Country Club

Council candidates explain platforms at forum

Fredericksburg City Council candidates who attended a political forum Wednesday night expect the real estate tax rate to increase this year and didn’t object to it.

None supported the initial proposal for a city-funded minor league baseball stadium in Celebrate Virginia South. However, the current plan, in which the partners planning to bring the Hagerstown Suns to Fredericksburg would finance the stadium and receive a host of incentives from the city, was seen as potentially helping the city long-term.

“It’s not a sure thing, but I think it’s an appropriate investment,” said Ward 3 candidate Richard Friesner.

Friesner, who serves on the city’s Planning Commission, said his chief issue is using economic development and tourism as the engine to improve the city’s financial picture.

Ward 3 opponent Tim Duffy, an assistant principal at Walker–Grant Middle School, said he wants to create a business-friendly environment to fill empty storefronts. He also wants to address the needs of older neighborhoods and protect the Rappahannock River.

Asked about the impact of low staff salaries, he said, “It’s making it hard to keep good people in the city.”

City residents will elect council and School Board representatives for all four wards on May 6. Only the Ward 3 and 4 council races are contested.

On Wednesday, the Fredericksburg Democratic Committee held an hourlong forum for council candidates in the community room of The Free Lance–Star. After giving each candidate five minutes to introduce himself, party Chairman Jason Graham moderated a question-and-answer period before a crowd of about 70.

Both incumbents were absent.

Brad Ellis, who is running unopposed in Ward 1, was returning from an out-of-town trip. He invited organizers to attend a town hall-style meeting about the upcoming budget that he’s hosting at 7 tonight at the clubhouse in Idlewild.

Ward 4 incumbent Bea Paolucci had just been released from the hospital, where she had been treated for pneumonia.

Ward 4 challenger Charlie “Chuck” Frye Jr. said he wants to see if economic incentives offered to businesses and developers truly bring money back into the city and benefit residents.

He said he would give 51 percent of his council salary back to the city to be used in all wards and then produce a “financial report card” to see what it achieved.

Frye declined to take part in the Q-and-A, saying publicly that he wanted to be fair to Paolucci since she couldn’t be there. After the forum, he said he took that step in protest of the organizer allowing local attorney Walt Sheffield to speak on Paolucci’s behalf and because he wasn’t going to debate him.

“No one should have spoken for her,” Frye said.

Graham said he regretted that Frye thought Sheffield was going to be allowed to answer questions.

Ward 2 candidate Billy Withers said he looks forward to returning to the council and considers himself a fiscal conservative.

He said that means “you don’t waste money; you spend it where you need to.”

He put the new James Monroe High School in that category.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

THE CANDIDATES

Wednesday’s forum was for City Council candidates only. Below are the people on the ballot.

Ward 1: Brad C. Ellis

Ward 2: William C. “Billy” Withers

Ward 3: Tim P. Duffy, Richard Friesner

Ward 4: Charlie L. “Chuck” Frye Jr., Beatrice R. “Bea” Paolucci

REGISTRATION DEADLINE

Fredericksburg Voter Registrar Juanita Pitchford is reminding city residents that the deadline to register to vote in the May 6 election is Monday.

The registrar’s office is located at 601 Caroline St., Suite 500–A. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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