The six Williamsburg City Council candidates faced off last night in the Great Hall of the Wren Building during an historic debate about student issues. The event was the first city council debate on campus.
Over 100 students listened to the candidates discuss student-related issues, including town-gown relations and public transportation.
“I was excited we could have an open forum,” organizer Sarah Rojas ’10 said.
The debate allowed students to further differentiate the platforms of all six candidates. The candidates are Matt Beato ’09, incumbent Paul Freiling ’83, former Mayor Gil Granger ’57, Vice Mayor and economics Professor Clyde Haulman, Swem volunteer Judy
Knudson and real estate broker Terence Wehle ’77.
Candidates were asked to characterize their view of the relationship between College students and city residents. Each candidates described Williamsburg as a unique city that has to balance student, resident and the needs of low-income worker.
“Relations between students and the community ebb and flows over the years,” Haulman said. “In the future, we need to strengthen [relations].” Wehle agreed.
“There has been a little bit of friction. I think these things should be worked out,” he said.
Freiling alluded to the College’s long history of discontent with city residents.
“Some things don’t change, but they do get better,” he said.
The debate moved on to the three-person rule, which bans more than three unrelated people from living together. The candidates unanimously agreed that changes were needed.
“We would rather make exceptions to the three-person rule beforehand rather than after students have broken it,” Knudson said.
Granger held pictures of variously sized homes.
“These houses are not the same,” he said. “You have to use your judgment.”
Beato addressed his status as a student.
“The median age of a Williamsburg resident is 22. The median age of Williamsburg City Council members is much higher than that,” he said. “All people need to be represented at the table.”
Student organizers agreed that the debate was a victory for students.
“The debate was more successful than we could have ever hoped for,” Rojas said.