Stakes are high for students in City Council election

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March 14, 2008

1:07 PM

The stars are, at last, aligning. After years of a local government that ignores student voices, after finally being graced with a registrar who enfranchises students and after months of hard work registering students to vote in Williamsburg, we now have the final piece of the puzzle — a candidate. Matt Beato ’09 is officially running for City Council.

p. As a colleague and close friend of Beato, I wholeheartedly endorse and support his campaign and encourage every student on this campus to do the same.

p. The upcoming May 6 City Council elections are immensely important for College students. While two years ago only about 70 students voted in the spring elections (they were forced to jump through outrageous hoops to even register to vote), there are now already more than 1,000 members of the student body registered to vote in Williamsburg. In 2006, then-student David Sievers ’07 took a semester off, worked diligently and managed to win 713 votes in that election — without the benefit of significant student support. Unfortunately, that was 156 votes fewer than he needed to win a seat on the council. This year, with the ability of students to register to vote and turn out in large numbers, I am hopeful that Beato will be able to wage a successful campaign.

p. It is high time the Williamsburg City Council listened seriously to student concerns, and in order to make that happen we must elect a student representative. From the city’s incredibly strict noise ordinance to the lack of student-friendly businesses to the infamous “three-person” rule restricting students’ ability to live off-campus, Williamsburg has consistently neglected student interests. If a student were elected, the council could finally begin to address these issues in a fair, comprehensive manner that takes into account all of Williamsburg’s citizens.

p. More than just “any” student, though, Beato is uniquely qualified to run for City Council. Upon entering the College as a freshman, he immediately dove into the Student Assembly, looking to affect change and help successfully govern the student body. Since then, Beato has attended City Council, Neighborhood Council and Planning Commission meetings, worked tirelessly to register students to vote (back when it was nearly impossible) and has continued to improve students’ lives through his efforts in the SA.

p. Beato has dedicated his college career to promoting students’ rights and making Williamsburg an even better community. It is this amazing passion, combined with Beato’s exhaustive knowledge of city issues (unrivaled by anyone else that I’ve met) that make him an impressive candidate for City Council.

p. However, in order to win this campaign and serve as a positive voice in Williamsburg government, Beato needs student support. As students of the College, we comprise half of Williamsburg’s population, and yet none of the five members of City Council have shown an interest in supporting students’ rights. We deserve better.

p. To affect change, however, students must actively participate in the political process — first and foremost, by registering to vote in Williamsburg. We spend at least 75 percent of our time in Williamsburg between freshman orientation and graduation, pay food and sales taxes to the city, can be ticketed and fined based on city ordinances and our ability to live off-campus is affected directly by the actions of our local government. It behooves us, then, to exercise our right to vote in Williamsburg.

p. I urge everyone to vote in the May 6 City Council election. If you intend to do so, the deadline to register to vote in Williamsburg is April 7. If you want to get involved in this historic campaign, visit Mattbeato.com for more information.

p. Our community should be tremendously excited about this upcoming election. It is a truly momentous occasion for both the College and the city of Williamsburg.

p. __Devan Barber is a senior at the College.__

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