Hburg council candidates reveal differences over priorities, ‘unpopular’ decisions and even scooters
As the five city council candidates wrapped up a wide-ranging forum Tuesday that veered from scooters and golf courses to schools and I-81, they had to answer one last doozy: What’s an unpopular decision that must be made for Harrisonburg?
The divergent answers to the final question revealed the competing philosophies and approaches of the five, who are vying in the Nov. 6 election for two spots on the council.
As a crowd gathered on the corner of High and Market Streets Monday evening, Jennifer Davis Sensenig, president of Faith in Action, urged the more than 80 people to march and make their case for local justice reform.
“We’re coming in force because we think the [CCJB] has the power to make local changes,” Sensenig said. The crowd responded with cheers.
Community members seeking criminal justice reform are asking the city to create a new government position: Community Justice Planner. The Community Justice Planner would be a government official whose job it is to gather data and give elected officials informed advice on how to improve the way the criminal justice system works.
Late Wednesday night, Harrisonburg’s Planning Commission voted to recommend the updated version of the city’s Comprehensive Plan to the City Council. The Commission’s unanimous vote signaled the penultimate stage in a process that has been nearly two and a half years in the making.
The five city council candidates tried Wednesday evening to appeal to bloc of potential voters that often eludes them—especially in midterm election years. But even the students who showed up to the Traveling Town Hall stop at JMU’s Grace Street Apartments weren’t exactly sure, at least at first, how the city council affects them.
Phillip Wong, a junior psychology major, was one of the few students to ask any questions of the council candidates: Democrats Chris Jones and Sal Romero Jr. and independents Carolyn Frank, Frank McMillan and Paloma Saucedo. The five are vying for two spots on the council.
Facing more than 40 JMU students in Eagle Hall’s common room Wednesday evening, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart offered a brief pitch, then opened it up for students to throw it right back at him.
“No softballs,” he said.
Kelly Ryan, a freshman political science major, obliged. She asked Stewart about his call for blocking federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Since single-stream trash and recycling service abruptly stopped last spring, Harrisonburg officials have examined how to best spend taxpayer dollars for waste collection and recycling. For now, Patel said, an employee-managed recycling collection center is the best option, and there is no plan to bring curbside pick-up back to the city anytime soon.
Instead, the city is trying to figure out how to expand voluntary collection options.
You hear about the local food movement and buy fresh buy local, but can you put a figure on the local food economy in our area? Nearly all of the restaurants in downtown Harrisonburg source locally grown food for ingredients on their menus. Harrisonburg City Schools have a $100,000 budget for locally purchased foods for school meals that come from within 100 miles of the city. Andrea Early, executive director of school nutrition for Harrisonburg’s schools, says that serving local foods helps kids make that connection between the food and who grows it. She hopes that by educating kids about healthy eating they will make healthier choices as adults.