Sunday, November 15, 2009

Heck of a Fortnight

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur, and so much has transpired in the news that some important and interesting developments in the life of our City have not gotten the attention they surely deserved.

For example, on Nov. 2 Charlottesville announced the largest expansion of City parkland since 1987 (thanks to the largest private donation of land to the people of Charlottesville since 1974), expanding Forest Hills Park by 20% in one fell swoop. Thank you to Charlie Armstrong and his colleagues at Southern Development for making that happen; stay tuned for news on more parkland acquisition opportunities in the very near future.

That same night, Cville City Council unanimously approved Winneba, Ghana, as our fourth Sister City. A very special unannounced guest joined us all the way from Ghana for the public hearing -- our friend Joe Baami, the chair of Winneba's own Sister City Commission. What a wonderful surprise!

Also on Nov. 2, City Council approved the formal agreement establishing the new Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), which aims to produce 20-40% energy savings in 30-50% of Charlottesville-Albemarle homes and businesses in the coming decade (and will create many new "green jobs" in the process). Huge potential there.

The next day was Election Day. A big night for our City Democratic candidates, and a big night for Republican candidates almost everywhere else. (Interesting piece of vainglorious trivia: now that City Council elections are held concurrently with state/federal elections, more voters are participating in the selection of City Councilors than ever before; as a result, my 6,300 votes on Nov. 3 were the most ever received by a candidate for Charlottesville City Council. It's a record that's likely to be broken in the not-too-distant future, but for now it at least gives me marginally more standing when I try to pull rank with my children. My cat, on the other hand, seems entirely unimpressed.)

Last Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Charlottesville Planning Commission gave a welcome and gratifying "thumbs up" to two separate projects that I have helped to shepherd for several years now. One vote granted approval of a site plan for the new YMCA next to Charlottesville High School, and the other vote granted approval of a special use permit for the new SRO (Single Room Occupancy) supportive housing apartments for the homeless, on 4th St. NW. Once their doors are opened to the public, both of these facilities will positively affect the lives of many, many local residents in the years and decades to come.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 11, the CRHA (Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority) Redevelopment Committee met to get a status report on the Master Planning process for revitalization of our public housing neighborhoods in Charlottesville. We're about 3/4 of the way through the Master Planning process, and hundreds of public housing residents have been involved in it some form or fashion (by attending community workshops/charettes, participating in site visits to other redeveloped communities, completing resident surveys, taking an urban design class for students at CHS, etc.). We are committed to this NOT becoming another example of top-down urban renewal like Vinegar Hill, and our friends at PHAR are doing an excellent job of keeping everyone accountable to the Residents Bill of Rights that CRHA, PHAR, and City Council all approved before we started work on Master Planning.

Last week, the City announced that we had ended FY'09 with a surplus, despite the woeful economic climate and despite Council's decision not to increase the property tax rate last year. Chalk it up to City departments tightening their belts and our Commissioner of Revenue and Treasurer's offices doing an excellent job in collecting taxes owed to the City. One more reason we continue to be one of the only cities in the country to enjoy the highest possible bond rating from the leading bond agencies.

Tomorrow, Nov. 16, City Council will be asked to give the green light to a major environmental improvement initiative that too has been years in the making -- the $3.2 million Meadow Creek Stream Restoration Project. It's one of the largest ecological restoration projects in our City's history and I'm excited to see it moving forward.

That's just a sampling of things that have been going on here in Charlottesville, Virginia the last couple of weeks. Heck of a fortnight indeed.

***I would be remiss if I did not put in one more plug for this important effort, which has largely overshadowed much of everything else in Cville the last two weeks. Let's hope it ends with a positive resolution.

No comments: