On Thursday evening the Thalia Civic League held a City Council candidates forum at Thalia Trinity Presbyterian. Between working all weekend and trying to decide how to format this one (5 pages of notes from a dry format), I hadn't posted yet. In the end, I figured I'll just grade out each candidate's performance.
Thalia had a reputation for being VBTA Lite, but the tame format brought forward under Program Director Mac Rawls (yes, that Mac Rawls) meant no fireworks this year. Each candidate had five minutes for an opening stump speech. Two questions were then posed by Moderator Barbara Ciara (light rail, and the schools budget surplus funds moved to the City side of the Budget), then one minute for closing remarks.
Dave Redmond - tugged heartstrings speaking on his ties to Thalia, and deftly deflected Toni Hedrick's criticism of the 85/15 Property Tax ratio. Superb job.
Andrew Jackson - a very good night, as he was congratulated by residents in the foyer outside afterwards. He also had the second largest campaign staff contingent there.
Jim Wood - very articulate, as usual. That, coupled with Toni Hedrick's dismal performance (more later), should win him Thalia easily.
John Uhrin - for all the times I've heard him (i.e. RAC, TDCHR, Council Retreats, etc.), Thalia was the sharpest I've ever seen Uhrin. Kudos for coming even when running unopposed.
Louis Jones - sounded like a 2004 incumbent, going on about past accomplishments. What are you going to do in the next four years? Given that only a nuclear-level implosion would cost him this election, he didn't do anything to hurt himself.
Rita Sweet Bellitto - the civil engineer covered how she has helped with past projects (Lake Gaston pipeline), and can help with new ones (light rail). However, what's the compelling case for electing her to a full term?
James Cabiness - a good job by the first-time candidate.
Tanya Bullock - a very good job, except telling the same lame joke twice. She had the largest campaign contingent there.
Barbara Henley - her pet issues don't play well to a neighborhood like Thalia, but (like Louis) she didn't hurt herself.
Wally Erb - tried to sound centerist, twice going on about the need to staff city services.
John Moss - essentially the same candidate you saw in 2004 and 2008. With no new wrinkles, how does he expect not to lose again?
Bill DeSteph - showed up late, missing his original five minute slot. He might as well have stayed home. The lack of substance by someone who has been on Council for four years was stunning.
Toni Hedrick - she couldn't have been much worse. First, she was reading her five minute from 8 1/2 x 11 sheets she was holding up in her face, the only candidate reading her stump speech verbatim. Second, the remarks sounded like they had been cut and pasted from VBTA Statements: homeowners are the economic engine of Virginia Beach, light rail won't reduce traffic congestion, attacking the 85/15 residential/commercial Property Tax revenue ratio, etc. Third, she stated that from reading the 1999 light rail proposal that she found the only reason for LRT was redeveloping the Strategic Growth Areas. (Uh...the SGAs weren't established until 2003.) Fourth, she thought we could become an economic development mecca if we simply phased out BPOL and the Machines & Tools Tax. (Never mind transportation, education, etc.) I could go on, but you get the idea.
Also in attendance were a few School Board candidates, previous Mayor Meyera Oberndorf and her husband Roger, and political consultant Brian Kirwin. As I could see Kirwin making an audio recording of the forum, any opposition candidates can and will have their remarks used against them.