Study in contrasts: Monroe, Reynolds vying for Ward B council seat
Story by Chris Graham
Tom Reynolds won election to represent Ward B on Waynesboro City Council in 2000 after receiving more than 80 percent of the votes cast in his two-way race with Blue Ridge Area Food Bank chief-executive officer Marty White.
On Tuesday, Reynolds, a member of the faculty at Fishburne Military School, is being challenged for re-election by Waynesboro native and disabled Vietnam War veteran Howard Monroe.
We asked Monroe and Reynolds five questions on the issues of the day in the River City.
Their answers follow.
1. What are your top priorities for improving the quality of life in Waynesboro?
My top priority for improving the quality of life in Waynesboro is to balance the racial inequality and religious injustice in Waynesboro. Racial inequality spills over into every sector of life, with children suffering the most. The imbalance in the city government is immediately seen when you enter city hall and there are no Negro faces present in any offices. We Negroes have no ranking fireman or policeman on the fire nor police departments. Our school system passed over Mr. Williams for a principal position as it did Mr. Perry; however we do have one federally and state-mandated principal at William Perry Elementary School. And the few teachers who are Negro have no specialized skills; therefore they are usually also passed over for promotions. A majority of the private-sector jobs in Waynesboro are remedial. We blacks do no work in any management positions. This racial inequality in Waynesboro has been handed down from generation to generation and has become worse since the “Bible” and “Pray” has been removed from the schools.
First of all, let me say that Waynesboro has a good quality of life – it is a safe place to live and raise a family, there are many activities and events available for all ages, and we have a peaceful community. That being said, we can always improve.
A new program we have started is the CLEAN Team (Citizens and Law Enforcement Adopting Neighborhoods). The idea is to go into different areas of the city, talk with the residents about things that can be done to improve the appearance of the neighborhood, and promote the care and upkeep of private property. I had the opportunity to go with the team to visit York Drive. It was a positive experience, and I feel it will be a long-term benefit to Waynesboro. I enjoyed visiting with many residents and discussing their concerns as well as their positive feelings about the neighborhood.
I will work with city council to provide for a full range of high-quality, cost-effective public services that promote safety, security, peace, tranquility and serenity in our community. I will continue to promote and support regular activities and special events, and work to expand the number of activities and events, which benefit the community. I will continue to encourage the preservation of existing neighborhoods, including historically significant architecture in those neighborhoods.
2. Should the city be involved in downtown redevelopment? Or should the revitalization effort be left to the private sector?
In order for downtown redevelopment to be effective, we must build on public/private partnerships. Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. was established by city council to spearhead the effort. Council established a five-year funding plan, and the city’s involvement remains critical to the long-term success of the redevelopment of the downtown business area. At the end of that time, we will evaluate our progress and adjust plans accordingly. Part of what makes Waynesboro unique is its downtown. Steps have been taken to improve the appearance of the area through façade-improvement grants and a long-awaited streetscape project. As a Main Street Community, we have the opportunity to promote vision, collaboration and accountability among those individuals and organizations with a vested interest. In addition, the city must aggressively develop an anchor for a revitalized downtown.
The most important thing we need to deal with downtown is flooding. City council understands that we must think outside the box in dealing with flooding. One idea, which is part of the Waynesboro City Council vision for 2018, is to remove those buildings that consistently flood and replace them with a community center and shops built on stilts with parking on the ground level. In this way, we will minimize cost and mitigate flood damage in the area and create an anchor for downtown revitalization. Another idea being considered is to remove the buildings and backfill the low areas in downtown so that water won’t collect at the corner of Main Street and Arch Avenue.
I believe the city of Waynesboro should not be involved with revitalization, other than researching a developer to buy the properties between Wayne Avenue and Arch Avenue and Spring Lane and Federal Street from the owners or city at possibly city-assessed value. This developer must agree to demolish and raze the existing downtown and rebuild an inside mall in its place.
3. Should the city look to revise the Comprehensive Plan to encourage more development in the West End?
Yes, only if the other communities of Waynesboro are also developed with the same eagerness.
The Comprehensive Plan is now in the process of being updated and revised. I believe the plan will be a vital tool of the council vision for 2018 and will enact reasonable but firm land-development controls aimed at building and sustaining the city’s economic vitality. I envision development citywide, not just in the West End. However, due to its proximity to I-64, this is a prime area for carefully managed development. It is also very important to encourage reuse and redevelopment of existing industrial, commercial and residential structures throughout the community.
4. What can the city do with regard to taxes and fees to guarantee that it has access to the revenues needed to operate government?
By encouraging new and existing businesses and helping them enhance their vitality, we will broaden our tax base. By maintaining an appropriate balance among industrial, commercial and residential sources, we can meet our needs. The key is not to place an undue burden on the taxpayer while, at the same time, providing the needed revenue to operate the city. We must be careful that we not overspend just because we have the ability to tax. City council must look at efficiencies in providing needed and expected services. It is critical that we meet the public needs at the lowest cost without compromising value and effectiveness of services. The utilization of our Comprehensive Plan and zoning Ordinances, along with a strategic plan, financial plan, capital-improvements plan and economic-development plan, all aligned with council’s vision, we will be in a strong position to provide for the future of Waynesboro.
The city of Waynesboro needs to create different taxes other than to continue to raise real estate, cigarettes and meals. The city of Waynesboro needs to talk with its city attorney about how to establish environmental ordinances that would require all new and userd cars sold in Waynesboro after 12-31-04 to be equipped with a smog device, and all privately owned cars requiring state inspection after 12-31-04 to also be equipped with a smog device. Waynesboro could also create and enforce tougher environmental laws.
5. Does Waynesboro show enough support for its local school system?
No. Waynesboro does not show enough support for its local school system because all of the money that council allocates for the school budget is for a majority taken from real-estate taxes. This spending is felt to be unfair by the property owner who for a majority are retired or elderly citizens and no longer have any children in the school system. Yet we citizens of Waynesboro must understand “the quality of life is no better than one’s educational level.”
Historically, city council has been extremely supportive of the local school system, providing more funding than expected by the state formula. From the renovations at Waynesboro High School to the completion of the air conditioning at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School, we have worked with the school board to meet their needs. Each year, council must look at the revenues available and the needs, citywide, and then do their best to provide for those needs. When times are tight, this becomes a difficult task.
I have a strong personal attachment to the schools, since my mother was a teacher in Waynesboro for over 25 years, I am a graduate of Waynesboro High School, and my three children all went through the local school system. Fortunately, this year the state is providing a significant amount of new money to the local school system – somewhere between $1.3 and $1.6 million. Last year, the schools received approximately $700,000 in new money from the state and city, combined. Consequently, this year the school system will receive double what it did last year. As our economy continues to grow and expand, city council will again be in a better position to provide new money for such projects as the Kate Collins Middle School project.
We have opened a better line of communication between the school board and city council, as we are now meeting on a regular basis to discuss important issues, both current and future. This way, we can work more closely together to provide for the needs of the local school system, and the school board can better understand the needs of the community as a whole. In the long term, this will provide for a more positive approach and better understanding by both bodies to the complex budget process we go through each year.