Monday, March 21, 2011

Council to approve 9 precincts due to 2010 census

"We’ll be the first to submit to the Justice Department [under 1965 Voting Rights Act].” – Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta

Charlottesville, Va. – City Council will likely approve a 9-precinct redistricting at their Apr. 4 regular meeting. All 5 at-large councilors indicated support for the change. Tonight was the 1st of 2 readings. A motion and a second continued the agenda item. The public now has 2 weeks to contact Council members to influence the final decision.

The current 8-precinct configuration was adopted 1963 with the annexation of Barracks Road and other areas. At that time the 4 wards were divided into a small and a large precinct. Following a Dec. 1920 referendum, all city elections became at-large. The wards and precincts ceased being election districts when city elections became at-large, 51% choose all the councilors.

There is a great deal of history swirling around city elections and precincts. The boundaries changed with each annexation across two centuries. In just the last decade, a commission on Council representation and commission on School Board elections were ignored by Council. Other requests from the Voter Registrar and Board of Elections were also ignored.

Prior to that, there was a movement to switch back to district-based representation within the city in the early 1980s at a time when discontent was high following the 1970s urban renewal of what’s now called the Warehouse District / South Downtown. Efforts to reform the Redevelopment and Housing Authority failed in 1977.

The current changes are required by the Code of Virginia Section 24.2-307. “At the time any precinct is established, it shall have no more than 5,000 registered voters. The general registrar shall notify the governing body whenever the number of voters who voted in a precinct in an election for President of the United States exceeds 4,000. Within six months of receiving the notice, the governing body shall proceed to revise the precinct boundaries, and any newly established or redrawn precinct shall have no more than 5,000 registered voters.”

The ordinance would amend Sections 9-1 of Article I, and 9-26 through 9-30 of Article II, of Chapter 9 of the Charlottesville City Code, 1990. After 90 years, only now is Sec. 9-26 changed from “election districts or precincts” to “election precincts.” They are voting precincts, not election precincts, because no one is elected from the precinct, as explained by the city attorney during the School Board election commission. Voting precincts are subject to less regulation than election precincts.

Wards 1, 2 and 4 would continue to have 2 precincts. Ward 3 would have 3 precincts: Tonsler, Buford, and Johnson. All the boundaries would be redrawn for balance. Alumni Hall precinct would become contiguous whereas it’s now split by the UVA campus, which has remained in the county despite city annexations.

Charlottesville is subject to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, enacted by Congress to single out certain communities for review by the US Department of Justice.

Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta said all the growth has occurred on the southern half of town where a new precinct is created. She said, “We are the first to be ahead of everybody else, significantly ahead of any other municipality…We’ll be the first to submit to the Justice Department.”

Given all the community time and energy spent in recent years on elections and precincts, nothing less would be expected.

9 Members of the Redistricting advisory committee

Perri Rush Brown – Chief Election Officer, Recreation Precinct
Blake Caravati – Former Mayor, City Council
Robert P. Hodous – Member, Charlottesville Electoral Board, Election Officer
Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, Ph.D – President, League of Women Voters
Charles Kromkowski, Ph.D – UVA Research Associate Professor, Politics Department
Frederick Schneider – AIA, Senior Voting Machine Technician
Richard Sincere – Chair, Charlottesville Electoral Board
Thomas Vandever – Chair Charlottesville Democratic Party

Video of the Mar. 21, 2011 City Council Meeting. Includes in the first few minutes, the giant Polyp running around the chamber for Colo-rectal Cancer Awareness. Because of thunderstorms this evening, this reporter watched approx. 7:00 to 7:15 and 8:30 to 9 p.m. when the meeting was adjourned. The city redistricting was the final agenda item.

48-page Council Agenda with background material Mar. 21, 2011.

Previous Blair’s Blog Council Report.

City to revisit election precincts, Sep. 23, 2008. Includes timeline.

The first 3 images are from tonight's report. The final 3 images are from the 2006 School Board Election commission with the proposed 4- and 7-precinct models and the ward-precinct layout

Monday, March 07, 2011

Council spends almost $1 million off-budget, debuts budget process

“When someone flushes their toilet in Forest Lakes, we don’t want to smell it [in Woolen Mills]” – Allison Euring.

Charlottesville, Va. – In a single vote, Council spent $926,419.45 in nine appropriations. In the 254-page Council Agenda with background, you can see the documents submitted with each request to justify the public expenditure.

That one super vote also passed five resolutions, four ordinances, and approved the Feb. 22 Minutes. The consent agenda is so sketchy, it only requires one Councilor to request an item be removed, and force the item to be actually read, discussed, and voted on as a single object. Normally it takes a minimum of two votes (a motion and a second) to continue an item or force an item to a vote, and of course, three votes to pass the item.

But the removed item is heard at the end of the meeting, not the beginning where it would have passed as part of the consent agenda. Lumping unrelated bills together to speed up the process is understandable. The problem is that government has grown so big that it’s impossible to vote on every action with equal process and opportunity for deliberation.

Councilor Edwards said she will vote no on Item R since she has opposed the Longwood Drive development. She also commented on Item O “CRHA/City Council MOU (1st of 1 reading).” The memo was not read. It’s the non-specific agreement between Council and its urban renewal agency. The memo perpetuates well-documented myths while Edwards has been unsuccessful in getting the full Housing Authority archives released and published. Edwards also voted for the memo containing the discrepancies.("Latest Archive Request on WINA", Feb. 12, 2009.)

At the Feb. 7 meeting, Councilor Kristin Szakos requested the immigration resolution be read aloud so people would know the opinion of Council. The resolution opposed ten so-called anti-immigrant laws pending in the state General Assembly.

Tonight Edwards did not ask for the memo of understanding to be read. Councilor Edwards also questioned Item S “Sale of Land to Southern Development (2nd of 2 readings). Apparently it's for only one parcel, while the other parcel is to be gifted to Habitat for Humanity.

In public comment, Paul Cooke of the adjacent Burnett Commons at Elliott near Ridge Street was opposed to the sale and complained that adjacent properties had not been notified of the proposed sale. Cooke was “perplexed at the lack of transparency.” He said Southern Development should consider the opposite corner for development – the Ridge-Cherry property whose development Council disapproved two weeks ago. The developer changed plans approved in 2009 and Council insists the 2009 plan be built.

So Edwards wanted clarification. Neighborhood Development Services Director Jim Tolbert said he spoke at a Burnett Neighborhood Association meeting and conceded the lack of communication and promised to do better. He said there were concerns about the sewer line and city woult plant grass to stabilize erosion.

Finally all 19 items of the consent agenda were passed. David Brown made the motion, Szakos seconded. The silent electronic vote. Then Mayor Dave Norris declared the vote unanimous although Edwards voted no on Longwood Drive. And Councilor Satyendra Huja abstained due to being absent.

The 20th item on the agenda was the school board’s 2012 budget. This school budget background was the only one missing from the 254-page agenda. I couldn’t make sense of the presentation and have lost trust in this body. I don’t believe anything they say. Much of the report was statistics with actual numbers not given. Dropout rate is down from 17.8% in 2008 but most recently 6.8%. Really? More made up numbers?

In the next item, new City Manager Maurice Jones presented the $142.9 million City budget for 2012. He basically read the report in the agenda. He did not say how tonight’s nearly $1 million spending spree is funded. Is it from the $3.5 million surplus Jennifer McKeever talked about at the last meeting, when she asked $1.5 million of that be moved to Charlottesville Housing Fund? More magic money?

In other matters, several residents of the Woolen Mills neighborhood spoke on the proposed, expanded Rivanna Pumping Station to increase waste water treatment capacity. Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was created around 1972 with its main focus dealing with sewage. The solution to Crozet dumping its treated sewage upstream from the Rivanna Reservoir was to pump the waste to one central station at the eastern edge of town and discharge downstream.

Allison Euring said Option A, one of the four being considered, was too large-scale for the entrance to Riverview Park and nearby houses and buildings. She asked people to stand if they were from Woolen Mills and continue standing if they oppose Concept A. Those concerned about sewage packed the meeting.

“When someone flushes their toilet in Forest Lakes, we don’t want to smell it,” said Euring. She said they’ve been living with “broken promises” of “no smells, no noise” since the 1970s.

Robin Haynes presented a 124-signature petition to oppose Rivanna Pump Station Option A. To the councilors, she said the proposals should set off “alarms in your consciences." The smell has dissipated since human waste composting was halted there, which the neighborhood “crusaded” against.

The issue of signage on side streets downtown came up again. Jacklyn Dunkle, owner of Fellini’s #9 with a Mardis Gras Party tomorrow night, said the “signs are just not ample.” She complained a city map sign on Market Street was blocking her sign.

Siblings Joanna and Stratton Salidis talked about the water. Stratton said the 2004 water demand analysis has over-projected by 26%. If you extrapolate this error out 50 years, the error would be more than 200%, meaning the 45-foot dam of the 2006 plan would supply more than twice the water we would actually need.

The noise ordinance came up when Peter Markish played his violin and asked whether this decibel would be legal on the Downtown Mall, because a policeman says it’s not. “If illegal, should it be?” Why did no one answer his Feb. 21 letter?

In Council comment following the Public comment, Mayor Norris apologized for not answering the letter and promised to look into the noise ordinance again.

I turned off the meeting at 9 p.m. to write this article. The city budget report was underway. As always, if I misspell your name, let me know so we can get it right. If you disagree with a fact or opinion (what’s the difference?), feel free to leave a comment.

Previous Blair's Blog Council Report Feb 22, 2011.

City of Charlottesville Streaming Live and Archive Media

City Council Agenda Mar. 7, 2011 with background materials.


6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Closed session as provided by Section 2.2-3712 of the Virginia Code
(Second Floor Conference Room)


AWARDS/RECOGNITIONS MS Awareness Proclamation; THE BIG READ; Festival of the Book; StoryFest (Cat in the Hat Proclamation); GFOA Budget Award


MATTERS BY THE PUBLIC Public comment will be permitted until 7:35 p.m. (limit of 3 minutes per speaker) and at the end of the meeting on any item, including items on the agenda, provided that a public hearing is not planned or has not previously been held on the matter. Persons are asked to sign up in advance of the start of the meeting.


1. CONSENT AGENDA* (Items removed from the consent agenda will be considered at the end of the regular agenda.)

a. Minutes of February 22
b. APPROPRIATION: $3,177 – 2010 State Homeland Security Program Grant 3 (2nd of 2 readings)
c. APPROPRIATION: $18,362 – 2011 Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG) (2nd of 2 readings)
d. APPROPRIATION: $2,500 – Charlottesville Newsplex Scholarship Program (2nd of 2 readings)
e. APPROPRIATION: $382,090 – Highway Safety Improvement Program (2nd of 2 readings)
f. APPROPRIATION: $102,576 – Aid & Localities Fire Disbursement Fund (2nd of 2 readings)
g. APPROPRIATION: $122,398 – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Grant Funds (2nd of 2 readings)
h. APPROPRIATION: $250,000 – Charlottesville City Schools - Appropriation of Capital Improvement
Program Large Cap Supplemental Contribution (1st of 2 readings)
i. APPROPRIATION: $980.45 – State Assistance for Spay and Neuter Program at SPCA (1st of 1 reading)
j. APPROPRIATION: $44,336 – Domestic Violence Services Coordinator Grant (1st of 2 readings)
k. RESOLUTION: New Sidewalk Prioritization Process (1st of 1 reading)
l. RESOLUTION: Entrance Corridor Design Guidelines (1st of 1 reading)
m. RESOLUTION: Amend SUP for 207 14th St NW (1st of 1 reading)
n. RESOLUTION: License Agreement with Qwest Communications (1st of 1 reading)
o. RESOLUTION: CRHA/City Council MOU (1st of 1 reading)
p. ORDINANCE: Changes to Café Ordinances (2nd of 2 readings)
q. ORDINANCE: FiberLight Agreement (2nd of 2 readings)
r. ORDINANCE: Longwood Park PUD – Exchange of Land (2nd of 2 readings)
s. ORDINANCE: Sale of Land to Southern Development (2nd of 2 readings)

2. REPORT: School Board’s Proposed FY 2012 Budget

3. REPORT: City Manager’s Proposed FY 2012 Budget

4. REPORT: Rivanna Pumping Station

5. REPORT: Social Services Advisory Board Annual Report to Council

6. APPEAL:* Board of Architectural Review Decision re: 1328 Riverdale Drive – Renewal of
Demolition Request (1st of 1 reading)

7. REPORT: Old Lynchburg Road Design Update


Reasonable accommodations will be provided for persons with disabilities upon request

City Council Agenda Mar. 7, 2011 with background materials. Includes the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Charlottesville, Virginia. The urban renewal agency is a city department created 1954. The two biggest projects were Vinegar Hill resulting in 124-unit Westhaven public housing opened 1964 and Garrett Street resulting in 150-unit Garrett Square / Friendship Court public housing opened 1979, Crescent Halls 1976, S. First with 58 units, and 6th SE with 25 units.

The myth is that Vinegar Hill is the complete story of urban renewal in Charlottesville.