Jan 20 • 16M

January 20, 2023: Another former Charlottesville Mayor enters House District 54 race; Driver charged with recklessness in incident that killed pedestrian on Ivy Road

Plus: Charlottesville currently projected to have $5M surplus in FY23

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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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There are 731 days, or two years, until the next inauguration of the president of the United States of America. This is not a fact that has any relevance except that this is January 20, 2023, and it’s either this or National Cheese Lover’s Day to signify this small blurb at the top of another edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs, and it’s also my mother’s birthday. 

On today’s program:

  • Former Charlottesville Dave Norris is the fourth person to enter the race for an open seat in the House of Delegates

  • A driver charged in connection with January 12 death of pedestrian on Ivy Road

  • Charlottesville to hire two legal firms while search for permanent City Attorney continues

  • The city is on track to have a $5 million surplus for the current fiscal year

  • Council appoints members to two affordable housing committees with familiar faces getting the seats 

First shout-out:  UVA Health offering free sports physicals on Saturday

Today’s first subscriber supported shout-out goes to the UVA Health Office of Diversity and Community Engagement! They want you to know about an event this week where free sports physicals will be offered! Health professionals will be on hand Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Charlottesville High School for young people who need a quick check-up before beginning to play for an athletic team.

This is a project being conducted in partnership with the UVA Latino Health Initiative, UVA Family Medicine, and the UVA Virginia Wellness Initiative. For more information, call 434-243-8352 or in Spanish at 434-272-5910. 

Norris enters race for House District 54 seat

So far, there are no candidates who have filed to run for Charlottesville City Council this year, but two former members are now in the race for House District 54. 

Dave Norris served on Council from July 2006 until the end of 2013 and has filed a statement of organization with the Virginia Department of Elections. 

“I am pleased to have served the Charlottesville-Albemarle community in a variety of ways over the past 30 years, and I look forward to building upon my track record of proven progressive leadership if elected to the Virginia General Assembly,” Norris wrote on his campaign website

Dave Norris (Credit: campaign website)

Norris also served as Mayor from 2008 to 2011. He joins former Charlottesville Mayor David E. Brown, Albemarle School Board Member Katrina Callsen, and Fifeville resident Dashad Cooper. 

Norris currently works as a program manager for the Piedmont Housing Alliance in their Financial Opportunity Center. He has also worked as the general manager of the Charlottesville Parking Center, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Blue Ridge, executive director of PACEM, and other positions. When on Council, he served for a time as chair of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

The Democratic Primary is on June 20. Will we see more candidates for this seat?

A small bit of history. The seat being vacated by Delegate Sally Hudson used to be occupied by David Toscano, who served on Council from 1990 to 2002. Toscano succeeded former Delegate Mitch Van Yahres who served two terms on Council from 1968 to 1976. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in a special election in 1980. 

Driver charged in connection with death of pedestrian on Ivy Road

A 54-year-old Charlottesville man has been charged with reckless driving in a crash last week that struck and killed a 52-year-old man from Albemarle County. Isidro Casandro Martinez was walking his bike across Ivy Road at Alderman Road last Thursday night when Charlottesville Police say he was hit by a car driven by Corey Abdella. 

Martinez was initially thought to have been riding a bicycle at 10:55 p.m., but Charlottesville Police now say that he was walking it across the street. An update was sent out this morning. A search of the city’s data on recent arrests confirms Abdella arrest yesterday morning.

City to hire one firm to legal counsel for general operation, another for land use issues 

The rest of today’s newsletter is going to focus mostly on this week’s City Council meeting. Perhaps some of you are interested in applying to be the appointed Councilor. Perhaps you may run for the office. Either way, I’m going to try to cover as much of this meeting as I can in this newsletter.

First, the city is still seeking a replacement for former City Attorney Lisa Robertson with the position posted for applicants. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers had previously announced that Senior Deputy City Attorney Allyson Davies would serve as the interim attorney, but that has turned out to not be the case.

“We will fulfill the role of City Attorney with the law firm of Sands Anderson,” Rogers said. “We made that determination because we are down an attorney in the office and we think the nature of the support we need is with a law firm and not just one individual.” 

Rogers said there will be two project managers working to support the deputy attorneys on general business. However, the city is hiring a different firm to handle land use issues. 

“On land use matters we engaged Sharon Pandek’s firm who will work with planning on issues of the zoning ordinance over the next couple of weeks,” Rogers said. 

That firm is Pandak & Taves, according to a flier from the Virginia Association of Counties

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a work session on the zoning code rewrite next Tuesday at 5 p.m.  (meeting info)

Council briefed on revenue projections; $5M surplus projected for current fiscal year

The end of the fiscal year is 161 days away, and it’ll be about ten months or so until accountants will know if the City of Charlottesville will have a shortfall or a surplus. Council gets a quarterly briefing on revenue collections and spending and got a projection for another surplus from city staff.

“We’re looking at a total of about $5 million,” said budget director Krisy Hammill. “Most of those are driven by the tax revenue sources that we continue to talk about. The real estate tax… reassessment notices for calendar year 2023 will be going out at the end of this month.” 

Hammill said the new figures will likely increase the surplus. Albemarle County’s assessments were up an average of 13.46 percent for 2023. (read that story)

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said he was cautious and pointed out there are still remaining unknowns about potential expenses the city may incur to raise salaries. 

“The compensation study that we’ve talked about, we don’t know what the price tag on that is going to be and the choices we will have to make when that is presented, as well as a collective bargaining,” Rogers said. 

However, Rogers said he felt the picture was pretty solid but that money is not unlimited. Hammill said if there is a downturn, the surplus could go the other way. 

“If there were to be a recession, it’s very possible that some of these gains that we’re reporting to you for right now for meals, sales, lodging could be not there,” Hammill said. 

For those interested in the development of the budget, Rogers and the budget staff are having a forum on January 31. 

The current snapshot of the city’s finances halfway through FY2023 (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Second shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s second subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate.

Councilors pick up committee assignments from vacant seat 

The resignation of City Councilor Sena Magill earlier this month also means that the remaining Councilors had to fill the vacancies she also left on other committees. In addition to attending Council meetings, each elected official serves on several boards and commissions as the official representative from Council. 

“We’re not filling every position that she had had but these are ones that have something going on right now for which its important to have the members right now,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston will now serve on the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Board. In a future installment of this newsletter, I’ll write about the financing agreement for the renovations that are being planned. Charlottesville partners with Albemarle County and Nelson County to maintain the facility. 

The next meeting of the ACRJ Board is on February 9. (meeting info)

Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade will serve now on the Workforce Development Board for the Piedmont Region. Their information is all on their website but I did not see a listing for an upcoming meeting. 

New city housing committees get members but enough to form quorum 

Charlottesville City Council has appointed members to two new committees formed as part of a call to restructure the way funding for affordable housing projects is governed.

“A major portion of the discussion during the Affordable Housing Plan that was developed a year plus ago was talking about the need to separate out the different functions, the different advisory functions into a funding committee and just the general Housing Advisory Committee [HAC],” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

Page 13 of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Plan. Several members of the new HAC have previously served on the old HAC. (view the plan)

Council first took up the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund (CAHF) Committee. Unfortunately, they could not fully staff that group. 

“We have six people to appoint but we did not get six applicants,” Snook said.

However, they did make two appointments to the new CAHF Committee. 

  • Philip d’Oronzio, (also on Charlottesville Planning Commission)

  • S. Lisa Herndon, President of the Charlottesville Area Association of Residents

Next they took up the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) Committee. They appointed the following:

  • John Sales, Executive Director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (three year term)

  • Sunshine Mathon, Executive Director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance (non-profit two-year term)

  • Corey Demchak, Director of Programs at Albemarle Home Improvement Program (non-profit one-year)

  • Philip d’Oronzio (real estate representative, three year term)

  • Dan Rosensweig (real estate representative, two year term)

  • Abigail Palko (at-large, three year term)

  • Josh Hughes (at-large, two year term)

  • Joy Johnson (affordable housing beneficiary, three year term) 

  • Elise Noyes (affordable housing beneficiary, one year term) 

A one year term for the real estate term is still open.  Rosensweig is also the president of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. Johnson is the Section 3 coordinator for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. d’Oronzio is the Chief Executive Officer of Pilot Mortgage

Reading material: 

Keeping the end of #487 cluttered with information:

It’s the end of the week, but when will the next installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement emerge? This is a good question. Likely on Monday, for there is work to be done on the next Week Ahead as well as Fifth District Community Engagement. I have not gotten to a whole bunch of stories. 

One day, though, this will be a daily publication, seven days a week, committed to getting as much information to the public about what happens in local and regional governments. Sometimes that means links to articles like the ones above, but my hope is original coverage as you’ve come to expect in the two and a half years since this newsletter and podcast launched.

And of course, all of this is funded by the quarter of the audience that’s opted to pay for a paid subscription, either through Substack or through Patreon. Thank you! I will never beg or please of introduce scarcity as a way to get you to contribute. I trust that if you find there’s a value to this work, you’ll opt to help me cover the cost.

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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.