Monday, April 26, 2010

Punch your ticket in City Council race

The first thing that strikes me about the upcoming Williamsburg City Council election is that none of the five candidates is awful..

That's unusual.

In a mutli-candidate race like this, you'd usually have at least one candidate whom only his mother or a crackhead would vote for.

This year, however, one can see any of these candidates serving with distinction on council. Which isn't to say they are are all on the same page. Each brings different strenghs to the table. And since two seats are up for grabs, various combinations of candidates might play out very differently.

There are 10 possible "tickets" that could result from the May 4 election. Which voters choose depends on what they want council to look like for the next two years, at least.

 1. Nice Guys Finish First Ticket (Bobby Braxton and Dr. David Dafashy):  Incumbent Braxton and Dafashy, a physician with the student heatlh service at the College of William & Mary, are the most amiable of the five candidates. Each is quick with a joke or a smile. That doesn't mean they'd do a great job on council. As the stories of Mark Warner, Rahm Emaneul, Tommy Norment or George Allen point out, sometimes you need a highly-motivated jerk to get things done.

2. Status Quo Ticket (Braxton and Sean Driscoll): Braxton, of course, is on council. Driscoll, a member of the Planning Commission, has recycled some of retiring Mayor Jeanne Zeidler's rhetoric and of all the challengers is probably closest in philosophy to the current Council. So he'd fit right in with a Council run by likely new Mayor Clyde Haulman. If you think everything in the city is going just great, this is your ticket.

3. Age Ain't Nothing But a Number Ticket (Braxton and Scott Foster): Braxton is 50 years older than Foster, a 22-year-old graduating senior at W&M. Braxton  has a lifetime of experiences. Foster, who'll enter law school in the fall, basically has none. They don't agree on much. Foster supports student efforts to expand the three-person rule to four. Braxton wavered before voting against the expansion but has brought his negative vote up repeatedly during rhe campaign. I guess you could say they balance each other.

4. Mickey Chohany Nostalgia Ticket (Braxton and Doug Pons): Remember when Chohany was the only businessman on council and was on the losing end of a bunch of 4-1 votes? That's Pons' fate if this ticket is elected. Pons, chairman of the Planning Commission, has butted heads with the majority on council and the city's power structure for the last four years. If he fills Zeidler's seat with no other changes to council, he'll spend the next two years as a voice in the wilderness.

5. Growing Pains Ticket (Dafashy and Driscoll): Both Dafashy and Driscoll have stressed the need to protect "the character" and "the look" of Williamsburg. That makes them the two candidates who are most suspicious of growth. Both talk in terms of "smart" and "managed" growth and both cite Yankee Candle as an example of the the kind of growth they don't want to see.

6. Be True To Your School Ticket (Dafashy and Foster): For those who think the college couldn't do any worse job running the city than Colonial Williamsburg has done all these years. A natural ticket for those student voters who don't single shot for Foster. If the ticket were elected, they would -- along with Haulman, a professor at the college and Judy Knudson, a former employee of the college -- give William & Mary an overwhelming influence on Council, as opposed to poor, oppressed Colonial Williamsburg, represented only by Paul Freiling (a W&M alum).

7. Both Ends Against the Middle Ticket (Dafashy and Pons): Both Dafashy, with his emphasis on smart growth and holding developers accountable, and Pons, with his demands that the council get serious about tourism promotion and listen to the city's hotel and restaurant businesses, would likely rub the current Council majority wrong. But they'd do so for different reasons and on different issues, probably not forming much of a coalition.

8. Politicians of America Ticket (Driscoll and Foster): Both tried to be "everything to everybody" in their campaigns. Although he voted repeatedly against expanding the three-person rule, Driscoll has courted the student vote, telling them "you need two voices on Council." Foster, confident in his student support, has reached out to the rest of the city, to the distress of some more radical student supporters. It wouldn't be suprising to see either of these guys serving in Richmond in a few  years.

9. To Hell With the Four-Person Rule Ticket (Driscoll and Pons):  As members of the Planning Commission, both men voted repeatedly against expanding the three-person rule, only to be overruled by a Council majority that had already cut a deal with the Student Assembly. If  both are elected they, along with Judy Knudson, would form a majority opposed to the four-person rule. While that might not mean a roll back of the change, it would bode ill for changes students still want in the ordinance, such as reducing square footage of houses eligible to house four students.

10. Extra! Estra! Read All About It Ticket (Foster and Pons): I don't live in Williamsburg, so I can't vote in this election. If I could, this would be my ticket. A student finally gets elected! One of the power structure's harshest critics gets a bully pulpit on Council! This is the ticket that will sell newspapers. Pons can be  a loose cannon at times. Foster will have to represent the students whose votes will elect him and some of their demands will seem wacky to adults. These guys are great copy. This is the ticket that most shakes up the status quo on council.
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