Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
April 4, 2023: Oschrin enters City Council race; Charlottesville close to dropping COVID restrictions on city meetings
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April 4, 2023: Oschrin enters City Council race; Charlottesville close to dropping COVID restrictions on city meetings

Plus: There are only 363 days left until the next April Fool's bit

Today is a rare day when readers and listeners on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean can agree that this is 4/4/23 as well as being 4/4/23. Such a day is one of harmony with hopefully less confusion as two distinct naming systems come into convergence for just a short time. Will this affect the content of this edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement? You will have to read or listen to the end to find out. I’m Sean Tubbs, keen to get to the bottom of this meaningless question.

On today’s show:

  • Natalie Oschrin has entered the race for three Democratic nominations to City Council

  • Charlottesville may soon drop restrictions that have prevented in-person meetings of many boards and commissions

  • City Council gets an update on how it pays its employees and if its enough 

  • A narrow waitlist window is open for people to apply for a federal housing choice voucher operated through the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority 

  • Charlottesville seeks firms to come up with a master plan for the Parks and Recreation department 

Today’s first shout-out: JMRL Book Sale 

It’s no joke! What better place for a book sale than Albemarle Square Shopping Center? Saturday marked the official beginning of the JMRL Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day in the former Northside Library space. Book Sale Manager Peter Manno and a mighty team of staff and volunteers have worked hard for weeks and all year long sorting books and setting up the sale which will feature all kinds of books. Shop early and often, as the sale is restocked daily. Half-price days are April 8 and 9. 

Oschrin enters race for Charlottesville City Council; Deadline to run as Democrat is Thursday

One of the six short-listed candidates for a City Council vacancy earlier this year has filed paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections to run for one of the three seats. Natalie Oschrin has filed to run as a candidate in the June 20 Democratic primary. 

Oschrin joins fellow challenger Dashad Cooper and incumbents Michael Payne and Lloyd Snook officially in the quest to get on the primary ballot. Former City Councilor Bob Fenwick is also collecting signatures but has not yet filed a statement of qualification with the Virginia Department of Elections. 

Would-be candidates for the primary have until Thursday at 5 p.m. to complete all of the necessary paperwork and enough signatures from qualified voters. Independent candidates have until June 20 to complete the necessary paperwork.

On her campaign website, Oschrin states that she wants to decrease residential setbacks, reduce parking minimums, and create more incentives for creating more below-market units. She’s also for finding a way to get the University of Virginia to make a payment in lieu of taxes for land it owns within city limits. 

Charlottesville may drop pandemic meeting restrictions

Among localities in the region, Charlottesville is the only one still operating with pandemic-era restrictions on who can attend meetings and what bodies can have in-person ones. That’s despite ending the local COVID-19 emergency meeting at their meeting on September 6, 2022. 

That action allowed meetings to only be held in-person meetings if there is appropriate space on city properties, sufficient staff are on hand to maintain distancing protocols, and measures are in place to stop the spread of COVID. 

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers announced last night at City Council that those restrictions will soon be removed. 

“We are currently working to remove the continuing resolution which has  been active since September 6, 2022,” Rogers said. “The resolution was issued to preserve Council’s ability to maintain safety protocols for all meetings of the government while balancing the ongoing concerns with COVID-19.” 

A new resolution will come before Council at their April 17 meeting that will set new protocols for all boards and commissions. 

“We will propose the return to in-person meeting effective May 1, or your first meeting of the month,” Rogers said. 

Councilor Michael Payne asked if the forthcoming end of the federal public health emergency on May 11 would prevent the city from using virtual meetings going forward. Staff with the city attorney’s office said they would need to do further research. 

Like all localities in Virginia, Charlottesville is governed by the open meetings provision in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The General Assembly amended the law in 2022 to permit some bodies to have two virtual meetings per year. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors were among groups that have asked for further flexibility. (read the story)

The legality of virtual meetings and actions approved during them is perhaps an open question in the Commonwealth since the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Fairfax County lacked authority to adopt an updated zoning code at a virtual meeting in the spring of 2021. (read the story)

The criteria currently in place for a meeting can be in-person in Charlottesville. Read the September 6, 2022 minutes on cvillepedia to learn more, as I don’t seem to be able to provide you a direct link through the city’s website. 

Council briefed on results of compensation study

A consultant is recommending a series of changes to the way Charlottesville arranges and pays for city jobs, but has concluded that the pay scales are generally attractive to potential employees who want a job in the public sector. 

“Overall, the city’s salaries are highly competitive,” said Beverly Moultrie, a principal consultant with the firm Gallagher.

However, the city lags behind private sector salaries by about 5.6 percent. 

Last year, Charlottesville hired the firm Gallagher to look at 225 job titles and 993 employees in Charlottesville government. 

The primary objective of the study was basically to evaluate your jobs to determine the relative worth and internal equity for those jobs, but also to determine the hierarchical order of the jobs to ensure that all of the jobs were being represented appropriately,” Moultrie said. (view the presentation)

The study found that many job titles and descriptions are out of date. 

Another outcome was an analysis of current pay ranges against what similar jobs pay across the region. 

“There’s a perception that the range minimums are too low, a perception that the current base salaries were also too low, and also a perception that pay compression issues existed,” Moultrie said. 

Pay compression is when people who have been in a job longer than recent hirees are paid less. 

A slide from the presentation on the compensation study, which was reported out during the City Manager’s report and was not otherwise on the agenda (Credit: Gallagher)

The study recommends the minimum annual salary should be $31,200 based on  minimum hourly wage of $15 an hour. Starting pay for transit operators is at $21 an hour, or $43,680 a year. (see story)

The study also comes with costs to implement a new pay structure. The cost to bring 202 employees up to the minimum will be $665,752. The cost to bring 666 employees to the midpoint of their salary range would be nearly $7.5 million. 

Staff has not yet made a recommendation on how to proceed but that will come back before Council in the near future. 

“The work that needs to be done is to look at where each employee falls on this new pay scale,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said. “Some people will be competitive and at the scale. Some will be above the scale and we have to decide how to make the appropriate adjustment.” 

Rogers did not have a date for when that will come back to Council, but reminded Council that the proposed budget for FY24 has a cost of living increase of six percent. That increase is not factored into the compensation study.

Second shout-out: Missing Middle Housing: Racial Equity and Opportunity 

In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: Livable Cville has another event coming up that they want you to know about and consider attending. On April 19 at 6:30 p.m. Bryan Coleman, 2nd Vice President of the NAACP Arlington Branch, will provide examples from Arlington on Missing Middle Housing: Racial Equity and Opportunity. As Charlottesville continues a zoning rewrite intended to increase residential density, Coleman will discuss the relationship between Arlington’s current housing debates and racial equity and opportunity. Stay for the question and answer period to hear a local perspective from Sunshine Mathon, Executive Director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance. That’s another Livable Cville webinar coming up on April 19. 

Register on Eventbrite.

Wait-list open for housing choice vouchers

A very small window has opened for people who would like to receive a housing voucher issued by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

“Applications are accepted online at portal.cvillerha.com and people can contact CRHA with questions at 434-422-9218,” said City Councilor Michael Payne, a voting member of the CRHA’s Board of Commissioners.

The window opened Monday morning at 9 a.m. and closed at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Applications have to be completed online. 

“The HCV program is a rental assistance program that assists extremely low-income and very low-income families with their rent in the private market,” reads a press release sent out on March 23. “Applicants for the waitlist noted may qualify at 50 percent of the Area Median Income.” 

Preference is given to Albemarle County and Charlottesville residents. For more information, visit the CRHA’s website on the voucher program.

The income limits for eligibility in the CRHA’s housing voucher program (Credit: CRHA) 

Charlottesville seeks firms to conduct comprehensive plan for city parks and recreation

The city of Charlottesville has never created a master plan for its entire parks and recreation system but that could change now that a request for proposals has been issued for such a document.

“The [Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department] hopes to have clear direction on how to prioritize improvements and connections of current facilities, parks and trails, a buildout strategy, recommendations pertaining to recreation program offerings, recommendations on how best utilize recreation centers as well as recommendations for equitable advancing of recreation and health throughout the City,” reads the proposal

Work to guide changes and additions to city parks have been guided by individual master plans and needs assessments. According to the proposal, the city’s parks and recreation department has an operating budget of 12 million with over 70 full-time equivalents who work in 27 parks. There are between $1.5 million and $2.6 million in capital funds allocated to the park system each year. 

Here’s a further description:

“[There are] over 3,443 acres ranging from small pocket parks of less than one acre to 300 acres of natural area, 2 large reservoirs and nearly 6 miles of paved trails, and about 30 miles of nature trails, 4 recreation centers, 2 indoor pools, 2 outdoor pools and 4 outdoor spray grounds, a skate park, an 18-hole golf course and multiple farmers market and other co-owned assets with Albemarle County,” the proposal continues. 

The work will include a needs assessment but also includes two optional add-ons. Alternative A would ask for conceptual plans for Market Street Park and Court Square Park and Alternative B would ask for a list of improvements at Benjamin Tonsler Park and Booker T. Washington Park. 

Bids for firms to complete the work are due on May 9. 

A description of four parks that have optional add-ons (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Reading material

Notes for the end of #516

It is quite possible that the normal routine is back in place and there will be many editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement this week. It is also quite possible that the lack of balance on the naming of dates may disrupt, but I will try to hold it together.

I’m able to produce all of these newsletters and podcasts due to readers and listeners who opt to pay for a subscription. That gets them a little bit of content, perhaps a shout-out or two. Ting matches the initial payment, allowing me that much more fuel to produce the program. 

If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • A second month for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Thanks to Wraki for incidental music in the podcast, which you can’t hear unless you listen to it. Check out the work on BandCamp!

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