Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Email from Kevin Lynch

Dont forget the Democratic Nominating Convention is SATURDAY. Be at the Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center at CHS by 12:30 and make your vote count!

From my inbox this morning:
My Dear Friends,

The City Democrats will have a difficult choice to make on June 2.
There are five highly qualified, competent and able candidates vying to
help lead this City for the next four years.

I have truly enjoyed working with David Brown over the past four years
and I am very glad that he is running again. Whether or not he seeks
another term as mayor, I think we need his experience and judgment on the
Council.

Holly Edwards and Jennifer McKeever are representative of the values,
aspirations, and energy of our Democratic party. Each candidate is a
self-assured, intelligent woman with a strong and supportive family and
a service-oriented career. Holly and Jennifer have made their way and
their life in our community and know its strengths and weaknesses from
direct experience. Both want the best for their young children and have
translated this into a desire to be advocates for all of our
community’s children.

Many of you already know Holly from her many years helping working
families in Charlottesville get to the next level in their lives. She is a
registered nurse with a Masters degree in education from Howard
University. In the fifteen years that she has lived in our City, she has been
a tireless advocate for improving wellness and building leadership in
low income communities.

I first met Holly Edwards in the late nineties when we were allies in
the living wage campaign and in efforts to expand community policing and
workforce development programs. From the very beginning Holly impressed
me as someone who was not only dedicated to helping those in need, but
also as a leader with a gift for motivating others to become involved.

Health care and insurance are large issues and a large cost for our
City government. Holly’s experience as a parish nurse will bring an
important perspective to the Council’s deliberations concerning health
care as a quality of life and a budget issue. Together with David’s
advocacy of community health we can make progress on becoming a healthier
City.

Jennifer McKeever is a new, energetic face in our party, with strong
roots in our community. She graduated from Western Albemarle High school
and attended college at PVCC and at UVA. While completing her law
degree she interned for the Legal Aid Justice Center, and then began a
career of working with Legal Aid organizations across the State.
Jennifer’s life experiences have given her a great perspective on the strength
and weaknesses of our City, as well as the motivation to make our
community a better place.

I have known Jennifer for the past two years, starting from when she
applied to serve on the CDBG task force. She was elected chair within the
year. Jennifer got my attention again last summer when she successfully
advocated for longer hours at our City’s outdoor pools, so that
working families could enjoy our pools. I was impressed by how quickly she
went from being a critic, to developing a good working relationship with
staff, and ultimately improving the service that the City provides. She
joined the Parks and Rec advisory committee this past August and has a
good grasp of our programming and infrastructure challenges.

Jennifer has many qualities that would make any Charlottesville
Democrat proud. She put me to some productive work this past Fall, when as
co-chair of the Recreation precinct, she coordinated our canvassing and
get out the vote efforts. There are also a couple of things that appeal
to me personally about Jennifer. First, like me, she is a social liberal
and a fiscal conservative. We both agree that City residents should be
getting more for our tax dollars. Second, she is a lawyer and she
follows the details. She asks questions. She shows up at work sessions. She
will be a good steward of your tax dollars and the City’s resources,
including its natural resources. We can count on Jennifer not to back
down on protecting our environment and neighborhoods.

On Saturday, Charlottesville Democrats will cast their votes. David,
Holly and Jennifer have earned mine. I recommend them to you without
reservation.

Kevin Lynch

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Follow-up questions from DemCentral Answers

As a candidate, I consider it a privilege to discuss my positions in a forum where others can read, and comment. As I stated way back in one of my first posts on DemCentral I believe in transparency and the blogosphere is a great way to promote openess and dialogue.
1. What should City avoid doing that it has been doing?
a) Overtaxing homeowners. For nearly a decade, homeowner assessments
have been increasing at more than twice the rate of commercial
property. We need to spend more responsibly and shift the tax burden away from homeowners.
What do you mean by "shift the tax burden away from homeowners"? That can mean only two things -- increasing a non-real-estate tax (meals? lodging? personal property?), or finding a way to have a different tax rate for businesses than for residences (which I don't think we can do at this point). Which do you advocate?

Jen's answer
I disagree with the premise of your second question. I do not want to find a non-real-estate tax or a differentiated tax structure for business and residential. I would look first to the formula used to assess commercial real estate, since commercial assessments are not rising at the same rate as residential property. I want to see the commercial assessments come more in line with reality of fair market value. Also, I would look to the City budget and find ways of reducing the size of the budget or limiting the rate at which it grows.
Keep reading...

4) What single best policy change would you propose for Charlottesville that costs little or no money?
The policy change I believe would be most immediately effective and which would save the taxpayers' money is to hold a public hearing on every new spending initiative before it is included in the City's budget. At a hearing, the public has an opportunity to vet the initiative, while the opportunity for partnership with other entities could be revealed. The way that the city budget process usually works is that the budget includes requests by departments for dealing with problems that may not have come to the point of having a formal proposal yet. The usual practice is that the budget may include money for proposals that aren't yet fully developed, and then to insist on a public hearing and discussion before actually appropriating the money. What's wrong with that? And if you aren't going to do that, how would you deal with the situation of a need that is known in April, but our public hearing process hasn't yet been set in motion to decide what to do about it?
JEN's response
I actually do know how the budget process works given the number of meetings I attended this winter. I am a firm believer in public input. As Councilors, we are stewards of the taxpayers money, justifying the money we spend is natural component of that stewardship. The staff works very hard and has great commitment to the well-being of our City, however it can be echo chamber in City Hall. I want to see additional collaboration and innovation, to do that the proposals public scrutiny may be helpful. Substantial new expenditures do not fall from the sky, planning starts early, e.g NDS had a $650,000 proposal for signage as a line item, no one could tell me where this came from early in the process. Later NDS stated it wanted to create an easier path to the downtown mall, UVA and parking etc. Even now I dont really see the need for signs, perhaps if NDS had articulated the need and the results expected as a consequence (more business downtown, less lost people etc), the line item would not have been so shocking. As it turned out, the line item was cut somewhat and it is not clear what the new signage will incorporate (just parking, directions downtown, but not UVA). I want to know what I am getting for my dollar, it is not a good way to do business. Emergencies are emergencies, I am not proposing such a rigid system as to be unmanageable or counter-productive when a need exists.
I also propose a City Councilor be appointed on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to ensure good stewardship of the taxpayers' money.
The RWSA, by agreement with the County, consists of the City Manager, the County Executive, the City Public Works Director, the County Service Authority Director, and a chair appointed jointly by the City and the County. City Councilors are welcome to go to the meetings, because they are public. You get reports from the meetings. City Councilors can't be on every board and commission; they have to ration their time. Why don't you trust the City Manager and the Public Works Director to know how to protect the City's interests?

Jen's Response
As I stated before this is an idea percolating. I need more information to decide if this is necessary. From what I understand, the current debt load of RWSA is quite high and only going to get higher with the number of capitol projects in the pipeline. From the perspective of a taxpayer this level of debt load, combined with increase in retail rates concerns me.

6) What should the city do to preserve and improve parking options downtown?
Bringing people into the downtown area will require new creative ways of looking at transportation, parking and transit. In the short term,we need to encourage more downtown employees to use the Water street parking garage (which has several hundred empty spaces) to free up on-street parking.
How do you propose to encourage more downtown employees to use the Water Street Parking Garage? The City doesn't own the Water Street Parking Garage, so we don't have the ability to lower the rates for monthly parkers. Very few employees -- who work 8-hour days -- park in on-street spots that are good for 30 minutes to two hours. Can you be specific?

Jen's Response
Actually the City recently passed as part of their budget the option for City government residents to park for free or reduced rate at the Water St. parking garage- I hope this will spur use of the garage. Also I would argue many downtown employees, including many City employees, do the 2 hour shuffle.
Another option is to include incentives for car-poolers to park at the garage. Finally, new transit ideas will play a major role in the coming years which will provide relief for the parking issues downtown. This is a community wide issue, one I hope to help begin to make inroads as a councilor.

Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Full Answers to Progress Questions

Daily Progress will have profiles of all the candidates this week. Seth Rosen interviewed, we filled out a questionnaire and I got my photo taken. The Progress will likely not print the full 6 questions (except online), so I thought I would provide another place for people to read my responses.

1. What should City avoid doing that it has been doing?

a) Overtaxing homeowners. For nearly a decade, homeowner assessments
have been increasing at more than twice the rate of commercial
property. We need to spend more responsibly and shift the tax burden
away from homeowners

b) Reactionary planning. Too often, the City allows uninspired
development to take limited green space in the City without involving
neighborhoods. My goals are to preserve our neighborhood and bring
transparency to the development decision-making process.

c) Status quo thinking. I want the City to consider new ways of
working with private and nonprofit resources to maximize the
efficiency of the programs it provides.

2) What concrete steps should the city take to increase the number of affordable housing units in Charlottesville?

The question I ask is how Charlottesville transforms its housing programs beyond our historic role as the only locality in the region actively working on the provision of affordable housing. The City has to support innovative new programs, such as the CAHIP proposals. I have proposed allowing low-income and elderly homeowners to receive low interest loans to complete small and medium rehabilitation projects. This helps people keep their homes, stay in the City and preserve the fabric of our neighborhoods. The City must also encourage surrounding localities to bring more affordable housing into their communities.

3) For the upcoming fiscal year the Council set a real estate tax rate of 95 cents per $100 of assessed value and passed a 12 percent jump in the budget. Do you agree with these decisions? If not, what programs would you have tried to cut or scale back?

I disagree with the 12 percent budget increase and believe it could have been cut in half. I would have reduced the EMS proposal, I would have requested a public hearing on the need and the establishment of a regional task force to see how CARS and CFD could improve service before money was appropriated. My husband is a volunteer firefighter; I value the role of volunteerism in our community and want to promote
it as much as possible. I want to see a reduction in the number of vehicles the City has- to save on gas, insurance and maintenance costs.

4) What single best policy change would you propose for Charlottesville that costs little or no money?
The policy change I believe would be most immediately effective and which would save the taxpayers' money is to hold a public hearing on every new spending initiative before it is included in the City's budget. At a hearing, the public has an opportunity to vet the initiative, while the opportunity for partnership with other entities could be revealed. I also propose a City Councilor be appointed on the
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to ensure good stewardship of the taxpayers' money.

5) What would you do to improve relations with Albemarle County? Are there any services that you believe should be considered for consolidation?

As a Councilor, I will work to strengthen and expand the City's partnerships with Albemarle County and the University. I'd like to see more cooperation, along with area nonprofit advocacy groups on environmental stewardship and trail planning. The superintendents of the schools are improving their partnership and I would like to see similar cooperation on youth development outside of the schools. The Planning Commissions could meet more regularly to work through issues of transportation and growth. My goal would be to see more cooperation with these partnerships to maximize our tax dollar and to have the City and County's concerns voiced.

6) What should the city do to preserve and improve parking options downtown?
Bringing people into the downtown area will require new creative ways of looking at transportation, parking and transit. In the short term,we need to encourage more downtown employees to use the Water street parking garage (which has several hundred empty spaces) to free up on- street parking. I also want to see the City partner with State and Federal transit programs, along with the private sector, to encourage park and rides, vanpools and carpoolers, and the use of structured parking. However my primary goal is to bring reliable, convenient and attractive transit options to the City and to improve bike and pedestrian facilities.

A few announcements

At the Parks & Rec Advisory Board meeting this week, Mike and Brian announced Charlottesville received a $400,000 grant from the federal walk to schools program. The money will be used to implement walk to school projects throughout the city, starting with Buford. Buford has a plan already in place, the rest of the schools will draft plans for trails, sidewalks and bike lanes for children and parents to walk to school. Chris Gensic, who has only worked with the department for 11 months as a trail planner has a lot to do with the receipt of this money. Congratulations to the Parks department!

Also- Chief Longo announced at the Woolen Mills neighborhood association the hiring and swearing in of a new animal control officer. As a reminder- leash free days at Riverview park are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, all the rest of the times you have to a have a leash on your dog. The city will be enforcing this regulation a lot more, so consider this fair warning.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Water bills

I am sure City/County residents will notice this. Water bills are set to rise significantly (15%-20%). Since we are paying more for everything, it seems to make sense. Two changes I want to explore if I am elected are:

1. Add a councilor to the RWSA board- the current board consists of City and County staff and one citizen member (and counsel to guide and advise).

2. Bring the water and sewer revenue back to the RWSA, not into the general fund of the city. The debt load of the RWSA is quite high. The capital expenditures such an organization has are large (upgrade sewer plant, meadowcreek interceptor expansion all sound very expensive). If the revenue was going directly back to RWSA, perhaps the debt load wouldnt be so great.

I want to be clear these are issues I want to explore. I surmise there may be many good reasons why things are the way they are, but I want to make sure it isnt because of complacency or because we have always done it this way.

More forums, things to learn

No article in today's paper about yesterday's forum at the monthly Democratic breakfast moderated by Bob Gibson. We were not newsworthy enough. Cville Tomorrow has the story, video and podcast.

I am learning how to campaign as I go along. Being a politician is something I never actually thought I would do, mostly I am a concerned citizen, when I see issues, I have a call to action and this is what drives me. For example, I was upset about summer pool hours, turns out a lot of people are, I apply to be on the Parks and Rec Advisory Board to advocate for families and family time as a Parks priority. This year the hours have been extended somewhat, not nearly as late as I want them...baby steps.

This post by Waldo at cvillenews also called me to action. The comment "Don’t forget the criteria for appointment: Be a friend of the Dems on City Council or someone they can trust to do their bidding. Most Republicans can just forget about applying and many members of the Democratic Party don’t even stand a chance" made me want to test this commentator's theory.

At the time I had been in town for two months, my husband had not found a job yet and I had a one year old and a two year old. I was looking for a way to serve the community I grew up in, but I really didnt know the people in charge. I applied for Planning Commission, then thought better of that, and changed to CDBG Task Force. I had heard about CDBG from my work at Legal Aid Justice Center. I was easily appointed to that board and later to the Parks Board. That go around, Mike Farruggio, good citizen and Republican was appointed to the Planning Commission.

Charlottesville is in transition, old relationships mean a lot, but newcomers and people with different points of view are more accepted. My campaign is populist in that sense, I am not tied to the way things have always been, because that seems to mean only some people who have the resources receive the resources. Instead I am looking to the future to a more egalitarian Charlottesville where decisions are made out in the open and citizens feel appreciated and respected for their participation and input (and sought out for their input).

Friday, May 18, 2007

More bad news for Cycling

More scandal in cycling, actually it is just an extension of the scandal. I am repulsed. The Giro d'Italia is on and the headlines are dominated by Landis and LeMond. I love cycling in the news, just not this way and now we are on year two of this public relations nightmare.
What if Landis is innocent? What if Landis is lying? Both are equally horrible for cycling. Do we get Directv this year to watch a Tour fundamentally flawed, one where a winner is not declared for last year?
Sports are so fun, the hard work, the tenacity, drama and heart- it has everything. Cycling has three weeks in July where it all comes together (to be clear, plenty of other awesome races). I want to be part of it, but it doesnt seem to really matter anymore since everyone is a suspect and the authorities are complicit, blind or dumb.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fry's Spring Candidate forum

As I expected, last night's forum was challenging. The Fry's Spring neighborhood association didnt win "Neighborhood of the Year" for nothing. The association is committed to the well-being of their neighborhood and demands accountability from their elected officials even as their neighborhood is routinely marginalized in the face of development.

The Fry's Spring Beach Club was packed with people (and the Club is in the middle of their membership drive). The candidates were given 3 minutes to introduced themselves and then had to answer two questions they (we) had been given beforehand. I wonder how the NA came up with the two questions, they were fascinating...

* What should be the priority for protection of the residential quality of City neighborhood in relation to development and other interests, would you work to establish a policy to protect the neighborhood residential interests, and how would Council assure that the policy is implemented by City staff

MY short answer for the first question is we have a policy it is called the comprehensive plan and we do annual updates for these plans. The process for developing these plans is not perfunctory, people come to meetings and strategize with staff to create these plans. The issue is following the plan and conforming to the Comp Plan.

* How would you measure the negative impact on the quality of life in the City’s residential neighborhoods, including the safety and comfort of their residents, rather than just using the levels of service measurement that measures only the convenience of drivers and their riders?

MY short answer for this question, I measure quality of life on how much time I have away from my family as a result of traffic, lack of commercial development in our commercial corridors and the available green space for my family and I to play and be in. I also measure quality of life by how many options I have to get to places. I want to bike and walk and ride buses not always drive (especially with $3.00/gal gasoline), if it isnt safe then I cant and it isn't economical or efficient.

As you may imagine the candidates faced tough questions including
1. What concrete items would you cut out of the budget
Reduce the # of vehicles in the City fleet; Reduce the prize amount of eliminate entirely the design center competition for the water street parking lot that is not owned by the City...there are others

2. Who is going to stand up for the blue collar worker?
I was raised in a blue collar household. I know the balance between family and work is challenging, the ability to attend public meetings is limited. It is up to Council to reach out to these voters and ensure their voices are being heard.

3. What type of leadership style do you have? Fundamentally I am a problem-solver, I am results oriented, I prefer action over inaction, even if it is easier to do nothing. I want to collaborate with private and nonprofit sectors to make government more efficient. I listen, but I do not accept things at face value, I research and when a decision is made, I hold people accountable for the follow-through on that decision.

4. You can make a lot of promises, but what is the one thing we can count on you to do if you are elected? I will respond to phone calls and emails.

5. What departments are suffering from neglect? Public works and neighborhood development services.

The rest of the questions are a blur but Cville Tomorrow has the podcast and likely a videocast of the event.

Oh and we received homework- we have to answer another question by Monday. RTF also passed a questionaire out this week. Both organizations will have information on their website probably by the beginning of next week (which I will link to when I get my homework done).

Convention doors open at 12:15- be there early and make sure your vote counts!

Cross posted at democratic central.
Corrected spelling errors (Fry's Spring- thanks to Sean)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Unexpected Bathroom Makeover

I have lived in this home for two years and am perfectly happy. This is the first home Chris and I have ever owned. Chris enjoys the projects a house provides, I really dont.

I came home from the Pasta Supper one month ago (4/14) to a very apologetic husband. Fearing the worst, I was pleasantly surprised that the only thing wrong was...um, a gigantic hole in our bathroom wall where the faucets for the tub are. Phew, could've been worse.

I had alerted Chris to the issue, so I suspected he would be rooting around for the problem. He bribed me for a little while with the idea of getting new faucets for the bathtub, but we have had those for weeks now and I still dont have a shower. We can take baths, baths are just not that fun when you have no choice to shower.

One month later, the large hole is covered with the board, next it is the tiling and grouting and all the other stuff I dont care about but protects our house from water. Because in the meantime Chris and his friends decide we should change all of our supply pipes (This is not a thought that would occur to me, or I suspect my friends). Also it is a good thing Chris did this because one pipe was about to blow.
Apparently it doesnt make sense to regrout the new tile, one has to regrout the entire tub. I am learning a lot about bathrooms and plumping etc.

Just to be clear, Chris is saving us a lot of money and he does great, thorough work but I still have to give him a hard time. He said it would be one week and now it has been a month. I look forward to the post saying he finished.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Basso confesses...then he doesnt

AS my faithful readers know, I love cycling and specifically CSC and Ivan Basso (and then Discovery and Basso). Basso was implicated in Operacion Puerto last June right before the Tour de France, which he was scheduled to win. He denied it and denied and denied. This week Basso confessed to the tribunal hearing information on Operacion Puerto in Italy that he is "Birillo" and No. 2. This means Dr. Saiz had blood products ready to be given to Basso to enhance his performance. Basso confessed one day, then at a press conference the next day he stated he never actually used the products to enhance his performance, especially in his great victories (last year's Giro). Lie once, shame on him, believe him twice, shame on me. Who is clean? I dont know. I hope the next generation of cyclists understand the shame this has brought to the sport and are committed to a clean sport.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Candidate Forum 1

Four forums are scheduled, the first one was last night. Candidates spent fifteen minutes at each table- there were 5 tables, then we answered questions for 45 minutes. Acc. to the Progress, 40 people showed. I enjoyed the conversational format. Quality of life was the ostensible topic, although you name it, we encountered it last night.

My favorite question involved the Ragged Mountain dam which will flood 138 acres of City land which is currently recreational use, should we be compensated? I was one of the last people to answer this question and the ideas presented were quite good- my concern is preserving green space, but we have measure the costs & benefits, our need for water will continue to grown and this dam will solve a problem. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) made this decision. My concern is RWSA doesnt have a member of Council or the Supervisors on it. It is a limited group making the RWSA decisions and there are many, many expensive projects, including the MC interceptor that need to be paid for by taxpayers. These issues do not get a lot of press, but touch all elements of growth in our region. Clean water and safe sewage processes are the real reasons for local government- we have to do a better job caring for the infrastructure and managing the debt-load of the RWSA.

My campaign is about the future- my mission is to preserve the quality of life for our residents, bring affordability to more of our community's employees, connect the government with residents/businesses/non-profits and finally to bring opportunity to our residents. Decisions we make today have to be sustainable for the future and we can not be complacent in our decisions. Twelve percent budget increases from year to year are not sustainable, in fact it is untenable. We can do better, I will make sure of it.

MCPW

Seth Rosen and I met the night before my candidacy announcement. He is an able and young reporter for the Daily Progress. He has not been in the City long and he hailed from Arlington. Seth's stories about the budget were right on target. So now that I am a candidate, I have to say his stories are still on target and I appreciate the way he digs into issues.

That said, the Meadowcreek Parkway is a tertiary issue at this point. It is not relevant to this campaign. Many, if not all, of the issues confronting Council will be resolved prior to the election, so a new council will not have any say over it (one of the first council's in 35 years- fingers crossed).

Three reasons I do not support the MCPW (not all encompassing).

1. Traffic congestion in Charlottesville. Chamber tells me traffic is good since people in cars stop and shop, eat and play all the good engines of economic well-being. My concern is the City's apparent lack of preparation for the increase in traffic presented by the congestion. Proactive leadership is needed to prevent gridlock downtown, if MCPW approval is inevitable, my task will be to PREPARE the City by modernizing our transit and transportation network.
I can tell you from my experience in Falls Church, the longer you sit in traffic the less likely you are to stop and shop. I would have a list of three things I needed to do with a limited time to complete the tasks, traffic prevented me from getting to all the things on my list and then the question always became, what is it I can get away with NOT doing? This is not the environment I want in Charlottesville.
Traffic also incorporates Melbourne Road- what the heck is going to happen here?
Traffic concerns also relates to the idea of a freeway between RIO and Biscuit Run and beyond- there is no shopping in Cville if that happens- The County benefits.

2. McIntire Park- Paul Goodloe McIntire donated this enormous chunk of land at the beginnning of last century. Already we have two roads running through or into the donated land (in addition to CAAR and firehouse). I have no idea how McIntire would view these roads, he may not care. I do care because if we build a road a generation through the park, how long will it be when there is no more park? And imagine what McIntire could be- a real gathering spot in nature.

3.Children- greenspace is limited. The impact of the road no matter how few acres the actual width and length of the road will be dramatic. Greenspace is a precious, limited space, we have to preserve the resource.

Charlottesville is a great City, but it is not NYC or even Portland, Oregon, we have our own history and character. As we move forward, we need solutions that are sustainable for the long-term, this road will be obselete the moment it is built, traffic will gridlock downtown, Park St. will still remain a cut-through and finally if the Eastern Connector is ever built (which is a condition) then two parks will have been destroyed by road-building. This is not creative, we can do better than destroy two of our parks. We need to look forward instead of back to the 60's for our transportation solutions.
I look forward in particular to the CHART committee report on regional transit
options.
Having said all of that, reasonable people disagree all of the time and I am open to hearing more from supporters & opponents of the MCPW.