Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RWSA and rate hikes

CvilleTomorrow reports on today's RWSA meeting. At the meeting, the Board decided to increase the water and sewer rate again this year. RWSA has significant infrastructure projects on the table. RWSA has significant municipal debt as a result of past infrastructure projects. The rates will likely continue to go up.

Chris despises that after the City budget cycle is over in early April, Council votes to increase the water and sewer rates usually in May. He feels, and I concur after seeing the phenomena play out last year, the City's tax rate does not accurately reflect the actual burden that local government has on a household's budget, so both should be taken into account when considering the budget and tax rates generally.

The line that most sticks in my head "The two City representatives to the Board were not present at the February 25 meeting".
Here are the people on the board:
* Michael Gaffney, Chairman
• Mark B. Graham, P.E., Director of Community Development, Albemarle County
• Judith Mueller, Director of Public Works, City of Charlottesville
• Gary O'Connell, City Manager
• Robert Tucker, County Executive
I have learned researching this post that there is a Citizen Committee:
The Board is supported by a Citizens Advisory Committee consisting of 3 representatives from the City, 3 from the County, 2 from the University of Virginia, and a Chairperson selected by the City Council and Board of Supervisors.
Current Citizens Advisory Committee
• Kim Blatz, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Vacant, Joint City of Charlottesville / Albemarle County Representative, Chairman
• Jeffrey Greer, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Stephen Kirkup, Albemarle County Representative
• Vacant, University of Virginia Representative
• Todd Marshall, University of Virginia Representative
• Vacant, City of Charlottesville Representative
• Reed Muehlman, Albemarle County Representative
• Vacant, Albemarle County Representative

These are the members of that citizen board, which by my count has 5 members out of 9 possible members. If you know me at all, you know I want to be on this committee, HOWEVER I prefer to promote leadership in the community by asking someone else to step up and volunteer for this committee, someone who cares about tax rates, municipal debt and infrastructure issues (at first you may think this sounds dreadfully boring, but once you learn the impact you can have, it is not boring anymore). We have a responsibility, if an opportunity exists to have meaningful impact through this citizen's committee. One proposal I had was to add an elected official to the RWSA, but if there is a strong citizen committee (defined as active, participatory, questioning, advocating and otherwise making recommendations) then an elected may not be necessary.

Other interesting tidbits all from CvilleTomorrow's article (btw- big THANK YOU to Cville Tomorrow for the great work it does):
"On water, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.285 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.65 percent over last year. The Albemarle County Service Authority would be charged $2.983 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.44 percent. These increased rates help cover the debt service required to pay for the expansion of Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“That number is a less than what I think a number of people had anticipated,” said Tom Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA.
However, wastewater rates will increase more because the RWSA is planning on several capital upgrades to its sewer infrastructure. On wastewater, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.466 per 1000 gallons, a 10.43% increase. The County’s proposed charge is $2.722 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 10.54%.
“We continue to be in an upward cycle for capital improvements, driven by a number of things including tighter regulations at the state and federal level, the need to rehabilitate many areas of our system that are wearing out, and the need to provide future planning for capacity needs,” Frederick said."

Confusing message on the homepage of the RWSA "the regular meeting scheduled for 2/25 has been cancelled" and yet this article? This could be the reason the City folks didnt attend (I will give the benefit of the doubt).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hillary is jealous

I love the "shame on him" quotes, especially on a Saturday. She is acting like his grandmother.
She just cant get away with the same tactics that are successful for Obama. This shame on him stuff is the tactic out of the Rovian playbook, not the mailer. The mailer is every political consultant's playbook.

Veto the expansion of death penalty

A good prosecutor has a lot of work to do. The General Assembly recently passed a bill that now moves to the Governor's desk to expand who is eligible for the death penalty. If this bill is signed, people present at (before/after too) a death penalty eligible crime, but did not actually pull the trigger can be sentenced to the death penalty.

A prosecutor should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant eligible for the death penalty actually pulled the trigger. If this ends up with less death penalty eligible defendants because of a lack of evidence, the defendants still can be found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. I urge the Governor to veto the bill, and the General Assembly not to override the veto.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Drug Courts Work

My good friend Jeff is the Director of the Drug Court in Cville. He has invited me numerous times to come to the graduations of the program. I have not taken him up on it, mostly because I have a conflict at 8:30 in the morning on those days. He tells me, and others have told me as well HOW great these graduations are because of the long road the graduates have traveled.

I also saw Judge Hogshire and Jeff at two presentations about the drug courts this year- the Bar Association and the Dem Breakfast.

Participants in the program have random and frequent drug tests the whole time in the program (12-24 month average- longer than the prison term they would have served). The participant must have a job and take care of their responsibilities (child support) and attend multiple meetings/classes a week to ascertain progress and learn new skills.

Drug Courts are not a free pass to go back to a life of crime. Given the limited funding of the program and the regular threats of cuts to the program, the courts continue to impress and graduate productive citizens. Can that be said for most regional jails? What are we trying to prove by warehousing everyone in prison? I am unsure why the House of Delegates took the money out of the budget for this valuable program- it reeks of political expediency ("we are so tough on crime we will let nonviolent drug criminals go to jail at a greater expense than these drug courts").

I pray cooler heads prevail and drug court programming is restored to the budget through the conferee process. Del. Rob Bell has never attended a graduation and likes to have his head in the sand about the issue while slashing the budget, if you are in his district, let him know drug courts work and should not be a political football.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain Mayhem

Look I dont give two hoots about this lobbyist and her relationship with McCain- enough already, lets move on. McCain is ultimately a politician- Americans always know that politicians speak in double speak and hide behind rhetorical walls so I, and hopefully others are calculating the extent a politician is telling the truth (right or wrong).

A few other notes about McCain
1. he is a great man;
2. great man are human, thus inherently flawed;
3. typically the flaws involves women;
4. this does not make these men any less than great in my mind.

This is not to say he has actually done anything wrong or give any credence to the NYTimes report- but I just dont care and the media needs to stop making a bigger deal than it is.

Foul-stop whining

Howard Kurtz's article today focuses on the network's decision to cut to the Obama speech on Tuesday while Hillary was speaking (and had a tangetial element of the alleged breach of etiquette made by Obama).

I think it was a great political move by Obama, experienced & calculated political move even. I didnt get to watch it- and I would be annoyed if the situation was reversed. But here is the situation, Hillary is going to go on and on, in her monotone voice, she is not going to concede, further she likely will throw verbal jabs toward Obama for the balance of her speech. And she went on stage an hour after she was supposed to- is it really cutting away if you dont follow the rules? (we could use that same analysis in FL and MI too).

What would you do? Of course, you take the stage away from her- you are the winner, you define the night and the agenda. Experienced, politically savvy move on Obama's part.

Another reason to vote for Obama

Hillary thinks we need to "get real" about the issues facing America and vote for her. What is she thinking- that we are so blinded by the rhetorical superiority of Obama that we voters arent thinking realistically?
Hillary's arguments are circular, she is negative on Obama and voters, America is drowning in bad things (the Rovian politics of fear over accomplishment) so we should vote for her? I am still at work so I wont be able to complete that logic- someone else can, but I did want to put in this post "Rovian politics of fear" as a Hillary principle in opposition to Obama's politics of hope and "can do"ness. The voters dont need to get real, we are perfectly well aware of the 8 years of travesty we are enduring, she is just part of the problem, not the solution, she should get real and drop out already. How much longer is she willing to divide the party for her own personal ambition (maybe not divide-perhaps 1/4 it)? We will see if she can put any interests above her own in the next week or so...

Parks and Rec Meeting

Last night I had another meeting- as with tonight and tomorrow lunch. I am eating a lot of pizza and sandwiches from a variety of places. Last night was Padows, since I gave up dessert for Lent I had to pass my cookies on to someone who hadnt. Oh wait, this is not necessarily a post about food, where was I?

The agenda as always was aggressive we started with a wonderful presentation by the consultant hired to lead the master planning process for the area of McIntire Park where the YMCA will be built. Numerous public meetings and a charette will be held in the next three months to nail down a location and arrangement that the community will appreciate. If however no consensus is reached, the contract provides a default location on the adult baseball fields.

The ballfields have some serious allocation and space demands on them. We briefly discussed this issue, we all agree the County needs to pony up some ball fields asap since 88% of the users of these fields are from the County. The parks and rec department in the County has some great people, but the County just doesnt prioritize parks in the same way the City does. AS the County grows however the demand increases and hopefully parents and children will begin to demand a higher level of service from their Parks and Rec department (and the County generally since the funding is the issue).

Chris Gensic, all-around good guy presented the Master Plan outline for Rives Park - it looks great. There will be two playgrounds- one small children, the other older children, trails, a possible sand volleyball court, two shelters (instead of one) and great open space in the middle of the Park. The department has been master planning many neighborhood parks and Rives is just the latest. Forest Hills construction will begin in the Fall, the master plan for that park looks awesome, I am very excited about it. All of these master plans have been completed with considerable community involvement- I am pretty proud of the department for its commitment to engagement and essentially organic parks- the design grows out of the community is serves.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Parallel Roads- invitation to more gridlock?

Fascinating report by the head of the TJPDC last night at Charlottesville City Council, Harrison Rue. I love pretty slides and boy did he have them. His primary emphasis is to build parallel local roads to 29N to ease the traffic on 29. I like the work the TJPDC does and appreciate the role it plays in the community, even if I dont agree with them all the time.

Here is the problem: the slides show these beautiful changed roads (ped, bike friendly and trees-glorious trees), then each subsequent slide showed a new building, until the whole street was lined with these beautiful pedestrian friendly neighborhoods (and business centers)--the number of cars on the road NEVER changed. Isnt that amazing, we would triple or quadruple the number of people/businesses and have NO MORE additional traffic? I know these are supposed to be centers, transit friendly, but honestly the slides didnt show any buses (one slide showed that new bullet bus-rapid transit) or people for that matter.

How realistic is this? Mr. Rue has this wonderful disarming way about him, one that really doesnt leave room for questions (I suppose questions are for the politicians to answer). I think reports should leave a bit more room for realism and maybe people.

Dont get me wrong- I absolutely support the parallel roads of Berkmar extended and Hillsdale drive, they do relieve the burden for local drivers. How much development are we willing to tolerate on those parallel roads? And how much will that development negatively/positively impact our community? How much more traffic will result from this development? How do we ensure that developers actually create transit friendly shopping centers and neighborhoods when our community is still so dominated by the motor vehicle?

These are questions that citizens need to be considering as we plan for our future.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More task force vetting

The CDBG task force is in the middle of reviewing RFPs and narrowing the field of proposals [pdf-quick guide to cdbg money/requirements] to a reasonable number. The task force has less than $400,000 to allocate. We have $1.7 million in requests. The hard work the members put in is dramatic but we have a commitment to balancing the interests of the taxpayer and the nonprofits serving truly needy people.

Some of the CAHIP money- the Charlottesville Housing Fund was recently allocated by our committee. A lot of that money went to Region 10 (Home First), AHIP (rehab), PHA (to maintain housing for disabled people) and Habitat for Humanity- along with some other smaller allocations. As Chair of the task force I believe Housing Fund applications should continue to flow through the CDBG task force (even if it is misnamed) for vetting. I prefer if staff/City Council arent the only people making the decisions. The members really check each other for conflicts and what is best for those served and the taxpayers. Besides Council always has the final say, why not allow an application process to continue?

City Council has the last word on this work- they will vote at their first March meeting. The final recommendations of the Task Force will be in the paperwork preceeding the meeting (we havent completed the recommendations yet).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Astana out of Tour

Tour de France organizers uninvited/never invited Astana to the main event this year. Nevermind the complete overhaul of the team, including bringing Johan Bruneel in and firing all the people in charge last year (including the riders), it was not enough for the organizers. I feel like this is collective punishment, none of these guys have been implicated or tied to performance enhancing drugs. (Chris would like me to tell you however that all of them are guilty of it- in his opinion- his disdain is not just for the Astana team though).

Astana has last year's Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. He rode this amazing race, the Tour last year was marred once again by scandal, Contador's riding was a bright spot. He will not be allowed to defend his title, as Floyd Landis was not permitted last year. I wonder if the ASO (Tour organizers) are planning to do this every year? I guess on the bright side, Lance's 7 wins in a row certainly wont be broken any time soon.

Contador, Bruneel, Levi and others from Team Discovery went to Astana once Discovery stopped sponsoring the team. Cycling once again is shooting itself in the foot. How are teams to get sponsors if for arbitrary, vague and incomprehensible reasons these teams wont be allowed to ride on the biggest stage for the sponsors? Business people are not running the Tour or cycling in general, honestly I dont know that the organizers are fans of the sport anymore.

Levi only has a few more years to win the Tour, being out this year will impact his chance to ever win. Administration is getting in the way of competition- not a good thing in sports.

Out of the mouths

I scheduled Marina to babysit for us recently. We have not seen her since August. I get off the phone after chatting with her to arrange this and David says "I love Marina".

David really wanted to roller skate today. He took forever getting all of the pads, skates and helmet on. As a good mom, I hovered and held his hand. I was having fun. Suddenly David stops "Mom you are driving me crazy, you are making me fall". OK, I just followed him closely after that (and did catch him a few times, but he did real well).

A story recently told to me about Andrew. At Smith Mountain Lake, riding in a pontoon boat- he is trying to figure out motorboats and non-motorboats...ok I wasnt there, the story is much better than this- the punchline involves him slowly turning around, pointing his finger at my dad and saying "you were wrong grandpa" apparently this is a first for grandpa- Andrew lives to tell the tale. Hilarity ensued.

How to go to Denver in August (dem/cville)

In the 5th district there are 4 delegates to be choosen for the Democratic Convention in Denver (and one alternate). The State Party determines how many for Clinton, how many for Obama. Tentatively, the 5th likely will have 3 Obama delegates and one Hillary, I dont know who the alternate will end up being. BTW- the 5th district is huge, it isnt only Charlottesville-ALbemarle people who will have the opportunity to become a delegate.

To become a delegate one must show up at the City Caucus (or your county's caucus). At the caucus we will nominate delegates to the 5th district convention. You must be one of these delegates to even be considered. The delegates will then head to the
5th district convention where the national delegates will be elected. Politics and numbers play a critical role in determining whether you become a delegate. I have no idea how many folks will show up for the Caucus, or frankly how many delegates will attend the 5th district convention (I am sure it is a fixed number, likely 100 or so) therefore to choose 5 will be difficult.

In 1992 I went to the convention in New York City. How? I volunteered. It was awesome, electric and unforgettable. If you are not choosen as a delegate, I encourage you to volunteer- I mean you were going to spend the money in Denver anyway!

Lenten Sacrifice (sortof)

I am not sleeping again.

I gave up dessert for Lent. Well- I am limiting my dessert intake to one a week. Last week I had a nice cheesecake at the JJ dinner. This week I am saving it for the Bonefish Grill on Sunday. I thought it would get easier after a week, but it really hasnt. Praying does help me.

I sometimes think- "what is dessert anyway?" is it a Cin-Raisin Bagel at Bodos or a piece of bread with jelly on it? I dont think so. I am having coffee more since Lent began. This evening I made a cup of coffee for myself, instead of the decaf I made the caffeinated. No wonder I am awake.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Election results to the precinct/congressional district on SBE

Virginia State Board of Elections website is fantastic. It feeds my obsession to know the up-to-the-minute stats on this cold and icy night AND it tells me congressional district votes. That congressional district information is key for the national convention- the 5th has 4 delegates and one alternate...who will get how many??? I will know soon enough.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How to volunteer in cville and the Obama video certainly you have seen.

Donate to Obama's campaign-NOW. The presidency should not be bought by those who have a greater personal fortune. For those unable to donate or want to help even more see below.

The local Obama supporters need local volunteers to serve as:
Donors of space for Staging Locations - this could be an office or a living room.
Staging Location directors
Phone bank captains
Canvas captains (for precincts or neighborhoods)
Precinct captains (available by phone if anyone needs help or information)
Comfort captains (to keep the coffee and snacks flowing, offering the occasional band-aid or shoulder rub)
as well as lots of:
Phone callers
Door-to-door canvassers
We also continue to need office volunteers, bake sale bakers, sign wavers & poll workers. What can you do? Please contact Kristin at k.szakos@embarqmail.com

Obama Events this weekend (if you are not going to the JJ dinner)
Intersection Rallies - come wave banners and signs for Obama - 10 a.m. - noon
On the corner of Barracks Rd & Emmett - at the parking lot of ALC Copies
On the sidewalk at the corner of Hydraulic & 29 - in front of Import Car Store
On the corner of McIntire and Main Street - in front of the Federal Building

Bake sale downtown at the Obama office (108 W. Main Downtown Mall), 12-4
A lecture - Obama talk - by Brookings Fellow Dr. Susan E. Rice, Senator Obama's chief advisor on foreign policy
Where: UVA's Clark Hall, Room 108
When: Saturday at 2:30

Obama and Clinton in RICHMOND!

Yes, two candidates will be at the JJ Dinner happening this Saturday, and I have a ticket. So happy. Try to get one for yourself! It is great to be a Democrat in Virginia at this time.
If you come, stay for the after party (What: Post JJ Hospitality Suite Where: Richmond Marriott, First Floor When: Saturday Feb 9th, 10:30-12:30am) and meet Tom Perriello who is running in the 5th District against 'he who must not be named'. Co-hosted by Del. Toscano and Sen. Deeds.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Random Trip to NoVA

This past weekend in the spirit of spontaneity, we traveled to visit our friends who recently bought, but have not moved into, a new house. A fine time was had by all. The boys made their first real trip into DC. And by real I mean they could actually enjoy it instead of just going along for the ride.
First we took the Metro, our friend is from NYC so at some point the boys heard the term subway, David shortened it to "sub"- was he hungry? I dont think so, but he had the greatest time on the Metro- indeed a highlight of the trip for him.

Andrew on the other hand, spent the entire time (except for the time it took to take this photo) on mommy's lap, frightened of moving fast. "I was sad because the train moved very fast and I dont like fast" were his words. In writing it isnt nearly as cute as when he says it haltingly and with his "r"'s all messed up. He wanted to walk home from the Mall. I think we would still be walking.

So we ventured from the escalator to the Mall, the boys not so impressed with the Capital as I thought they should be. They were much better on their way out.
but that is only because they thought they were going on the merry-go-round, which they did not.

We went to the museum in between Metro rides. The Smithsonian is free and this could not be a better deal for parents. We rode into the city, spent an hour and a half at the museum and came home. If we had spent any money we have to spend more time, which equals crankiness and hassles for parents. The boys really wanted to go into the interactive room of the Natural History Museaum, which is beyond the dinosaurs and fossils. They enjoyed seeing the bones. The interactive room is not really anything to write home about. I am not in charge and perhaps there isnt the money, but the museum could do a lot more with the kids interactive room. That didnt stop the boys from having fun and exploring what the room did have in it.

I dont remember going to these museums until we moved to Virginia in 8th Grade. We did go to the museums in Chicago when we lived there- Art Institute is amazing and really where I began to love (if not understand) art. And the Museum of Science and Industry- I had irrational fears of, but I fondly remember some of its exhibits. I dont ever remember being able to go on the Merry-go_Round and I think my kids may be in the same boat.

We got back to Cville in time for the important part of the "Big Game", how did he make that catch? Next weekend-JJDinner

Friday, February 01, 2008

Truly the year of the pot roast or how a pot roast flies

Marijean led me to the Pioneer Woman's blog. I saved several recipes, then I viewed this post by Patience, then I KNEW I had to make the pot roast. Those cvillebloggers come in super handy and those recipes get made quickly after a good one gets out, very interesting to watch this phenomena.

I have a photo of the vaunted pot roast on my other computer, it cant begin to describe the wonder that is this meal. I recommend it highly. Also the leftovers are even more delicious (I had it over egg noodles for leftovers). I also want to try the spicy chicken legs, cupcakes, lasagna, nevermind, just go look and you too will feel like Cooking is fun again!

Tidbits- Britney, Yahoo, LOST and VOTE

If Microsoft gets bought out by Yahoo! what happens to Hotmail and MSN services? I use tons of MS products, but I dont want them to control Yahoo! It is a visceral response- I cant help it, maybe it is good...then again I am not that naive.

I got a call from the Hillary campaign; she is seeking my endorsement- that is too funny to me, not because I like Obama but because who am I? Have you been called by national campaigns? Also, Please VOTE on February 12th if you are registered. I dont care who you vote for, it is critical that we participate in the process.

I am actually relieved to hear Britney may be sick. If she is sick, she can get better. The Heath Ledger story did stop TMZ from being the "ALL Britney, All the Time" network for a day. I love gossip, but Britney is not gossip, she is ill and I believe tabloids and gossip columnists need to give it a rest. What if she had another illness where she was on chemo or something awful, would the tabloids post photos of her as she was vomiting or losing her hair? I dont appreciate the disparity in concern v. mocking for mental illness versus physical illness. Compassion is necessary for both mental and physical illness.

LOST is back and I am grateful- edge of my seat drama and I really believe the writers may actually know what they are doing and the viewers wont get led astray and deflated.