Thursday, October 29, 2009

CT Editorial: Candidate Bryce Carter's efficacy evident in his work

I am truly honored by my good friend Chris Cox, who I consider a passionate leader of whom I find personal inspiration, use his Collegiate Times column to recognize me for the upcoming election. This was unexpected and what he wrote is very touching.


Collegiate Times: Candidate Bryce Carter's efficacy evident in his work

Christopher Cox, regular Collegiate Times columnist

The greater part of my last fall semester consisted of running the Virginia Tech chapter of Students for Barack Obama. My role called me to spur others to political action, which is superficially recognized as bothering a lot of people to vote.

I found the inspiration to bother so many people from the sincere and still-believed truth that I could make a difference among a cacophony of opinions, distractions and individual pursuits.

The belief that one can make a difference is called efficacy. Efficacy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the power to produce an effect. It is manifested in the way people spend their time, which, because we’ve created the cultural “work week,” can be measured.

It’s easy and convenient to not believe in your own efficacy. If you don’t believe you have it, you don’t have to feel responsible for the outcomes of your efforts or how you spend your time.

My organization’s efforts last fall — alongside many other politically active groups in Montgomery County — registered more than 6,000 voters. Many of these voters were students, and some were casting ballots for the very first time. We are now in a very unique position as a student body to politically engage with the community in which we spend the majority of our time: Blacksburg. We make up more than 60 percent of the Blacksburg population and have no voice on Blacksburg Town Council.

We have a chance to change this on Nov. 3.

I have a close friend who has a profound and fundamental knowledge of his own efficacy. His efficacy is rooted in years of activism as a student and community organizer, and he is emboldened with unique experiences in regard to addressing issues of equity, community and environment. His name is Bryce Carter, and he’s running for Blacksburg Town Council.

I had the opportunity to listen to all the town council candidates at the SGA-hosted debate last week — and it became clear which of them have a working knowledge of the concepts of “sustainability” and “community.”

With the specter of “urban growth” thrown around among the candidates, I find solace in my knowledge of Bryce’s experience as an advocate for “smart growth” and his commitment to cooperation in producing change. An example of such a commitment has manifested in the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment, which he helped draft as a leader of the Environmental Coalition.

What all the candidates did have in common during the debate was a reverence for Bryce’s ideas.

Bringing the town of Blacksburg Web site to Web 2.0-standards and setting up a Student Advisory Committee to provide input in town decision-making are just two of Bryce’s initiatives that have quickly been picked up and espoused by all the candidates.

I know very few other people as committed as Bryce to serving the student community and Blacksburg in the pursuit of our common goals, and if our values can be measured by how we spend our time, the position of town council member wouldn’t even do Bryce justice.

Bryce’s commitment to public service and his willingness to engage with others, no matter how outwardly friendly they may be, or whether their values align with his own, is evidence enough for me to fully support his endeavors in this election.

More importantly, I am thoroughly convinced Bryce Carter deserves my vote because he does not need to be convinced of his own efficacy — he lives it.

Bryce is an example of who we all hope to be within our academic fields and among our communities: respected leaders who spend their time and commit their efforts to serving their friends and families without sacrificing their values.

Perhaps living our efficacy is the only way to learn how to make our envisioned hopes and dreams real. You’ll never know your own power unless you choose to exercise it.

Original Article

Video of Panel - In final stretch of campaign!

Below is the last major public forum for the election on Tuesday, hosted by the League of Women Voters. This segment was part two of the two part series.

The campaign is getting down to the wire now and we would love all the help we can get--especially on election day! If you would like to help the campaign please e-mail us at


Bryce Carter
Blacksburg Town Council Candidate

Monday, October 26, 2009

LoWV Candidate Panel Conclusion Speech

Tonight we had the last major Town Council candidate panel which was hosted by the League of Women Voters. I'll post the link to it as soon as it is up on-line. In the meantime, here is my concluding speech from it:

Since arriving in the fall of 2006, I’ve come to know the citizens of Blacksburg and the surrounding region. The kindness and eagerness to say hello to each other shows what a great community we are in and gives hint of how much more we can become as we grow. I am an avid environmentalist and have been involved with the Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech for four years. I was at the first meeting with President Steger for what would become the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan. As a community organizer, I’ve worked with many students and citizens to involve them in local, state, and national lobbying efforts. I’ve organized events big and small from panels with opposing groups to being a central organizer and recruitment coordinator for the statewide conference, Virginia Power Shift 2008 in which 400-500 youth from across the state came for. I was awarded the Gwin-Parker-Gwin community service award for my efforts for that conference.

As the only undergraduate student running for Blacksburg Town Council, I have been reaching out to the student community through the creation of a Student Advisory Committee within the Student Government Association to serve as a voice of students between Town and Gown. I am on the Town and Gown Relations Committee and was invited by the Mayor to serve on Mayors Task Force on Climate Protection and Sustainability. I am eager to continue the expansion of my engagement once the intensity of the campaign subsides next week.

I am passionate about our community because I feel that it is truly is a special place. While there are certainly issues that need to be collaborated on in our community, I have seen firsthand the compliment diversity serves in forming our community. I’m excited to live here because there is always something new to learn and engage with. The fall is a great time to enjoy the vibrant football season and have delight at a morning bike ride down the colorful Huckleberry Trail. The winter, while certainly windy and chilly, is a good time to enjoy a good game of pool and beer (or hot chocolate) with friends Downtown or to see a movie at the Lyric. The spring, in an overnight burst, is an overwhelming reminder of the mountainous beauty our community resides in. Finally, there is the tranquility of summer, where free afternoons invite you to the New River and evenings lure you to your porch to enjoy company or read a good book.

In regards to my employment after the election, I am lucky to have been presented with a variety of opportunities from local non-profits, environmental businesses, educational programs, as well as graduate school. I am devoted to making a positive difference in our community and am eager to continue the expansion of my engagement for years to come.

Let us bring together our resources and passions to help better serve the needs and desires of everyone in our community. The Blacksburg Comprehensive Plan is a great guide of how we can grow as a community in the next several decades. The future we pursue must be a sustainable one, and sustainable practices compliment community development. Whether we’re talking about the potential at the Blacksburg Middle School, or the future at First and Main, or taking our government on-line through web interactivity, or actively engaging students to have a voice in governance and the future of Blacksburg—let’s work together in making this the community we all want it to be.

I feel privileged to call Blacksburg my home, and look forward to what the future holds.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Campaign Video & Feedback on Big-Box Retail

There are a lot of factors to consider regarding a proposal of a big box retailer such as a Wal-Mart. I certainly support Ordinance 1450 and subsequent Ordinance 1509, which requires a special use permit for any retailer store over 50,000 square feet. I believe these ordinances encourage the careful consideration of how such a project will affect both the economics and character of the Town of Blacksburg as the proposal moves through Council.

In looking at the overall benefit of such a project to the town, it is important to not only include tax revenue for the town, but to also consider the externalities of such a project. The 5% sales tax from any retailer is split so that 4% goes to the state and 1% goes to the county to be allocated by population in schools. The amount Blacksburg receives will be the same whether you shop in town or in Christiansburg. Now let’s say a ‘smaller Wal-Mart’ holds $10 million total property value, similar to what the South Main Kroger shopping center was valued a couple years ago. At a $.22 per $100 assessed value, this would produce $22,000 in property tax for the town. The real significant revenue for the town will come from the Business, Professional, Occupational License Tax, or BPOL tax. This tax is based on the yearly income of a retail business at a rate of $.20 per $100 gross receipts for retail if they make over $50,000. While the Wal-Mart in Christiansburg makes $100 million gross per year, the incoming Sam’s Club and potential Blacksburg Wal-Mart (or any other big-box retailer) will cut into that revenue. So let’s go with the idea of a ‘smaller Wal-Mart’ making around $30-40 million in this market (a typical Wal-Mart makes $50-$60 million). This means a Wal-Mart’s BPOL tax revenue for the town would be around $60,000 to $80,000, making the total income for Blacksburg, at maximum, approximately $100,000. This final amount would only make up 0.37% of our total general budget.

In tough economic straights an added $100,000 to the budget is alluring, but we need to consider the cost of the externalities. If a big-box retailer were to be approved the area is bound to see increased congestion, crime, and pollution that will require town resources to resolve these problems. With a potential location being next to an elementary school there is further concern in this regard. The surrounding neighborhoods will also need to put up with the negative effects of such a development including noise and lighting which will result in lower property values and lower income for the town. Businesses across town that are unable to compete with a big-box store may fail and result in the loss of even more tax revenue for town and the loss of character of our community. Such failures may require significant town investments to revitalize resulting depressed commercial areas. At the end of this estimate, the town may only be benefiting by the tens of thousands of dollars, if even that.

If a big-box retailer proposal were to reach council, I believe there should be very careful deliberation and reasoning throughout the decision making process that maximizes public input and collaboration. This is especially important in looking at how in the short and long term such a project will affect the town. With the information I have seen I do not believe a Wal-Mart fits the character nor the economic need of the Blacksburg community, but I am certainly open to deliberation of such a project and the will of the community I intend to serve.

As I mention in the video above, you can read the master plan of the planned redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard from a series of strip malls to store front community-centered development here:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sustainability Panel

Coffee with the Candidates hosted a Sustainability Panel on Wednesday as a part of Sustainability Week 2009. My big thanks to Carol Davis, Pat Bixler, and everyone else that helped with organizing the panel!

I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but if you're in a hurry you can jump to my segments: 6:20, 35:00, 43:24, 1:15:00, 1:23:40, 1:41:20.

Expect a detailed post on smart growth in the next day or two.

Best regards,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LoWV Panel & YDVT Videos

Hello everyone,

I apologize for the lack of updates. As you might imagine things are moving along quite swiftly with just three weeks left until the election. Expect a blog post sometime in the next week about my experiences and opinion's regarding "smart growth" along with one or two other fun tidbits as well. If you are interested, there are many volunteer activities with the campaign that you can sign up for through this survey. If you'll like a campaign sign, you can fill out this survey as well.

In case you missed it, I encourage you to check out the first of two parts of the League of Women Voter's panel discussion that was hosted on the 5th. You can watch it here.

Also last Tuesday the Young Democrats at Virginia Tech hosted their first installment of their Town Council Candidate speaker series. I speak on my background and previous involvement and touch on issues including raising the student voice, recycling downtown, community-oriented development, big-box stores, sustainability, and my intention to stay in the Blacksburg community for years to come.

See for yourself: