Ricketts v. Egleston: Political heavyweights square off in at-large race
Story by Chris Graham
Waynesboro Mayor Chuck Ricketts was unopposed in 2000 – but he wasn’t in 1996, when he came out at the top of a five-candidate race for the at-large seat on Waynesboro City Council.
One of the candidates that he defeated in that election was DuBose Egleston, who won a seat on city council representing the city’s Ward D two years later.
Egleston, who was upset by then-former council member Reo Hatfield in the Ward D race in 2002, is back in the at-large field again, challenging Ricketts, who has served as mayor for eight years.
We asked Egleston and Ricketts five questions on the issues of the day in Waynesboro.
Here is what each had to say …
1. What are your top priorities for improving the quality of life in Waynesboro?
The city must find a way to continue to fund all the services demanded by the citizens and mandated by the state and federal governments without taxing our citizens to the extreme. Our quality of life needs to be balanced without taxing our citizens too heavily.
My top priorities for the city of Waynesboro if I am re-elected will be the continued support of economic and industrial development aimed particularly at attracting private investment to downtown. I would continue the strong support council has provided to the city’s school system. Finally, I would strive to achieve a balance between providing quality municipal services while maintaining taxes at a reasonable level.
2. Should the city be involved in downtown redevelopment? Or should the revitalization effort be left to the private sector?
I believe the city has a role in downtown. We are on the right track, and we must persevere if we are to be successful. The key to this revitalization will be the continued attraction of private investment in property and business downtown. Government can do much to encourage this investment, such as the streetscape project, to make downtown more attractive, and the continued support of WDDI. I support the efforts to use tax credits to leverage commercial projects that might not otherwise be economically viable. The rebirth of downtown, however, will only occur if the city is successful at increasing private capital to the central business district.
Yes. The city should be involved in downtown revitalization because the investment the city makes will more than pay for our direct funding in the added stores in downtown. This will add to our tax base as well as for superior real-estate values in the future.
3. Should the city look to revise the comprehensive plan to encourage more development in the West End?
The development of the West End of the city was a matter of timing and not the Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan should be a plan for the entire city, not just the West End.
The current comprehensive plan acknowledges that the I-64/U.S. 340 Interchange as well as the Lew Dewitt Boulevard areas are natural areas for commercial development. Amendments may be justified to provide more specific guidance with respect to the design of projects, with measures included to make adequate provision for the compatibility with existing uses.
4. What can the city do with regard to taxes and fees to guarantee that it has access to the revenue needed to operate government?
Determining the city’s budget is a function of balancing reasonable taxes while providing a level of municipal services, including local support for operating and capital needs of the school system, perceived to be desired by a majority of city residents. Continued economic growth, with careful attention to spending, is a key to minimizing the tax burden and yet maintaining a high level of service. In those areas where fees for service are charged, it is essential that the fee charged is sufficient to cover the cost of delivering that service. In those cases, a citizen would pay their fair share of the services used and theses services are not subsidized by other taxpayers.
The city should continue to encourage our state-legislative delegation to increase the state’s recognized share of public education and to reduce the number of unfounded mandates imposed on local government by state law.
The city must be sure that each department is run as efficiently as possible. I feel the city needs to charge for the specific services to cover the cost. This is particularly important in new housing subdivisions. Not only water and sewer impact fees, but also money set aside for schools.
5. Does Waynesboro show enough support for its local school system?
NO. I feel a good school system is the best economic development incentive that any city can have. A good school system will bring in businesses as well as help retain and expand existing ones.
A number of different statistics can be used to compare local support for education, depending on the point you are trying to make. During my tenure on city council, I have tried to approach school funding in a balanced way. The school systems, like other city departments, have to manage on the local revenues that can reasonably be generated. I believe the city council has worked hard at providing the school system with funds for both operating and capital needs. One new school has been built, and two others have been renovated, in the past 10 years. In addition, the council has consistently reappropriated end-of-year school funds for school projects. The city needs to continue to find ways to support education and to provide for the ever-increasing needs of the schools.