Question: If elected, would you support efforts to make changes to the scope and cost of the courthouse and even consider moving it further out of downtown and possibly near a city entranceway? Please be specific in your answers.
I would not for the following reasons: For the past six years, City Council has considered how best to provide for the long-term needs of the courts. At least seven different sites have been studied, including properties along William Street, Sophia Street, Caroline Street, Princess Anne Street, and Lafayette Blvd. The decision made more than four years ago to keep the courts downtown was the result of overwhelming public support. The plan that has been chosen is the most cost-effective way to accomplish the best solution for the courts, both in the short and long term.
We accomplished one of our main priorities: to achieve the best long term use of city-owned property and the surrounding area in this valuable downtown real estate. It gives us the opportunity to put the Circuit and General District Court in one place that could be expanded in the future, if needed, while making good use of the General District Court Building for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. It also gives the city space to expand and renovate the Fire Department (keeping it in its present location) and so do something—finally— with the Executive Plaza.
Timing is crucial in financial decisions. We were able to take advantage of a historically low interest rate. This project is financed at 3.64% interest rate fixed for 25 years. Because of the favorable interest rate and the council’s good stewardship of the city’s finances, the city is on sound financial footing for its immediate and long term financial needs. This fact has been affirmed by independent rating agencies including Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.
Question: What vision do you have for the Riverfront Park and how are you going to make that vision happen in your first tenure?
The Riverfront Park is a goal supported by all members of Council. I was on the original Riverfront task force as the planning commission representative. The park will serve the city well, as a location for events, a gathering spot for visitors and residents, an enhancement to our riverfront and downtown. It will encourage the revitilitzation of Sophia Street. The land has been acquired. The next step is to design the park and that money is in this year’s budget. I will support moving forward with the detailed design and construction of the park. The Riverfront task force consists of citizens representing many different interest, neighboring church, downtown merchants, Friends of the Rappahannock , nearby neighborhoods, etc. The task force process served the city well in creating a pathways and trails plan and will serve us well in the design and completion of the Riverfront Park.
Question: What do you think should happen with Oktoberfest and why?
All interested parties agree that Oktoberfest is a good event. The problem lies in how it is handled. Any event that closes streets must be carefully planned to minimize the disruption both to traffic and to business. The complication to this event is the alcohol sales and ABC regulations. The city manager and the promoters of the event are working toward a solution, even as you read this. It is inappropriate at this time for individual councilors to comment outside of that discussion.
Question: There is an abundance of retail and restaurant jobs in Fredericksburg, and not as many high-paying wage jobs. What specific plan do you have to get more high-paying jobs in Fredericksburg?
I would like to use our grants and incentives program to assist Landlords in making sure their buildings can provide the hi tech infrastructure for government contractors. In my day job as a commercial real estate broker, I deal with government contractors and healthcare firms, two industries who drive our local economy. I do understand their needs.
Question: Most people seem to support the Arts and Culture programs in the city. But what specifically do you want to do to help these programs perform better and to increase boost overall progress in the arts? Do you think you can help get a performing arts center for the city and how?
I have a vision for the arts in Fredericksburg that builds on our current strong foundation. We have reorganized the Fine Arts Commission into the Fredericksburg Arts Commission; We have created an Arts and Cultural District that provides support to arts-related businesses ; We have instituted an annual arts event downtown; We have begun to more heavily market Fredericksburg as an arts destination;
I see Fredericksburg as a leader in cultural tourism, a place to which people travel to enjoy arts-related events such as weekend festivals featuring art, film, drama, and music. I see the downtown as active on any weekend evening as it currently is on First Friday. I see performers of national stature making Fredericksburg a regular stop in their tours. I firmly believe that we can bring that vision to fruition.
First and foremost, the city can and should create a climate where the arts can flourish. Within the confines of state law, we need to expand the incentives and support offered through the arts district. Via Colori is a first step in creating a weekend-long cultural event that includes local artists and performers in a number of media, and we need to expand on events such as the FFPA and the Rappahannock Independent Film Festival, making these events a focal point of our tourism marketing.
Second, the city should partner with private organizations for the creation of a downtown performing arts center. A performing arts center is not something city government can plan, construct, and operate on its own. It can and should, though, participate in the process as part of a public-private partnership. I will kick start this process by asking the Arts Commission to form an exploratory group and by providing seed money for that project.
Third, the city should more actively fund and nourish the creation of public art. With the exceptions of the mosaic at Roxbury Farm and the fence paintings on Caroline Street, Fredericksburg has seen little public art since the statue of Hugh Mercer was erected in 1906. We can take advantage of our considerable local and regional talent to create public art that can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone.
And lastly, the city should increase its support for artists and arts organizations. This support can come in a number of ways – additional grants to organizations and individual artists, the use of local artists for city-sponsored promotions, and the display of local art in public buildings..
Fredericksburg already stands out as one of the foremost arts cities in Virginia, but there are steps city government can take to embrace the arts, something that will be of great benefit to our quality of life and economic well-being. As Mayor, I will take those steps.