Fitzgerald Announces Run For Nomination

Brent Finnegan -- December 14th, 2009

Joe Fitzgerald, a regular hburgnews contributor (and editor) since April 2007, announced today that he will be seeking the Democratic nomination to run for City Council next year. The Harrisonburg Dems are holding their biennial caucus tonight.

I suspect he will continue to comment here, but in the interest of fairness and consistency, Joe and I agreed that it would be best if he were no longer an active contributing editor.

Last year I had a similar conversation with Kai Degner (who had been contributing stories since October 2006) after he announced his run for office.

Joe has contributed more than 50 posts to hburgnews. Thanks, Joe.

His announcement:

As a council member, my training curve will be less steep than for most. I’ve served in the office for four years, 2000-2004. I have the experience, the knowledge, and the memories of what we did right and wrong in a tumultuous period for the city. During that time the council built a new high school and approved a new comprehensive plan for the city. We also voted to complete Heritage Oaks, a decision that I hope and believe most of my neighbors have come to accept as the only cost-effective option.

The main thrust of my campaign will be the future development of Harrisonburg. The Friendly City needs to continue to be the sum of its people, and not the sum of its strip malls, townhouses, student housing, and parking lots.

The city is developed to the point that any variance, special-use permit, or rezoning decision will have permanent consequences not just where it’s granted but for the city as a whole. Sometime in the next decade, we’ll be down to the last square mile of undeveloped land in the city. We need to plan more wisely, and more long-range. We are past the point as a city that development decision can be made based on friendships and the needs of the individual developer. It doesn’t help to be the City with the Planned Future if we don’t stick to that plan.

I particularly look forward to making those hard decisions with Richard Baugh and David Wiens, the only council members who came to the job from a planning and zoning background. Other council members might argue that development decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis. Dave and Richard are the only members who have consistently supported making those lasting choices based on a Comprehensive Plan, the knowledge of a professional staff, and the recommendations of a progressive and well-trained Planning Commission. Kai Degner, the only professional communicator and consensus-builder to serve on council, will also be invaluable with his knowledge of how to help guide people to the best decision-making process.

There are other challenges facing the city. Taxes and services cannot both continue to grow in a recovering economy. Police, fire, and rescue services need to meet the needs of our changing community without losing touch with that community. We need to make sure our roads meet the needs of the city’s drivers while working to encourage increased bicycle, bus, and pedestrian traffic. We need to continue looking for ways that recreation, especially the golf course, can pay for itself.

In the spring, I’ll ask my fellow Democrats in the city for their nomination. I don’t know of anybody else running but will be glad to run as a partner with another Democratic nominee.

Joe Fitzgerald

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25 Responses to “Fitzgerald Announces Run For Nomination”

  1. Lowell Fulk says:

    I first met Joe in February of 2003 and during the ensuing months came to recognize in him a strong dedication and vision for the future of this city.
    There are few people who have a better grasp of the nuts and bolts of local governance, and of what Harrisonburg needs to operate well and efficiently with an eye on tomorrow.

    I wish you much success Mr. Fitzgerald.

  2. republitarian says:


  3. Dave Briggman says:

    Myron, pretty accurately, sums up my view…Joe, perhaps since your wife is more favored, politically, you should consider letting Deb run and you could “govern” through her.

  4. Emmy says:

    Best wishes Joe!

  5. hhsparent says:

    Great news, Joe. Glad to see it.

  6. republitarian says:

    I’ve talked to people of all stripes today and the best response was a mild snicker.

  7. Jamie Smith says:

    Run, Joe, Run! There won’t be as many students to count on next year and those that vote will remember last year’s mistakes.
    I hear Larry is about to announce, too.
    Good Luck!!

  8. The responses I got were, generally, full-fledged belly laughs.

  9. Ron says:

    I don’t know a thing about Joe, but I find it funny that the two biggest valley [edited — no name calling] are the first to post their negative comments. What could possibly be more humorous than Mr. Rhodes’ “run”/self-promotion stunt for Clerk of Court, or Mr. Briggmans constant “gum bumping” to any medium that will air his paranoid juvenile rants…what’s the worst that could happen, Joe gets 300 votes??

  10. BANDIT says:

    …even though we bumped heads a few times, I believe you are a great candidate for city council. GOOD LUCK!

  11. Greg says:

    Looks like this news is the top story in today’s DN-R.

  12. Joe and I rarely agree on anything, but I do wish him luck in his near-future endeavor ;)

  13. republitarian says:

    I was only reporting the reaction I got from several folks….

  14. BANDIT says:

    Time: December 14, 2009, 9:58 pm

    I don’t know a thing about Joe, but I find it funny that the two biggest valley [edited — no name calling] are the first to post their negative comments. What could possibly be more humorous than Mr. Rhodes’ “run”/self-promotion stunt for Clerk of Court, or Mr. Briggmans constant “gum bumping” to any medium that will air his paranoid juvenile rants…what’s the worst that could happen, Joe gets 300 votes??

    Just as long as he beats Carolynn Frank… that’s all that matters!

  15. Mike says:

    Joe, I’m so glad you’ve decided to re-enter the local arena. You will definitely get my vote.

  16. clyde says:

    I guess nobody remembers the golf course vote, in a democracy short memories are high on the list of civic virtues.

  17. Lowell Fulk says:

    Hmmm… And what do you remember of the golf course situation “Clyde”?

  18. BANDIT says:

    ….my guess is that clyde lives in or near Hinton, maybe Rushville… Good ol Christian.

  19. Jamie Smith says:

    Joe’s golf course vote was the right vote given the circumstances that existed at the time. Only the misinformed or ignorant will dwell on that.

  20. Dave Briggman says:

    Had Joe done what he had promised to do, the taxpayers would have lost $2 million by killing the project, on the otherhand, how many years now have city taxpayers had to cough up about $500,000 to subsidize it?

    Jamie, I’m neither misinformed, nor ignorant.

    Joe lied to the voters, which is why he was bounced from office.

  21. seth says:

    to me, the whole golf course imbroglio was more notable because of the fact that almost an entire council got elected by railing against a relatively trivial issue that had already been decided rather than because of any perceived treachery on the back nine of the thing.

    here’s hoping joe runs a broad and intelligent campaign which addresses the many important issues in our community.

  22. Sounds like we need a brief refresher on the golf course controversy, since it is certain to be mentioned frequently from now until election day (if not longer!). Here are the facts as I understand them:

    In the mid-1990s, councilman Hugh Lantz began pushing for a municipal golf course. A 1995 feasibility study said a golf course would not work, but a 1999 study said it would. Council began holding public hearings, but it was widely believed to be an unfair and expensive “done deal” before the Council ever voted in April 1999. In the Council elections in the spring of 2000, a group of candidates under the banner CHANGE (Dorn Peterson, Carolyn Frank, and Joe Fitzgerald) swept into office decrying the golf course decision and the way it was made. CHANGE was the outgrowth of an organization called TAGS – Taxpayers Against Golf Spending. After taking office, Fitzgerald surprised many when he voted to continue the golf course project, siding with Lantz and Larry Rogers while breaking with the other CHANGE candidates. Fitzgerald said that not moving forward on the course would be more expensive than carrying through with the proposal. The golf course (Heritage Oaks) has never met its earning projections, and continues to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the city. Fitzgerald and the other CHANGE candidates were voted out of office in the 2004 election, though Frank won again in 2006.

    Any additions or corrections?

  23. BANDIT says:

    The ones beating the dead horse (golf course), don’t even live in the city limits….mind your own elections and business!

  24. Bandit, your argument that we who continue to remind voters about Fitzgerald’s failure to live up to his campaign promise do not live in the City is specious as best. Most of us in the County spend a good part of our monthly incomes at City businesses, which brings in City revenues.

    Using your own logic, Benny, since you live out in the County, you shouldn’t be participating in this thread either.

    Jeremy, I think your summary should contain the $2 million figure that Joe himself used to justify not stopping the golf course, with the cumulative dollars spent on the City on a annual basis to pay on it’s shortfall.

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