December 20, 2022: Charlottesville City Attorney departing this month; Arrests made in 14th Street NW shooting
Plus: Albemarle Supervisors approve new social workers to deal with end of COVID-19 era benefit rules
There is now only one day left until the day in our portion of the northern hemisphere with the least amount of light. Does the holiday time coincide coincidentally with this orbital highlight of the year, or have the two fused together over millennia? Perhaps we’ll never fully understand for sure, but there’s always a journey in pondering the question. That’s not really what Charlottesville Community Engagement is usually about, but I’m the host, Sean Tubbs and I’m in wonder of it all.
The schedule of this newsletter is still erratic., but there’s a lot. Get each edition in your inbox so you don’t miss the information.
On today’s program:
Two arrests are made in connection with a shooting early Sunday
Charlottesville City Attorney Lisa Robertson is stepping down by the end of the month
Albemarle and Charlottesville prepare to collect a plastic bag tax
Six new firefighters have joined Albemarle County
A former coach of Lane High School has died
Albemarle County Supervisors agree to hire five new social workers to help contend with the end of COVID-19 rules for federal benefits
First shout-out: UVA Health holiday gift card drive
With just a few days before the holidays, there’s still time to help ensure someone who could really use a gift to get one this Christmas. The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is partnering with the UVA Health Office of Diversity and Community Engagement to collect and distribute gift cards.
Every year UVA’s SNMA chapter works with Charlottesville’s City of Promise to sponsor a toy drive for the Westhaven community. Children create holiday wish lists, and your purchase of a $20 gift card from area stores or a donation through Venmo will help more community members have the opportunity to purchase the things they want for themselves and their children. This year the SNMA has extended their reach in support of children and parents associated with Abundant Life Ministries and WellAWARE.
Learn more in the flier below or call Jacklene Martin at 434-409-4313.
Arrests made in Sunday morning shooting in Charlottesville
A man wanted in connection with a shooting incident on 14th Street early Sunday morning has been arrested. The U.S. Marshals Service and the Staunton Police Department have arrested 28-year-old Anthony Paige of Charlottesville on charges of felony malicious wounding, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.
That’s connected to one of two “shots fired” reports sent out by the Charlottesville Police Department in the past three days. In the first, officers responded to calls of gunfire on 14th Street N.W. around 2:20 a.m. Sunday morning.
“One male victim was transported to the University of Virginia medical center for the treatment of a gunshot wound,” reads a press release that went out at 3:59 a.m. that morning.
The next day at 10:56 a.m. the CPD released an update that officers were are looking for a specific individual who turned out to be Paige.
Later on that afternoon, a second incident was announced as having occurred on North Berkshire Road.
“One female was transported to the University of Virginia medical center for the treatment of a gunshot wound,” reads that press release which has so far not been updated.
There is no additional information in the North Berkshire incident, but Paige was arrested with 30-year-old Miriah Shavone Smith of Staunton on warrants for felony malicious wounding and being principal in the second degree.
Charlottesville will need to look for a new City Attorney
Charlottesville City Attorney Lisa Robertson is leaving her position effective December 28, 2022. The news was reported last night by interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers.
“Lisa has had a long career with the city of Charlottesville and in my time here I recognize her as one top-notch professional who you can rely on for sound advice and guidance.” Rogers said.
Robertson has only been in the top position since May of 2021 when she was elevated from interim city attorney. She got that job in the fall of 2020 after former attorney John Blair became interim city manager following the resignation of Tarron Richardson that September. Robertson worked for the city in two different stints.
Robertson’s departure comes at a time when the city faces several high-profile lawsuits including one from former Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Robertson defended the city’s removal of two Confederate statues on city-owned land before the Virginia Supreme Court, and argued for the dismissal of a suit against the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan.
Rogers said he would come back to Council with next steps for filling the position.
“We will appoint an acting city attorney from the staff and then we will discuss other steps to make sure we are covered in that office,” Rogers said.
Council took action later in the meeting on a resolution to allow Rogers to make adjustments to hire outside counsel where needed. Before they took a vote, Councilors weighed in on Robertson’s looming departure.
“Over the last few years it’s been a tough time to be in the City Attorney’s office and she has done a great service to us and we will be lucky if we find someone as competent as she,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.
The vote to approve that resolution was 4-0 with Councilor Sena Magill absent from the meeting.
Albemarle and Charlottesville set to collect plastic bag tax starting January 1
If you use plastic bags provided by grocery stores to take your food and beverages home in Albemarle and Charlottesville, it’s going to cost you slightly more.
“As authorized through Virginia Code §58.1-1745, retailers will be required to charge $0.05 per disposable plastic bag provided to customers at checkout,” reads a press release sent out late Monday.
The idea is to incentivize people to carry reusable bags. Revenue must go to specific sources including purchase of bags for people with eligible incomes, a marketing campaign for environmental education, or litter clean-up programs.
The tax itself will be administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation.
For more information:
Are you a retailer? Are you prepared to implement the fee? What about a consumer? Will this change your behavior?
Albemarle welcomes new firefighters
Six new firefighters have joined Albemarle County this week after going through an abbreviated recruit school. The county announced this morning that the new public safety employees had previous experience and are known as “lateral recruits.”
"ACFR personnel are highly trained and motivated to provide the highest quality service to the residents of Albemarle," said Albemarle County Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston in a statement. "These individuals were already trained firefighters elsewhere and chose to come to ACFR because of the standard of care and quality of the department, and we warmly welcome them to the family.”
The six new recruits are part of an Albemarle County Fire Rescue department with 167 full-time employees.
“Starting pay for firefighters with no experience is $50,000 and then pay goes up from there based on the previously mentioned qualifications,” said public information officer Bridgette Butynski. “Two of the six in this class came to us as paramedics.”
The county will begin a new recruiting class next year but that will be for those without experience already. If you or anyone you know is interested, visit www.workforacfr.com for details on the upcoming 24-week training session for the next class.
Longtime Lane High School football coach dies
A football coach who led Lane High School to a 53-game winning streak had died at the age of 89. Thomas George Theodose died Saturday as announced by Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook on Monday.
“He was at Lane when I was at Lane back in the 1960’s,” Snook said.
The winning streak came between 1962 and 1967 at a time when Charlottesville Schools transitioned from resistance to admitting Black students to white schools to acceptance. The streak straddled that time.
“He coached the first integrated state championship team in 1963 as they went 10 and 0,” Snook said. “Just as an indication of how revered he was at that point in Charlottesville, there was a referendum to have two high schools built and one of the contentious issues which was which one of the high schools was going to get Tommy Theodose as their football coach. “
Charlottesville opted instead to build two middle-schools which would become Walker Upper Elementary School and Buford Middle School. The stadium at Charlottesville High School is named after the late Theodose. Learn more about his life and what he leaves behind in his obituary.
Today’s second shout-out: LEAP wants to help you prepare for winter
Crisp air and colorful leaves. Hot cocoa. Snow days. There are plenty of reasons to get excited about fall and winter, but the return of high heating bills isn't one of them. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, has been empowering Virginians with energy efficiency and solar solutions since 2010. With programs for all income levels, residents can access upgrades like insulation, LED bulbs, low-flow fixtures, and affordable rooftop solar systems. Visit www.leap-va.org to learn more, and fill out the LEAP Services Inquiry form to lower high heating bills and stay cozy this winter.
Albemarle preparing for end of COVID federal benefits
It has been two and three quarter years since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency and much of the economy was shut down for a while to help reduce the spread of a virus that was still little known. Rules for federal benefits were altered for a while and now social services departments across the United States are scrambling to prepare for that period to end.
“The Department of Social Services finds itself responding to some pretty significant mid-year federal policy change which we predict will result in a significant increase in the workload required for us to manage this,” said Kaki Dimock, Albemarle Director of Social Services.
Dimock went before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on December 14 to request additional staff to handle the end of COVID-19 benefits.
“During the beginning of the pandemic, the federal safety net programs very intentionally decided to create expanded eligibility and no ending of benefits during the period of time during the pandemic which was super helpful for people experiencing workforce disruptions and additional concerns for their families,” Dimock said.
That has increased the workload for Albemarle and other jurisdictions who ultimately report to the Virginia Department of Social Services. For the county, that means over 10,500 open Medicaid cases and 3,400 households on SNAP benefits and for over two and a half years, there was no requirement to vet whether any of the cases are qualified. That will soon come to an end after a series of extensions expires.
“When the public health emergency benefits end, all of those cases will need to be reviewed for eligibility,” Dimock said. “And this time we were informed pretty robustly by both state and federal representatives not to expect an additional extension.”
The exact date for when the period has not yet been released. Localities do not have the option to waive eligibility requirements for federal programs. Thousands of cases will need to be reviewed and those reviews will need to be approved by staff supervisors.
“It will require all recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to participate in Virginia’s Initiative for Education and Work (VIEW) and that requirement will begin in January regardless of whether the public health benefits are extended or not,” Dimock said.
Dimock is requesting an additional five full-time equivalents to help with the additional workload. She said there is a possibility of additional support from the Commonwealth but not enough information is known. She said overtime for existing staff is not an option given high workloads as it is.
“And so as a workforce stabilization and retention effort, we’re choosing not to pursue overtime as the only method,” Dimock said. “We’re concerned we’ll lose our staff.”
The positions would be classified as temporary but the idea would be that new people hired could remain within the department as other people retire.
Supervisor Jim Andrews (Samuel Miller) had a question about whether Albemarle was alone in making these preparations.
“This is sort of mandated through federal policy changes that are implemented nationwide presumably and also affecting many localities throughout Virginia in the exact same way,” Andrews said. “I don’t know if there have been any other conversations with other jurisdictions about how they’re handling this or if this is a scramble that everyone is going to be going through.”
Dimock said she has been in conversation with other jurisdictions and different localities are taking different approaches.
“There are some jurisdictions that say they have unfilled positions that they feel like they can fill to manage the workload without additional [full-time equivalents] and others who are in similar requests and scrambling to try to provide some additional overtime, some temporary support and additional staff like we are suggesting today,” Dimock said.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she wanted the public to understand how crucial the role Social Services has played during the pandemic.
“I just really appreciate all of your all’s hard work and the overtime and everything that your department has struggled with over the last two or three years,” McKeel said.
Charlottesville ends 2022 with surplus of $23 million, Dryden Quigley, NBC29, December 19, 2022
Housekeeping notes for #474
How many more editions of this program before 2022’s long beard ushers in a fresh-faced 2023? Depends on how much information happens between now and then, and how much there is still to process. This newsletter is a mix of what’s happening at the moment as well as what’s already happened at meetings. There’s a lot to get to!
The schedule will be a little erratic for the next week with a bit of traffic on my part as I travel around the eastern seaboard with family. I’m the driver, so that makes it hard to do the reporting! But, I’ll be posting periodically as I can so I can get caught up before 2023 really gets going.
Thanks today to Doug Eddy and Jenn Finazzo for their audio contributions to the podcast today. In return, Jenn wants you to know about Fiori Floral Studio for all of your holiday floral needs.
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Perhaps another one out tomorrow but most likely it will be on December 22. But who knows? I really love doing this work and thank all of you who are helping to make it happen.