalization, Protective Services for Children and Adults, Foster Care Services, Adoption Services, Nursing Home screenings and placement, Adult Home placements, Adult stabilization and support, Family stabilization and support, Day Care Services for Children, Employment Services under the Federal and State Welfare Reform initiatives and the list goes on. These programs are administered jointly by the City and the County through the Harrisonburg Rockingham Social Services Department (the red brick building on Mason Street). We have already incurred an approximately $1 million shortfall this year from the state which we have had to cover with local general revenue funds. The only way to continue to address what surely will be additional shortfalls will be to replace lost federal and state dollars with local tax dollars. The agencies involved have already developed some new methods to deliver services more efficiently and with less funding, but we as a community will be tested to the limit in this area.

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Tracy Evans: Transportation. The solution to this shortfall is to receive our fair share of the state taxes we pay. Harrisonburg residents’ state taxes are being sent to Richmond, and instead of those funds coming back to our community where they are needed to address our local transportation problems, they are sent to Northern Virginia and other areas of the Commonwealth. Harrisonburg deserves to receive its fair share of funding for transportation from the taxes that we all pay. When I’m elected to city council, I promise that I will continuously, and very publicly, lobby our elected and appointed state officials for the funding for transportation from the state that Harrisonburg deserves.
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Richard Baugh: Transportation, transportation and transportation. Harrisonburg’s planned road improvements are pretty much the right ones, in the right order of priority. However, the projects are backed up, primarily due to lack of funding. We did not get money from Richmond these last few years that we could have, if the priorities there had not turned out to be bickering and ideology. Between economic downturn and the inability of those in Richmond to accomplish anything in this area, this is likely not to improve over the near term.

I will note that this ties into another local planning issue. We are already hearing rumblings that property located along roads planned for improvement (including Stone Spring, Port Republic and Reservoir) should be rezoned to allow more intensive uses (meaning more traffic) BEFORE the improved roads are built. It is hard to imagine scenarios where it seems wise to increase stress on local roads before they are improved.
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Kai Degner: Chapter 15 of the Comprehensive Plan is titled, “Community Engagement & Collaboration.” I believe that to properly implement the strategies outlined in this chapter, the city needs more dedicated resources for this type of work. Here are some goals outlined in this chapter:

Goal 15.1 To encourage citizen involvement in city affairs through a multi-venue campaign to promote civic pride and participation.

Goal 15.2 To establish procedures for including citizens in planning and plan implementation.

Goal 15.3 To reach out to all segments of the population to ensure their participation in planning, developing and promoting the city as a great place.

Strategy 15.3.1 To establish volunteer liaisons between the city and the immigrant communities.

It is commendable that these are stated in the plan. This work, pursued to its highest potential quality and impact, will require thoughtful attention by a dedicated coordinator who is tasked to work with community citizens and leaders to design and implement effective processes.
As far as how to specifically pay, I’m not ready to say exactly what line-items would be traded towards more of these types of resources. Given that this, in my mind, is a top priority for government, I imagine small cuts from a handful of areas and outside-agency funding would be a feasible way to free up resources for this work.
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We have not yet received responses to this question from Rodney Eagle or J.M. Snell. We will add their responses as we receive them. A total of eight candidates (including two incumbents) are running for three available seats on City Council.

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4 Responses to “Council Candidates on Funding”

  1. Josh says:

    My interactions with Roger Baker have always been terse–and tense for that matter. Is he more verbose in actual meetings? Is he an effective communicator?

  2. finnegan says:

    Added Tracy Evans’s response.

  3. finnegan says:

    Updated with Richard Baugh’s response.

  4. finnegan says:

    Updated again with Kai Degner’s response.

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