Apr 7, 2021 • 21M

April 7, 2021: BRHD moving to vaccines for Phase 2; McKeel seeks third term; Greene asks again to leave RSA

Public housing board adopts budget for FY22 and will let security contract lapse

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Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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In today’s Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit the Code for Charlottesville website to learn more, including details on three projects that are underway. 

On today’s show:

  • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority adopts budget 

  • Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel announces bid for a third term representing the county’s most dense district

  • The Tom Tom Foundation explores Ascension in the Black Community

  • Blue Ridge Health District will move to Phase 2 on April 12

  • Charlottesville City Council takes a first step toward repealing its COVID ordinance

The Blue Ridge Health District will soon open up vaccine appointments to all residents over the age of 16. Dr. Denise Bonds gave an update to City Council on Monday.

“The governor has asked that all health districts be in Phase 2 by April 18 and so we will certainly meet that and I really expect that we will exceed that moving into phase 2 certainly by the beginning of next week,” Dr. Bonds said.

Just minutes after Dr. Bonds finished her presentation, BRHD announced on their Facebook page that they would indeed open up to Phase 2 on Monday, April 12. She encouraged people to register on vaccinate.virginia.gov and for people in Phase 1A, 1B, and 1C to schedule shots now. 

Later in the meeting, Council held the first reading of a repeal of ts local COVID-19 ordinance which was adopted last July shortly before University of Virginia students began to arrive. Councilor Heather Hill requested the item be on the agenda. 

“Separately from the Governor’s executive orders, the city’s local ordinance continues to impose local restrictions on the number of persons allowed in food establishments,” Hill said. “I have concerns and I don’t think I’m alone but as things progress relative to reopening over the next several months, there continues to be confusion and discrepancy between what is being directed at both the state and local level.”

That’s meant the Council has had to update its ordinance a couple of times in order to align with the state’s executive order. Governor Northam’s executive order 72 was last updated on March 23. 

Councilor Michael Payne has been opposed to previous attempts to repeal the ordinance, but he changed his mind. 

*At this point if the only difference is the in-person dining, it seems like it’s at a point where it’s not even enforceable at this point,” Payne said. “Just for clarity with the vaccine roll-out beginning and the clarity of the rules it may be just better to just go with the state level ordinances.”

Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she would not support the repeal and cited concern about the potential for another surge. 

“I think that we are still feeding into what we wish our current state would be versus where we actually are,” Walker said. 

A second reading of the repeal vote will come back to the Council at another meeting. Walker requested it be on the regular agenda rather than the consent agenda.  

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports that 18.8 percent of Virginians are fully vaccinated and the seven-day average for doses per day is now 78,785. VDH also reports another 1,505 new cases today and the seven-day percent positivity is 6.2 percent. There have now been 206 COVID-deaths in the Blue Ridge Health District. 

Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel took to the steps of the county office building in downtown Charlottesville Tuesday morning to announce her campaign to seek a third term representing the Jack Jouett District on the Board of Supervisors. 

“Four years ago I promised collaborative work in regional partnerships to strengthen business retention and expansion to create mid-level job opportunities,” McKeel said. “To integrate land use and multimodal transportation improvements, strengthen our investment in public safety services, expand affordable housing, and create a community resiliency plan to addres the damaging impacts from climate change.” 

McKeel said that since she has been on the Board, the county has a focus on economic development with a dedicated office devoted to the task. She also pointed to the creation of the Regional Transit Partnership. She said if she is elected to a third term, she will work on connectivity and continue to advance the goal of community resiliency. 

“I’d also like to give a shout-out to the community for their patience and flexibility in working with us over the last year,”  McKeel said. 

McKeel is the first candidate this year to announce on the steps of the County Office Building, a traditional spot for people to launch their bids. She said after a year of virtual meetings, she wanted to make a statement with her socially-distanced announcement. 

“I chose to do this announcement not over Zoom or Facebook but to do it in person because I’ve missed seeing everybody and I’ve missed being out and I think with our social distancing we can do it safely outside,” McKeel said. 

McKeel said she has lived in the Jack Jouett District for over 40 years. When she arrived, Albemarle was like a bedroom community for Charlottesville, particularly in her district. Now things are different. 

“It really has changed,” McKeel said. “The Jouett District is the smallest district geographically but we’re the densest district because if you think about it, many of the apartment complexes and we’re sort of in what I call the urban ring area. There are certainly other urban rings in other magisterial districts but we have the densehave urban rings.”

The seats in the Samuel Miller District and Rio District are also up this November. Liz Palmer will not seek a third term in Samuel Miller District. Jim Andrews is on the ballot in the June 8 Democratic primary, as is Ned Gallaway for the Rio District. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel made her campaign announcement on April 6, 2021

The Greene County Board of Supervisors has voted to formally request Madison County and Orange County to release Greene County from the Rapidan Service Authority. All three counties are members of the RSA, and there is a disagreement about whether to proceed with a new reservoir to serve Greene. Last summer, the RSA blocked the use of facility fees paid by Greene ratepayers to pay for the project, which has a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

County Administrator Mark B. Taylor explained at a special meeting Monday night that the RSA is now willing to let Greene go, but there is a process.

“The RSA Board last week [urged] that week that we come back to the Board of Supervisors and ask for a resolution to be passed to reinitiate or reactivate our request to withdraw from the Rapidan Service Authority,” Taylor said. “Greene County is at a situation of wanting and needing to withdraw or depart by whatever means from the Rapidan Service Authority.

The special meeting was held yesterday in order to get the item on the agendas of the Madison and Orange Boards. The Greene County Board of Supervisors will be briefed on the status of litigation against the RSA at a closed meeting next week.  (Greene website on the White Run project)

The permit for the reservoir expires in 2028. That and all of the other documents are on the Greene County website.

The fiscal year for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority began on April 1 and the Board of Commissioners formally adopted a budget at their meeting on March 30. A week before, they had discussed the possibility of ending a $240,000 contract with Sentry Force Security for security patrols of CRHA properties. 

Brandon Collins, an employee of the Public Housing Association of Residents, got right to the point in the public comment period on March 30. 

“We know that the big question before you is what to do about the security contract and the massive amount of money you’re spending for security contract that from you all’s perspective and from many residents’ perspective is not really accomplishing much, especially for the amount of money being spent,” Collins said. 

Tim Sansone with Sentry Force Security once again appeared to make the case for his company to continue being paid to patrol CRHA properties.

“Since we last met last Monday, there’s now over 167 incidents that have occurred since January since we started,” Sansone said. “That’s an increase of 20 since last Monday.” 

Sansone said Sentry Force personnel had also stopped patrolling at Crescent Halls and were instead focusing on checking IDs, a decision made after discussion with CRHA Director John Sales. 

During the discussion of the budget, Sales said he put two positions in the document to pay for CRHA employees to run the door at Crescent Halls.  But he also said CRHA is on track to set aside enough reserves to meet a requirement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the end of fiscal year on March 31, 2022.

“HUD has us meeting it in two years so we’ll beat that by a year which is really nice so that will get us out of troubled status for our financial situation,” Sales said.

Before the vote, much of the discussion was about the security issue. Sales said a community group called the B.U.C.K. Squad has been patrolling the area. 

“I think the B.U.C.K. Squad is actively working in the communities already even without having a contract or anything in place,” Sales said. 

There is $133,000 in the FY22 budget for a line item called tenant protection. The CRHA Safety Committee will determine how the money in the budget is spent, and it could involve the B.U.C.K. Squad or Peace in the Streets being paid. Commissioner Lisa Green, who joined the CRHA Board last summer, said she was concerned these groups’ work might not be sustainable. 

“I feel like some of this was formed on emotion, on the death of someone and I am concerned that the momentum can keep going when that emotion starts to [dissipate],” Green said. “I do think what is being done is extremely admirable and we talk about thinking outside the box a lot.”

Dr. A’Lelia Henry, a resident who is also on the CRHA Board, heard the concern but felt they would have staying power. 

“A lot of the folks involved in the B.U.C.K. Squad have also been involved in generational issues involving crime within this very community and I think that’s why they feel somewhat closer to what’s going on,” Henry said. 

The contract with Sentry Force will end in May.

You’re reading to Charlottesville Community Engagement. This patron-supported public service announcement is from an anonymous supporter. Do you want to support your public library by picking up a mystery bag of books? The Friends of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library are resuming their Pop-up Book Sale this Sunday at the Gordon Avenue library. For $5, you can pick up a sealed, pre-selected bag, choosing from mystery, popular fiction, literary fiction, classic literature, biographies, sci-fi / fantasy. The JMRL Pop-Up sale begins this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gordon Avenue Library. (learn more on their website)

Including today, there are still two more days in the Tom Tom Foundation’s Race and Equity Conference, which has the name From the Classroom to the Boardroom. Last Tuesday, the first panel dealt how art and community can play a role in lifting up the Black community. 

Sarad Davenport, the first executive director of City of Promise was the moderator for Ascension: Joining Together to Rewrite the Code and he explained how the concept came up during the program’s development. (watch on YouTube)

“You know, what’s going on? Who’s doing amazing things, and this concept of ascension came up and who is like innovating at a higher level and taking the community to new levels that have never been seen before and who can offer insight to the rest of us?” Davenport asked. 

One of the panelists was Lisa Woolfork, who has risen to notoriety for her work advancing the art and science of sewing through her Instagram account and podcast.

“Black Women Stitch is the sewing group where Black Lives Matter and the Stitch Please  podcast is an extension and the official podcast of Black Women Stitch and Stitch Please podcast centers Black women, girls and femmes in sewing,” Woolfork said. “This may sound like a very niche type of podcast which I believe it is, but it reflects the larger need for Black women, girls and femmes to see ourselves, to be centered, to build community and among one another.” 

Woolfork said she did not see anyone else doing the work, so she took it upon herself to create the platform to craft a community based in creativity. 

“But is also committed to racial justice and Black liberation and radical self-love,” Woolfork said. “These are things that all work together in how we operate as a project.” 

Woolfork said at the end of 2019 she was approaching 10,000 downloads of the show. 

“And at the end of 2020, I was like, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get 100,000 downloads?” Woolfork asked. “That would be like ten times the amount that we started with. Wouldn’t that be great? And at the end of day we ended up with 125,000 downloads.” 

Sahara Clemons was a guest on the September 9, 2020 edition of Stitch Please, and went next on the Ascension panel.

“I think my approach to art is really centered, or where it started, is looking at the intersectionality between being a woman and being Black and also just my love of fashion and apparel and how those things kind of mesh together in creating works that really highlight Black women in these pops of color and these designs of these clothing that I work into the painting themselves to create this holistic narrative of lifting these people up in a way that I feel like hasn’t been show in this particularly light,” Wilson said.

The final panelist was William Jones, the creator of the Prolyfyck Run Creww which organizes early morning runs through Black neighborhoods three days a week. According to an article in Runner’s World that was published on March 23, Jones moved to Charlottesville in 2009. Davenport set up the introduction.

“Often times, Charlottesville doesn’t necessarily get good press in some of these national publications but the Prolyfyck Run Creww was a bright light and other national media organizations like running magazines recently did a feature on you all,” Davenport said. “Just to set it off for the Prolyfyck Run Creww, tell the people who might not know kind of about the origins and the conception of the Prolyfyck Run Creww movement.”

“It started just from running,” Jones said. “Honestly, I never really paid attention that running was like in there the way that I understand it to be in there now but in my journey to Virginia I stopped in Maryland for a week or two but when I was there I got to see Black people living really healthy lifestyles and part of that was running. Like they would just for no reason run on the street and that just seemed really weird to me.” 

But when he got to Charlottesville, he did not see Black people running. He worked at a barber’s shop on Cherry Avenue and was able to see people in the community. He later moved to a shop on Emmet Street that was not the same. 

“I was a little more disconnected,” Jones said. “I was only seeing my clientele but I wasn’t able to just see the young boys walking down the street and stuff. So unconsciously just like to fix that I just would go out at night, park at First Street, and I would just connect all of the hoods. I would go First Street, through Sixth Street, through Garrett. I would just run this route that one day I took Wes Bellamy on with me and it whooped him, and he was like, ‘man, this is dope though because I live in Charlottesville and I know these communities but I’ve never run through them.” 

Jones said if he had grown up in Charlottesville, he would have grown up in these neighborhoods. He needed to run on the streets to ground himself in the community. Working at a barber shop, he began to invite people. 

“So, I would invite brothers to come out and run, like, yo, you all want to do something, let’s take care of ourselves and I would invite brothers so many times that some of them just came,” Jones said. 

During the pandemic, the idea took off. Videos were posted on Instagram and number of people running grew. 

“I think white people were really looking for something to do with their energy to help answer some of the injustice issues that were going on, and to like put their energy somewhere to better learn about the community that they don’t know and I think this Black-led run group just fit,” Jones said.

You can watch the rest of the presentation on the Tom Tom Foundation’s YouTube page. The Classroom to Boardroom Race and Equity Conference continues through Thursday. (watch on YouTube) (watch all programs on YouTube)


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