Saturday, March 31, 2007

Transparency

Open & transparent government is a major theme of my campaign. My experiences with the Parks & Rec board, CDBG Task Force, my neighborhood association & this year's budget process solidified the need for such an emphasis in my campaign.

I expect a coherent process with open debate on key matters before Council, something that citizens and staff can rely on to facilitate process. If elected, I will help make the local government process much more open and transparent, and hopefully helping people to either understand the rationale for a decision or how the decision was actually made.

Here is my quote from the Hook article cited below:
"City Council candidate Jennifer McKeever is looking at the expenditure from a taxpayer perspective. "We wouldn't want expansion of these services without meaningful public dialogue," she says. 'I don't believe it's a ... issue as much as a taxpayer issue.'"

Someone emailed me the following quotes, widely available in the local weeklies:
"...says he's disappointed the issue has become so public. 'It's just one of those major changes...'" From the Hook.

From Cville Weekly
"We have been trying to avoid any public debate so that it would be all under the radar,” ...says. “Hopefully ... would’ve embraced the additional resources in a way that it would’ve been a silent transaction.

...indicates who or what the issue is (see the articles, I am not trying to harp on one particular issue).

My platform on Open & Transparent Government.
1) Outline Council priorities early in the budget process.
2) Before major new initiatives or cuts, the public will have the ability to add to the discussion through the public hearing process.
3) As a councilor, I will bring information to our residents, not listen only to those who come to the public hearings. I will quite simply be available, return calls, and come to small and large gatherings throughout the City.
4) I will be an advocate for all residents by asking relevant questions and thoroughly researching all the material prior to making decisions.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the occasion of my birthday week

I used to have a birthday month- March. Not really, but close enough that I love March because my birthday is at the end of it. This week was delightful. For all those who care (I hear a lot I am too young to be running), I am now officially old enough to run for president (so I cant be that young anymore). More relevant, I only have one more year of eligibility for the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar.
I did get myself two books- Bird by Bird by Anne Lemont (recommended since I have such issues starting the writing process) & Marietta McCarty's Little Big Minds. When will I read them?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

CTS

At the Parks & Rec Advisory Board meeting the other night, I encountered my first CTS schedule/route locator. It was just sitting there in the basement conference room of City Hall (there were several). The booklet had a center middle page with all the routes in different colors, like the Metro system in DC area. Suddenly, things were more clear. All the routes had their own page with details including where the bus travels and ... WHEN! I have to tell you I was really surprised and happy to find such a booklet. I suppose a brochure like this will be housed at the new transit center, perhaps it can make its way into the hands of residents who may not normally ride the bus (but would be interested if they knew more about when and where the bus ran).

Information about CTS fares and text only route descriptions are available online.

And then there is the 77 page report which is available in .pdf format on this page. This report was completed in August 2006 and is supposed to deal with issues through 2011- probably worth a read.

A beautiful day for a bike race

Chris had his first bike race of the season today. Jeff Cup is held this weekend every year, this is our third year participating. I know this because it is always around my birthday. Jeff Cup is brought to you by Blue Wheel Bicycles, among other sponsors. Chris and his teammates had a tough day, the first race of the season really brings out the holes in your training program.

This year the Jeff Cup had collegiate categories. I saw AU, Tech, UVA, W&M, Maryland, Appalachian State, JMU, VCU, NC State- I have to say that is a lot of schools. The races were cool and brought out some diehard fans- which was refreshing.

The Tour of Virginia is coming- this is great for Virginia. In the back of my mind, I am hoping for a strong showing where we get to compete with the Tours of Georgia & California in the coming years for great American cycling races. This is a fantastic state for riding, these riders bring their money, the sponsors bring their commitment, and it is great opportunity for the state to show off its beauty. Check out opportunities to volunteer for this race! OK- I am done waxing eloquent on cycling and Virginia.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Budget Dilemma part 1

CARS- the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad held a press conference today. The Hook has some of the details. There is much more to the story. I will be at the Community Budget Forum tomorrow so I am hoping this issue is discussed.

My two main concerns are 1) $400 (or more) ambulance transport fee 2) ~$1,000,000 expenditure of taxpayer money for services we get for free at this moment (this is just the first year expenditures, there will be ongoing expenses of salaries, benefits and maintenance). CARS has never been a part of the City's budget, therefore Charlottesville residents have received highly professional service from CARS for free. CARS has relied significantly on its annual fundraising to continue its quality service. Even the threat of charging for transport (by the City's fire department, not CARS) reduces the amount of contributions.

The Fire Department argues CARS service has declined and points to the County Fire/Rescue model. I have not seen data on response times. I will give the fire department the benefit of the doubt- BUT for educational purposes, the Charlottesville fire department is considered a first responder. It is not a surprise if an ambulance comes in behind the fire engine since there are 3 fire stations in the City and only 1 rescue squad. Commonly, the fire department has been the first to arrive and provide initial care.

The County Fire/Rescue model has come about because of a significant population explosion, new, widespread development & increase in number of calls from the County. To supplement CARS, the County has added daytime fire/rescue personnel on CARS ambulances. It makes sense for County taxpayers to add personnel and equipment especially north where the next station is being built (an ambulance is already running from this station). The County has proposed new stations in Ivy and Pantops to further alleviate the burden on CARS and thus response time issues in the City. Charlottesville has not seen the explosion of growth and the County's investments have made it easier for CARS to respond to City residents.

Public safety is essential, this year's proposed budget has the fire department in line to receive ~$2.5 million more than last year. I support the renovation of Headquarters on Ridge Street which is $1.5 million of the money. I strongly support a dialogue between CARS, Fire Dept, and taxpayers, who will be asked to fund the dispute between the two, before we start charging City residents for ambulance transport and commit to a significant, ongoing expense parallel to an existing organization.

Calendar for the weekend

Tomorrow- Happy St. Patrick's Day!
9:30- Democratic Breakfast at JABA
10:00- Community Budget Forum- make your voice heard on the recently unveiled budget. Buford Middle School 617 9th St SW Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
7:30- Dancing with Deeds, a fundraiser for Creigh Deeds re-election bid.

Monday 3/19
City Council meeting at 7:00 (starts with 35 minute comment period, 3 minute limit)

My campaign is going on the road, I want to attend your neighborhood association meeting or church group or book club or other event, heck I would like to meet you and your family (City residents) for coffee (for the book I am writing on coffee/tea shops in the 'ville). Let me know what is going on, I am happy to be there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meeting folks

Some people think it is crazy to run for office- it is simply unimaginable, and that is fine. I agree one has to enjoy campaigning- and do I ever.

Bitsy Waters taught a class a UVA on urban planning that I took. Part of the homework was to walk around four different neighborhoods and observe. I love walking around Charlottesville and I had the opportunity to walk on streets I had not been on before. I loved it- I spoke with people about their neighborhoods and their concerns, I learned a lot during that exercise.

Campaigning is a lot like that exercise, I get to meet folks, discuss issues, LISTEN, & observe. I love it, the more people I talk to, the more focused I become on the issues, and the stronger my commitment is to this City and its residents. Every person I have met has added value to this process. Everyone has something to say, and I want to listen. Staying connected to the pulse of this very diverse community especially after I am elected is KEY to governing well. I am in no position to know all, so I will continue to listen & observe in hopes that the whole community will be served by my election.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Week One on the Campaign Trail

It has been a week since I announced. What a week. I am grateful and overwhelmed by the responses I have received. The day of the announcement the blogosphere, radio and tv stations had great coverage of it, the print media (Daily Progress) had nice coverage the day after. hat the he

The night of the announcement I attended Left of Center's one year anniversary party. The turn-out was great. Moreover, the ability to talk to so many Democrats was a great additional benefit. Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano were present and they always inspire & educate. Jay James from WINA invited me to be on the morning show. I enjoy being on the radio, but this time is different. The questions were exceptionally reasonable, but I stumbled a bit.

So, I have a lot of hard work to do. I received numerous mentions of the typos in the email my campaign sent out, that will be resolved. I have been asked to speak more definitively. I agree, I do equivicate too much in my speech, and I sound apologetic, when I dont really mean it. I have the wonderful gift of friends who are helping me to speak definitively and feel confident on the campaign trail.

I am great one on one, I do get nervous in a big crowd- so my message has to be crystal clear to me so I can communicate effectively to others.

This week also brought the unveiling of the City's budget. I will have much to say about the budget in the coming weeks. Just to give an overview of my thoughts on the budget- Council has a lot of work to do for this to be a budget that serves taxpayers, children and businesses. Be sure to attend the community budget forum at Buford Middle School on Saturday at 10AM & let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Typos

In a blog post a typo is relatively unimportant, well unless you are KT who finds typos more annoying than a lot of things (I can hear her now-"just read it once, it doesnt take that long"). OK Chris doesnt like typos in my blog posts either (funny thing about brother and sister there).

Having said that, this morning my campaign sent out an email trumpeting my announcement that I am running for Council. I have gotten some very good responses and questions. Most of those good responses, respectfully tell me there are a number of typos in the email.

I had never even seen the email prior to the blast- which brings me to my main point- I must review everything. Senator Couric reviewed EVERYTHING and at the time I was amazed "how does she have time for that?" Well now I realize, you make time so you dont look like you don't know how to spell. Also if you take the time to do it, people know you care about making things look professional. Just to be clear, the blog is still a mistake prone place. Feel free to point out the errors!

So thank you to all my friends and supporters and the media who came out this morning, I promise to do better and avoid sending things out with typos!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jennifer McKeever Announces Run for City Council

Today, March 6, 2007, I officially announce my candidacy for Charlottesville City Council. I am running because I love Charlottesville and I am passionate about making Charlottesville great for all of its residents. As your City Councilor, I will find ways to connect communities to opportunities, I will do this with a fresh voice and an outside perspective of what can be accomplished. My campaign will focus on community, opportunity and CONNECTION.

For those who dont know me, I am proud to have grown up here in Charlottesville and fortunate to have taken advantage of opportunities available in our community. After high school it was not obvious I would be able to succeed, I had a lot stacked against me and to be honest a lot of it was my own doing. But something changed when I began to study at Piedmont Virginia Community College. I had the great opportunity to work with committed professors and wonderful students who helped me see what could be achieved. Slowly I became more confident. Then I was accepted to the University of Virginia, a possibility so remote at the time I graduated as to be laughable. So I recognize Piedmont as a KEY resource to connecting residents to a bright economic future.

While studying at the University of Virginia, I had the great honor to work with (state) Senator Emily Couric. Senator Couric's values of integrity, cooperation and the art of compromise gave me my roots in public service. During law school I returned to every summer to work at the Legal Aid Justice Center. This work for the residents in the area cemented my commitment to service and to providing opportunities for people in Charlottesville.

Now I am a mother, a business owner and a public servant in Charlottesville. My experiences in these roles have given me a unique perspective of the community.

As a mother, I have seen how great services have real impact on families- this is especially true with respect to schools and parks- two areas I have a particular interest since I have two young children, who constantly use our parks and will attend public schools. I want to make these services work for residents and families. I will ensure the City is responsive to the needs of the Community.

As a business owner, I understand how the lack of affordable housing impacts our economic vitality, or how traffic congestion erodes our quality of life and makes doing business very difficult. I will make transit and affordable housing top priorities. As a business owner, I need results. I, along with my dedicated law partner determine our businesses priorities, we set our budget, frequently cut our business' budget and then we implement the action plan to get the results we need. I will bring a results driven agenda to Council to ensure citizens get what they need from the City in a timely fashion.

As a public servant, I will do more with less, by collaborating with others to maximize efficiency, grow at a measured pace, a pace that takes into account the burden households face. I have begun with the work I do on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Community Development Block Grant task force. I connect government with non-profits, citizens, businesses, and other areas of the government. Once the connections are made, we can leverage our strengths to come up with the best possible solution – this so my children, your children and future generations will all have the same opportunities to succeed and so Charlottesville can become a place where all may thrive.

It is shameful that in this world class city, the number 1 place to live in America, is a place where people who grow up here cant afford to live here, so they have to leave. I want to bring the opportunity to thrive her to all our residents.

I ask for your support, come to the democratic convention at the County office building on June 2, 2007 at 1PM and vote for me, Jennifer McKeever.

For videocast and audiocast (are these words?) check out Charlottesville Tomorrow's website.

For additional information check out my website or sign up to be a friend on myspace

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Paint the state blue

I went to another political training this morning sponsored by the Road Back PAC and Left of Center. There were plenty of notables who spoke at the event including Jennifer McClellan, Dave Norris and Steve Jarding, Creigh Deeds was the facilitator for the event. A lot of local elected officials came out to support the event.

In the interest of full disclosure, now that I know Creigh Deeds reads blogs, I want to be extra nice to him. Having said that, I am so impressed with his attitude towards cultivating political leaders. He is extra committed to attending events that will bring new leaders into the party. Moreover, he is really a regular guy- when I talk to him, I really believe it is possible to be elected as a young person who didnt grow up with a lot of resources and still doesnt have that many resources. Or more clearly, one doesnt have to be groomed since birth and have a lot of money to be a a good public servant.

However, the program reinforced running is hard work and requires a great deal of discipline. I look forward to seeing if I am up for the challenge.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Glass Castle

My friend, Sarah, is a member of the Junior League. Tonight was the League's big fundraiser- the Literary Feast. It was the first event of the JL I ever attended, Sarah really is a great girl and several other friends went with me.

The evening involved a silent auction (I only bid on two things and likely did not win, much to Chris' relief) and a nice dinner. The event was held at Farmington. I had never ever been to Farmington before. Once inside it looks like all nice country clubs, and I didnt get to see too much outside since it was raining and dark when I got there.

The high point of the evening was Jeanette Wall- author of The Glass Castle, a memoir of her life in poverty in rural West Virginia. I read some of the book, as you may imagine, I dont quite have time to read too many books anymore, nevertheless the part I read was awesome and horrifying all at the same time.

Her speech focused on overcoming the shame of the past- shame is very powerful and has a strong hold on some of our present actions, but once we face the shame/fear it no longer has the power. She thought for sure the world would swallow her whole if she told this awful story of her past, instead she told the story and has inspired others to move beyond the shame of their pasts. Now that is powerful.