What is a democracy, really? That’s a very heavy question and there are many different types of answers. Some may seem simple. Some may seem intractable. Some will always shout that they are right, even when they’ve been proven wrong. All I can offer is as many editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement as I can in order to provide a kaleidoscopic avalanche of information in an attempt to recognize patterns and calm the noise.
On today’s program:
Charlottesville opens up the application process for people to apply to be appointed to an open City Council seat
A third person enters the race for House District 54
Louisa County Supervisors keep the same leadership for 2023
There are two new leaders of the Charlottesville School Board
The Move2Health Equity group presents recommendations to Council on planning for transportation
Charlottesville selects a new method to get the Dairy Road Bridge replaced
There’s a free day tomorrow to visit the Smith Aquatic Center and try it out
This work is free, but paid subscriptions help fuel the work for everyone!
Today’s first shout-out: UVA Strong
In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out, the Tiger Fuel Company wants you to consider support for the UVA Strong Fund, set up by the University of Virginia Alumni Association to honor the victims and support the survivors and families of the events of November 13. Tiger Fuel recently made a $25,000 holiday donation to the fund, which honors the lives of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. You can also make a contribution today by visiting https://giving.virginia.edu/uva-strong.
Application window opens to replace Magill on Council
The City of Charlottesville has moved quickly to open up the process to replace the vacancy that will open on City Council when Sena Magill resigns next week. Magill announced she would be stepping down on Tuesday.
The application asks for basic information and then asks five questions.
How long have you resided in the City of Charlottesville?
Have you ever been elected or appointed as an Officer or Commissioner for the City of Charlottesville?
Please indicate why you are interested in serving on City Council.
Please indicate your areas of experience and knowledge that you see as important for consideration of your application for appointment.
Please list any relevant leadership skills or educational training.
Applications will be taken through January 30. A printable form can be found here. A public hearing will be scheduled in February and Council has until 45 days after the resignation is effective to make a selection. Otherwise it goes to the Circuit Court.
Would you consider running? Who do you think should run? These are the kinds of conversations that are worth having now both for this temporary seat and for the general election that will take place later this year. The seats held by Lloyd Snook and Michael Payne are also up for election this year.
Former Mayor files for House District 54
As of Wednesday morning, no one had filed to run for any of the three Council seats up for election this year. There’s a lot more interest in replacing Sally Hudson as the Delegate representing Charlottesville in the House of Delegates with two candidates previously announced.
This week, former Charlottesville Mayor David E. Brown filed for the seat. Brown served on Council from July 1, 2004 to December 31, 2011 and spent the last several years as director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions before Governor Glenn Youngkin appointed a replacement last November. Before that, Brown spent two years as an assistant to former Delegate David Toscano, according to his LinkedIn page.
Brown joins Albemarle School Board Member Katrina Callsen and Fifeville resident Dashad Cooper in the race for the Democratic nomination for House District 54 which covers all of Charlottesville as well as urbanized portions of Albemarle County. The primary will be on June 20. How many more will throw their hat in the ring?
Adams retains chair seat on Louisa Board of Supervisors
It could be argued that the Christmas carol was wrong and the first couple of weeks are the most wonderful time of the year. At least, that’s the case if you’re an observer of local government.
On Tuesday, the seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors held their annual organizational meeting. That was opened by County Administrator Christian Goodwin.
“And the first order of business on that agenda is a resolution to appoint the chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors for 2023,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin opened the floor to nominations. There was only one from Supervisor Eric Purcell of the Louisa District.
“Mr. Goodwin, I’d like to nominate Duane Adams for chair please,” Purcell said.
The vote was unanimous. Adams represents the Mineral District where he was first elected in 2017 with 55.5 percent of the 1,692 votes cast. He had no opposition in 2021 and is also a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate District 10.
In that race, he has three other challengers. So far, Adams has raised the most with $191,044 compared to $171,976 for Jack Dyer. John McGuire raised $69,380 and there are no reports in yet from candidate Sandy Brindley. All of those figures were compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.
Back to the meeting and the selection of the next officer, also nominated by Supervisor Purcell.
“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to nominate Tommy Barlow to continue as vice chair this year,” Purcell said.
That vote was also unanimous. Barlow has been in office since 2009 when he ran unopposed in the Mountain Road District. He faced no opponents in 2013, 2017, or 2021.
There are three seats on the ballot in Louisa this year for Supervisor .
In the Cuckoo District, Willie L. Gentry Jr. has been the Supervisor since at least 2003 which is as far back as the online records for the Virginia Department of Elections go. In that year, Gentry defeated his opponent with 56.4 percent of the 966 votes cast. Since then, he has never faced opposition on the ballot. The number of write-in candidates each year has incrementally increased from 12 in 2007 to 43 in 2019.
Republican Toni Williams, Jr. has represented the Jackson District since 2015 when he garnered 57.4 percent of the 1,099 votes cast that year. In 2019, he defeated his opponent with 64 percent of the 1,695 votes cast.
In 2019, Independent Eric Purcell ran unopposed in an open seat in the Louisa District with 96.3 percent of the 1,465 votes cast. Purcell also served one term after being elected in 2003 in a three-way race in which he got 42.1 percent of the 1,213 votes cast.
Charlottesville City School Board appoints new leaders
Back to Charlottesville to close out the first half of today’s newsletter and podcast.
There is new leadership on the seven-member Charlottesville City School Board. James Bryant has been elected as chair and Dom Morse will serve as vice chair.
Bryant was first appointed to the seat as an interim member in April 2018 to fill a vacancy left when Adam Hastings resigned. Bryant was elected to a full-term in 2019 in a five-way race in which he placed fourth. His seat is up again for election this year.
Morse was elected to the School Board in 2021 when he placed second in a five-way race for three seats.
“In addition to both being educators, Mr. Bryant and Mr. Morse are also alumni of Charlottesville Schools,” reads a posting on the Charlottesville City Schools Facebook page.
Second shout: Teaching History in Historic Times
In today’s second subscriber supported shout-out, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and the Center at Belvedere continue a series of important discussions coming up this January 17 at 6 p.m. What are the challenges and opportunities faced by local educators teaching history?
A panel of history teachers will take up that topic! They are Hashim Davis (Albemarle County Public Schools), Matt Deegan (Charlottesville High School), and Sally Duncan (Renaissance School). The event will be moderated by Annie Evans, Director of Education and Outreach with New American History at the University of Richmond. To attend in-person register at www.thecentercville.org/calendar/event/68488//19/ or watch the program on the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ACHistSoc).
Move2Health Equity presents 2021 transportation survey results to City Council
The current administration of the City of Charlottesville has inherited a city government that has struggled to turn ideas for road and multimodal improvement into completed projects. For instance, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded three Smart Scale grants to the city in 2016, but none of them has yet gone to construction. The city saved up millions for a West Main Streetscape project that was canceled last year with the money reprioritized for the renovation of Buford Middle School.
The task of reforming the city’s transportation process has fallen to Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. Last year, he worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation on a plan to fix the city’s broken process, including the cancellation of a couple other projects. Last year, the city did not submit any applications through the Smart Scale process. That was one concession to VDOT officials who have become impatient with the city’s inability to deliver.
Some in the community continue to press the city to do more and remind the city to live up to the lofty goals of a Comprehensive Plan that calls for a walkable community . On Monday, Council got a briefing on the results of the 2021 survey from a coalition called Move2Health Equity.
“We started as a community action on obesity well over 20 years ago before people were really talking about obesity as a chronic disease,” said Jackie Martin, the coalition’s co-chair and an employee at Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement at UVA Health. “We’ve transformed over the years to not just look at obesity or any chronic disease in general, but to go more upstream to look and focus on some of the root causes of some of the inequities in our communities.”
The group has four action teams and one of them is on Active Communities. Peter Krebs of the Piedmont Environmental Council is a member. In addition to presenting the survey results, he discussed his vision for how transportation planning should be implemented.
“Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan talks a lot about walking and biking and transit and getting around but it doesn’t provide precise answers about how to do that,” Krebs said. “So the purpose of this survey is to provide some answers and some ideas about what a better connected community might look like.”
Disclaimer: The Week Ahead newsletter is sponsored by PEC. Editorial control rests solely with me.
This work isn’t new for PEC. The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation awarded PEC and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District $180,000 for a “Strengthening Systems” grant.
“The partners complete plans and execute a community engagement campaign that leverages financial support to build a regional bike and pedestrian trail network in Charlottesville and Albemarle,” reads the CACF’s website which still lists the project as still being underway.
The work culminated in the 2019 Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan. Take a look!
The Move2Health survey was conducted in the spring and summer of 2021. Krebs said there were under 430 respondents but acknowledged there were not enough University of Virginia students participating and that the responses did not reflect the demographics of Charlottesville.
“And I’m sorry if it seems like I’m being highly critical or whatever throughout this process but I think that folks that are familiar with my work and with the Move2Health Equity, we’re very about accountability and about keeping things very real with our work,” Krebs said.
Krebs said that many of the comments from the survey are worth reading through, such as nearly a quarter of people writing out that they would like to be able to get to a grocery store on foot or transit without using a car. There were other anecdotes as well.
“People talked about lack of sidewalks, lack of bike lanes, buses not running not frequently enough, and concerns about people getting injured by cars or crosswalks not feeling safe,” Krebs said.
Advocacy campaigns never come without an ask and Krebs said the coalition wants Council to come up with a mobility plan to implement the Comprehensive Plan. The city last adopted its Bike and Pedestrian Plan in 2015, which was followed by the Streets that Work Plan. Krebs said more work needs to be done.
“We need to get the basics right, correct sidewalks, correct curb ramps, removing obstructions, and continuous safe routes, and then make a more practical transit system,” Krebs said.
Other recommendations called for items that are already in the works, such as adding more service on key Charlottesville Area Transit routes.
City Council recently opted to spend an additional $1 million on an effort to get more buses on Route 6, which travels to the Willoughby Shopping Center via Prospect Avenue and the Ridge Street neighborhood. When there are enough drivers in place, the plan is for two additional buses to travel along that route, increasing frequency to twice an hour.
City Councilor Brian Pinkston wanted Sanders to weigh in on the practical realities of a mobility plan at this time.
“I know that you and staff have reams and reams of lists and lists of sidewalks that need to be fixed and are in a process of doing prioritization and assigning the correct funds to meet those needs, how does that interact with a mobility plan per se?” Pinkston asked.
Sanders said the new transportation staff that have been hired are trying to understand the work the city has previously conducted.
“They are very disparate set of plans because we have done them at different times with different motivations and they are not connected,” Sanders said. “Part of the work that then we’ll undertake is actually to digest and organize some of that material, putting it together in what we hope will then become a set of strategies for going forward.”
Sanders said that work may not be called a mobility plan, but it would be similar to what Krebs recommended. He noted that the transportation planner has only been on the job for two months.
“We do have a lot of federal funds that are driving a lot of interest and actions so some of that is important to settle on rather quickly so that we’ll know how to pursue some of these opportunities,” Sanders said.
When asked what could be done quickly, Krebs responded that the hiring of additional crossing guards at the beginning of the school year was a big help. He also said the city should do what it can to address West Main Street. Sanders has previously told Council that West Main is not a priority for staff time given Council’s cancellation of a project that had three phases fully funded.
Sanders said the city has limited resources but finally has one element that has been missing recently.
“We have done a great job as a city determining things that we need to study,” Sanders said. “We have done a good job of finding the funds to pay for plans, and we’ve done a great job of being able to figure out what all of the various issues are. So that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that in some instances, we’ve taken a plan and basically replaced or diminished the prior plan that was never fully implemented just because we have more current information. And a lot of places to do that. That’s not a criticism of Charlottesville, it’s just the state of being. But what we have not done previously is that we’ve not actually had anyone to own this effort, this work, and we now have that with Ben stepping in as our new transportation planner.”
How will this process move forward? For me, one story at a time.
Charlottesville to alter process for replacing Dairy Road
The following story may be a bit technical, but I just mentioned I will continue to write on this topic. Here’s the next story!
The two-lane bridge that carries vehicles on Dairy Road over the U.S. 250 bypass was built in 1954 according to a database maintained by the Federal Highway Administration. Planning for a replacement has been in the works for many years and the official estimate for the project is $7.211 million according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Yesterday the city announced it will take a new step to try to keep the bids below that estimate. They will pursue the work as a “Design-Build” project as opposed to the “Design-Build-Bid” process that has been used for decades.
“In this method, the designer and builder work on the same team from preliminary design to project close-out,” reads a press release that went out yesterday. “This method allows better communication of intent and constructability right from the start.”
The design-build also eliminates a step in the procurement process and can shave months off a project’s completion. This also allows the city to choose a contractor without being restricted to the lowest price.
“We are hopeful that after this project is completed, we can utilize this method more to provide more efficient project delivery in the future,” said Transportation Project Manager, Jerry Allen. “With that said, not all projects will meet the need for the use of DB over DBB.”
This will be the first design-build project in Charlottesville.
The Virginia Department of Transportation used this method in 2015 to move the Route29 Solutions projects forward. That included the grade-separated intersection at U.S. 29 and Rio Road, the widening of U.S. 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Town Center, and the construction of Berkmar Drive extended.
The release states the goal is to have completion of the replacement bridge by December 2024.
Free admission tomorrow to try out Smith Aquatic Center
The City of Charlottesville has invested millions in the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center, a facility that was closed for over two and a half years due to the pandemic and repairs to indoor ventilation. Tomorrow the city is offering free admission for anyone who wants to give the place a try.
“Our massive indoor pools have lap lanes as well as waterslides, a lazy river and kid-friendly splash zones, plus a state-of-the-art fitness center to help you live your healthiest,” reads a press release from yesterday.
In addition to free admission, there will be drawings for passes, gift cards, and merchandise. Radio station WCYK will do a live remote from 2 to 4 p.m.
“For more information about Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center or the event, please call (434) 970-3072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Material to read next:
New Reality - How will the Comprehensive Plan affect local real estate prices?, Sean Tubbs, C-Ville Weekly, January 4, 2023
Fifeville residents restore a long forgotten trail system that enables pedestrians to safely bypass 5th Street, Erin O’Hare, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 4, 2023
Housekeeping notes for #480
When I began writing this one today and had the line about democracy, I did not expect the first half to be so heavy on the process of how people get to be the ones who make decisions. But, that’s such an important part of this work and this is that time when candidates emerge. Election coverage is so crucial for a democracy to remain a democracy, and I’ll be doing what I can alongside my colleagues in media.
You may also notice that above is my first weekly article for C-Ville Weekly. I’ll be writing about land use and real estate once a week, while also producing this newsletter and Fifth District Community Engagement. The latter two are supported by paid subscriptions as well as Patreon contributions. Yesterday, five of you opted to pay getting this year off to a good start.
And of course, I have to let you know that Ting will match your initial Substack subscription. Hooray for Ting for helping keep my lights on.
If your New Year’s resolution is to have faster broadband, Ting can help! If you sign up at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:
A second month for free
A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall
Thanks to Liz Cerami and Jenn Finazzo for their volunteer audio contributions to the podcast. These get shout-outs, and Jenn would like you to know about Fiori Floral Studio for your floral needs.
Next up: The Week Ahead! There’s still so much to get through from this week and I really appreciate your reading or listening.