Incumbent council candidate: City has made a good start, more work to be done - The Daily Progress: News

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Incumbent council candidate: City has made a good start, more work to be done

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Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:10 pm

Kristin Szakos, a candidate for one of two Democratic nominations to the Charlottesville City Council, came to town from Kentucky in 1994 to raise her children in the city schools, she said.

The vice mayor said she became interested in politics after volunteering for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

A former Associated Press reporter and grant writer, Szakos said her biggest concern is ensuring disadvantaged residents have access to programs to help them out of trouble.

"Employment opportunities and training programs, financial literacy [and] seamless educational support for children who need it all need to be targeted and coordinated," she said in an email. "We’ve made a good start, but we need to be vigilant if we’re to become a livable community for all our citizens, as our vision calls for."

Regarding the Belmont Bridge, Szakos said she opposes merely repairing it. The city has been entertaining ideas for the 52-year-old structure's replacement for years. The Virginia Department of Transportation gives the span a sufficiency rating of 47 on a scale of 100.

"When we build physical infrastructure, it needs to be built with history in mind," Szakos said. "How will it function in 50 years? What does it say about who we are as a city? Is it adaptable to new uses? Lowballing and cutting corners don’t produce that kind of result."

Szakos said the bridge should be adequate for the next couple of years, until full funding is available to begin work on a new or improved structure.

"If we had to wait much longer than that, we would have to do some significant and expensive repairs to the existing structure, but as it stands now, all indications are that it is sound," she said.

Szakos said she does not support a moratorium on public housing evictions, but the city and  the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority should work to prevent evictions.

"The housing authority seems to have been in a chronic state of crisis for much of the past 15 years, at least, and I am committed to working with [the authority] and residents to find lasting solutions."

The authority came under fire earlier this year, when the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a scathing report citing what the feds described as poor financial management and lax eviction policies, among other things.

Szakos is the lone incumbent among five Democrats vying for two nominations. The primary is Tuesday.  

Age : 54

Hometown : Tougaloo, Miss.

Neighborhood : Locust Grove

Education: Bachelor's in religious studies from Grinnell College; master's in journalism from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

Occupation: Editor and proofreader for an international translation agency

Family : Husband, Joe; grown daughters Anna and Maria

Hobbies : Music, travel, walking

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