Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
October 24, 2022: Center for Politics forum explores threats to U.S. democracy; Albemarle Supervisors seek power to hold sales tax referendum
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October 24, 2022: Center for Politics forum explores threats to U.S. democracy; Albemarle Supervisors seek power to hold sales tax referendum

Plus: Charlottesville holding information sessions on plans to remove Downtown Mall trees

We’ve reached the fourth Monday of the month and are now in the final lap with the finish line coming at the end of All Hallow’s Eve. Shall we celebrate All Hallow’s Day? Between now and then there’s a lot to get through in as many installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement that I can put together between now and the time of disguise. I? Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s version of this publication:

  • One person has died following an early morning shooting Sunday on the Downtown Mall

  • Charlottesville preparing to remove nine trees from the Downtown Mall

  • Two Charlottesville playgrounds remain closed while repairs continue

  • Time is running out to submit a poem to JMRL’s latest contest

  • Albemarle County Supervisors finalize legislative priorities 

  • The Center for Politics at UVA takes a look at concerns about the upcoming election 

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

First shout-out: Rivanna Conservation Alliance Round-Up wrap-up

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance would like to thank everyone who participated in the recent Rivanna River Round-Up! In all, 243 helped remove 173 tires, filled up 148 bags of trash and attended to 27 miles of river and trail. To help cover the costs, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance is selling t-shirts. Want to get involved with ongoing clean-up efforts? On Saturday, October 22, the RCA will hold a stream buffer maintenance day at Crozet Elementary School to check in on how trees planted three years ago are holding up. Visit rivannariver.org to learn more. 

One killed in early morning shooting Sunday

One person has died following a shooting early Sunday morning on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall in which three people were hit with bullets.

According to a release, the Charlottesville Police Department responded to the 200 block of West Main Street on the Downtown Mall.

“The victims were then transported to UVA medical center for treatment; two of which are currently in stable condition. The third victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased later in the morning.”

The release goes on to state that the incident does not pose an “immediate threat” and an investigation. A request for a follow-up this morning yielded no results.

For more information, some other media coverage:

Photojournalist Eze Amos was on the Mall at the time.

City crews preparing to remove some Downtown Mall trees

Later this week, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will hold an information meeting on removing some of the trees on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Riann Anthony is the deputy director of the department. 

“We are very lucky that the Downtown Mall trees have been in existence for this long,” Anthony said. “Some of them are healthy and others are not healthy but per our urban forester is that all of the trees are stressed from a number of factors.”

Anthony addresses the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last Thursday. He said the number one factor are the tree grates that he said are squeezing trees that have outgrown them. He also said heaters for outdoor restaurants also cause stress.

“There’s a lot of café spaces that also have little lights that they use, nails, to put the lights on and stuff like that nature,” Anthony said. 

The city has been studying this issue for many year but action has not yet been taken. Anthony said the city is looking to remove hazards that might be in danger of falling. The ones most at risk will be removed over the next few months.

“These are trees that are in the worst shape and we are looking out for the best interest of our community and of the folks that work on the mall,” Anthony said. “We do not want to ever see a tree just fall.” 

Nine trees in all will be removed. The first education session will be on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. Two in-person meetings will be held next week. (meeting info)

Anthony said the city is also seeking a consultant to help come up with a replacement policy for trees on the Downtown Mall. 

Charlottesville playground installation taking longer than expected 

The closure of city playgrounds at both Belmont Park and Meade Park will be a little longer than expected. The Parks and Recreation Department is installing new equipment at both locations and work had been expected to be completed this week. However, installation of individual pieces is taking more time. 

“We are extending the reopening date to tentatively, November 4th, but may open sooner if complete,” reads a press release that went out Friday morning

A Keaton Forest suite of playground structures is being installed at Belmont Park whereas Meade Park will have the first Modern City installation in Virginia. 

Both playground choices were decided upon by community members who voted in polls (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

One more day to submit a poem for JMRL contest

The Jefferson Madison Regional Library and WriterHouse have teamed up for a poetry contest that ends tomorrow. If you’re over 18 and have one original, unpublished poem you’d like to submit, there’s an online form that’s taking submissions through tomorrow at 5 p.m.  The theme is transformative change. 

“For hundreds of years, poets have altered the course of history by speaking out about issues that concern their communities, and this year's theme of transformation echoes that critical legacy of the power of the pen to affect positive change for all of us,” said WriterHouse executive director Sibley Johns. 

This contest is now in its sixth year. There are prizes for winners. For more information, visit jmrl.org/poetrycontest

Albemarle Supervisors set legislative priorities for 2023 General Assembly 

There are 79 days until the General Assembly convenes for the 2023 session for the second year with Glenn Youngkin in the Governor’s Mansion. Last week, Albemarle Supervisors finalized their list of legislative priorities that they hope to convince legislators to turn into a bill. (2023 Legislative Priorities) (2023 Legislative Positions and Policy Statements)

Supervisors last discussed the list in September and extensively discussed a request to expand the number of virtual meetings an appointed body can have. 

Another of the priorities is to request the ability for counties to decide for themselves if they want to hold a referendum on additional sales tax to generate revenue for school construction projects.

“There are currently nine counties and one city in the Commonwealth which enjoy this authority to levy an additional one-percent sales tax which is used exclusively to fund school division capital projects,” said county attorney Steven Rosenberg. 

Legislation failed to make it out of a House of Delegates subcommittee last year. 

Another priority is to request a change of the eligibility rules for sites to participate in the Virginia Business Ready Sites program. Currently land in most economic development regions must be of a certain size to quality, and Albemarle wants that to be reduced.

“There are not that many properties in the county that satisfy that 100 acre contiguous developable standard,” Rosenberg said.

Albemarle wants to cut that in half to 50 acres and Rosenberg said two Go Virginia regions already have that lower threshold. 

“The economic development office (EDO) has identified sites that would otherwise fulfill the requirement but for their acreage,” Rosenberg said. “I will finally add on this item that there is one site in the county that does satisfy the requirement and it’s in North Fork and the EDO is currently working with the University of Virginia Foundation in seeking funds for that site.” 

There will be one more discussion of the priorities in November if needed. 

See also: 

The seven legislative priorities for Albemarle County in the 2023 General Assembly

Second Shout-out is for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards 

In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out, an area nonprofit wants you to know about what they offer to help you learn how to preserve, protect, and appreciate! The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards holds several events throughout the year including a walk in western Albemarle County on the morning of November 12 through a well preserved and highly diverse woodland to see naturally occurring winterberry, spicebush, and dogwood laden with red berries. 

In abundance will be nuts from forest oaks, hickories, walnuts as well as orchard grown Chinese chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, and American hazelnuts. Registration is limited. There’s also still time for an online Zoom tree identification class tomorrow night. Visit charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org for more information. 

Center for Politics forum explores election security in advance of Election Day 

Tensions are running high across the country as Election Day approaches and many members of one of the two American political parties continue to insist that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. 

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics held a forum last week to discuss the upcoming elections moderated by Christopher Krebs, who served as the United States Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He said much of the threat dates back to Russian efforts to hack the 2016 elections. (wikipedia article)

“It had three different components,” Krebs said. “The first was attempts to get into voter registration databases and other systems administering elections. The second was targeting and hacking into political campaigns, the [Democratic National Committee], the Hilary Clinton and the third is this more pernicious, drawn out disinformation campaign that’s really rooted in the entirety of Russian information doctrine going back really a century or more.” 

Krebs said the Russian campaign was intended to destabilize democracy, and not much was done to shore up security systems.

“And there were domestic actors that saw the playbook run in 2016 and adapted it to their own measures,” Krebs said.

Krebs said he is concerned about continued efforts to falsely claim that President Joe Biden was not elected, as well as continued attacks on election workers. He said death threats are common. 

“It’s part of unfortunately doing business as election workers right now and that is leading to a retreat and exodus from the work force which in turn kind of turns out to be a former of almost voter suppression,” Krebs said.

That’s because fewer election workers means fewer precincts and longer lines. Krebs said there’s also a strategy to radicalize election workers. 

Barbara Comstock served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s former 10th District. The Republican politician is now involved in Issue One and the National Council for Elections Security.  

“I am for the first time in my life a single issue voter,” Comstock said. “I’ve never been a single issue voter. I was a conservative Republican but now my issue is democracy before any other issue. And if you aren’t going to respect elections and who wins and who loses, you can’t have any other issues before that.” 

Comstock said she is concerned about candidates who have already declared they will not accept the elections results unless they win. 

“Those kind of situations are going to repeat themselves around the country,” Comstock said. “We’re a 50/50 country. I won my first election by 422 votes.” 

Comstock said on that night, she knew where the votes were coming in because she was familiar with the polls. She said many with conspiracy theories have never worked an election before. 

“And these are people who just didn’t understand anything about  retail politics,” Comstock said. “They were just people who were preaching to the choir, hung out with everyone who thought the way they did, and had never knocked on a door.”

Renée DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, has been studying rumors that circulate online about perceived election fraud.

“When somebody believes that their ballot has been invalidated because they were given a sharpie marker at the polls and they remember being a kid in school and being told you can’t use a sharpie marker on a scantron and they believe that there’s a false plot to steal the election from them because that’s kind of where the political climate of the country is at this point,” DiResta said. “Those claims tend to go viral and one of the things we look at at Stanford is how those claims go viral and where and in what communities on the internet.”

DiResta said the sharpie argument has come back again in Arizona during the 2022 race. She said she’s part of something called the Election Integrity Partnership which is a non-partisan coalition to help groups that want to fight disinformation by crowd-sourcing responses by helping to find the right messenger to convey correct information. 

“That person who is a trusted counter messenger counter speaks to the people in their communities,” DiResta said. “They don’t want to hear Stanford Internet Observatory thinks that your sharpie markers is wrong because who the hell are we? We’re ivory tower academics. We have no trust and we have no resonance in that community but the local elections theoretically do because they are members of the community.” 

Siva Vaidhyanathan, the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, said democracies have been under attack from across the world in the past decade. He said a lot of this builds off the stoking of fears of other Americans. 

“We’re now in a situation in this country of all countries where we don’t have a romance of  democracy,” Vaidhyanathan said. “We don’t have something that moves us to believe deeply in the power of each other, in the shared future that we all have whether we admit or not.”

Election Day is now 15 days away. This Wednesday, the two candidates in the Fifth District will meet at Hampden-Sydney College for the first and only campaign forum of the race. Some information here, and more in the next newsletter.

You can watch the whole Center for Politics event on YouTube. 

Other articles for your review:

As much as I try, I can’t get it all. Here are some recent stories you may be interested in reviewing. 

Concluding notes for the end of #447 

Monday will end and Tuesday will begin and I am hopeful that there will be another installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. There is so much to get through, and I’m grateful for paid subscribers who are helping me attempt to keep the stables clean. Do consider a paid subscription through Substack at either $5 a month, $50 a year or $200 a year.

And if you do that, Ting will match your initial payment, making it very likely I’ll get to keep doing this for a while. That’s my goal, at least. This work is how I exercise my love of democracy, by pointing out the decision points close at hand. I will try to resist saying what I think, because mostly what I think is how I can get this up to a seven-day-a-week publication. There’s enough to go round. 

If you do sign up, Ting will match your initial subscription. And even if you don’t sign up for a paid subscription to this newsletter, Ting wants your custom too, 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.

Did you know this newsletter is also the working script for a podcast? Do sign up in your podcast player, because it’s a great way to hear people’s voices. There is the occasional music bit from either the Fundamental Grang or Wraki, a chameleon-like blender of sonic stylings. Check them out on Bandcamp

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Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
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.