Perhaps there are those of you who are tired of the usual holidays. Perhaps you can find a way to celebrate December 6 as National Gazpacho Day, National Miners Day, Finnish Independence Day, or perhaps Mitten Tree Day? Charlottesville Community Engagement does not have the resources to offer prizes to anyone who can compose a carol for any of these occasions, but I, Sean Tubbs, can certainly dream.
On today’s program:
Michael Kochis will be the next Chief of Police in Charlottesville once he wraps up his time in Warrenton
Updates on various transportation projects in the city of Charlottesville
Two elementary schools in Charlottesville will receive new names, but more public feedback is requested on two options for Clark
A round-up of new legislation Including a bill to eliminate license taxes for dogs and cats
First shout-out is for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards
In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, an area nonprofit wants you to know about what they offer to help you learn how to preserve, protect, and appreciate! The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards holds several events throughout the year including a two-part seminar on Zoom this week called: “Identify and Control Non-Native Invasive Plants in Fall and Winter” with Tree Steward Tim Maywalt.
Managing the invasive plants that are overtaking our green spaces is a challenge. But any of us can do it with the knowledge to identify and treat them. This class will show you how to identify about 30 common invasive plants in the Virginia Piedmont and illustrate a wide range of options for treating them.
Part one is tonight at 7 p.m. and you can register here. Part two is Thursday at 7 p.m. and that registration link is here. There will also be a walk Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Pen Park to illustrate the topic in real life. Register here.
Warrenton’s top copy to become next Charlottesville Police Chief
Charlottesville City Council has approved the selection of Michael Kochis to serve as the city’s next police chief. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers made the announcement during last night’s City Council meeting after explaining the process.
The firm Polihire was hired to conduct the search and they identified five candidates. Three finalists appeared last week at a forum run by the Police Civilian Oversight Board and the process also included input from committees.
“Through that process and looking at the rating of the various committees of the various candidates it became clear that one candidate stood above the others,” Rogers said. “That candidate was Michael Kochis.”
Kochis is the current police chief in Warrenton. Rogers, an employee of the Robert Bobb Group with an extensive history on municipal government, said he contacted different organizations in the Fauquier County town to get references. These include both Black Lives Matter and the NAACP.
“It comes back glowing reports in terms of his approachability, his engagement and commitment to community, his steadfast approach to solving problems and building partnerships with the community,” Kochis said.
Before the vote, City Councilor Michael Payne remarked on the process that led to the decision.
“I would just acknowledge that the path to reform is going to take a lot of time and community engagement and trust is going to have to be earned and on Council, we’re going to have to support that effort long term and acknowledge where we have come up short,” Payne said.
Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook noted he had talked to his counterpart in Warrenton, a town with 2020 Census count of 10,147.
“He said, ‘basically we will be sorry to lose him but I want you to know how well respected he is,’' Snook said. “They mentioned specifically the fact that one of his biggest supporters was the NAACP.”
Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade said he looked forward to new leadership. He took the time to thank the other two candidates.
“We had three excellent choices and that is a good thing right there and I imagine, Mr. Rogers, it was difficult for you to make that final determination,” Wade said.
Incoming Chief Kolchis appeared at the meeting via Zoom after Council voted to accept Rogers’ recommendation.
“I really do appreciate the faith and confidence of Council that you have placed in me to lead the Charlottesville Police Department and the men and women of that organization,” Kolchis said.
His start date is January 16. More from a press conference with Kolchis in the next edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement.
Charlottesville infrastructure updates: Sanders seeks more time to help city build back capacity
One of the main purposes of this newsletter is to keep track of various pieces of transportation infrastructure. There’s a lot to report from last night’s City Council meeting as Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders offered several updates.
For background, this has been a year in which the city of Charlottesville’s inability to complete transportation projects became an issue with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Several projects were canceled and the city has hired a new transportation planner to help with staff capacity to manage the workload. Here are some articles on the topic from this year:
City officially cancels West Main Streetscape project, June 10, 2022
CTB briefed on cancellation of Charlottesville Smart Scale projects, September 22, 2022
NDS: Extent of design work for Stribling Avenue sidewalk improvements not known, September 30, 2022
In April, City Council approved a rezoning in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood for 170 units. As part of the conditions, Southern Development agreed to pay $2.9 million toward the upfront costs of bringing Stribling Avenue up to standard including adding a sidewalk.
“In regards to Stribling, the sidewalk project that is to accompany the Southern Development project is not moving with the vigor that we had anticipated at this moment because there was a lawsuit filed against the city for the financial instrument that we’re planning to use,” Sanders said. “We hoped that that would be resolved as a legal matter at some point in the first quarter of the next year but in the meantime the city is working internally in figuring out the various things that we need to do to make sure that once that matter is resolved we are full steam ahead.”
The city would pay Southern Development back by using the additional property tax revenue that will come from the rezoning.
Cabell Marshall sued the city in Charlottesville Circuit Court earlier this year asking for the rezoning to be declared void.
“The Infrastructure Funding Agreement does not comply with the clear mandate of Article VII, Section 10, of the Constitution of Virginia that a city can only borrow money ‘provided the notes shall mature not later than 12 months after the date of the issue,’ reads Paragraph 12 of the complaint. (read the complaint)
No date has been set for that case.
Many Fry’s Spring residents have also pushed for ways to control vehicle movements on Jefferson Park Avenue Extended including its intersection with Stribling Avenue.
“There are many, many different ideas of things that can be done,” Sanders said. “I honestly don’t think that there’s a proposed concept for JPA that we have not heard. There are a variety of projects at varying degrees of consideration. Some funded, some not funded. We have a lot to take a look at for that corridor specifically and we intend to continue to do that.”
Sanders said more coordination is needed and will happen now that there is a transportation planner who started work on October 31.
Sanders also addressed a petition from Andy Orban to install dedicated bike lanes on West Main Street. That won’t be happening any time soon.
“We’re not ready to consider alternative ideas for West Main having just officially canceled that project on the books,” Sanders said.
Sanders said staff has been meeting with VDOT to understand what the state agency needs from the city going forward.
“Once we are in full alignment with VDOT which we hope is going to be concluded in the first quarter of 2023 with the state transportation board taking action on our various requests, we’ll be able to come back and take a look at West Main for some potential reconsideration,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that any further funding for West Main would have to be balanced against the city’s other needs.
One of those could be on East High Street which has limited facilities for pedestrians and none for cyclists. Sanders said Council will see a report in the near future about how $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding devoted to Safe Routes to School will be spent and there will be a request for additional funding. Some projects on East High Street may be on that list including a sidewalk in front of a utility building. Some non-infrastructure steps have already been taken.
“Charlottesville Area Transit has already moved the bus stop in that section to prevent some of the ongoing traffic concerns with people going around the bus through the parking lot at Jak-n-Jil,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he understood there are many concerns about transportation and he said he needed more time to help build the city’s capacity to address connectivity issues.
In other news, Rogers announced that seven firms have responded to a request for proposals for a firm to help Council develop a new strategic plan for the municipal government.
“We are sorting through those and we should have an award made in the next week or so that we can launch our efforts in January,” Rogers said.
Second shout-out: Magic on the Mall
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Friends of Charlottesville Downtown and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau want you to visit the Central Place on the Downtown Mall Saturdays and Sundays in December for Magic on the Mall from noon to 4 p.m.
Festive family activities include Selfies with Santa on Saturdays. Music on the Mall at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and the Peppermint Trail where you can find all sorts of treats. Ride the Holly Trolley or go on a magical scavenger hunt to find the Elves in Cville by starting at Charlottesville Insider or downloading it online! For a full list of participating businesses and locations, visit friendsofcville.org.
New names proposed for Clark and Venable schools
A Charlottesville City Schools Committee is recommending that the names of two city elementary schools be changed.
“Although the committee considered keeping or modifying the names Venable and Clark, in the end, members decided that maintaining the original names in any way would continue to uphold the original, problematic namesakes,” reads the school system’s website
Third and fourth graders then voted on potential names. Venable Students chose Trailblazer Elementary by a wide margin, according to city schools. The name honors the Charlottesville 12 and others who fought for an equal education. It is also “is an invitation for students to continue blazing new trails today.”
The vote at Clark was much closer. Friendship Elementary won by a slight margin. Here’s the website again:
“The name Friendship Elementary honors the relationships that are at the heart of a school and references the current name of Friendship Court, which anchors the school in a geographic place that is home to many Clark students. The name of Friendship Court is subject to change as part of the facility’s redesign.”
Summit Elementary is the second place choice. The School Board has asked for more public comment on the two names. People are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org before January 5.
Legislative round-up: Bill introduced to eliminate license tax for dogs and cats
There are 37 days now until the General Assembly and the pre-filing of legislation continues apace.
Senator Barbara Favola has filed a bill to increase the number of people on the State Board for Local and Regional Jails from nine to eleven members. (SB797)
Senator Ghazala Hashmi will carry a bill to update state code to remove the terms “handicap,” “handicapped,” and other variants with alternatives such as “disability” and “impairment.” (SB798)
Senator Scott Surovell has filed a bill to allow parties in custody cases to submit evidence of medical reports. (SB799)
Surovell has filed another bill to allow special agents of the United States Army Criminal Investigative Division and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations to be considered a conservator of the peace. That allows them to serve warrants in conjunction with local or state law enforcement. Currently only United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents have this privilege. (SB801)
Delegate Tim Anderson has a bill that would eliminate the requirement to pay license tax for dogs and cats. HB1406 would also allow localities to create a lifetime license. Charlottesville collected $2,490 in licenses in FY20. (HB1406)
Delegate Emily Brewer has a bill to allow people with concealed weapons to carry firearms into Capitol Square or any building owned by the Commonwealth. Legislation passed in 2020 completely prohibits firearms in those areas. (HB1407)
Brewer has another bill that would expand “the workers' compensation presumption of compensability for certain cancers causing the death or disability of certain employees who have completed five years of service in their position to include melanoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and bladder and thyroid cancer.” (HB1408)
Reading (and listening) materials for this particular episode of the program:
The Challenges of Climate, Land Use, and Equality, UVA Lifetime Learning
On The Line: Clifton Forge and Iron Gate, Christopher Tyree, WHRO Public Media, December 5, 2022
Charlottesville City Council approves Michael Kochis as police chief, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, December 5, 2022
Michael Kochis to be next Charlottesville Police Chief, Dryden Quigley, NBC29, December 5, 2022
Flu season intensifies in the Blue Ridge Health District, Madison McNamee, NBC29, December 5, 2022
Michael Kochis named Chief of Charlottesville Police Department, Garrett Whitton, CBS19 News, December 5, 2022
Concluding notes for #466
Today’s newsletter was initially going to come out before noon, but knowledge of a press conference at 1 p.m. made me extend the anticipated production time. The perfect window to be published is between noon and three and the earlier the better. Yet, writing and producing the whole thing alone makes it difficult to come to a routine schedule.
Thanks today to Bree Luck and Michael Kilpatrick for their volunteer audio contributions today. My hope is to expand on that effort to feature more voices and more stories from other people. That would make the name Charlottesville Community Engagement slightly more accurate.
All of this work is funded by readers and listeners and this is the usual thank you. You are helping to fund the current work as well as future efforts. I am grateful, and hopefully so are those who are getting to read or listen to the information as well.
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