With more than 1,000 students registered to vote in Williamsburg, students have suddenly become a powerful voting bloc in the city. No candidate can win without the student vote. Over the past two weeks, The Flat Hat editorial board sat down with the six City Council candidates for about an hour each. A year ago, this would have been inconceivable.
With a unified voice, students now have the chance to elect candidates who will respond to student needs and treat us as equals in a city that has long ignored our concerns. We urge you to vote for the three who impressed us most: Matt Beato, Paul Freiling and Gil Granger.
Matt Beato ’09
It makes sense that student voters should elect a student candidate — no one can better understand the demands of the College community. But that student must also prove himself capable of governing a complex and diverse city. Matt Beato has done just that. His unique mixture of experience, dedication and vision makes him an excellent choice for Williamsburg City Council.
Since arriving on campus three years ago, Beato has been a tenacious force in the Student Assembly, consistently fighting to make that organization more relevant and responsive. We can say with complete confidence that few senators match his knowledge of student government, and none rival his passion for city politics — he’s already serving on an elected city board. The commitment he has shown will make him an effective and responsive council member.
Beato has also converted his passion into a tangible course of action for Williamsburg, one superior to that outlined by the other candidates. On the three-person rule, his stance makes sense for an illogical policy that tackles problems indirectly rather than head-on. He will fight to make the rule more lenient, ideally shooting for a formula based on number of bedrooms.
We were equally pleased to see he would commit to working with residents to assuage fears about noise and property deterioration. Beato has reached out to the community, displaying a depth of knowledge extending beyond purely College-related concerns. His plans to ensure a sustainable water source for the city and his understanding of the need to maintain one of the region’s best school districts indicate as much. Matt Beato isn’t right just for the College, he’s right for the city.
Paul Freiling ’83
After some rocky years with the current City Council, students may be wary of voting for an incumbent. Paul Freiling, though, deserves our support. Another College student who decided to settle in Williamsburg, he offers the fairest balance of student- and city-oriented policies. And while Freiling has occasionally held students at arm’s length, he’s shown a sincere dedication to improving town and gown relations.
We must be clear: On the three-person rule, Freiling hedged. He proposed no definite solution, but he expressed a desire to explore new policies and a commitment to work incrementally toward change.
We were impressed that Freiling has reevaluated his decision to loan the Williamsburg Housing Redevelopment Authority money to purchase and renovate the Harrison house. Instead, he wants to work with the state to ensure new housing developments will include affordable units. It is a novel solution for low-income families and a far cry from the heavy-handed efforts of the current council.
While it would have been easy for Freiling to craft his campaign goals as continuations of his current work on council, he has pressed for new policies in education, transportation and water use. Forward thinking like this is necessary if the city is to excel in an increasingly competitive region. Freiling has made certain to include students in his big plans, and students should not hesitate to include him in theirs.
Gil Granger ’57
Gil Granger knows Williamsburg, and Gil Granger knows the College. After coming to the College more than a half century ago, he made Williamsburg his home and has made his livelihood here ever since. More than any other candidate, he has the experience to understand the town and gown relationship, and his policy priorities reflect this.
Since graduation, Granger has maintained an active relationship with the College, attending sporting events, serving on College boards, and advising the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. His partnership with the city has proven similarly fruitful. The years have seen him as both Williamsburg mayor and as an entrepreneur, making him the most experienced candidate in the race.
That experience has taught him the necessity of challenging bad policies and of appealing to students as equal members of the community. To that end, he has committed himself to overhauling the three-person rule. He acknowledges that a better method is necessary and that finding this method hinges on the ability to resolve residents’ worries about noise and parking.
The current City Council members’ decision to loan money to “flip” the Harrison house while inserting an owner-occupied clause in the deed has also played a critical role in town and gown relations. Granger, himself a resident of Harrison Avenue, opposed the action and says he would challenge similar actions. He saw the folly in a policy that intentionally restricts housing opportunities for low-income residents. And as a former mayor, accountant and real-estate mogul, Granger should know.
Second only to Beato, Granger understands student needs.
WE DO NOT ENDORSE
As a professor, Haulman has been in a unique position to serve as a bridge between the College and the city for the past eight years. Given the general lack of communication and cooperation between the two parties, it is safe to say he failed.
He stands by his decision to loan money to purchase the Harrison house, even after it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars and has taken two affordable housing units off the market. Haulman continues to believe the three-person rule more or less works for the community, though he may entertain an objective application process for variances. Time and again, Haulman has supported anti-student policies.
Judy Knudson is this race’s most conservative candidate when it comes to student issues. She blames the College for many of the recent relationship troubles with the city and believes the College, not the city, should find solutions. Knudson offered little hope for those looking to change the three-person rule. She believes it works. Unequivocally.
Terrence Wehle ’77
Terrence Wehle’s candidacy centers on one concern: density. We fear this may amount to his only reason for running. He doesn’t seem to have done his homework, and aside from density, he showed very little depth on city issues. Though he favors amending the three-person rule, Wehle offers no concrete reasoning or definite solutions for doing so.
Austin Wright, Editor-in-Chief
Jeff Dooley, Managing Editor
Alice Hahn, Executive Editor
Miles Hilder, Sports Editor
Andrew Peters, Editorial Writer