Dec 13, 2021 • 15M

December 13, 2021: UVA committee briefed on progress of Emmet-Ivy Corridor, another learns about Karsh Institute of Democracy

Plus: One million COVID cases in Virginia, and two paragraphs on the city manager search

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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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The word penultimate means “the one before the last.” But what about the one before that one? For this is the third to last Monday of 2021, and it feels there should be a better way of saying that. In any case, this is the first edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement for the third to last week of the year. That’s twice we’ve needed that word in this newsletter so far. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs, here again to bring you information about the area even if not every word is precise.

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

On today’s show:

  • An update on the Emmet-Ivy corridor and sustainability efforts from the University of Virginia

  • The new Dean of the School of Architecture and the director of the Karsh Institute of Democracy introduce themselves to a Board of Visitors panel 

  • More on the search for a corporate-appointed City Manager for Charlottesville

  • A COVID update and a few more bills are before the General Assembly

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COVID update

There have now been over a million reported cases of COVID-19 in Virginia since the beginning of the pandemic, and a total of 14,957 deaths. The seven-day average for positive cases is now at 8.7 percent. That number is a little higher in the Blue Ridge Health District at 8.9 percent. For most of the pandemic, the Charlottesville area has lagged behind the statewide number. There are 58 new cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District today, but no new fatalities. The seven-day average for new cases in the state is 2,520 a day. 

RFP closing

The window closes tomorrow at 4 p.m. for firms who are interested in assisting the city of Charlottesville with interim management services until a new top official is appointed. The RFP issued on December 3 requires a firm to provide someone with at least ten years of municipal management experience to run the city on an interim basis. Two addendums to the proposal were made Friday. (read the proposal)

This process is not without precedent in Virginia. The Town of Amherst hired the Berkley Group in 2017 to hire a former Pulaski County administrator to serve as interim manager. Peter Huber served for five months as part of the Berkley Group’s Executive Transition Assistance program.  Huber is now serving in a similar position in Alleghany County according to his LinkedIn profile. According to Berkley’s website, they’ve provided this service in dozens of Virginia localities, from the town of Abingdon to the town of Windsor. 

General Assembly 2022

There is less than a month until the Virginia General Assembly convenes for the 2022 session. Several bills have already been filed, and the number coming in right now is low enough to report some of what’s currently in the legislative information system.

  • Senator Mamie J. Locke (D-Hampton) has filed a bill calling for a Constitutional amendment granting the right for people convicted of felons to be able to vote upon release. (SJ1)

  • Delegate James Morefield (R-North Tazewell) has filed a bill establishing a Flood Relief Fund using a portion of the state’s proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctions. (HB5

  • Senator Travis Hackworth (R-Richlands) filed a bill that would terminate power of attorney for anyone convicted of acting against their client. (SB10)

  • Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) filed a bill increasing the standard deductions for Virginia income tax for both single and married people. (SB11)

  • Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has another that would allow localities to issue refunds on excess personal property taxes. (SB12)

  • Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) has filed legislation that would compel “accomodations providers” to provide more information to localities upon request in the collection of transient lodging taxes. (HB7)

Sustainability and Emmet-Ivy updates

Last week, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors met, and the December 10 edition of this show featured some information. On Friday, Bryan McKenzie reported in the Daily Progress that the Board voted to increase tuition by 4.7 percent in the 2022-23 school year and 3.7 percent for the following year. Read his story for more details

On Thursday, the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting was a shorter one than usual, but members were briefed on several items of note. One related to UVA’s sustainability efforts. Colette Sheehy is the Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government at UVA.

“You’ll recall that the big audacious goal for sustainability is to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil-fuel free by 2050,” Sheehy said. “Overall our emissions are down by 44 percent over the last decade which is equivalent to about 160,000 tons of carbon.” 

However, that doesn’t include the carbon footprint of new buildings built at UVA during the period, though they are built to LEED certification according to Green Building Standards. Sheehy said UVA has to do more to meet its goals.

“In order to reach our carbon neutrality goal by 2030, we need to reduce our current emissions by another 160,000 tons and probably another 36,000 related to new construction,” Sheehy said. 

Sheehy also briefed the Buildings and Grounds Committee on efforts to reduce single-use plastics in order to comply with an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam. She said it’s a University-wide effort. 

“The biggest challenge is actual single-use plastic water bottles which is why you now see aluminum water bottles used to the extent that we can get them,” Sheehy said. “One of the issues is supply-chain and quantity, particularly if you are at a football and tens of thousands of water bottles that are sold.” 

A slide from the Buildings and Grounds presentation from Thursday (download)

Sheehy concluded her presentation with an update on construction of the new Emmet-Ivy precinct, which will house the School of Data Science, the Karsh Democracy Institute, and a hotel and convention center. Utility work has been underway on the site of the former Cavalier Inn, which was demolished to make way for the future. 

“We expect to be complete with all the utility and road work that sits outside the construction fencing by the end of the first quarter of 2022,” Sheehy said. 

The south side of Ivy Road will also be altered with new retaining walls and a monumental staircase leading up to the International Residential College

“The foundation work for Data Science should start in early January with completion of that building in the fall of 2023,” Sheehy said. “The plan is the hotel should begin construction in the spring with completion in the fall of 2024.” 

Design work has begun for the Karsh Institute of Democracy. Höweler+Yoon is the architect. 

Emmett Streetscape news

There was also news about the Emmet Street Streetscape, one of the first projects funded through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process. A design public hearing of the $12 million project was held in December 2019 and is being overseen by the City of Charlottesville. Alice Raucher is the UVa Architect. 

“They submitted their complete documents to VDOT which is one of the required steps in order to begin the negotiations for the right of way,” Raucher said. 

Appraisals are underway for the easements or property acquisitions needed for the project. Raucher had no timetable for when that might happen. The Emmet Streetscape runs from Ivy Road to Arlington Boulevard and includes a 10-foot wide multiuse path on the western side of the road. (read the brochure)

The plans for the Emmet Streetscape (click for larger view)
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: 

The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign  an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Winter is here, but spring isn’t too far away. This is a great time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!*

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Architecture and Democracy at UVA

After the Buildings and Grounds Committee concluded on Thursday, the Academic and Student Life Committee met and heard from the new dean of the School of Architecture and the director of the Karsh Institute for Democracy.  

First up: Malo Hutson took over as Dean of the School of Architecture at the beginning of the academic year. He previously was at Columbia University where he directed the Urban Communities and Health Equity Lab. Hutson said the study of architecture is focused on the public realm. 

“We’re focused on addressing some of the biggest issues of the world, ranging from climate change all the way to the importance of cultural landscape and heritage, to thinking about do you build with healthy materials and so forth and transportation,” Hutson said. 

Hutson said the School of Architecture has several priorities and values shared with the rest of the UVA Community. He said the four departments in the school are all focused on climate resilience and climate justice, as well as equity and inclusion. Hutson said faculty and staff have an eye on Virginia’s needs as they craft the Climate Justice Initiative. 

“We know that we are susceptible to storms and flooding all kinds of things that are going on and so how do we engage in a way from whether we’re talking about Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads to all the way in Southwest Virginia?”

A slide from Hutson’s presentation to the Academic and Student Life Committee of the Board of Visitors (download)t

The Karsh Institute of Democracy exists to reflect on the same basic question. Melody Barnes is the first executive director of the new entity which was founded in 2018. She said democracy is in trouble in the United States and around the world, citing a CBS News poll from January.

“Seventy-one percent of Americans believe that democracy in the United States is threatened,” Barnes said. “A more recent poll from just about a month ago, the Pew Research Center indicates that there are about 19 percent of Americans who believe that American democracy is still a role model for democracy in the world.”

Barnes said the University of Virginia is well-positioned to take up the cause and the Democracy Initiative has built on the work. 

“We also believe that this is a moment that we have to do more and that we are well-situated to do more,” Barnes said. 

Barnes said the Institute will be public-facing and will seek to engage with the community around UVA. 

“We want to use this moment, we want to leverage the assets and resources that we have to develop solutions, best practices, and new ideas to address the very challenges I just mentioned,” Barnes said. 

This Institute’s mission is to “generate new ideas and share them with policymakers and citizens” but Barnes said the work doesn’t stop there.

“But then we translate them and use diverse communications channels to push them into the public bloodstream,” Barnes said. “To engage policymakers, journalists, the private sector, the public and beyond so people can take those ideas up, they can be debated. They can become policy. They can become practice. They can start to shape the way that we think, talk about, and do democracy. Hopefully the best ideas get taken to scale.” 

Barnes said one idea may be to offer a prize related to a specific solution. For instance, the Aspen Institute offers $1 million for community college excellence

“We are thinking that a X Prize for Democracy in partnership with others and leveraging the assets of the University and all the knowledge that’s here could be a wonderful way to bringing greater attention to some specific challenges that are facing democracy,” Barnes said. 

Barnes said a democratic society will always face existential challenges. She said the Institute will be set up to take a long-term view towards curating conversations.

“This will be the journey and an issue for the country I think for the life of the country,” Barnes said. “We will always be engaged in these battles and these debates.”  

Stay tuned. 

The Karsh Institute of Democracy will be located in the Emmet-Ivy Corridor

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