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City council candidates give their stances in forum.
Matt Kelly answers a question while Roy McAfee (left), Paul Quinn and Kerry Devine listen during a forum for City Council candidates at James Monroe High School.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 4/19/2012
Four candidates for two at-large City Council seats offered their views on key issues in a forum at James Monroe High School on Wednesday.
The questions ranged from challenges the city faces to government transparency, economic development and parking.
Incumbent Kerry Devine touted the city's growth during her eight years on the council, while the other three candidates pointed out what they called shortcomings in Fredericksburg's leadership.
Paul Quinn, a government defense contractor and political rookie, said the city needs new leadership.
Matt Kelly and Roy McAfee, both veterans in city politics, pointed out ways they would improve planning so the city can grow economically.
The first question focused on citizen input, primarily on removing or razing historic properties. Many residents were upset after one historic structure was torn down last year.
One of the moderators, Free Lance-Star local news editor Dick Hammerstrom, asked Devine if the council has done a good enough job of including the public on such issues.
Devine said the council seeks input from "people of all walks of life."
Kelly, a former councilman, said the council did work with residents in the past and needs to return to that approach.
McAfee, who serves on the city Planning Commission, said there isn't enough public engagement, and that is "one of the things I've been working on for years now." He said using social media is one way to better reach out to the public.
The next question focused on how to revitalize Central Park and kick-start Celebrate Virginia.
All candidates agreed that the city can't compete with Stafford and Spotsylvania counties on retail and should look for other revenue possibilities. All said tourism is the city's biggest asset and should draw more focus.
McAfee said the city could also look for more industrial opportunities, and Devine said office space could be another option.
An audience member asked for the candidates to talk about the biggest issues in the city.
As he did for most of the questions, McAfee pointed out the need for a better financial planning. He also suggested that the city find a "centerpiece" to help downtown grow.
Quinn, a commuter, said the city should try to attract more professional jobs and fix transportation problems.
Devine said economic development, handling turnover in neighborhoods and long-range planning are crucial.