Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
December 31, 2022: New candidates emerge for Albemarle School Board, House District 54; Council seeks slightly more funding for Vibrant Community Fund process
0:00
-18:36

December 31, 2022: New candidates emerge for Albemarle School Board, House District 54; Council seeks slightly more funding for Vibrant Community Fund process

Plus: Bus service between Staunton and Charlottesville to expand in 2023

Today is the day we say goodbye to 2022, a full 365 days after we said goodbye to 2021. Where will be a year from now and is it possible to have enough data to make a guess?

A lot has happened in the past 365 days, and Charlottesville Community Engagement has written down as much as possible in the 173 regular installments. How many in 2023?  Before we answer that in approximately 8,570 hours, a sincere thank you to the audience as well as a sincere hope your New Year will be whatever you need it to be. I’m Sean Tubbs, ready to say hello to January. 

On today’s show:

  • A candidate emerges for the at-large seat on the Albemarle School Board

  • A second person joins the race for Charlottesville’s open seat in the House of Delegates

  • Plans are filed in Albemarle County for a small project at end of Charlottesville’s East Market Street

  • Bus service between Staunton and Charlottesville will expand in the new year

  • A quick look at bills filed for the 2023 General Assembly including one that would ban School Boards from changing student names on their own 

  • The number of applications for nonprofit social services funding is up in Charlottesville, and City Council is asked if they would consider providing more money

Will there be at least 174 regular installments in 2023? Sign up for free to find out. Pay for a subscription to help guarantee this coverage for the next 365 days and beyond!

First shout-out: Rivanna Conservation Alliance

In today’s first Patreon supported shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance has had a busy 2022. By the numbers, the RCA kept an eye on water quality at 69 monitoring sites, assessed the effects of 245 road-stream crossings, and conducted 46 trash clean-ups. They engaged 1,002 students and 1,100 volunteers logged 3,156 hours doing work. In the summer and fall, the RCA sought your input on a plan to restore the public access point to the Rivanna at Charlottesville’s Riverview Park. With your help, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance can do even more in 2023, so consider making an end of year donation today. Visit rivannariver.org to learn more!

First newcomer files for Albemarle School Board

As 2022 comes to a close, a look ahead to the School Board races in the community beginning with news of the first person to file as a candidate in Albemarle.

Meg Bryce has filed a statement of organization to run for the at-large seat on the Albemarle School Board. Bryce is a resident of Ivy and had no comment for this story. The seat is currently held by Jonno Alcaro, who was first elected to the county-wide office in November 2015. 

There will also be School Board races in the Rivanna, Scottsville, and White Hall Districts. Ellen Osborne announced her re-election bid for the Scottsville seat in November at the same event where Mike Pruitt launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Scottsville Supervisor position. 

Dave Oberg will not be running for another term in the White Hall District having resigned earlier this month. He steps down effective today and the School Board has selected Rebecca Berlin to fill in for the next year. 

There’s no word yet if Judy Le will run for a second term representing the Rivanna District. 

Cooper becomes second candidate in House District 54

Speaking of the Albemarle School Board, the Rio District seat held by Katrina Callsen is not up for election until 2025. Callsen has filed paperwork to run next year in the open House District 54 seat that’s being vacated by Delegate Sally Hudson. Hudson is challenging Senator Creigh Deeds in the new District 11. 

Another candidate has also filed a statement of organization with the Virginia Department of Elections for House District 54, which covers all of the city of Charlottesville and sections of urban Albemarle County. 

That candidate is Fifeville resident Dashad Cooper and he is also running for the Democratic nomination. According to his LinkedIn profile, Cooper works for the City of Charlottesville as a social services assistant. 

Steep slopes waiver sought for Woolen Mills project

An entity known as the Greenhouse Abatement Industries Association has filed plans with Albemarle County to clear the way for redevelopment of an old power plant at the end of Market Street just across Charlottesville city limits. 

“The owner seeks a rezoning of the preserved steep slopes on the property, which encumbers approximately 85 percent of the property,” reads the application written by Shimp Engineering. “With a redesignation of the preserved slopes to managed slopes, the owner proposes a by-right residential development on the property.” 

The former power plant itself dates back to the turn of the 20th century and is a contributing structure in the Woolen Mills Village Historic District. That district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The application cites the materials submitted for the 2016 rezoning of the Woolen Mills factory which show that Albemarle staff believed the slopes in question are made by human activity. 

“The re-designation of these slopes will facilitate the construction of dwelling units in close proximity to businesses, parks, and trails,” the application continues.

The final unit count is not listed in the application, but Justin Shimp said in an email this would be for two or three houses. The driveways would enter on East Market Street, which then travels into Charlottesville. (ZMA202200013)

Site location for the by-right project titled Power Plant Residences (Credit: Shimp Engineering)

Afton Express expanding service in 2023

The transit agency that operates a daily bus between Staunton and Charlottesville has announced plans to expand the service in 2023. BRITE Bus and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission launched the Afton Express in September 2021.

“The new schedule will include more frequent stops at some of the Charlottesville and Albemarle stops as well as a 5th trip in the evening to provide access to individuals with varied work schedules,” wrote Lucinda Shannon of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission in an email to area transit stakeholders. 

The agency is required to take public comment on the changes. Shannon said written comments may be submitted by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 to: 

BRITE Bus/Afton Express staff
112 MacTanly Place
Staunton, VA 24401 
or via e-mail to paula@cspdc.org 

For more information on the service, visit the Afton Express website.

The new schedule would launch in February and add a fifth evening bus (Credit: BRITE Bus)

Legislative round-up: No School Board name changes without judicial sign-off

We’re less than two weeks away from the start of the next General Assembly session and time now for another look at what’s been pre-filed so far:

  • Delegate Carrie Coyner has filed legislation to require those seeking a concealed weapons permit to pass a firearm safety course to demonstrate competency. (HB1422)

  • Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata has a bill that would require all health practitioners in Virginia to take training courses on human trafficking. (HB1426)

  • Senator Scott Surovell has filed a bill that would amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to allow the withholding of names of people who make credit card purchases on government-issued accounts. (SB813)

  • Delegate Dave LaRock has two bills that would strip the ability of localities to ban firearms from public property. (HB1427) (HB1428)

  • Senator Mamie Locke has filed a Constitutional amendment to allow localities to accept easements in perpetuity. (SJ226)

  • Delegate Lee Ware has filed a bill to amend the Clean Economy Act to define Energy-Intensive Trade Exposed industries. (HB1430)

  • Delegate Phillip Scott has a bill that would allow people providing service of various legal documents to be exempt from trespass laws. (HB1432)

  • HB1434 from Delegate Jason Ballard would prevent School Boards from changing the name of a student unless it goes through the legal process. 

  • Ballard has another bill to authorize the study of expanding State Route 100 near Galax from two lanes to four lanes (HJ464)

A new definition of Energy-Intensive Trade Exposed industries as described in HB1430

Second shout-out: Charlottesville Community Bikes 

In this second subscriber supported shout-out, Charlottesville Community Bikes believes that bicycles can be a means to social change, addressing issues of equity, access, and inclusion. They provide free bikes to adults who need one, and have a special program that provides free bikes to children. And this year the organization:

  • Gave away 700+ kids' bikes in their Free Kids’ Bike Program

  • Gave away 200+ bikes & free repairs for adults in need in their Voucher Bike Referral Program

  • Refurbished & sold 340 bikes, providing affordable, sustainable transportation for the community

  • Repaired 260 bikes in 12 Mobile Bike Clinics

Want to learn more or support their work? Charlottesville Community Bikes currently is seeking matching funds for a grant from the Outride Fund. Visit charlottesvillecommunitybikes.org to learn more. 

Every installment contains a lot of things for you to talk about with friends and family. Share the work to liven up your conversations!

Share

Council discusses additional funding for Vibrant Community process

Charlottesville human services officials have asked City Council for more money for nonprofit agencies that provide services for individuals and households in need. That was one takeaway from a December 5, 2022 work session on the city’s Vibrant Community Fund. (agenda memo)

The city issued a request for proposals for funding in early October. The number of applications increased from 28 for the current fiscal year to 50 for the next one. There were 12 applications from entities that had never requested money before. 

“There’s a range of asks from organizations this year ranging from about $5,000 all the way up to $335,000,” said Misty Graves, the Director of Human Services for the City of Charlottesville. “Without any changes to the current flat allocation of funds to the Vibrant Community Fund, organizations are going to expect to get significantly less than their asks.” 

The total amount requested was $4.35 million compared to just over $2.75 million for fiscal year 2023. When housing programs are removed, the FY23 allocation was $1.9 million and that amount has been expected again in FY24. 

“And we currently have the same amount of allocated money to share with these applicants and organizations,” said Hunter Smith, a human services planner for the City of Charlottesville. (Smith is not the owner of a local brewery)

The increased funding does not include requests for anything housing related. 

“We moved all the housing and homeless services applicants over to the Office of Community Solutions,” Graves said. 

Applications for those projects were due on December 30, 2022. (read the story)

Since the work session, teams have been reviewing and scoring the requests and that information will be factored into the next budget. 

“Depending on how we evaluate funding recommendations versus how much their asks are, we take into consideration the scope of that organization's work, how many recipients they serve, their quality of the program and the quality of their application, and their ability to meet outcomes and Council priorities,” Graves said. 

Graves wanted to know if Council would consider increasing the amount of funding for the Vibrant Community Fund. 

The numbers discussed at the work session did not include funding requests from arts organizations. 

Council indicated support for providing more funding, beginning with adding more money to address inflation. Early December was too early in the process to give a dollar amount. 

“And maybe one of the things that we would say to the City Manager is that as you’re trying to figure out where the last million dollars or so might go, consider some of this,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

Snook also suggested that Council be able to provide feedback on their priorities to the committee that makes the recommendations on what gets funded. But Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade said he didn’t want Council to be able to interfere too much with the applications in process. He said he has evaluated similar applications during his career. 

“And I always understood that Councilors, you all or we all, always would get requests afterwards to change it,” Wade said. “I think that, trust me, we put the hours in. They put the hours in to review them and I think we, best we can, respect their work.” 

But Snook said he wanted to make sure that limited dollars go to advance what Council wants accomplished. 

“There’s a lot of ways that I think maybe the process would work better if we gave the VCF Committee some feedback once we sort of saw the initial round of what they’re talking about,” Snook said. “And then let them process that and make their recommendations to us again.” 

Councilor Brian Pinkston asked if there could be an update in January. Graves said the initial scores would be available in February. 

“And the kinds of recommendations that we’re looking for are kind of what you’re already tossing around,” Graves said. “Do you select a certain percentage for a certain category? Do you want to make your dollars stretch to more organizations or do you want to focus on a certain evaluation criteria?” 

Regardless of how that turns out, the budget needs to be balanced internally by February 15 before the public process begins, according to budget director Krisy Hammill. 

“That’s just for the city’s manager’s proposed budget,” Hammill said. “That will be presented to you in early March and whatever you all decide you want to do with that, you can certainly do that throughout the month of March and that becomes your adopted budget.” 

Hammill said the main question was simply whether Council wanted to provide more funding or not. 

“My own view is that we should increase it,” Pinkston said. 

“Yeah, if you’re just looking for a kind of picture type of thing, I definitely would like to see a few more dollars to that $1.9 million allocation,” Wade said.

City Councilor Sena Magill said she wants the pool of money to increase each year. 

“The need keeps increasing in our community while the usable dollars and function keeps decreasing,” Magill said. 

Magill also wanted more accountability for nonprofits and wanted better reporting on what the groups achieved.  Graves said that those who are funded now have to provide quarterly reports. 

City Councilor Michael Payne brought up the old system where Charlottesville and Albemarle reviewed these applications jointly. 

“One of my concerns is that I know all the reason we made all these changes to this process was to try to have a way to make investments that had a measurably more impactful benefit that what we were doing before and maybe I misinterpreted what I was hearing but it sounds like with this surge in new requests that we’ve got a much greater risk of kind of returning to where we were in the past where we kind of spread of money out to a ton of different requests instead of investing all in on several requests and that may put us in a situation where there’s less impact,” Payne said. 

Council signaled a willingness to increase the amount of funding by as much as ten percent. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said he would try to make that happen. 

How will it all come together? Stay tuned in the next few months as the city’s budget for FY24 comes together. 

Reading material:

477 edition notes of keeping the house in order:

A Saturday edition of Charlottesville Community is likely the least experienced but I felt a need to get one last installment produced for this year. I’m hoping in 2023 to provide even more service to the community. 

That will all start with the Week Ahead newsletter, which I plan to start work on as soon as this one is released. Local government is relentless and the brief pause we’ve had provided me some ability to catch up. Now, the whirlwind picks up the pace. The Week Ahead will be posted sometime on Monday. 

Before that, there may be first an edition of Fifth District Community Engagement, which is a separate Substack newsletter. This launched in May of this year and in 2023 you can expect to see that product grow. How will that manifest? You’ll have to find out like I do as I produce it!

All of this is funded by subscribers and Patreon supporters, and I’ve said enough about that this year so I can skip the details except to thank Ting for matching the first payment of every Substack subscriber.

I really do hope that you and those in your life have a good start to 2023. Not everyone places a big importance on the changing of the calendar, and I respect that. For me, this is a good time to take one last pause before the world continues turning. Thank you for being here along for the ride. 

0 Comments