My Answers to Daily Progress Questionnaire (if they had bothered to ask)

Here are my responses to a questionnaire given by the Daily Progress to only the Democratic Party candidates. If they had bothered to ask everybody here is what I would have answered:

Age: 38

Occupation: Musician, music teacher, life long restaurant worker, and
personal care attendant

Hometown: Charlottesville

Family: one smart and talented 15 year old daughter

Education: Charlottesville High School, PVCC (no degree)

Experience: board member Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, secretary Socialist Party of Central Virginia, co-founder of Cville Workers Action network, co-founder of Virginia United Against oppression- a worker and immigrant rights lobbying group.

Interests: cello, piano, guitar, auto-harp, activism, workplace organizing, history

Website: http://www.votebrandoncollins.wordpress.com

Do you support construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway in the city?
No I do not. The project has been beset by dishonest dealings and ignorance of environmental regulation and was bad process. VDOT all but admitted so by pulling its plans for McIntire Rd Extended at the last minute to avoid an injunction, leaving themselves with no complete plan for that portion of the Parkway. Why move forward without a plan? There is also a lawsuit pending regarding the 250 Interchange and dishonest dealings regarding that portion of the Parkway, we need to wait until the lawsuit is ruled on at the very least. We should wait until a new council is seated and see where we stand at the first meeting in January 2012.

Do you support the approved water supply plan or a different approach?
I support the original compromise plan of dredging and considering raising the existing dam in stages if deemed necessary- a plan that was approved unanimously by council in September of 2010- it is a shame that 3 councilors decided to reverse that vote in favor of building an expensive, harmful new dam and expensive pipeline. Water demand is down and will continue to go down if we institute suggested conservation measures. There is no hurry to build the expensive new dam and pipeline, we should dredge first, and reassess the situation in ten years- we may discover that we still don’t need a new dam at that point. Further- no city resident should ever have their service shut off for non-payment.

What is the most important thing the city can do to create jobs?
The question in my mind is what kinds of jobs, who is going to get them, and how much are they going to get paid? High Tech jobs are all fine and dandy but are they going to put our residents to work at a living wage or are they going to bring in new, wealthier residents to take those jobs and drive up housing costs? We need to find businesses that are friendly to our residents not the other way around.
We can guarantee employment in Charlottesville by opening a jobs center that helps people individually find work that pays a living wage either through the private sector or through public works and parks and recreation with city improving our infra-structure and moving our city towards a 100% sustainable town. We need to ensure that section 3 is enforced so that public housing residents have work through HUD projects coming our way. We need to give ample resources and funding to the offender re-entry program to make sure it works. We need to make sure that all city contracts are made up of a local workforce. We should consider ways of helping to set-up workers cooperatives for our low income residents like a community cannery, grocery stores, and urban farms.

Does the city have an affordable housing problem? What should council do?
We absolutely have an affordable housing problem. Council needs to first double the amount of funding and action it allots to issues of affordable housing. We need to be ever mindful of moving people out of homelessness through SROs, into public housing, into section 8, and into owning their own homes. A social services “action committee” or expansion of MACAA could help to ensure that people are consistently moving up the housing ladder. Expanding access to home loans for low income people, expanding section 8, expanding public housing as well as partnering with outside groups like Habitat for Humanity and the Haven. All new housing projects should require at least 50% of units to be “affordable” and maybe even 100% for the time being. We should consider opening a public bank or housing corporation to provide more loans at low interest for home ownership and sustainable home upgrades as well as to be a bulwark against gentrification.

What should the city do on the issue of addressing poverty?
We need to do a lot more! Simple reforms, and “Business friendly” policies are not going to fundamentally change the institutionalized poverty we have in Charlottesville. My plans for jobs and guaranteed employment at living wages is one part of changing things. Dealing with affordable housing is another part of changing things. We need to provide immediate relief for those in poverty now and work to move all people out of poverty by fundamentally changing how people access living wage work, affordable housing, affordable health care, and make sure that we take immediate steps to resist the ‘New Jim Crow” which is maintaining poverty, low wages, and control of the African-American population by imprisoning a huge percentage of our residents. Expanding our bus system plays a large part in putting people to work and making sure they can get to work. Creation of a social services action committee or an expansion and funding of MACAA can go a long way in both providing immediate relief and making sure that people are moving out of poverty.

What is the city’s biggest challenge in transportation?
Our biggest challenge in transportation is making sure we can get funding to greatly expand our bus system. No transportation challenge, or ecological challenge, is going to be fundamentally addressed by building new roads. We need to have full service on Sundays and Holidays, have all routes run every 15 minutes, add hours to late night and early morning service, add direct service shuttles, and provide park and ride centers (and promote them!). We should make all of the TDP long term plans into short term plans and then create more ambitious long term plans! I would like to see shuttles out to Scottsville and Crozet. As we do this we need to complete city wide bike trails and upgrade our sidewalks and pedestrian paths to be accessible to all people including those with disabilities. 

What will be your top priority if elected?
I think we need to provide some immediate relief for people in our community who have been in an economic crisis their entire lives. From there- I want to get a jobs center in the works, we have a solid foundation for that with the new Section 3 coordinator position. Expanding transit has a lot of public support and we can do this immediately. Lets work to make sure the comprehensive plan includes a doubling of action and funding for affordable housing and sets lofty goals.

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2 Responses to My Answers to Daily Progress Questionnaire (if they had bothered to ask)

  1. Chris Hite says:

    Awesome!! Seems to be right on the money, although I do not live in VA anymore.

  2. Chris Hite says:

    A lot of folks are scared away by the word “Socialism,” but mostly nowadays it means responsible social programs that look out for people that may not be as lucky as you or I. Social programs are at work and DO work where I am living here in Europe. Are they perfect…no, but they are better then what I saw on my last visit home…I am sorry to say…yes! Does that make me a socialist, no, but I am concerned!

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