Jun 9, 2022 • 15M

June 9, 2022: Another suit filed seeking House of Delegates race this year; Louisa Supervisors oppose JMRL name change

Plus: Virginia to get $76M in latest RGGI auction

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Sean Tubbs
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

Hello and welcome to another episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement for June 9, 2022. While I increasingly wonder if I am a cartoon character, I am certain I am not the subject of National Donald Duck Day and if you listened to the beginning of the podcast version, you would have proof. Additionally, my name is not Earl and I am not sure an entire day needs to be devoted to strawberry rhubarb pie. I am certain I’m Sean Tubbs, and that the show really begins now. 

This ongoing compendium of information is supported by paid subscriptions, but you can get it for free. If you do pay, Ting will match your initial payment! Please support the work!

On today’s program:

  • Another federal lawsuit is filed to seek a House of Delegates race this year

  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors goes on record unanimously opposing a change to the regional library system 

  • The head of the area’s tourism bureau briefs Council on hotel occupancy and efforts to promote Black-owned destinations

  • Virginia to receive $76.4 million from the latest carbon allowance auction brokered by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative 

First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP,  has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!

Another lawsuit filed to force House of Delegates race this November

Another Richmond area resident has filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia claiming that the House of Delegates boundaries in place for the November 2021 election are unconstitutional. The action comes two days after a three-judge panel ruled that Paul Goldman did not have the legal standing to make the claim that the Board of Elections erred in certifying elections for outdated legislative boundaries. 

Jeffrey Thomas Jr. had filed to be added to a suit filed by Paul Goldman last October, but Monday’s opinion rendered that request to intervene moot. Yesterday Thomas filed a “petition of mandamus” that asks the court to consider his claim that he has suffered a legal injury because the 71st House District where he resides has a 2020 Census Count that contains more people than it should. 

“Plaintiff and all other voters and residents in [House District] 71-2011 have had their voting strength and political representation unconstitutionally diluted or weakened by their failure of Defendants to conduct, enact, or oversee decennial constitutional reapportionment, redistricting, or elections,” reads paragraph 10 of the petition.

Read the petition of mandamus yourself to get a sense of the legal arguments

Paragraph 17 of the petition states that the smallest House District has a population of 71,122 and the largest has a population of 130,082 according to the 2020 Census.  Thomas states his own district is ten percent over the ideal size and that the Virginia Constitution doesn’t permit a deviation above five percent. Paragraph 29 and 30 point out that Thomas is now within the new 78th House District, which has a population of 87,774 people.

Thomas seeks a repeat of 1982 when a federal court ordered elections for the House of Delegates for similar reasons in the Cosner v. Dalton case.

“Conducting House of Delegates elections in 2022 under constitutional lines is a proper remedy under the Cosner precedent,” reads paragraph 58.  

Thomas is requesting that attorneys for the Commonwealth of Virginia make a reply or file a motion to dismiss within 48 hours of their receipt of the petition. 

Louisa Supervisors unanimously oppose name change for regional library

At their meeting this past Monday, the seven-member Board of Supervisors for Louisa County voted on a resolution to formally oppose any change of the name of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library system. A group requested that action at the most recent meeting of the JMRL’s Board of Trustees.

Supervisor Chair Duane Adams of the Mineral District asked for the resolution to be put on the agenda. 

“I think about $392,000 of our tax money goes to funding the Jefferson Madison Regional Library [and] we have a right to say how our money is spent,” Adams said. 

Adams said this resolution did not withhold the funding but simply stated opposition to a potential name change. 

“If the library board changes their name I will put a motion and resolution on the [Louisa] Board’s agenda to withhold our $392,000 and bring it back to the county,” Adams said. “What that would mean is we would withdraw from the regional library system.”

Adams said the library would not close and service would continue.

For comparison, the Fluvanna public library is independent of JMRL and that county’s budget is $457,442 for fiscal year 2023. Adams also noted there is no outcry against the name of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission or that there is a tobacco leaf on the Louisa County seal. 

“I think at some point we have to recognize that history and people is both good and bad,” Adams said. “Yes, the institution of slavery was evil, it was awful, it was despictable and I don’t think anyone would ever try to justify it.” 

Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry said he wanted to know more information about what the new name might be. 

“It’s kind of hard to say you oppose something when you don’t know what it’s going to,” Gentry said. “The second thing is, the name on the building is the Louisa County library.” 

Gentry, Adams, and the rest of the board voted to oppose the name change. 

The next meeting of the JMRL Board of Trustees will be held on June 27 at the Northside Library beginning at 3 p.m.

Virginia receives $76.4 million in June’s cap-and-trade auction

Virginia has now participated in six auctions brokered by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an interstate compact that seeks to incentivize investment in new sources of power generation that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The Commonwealth joined the program in 2020 and legacy generators of electricity must purchase credits to exceed caps authorized by the General Assembly that year. 

The latest auction was held earlier this month, and Virginia will receive $76,418,182.90. By the terms of the state code, Virginia will direct 45 percent to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund and 50 percent to support energy efficiency programs for low-income households. 

Read more about the auction in this press release.

Governor Glenn Youngkin has pledged to withdraw Virginia from RGGI out of a concern that energy companies such as Dominion pass on the costs to consumers. Earlier this year he signed an executive order seeking that outcome, but that action would require action by the General Assembly. Legislation to withdraw did not pass but the issue is likely to come back. 

At the local level, the city of Charlottesville will hold a virtual workshop tonight on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment, which the city will use to create a climate action plan. Top hazards identified are an increase in violent storms and periods of extreme heat. If you want to attend, you’ll have to register in advance. (register in advance)

Watch a tutorial on RGGI auctions:

Second shout-out is for a Charlottesville Jazz Society concert this Saturday:

In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out. On Saturday June 11, the Charlottesville Jazz Society and WTJU present Michael Bisio in a solo acoustic bass performance. Bisio is touring in support of his new solo bass recording "Inimitable". Opening for Michael Bisio will be Richmond violinist/electronics artist Zakaria Kronemer. The concert at Visible Records on Broadway Avenue will begin at 8 pm. A suggested donation of $10 at the door is requested.  For more information visit cvillejazz.org or call (434) 249-6191.

Michael Bisio

Council briefed on tourism group’s efforts to bring in more visitors

Hotel occupancy in Albemarle and Charlottesville continues to rebound with overnight stats in April of this year slightly above the previous year, but still below pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re recovering a bit,” said Courtney Cacatian, the executive director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our hotel occupancy is still limited by our workforce here.” 

Cacatian provided that information to City Council at a work session Monday that served as an introduction to the agency, which was created in 1979 to promote tourism in the area. She said the entity never stopped advertising during the pandemic, so there is pent-up demand reflected in the average daily rates. This April that figure was over $170 a day compared to around $100 in April 2021. (view the presentation)

“The mission is really to enhance the economy, specifically in the tourism industry, and to generate tax revenue for the city and the county,” Cacatian said. “And we reinvest that funding back into the tourism economy to start that funnel again.” 

Cacatian has been in the position since August 2019, several months before the pandemic hit. 

The agency’s main source of funding is through the transient occupancy tax levied by Albemarle and Charlottesville, in addition to grants. The CACVB’s budget lags two year behind collection, which explains why the FY23 budget of $1.72 million is lower than the FY22 budget of $2.053 million 

Much of the funding goes into marketing. 

“And that marketing includes advertising, public relations, and sales efforts,” Cacatian said. “We’re the storytellers for Charlottesville and Albemarle and we get to tell people who don’t live here what we want them to know about us so that they come to visit.” 

CACVB also served as a pass-through agent for $680,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that originated from the Virginia Tourism Council, as well as $750,000 in ARPA funding from Albemarle County. 

One of the marketing initiatives targeted to a national audience is called Discover Black Cville which went live on March 27. That began in August 2020 with listening sessions with Black businesses and attractions. 

“It was really important to me that we were making sure that our community had buy in before we launched nationally and you could tell on launch day how much community buy in and positivity had been created by this effort,” Cacatian said. 

The initial launch weekend led to several articles:

Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade was on hand for the event.

“It was a room full of writers from different newspapers and I love meeting new people so it didn’t take much for me to get there and talk to them,” Wade said. “It was great. It was just a perfect weekend as far as the weather, the activity. It was smelling great outside with the different food so I hope they enjoyed it.”

Councilor Sena Magill said she really liked what CACVB is doing with Discover Black Cville, but she said she was concerned about any funds being used to pay for short-term rentals that may not be properly registered with the city.

“If the city is paying a large chunk of money and then we are providing advertising space for companies who are breaking our zoning laws and impinging on our affordable housing stock…” Magill said.

“And then typically not paying the taxes either,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.

“Yeah!” Magill said. “I have some issues with that.” 

Cacatian said she would look into the matter. 

The Board of Directors for the CACVB next meet on July 11. Check the public notices section of their website for more information

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