May 7, 2022: Greene County Commissioner of Revenue resigns after pleading guilty in witness tampering case; Squire launches campaign for 55th House District
Plus: Dr. Denise Bonds stepping down as Blue Ridge Health District director
Welcome to Mother’s Day Eve, a holiday that may not exist, but is certainly a possibility in a world that seems to have an occasion for everything. While we wait for Mommoween to be invented, we’ll just have to settle for another installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that is most certainly not funded by Big Greeting Card.
On today’s program:
Greene County’s Commissioner of Revenue resigns after pleading guilty to federal charges of witness tampering
Kellen Squire officially launches his race to the Democratic nominee for the 55th House District
Dr. Denise Bonds is stepping down as director of the Blue Ridge Health District
Another surge of COVID appears to be in the making, but it’s too early to tell how severe it might be
And the City of Charlottesville is taking donations to help cover unpaid utility bills
Today’s first shout-out goes to WTJU
Algorithms know how to put songs and artists together based on genre or beats per minute. But only people can make connections that engage your mind and warm your heart. The music on WTJU 91.1 FM is chosen by dozens and dozens of volunteer hosts -- music lovers like you who live right here in the Charlottesville area. Listener donations keep WTJU alive and thriving. In this era of algorithm-driven everything, go against the grain. This week is the annual Rock Marathon, so tune in and support freeform community radio on WTJU Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.
Snow resigns as Greene County Commissioner of Revenue
Larry Snow has resigned as the Commissioner of Revenue in Greene County after pleading guilty in federal court to tampering with a witness. Snow appeared in the Western District Court in Charlottesville Friday to answer to charges that stemmed from a federal investigation, along with his son who pleaded guilty to a charge of heroin distribution.
The elder Snow was caught trying to harass and intimidate a confidential informant involved with the investigation.
“Elected officials should hold themselves to a higher standard and serve their community responsibly,” said Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division in a release sent out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia. “Mr. Snow violated the faith entrusted to him, and with his son criminally used personal information of community members for their own gain,”
Snow was first elected to the position in 1987 and was reelected in 2019 while under indictment with three quarters of the vote.
In November 2017, Bryant Snow was arrested on two state counts of distribution after selling methamphetamine and heroin to an informant. He plead guilty to the meth charge in April 2018 and was imprisoned at Central Virginia Regional Jail.
While there, the father and son discussed ways to intimidate someone referred to as Person A. At one point, the elder Snow sent out over 12,000 pamphlets to Greene County residents describing how the Sheriff’s Department uses informants in an attempt to dissuade Person A.
Larry Snow will be sentenced on July 25 and Bryant Snow will be sentenced on August 1 before Senior Judge Norman K. Moon.
Bonds stepping down as director of the Blue Ridge Health District
A search will soon get underway for a new director of the Blue Ridge Health District now that Dr. Denise Bonds has announced she’ll step down from the position at the end of this month. She’s been the health director since 2015 and led the agency during the COVID-19 pandemic and during a name change.
“Under Dr. Bonds’ leadership, BRHD expanded its HIV testing and prevention services, increased access to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and broadened the size and reach of the Population Health Division, including launching a robust Community Health Worker program,” reads an announcement from the Blue Ridge Health District sent out yesterday afternoon.
Dr. Bonds also served as interim director of the Rappahannock Area Health District from August 2020 to April 2021.
The Blue Ridge Health District is also closing down its COVID-19 case investigation team. According to the release, they followed 47,274 cases since March 2020. After this weekend, the Mobile Health Unit created during the pandemic has held 200 events at which over 5,000 COVID vaccinations were administered.
A memorial to those lost during the COVID-19 pandemic will be held on May 24, 2022 at the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital Amphitheater.
A spring surge of COVID-19 continues to rise with the Virginia Department of Health reporting 2,677 new cases on Friday, with a seven-day average for positive tests at 11 percent. That’s about where things were in late February when the Omicron surge was waning.
“And that’s up from around three percent, three and a half percent in March, so we have seen an increase in test positivity,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, the director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System. “This is occurring in a background where we’re having less testing in general because of the growth of at-home testing and I would say the vast majority of the people who are testing positive at home through a rapid antigen test are not going on to get a PCR test somewhere else.”
The dashboard for the Blue Ridge Health District hasn’t been updated since May 1, and the Virginia Department of Health no longer provides that information in an easily-consumable fashion. The dataset is available here.
The increasing number of cases are not leading to increased hospitalizations. Today the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reports 30 COVID-positive people in intensive care units and 11 on respirators. At the height of the Omicron surge in late January of this year, that number climbed over 400.
Dr. Sifri said the numbers are expected to rise as more people forgo wearing masks indoors and as people move further away from their vaccinations or boosters.
“There is some progressive loss of some immune response,” said Dr. Sifri. “And finally, in this background is new subvariants of Omicron.”
Dr. Sifri points people to the weekly models produced by the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute. The latest from April 29 predicts a further surge this summer, though with lower death rates due to treatments that are now available, more than two years after the pandemic began.
“The open question is how much of an impact will that have on health systems?” Dr. Sifri asked. “Is that going to lead to more hospitalizations? Is that going to lead to more [intensive care unit] hospitalizations and deaths? That’s our concern.”
Dr. Sifri said vaccinations may not prevent infection but do limit the severity.
City taking donations to cover unpaid utility bills
It’s been nearly a month since the City of Charlottesville announced it would resume the practice of shutting down service for unpaid utility bills. There was a statewide moratorium on such disconnects that expired last September. In all, the city used $557,000 in various federal assistance programs to help some customers.
However, they announced in April disconnects would resume.
“To date, six accounts have been disconnected and remain out of service,” said Chris Cullinan, the city’s finance director, in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement.
However, the city is taking donations to help prevent further disconnects. Cullinan said that as of Thursday, the city had received $800 from concerned community members. He said checks marked with “Water/WW Assistance” in the memo can be sent to:
City of Charlottesville Utility Billing Office
PO Box 911
Attn: Water and Wastewater Assistance
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Second shout-out goes to a Charlottesville Jazz Society event this weekend
In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out, the Charlottesville Jazz Society and WTJU are pleased to bring bassist Joe Fonda back to town with his long-standing group the Nu Band. They’ll be appearing Tuesday May 10 at the Bridge at 209 Monticello Road. The Nu Band is a dynamic jazz ensemble from New York City, featuring some of the most unique, compelling and in-demand voices in creative music today. The band was formed in 1999, and since then has released 10 recordings, completed 9 European and several US tours, bringing forward-leaning, provocative and evocative music to the world. All tickets for The Nu Band at The Bridge, May 10th at 7 pm will be $10 at the door. For more information visit cvillejazz.org,
Squire launches campaign with ad release
There’s still no firm resolution on whether Virginia will elect the next set of members of the next House of Delegates this November or the next, but there are two active candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the newly drawn 55th District.
On Friday, Kellen Squire released a video to launch a campaign for which he filed earlier this spring. He’s an emergency room nurse who ran in the 58th District in 2017 against incumbent Rob Bell.
“Just as I believe there’s hope for me when I come home to my family,” Squire narrates in the two-minute video that depicts him driving home from a shift, concluding with him getting out of his vehicle.
“I’m Kellen Squire and I’m running for the House of Delegates because as an emergency department nurse, I know that we all do better when we all do better,” Squire continues. “I’ll fight unapologetically for rural Virginia. I’ll put people before party. And I’ll make sure no Virginian gets left behind.”
Squire joins Albemarle Supervisor Donna Price in the race for the Democratic nomination, a race in which the winner could take on Republican Rob Bell, who has represented the 58th District since 2002. He’s not yet made an announcement about the next election. The 55th District is geographically different and will consist of most of Albemarle County, western Louisa County, and northeast Nelson County.
Price made her announcement on Facebook on Tuesday, a day after someone leaked a draft Supreme Court ruling purporting to overturn Roe v. Wade. (read the story)
There is a chance that an election could be held this year due to a federal lawsuit filed by Richmond attorney Paul Goldman arguing that legislators elected in 2021 are in unconstitutional districts. Judge David Novak of the Eastern District of Virginia is expected to rule on whether Goldman has the legal standing to file the case.
On Thursday, Novak admonished Goldman for filing a motion to ask the court to consider the draft ruling as evidence for why a House of Delegates race should be run this year.
“The Court hereby STRIKES this Motion at patently inappropriate and completely irrelevant to this case,” Novak wrote in an order. “Neither draft opinions nor press reports have any impact on the decisions of this Court.”
Novak told Goldman to stop filing additional motions.
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