Virginia Professional Firefighters (VPFF)
Danielle is the only local candidate in the Commonwealth this year-- and one of the only locals candidate in history-- to receive this endorsement.
Fairfax County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics- IAFF Local 2068
Winchester Professional Firefighters & Paramedics- IAFF Local 3401
Our city is stronger when your voice is the driving force in our local government. I have a track record of empowering citizens of Winchester. My work spearheading the elected school board referendum along with another mom has brought unprecedented engagement and accountability to Winchester. We did not need the local government to give citizens a voice in the governance of schools. We, the people, brought that about through our signatures and votes. For many other issues, however, we do need local government.
Winchester has a Council-Manager form of government. Council establishes the policy and vision for the city, while the city manager is responsible for the administration of the city. The mayor in this form of government isn't on the phone with federal agencies or carrying out the day-to-day management of the city. Instead, the mayor has one vote and serves as the representative of the community.
City managers come and go, but the voice and values of the people should always be the foundation of our city's governance. The added duties of mayor are far more than ceremonial. I will use the office of mayor to amplify the voice of the people and establish a culture of governance that reflects the values of the people who call Winchester home. Our government works best when people are empowered instead of obstructed.
I will respect our form of government by representing my role accurately. I will never vote to abdicate power of an elected body. That happened earlier this year when the current mayor and other members of council voted to give up their responsibility of approving the hiring and firing of the police chief instead of extending that check/balance to other department heads. And, I will not shy away from the charter-given responsibility of holding our city manager accountable.
I support a collaborative agenda process so that the interests of the people across all four wards are reflected in the business of council.
Projects that Benefit People
Winchester's biggest priority should be its people. That priority should be reflected in our budget. Last year, the closure of Boscawen was presented to City Council as a safety issue. The price tag? $2.5 million dollars. This plan was presented as our fire and rescue department were responding to calls 70% of the time with just the driver on the truck. This public safety crisis is not yet resolved.
We need a functional fire and rescue department. We need a sewer system that is able to withstand storms without sending sewage-laced water into residents' basements. We need sidewalks that are accessible and safe. Our needs should be prioritized in our budget, especially during these unstable economic times.
Agenda items determine the business that City Council conducts. Many agenda items include a Budget Impact section. Agenda items should also include a Human Impact section so that councilors are mindful of the way their decisions affect people. Recently, there was a discussion about turning off water of people who are behind on their payments. The budget impact was on the agenda item, but how do you have that conversation without considering the way that would affect people during a pandemic? This Impact item should answer the questions: Who is burdened by this action? Who benefits from the action? Who was consulted?
Human Rights Board
The current administration has ignored repeated suggestions for Human Rights Board. In Virginia, there is no recourse for city-level Civil Rights violations at the state level unless they relate to housing or employment. Citizens rely on lawsuits and and intervention from the federal government to remedy issues. It is important we get these issues right at the local level, not just to avoid lawsuits and federal oversight in our city, but because it is right to look at issues through a lens of human dignity. Nothing related to our age, race, creed, religion, race, or any other aspect of identity should limit our ability to access what Winchester has to offer.
Transparency & Engagement
The current mayor listed as a key accomplishment the Standards of Decorum which limit citizens access to elected officials and prioritize image over integrity. I am for the repeal of these rules because I value integrity over image. When you reach out to an elected official, the standard response should not be to forward your correspondence to the city manager unless it is something that is outside the scope of your representative's knowledge or role. It is not my job to function as the public relations arm of the city. It is my job to communicate with honesty and clarity so that citizens have enough information to engage with their community.
Winchester has an obligation to homeless residents. Homelessness is an issue of human dignity, but too often in Winchester the problem is ignored or described in terms of aesthetics. Hiding or ignoring the problem does not solve it.
We can end homelessness, but it requires a deliberate, sustained, coordinated effort. Cities are required to take an annual point-in-time count in January, but more frequent, person-specific data collection is necessary to determine and address the root causes of homelessness. Anonymized data on homelessness should be public and accessible to the community so the community can be part of the solution.
The Western Virginia Continuum of Care is committed to ensuring that homelessness is "rare, brief, and nonrecurring," but in our part of this region, it still takes viral Facebook videos and marathon Facebook live sessions to generate awareness and support. Activists shouldn't be the only people drawing attention to the problem of homelessness in our community. It is the mayor's job to participate in raising awareness of this issue and advocate for Winchester to make the absolute most of existing resources, funding sources, and initiatives to solve this problem.
Nonprofits like AIDS Response Effort, which housed 39 people last year, should be afforded property tax exemptions. Shenandoah, Valley Health, the City of Winchester, and Frederick County own property tax-free in Winchester. Smaller Small nonprofits like ARE should not pay the price for larger entities' exemptions. I am for property tax exemptions for organizations that save the City of Winchester money by providing services to our citizens. I only have one vote, though. When organizations are denied exemptions, I am also for a process through which these organizations can apply for a grant in the amount of their payment. This process would essentially amount to a SILOT (Service In Lieu of Taxes).
Affordability & Walkability
It should be possible to live in Winchester without the added expense of a vehicle. For many people, lack of a vehicle-- coupled with our dearth of grocery stores-- means that buying food for the week involves the added $15 expense of an Uber or taxi. When the city plans projects related to our transportation infrastructure, they should benefit as many citizens as possible (unlike the recent pedestrian bridge proposal for Smart Scale funding that would have linked Shenandoah University's main campus to Shenandoah University dorms.) For example, a better proposal would have been sidewalks to connect Papermill to the retail area that is less than two miles from many houses, but impossible to access safely on foot.
I am also for initiatives that increase opportunities for affordable home ownership and projects that diversify the kinds of new housing in our city. And, I am against Conditional Use Permits for short-term vacation rentals because of their impact on housing inventory. Per the economic policy institute, the cost to renters does not outweigh the benefits to property owners and travelers.
The Economic Development Authority is supposed to increase vitality and prosperity in Winchester. Is it fulfilling its mission? Two vacant lots downtown and one failed deal-- the Piccadilly Lofts, which was out of step with the historic significance of the area-- are the most recent reasons to take a hard look at the costs and benefits of our EDA. Even before Covid there were 150,000 square feet of vacant commercial office space (under 10,000 square feet in size) in our town, which would indicate a failure in terms of business recruitment/retention. I would propose an evaluation of EDA to make sure that it is serving the interests of the city as effectively and efficiently as possible.
And, I am also a proponent of measures to reverse the disinvestment in Ward 2 that empower the community and increase prosperity without displacing residents. Winchester is more than the pedestrian mall and historic district. We have four wards. I am for transparency in terms of the city's investments in terms of maintenance, upkeep, and basic services. Ward of residence should not determine access to responsiveness or attention. Where does the city do basic maintenance? How quickly does the city respond to requests for service? I want to see answers to these questions posted publicly in the form of monthly data.
Winchester should be a fantastic place to do business. From tax payments to the issuance of permits to basic communication, the city should have efficient, fair, clear processes that make it easy to do business here.
According to Virginia Code, Section 22.1-89, the “School Board shall manage and control the funds made available to (it) for public schools." Our school board is elected now because of a referendum I spearheaded with another mom. The public now has more of a say in critical matters affecting our children and community. There has already been a change in terms of the level of engagement between the school board and the community now that we hold representatives accountable.
City council can only determine the amount of funding the school board gets. Currently, that is not determined by a formula, but varies year by year based on the needs of the school system and resources of the city. I am opposed to calculating school funding by a formula. The needs of the school district and resources of the city should drive funding. The current process also encourages more of a dialog between city council and the school system.
I support initiatives and policies that support our school system. For example, public transit stops and schedules should be aligned to schools so that parents and guardians without vehicles can still be active participants in their child's education. As Covid disrupts education, I am a proponent of partnerships with nonprofits and Shenandoah University to provide support for students and families (e.g. a community homework hotline). Education does not stop when students graduate high school. In fact, for many, it really starts later in life. I support community programs that provide job skills training and basic education for adult learners. And, I will advocate for better communication about existing programs to people who could benefit from them.
Fire and Rescue
Safety is our most basic need, yet in Winchester it is not the city's main priority. Firefighters have gone out on calls with just the driver on the truck for years, and our department has not been fully staffed since January 2017. Recently, the city authorized the staffing of a second driver on the fire truck through mandated overtime. This is not a permanent solution. Despite repeated warnings from firefighters, the city has-- with few exceptions-- ignored their plight. Firefighters have our backs in times of crisis, it is time the city have theirs. The ESCI report outlined significant, longstanding failures within our fire and rescue department along with solutions. Some of the suggestions fall on the administrative side of the city, but the first step recommended in the report was for the city to restore trust and communication with the firefighters. It is time to prioritize being good over simply looking good. That starts with rehabilitating our fire and rescue department in a way that is aligned with the ESCI recommendations.