City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Matt Kelly
Fredericksburg City Councilman Matt Kelly is running unopposed for re-election in the May 3, 2016, general election, which also includes races for mayor, a second at-large city council seat, and two school board members.
Fredericksburg Today asked Kelly to respond to a brief candidate questionnaire. His unedited answers follow.
Why are you running for city council?
Council will be making decisions over the next four years which will define Fredericksburg for the foreseeable future. Decisions which look good today may be detrimental to our future; especially as it relates to the city’s character. Preserving that character by ensuring future development is compatible with it is of paramount importance. Failing to recognize this will be both detrimental to the city’s long-term financial health and to our quality of life. I am running to continue as the Council voice for preservation and compatible development to the city’s unique character, and continue to work to achieve that goal.
What do you believe are the five most pressing issues facing the city, and what do you propose to do about these issues? Please limit your response to 100 words per issue.
1. City Character – The biggest issue facing the city is dealing with growth while maintaining the city’s unique historic, small-town character. We have talked a good game about preserving that character but our actions — continuing loss of historic structures, approving out of scale development, focusing on new development while ignoring redevelopment opportunities — is a concern for many.
We have the ordinances in place and new planning personnel we need only make the commitment through actions, not words, to protect our community character. To lose what makes us unique will have very detrimental impact on both our quality of life and the future financial viability of the city.
2. Economic Development — We need to, as a community, define the kind of development we want and then go out and recruit it. We must work with the development community as partners and use incentives only when the project meets those goals.
Understanding how our region is developing and its impact on us is crucial. This will help us find our niche to complement that growth instead of competing with it. Finally, we must look at development opportunities city wide and not just downtown. We have space available for employment centers and housing beyond just downtown.
3. Transportation — This is one area that impacts everything else. No one wants to live, work, or locate in congested areas. We need to improve transportation both as it relates to road as well as transit.
Traditional funding sources are not going to meet the demands of our growing region. Some consideration must be given to other sources of revenue including a transportation authority similar to Hampton Roads and Northern VA. We as a community need to discuss the costs to us as it relates to establishing a transportation authority vs. the cost of growing congestion on our quality of life and economic development potential.
4. Thinking Regionally — Cost to the city for such things as services, schools, police and fire, continue to go up. We must look for other opportunities beyond just raising taxes to cover costs. We need to stop playing lips service to regional approaches and start looking for ways to implement approaches that allow us to share both costs and savings with our neighbors.
We should be looking at regional, or expanding existing regional approaches to areas such as refuse disposal, technology infrastructure, placement of fire/EMS facilities; reducing costs on insurance, purchasing and shared programs. Combining efforts at bringing in development opportunities should also be on the table.
5. Community Engagement — We need to engage the community at the beginning of a discussion, not just before a vote is taken. Too often residents are not made aware of an issue until a decision is being made. This causes confusion, distrust, and, most importantly, diminishes community engagement because of the belief that “the fix is in.” It also causes delays and costs to applicants as we try at the last minute to address concerns. The city needs to do a much better job informing residents in a timely manner and reaching out beyond just what is required to secure input. Just hiring a public information officer does not necessarily solve the problem. It requires a change in mind-set from the council on down.
I was born in Newport Beach, Calif., and came to Virginia in 1969. I graduated from Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., and later attend Mary Washington College, graduating with a degree in history. I’m employed as an adjuster by Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company.
I represented Ward 3 on city council from 2002 – 2010, and was re-elected as an at-large member in 2012.
My civic involvement has included the Shelter Board, tutoring in the city’s REACH program, and serving on the city’s Housing Commission. I’ve represented the city on all regional boards covering trash, transportation and regional planning. I’ve also served on the Arts Commission, Park Authority, Riverfront Taskforce and the Parks & Rec Commission.
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