There are a lot of angry people in Williamsburg.
Students are angry. Until recently, we were denied the right to vote for reasons as arbitrary as having a non-local cell phone number, and we have been forcefully segregated out of neighborhoods by outrageous policies.
Residents are angry. Some fear student voters will force policy changes and move into their neighborhoods en-masse, reducing property values, flooding trash into the streets and keeping everyone up all night with loud parties.
All this anger has created a growing division in Williamsburg, a wary hostility just below the surface. We need change. We need new voices in City Council who will not antagonize one group of voters or pander to another — who will find a way to work with both residents and students to unite an increasingly divided Williamsburg.
This election is not a battle between students and residents; it is an opportunity for us to come together and heal the divide that has been growing for nearly 20 years. There are two candidates who understand this, who have the willingness, the know-how and the solutions to make this city a better place for us all: Matt Beato ’09 and Gil Granger ’57.
Beato has been dropping jaws across Williamsburg with his moderate politics, his level-headedness and his astoundingly astute solutions to Williamsburg dilemmas that would benefit residents as much as they would students. Beato, as one enthusiastic letter after another in The Virginia Gazette declares, manages to impress residents as much as he energizes students. Some had feared students would try to elect an aggressive radical and are delighted that Beato is not only moderate, but intelligent and capable.
Granger, a former Williamsburg mayor who spent 16 years on the City Council, doesn’t stand to gain much by returning to politics. He heads more companies than I knew existed in Williamsburg, has seven grandchildren, and enjoys a level of success that lead most men his age to comfortable retirement.
So why take on the burden of responsibility when he least needs it? He says he’s running not for personal gain but because he feels obligated to heal our town and gown antagonism, to unite two populations with real solutions. I have no doubt he’ll succeed if given the chance.
Paul Freiling ’83, despite being a part of the City Council that forced students out of their homes and turned a blind eye to rampant disenfranchisement, has gained some student support. Freiling now appears more favorable to student rights, though unwilling to make firm commitments.
Maybe Freiling evolved or maybe he is pandering for political gain. The Freiling of today, actively engaging with students, is not the same as the Freiling of two years ago, no advocate of student rights. Which Freiling will end up in office is something we’ll only find out if he’s elected.
Judy Knudson has proven so antagonistic, so unprofessional and dishonest that her election to City Council would be disastrous for students and residents alike. At a recent debate, I asked why reckless speeders are fined only $50 whereas students violating the three-person law can be fined $3,000 and be forced out of their homes.
Though the city has so far allowed offending students to remain until the end of the semester, the city made clear they felt no obligation to grant students that small reprieve in the future. Some had leases extending as much as a year beyond that point. Being forced out of your home a year before you planned to leave, surely, is an eviction.
Knudson defended the three-person law with false statements that indicate either an ignorance of that law or a willful misrepresentation. She claimed students were not evicted (many were) and refused to answer for the $3,000 fine because it hasn’t yet been applied. But if the law allowing for the fine is unethical, and if she doesn’t believe the fine will ever be enforced, why won’t she commit to repealing that fine?
Knudson also said The Flat Hat compared Mayor Jeanne Zeidler to Hitler. After countless searches online and through archives, no one has turned up any comparison between Zeidler and Hitler, made by anyone, ever. Willful deceit or just ignorance, only Knudson knows for sure. Neither should be acceptable to voters of any age.
Clyde Haulman has long used his status as a professor to brand himself as a moderate council member, convincing voters he knows how to reconcile the needs of students with those of residents. This is false.
Haulman has been vehemently anti-student, and many of the policies that have so divided Williamsburg originated with him. He has never been moderate, never balanced student rights with neighborhood needs — perhaps because he believes his moderate-professor ruse will continue to work.
As for Terence Wehle ’77, he just doesn’t seem like a serious candidate.
Despite our past disagreements, students and long-term residents have to understand that we are in this together. Only by uniting behind the City Council candidates able to meet all our needs can we move past these difficult years in town and gown history.
Max Fisher is a senior at the College.