In a brief but enthusiastic meeting of Charlottesville Republicans in the District Court building on Sunday, incumbent City Councilor Rob Schilling was nominated to run for a second term. Schilling was first elected in May 2002 in an upset victory that came 16 years after the last GOP member of City Council left office. He announced his intention to seek re-election on February 21.
Schilling's name was put into nomination by John Pfaltz, who himself was a candidate for City Council in 2000. Seconding the nomination was attorney Charles "Buddy" Weber, who heads up the Charlottesville Taxpayers' Association.
Both Pfaltz and Weber emphasized Schilling's achievements in office, notably his leading a multi-partisan effort to replace Charlottesville's appointed School Board -- a legacy of Jim Crow -- with one elected by the people. Charlottesville voters responded with a irrefutable "yes" vote in a referendum last year, despite uniform opposition by the city's political elites, including all four Democratic members of City Council.
Pfaltz and Weber also emphasized Schilling's leadership in bringing common-sense analysis and scrutiny to the city's budget process, noting that until he took office in 2002, City Council had voted to raise taxes for 20 straight years, but since Schilling added a voice of sanity to the process, the property tax rate has been cut by a cumulative 8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. (Because of rising assessments, taxes have continued to rise.) Weber pointed out that in the past ten years, taxes have gone up while the city accumulated surpluses totalling $40 million over that same decade.
In accepting the nomination, Schilling offered thanks for those who had helped him over the past four years, and also laid out a vision for the future. A podcast of the full meeting -- with nomination speeches, parliamentary procedure, and Schilling's acceptance speech -- can be found at the Charlottesville Tomorrow Weblog. Here is the text version of Councilor Schilling's remarks:
Good afternoon, friends and supporters.WCAV-TV has its report on the Schilling nomination here and WINA's Chris Callahan has a report here. Channel 29, the Charlottesville NBC affiliate, did not cover the nomination event, although it did report the nomination of Schilling's opponents, Democrats Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro, yesterday. Independent candidates have until close of business on Tuesday, May 7, to turn in the petition signatures of 125 registered voters to qualify to be on the ballot. (School Board candidates, who will be running in a non-partisan election, face the same deadline and same petition requirements.)
I’d like to thank you all for being here this afternoon to support my nomination for re-election to the Charlottesville City Council.
I’d like to thank John Pfaltz and Buddy Weber for their kind and astute remarks. And I look forward to working with Buddy Weber as the new Charlottesville Republican Chair, as Bob Hodous transitions from his current position into a new role.
I’d like to thank Bob Hodous for his guidance and for his steady hand at the helm over the past four years. Bob has righted the boat and put us back on course, and I am grateful for all he’s done and for the dignity with which he’s served.
Most importantly, I thank my wife, Joan, without whose support and sacrifice I could not be standing before you today. Many of you don’t know this, but in my first year of service, and throughout her pregnancy with Gabriel, Joan attended nearly every City Council meeting, and stayed until the bitter end, often after midnight, just to support me.
Four years ago, I received the honor of your nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for Charlottesville City Council. As your nominee, I promised you:
That if elected, I would serve as a voice for the people of this community, and not as an agent of the elites.
That if elected, I would bring common sense leadership to Charlottesville’s City Council, shunning the frivolous and focusing on the issues that are most important to citizens.
That if elected, I would work for an inclusive government and an inclusive government process: one that serves the public, not the powerful few.
The promises I made then, were promises I have kept.
Over the past four years:
The people of Charlottesville have known they have a friend on City Council—someone who will respectfully listen to all concerns and all points of view. As your city councilor for the next four years, I will continue to treat all constituents with the respect they deserve and, to be your citizen advocate—your voice and your ears inside city hall.
The people of Charlottesville know that I trust them with the power of self-determination. I did not stick my head in the sand, but rather, I stuck my neck out, when the citizens of this community demanded a direct voice in educational policy. While other elected officials abstained from the debate, and refused to take a definitive stand on what was one of the most important decisions in the city’s history, I led a bipartisan coalition of Charlottesville citizens to victory when the Elected School Board referendum was passed last fall by nearly 75% of the voters.
As Charlottesville moves into its future with an elected school board, there is a need for experienced and committed leadership to manage the transition. My continued presence on City Council for the next four years provides genuine support and trusted guidance throughout this transition.
The people of Charlottesville know that I will act diligently and responsibly in my duties, and they trust me to put ethics above personal gain. I’m the only councilor who has attended all of the regularly scheduled City Council meetings held since I was elected in 2002. During this time, I have cast hundreds of votes. And when there has been a personal conflict of interest for me, unlike other elected officials, I have thoughtfully, ethically, and rightly abstained from that vote. As your Councilor for the next four years I will continue to hold myself to the highest standards and will carefully consider every vote you have entrusted to me.
The people of Charlottesville know that I am the only councilor who can be counted on to reliably advocate for fiscal discipline in city hall. Affordable housing is a problem in the city but it is part of the larger problem of affordable living in Charlottesville. I understand that the high cost of city living is directly related to the high cost of city government. Council can and must do better to alleviate the escalating financial burdens placed on the backs of renters and homeowners alike.
By speaking forcefully against “business as usual” budgeting, a city council, which had shown no inclination otherwise, has been pressed into reducing the property tax rate by a cumulative 8 cents during my first term on council. That amount of property tax rate reductions had not been seen in the previous twenty years, and is no coincidence to my 2002 election.
As your Councilor for the next four years, I will continue to advocate for ways to reduce the city’s dependence on real estate tax revenues, to pursue consolidation and cooperative service agreements to reduce costs, and to work for equitable and efficient budget process reform. The people of Charlottesville deserve better services for less money, rather than the fewer services for more money that have been offered to this community over the past many years.
The people of Charlottesville know:
That I have demanded accountability for the uneven performance of our educational system and I will work to erase the unconscionable achievement gap that has existed in our schools for too long. All of our students deserve the benefits of a “world class” education. We must work together to harness resources, such as those found in our own backyard at the Curry School of Education, so that this vision will become a reality.
The people know that I have supported our public safety employees, and especially our understaffed and overburdened police department, and I will continue to advocate for making public safety a top budget priority
The people know that I have pressed for policies to increase traffic flow, reduce gridlock in and around the city, and create more efficient public transit options, and I will continue to pursue regional solutions to our growing traffic problems
The people know that I have fought hard to broaden representation on City Council and on the School Board, to include those who have not traditionally been given a seat at the table, and I will continue to work for electoral reform that is inclusive and that truly empowers the public. Public service should not be the privilege of an exclusive few as it has been in Charlottesville for too many years.
The people know that I have asked hard questions—about budgets, about projects, about people—wherever and whenever appropriate, in order to get a straight answer, and I will continue to demand clear and direct answers to clear and direct questions asked on my own behalf, and especially on the behalf of citizens. The public deserves responsive and transparent government.
The people know that working together with all of the citizens of this community, we have shaped Charlottesville, for the better, by challenging the powers that be, by changing the way we’ve “always done things,” by speaking out for the unheard, and by shining a light into the often dark recesses of city hall.
I thank you again for the confidence you place in me as I seek re-election to the Charlottesville City Council. I am humbled by the many, many Democrats, Independents, and Republicans across this community who have urged me to seek a second term. I welcome the opportunity to again be your trusted public servant—your city Councilor—and I ask for your vote on May 2nd.
Update: Liesel Nowak has this report in the Daily Progress.