Oct 27, 2009

Ask the Chancellor: How has Liberty been affected by Lynchburg City Council’s decisions?

by Amanda Baker

“If you look at history, you’ll see that any large voter bloc that is denied the right to vote will be abused. This has been the case in Lynchburg. One prime example was when our campus was zoned for college uses in 1977. Fifteen years later, after Liberty built its campus, the city arbitrarily seized Liberty’s property rights by changing the zoning rules. In 1992, Liberty’s right to expand was revoked and Liberty was required to obtain special permits for any improvements to its campus after that date. The city has used that permit process to impose millions of dollars of requirements on Liberty University. We’ve been required to build roads for the city … and it comes right out of tuition money.

“Sodexo wanted to change their meal points so that they could be accepted at restaurants in town, but the 11.5 percent meals tax makes it almost impossible to do. It’s crazy, but it’s only because our students haven’t been allowed to vote. Liberty’s administration would be neglecting our fiduciary responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the university if we did not encourage the students to vote locally.

“If students don’t turn out in the fall, then city council will be less likely to pay close attention to issues that impact Liberty students. Even in the spring, it is less important to vote incumbents out and replace them with new officials than it is for Liberty students to become a part of the constituency that elects whoever wins. If Liberty students stay active in the future, I don’t think you will see a city council that will do something like council did in 1992 when they seized our property and zoning rights. No matter who is sitting on city council, they are going to think twice before spending money on something like the D Street bridge (in order to keep mansion-dwellers from having to drive through a poor neighborhood) while pedestrians without sidewalks on Wards Road are endangered.. Most of the sales tax revenue is generated on Liberty’s side of town, but most of that money is spent on the other side of town. It is just an issue of fairness.”

“Just this week, we saw the impact of students voting locally. The city proposed to Liberty officials that the zoning laws be changed to return to Liberty all of its rights that were seized in 1992. We are encouraged to see positive results so soon from Liberty students registering to vote locally. Students are already making a difference that will greatly benefit their university.”
 

 


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