Lynchian: Engineering that vision thing

Throughout his first term on City Council, Kevin Lynch has frequently sided with Mayor Maurice Cox– including a recent on-its-way-down vote in favor of the controversial Preston Commons development. Both envisioned a more pedestrian friendly, higher density Charlottesville, where a better transit system obviates the need for a car-clogged Meadowcreek Parkway.

"Maurice and I made a pretty good team," says Lynch. "He's the visionary guy. I'm the nuts and bolts guy."

But Cox is not seeking another term and Lynch is running for reelection in a field of four newcomers. Is he worried about losing his ally on council?

"No, I'm not," says Lynch, an electrical engineer who writes software for industrial clients. "We have a good vision. Now we have to start implementing it. That's where I have more strength."

The walls in Lynch's home office are covered with maps. He pulls out an overview that illustrates one of those visions: the Rivanna Greenways Trails, where one could bike from Forest Lakes to downtown.

Or there's the transportation vision: a convenient bus system in a city that's not quite big enough for a light rail.

And then there's his economic vision. "I want to shift from the bricks and mortar to the people side of economic development," he says, citing the need to understand poverty levels in an ever-less affordable city.

"It's easier to go get a Best Buy or a new parking lot," than to understand why the demand for social services keeps rising, he concedes.

One of those UVA grads who never left town, Lynch was drawn into politics when he bought his Locust Avenue house 12 years ago, and neighboring Martha Jefferson Hospital starting knocking down houses to expand.

Lynch became active in his neighborhood association, started "agitating" at City Council, met Cox, and now he's running for his second term on council.

Before entering politics, Lynch was better known as a founder of the local band Baaba Seth. He still plays the guitar, but has traded music for politics.

"I see a lot of parallels," he muses. "Both are somewhat satisfying on an artistic level, but the pay's lousy."

And no, he won't be coming up with a campaign song.

Age: 41

What brought you here? Engineering School

What's worst about living here? The General Assembly in Richmond-­ they want to turn the clock back to 1904, and it's becoming increasingly hard for Charlottesville to remain a bastion of 21st century civilization.

Favorite hangout? The Downtown Mall

Most overrated virtue? Necessity

What would people be surprised to know about you? My girlfriend teaches gymnastics to kids, and her students are always surprised to find that Miss K is my girlfriend.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd be better at remembering names.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? I can't really take credit for the trolley, but I was one of the early champions of it, and I was really gratified to see it become so popular. A lot of people didn't think it would be successful.

What do people find most annoying about you? I have high expectations of those around me.

Whom do you admire? People who give substantial amounts of their time to effect positive change

Favorite book? It's a toss-up between Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Lorax.

What subject causes you to rant? Small-minded, selfish conservatism masquerading as populism.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? The wealth of wisdom and resources left by previous generations for us to improve upon

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Corporate mass media is driving culture and politics to the lowest common denominator.

What do you drive? A bicycle, motorcycle, or truck, depending on the situation.

What's in your car CD/tape player right now? Cuban Revolucion Jazz (compilation)

What's your next journey? Four more years on City Council

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Back in my college days, I was camping in South Florida with an old girlfriend over spring break. One night we camped in a bird sanctuary that was supposed to be closed after dark. It was next to a gated community, and early the next morning someone spotted where I parked the motorcycle and called the police. They found us in the tent and made us come down to the station and pay a whopping fine. Minor trouble with the law. Serious trouble with my girlfriend (the bird sanctuary was my idea).

What do you regret? That life is too short to pursue all of the opportunities that come up.

Favorite comfort food? Pizza

What's always in your refrigerator? Yogurt

Must-see TV? I don't have a TV.

Favorite cartoon? This Modern World

 Describe a perfect day. A warm Saturday in May. No pressing deadlines. Ride my bicycle downtown to pick up a new CD at Spencer's on my way to a midmorning civic forum, which is well-attended, productive, and ends on time. Noodle around on my guitar for a while, then ride my motorcycle out to an afternoon party in the country, back in time to catch a movie or play with my girlfriend.

Walter Mitty fantasy? After four years, I've helped to bring about most of the Dems For Change platform and am about to retire from Council with the city in responsible, Democratic hands. I call up a few of my old bandmates, and we book a six-month tour of Central American dance clubs, all of which have great sound systems, good food, easy load-in, and fun crowds.

Who'd play you in the movie? Dave Chappel

Most embarrassing moment? Several years ago I went to the wrong church for a wedding.

Best advice you ever got? When my landlady talked me into buying a house in Charlottesville.

Favorite bumper sticker? "Brown, Hamilton & Lynch for City Council"

Kevin Lynch