Ever since David Sievers ’06 famously challenged the City of Williamsburg with a bid for Williamsburg City Council, students at the College of William and Mary have been, in some way, interested in Williamsburg politics. That interest increased exponentially in 2010 when Scott Foster ’10 launched a successful campaign for council member. Now it appears that Williamsburg will see another student ticket in May 2012.
“It seems like a campaign is being formed, and it appears likely that a student candidate will be running for the city council election in May,” former Student Assembly Public Affairs Secretary Carlos Quintela ’12 said. “Obviously it’s to the benefit of students to have students run for city offices, and we shouldn’t rely on the good nature of other residents to protect our rights for us.”
During a recent planning commission meeting, SA members approached the council with suggestions on how to appease students. In response to the proposal, Second Vice Chair Jim Joseph said that although he has a “good relationship” with students, the Williamsburg government would be overrepresented by another student on the council.
“We have this phantom going around on campus talking students into running for city council,” Joseph said at the Planning Commission meeting Sept. 21. “I think the Comprehensive Plan should address the issue of [the Council], not so much that students can’t run, but that it’s not healthy to have a dominating number of one segment of the city.”
Students at the College make up more than half the population of Williamsburg. While the population of Williamsburg is about 14,000, the College has more than 8,000 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Something that Mr. Joseph said was that no group should be overrepresented on the council. The fact of the matter is, students make up half the population of Williamsburg. One out of five is not overrepresentation,” Senator Noah Kim ’12 said after the planning commission meeting. “That’s not to say that’s the only way to get our interests across. This is a great way, it’s just — we do make up half the population of Williamsburg. And me, personally, I’d like to see that reflected in the makeup of the government.”
It appears, however, that a “phantom” at the College is planning another council bid by a student representative. Zach Marcus ’12 believes that another student candidate would be influential in city politics.
“There are laws in Williamsburg that disproportionally affect students,” Marcus said. “We make up close to half of the Williamsburg population, depending on what statistics you are looking at. [A council candidate] can get as many votes as you need just from students.”
Marcus plans to be involved in a potential upcoming council campaign that would include a student on the ticket.
“It is incredibly likely that there will be a student candidate,” Marcus said. “I will be intimately involved in the campaign.”
Dan Casey ’14, a member of the SA’s Special Elections Commission, also plans to be involved in the potential upcoming campaign.
“I am strongly considering the candidacy,” Casey said. “I am considering running because I feel it would be a great opportunity to serve my fellow students as well as all other residents of the city. However, I want to be very clear that my plans for a city council run are still in their infancy and that I do not want my consideration of a possible run to discourage any other potential candidates.”
Students involved in the SA believe that another student on the council would help further bridge the gap. Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman is attempting to do so in smaller ways. Haulman sent students at the College a Williamsburg guide for students, including an overview of transportation and dining and housing options around the city, in order to affirm a good relationship between the city and the students.
“Students compromise roughly half of the city’s population and serve as an integral part of our community,” Haulman said in an email. “The City of Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary have an excellent, longstanding relationship, and we continue to work together to provide a safe and supportive environment for students.”
Flat Hat News Editor Vanessa Remmers contributed to this report.