Students need to realize that city’s economy relies on residents

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November 20, 2008

11:38 PM

Williamsburg Vice Mayor Clyde Haulman gets a pretty bad rap. This is a man who is extremely involved in the Williamsburg community. He is always around, whether he is drawing snappy supply-and-demand curves in 150 Millington Hall every day or walking his dogs through campus.

Haulman has been placed in a sticky position in the last year and a half, trying to bridge the gap between the concerns of students and residents. Unfortunately, this means he has to answer to student concerns about housing, transportation and the right to vote, and residents’ concerns about students.
In Williamsburg, students share close quarters with residents and a makeshift colonial society. There has been a lot of jostling in the few years that I’ve been here, and, somehow, Haulman is always partly to blame. We accuse him of ignoring student rights, even though he has worked to promote affordable, accessible student transportation and student-resident interactions through free Williamsburg events.

Students have severely criticized Haulman because of his stand on student housing. The students’ objections to the three-person rule are reasonable, as the law does target students specifically and attempts to restrict the number of students who can affordably live in Williamsburg.

However, the law doesn’t exist because the town hates College students. The law is in place because of money, property taxes and the need to support Williamsburg’s economy. These are topics that microeconomics professor Haulman knows about.

Funding for Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg public schools and even the College comes from families or retired folks who decide to settle in the town, pay lots of income taxes and property taxes to live here and become financial contributors to the community.

Colonial Williamsburg depends upon money, and the College relies more on private financial contributions and football game receipts than we’d like to admit. In our economy’s current crisis, the city needs more tax income from younger families and older couples who decide to move to the city, working in and paying for that fancy colonial city down the street.

Sometimes, as students, we need to understand that money plays a huge role in the decisions that politicians and community leaders must make. Don’t get me wrong — we contribute to the community in many ways. We volunteer, open our campus to residents, tutor kids, go to movies and buy lots of food and beer.

But we have measly part-time job paychecks, we do not pay property taxes and, as renters, we have no obligation to clean up the yard and grow flower boxes.

The fact that we are statistically less likely to mow the lawn make us a liability for homeowners who worry about their own property taxes going up or the value of their home going down because messy college students live next door. Not everyone mistreats a rental home, but enough students do leave their lawns unmowed and their backyards skewed with litter that the city views it as a problem.

Haulman isn’t arguing that students should stay out of town or that students should not live off campus, and neither am I. Haulman said in a town-gown relations meeting last week that “residents need to know and understand that they are living next to a college campus, but students need to respect the neighborhoods as well.” There just needs to be a balance.

With students and residents having almost equal clout in Williamsburg city elections, the issues that have become so divisive will only become more so. While we should not stop fighting for our own rights and needs in the Williamsburg community, we need to try to understand the residents’ points of view.
Namely, we are usually only here for four or five years. Most of the residents will have to deal with the long-term economic effects of more student renters because they’re old and they’re going to be here until they die.

Brittany Hamilton is a junior at the College.

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