Archive for the 'Charlottesville' Category

Charlottesville Changed

A few months after we moved from NYC to Virginia, a New York friend asked me what was the biggest difference between the states.

Virginia is more polite, I said, but New York is more sincere. When a New Yorker tells you to kiss your ass, you know that they mean it sincerely.

Something happened after August 12 in Charlottesville, and people here are more willing to express themselves in the sincerest way possible. Case in point, this video of three Nazis leaving the City courthouse being trailed by a crowd screaming “F*** white supremacy!”

I find this oddly refreshing.

Running With Guns

Today, I watched online with horror as police in tactical gear swarmed the Engineering School at UCLA, my alma mater. Shots had been reported, and so mindful of incidents at other schools, the police rightly responded with a show of force. Ramparts were set up, armed officers swept through every room, while terrorized students, staff, and faculty attempted to barricade themselves in rooms.

Throughout the siege, frightened people slowly emerged, hands in the air, subjecting themselves to pat-downs and bag searches. In the absence of any useful information, the police did their best to make sure that the shooter didn’t just quietly walk out with all the others in the crowd.

Everyone did their job, and as I watched the drama unfold, I could not help but muse how different things might have gone had more people been armed. Imagine a couple of people in the building, hearing shots, grabbed their own guns and ran out into the hallway. They could just as easily shot each other, or been shot by the police.

And yet, this is exactly what the gun lobby wants: everyone on campus armed. Had that been true at UCLA this morning, what was already a tragedy could have turned into a bloody horror show.

Already, the ammosexuals are chortling: “See,” they say, “California has gun control and that didn’t stop this from happening.” No, it didn’t, because we already have too many damn guns. We need not just more laws, but a complete cultural shift away from venerating guns. Our nation needs to change. Do you live out in a rural area, far away from your local sheriff, and you need a rifle to keep varmints away from your chickens? Fine. Just keep your guns off campus and out of our cities.

Had there been more guns at UCLA this morning, more people would have been shot.

Pet Peeves

I love my dog. At home, he brings us a measure of comfort and makes us feel safe. But I understand that people may be a little frightened of him. In public, he can be loud, messy, and scary. For all those reasons, I would never bring him into a fast food restaurant. So why the f*** would you want to bring your gun?

A Miscarriage of Justice?

On May 10, the Washington Post reported that prosecutors in Ohio are weighing whether to pursue capital murder charges again the man accused of kidnapping and raping three women in Cleveland. I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of charging Ariel Castro with murder.

I am as horrified as everyone else by these crimes, and if he is found guilty, I can think of no better punishment than chaining this man in a dark hole for the rest of his life. But charging him with murder, after all the other things he is alleged to have done, seems an unnecessary upping of the ante and reeks of a prosecutor pursuing keyed up charges against a defendant that everyone would like to see put away.

I am against the death penalty. I think the state has no right to execute citizens. I’ve long accepted that I’m currently in the minority on this one, though I believe that those of us we feel the same will ultimately be on the right side of history.

But beyond that, I am distinctly concerned with the rush to charge someone with murder because their actions may have led to a miscarriage. If these charges are successfully prosecuted, then that may throw open the door to something that the anti-choice forces have wanted for a long time: equating the ending of pregnancy with murder in the courts.

This monster kept three women captive for ten years and debased them in ways that decent people cannot imagine. Yes, lock him up and throw away the key. But do not use this moment to press gratuitous if popular charges against a hated perpetrator just to score political points. And don’t let the actions of a man who degraded women lead to other women being robbed of their right to make their own health and reproductive choices.

In the heat of public passion to prosecute a man who deprived women of their liberty, let’s not deprive more women of their own constitutionally protected rights.


“Old Man Yells at Chair”

Old Man Yells at Chair

Old Man Yells at Chair

It’s easy to make fun of Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair, but this may have been the most honest moment in the Republican convention.

Throughout this entire campaign season, Republicans have been railing against a President who they believe apologizes for America, doesn’t understand hard work, one who secretly wants to take away your guns, defund medicare, gut work for welfare, who believes that the government should micromanage your life, and intends to turn over sovereign control of our nation to the U.N.

I don’t blame them. I would hate that guy too!

Sadly for them, however, that’s not President Obama. That is some bizarre, twisted version of reality that they’d much rather run against. It’s Bizzarobama!

So trotting out invisible Bizzarobama and railing against his policies was entirely appropriate. After all, since they are running against a figment of their fevered imagination, they may as well give him someplace to sit down.

My time with Michael Sturges

Michael Sturges was my best friend in Charlottesville. He passed away this week.

Michael might have been mildly amused to hear that I thought of him as my best friend. We knew one another through work and our families only occasionally saw each other. Michael was much more social than I. He had a long trail of friends from everywhere he went. He was deeply involved in his church and his kid’s sports teams. He had people that he and his family regularly took vacations with. I was not one of those friends. I don’t really know who he considered his best friend, though I like to think that I was somewhere near the top of the list. But I knew he was mine.

When I met Michael, I had already lived as a transplanted Yankee in Virginia for about five years. I worked in the University Bookstore; he had just started at the University Computer Store. We worked on a sales project together and I knew immediately that I just clicked with this guy. That really doesn’t happen to me very often. After a few weeks, I asked him if, by any chance, he was related to John Sturges, the great Hollywood studio director of such classic films as Gunfight at the OK CorralThe Magnificent Seven, and The Great Escape. Michael actually looked a little shocked, then told me that his father was indeed the director John Sturges.

Michael had grown up in L.A. and labored in the film industry at the same time that I did. His mother had worked at MGM and to him it was just the family business. Like me, he got to a certain point where he realized that he needed to see life beyond L.A., so he headed north to Washington state (coincidentally, where I was born), where he met his wife. She is an Episcopal priest, and also like me, it was his wife’s career that brought them to Virginia.

Whenever possible, Michael and I would get together and talk about films, both of us grateful to have found someone who shared our passion for the history and culture of Hollywood. He had wonderful stories to tell about being on the set with his dad, for John Sturges had directed some of the biggest names in the business.

When Michael was getting ready to stop working at the computer store full time, he suggested me as his replacement. So for a few weeks, he was my boss as he trained to take his place. Then he quit, came back as a part-timer, and I was his boss. We worked together there for a few years, then I moved on to another series of jobs, until I found myself at the central computing department for the University hospital. Michael had tried his hand at a few private enterprises, but by the time his son was born, he was ready for the steady employment of another University job. I recommended him to my department and we found ourselves working together again. I eventually moved on from that job to a one in the University Central IT department, and after a year there when another position opened up, I recommended him again and once more we found ourselves working side by side.

We just always made a good team. Whether it was rolling boxes of computers through the halls of the hospital, working together to solve some technical problem, or organizing conferences for a hundred attendees, everything was just easier and more pleasurable with Michael at my side.

Those last few years were the best. By that time, Michael and I were just old friends, laughing at the same jokes and shared memories, and marvelling at the growth of our children.

For reasons that I never understood, people at work would sometimes call me Michael. This was doubly-confounding to me because Michael is both my middle name, and the name I was known by growing up. So when someone at work called me Michael, I’d have to stop and think “How did you know that … oh, you mean Michael Sturges!”

I never really thought that we looked much alike, but because Michael was a very good-looking man, I always took it as a compliment. I was never sure how he took it, though.

Several years ago, I introduced Michael to the music of Nick Lowe, and he also became a fan. When we learned that Nick was playing at a venue in Northern Virginia, Michael and I drove up and spent a memorable evening listening to music and swapping stories.

For many years, I have been a volunteer with the Virginia Film Festival. In 2008, at my suggestion, the Festival screened Bad Day at Black Rock, one of John Sturges’ most lauded films, to a theater full of high school students. After the screening, we came out on stage and I interviewed Michael. He enthralled the students, including my oldest daughter, with tales of his father and what it was like to grow up in Hollywood.

A little over two years ago, Michael started experiencing odd health problems, oddities that perplexed his doctors and confused him, for he always took good care of himself and was in excellent shape. When they could not come up with a diagnosis, his doctors suggested a full body scan. On that day, Michael was not supposed to eat or drink anything except a liquid that would make the scan work better. His wife drove him to work that morning and I went with him to the medical center.

When Michael learned that he had cancer, he was initially a little relieved. At least they knew what was causing his strange symptoms and could deal with it directly. Colon cancer is common and highly operable. Michael had the surgery and went on chemotherapy. He complained that the chemo wiped him out, but Michael was such an energetic guy that his version of being wiped out just meant that he missed a couple of days of work every other week.

A few months later, during a routine checkup, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and spread throughout Michael’s intestines. His doctor told him that aggressive therapy could slow it down, but that there really was no stopping it. Michael decided not to continue with the therapy. He chose quality of life over possibly living a little longer and being miserable. And at that point, for all the doctors knew, he could go on for several years more.

About this same time, in April of 2011, I left the job that I had held for five years and moved to the University Library. Michael joked that he would probably follow me in a few months, but it was not to be. In September, Michael was informed that the cancer had progressed, and he might have no more than a year.

Last Spring, I learned that Nick Lowe would be playing again in Northern Virginia. We decided to recreate our trip from a few years before and took the long drive up to Alexandria, talking on the way up mostly about family, work, mutual friends, and of course, old movies. Nick gave a great show that night and I took lots of pictures and videos, but I kick myself now that I did not hand my camera to someone and ask them to take a picture of Michael and I together.

Only on the way home did we start to talk about the cancer. Michael joked that, except for the cancer, he was in great shape. And he was right. The chemotherapy that he went through the first time really laid him low. Now that the cancer was back, by not choosing the aggressive therapy, he just felt better and had more time to spend with his kids. That was the most important thing to him.

That night, I got a little lost driving back home from Alexandria. That was okay, though, as it just gave us a little more time to talk, to listen to some music, and bask in each other’s company. When I finally dropped him off at his car, he said “That was fun. Let’s plan to do it again sometime.” Michael was always just so naturally optimistic that I believed him. I believed we’d have another chance to take a long drive and enjoy an evening of music together.

That was the last time that I saw Michael Sturges. We kept promising to get together, but our paths did not naturally cross at work any more. A month later, Michael tendered his resignation from the University and we all knew that the time was near. But I did speak to him one more time.

I produce a local weekly radio show, and one Sunday morning in early July, our scheduled guest did not show up, so at the last minute I jumped in front of the microphone to discuss events in the news that week. I didn’t have headphones on because I was still updating the weather and doing other producer things. About halfway through, the host of the show told me that someone on the phone had called in to say what a good job I was doing. I quickly put headphones on, but I didn’t recognize the voice, I just heard someone saying how nice it was to hear me and what a great job I always did. Only after the show when I went back to listen to the audio did I realize that it was Michael.

I am grateful that our last conversation was recorded, that I can go back anytime and hear a testimonial to the man’s respect for me, but how I wish I had known then who it was I was talking to. Michael is probably still laughing about that one.

And there it is: I just referred to Michael in the present tense. This touches on perhaps one of the most remarkable things about our friendship. Michael was a Christian. I am an atheist. But Michael wore his beliefs comfortably. He never judged anyone for believing differently than himself, and strove always to measure people by their deeds.

My rational self knows that he is truly gone, but we humans are just not wired that way. When someone is as important to you as Michael was … is … to me, you cannot easily accept that they are not in some way still present. I feel his presence constantly. It’s impossible for me to take a fifty steps around the grounds of the University without passing through some place that holds specific memories of Michael. More than once in the past few days, I thought for just a moment that I saw him, only to sadly realize that it was impossible. It’s a trick of the mind, a ghost image burned into the core of my brain, and I hope that it never fades away.

Last Fall, shortly after we learned that he might not have much time left, I took Michael to lunch and I made him an offer. I had always enjoyed his stories of growing up in Hollywood and the adventures he undertook after leaving L.A. I wanted to write his life story, to document for all time what a remarkable man he was. Michael thanked me for the offer, and declined. He told me that he was too mindful of his limited time, that he didn’t want to do anything that might take him away from time spent with his children. That was true, but I think it was also Michael’s modesty speaking. He never fully believed what we all knew: that he was a great man; that he had a life not just worth living, but worth telling.

And so, at last, I do the only thing I could ever have done, my final gift, to write as well as I can of my time with Michael Sturges. For those of you who knew him, I hope that I have done him justice. And for those who now shall never have the pleasure, know that you missed a fine man.

Goodbye, my friend, my brother. Though we are all poorer for having lost you, we are richer still for having had you in this world.

Why I am breaking a pledge and supporting Brandon Collins for Charlottesville City Council

When voting in the local Democratic primary, I had to sign a pledge promising to support the final candidates, even if they were not the ones I voted for. Now that the results are in, I find that I will have to break that pledge. This is a critical election and may well determine the fates of many important issues in our town. The main dividing line in this community is between what proponents like to call “smart growth” and sustainability.

Although I agree that growth does need to be smart, it is clear to me that our town first needs to look at better utilizing our existing resources. To me, this is what the arguments about damming versus dredging, or building roads and private buildings on public land, really come down to. It’s a vision for the future of Charlottesville.

I cannot in good conscience support all of the Democratic City Council candidates. I have looked at the Independent candidates running for council, and I think that Brandon Collins in particular speaks very well to many critical issues facing our community, particularly poverty, social justice, and environmental responsibility. Also, he’s a Socialist, so this will absolutely drive the teabaggers mad!

I urge all of my fellow Charlottesville citizens to listen to Brandon and all of the other candidates, and to vote intelligently.

Dear JPJ Arena: I want a refund. Here’s why.

John Paul Jones Arena
PO Box 400862
Charlottesville, VA. 22904-4862

My wife and I paid $130 to see the Dave Matthews Band at John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 20. We had to leave ten minutes into the show because of the unbearable haze of marijuana smoke. I would like my money back.

Since the JPJ arena opened, we have attended a number of events, including concerts by other big-name acts such as Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, and even Jon Stewart. We were very excited about finally seeing Dave Matthews in concert.

From the abundance of alcohol in the parking lot, it was clear that a lot of people were there to party and not necessarily to listen to the music. However, my concerns about what it might be like in the arena were assuaged by the heavy security. Everybody was patted down and a security officer even made me throw away a little 4-oz. bottle of water that I was carrying. My wife, who is getting over a cold, had to empty her pockets of tissues.

The random seat assignment had placed us very high up in row V, which was further from the stage than we had ever been before. That aside, the opening act was great, we had a decent view, and we were energized just to be there.

But all of that excitement degenerated within moments after Dave Matthews came on stage and we were immediately enveloped in a heavy and inescapable fog of marijuana smoke. I have asthma and, although it is normally manageable, I could not tolerate the sheer density of this smoke. I covered my mouth and nose with a cloth at first, hoping that the smoke would lift, but after just two songs I had to leave.

We found a police officer in the lobby, told him our seat numbers, and he and his partner went to look. They came back a few minutes later and told us that so many people were smoking there was no way they could identify individuals. The officer apologized, but said that it had been the same the night before.

I found an arena employee and asked if we could possibly sit further down where, I hoped, the smoke would not be as bad, but she told me that we could only sit in the seats assigned to us. We then tried standing just inside one of the entrances in our section so we could at least see and hear the concert, but the stench was too much and we had to go outside.

I am deeply disappointed by this entire experience, and the root of my dissatisfaction is with JPJ. I have spent enough time at raucous outdoor concerts to know what to expect in those settings. But when the John Paul Jones Arena first opened, we were promised a friendly venue that would benefit the entire community. Now I would have to be persuaded to ever set foot inside again.

I am appalled that your security prevented us from carrying in perfectly legal items such as water (I could not even bring in my emptied container, though I was welcome to pay $4 for bottled water once inside), while other concert-goers were able to bring illegal substances into the arena. This was security theater only, and it created an unhealthy and inhospitable environment which drove out law-abiding citizens.

We were seated in section 311, row V, seats 3 and 4. I paid $65 for each ticket. I would like a full refund of $130.

9/11 + 8: Remembering The Day The Earth Stood Still

In early 2001, I began Semi Truths as a pseudonymous venue for my political satire. Tuesday nights were my night for writing, so I would spend much of the day in my pointless job thinking about what I would craft that evening. On Tuesday morning, September 11 2001, I met some co-workers for breakfast, then drove in a little later than usual, listening to the radio on the way. That was when I first heard about the plane that had struck the World Trade Center.

I didn’t go into work right away. I sat in the car and listened. I tried to remember which of the towers I had actually been in a few years before, visiting a friend’s office. I was shocked and concerned, but I had no idea then that every minute of that day would end up burned into my memory, every moment taking on significance.

This is not “my 9/11 story”. I don’t have a story. I went about my life, went back to work the next day, carried on as before. In fact, the past eight years have been generally pretty good to me. I didn’t lose anybody that day, my life was not forever changed.

And yet. And yet…

We all have a 9/11 story. We all know where we were and what we were doing when we heard. And our lives have changed. Some days, it still feels like a bad dream, the kind you can’t shake off the next morning.

Because of various other projects, I haven’t had much time lately to post original content to this blog, so I am making an effort to republish some of my original articles and posts from the past. The link below will take you to an essay that I wrote that evening of September 11, 2001. My words may not be particularly meaningful to anyone else, but now I find them to be both curiously naive and sadly prophetic.

Read The Day The Earth Stood Still


In 1987, while driving from L.A. to my new life in New York, my dasboard power light started flashing shortly outside of Texas. I stopped at a garage in Alabama and they diagnosed that my alernator was failing. They also informed me that it would take them days to get that part for my VW Rabbit. My best bet was to get to Memphis, so they charged up my car battery and pushed me downhill toward Tennessee.

As it turns out, I spent a memorable weekend in Memphis. My hotel was just down the street from where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, which was odd. I couldn’t afford Graceland, but I visited the gift shop and bought a set of Elvis placemats.

Today, I am merely passing through Memphis and (knock on wood) my car is just fine. As much as I’d love to, I cannot take the time now either to visit Graceland, which is a double shame because I learned from the gentleman below that this is Elvis Week. As he explained “This is the week we celebrate Elvis’ death!” (I suggested that “commemorate” might be a better choice of words; after a moment’s pause, he agreed.)

I ran into Elvis at the Patsy Cline & Chet Atkins Memorial Rest Stop, found here:

Smoky Mountain Dawn

In October of 1987, at the age of 26, I loaded a small U-Haul trailor with my boxes of books and comics, hitched it to the back of my ten-year-old VW Rabbit, and left Los Angeles for my new home in Brooklyn, New York.

For a week or two before my departure, Southern California had experienced a number of substantial earthquakes. A sign on the back of my trailer read:

I’m tired of waking with a shake.
I’m going where the land don’t quake.
L.A. to N.Y. or bust!

Today, in August of 2009, I am having flashbacks to that trip as I travel over much of the same ground in reverse (not actually in reverse gear, you understand) as I leave my east coast home and drive to California to visit friends and family.

There are several notable differences, of course, between 1987 and now. On this trip, I am driving a 2009 Prius (getting about 500 miles a tank), listening to my iPod, getting directions from my GPS, and blogging my journey by typing into my iPhone.

In 1987, I drove 700 miles a day (except for the days I lost when my car broke down, but that is a story for another time), pulled into rest stops when I got tired, and slept in the back of my car.

Part of the reason I chose to do the trip this way now, I will confess, is to prove to myself that I still can. So yesterday, after a week at the Outer Banks with the family (and in-laws; but that, too, is a story for another time), I bade everyone goodbye and steered west. Last night around midnight, after covering just over 500 miles, I pulled over into a rest stop high up in the Smoky Mountains National Park and climbed into the back of my car to grab some much-needed sleep.

I awoke this morning before dawn. As the sun rose, I snaked my way down a foggy mountain and watched the morning mist slowly rise from it’s own slumber and pepper the sky.

Another difference from 1987: I’m no longer 26 years old! It’s not yet 10:00 AM, and I’m already bloody exhausted. Tonight, I check into a hotel, catch some TV, and sleep on a mattress!

Feeling like Bartleby

I tested it all at home, before I left: using the iPhone Geotweet app, I could simultaneously post my location to Twitter, Facebook, and here on You can see the successful tests below, but now that I have embarked on my actual road trip, the Geotweets are not posting. So I am forced to do this the “old-fashioned way”, typing my location in using the keyboard on my iPhone.

*sigh* … I feel like Bartleby the Scriviner.

Anyway, here I am at a rest stop between Burlington and Greensboro NC:

I hope to make Chattanooga TN tonight.

Road Trip

In a few weeks, I plan to drive my little Prius across the country (starting in North Carolina’s Outer Banks) to visit friends and family in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In some ways, this will be a recreation of the drive I made in 1987 when I moved from L.A. to New York. Except it’s a round trip. And in a better car. And I’ll have a cell phone. And an iPod. And a laptop with Internet. And I plan to blog and Tweet along the way…

Come to think of it, I really do not miss 1987.

Custom Charlottesville keyword search in Firefox

Several times a week, I launch Firefox and search for a Charlottesville business or event. Each time that I type the long word “Charlottesville” into my search bar, I tell myself that there must be an easier way.

Turns out, there is. Firefox uses keywords to create shortcuts to oft-used sites. So, for example, if you often search the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), you can create a keyword for that site and substitute your specific search term. Following this example:

You could then type “IMDB Rachel Bilson” in your search bar, and IMDB page would pre-populate with Rachel Bilson as a search term.

That’s nice, but I wanted to find a way to automatically bring up “Charlottesville”, and then append additional search terms.

The steps to do so are similar to that which was outlined in the page above. Here’s how to do it:

  • In Firefox, type Ctrl-Shift-B to bring up Bookmarks Library.
  • Under All Bookmarks, select where you want to place your new custom bookmark (Bookmarks Menu, for example, but it can be anywhere).
  • Under the Organize tab, select New Bookmark. In the Add Bookmark window, give it an intuitive name (like “Google CVille”). In Location, type the following:

  • Finally, in Keyword, give the bookmark a short code that you will remember (ex.: “cv”, without the quotes).
  • Put what you want in Description, then click Add.

Now, when you type “cv” (without the quotes) in your Firefox address bar, followed by a search term, Google will come up with “Charlottesville” and your additional term already in the search box.

So, for example, if I type (without the quotes) “cv sandwich” in my address bar and hit enter, Google will launch a search window for “Charlottesville sandwich”.

Of course, this is for doing a Google search. It would be just as easy to use any other search site, such as Bing, just following the same context. So, for example,

The first part of the URL specifies which search engine to use. “q=” means search term query. The “%20” is a space, and the “%s” gets substituted for whatever you type after the pre-populated search term. In the example above, “%s” = “sandwich”.

There is probably a similar way to do this in Internet Explorer, but I haven’t found it yet.

If you find this useful, or you have other tricks to add, please feel free to comment below.

Vote Today

I just received an email from Pam Deeds, wife of Creigh Deeds, which begins:

Creigh and I went this morning to vote in Bath County. Right after, he filmed a short video asking you to do the same.

I watched the video, and I didn’t notice him ask us to vote in Bath County.  🙂

But seriously, no matter where you live in Virginia, get out and vote today. The polls are open until 7:00 PM.

Here’s the full letter:
Continue reading ‘Vote Today’

Lemonade, and the next Governor of Virginia

Today is election day in Virginia, when we will pick our party candidates to run for office in November. Just this morning, a friend of mine here in Charlottesville wrote to ask which gubernatorial candidate he should vote for to be the Democratic candidate for, um, Gubernator. Here is what I wrote:

Let me start with a negative.

I think Terry McAuliffe is exactly the wrong kind of Democrat to have in office. This is the first elected office he has ever run for. He has a big fat rolodex, but a dearth of anything he can point to as genuine legislative accomplishments, and he really seems to be the ultimate opportunistic carpetbagger. His entire campaign appears to be fueled by name recognition and who are his friends. I would be personally embarrassed if Democratic voters supported him.

Strictly on the issues, I am probably more closely aligned with Brian Moran. But he, too, is a total Northern Virginian. I do not get the sense that either he or McAuliffe really care about the issues we face here in Central and Southern Virginia. I would go so far as to say that they only want our vote, except that I’m not sure they even want that. I have not seen either one of them down here, even in Democratic Charlottesville, other than at a single fund-raiser for the McAuliffe campaign.

And then there is Creigh Deeds. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him probably half a dozen times in the past few years. He is warm, and genuine, and what you see is entirely what you get. I may not agree with him on all the issues, but I think he is more representative of this part of Virginia. I have spoken to Republicans who would be willing to support Creigh. And in the general election, I think he has a better chance against Bob McDonnell.

Here is a Creigh Deeds story. Last summer, I attended a Democratic Party picnic here in Charlottesville. It was mainly an event for Tom Perriello, who was then running against Virgil Goode. I was there with my 11-year-old daughter. I helped her fill up her plate, got her some lemonade, then went back and got my own lunch. I sat down next to my daughter, was just about to finally take a bite of my food, and she interrupted by asking if I would get her more lemonade. Indeed, she had downed her entire glass. I sighed, put down my food, and was about to get up when a voice over my shoulder asked “You want some more lemonade, honey? Let me get that for you.”

And then, of all people, Creigh Deeds picked up my daughter’s lemonade glass, walked back to the beverage table to refill it, then with returned the glass. Of course, he stopped along the way to shake hands and chat with people, but still, she got a fresh glass of lemonade and I got to eat my lunch. Very smart move on his part. I told her later to remember the man who got her lemonade, for he just might be the next Governor of Virginia.

Reaching the Parks and Rec Advisory Board

Policies that affect our parks and recreational services, such as leasing public land to the YMCA and establishing tiered pricing for seasonal pool passes, are not decided solely between city staff and City Council. Charlottesville has a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board consisting of citizens who examine the City Parks and Rec Department proposals, weigh all the merits, and add their own suggestions before passing recommendations onto the City Council.

I mention this because, as a member of the aforementioned Board, I am often surprised to hear how many people do not know that we exist, or do not know who serves on the Board, or have no idea how to contact us.

The list of Board members is on the city website. We come from many different backgrounds and, as with any group this size, often have disagreements. But we all share a commitment to improving the lives of the entire community through our public parks and recreation services.

And in response to a request from the Board, the City has made it easier to reach us. If you have questions about what we do on the Board, or the recommendations that we have made to the Council, you can now reach the entire Parks and Recreation Advisory Board through a single email address: ( parksandrecreationadvisoryboard (at) charlottesville (dot) org.

We are simply citizens, just like you, and share many of your concerns. We have dedicated ourselves to learning all about the factors that may impact the future of parks and recreation in our city, and take seriously the recommendations that we make to City Council. So if you have an issue with any of those recommendations, or may not fully understand all the elements that weighed in our decisions, try asking. We want to hear from you.

On Pool Passes

Local conservative radio personality Rob Schilling asserts that summer pool passes, recently introduced by the Charlottesville Department of Parks and Recreation, will be discounted only for students who attend city schools, or who are home schooled. He writes:

Hey, doesn’t that debar a huge number of Charlottesville kids (i.e. those attending private schools)? Why on earth would we exclude children whose parents pay copious city taxes, but don’t dun a dime’s worth of City public education resources?

Courtney Stewart of independent weekly The Hook repeats the charges in a story on the city pools, and Henry Graff of NBC-29 picked up the tale and spoke with Schilling as well as Charlottesville City Spokesperson Ric Barrick. My friends at CVilleNews highlight the story, adding that “the current policy (was) set by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.”

I mention all this media attention because that was where I first heard this “news”, despite the fact the I am actually on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. I would understand some outrage at this idea, if it were remotely true, but that is not what we proposed. Rather, we voted for a tiered pricing structure that differentiates between City and non-City residents, and offer discounts to city students. That does not mean, and never meant, that we were excluding city residents who attend private schools. There may be a semantic argument here that we did not word our intentions clearly enough, but to assert, as Schilling does repeatedly, that we are discriminating against private schools, or somehow punishing families who remove their children from public schools, is asinine.

The Parks and Rec Citizen Advisory Board met today and toured the still-under-construction Onesty Pool at Meade Park. This is going to be a fantastic facility for the community. Although we did not sit in a formal session, we all discussed Schilling’s charges and agreed that his interpretation was erroneous. Across the board, we are interested in encouraging participation in the new season pass system. We voted to keep the price as low as reasonably possible, and to make the passes attainable for as many Charlottesville families as we can. I encourage all city residents to consider purchasing the summer pool pass — particularly now before Memorial Day, when the passes are discounted even further — and enjoy the summer in city pools.

Coverage of the Democratic Candidates Forum

Last nights Democratic Candidates Forum was well-attended, with 40 to 50 people in the Walker School Library to hear the three Democratic Sheriff candidates, and the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Charlottesville City Council. Rachana Dixit covered the story for the Daily Progress, and Charlottesville Tomorrow has posted audio.

Democratic Candidates Forum

On May 6, the Charlottesville Democratic Party will host a Candidate’s Forum for all three City Sheriff candidates, and all three Democratic City Council candidates. I am scheduled to moderate.

The forum will start at 7:00 in the Walker School Library/Media Center. Previous reports had the forum being held in the cafeteria, but we have definitely moved to the Library.

Please plan to attend and, if you have questions for the candidates, feel free to post them below. I will do my best to address each submitted question.

The format for the candidates forum will be as follows:

  • All six candidates will have one minute to introduce themselves (who they are, why they’re running, etc.).
  • The next 40 minutes will involve questions to the Sheriff candidates.
  • The moderator will pose a few questions to these candidates, followed by questions from the audience.
  • Each sheriff candidate will have time to ask another sheriff candidate one question.
  • This part of the program ends with each sheriff candidate having one minute for a final statement.

Five minute break

  • The next 50 minutes will be for council candidates.
  • Again, the moderator will pose some questions, followed by audience questions.
  • Each council candidate can pose a question to one other council candidate.
  • Council candidates will each have one minute for a final statement.

After the forum ends, the candidates have been asked to stay and engage in personal and informal exchanges with those present. We will clear out after 9:00.

Continue reading ‘Democratic Candidates Forum’