Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
August 16, 2022: Charlottesville extends police chief survey by one week; Safety prep continues for school year; Planning funds awarded for Three Notched Trail
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August 16, 2022: Charlottesville extends police chief survey by one week; Safety prep continues for school year; Planning funds awarded for Three Notched Trail

Plus: CRHA Board back at quorum but two vacancies remain

What’s brown and sounds like a bell? This set-up is a celebration of National Tell a Joke Day, another imaginary holiday that marks August 16, the 228th day of 2022 as well as three out of every four years. The punchline shall not be written within the confines of this introduction to this latest installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that will give you a hint in the form of acknowledging another fake but worthy occasion - National Backflow Prevention Day.  You’ll have to listen to the end of the podcast for the less than admirable punchline.

It’s no joke that this newsletter frequently provides you with information you may not see elsewhere. Sign up for free, but do consider paying to ensure the work continues

In today’s edition:

  • As the school year approaches, Charlottesville’s Deputy City Manager gives an update on efforts to make safer routes for walking pupils

  • The federal government will give $2 million to help Albemarle plan for the 25-mile long Three Notched Trail 

  • A long-time Charlottesville musical institution celebrates the century mark tonight with a free concert

  • A member of the public housing authority’s Board of Directors has been reappointed but there’s still two vacancies

  • Charlottesville will extend a community survey for police chief by one more week

  • Lots of updates from Charlottesville City Manager’s report including an update on the possibility of ranked choice voting 

First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP,  has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!  

Implementation continues for plans to make Charlottesville walk zones safer

There are eight days left until classes begin for pupils in Charlottesville City Schools, and more will be walking to school due to a severe lack of people currently employed to drive school buses. 

“Due to the ongoing bus driver shortage, we have expanded our ‘walk zones’ to 0.75 miles for the elementary schools, and 1.25 miles for Walker, Buford, and [Charlottesville High School],” reads an email sent to interested parties. “This change brings our walk zones closer to regional and national norms.”

One mitigation is the installation of temporary way-finding signs along paths to schools to guide students. The city is also looking for people or teams to apply to be crossing guards. You can take a look here or share with friends and family and the gig pays between $16 and $18 an hour. 

Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders told City Council last night that the Public Works Department continues to work with the school system to work on their list of proposed improvements. 

“Sixty-one intersections have been striped to date, and twelve of those were brand new and we’ll have another eleven of those crosswalks done this week,” Sanders said. “Eight more of those are still being planned and we’ll be able to those done before school starts. 

Sanders said signage has been installed and Charlottesville Area Transit is working to get information out about how Route 9 might be used to get students to Walker Upper Elementary School and Charlottesville High School. 

“With the support of parent groups that have been working to identify how they can safely ride the buses back and forth to school,” Sanders said. 

In some cases, the city is using its power to manage traffic to give more priority to pedestrians. 

“We’ve adjusted some signal timing at multiple intersections, including the addition on ‘no turn on red when pedestrians present,’” Sander said. “That’s something we’ve had the ability do to at different times but we’ve added a few more of those in areas where we’ve heard from schools the reports of some serious interactions with cars as people have been trying to cross the roads.” 

One of several maps for enhanced walking maps to Charlottesville schools. Visit the Charlottesville City Schools website for the rest and to learn more. (Credit: Charlottesville City Schools)

At their next meeting on September 6, Council will be presented with some actions they can take, including lowering speed limits and temporarily turning the intersection of Rugby and Rose Hill into a four-way stop. 

“That intersection is going to be getting a new signal project in October but based on a lot of the inquiries that we’ve had in regards to that intersection, we’re thinking we may be able to go ahead and temporarily install a four-way stop at that intersection,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said a four-way-stop will make it easier for crossing guards to get students through a busy intersection on their way to Walker Upper Elementary School. 

Classes in Albemarle County Public Schools also start on August 24. School begins tomorrow in Greene County. 

Federal funds awarded to help plan for Three Notched Trail 

The effort to link the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Afton to Charlottesville with a continuous shared-use path has received a major boost from the federal government. A $2 million grant authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be awarded to Albemarle County for the Three Notched Trail Shared Use Path Plan. 

“A ‘shared use’ path is typically a 10’ wide paved trail that is physically separated from the motor vehicle travel way and allows bi-directional pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” reads a website for the project. “Once built, the TNT will provide local residents and visitors with car-free transportation and recreational opportunities.” 

The money will come from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Board endorsed the project earlier this year, as I reported at the time

The scope for the initial phase is about 25 miles long. No alignment has been decided for the trail, and the funding will be used to help conduct a public outreach process. 

The funding is part of $64 million that Virginia will receive through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Other projects include $20 million for a pedestrian crossing of the Potomac River at Long Bridge, $19.3 million for Portsmouth to convert a four-lane highway to a two-lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks, and $18.4 million for the city of Richmond to replace the Arthur Ashe Boulevard Bridge. The awards were announced by U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine

The Three Notched Trail is a project of the Rivanna Trail Foundation, a nonprofit that has partnered with Albemarle, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia to build and maintain trails in the community. 

An image on the TNT website showing how the trail could connect to a wider area across the Commonwealth of Virginia (Credit: Rivanna Trail Foundation)

Charlottesville Municipal Band to mark 100 years with concert tonight

Tonight, the performance group formerly known as the Municipal Band of Charlottesville will celebrate nearly one full century of operations with a Centennial Concert. The rebranded Charlottesville Band will take the stage of the Ting Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. for a free show.

Guest artists include  the U.S. Army Brass Quintet with vocalist Bob McDonald, Ray Caddell of Big Ray and the Kool Kats, and guest conductor Paul Murtha. The band will be recognized by area legislators. 

According to a release, the band technically dates back to October 23, 2022 when original band members got their instruments. The first performance was on April 10, 1923. Two memorable performances were in 1963 at the first naturalization ceremony held at Monticello as well as an audience with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain on her trip to Charlottesville in 1976. 

In April 2005, the Cville Band debuted the Daily Progress March by Nellysford composer Paul T. Richards. An audio report I did was one of the first items on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network

Council reappoints member to Charlottesville public housing board

The Charlottesville City Council has reappointed Laura Goldblatt to a term on the Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The body was created in 1954 after a referendum narrowly passed that spring, and oversaw the razing of Vinegar Hill and the creation of public housing units across the city as part of an overall urban renewal plan.

Goldblatt is an assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia. 

“There are still two vacancies on the CRHA Board which we will take up after as we are required by statute and ordinance after we have interviewed the applicants so that will be taken up in September,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

In 2022, the CRHA’s Board of Commissioners is overseeing a redevelopment plan that so far has seen the renovation of Crescent Halls and the construction of the first new public housing units at South First Street. These projects are being financed through a mixture of funds including city capital improvement funds and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

The CRHA Board of Commissioners did not meet in July due to a lack of quorum. There have been a series of resignations in the past few years due to various issues. The next meeting is scheduled for August 22. The CRHA’s page that lists meetings has not been updated since May 2021, but Deputy Commissioner Kathleen Glenn-Mattews said in an email earlier this month that a new website is in development. 

Second shout-out: Piedmont Master Gardeners want to help you rethink your lawn

In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement: Want to change up your lawn to something more sustainable for pollinators and other creatures? The Piedmont Master Gardeners wants you to know about a program called Healthy Virginia Lawns which can assist you in your transition. The program is a joint venture of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. If interested, the first step will be for a Piedmont Master Gardener to come for a visit for an assessment and soil tests. 

Healthy Virginia Lawns will give you a customized, science-based roadmap to a greener landscape that protects water quality, wildlife and other resources along the way. Visit piedmontmastergardeners.org to learn more!

Deadline extended for Charlottesville police chief search survey

There will be more segments in the future based from the Charlottesville City Council meeting, with information on how the collective bargaining discussion went. At this time, let’s learn a few more things from the report of Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. 

A community survey to take public input on Charlottesville’s next police chief is underway. The city has hired the firm POLIHIRE to conduct community engagement and the first questionnaire had been due yesterday.  

“We will extend the deadline until next Monday night and give people an opportunity to go on,” Rogers said. 

You can fill out the survey in English or you can fill it out in Spanish

“It’s confidential and we encourage people to really us what you think,” Rogers said. “What do you want to see in your next police chief?”

There’s no public word yet on what the process will be to find a new City Manager. The city’s contract with the Robert Bobb Group has been extended through the end of the year. 

That was the only public comment Rogers made from the ten-page written report. Here are some other highlights:

  • The city closed July 19 on the purchase of a parking lot at 921 East Jefferson Street. The city paid $1.65 million for the 0.4 acre property. The spaces will be available for monthly leases in the near future. (See previous story)

  • A Committee for the Preservation, Maintenance, and Security of the Downtown Mall has begun meeting to plan for the 50th anniversary of the pedestrianized space. The firm Raftelis has been hired to work on the project.

  • The city is recruiting for several vacancies including Housing Program Manager, Grants Manager, Senior Transportation Project Manager. View all of the open positions on the city’s jobs website. The Housing Program Manager position is not yet posted but the written report states that the role “will manage all the City’s affordable housing efforts in an expanded role previously titled Housing Coordinator.” That position has been vacant since the summer of 2020 when John Sales became executive director of CRHA. 

  • Applications for the Charlottesville Homeowner Assistance Program (CHAP) are being taken through September 1 for relief from property taxes. Here’s the form

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said he encouraged people to read the full report. 

“We tend to report on things only when there is crisis of some sort and its useful to know what’s happening on a month-by-month basis,” Snook said. 

Snook also encouraged people to attend tomorrow’s Town Hall on Greenhouse Gas Reductions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The registration page is here.

Snook also said he is working with Delegate Sally Hudson on bringing a new form of voting to Charlottesville now that the General Assembly has authorized localities to proceed.

“If you are interested in the question of ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting, both at the nominations process and at the elections process, we would have the ability to get it up and running before the 2023 Council nomination and election,” Snook said. 

Next year there are three seats up on City Council including Snook’s seat as well as the seats held by Sena Magill and Michael Payne. 

The Charlottesville Democratic Committee utilized instant run-off in a firehouse primary in the 2011 race. In a seven-way race, Kathy Galvin and Satyendra Huja both qualified in the first round of voting, but it would take five rounds for Dede Smith to get the nomination. Paul Beyer came in fourth place and was 29 votes below Smith.

The results from the 2011 Charlottesville Democratic Committee firehouse primary held at Burley Middle School. This file is posted on cvillepedia.

Housekeeping for episode 418

It’s a second day back to work for Charlottesville Community Engagement, and I’m aiming to get a program out each day this week to get back in the rhythm. There’s a lot happening in the greater community, and for over two years now I have sought to cover as much of it as possible. To keep this going, I rely on support from the community and this can take many forms.

First, you can upgrade to a paid subscription on Substack. If you do so, Ting will match your initial payment! And, if you sign up for their services through this link you’ll get a free standard install, your 2nd month free, and a $75 downtown mall gift card! Enter the promo code COMMUNITY for full effect. 

Second, you can support the Town Crier Productions Patreon account, which supports this effort as well as the burgeoning Fifth District Community Engagement. With a $25 a month subscription, you too can get some of these shout-outs you read or heard. That system will be changing soon, but anyone who signs up this month will be grandpersoned in. All of this work is still in progress, and I’m grateful for the nearly 100 Patreon supporters without whom this regular resource would not be able to continue running.

Third, please share with more people. Audience growth is steady, but I could always use more eyes and ears on these regular updates. The community will be a better place with more people paying attention to the nuts and bolts. I plan to continue to demonstrate that this approach is riveting. 

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Music comes from the D.C. entity that currently goes by the name Wraki, you can support their work by purchasing the album Regret Everything on Bandcamp for whatever you would like to pay. 

And yes, I am making you listen to the podcast if you want to hear the punchline. It’s juvenile and perhaps beneath my dignity, but at least its not the Aristocrats. Don’t look that up.

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