Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
November 25, 2022: Ranked choice voting not likely in Albemarle in 2023; Charlottesville wants you to serve on a Board or Commission
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November 25, 2022: Ranked choice voting not likely in Albemarle in 2023; Charlottesville wants you to serve on a Board or Commission

Full-time staff have begun staffing southern Albemarle

Is there a better name for the day that comes after Thanksgiving? Boxing Day is taken. Perhaps Your Welcome Giving Day will do the trick? No matter what, this is November 25, 2022, and is the installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement you are currently experiencing. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs, celebrating saying thank you for taking some time to read or listen to any of this. 

On today’s program: 

  • Albemarle County Director of Elections Lauren Eddy explains the barriers to implementing ranked choice voting

  • The city puts out a list of resources to assist the unhoused in these colder times

  • Charlottesville responds to a lawsuit over a special use permit for a JPA apartment building

  • Full-time staff have begun to supplement fire rescue calls in the North Garden area

  • The city of Charlottesville wants you to consider public service on a board or commission 

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First shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s first 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.

Albemarle registrar: Ranked choice voting not ready in 2023 

Localities in Virginia have the ability to institute a new way of casting ballots whose proponents say would encourage more people to vote and run for office. But Albemarle’s new registrar told the Board of Supervisors earlier this month that more time is needed to implement ranked choice ballots. 

“There are significant unresolved technical and legal issues that affect the implementation of ranked choice voting in 2023 elections,” said Lauren Eddy, Albemarle’s Director of Elections.

Eddy’s briefing was the second Supervisors have received this month on ranked choice voting. Delegate Sally Hudson was before them on November 4 to explain the basic concept. Her legislation in 2020 has made it possible for localities to consider a system where voters rank candidates when casting their ballot. (read the story).  

At the Supervisor’s meeting on November 16, Eddy explained a basic ground rule. 

“Ranked choice voting only comes into play if there are three or more candidates,” Eddy said. 

The last time there was a three-way race in Albemarle was in 2009 when there were three candidates for the Samuel Miller District. Before that, there was a three-way race in the Rio district in 2005

Credit: Cvillepedia

School Board races would not be eligible under legislation passed in 2020. 

Eddy said that Arlington County is also considering ranked choice voting but that’s because groundwork has been laid. 

“Last Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved using ranked choice voting as a pilot for their June 20, 2023 primary,” Eddy said. “But to note, Arlington County had been discussing ranked choice voting for two years and recently completed their round of public comment.”

Eddy said for ranked choice to work in Albemarle, her office would need an election system where ranked choice ballots could be scanned.

“And then export the ballot data to a cast vote record, then tabulate the results of the multiple rounds, reallocate those votes to the remaining candidates, until one person gets a majority,” Eddy said. 

The current system can only handle scans for one vote. Eddy said it could be upgraded to produce that “cast vote” record for one round of an instant run-off. A new scanning system would be required to add more rounds. 

“So, to tabulate the votes and reallocate the votes to the remaining candidates until we get a majority vote winner, we would have to have additional tabulation software and the vendor that we currently have does not offer that software,” Eddy said. 

There is open source tabulation software that’s written by a nonprofit that advocates for ranked choice voting, but Eddy said there are some issues including the fact that Virginia does not yet certify that program’s use. She said the Department of Elections is working toward that goal but for now, the cost to implement ranked choice voting would be borne entirely by a locality. 

“Another big thing for us would be voter education,” Eddy said. “Our voters have voted the same way for years and so voter education is going to be a key to the success of a [ranked choice voting] election. The law requires that RCV voter education campaigns start at least sixty days before the election, and we view this as a minimum.” 

Eddy said March 7 is the deadline for when political parties need to decide how to select their nominee for the general election through either a primary or a caucus. April 6 is the deadline for when party candidates have to be certified to be a nominee. 

The election in 2023 will see Supervisor races in the Rivanna, Scottsville, and White Hall Districts. If Albemarle were to proceed with ranked choice voting, the vote education campaign would need to be underway by April 21. 

“Early voting would begin on May 6 and then the primary election would be held on June 20,” Eddy said. 

Eddy said voter education could begin now if Supervisors thought ranked choice was a direction they might want to pursue. 

Supervisor Jim Andrews was elected in 2021 to represent the Samuel Miller District. He was the only candidate on the ballot and sees ranked choice voting as a way to encourage more people to run in the future. 

“There are a lot of reasons why I think pursuing this is something I think we should continue to do but I do recognize that you’ve raised a lot of questions that we’ll need to get answers from the state and guidance and I hope that we can continue to pursue doing this,” Andrews said. 

Supervisors took no action at the meeting. 

Today’s second shout-out: LEAP wants to help you prepare for winter

Crisp air and colorful leaves. Hot cocoa. Snow days. There are plenty of reasons to get excited about fall and winter, but the return of high heating bills isn't one of them. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, has been empowering Virginians with energy efficiency and solar solutions since 2010. With programs for all income levels, residents can access upgrades like insulation, LED bulbs, low-flow fixtures, and affordable rooftop solar systems. Visit www.leap-va.org to learn more, and fill out the LEAP Services Inquiry form to lower high heating bills and stay cozy this winter. 

Albemarle Fire Rescue staff has begun staffing North Garden

Full-time fire rescue personnel are now supplementing emergency response efforts in southern Albemarle County. Albemarle County Fire Rescue is now staffing the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This began on November 7. 

In a release sent out by Albemarle County this week, Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston said this strengthens a partnership between his department and the volunteer organization. 

“As volunteer rates decrease across the country, departments locally are committed to working together to provide effective and efficient emergency services to the people of Albemarle County,” Eggleston said. 

Funding for the five positions assigned to North Garden comes from a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Response (SAFER) program. The $1.88 million grant covers a total of ten positions for three years, according to the county’s FY23 budget (page 258) The city of Charlottesville was awarded a similar amount through SAFER. 

Resources for the unhoused in the Charlottesville area 

The day before Thanksgiving, the city of Charlottesville put out a reminder of options for people who are unhoused. The number to call for resources for those without a place to stay is 434-207-2328. That Homeless Information Line is open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and messages will be returned within 48 hours. 

An information release provides information on resources offered by People and Congregations In Ministry (PACEM), the Salvation Army, and the Haven. 

City responds to 2005 JPA suit

The City of Charlottesville has responded to a lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court seeking the voidance of a special use permit granted by City Council in mid-September. Around a dozen neighbors of 2005 Jefferson Park Avenue filed a motion a month later. 

Charlottesville City Attorney Lisa Robertson has filed a motion for demurrer to throw out the suit claiming that none of the plaintiffs have standing to bring the case. 

“The Complaint fails to allege facts demonstrating particularized harm from the City’s zoning decision to any of the Plaintiffs,” reads the demurrer. (read the city’s response)

The demurrer also points out that several of the Plaintiffs did not sign the Complaint and should be removed from the case. Robertson also argues that Council acted in a reasonable manner and that none of their counts rose to the level of an actual legal complaint. 

In another court case, Slightly related, legislation between the city and the county over the usage of bikes at trails at the city-owned Ragged Mountain Natural Area remains alive. Supervisors went into closed session on November 16 to receive advice from the county attorney. For background, read this July 2017 article on Charlottesville Tomorrow

A screenshot of the city’s demurrer in the 2005 JPA case 

City seeking applications to boards and commissions

The day after Thanksgiving is one of many in which you might consider how you might get involved with local government. There are several vacancies in Charlottesville, including five on the Police Civilian Oversight Board. 

Those applications are due on December 1 and the positions are for two community representatives, one law enforcement representative, one social justice representative, and one at-large representative. Visit the city’s website for details on how each of those is defined.

Applications for the rest of the vacancies are due on December 9. 

Words, paragraphs, and sentences arranged in ways you may interested in:

Cleaning up the table for #462

We’re still in the middle of a holiday week but I wanted to get something out before starting the final drive of 2022. It’s been a busy year, and there’s a lot left to go. After this post, I’ll get to work on writing up Fifth District Community Engagement for this week as well as the Week Ahead. There’s also still a lot of material to get to, and I thank you for reading or listening along. A reminder that you can join my chat on Substack if you want the latest updates on upcoming content. 

If you’d like to support the program, the best way to do that is through a paid subscription through Substack. With that you get first-look access to some content such as this week’s summary of property transactions in Charlottesville. You also get the knowledge that you’re helping me continue to build an engine to report on as much as I can. 

And before I mention that you can donate or gift a paid subscription, I can also state that Ting will match those initial payments as well! Ting has been a great sponsor of Charlottesville Community Engagement for a year and a half now, and a great partnership. I’m grateful for the chance to continue exploring this part of my career in journalism. 

But Ting also wants your business and if you sign up through a link in the newsletter you will get free installation, a $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall, and a second month for free. Just enter the promo code COMMUNITY.

No matter what we call today, I do again want to say thanks. Now, back to the work!

 

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