Jan 18 • 28M

January 18, 2023: Three Albemarle projects and one in Nelson recommended for Smart Scale funding; Campaign finance reports are in for second half of 2022

Plus: Police Chief Michael Kochis is sworn in

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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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Halfway through the month of January, and 5 percent through the year of 2023.  All of these types of measurements are arbitrary, but much of the way our world is organized has a starting point. This, for instance, is the 486th version of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but even that number is potentially imaginary. So much of our human world is imaginary, which is why it’s important to write as much down as possible so as many as possible can share in both the delusion and the bounty.  

On today’s program: 

  • Michael Kochis has begun his role as the new Charlottesville Police Chief 

  • The latest campaign finance activity is in for the second half of 2022 with several contested primary races reflected

  • Three projects to fix safety issues Albemarle County roads have been recommended for funding as has one in Nelson County

  • A look at what’s made it through the General Assembly so far and what has not

Sign up for free for information about the community, though I will most certainly remind you it’s not free to produce the work!

Today’s first 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 be excited about winter, but the return of high heating bills is not 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. 

Kochis sworn in as police chief 

Michael Kochis has been on the job as Charlottesville’s Police Chief since Monday but his swearing in came yesterday at the tail end of a City Council work session. 

“Mayor and City Council, we’ve arrived at the time where we can welcome a new member to our family here in the city of Charlottesville, a new leader for the Charlottesville Police Department,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. 

Kochis was sworn in by Circuit Court Clerk Llezelle Dugger. You can hear that audio in the podcast version of this newsletter. 

Kochis is sworn in by Circuit Court Clerk Llezelle Dugger (Credit: City of Charlottesville )

After the brief ceremony, Councilors have brief remarks. Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said he was intrigued by Kochis referring to the 21st Century Policing efforts during the administration of former President Barack Obama during his interview.

“The first pillar of 21st Century policing is to build trust and legitimacy and that’s what Charlottesville badly needs right now and everybody we’ve talked to says you’re the man to do that,” Snook said. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston said he felt that Kochis wanted to be part of the next chapter of Charlottesville’s story. Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade said he saw Kochis and his wife at Martin’s Hardware the other day.

“That’s Charlottesville right there so welcome aboard and I look forward to working with you,” Pinkston said. 

Rogers said that he was impressed that Kochis found a place to live here within a week of being hired. In his remarks, Kochis listed his day one strategy. 

“I need to learn, I need to listen, and to get an idea of what this community and what our officers expect in a chief of police,” Kochis said. 

Kochis said the first priority will be to build on community partnerships and address gun violence in the city. On his first day of work On Monday, there was a shots fired incident on Cherry Avenue and Hanover Street that was reported by the University of Virginia Police Department rather than the city. 

“We also need to understand that taking guns off of the street is incredibly dangerous and complex work and will require a collaborative approach between our community and officers and to do this we’re going to need to trust each other and that involves the community trust as well,” Kochis said. 

Kochis said the second priority is to recruit additional officers and the third is to treat officers better. 

First campaign finance reports in for 2023; Deeds outraises Hudson; Squire outraises Laufer 

The first campaign finance reports for the 2023 election are in and they look back to activity from the second half of 2022.  Thanks to the Virginia Public Access Project for making all of this information from the Department of Elections easy to navigate.

House District 55

In House District 55, Republican incumbent Rob Bell raised $85,055 in the period and spent $25,822. Eighty-five of the 88 contributions were in excess of $100 with Paul Manning contributing $10,000 and Ted Weschler contributing $10,000. Bell’s campaign committee spent $8,000 to the Republican Commonwealth Leadership PAC. (read the raw report)

Bell has two Democratic challengers competing in the June 20 primary. 

Former Charlottesville School Board Member Amy Laufer raised $59,525 in the second half of 2022 with 97 contributions more than $100 and 218 less than that amount. Higher levels of donations include $5,000 from Sonjia Smith and $2,500 from developer Barbara Fried. Laufer had a balance of $88,761 on December 31 and the total amount raised includes $3,100 in in-kind donations. (read the raw report)

Emergency room nurse Kellen Squire raised $63,107 in the period with 85 contributions in excess of $100 and 714 below that threshold. The total figure also includes $19,255 in in-kind donations of more than $100. Squire had a balance of $45,187 on December 31. Squire also received $5,000 from Sonjia Smith and $5,000 from Clean Virginia. (read the raw report)

House District 54

In House District 54 there are currently three candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination but only one reported campaign finance activity in 2022.

Katrina Callsen, a current member of the Albemarle School Board, raised $11,565 with ten contributions above $100. Someone named Kathryn Ordway contributed $5,000. The campaign gave $1,000 to a group called Leadership for Educational Equity and had $10,509 on hand at the end of December. (read the raw report)

Other candidates who have filed statements of organization with the Department of Elections are Fifeville resident Dashad Cooper and former Charlottesville Mayor David E. Brown

Senate District 11

House District 54 is an open seat because its current occupant is challenging a fellow Democrat in the primary for District 11.

Delegate Sally Hudson had two political action committees during the period. The one for a potential Delegate race began the period with $22,891 and raised $15,757 during the period. A transfer of $4,861 was made to her Senate campaign on November 21, 2022. (read the report)

The Senate committee raised $184,168 in the final six weeks of 2022 with 80 cash contributions of more than $100. These include $30,000 from Sonjia Smith, $25,000 from Kay Leigh Ferguson, $10,000 from Anne Worrell and $10,000 from Parke Capshaw. There are six contributions of $5,000. The total amount raised includes $19,354 in in-kind contributions from Sonjia Smith. The campaign had $149,701 on hand at the end of the year. (read the report)

Hudson is challenging incumbent Senator Creigh Deeds, who began the reporting period with $100,175 and raised $230,693 between July 1 and December 31. The top donations were $10,000 from the Virginia Trial Lawyers Political Action Committee and $10,000 from Mr. Edward H. Rice. Deeds’ campaign had eight contributions of $5,000. In all, Deeds had 222 contributions in excess of $100. The candidate had $293,131 on hand at the end of the year. (read the report)

Earlier this month, Republican Philip Hamilton filed paperwork to be a candidate in District 11. Hamilton ran against Delegate Hudson in the 2021 race and received 21.3 percent of the vote. His campaign raised $7,019 from two contributions in 2022. They were $4,150 from Majority Strategies LLC and $2,869 from Woodfin Law Offices. 

The Virginia Public Access Project lists another candidate in the race. J’riah Guerrero is an independent who did not file a report yesterday. He is the chair of the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority. 

Senate District 10

There are also reports in for the four Republican candidates for Senate District 10. 

  • Louisa County Supervisor Chair Duane Adams raised $68,717 in the second half of 2022. He had a balance of $215,742 on December 31. (raw report)

  • Jack Dyer raised $71,205 in the period and had an ending balance of $179,502. (raw report)

  • Delegate John McGuire raised $78,325 for his Senate campaign and had $38,448 left at the end of the year. (raw report)

  • Sandy Brindley raised $8,625 in the second half of 2022 and spent nearly all of it with an ending balance of $350. (raw report)

Almost no activity in local races

There are 153 days until the June 20 primary and 293 days until the general election on November 7. So far, there’s almost no activity for local races.

In fact, there is only one declared candidate for the three Albemarle Board of Supervisors races. Michael Pruitt is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Scottsville District seat that is being vacated by Donna Price. Pruitt raised $3,499 from September 12 to December 31. Nine of the contributions were above $100 with 20 below that amount. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek has not said yet whether she will seek a fifth term representing the White Hall District. Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley has not revealed if she will seek a second term representing the Rivanna District.

No candidates have filed paperwork for the three seats on Charlottesville City Council. There is one open seat that will be appointed by the remaining four Councilors and applicants have until January 30 to fill in their request to be considered to complete the term of former Councilor Sena Magill. 

One candidate has emerged in Nelson County. James C. Bibb is seeking the Republican nomination for the South District seat currently held by Democrat Robert Barton. The other seat up for election this year is the West District seat held by David Parr. 

More information as it becomes available. 

Want the latest on the elections and who is running? Sign up for this newsletter to know what I know as soon as I can write it down.

Sponsored message: Buy Local 

Charlottesville Community Engagement’s continued existence means that many of you support local information. Want to support some local businesses as well? The Buy Local campaign is in full swing, and both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Offices of Economic Development want people to consider spending locally as they shop throughout the year.

The Buy Local campaign highlights small businesses within Charlottesville and Albemarle County through a multi-channel, multimedia promotional and educational campaign designed to reinforce how important supporting area small businesses is to the local economy. 

The campaign will continue long after the holidays. Locally-owned, independent businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence in the City or County interested in being featured in the campaign should visit www.showlocallove.org or contact info@showlocallove.org. 

For more information on the Buy Local campaign, visit www.ShowLocalLove.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BuyLocalCvilleAlbemarle or on Twitter @BuyLocalCville.

Three Albemarle projects move forward in Smart Scale process; One from Nelson advances

Transportation planners across the Commonwealth got new information yesterday on what projects are likely to receive funding this year. Three projects in Albemarle to improve various streets and intersections have been recommended in the latest round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process. 

The fifth Smart Scale round is the largest one since the program began in 2016. 

“We had 413 applications this round and we screened and validated and had 394 eligible applications to be scored this round,” said Brooke Jackson, VDOT’s program manager for Smart Scale. “We are recommending in the staff recommending scenario that 152 applications get funded.” 

The total amount requested was $8.3 billion in projects. The total to be allocated will be $1.5 billion. 

That’s more money than had been anticipated a couple of months ago. Before the Smart Scale discussion, the CTB got an update on potential revenue for the next six years from Jennifer Farmer, chief financial officer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.  (view the presentation)

“The Department of Taxation provided a revenue estimate update to us for consideration and it included significant growth across three major sources that fund transportation.” Farmer said. “Over the period through 2029, retail sales and use are up over $600 million. The expectations on motor vehicle sales is $473 million over previous estimates. And the motor fuels tax over the course of the period is up just over a billion dollars.” 

A slide depicting some of the metrics for how Smart Scale projects are ranked. (view the whole presentation)

Additional revenue is expected from the federal government, as well. All told, there’s $1.9 billion in unanticipated revenue. However, there are also additional costs to consider as VDOT looks at the overall picture for the next six years such as the effects of inflation. 

Smart Scale was mandated by legislation in 2014 that required new transportation projects to be scored and ranked according to how they fit various needs including relieving congestion, addressing safety concerns, and boosting economic development. 

“Smart Scale focuses on the change that an improvement brings, not just what it’s doing, but whether or not it actually makes a difference in safety, congestion,  accessibility, etcetera,” Jackson said. 

Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller was on the Commonwealth Transportation Board when the Smart Scale process began. He said the system it replaced did not deliver for the Commonwealth. 

“It’s radically different than us in the old days trading back and forth as to what was going to happen in Virginia in terms of getting roads built and maintained which was not a good system,” Miller said. 

The 13 projects recommended in the Culpeper District.

VDOT is divided into several geographical districts. The Culpeper District is set to receive $138.1 million $152.1 million. Districts with dedicated taxes on motor fuels get more funding based on local generation of those revenues. That’s not the case with the Culpeper District, where there were 38 applications. 

In addition, projects can also qualify through the High Priority Projects Program. In all, VDOT staff are recommending 13 projects in the Culpeper District.   

“Culpeper’s improvements were characterized by a number of spot and intersection improvements targeting safety as well and there were a few well-round projects in there,” Jackson said. 

Projects recommended for funding are:

Several projects were not recommended for funding including improvements on Fifth Street Extended, a roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road, and a bike and pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River.  A project to improve pedestrian safety on U.S. 250 at Rolkin Road scored 15th in the District, just below the cut-off. 

No projects are recommended for funding in either Fluvanna, Greene, or Louisa counties. The City of Charlottesville did not submit any applications in this round. 

Nelson County is within VDOT’s Lynchburg District, where 12 projects are recommended for funding. A $15.7 million project to alter the intersection of Route 6 and Route 151 ranked 9th in the district. 

The CTB will vote on the Smart Scale funding in June. Between now and then, some projects may be altered or withdrawn. 

Legislation round-up: Two bills advance to make it easier for parents to remove objectionable materials

The General Assembly has been in session for a week now and the first bills from this year have begun to fail while others have advanced. Here’s a small status update.

  • A bill has failed that would direct the Department of Social Services to study whether people who possess or use marijuana should have their children removed. The bill didn’t even make it to committee and was stricken on Monday. (HJ526)

  • HB1489 would have required those who practice naturopathic medicine to get a license was stricken yesterday by the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee. 

  • Another bill to restrict the absentee voting period to two weeks was laid on the table in a subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections on a unanimous vote yesterday. 

  • A bill has moved forward to require local registrars to cancel the voter registration within seven days of discovering a person’s death. HB1377 was read for the first time yesterday in the full House after being reported out from the Privileges and Elections Committee last week on a 19-2 vote. 

  • HB1379 would require public school libraries to produce a spreadsheet of all printed and audiovisual materials and list if each has sexual material. A House Education Subcommittee moved the bill to the full committee yesterday on a 5 to 3 vote. 

  • A similar bill would require the Department of Education to create a model policy for the removal of materials that some parents find objectionable. That made it out of the same subcommittee yesterday on a 5-3 vote. (HB1448)

  • However, a bill to require the Department of Education to develop materials related to sexual harassment prevention training “failed to recommend reporting” with three yes votes and five no votes. (HB1560

  • Legislation to allow law enforcement officers to once again pull over motorists for not having brake lights or other safety features made if out of a subcommittee of the Courts of Justice panel. HB1380 was voted out on a 5-3 vote.  

  • HB1403 would require certain colleges and universities to provide housing to certain students in between academic sessions. On Monday, the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended moving that forward on a unanimous vote. 

  • A bill to require the Department of Taxation to post a list of transient occupancy taxes in all localities has made it out of a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee on a unanimous vote. (HB1442)

  • HB1485 would extend the compliance date for the pollution clean-up process known as the Chesapeake Bay TMDL from 2025 to 2030. A subcommittee of the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources recommended approval on a 6 to 4 vote. 

Reading material: 

Housekeeping for #486:

We are now in the days when there is so much information flowing and I’m honored to get to bring as much of it to you as possible. I trained as a journalist for years and left a job in reporting after eleven years for reason I’ve likely stated in the past. What matters is I spend every single day working to try to bring you information about things about local and state government. And many of you are supporting this work financially. 

Thank you. I really appreciate it. I strive to be an independent voice and with about five hundred people contributing that allows me to just concentrate on reporting much of the same material I’ve wanted to report on for my whole career. I’ve been told so many times by editors that what I wanted to do is boring. I suspect those paying me directly don’t think so, and I’m glad to get to show what I can do, each and every day. 

If you’ve not done so yet, no pressure. But if you do opt to pay through Substack, Ting will match your initial payment. I can’t stress how crucial this has been to me being able to build this body of work up one day at a time. Thanks to Ting, I’m able to put most of my focus on this newsletter. I’m doing more freelance work, too, but this newsletter and its cousin Fifth District Community Engagement are my top priorities. 

And, if you want to upgrade your Internet provider, check out Ting! 

If you sign up at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

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Thanks to Wraki for the music. There is going to be a new closing tune beginning with #500 and hopefully other audio cues here and there, too. Do give the podcast a chance if you’ve not heard it to this point.