2009: State piggy bank comes up empty; Slutzky takes his ball and goes home

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2009: State piggy bank comes up empty; Slutzky takes his ball and goes home
 

1 Kaine stubs out restaurant smoke

On December 1, Tim Kaine stopped in at Hamiltons’ at First and Main on the Downtown Mall to celebrate the kick-off of the statewide restaurant smoking ban that went into effect that day. With 1,040 annual deaths in the state attributed to second-hand smoke and about $105.3 million a year in health care costs associated with it, too, Kaine’s move is as much about cost-saving as it is about public health. The only question remaining: Will restaurants put ashtrays near their entryways to accommodate the smokers huddled outside?

 

2 In upset, Rodney Thomas unseats David Slutzky

In a stunning turn, Albemarle Board of Supervisors Chairman David Slutzky, pictured, was ousted by Republican Rodney Thomas to represent the Rio District. Slutzky, a Democrat, may have been just too straight-shooting and too wonky for the job (transferable development rights, understood best by him and the former news editor of this paper, was a pet project, for instance). But Thomas’ win will undoubtedly mark a shift in land-use and development decisions the board will take up starting in January. Another change development-watchers will follow: Republican Duane Snow’s win for the Samuel Miller District means he’ll step in for Sally Thomas, who retired after 16 years on the board.

 

3 Times get tight for PVCC Pres. Frank Friedman

Tim Kaine cut the Virginia Community Colleges system, which includes Piedmont Virginia Community College, by 13 percent over the summer. Thanks to federal stimulus funds, which served to offset a portion, the final budget cut for PVCC was 6.9 percent, or $580,000. That was on top of two additional rounds of cuts over one year. These and previous cuts come at a time when enrollment is at an all-time high, having increased by more than 17 percent since 2005.

 

 

4 Public housing readies for facelift

After years of speculation, in May the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority began the master planning process for the redevelopment of the city’s public housing sites. Since then, consultants from Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) have been culling the requests, needs and desires of public housing residents. In a draft of the master plan, not surprisingly, Westhaven, the oldest and most populous of all city’s sites, will receive a top-to-bottom overhaul. Crescent Hall, pictured with CRHA director Randy Bickers, will be rehabbed, South First Street will get more units and Michie Drive will get pedestrian connections to the adjacent Kroger and future site of Whole Foods.

 

5 State piggy bank running low

The budget shortfall totaling $7.1 billion since November 2007 spurred Governor Tim Kaine to a staggering round of budget cuts that have been felt in every state and local agency.

Nearly 600 state employees have lost their jobs as of the cuts announced in September—not counting about 1,100 who lost their jobs in the past two years and 1,500 layoffs from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Public education has lost $37 million due to a decrease in sales tax revenues. And earlier this month, Kaine released his proposed 2010 budget. It includes $2.3 billion in cuts and eliminates 664 jobs, including at UVA.

6 Field of Perriello challengers crowded already

So far, seven Republicans—including Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd—have made  it known that they want Congressman Tom Perriello’s (pictured) job. Perriello’s paper-thin 727-vote margin of victory over incumbent Virgil Goode November 2008 makes him a vulnerable Democrat. Nationwide GOP leaders have already expressed an interest in this race, identifying him as one of five U.S. Representatives that they think they can pink-slip.

 

7 City has more scratch, County has less

The City of Charlottesville has ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $1.7 million in the Capital Improvement Program. Revenues in 2009 were over budget by $254,506, while expenditures were down more than $5 million. By stark contrast, Albemarle County is in deep financial trouble with its budget shortfall now at $5.7 million and counting, according to county executive Bob Tucker, pictured above, right. City Manager Gary O’Connell, pictured, might very well thank the revenue sharing agreement, from 1982: this year, $18 million will go from county to city—up 34 percent from 2008. Not that the county plans to stand by. Yet, the Albemarle School Board is legally fighting to get some of that money—$2.6 million—back.

 

 

8 D.C. commuter train already a hit

Score one for Meredith Richards. On September 30, the newly expanded, daily Amtrak passenger train that passes through Charlottesville and heads to Washington D.C., New York and Boston docked at the Amtrak station on West Main Street. Richards had led the charge for five years with her Cville Rail group. The Northeast Regional service is a result of the partnership between Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and CSX. It’s already surpassed expectations, with ridership nearly doubling predictions in the first month. “I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Richards said when service began. “I don’t think I’ve been this excited since my son was born almost 40 years ago.”

Also this year…

9 Despite controversy over its potential health dangers, artificial turf is finding its way to public high schools. In July, Monticello High School was the first school to install it, thanks to a $1.3 million anonymous gift to benefit all high schools.

And,

•    Charlottesville and Albemarle County won $500,000 to fund the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance to foster energy efficiency;

•    Alternative transportation activists found an unlikely friend in VDOT, which is cash-strapped to complete projects.

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