Monthly Archive for January, 2008

Downtown Pedestrian Mall Meetings

(This is a copy of a letter that was distributed to various groups concerning the Downtown Pedestrian Mall revitalization.)

You are invited to a meeting on January 29, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sage Moon located at 420 East Main Street to discuss plan concepts and get your input.

If you have any questions concerning the meeting, please contact Tony Edwards, City Engineer, at 970-3992 or email him at edwardst @

Neighborhood Development Services
P.O. Box 911, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902
Phone (434) 970-3182, Fax (434) 970-3359

Dear Downtown Business Owner/ Manager:

As you launch into the New Year, the City continues to be committed to your participation in the revitalization planning of Charlottesville’s Downtown Pedestrian Mall. As mentioned in our December correspondence, The MMM Design Group Team will convene Key Stakeholder meetings and design charrettes this month and we want you to be involved.

The purpose of these meetings will be to update the businesses and building owners on the latest plan concepts, reflect on what we’ve learned about your needs, ask key questions relative to your business sector, and conduct a design charrette — getting your input and reactions.

All of the meetings are targeted for 2 hours, with the schedule as follows.

Pedestrian Mall Scheduled Meetings

Business Sector Date / Time Location
Retail, Services and Restaurants January 24 at 10:00 a.m. SNL Building at 1 SNL Plaza, at 7th Street & E. Jefferson Street
Professional Businesses and Nonprofits January 28 at 10:00 a.m. SNL Building
Entertainment January 29 at 10:00 a.m. City Hall Basement Conference Room
Residents January 29 at 6:00 p.m. Sage Moon

We look forward to continuing to build this plan together.

Kind Regards,

James A. Tolbert, AICP
Director, Neighborhood Development Services

Bike Action Meeting!

I don’t mean for this webiste to become a blog about all the things I wish I could do, but that’s all I seem to have time to do anymore!

In that spirit, here are a few more interesting events happening in and around our city:

Saturday, January 26, 2008, 11:00 a.m.
Downtown Library on E. Market, McIntire Room

Callng all cyclists and would-be cyclists: we’re collecting data on car/bike run-ins. Help us brainstorm on how to present this information and begin plotting an awesome Bike festival for spring!

We will focus on creating an informal system for reporting and tracking bike-auto collisions in the area. Data collected by police reports are known to significantly under represent the true number of collisions, and the Community Bike Shop and others have noticed considerable disparities between local data and actual bike-auto collisions in the area.

At this meeting, we will seek input on:
• A system for tracking such data informally, to supplement official data;
• A system for making the combined data much more accessible for the public.

Co-sponsored by Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation & The Community Bike Shop

“Smart and Efficient Government” Hearing Scheduled

The Charlottesville City website is advertising this public hearing scheduled for tomorrow night:

Smart and Efficient Government
Community Value in Services and Delivery

Charlottesville: A Great Place to Live for All of Our Citizens

* A leader in innovation, environmental sustainability, and social and economic justice
* Flexible and progressive in anticipating and responding to the needs of our citizens
* Cultural and creative capital of Central Virginia

Smart, Citizen-Focused Government
The delivery of quality services is at the heart of Charlottesville’s social compact with its citizens. Charlottesville’s approach to customer service ensures that we have safe neighborhoods, strong schools, and a clean environment. We continually work to employ the optimal means of delivering services, and our decisions are informed at every stage by effective communication and active citizen involvement.

JANUARY 22nd, 2008

I also found this flyer in my email inbox:

Smart Govt.

Fifeville MLK Celebration today

I wish I had known about this earlier. Today, Abundant Life Ministries is sponsoring a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration called “Fifeville: Dreaming For Tomorrow”, beginning at 12 noon with a Lunch and Health Fair at the Cherry Ave. Boys and Girls Club. From 2:00 to 4:00, there will be activities for K through 12 grade students. At 5:00, there will be a candlelight march (I’m not sure where, but I guess it’s starting at the B&G Club), then a ceremony at 5:45 at Buford Middle School, followed by a dinner from 7:30 to 9:00.

The flier I received is a little light on additional information, but does provide this phone number: 970-2016.

WAR MADE EASY screening on Sunday

I won’t normally use this space to publicize upcoming events, but I don’t see information about this posted elsewhere, and I thought it important enough to get this news out.

“WAR MADE EASY” Film Screening
Sunday, January 13, 2008 2:30 PM
Senior Center, Rm. A, 1180 Pepsi Place

Produced by the Media Education Foundation, this movie explores the U.S. involvement in wars since Vietnam, with historical footage of major figures. It analyzes the media’s effect. Critics have said that the movie has an impact similar to to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

You can learn more about the film at its website My friend David Swanson has also posted a thoughtful review on

Charlottesville’s Jennifer

In my post yesterday describing my Democratic awakening, I shamefully neglected to mention that my friend Jennifer McKeever was elected co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Party. As it turns out, double congratulations are in order, for I just learned today that Jennifer has also been accepted into the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Political Leaders Program Class of 2008. If you’re in the Charlottesville area and you don’t yet know the name Jennifer McKeever, you will!

Hey, I’m a Democrat!

I have been voting since I was 18. My first national election was in 1980. That was my first year in college, and I met an attractive girl who worked on the John Anderson campaign. I called my dad — who was a Democrat for as long as I could remember — and asked him if he would disown me if I voted for a Republican. We laughed about that, but Dad agreed that Anderson was an interesting candidate. Shortly afterward, Anderson left the Republican party and ran as an Independent, and so I was spared the possibility of registering as a Republican.

Instead, I registered as an Independent, and I have stayed that way ever since. When pressed, I have referred to myself as a Democratic-voting Independent. I have only ever given money to Democratic Party candidates, and have only ever voted for Democrats in national elections (with one notable exception: Ralph Nader in 2000). It just works for me. My refusal to register as a full-fledged Democrat became easier over the years as I saw that party tilt further to the centrist right. The inability of the national party to make substantive inroads on the environmental crisis, or to fight the right-wing media machine, or to keep President Clinton from being impeached, or to get us out of Iraq, only bolstered my feeling that they did not deserve my support.

In 2007, I did something for which I was, in retrospect, wholly unprepared: I ran for public office as an independent candidate for the Charlottesville City School Board. Fortunately, all School Board candidates are independents, and with the exception of the returning Chairman, this was the first time any of us had campaigned for public office, so the playing field was pretty level.

I did not win that election, but simply by being a candidate, I got to meet many of the movers-and-shakers in our region. I had breakfast with Kevin Lynch, outgoing City Councilor, who gave me good advice on what it means to be in the public eye. State Delegate David Toscano encouraged me several times. Councilor and new mayor Dave Norris was an early supporter and even allowed me to post a yard sign on his property; he also contacted me after the election and nominated me to serve on the Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board.

All of these great men have an important trait in common: they’re all Democrats.

Last week, I attended the local Democratic party reorganization meeting. All my new acquaintances were there, along with several old ones. I felt very much at home. I found my precinct chair and, by the end of the meeting, had signed up to be a local committee member and to help with upcoming Democratic events. By the time the meeting finished, one thing was clear: I’m a Democrat!

So what transpired to get me into the Democratic party after nearly 30 years? The answer is simply and obvious. For the longest time, Democrats were those people in our state and federal capitals who just could not seem to get enough of the right things done. But in this last year, the Democratic party has been represented by people like Kevin Lynch, Dave Norris, David Toscano, Holly Edwards, and David Brown. These are my neighbors, supporters, and new friends. Speaker Tip O’Neill said that “all politics is local”, and that is a lesson that I have now learned on a very personal level. I may still be frustrated with the national Democratic party, but last week the local Democrats welcomed me as kin. An astonishing number of people had seen me campaigning last year; they greeted me by my first name, and they thanked me for trying.

The most important thing I learned by running for office is that you can’t easily accomplish worthwhile things on your own. The candidates who won were the candidates who had the most support from family and friends. Well, I feel like my circle of both has just grown. I look forward to being a part of the progressive, compassionate, accomplished movement that is the Democratic party in Virginia. I think my dad would approve.

From School Board to Parks and Rec

So how did I go from running for School Board to a seat on Parks and Rec?

To explain that, I first have to explain that my motive all along has simply been to serve my community. I come from a political family — my dad won public office several times when I was a lad — and so I had a model for what was possible.

Last Spring, word went out that no one had stepped forward to serve on the new School Board, and the deadline for filing a Declaration of Candidacy was then looming. After talking with several neighbors and my family, I decided to put my name forward. At the time, my thoughts were of serving on the Board. I had not yet fully comprehended what it meant to actually run a campaign.

Although I did not win, it was a great experience. I learned so much about local politics, and made many new friends among the community and with our elected officials. I am now on a first name basis with all the new School Board members, much of the City Council, and our State Delegate. It’s a good feeling to be recognized.

I am also pleased with the makeup of the new School Board. Kathy Galvin, Llezelle Dugger, and Collette Blount are all just terrific people and great additions to the Board. Any disappointment I may have felt at not winning was more than tempered by the knowledge that the future of education in our city is in capable hands. But that still left me with a lot of aspiration to contribute personally to the civic discourse. Within days of the election, I applied for a position on the Commission on Children & Families; a School Board member also sits on that Commission, and had I been elected, I would have asked for that seat.

Such appointments are made by the City Council. A few days later, I received a message from Councilor (and soon-to-be Mayor) Dave Norris to let me know that another candidate was selected for the Commission on Children & Families, and then asking if I would be interested in the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee. I replied that I would be honored, and at the next meeting I received the appointment.

Within a week, I received a letter from Mayor David Brown congratulating me on my appointment. And then … nothing. Come late December, I started to be concerned that I might have missed a meeting, so I checked the City website. Searching for Parks and Recreation, I found two pages: one page said that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meets the 2nd Monday of every month at 6:00 p.m. in the Parks & Recreation Conference Room (wherever that is!). Another page said that the Committee meets the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in a “varied location”.

As much as I hated to bother him, on Dec. 24 I sent an email to Dave Norris asking if he could clarify this confusion for me, or at least point me to someone who could. To my surprise, being the day before Christmas, I received a quick and very apologetic response from Dave. He c.c.ed Mike Svetz, the city Director of Parks and Rec. (Actually, his full title is Director of Parks, Recreation, and Golf. I’m not sure why that last distinction has been added. Isn’t golf recreation?).

The very next day, on Christmas, I received an email from Mike Svetz, equally apologetic and offering to meet with me after the new year. Our meeting is next week and I will report on it here. I also heard from Scott Brown, the current chairman of the Committee, and we will also get together soon. As it turns out, the Committee does meet on the third Wednesday. My first order of business will be to correct the website!