Jul 16 • 19M

July 16, 2022: Laufer outraises Squire and Price for 55th House race; Charlottesville Planning Commission seeks safer school routes

Plus: Rosa Atkins named to Governor Youngkin's cabinet as diversity chief

1
 
1.0×
0:00
-18:42
Open in playerListen on);
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.
Episode details
1 comment

Saturday’s all right for writing! That is, writing information about land use, transportation, economic development, elections, and more! This is Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast intended to let you know about a few things you didn’t know before, and intended to keep an eye on a great deal of things. I’m your host Sean Tubbs, exploring and exploiting my curiosity hopefully for your benefit. But please: No fighting! 

In today’s newsletter:

  • The first campaign finance report is in for the race of the 55th House District, even if it’s still unclear when the election will be held 

  • Charlottesville Planning Commissioners seek action on safer streets in advance of the school 

  • A former Charlottesville school superintendent becomes Governor Youngkin’s permanent chief diversity officer

  • There’s one day left to fill out the latest questionnaire on Albemarle County’s growth management policy 

  • The head of the area’s aging services agency is elected to lead a statewide group 

First shout-out: Join me for a Cvillepedia training session - Brand style

In today’s house-fueled public service announcement, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society wants you to know about an upcoming exhibit at the Center at Belvedere featuring portraits of several historical figures active in the Charlottesville area in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Frances Brand was a folk artist who painted nearly 150 portraits of what she considered “firsts” including first Black Charlottesville Mayor Charles Barbour and Nancy O’Brien, the first woman to be Charlottesville Mayor. Brand’s work will be on display from July 5 to August 31 in the first public exhibit since 2004. 

And, if you’d like to help conduct community research into who some of the portraits are, cvillepedia is looking for volunteers! I will be leading three more Cvillepedia 101 training sessions at the Center July 18 at 2 p.m. Sign up at the Center’s website.

Laufer outraises fellow Democrats in 55th District 

There is still a possibility that Virginia will have an election this year for the 100 seat House of Delegates. A second federal lawsuit arguing that legislators elected last November are in unconstitutional seats still awaits a final ruling and November 8 is 115 days away from today. 

That makes yesterday’s deadline for active candidates for the House of Delegates that much more compelling. There are currently three people seeking the Democratic nomination in the new 55th District, which includes most of Albemarle’s geography, as well as northeast Nelson County and western Louisa County. 

The Virginia Public Access Project has pulled together all of the filings, and former Charlottesville School Board member Amy Laufer outraised her opponents with a total of $61,731 raised in June. Fifty-seven donors contributed more than $100, requiring their identification. That includes a transfer of $7,327 from Laufer’s previous campaign for the Virginia Senate in 2019. There is one $10,000 gift from Hunter Bourne, and a pair of $5,000 gifts from Clean VA and the Morrill Family Investment. There were 68 contributions below the $100 limit. 

Emergency room nurse Kellen Squire raised $41,531 from March 8 to June 30. Thirty-four contributions were in excess of $100 with 406 below that threshold. There is one $20,000 contribution from Kay Ferguson.

Albemarle County Supervisor Donna Price raised $11,798 with ten contributions above the $100 threshold and thirty below. 

Republican Rob Bell is the presumptive incumbent, currently representing the former 58th District. Bell began the year with a balance of $76,253 and has raised $5,250 so far this year. 

More on the status of the lawsuit in the next installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

One days left to fill out Albemarle’s growth management survey

As mentioned in the last program, a survey is about to close for Albemarle County’s growth management survey. The county is in the midst of updating their Comprehensive Plan, and this is the second questionnaire. Here’s more from a video produced by the office of Communications and Public Engagement (CAPE). 

Take the survey

“New development proposals that require a change in zoning or a rezoning are evaluated by recommendations in the Comprehensive Plan, including the growth management policy,” states the narrator. “As part of growth management, the Albemarle County Service Authority establishes a jurisdictional area where public water and sewer will be provided. This jurisdictional area mainly corresponds with the development area.” 

If  you’re interested in hearing more, the Albemarle CAPE has posted the latest episode of their Let’s Talk Albemarle podcast. The guest is Rachel Falkenstein, a manager in the Community Development department who oversees long-range planning.

“Usually we look out 20 years and that number comes from the state of Virginia,” Falkenstein said. “They require localities to have a Comprehensive Plan that plans for 20 years out into the future so we use that for most of our planning documents.” 

As of Friday afternoon, 270 people had taken the survey, according to CAPE director Emily Kilroy. 

The Albemarle Planning Commission will have a work session on the Comprehensive Plan on July 26. To catch up on previous stories on land use issues in Albemarle, check out Information Charlottesville through this link

And if you’re in the mood to fill in another survey, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission wants your input on the Regional Transit Vision Plan.. 

To catch up on all kinds of transit related stories, check out Information Charlottesville through this link

Youngkin appoints Atkins as chief diversity officer

Governor Glenn Youngkin has appointed former Charlottesville Superintendent Rosa Atkins to serve as Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer. Atkins has been serving in the position on an interim basis following the departure of his first appointee, Angela Sailor. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sailor left in April for a family matter

Atkins served as Charlottesville’s superintendent for 15 years before retiring. Earlier this year, former Governor Ralph Northam appointed her to serve as the acting superintendent of public instruction for the Virginia Department of Education. 

In the Northam administration, Atkins’ position was known as the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, but Youngkin changed the name in Executive Order #10 when he appointed Sailor. 

“We must strengthen and focus the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) by including in its mission the promotion of entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for all Virginians — including Virginians with disabilities — as well as the promotion of free speech and civil discourse,” reads that order.

Sailor’s name is still on the website for the office.

Some of the language in Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order #10 (view the whole order)

In other appointments of note, a University of Virginia official has been named to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Pace Lochte is the assistant vice president for economic development. 

Youngkin also appointed Rob Rutherford of Nelson County to the Virginia Manufactured Housing Board. Rutherford is a manager with Pro Tech Builder, a maker of modular homes.

JABA leader elected to Virginia aging services association

The chief executive officer of the area’s aging services association has been elected as president of the state entity that represents all 24 such agencies across the Commonwealth. Marta Keane of JABA will begin a two-year term as president of the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (V4A).

Keane has been CEO of JABA since 2013. According to a release, during that time she helped form the Charlottesville Area Alliance as an umbrella organization for various entities that work with senior services in the community. 

“With this comes challenges to meet their increasing and changing needs, and opportunities to identify and maximize the strengths that seniors bring to our communities,” Keane is quoted in the release. “During the next two years, I hope to continue our efforts with demographic services to better identify areas that have unmet needs, work with networks to identify new ways to meet the needs, and identify new funding sources to allow us to grow and sustain critical services."

JABA was formed in 1975 as the Jefferson Area Board for Aging. 

Marta Keene has been CEO of JABA since 2013 (Credit: JABA)

In today’s other two shout-outs: Local media and Code for Cville

Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. 

The final comes from another Patreon supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!

Charlottesville Planning Commissioners seek Council action on safer streets on school routes

As of today, there are 39 days left until the first day of school in the City of Charlottesville. Yesterday, the school system held a Transportation Talk and Walk Session to discuss a recent alert from Superintendent Royal Gurley that the bus driver shortage has worsened and walk zones will be expanded. 

This past Tuesday, the city Planning Commission was briefed on a request from one of its members that city government take steps to make routes to school. They got an update from Missy Creasy, Charlottesville’s assistant director of the Neighborhood Development Services office (NDS).

“The city has a pretty robust program that they’re putting together to address how they are addressing the shortage at this point in time and some pretty innovative things on there,” Creasy said.

 

These include encouraging older students to take Charlottesville Area Transit routes, hiring more crossing guards or finding more volunteers, and buying smaller buses that don’t require drivers to have commercial licenses. 

NDS director James Freas said the shortage provides an opportunity to apply goals of the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan to a real life problem. 

“Wrapped up in this challenge is an opportunity to explore those options,” Freas said. “The flip side of that is that it’s a little early for us right now in that we are in the process of building out a transportation planning program.” 

In May, Council was briefed by Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders on a series of problems with how the city has run its transportation planning program. For instance, transportation planners have had too high of a workload, and the city has been unable to move some projects forward. There’s also a vacancy in the position of bike pedestrian coordinator after the last person left the job at the end of 2021 to work for a consultant. 

“We expect that position to post very soon and see that position as really being able to take a lead role in doing exactly this type of work and that is coming up with innovative, innovative, and low-cost ways of improving pedestrians, particularly children’s safety, in the neighborhoods around our schools,” Freas said. 

Creasy said that the traffic engineer and the Safe Routes to School coordinator no longer work in NDS. Instead they work for the Public Works department, a decision made by former City Manager Tarron Richardson. Creasy said NDS does coordinate with public works, but more people are needed to implement what’s in the Comprehensive Plan. 

“We do have really good support for continuing to move forward in this direction,” Creasy said. “We have tools in place but we just need to fill them with humans so that we can keep the work going.” 

Some of the strategies in the Comprehensive Plan that address making streets more accessible. (View the entire Comprehensive Plan)

Creasy said she is aware of grassroots efforts to make things better, but coordination with the city is needed. 

Freas said that one remedy would be to paint bump-outs at curbs to provide more space for people. 

“It’s a significant safety improvement and you can do that with paint and potentially flex-posts, but even to do just that, you do have to do some engineering design, you do need to coordinate with public works street folks,” Freas said. 

Freas said that there’s a possibility of maybe having something done within six weeks, but he cautioned that it will be hard to do in that time frame. 

“I think, A, the school department’s plans are really good, I think they have some good solutions in place, and B, I think we can build towards that and start contributing the safety improvements we need to make as we go forward,” Freas said. 

Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg said he supported the idea of an official letter to City Council, but also said funding needed to be in place to implement the solutions.  

“Is it safe to assume there is not within the currently allocated budget enough money to really address the things that staff would potentially want to address?” Stolzenberg asked. “Or potentially to hire outside traffic engineers to take some of the load of our in-house resources?” 

Freas said he would need to have a scope of work before answering that question. 

“We don’t have an identified line item for that right now so we would be cobbling together money from other sources,” Freas said. 

Stolzenberg said he would like the Planning Commission to recommend identifying money in the current fiscal year so incremental improvements can be made throughout the school year. He pointed out that Council voted in late June to purchase property for parking.

“Council just spent $1.65 million on a parking lot with 40 spaces,” Stolzenberg said. “It seems to me that we can find money within the currently allocated [Capital Improvement Program] that could be reallocated to make sure that kids don’t get run over by cars on their way to school.” 

Stolzenberg also asked if the city has explored the ability to install cameras in school zones to capture people who speed. Freas and Creasy said they did not know if the city has done that research. 

The Commission agreed to send a letter to Council seeking support for the work. Stolzenberg said he would draft that document. 

The discussion took place just before the Commission’s joint public hearing with City Council. Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade said he heard the message.

“It doesn’t have to be a war and peace type of document,” Wade said. “We understand the issues and we’re hearing a lot of from the citizens now.” 

Two more Talk and Walk sessions are scheduled this month. 

Do you have a specific concern? Drop me a line and I’d like to hear about it. 

Housekeeping notes for the conclusion of today’s newsletter:

Thanks for reading! Today’s show is a rare Saturday show. Coming up next is the Week Ahead for July 18, as well as the Government Glance at the Fifth Congressional District. That’s a separate Substack.

Music in the podcast version is composed by an entity currently going by the name Wraki. You can purchase the latest tracks on Bandcamp in an album called regret everything.  I certainly hope you will check it out!

Finally, I can’t say enough positive things about Ting’s generous sponsorship. If you sign-up for Ting service, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • Second month of Ting service for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Additionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here!

Charlottesville Community Engagement is free to receive, but supported by paid subscriptions. If you subscribe, Ting will match your initial contribution!