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Minority report
Local African-American business owners face the challenges of an open market

A white Charlottesville resident is about two-and-a-half times more likely to be a business owner than is a black resident, according to U.S. Census figures. But though this statistic is hardly something to cheer about, it’s less skewed than the national white-to-black business owner ratio, as well as the numbers for other similar-sized cities [see chart].

In another telling statistic, while African-Americans account for more than 22 percent of Charlottesville’s population, the 591 firms they own account for only 11 percent of the town’s total businesses. But this share is higher than the percentage of African-American-owned businesses in Virginia or in the nation, which stand at 7 and 4 percent, respectively.

William Harvey, the City of Charlottesville’s primary liaison to the minority business community since 1987, attributes much of the progress of local black business owners to stable economic footing gained through catering to a wide range of City residents. Harvey contrasts this nimble business standard with the days when black-owned businesses and residents were clustered in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood. (Much of Vinegar Hill was razed in the name of urban renewal in the 1960s.)

“This was a segregated type of economy where blacks serviced blacks,” Harvey says of the Vinegar Hill era. Harvey says Charlottesville is now an “open market” where most successful businesses must “address the needs of everybody.”

But though many black businesses have thrived by reaching out to UVA students, tourists and white residents, some business owners cite the difficulties that result from not being able to rely on a closely-knit neighborhood such as Vinegar Hill.

“That’s the biggest challenge. You have to serve everybody,” says Dr. Benegal S. Paige, an African-American dentist who has owned his own practice in Charlottesville for 24 years. “Basically people in [the Vinegar Hill] era catered to their own group.”

Both Paige and William Lewis, the owner of Duplex Copy Center and a former chair of the Central Virginia Minority Business Association, agree that Charlottesville’s black business community lacks the strength of those in larger cities such as Richmond or Atlanta. They say black businesses in those cities can rely on banks that are geared toward making loans to minority-owned businesses, and can also rely on business from other African-Americans. For example, Lewis says if Charlottesville had major black-owned law firms, as does Atlanta, “I guarantee you I’d get more business.”

Charlottesville Mayor Maurice Cox, himself an African-American business owner, says the community is not large enough to support a minority-driven market. “They really have to have a broad-based appeal,” Cox says of local black-owned businesses. He says minority business owners have risen to this challenge, and adds that strong marketing efforts will be an important facet of keeping the community moving in the right direction.

As evidence of the growing diversity and health of Charlottesville’s minority business community, Harvey displays a map that pinpoints minority-owned businesses in 1986 and in 2003. The dots for 2003 are far more broadly dispersed around the City than those from 1986, which are clumped to the west of the Downtown Mall.

Paige echoes Harvey’s optimism, and says he’s seen progress in the minority business community in recent years. He says the City has worked hard to help minorities secure loans and develop business plans. And of Vinegar Hill’s displacement, Paige says: “I think that old wound has pretty much healed.”

But despite the efforts of Harvey and other local black leaders, it’s clear that black business owners still face an uphill battle in Charlottesville.

“We’ll never make it equal and balanced,” Lewis says of the local business playing field for African-Americans. “But you try.”

The black community itself needs to work harder to support its business owners, says Scottie B., the African-American owner of the Garden of Sheba restaurant and organizer of the roving Club Massive dance party. “Why aren’t they coming out to support what we’re doing?” is a question Scottie B. says he’s asked his black neighbors. He says he “has no problems” with serving a wide blend of customers, but claims his restaurant, which opened in August, gets most of its support from the white community. As a result, Scottie B. says he worries that black Charlottesville may be “forgetting about our own people.”—Paul Fain

Meating the need
Hunters for the Hungry takes aim at filling food banks

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is Steve Morgan’s busy season. When most folks are spending hours at the mall hunting for packages, Morgan is spending hours in his shop packaging for hunters. It’s both deer season and a season for giving, and as part of a unique program, Morgan brings the two together.

Morgan is Albemarle County’s official meat processor (the polite term for butcher) for Hunters for the Hungry, a 12-year-old national organization that provides thousands of pounds of venison a year to food banks and other nonprofit organizations for distribution to the needy. Founded in 1991 by David Horne, then-general manager of a program to salvage and distribute produce, Hunters for the Hungry was modeled on a Texas organization that salvaged and distributed meat. Horne succumbed to cancer early last year, but the program had grown under his leadership—it provided 33,948 pounds of venison the first year and 266,456 pounds in 2002.

Deer are a plentiful, nutritious source of meat in Virginia, and hunters can easily bag more than they can eat during the October-January hunting season. Processors like Morgan—there are 64 in the state—are collection points for hunters to drop off extra game. The processors remove all of the meat from the deer, package it and store it for the program to pick up.

Morgan, a soft-spoken, amiable 32-year-old, lives with his wife and two small children near Schuyler in a spread that has been in his family since the Civil War. Much of his work comes from providing taxidermy services to hunters, but during deer season he takes on two part-time employees to help him manage the processing workload. It takes about a half hour for a professional to skin, cut and package an adult deer, and in the busy season Morgan and his crew may go through 15 a day, about 20 percent of which are donated to the program. This is Morgan’s second year participating in Hunters for the Hungry, and he estimates last year he processed 70 deer for the organization, providing approximately 2,500 pounds of meat.

A hunter himself since he was 10 years old, Morgan is unaffected by critics of his trade. Deer are plentiful in Virginia, they grow up wild and are killed in a much more humane manner than animals raised for slaughter, and all parts of the carcass are used—the shoulder and neck for burger meat, the hindquarters and tenderloin for steaks and the remaining scraps sold to rendering companies. According to the Hunters for the Hungry website (www.h4hungry.org), venison is a “quality high-protein, low-fat item not normally available” to the needy.

Although the deer are donated by hunters, and the food banks distribute the meat, it still takes funds to run the organization and pay the processors, who charge the charity a reduced rate for their services. Fortunately for the program, the government recently passed the David Horne Hunger Relief Bill, which will provide an opportunity for hunters to donate $2 to Hunters for the Hungry when they apply for their licenses. For those looking to get more bang for their buck—‘tis the season.—Chris Smith

To go with the flow
Meadow Creek will be “daylighted” as The Dell gets a stream

Before Emmet Street existed, Meadow Creek was the dominant physical presence in the natural valley the road now follows. After emerging from a spring on Observatory Hill, the creek heads northwesterly toward Emmet Street and then runs with the road all the way from the Central Grounds Parking Garage up to Barracks Road. Charlottesville residents can be forgiven for overlooking this portion of Meadow Creek, however, as the segment is contained in underground pipes.

But for the first time since 1950, some of this not-so-scenic stretch will be unearthed. In recent weeks, as part of the construction project for the new basketball arena, UVA began working to “daylight” a portion of Meadow Creek located in “The Dell” on the UVA campus.

“We’re actually taking what’s in a pipe and bringing it above ground,” says Richard Laurance, the director of the University Arena Project. “It took 100 years to get everything below ground. Now we’re taking it up.”

The stream was banished to a pipe so the University could level out and use the land, says Jeff Sitler, an environmental compliance manager for the University. The project will resurrect about 400 feet of the stream and return it to some form of nature. The new Dell will feature an emerged stream, retaining pond, biofiltration system, meadows, a walkway, and plantings of ash and poplar trees and other vegetation.

Currently, Meadow Creek’s last glimpse of daylight before the underground stretch is about 100 yards west of Emmet Street in The Dell. Here, the stream trickles into a concrete pipe about 3′ in diameter, and immediately passes under a few picnic tables as it begins the long pipe run past the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

But just a few feet before Meadow Creek goes subterranean is a newly constructed right-fork that leads to the beginning of an artificial streambed. The still-dry waterway is lined with neatly stacked stones, and winds its way between tennis and basketball courts before joining a new retaining pond adjacent to Emmet Street. Bulldozers, two portable toilets and stacks of mud and rocks sit on the muddy construction site, where there will eventually be one of the planned meadows. On a recent Wednesday morning, a work crew could be seen and heard laboring with a power saw.

The benefits of the $1.2 million Meadow Creek daylighting project, according to UVA Landscape Architect Mary Hughes, are practical, ecological and economic. She says the emerged section of Meadow Creek and the retaining pond will reduce the storm water strain on the pipe system, which will remain in service, and will help to prevent flooding problems around the new arena and elsewhere downstream. While they’re at it, UVA is installing new sanitary sewer and water lines as part of the project, Laurance says.

UVA’s earthmovers hardly conjure up warm feelings for local conservationists, but this massive landscaping project actually has an environmental benefit. The daylighted stream will help clean the water in Meadow Creek, both in UVA territory and further downstream. The exposure to sunlight, vegetation and other stream life all serve “to make the water quality better than it is in a sealed pipe,” Hughes says. Finally, she says a babbling brook in the newly sylvan Dell will be a “landscape amenity” for UVA students.

According to Sitler, the reestablishment of vegetation along the stream will take longer than building a new streambed. And though construction at the Meadow Creek project is moving along, with the University anticipating a June completion date, Sitler says it “will probably be harder to put [Meadow Creek] back” in a streambed than it was to put it in a pipe. —Paul Fain

 

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Ease on down the road
City Attorney braces for a fight as Councilors squabble over MCP easement

Craig Brown seemed a little nervous. He shuffled a stack of papers, wearing the apprehensive expression of someone unaccustomed to dropping bombs.

“There’s no shortage of opinions in this community about the Meadowcreek Parkway,” Brown said, bracing for the uproar he was about to set off as City Council began its meeting on Monday, December 15.

In the most recent chapter of the Meadowcreek Parkway saga, Brown, who is the City Attorney, has found himself the reluctant center of a fierce game of legal brinkmanship that could pit Councilors against each other in court and cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I’ve been directed to ask the State Attorney General for an advisory opinion on easement by a simple majority,” Brown announced to Council at the start of the meeting.

“Directed by whom? This is the first time I’ve heard about this,” replied Councilor Kevin Lynch, seeming indignant. “Jerry Kilgore is the expert now? This is the same Attorney General who opposes providing contraception for college students.”

Councilor Meredith Richards apparently had spearheaded this particular escalation of the McIntire Park easement question, which these days is at the heart of the never-ending Meadowcreek Parkway problem. A nine-acre strip of City-owned parkland is the last obstacle blocking the Meadowcreek Parkway, which first came onto Council’s agenda in 1967. Albemarle County and the Virginia Department of Transportation want the City to grant right-of-way through McIntire Park so VDOT can build the Parkway, which would run through City and County lands. But a State law designed to protect public space requires a four-fifths supermajority for Council to sell parkland.

Only three Councilors––Richards, Rob Schilling and Blake Caravati––favor the Parkway, however. So in November they asked Brown whether the three of them could legally ease the land to VDOT for free, instead of selling it. Brown says an easement is legally feasible, while State constitution expert A.E. Dick Howard has opined that such a move blatantly violates the spirit––and probably the letter—of Virginia law. After Mayor Maurice Cox and Councilor Kevin Lynch went public with their vehement disapproval of an easement, Vice-Mayor Richards and her allies directed Brown to seek Kilgore’s advice. It was a transparent attempt to bolster their easement arguments, but not transparent enough. Lynch and Cox learned about the Kilgore idea for the first time on December 15, which apparently infuriated the Mayor.

“I had lunch with you today,” he stormed at Richards. “We talked on the phone this weekend. The idea that you were seeking the Attorney General’s opinion never crossed your mind? I’m appalled.”

Richards suggested that she was merely following the people’s will, as she had received many requests to contact Kilgore.

“No one’s asked me that,” Cox snapped. “Please forward them, so we can share in this sentiment you seem to have found among Charlottesville residents.”

After campaigning against the Parkway in 2000 and receiving more votes than any other current Councilor, Cox remains intent on blocking the Parkway; he continues to speak of the road in the subjunctive. Lynch, who also campaigned as an anti-Parkway “Democrat for Change,” has lately adopted a more compromising tone, by contrast, saying he would support selling the McIntire Park land if the City could secure usable replacement land from Albemarle. His other conditions include State appropriations for a Meadowcreek Parkway interchange at Route 250 and McIntire Road, and for proposed eastern and southern connector roads.

“I think we’re really close to a compromise and commitments that would put the Parkway in a context where it is an asset to the City,” said Lynch in an interview prior to the Council meeting.

But the newly combative Richards says she doesn’t buy Lynch’s diplomacy: “These claims are intended to kill the road, not improve the road.”

On December 15, Richards said she would be “happy” to see a court battle over the proposed easement. After the meeting, Schilling, who ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism, said he would have no problem with a lawsuit, either: “If that’s the way it has to go, then so be it.” Caravati wasn’t at the Council meeting, and was unavailable for comment.

The December 15 meeting ended with Cox telling Richards she should be “ashamed,” Richards accusing Cox of “bullying tactics” and Schilling threatening to walk out. Afterward, Brown sat alone among his stack of papers in the empty Council chambers.

“That’s not the way anyone would like to see a Council meeting end,” he said later. “I was spending a few minutes trying to reflect on what happened, and my role.”

Brown says this is the most intense conflict he has witnessed in his 18 years in City Hall. If Richards, Schilling and Caravati order an easement, Brown says, a lawsuit will probably ensue, and he stands ready to defend the majority’s decision.

“It’s not the easiest position to be in, but that doesn’t affect my analysis of the issue,” Brown says. “I approach it as unbiased as I can. My job is to present options available to Council, and the risk. Obviously, the risk here is being sued.”

Danielson returns

It’s been a while since Lee Danielson showed up at a meeting of the Board of Architectural Review. Given his history with that body, he had every reason to expect a lukewarm homecoming.

But on Tuesday, December 16, when Danielson’s architect, Mark Hornberger, described the California developer’s plans for a nine-storey, 100-room hotel at 200 E. Main St., the former site of Boxer Learning, the Board seemed enthusiastic.

“I’d like to see the Mall get this building,” said Board member Katie Swenson, echoing the general sentiment.

The plans presented were tentative, comprising various aerial views of a tall building measuring 53 feet across and nearly 300 feet long, from the Downtown Mall to Water Street. Hornberger showed several potential shapes for the hotel structure, but no design details. “We’d like to ask your opinion on massing,” said Hornberger to the BAR.

Some Board members wanted Danielson to preserve the building’s current façade, while others didn’t care if he tore it down. Although no formal vote was taken, the BAR gave Danielson the green light to proceed with design. Hornberger asked how the notoriously conservative BAR felt about modern architecture, then cited his own views: “We are in the 21st century, and as architects we have an obligation to mirror the 21st century.”

Board Chair Joan Fenton encouraged Danielson and his architects to consult with Board members—not because the BAR wanted to enforce a “traditional” design, but because the BAR could be willing to give Danielson more leeway than he might expect, given his past battles with the Board over the Charlottesville Ice Park and Regal Cinema buildings, which he developed in the ’90s with former business partner Colin Rolph.

“This board has been much more open to modern architecture, as evidenced by the new arts building,” said Fenton, referring to the modern City Center for Contemporary Arts, which is sited one block behind Danielson’s building. “There’s an openness to new materials,” Fenton continued. “Sometimes people shy away from a design because you think the Board won’t do it, but I encourage you to come talk to us.”

That didn’t sound like the stodgy BAR that infuriated Danielson during his prime as a Mall magnate. But the brash developer seemed himself a little different, too. Known for his bold declarations, Danielson kept mum at the meeting and offered only mild comments afterward.

“I’m a little gun-shy,” he said, declining to speculate on when construction might commence. “But I must say I’m glad about the reception [the hotel] is getting. Even people who are against everything seem to think it’s a good idea.”—John Borgmeyer

 

Under the knife
After lessons with a real-life chef, I know how the carved bird steams

Norman Rockwell was a crackhead. That’s the only way I can explain the utopian scene in his painting “Freedom From Want”—a perfectly coifed, multi-generational family gathered around the exquisitely placed Thanksgiving table, the aging matriarch delivering a turkey Arnold Schwarzenegger could drive, the gathered brood a portrait of Radcliffe futures and Howard Dean smiles.

Coming from a large family myself, I know this is not how it goes. Sure, it may start out this way—perfectly aligned silverware, well-bleached linens, the only spots to be found are on Grandma—but this is an aspiration, a beginning that has no possible future but to spin out of control into total holiday entropy. As soon as the knife pierces the skin of that turkey, the feeling that something’s got to give becomes the realization that something just did, and within minutes we are transformed from dinner at the White House to dinner with the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, a cacophony of drips, spills and airborne potatoes, a controlled food fight at best—“Vergoofin der flicke stoobin, bork bork bork.”

But all is not lost. The centerpiece of the feast is that massive winged SUV in the middle of the table, and if father can carve it like a surgeon instead of a lumberjack, he just might be able to save Christmas. After copious research and a demonstration by executive sous chef Dan Paymar at Boar’s Head Inn, I have ordained myself skilled (or at least capable) in the art of turkey carving. If necessary, I can stand in for father this year, and with these tips, so can you:

There are essentially four edible parts of the bird: breast, wing, thigh and leg. The breast is the white meat—the most tender—and the other parts are dark meat. While one could just haphazardly slice dark meat off the leg and white meat out of the breast, consensus seems to be that the carver should first separate the leg and thigh from the rest of the bird. To do this, insert the knife between the leg and the breast, slicing the skin and feeling your way down to the joint at the thighbone. Pry the thigh off at the hip joint while gently twisting the leg—this should remove the leg and thigh en masse. By further separating the thigh and the leg (again, find the joint between the two and slice) you will have a nice thigh and drumstick, which you can serve whole if you are related to Hagar, or cut into slabs of dark meat by slicing parallel to the bone.

The wing can then be removed by gently pulling it outward from the breast and using the knife to find the shoulder joint, slicing through where it gives way the best. Wings are too bony to yield good slabs of meat, but those Radcliffe-bound youngsters like chewing on them, so serve them as-is to the shorties at the kids’ table.

Last there is the breast, which is generally the most popular part of the bird. You can serve the breast two ways: cutting slabs right off the whole bird with long, slanty slices parallel to the rib cage, or pulling the breast out of the turkey and cutting the slices in the opposite direction, against the grain of the meat, which Chef Paymar insists results in juicier pieces. Either way, the turkey will cool quickly, so wait until the family is ready to be served before seeking perfection in your dissection.

For the neat-freaks who want to do all the carving ahead of time, there is another option. Section the bird as described above, then boil the remaining meat off the bones and use it along with the giblets to make a delicious gravy. When you’re ready to serve, just reheat the meat slices, douse them with gravy, and bon appetite! And if you ever find a Norman Rockwell painting of kids eating turkey sandwiches in January, let me know. At least that would be believable.—Chris Smith

 

The shape of things
Frank Stella’s former printmaker sculpts his own path in Charlottesville

Few of us ever meet a true art legend. Fewer still work side-by-side with one. Local artist James Welty is one of the luckiest few to do both. After taking printmaking at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he served as Frank Stella’s master printer for 12 years. Stella, famous for his 1960s “black paintings,” is also known for creating energetic assemblages of colorful, often circular spiral forms.

But that’s in his past—now Welty directs his own art career. In 1987, Welty left Stella’s New York workshop to focus on his own sculpture. He spent 10 successful years in New York City exhibiting at many spaces, including the John Davis Gallery. In 1999, his wife, Karen Van Lengen, was offered a position as dean of UVA’s architecture school, and they moved south to Charlottesville. Welty entered the local art scene in 2000 when he exhibited his welded copper sculpture “A Short History of Decay” in “Hindsight/Fore-site,” the collaborative exhibition between UVA and Les Yeux du Monde. Next year he will have his own show at the UVA Art Museum.

Welty brings a whole host of experiences to his art, from his time with Stella to his work in modern dance. He collaborated in New York with the Dan Wagoner Dance Company and The Kitchen, designing costumes and sets, and, in the case of avant-garde performance space The Kitchen, conceptualizing projects.

He also incorporates an encyclopedic range of knowledge from literature to anthropology to pop culture. He reads voraciously and cites sources such as Francois Rabelais, Henri Michaux and Franz Kafka. In the next breath he mentions Dr. Seuss and Daffy Duck. Welty finds kindred spirits that inspire and influence him.

Throughout his career, the juxtaposition of ideas (organic and mechanic, decay and rebirth, interior and exterior) has inspired Welty. Not unexpectedly, the way he envisions these dualities has evolved. In the last few years, his works have grown increasingly organic. His brazed copper structures often consist of hollow areas that suggest interiors, albeit interiors like the knotty cave formed by the tangled roots of a tree. As Welty says, “I am always returning to spaces that have tension and ambiguity.”

Early reviews of Welty’s work noted an inherent fearfulness in his structures. As his works have fleshed out, a sense of unease still exists—Welty acknowledges that some of his works might intimidate. However, this unease is more disorienting than ominous as Welty manipulates familiar objects into imagined forms. In “The Isle of Wild Sausages,” for example, a cylindrical form resembles a car part.

Underneath the gnarled, almost sci-fi veneer, Welty’s works want to invite us in. He reminisces about the cardboard structures his dad built for him as a child. He tries to recreate that sensation by building a “space to hide in,” he says, wanting his works to challenge but ultimately provide refuge.

Among the new works Welty is preparing for his June show at UVA Art Museum is a 50-foot scroll inspired by the “macabre, yet poignant” Japanese Hell Scrolls. Although a shrewd observer will undoubtedly notice the Stella construction in the museum’s adjoining room, she’ll surely conclude that Welty’s sculptures have lives of their own.—Emily Smith

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Feels like the last time
After a bad season of foul weather and Foreigner, CDF could be ready to bow out of Fridays

Charlottesville needs less than two inches of precipitation in the remaining weeks of 2003 to break a 66-year-old record for annual rainfall. That’s quite a reversal of fortune from last year’s drought, a change that climatology experts, quoted in The Daily Progress, attribute to shifts in the jet stream.

But some of the credit––or blame—for the rain must fall on the coifed heads of Foreigner, the ’70s arena rockers whose Fridays After 5 concert was rained out three times last summer. Apparently offended by Foreigner, the gods of rock thrice sent a series of storms, including Hurricane Isabel, to rain out the hot-blooded band. The Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, which runs Fridays After 5, finally held the Foreigner show at the Downtown Amphitheater on Sunday, September 28.

The anti-Foreigner showers also ended up playing head games with Fridays After 5—it now seems the bad weather may have shut down Fridays for good.

“It’s not clear to me at this time that they [the CDF] would be prepared to take on that event next year,” said Aubrey Watts, the City’s director of economic development, in a report to City Council on Monday, December 1.

Charlottesville is planning to start building a federally funded transit center near City Hall in 2004. The construction will include improvements to the amphitheater, home to the Fridays concerts, and Watts predicts the work will interrupt shows during the summer of either 2004 or 2005. Watts told Council the City is negotiating with CDF to hold the concerts somewhere else––perhaps the parking lot at the old Save-A-Lot grocery store near the Omni Hotel––during construction.

But in his report to Council, Watts hinted that the CDF might not be able to put on the shows next year.

“This year with the rain and everything, they had to end up canceling some shows,” Watts said to C-VILLE later. “They are having some issues they’re trying to work through.”

Asked if the City would consider picking up the tab for Fridays After 5, Watts said “I have not seen any desire on the part of the City to do that, but that could change.”

Last year the CDF began charging admission fees to Fridays After 5 to boost the group’s flagging finances, but the organization still seems shaky. President Patricia Goodloe says the CDF would certainly look for a new location for the concerts if necessary, but she wouldn’t comment on whether financial difficulties will mean the end of the concerts. She said she is negotiating with the City on the future of Fridays.

“I don’t want to mess up those negotiations by making any formal statements,” says Goodloe.

Regardless of the CDF’s financial outlook, free or cheap concerts Downtown could come to an end, anyway. On December 1 the Council considered leasing the Downtown Amphitheater to the Charlottesville Industrial Development Authority, which would sublease the site to a private concert promoter. The leading candidate is Dave Matthews Band manager and über-developer Coran Capshaw.

Under the current plan, the City would loan the CIDA $2.5 million, and that agency in turn would loan the money to Capshaw at “a below-commercial bank rate,” according to City documents. The developer would use the money to improve the amphitheater and its sound system, and pay back the City over several decades.

Council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting on December 15. According to City documents, the City wants Capshaw to provide for a minimum of 20 public events, such as Municipal Band concerts and First Night Virginia, and provide a Fridays After 5-type event during the summer “so long as it is economically feasible.”

Councilor Kevin Lynch took issue with that clause, saying he wanted some assurance that Capshaw would hold “free or reasonably priced” concerts. Mayor Maurice Cox countered that such a commitment would be unrealistic.

“It’s unreasonable to for us to say events will be free, even if it’s not economically feasible,” says Cox. “[This deal] is going to bring a level of experience in managing entertainment that we have no precedent for here in Charlottesville.”

Watts, who negotiated a similar lease arrangement with SNL Financial when that company moved from its Mall building to the former National Ground Intelligence Center, is negotiating the exact terms of the lease with Capshaw. His management of the amphitheater will likely mean more expensive shows, as his will be a profit-making venture. But if Capshaw’s Starr Hill Music Hall is any indication, those shows will be culled from a 21st-century roster of artists. Maybe that will keep the rock gods happy.––John Borgmeyer
 

Man of few words
Crozetians want to hear about the new Supe’s pro-growth agenda, but Wyant’s not talking

Now that David Wyant has won the White Hall seat on Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors, his new constituents would like to know more about him. So far, that hasn’t proven easy.

Speaking at candidate forums held in Crozet during the race, Wyant disparaged the major planning project affecting his district, the Crozet Master Plan. Wyant’s campaign literature, for example, said the much-publicized plan (which drew an average of 125 citizens to each of 10 community meetings) was the unrealistic product of “a very small group of people with the backing of special interests.”

Laura Juel, for one, would like to get past Wyant’s public remarks to better understand how he plans to manage Crozet’s impending dramatic growth. A town of 3,000, Crozet, under current zoning, could quadruple by 2020. Like many people in Wyant’s district, Juel awaits the new arrivals as she would a hurricane––hoping for light rains while boarding up the windows.

“I know the growth is coming,” she says. “What are we going to do about it?” That’s the big question in Wyant’s district, but it’s hard to get him to address it.

“I know his family has lived here for more than 200 years. He’s said that several times,” Juel says. “But I don’t know anything about his vision.”

Of 4,017 votes cast in Crozet, Free Union, Earlysville, Brownsville and Yellow Mountain, the Republican Wyant took 54 percent by employing the tried-and-true strategy of bashing an opponent while making as few public commitments as possible. The closest race within the district was in Crozet, where Wyant topped his opponent, Democrat Eric Strucko, by a slender 41 votes.

On the issue of growth, candidate Wyant would only say, “I am not in favor of taking away peoples’ property rights,” which some might recognize as a sly wink to developers.

While Wyant said little about growth, Strucko perhaps said too much. Strucko sat on the County’s Development Initiative Steering Committee (DISC), where he spent time working on the Crozet Master Plan. Starting in January 2002, the County sent architects and planners to meet with Crozetians in a series of community work sessions that were advertised in media outlets, stores, libraries and gas stations. Details of the plan were hung in the Crozet post office.

The resulting Crozet Master Plan aims to coordinate the development of subdivisions, roads, shopping centers and schools in a pedestrian-friendly scale, with the hope that Route 250W won’t follow the example set in the County’s other growth areas along Route 29N and Pantops.

“Growth management doesn’t lend itself to sound bites, where the message is conveyed in 10 seconds,” Strucko says. “It has a lot of moving parts and requires contemplation. I think I laid out too much of a plan.”

Strucko credits the Wyant campaign for playing on people’s fear of growth by spinning the Crozet Master Plan as “my opponent’s plan to urbanize Crozet.” That’s the way Wyant described it in a statement conveyed via his campaign manager to C-VILLE in October.

“The whole thing is really screwed up,” says Brian Cohen, who publishes the Crozet-centric newspaper The Whistle. In his November “Soapbox” column, Cohen claimed “Wyant lied and misled the citizenry” by portraying Strucko as a tool of special interests who wanted to bring growth, raise taxes and curtail property rights.

“[Wyant] is accurate in that Strucko’s approach takes a lot of regulation,” says Vito Cetta, whose company, Weather Hill Homes, is building about 80 houses in Crozet. “That’s because we live in a beautiful place, and we want to keep it beautiful. Buildings are so visible, and this stuff will be around indefinitely.

“Albemarle is getting 800 new homes a year whether we like it or not,” says Cetta. “We have to have sensible planning, or this place will look like a big subdivision. Anybody, in general, who would object to planning I think they got blinders on.”

Cetta says he thinks White Hall’s Supervisor-elect “means well” and hopes Wyant will change his mind once he learns more about the plan. Wyant himself has acknowledged in forums that he didn’t attend any of the Crozet Master Plan development sessions, and Wyant hasn’t spoken to any of the plan’s major players––County planner Susan Thomas, Planning Committee Chair Will Reiley and architects Warren Byrd and Kenneth Schwartz, for instance––for details about Crozet’s future.

“I’d be interested to hear his alternatives,” says Cetta.

So would many others, but Wyant isn’t talking. He didn’t return numerous calls over several weeks from C-VILLE, and Cohen says he was only able to interview Wyant for a voter’s guide through his campaign manager, Peter Maillet. Juel, who is president of the 350-member Crozet Community Association, says she couldn’t get calls returned to have Wyant speak at candidate forums.

“When I’ve spoken with him at candidate forums, he didn’t really answer the questions. He just changed the subject,” says Juel, who describes Wyant as “real flippant.”

“I asked him how I could get in touch with him,” says Juel. “He said he’d have somebody get back with me. I said, ‘No, if I elect you, I want to talk to you.’ He said he had a lot of things going on.”

The County’s Planning Commission is currently reviewing the Crozet Master Plan. The Board of Supervisors––including Wyant––will vote on the plan in late January.––John Borgmeyer

 

Unchained melody
The Washington, D.C., DJ duo Blowoff, a.k.a. Richard Morel and Bob Mould, inaugurated new local dance club R2 on November 14. With enthusiasm for Charlottesville and what they saw of its club scene, Blowoff will return to R2 on December 12 and January 16. Blowoff is one of several projects for each of the musicians. Mould, who has fronted rock bands like Hüsker Dü and Sugar and worked as a solo artist during the past 20 years, also had a stint as a scriptwriter for professional wrestling. More recently, he has branched out to record electronic-style music under his own name as well as the pseudonym LoudBomb. Morel fronts an electronica-guitar rock band called Morel, which last year released the sublime CD Queen of the Highway. As Pink Noise, he is also a much-sought-after remix master, who has worked with Mariah Carey, Beth Orton and Charlottesville’s own Clare Quilty. Both profess a deep appreciation of pop music: Morel likes the Pink/William Orbit single from the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack and new music by Mark Ronson; Mould likes the new Sarah McLachlan record, calling the single “heartbreaking.” He also characterized the latest TV commercial for Little Debbie Snack Cakes as “trippy” and “really well done.” Cathy Harding talked to Blowoff about working the crowd at R2 and wearing so many musical hats.

Cathy Harding: What were your impressions of R2?

Richard Morel: For both of us it was really exciting to go to Charlottesville. We thought the crowd was so cool and so hip to what we were doing. We had no expectations going in. We left on a total high because the night was so great.

Bob Mould: We have a weekly gig at the Backbar at 9:30 Club in Washington and it’s a much more intimate space. I was pretty blown away by the amount of immediate feedback at R2. Not only people dancing but people looking up to the booth and giving the big thumbs up to certain songs, which was great.

Your set lists have a really wide mix of club music, pop music and everything in between. With your motto, “Let the music set you free,” are you speaking as much to yourselves as you are to the crowd?

RM: Absolutely. One of the things that is central to both of us is we play music that we truly love and dig. We play records that we get off on. As far as the style, it’s less important than the vibe we get off them.

BM: I’ve been making music and listening to music and obsessed with music my whole life. It’s an interesting time in the sense that when I started in music professionally 25 years ago, there were only five or six stylistic differentiations in music. As information has traded quicker and technology has made it much more affordable for everyone to make music, it has become so much more splintered that it would be pointless to be so micro-genre-specific. As Rich said, a good song is a good song. The challenge is how to string them all together across the course of an evening as legendary DJs used to do to try to tell a story through the night.

Is there a learning curve to going from guitar, bass and drums to the DJ gear?

BM: For me, the past five or six years has been learning by trial and error, learning by looking at the manuals, and learning by listening to music I like and emulating it, which is pretty much how I learned to play guitar many years ago.

On the first night at R2, I kept thinking about the DJ as a director of a ’60s-style Happening: It’s great, when it’s working, to set the direction for an ephemeral event, and really difficult, I bet, when it’s not.

RM: When I got back into the dance and rave scene seven or eight years ago, I immediately thought it was like a Grateful Dead concert. That was the closest reference I had to club culture and what was going on at that point. Besides the obvious drug reference, there was a large group of people responding to music. It had a real hippie vibe.

What’s the status of the Blowoff record?

BM: We’re about 10 songs in. I would feel good if we got four to six more songs recorded in the next couple of months. It’s a pretty wide variety of styles.

RM: It’s kind of a good mixing of where Bob is coming from and where I’m coming from. At one point, Bob was talking about how it has a ’60s pop sensibility with two male vocals a lot of times singing together. The production is not like that, but in terms of the classic two male vocals

…Are we talking Everly Brothers here?

RM: In a way. Or Righteous Brothers or The Association. Of course, the lyrics are a little different, but the themes are the same.

Relationships, looking down the road, wondering about your identity?

BM: Pretty much. It tends to be on the darker side. The music is pretty uplifting. Personally that’s a combination that has always intrigued me—the darker lyric with the brighter music. There’s a lot of guitar on it, there’s a lot of beats on it, there’s a lot of vocals on it, there’s a lot of trading off lyrical ideas on it.

What about the individual projects, like Bob’s Body of Song?

BM: I’ve been talking to a number of labels about releasing that. In the next couple of weeks I’ll know when that record will be up and available. For my older fans, it’s more in the Workbook vein.

RM: We’re just completing the new Morel record, which will come out, hopefully on Yoshitoshi, the end of next year. On the Pink Noise front, I’ve done a remix of Luke Wan, which is coming out in the next month, called “The Wish.”

Is it challenging to have so many different music identities?

BM: My personal frustration is my birth name and the work that I do under that has been so prominent for so long that people who write about music are hesitant to go with me on the other things.

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Feels like the last time
After a bad season of foul weather and Foreigner, CDF could be ready to bow out of Fridays

Charlottesville needs less than two inches of precipitation in the remaining weeks of 2003 to break a 66-year-old record for annual rainfall. That’s quite a reversal of fortune from last year’s drought, a change that climatology experts, quoted in The Daily Progress, attribute to shifts in the jet stream.

But some of the credit––or blame—for the rain must fall on the coifed heads of Foreigner, the ’70s arena rockers whose Fridays After 5 concert was rained out three times last summer. Apparently offended by Foreigner, the gods of rock thrice sent a series of storms, including Hurricane Isabel, to rain out the hot-blooded band. The Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, which runs Fridays After 5, finally held the Foreigner show at the Downtown Amphitheater on Sunday, September 28.

The anti-Foreigner showers also ended up playing head games with Fridays After 5—it now seems the bad weather may have shut down Fridays for good.

“It’s not clear to me at this time that they [the CDF] would be prepared to take on that event next year,” said Aubrey Watts, the City’s director of economic development, in a report to City Council on Monday, December 1.

Charlottesville is planning to start building a federally funded transit center near City Hall in 2004. The construction will include improvements to the amphitheater, home to the Fridays concerts, and Watts predicts the work will interrupt shows during the summer of either 2004 or 2005. Watts told Council the City is negotiating with CDF to hold the concerts somewhere else––perhaps the parking lot at the old Save-A-Lot grocery store near the Omni Hotel––during construction.

But in his report to Council, Watts hinted that the CDF might not be able to put on the shows next year.

“This year with the rain and everything, they had to end up canceling some shows,” Watts said to C-VILLE later. “They are having some issues they’re trying to work through.”

Asked if the City would consider picking up the tab for Fridays After 5, Watts said “I have not seen any desire on the part of the City to do that, but that could change.”

Last year the CDF began charging admission fees to Fridays After 5 to boost the group’s flagging finances, but the organization still seems shaky. President Patricia Goodloe says the CDF would certainly look for a new location for the concerts if necessary, but she wouldn’t comment on whether financial difficulties will mean the end of the concerts. She said she is negotiating with the City on the future of Fridays.

“I don’t want to mess up those negotiations by making any formal statements,” says Goodloe.

Regardless of the CDF’s financial outlook, free or cheap concerts Downtown could come to an end, anyway. On December 1 the Council considered leasing the Downtown Amphitheater to the Charlottesville Industrial Development Authority, which would sublease the site to a private concert promoter. The leading candidate is Dave Matthews Band manager and über-developer Coran Capshaw.

Under the current plan, the City would loan the CIDA $2.5 million, and that agency in turn would loan the money to Capshaw at “a below-commercial bank rate,” according to City documents. The developer would use the money to improve the amphitheater and its sound system, and pay back the City over several decades.

Council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting on December 15. According to City documents, the City wants Capshaw to provide for a minimum of 20 public events, such as Municipal Band concerts and First Night Virginia, and provide a Fridays After 5-type event during the summer “so long as it is economically feasible.”

Councilor Kevin Lynch took issue with that clause, saying he wanted some assurance that Capshaw would hold “free or reasonably priced” concerts. Mayor Maurice Cox countered that such a commitment would be unrealistic.

“It’s unreasonable to for us to say events will be free, even if it’s not economically feasible,” says Cox. “[This deal] is going to bring a level of experience in managing entertainment that we have no precedent for here in Charlottesville.”

Watts, who negotiated a similar lease arrangement with SNL Financial when that company moved from its Mall building to the former National Ground Intelligence Center, is negotiating the exact terms of the lease with Capshaw. His management of the amphitheater will likely mean more expensive shows, as his will be a profit-making venture. But if Capshaw’s Starr Hill Music Hall is any indication, those shows will be culled from a 21st-century roster of artists. Maybe that will keep the rock gods happy.––John Borgmeyer
 

Man of few words
Crozetians want to hear about the new Supe’s pro-growth agenda, but Wyant’s not talking

Now that David Wyant has won the White Hall seat on Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors, his new constituents would like to know more about him. So far, that hasn’t proven easy.

Speaking at candidate forums held in Crozet during the race, Wyant disparaged the major planning project affecting his district, the Crozet Master Plan. Wyant’s campaign literature, for example, said the much-publicized plan (which drew an average of 125 citizens to each of 10 community meetings) was the unrealistic product of “a very small group of people with the backing of special interests.”

Laura Juel, for one, would like to get past Wyant’s public remarks to better understand how he plans to manage Crozet’s impending dramatic growth. A town of 3,000, Crozet, under current zoning, could quadruple by 2020. Like many people in Wyant’s district, Juel awaits the new arrivals as she would a hurricane––hoping for light rains while boarding up the windows.

“I know the growth is coming,” she says. “What are we going to do about it?” That’s the big question in Wyant’s district, but it’s hard to get him to address it.

“I know his family has lived here for more than 200 years. He’s said that several times,” Juel says. “But I don’t know anything about his vision.”

Of 4,017 votes cast in Crozet, Free Union, Earlysville, Brownsville and Yellow Mountain, the Republican Wyant took 54 percent by employing the tried-and-true strategy of bashing an opponent while making as few public commitments as possible. The closest race within the district was in Crozet, where Wyant topped his opponent, Democrat Eric Strucko, by a slender 41 votes.

On the issue of growth, candidate Wyant would only say, “I am not in favor of taking away peoples’ property rights,” which some might recognize as a sly wink to developers.

While Wyant said little about growth, Strucko perhaps said too much. Strucko sat on the County’s Development Initiative Steering Committee (DISC), where he spent time working on the Crozet Master Plan. Starting in January 2002, the County sent architects and planners to meet with Crozetians in a series of community work sessions that were advertised in media outlets, stores, libraries and gas stations. Details of the plan were hung in the Crozet post office.

The resulting Crozet Master Plan aims to coordinate the development of subdivisions, roads, shopping centers and schools in a pedestrian-friendly scale, with the hope that Route 250W won’t follow the example set in the County’s other growth areas along Route 29N and Pantops.

“Growth management doesn’t lend itself to sound bites, where the message is conveyed in 10 seconds,” Strucko says. “It has a lot of moving parts and requires contemplation. I think I laid out too much of a plan.”

Strucko credits the Wyant campaign for playing on people’s fear of growth by spinning the Crozet Master Plan as “my opponent’s plan to urbanize Crozet.” That’s the way Wyant described it in a statement conveyed via his campaign manager to C-VILLE in October.

“The whole thing is really screwed up,” says Brian Cohen, who publishes the Crozet-centric newspaper The Whistle. In his November “Soapbox” column, Cohen claimed “Wyant lied and misled the citizenry” by portraying Strucko as a tool of special interests who wanted to bring growth, raise taxes and curtail property rights.

“[Wyant] is accurate in that Strucko’s approach takes a lot of regulation,” says Vito Cetta, whose company, Weather Hill Homes, is building about 80 houses in Crozet. “That’s because we live in a beautiful place, and we want to keep it beautiful. Buildings are so visible, and this stuff will be around indefinitely.

“Albemarle is getting 800 new homes a year whether we like it or not,” says Cetta. “We have to have sensible planning, or this place will look like a big subdivision. Anybody, in general, who would object to planning I think they got blinders on.”

Cetta says he thinks White Hall’s Supervisor-elect “means well” and hopes Wyant will change his mind once he learns more about the plan. Wyant himself has acknowledged in forums that he didn’t attend any of the Crozet Master Plan development sessions, and Wyant hasn’t spoken to any of the plan’s major players––County planner Susan Thomas, Planning Committee Chair Will Reiley and architects Warren Byrd and Kenneth Schwartz, for instance––for details about Crozet’s future.

“I’d be interested to hear his alternatives,” says Cetta.

So would many others, but Wyant isn’t talking. He didn’t return numerous calls over several weeks from C-VILLE, and Cohen says he was only able to interview Wyant for a voter’s guide through his campaign manager, Peter Maillet. Juel, who is president of the 350-member Crozet Community Association, says she couldn’t get calls returned to have Wyant speak at candidate forums.

“When I’ve spoken with him at candidate forums, he didn’t really answer the questions. He just changed the subject,” says Juel, who describes Wyant as “real flippant.”

“I asked him how I could get in touch with him,” says Juel. “He said he’d have somebody get back with me. I said, ‘No, if I elect you, I want to talk to you.’ He said he had a lot of things going on.”

The County’s Planning Commission is currently reviewing the Crozet Master Plan. The Board of Supervisors––including Wyant––will vote on the plan in late January.––John Borgmeyer

 

Unchained melody
The Washington, D.C., DJ duo Blowoff, a.k.a. Richard Morel and Bob Mould, inaugurated new local dance club R2 on November 14. With enthusiasm for Charlottesville and what they saw of its club scene, Blowoff will return to R2 on December 12 and January 16. Blowoff is one of several projects for each of the musicians. Mould, who has fronted rock bands like Hüsker Dü and Sugar and worked as a solo artist during the past 20 years, also had a stint as a scriptwriter for professional wrestling. More recently, he has branched out to record electronic-style music under his own name as well as the pseudonym LoudBomb. Morel fronts an electronica-guitar rock band called Morel, which last year released the sublime CD Queen of the Highway. As Pink Noise, he is also a much-sought-after remix master, who has worked with Mariah Carey, Beth Orton and Charlottesville’s own Clare Quilty. Both profess a deep appreciation of pop music: Morel likes the Pink/William Orbit single from the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack and new music by Mark Ronson; Mould likes the new Sarah McLachlan record, calling the single “heartbreaking.” He also characterized the latest TV commercial for Little Debbie Snack Cakes as “trippy” and “really well done.” Cathy Harding talked to Blowoff about working the crowd at R2 and wearing so many musical hats.

Cathy Harding: What were your impressions of R2?

Richard Morel: For both of us it was really exciting to go to Charlottesville. We thought the crowd was so cool and so hip to what we were doing. We had no expectations going in. We left on a total high because the night was so great.

Bob Mould: We have a weekly gig at the Backbar at 9:30 Club in Washington and it’s a much more intimate space. I was pretty blown away by the amount of immediate feedback at R2. Not only people dancing but people looking up to the booth and giving the big thumbs up to certain songs, which was great.

Your set lists have a really wide mix of club music, pop music and everything in between. With your motto, “Let the music set you free,” are you speaking as much to yourselves as you are to the crowd?

RM: Absolutely. One of the things that is central to both of us is we play music that we truly love and dig. We play records that we get off on. As far as the style, it’s less important than the vibe we get off them.

BM: I’ve been making music and listening to music and obsessed with music my whole life. It’s an interesting time in the sense that when I started in music professionally 25 years ago, there were only five or six stylistic differentiations in music. As information has traded quicker and technology has made it much more affordable for everyone to make music, it has become so much more splintered that it would be pointless to be so micro-genre-specific. As Rich said, a good song is a good song. The challenge is how to string them all together across the course of an evening as legendary DJs used to do to try to tell a story through the night.

Is there a learning curve to going from guitar, bass and drums to the DJ gear?

BM: For me, the past five or six years has been learning by trial and error, learning by looking at the manuals, and learning by listening to music I like and emulating it, which is pretty much how I learned to play guitar many years ago.

On the first night at R2, I kept thinking about the DJ as a director of a ’60s-style Happening: It’s great, when it’s working, to set the direction for an ephemeral event, and really difficult, I bet, when it’s not.

RM: When I got back into the dance and rave scene seven or eight years ago, I immediately thought it was like a Grateful Dead concert. That was the closest reference I had to club culture and what was going on at that point. Besides the obvious drug reference, there was a large group of people responding to music. It had a real hippie vibe.

What’s the status of the Blowoff record?

BM: We’re about 10 songs in. I would feel good if we got four to six more songs recorded in the next couple of months. It’s a pretty wide variety of styles.

RM: It’s kind of a good mixing of where Bob is coming from and where I’m coming from. At one point, Bob was talking about how it has a ’60s pop sensibility with two male vocals a lot of times singing together. The production is not like that, but in terms of the classic two male vocals

…Are we talking Everly Brothers here?

RM: In a way. Or Righteous Brothers or The Association. Of course, the lyrics are a little different, but the themes are the same.

Relationships, looking down the road, wondering about your identity?

BM: Pretty much. It tends to be on the darker side. The music is pretty uplifting. Personally that’s a combination that has always intrigued me—the darker lyric with the brighter music. There’s a lot of guitar on it, there’s a lot of beats on it, there’s a lot of vocals on it, there’s a lot of trading off lyrical ideas on it.

What about the individual projects, like Bob’s Body of Song?

BM: I’ve been talking to a number of labels about releasing that. In the next couple of weeks I’ll know when that record will be up and available. For my older fans, it’s more in the Workbook vein.

RM: We’re just completing the new Morel record, which will come out, hopefully on Yoshitoshi, the end of next year. On the Pink Noise front, I’ve done a remix of Luke Wan, which is coming out in the next month, called “The Wish.”

Is it challenging to have so many different music identities?

BM: My personal frustration is my birth name and the work that I do under that has been so prominent for so long that people who write about music are hesitant to go with me on the other things.

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Black market birth control

As the General Assembly targets contraception, Planned Parenthood looks to Charlottesville

During last year’s General Assembly session, Delegate Richard Black (R-Louden) sent all 40 State senators a letter promising that Virginia “will lead the way in restoring the sanctity of human life.”

It’s a laudable goal for the Commonwealth, which executes more prisoners per year than any state besides Texas. Black supports the death penalty, yet he paired his letter to his Senate colleagues with a pink plastic fetus and graphic descriptions of abortion procedures. “Would you kill this child?” Black wrote.

Last year, a crop of conservative delegates introduced a litany of bills designed to limit women’s access to abortion. As the 2004 session approaches, pro-choice advocates expect Black and his cohorts will extend the hostility beyond abortion, trying to curtail access to contraception, too.

“Last year there were more anti-choice bills passed by the General Assembly than ever before,” says Ben Greenberg, who lobbies the General Assembly on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge. “The same players are back this year. Given their successes last year, we expect them to be even more aggressive.”

In 2003, the General Assembly passed a “partial birth infanticide” bill banning late-term abortions, similar to what President Bush signed into law in November. Both the Federal law and the Virginia law are currently being challenged in court, largely because neither law provides an exemption when the life or safety of the mother is endangered.

“We’d be shocked if the courts did not find this legislation unconstitutional,” Greenberg says.

Earlier this year Gov. Mark Warner vetoed another 2003 law permitting “Choose Life” vanity license plates.

Right-wing delegates last year also passed a series of bills known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) legislation that would gratuitously require all medical clinics providing abortions to conform to hospital-style building and design standards. The TRAP bills passed the House of Delegates but died in the Senate Education and Health Committee by one vote. The close call prompted Planned Parenthood to begin building a new clinic in Charlottesville that will conform to the TRAP requirements, should they eventually get signed into law [see below].

Looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, which begins January 14, local Delegate Mitch Van Yahres (D-Charlottesville) says he expects “a lot of sex and silliness.

“It’s a smokescreen over more serious issues, like the budget.”

He expects Republicans to introduce a bill that would ban universities from distributing emergency contraception pills, which prevent pregnancy by stopping eggs from attaching to the uterine wall. Last year, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) sent letters to James Madison University and UVA, suggesting that in prescribing the pills the schools would be violating the law by providing “early abortion to unwitting co-eds.” Marshall’s science may be wrong, but he’s a successful intimidator: JMU dropped emergency contraception. To date, UVA Student Health still offers emergency contraception.

Abortion-rights advocates also anticipate bills restricting access to contraception and establishing legal recognition of the belief that life begins at the point when an egg is fertilized. For example, Greenberg expects a bill that would create a new criminal penalty for killing a pregnant woman, even though Virginia already has three special laws penalizing actions that result in the collateral termination of a pregnancy.

“The far right is ignoring these laws, because their agenda is to establish the personhood of the fetus,” says Greenberg.

He also expects Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) to re-introduce a 2003 bill that would give pharmacists a “conscience clause,” so they could refuse to provide contraception if they believe it constitutes abortion.

“We’re talking about birth control pills, IUDs, Depo-Provera, emergency contraception,” says Greenberg.

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “We have a lot to worry about.”

A new clinic in Charlottesville  

Planned Parenthood can’t count on support from Richmond anytime soon, so the agency has turned to well-heeled Charlottesvillians. This year, the agency raised $1.3 million from individual donors between April and July. Also in April, the group purchased land in Charlottesville for a clinic that will provide sex education, pre-natal care and a range of health services for women, including abortions.

The clinic will be designed to hospital standards in response to last year’s TRAP legislation [see above], says Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge Director David Nova.

Nova predicts the TRAP bills will become law if a conservative succeeds Governor Mark Warner, who is pro-choice. If that happens, the new Charlottesville clinic would be one of only two in the Commonwealth to meet hospital standards.

“TRAP could become law in 2006,” says Nova. “Our concern is that the great majority of clinics in Virginia will close. We can’t wait until then to act on this. This new building would provide some security for the whole state.”

Nova says Planned Parenthood’s presence has grown in Charlottesville, where the agency enjoys a sympathetic and affluent donor base. The new clinic will open this spring near Planned Parenthood’s current location on Arlington Boulevard.

The clinic will be named the Herbert C. Jones Reproductive Health and Education Center, to honor the local physician and abortion provider who, when he retired this year due to illness, left a vacancy yet to be filled in Charlottesville.

“No one could give enough money to offset what Herbert Jones has done in this community for over half a century,” says Nova.––John Borgmeyer

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Against the grain

BAR chair and Downtown business owner Joan Fenton
attempts to regulate her competitors

When Joan Fenton appeared before City Council last week wearing a black pullover sweater and black pants, with her glasses and shock of dark hair, she looked more like an elementary school teacher rushing in after a yoga class than Charlottesville’s official arbiter of taste.

That is her role, however, as chair of the City’s Board of Architectural Review. Fenton also owns two Mall businesses, April’s Corner and Quilts Unlimited. On Monday, November 17, she appeared before Council arguing that the City should regulate some of her direct competitors, the Mall vendors and the merchants at York Place.

“The Mall is starting to look like a flea market,” Fenton complained to Council. “If the vendors look better, we all do better.”

Fenton was there to urge Council to adopt a list of guidelines, crafted mostly by BAR members, which would impose new regulations on Mall vendors. Many of the rules are picayune––black skirts (not dark green) around tables, umbrellas no higher than 8′ with a maximum of one dark color. The proposals that really bothered vendors, several of whom turned out for the Council meeting, however, were the prohibition of racks for hanging clothes, the $400 license fee (up from $125) and a rental fee of $2 for each square foot of red bricks they occupy.

The City says the fees would generate about $20,000 annually to cover the cost of administrating and enforcing the new rules.

James Muhammad, a 10-year vending veteran known as Cupcake, said that except for the fee hikes and the prohibition of clothes racks, the new rules aren’t that different from the current ordinance, which the City admits isn’t effectively enforced. Council will revisit the vendor question at an upcoming meeting.

“I don’t think all the other vendors should pay the penalty for that,” Muhammad said. “It would be a hardship for a lot of vendors to pay that kind of money.

“I don’t understand the problem with clothes racks,” Muhammad continued. “I don’t see how you can sell clothes without one.” He reminded Council that in the early 1990s he and other vendors pioneered Downtown at a time when the desolate Mall looked like a failed experiment.

Now the Mall mostly rocks, although as some businesses flourish others, like Sandy Ruseau’s gallery of watercolors in York Place, are, in Ruseau’s words, “just fighting to survive.”

In September, York Place owner Chuck Lewis wanted to put new signs on his building. According to Neighborhood Planner Mary Joy Scala, City development director Jim Tolbert said the signs, which protruded from the York Place façade, were probably O.K., and so the signs went up. Additionally, Scala referred the York Place signs to the nine-member BAR, which on September 16 unanimously deemed them inappropriate. According to the minutes of that meeting, Fenton said the signs were “loud and noisy with too much coloran obstacleand a precedent she did not want to start.” Fenton’s own Quilts Unlimited sign, next door to York Place, is a blue rectangle with red graphics and white letters; at April’s Corner, the sign comprises bronze-colored wooden letters. Both signs lie flat against their building fronts.

After the BAR ruling, the York Place signs came down, and on October 21 the BAR approved a plan that included signs that would sit flat against the façade. The flat signs went up, but the tenants and Lewis appealed to City Council.

On November 17, Lewis and his tenants swayed Council by presenting evidence that their business had spiked with the protruding signs in place, and showed photos of existing protruding signs on the Mall. Council seemed especially influenced by Lewis, who said, “If I had to do York Place again, I wouldn’t do it. It’s hard to get people in the building.”

After Council voted unanimously to overturn the BAR, Lewis declared, “This is so cool. We were outvoted, but we rallied.”

The current economic climate, say the shopkeepers, makes for increased competition. With businesses fighting harder to survive, Downtown business owner Fenton seems faced with a conflict of interest.

When pressed on the question by a reporter, Fenton first exclaimed, “I think Jim Tolbert had a bigger conflict of interest than me. He lives in York Place.”

Later, Fenton said she “could see how someone might think that. I’ve tried very hard to be fair. I have probably bent over backwards not to do anything that benefits me.”

Then, Fenton admitted, she plans to take advantage of Council’s ruling by installing protruding signs, just like those she opposed on York Place, on her Quilts Unlimited store. Within days of the Council meeting, a new freestanding sign appeared outside the store—a blue wooden square lettered in white and resting on an ornate black tripod.

 

Mayor Cox – one more term?

Democratic Party chair Lloyd Snook says Mayor Maurice Cox won’t seek a third City Council term next spring. “Eight years is enough. His family would like to see him again,” Snook confidently declares.

But Snook “may have spoken much too soon,” says the Mayor. Cox says he won’t resign from Council until he finds a protégé who “is passionate about the same things I’m passionate about.”

Cox says he has met with a half-dozen potential candidates, five of whom are women, both black and white. He says he wants to find a candidate who would bring not only gender and ethnic diversity to Council, but who would also carry on Cox’s vision for Charlottesville.

“I’m talking about the urban development of Charlottesville,” says Cox, “This notion of pedestrian-oriented infill development anchored by a state-of-the-art transit system.”

Karen Waters, director of the City’s Quality Community Council, says she’s “kicking around” the idea of a Council bid. “I’ve met with a lot of people,” says Waters, but she would not say whether that includes the Mayor. Waters is currently enrolled in UVA’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, which has turned out many a local politician, including Republican upstart Councilor Rob Schilling.

Cox says his search for a successor has so far proven “inconclusive.” He says he is weighing his obligations to his family and career, and that he expects to announce a decision after the New Year.

Meanwhile, other candidates are all but throwing their hats in the ring.

“I’m certainly very seriously considering running for Council,” says David Brown, a chiropractor and former City Democratic Chair. But he adds, “To get into this too soon is a distraction for Council.”

Snook says Dems will meet on December 7 to discuss candidates’ plans, and there will be a nominating convention on February 21. “We won’t run an all-white ticket,” he promises. The City election is scheduled for May 4.

On the Republican side, party chair Bob Hodus says he “has no news to announce,” but maybe he should get on the phone to Spectacle Shop owner Jon Bright, who says he’s “thinking about it daily, trying to make a decision.”

Bright, who ran in 2000, says that if his busy schedule prevents him from running this time around, he will run in two years. Another Republican, neighborhood activist Kenneth Jackson, says he will run “if the local party will endorse me as their candidate.” Republicans will likely meet in February to select candidates for the election, held in early May.

Councilor and Vice-Mayor Meredith Richards said two weeks ago she would seek a third term and is doubtlessly eager to assume the Mayorship. Councilor Kevin Lynch, meanwhile, remains uncommitted. “I’m not ready to announce yet. I’ll make a decision as soon as possible,” he says.

 

Money, principles and the Meadowcreek Parkway

The impending election is bringing a controversy over the Meadowcreek Parkway to the forefront.

Although the Virginia Department of Transportation doesn’t plan to build the Parkway until 2008, three pro-Parkway Councilors want to turn over about nine acres of McIntire Park to VDOT before the May elections that could threaten their majority. The efforts of Parkway supporters Meredith Richards, Blake Caravati and Rob Schilling will force Parkway opponents Kevin Lynch and Mayor Maurice Cox to make a tough choice.

According to State law, Council needs a four-fifths majority to sell public parkland. However, on the instruction of the pro-Parkway majority, City Attorney Craig Brown discovered that Council could grant VDOT an easement for the land with a simple three-fifths majority.

“At this point, those who are opposed to the road need to realize this is going to happen,” says Caravati (who ran as being against the Meadowcreek Parkway in 1998 and later changed his vote).

This puts Lynch and Cox in a bind. The pro-Parkway majority seems poised to ease the land to VDOT, tantamount to giving away some of the City’s most valuable real estate. VDOT has set aside more than $1 million to purchase the right-of-way, and Cox believes the City could get three times that––but only if he or Lynch agrees to sacrifice their principles and support the sale.

“It’s an open question,” says Lynch. Before he makes a decision, he says, he wants to see an appraisal for the McIntire land. He also wants to know whether VDOT would pay for replacement parkland if it gets an easement.

Cox says he’ll “think about” selling the nine acres in McIntire if VDOT offers around $3 million, a sum Cox says will allow the City to purchase replacement parkland, possibly from the nearby Wetsel farm on Rio Road.

If not, will Cox really let the City give away its last patch of countryside? When asked, Cox shifts the burden back to the pro-Parkway majority.

“Let it be their legacy,” says Cox. “That’s my attitude. I don’t want that legacy.”

 

Cox on “60 Minutes”

Mayor Maurice Cox will be interviewed on the November 30 episode of “60 Minutes.” The venerable television news program examines the Bayview Community on the Eastern Shore. Cox’s architecture firm, RBGC, helped design a “rural village” for Bayview. The mostly poor, black residents of Bayview defeated a State plan to build a prison near their town, then formed a nonprofit group that raised money to rebuild their town.––John Borgmeyer

 

Swimming with sharks

Little big shot racks up with local billiards association

Derrick “Buster” Fox moves around the table so quickly that one might think he’s being judged on his speed. Every shot seems to be determined ahead of time, before the cue ball has even come to a stop. It’s a balmy Tuesday night at Miller’s on the Downtown Mall, and Buster is running the table.

Tuesday is league night for the Charlottesville Billiards Association, a weekly ritual for the 60-some pool sharks who gather—most armed with their own cues—to compete in the City’s only local league, which holds three 15-week tournaments every year.

At 14, Fox is by far the youngest player in the league, shooting for his seven-person team “The Shot Callers” in a warm-up game against Yvette, a 22-year-old real estate broker shooting for “XLR8.” But Fox doesn’t let his age stand in his way—he is regarded by his competitors as remarkably skilled for his years, and easily defeats Yvette in only two turns before they both move on to play their designated opponents for the evening.

“I’ve been playing since I could see over the table,” Fox explains to justify his prowess. The remarkably well-mannered Monticello High School freshman grew up playing at Mutts, the restaurant/bar owned by his mother, “Mutt” Fox, who sponsors his team.

Similar dramas are being played out around town at Mutts, Rapture, Firehouse Bar & Grill and Chi-Chi’s, all of which, along with Miller’s, sponsor the league’s nine teams and provide free table space for the weekly showdowns. “I can’t say enough about these places,” says Mark Foran, who founded the local league three years ago and plays on “Ballbusters.” “We wouldn’t be able to do this without their help.”

League play isn’t just a game—a first-place team wins more than $2,000 for its $90-per-person entry fee. Because of laws that prevent awarding prize money to juveniles, Foran has only allowed two minors to play in the league so far (if his team wins, Fox will have to settle for something akin to a weekend amusement-park getaway). Since this is Fox’s first tournament with this league, he is also eligible for rookie of the year, league MVP, and a spot on one of the all-star teams that play a mid-season mini-tournament.

But Fox’s talent is a liability as much as an asset. To keep any one team from dominating the league, players are handicapped according to their level of skill and all teams must include a range of abilities. The better you are, the more games you have to win against your opponent—Yvette’s challenger will need to win six games tonight to be declared the victor, while Yvette only needs to win two.

Yvette started playing pool six months before she joined the league, and is still somewhat of a novice. Tonight she hits the occasional pretty shot, but she’s no match for her more experienced opponent, and goes down 0-6. Fox doesn’t fare much better, losing his games 1-6 despite his precise aim. But it is early in the season, and both players will have many more chances—fortunately, Tuesday comes every week.—Chris Smith

 

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Steal this article

The Cavalier Daily retracts eight plagiarism cases

Kirk Honeycutt isn’t mad at former Cavalier Daily arts and entertainment reporter Tonya Dawson––just perplexed.

“I’ve never heard of someone plagiarizing movie reviews,” says Honeycutt, a film critic for The Hollywood Reporter. “I just find it so bizarre.”

On September 2, The Cavalier Daily announced that “significant portions” of seven film and record reviews published in the student-run newspaper between October 2002 and August 29, 2003, were “taken without permission from multiple sources,” including Honeycutt’s review of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Then, on October 29, the Cavalier Daily ran another retraction claiming that an October 27 column about low-rider jeans titled “Fashion’s Practical Joke: Mooning and the Low-Rise Obsession” by Demetra Karamanos was plagiarized from slate.com. The original article, “Hello, Moon: Has America’s Low-Rise Obsession Gone too Far?” by Amanda Fortini, circulated widely on the Internet and appeared on numerous websites.

Dawson and Karamanos––both undergraduates––copied ideas, phrases, sentences and even whole paragraphs from other writers. Dawson was fired in September, Karamanos was fired last month. Karamanos declined to comment, and Dawson could not be reached.

On November 5, The Cavalier Daily published a 650-word mea culpa acknowledging the impossibility of checking every article for plagiarism. Still, the editorial claimed, the paper’s staff met to reaffirm that plagiarism is bad. Further, the paper will change its bylaws to include a more extensive section on plagiarism.

Cavalier Daily editor-in-chief Justin Bernick won’t say who uncovered the deception.

“There’s no evidence this is a widespread problem at The Cavalier Daily by any means,” he says. He declined further comment, referring to the November 5 editorial as the paper’s last word on the subject.

The incidents come as two notorious fakers, Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, reap fame and fortune for their journalistic sins. The new film Shattered Glass dramatizes Glass’ rise and fall as a hotshot staff writer for The New Republic. In September, the 27-year-old Blair landed a contract––reportedly in the mid-six figures––for his memoir Burning Down My Master’s House: My Life at the New York Times, due out this spring.

Instead of kudos, however, Dawson and Karamanos could face expulsion from UVA. The University’s honor code prohibits any student from lying, cheating or stealing while inside the boundaries of Charlottesville or Albemarle County, and the code also applies to people representing themselves as UVA students, no matter where they might be.

Carey Mignerey, chair of UVA’s honor committee, wouldn’t say whether either writer had been referred to that body. He says academic plagiarism is “certainly a common honor case,” but says he can’t recall anyone facing honor charges for plagiarism at The Cavalier Daily.

Hollywood Reporter’s Honeycutt says he’ll let UVA decide how to punish the copycats, and he’s not calling for blood. He says he just can’t figure out why journalists would ruin their reputations for pieces on low-rider jeans or bad action flicks.

“A movie review seems like a pathetic place for plagiarism, unless one is afraid of one’s own opinion,” Honeycutt says. “In the case of Charlie’s Angels, I can see how someone wouldn’t want to subject themselves to this movie. But all you have to do is sit through the movie, then go get a thesaurus and look up every invective you can find. It’s not brain surgery.”

Kit Bowen, a Hollywood.com writer whose review of the film The Hunted was plagiarized by Dawson, says the Internet’s boundless horizons give would-be imposters the feeling they can steal without getting caught.

“There’s just so much stuff out there. How could you monitor it?” Bowen says. “I’ve never had this happen to me before,” she says. “It’s bad journalism, obviously, but actually I’m sort of flattered.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Checks and balances

Budget surplus could force spend-or-save decision

A projected $3 million surplus in Albemarle County’s 2003-04 budget has officials asking, If Albemarle had a few extra million dollars, what would it do with the money? The County Board of Supervisors is thinking about giving some of the money back to taxpayers by cutting the County’s real estate tax rate. Not surprisingly, several representatives from local social service organizations and schools have their own ideas about what to do with the unexpected cash.

“I don’t think it’s prudent to cut taxes, particularly when we have a continuing unmet need in this community—that’s been documented,” says Gordon Walker, a member of the Albemarle County Public Schools’ Board and CEO of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging.

County Supervisor Dennis Rooker disagrees, saying it would be “fair and wise to look at the potential of cutting the [real estate] tax rate by two cents.” The Board of Supervisors took a step in this direction by passing on November 5 a motion from Rooker that required the first draft of the 2004-05 budget be developed with a 74-cent real estate tax rate in mind. That’s a two-cent reduction from the current rate of 76 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value.

When the current fiscal year wraps up on June 30, the County’s bean counters should be sitting on a surplus of about $1.4 million from these real estate taxes, according to Melvin Breeden, the director of Albemarle’s Office of Management and Budget. The boost is mostly due to a binge in construction. Breeden says personal property and other taxes round out the rest of the $3 million surplus.

Real estate in the County skyrocketed by more than 18 percent in assessed value between 2001 and 2003, and Breeden forecasts another 15 percent increase in the 2004 assessment. But what’s good for the County’s economy isn’t necessarily good for taxpayers, particularly those who live on fixed incomes. For some residents, the real estate tax on their property has increased by as much as 30 percent in just two years. For example, a property that increased in assessed value to $150,000 from $115,000 (slightly over 30 percent) would have a tax rate jump to $1,140 from $874, an increase of $266.

Still, a two-cent cut won’t go too far in helping people cope with real estate taxes. The owner of that $150,000 property would see only a $30 savings on her tax bill at the proposed 74-cent rate. By contrast, if the tax cut were to be passed next year, it would have a big impact on the budget surplus, knocking about $1 million off of the $3 million projected for this fiscal year.

John Baldino, a former teacher and school administrator who serves as a local representative to the Virginia Education Association, thinks that cool million would be better spent on teachers’ salaries and books, buses and buildings for County schools.

“Albemarle needs a lot of things,” Baldino says. “We’re talking about a basic need to improve education.”

Rooker insists that the tax issue will be revisited if significant County programs lack cash when the new budget is drawn up. Also, the Supes have yet to vote on the actual tax cut. If passed, the earliest a cut could go into effect would be next June.

Albemarle School Board Chair Diantha McKeel would like to see more discussion before the decision is made. The schools usually get about 60 percent of County funds, and McKeel wants assurance that unexpected needs (such as those arising from higher gas prices for buses, for instance) are factored into budget discussions. McKeel adds that the schools already have existing areas that could benefit from new dollars, such as improvements in class size and in teacher salaries. “Oh absolutely, we could use that million,” McKeel says.

The Monticello Area Community Action Agency, which administers health and youth programs such as Head Start, could also find a good home for some of Albemarle’s surplus, says Executive Director Noah Schwartz. However, Schwartz says that Albemarle’s funding for his organization is “consistent with” funding from Charlottesville, and he understands why Albemarle might look to cut the real estate tax. “I think it’s great that the Board of Supervisors is being so fiscally responsible,” Schwartz says.

Several other officials from social service agencies and from County schools say it’s too early to talk about spending a surplus that has yet to be reaped, or to discuss the wisdom of a tax cut that won’t be voted on for months. But most acknowledge that tough choices between unmet needs and tax relief are inevitable.

“I think that Albemarle County has an increasing gap between high-income and lower-income residents,” says Saphira Baker, director of the Charlottesville/ Albemarle Commission on Children and Families, which advices local governments in the funding of social service organizations. “It does pose a challenge in terms of determining tax rates.”

The fickle nature of economic indicators doesn’t make the job any easier. Though Albemarle is currently making budget projections 20 months into the future, they are only estimates. When asked if solid revenue trends will continue, County budget guru Breeden says: “Your guess is as good as mine.”—Paul Fain

 

Flooded with money

Scottsville’s close ties with transportation leaders pay off

For most of its 258-year history, the town of Scottsville has endured an uneasy marriage to the James River. The waterway made Scottsville a vital commercial crossroads in the pre-railroad era, but every few decades the placid James would send muddy floods raging through downtown.

A towering brick and slate monument in Scottsville’s newest park, Canal Basin Square, marks water levels from significant floods––the normally 4′ high James River hit 34′ during Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Most recently, the James topped 26′ in 1987. The most dramatic flood happened in 1771, when water levels crested at an estimated 40-45′, about 10′ above the monument.

After Hurricane Agnes, some downtown businesses relocated to higher ground just northward, the Village Square Shopping Center. In 1989, the Army Corps of Engineers built Scottsville’s A. Raymond Thacker Levee, named after the former mayor who secured Federal money for the levee to protect downtown Scottsville from floods once and for all.

Dedicated in September, Canal Basin Square is a monument to a different kind of flood––the torrent of State transportation dollars the Scottsville Town Council is using to remake downtown.

“The levee made this a safe place to live and do business,” says Town Councilor Jim Hogan. “That was Mayor Thacker’s deal. This is a new deal. This will make Scottsville a nicer place to live.”

Since December 2000, Scottsville has received more than $1.8 million in Federal TEA-21 grants, which are distributed through the State’s Commonwealth Transportation Board. The money is being used for two parks, a parking lot, a trail along the levee and a streetscape project that will build crosswalks and old-time streetlights, as well as bury power lines along Valley Street, Scottsville’s main drag. Hogan says the aim is to put the “historic” stamp on Scottsville.

“This is what everybody wants, the small-town way of life,” Hogan says. “As you develop the town, the shopping experience becomes richer. We’re not going highbrow, we just want to protect our historic feel.”

The most recent grant, a $224,000 allocation the CTB approved for Scottsville earlier this month, is the largest single award for 2003, and it represents nearly 25 percent of the total funds distributed in the CTB’s Culpeper district, which includes Culpeper, Warrenton and Charlottesville, as well as Albemarle and Louisa counties. The TEA grants require a 20 percent match, which Scottsville has easily raised, thanks to a massive private fundraising effort—the city secured $500,000 in private funds for the projects during the past three years.

In these times of tight State budgets, how did a leafy hamlet that is home to 550 people end up with such a fat wad of cash? It turns out this small town has some big friends.

Hogan cozied up to Carter Meyers, former CTB representative for the Culpeper district. Meyers, who owns Colonial Auto Center in Charlottesville, is tight with State Republicans and most famous locally as a vocal champion of the now-defunct Western Bypass project.

“Scottsville suffered so many years with the floods,” says Meyers. “This was an opportunity to help a town that never really had a chance to fix itself up. You could tell the people were behind it, and I think it will be another tourist attraction for Charlottesville.” In 2002, Governor Mark Warner appointed Butch Davies to succeed Meyers as Culpeper representative, yet Meyers has remained instrumental in keeping Scottsville’s funding stream flowing.

Scottsville has still not conquered the water, however. Engineers overseeing the streetscape project say the town sits right atop the water table. This could make the cost of burying power lines––which already runs between $300,000 and $500,000 per mile––even more expensive.

“We can’t just go flopping around in the water,” says Jack Hodge, vice president of Volkert and Associates, the Mobile, Alabama, firm directing the streetscape project. “You have to pump the water out. That could run the cost up considerably, or it may not affect it that much.” Hodge says engineers will conduct tests in the coming weeks to figure out how much undergrounding Scottsville can afford.––John Borgmeyer

Holier than thou

Ear plugs are turning heads in Charlottesville

When Ben, a 28-year-old body piercer for Capital Tattoo on Ivy Road, arrived in Charlottesville two years ago, he says his earrings were a big attention-grabber.

“People looked at me like I stepped off the mothership,” Ben says.

The reaction from Ben’s new neighbors may not have been borne of provinciality, as Ben’s earrings are rather big. In fact, he has stretched earlobes containing plugs that are 1 1/2" in diameter.

But though Ben and other piercing aficionados around town say the large ear plugs (also called flesh tunnels if they include a hollow center) have a tribal history that stretches back thousands of years, apparently Charlottesville has been a little slow to catch on.

The piercing pro at Big Dawg Tattoo on Preston Avenue, who goes by the name Pirate Dee, moved to Charlottesville from Las Vegas a few months ago and says of the ear plugs, “every other kid has ‘em out there.”

Pirate Dee, who wears half-inch plugs he says are made of dinosaur bone, observes the ear plug itch has yet to hit Charlottesville in full force. But he says his shop does stretch the earlobes of two or three customers a month. “It’s definitely starting to take off,” Dee says of the trend.

So what’s the attraction with plugs and stretched lobes?

Matteus Frankovich, the owner of the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, says large ear adornments have an origin in the Massai culture of Africa and are a response “to an insuppressible tribal urge.” Frankovich, who wears small discs made of ox bones, says he increases the gauge, or size of his ear plugs, every time he enters a new phase of life, such as becoming a homeowner. “American youth have an urge to display some sort of physical symbol for metaphysical changes going on inside,” he says.

A different motivation inspired Dave Munn, the lead singer of the hip-hop rock band Frontbutt, to stretch his earlobes: boredom.

“I’m not trying to get all mystical,” Munn says. “I guess it goes along with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. It’s my bling-bling.”

Ear plugs come with a price, however, both physical and fiscal. Though Dee says that earlobe stretching is “a good pain,” none of the popular methods are pain-free. According to Tribalectic Magazine, the self-proclaimed “definitive source for everything pierced,” the popular methods for extending the chasm in an earlobe include inserting wet sponges or frozen wood in a lobe, and hanging weights from an earring.

Dee had his lobes altered with a scalpel, but says his preferred method for stretching is the periodic insertion of a metal stake called a taper bar, a service for which Dee charges $40. Dee displays a taper bar that resembles a rifle bullet, and says that lobes can be stretched every four to six weeks.

The plugs for sale on Tribalectic’s website, including some made of amber (with insects inside) and those with inlaid bullets, run in the $25-50 range per pair.

When asked why he gravitated to ear plugs, Pirate Dee smiles and changes the subject. Asked again, he reluctantly admits, “the smaller earrings looked kind of pussy to me.” (A reporter in his shop was wearing a small earring.)

Dee also cites benefits of wearing ear plugs that extend beyond the aesthetic. Unlike a regular earring, which can be torn from a lobe, an ear plug will pop out easily when under duress in an environment such as a mosh pit, he says.—Paul Fain, with additional reporting by Ben Sellers

 

Stat man

Virginia’s Michael Colley is a walking football almanac

The statistics swim in Michael Colley’s head. There are numbers and names and dates, several lifetimes of UVA football lore. Colley keeps it all up there, fishing out facts as he needs them. And he even gets paid for it.

Colley, an assistant director of media relations for UVA Athletics, compiles the team’s gridiron figures each week. At home contests, Colley is the game’s official statistician, responsible for determining who ran, how many yards he gained and what the new line of scrimmage is. When the TV announcers proclaim that kicker Connor Hughes just became the first Cavalier to kick two 50-yard field goals in a season, it’s because Colley, sitting nearby in the press box, just told them so.

Football is a game of inches, and Colley’s is a world of minutia. The job is enviable, if Wahoo trivia is your thing, and perhaps pitiable when the Cavaliers lose.

“What some people use as diversion,” Colley says, “I now use as a career.”

Data dredging is only part of his weekly routine, however. When Colley is not nosing through a record book, he must do the grunt work of big-time college sports—publicity. On Mondays, for instance, Colley helps arrange head coach Al Groh’s press conference, and media interviews with the players. On Tuesdays, Colley meets with television announcers, to prep them for Saturday’s game.

Colley handles calls from professional football teams seeking information about quarterback Matt Schaub and helped produce postcards touting Schaub’s achievements. He also tries to update the virginiasports.com website faster than fans call in to complain about dated information.

“People have no idea the demanding hours his position requires and the tightrope he has to walk between the coaches and the media,” says Mac McDonald, WINA-AM radio announcer and “the voice of the Cavaliers,” one of several local reporters who speak highly of Colley.

“Love him or hate him, you always know where he’s coming from,” says Jed Williams, the station’s sports director. “With everyone digging for the scoop or the banner headline, his honesty ensures that everyone enjoys equal opportunity to get their job done.”

Colley, 41, grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Albemarle High School. He attended UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1985. After college, Colley sold computers for a firm in Virginia Beach, but he soon soured on the corporate world.

In 1989, just as Virginia football was winning its way to respectability, Colley moved home and started volunteering for the athletic department’s media relations office, writing press releases, compiling stats—whatever was needed. He got a full-time job there in 1991. Suddenly, the ferocious fan had access to all of Cavdom.

He has since learned to temper his emotions during games. Losses once kept him up all night “pissing and moaning,” he says. Now he has attained a rare state of sports-fan Zen.

“Not that anybody likes to lose, but you’ll go insane if you let the losses get to you too much,” Colley says. “Now I can go to a game that I have no interest in, or a game that I am dying to know who’s going to win, and they’re almost the same as far as I’m concerned.”

Football isn’t Colley’s only forte. He also keeps numbers up to date for men’s lacrosse and serves as the official statistician for home men’s and women’s basketball games. In each game, his goals are accuracy and objectivity.

“It’s not a statistician’s job to say what would have happened,” Colley says, “just to interpret what did happen.”

Still, Colley’s love for the Hoos burns as bright as the orange socks he often wears on game days. Jerry Ratcliffe, the Daily Progress sports editor, says Colley “is as passionate about the Cavaliers as anyone I’ve ever run across.”

As he will be on the job at Saturday’s Georgia Tech game, though, Colley must root vicariously.

“Since I can’t,” he tells this reporter, “cheer loudly for me.”— Eric Hoover

 

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Dude, where’s my bike?

Yellow bike program returns—with a fee

Last year’s ill-fated “yellow bike” program has been resurrected in the form of a community bike library that’s trying to share refurbished two-wheelers without getting robbed.

Last year, the City of Charlottesville and Dave Matthews Band funded a project to fix up old bikes, paint them yellow and distribute them around town. Within days all the bikes disappeared. This time, the new bike library, which opened October 1 at 860 W. Main St., isn’t just giving away rides.

“Anyone who wants a bike is asked to put their name on a volunteer registration form,” says coordinator Alexis Zeigler. “They are then asked to help repair the bikes for at least an hour, and to put down a deposit of $10 to $20, depending on the quality of the bike.”

The deposit will be returned when patrons return the bike. “If you don’t know how to repair bikes, that’s fine,” says Zeigler. “The volunteers at the shop will help you learn.”

For now the shop, tucked behind the Hampton Inn in a warehouse owned by DMB manager and über-philanthropist Coran Capshaw, is open on Saturdays from 2pm to 5pm. Zeigler says there’s “a couple hundred” bikes on hand, and “a few” have been checked out so far. The hours of operation will expand, says Zeigler, as the volunteer base grows.

Preston Plaza, Part 2

Last winter, Preston Avenue business owners got all worked up when the City announced plans to redevelop the intersection of Preston and Grady avenues, near the Monticello Dairy building. The project, known as Preston Plaza, went on the shelf a few months later, however, because nobody wanted to build it.

Now City Council is reviving Preston Plaza, citing new interest from developers. This time the Mayor is cranking up the City’s public relations machine, trying to head off another round of controversy.

On October 30, Mayor Maurice Cox called a meeting at the New Covenant Pentecostal Church on the corner of 10th Street and Grady to tell owners of such businesses as Integral Yoga, the Firehouse Bar and Grill, Central Battery and Crystalphonic Recording that Preston Plaza was back on deck.

“We’ve set aside the development plans from a year ago, and we’re starting fresh,” said Cox.

The original plan called for a mixed-use project––50,000 square feet of housing, 2,800 square feet of office space and a partially underground parking deck for 70 cars. Cox says developers were initially skittish about the amount of housing, and expensive ideas like underground parking. The outcry from business owners also turned off some developers, Cox says.

The Mayor wouldn’t name names, only revealing that “a critical mass” of developers showed renewed interest when the City agreed to rethink project specifications. When the City first announced the proposed development, local businesses said they were blindsided by the news. At the meeting, the business owners didn’t seem any less opposed to the plan, even with all the advance word on it.

Cox, however, claimed the City and the local Chamber of Commerce would do all it could to ensure that businesses were not hurt by construction, which Cox said could start in two years. Referencing the new shopping centers going up in Albemarle County’s urban ring, Cox said City Council has to push for infill development to help Charlottesville compete.

“We have to leverage every single square inch of this city,” said Cox. “We have to inspire developers to a higher and better use of this property.”

 

Rising Starr

In a sign of evolution––or, some would say, gentrification––the Starr Hill neighborhood has been removed from the City’s list of funding sites eligible for Federal low-income assistance. Starr Hill is no longer a candidate for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which pay for improvements to poor areas.

The Starr Hill neighborhood, which lies north of W. Main Street, bounded by Ridge/McIntire, Preston Avenue and the railroad tracks, has been on the City’s list of CDBG sites since Charlottesville started receiving the grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1974.

Charlottesville gets about $700,000 a year in CDBG grants, and it has wide flexibility in how that money is used, says Claudette Grant, a City neighborhood planner. Some grants can go directly to low-income individuals for things like home improvements, or they can be spent on projects like sidewalks or parks for the City’s target neighborhoods––Belmont, Fifeville, 10th and Page, Ridge Street and Rose Hill.

Households can qualify for CDBG funds if total household income for a family of four is below $50,880, which is equal to 80 percent of the City’s median income of $63,600, a figure determined by HUD.

Starr Hill was removed after 2000 Census data revealed that 47.3 percent of that neighborhood’s population is considered “low or moderate income.” According to HUD regulations, a neighborhood must be more than 51 percent low or moderate income to qualify.

In the mid- to late-1990s, Starr Hill was targeted by the Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA), which built subsidized houses to sell to low-income residents. Ironically, this effort to help low-income residents is putting Starr Hill housing out of reach for the poor.

“The big project that changed Starr Hill was the PHA,” says Missy Creasy, a City neighborhood planner. “The houses sold at low levels to the original owners, but they’ve turned over since then and sold for significantly more.”

In 1998, for example, the City and PHA repaired a dilapidated house at 210 Sixth St. NW and sold it to a first-time homebuyer for $82,500. Four years later, the same house sold for $225,000.––John Borgmeyer

Industrial strength

New concert promoters have a ga-Gillian ideas for bringing new acts to town

Even before they met in high school in Williamsburg, where they played in rock bands and penned such originals as “(What in the) Sam Hill?” Hank Wells and Michael Allenby had identified music as “a big pursuit.” It was just a question of finding the best outlet for their passion. A dozen years later, the bass guitar and drums have taken a back seat to booking the music for everything from weddings and fraternity bashes to festivals and corporate affairs through Sam Hill Entertainment, the agency they started eight years ago. November 19 marks their first venture as concert promoters, when Sam Hill Presents brings Gillian Welch to the Charlottesville Performing Arts Center (CPAC) for a sold-out show.

In focusing on all aspects of the Charlottesville market, Allenby and Wells see themselves augmenting the work of talent buyers who book one room, such as Starr Hill Music Hall, and local promoters who concentrate on one type of music, such as acoustic or reggae.

Writer Phoebe Frosch caught up with the dynamic entrepreneurs in their Water Street offices recently to discuss their vision for bringing diverse musical acts to Charlottesville.

C-VILLE: Which Charlottesville stages would you especially like to book?

Hank Wells: In addition to CPAC, the Jefferson Theater—a great room sitting there waiting for shows to happen—the Paramount when it’s finished, and Old Cabell Hall.

Michael Allenby: Outerspace is a cool space in a fantastic location [attached to Plan 9 on the UVA Corner], that’s about the size of Trax. It probably holds 600-800 people. It’s mostly an unused room—they’ve had some in-store parties and WNRN’s Station Break release party there but not much else.

Name some artists you’d like to bring to town.

Allenby: They range from someone who’s up and coming, like Ben Kweller, to Wilco or Ben Folds, all the way to legendary acts like Willie Nelson.

Wells: Emmylou Harris would be great at the Paramount. Charlottesville has these beautiful theaters that could entice big names to come here.

Ideally, where would you put Willie Nelson?

Allenby: Ideally, the Jefferson Theater, but the tickets might have to be $500! But if Willie Nelson decides to do a small theater tour, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t play Charlottesville. A promoter just has to be poised to do it, and have a reputation in the industry as someone who can pull it off.

If you could add one new room for music to this town, what would it be?

Wells: An authentic, no-frills rock club.

Allenby: Absolutely. A place where people want to hang out, even before they know who’s playing there that night.

As promoters, do you see any gaping holes in the local music scene?

Wells: World music doesn’t get represented enough here. Jazz is under-serviced, too. You can hear first-rate jazz up the street on Thursday nights, but Miller’s holds 50 people. Branford Marsalis or Chick Corea could play here, artists you ordinarily have to go to D.C. to hear.

Allenby: When we see musicians who should be coming to town but aren’t, in our little world, that’s a tragedy. Even though Charlottesville is small compared to Richmond or D.C., it’s home to a lot of forward-thinking people, which makes it fertile ground for music. The fan base exists to bring in a high-caliber and level of talent. If people buy tickets, we can build something.

 

Head of the class

After a botched job last time, the City School Board starts a new super search

At the end of this school year, departing seniors won’t be the only ones graduating from the Charlottesville City Schools. Superintendent Ron Hutchinson, after 30 years of work in the Charlottesville system, including two years as superintendent, will retire at the end of June.

“Life looks good,” Hutchinson says of his post-superintendent plans. But the future is far murkier for the Charlottesville School Board as it begins the search for a new superintendent.

Prior to the retirement of previous super William Symons, Jr. in July 2002, the board had lined up three candidates for the job. In fairly rapid succession, all three nixed the gig.

The rejections (the three top candidates took superintendent jobs in Martha’s Vineyard, Charlotte and Stafford, Virginia) were particularly embarrassing because the school board had conducted an open search and vetting of candidates. Though Linda Bowen, chairperson of the school board, says she was pleased with the public input during the last search, she says that the school board will make changes to avoid another visible jilting. Most notably, Bowen says the board will ask candidates the question: “If you are offered this job, will you come to Charlottesville?”

The salary range for the position, though not finalized, will be $90,000 to $130,000, which Bowen says should be competitive with the national average.

Bekah Saxon, a teacher at Buford Middle School and president of the Charlottesville Education Association, expects the board will be more cautious during this search. “The board learned some real lessons about what to say and what not to say,” she says.

However, Saxon isn’t worried that the board kibosh will be too severe. “We’ve all been assured that teachers and parents will be involved from the get go,” she says.

In typical bureaucratic fashion, the hunt for Hutchinson’s successor has been kicked off with a search for a search firm. A subcommittee comprising two school board members and two City government officials will settle on the headhunter, and Bowen wants to have the firm on the job on or near December 1. The board had 31 applicants for the job last time, and Bowen hopes the search firm will bring in more applicants this time around—the best of whom will have experience with diverse school populations.

This year alone, the Charlottesville superintendent oversees 4,422 students in nine schools and a budget of more than $51 million, making Bowen liken the job to that of City Manager.

“The problem anymore is that it’s hard to find superintendents. It’s a thankless job if you stop to think about it,” Bowen says. “You’re under so much criticism.”

One notable critic of the school board itself is Republican City Councilor Rob Schilling, who says that an elected rather than an appointed board would be more accountable for its actions, including its failed search for a boss last year. Albemarle County, which does have an elected school board, voted in three new members on November 4.

“I think that certainly, we could have had some different results last time around,” Schilling says, adding, however, that he trusts the board is doing a good job in the early phases of its new hunt for a super.

After the search firm narrows its sights on a few top candidates, Bowen says, the board will likely want to step in and begin interviews. In addition to finding a person who will accept Charlottesville’s offer to the big dance, Bowen says, the board is looking for someone who can handle the highly politicized job, without alienating members of the City government or the general public. Bowen’s target date for locking in the new superintendent is March 1, 2004.

What if the board fails to fill the position by that deadline? “It could be a problem,” Bowen acknowledges.—Paul Fain

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Hipsters unite

It’s a small, cool world after all on Friendster.com

Last week graduate student Peach Friedman was waiting to buy a cup of coffee when musician Lauren Hoffman appeared in line behind her. “Hey, I saw you on Friendster,” Hoffman said.

“Friendster” has recently entered the local lexicon to define a member of the online network Friendster.com, where buddies are collected and swapped like baseball cards. The site’s “friend of a friend” concept is similar to John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, which itself spawned the Kevin Bacon game and which posits that everyone is connected by six or fewer intermediary relationships.

Friedman, for example, joined Friendster in the spring––just weeks after the site’s March debut––on the invitation of her brother, who lives in Boston. After joining, typing a personality profile and uploading a photo, she “linked” to the other Friendsters in her brother’s network. Friedman has invited others into her Internet circle, and through her 31 Friendsters she is currently connected to 264,311 other people, including other Charlottesvillians like Hoffman.

“All my Boston friends were on Friendster,” says Friedman. “They were all writing ridiculous testimonials about each other, and I wanted to join the fun. I love to talk about myselfI mean, who doesn’t?”

Friendster’s format of pictures, profiles and prominent declarations of status (single, in a relationship, married, etc.) has prompted comparisons to the dating website Match.com, which has about 200 male and 200 female users in the Charlottesville area. Friendster’s home page claims the site helps people find love, as well as new friends and activity partners. The site is currently in a free trial period.

According to Friendster’s “search” function, there are 692 Friendsters living within 10 miles of Charlottesville. Of the 351 women, 81 want to meet people for “dating” or a “serious relationship.” And of the men, 132 of 341 are looking for love. In contrast to Match.com’s sincere solicitations, however, many Friendsters seem less interested in meeting new people than simply declaring their existence to the wide world, and making it laugh.

Indeed, many local Friendsters do not take their profiles too seriously. Local web designer Darren Hoyt, for example, claims his occupation is herding incontinent, flying sheep. Other profiles are completely fabricated––the City of Charlottesville, the Belmont neighborhood, Axl Rose and Rubick’s Cube are all on Friendster. The site’s apparently humorless founder and CEO, Jonathan Abrams, however, has denounced “fakesters” as ruining Friendster, and has begun deleting phony accounts.

The site’s levity, however, is appealing to many local Friendsters. Robin Stevens says she’s not interested in using Friendster for anything other than fleeting entertainment.

“I’m not on it in hopes someone is going to read my profile and say ‘I gotta meet this woman,’” says Stevens. “They will more than likely say, ‘What a weirdo.’ I think it’s just another platform to say ‘Here I am! I’m neat and cool! Look at me! I’m different!’ It was fun setting up the profile and reading everyone else’s ramblings about themselves, but after that I was over it.”

Browsing the site reveals a Friendster archetype that holds true among Charlottesville’s members––mostly white, cool-looking, 20-something urban hipsters effusing irony, a declared love for hip-hop, indie pop and “The Simpsons.”

The symmetry doesn’t surprise UVA anthropologist Richard Handler, who explains Friendster’s appeal by referencing 19th century scholar Alexis de Tocqueville:

“Tocqueville pointed out that a fundamental problem of mass, individualistic societies is that the very independence and equality that gives every person his or her dignity also means that every person is no different than anyone else––what I call the ‘drop in the bucket’ feeling,” says Handler. “He showed how American individualism led to American conformity. That’s exactly what you are finding on Friendster.com, where everyone expresses his or her individuality, but in exactly the same way.”

Some find Friendster’s conformity a turn-off. “I’ve managed to avoid the Friendster pull so far,” says 23-year-old C-VILLE intern Nell Boeschenstein. “It seems like just another one of those things that defines you by a list of your consumptions.”

It’s all in fun for Friedman, though, a habitual people-watcher who enjoys Friendster’s personality parade––especially when she meets her Internet acquaintances face-to-face.

“It’s just another medium to play with, a place to see and be seen,” she says, “like the person who comes up and says ‘I saw you on Friendster.’”––John Borgmeyer

A church divided

The consecration of an openly gay bishop spurs local debate

After a summer when “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” ruled the ratings and the Supreme Court ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, it’s easy to forget that homosexuality still inspires debate. But reminders don’t come much clearer than the international controversy surrounding the Episcopal Church’s confirmation of the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The story broke in June when Robinson, 56—a former married man with two daughters—was elected to lead the Diocese of New Hampshire. Debate flared up again when the election was ratified at the American Anglican Council’s national convention on August 5. On Sunday, November 2, Robinson was consecrated as a bishop at the University of New Hampshire in front of nearly 4,000 people, most of them supporters. Only three objected during the public comment period—one of whom read an explicit list of gay sex acts—although other dissenting members left the church afterward to join a protesting prayer service nearby.

But his official overall acceptance by the 2.3 million-member American Anglican Church has caused a deep divide among Episcopalians worldwide, with rumors of a split between the liberal and conservative sides of the membership. Local congregants also have strong opinions on the matter, and C-VILLE asked a few churchgoers whether a person’s sexual preference makes a difference within the religious community.

Jessica Nash, on her way out of a morning service at Christ Church on High Street, candidly said, “I’m very against the decision…part of being a Christian is the belief that Christ can transform you.” Her companions nodded in agreement, supporting the written statement from the conservative congregation’s vicar, the Rev. Jeffrey Fishwick: “I, and I suspect most of the parishioners of Christ Church, are deeply grieved over the decision.”

By telephone, Dave Johnson, rector at Church of Our Savior on E. Rio Road, offered a less emotional reaction. On September 24, Church of Our Savior hosted a two-hour forum on the topic where parishioners and priests expressed vastly differing opinions. He seemed less concerned with controversy than on focusing on the purpose of practicing religion. “I don’t agree with the decisions that were made,” he admits, adding, however, that the issue is “an unfortunate distraction from the message of the gospel.”

Robert Williams, a local Episcopalian, said that “Being a Christian means belonging to a community that goes back thousands of years. When someone challenges a moral-based history, there’s going to be a split. Moral conviction should stay timeless.” His sister, Anne Williams, agreed. “Where in the Bible does it say you can have a homosexual as a priest?”

“Acceptance of a leader who happens to be gay is a better reflection of true Christianity,” argued Eleanor Takseraas, outside of St. Paul’s Episcopal Campus Ministry on University Avenue, “in the sense that you’re not turning your back on someone who’s not like you.”

The Rev. Jonathan Voorhees describes St. Paul’s as “a progressive church” and doesn’t consider this issue political—“it’s a human issue,” he said. Voorhees regards the existence of homosexuals, within the church or otherwise, as neither evil nor uncommon.

Other Episcopalians are ambivalent, like Cary Wood, who regularly attends evening service. He just wants the situation resolved. “I have no reason to be against [homosexuals],” he said. “It’s a shame such a big deal is being made out of it.”—Athena Schindelheim  

 

Everyday people

Scottsville’s ordinary folks live on through recorded memories

A plain-faced woman in a billowing black gown is reunited, in a sense, with her husband, a bearded Scottsville Gray in full military regalia. Steps away in the 157-year-old Scottsville Museum building, their life-sized images co-mingle with photos of a silver-haired Yankee educator and a curious 4-year-old girl in black boots and a white ruffled dress. They are there only in pictures, yet through the efforts of “Capturing our Heritage,” Scottsville Museum’s oral history project, their stories live on through the voices of their friends and family.

Funded in part by a $2,500 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (the people who bring you the annual Virginia Festival of the Book), the program directly feeds the museum’s “Whispers from the Past” exhibit, which currently tells the story of nine Scottsville citizens from the pre-Civil War era to the Depression. The exhibit, located at 290 Main St., continues into a second year with a new series of profiles to be mounted in April.

“Scottsville is a unique town. It seems to have a kind of continuous history,” says Charles Fry, director of the oral history initiative, which actually got underway about four years ago and now has the memories of nearly 50 people to its credit. “I think that we need to tap into that and get a handle on memories of people who are, I’m sorry, dying.” For Fry, a former psychologist, the main motivation for spearheading the project was to explore the extraordinary in the average Scottsville resident. “A number of people had tried to interview a variety of well known older people such as the mayor,” Fry says. “But one of the things that seemed to be important to try was to get some historical understanding of the everyday person, not just the ‘celebrities.’”

Outfitted with a microphone and a digital audio recorder, project volunteers gather those histories. Yet it’s the photos, especially those by William Burgess, which give the museum exhibit its inimitable texture.

From 1890 to 1935 Burgess was to Scottsville what Rufus Holsinger was to Charlottesville, a photo historian. Through a “gentleman’s agreement,” their paths never crossed as they worked their separate parts of Albemarle County. The museum project has accumulated about 3,700 of Burgess’ archival quality images, although he took thousands more.

Along with the photos and other artifacts, the oral histories are arranged around six audio pods, giving visitors a mixed-media glimpse into the little town’s rich yet sometimes troubled past. Listening to the “voices from the beyond” on the decidedly low-tech audio tapes, viewing the still-vivid photos, standing on the sturdy floorboards of the Museum (a former Disciples of Christ Church founded in 1846), and smelling the musty aroma of artifacts like a 1920s diary and a yellowed quilt effectively transports a viewer briefly back in time.

Here the anguished histories of Civil War soldier David Patteson and his wife, Mollie—both born in the 1830s—are told through the voices of two of their living grandchildren, who read the letters and poetry the couple exchanged while David, a Confederate, was away at war until his death in March 1865. Then there’s Ruth Roberts, born in 1904, who was a former World War II War Department employee, and later a retiree who traveled the world but always returned home to Scottsville. Or William Day Smith, who was principal of Scottsville School for 30 years until 1937 and whose story is told through the voice of his niece, Katherine Ellis.

“This is an oral history of you and me, the run of the mill,” Fry says. “I think this is a side of history that you don’t tend to get. You usually get Thomas Jefferson’s history or other well-known people. But this is just an oral history of people.”—Jennifer Pullinger

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No scrubs
A nursing shortage prompts Martha Jeff to pass the hat

In a direct-mail fundraising letter dated April 2003, Martha Jefferson Hospital asked the good people of Charlottesville and Albemarle to make a donation to its Nursing Care Fund, one among dozens of charitable funds at the Downtown hospital. Following the request it stated, “There is a nationwide shortage of nurses. Please give as generously as you can and help Martha Jefferson Hospital continue to offer outstanding nurses services and excellent, patient-centered medical care.”
    Missing from the letter was a clear explanation of why Martha Jeff, grossing $210 million in revenues annually, wants the community to foot the bill.
    “We like to think of it more as inviting the public to support this particular fund,” Ray Mishler, vice president of Martha Jefferson’s Hospital Foundation, told C-VILLE. “People wouldn’t respond so well to us just asking for, say, a new boiler.”
    Indeed, the fund (not the boiler), just one in a long menu of pressing priorities at the local non-profit hospital, wasn’t randomly chosen to move local philanthropists to action. The Nursing Care Fund, established in 1999, is a necessary proactive measure to develop the profession before time runs out, say hospital administrators. It seems likely too that nurses, whom these days have more contact with patients than doctors do, would be a relatively sympathetic cause.
    But the nursing profession is in trouble nationwide and Charlottesville is no exception. Recent studies have estimated that by the year 2010, there will be a half-million vacant nursing positions across the country. Thanks to the physical and emotional demands of the job, along with stressful hours (many nurses work XX-hour shifts), the average nurse leaves the profession at 50. Factor in the aging Baby Boomer population, and nothing short of a crisis is soon to follow. By helping nurses to develop additional expertise and opening the door for some nurses to less hands-on work, the hospital rather optimistically hopes to stem that trend of attrition.
    “You have to remember, we are also bleeding our own nurses away,” says Susan Winslow, Martha Jefferson’s director of nursing education and community services. “They are highly adaptive to stress and therefore quite adaptive to other professions.”
    The Nursing Care Fund, which has already amassed $1.5 million in donations, will support projects such as consolidating nursing educators into a comprehensive education department within the hospital and creating the region’s first skills/simulation lab. In the lab, nurses-in-training could work extensively with mannequins and equipment before they get involved in direct patient care. Some of the fund will also be used to recruit retired nurses back into the field.
    “Nursing is back-breaking work, sometimes literally,” says Winslow. “We can bring inactive nurses back for less direct patient care with part-time positions in admissions, discharge and teaching.”
    Given that at Martha Jefferson, a hospital that boasts of its continuous-learning culture and reimburses its nurses for continuing ed classes, only 15 percent of 350 practicing RNs and LPNs currently are enrolled in some form of continuing professional education, it’s unclear if more money and equipment will drive nurses into the classroom. The campaign’s goal is to raise $3.5 million and hoist to 40 percent the share of Martha Jeff nurses undertaking additional training. —Kathryn E. Goodson

New ACC structure means ’Hoos could suck even worse

Recently, Boston College, University of Miami and Syracuse University accepted the NCAA’s invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), of which UVA is also a member. The NCAA had considered extending an invitation to Virginia Tech, but decided against it.
The three new schools boast strong sports programs, and the TV networks that already fawn over the ACC will undoubtedly give the conference even more coverage. For publicity-hungry UVA, this news could be really good—or really bad. So this week we examine UVA’s conference record in various men’s sports during 2002-03 to see how the Cavaliers might stand up to the new competition.

Baseball
UVA: 28 wins, 23 losses (6th of 9 teams in ACC)
Boston: 33-21
Miami: 37-13
Syracuse: no team
Verdict: Maybe UVA and Syracuse can enjoy a fun game of Wiffle ball.

Football
UVA: 9-5 (2nd in ACC)
Boston: 9-4
Miami: 12-1 (2nd in the nation)
Syracuse: 4-8
Verdict: If Miami doesn’t kill UVA, the competition will make the Cavs’ strong team even stronger. It’s too bad the Athletic Department canned the Pep Band, since Miami’s thugs and Syracuse’s ineptitude would make for some great jokes.

Basketball
UVA: 16-16 (6th in ACC)
Boston: 19-12
Miami: 11-16
Syracuse: 30-5 (national champions)
Verdict: Despite its record, Miami has a better team than UVA. Looks like the Cavs’ butt will get three new bruises.

Soccer
UVA: 15-7 (4th in ACC)
Boston: 18-5
Miami: no team
Syracuse: 8-8-2
Verdict: The Cavs could give The University an ego boost by beating up on them d’urn Yankees.

Conclusion: Perhaps it’s a good thing Virginia Tech won’t be in the ACC. As UVA pours ever more dollars into sports instead of academics, the Cavaliers seem poised to stand alone as the school with a great football team, mediocre sports program and the butt of redneck jokes.

Research by the C-VILLE staff


Chemical reactions
Council gets gaseous in water discussion

Perhaps inspired by the evening’s main topics––gas and water––City Council turned their regular meeting on Monday, May 19, into a lesson on scientific principles.
    First, Council proved the law that says a gas (or a meeting) will always expand to the shape of its container. There were only four items on Monday’s agenda and the Councilors seemed to expect the meeting would move quickly. Yet Council managed to draw the evening out to its usual length, comparable to a leisurely Major League Baseball game.
    Most of the expansive dialogue covered the subject of the City’s utility rates. The agenda included a public hearing on rate hikes for gas, water and wastewater, proposed by City Finance Director Rita Scott.
    Gas prices, she says, increased sharply throughout the nation last winter, and the higher gas rates in the City reflected that trend. The City purchases gas from private suppliers.
    Charlottesville and Albemarle buy clean water from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), which also handles wastewater treatment. As Council discussed whether to approve the proposed rate hikes, it illustrated a second scientific principle––objects (or politicians) at rest tend to stay at rest, until acted on by some kind of force.
    In this case, Councilors Kevin Lynch, Meredith Richards and Rob Schilling displayed a severe resistance to new fees. Each questioned how the rates were structured or exactly how the RWSA planned to spend the new money. Schilling, in particular, read a list of queries that ran on so long Mayor Maurice Cox had to bust out Council’s official guidelines and read “Please note, Councilors can make up to three points in discussion. Otherwise, have questions answered before the meeting.” (For those keeping score at home, that would be the mayoral version of “Shut up now.”)
RWSA Director Larry Tropea said that during last summer’s drought he heard from numerous citizens––especially those with business and real-estate interests––demanding the Authority increase the regional water supply. During the 1980s the Authority tried to build a new reservoir at Buck Mountain Creek, but Federal regulations and the endangered James River spineymussel consipired to thwart those efforts.
    So the RWSA now plans several other projects to increase supply. These include expanding the South Fork Rivanna reservoir by raising the dam and dredging sediment off the bottom. The Authority also will rebuild an old station on the Mechums River to pump water in case of emergency. The Authority also needs to repair dilapidated infrastructure, some of which is 100 years old, Tropea says.
    To pay for the projects, the RWSA is borrowing more than $24 million from the State, and on May 19 Scott said that more than half of the RWSA’s 2004 budget would be devoted to paying down that debt. The RWSA’s only source of revenue is the City and County, so this isn’t likely to be the last proposed rate hike, said Scott.
    But when Councilor Blake Caravati made a motion to approve the rate hikes, no one offered a second. Cox said he would not second the motion because he wanted to see if fellow Councilors really had the willpower to vote down the ordinance. Scott told Council that money would automatically come out of the City’s general fund to pay its water bill.
    Cox nearly pressured Richards to support the fees if the City agreed to study her question, but Schilling moved to revisit the matter on June 2 (which is destined to be another marathon meeting). Council agreed.
    “People were playing games, and now we’re in a pickle,” Caravati said. “Rivanna could turn off the taps if we don’t pay our bill.” ––John Borgmeyer

Return of the red glare
Local businesses return the spark to July 4

One week after finding out that Charlottesville’s July 4 fireworks were in jeopardy—again—the show is definitely back on. On Wednesday, May 21, nearly 30 people attended the inaugural meeting of the new Save the Fireworks committee, formed to ensure that the area still has stuff exploding in the sky come Independence Day.
    The move was needed after the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, party poopers du jour, backed out of handling the festivities, which it had done during the previous two years. But Save the Fireworks member organizers assured meeting attendees that “no one’s mad” at CDF, as it already has “enough events set up to lose money.” In fact, he thanked the group and specifically Director Gail Weakley, who offered CDF’s contacts and expertise (but not, it should be noted, financial acumen) to the cause.
    Save the Fireworks will need the help. While the group has made impressive strides on the fundraising front—from local businesses (including C-VILLE Weekly) they’ve already netted enough to devote $15,000 solely to fireworks, and that was before a May 23 WINA radio pledge drive—their biggest task will be to organize a self-sustaining event that had been passed from group to group for years.
    But they’re determined to make this “the biggest show Charlottesville’s ever had, by a lot,” Caddell said. Contracts have been signed with Zambelli Fireworks International, one of the biggest pyrotechnics companies in the world and the people responsible for last year’s show. Those disappointed by the 2002 display needn’t worry, though. Caddell said Zambelli was displeased with its own performance (apparently, the fireworks were launched at the wrong time) and have pledged an extra 10 percent worth of product for this year.
“So that’s an additional $1,500 worth of firecrackers right there,” said Caddell.
    Save the Fireworks is also working with City Manager Gary O’Connell and others to hash out the various permit, parking and clean-up issues. CDF cited the high costs of shuttle buses and security as one of the reasons it dropped the event. But Save the Fireworks is considering corporate sponsorships to provide transportation alternatives to the McIntire Park/Charlottesville High School car crunch.
    As to whether Save the Fireworks had considered making money for the event by taking a cue from CDF’s new Fridays After 5 admission charge, Caddell answered with an emphatic no.
“My position is that mom and dad and kids shouldn’t have to pay to see this. It should be a taxpayer-funded event,” as it is in many municipalities, he said. “The County and City should participate equally and the surrounding localities ought to have some little thing they throw in, too.”
    For those looking to add their help to Save the Fireworks, another meeting will be held Wednesday, May 28, and there are still plenty of big jobs for any comers, said Caddell: “We’ll find a committee for them to be on. We still need people to handle the Port-a-Potties.” —Eric Rezsnyak

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The war at home
Peaceniks and housing advocates visit Council

The high drama of foreign affairs made a rare appearance in the theater of local government last week. An army of war protesters from the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice invaded City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, January 21, demanding that Charlottesville join more than 80 cities in passing a resolution opposing an American war on Iraq. During the public hearing segment that begins each Council meeting, the activists held forth on President Bush’s imperialist folly and cheered when Mayor Maurice Cox said Council would consider an anti-war resolution at its next meeting on February 3.
    The formal agenda on January 21, however, reflected Council’s concern about the violence brewing in Richmond, not the Middle East. Faced with a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, State legislators say their only option is to slash funds to a broad range of services; they’re leaving it to local governments to make up cuts to social services, road and school construction, and public safety. Council is in the early stages of crafting Charlottesville’s 2004 budget, and they say the City needs to raise fees to make up for State budget cuts.
    For example, the City is contemplating raising the meals tax to four cents from three cents, which budget officials say would create an additional $1.3 million annually for school capital projects. Also, the City has proposed increasing the vehicle decal fee to $25 from $20  to make up for State cuts to local police. Finally, the City wants to raise trash sticker fees again. Sticker fees increased some 25 percent last year, but City officials say that stickers still only cover half the cost of the City’s trash and recycling program.
    The Council meeting began with a public hearing on budget concerns; Council also received e-mail comments, phone messages and postings to an electronic budget forum on the City’s website, www.charlottesville.org. Of those who have expressed their opinions so far, most people seem to support the meals tax.
    The sticker and decal fees have generated more controversy.
    The most common criticism is that instead of raising fees, the City should cut expenses––popular targets for the thrift-minded include the recycling program, which loses money every year, and roadside sculptures known as Art in Place.
    Despite this year’s belt-tightening, Council is still crafting ambitious long-term plans, and on January 21 Mayor Cox outlined his vision for the City’s economic development and housing.
    The next few years will see $15 million in new Downtown commercial development alone––including renovations at Court Square, a new home for SNL Financial (the old NGIC building on Jefferson and 7th Street) and the planned transit center at the east end of the Mall, Cox said.
    “Charlottesville is blessed with an incredibly stable economy,” said the Mayor. “We had $35 million in business investment in 2002.”
    The City’s rising economic tide is good for some, but Council also must cope with the fact that Charlottesville’s popularity is squeezing many people out of affordable housing. Cox said the City’s housing strategy has been to increase the available supply of middle-income housing to stem the exodus of the middle class to Albemarle County; in the next few years more than 1,000 new middle-income units will be built in south Charlottesville, and another 200 in the north, said Cox.
    Now that market forces are pinching the City’s prized middle class, Council has opted to create a housing task force to address affordable housing issues. On January 21, Council decided the task force should comprise 20 developers, bankers, property owners and housing experts, as well as a low-income housing advocate. While the task force will be charged with protecting “vulnerable populations,” according to the proposal, it will also be instructed to “be inclusive of all income levels,” leading critics to wonder if the task force will look primarily at the needs of middle-class homebuyers and ignore the City’s poor.
    “Those residents are not well represented,” said Julie Jones, a member of the advocacy group Friends of Equitable and Affordable Housing. “The task force needs to keep in mind the crisis of safe, affordable rental housing.” ––John Borgmeyer


Attorney tourney
The County Commonwealth’s Attorney takes on a challenger

Talk about stealing someone else’s thunder. On January 21, merely 30 minutes before County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos announced his run at a fourth term in office, fellow Republican Ron Huber announced from the stairs of the County Courthouse his own plans to run for Camblos’ job. With more of a psychological assessment than a real platform to offer (“Albemarle County has lost confidence in the Commonwealth’s Attorney,” Huber said), Huber, who is the Charlottesville Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, caught Camblos and other County Republicans off guard.
    Not that Camblos is too worried about Huber’s nascent campaign.
    “My platform is my great record,” Camblos says. “We handle thousands of cases fairly and aggressively and we do it for the good of the County.”
    Indeed, if Huber has a specific counterpoint to make, he’s keeping it well obscured. Repeated calls to Huber were not returned in the days following his announcement. At one point, C-VILLE reached his wife, Wendy, who, while reluctant to characterize his views, did assure a reporter that she and Huber have discussed them thoroughly around the dinner table.
    At least one prominent Republican is putting a happy face on the situation, however. “Competition only invigorates the base,” says Keith Drake, who chairs the Albemarle County Republican party, “but only one out of three or four times does an incumbent actually get challenged.”
    Although Drake was busy attending Camblos’ announcement and is as unfamiliar as anyone (except perhaps Wendy Huber) with the challenger’s platform, he says Camblos has done a good job during his 12 years in office.
    Nor does Drake seem to share Huber’s pet concern regarding Camblos’ performance on the job, namely, that the attorney’s office is closed between 12:30pm and 1pm (for the record, the City Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office remains open all day).
    “If he had checked,” says Camblos, “he’d have known that we’re bound by the Fair Labor Standards Act, just like everyone else.
    “We are absolutely open for business,” Camblos says.
    Camblos is supported by a roster of local Republican all-stars: U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode; State Attorney General Jerry Kilgore; former Lieutenant Governor John Hager; State Senator Emmett Hangar; Albemarle Sheriff Ed Robb; and former Albemarle Delegate Peter Way, among others.
    “These are all elected political figures and each and every one of them has enough confidence in me to support my re-election for Commonwealth’s Attorney,” says Camblos.
    Those hoping for a season of good old-fashioned mudslinging followed by a suspenseful primary will be disappointed, Drake predicts. “I’m not forecasting a primary here,” the party chairman says.
    If the party were to opt for a primary, in accordance with the State Board of Elections it would entail opening polls for a 13-hour day, which would close down schools, as well as pass the cost onto tax payers. “A regular primary would be too expensive,” says Drake. “Republicans ought to bear the cost, not the tax payers.”
    Instead, the party will hold either a firehouse primary (that is, a party-only, single-site primary) or engage in a mass meeting or full-out convention. The party will not decide its selection means until May, however. The election is scheduled for November. To date, no Democratic candidates have yet announced.
    As might be expected from a long-term incumbent, Camblos takes criticism with reserve.
    “There are people who think we’ve been too lenient, too harsh,” he says. “There are those who think we should have prosecuted when we didn’t, or not prosecuted when we did.
    “But you cannot do this job without making some people angry.” —Kathryn E. Goodson


Capital expenditures
Albemarle invests in a death penalty case

When Jamie Javon Poindexter was in seventh grade at  Jack Jouett Middle School in Albemarle County, he failed all his academic subjects. He read at a third-grade level, and scored in the lowest percentile on various standardized tests, according to court documents.
    Despite Poindexter’s obvious academic shortcomings, he was promoted to eighth grade, then ninth, before he dropped out of school. In May 2001, 18-year-old Poindexter was charged in Albemarle General District Court with capital murder in the stabbing death and robbery of UVA graduate student Allison Meloy on April 21 of that year.
    Now, Albemarle County is spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer to help County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos send Poindexter to Virginia’s notoriously efficient death row. The County’s willingness to spend money on Poindexter’s prosecution strike some as a misapplication of resources.
    “We’ve said for years that we can either educate children in school or pay for their incarceration,” says John Baldino, the local representative to the Virginia Education Association. “Whether education would have made a difference here, we don’t know. That’s just speculation. But it sounds like the system failed him.”
    In February 2002, Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors approved Camblos’ request for $12,672 to hire a part-time attorney, Frank Terwilliger. Initially, Terwilliger was supposed to fill in temporarily for Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Darby Lowe, who, at that time, was pregnant and planning to take a three-month maternity leave. Although Lowe returned to work in the fall, Terwilliger is still on the County payroll and assisting Camblos in prosecuting Poindexter.
    Camblos says that Lowe returned just as the workload for Poindexter’s case began to grow unwieldy, and he requested more funding to keep Terwilliger as an assistant. This is the third capital case Camblos has prosecuted in his 12-year career with Albemarle County; it is the first time the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office has hired part-time help.
    “This is one of the most horrific set of facts I’ve seen in 26 years,” says Camblos, citing court records documenting Meloy’s 48 stab wounds. “Clearly, the elements of capital murder are in this case.
    “Capital murder cases are very labor intensive,” Camblos continues. “In order for this office to properly deal with it, I needed some additional help. We really need another attorney, but we don’t have a place to put one.”
    In the past 12 years, Albemarle’s population has grown, the police department has expanded, and so has the number of County judges. But his office has hired only one new attorney, says Camblos. “It’s a bottleneck,” he says.
    Baldino has little sympathy for Camblos’ work load. “If the Commonwealth’s Attorney can’t make his case himself,” he says, “he should live with the result.”
    Youth like Poindexter will always “fall through the cracks” no matter how many programs are available, says Baldino. But he says it’s “irresponsible” for the County to put money toward executing Poindexter after apparently neglecting his educational needs years ago.
    “The fact that we’re willing to spend money, to hire more attorneys, just to ensure his execution—I think that’s despicable,” Baldino says. ––John Borgmeyer

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"All politics is local."

It’s a famous declaration from longtime Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. Had he been speaking about Charlottesville and Albemarle County, he might have added a corollary: "and local politics is boring."

That seems to be the consensus anyway, since only about a quarter of all registered voters in the City and County bother to cast ballots for local elections. And it’s not just the citizens who seem disinterested–the November 4 ballot contains nine uncontested races. Apparently no one could find a reason to challenge the leadership of Creigh Deeds, Steve Landes, Mitch Van Yahres, Rob Bell, Jim Camblos, Lindsay Dorrier, Nick Evans, Steven Meeks or Paul Garrett.

So everything must be hunky dory, right? Not hardly. Do you want Albemarle County to look like one big strip mall? Do you want your Sheriff’s Department fighting terrorism? Should we try to build a new reservoir or learn to be more careful with the water we have? Is the school system responsible for closing the achievement gap between black and white students?

We interviewed each candidate and offer the fol lowing guide to what makes them tick. While many of the candidates lack political experience, they at least seem to exercise some civic interest–according to available local voting records, every candidate from the City and County voted in the last election, except Sheriff’s candidate Barry McLane (oops!).

National politics may make for interesting television, but the local election is where your voice gets heard. Read on to see where the candidates stand on local issues, and maybe you’ll find you’ve got something to say.-John Borgmeyer

 

Senate of Virginia,

24th District

Emmett Hanger, Jr.

Incumbent

Age: 55

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, five children

Education: B.A., James Madison University; M.A., JMU

Previous political experience: House of Delegates, 1983-1991; State Senate, 1996-current

Occupation: Commercial real estate broker

Turn-ons: Farmland–Hanger has sponsored bills making it easier for Virginia to protect farmland and place land in conservation easements. Other turn-ons include major campaign contributors such as Exxon-Mobile, Philip Morris, Sprint and The Realtors PAC.

Turn-offs: The tax code–Hanger is chairman of the State Commission on Tax Reform and Restructure.

The pitch: "I want to correct the inequities in the tax code that put a disproportionate share of the State’s tax burden on the shoulders of low-income residents."

 

Steven Sisson

Age: 46

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, four children

Education: U.S. Navy Photography School; U.S. Navy Photojournalism School; Florida Junior College; attended Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at UVA

Previous political experience: City of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Reform Party Chairman; 6th District Chairman; Rockingham County Democratic Chairman; Rockingham County District V Planning Commissioner

Occupation: Waste reduction and recycling manager at the Coors Shenandoah Brewery, Elkton

Turn-ons: Taking incumbents to task–Sisson has criticized his opponent, Hanger, for supporting former Governor Jim Gilmore’s car tax repeal, Hanger’s failure to vote for a 2001 bill expressing official regret for the State’s eugenics movement, and for Hanger’s alleged inaction as State Song Committee chairman.

Turn-offs: Taxes–It’s not often you see Virginia Democrats biting the Republicans’ "no new taxes" line, but Sisson has made such a pledge the cornerstone of his campaign.

The pitch: "I believe we need a Senator who understands that public office is about service, and someone who encourages the public to hold them accountable for their actions. I have a strong record, and I believe that if the people of the 24th District put their faith in me, I can be that kind of Senator."

 

Senate of Virginia,

25th District

Creigh Deeds

Incumbent

Age: 45

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, four children

Education: B.A., Concord College; Wake Forest Law School

Previous political experience: Elected Bath County Commonwealth Attorney in 1988; House of Delegates, 1991-2001; Elected to State Senate in 2001

Occupation: Attorney

Turn-ons: Speeches–Deeds has the "Aw, shucks" western Virginia thing down, and it plays well in Richmond.

Turn-offs: Environmental degradation– Deeds received the Leadership in Public Policy Award from The Nature Conservancy, and the Preservation Alliance of Virginia named him Delegate of the Year.

The pitch: "Government isn’t about sitting on a hilltop saying how everything should be. It’s about creating situations where everyone can win a little bit. You can be very specific about what you want to do, but we’re elected to work together."

 

House of Delegates,

25th District

Steve Landes

Incumbent

Age: 43

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, one child

Education: B.S., Virginia Commonwealth University

Previous political experience: Delegate since 1996

Occupation: Executive director of Newbiz Virginia

Turn-ons: God and business–Landes proposes handing health care for the elderly over to corporations. He’s also supported teacher-led voluntary prayer and 10 Commandment displays in schools.

Turn-offs: Inheritance taxes, restricting campaign contributions, same-sex marriage and expanding State services for the poor.

The pitch: "I try to listen to people’s concerns, and make sure the State is providing good customer service."

 

House of Delegates,

57th District

Mitch Van Yahres

Incumbent

Age: He turns 77 on Election Day

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, five children

Education: B.S., Cornell University

Previous political experience: Charlottesville City Council 1968-1976; Charlottesville Mayor 1970-1972; elected to House of Delegates in 1981

Occupation: Retired arborist

Turn-ons: The little guy–"I have always tried to be a voice for those who are neglected or ignored by the system."

Turn-offs: Low cigarette taxes–Van Yahres has repeatedly tried to introduce legislation raising the current tax of 2.5 cents per pack to 60 cents per pack, to no avail.

The pitch: "Sometimes I feel my function is to remind my colleagues that there is more to governing than winning elections and cutting taxes. We are responsible for helping our fellow citizens who can’t help themselves."

 

House of Delegates,

58th District

Rob Bell

Incumbent

Age: 36

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, one child

Education: B.A., UVA; J.B., UVA

Previous political experience: Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Orange County from 1996-2001

Occupation: Attorney

Turn-ons: Teachers

Turn-offs: Drunk drivers

The pitch: "We need to be sure tax reform will not be used as a way to disguise a tax hike."

 

House of Delegates,

59th District

Watkins M. Abbitt

Incumbent

Age: 58

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, two children, five grandchildren

Education: B.S. in economics, VCU

Previous political experience: Elected to House of Delegates in 1985; sat on the State Water Control Board, 1981-1985

Occupation: Owns insurance and real estate companies

Turn-ons: His top campaign contributors are auto dealers, Realtors, commercial builders, lumber companies.

Turn-offs: Cutting the State law enforcement budget last year.

The pitch: "I’ve been a voice for rural Virginia, and I’ve worked hard to see that we got our fair share of funding in this district. Last year, in a budget decline, there were no cuts to education, and we were able to keep law enforcement almost whole."

 

Allen Hale

Age: 60

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, two children, three stepchildren

Education: B.A., UVA

Previous political experience: Treasurer and chair of Nelson County Democratic party; member of the 5th District Democratic Committee; serves on the Industrial Development Authority for Nelson County

Occupation: Land surveyor and bookseller

Turn-ons: Small businesses

Turn-offs: Virginia’s position as last in the country in spending on natural resources.

The pitch: "Tax reform is my priority."

 

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Jim Camblos

Incumbent

Age: 57

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., UVA; J.D., Western New England College School of Law

Previous political experience: Elected Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney in 1991

Occupation: Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Turn-ons: His Republican buddies–Camblos has donated thousands of his leftover campaign money to fellow Republican candidates.

Turn-offs: The understaffed conditions which Camblos says plague his office.

The pitch: "It is my hope that the citizens of Albemarle County share my view that I, as well as my assistants, do a good job."

 

Albemarle County Sheriff

Ed Robb

Incumbent

Age: 65

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, three children

Education: B.A., Thiel College

Previous political experience: Virginia State Senator,

1992-1996

Occupation: Albemarle County Sheriff

Turn-ons: Rubbing elbows–Robb received campaign contributions from such notables as writer Rita Mae Brown ($1,000) and former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger ($200).

Turn-offs: Newspaper stories about Steve Shifflett, whom Robb hired despite Shifflett’s record of violence as a Louisa County Deputy. Shifflett left the Albemarle force this summer after police discovered he lied about getting shot by a black man, but not before Robb declared the "incident" a "hate crime."

The pitch: "I am eminently better qualified and more experienced."

 

Larry Claytor

Age: 49

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, three children

Education: Two years at Virginia Tech; associate’s degree from Piedmont Virginia Community College

Previous political experience: None

Occupation: Albemarle County master police officer, forensic specialist

Turn-ons: Being a forensic specialist

Turn-offs: The incumbent Sheriff’s focus on anti-terrorism campaigns, instead of the department’s actual duties of guarding local courtrooms and delivering court papers.

The pitch: "My focus is to be the best Sheriff I can be, to put the focus on the department’s duties."

 

Barry McLane

Age: 48

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, three children

Education: Attended Ferrum and Lynchburg colleges

Previous political experience: None

Occupation: WorldStrides executive

Turn-ons: His own managerial expertise

Turn-offs: The high turnover of Sheriff’s deputies since Ed Robb took office four years ago. McLane puts the turnover rate at 60 percent.

The pitch: "I will work as hard for the community as I do for my stockholders."

 

Board of Supervisors, Rivanna District

Peter Hallock

Age: 61

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, three children

Education: B.S., University of Maryland

Previous political experience: Sits on Albemarle County Housing Committee; president of the Little Keswick Foundation for Special Education; sits on Albemarle County Fiscal Impact Committee; Child Youth and Family Service Board; Piedmont Environmental Council Board

Occupation: Co-owns the Garden Spot, with wife, Andrea

Turn-ons: Smart growth, ala Downtown Charlottesville

Turn-offs: Sprawl

The pitch: "I think I have a better handle on the growth issue than my opponent does."

 

Ken Boyd

Age: 55

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, four children

Education: American College

Previous political experience: 2000-2003 School Board; PTO president of Monticello High School (1997-98); Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) board; Computers for Kids board; government affairs committee for Regional Chamber of Commerce

Occupation: Owner, Boyd Financial Services

Turn-ons: The Buck Mountain Reservoir, a proposed reservoir deemed unbuildable in the early ’90s by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

Turn-offs: Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), a group that advocates more cautious growth to help solve traffic and water problems.

The pitch: "I would like to stop companies from leaving this area by contacting large employers to see what they need us to do to stay here. Large employers are good neighbors not just in terms of taxes they pay, but also in philanthropic terms. I’m worried about them."

 

Board of Supervisors, Scottsville District

Lindsay Dorrier, Jr.

Incumbent

Age: 60

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., Trinity College; J.D., L.L.M., UVA Law School; M.B.A., James Madison University

Previous political experience: Board of Supervisors from 1976-1980, 2000-present; Commonwealth’s Attorney from 1980-1990; director of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice services from 1990-1994

Occupation: Attorney

Turn-ons: Running unopposed

Turn-offs: The State, which Dorrier says has neglected to fund its share of the County school budget.

The pitch: "I’ve got experience. I’ve been on the board. One of the things I’d like to work on is making sure Albemarle’s zoning laws channel growth to the growth areas and provide for affordable housing, and make sure they don’t contain excess red tape that drives up the cost of development."

 

Board of Supervisors, White Hall District

Eric Strucko

Age: 38

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., Vanderbilt University; M.A., George Washington University; M.A., Georgetown University

Previous political experience: Development Initiative Steering Committee; County Housing Committee; Governor-appointed to the Miller School of Albemarle Board of Trustees; member of the Meriwether-Lewis PTO

Occupation: Vice-president of finance for AIMR Association

Turn-ons: Growth management and planning

Turn-offs: The construction of a multi-million dollar fire facility in north Albemarle that Strucko says isn’t needed–the money could be better spent on a library and sidewalks for Crozet, teacher compensation, public service salaries and the Acquisition of Conservation Easement program, he says.

The pitch: "I believe I have the best qualifications, a clearer vision and a better plan for Albemarle. I don’t think my opponent has enough experience to handle the complex issues in the County."

 

David Wyant

Age: 56

Political affiliation: Republican

Family: Wife, three children

Education: B.S., M.S., UVA

Previous political experience: Transportation Research Board, a committee of the National Academy of Science

Occupation: Consulting engineer, NFL referee

Turn-ons: Private property rights, a new 29 Bypass

Turn-offs: Urbanizing Crozet

The pitch: "I believe the role as Supervisor is to listen to the people of my district and represent their desires, not my own. From our recent debate and campaign materials from my opponent, I get the impression that he believes he ‘has all the answers’ and knows what’s best for the people of White Hall."

 

Soil and Water Director, Thomas Jefferson District

Nick Evans

Incumbent

Age: 52

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., UVA; Ph.D., Virginia Tech

Previous political experience: Elected Soil and Water Director in 1999; graduate of Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, 2000; County Groundwater Committee

Occupation: Hydrogeologist, driller, president of Virginia Groundwater, LLC

Turn-ons: Evans favors laws requiring developers to reimburse counties for any wetlands they destroy during construction.

Turn-offs: The Nature Conservancy, which currently gets wetland reimbursement payment from developers. Evans says it’s questionable how that money is used, because the Conservancy "has very focused interests of their own."

The pitch: "I am an activist. I have a progressive view toward making the soil and water district an entity that will have real impact on water quality issues."

 

Steven Meeks

Incumbent

Age: 44

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: One child

Education: Attended UVA

Past political experience: Most senior director, first elected in 1989

Occupation: Rental property manager, custom renovation

Turn-ons: The Buck Mountain Reservoir

Turn-offs: The State’s lack of funding for soil and water conservation on Virginia farms.

The pitch: "I’ve always enjoyed public service and working with the general public. I see this as a means to contribute to the county and the state. It’s an all-volunteer position."

 

Albemarle School Board, At Large

Linda McRaven

Age: 57

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Husband, five children

Education: B.A., George Washington University

Previous political experience: Served on Chamber of Commerce government affairs committee since 1994

Occupation: Construction company administrator

Turn-ons: Teachers, early childhood education

Turn-offs: Fiscal irresponsibility

The pitch: "I believe a child has to learn that going to school is their job, that they are there to learn. Teachers need to be paid appropriately, and they are not right now. I have 22 years experience working with the school system. I have raised five children who have been involved in all kinds of things."

 

Brian Wheeler

Age: 37

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., UVA

Previous political experience: None

Occupation: Chief information officer, SNL Financial

Turn-ons: Small class size

Turn-offs: Inefficiency

The pitch: "There’s a real gap in experience. I think that’s what separates our campaigns. I’ve been PTO president, and a member of the parent council for three years. I have an extensive public record as a parent activist."

 

Albemarle School Board, Rivanna District

Sue Bell Friedman

Age: 50

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Husband, one child

Education: B.A., Purdue; M.A., Indiana State

Previous political experience: None

Occupation: Regional Business Assistance Director for the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development

Turn-ons: Volunteering for the United Way, Southerland Middle School and Albemarle High School

Turn-offs: Apparently, none. "We have a good school system that has the opportunity to be a great school system."

The pitch: "Quality education is the most important thing the public sector does, and I have been in and around education for a long time. I think I can help every student achieve a vision of success."

 

Franklin P. Micciche

Age: 50

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, two children

Education: Associate’s degree, Concordia College

Previous political experience: President and vice-president of college student council

Occupation: Home improvement contractor

Turn-ons: Programs for non-college bound students

Turn-offs: Lack of funding for extra-curriculars in middle school

The pitch: "I am the candidate best equipped to get a grasp on the day-to-day operations and construction needs of our school system."

 

Albemarle School Board, Scottsville District

Steve Koleszar

Incumbent

Age: 57

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, two children

Education: B.A., Washington and Lee

Previous political experience: Elected to Albemarle County School Board in 1995

Occupation: Accountant

Turn ons: Foreign language–Koleszar wants to expand the County’s pilot program of including foreign language in elementary school curriculum to all County schools.

Turn offs: The County’s failure regarding non-college bound students–Koleszar advocates more County partnerships with PVCC and UVA, as well as expanding a health sciences academy that is forming at CATEC.

The pitch: "My opponent doesn’t have any experience. I’ve got a proven track record of success over the past eight years. If I’m not re-elected, there will be only one school board member with more than two years of experience."

 

D.L. "Denny" King

Age: 59

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Wife, three children

Education: B.A., California State University; stint in U.S. Navy as a medic; continuing education classes at Georgetown University and University of Maryland

Previous political experience: Worked on Governor’s Commission for Motion Picture Development through Department of Tourism; board of directors for WHTJ-TV; board of directors for Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center; advisory board for Virginia Youth on the Move

Occupation: President and CEO of Location Lodging Worldwide, Inc.

Turn-ons: The community, children and teachers, as in: "I want to give back to the community," and "I have a tremendous love for children," and "We have to have respect for teachers."

Turn-offs: Redistricting, growth in the classroom and school board members who don’t address parent concerns in 24 hours, as King promises he will.

The pitch: "It is through education that we will create all of our tomorrows. We have to recognize young people early on in their school life, because by the time a young person is in the sixth or seventh grade they have already established their habits so that by the time they are in the 11th or 12th grade they have lost their tomorrows. I am determined to do everything we can do to make those tomorrows happen."

 

Barbara Massie

Age: 53

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Single

Education: B.A., College of William and Mary; M.A., University of Maryland; J.D., George Mason University

Previous political experience: Statewide task force to study Virginia Standards of Learning, 1999-2000

Occupation: Attorney

Turn-ons: Small class size

Turn-offs: Bullies, low teacher morale

The pitch: "In addition to having been a teacher for a total of 16 years, I grew up in the Albemarle schools, graduated from AHS and came from a family of educators who served in the Albemarle schools for almost 30 years. My legal training has given me analytical skills that help me break problems down into their component parts and solve them."

 

Louise Ward

Age: 51

Political affiliation: Independent

Family: Husband, two children

Education: Attended Michigan State; nursing degree from Providence Hospital School of Nursing

Previous political experience: Albemarle County Schools Health Advisory Committee; Skyline Council of Girl Scouts board member; Commander of Monticello Squadron Civil Air Patrol

Occupation: Volunteer reading tutor at Crozet elementary and Western Albemarle

Turn-ons: Higher teacher salaries, stricter bus discipline

Turn-offs: The achievement gap

The pitch: "One thing we’re not doing to close the achievement gap is recruiting teachers from traditionally African-American colleges. We go to the Curry School, where the ratio of minorities is about 2 percent. I have past and ongoing experience with the schools, and I’ve been involved in my daughter’s education since kindergarten."

 

Clerk of Charlottesville Circuit Court

Paul Garrett

Incumbent

Age: 57

Political affiliation: Democrat

Family: Widowed, one child

Education: B.A., Brown University; J.D., UVA Law School

Previous political experience: Clerk of court since 1981

Occupation: Clerk of court

Turn-ons: Improving the technology of office operations

Turn-offs: State budget cuts that reduced his budget by 18 percent last year.

The pitch: "We need to continue with the progress we’ve made. It’s a very critical time right now, I would think I’d be able to provide that stability and continuity. Hopefully we’ve delivered efficient service, and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to do that."

 

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Pole vault

Teacher surmounts her Mormon upbringing to teach burlesque – and other dance moves

The pole juts seven feet straight into the air from atop a 4’x4′ wood-and-ceramic-tile platform. A lithe, limber Brooke Shields lookalike in 5" heels, stockings and tight gym shorts and matching bra, swings suggestively around the brass fixture. She crooks one leg around it as the arch in her back grows deeper and the sultry bass notes of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” roll through the atmosphere. Only one thought comes to mind: “What’s a nice Mormon girl doing in a position like this?”

For Nicole Huffman, who uses the stage name Nadia, the answer is “teaching.” The 26-year-old dancer and dance instructor, who relocated to Charlottesville four years ago, conducts hours of private and group lessons at Berkmar Ballroom each week. Pole dancing, or what she calls “efitdance” – as in exotic fitness dance – is simply her latest offering.

Okay, maybe “simply” is the wrong word. No matter how much she might protest that in years-ahead Europe and trend-loving California, pole dancing (as in Bada Bing! but with more clothes) is practically the new Pilates or step aerobics, Huffman still has to glide past the tittering. Past jokes about students getting a “night job,” or manly offers to lend an eager helping hand in the women-only class.

But she has a hard-won determination to practice and teach body awareness (what else is dance, anyway?), so she doesn’t get too gummed up in the heh-heh innuendo. Born as the only daughter in a family of four Idaho kids, Huffman knows well the inside of a Latter-Day Saints church and its mindset. Getting past a couple of “Man Show” jokes about stripping pales next to overcoming Mormonism.

“Dancing is my form of self-expression and release,” she says, describing herself as being less comfortable talking. “The girls in the class said the same thing – they’re shy and reserved. Let it out. If you keep so much inside, it’s not healthy.”

Burlesque is not actually in Huffman’s background (although she did perform with a Cirque du Soleil spin-off troupe), yet as a dancer for more than 20 years, she’s a natural at teaching pole routines. That’s because, as she puts it succinctly, there are only so many ways to move a set of hips. Anybody who has been teaching ballroom dance (as she has for four years locally), especially Latin-influenced dances, understands how to get the full orbital impact out of those joints.

To make her point, at the start of a recent class the by-day legal editor who moved here to earn a graduate degree in American studies shows students a four-minute routine (that’s where the throaty Myles comes in). Gliding from a corner of the 2,000-square-foot studio decorated with posters from such dance flicks as Tango Pasion and Shall We Dance? Huffman rolls her hips and bends her knees along the way. Eventually she gets on the pole, caressing it with her long legs confidently and with sass. Myles hits her last big note, and, demo over, Huffman gets on with business. It’s 11am, so to advance the five women in that day’s class, Huffman gets everyone to warm up. Stretches, heel-toe walks, hip rolls, hip rolls the other way, pivoting hip rolls – 30 minutes have elapsed before any student, most of whom are barefoot and outfitted in sweats, gets near a pole.

When at last they do, they discover it takes real strength to get up on it. Several of the students will clearly achieve victory when they can simply suspend themselves with two hands from the head of the pole for a dozen seconds. In the interest of improving, some will probably pay for private practice time in the studio as, for now, none have their own poles at home.

But even enrolling in the class, it turns out, takes a certain kind of strength. “My long-term goal is to swing around the pole, because it’s physically challenging,” says a 30-year-old student who, in fulfilling her first homework assignment from Huffman, chose the stage name Giselle. “But I didn’t tell my mother. She’s an old Catholic woman. I did say I’m taking a dance class, though.”

Natasha, another student with a theatrical alias, asserts more psychological goals: “To feel more comfortable with myself and my sexuality,” she says.

The way Berkmar Ballroom owner Steve Shergold sees it, any step toward “self-empowerment,” as he says, marks the right direction for his business. “Anyone who comes here for lessons, for pole dancing or social dancing, within three months, we’ll turn you into a different animal,” he promises.

“If it’s to do with dancing and self-expression and gets people connected,” he continues, “we want to be doing it.”

Not that anybody at the studio is dictating exactly how people might connect as a result of pole – or any other kind of – dancing.

“This class is not about stripping or nudity,” says Huffman. “It’s showing you moves to get more in touch with your body. What you do after that is up to you.” – Cathy Harding

Glad to be caught in the spokes
Blue Wheel Bicycle’s owners peddle success

Every morning, among the cadre of dedicated athletes who keep the dawn patrol, Scott Paisley and Roger Friend have a standing date with their bicycles. Each man rides alone. Paisley leaves the home he built for his wife and three children in Nelson County and pedals 30 miles to work. He has a long history of preferring this mode of transportation: 22 years ago Paisley and his wife, Marian, cycled through Europe on a tandem, stopping in London for the birth of their first child. Three months later they pushed off for Scandinavia, then Australia, Japan and New Zealand, baby Rachel installed in a backpack Paisley bolted to the rear handlebars. “It was a wonderful way to travel,” Paisley recalls. “People either looked at us like we were totally insane, or they invited us home for dinner.”

At 44, his commute remains a precious window of time in the open air. Neither rain nor darkness deters him. He lets his mind wander and, when he’s building up to a competition, he pushes himself. Paisley calls his approach to training “relatively unscientific.”

“The battery stopped working on my cycling computer six or seven years ago and I never replaced it,” he says.

Friend, 42, departs from the apartment he moved into 19 years ago when he started working at the bike shop downstairs, intently focused on the training program that he pays a professional to plot for him. For 32 weeks of the year, each ride is calculated to maximize his physical potential on the days he races. When bad weather intrudes, Friend spends up to four hours indoors on a stationary trainer, watching race videos as he cranks away.

His focus has paid off. This year Friend took first place in the Virginia State Master’s TimeTrial with the overall second-fastest time of the day and placed 10th among masters at the National Championships TimeTrial, garnering the title of 40+ Mid-Atlantic Road Race Champion.

These men ride different rides, they live different lives and their personalities could not be more distinct. Yet by 10am each day Paisley and Friend are rubbing elbows in the homey shop at the end of Elliewood Avenue, co-owners of Blue Wheel Bicycles. Between them, they’ve experienced the full gamut of what a bike can do, from cyclo-cross to criterium, to the benefit of their customers, it seems.

“You can’t know what real quality is until you’ve taken bicycles and cycling to the extreme,” says Ian Ayers, head of the UVA cycling team. “Blue Wheel’s work is inspired by a true appreciation of performance. To Scott and Roger it’s a matter of love and pride.”

After years of toiling in obscurity, offering the personal attention of an independent retailer while losing sales to the discount chains, Blue Wheel Bicycles has been named “One of Nine Best Bicycle Shops in the South” by Unlimited: Action, Adventure and Good Times magazine. Its banner year continues at White Hall Vineyards on Sunday, October 26, with a celebration of the shop’s 30-year milestone, complete with road and mountain bike rides and birthday cake.

Looking back, Friend may wince at his youthful conviction that “owning a bike store was more fun than going to law school,” but he will concede “there are worse things to be involved in, in terms of world karma. I’m not making bombs.” Paisley values the “wonderful surprises” that come through the door every day: “remarkable athletes, funny peopleit’s like little short stories going on all the time.” – Phoebe Frosch

 

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Smart guy
UVA’s Eric Turkheimer makes sense of race, class and IQ

Guess what? Children in poor families face more obstacles in their intellectual development than children from wealthy families. Sounds like common sense, you say? Maybe, but this apparent no-brainer is being hailed as big news in psychology’s ivory tower.

The November issue of the academic journal Psychological Science will feature a paper by Eric Turkheimer, a professor of psychology at UVA. He recently completed a study showing that a person’s intelligence depends not only on their genes, but on how and where they live.

Psychologists are buzzing because Turkheimer’s research challenges some long-held beliefs about brain power. A controversial 1994 book called The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, drew from numerous studies showing that genes are the primary determinate of intelligence. This has led to theories that the so-called achievement gap between black and white students––a much-debated problem in local school systems––is evidence of racial superiority.

"There was a mystery sitting there for a long time," Turkheimer says. "People knew that genes affect IQ. The strange part was that after researchers accounted for genes, it was hard to find evidence that environment was involved at all."

Gene studies typically examine two kinds of twins—fraternal and identical. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic material. Fraternal twins, like typical siblings, share 50 percent of their genetic material. Twins share identical prenatal conditions and similar environments, so any differences between identical and fraternal twins must be related to genes.

The problem with those studies, says Turkheimer, is that they were studying only affluent subjects. "The people from the messed-up, chaotic families weren’t showing up at the volunteer twin studies," he says.

For his research, Turkheimer mined data from the National Collaborative Prenatal Project, a now-defunct study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the late 1960s. It recorded reams of data on 50,000 pregnant woman, and followed their children until age 7. The project included more than 300 pairs of twins, most black and poor, and Turkheimer analyzed their data for one of the first papers on the role of genes and environment in low-income families.

His research found that genetics, not environment, accounts for most of the difference in intelligence among affluent students. In other words, students from already stable homes with attentive parents and good food won’t get much smarter if mom and dad spin even more Mozart records cribside.

By contrast, children in low-income families, Turkheimer says, can greatly benefit from environmental enhancements that mitigate the effects of poverty. "What I’ve shown is that family environment has an effect, but you can’t see it unless you look at some really bad families," he says.

Turkheimer’s work was hailed as "groundbreaking" in a front-page article in the Washington Post on September 2, even though a 1977 study by Arthur Jensen at the University of Berkley reached similar conclusions. But Turkheimer’s work is newly significant because it comes in a political climate where ideas like those in The Bell Curve have influenced recent government policy.

"Popular research has pointed to genetics as the overwhelming determinate of intelligence," says Saphira Baker, director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Commission on Children and Families. "Eric’s research shows it’s more complex. It lends support to programs that seek to move families out of economic crisis and focus on children’s development."

That leaves Meg Sewell, local director for the Head Start program, optimistic about the future of her organization. Head Start strives to improve academic performance by offering prenatal and early childhood care to low-income families. But recently, Sewell says, programs like Head Start have taken a back seat to government initiatives that improve teacher pay and set higher academic standards––the goals of such programs as Virginia’s Standards of Learning and the Federal "No Child Left Behind" plan. Congress is currently considering a 1.5 percent funding increase to the $6 billion Head Start program, which Sewell says is merely a cost of living bump.

"It could have an effect," Sewell says of Turkheimer’s research. "It confirmed what many of us working in the field have believed for a long time," she says.

"Psychology has that problem. These things are easy to believe, but hard to show," says Turkheimer.––John Borgmeyer

 

Road worrier
The trip up 29N raises the question, Where is Albemarle headed?

Until recently, drivers headed north on Route 29 noticed a scenic shift as they passed over the South Fork Rivanna River. Crossing the waterway, 29N changed from a wide thoroughfare rushing past asphalt fields, strip malls and big box stores in Albemarle County’s urban ring, to a four-lane highway lined with trees. Sure, subdivisions like Forest Lakes and Hollymead lie just beyond those trees, but they’re invisible from the road. Crossing the river on Route 29 was like leaving a city and entering the country.

All that’s changing now. The County Board of Supervisors has designated north Albemarle as a "growth area," and a series of new developments will radically alter the landscape there. In another growth area, Crozet, the County has hired architects to figure out what kind of experience people want in the town, and to design a plan that will allow it to grow without compromising its identity. No such design team is tackling Route 29—there, a handful of developers are deciding the sights and sounds of north Albemarle. Want to know where that place is headed? Just read the signs.

The first sign you encounter when crossing the Rivanna River’s South Fork designates the road as the 29th Infantry Memorial Highway, and just north of that a small green rectangle claims the road as Seminole Trail. The next sign says "Speed Limit 55," which must be a joke, as cars crest a hill and exceed 60 miles an hour past a sign warning drivers to watch for stopped cars at the southern entrance to Forest Lakes. Across the road, six cell phone towers rise from the trees like steel dandelions, shimmering in the sun.

At the Holly Memorial Gardens cemetery, a white statue of Jesus, with green mold growing on his outstretched arms, stands among fragrant marigolds. A stone tablet carved with calligraphy beseeches the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." A faded billboard commands: "Be Individual." A white plane heading for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport floats in the blue sky.

Across from the cemetery, backhoes, bulldozers and dump trucks squeak and huff through about 100 acres of dirt. By spring 2005, J.C. will gaze across the flowered graves into the parking lot of a Target store, one of the "anchor tenants" of the Hollymead Town Center. It won’t actually center any town, but it will be a must-stop shopping destination for much of Central Virginia. The developers––Wendell Wood, Charles Hurt and a consortium called the Kessler Group––will add one northward lane and two southward lanes to Route 29 in front of the development. According to studies by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Town Center will nearly double the traffic congestion along this stretch of Albemarle County.

Farther north, near the County line, a United Land Corporation sign proclaims "COMING SOON Office, Retail." Judging by the number of signs bearing the names United Land Corp. (owned by Wood) and Virginia Land Company (owned by Hurt), these two men––or whoever can afford to buy their land at a cost of $12 to $18 per square foot––will determine the future of north Albemarle.

Past Airport Road, new strip malls, fast food joints and gas stations mingle with the old Airport Plaza, home to a vacuum cleaner sales and service shop and a log-home builder. Finally, just before you cross into Greene County, the signage indicates "Psychic Readings" and the way to a winery. And three small trees grow from an oval of flowers, memorial to a fatal car crash.––John Borgmeyer

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How many lawyers, judges and City officials does it take to tear down, er, preserve a wall?

Marybess McCray Johnson is stuck between a wall and a hard place, you might say.

Johnson is under court order to tear down the northern wall of her building at 224 Court Square, which is also the southern wall of 230 Court Square, owned by Townsquare Associates, the development team of Gabe Silverman and Allan Cadgene.

In a civil suit filed in 1995, Silverman and Cadgene allege that an 1838 agreement between the two buildings’ former owners gives Townsquare the authority to make Johnson move her wall, which is technically on Silverman and Cadgene’s property. After years of legal back and forth, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire ruled in February 2002 that Johnson should separate the buildings by removing the wall, which encroaches by about one inch into the front of 230 and by about nine inches into the rear.

Problem is that on August 19, the City’s Board of Architectural Review voted 5-2 to deny Johnson’s application to tear down the wall.

"The decision to deny was fairly clear," says Lynn Heetderks, vice-chair of the BAR, citing the historic and architectural integrity of 224 Court Square. After consulting with City Attorney Lisa Kelly, Heetderks says, the BAR ignored the court order and considered Johnson’s application "as we would any other request."

On Monday, October 6, Johnson asked City Council during its first session of the month to reverse the BAR’s decision. "I guess you could say I’m not happy about this," Johnson said to the councilors. "It’s going to create a lot of problems between those two buildings. But my court order is to [demolish the wall] and I aim to get it done."

Hogshire is currently considering an appeal from Johnson’s lawyers on demolition details. Council should wait for Hogshire’s ruling before deciding on the BAR appeal, Councilors Blake Caravati and Rob Schilling argued on Monday.

"I’d like to know why Mr. Silverman is pursuing this," Schilling wondered, "other than the fact that he can."

Neither Silverman nor Cadgene attended the meeting. Their lawyer, David Franzen, declined to comment on Townsquare’s motivation for the lawsuit.

Mayor Maurice Cox said he met with Silverman, who by press time hadn’t returned calls from C-VILLE. "I don’t want to paraphrase [Silverman]," Cox told Council, "but it had to do with clarifying property. He mentioned a hypothetical expansion." Cox argued that Council, like the BAR, should deny the appeal and stay out of courtroom affairs.

"There’s lots of awkward adjoined spaces like this on historic buildings," Cox said. "I’m concerned that people want to go about separating these things."

With Kevin Lynch out of town, the vote on this issue came to a 2-2 tie, meaning Council will debate the question again at its next meeting. Meanwhile Johnson and Townsquare will be back in court on October 15.

 

All dogs go to college
City Council is about to resolve the great dog debate––maybe.

Council is close to passing a resolution that will create an off-leash dog park on the campus of Piedmont Virginia Community College. The school has agreed to license 10 acres of its grounds along Avon Street Extended for a $40,000 park with trails where dogs can run free. Half the money will come from private donations, with the City and County splitting the rest of the cost. Charlottesville and Albemarle will not pay rent to PVCC. Instead, the two jurisdictions have each agreed to split the annual $2,500 cost to maintain the dog park. Fundraising will begin once the City and County figure how to share liability for the park, says Pat Ploceck, manager of the City’s parks and grounds division. The resolution will likely pass at Council’s next meeting November 3.

The PVCC park is a compromise arising from the great canine confrontation of recent years, when residents living in Woolen Mills complained that off-leash dogs were ruining that neighborhood’s Riverview Park. After months of heated debate––during which the City posted a police officer outside Council chambers to stop dog owners from bringing their pets to meetings––Council in December 2001 passed an ordinance requiring owners to leash their mutts on Fridays through Mondays at Riverview.

Maybe it says something about the quality of life in Charlottesville that the leash law hearings drew more participants to Council meetings than any recent issue (with the possible exception of the past spring’s resolution against war in Iraq). But it may not be over yet.

On Saturday, October 4, the Daily Progress published a letter from Patricia Wilkinson, a self-described "dog person" who says Riverview Park has been abandoned since the leash law took effect, and claims homeless people and "incidents" at the park have made people feel unsafe. She calls for dog lovers to unite and revisit the Riverview leash law.

Plocek suggests the letter’s complaints are merely pet propaganda.

"A lot of dog owners keep saying that, but I constantly see people every time I go there," Plocek says. He says his staff has never seen homeless people living there, and he is not aware of any incidents or police reports from the park. He says neighbors around the park still complain that off-leash dogs run through their property, however.

A visit to the park on Tuesday evening, October 7, confirmed Plocek’s testimony. "I’ve never seen homeless people here," said a man emerging from a mini-van with his daughter and two unleashed Shelties. He says the leash laws haven’t dampened his enthusiasm for Riverview Park.

"We bend the rules a little," their owner explained, pushing an all-terrain stroller down the jogging trail.––John Borgmeyer

 

Halliday’s new chapter
Local library head turns author by making Predicktions

As director of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, John Halliday spends much of his day surrounded by books. Now perhaps he can add another title to those teeming shelves—one he wrote himself. After decades of dreaming, Halliday has recently released his first children’s book, titled Predicktions. His compulsion to write children’s fiction dates back to high school in Long Island, New York, but until a few years ago, he never had time to put pen to paper.

After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in library administration, Halliday got married and had four children. But in 1997, before he moved to Charlottesville, he got rolling. "One Father’s Day about six years ago," Halliday says, "my wife, as a Father’s Day gift, gave me a Coleman cooler full of sandwiches and sodas and she said, ‘I want you to just go away to one of the local motels for the weekend and write.’"

So Halliday, who counts E.B. White, Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck among his favorite authors, holed up in a $32-a-night hotel on the outskirts of Bellingham, Washington, for three days in front of the warm glow of his bulky Mac Classic computer and started writing. A year later, Predicktions was finished.

Predicktions follows the adventures of Josh Jolly and his three friends, the colorfully named oddball Rainy Day, chubby brainiac Bill Dumper and bossy Kate Haskell as they become sixth graders. Born in the midst of a carnival in small-town Westlake, young Josh is given a mystic board by his fortune-telling aunt, who thinks Josh will make the town famous one day. Josh just wants the board to tell him what to expect from middle school, but it inadvertently helps him save the town from obscurity.

You might expect a lesson learned at the end of a children’s story, but not here. "It’s purely entertainment, so we aren’t moralizing at all," Halliday says.

Halliday, 51, may be the envy of aspiring authors who spend years trying to get the attention of publishers. He found instant success after he dropped his manuscript off in the mail to major New York City publishing house Harper Collins. "And lo and behold, I got a hand-written letter back from an editor saying, ‘Gee, just really love your book. We’d like to work with you on it,’" Halliday says. When that editor left Harper Collins, she took the manuscript with her to Simon and Schuster, where it was published.

Predicktions isn’t Halliday’s first published book. While that one languished in revision purgatory at Simon and Schuster, Halliday moved on and cranked out a second work—a darker book for young adults about abduction and murder called Shooting Monarchs, which came out in March 2003.

"People say to me, ‘Gee, John, how do you churn these books out so quickly?’ Well, for me it wasn’t that quick. It was a long, long process," he says.—Jennifer Pullinger

 

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Grounds swell
Officials give UVA props for the North Grounds Connector Road

The 1.3 miles of eastbound lanes on the Route 29/250 Bypass between the exits for Route 250 and for Barracks Road are as mundane as roads get around here. Two blue rectangular highway signs indicate food (Taco Bell, Ruby Tuesday’s and Arby’s) and fuel (Amoco and Exxon) ahead. A green airplane symbol points the indirect way to the airport. An occasional deer or jogger attempts to cross the highway (speed limit 55) in a southward direction from the back of the athletic fields at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. And, as is standard in a Commonwealth where merging is apparently a bonus question on the driver’s ed test, sporadically a car will come to a dead stop at the end of the bypass’ on-ramp while drivers whiz by in the slow lane.

Thanks to a green light from the State transportation’s governing board, within the next three years that so-what stretch of road will become a crucial link in UVA’s sports, arts and entertainment scheme. On September 17, the Commonwealth Transportation Board gave UVA permission to build its North Grounds Connector Road. The east-only, grade-level access road will create a new bypass exit in the stretch between the off-ramps for 250 and Barracks Road. It should be completed by 2006.

The proposed connector road, which will feed into Massie Road between Darden and the North Grounds Recreation Center, won’t be a top-drawer complement to the Grade A sports arena and performing arts complex to be constructed in that section of campus, however. To get the best possible traffic option—a full interchange that allows traffic to enter and exit in two directions—UVA would have to increase its budget for the arena project by about 8 percent. UVA has to shoulder the whole tab for the road, because the Virginia Department of Transportation has nothing left in its piggy bank. A full interchange costs about $15 million, according to University Landscape Architect. Mary Hughes. The North Grounds Connector Road will be a comparatively affordable $4 million slice of the arena’s $128 million budget, according to UVA.

The road’s purpose, says UVA spokesperson Carol Wood "is to serve the arena and performing arts centers and to keep traffic moving smoothly and efficiently, especially during event times…because it will pull traffic off congested Emmet Street."

Officials agree that UVA’s willingness to fund the road was an attractor, but the ultimate appeal lay in the fact that the connector road probably won’t make traffic any worse. "What I would like to think made the most difference is UVA’s analysis that if you kept [the connector road] to right-in and right-out that the traffic, though still significant, would also still be at an acceptable level of service," says Kevin Lynch, the City Councilor who last month was named chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a local authority that sets transportation priorities.

"You need to facilitate that [event-day traffic] to Ivy Road," says Butch Davies, the region’s representative to the CTB. "You need to disperse the traffic. With the present arena, it clogs Emmet Street. I don’t think it will be any different with the new arena, but UVA estimates that 10 percent of the traffic coming out would use [the connector road] route."

Indeed, by design the connector road will leave a portion of North Grounds-bound travelers looking for getaway routes through adjoining neighborhoods and business districts. Those wanting to head west after a game—or maybe after work, for that matter—will need to find access by way of Barracks Road, Route 250 or other roads.

The cloverleaf interchange at Emmet Street by Bodo’s is especially vulnerable to spillover traffic, says Davies. "I think you’ll see traffic backup as you come around the cloverleaf to 29," he says. "If you have people using right-out [from the connector road] to go north, you might see some traffic problem in the future ultimately because of Best Buy." The electronics retailer will soon open a new store on the west side of that busy interchange; it will have its own traffic light.

"We recognize that this is not the ideal configuration," says Hughes, "because it does limit the movement, but it was the best we could do in this interim condition before there is a decision by our metropolitan region about the fate of the 29 Western Bypass."

Uncertainty about the controversial western bypass proposal has been a major factor in the traffic plans for North Grounds, Hughes continues. "Say we triple our budget for the North Grounds Connector [to build a full interchange]—what would we build it to? If we built it to the 29 Bypass and the Western Bypass gets built, then all that investment will be wiped out.

"If, on the other hand we say, ‘Okay, the Western Bypass is going to happen, then we have to move Ivy Road—a $10 million proposition in itself—and then build the $10-15 million interchange. If, as seems to be the case, the community really does reject the bypass once and for all, then we have spent all that money to build to a condition that doesn’t pan out."

Despite the likelihood that some UVA event traffic will drain off the connector road to already-heavily-taxed interchanges, traffic officials are waxing positive about UVA’s role.

"This [road approval] would not have happened without University cooperation," says Davies. "I think the University understands its responsibility when it has such a dramatic impact on the transportation structure."

Lynch is equally supportive. "All things considered, it was a reasonable compromise from the perspective of moving traffic versus cost," he says.

And there’s more good news: With the first tip-off at the new arena some 36 months away, there should be plenty of time for bypass drivers to learn the fine art of merging.—Cathryn Harding

 

Isabel, we knew you well
Charlottsville’s biggest storm, by the numbers

Number of 40-ounce bottles of Hurricane beer distributed by J.W. Sieg and Company in a typical week: 3,600

Number of bottles Hurricane sold on Thursday, September 18, the day Isabel hit Charlottesville: 6,000

Number of calls for service received by Albemarle County Police on Thursday night/Friday morning, September 18: 578

Number of days after the storm had passed before Charlottesville’s City Council confirmed a declaration of local emergency: 12

Number of commercial turkeys killed by the effects of weather in Louisa: 8,000

Number of utility poles snapped in Virginia Dominion Power’s service area, including Charlottesville, much of Virginia and a portion of North Carolina: 2,300

Number of consecutive hours worked by two UVA Facilities employees to provide emergency power during and after the hurricane: 36 each

Estimated age of UVA’s oldest tree, a massive white oak near Brooks Hall, felled by Isabel on September 18: 256 years

Number of noteworthy trees on UVA grounds lost to the storm, according to the Grounds Department: between 12 and 20

Estimated number of hours some Central Virginians went without power after Isabel: 324

Estimated value of insured property lost during Isabel, statewide: $1,000,000,000

 

Subterranean homesick blues
Post-Isabel, some area residents might have preferred underground utility lines

On Friday, September 19, after Isabel stopped blowing, sections of Jefferson Park Avenue looked like disaster areas: massive trees toppled across cars, utility poles snapped in half, power lines lying across the road like dead snakes. Some residents of JPA were still sitting in the dark five days later on Wednesday, September 24.

In Ivy’s Lewis Hills subdivision, however, Mark Graham was enjoying hot showers and cold beverages by Saturday, just two days after the storm. Graham, Albemarle County’s director of engineering, says underground utility lines may have helped bring juice to his house more easily.

"Underground lines made it a whole lot better for a lot of these subdivisions, in my opinion," Graham says. "When all the lines are above ground, it takes the power company longer to get around to fix them all."

After Isabel knocked out power for nearly 2 million Virginians, places with underground power lines––County subdivisions, for instance, and most of UVA––generally had power restored faster than places with overhead lines, such as Charlottesville and Richmond.

Underground lines may be better at weathering intense storms, but don’t expect to see overhead lines disappear en masse.

About 90 percent of UVA’s utilities run below ground, and power lines to all new buildings on Grounds are buried as a matter of policy, says Cheryl Gomez, UVA’s director of utilities. The University lost electricity during Isabel because the two power lines feeding UVA’s sub-system failed. Once Dominion Virginia Power repaired those lines, all of UVA’s lights came back on.

"Our system experienced no problems with the storm. It was the lines coming into our system that caused the outage," says Gomez.

In Charlottesville, however, Dominion Virginia Power crews had to repair dozens of individual overhead lines before some neighborhoods could turn their lights back on, meaning some people sat in the dark for nearly a week.

Sure, underground power lines are safe from wind, says Dan Genest, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power. But buried lines have their own problems. Floods or careless backhoe operators can damage them, and when an underground line isn’t working, it’s much harder to locate and fix the problem, Genest says. Although it may seem counterintuitive, overhead lines have a longer life expectancy––50 years or more—than underground lines, which last only about 30 years.

The biggest problem with underground lines, though, is cost. Virginia Dominion Power can string a mile of overhead lines for about $120,000, while it costs between $300,000 and $500,000 to cover the same distance with underground lines. The underground equipment is more expensive, the design is more complex and installation is longer and more disruptive than overhead lines, Genest says.

While UVA enjoys a State-and-donor funding stream that makes it easy for the school to pay for luxuries like underground utilities, Charlottesville and Albemarle aren’t so lucky. Although the County undergrounds the lines to its own buildings, including schools, Graham says, individual developers carried the cost of undergrounding utilities in most of the County’s subdivisions to make them more aesthetically pleasing to potential buyers (presumably that cost is passed on to the homebuyer).

The City too lets aesthetics and tourism dictate its limited undergrounding projects. Charlottesville plans to bury power lines around Court Square as well as the Downtown Mall and its side streets, to make them look more "historic," says City Engineer Tony Edwards. "It has problems, but on the positive side you remove all those overhead poles and lines, and make the area more aesthetically pleasing," he says.

Other City undergrounding coincides with new development. When the Terraces project was underway, for example, the City undergounded the lines along First Street, and Second Street’s lines were buried as the new City Center for Contemporary Arts went up on Water Street. The next undergrounding will happen around the Paramount Theater, says Edwards.

Edwards estimates it costs the City between $800 and $1,000 per linear foot to bury Downtown’s power lines. "There’s a lot of stuff in the ground already, so a lot of effort goes into planning and design," he says.

On large road-improvement projects, such as the transformations the City wants to make on Fontaine Avenue, the Virginia Department of Transportation will pay half the undergrounding costs, but even then it will likely be too expensive for the City to pick up the rest of the tab to underground the lines on Fontaine.

"West Main is another desirable area for us to underground," says Edwards. "Cost will dictate whether it gets done or not. Right now, it’s not in the plan."––John Borgmeyer

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Wheels keep on turning
The City tackles traffic from signals to bikes to gnarly street crossings

Mixed signals

Whenever City and County officials talk about traffic, the message is always an ode to regional cooperation. The traffic problem is bigger than any one jurisdiction, they say, so Charlottesville and Albemarle have to work together for everyone’s benefit. Isn’t that sweet?

So why is it that when officials actually do something about traffic, minor decisions turn into melodramatic turf battles?

When the City started building a traffic light at the entrance to the new Best Buy store on 29N, Albemarle flipped its lid. Recent City-County studies indicate the highway needs fewer stoplights, not more, and the County claims City Council didn’t give it a heads-up that Best Buy was moving in and that the store would require a stoplight.

"They knew damn well about it," counters Jim Tolbert, the City’s planning director. "We communicated with County staff about the light. It wasn’t a secret."

Tolbert says Best Buy started asking for a light in January. About that time, the City’s traffic engineer resigned, so the City hired consultants Kimley Horn to do a study. In April, Kimley Horn apparently found that Best Buy indeed needed a light, and Tolbert says he talked to the County’s planning department about it back then.

On April 14, County planning director Wayne Cillemberg sent Tolbert a letter thanking him for the Best Buy site plan and asking the City not to build a median break and signal for the store, claiming it would have "detrimental impacts" on traffic.

"The City never responded to the letter," says County Supervisor Dennis Rooker.

Albemarle wasn’t alone in the dark, however. Kevin Lynch, City Council’s representative to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional transportation planning body, says he didn’t know about the light either. Lynch says that as recently as August, City staff told him there wasn’t going to be a new signal at Best Buy.

According to Tolbert, the Best Buy light isn’t really a new signal. It’s simply a "modification" to the existing signal at the 250 ramp, and the Best Buy light will run in synch with the 250 signal and the one at 29N and Angus Road.

"Technically they’re correct, but that’s a bit of a semantic leap," says Lynch. "I was surprised it went through without my knowledge, and I can see why the County was, too."

After all this, Butch Davies, the local liaison to the Virginia Department of Transporation, sent Mayor Maurice Cox a letter chastising the City for building the light without local dialogue. The County got a copy of the letter, and they made sure to send a copy to the Daily Progress––the official version of "Nanynany booboo, you got in trouble."

This is your bureaucracy at work, people. If our leaders can’t build a simple signal without a Clintonian debate about what a "light" is, or rounds of playground finger-pointing, how can we expect them to solve the real traffic problems that will come when the County builds Albemarle Place, projected to spit out almost 40,000 cars per day into the Hydraulic Road intersection? Almost makes us yearn for the old days when VDOT would just stomp into town with plans for some monstrous interchange nobody wanted. Almost.

 

A yellow bike comeback?

Last year, the City unveiled its Dave Matthews Band-funded "yellow bike" program to great fanfare. The City built yellow bike racks around town and filled them with refurbished yellow cycles, which were promptly stolen and gone forever. Burned, local bike enthusiasts plan to reinvent the program as a "bike library."

Developer and DMB manager Coran Capshaw donated warehouse space at a former car dealership near West Main’s Hampton Inn to the new yellow bike program. The space is filled with donated bikes that still need to be repaired. "It looks like endless bikes in there," says program coordinator Stephen Bach.

Bach is trying to recruit volunteers to fix up the bikes for the bike library. Instead of painting the bikes yellow and placing them around town, people who need a bike will come to the warehouse and borrow a bike for a deposit of $20. "If they bring the bike back

in useable condition, they get the $20 back," Bach says.

Bach says he needs about 10 volunteers working a regular basis before he can open the library, which he insists will not merely be an opportunity for dishonest people to "buy" a bike for $20. "We’ll want the bikes back," he says.

 

Look both ways

When the Music Resource Center moves into the former Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Ridge Street, the children who use the MRC will have to brave one of Charlottesville’s gnarliest intersections.

Even for able-bodied adults, the intersection of Ridge/ McIntire, West Main, Water and South streets is like a game of Frogger, especially between 3pm and 5:30pm, when kids will likely be heading in and out of the MRC. The lack of bike lanes around the busy intersection make it even more hostile to youngsters.

MRC director and 25-year City resident Sibley Johns says she remembers when you could "shoot through" that intersection. "Now it’s quite a tangle," she says. "At that location, we think we’re going to attract a lot more kids, and most of our kids come on foot," says Johns. She says the MRC may establish a buddy system for kids walking home at night. "To be honest, we haven’t gotten that far, but it is something we’ll be sensitive to."

No matter how you cross the intersection, you always seem to end up scampering away from oncoming cars, and running that pedestrian gauntlet has become a joke for the employees of Category 4, an Internet company next door to Mt. Zion.

"We always say there needs to be a bridge. It’s a pain in the ass to cross," says Category 4’s Robin Stevens. "It’s especially hard for businesses on West Main, because there’s no link to Downtown. Also, I think there needs to be a tree at the corner of South Street and Ridge. That’s the hottest intersection in Charlottesville, because you’re standing there for freakin’ ever."

Edgard and Maj-Gun Mansoor, who run Mansoor’s Oriental art and gift shop at the corner of Ridge and West Main, however, say the intersection is no big deal. "Not for us, anyway," says Maj-Gun. Edgard says crossing Ridge before the intersection is easier than navigating the crosswalks near the Lewis and Clark statue. "I guess I’m breaking the law," he confesses.

The City plans to address the intersection as part of its plans to remake West Main Street and link it with Downtown. The work of Philadelphia architects WRT on that project is on hold, though, pending the recommendations of a "transit forum" the City plans to hold in October. So far, WRT has only recommended closing South Street to traffic, but the intersection will need a more extensive treatment if the City wants people—including young musicians—to walk between West Main and Downtown.––John Borgmeyer

 

Clothes to you
If threads make the man, this guy could be Dean Martin

The Downtown Mall is many things, including a catwalk of sorts. A casual stroll there affords you the spectrum of men’s fashions, from the stiff Burberry-wearing corporatista to the ratty skater punk in Fourstar cargo shorts. By the time you get to the east end of the pedestrian walkway, however, you’ll notice something distinctive and unexpected. Outside one of the City’s few remaining haberdasheries is likely to be relaxing a young man of slick hair and princely posture who wouldn’t look out of place with Frank, Dean, Joey and the rest of the Rat Pack. Wearing an impeccably tailored shirt and slacks, it’s clear this man is thoroughly comfortable in what he wears, even as his attire stands out like a Vivaldi rose in a cornfield. That comfort, Joseph Falvella will tell you, is the mark of a truly fashionable man.

"To each his own is the way I see it. I don’t fault anybody for what they wear," he says. A salesman at The Men & Boy’s Shop and a veritable poster board for a kind of custom-made fashion that seems to have faded away, the distinctive Falvella is hesitant to pinpoint his style. On a recent Monday afternoon, the reluctant fashionista wore his traditional garb of gray cotton shirt with a straight collar, tan suspenders, patterned tie—both of woven silk—brown worsted wool trousers, and two-tone leather spectators.

"When I was growing up, I always used to see my grandfather—he was a car salesman—always have on a nice shirt and a tie and pair of slacks. And it was always a nice clean-cut look," the New Jersey-born Falvella says. "Used to be, pretty much everybody wore a nice shirt and slacks. Nobody left the house without a hat."

That attention to detail in men’s clothing is something that Falvella, 28, feels is lost.

"I think people settle for going to your big box department stores, rooting around for stuff by themselves, not getting waited on. Thinking they know what size they wear. And most people just accept that that’s the way its supposed to be," he says.

Most men aren’t interested in shopping, so they don’t mind getting their fashions like their fast food—in a hurry. And while there are plenty of stores that cater to that "get it and throw it on" mentality, Falvella, a loyal employee who has worked at owner Michael Kidd’s store for 10 years, says, not surprisingly, that fellas can still find attentive service at The Men & Boy’s Shop.

"I’ve got guys who bought suits 10 years ago and they come back and they say ‘Hey, I need the waist taken in or the pants adjusted.’ No problem," Falvella says. "I think that’s where we’ve got most places beat."

But even a Dapper Dan like Falvella will allow himself a little fashion break on the weekend.

"I don’t own sweats. I don’t own tennis shoes. I’m comfortable in dress slacks and a shirt. Granted, I don’t walk around mowing the grass in a necktie. I’ll take that off, " he says.

Pressed to describe his style, Falvella says he likes to wear clothes with natural fibers that are "classic and traditional, but in a stylish, sporty sense." But he still resists offering any advice for the fashion-impaired.

"Whatever makes that person happy. It’s their hard-earned money that they’re spending on something for themselves. If they’re happy in it and they’re comfortable in it, that’s the bottom line."—Jennifer Pullinger

 

 

Charge of the light brigade
LED leaders Inova to brighten Water Street

At 11pm, the corner at Water and Second streets is dark. The only light emits from the buzzing fixtures on the side of the Water Street parking garage, the dull yellow of four lamps in the adjacent parking lot, and a smattering of streetlights. But this fall, the corner will look a little more like Times Square, bathed in moving light as the new City Center for Contemporary Arts—housing Live Arts, Second Street Gallery and LightHouse—will open, sporting 40-foot-plus signs not unlike those seen outside the studios of "Good Morning America." The urban décor comes courtesy of a big player on the computerized-signage market—one that just happens to live down the street. Introducing Inova, the biggest company in Charlottesville you’ve never heard of.

You might not know about Inova, but you’ve doubtless noticed its building. It’s the one visible from Belmont Bridge with the jumping dancer hanging off the side just above the office of Inova founder and CEO Tom Hubbard, who started the company with his wife, Wendy, in 1984. Back then, Inova was an enterprise for reselling LED (light-emitting diode) signs. In the years since the company has become a force in the technology market, creating its own hardware—shipping nearly 1,000 signs a year—and creating a software package that has been installed in nearly 3,000 locations worldwide.

The Inova lobby looks in to the "burn-in" room. There, dozens of signs stream information in a continuous loop: the weather, headline news, a quote of the day. As Seth Wood, Inova’s marketing guy, explains, if LED signs like these fail, it’s usually within the first few days of start-up. So to keep from sending its clients lemons, Inova runs the signs non-stop for several days to work out the bugs.

Wood says the company’s clients fall largely into two groups, telephone call-in centers (translated: telemarketers) and transportation systems. It has sold wallboards to airports and subway systems in Los Angeles; Chicago; Ft. Worth, Texas; and Washington, D.C., where Inova LEDs inform Metro passengers of delays, security alerts and more.

But this serious business is a diminishing part of Inova’s focus. "Our business is changing right now," Hubbard says. "We’re a technology company and we constantly have to innovate, adapt and anticipate the reality of what’s down the road. What’s happening is we’ve become more and more of a software company." The LightLink software that allows clients to tailor LED messages and which is Inova’s latest push, costs between $10,000 and $100,000 depending on the complexity of the system.

On the local front, Inova has kept mostly quiet—none of the signs or products is readily available to Charlottesvillians. That will change with the new C3A building, which will feature three signs from Inova—two 26′ signs along the Water Street front, which will overlap for a total of approximately 41′, and a 3′ sign on the Second Street side that should be visible from Central Place on the Downtown Mall.

Live Arts Artistic Director John Gibson brought Inova into the project after partnering with the company for a gala fundraiser five years ago. "When we started thinking about the new building and thinking about distinctive Central Virginia businesses that we would enjoy being associated with and that could make a meaningful contribution to the building, Inova was at the top of our list," he says.

Inova donated all the signage to the project, using excess materials and extra staff power. These mark the largest signs the company has ever made. Given that normal signs range from $2,500 to $20,000, that’s a substantial contribution.

No one is saying whether the signs will be ready for C3A’s late-October opening, and whether they’ll run 24/7. But once they’re up, Live Arts will determine the messages that run across the screens, a prospect that makes Gibson roar with delight. "I have lots of ideas," he says cryptically. "It will definitely be worth keeping an eye on that space."—Eric Rezsnyak

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Reflecting the past
New African-American newspaper dusts off a 70-year mission

When Thomas J. Sellers founded the Reflector, a weekly newspaper for African-Americans published in Charlottesville between 1931 and 1935, he wrote that his aim was not to cover all the news but to "reflect the progress of our community and Race."

Seventy years later, a pair of local entrepreneurs have dusted off the Reflector nameplate, but with a slightly different mission statement. In March, Corey Carter and Waki Wynn jumped into the crowded Charlottesville publishing market with the first issue of the new African American Reflector.

"We thought the name would be a great tribute to Thomas Sellers," says Carter, the Reflector’s 31-year-old editor. By reviving the Reflector name, the bi-monthly paper intentionally highlights the contrast between Charlottesville’s black community in the Jim Crow ’30s and its black community today.

Back then, Charlottesville incubated one of the most progressive centers of black culture anywhere in the South. The most popular columns from old issues of the Reflector are society pages full of the comings and goings of black elites, focusing on names that are still familiar today: Coles, Bell, Tonsler, Inge and Jackson. Now, however, Carter laments the decline of the city’s black culture––sealed with the destruction of Vinegar Hill in the ’60s, Carter believes—and the current paucity of black-owned businesses and nightspots.

"Charlottesville has a hard time keeping black professionals," says Carter. "I have successful friends who say ‘I love Charlottesville, but what am I going to do here?’ They’ve gone off to D.C. or Richmond or Atlanta."

Carter and Wynn have stayed, remaining here after growing up together in Charlottesville. Carter left briefly to teach English in Baltimore public schools, dreaming of owning a newspaper before returning home. Meanwhile Wynn went through a succession of home-based businesses like Amway, Primerica and Quixtar. He also started a lawn-care business and tried selling vending machines and printing t-shirts before working for the ill-fated Internet company Value America. He started Wacky Entertainment, through which he has put on jazz and r’n’b shows around town.

It was at one of those shows that Carter and Wynn decided to start a newspaper.

"We saw the issue about the lack of entertainment venues as hand-in-hand with the issue of a newspaper," says Carter. "We need more culture."

The Reflector staff includes just Carter, Wynn and his wife, Traci, the paper’s staff writer. The free paper claims a circulation of about 6,000 and distributes in about 70 sites in Charlottesville, Albemarle and surrounding counties. Like the old Reflector, the new paper counts on an audience of liberal white readers as well as blacks.

"The boxes in Forest Lakes are always empty," says Carter. "About half our e-mails are from white readers saying ‘Thank you.’"

The content includes "From the Editor" comments on local events and calls for black activism, and "Reflections," a section that reprints articles from the old Reflector as well as writings from black scholars such as David Walker and W.E.B. DuBois. The paper has taken an aggressive stand on the achievement gap issue in City and County schools, asking: "Are the futures of black students being gambled away the minute black parents send their children to public schools? The numbers suggest yes."

Even as the upstart Reflector stumps for more local black culture, they face competition from the 50-year-old Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune. That paper is currently wrapped up in a legal drama in which former ad rep Rosanna Harris sued publisher Agnes Cross-White for $1 million, alleging Cross-White lied about the Tribune’s circulation. Cross-White contends the lawsuit is frivolous and claims Harris forged checks and stole her car.

About the time the old Reflector made its debut, the Daily Progress published two newspapers, one with white society news and the other with black society news. In an editorial, Sellers challenged anyone offended by segregation to support the Reflector. "So, unless those protestors cooperate with this, their own weekly paper," he wrote, "I shall be forced to believe that they are only jokers."

Carter and Wynn don’t make such explicit challenges, but the subtext of the new Reflector is an appeal to the city’s older, middle-class black population to come out and rebuild a culture in Charlottesville.

"That’s a big issue," says Wynn. "If we just wanted to make money, we wouldn’t have started a newspaper."––John Borgmeyer

 

Queer eye
for the frat guy
Stylish advice from the family to the brothers

With the recent announcement that campus group Out on Rugby plans to form a gay fraternity at UVA, C-VILLE put in a call to local homosexual Pierce Atkins. Since every man of the gay persuasion is an arbiter of good taste, Ace’s "that way" brother gave the non-gay frat boys tips on how to live more fabulously on Rugby Road so as to welcome their prospective gay brothers. After a few cosmos at Escafé he opened right up. An edited transcript follows.

C-VILLE: So Pierce, say I’m your average frat boy. What can I do to spruce myself up a little bit?

Pierce Atkins: I think you mean "Bruce" yourself up a little bit. Just kidding. Listen, I’ve seen my fair share of frat boys. Believe me—try Googling "frat boys." Let’s start with fashion. Foxfield is the social event of the year. Make your best impression by selecting a visor, tie and flipflops to match the Coors Light in your hand. The silver, red and black make an eye-catching combo, and also work to disguise the eventual vomit stains. But pity Bud Light fans. I can’t help to coordinate that mess.

What about interior decorating? Frathouses aren’t known for their stylish ambience.

One of the first rules of interior design is to pick an essential piece and create a room around it. In frat houses, that’s almost universally the ping pong table. Use that to your advantage. Experiment in netting, paddles (good for pledging, too!) and deep, forest green as room treatments. Plus, the central location will make beer pong more easily accessible and offer a large, uncluttered surface for Domino’s delivery. Just make sure to clean off the pizza boxes when the mold colonies start to gain sentience.

Speaking of food, is there life beyond boxed macaroni and cheese and Ramen noodles?

In general, stick to the essentials. But when trying to impress that special lady in your life, splurge a little on Chef Boy-R-Dee. Rumor has it he was trained at the Culinary Institute of America. In any event, this works out doubly well for you. You’ll have a swoon-worthy Beefaroni dinner that the anorexic sorority girls won’t touch, meaning more for you. When it comes to wine, try to avoid the screw-off top. Nothing says "I want your sex" like a cork popping from a bottle.

Once they’ve wooed their paramour, any culture hints on making it a night to remember?

There is more to music than the Dave Matthews Band. While he has some decent ballads, jam bands are not meant for jammin’ between the sheets. I’m not saying you need to work in some of the first ladies—Cher, Bette, Madonna, Celine. That’s a bit much for the Greek scene. But try to inject some estrogen into the mix. Think Moby.

Assuming the night goes well, and well into morning, how does the successful frat boy keep fresh before class the next day?

Showers are your friend—while she’s taking one, you can quietly sneak out without that awkward post-coital conversation. To avoid knocking your friends dead in the lecture hall, always remember to bring a bottle of Brut cologne, a quick change of ballcap and those nifty breath strips. If you’re really good you can go for weeks without anyone knowing you’re a complete and total scumbag under those clothes.

Sounds pretty simple. Any other words of wisdom?

Well, to be honest, I think the boys are doing just fine. I mean, the world needs more big houses full of hunky men willingly living together. Sure they’re rough around the edges, but I like ‘em rough. Now, who’s up for beer pong?

 

The barber of C’ville
Ken Staples turns heads, cutting hair fromLong to short

For 11-year-old Carter Clarke, getting a haircut means a chance to spot celebrities. Clarke, a regular patron of Staples Barber Shop, has seen former NBC 29 weatherman Robert Van Winkle sitting in one of the shop’s ancient, green barber’s chairs. But he has yet to see Staples’ best-known customer, football star turned commentator, turned actor, turned appliance spokesman Howie Long, who according to owner Ken Staples has given much publicity to the 80-year-old business. "We need an agent around here to keep up with all this stuff," he jokes to a fellow barber during an interview.

For Staples, 71, business has been booming as of late. He and his six fellow barbers pull in about 150 customers a day during peak season, closing only on Sunday. At $13 a pop (not to mention tips—"To me that’s a personal thing between the customer and the barber," Staples says), that amounts to more than $600,000 annually for the 1950s throwback establishment, wedged in between Greenberry’s and Quiznos in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

Part of the reason is Long’s distinctive flat top hairdo, which has made Staples the topic of conversation on national television programs like "The Tonight Show."

"These talk shows on TV, once they get through the ‘hellos,’ go straight to his hair," Staples says. He’s received his share of requests from other customers for a Howie Long haircut, he adds, though it doesn’t work for everybody. "It’s rare that a person’s head gives you the material for perfect flat top the way Howie’s does," he says.

While Staples’ national exposure is a recent development, the barber shop has been in the local limelight a lot longer. For some customers, going to Staples represents the ultimate in good-old-boy networking. Sen. George Allen "was a customer long before he went into politics," says Staples. Former UVA Rector Hovey Dabney has been going to Staples for 50 years.

"The atmosphere hasn’t changed," says Dabney. "It’s still the same. That’s why I look forward to going."

Dabney’s picture hangs twice among the likes of Long and Allen, on the store’s wood-paneled wall of fame, identifying him as Ken Staples’ first customer in the Barracks Road location. Going into Staples and seeing the pictures brings back to Dabney a lot of pleasant memories of an earlier Charlottesville. "That’s where you go to see all your friends and get all the news."

Staples’ father Albert came to Charlottesville in 1921. He opened his original barber shop in 1923 in a pink stucco building on E. Main Street, where Ken Staples began working in 1956 at the age of 24. It was two years later when the shop struck a deal to become one of the first businesses in the developing Barracks Road Shopping Center. For a while, both locations were in business, with the younger Staples running the Barracks Road shop and his father remaining Downtown. "Then the long hair came and killed it for everybody," Staples recalls.

When business slowed down, Albert Staples moved to Barracks Road where he, Ken and a third barber weathered the stormy ’60s and ’70s relying on their core of customers. Ken Staples "would come to my house and cut my hair…when I was sick," Dabney says. "One day my daughter was there and he taught her how to cut hair." The seasoned Albert had his own loyal following and would cut hair by appointment until he retired in 1994, dying in 1996 at the age of 98. Five or six years ago business really picked up, Dabney says, much of it due to an influx of UVA students, who, whether through the shop’s publicity, its location, or a new, retrograde standard of fashion, have become regular customers for now.

Staples estimates that 25 percent of his customers are new to the shop. But, he adds, this number will diminish as the school year passes and first-timers become familiar faces. "That’s part of the trade is when a barber waits on a person, he remembers that person."

In a city where transients and transplants influence many aspects of everyday life, Staples provides his customers with a sense of community. He plans no changes for the future. It’s the old-fashioned tradition, he says, that continues to draw people to Staples seeking a return to the days of one-on-one customer service and an escape from the atmosphere of chrome-laden chain salons. "There’s a billion of them out there that cut hair, but there are very few barbers."—Ben Sellers

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Eyes on the prize
As they consider housing, libraries and rising costs, can Jefferson School’s guardians stay on task?

After a year of meeting several times a month, the Jefferson School Task Force may have to go back to the drawing board. This month, the group is supposed to finish planning for the future of Jefferson School – the Fourth Street monument to Charlottesville’s segregationist past and the last vestige of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood. But the challenge of marrying preservation with commercial viability is proving to be tough, and the task force wants City Council to grant them three more months to finish their work.

Council formed the task force in August 2002, after people protested Council’s plans to sell the school site to developers. Especially incensed were former Jefferson students who had lived in Vinegar Hill, the black neighborhood bulldozed in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal ["Tombstone blues," February 12, 2002]. A year ago, there was much talk about how the task force would "heal the wounds" of history-erasing urban renewal. These days, expression of those hopes is muted as the task force confronts the challenge of making historic preservation pay for itself.

"It feels like some of the wind has gone out of our sails," says Sue Lewis, who represents the Chamber of Commerce on the 16-member committee. The task force is guided by professional facilitator Mary Means, who has a one-year, $89,323 contract with the City for her task force work, according to City Manager Linda Peacock.

While Lewis is careful to say she speaks only for herself and not the group, widespread frustration was in the air when the task force met on Tuesday, August 26. The group is considering three possible scenarios for the building, but none of them seem to engender enthusiasm from a majority of members. "There’s no slam dunk," is how architect Craig Barton put it. Barton is the City Planning Commission representative to the group.

One plan would use the Jefferson School as a learning center that may house programs delivered by the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, such as the early-childhood education program Head Start. Other ideas for a learning center include a culinary institute or Saturday academy for African-Americans.

Another option calls for a "one-stop employment and training center." The third scenario would move the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s central branch into the Jefferson School site. The library is outgrowing its current location at 201 E. Market St.

The task force agrees that any use of the building should emphasize cultural learning, and in any event the 100-year-old façade should be protected. The building also should be used to attract visitors and fit in with Council’s plan to redevelop W. Main Street between Downtown and UVA. Finally, the rehabbed Jefferson School should generate revenue to sustain its uses.

Relocating the library seems to be the most promising solution, since it meets all the criteria and library director John Halliday is actively looking for a new Downtown location.

"From a historical perspective, it would be kind of neat," says Halliday. In 1934, when the library was housed at the McIntire Building (currently home to the Historical Society) the library established its first branch – a "colored branch" – at Jefferson School.

At more than 70,000 square feet, the Jefferson School site would more than satisfy the library’s need for shelf space. Additionally, it has desirable on-site parking. Halliday says he and the library board of trustees are "very much interested" in moving to Jefferson, but many issues would have to be ironed out. Those include ensuring that Jefferson School could handle the weight of all those books (some 153,200), and that City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, which fund the library, could agree on how to split the cost of renovations.

At the recent meeting, task force member Peter McIntosh said he had been feeling pessimistic because all three options would require "significant effort" and it would take more than three years before a tenant could move into Jefferson School. Now, however, he believes it is unrealistic to expect any activity at Jefferson in less than three years. The main issue, he says, is figuring out how the new Jefferson School will pay for itself.

The question of money raises the specter of private ownership and development of the Jefferson site, which many on the task force might now consider. Last year, early in the Jefferson School saga, the City held a public meeting at the facility. At that time, several people said they didn’t want housing there, and for the past year most of the task force members have worked under the premise that no apartments should be included in their plans.

At the meeting, however, the task force reviewed rough estimates of how the various scenarios could be financed. The assessed market value of the Jefferson School site is $4.5 million. The task force estimates it will cost about $10 million to rehabilitate the building, although a combination of State and Federal tax credits would pay for 45 percent of the rehab costs. City Council has ordered the committee to come up with ideas that don’t require the City to spend much beyond the $1.7 million it has already set aside for capital improvements to Jefferson School.

Although the presentation included only rough cost estimates and vague development scenarios, two points were clear – there will be significant costs to developing Jefferson School, and housing is the most profitable use for the property. At present, it seems likely that any plan will include at least some housing – trendy condos, anyone? – whether it’s in the actual Jefferson School building or built new in the undeveloped acres on the site.

The task force will present the three scenarios to the public on Saturday, September 20, at 8:30am at the Carver Recreation Center, which adjoins Jefferson School. The group will make a presentation to Council in early October. If Council agrees to an extension, the task force will have until December 15 to finish its work.

Although the task force says much work still needs to be done to figure out how the three scenarios would be financed, McIntosh and Lewis say that simply beginning the economic conversation relieved some of their frustration. "I wish we’d have done this 10 months ago," says McIntosh.–John Borgmeyer

 

Rock star 101
The first rule of biz in show biz: Everything is negotiable 

Jeri Goldstein spent 20 years as an agent and manager, working with performers including Robin and Linda Williams, and Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. She recently published How to Be Your Own Booking Agent: A Performing Artist’s Guide to a Successful Touring Career and now conducts workshops throughout the country. This fall Goldstein brings her expertise to UVA’s Continuing Education program, offering a class to aspiring artists focusing on marketing your act – that is, working with the media, working with agents and managers, and targeting your niche audience. C-VILLE contributing writer Emily Smith recently interviewed Goldstein about her career and class. An edited transcript follows.

 

Emily Smith: What inspired you to write the book?

Jeri Goldstein: It got to be the 20th anniversary of my being a manager and agent and I was trying to figure out how to celebrate. I decided it was time to quit and do something else. I had this information, I had this experience and what I didn’t have I thought I could research. I thought it would be a useful thing.

 

In the business of performing arts, what area is most in need of attention?

Marketing. This hands down seems to be the place that most artists either don’t pay attention to, forget about, or don’t leave enough money to do anything. Knowing the audience is crucial…you may not be the next big star but you may have an audience that is broad-based and enthusiastic. You just have to find them.

 

How are the classes structured?

All of my workshops are fairly interactive so that I am imparting information but I am working from the group, so if I find that there are only musicians then I am going to concentrate on that so they can walk out of the class with a plan. I try to work with them on things that are real as opposed to theoretical.

There are things that can be done to make yourself a more strategic partner with agents and managers: What are the things to look for, what are the things that you should be asking so that you don’t get led astray?

The business is so often the last thing people think about. Most people are headed toward the creative. My goal is to help give some information that is much more of a step-by-step method of focusing. It is one thing to say "I want to be a musician," and then it is sort of another thing to say "Today I am going to make phone calls to venues."

 

Can you say more about the "art of negotiation"?

It is knowing how to place value on your work. There are a variety of techniques involved in establishing your value, knowing how to ask questions, how to present what you want and knowing that every thing is negotiable.

 

Any last comments?

Come to the class! One of the things that I always see are artists in the workshops forming cooperatives and pooling resources. I have felt that in Charlottesville the music community in particular, but also the performing arts, is so rich and so ripe for having a little more information on how to make the most out of this incredible talent.

 

"The Business of the Performing Arts" will be held at UVA on Mondays, September 15-October 13, 7-9pm. Call 982-5313.

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Eyes on the prize
As they consider housing, libraries and rising costs, can Jefferson School’s guardians stay on task?

After a year of meeting several times a month, the Jefferson School Task Force may have to go back to the drawing board. This month, the group is supposed to finish planning for the future of Jefferson School – the Fourth Street monument to Charlottesville’s segregationist past and the last vestige of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood. But the challenge of marrying preservation with commercial viability is proving to be tough, and the task force wants City Council to grant them three more months to finish their work.

Council formed the task force in August 2002, after people protested Council’s plans to sell the school site to developers. Especially incensed were former Jefferson students who had lived in Vinegar Hill, the black neighborhood bulldozed in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal ["Tombstone blues," February 12, 2002]. A year ago, there was much talk about how the task force would "heal the wounds" of history-erasing urban renewal. These days, expression of those hopes is muted as the task force confronts the challenge of making historic preservation pay for itself.

"It feels like some of the wind has gone out of our sails," says Sue Lewis, who represents the Chamber of Commerce on the 16-member committee. The task force is guided by professional facilitator Mary Means, who has a one-year, $89,323 contract with the City for her task force work, according to City Manager Linda Peacock.

While Lewis is careful to say she speaks only for herself and not the group, widespread frustration was in the air when the task force met on Tuesday, August 26. The group is considering three possible scenarios for the building, but none of them seem to engender enthusiasm from a majority of members. "There’s no slam dunk," is how architect Craig Barton put it. Barton is the City Planning Commission representative to the group.

One plan would use the Jefferson School as a learning center that may house programs delivered by the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, such as the early-childhood education program Head Start. Other ideas for a learning center include a culinary institute or Saturday academy for African-Americans.

Another option calls for a "one-stop employment and training center." The third scenario would move the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s central branch into the Jefferson School site. The library is outgrowing its current location at 201 E. Market St.

The task force agrees that any use of the building should emphasize cultural learning, and in any event the 100-year-old façade should be protected. The building also should be used to attract visitors and fit in with Council’s plan to redevelop W. Main Street between Downtown and UVA. Finally, the rehabbed Jefferson School should generate revenue to sustain its uses.

Relocating the library seems to be the most promising solution, since it meets all the criteria and library director John Halliday is actively looking for a new Downtown location.

"From a historical perspective, it would be kind of neat," says Halliday. In 1934, when the library was housed at the McIntire Building (currently home to the Historical Society) the library established its first branch – a "colored branch" – at Jefferson School.

At more than 70,000 square feet, the Jefferson School site would more than satisfy the library’s need for shelf space. Additionally, it has desirable on-site parking. Halliday says he and the library board of trustees are "very much interested" in moving to Jefferson, but many issues would have to be ironed out. Those include ensuring that Jefferson School could handle the weight of all those books (some 153,200), and that City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, which fund the library, could agree on how to split the cost of renovations.

At the recent meeting, task force member Peter McIntosh said he had been feeling pessimistic because all three options would require "significant effort" and it would take more than three years before a tenant could move into Jefferson School. Now, however, he believes it is unrealistic to expect any activity at Jefferson in less than three years. The main issue, he says, is figuring out how the new Jefferson School will pay for itself.

The question of money raises the specter of private ownership and development of the Jefferson site, which many on the task force might now consider. Last year, early in the Jefferson School saga, the City held a public meeting at the facility. At that time, several people said they didn’t want housing there, and for the past year most of the task force members have worked under the premise that no apartments should be included in their plans.

At the meeting, however, the task force reviewed rough estimates of how the various scenarios could be financed. The assessed market value of the Jefferson School site is $4.5 million. The task force estimates it will cost about $10 million to rehabilitate the building, although a combination of State and Federal tax credits would pay for 45 percent of the rehab costs. City Council has ordered the committee to come up with ideas that don’t require the City to spend much beyond the $1.7 million it has already set aside for capital improvements to Jefferson School.

Although the presentation included only rough cost estimates and vague development scenarios, two points were clear – there will be significant costs to developing Jefferson School, and housing is the most profitable use for the property. At present, it seems likely that any plan will include at least some housing – trendy condos, anyone? – whether it’s in the actual Jefferson School building or built new in the undeveloped acres on the site.

The task force will present the three scenarios to the public on Saturday, September 20, at 8:30am at the Carver Recreation Center, which adjoins Jefferson School. The group will make a presentation to Council in early October. If Council agrees to an extension, the task force will have until December 15 to finish its work.

Although the task force says much work still needs to be done to figure out how the three scenarios would be financed, McIntosh and Lewis say that simply beginning the economic conversation relieved some of their frustration. "I wish we’d have done this 10 months ago," says McIntosh.–John Borgmeyer

 

Rock star 101
The first rule of biz in show biz: Everything is negotiable 

Jeri Goldstein spent 20 years as an agent and manager, working with performers including Robin and Linda Williams, and Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. She recently published How to Be Your Own Booking Agent: A Performing Artist’s Guide to a Successful Touring Career and now conducts workshops throughout the country. This fall Goldstein brings her expertise to UVA’s Continuing Education program, offering a class to aspiring artists focusing on marketing your act – that is, working with the media, working with agents and managers, and targeting your niche audience. C-VILLE contributing writer Emily Smith recently interviewed Goldstein about her career and class. An edited transcript follows.

 

Emily Smith: What inspired you to write the book?

Jeri Goldstein: It got to be the 20th anniversary of my being a manager and agent and I was trying to figure out how to celebrate. I decided it was time to quit and do something else. I had this information, I had this experience and what I didn’t have I thought I could research. I thought it would be a useful thing.

 

In the business of performing arts, what area is most in need of attention?

Marketing. This hands down seems to be the place that most artists either don’t pay attention to, forget about, or don’t leave enough money to do anything. Knowing the audience is crucial…you may not be the next big star but you may have an audience that is broad-based and enthusiastic. You just have to find them.

 

How are the classes structured?

All of my workshops are fairly interactive so that I am imparting information but I am working from the group, so if I find that there are only musicians then I am going to concentrate on that so they can walk out of the class with a plan. I try to work with them on things that are real as opposed to theoretical.

There are things that can be done to make yourself a more strategic partner with agents and managers: What are the things to look for, what are the things that you should be asking so that you don’t get led astray?

The business is so often the last thing people think about. Most people are headed toward the creative. My goal is to help give some information that is much more of a step-by-step method of focusing. It is one thing to say "I want to be a musician," and then it is sort of another thing to say "Today I am going to make phone calls to venues."

 

Can you say more about the "art of negotiation"?

It is knowing how to place value on your work. There are a variety of techniques involved in establishing your value, knowing how to ask questions, how to present what you want and knowing that every thing is negotiable.

 

Any last comments?

Come to the class! One of the things that I always see are artists in the workshops forming cooperatives and pooling resources. I have felt that in Charlottesville the music community in particular, but also the performing arts, is so rich and so ripe for having a little more information on how to make the most out of this incredible talent.

 

"The Business of the Performing Arts" will be held at UVA on Mondays, September 15-October 13, 7-9pm. Call 982-5313.

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Room for improvement
The City and County thump for tourists, but where will they stay?

On August 6, officials from the City, County and Virginia Department of Transportation broke ground on the long-awaited Court Square renovation project, designed to attract tourists to the 150-year-old historic area north of the Downtown Mall. Not discussed that morning was the prospect that incoming visitors might struggle to locate a room in town to rest their bones after they tour all the sights. Even as the upcoming installation of brick streets and historic markers represents Charlottesville’s push to increase tax dollars generated by visitors—tourists added $10 million to City and County coffers in 2001—area hotel occupancy rates remain extremely high. And that’s intentional.

"Our philosophy on tourism is a little different in terms of our mission," says Mark Shore, Director of the Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We’re looking to draw the visitor who will spend more money instead of bringing in masses of people to spend the same amount. This way we could bring in 100,000 visitors in place of 300,000."

One way of regulating that is to keep the number of hotel rooms down. During peak event seasons, including UVA alumni reunions and football games, weddings, and the changing of the leaves, local hotels are chock-full, practically hanging "No Vacancy" signs on the front door come check-in time on Friday. Not only that, occupancy rates continue to climb in the greater Charlottesville area—75.3 percent last May. Comparably sized Athens, Georgia had a 63.1 percent occupancy rate during the same period.

"During the weekends in general," says Rick Butts, director of sales at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel on the Downtown Mall, "we’re very, very full. And on a football weekend, we’re completely booked."

According to Shore, within the last five to seven years, most U. S. cities have seen a 40 percent to 50 percent increase in general construction, while Charlottesville has seen a construction growth rate of no more than 2.5 percent per year. It means the City and County endeavor to nab new visitors while avoiding extensive development. With 1,753 rooms in Charlottesville and 1,394 in Albemarle, the challenge to find available lodgings is as much a local tradition as the Jefferson cup.

"We consistently have people calling frantically searching for a room," says Jean-Francois Legault, managing director of the bed and breakfast Clifton—The Country Inn. "And during the fall season, we have no rooms available.

"Putting on my event-planner hat, I can tell you that trying to block rooms for an event is the hardest task in my job, even 10 months out."

The City and County’s stance on designated growth areas hasn’t been the only sticking point in unlocking more hotel rooms. Shore says the lodging difficulties stem in part from large-scale hotel chains’ lack of interest.

"The amount of available land is either too scarce or too pricey for your typical limited-service property," says Shore, explaining that limited-service hotels—such as the Ramada on 250E—don’t currently offer full-service restaurants, conference rooms and other varied amenities.

Hope for beleaguered boarders could come in the future from two hotels rumored to be in the works, one at the much-debated Hollymead Town Center and another at an unknown site on Pantops. But with no concrete starting plans, for now the room occupancy rates remain fixed—a prospect that might please those who worry about the high costs of tourism to the area, anyway.

"With the increase of tourists, yes, we do face additional traffic and water usage," says Shore. "But in terms of an economic benefactor, tourism is considered one of the cleanest."—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Class act
Experts weigh in on how to cure the back-to-school blues 

This week, some 17,000 public school students will begin classes in Albemarle and Charlottesville public schools. Many will be nervous about new classes and teachers. Many will also be nervous about gel pens and sneakers. Cathryn Harding met recently with City guidance counselors Lynne Coleman and Atalaya Sergi to discuss kids’ and parents’ feelings at this time of year and how they can smooth the transition. An edited transcript of the interview follows. 

Cathryn Harding: What are kids going through as summer ends and the school bus pulls up to the corner?

Atalaya Sergi: Their feelings vary. Some are excited to come back to school and some would rather sleep in.

Is it a comfort for kids to return to routine?

Lynne Coleman: Developmentally, doing the predictable things helps them to be comfortable. They’re dealing with so much more than just coming back to school. During the summer the body has changed, the voice may have changed.

Sergi: Getting back on a regular schedule of going to bed at a certain time and getting their backpacks ready and picking out clothes for school is important. A lot of kids are dealing with "Am I going to be with my friends? Will I know anybody in my class?"

How long does the anxiety last before the rewards of routine kick in?

Sergi: After the first two weeks, most of them are settled.

During these two weeks, what behavior are parents seeing at home?

Sergi: One thing that comes to mind is difficulty sleeping. For the younger kids, maybe some bad dreams. They’re probably going to be a little more on edge. They might not be as nice to their siblings as usual.

Coleman: In the transition from elementary to middle school, the kids begin to analyze self more. "How do I look? How do I talk?" They begin to think more in terms of group acceptance. We see it again in the transition from middle school to high school: "How do I fit in?"

In other words, you’re talking about a lot of sullen, withdrawn behavior.

Coleman: Yes, they have stuff on their minds.

What’s a parent supposed to do to help?

Sergi: Whether your child comes to you and asks or says nothing at all, just talk to them. Kids who have moved schools—talk to them about how they made friends at their old school. Especially at middle school age, they probably will not come to their parent and say, "I’m afraid." Talk to your kids whether they ask questions or not.

What are some of the back-to-school rituals that can break the tension?

Sergi: School shopping and getting set up for school again. If they have a place in the house where they usually do their homework and they had stuff set up there, get that place set back up. Talk about how the after-school schedule will work. And let them within reason pick out what they want for school. If they feel like they need a special backpack and it’s within the budget, let them get some of the things they think they need.

If they want to have a purple notebook or a certain glue stick or pens, who cares? It’s important to them. It shouldn’t be a problem for parents if they want purple and not blue. It makes the kids feel more confident about coming back to school and being accepted by their friends.

What are the parents going through?

Coleman: At each stage, parents have a certain level of stress. My recommendation is the parents do a tour of the school. See how it feels. There’s only so much you can gather from the papers sent home. The fears that set in are usually so much worse than the reality.

Sergi: I would tell the kids, help your parents out by giving them a hug. Let them know it will be all right!

 

 

Changing their tune
With typical humor, Pep Band supporters refuse to bow out

They came out about 30 strong in orange vests. Some wore pigtails or West Virginia hats. One dressed in a fur coat and Viking helmet. Though they would never admit it, members of the University of Virginia Pep Band, who as a self-described scramble band distinguish themselves from a marching band with their controversial comedy routines, were marching into battle.

The occasion was a midday press conference in front of the Rotunda, on Saturday, August 23, to announce the formation of an alumni support group, Friends of the Virginia Pep Band, Inc. On the other side of the famously domed building, the University’s golden students—those honored with rooms on The Lawn—busied themselves with moving into their new digs. The beleaguered Pep Band stood in sharp contrast, but appeared no less determined to assert its legacy at UVA. The 30-year-old band represents "a tradition venerable for the last generation," said keynote speaker Frank Block, one of its charter members. "Not quite as venerable as the building behind us, but we’re catching up."

Indeed, as a "public Ivy," UVA—and its Pep Band—had been in line with prestigious schools like Harvard and Princeton that regularly lampoon themselves and their cordial adversaries through skits, silly music and other tasteless hilarity. Hasty pudding, anyone? But as officials at UVA have strenuously worked in recent years to improve the University’s ACC profile by building up sports programs and generating buzz about promising recruits, it was inevitable that the Pep Band would fall out of favor for something more sober—like a marching band.

The FVPB’s goal is to raise $50,000 for the Pep Band by the end of the year largely through the support of alumni and former members. Ed Hardy, FVPB vice president for fundraising and public relations, presented Pep Band Director Scott Hayes with a check Saturday in the amount of $23.50. "Hopefully the size of the check will make up for the lack of money," Hardy quipped.

Not that the amount of the donation was incidental. In April, UVA announced that $1.5 million of Carl and Hunter Smith’s $23.5 million donation to the school would fund a marching band. Accordingly, the Pep Band would no longer be welcome to play at University athletic events.

Though the band remains a campus organization and continues to receive funding from the school, the split with the Athletics Department limited their performance options (now they can only set up their instruments in the parking lot, for instance) and cut off funding for travel and lodging, says FVPB President Dave Black. According to him, the alumni group seeks to preserve the Pep Band and to co-exist with the marching band, which will boast 200 members under the direction of William E. Pease, formerly of Western Michigan University. "We are not asking UVA to reverse its decision to start a marching band," said Black. "Although many Pep Band supporters cringe at the thought of a ‘UVA marching band’ at Scott Stadium, FVPB recognizes the University’s desire to strengthen UVA’s performing arts program."

"Performance" is at the core of the Pep Band’s problems, namely their half time parody at last year’s Continental Tire Bowl. That match-up reunited UVA with West Virginia University, whose fans still held an 18-year grudge against the UVA band over a "Family Feud" skit performed the last time the two teams met. The Pep Band’s half-time performance last December 28 spoofed the television show "The Bachelor" and featured a West Virginian girl in pigtails and overalls. The skit prompted West Virginia Governor Bob Wise to write to University President John T. Casteen demanding an apology. Casteen complied.—Ben Sellers

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It’s a small world
The cute Mini Cooper becomes Charlottesville’s pet car du jour

It looks at you with the sad eyes of a puppy, its side mirrors like stubby ears yearning to be stroked. It lets out a sigh when you fire the ignition, and whistles as you back out. And you’re hooked.

So say members of Charlottesville’s newest pet-car club: the Mini Cooper scoopers.

At least a dozen of the throwback autos from the U.K. have popped up around town, and their owners, like members of a kennel association, all seem to know each other—if not by name then by color.

There’s a teal one with the white top, and the red-and-silver one on Parkway Street. Then there’s the gold-and-black one that lives off High Street. That’s Sherry Kraft’s. Her 13-year-old daughter urged her to buy the car.

“She thought they were just incredibly cool,” Kraft says. But it was test-driving a friend’s that convinced her the family needed to upgrade from their decidedly un-cool station wagon.

A car, after all, isn’t really about looks or price or even engineering, but about the feeling it exudes, and the Mini—with its very British slogan “Let’s Motor”—embodies that philosophy. Whether you’re into retro or not, you must admit the Cooper exudes hip.

And it has personality. Kraft, a psychologist, understands this. “It has a little face, with mournful eyes,” she says. “It makes you want to keep it clean.”

Mini’s makers have personality, too. Once more the smallest car on the road, the Cooper owes its rebirth to a few development geniuses at BMW, who rescued the car from 30 years of dormancy in 1998 and debuted the redesign at the Paris Auto Show two years later.

Their Web site’s—www.mini.com—message isn’t “BUY NOW!” It’s more like, no pressure, enjoy the ride: “We believe in test drives that cross state lines.” At its 75 dealers stateside, Mini doesn’t employ sales reps. Instead, it has “motoring advisers.”

Crown Mini of Richmond is the authorized dealer closest to Charlottesville. Salesman Steve Stankiewics says his Minis have been motoring off at a steady clip since they hit the U.S. market in March. “People are starting to veer away from the SUV thing,” Stankiewics says. “They want something more economical.”

Minis get 30 to 40 miles per gallon, but if you’re looking for a cheap pet, try the SPCA. The standard Cooper starts at about $17,000. Tack on another three grand and you can by the supercharged, six-speed Mini Cooper S.

Car and Driver magazine has given both versions mixed reviews: high marks for styling and handling, but demerits for engine performance—described as “choppy”—and interior functionality—“fussy.” None of that, though, has deterred drivers angling for that “yeah-baby!,” Austin Powers, spy-car feeling.

When he drives his Mini around town, Jim Brookeman, an MRI physicist at UVA, likes to listen to Cuban jazz and pretend he’s Michael Caine, who, by the way, attended high school with Brookeman.

A real, live Brit himself, Brookeman had a Union Jack decal plastered on the roof his black Mini. He was also the first person in Charlottesville to adopt one. He found it a year ago when it was only a showpiece.

For Brookeman, who owned an original Mini Cooper in his 20s and once drove it over the Alps, the nostalgia was too much to bear: “I came home and said to my wife, ‘I need the checkbook.’”—Robert Armengol

 

Rock this town
Musictoday.com move could revitalize Crozet

The former ConAgra food processing plant lies dormant along Three Notch’d Road on the eastern edge of Crozet. This town of 2,700 in western Albemarle was devastated when the factory closed and layed off about 650 people in 1999. In the near future, however, the sprawling, 126-acre complex of white buildings and crisscrossing pipes could wake up again, possibly humming with the business of rock and roll.

Coran Capshaw owns the ConAgra site and is eyeing it for the new home of Musictoday.com, an Internet company he founded to peddle t-shirts, concert tickets and all things rock. If the move happens, it could be a catalyst for change in Crozet, a town in the midst of a major evolution.

“The decision hasn’t been finalized, but we are certainly looking at the ConAgra facility as part of the long-term solution to our space needs,” says Jim Kingdon, who wins the Largest Nameplate award for his role as Musictoday’s executive vice-president of corporate strategy.

Kingdon says his company has outgrown its office and warehouse space off Morgantown Road in Ivy, where Musictoday opened in 1999. The company began when Capshaw, manager of the Dave Matthews Band, fused Red Light Communication with Red Light Distribution, the online and merchandising arms of the DMB corporate body. In a cover article on Musictoday [“So much to sell,” September 28, 1999], C-VILLE reported the company started with 40 or 50 employees and after a year was shipping an estimated 300 to 500 packages of t-shirts and CDs per day during the summer and holiday seasons.

Since then, Musictoday has added new high-profile clients, hosting online stores for the likes of Eminem and the Rolling Stones, and the company handles online ticketing for myriad bands, including Phish. Kingdon says that in addition to hosting official band web stores and fan clubs, the company will ship an average of 1,500 orders per day to music fans across the country in 2003. Between 100 and 120 people currently work at Musictoday, according to the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.

“From what I understand, they’ve been ramping up,” says Bob DeMauri at the TJPED. Kingdon says Musictoday plans to make a decision on a new site and the move will be “under way” by January.

The move could play a significant role in Crozet’s changing identity. C-VILLE’s cover story on the Crozet Master Plan [“Albemarle 2020,” September 17, 2002] described how fast-growing subdivisions have become the most profitable crop in a town that used to be a rural farming outpost.

County planners expect Crozet will see more than 10,000 new residents in the next few years, and they have zoned Crozet to allow more single-family homes in swaths of land owned by Gaylon Beights and Steve Runkle, two major County developers. In July, two firms––Nelson-Byrd Landscape Architecture and Renaissance Planning Group––presented County officials with a plan for infusing the new subdivisions with commercial and business developments, with the premise that Crozet residents could live and work there instead of commuting to jobs in Charlottesville.

One of the Master Plan’s lead designers, landscape architect Warren Byrd, says the 375,000 square-foot ConAgra plant––which abuts the 325,000 square-foot industrial site formerly home to Acme Records––will be a major employment center. The hardest part about moving ideas from the drafting table to reality, however, is persuading the private sector to buy into the planners’ vision.

“Part of growth is just about momentum,” says Lane Bonner, the real estate broker who is trying to lease the Acme complex. Musictoday, he says, could be the catalyst that turns Crozet’s abandoned industrial sites into a hub for the kind of high-tech companies the area is hoping to attract. With more subdivisions and a golf course slated for the near future, Bonner predicts Crozet will evolve into “a viable business location.

“Right now Crozet is just a bedroom community,” says Bonner. “But [Musictoday] is probably the first of many major companies that will end up going out there.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Taking stock of the Market
Changes at the City Market fuel vendor concerns 

Sweet onion tarts, blooming nasturtiums, pastries and tomatoes—Charlottesville’s City Market is the place to go for those hard-to-find, homemade goodies, plants and veggies. And now, with the recent dismissal of 15-year Market manager Judy Johnson and the formation of a controversial new band of Market caretakers, it’s also the place to go for half-baked, homegrown drama.

In November 2002, a small group of vendors banded together to form Market Central, Inc., a non-profit organization with the goal of finding a permanent home for the Market. Throughout its history the Saturday morning staple—currently celebrating its 30th year—has been something of a nomad, moving from outdoor venue to outdoor venue. It’s currently situated at the parking lot between Water and South streets, which is up for sale.

But Market Central is working to set up more permanent roots. Once the group is granted 501(c)3 status, it can accept donations from locals to make its mission a reality. “The Market is 30 years old and has just flown by the seat of its pants up until now,” says one Market Central member who refused to be identified. “Besides, people will take us much more seriously with money in the bank.”

But as the organization nears its one-year anniversary, some of its 50-plus members question what their $10 entry fee is paying for, and the end result of its original mission statement.

Part of that, some say, was the ousting of former director Johnson, who had come under fire for allegedly having a bad attitude, being tardy to the Market or not showing up at all.

“One of Market Central’s stated purposes was to get rid of Judy Johnson,” says John Cole, a 20-year Market vendor showing the most resistance to the up-and-coming Market Central. “And they’ve accomplished that—she simply doesn’t make a good bureaucrat.”

Johnson’s removal followed a July incident in which her van was stolen, along with Market paperwork and the registration forms—and social security numbers—of all Market vendors inside.

For irritated vendors running out of patience with Johnson, this was the mason jar of ecologically safe strawberry jam that broke the camel’s back. As Johnson wrote in her apology letter to Market vendors, “On July 14, there was a meeting with Johnny Ellen [Chief of Recreation for Charlottesville Recreation and Leisure Services] with members of Market Central at which I was not allowed to be present.”

Johnson says she was unaware of the secret meeting or that her job was in jeopardy. She was terminated one week later, even though her van was found, vendors’ ID numbers intact. Since then, the City Department of Parks and Recreation has run the Market, with no current plans to turn it over to Market Central.

Market Central officials insist the timing of their group’s formation was not a grab for power. Furthermore, some members of the group say that Market members who are wary of Central’s future Market plans are merely fringe members.

“Opinions from those who are marginally involved are not always informed,” says Darcy Phillips, a Market Central member who has sold her pottery at the Market for seven years. “The benefits of this are not yet apparent because the results aren’t in yet.”

The prospect of permanent new digs proves equally troubling for some—the Market’s evolution into a supermarket-style permanent structure could ruin its eclectic flavor.

“If you’re going indoors with a market,” says Sarah Lanzman, former Market vendor, “extra overhead can guarantee price increases,” adding that most vendors cannot make a year-long commitment to the Market.

“We see the big picture of Market Central on the wall,” says Cole, “and it doesn’t look good for all the vendors.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

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Be afraid, be very afraid
County police flex the military metaphor

Albemarle County Police Sergeant Peter Mainzer’s eyes lit up as he gazed on the black weapons issued to the department’s SWAT team––the .40-caliber submachine gun, the heavy bullet-proof vests, gas masks purchased with a Federal Homeland Defense grant.

“Most of our operations are to assist JADE [the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force] in the War on Drugs, which is part of the War on Terror,” said Mainzer, showing off long, missile-shaped .233-caliber bullets stacked in a metal clip like hornets in a nest.

Terrorism was an implicit theme of the Albemarle County Police Department’s National Night Out, a police-equipment expo held Tuesday, August 5, at Fashion Square Mall. As County Police continue to complain that they are underfunded and understaffed, the Night Out seemed designed to show people that Albemarle County is a dangerous place, and police need more money to serve and protect. That’s because in addition to guarding people against car crashes, muggers and kidnappers, County police now see themselves as frontline soldiers in the War on Terror.

Since September 11, 2001, County law enforcement offices (like others around the nation) have draped themselves in red, white and blue. If you visit Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos, for example, you pass by a door sporting a “God Bless America” poster. Across the hall from Camblos, Albemarle Sheriff and former FBI agent Ed Robb pledges that if re-elected in November, he will use his deputies to feed “domestic surveillance” to the Federal government.

“I think it’s very important to the people of Albemarle County,” says Robb. “With UVA and our historical sites, there is a threat.”

It is the local drug units, however, that most closely align themselves with military action and patriotic sentiment. The JADE office in City Hall is festooned with 9-11 imagery, such as a picture of Osama Bin Laden in crosshairs, which abuts a poster of marijuana plants that declares, “It’s not medicine. It’s an illegal drug!”

On August 5, pot seemed more like a means for shop-class experimentation, however, as police displayed bongs made of PVC pipe, plastic soda bottles and a track and field baton, which reportedly were seized from County middle schools. Asked to clarify Sergeant Mainzer’s comment that the Drug War is part of the War on Terror, Albemarle Police Captain Crystal Limerick, who organized the Night Out, said, “Criminals are criminals, whether they’re a terrorist or a drug dealer or a burglar.

“Someone could rob a house to buy drugs, and the money could go to terrorists,” Limerick continued (although evidence doesn’t seem yet to have connected Nelson County weed with Al Qaeda explosives).

Not that a few missing links would stop the Albemarle Police from striking first and asking questions later, judging by the force’s history. In 2001, for instance, local attorney Deborah Wyatt, the architect of several law suits against the County police [“Walking a thin blue line,” April 24, 2001], told C-VILLE: “Based on the kind of calls I’ve got, it seems officers are encouraged to approach the civilian population as enemies in a war, even in a traffic stop.”

In an example from last summer, Albemarle Detective K.W. Robinson was convicted of committing assault and battery while interrogating a suspect. And early this month it was reported that Albemarle Officer Karl Mansoor settled a lawsuit in which he claimed County police officials violated his free-speech rights by ordering Mansoor not to criticize the County.

Limerick says the County Police Department “is a much better agency now than when those things occurred.” Indeed, Police Captain Douglas Rhodes, named in several of the lawsuits as the man responsible for the department’s aggressive training, left the force more than a year ago.

The department’s new motto, emblazoned on the side of its new Emergency Response Vehicle, an RV-style trailer full of computers and communication equipment on display at the Night Out, is “Protecting Your Future…Today.” On the County police website, the motto joins the image of an American flag and a “9-11” logo.

Despite changes in the police department’s leadership, Albemarle County apparently remains determined to win political points by wrapping its law enforcement agencies in the American flag. The National Night Out ended earlier than planned, as a bruise-colored thunderhead moved in from the northwest, but not before the event revealed the County philosophy that reducing crime is largely a matter of wielding bigger guns.––John Borgmeyer

 

Band on the run
Skyline Awake reflects on their recent tour

Blurring the boundaries between hardcore and straight rock ’n’ roll, Skyline Awake loaded up the van in July for their first-ever tour, playing 24 East Coast shows in a month. Taking just enough time to visit their families and shower off the grime of the road, bassist Brad Perry, guitarists Brendan Murphy and Jason Butler, and drummer Jon Kuthy then sat down with C-VILLE music writer Matthew Hirst to talk about their month on the road. An edited transcript of that interview follows.

Matthew Hirst: So, how was the tour? Are you up for hitting the road again?

Brendan Murphy: Everybody’s gotten to a point with the band where we have to decide to take that and run with it and next time play twice as many shows. It was definitely a stepping stone. Just actually doing it is…positive for us as a band. If we choose to do it again, it will be that much better.

Brad Perry: Since I did most of the booking on our end, I learned a lot of things. Certainly I think one of the main lessons is that I’m only going to go through other bands that I know are good in other towns.

Now that we have met a lot of good bands from all over, we can go through them to get the show instead of calling up a random venue to get the show, because they’re not going to do us any favors.

Did you run into any problems getting from show to show?

Perry: People were really nice. We lucked out. We played a place in Connecticut and there were really no kids, because there was some fireworks show going on down the street. The guy still gave us enough money to get to the next place. He was definitely paying out of his own pocket. And there were other places that happened. In Columbus, Ohio, we played for another band on a Monday night and the guy said, “I’ll guarantee you’ll get enough money to get to the next place you’re playing.”

Jason Butler: We didn’t really have to deal with any sketchiness at all in terms of venues or promoters. The one show we played in New York was a matinee, and all these kids showed up, all the bands showed up, but the owners of the club never showed up. So, some kid said, “Let’s have the show in my backyard.” We went to the kid’s house, and he had a tennis court and swimming pool in the backyard. His parents were there, and the show happened right there.

Are you now more serious about making music your lives?

Perry: Definitely. It would be fun to do this for a living.

Murphy: I think with a little time after the tour to wind down, it will all make sense. We haven’t talked about it as a band yet, because we haven’t all been together except tonight since we got back. Probably, being out for a month has made us all think about where we want to go next. This will either take us there or make us think twice, but for me at least, this was a positive.

Butler: I would like to take some time to write some new material, to be able to come out in two months with a whole new set of stuff no one’s ever heard before.

 

The running man
40-something Chicken Run champ goes for four 

By most standards, Burkhard Spiekerman is not your typical racer. The 45-year-old from Tuevingen, Germany, says he’s never had a running-related injury. He doesn’t train very hard, and never stretches, and he eschews the relative comfort of flat, measured surfaces like the UVA track in favor of eight miles of hilly agony on Ridge Road, a popular running spot near White Hall. He logs in as many as 30 miles per week on the County’s gravel roads, and for Spiekerman, therein lies the key to what he hopes will be his fourth consecutive victory at the 21st annual Chicken Run, to be held August 16 in North Garden.

“I think that makes the difference,” Spiekerman says, “because I like hills.”

The Chicken Run fits Spiekerman perfectly. The victor for the past three years, he has broken 30 minutes on the five-mile course each time. Though Spiekerman makes the race seem like a cakewalk, the steep ascent in the first mile of the up-and-back race on Red Hill School Road may look foreboding to newcomers at the starting line. “There are two bad climbs,” Spiekerman notes with understatement. But after facing that same hill on the way back, runners meet with the smell of barbecued chicken from the North Garden Volunteer Fire Department guiding them to the finish line.

The Chicken Run, which last year fielded 115 racers, has become a cult classic, says Ragged Mountain Running Shop owner Mark Lorenzoni, who started the tradition 20 years ago to help NGVFD’s fundraising efforts. Its location, about 15 miles outside of Charlottesville, gives the race a certain character, he says. “It’s never gotten huge, but stayed a certain size. There’s a certain core of people that do it every year.”

Spiekerman is part of the tight knit, if growing, Charlottesville running culture that centers on Ragged Mountain Running Shop and the Charlottesville Track Club, which is also co-sponsoring the Chicken Run. Not that everyone who frequents the store or the Track Club events is a super athlete. In fact, they have something in common with Spiekerman, chronologically at least. What people might not realize, Lorenzoni says, “is the average customer is 40 years old and runs 10 to 15 miles a week.” Competitive runners are in a smaller “elite,” as Lorenzoni says, adding that “anybody that chooses to get up at 6 in the morning and put on their running shoes, to me, is serious.”

Spiekerman, who runs with the Western Albemarle High School team on some of their longer runs, finds his main competition in teenagers and people in their 20s. Still, he downplays the usual competitive element of racing, stressing other issues more typical of 40-somethings.

“It gets harder and harder. I think they should have categories of ‘single with job’ or ‘married with children,’” says the Martha Jefferson anesthesiologist and father of two, “because of the time you have to train.”—Ben Sellers

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Sounds of silence

Hiding from cars and John Ashcroft

In the middle of McIntire Park, there’s a cluster of trees where you can settle into the green grass and lose yourself in the sounds of swishing leaves and chirping birds––provided you can sneak past the watchman who insists that stretch of the green space is for golfers only.

McIntire Park is among the last places in Charlottesville to find refuge from traffic noise, the groan and whine of engines and the hum of rubber on pavement. Given that Americans, on average, spend eight hours a week behind the wheel and a good deal more time absorbing car-related noise, how valuable is a place in the City where you can turn off the automobile?

On Saturday, July 19, Mayor Maurice Cox, Councilor Kevin Lynch, and a handful of local activists met Butch Davies––the local representative on VDOT’s Commonwealth Transportation Board––for a hike along the proposed path of the Meadowcreek Parkway, a road that’s been in planning stages for more than three decades. When (if) built, the Parkway will cut through McIntire Park and link McIntire Road and Route 250 in Charlottesville with Rio Road in Albemarle County.

On that Saturday hike, the Councilors wanted to show Davies how the new thoroughfare will destroy one of the most valuable aspects of McIntire––its peace and quiet. Once the weedy lowlands around Meadowcreek are paved over, the continuous whoosh of traffic will infest all corners of the park.

The County plans to compensate for the lost City parkland by building a narrow green strip along the Parkway. However, after trekking along the presumed path of the roadway, Davies declared the County’s proposed walking trail a poor substitute for the quiet that will disappear when the Parkway is built.

“I didn’t know it was so tight through here,” he said. “It’s not park replacement land. It’s not useable.”

Cox wants to turn a 33-acre farm along Rio Road into a park he hopes would substitute for McIntire’s lost silence. The land currently has three owners, including Clarence Wetsel, and is appraised at $2.9 million. Davies says he will use his position on the CTB to search for grant money from the State and private foundations to turn the Wetsel farm into a park.

Wetsel is anything but quiet on this subject, however, saying he is “not at all” interested in turning his farm, which the County has zoned to accommodate 15 homes per acre, into a park.

 

Silence can be a blessing when you seek it, but a noose if forced upon you.

During its regular meeting on July 21, Council considered a resolution to oppose the Federal USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act. PATRIOT Acts I and II, passed in the wake of 9/11, give Federal agencies like the FBI and the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Service broad new powers to detain people without charging them with crimes, and to snoop through citizens’ e-mails, library records and education histories without obtaining a warrant.

The City’s resolution affirms that Federal and State agencies working in Charlottesville should comply with local police procedures and not detain people without charges; the resolution also orders public libraries to post signs warning patrons that their reading habits and Internet activity can be legally monitored by the Federal government. Further, the resolution says City schools should notify people if agents use the PATRIOT Act to pry into their records. The resolution does not order anyone to break Federal laws.

The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice rallied a mixed bag of citizens to speak in favor of Council’s anti-PATRIOT ordinance, from aging baby boomers and religious leaders to teenagers with green-tipped dreadlocks and ragged Converse All-Stars. Carrying signs instructing others to “Speak out while you can,” the activists offered by-now standard critiques of the PATRIOT Acts: Malicious and Orwellian, the Acts blatantly conflict with the American values of free thought and speech (with tiresome hyperbole, one speaker compared the Bush regime to Nazi Germany without presenting evidence that Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft have genocide and promotion of a master race on their agenda).

Councilor Rob Schilling cast the lone vote against the resolution, which passed 4 to 1. “My vote doesn’t necessarily reflect my personal beliefs,” the Republican said. “But it appears this government body is overstepping its charter.”

Other Councilors, however, used the occasion to orate against the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bush administration generally. When the Federal government passes laws that show such obvious contempt for the American republic, the Councilors said, local government has a duty to break the fearful silence currently hanging over Richmond and Washington, D.C.

“What are we supposed to do?” asked Cox. “Are we supposed to say, ‘It’s not our job?’”

After the vote, the crowd cheered and left the building, leaving the Council to tend to the more pedestrian duties of local government––bond ratings, right-of-way debates––in quiet obscurity.––John Borgmeyer

 

Demolition by neglect

UVA takes a slower approach to razing Blue Ridge Hospital

Last spring, when C-VILLE reported on UVA’s plans to build a research park at the site of the Blue Ridge Hospital on Carter’s Mountain, it looked as if the bulldozers were ready to roll in. But now it seems UVA is employing a slower, but no less effective, means of demolition––time––and the wait has caused its projected construction partner, Monticello, to bail out of the project.

Since 1978, UVA has owned Blue Ridge Hospital, a former tuberculosis sanatorium comprising 45 buildings on 140 serene acres east of Route 20. In 2000, UVA transferred the property to its private development arm, the Real Estate Foundation, and in October of that year signed a “memo of understanding” that would lease a portion of the site to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (which operates Monticello). In turn, Monticello planned a 95,000 square-foot visitors center where the sanatorium’s dairy barns now stand.

C-VILLE’s March 5, 2002 cover story [“Discharged! UVA and Monticello stamp out history”] pecked at the irony of UVA and Monticello, two self-proclaimed stewards of history, bulldozing a local landmark deemed “significant” and worthy of preservation by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Since then, however, UVA has put its research park on the back burner, and Monticello has tired of waiting.

“The Foundation was anxious to move forward aggressively––comma––starting in the summer of 2000––period,” says TJMF director Dan Jordan, who includes punctuation as he dictates his quotes. “We’re looking at other sites already owned by Monticello––period.”

In exchange for a 35-year lease, Monticello had pledged to pay 50 percent of any demolition costs up to $3 million, but now that agreement is off. Monticello had planned to hire an architect to survey the extant dairy barns and figure out what portions of the structures could be incorporated into the visitor’s center. Jordan says that never happened. “We never got that far––period,” he says.

Jordan says UVA still has Monticello’s blessing to build the research park. UVA Vice President Leonard Sandridge says the Real Estate Foundation intends to “develop the entire site consistent with our original plans” and that the terms of the October 2000 memo are still valid, including UVA’s pledge to conduct a pre-construction survey of the site’s historical significance. Also, the memo says there can be no “bars, hotels, motels, free-standing restaurants, retail establishments and amusement centers” on the site for 20 years.

“Maybe that’s what they’re waiting for,” quips Daniel Bluestone, a professor of architectural history at UVA. He believes the Real Estate Foundation, as private owners of historic property, ought to stabilize the Blue Ridge buildings, which have sat vacant for more than two decades.

“It sounds like a strategy of demolition by neglect,” says Bluestone. “They don’t have to deal with the tough challenge of figuring out how to reuse the buildings.”

The State Department of Historic Resources has not surveyed the site since 1989, and Bluestone says that since then some of the hospital’s buildings have passed the 50-year mark that would make them eligible for historic designation.

“Some of the most reusable buildings have passed over that threshold, and the State hasn’t looked at them seriously,” says Bluestone.

But because the Real Estate Foundation is a private entity, the State can’t force UVA to protect the buildings, says Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the State Department of Historic Resources. She says her agency would like to do an updated survey of the Blue Ridge site.

“We’re happy to work with them,” Kilpatrick says. “But once those buildings were transferred to the Real Estate Foundation, they were considered private property and not subject to our review.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Tree of life

Tracing their roots, blacks can be torn about their master-slave ancestry

Until recently, Julian Burke considered himself the third in a line of Julian Burkes going back to his grandfather. But a few years ago, in the middle of a 10-year project to write his family history, Burke stumbled onto a long-lost family secret––his light-skinned great-grandfather, also named Julian Burke, had renounced his blackness, married a white woman and lived the rest of his life as a white man.

“It was the first time anybody in my family knew there was a fourth Julian Burke. He had to shun his black family, and my grandfather held that against him the rest of his life,” says Burke. “My grandfather never spoke of his father again after that.”

Earlier this month, as the descendants of Monticello slave Sally Hemings gathered at Monticello, the contentious matter of her sexual relationship with Thomas Jefferson again took the stage. The Hemings clan has been in recent years the most visible symbol of the intimate conflict between slavery, racism and family ties. But many blacks of less famous parentage wrestle with identity questions arising from their blood relationships to men who enslaved their ancestors.

“It’s very, very common,” says Burke, who founded the Charlottesville-Albemarle African-American Genealogy Group to help blacks trace their family histories.

In Burke’s own case, for instance, after continued research, he uncovered an 1810 inventory of slaves owned by William Fitzhugh at Chatham Plantation in Stafford. It includes the values of 22-year-old Billy Burke, Julian’s great-great-great-grandfather, who was worth $400; and his 52-year-old father, Lewis, worth $200.

A white man named James Burke owned a nearby plantation, and his son, Silas, became overseer for Lewis’ family. For that reason, Julian Burke believes his family is a branch of the James Burke clan. “I don’t have proof of that, but it’s very likely,” he says.

Tracing black history is very different than tracing white history, says Burke. “Because of record keeping and literacy, white histories can go back ad infinitum. With blacks you have that wall of slavery,” says Burke. If a person’s descendants were kept by a wealthy owner, as Burke’s were, there may be records of their age and values. But since all slaves were given new names, the trail always goes cold.

“You don’t know your African or West Indian ancestors. That name is lost forever,” says Burke, who has recorded the history of both sides of his family in a pair of 400-page volumes called Lest We Forget: A Tribute to My Ancestors.

Josh Rothman, who earned his Ph.D. at UVA and now teaches history at the University of Alabama, has just written a book about interracial sexual relations in slave-era Virginia. While it was technically illegal for blacks and whites to fornicate, it was also exceedingly common, especially between masters and slaves.

“Whites knew it happened all the time,” says Rothman. “If you were genteel, you didn’t joke about it, but it made great gossip.”

Families who discover interracial ancestry react variously, says Rothman. Some blacks are outraged, some whites feel tainted. Other times, both sides are excited by the discovery.

“It changes how they see themselves, and how they see their families,” Rothman says. “It raises some deep psychological issues.”

Back in North Garden, Burke now performs genealogical research for others. He helped Lenora McQueen, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, to trace her family history back to some of Central Viringia’s largest plantations—Redlands, Carter, Hardware. McQueen says her family’s oral tradition connects them to the Hemings-Jefferson bloodline, but her research hasn’t yielded any conclusive proof.

McQueen, the daughter of a black father and German mother, says she has communicated online with some of her white relatives in Albemarle’s Lewis family. “I think I’m related to half the County,” she says. “They’ve all been very accepting…as far as I can tell.”

The master-slave origins of her family provoke mixed feelings, she says. On one hand, she says, it hurts to think of her ancestors kidnapped from their homes and shipped to America like animals. She does not know whether the relationships were consensual, but according to her research the masters sometimes left money and property to their mixed-race children.

“It’s very confusing. It’s hard to know what to think,” McQueen says. “I look at the slave masters as family. There is actual blood between us.” ––John Borgmeyer

 

Art from the heart

Tim Rollins on the craft of high-octane teaching

In the early 1980s, conceptual artist Tim Rollins, UVA’s Arts Board Resident Artist for 2003, took a public school teaching job in South Bronx, New York. Raised in rural Maine, the experience was one he calls “a real eye-opener”—wild dogs, broken windows, crumbling school building walls and crack use running rampant. After the first day, Rollins promised himself he’d stay only two weeks.

But that’s not how it worked out. More than 20 years later, Rollins still calls South Bronx home, continuing to spread the word with his Art and Knowledge Workshop, appropriately nicknamed K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), around the United States and the world.

With numerous works of K.O.S. art hanging in more than 50 museum collections worldwide, K.O.S. is now recognized as an artistic saving grace among kids who hate school, but long for creativity in their lives.

The rest is art history.

Kathryn E. Goodson talked with Rollins, who was recently appointed Distinguished Professor at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, on the final day of his three-day multimedia workshop for UVA Art Museum, “Summer Arts @ the Museum 2003.” An edited transcript of that interview follows.

 

Kathryn E. Goodson: How did you get into this notion of saving kids through art?

Tim Rollins: When you see people with those weird bumper stickers that say “Art works” or “Art saves” or whatever it might be, it’s truly no joke. For children who are academically at risk—art works.

With the K.O.S. kids in South Bronx, they needed this program, and I’m from Maine, where if you need a barn, you build a barn. So we built the program. We raised money, used my salary and got a small seed grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. I was so angry that these kids were just being tossed aside that I got them painting. I used a high-energy teaching method and mixed works of art with the classics of English literature. The kids loved it, sometimes staying until 9 at night and coming in on the weekends.

But the work is no good if I’m the only one doing it. Workshops like this must be everywhere and open to everyone, not solely the kids that can afford it. Arts need to be the core of every curriculum.

 

You’ve conducted multimedia arts workshops with kids from Lawrence, Kansas, to the Navajo Nation, to Tjorn, Sweden. How would you rate the job we’re doing with Charlottesville kids in relation to the arts?

It feels good to me. I love the idea that the UVA Art Museum makes such a connection with a broad range of kids in this area through the making of art. I also love Southern kids—they’re so much more polite than their Northern counterparts. But they’re also surprisingly open, enthusiastic and eager to try new things.

I have to say that the last time I was visiting in March and April, Charlottesville High School was putting on its version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was really outstanding. If that’s any indication of the level of excellence, then yes, it’s a good job.

 

Some of your workshops, including the Summer Arts program at UVA, focused on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s the reason to interweave an art program with plays?

As far as using A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I love kids’ initial excitement about plays—they immediately detect the magic of the complex plots. I always want to recreate that through art. In this group for instance, the kids watched the play and instantly all of them related to the character of Puck. So I had them find a flower—a magical flower unlike any other—and through drawing and painting they created their flower onto the pages of the play, and all the individual pieces the kids made will be displayed as one large work here at the Museum in the fall.

Someone recently remarked to me that my classroom was like a Pentecostal tent revival. My teaching style involves a lot of drama and energy, certainly. But teaching for me is not only a gift, it’s a calling. I use teaching as a medium.

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Making the green grade

Local pols score on environmentalists’ report cards

Call it the age of the report card. Children have to pass a standardized test to graduate from school, Top 10 lists abound for everything from all-time movies to worst hairdos of the past century, and TV shows live and die by the ratings they receive.

If it can’t be quantified…well, it might as well not matter.

It’s the same for elected leaders, who see scores of scorecards issued after their legislative sessions end. Designed like voter guides with a narrow focus, such reports scrutinize all the big issues—business, health care and the environment, to name a few.

Among the most recent of State and local interest is a report card released this month by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which for the past four years has rated State lawmakers’ environmental records.

The league, a lobbying arm for nonpartisan environmental groups that can’t make political contributions without losing their non-profit status, looks at key floor and committee votes it perceives as decisive and uses them to issue a score—from 0 percent to 100 percent—for each member of the General Assembly. The results are posted online at www.valcv.org.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers from the Charlottesville area, where sprawl-control and land preservation are hot tickets, faired better than average. Democratic State Delegate Mitchell Van Yahres, an arborist who owns a tree-pruning and -cutting business, got a solid 86 percent, raising his four-year cumulative percentages to 83 from 71. Republican Delegate Robert Bell dropped a notch this year, to 64 percent from 67 percent, but beat out most in his GOP cohort.

And State Senator Creigh Deeds, a Democrat who likes to say he lives "in the country," scored a perfect 100 percent, earning the "Legislative Hero" title from the conservation league. But even he takes the praise with a dose of reserve.

"I’m pleased to have been honored," he says, "but you have to keep this stuff in perspective. The AFL-CIO grades lawmakers. So do Pat Robertson’s people. You can’t think about how you’re going to be scored on votes before you take them."

Political observers say elected officials love to shy away from scorecard results, good or bad, because tooting their own horn on one platform could come back to bite them in the rear on another. But local environmentalists say this report and others like it help voters who yearn for objective data on issues they care about.

"Politicians like to say it doesn’t really count," says Kay Slaughter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center and former City Councilor. "They all say, ‘I’m for apple pie. I’m for the environment.’ But this gives people something to really talk about. This is their record. You can look at it and get a pretty good sense of where they are."

Slaughter, who stresses her organization doesn’t endorse or support any candidates, was herself the subject of a vote tallied in this year’s environmental report card. The House committee measure effectively preserved her post on the state’s Water Control Board.

It may have sent a message that conservationists can’t be kept out of the Commonwealth’s regulatory loop, but it’s also a good example of the relatively few and nuanced votes from which the scorecard draws its hard-number conclusions.

Another such vote included a successful bill that paves the way for the State to buy land for a future interstate highway, I-73, which the Virginia League of Conservation Voters opposed. It was the only "wrong" vote on Van Yahres’ report card.

He says he supported the bill not because he’s in favor of the new highway, but because he likes to "keep our options open." The fact that the acquisition is also a good investment for the State doesn’t hurt, Van Yahres says.

Lisa Guthrie is director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the brains behind the scorecard. She says she has already begun to see legislators use the report as a campaign tool, a good sign of its effectiveness. Still, she acknowledges the shortcomings behind using grade-school tactics to analyze a complex system.

"This is the best we can do in this situation," Guthrie says. "This is just a snapshot."—Robert Armengol

 

Tree of life

Tracing their roots, blacks can be torn about their master-slave ancestry

Until recently, Julian Burke considered himself the third in a line of Julian Burkes going back to his grandfather. But a few years ago, in the middle of a 10-year project to write his family history, Burke stumbled onto a long-lost family secret––his light-skinned great-grandfather, also named Julian Burke, had renounced his blackness, married a white woman and lived the rest of his life as a white man.

"It was the first time anybody in my family knew there was a fourth Julian Burke. He had to shun his black family, and my grandfather held that against him the rest of his life," says Burke. "My grandfather never spoke of his father again after that."

Earlier this month, as the descendants of Monticello slave Sally Hemings gathered at Monticello, the contentious matter of her sexual relationship with Thomas Jefferson again took the stage. The Hemings clan has been in recent years the most visible symbol of the intimate conflict between slavery, racism and family ties. But many blacks of less famous parentage wrestle with identity questions arising from their blood relationships to men who enslaved their ancestors.

"It’s very, very common," says Burke, who founded the Charlottesville-Albemarle African-American Genealogy Group to help blacks trace their family histories.

In Burke’s own case, for instance, after continued research, he uncovered an 1810 inventory of slaves owned by William Fitzhugh at Chatham Plantation in Stafford. It includes the values of 22-year-old Billy Burke, Julian’s great-great-great-grandfather, who was worth $400; and his 52-year-old father, Lewis, worth $200.

A white man named James Burke owned a nearby plantation, and his son, Silas, became overseer for Lewis’ family. For that reason, Julian Burke believes his family is a branch of the James Burke clan. "I don’t have proof of that, but it’s very likely," he says.

Tracing black history is very different than tracing white history, says Burke. "Because of record keeping and literacy, white histories can go back ad infinitum. With blacks you have that wall of slavery," says Burke. If a person’s descendants were kept by a wealthy owner, as Burke’s were, there may be records of their age and values. But since all slaves were given new names, the trail always goes cold.

"You don’t know your African or West Indian ancestors. That name is lost forever," says Burke, who has recorded the history of both sides of his family in a pair of 400-page volumes called Lest We Forget: A Tribute to My Ancestors.

Josh Rothman, who earned his Ph.D. at UVA and now teaches history at the University of Alabama, has just written a book about interracial sexual relations in slave-era Virginia. While it was technically illegal for blacks and whites to fornicate, it was also exceedingly common, especially between masters and slaves.

"Whites knew it happened all the time," says Rothman. "If you were genteel, you didn’t joke about it, but it made great gossip."

Families who discover interracial ancestry react variously, says Rothman. Some blacks are outraged, some whites feel tainted. Other times, both sides are excited by the discovery.

"It changes how they see themselves, and how they see their families," Rothman says. "It raises some deep psychological issues."

Back in North Garden, Burke now performs genealogical research for others. He helped Lenora McQueen, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, to trace her family history back to some of Central Viringia’s largest plantations—Redlands, Carter, Hardware. McQueen says her family’s oral tradition connects them to the Hemings-Jefferson bloodline, but her research hasn’t yielded any conclusive proof.

McQueen, the daughter of a black father and German mother, says she has communicated online with some of her white relatives in Albemarle’s Lewis family. "I think I’m related to half the County," she says. "They’ve all been very accepting…as far as I can tell."

The master-slave origins of her family provoke mixed feelings, she says. On one hand, she says, it hurts to think of her ancestors kidnapped from their homes and shipped to America like animals. She does not know whether the relationships were consensual, but according to her research the masters sometimes left money and property to their mixed-race children.

"It’s very confusing. It’s hard to know what to think," McQueen says. "I look at the slave masters as family. There is actual blood between us." ––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Art from the heart

Tim Rollins on the craft of high-octane teaching  

In the early 1980s, conceptual artist Tim Rollins, UVA’s Arts Board Resident Artist for 2003, took a public school teaching job in South Bronx, New York. Raised in rural Maine, the experience was one he calls "a real eye-opener"—wild dogs, broken windows, crumbling school building walls and crack use running rampant. After the first day, Rollins promised himself he’d stay only two weeks.

But that’s not how it worked out. More than 20 years later, Rollins still calls South Bronx home, continuing to spread the word with his Art and Knowledge Workshop, appropriately nicknamed K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), around the United States and the world.

With numerous works of K.O.S. art hanging in more than 50 museum collections worldwide, K.O.S. is now recognized as an artistic saving grace among kids who hate school, but long for creativity in their lives.

The rest is art history.

Kathryn E. Goodson talked with Rollins, who was recently appointed Distinguished Professor at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, on the final day of his three-day multimedia workshop for UVA Art Museum, "Summer Arts @ the Museum 2003." An edited transcript of that interview follows.

 

Kathryn E. Goodson: How did you get into this notion of saving kids through art?

Tim Rollins: When you see people with those weird bumper stickers that say "Art works" or "Art saves" or whatever it might be, it’s truly no joke. For children who are academically at risk—art works.

With the K.O.S. kids in South Bronx, they needed this program, and I’m from Maine, where if you need a barn, you build a barn. So we built the program. We raised money, used my salary and got a small seed grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. I was so angry that these kids were just being tossed aside that I got them painting. I used a high-energy teaching method and mixed works of art with the classics of English literature. The kids loved it, sometimes staying until 9 at night and coming in on the weekends.

But the work is no good if I’m the only one doing it. Workshops like this must be everywhere and open to everyone, not solely the kids that can afford it. Arts need to be the core of every curriculum.

 

You’ve conducted multimedia arts workshops with kids from Lawrence, Kansas, to the Navajo Nation, to Tjorn, Sweden. How would you rate the job we’re doing with Charlottesville kids in relation to the arts?

It feels good to me. I love the idea that the UVA Art Museum makes such a connection with a broad range of kids in this area through the making of art. I also love Southern kids—they’re so much more polite than their Northern counterparts. But they’re also surprisingly open, enthusiastic and eager to try new things.

I have to say that the last time I was visiting in March and April, Charlottesville High School was putting on its version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was really outstanding. If that’s any indication of the level of excellence, then yes, it’s a good job.

 

Some of your workshops, including the Summer Arts program at UVA, focused on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s the reason to interweave an art program with plays?

As far as using A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I love kids’ initial excitement about plays—they immediately detect the magic of the complex plots. I always want to recreate that through art. In this group for instance, the kids watched the play and instantly all of them related to the character of Puck. So I had them find a flower—a magical flower unlike any other—and through drawing and painting they created their flower onto the pages of the play, and all the individual pieces the kids made will be displayed as one large work here at the Museum in the fall.

Someone recently remarked to me that my classroom was like a Pentecostal tent revival. My teaching style involves a lot of drama and energy, certainly. But teaching for me is not only a gift, it’s a calling. I use teaching as a medium.

 

 

Solomon’s choice

Venable dilemma pits two bad ideas against each other

A diluted form of busing—that relic of the desegregated South—apparently continues in the City, and school officials have proposed a solution that could itself engender new problems. On July 17 at 7pm, the City School Board will meet to discuss a redistricting proposal that affects roughly 24 students from the 10th Street/Grady Avenue neighborhood, an area predominantly poor and black. Rather than walking to class at Venable Elementary on 14th Street, these students attend Greenbrier Elementary, distantly located off 29 North, where, it is generally understood, they benefit from smaller teacher-student ratios than obtain at Venable. The children of the 10th Street/Grady Avenue neighborhood, who it is proposed should begin attending Venable in August, have been subject to a lengthy bus ride to Greenbrier since at least the early 1980s, according to Ron Hutchinson, superintendent of City schools.

"I think probably racial and socioeconomic factors were taken into consideration," Hutchinson says of the way district lines were drawn back then. "It would be speculation on my part that those factors were involved."

Speculation also surrounds the timing of the proposed remediation.

"The only reason that I know is what school board members have stated publicly," says Venable Principal Malcolm Jerrell, "that students who live as close to Venable as these students should have the option of attending their neighborhood school."

Off the record, some Venable parents who question the wisdom of the proposed change intimate that School Board members want to urbanize Venable, which consistently outperforms other City schools on standardized tests and has relatively few poor children on its rolls.

But the School Board’s official reasoning for wanting to redistrict the 24 kids has more to do with the students’ convenience than the tangled issues of race and class.

"The reason it came forth is the proximity to the school," says Linda Bowen, chairperson of the City School Board. "It just did not make sense that these kids are being bused right past Venable to Greenbrier."

Still, Venable’s current ratio of students to teachers might most concern all parents involved. The school’s strained human resources, a point made clear by the table at right, is matched by a lack of physical space to accommodate new classes.

"Right now what we would have to do is turn the staff workroom into a classroom if an additional class were added," says Jarrell.

Hutchinson insists that if these new students were to be incorporated into Venable, classes would stay well within Virginia’s standards of quality, the State’s acceptable student-to-teacher ratios for each grade.

None of the officials seemed particularly concerned about either the influx of new students—a number consistently depicted as comparatively small, despite the overhaul of a staff workroom—or the implications of redistributing a group of poor black children into a school where sheer numbers suggest they’ll get less individual attention.

"A lot of people are assuming things," says Dede Smith, the co-chair of the City School Board. "Those who have voiced concerns are overestimating the impact."—Aaron Carico

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Lining up the shot

Court Square Ventures brings unwatched college sports to the tube

Chris Holden might have been a rock star. There’s a glimmer in his otherwise sober eyes when he remembers trying to put himself through medical school playing late-night gigs in a piano bar—the name escapes him—somewhere in downtown Richmond.

“I would prop my physiology book up on the piano,” he says. “I was studying nephron functions while playing old standards.”

Then like so many young, starving artists, Holden gave up his music to start a family and make some real money.

But not as a doctor. He bailed out of med school after three months and began working his way up the corporate ladder, first in advertising, then in new media. The Information Age had barely begun at the time. Today Holden finds himself leading a Charlottesville investment firm’s foray into the world of College Sports Television.

One of three partners in Court Square Ventures, a private investment group tucked into an old brick building off Jefferson Street, Holden is playing point guard for the company’s multimillion-dollar stake in CSTV, a new 24-hour cable network dedicated to broadcasting all the college sports you don’t see on ESPN. Court Square aims to make its money back and then some when the network gets bought up or goes public.

Available on DirecTV’s sports package, College Sports TV is backed by as much as $125 million in private investments and has sealed deals with most of the nation’s top college conferences. Major investors include Coca-Cola and big sports stars like Tiki Barber. CSTV’s chief was one of the brains behind ESPN Classic.

So what’s a sleepy outfit like Court Square Ventures, with a portfolio featuring software developers and fiber optic firms, doing getting in on a big enough piece of the action to earn a seat on the network’s board of directors? For Holden and his partners, who typically invest up to $5 million in tech startups, the confluence of good concept, savvy management and strong financial support was irresistible.

“It was just obvious to me what a great idea this was,” Holden says. “There are so many great college sports out there—sports with a passionate following—that don’t get the coverage they deserve.

“Everywhere I go I meet someone who has fallen in love with it,” he continues.

Holden played lacrosse in his days at Davidson College and says it would have been “thrilling” to compete for a national, if niche, audience. And it’s precisely with those sports that have little broadcast exposure, from women’s hoops to wrestling, rowing and soccer, that CSTV hopes to score.

Viewers should expect to find the network on every major cable provider by the end of the year, Holden says. And for all those Wahoos wondering why the Atlantic Coast Conference hasn’t signed a broadcasting agreement yet, have no worries. League officials say CSTV and the ACC are still working on a deal that won’t infringe on the prior TV contracts the conference has to uphold.

College Sports TV debuted in April with post-game analysis of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, but it is largely steering away from the big money-makers that March Madness and Division I football have become.

That isn’t to say its coverage lacks sophistication or depth. Its producers are just looking elsewhere for the heated rivalries and good stories—in early July, the network premiered a documentary on Diane Geppi-Aikens, the women’s lax coach at Loyola who led her players to the Final Four while fighting brain cancer.

Over the weekend you might also have seen a taped broadcast of UVA’s Chris Rotelli receiving the Tewaaraton Trophy, the highest lacrosse honor in the country, at an award ceremony in Washington. Dom Starsia, who just coached the Cavaliers to a national title, says CSTV’s coverage “put a lot more sizzle” into the lax quarterfinals this season.

“I could tell they paid quite a bit of attention to the quality of the production,” Starsia says of the crew from CSTV. “I certainly think it added to the glamour of the weekend. I know our players all enjoyed it.”

What he didn’t know was that a group of guys with deep pockets back home were helping to make it happen. Holden admits CSTV is an unusual venture for Court Square, but he maintains that his own background in media, heading one of Rupert Murdoch’s subsidiaries in the 1990s, has helped bridge the gap.

It doesn’t hurt to know what it takes to please an audience, either. Holden still plays the piano and a little guitar when he can. He also jams with his old band, the Blue Dogs, whenever they come to town.

“There are definitely days when I wake up and say, ‘Boy, would it be fun to be up on that stage,’” he says. But it wasn’t until Holden joined CSTV gurus for opening night at the network’s swanky studios in Manhattan that he realized how bright life could actually be behind the spotlight.

“It was one of those really exciting nights you can only get in New York,” he says. “There were athletes, cheerleaders, celebrities. No glitches, no mistakes. Lots of food. Lots of libations.”

Sort of like being a rock star after all.

—Robert Armengol

 

Under development

Massive new project will enlarge 10th and Main in the name of Holsinger

If you want to see the future of Charlottesville, keep your eyes on W. Main Street. There, the ever-growing UVA is expanding eastward, as the City figures out how to extend the Downtown Mall’s quaint stroll-and-shop vibe further along West Main. Now a project is in the works that could test how a private developer balances UVA’s thirst for office space and the City’s sense of aesthetics.

Developer Kim Heischman is a key player in a major project planned for W. Main Street, with a footprint that effectively stretches from the corner of West Main and the 10th Street Connector down to the railroad trestle that crosses 10th. Heischman apparently also has purchased the University Station post office on 11th Street, and that land likely will figure into the project, tentatively dubbed “Holsinger Square” in recognition of the famous photographer who chronicled Charlottesville in the early 20th century.

The project’s lead architect, John Matthews of the firm Mitchell/Matthews, says Holsinger Square will be a “major project. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of square feet. We’re talking big dollars,” he says.

As he describes the project, Matthews says all the right things, from the City’s point of view––using hyphenated buzzwords like “mixed-use” and “pedestrian-oriented” that the City’s Board of Architectural Review loves to hear.

“We’re interested in getting more vitality and increasing the foot traffic on W. Main Street,” says Matthews, whose firm also headed the design team for UVA’s North Fork Research Park, a poster child for northward sprawl. “We’ve been a major instigator in putting the individual above the automobile.”

In fact, Matthews has already made his Holsinger Square pitch to the BAR. He brought renderings before the Board in July 2000 for a preliminary hearing––an informal “heads up” that allows developers to gauge BAR reaction before trying to push a big project through the City’s bureaucracy.

At that meeting, Matthews indicated that the brickwork on UVA’s Fayerweather Hall would be the model for the Holsinger façade. According to meeting minutes, the BAR seemed satisfied with Matthews’ design, although BAR member Ken Schwartz commented that he wanted the building set back further from the road. He also encouraged the developer to include more residential apartments in the design.

After the preliminary hearing, Heischman didn’t pursue a formal application. The BAR’s issues about setback “were easy to overcome,” says Matthews, but the developer wanted to wait to see how the City’s new zoning ordinance, which was already being discussed back then, would affect the development options. Also, the delay gave Heischman time to acquire the post office. Matthews says his client likely will take the project to the City within the next three months.

Matthews says the building will feature below-ground parking, with retail space on the ground floor and a mix of offices and residences above.

With UVA rapidly expanding its medical facilities, and with the City encouraging more public-private partnership with UVA, especially in the biotechnology sector, the demand for office space in Holsinger is likely to have lucrative results for Heischman. The City, however, trying to increase its housing supply, will likely continue to press Heischman to include more apartments.

“One thing that concerns us is the glut of new apartments that will be coming online in the next 18 months,” says Matthews on that point, referring specifically to Coran Capshaw’s 225-unit apartment complex near the Amtrak station.

“The market will tell us what combination of residential and office will go there,” Matthews says. “The question is what is best for that street and best for the community that also makes money.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Dub moon rising

Easy Star’s crazy diamond shines on with Pink Floyd reggae tribute

Perhaps it was fitting that when Lem Oppenheimer decided to stake the fate of his company on a half-baked idea, he was, um…naturally inspired at the time.

That way, when he explained his plan to produce a reggae version of Dark Side of the Moon, and people wondered what the hell he was smoking, Oppenheimer could honestly respond: some good shit, man.

“A lot of people probably had the same idea at some point or another,” says Oppenheimer, who lives in Charlottesville and is one of four partners in Easy Star records. “But nobody else acted on it.”

Last February, almost exactly 30 years after the debut of Pink Floyd’s landmark concept album, Easy Star records released Dub Side of the Moon, which recasts the psychedelic masterpiece in the soulful cloak of vintage reggae. Now, an idea that seemed just crazy enough to work, plus the enduring popularity of the original Dark Side, is providing Oppenheimer’s homespun company with worldwide notice.

As a teenager in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Oppenheimer discovered the languid bliss of Floyd, and spun DSOTM nearly every day before junior high. By the time he moved to Charlottesville in 1997, he had fallen in love with the mellow gold of reggae music. He and three friends–– Eric Smith, Michael Goldwasser and Remy Gerstein––each put together $5,000 of their savings and founded Easy Star records. Easy Star invested in both original recordings and reissues of out-of-print records by Sister Carol and Sugar Minott. The company released 11 CDs in all.

Then, in 1999, Oppenheimer was hustling around Manhattan on task for Easy Star, with DSOTM in his Walkman and THC working its magic in his frontal lobe. He imagined that Floyd’s unhurried soundscape and philosophical depth would fit perfectly with the tight rhythms and Rasta vibe of reggae. Pink Floyd gave Easy Star permission to remake their record.

“The only thing we couldn’t do was knock the cover art,” says Oppenheimer, so the company created original artwork with a red, gold and green beam passing through a lunar eclipse.

With credit cards and loans from family and friends, Easy Star began creating the album with some of New York’s finest studio musicians––and the best from these parts, too. Local bluesman Corey Harris performs guest vocals on “Time.”

Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most popular albums of all time––it spent nearly 14 years in the Top 200 selling records in America. The challenge for Easy Star was to capitalize on Dark Side’s popularity without offending fans with a cheesy rip-off.

“It was definitely a make-or-break moment for us,” Oppenheimer says.

Recording the music took three years, as the musicians strived to re-create every nuance of Dark Side, including snippets of spoken-word and the album’s legendary synchronicity with The Wizard of Oz. Then, Easy Star gambled again by hiring the publicity firm Shore Fire, whose clients include Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Norah Jones.

The risk paid off after the disc was released in February. A marketing blitz from Shore Fire got Dub Side of the Moon favorable reviews in all the right magazines––Entertainment Weekly, VIBE, Playboy, High Times. Rolling Stone panned the record, but called it “bong-tastic,” a phrase that made it into Easy Star’s promotional material.

Then, the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered” aired an extremely favorable review in March. Suddenly, Dub Side hit No. 3 on Amazon.com’s sales chart. Since then, Easy Star has sold 16,000 copies of the record and distributed more than 40,000 throughout America and Europe. Dub Side remains the top-selling reggae album on Amazon.

In July, the musicians who recorded Dub Side will begin touring as the Easy Star All-Stars. The show will include original reggae tunes plus Dub Side in its entirety. The tour kicks off at Starr Hill Music Hall.

So far, Easy Star has not spoken with any members of Pink Floyd, but guitarist Roger Waters sent the company a fax saying that he had received the CD and read the liner notes. Otherwise, Waters remained neutral, saying “it’s not my policy to endorse any covers of my material.”

Like his three label-mates, Oppenheimer, who works at Musictoday, continues to hold down his day job. He hopes the success of Dub Side will turn Easy Star from a hobby into a bill-paying career.

“Bob Marley will always be popular,” Oppenheimer says. “Maybe someday the government will legalize pot, and then we’ll really be in business.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Dogmatic decisions

Canine trainers match dogs with owners at the SPCA 

Lisa Rodier-Yun bursts through the door wearing a gruesome Halloween mask festooned with wild, straggly black hair. One of the room’s occupants, Shelley, is cautious of the intruder at first, backing away confused. But she warms up, her tail resuming its healthy wag. She’s passed the “visit from a stranger” test, as well as the “food bowl” and the “doll child” tests, indicating that the nutmeg-colored shepherd mix needs a little work, but overall is a good candidate for adoption.

Such is the determination of Sherri Lippman, a 30-year veteran dog trainer who performs temperament testing on new arrivals at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). It’s her job to predict how a dog will behave in an adopted home—after all, a sudden bite over the food bowl could easily send a pooch back to the overcrowded animal shelter.

“The worst thing we can do is to adopt out a dog that will come back the next week,” says SPCA executive director Carolyn Foreman.

That explains in part why the work of Lippman and her partner Rodier-Yun is important: Matching dogs with adopted homes they’re best suited for reduces canine recidivism, and helps to squash misconceptions about pound puppies behaving badly.

Lippman has been performing temperament tests for two years at the shelter, coming in once a week to visit with an average of four to six dogs. She’s also the owner of Citizen Canine, which provides instruction and behavioral counseling to pooches in Central Virginia. She holds degrees in behavioral psychology and counseling, which she put to use in 1970 raising German shepherds as helper dogs for the visually impaired, and since has worked at local obedience clubs and trials.

Lippman and Rodier-Yun receive no money from the SPCA for their temperament testing, opting to volunteer at the Rio Road W facility. They work in the laundry room, occasionally interrupted by shelter workers taking laundry to and from the dryer. In a perfect world, the regularly scheduled tests would have no disruptions, a prospect that may be in the offing at the SPCA’s 27,000-square-foot new building currently being built behind the existing one. If fund-raising goals are met, the new headquarters could open in March 2004.

But for now, the duo’s current case is shepherd mix Shelley, who arrived at the shelter as a stray on June 7 after being picked up by animal control with a choke collar but no identification. Lippman and Rodier-Yun study every move Shelley makes, as even a dog’s slightest motion has meaning.

Shelley makes eye contact with Lippman and Rodier-Yun as she wags her tail in a wide, S-shaped motion—encouraging signs. Lippman strokes Shelley three times, neck to tail. Shelley leans against Lippman’s legs, looking up at her, smiling.

Lippman murmurs and coos to Shelley as she checks her teeth five times in a row, holding Shelley’s upper lip for five seconds each time. This test for dominance aggression is critical to home placement.

“At one point or another,” says Lippman, “owners have to get something out of their dog’s mouth.”

But too much prodding makes the dog uncomfortable—Shelley softly nips Lippman’s hand, tugging on her leash.

“She’s not loving being restrained, and she’s too mouthy, so she can’t be with small children,” says Lippman.

“She’s really smart though, and willing to work,” adds Rodier-Yun.

But there’s no guarantee about whether or not Shelley or any other dog will be perfectly suited to a selected home. “None of this is failsafe,” says Lippman. “But it’s very, very informative.”

“We have a responsibility to deny adoptions that may not be the best match for certain families,” says shelter manager Beth McPhee. “It’s a must.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

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Stripped searches

Supreme Court ruling will mean local library users can peek no more

If your plans at the public library include reading an e-mail from samantha35@adultfun.com or glancing at www.cumshots.com, you could find your mission thwarted, thanks to the paternalistic justices on the Supreme Court. On June 23, in a 6-3 ruling, the Court upheld the Children’s Internet Protection Act, a Federal law that makes anti-porn filters a condition of Federal subsidies to libraries. The decision will certainly impact older library patrons as much as its younger ones. Locally, the decision likely means that an additional 45 Internet computers will get outfitted with the anti-smut devices.

“About half of our terminals are already filtered, and they have been for years,” says John Halliday, director of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library (JMRL) system, of the library’s 90 Internet computers.

The library, which maintains branches in places as far flung as Greene and Louisa counties, as well as in Charlottesville and Albemarle, currently offers patrons the option of choosing filtered or non-filtered computers, and has for some time. The Supreme Court ruling allows librarians to unblock filters at adult users’ request, but does not require librarians to do so.

“We have a board of trustees, and they decided you’d have a freedom of choice policy,” Halliday says. He hopes that policy passes Federal muster but realizes more might need to be done.

“If it turns out that we have to put filters on all of the computers,” he says, “then the library board has a decision to make: Do they want to go ahead and do that, or do they want to do it their own way?”

That way may lead the library to rely heavily on the bounties of bake and book sales. JMRL’s precarious financial situation (the State cut its budget 22 percent over two years to $650,000) likely will force it to comply with the Feds. And Halliday worries about the filters’ unintended side effects.

“Since we’ve had experience here at the library over the past few years with filters, we know that they do filter out good information, like medical information, and that they do sometimes allow in bad information like pornography,” he says.

Indeed, Halliday pinpoints what critics consider the statute’s greatest flaw, that such a broad net hobbles researchers by blocking legitimate websites. More importantly, they say, it cuts into the First Amendment.

“The court made it clear that you cannot prevent adults from having unfettered access to the Internet,” says Kent Willis, the executive director of the Virginia ACLU. “What we dislike most is that there is a chilling effect, because adults will have to ask for the filter to be turned off.”

Willis also picks up the scent of financial blackmail. “The unfortunate effect is that it’s creating a battle,” he says. “It’s drawing battle lines between public libraries and the Federal government.

“The Federal government with its large income ends up, for all practical purposes, controlling the purse strings of most public libraries.”

On a recent afternoon, patrons at the Central Library on Market Street expressed little similar anxiety, seeming either unruffled or relieved by the Court’s ruling.

“I suppose it’s vaguely worrisome, but at the same time, there are other ways to get the Internet,” said Steve Suetonius. “I understand the desire to protect children from illicit materials.”

Jalis Al-Hindi, a Park Street resident and a mother, agreed with the ruling. “One time I was upstairs with my kids, and somebody hadn’t clicked off of it [pornography], and some lady with big boobs popped up on the screen. I didn’t want my kids seeing that,” she said.—Aaron Carico

 

Room of her own

Four months later, homeless woman finds shelter—and unexpected compassion

Appearing on the cover of C-VILLE four months ago [“Charlottesville’s new homeless,” March 11] earned Lynn Wiber a dose of local fame. After the working college graduate told her story of going homeless in Charlottesville, she found herself confronted by strangers who recognized her from the article. Some slipped her dollar bills, some chastised her, and others wanted to save her soul. Her conclusion: Most people want to help but don’t know how.

“A lot of people approached me saying they didn’t realize this happened in Charlottesville,” Wiber says. “Homelessness is invisible. People were surprised because everything seems so nice here.”

But Charlottesville fits into a national trend: A souring economy combined with a robust housing market means that more working people, especially those with families, are living on the street.

For example, 36 percent of Charlottesville’s homeless population describe themselves as currently employed, and 51 percent have worked recently, according to a recent survey by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. In 2002, the Coalition reported that 36 percent of the City’s homeless were families with children––this year, the number has climbed to 47 percent.

Wiber says she told her story to show people how an unwise decision can combine with bad luck to drive people into homelessness, even those who seem securely on their feet in this affluent town. The response she’s received offers insight into how Charlottesville looks upon its poor.

After the article appeared, Wiber says, “the first thing that happened was the Christians came out. Someone called me and started reading Bible passages over the phone.”

One man, she says, walked into Barnes and Noble, where she works, and confronted her. “He called me a pathetic loser,” says Wiber. “He said that I just want people to give me money and take care of me.

“He was probably a Republican.”

Wiber expected some hostility. What surprised her, she says, was the sympathy.

“A lot of people told me this had happened to them, or somebody they know,” she says. Wiber described a couple that pressed $5 into her hand, telling her they had lived in their car for six months. One woman told Wiber about her brother––a successful stockbroker cleaned out by divorce who was now living in her spare bedroom.

Wiber’s experience after going public seems to support the conclusions of a national survey released on June 13 by Charlottesville’s Pew Partnership. The survey found that the general population tends to underestimate the extent of social problems like hunger, homelessness and illiteracy in their own communities. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that on any given day more than 3.5 million people––including 1.4 million children––are homeless, and in dozens of cities a minimum-wage worker cannot afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Yet the Pew Partnership estimates that only 42 percent of the general public believes affordable housing is a “serious” local problem.

Some public projects currently in the works aim to address homelessness and affordable housing. The Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless, with a three-year, $213,000 grant from HUD, is installing a Homeless Management Information System. Scheduled to be unveiled this fall, the computer database will link regional public assistance providers, enabling them to more easily connect clients with social services and jobs.

Also, the City has formed a Housing Policy Task Force charged with addressing questions of affordable housing. The group has just begun to talk, says Task Force member and Charlottesville Police Sergeant Michael Farruggio. Some advocates have questioned whether the Task Force will look out for poor residents. Farruggio says he will encourage the City not to cluster low-income housing, as it has done previously with public housing projects.

“It does not work to corral people in lower socioeconomic levels into dense pockets,” Farruggio says. “You have increased crime in those areas, and it’s not fair to the children and families that are forced without an option to have to deal with that.”

Wiber is currently living with a disabled woman and is off the streets for the time being. Her homeless experience has been a “learning experience,” she says. One lesson? Social problems will be hard to solve until people get over their fear of the poor.

“A few people said it made them uncomfortable to read about homelessness,” Wiber says. When you’re poor, she says, “people don’t touch you. They don’t know what to do with you. That isolation has been one of the hardest things to deal with.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Street legal

Balloon artist has law-and-order suggestions

Carl Carter was practicing his violin 15 years ago on a Seattle street when someone threw a coin into his case. Thus began his career as a street musician. These days, his nearly 2-year-old Charlottesville act has evolved a bit—namely in the form of balloon animals, fuzzy slippers, tri-colored wigs and a rubber nose.

Kathryn E. Goodson recently sat down with Carter, the 44-year old man frequently seen on the Downtown Mall singing in falsetto while guiding a mechanical pig. Carter currently rests his head at the On Our Own drop-in center on Fourth Street. His tips average $20-$100 a day, depending on time and location. He spends the bulk of it on Greyhound bus tickets to Alexandria, to restock balloons and toys.

“The prices here are outrageous,” he says. He has a business license and a mission: to spread laughs, wisdom and goofy song lyrics. Oh, yes, and to obtain a cell phone charger.

 

As a street musician, why did you choose to entertain children?

Kids are pure, fun. Well, until that corrupt point comes. Ages 1 through 9, they love me. There’s a market out here for kids—just look at all the things to do down here. It’s all for adults. Maybe once a week or so, a kid can have a little fun, get their face painted? That’s not enough.

As for the costumes, the balloons, it’s just my form of free expression and fun. I’ve learned to be content with who I am.

 

How did you learn to play so many instruments?

I grew up in the ghettos of Chicago. I decided in high school I wanted more than the gangs and violence. I got involved in the orchestra and stuck with it all through high school. During the following years I became an honor student. I was the only one in my family to graduate from high school. My mom was an alcoholic so it wasn’t like I was going to get an enormous amount of support.

But times were different then. Kids were not like the cowards of today. Even in the ghettos we never had school shootings—kids still had respect for their parents. The standards for kids have really, really been lowered.

I’m not a huge fan of affirmative action. I am a fan of the welfare-to-work plan. And school vouchers. Trust me, it’s hard to do well in school and learn when you’re worried about being beat up when you come out of the front door.

 

How has your attitude of “entertaining the Downtown Mall” changed since you were recently robbed by some of the very people you’re trying to please?

The bottom line no one wants to face here is that we are not hard enough on crime, period. That’s one thing Republicans do right—they’re a lot harder on crime. The other thing? No one cares about black crime on blacks.

We desperately need a volunteer crime task force here. I’ve lived in Canada, Mexico, Florida, Alexandria—every other neighborhood and community’s got one. The police say they’ve got a shortage and can’t handle it all, we need to create a volunteer one. But when I say, “Let me volunteer, let me help,” I get no reaction at all. If it’s training I need, then give me some training. I’ve got a cell phone and all I need is a charger. I’ve been trained to use an M-16 but I cannot get a phone cord and charger?

While we were in the midst of war, I heard plenty of people saying they’d love to go defend their country. I say we need to take care of home first. More than 51 percent of these crimes are gang-related. And still, you’ve got neighborhoods that won’t speak up, people that won’t speak up. You’ve got to get to that point when you’re willing to stand up.

All I’m hoping for at this point is a phone for 9-1-1 purposes. I’m always on the Mall, I see everything that goes on down here. If we can stop some of this crime, we’ll have a much better community.

 

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License to ill

City demands fees from failing business

When Jeffery Spinello opened a letter from the City and read that he needed a permit to go out of business, he thought someone was pulling his leg. “In the past 15 years, I’ve opened and closed or sold 12 businesses,” says Spinello, who runs Main Street Gallery, perhaps better known as the Thomas Kinkade store, on the Downtown Mall. “I’ve never heard of anything like this. I came from San Francisco, and I thought California had the craziest laws.”

In early June, Spinello posted signs advertising a going-out-of-business sale at his store, which sells paintings by Kinkade as well as works by other artists. On Tuesday, June 17, Spinello received a letter from Levingston Plumb, a business property inspector for the City.

The letter, which was obtained by C-VILLE, said: “We noted that you have advertised ‘Going out of business’…and at this time we are unable to locate a valid permit for this activity. Please stop by our office ASAP to obtain the permit, and we will need a list of your inventory.”

The letter also demanded a $15 fee for the permit, and threatened Spinello with a Class 1 misdemeanor if he didn’t comply. (Other Class 1 misdemeanors include maliciously maiming someone’s pet, keeping standing water on private property, or hunting on private land without permission.)

Spinello called the City’s department of revenue and discovered the letter was no joke. He paid his $15 fee. In return he obtained a paper saying he had 30 days to close his store. Irate, Spinello, who had planned to take more than a month to close operations, enlarged Plumb’s letter and stuck it in his store’s window, beside a “For Lease” poster.

“It’s ridiculous,” Spinello says. “I find it appalling that the hardworking people who make that tough decision to go out of business have to get one more nail in their coffin.”

Lee Richards, the City’s commissioner of revenue, says his department isn’t trying to kick entrepreneurs when they’re down. The point of the permit, he says, is to prevent businesses from luring customers with phony “going out of business” sales while continuing to stock merchandise on the sly.

“The City has had this ordinance for years,” says Richards. He admits, however, that Charlottesville generally hasn’t had a problem with businesses pretending to fold. “But there was a shoe store on the Mall once that was going out of business for years,” says Richards.

Bob Stroh, co-chair of the Downtown Business Association, says he hadn’t heard of the permit until Spinello told him about it. “It makes sense that the City would want to protect the public,” says Stroh. “But the fee seems like adding insult to injury.”

Albemarle County requires a similar permit, but charges no fee.

Spinello contends the “selective enforcement” of the permit policy is unfair. “When I called the City,” he says, “they told me I wasn’t being singled out, I just happened to get caught.”

Richards says the City “isn’t in the business of catching anyone.

“If they advertise in the newspaper or they have a sign up, we do the best we can with the resources we have to get in touch with them and explain the issue,” he says, adding that the City issues an average of two permits a year.

“They’re not looking at the paper very hard,” Spinello retorts.

After a business closes, the City refunds it the unused portion of its yearlong business license, the cost of which is based on an enterprise’s profits. If owners can’t vacate their buildings within the 30 days required by the permit, they can pay another $15 for another 30 days.

All this is cold comfort to Spinello, who plans to go into real estate and is leaving the gallery business before he incurs debt. “At least I know the City must be even more broke than I am, if they really need to take 15 bucks from a guy who’s going out of business.”––John Borgmeyer

 

The road less traveled

Hillsdale extension could ease K-Mart’s cut-through burden

Monica Vierna and Kevin Kotlarski deserve some kind of trophy. The pair has not only attended nearly every City Council meeting in recent weeks, but they’ve often stayed to the bitter end, absorbing more public policy discussion than any civilian should.

Vierna and Kotlarski have been fighting VDOT’s plan to widen Fontaine Avenue to three lanes from two, in the process taking a chunk out of their front lawn, including a towering pine tree. In the past, Council hasn’t been able to give the Fontaine activists much good news, given VDOT’s powers to build where and when it wants, regardless of local opinion.

At Council’s regular meeting on Monday, June 16, the Fontaine duo were there again, but this time they got some good news for their trouble. Late in the meeting, Council approved a letter to VDOT Commissioner Philip Schucet––who has promised to make the multi-billion-dollar agency more responsive to local transportation agendas––asking VDOT to shift $1.5 million from the Fontaine project to a different road project on Hillsdale Drive.

Hillsdale Drive runs from Greenbrier Drive north to Rio Road (in keeping with Charlottesville’s annoying double-identification trend, Hillsdale is known as Northfield Road north of Rio). The City wants to extend Hillsdale south from Greenbrier to Hydraulic Road, just east of K-Mart, in an effort to relieve congestion at the Hydraulic/29 intersection.

VDOT has already committed $5 million to the Hillsdale project. If the agency agrees to transfer funds away from Fontaine, Council likely will spend the additional $1.5 million to acquire rights-of-way from property owners—but that figure could fall short. Although no definite route for Hillsdale has been chosen, probably it will cut through the Seminole Square shopping center, which is owned and managed by Great Eastern Management Company.

Because the new Hillsdale will improve access to Seminole Trail, eliminating the “K-Mart cut-through” drivers often use to get to Seminole Square Theater, Councilor Kevin Lynch is hoping landowners will be willing to donate the rights-of-way through their property. “We almost need to do that to make this project feasible,” he says.

Great Eastern CEO Charles Rotgin, Jr., has made no commitments, but he sounded an optimistic note.

“We’re very supportive of the City’s efforts to extend Hillsdale,” he says. “It’s a road that’s been needed for many years. We’ve indicated our willingness to be quite accommodating with respect to right of way.”

K-Mart leases its lot from Brandywine Realty in Jacksonville, Florida. Brett Moore, a property manager there, declined to comment, saying negotiations were still preliminary.

Indeed, very little about the road has been decided. Lynch denies the rumor that the City would build the road on top of Meadow Creek. He also says the road probably would not interfere with the nearby Rivanna Trails. Residents, he says, don’t want Hillsdale to be “a speedway,” and the City favors a two-lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks.

Naturally, no road project can begin without months of preliminary study, making even a summer 2004 start date overly optimistic. This fall, the Maryland engineering firm Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson will present the City with a study of various alignment schemes.––John Borgmeyer

 

PATRIOT shames

Local lawmakers shun politics to criticize controversial Act

In a blip of bipartisan synergy, local Democratic and Republican parties have both issued resolutions critical of the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act.

The 342-page Federal Act, enacted after September 11, modifies 15 existing laws. It expands Federal agents’ ability to obtain warrants, set wiretaps, conduct secret searches on civilians, eavesdrop on lawyer/client conversations, monitor the Internet, and gain access to private educational, financial and medical records.

The Republicans’ resolution passed the 57th Virginia House of Delegates District GOP on June 2 by a 2/3 vote. It warns, “Actions recently taken by the Federal government, including the adoption of certain sections of the USA PATRIOT Act and several Executive Orders, now threaten (our) fundamental rights and liberties.”

The resolution requests that local law enforcement preserve residents’ freedoms “even if requested or authorized to infringe upon these rights by Federal law enforcement.”

Republican Rick Sincere, who drafted the resolution, says, “I don’t think we should be giving the Justice Department more powers than they already have.” The GOP version calls for local oversight on Federal investigations. “This is still a democratic republic,” says Sincere. “We’re in charge, not them.”

District GOP chair Bob Hodus insists that the resolution “is not a condemnation of the Act or the Bush Administration,” but rather an “urging of caution” against Federal zeal. “You always have a chance that law enforcement officers will violate constitutional rights,” says Hodus.

The Democrats’ resolution is equally critical, stating that the USA PATRIOT Act “undermines the checks and balances that are at the foundation of protecting and preserving our democracy.” It passed unanimously at the June 17 meeting of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee, although more signatures must be solicited to compose a 2/3 majority (only 42 of 115 CDC members were in attendance).

The CDC resolution categorically singles out provisions of the Act, “that may violate the Constitution and the rights and civil liberties of the residents of Charlottesville.” It supports the independence of local public agencies from Federal control. And, it, too, proposes the establishment of “an independent oversight system to prevent the abuse of the information collected about us by the government and its agents.”

Vice-Mayor Meredith Richards, who penned the resolution, says, “Anyone who has fulfilled a prescription lately will know that their information is being forwarded.… We are about to enter a downward spiral of government secrecy and aggressive spying.”

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department permitted racial profiling for terrorism investigations, while a Federal appeals court upheld the secret detentions of up to 1,200 individuals since September 11. Federal lawmakers are now considering Patriot Act II, which could broaden the definition of terrorism and make it easier to sentence “terrorists” to death.

Both resolutions will be vetted at City Council’s July 7 meeting. Passing a version would add Charlottesville to the 115 other cities and states, including Philadelphia, Denver, Hawaii and Alaska, that have enacted legislation contrary to the USA PATRIOT Act.

“I applaud the local Republicans for having a resolution,” says City Councilman and Democrat Kevin Lynch. “I’m glad that we can do this in a bi-partisan way.” Of course, that will depend on the wording. Lynch adds, “I’d like to word it as strongly as possible.”

But regardless of the wording, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo says a resolution would be moot. “I don’t think it’s any local government’s responsibility to decide on the constitutionality of a law,” says Longo. “If Congress passes a law, it becomes a duty of the Supreme Court to decide its constitutionality…I yield to their wisdom.”—Brian Wimer

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Artists to Zion: Deliver us

Will performance come to the house of God?

In the year of the building’s 119th anniversary, Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Ridge Street stands vacant, and what fills it will likely stir conversation in the coming months. The Mt. Zion congregation held its final service in the building on May 25, pursuant to its occupation of new South First Street facilities. Developer Gabe Silverman purchased the church in February 2002 and takes possession of the property later this month.

“I’m hoping that somebody comes up with an idea that’s compatible with what we’d like to see happen there,” Silverman told C-VILLE. “One of the most obvious would be a music venue. It should be something that continues to give back to the community.

“What I’m not looking for,” he told the Daily Progress when he bought the building, “is a restaurant or to make it residential or anything like that.”

Silverman’s commitment to nurturing the space as a performance venue could offer new possibilities to the City’s leagues of roving theatre and dance groups. Even as capital campaigns for the arts flourish, many feel increasingly restricted in where they can stage and rehearse their works.

“There are lots of people out there that are doing work when they can. Not all of us have a huge network,” says Zap McConnell, the current director for the dance group Zen Monkey Project. Of the potential for Mt. Zion, she says, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was some way it could be a sort of collective where people contribute a certain amount…a community arts organization that could provide space for different people?”

Thadd McQuade, a founding member of the theatre troupe Foolery, believes that the building’s devotion to a limited number of performers may have better results and build more prestige.

“I think in some ways it would serve the community more to dedicate a space to a particular group or artist,” he says. “I’d rather see one or two people use the space in a high-profile way with accountability. Let them use it for a year and then see if they’ve used the space wisely.”

The space itself shows its century’s worth of wear and tear. Metal trusses support the wooden beams of its cathedral ceiling, and tiles overhead have fallen or come loose. Chipped and cracking in places, sea-foam green paint covers the walls. Regardless, with its stained-glass windows and aged, dark pews, the 12,000-square-foot church retains a noble atmosphere.

As one of the City’s two oldest church buildings, along with First Baptist on W. Main Street, Mt. Zion’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places owes in part to its racial history. A City Architectural and Historic Survey notes that at the time of Mt. Zion’s formation, “Segregation had not yet become entrenched, and blacks and whites lived side by side. Mt. Zion’s location at the entrance to Ridge Street seems symbolic of the integrated nature of that most prestigious residential street.”

Any new incarnation of the space should emphasize Mt. Zion’s cross-cultural significance, according to Mecca Burns, who runs the theatre institute Presence with Brad Stoller. She suggests that the church could bridge the City’s racial divide, which further widened when the officials razed the adjacent Vinegar Hill neighborhood in the ’50s.

“My really strong feeling about Mt. Zion is that it needs to be intensely multi-cultural,” she says. “I think there need to be step groups and hip hop teams. I don’t want it to be another place that has this invisible cultural barrier around it like Live Arts, where there are black people and black kids who walk by all the time but rarely go in.”

McQuade agrees. “If it gets too converted, that would be a shame. If it could still be in touch with the Mt. Zion Baptist Church [community], that would be phenomenal,” he says. “And I think Gabe is sensitive to that, to unifying the community.”

Mt. Zion’s pastor Rev. Alvin Edwards once sought for the church to become a regional black history museum or merely to retain its role as a house of worship. Now, he seems to be relinquishing those ideas as he prepares to hand over the building.

Questioned about Mt. Zion’s possible transformation into a performance space, Edwards summarizes the feelings of many City artists with his understated reply: “I wouldn’t object to anything like that.”

—Aaron Carico

 

Courting public opinion

Competing Court Square designs to get public airing

Sometimes it helps to have the Federal government on your side. At least that’s the hope of some City officials as they prepare on Thursday, June 19, to share with the public two competing plans for a Downtown courthouse redesign. Federal guidelines specifying how new courthouses should look unequivocally favor contemporary architecture, and Washington’s imprimatur is among the things Mayor Maurice Cox hopes will persuade the public to go modern on Court Square. While merely a single building’s façade is under discussion in the current debate, the choice between faux historical design and up-to-date design will have wider-reaching implications for Charlottesville.

“It will be a real test of whether the City and County can jointly conceive and fund a public project,” Cox says about the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, which is located at 411 E. High St. and is operated by Charlottesville and Albemarle. “I think it can be an example of good City-County relations.”

Indeed, in the three years that the courthouse’s slated redesign has been under review, City-County discussions have been mostly harmonious. Matters of how to site the new building to respect a truly historical jail structure behind it, along with questions of financing, underground parking and easements from Park Street, have been largely settled. But relations are chillier on the question of the building’s proposed facelift. Albemarle Supervisor Charles Martin, who sits on the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Design Committee, says he speaks for all the County Supervisors when he expresses the view that “all along the Board has been operating with the view that the [courthouse would have] a more traditional façade.

“The old-fashioned style is more of what you normally think of when you think of a courthouse,” Martin says.

But the General Services Administration, which administers all Federal court buildings for the U.S. Department of the Interior, couldn’t disagree more. Among its standards for rehabilitation, the GSA states “changes that create a false sense of historical development…shall not be undertaken.”

Moreover, the GSA dictates, “the new work shall be differentiated from the old.”

Martin says he is unfamiliar with the Federal design mandates.

The code is well known, however, to the City’s Board of Architectural Review, which will have to vet the High Street court’s redesign once the City-County committee signs off on a single proposal. Architect and UVA professor Kenneth Schwartz, who until recently served on the BAR, says his former colleagues “know very well the Department of Interior standards for adaptive reuse indicate that if you replicate the past, you trivialize history.

“That’s a mainstream position for guidelines in the United States,” Schwartz says, “and those guidelines are important to the BAR.”

BAR Chair Joan Fenton concurs. While the BAR has not formally reviewed the competing courthouse plans, in keeping with national standards, she says, “the new building should not look like it’s an old building. You should be able to distinguish what is new and old.”

That task is especially crucial in the Court Square area, says Schwartz, where a very important historical structure should, by rights, hold center stage. That’s the Albemarle Circuit Court building whose white columns, broad portico and red bricks truly derive from the 18th century. Given that the Albemarle courthouse has been witness to the law practices of three U.S. presidents—Jefferson, Madison and Monroe—“it is the most important building in Court Square from a historical point of view.

“The last thing you want to do is trivialize it,” says Schwartz.

And while Martin characterizes the modern design of architects Wallace, Roberts & Todd as “futuristic,” Schwartz says that across the nation “there are many examples of contemporary designs that are sympathetic to a historic setting.

“It has to do with issues of scale and proportions and the way the doors and windows are handled.”

In Charlottesville, Schwartz continues, design need not be “Jeffersonian or classical to honor the historical context.”

On Thursday, June 19, at 7pm, the public will have its chance to discuss the question when the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Design Committee presents two designs, seen above, from the team of Wallace, Roberts & Todd, and Moseley Architects. The meeting will take place in the court building at 411 E. High St.

Cox, who is the lone architect on the design committee, says he’s prepared to accept the outcome of this public process—whatever it may be. It’s been his experience with public discussion, says Cox, that when people are given information “inevitably they have the miraculous ability to make the right decision.”

Cathryn Harding

 

 

Phat city

Hip hop shops serve a broad market

West Main Street may resemble an illustration of gentrification-in-progress, where diners sip chardonnay while overlooking construction of upscale apartment buildings that will eventually hide the lower-income neighborhood behind them. But you can still buy a throwback NBA jersey, or a baseball cap meant to be worn sideways, at Charlottesville Players, an unassuming storefront next door to Continental Divide. Owner Quinton Harrell has been selling urban and hip-hop fashion from the same location since August 1997, and despite the ongoing yuppification of his block, he has no plans to move.

“Fashion has always been in my blood,” he says. “My grandmother and grandfather were known as the best dressers in town.”

Harrell got into the rag trade while still a college student, investing $500 in merchandise and a table, which he set up in the Estes parking lot on Cherry Avenue. Things went so well that, rather than finish his degree, he made the leap and opened a store. From the beginning, he had his eye on 801 W. Main St.

“It’s on the main drag, and it’s a nice building,” he says, explaining why he didn’t consider any other location for his fledgling business. “It already had track lighting and slat walls, so it was pretty much perfect.”

Harrell acknowledges that his business is an anomaly on ever-pricier West Main. “My core clientele, their per-capita income is not that high,” he says.

Still, the location brings him crossover business he might not get in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. “You can’t cater to everybody,” he says, “but it’s still a mix that I can have, where I can expand my market without sacrificing my original formula.” Harrell’s crossover strategy resulted in sales of $265,000 during 2002. A sizable portion of his market, he says, consists of browsing restaurant-goers and white moms shopping with their teenagers.

That’s not a surprise: Suburban whites have long been consumers of hip-hop culture. In fact, another urban fashion shop, Sexshuns, recently opened on the east end of the Downtown Mall, and owner Reynold Samuels also hopes to appeal to a broad market. The new store has the minimalist look of a Manhattan boutique, with each futuristic sneaker given plenty of shelf space.

“I didn’t want to overcrowd the store,” Samuels says. “I like the middle-aged crowd. That’s who I’m trying to target.”

With another hip-hop shop in town and gentrification marching onward, Harrell knows that changes are coming. Indeed, right across W. Main Street, a new 225-unit apartment complex owned by Dave Matthews Band manager and real estate mogul Coran Capshaw is under construction. Though its residents likely will be UVA students, the building—with a pool and fitness center—won’t exactly be budget-friendly. “I don’t really know how those high-income apartments are going to affect my business, because I don’t know if the stuff I carry is going to cater to [residents],” he says.

Still, he’s confident. “You can either be victimized by the growth, or take advantage of the growth. Longevity means a lot. We have something established here,” he says, adding, “I may need to move into some linen suits.” —Erika Howsare

 

 

Turn the page

Parting words from the director of the CWC

Charlottesville’s reputation as a garden of literary greatness has long been nurtured by the prize-winning pens at UVA. Since 1996, however, the Charlottesville Writing Center has provided budding scribblers a place to find community outside of ‘Hooville.

Seven years ago, four local writers––Heather Burns, Wendy Gavin, Greg Bevan and Browning Porter––discovered that their talents for prose and poetry, alas, wouldn’t pay the rent. To give themselves and other writers a place to ply their trade, they formed the Writing Center, where they taught classes on poetry, fiction and memoir writing.

As executive director, Porter has grown the non-profit company from 40 students in its first year to more than 300 last year. But this summer, Porter will step down as executive director.

Along with the brown fedora he typically sports, the 36-year-old Porter wears a myriad of other hats––graphic designer, singer, poet, magazine editor. Recently C-VILLE caught up with the renaissance man to talk about life after the Charlottesville Writing Center.

Does Charlottesville really deserve its reputation as a “writer’s town”?

I don’t know if Charlottesville is necessarily a more writerly place than other cities. It has that reputation, and it’s not entirely undeserved. I’m sure people have heard the rumor that Charlottesville has more book stores per capita than any town in the United States, and there are some high-profile writers here, not all affiliated with the University.

I think every town is a writing town. I believe writing is a skill, like cooking, that everyone needs to know how to do a little bit, just to survive. Everyone benefits from getting better at it, even if they just do it for their friends and family.

This town is crawling with wonderful writers that you never see. They continue to work, but they’re invisible most of the time. People who come to teach at the Writing Center say they expected the students to be pretty rank amateurs, but they’ve discovered they’re leading one of the most lively and talented groups of writers they’ve ever been around. I think that level of energy comes from people who have been feeling invisible suddenly feeling that they have a new community.

But what made me stick with the Writing Center this long was the realization that writers really need a community. Writing is almost necessarily a solitary endeavor. Writers need a place where they can bounce works in progress off people besides their parents or spouses or friends. They need to get exposure to other kinds of writing. They need to find friends with similar interests. Writers need people, too.

Why are you stepping down as director?

I looked into my heart, and found that I’m not an arts administrator. I can do it, but it’s not what makes me jump out of bed in the morning. There are people who are better at it than I am, and I think we’ve found one. Her name is Mary Miller. She was one of our students last summer, and she has a lot of experience with non-profits.

What are you going to do now?

I’m going to do graphic design for my day job, which is my most lucrative skill at the moment. And I’m going to put more energy into my writing and music, which I’ve been neglecting with all my other responsibilities. I’ll probably take a class at the Writing Center, which is something I’ve never had time to do. I have a volume of poetry that’s long overdue to be published, and we have a Nickeltown CD that’s been in the works for about seven years now. We need to get that finished. I’m going to continue to be on the Writing Center board of directors, and I intend to contribute to the organization as a volunteer. For the time being, I plan to continue working on Streetlight Magazine. I also have an idea for a novel.

What’s the novel about?

It’s a secret.

Can writing be taught?

Yes. Can you teach any random person to be Shakespeare or Jane Austen? No, probably not. But everyone can be taught to learn the craft of expressing themselves more compellingly in their own words. The idea that writing is some mystical power that God handed out to you at birth is not helpful to anybody.

John Borgmeyer

 

The Nature of the business

As gallery closes, Water Street loses original art draw

On June 6, the usual First Fridays crowd was swirling in and out of the oversized green front doors of Nature Gallery on Water Street—greeted, as always, by gallery director John Lancaster. But for those who noticed it, the small sign at the entrance put a damper on the normally upbeat mood: “Yard Sale, June 21. Nature is Closing.”

During its gradual evolution from studio space to Warhol-worthy gallery during the four years that Lancaster has been a tenant, Nature has earned a reputation as the edgiest venue in town, not to mention the one with the best parties. The decision to leave, Lancaster says, occurred when discussions with the building’s owner, Hawes Spencer, failed to yield an agreement about renovations (including improvements to the precarious entranceway) in the atmospheric but dilapidated space behind the Jefferson Theater.

Lancaster and co-director Laurel Hausler say they were surprised by the talks’ outcome. But, Lancaster says, “It was mutual in that both sides had qualms about continuing on,” adding that the timing of the move was “totally” his decision.

Spencer, who is a newspaper editor, says that while the space’s “highest and best use is as a gallery,” he’ll be concentrating on improvements before seeking a new tenant.

Many art watchers see the change as a loss to the local scene. Leah Stoddard, director of Second Street Gallery, had anticipated rubbing shoulders with Nature when SSG moves into its new home, the City Center for Contemporary Arts, later this year. “I was very disappointed to learn it because I was looking forward to [the Water Street] corridor being diverse,” she says, adding that without Nature the area will lack “unexpected, scrappy” programming. Nicole Truxell, whose paintings are Nature’s current and final exhibition, concurs that losing the gallery is bad news. “John’s given a showcase to a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have tried to get into other galleries,” she says.

But Lancaster and Hausler aren’t throwing in the towel. After leaving the current space July 1, they’ll spend the summer gearing up to open a new gallery, called Nature Visionary Art, in a to-be-determined Downtown location. The new space, which they aim to open in September, will feature “outsider, visionary and folk art,” according to Hausler. Lancaster calls it a “voodoo hodgepodge.” For the first time, they say, the gallery will be a full-time job for both of them.

While the new space will, in theory, be “a little glossier,” according to Lancaster, the pair say they hope to continue Nature’s role as an adventurous, experimental art venue. Still, the old location will be hard to replace, with its soaring ceiling and rich history of Vaudeville performances. Acts like Harry Houdini and the Three Stooges performed on the very floor that Nature-goers now tread. “It’s an amazing location,” Lancaster says. “It definitely adds to the experience” of looking at art.

The gallery will host a yard sale in its Water Street home on June 21, Lancaster says, to “say goodbye with a bang.” Nature lovers are invited to browse a selection of objects collected from the gallery’s many nooks and crannies: “furniture, eclectica, construction material, more books than you can shake a stick at, art supplies and Donald Duck figurines.”

According to Lancaster, “Everything must go.”—Erika Howsare

 

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Deadline blues

Hawkins fails to file, Mitch marches on

Blair Hawkins made a last minute decision not to deliver his Republican nomination speech at the local party’s mass meeting on June 2. For one thing, he missed the filing deadline of May 27 at 7pm and couldn’t be nominated, period. For another thing, other than the railing against the evils of urban renewal, ever-dramatic, never-delivered speeches are Hawkins’ only platform.

In an e-mail to Mitch Van Yahres dated March 15, Hawkins announced his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for the 57th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. But somewhere in his preparations to unseat the longtime Democratic incumbent, Hawkins forgot to turn in his paperwork with a $500 check.

“Frankly, I think [area Republicans] are happy I’m not running,” said Hawkins while passing out a copy of his silent nomination speech at the meeting.

“I don’t own property or a business,” he wrote. “I have no money, power, or influence.

“I don’t have a network of cronies to whom I owe political favors.”

According to Hawkins, what he did have to offer was ideas—eliminating funding for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority was one and a bill stating “annexation requires voter approval of those to be annexed” was another. Of course, in order to introduce a bill, one does have to meet a deadline or two.

“Frankly, when no one filed, it was certainly a bit of a shock,” says Keith Drake, chairman of the Albemarle GOP. “But pure and simple, Hawkins missed his filing deadlines.

“You start fudging the rules, and everything breaks loose.”

As far as Hawkins’ political career is concerned, he claims his main priority now is to breathe new life into political theater. The next stop on his one-man show is scheduled to be the Independence Day Parade in Scottsville.

If he can make it on time, that is.—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Striving to be average

Supes give themselves a raise to be on par

June 4 was a red-letter day for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. First, members of the County School Board deemed the day “Board of County Supervisors Day,” thereby awarding each member one 100 Grand candy bar for each year of completed service. (Supervisor Walter Perkins, for example, got 1,600 Grand.)

Then, to really get the party started, they gave themselves a raise.

Effective July 1, annual salaries for the Board will increase 2 percent to $11,890 from $11,657. Come January 1, their compensation will leap again to $12,104.

Supervisor Sally Thomas was quick to point out that in comparison to other counties in the State, compensation for Albemarle supervisors is below average.

“We’re at 76 percent of what we cost the citizens of Albemarle County,” said Thomas, comparing Albemarle to other counties in 100-percent terms.

“In fact, we’re below average in almost everything.”

A sole citizen stood to oppose the Supes’ salary increase, describing himself as an average senior citizen of the County living on a fixed income.

“I oppose this because I don’t think any of you said, ‘Gee, this is a really swell-paying job,’” he said. “Are they any of you who ran, who didn’t know what the job paid?”

The Board took turns defending their yearly salary increase, beginning with Supervisor Charles Martin who voted against a raise years ago.

“It just occurs to me that over the years what we give to ourselves,” he said, “we give to the County.”

Chairman Lindsay Dorrier agreed. “This Board is very well balanced,” he said. “This increase encourages the average citizen to run for the Board.”

Still, that outspoken average citizen continued to question the Board’s rationale, “especially if some of you are going to be running for re-election,” he said. Throughout his comments, Thomas observed with a silent smirk.

“And why are you smiling, Sally?” he demanded.

To which Thomas gave no reply. —Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Home movies

Young refugees commit their experiences to film

A young woman lingers in a rug shop because it reminds her of her native Afghan-istan. A West African teenager looks with affection and wonderment at his two younger brothers, who already seem to have forgotten Togo, the country of their birth. An Ethiopian girl watches her mother dance in the kitchen while making dinner. A Bosnian girl deals with new surroundings and the death of her father, while another wistfully watches home-movie footage of her going-away party.

These are moments from five carefully crafted documentaries about the refugee experience, made by immigrant teenagers living in Charlottesville. All good documentaries give the viewer a glimpse of something new, and these more than answer that call by showing us our own City from probably unfamiliar perspectives.

Placing cameras in the hands of these young refugees was the result of collaboration between Light House, a local film mentoring program, and the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian agency dedicated to assisting refugees.

“The IRC had teamed up in other cities with youth media centers and done other sorts of similar projects,” says Shannon Worrell, a mentor in the project and Light House’s founder. “This just seemed like a complementary collaboration, because it seemed to be happening in more than one place, this idea of refugees making films.”

IRC Regional Director Susan Donovan adds, “It was just one of those Char-lottesville things where the synergy just kind of happens all at once.”

The five students—Tadlch Wubet, from Ethiopia; Sahar Adish, Afghanistan; Tea Andric, Bosnia; Joe Gbeblewou, Togo; and Sanja Jovanovich, Bosnia—are all between the ages of 15 and 17. Donovan chose them from among Charlottesville’s many refugee families “basically based on who could get there,” meaning who could spend virtually every Saturday for the first three months of the year working with mentors on their documentary assignments.

In addition to Worrell, Charlottesville-based filmmakers Paul Wagner and Temple Fennell, and counselor Nora Brookfield acted as mentors, offering the students technical guidance and advice. The program roughly followed the structure of most Lighthouse initiatives: The students were given access to digital cameras and editing equipment (mostly iMac software), and, with the mentors’ assistance, navigated a series of filmmaking projects.

The course culminated with each student creating a short documentary (about five minutes long) about his experience as a refugee since coming to Charlottesville.

“By and large, they had not had any experience or practice in making films, so it was a new thing for them,” Wagner says. “It’s one of those things where in some ways they’re very much like the kids we normally work with—they’re young, they’re bright, they’re excited about it. But what’s amazing is their stories are so different and so dramatic compared to the more typical high school kid.”

Andric, a dark-haired, well-spoken Charlottesville High School graduate who will attend UVA next year, says the “students were free to be pretty artistic.

“You choose everything,” she says. “You make your own decisions.”

Andric worked with Wagner on her film, Regret. “I was lucky to have him as a mentor,” she says. “You can feel, and see, and sense that he knows what he’s doing.”

The films will be shown at a premiere event at Vinegar Hill Theatre on June 16, with the filmmakers and their families attending. For most students, it will be the first time they have shown the film to those closest to them.

Andric, for one, is nervous, “because all the movies that we made are a little bit personal.

“It was hard, but I knew it was going to be hard,” she says in the voice-over on her film. “It’s definitely not easy to change everything in one day. But I don’t regret. Not at all.”—Paul Henderson

 

Skirting the issue

Reigning drag queens come out for AIDS benefit

It was Sunday, and Miss Jennifer D’ville was in the spirit. Dressed in a flowy white pantsuit and an eye-catching brooch, she writhed, throwing her body and soul into her performance, pointing to the ceiling, to the floor, mouthing the words “This battle is not yours! It belongs to the Lord!” as choirs and organs pulsated in the background. Her finely styled curls unfurled, bouncing about her head in a tangled mess. The crowd didn’t care. They were transfixed, swaying, some dancing in the aisles, more approaching the stage where she stood front and center, and dropping tithings at her feet. Hallelujah.

D’ville was working it for a higher purpose, in this case AIDS/HIV Services Group. The reigning Miss Charlottesville was one of 13 drag performers who lent her considerable talents to “A Wonderous World,” ASG’s fund-raising show Sunday, June 1 at Club 216 that netted more than $5,000 from the 120 attendees to support the community organization.

To be sure, D’ville’s performance fell to the subtle side of drag numbers. Most of the other gals on stage went the more traditional route, pulling out booty-shaking numbers or tear-jerking ballads by modern divas like Kylie Minogue, Faith Hill and, alas, Celine Dion.

But it wasn’t your typical drag show, either. Some surprised, like Lucky Supremo’s sensual yet demure mariachi number. And some entertained unintentionally, like poor Miss Harrisonburg-at-Large whose ultra-short skirt kept riding up throughout her performance of “All Fired Up,” as helpful audience members tried to keep her candy all covered up.

Indeed, being helpful was the point of the evening. The funds raised through ticket sales and tips for the performers (who combed the audience in attempts to “match” pledges by various donors) went to ASG, now in its 16th year of offering services to sufferers of AIDS and, more importantly, educating to prevent the spread of the disease.

During the show executive director Kathy Baker took the mike, thanking everyone for their generosity but adding that, “16 years ago I hoped organizations like ASG wouldn’t be around anymore. But now we know that’s not true.”

That’s especially the case since, Baker says, HIV and AIDS infection rates are rising again worldwide, including in Virginia. The State reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which figures are available, 981 new cases of HIV infection were reported.

The reasons for increasing infections, Baker said after the show, are many. Some people see the long lives AIDS patients are currently able to achieve through various drug regimens and misconstrue it as a cure. Not so, Baker says. “Living on those treatments effectively is like living on chemotherapy for the rest of your life,” she says. “You might not lose your life as early [as AIDS victims did in the past], but you will lose life you would have had.”

She also says that a loss of “institutional memory” about the disease is partly to blame, as 50 percent of new victims are under age 25, and didn’t have to bury their friends when AIDS first erupted.

It all makes ASG’s existence more crucial, and the funds netted from “A Wondrous World” better spent. While last year ASG ran into scandal over alleged mishandling of its former shelter for AIDS patients, Baker says ASG and its client services continue to expand. It has to. For one thing, no other organization has stepped in to do a better job.

“The demand has been growing and we’ve worked very hard to grow in a way that’s appropriate in the demand,” she says. “We’re working to bring the com-munity up to speed regarding prevention, creating targeted programs for high-risk populations including youth, street outreach, African-American men and women, the Latino population and men who have sex with men,” she says.

“As long as AIDS is here, so will we be.”—Eric Rezsnyak

 

Tropea in hot water

Water crisis come to a boil 

Things got snippy the last time Council talked water. On May 19, Council bickered over raising water rates to pay for costly expansions to the local water supply. At that meeting, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Director Larry Tropea listened, clearly exasperated, as Council questioned how the RWSA collects and spends money. Finally, Council refused to support the higher rates.

When the proposed rate hike came before Council again on Monday, June 2, everything seemed peachy. City staff promised to investigate Council’s questions, including adjustments to the water rate system that would promote conservation by charging less as people use less. Currently, the RWSA relies on customer fees for all its revenue, so it must raise rates when usage declines. During the drought, many complained that the present system penalizes conservation.

Council unanimously supported the higher rates with no squabble. Behind the scenes, however, tensions in the RWSA hit a rolling boil.

Tropea was conspicuously absent from the June 2 meeting. Sources close to the Authority said Tropea had been clashing with the RWSA board of directors, and it was likely that Tropea may resign or be fired. Then, on Wednesday, June 4, the Daily Progress reported Tropea had taken a “paid administrative leave” while the board considers his employment situation.

Former RWSA board chairman Richard Collins helped hire Tropea two years ago; they worked together through last summer’s drought before Collins was replaced this winter by homebuilder Michael Gaffney. Collins says Tropea and the RWSA board––made up of public officials from Charlottesville and Albemarle––were often at odds over control of the RWSA.

In the past, Collins says the RWSA and its sister corporation, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, had been mostly controlled by Bill Brent, director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, and Judith Mueller, director of the City’s department of public works. The board hired Tropea––who managed Pennsylvania’s water resources for that state’s former governor, Tom Ridge––to lead the RWSA and the RSWA through a natural resource crisis.

When Tropea arrived, the region’s growth was threatening to outpace its water supply, a condition critically exacerbated by recent drought. Furthermore, the RSWA faced huge deficits after the Environmental Protection Agency forced it to close the Ivy Landfill, which brought in revenue through tipping fees, last year.

In Pennsylvania, Tropea had presided over a traditional bureaucratic chain of command. But here he answered to City and County political leaders. Collins believes Tropea’s desire for decisive action was often hampered by City-County disputes over how to divide the cost of expansion projects.

“Tropea was always wondering ‘Do I have the money? Do I have the support?’ He felt those answers were never clear,” Collins says.

Tropea and RWSA board members declined to comment.

Other sources say that Tropea didn’t give enough deference to his political bosses in the City and County, especially now that, for the first time, vast public expenditures will be required to keep the RWSA and the RSWA running.

“His sense of how to do his job went crossways with how the board had always worked in the past,” says Collins. “I don’t think he recognized how difficult it all could be.” —John Borgmeyer

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No sizzle, f’shizzle

Sparks fly over shutdown of July 4 fireworks 

This year, the home of Thomas Jefferson may have to celebrate the Declaration of Independence without the traditional pyrotechnics, but not due to lack of effort from local concerned citizens. When Ray Caddell heard that Charlottesville may not have a fireworks display on July 4, the real estate broker described in Century 21 ads as “The Hardworking Nice Guy” went ballistic.

“Every dinky town in America figures out how to have fireworks on July 4,” he says. “How can the City of Charlottesville talk about not having fireworks? It’s embarrassing.”

Last fall, the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation decided it could no longer afford to host the City’s traditional fireworks display in McIntire Park. The CDF lost more than $20,000 in July 2002, says board member Joe Teague, and the cash-strapped non-profit just couldn’t afford to take such a hit this year.

“Last year it stressed all our resources, both finances and manpower,” says Teague. In the past, the CDF has relied on local businesses to help pay for events like Fridays After 5 and fireworks through advertising and sponsorships. “Nobody’s spending money on promotion right now,” says Teague. “Groups like ours are having to regroup and retrench.”

In addition to abandoning the costly fireworks display, earlier this year the CDF announced that for the first time it would charge admission to its Fridays After 5 concert series on the Downtown Mall partly to fund other activities. CDF board members say that, for now, there are no more events on the chopping block.

Still, the fireworks news got a group of local businessmen “up in arms,” says lawyer Bill Tucker. He and Caddell, along with community activist Tom Powell and WINA executive Dann Miller, are calling on their friends in high places to contribute money and elbow grease to keep the rockets’ red glare. At press time, the group had raised about $12,000, and on Wednesday, May 21 at 10 am, the law firm Tucker, Griffen and Barnes will convene a meeting for anyone who wants to volunteer.

Whatever Band-Aid might ultimately be applied this year, the future of fireworks in Charlottesville is in doubt. There’s some disagreement about who is responsible for putting on such pubic events. Tucker and Caddell say the City and County governments should take up the responsibility, while City Manager Gary O’Connell, says the City isn’t “in the fireworks business.” Teague hopes a committee will form with the sole purpose of putting on Independence Day displays.

“It’s a tough project,” he says. “It would be great if a nucleus develops out of this. It needs to go to the next level.”––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Debt service

The water authority empties its pockets, crosses its fingers 

Next year the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will spend more than $22 million to update and expand the local water system. This summer, however, water officials will be keeping their eyes skyward and their fingers crossed.

The construction projects will expand the water supply and repair existing infrastructure, most of which is more than 50 years old and too dilapidated to meet current regulations, according to an RWSA report. Over the next 10 years, RWSA could spend as much as $80 million on capital projects. Funds will come from a combination of bank loans, rate increases and a $24.5 million bond from the Virginia Resources Authority, a State agency that finances local government projects. RWSA Executive Director Larry Tropea is bracing himself for the task of nursing a series of expensive, complex projects through a maze of government regulations and private contractors.

According to an April 28 report from the RWSA, the board of directors in the past has criticized Tropea’s staff for not providing them with timely, comprehensive information. The 2004 budget calls for hiring five new employees and eliminating two vacant positions.

“For an agency the size of Rivanna, managing $20 million projects will take a lot of work,” says City Manager Gary O’Connell, a RWSA director. “Things don’t just happen. You’ve got to stay on top of them. There are some issues about making sure things get done from here on out.”

Tropea says he’s confident his staff will meet the challenge.

At press time, it seemed likely that on May 19 the RWSA board would approve a plan to borrow $6 million from Bank of America to fund engineering and research on plans to expand the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir by raising the dam and dredging sediment from its bottom. Tropea says that project is “making steady and deliberate progress” through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Among other things, the RWSA must present the DEQ with reports on the James River spineymussel––an invertebrate whose endangered status derailed plans for a new reservoir in the early ’90s––as well as the potential harm to wetlands and historic sites that could result from raising the reservoir level by four feet.

The $24.5 million VRA bond will be used mainly to pay for infrastructure improvements. The bond will have a “huge” impact on rates, according to an RWSA report, because it will increase the Authority’s total outstanding debt to $77.6 million from $52 million. The report says debt service will cost more than $7 million next year, accounting for 44 percent of the Authority’s 2004 budget.

All this borrowing will mean higher water and sewer rates. Currently, the Albemarle County Service Authority is negotiating with the City’s public works department on exactly how the two jurisdictions will divide that cost. ACSA director Bill Brent says new County residents likely will bear most of the cost through higher connection fees, but that doesn’t mean Charlottesville will be off the hook. At press time, it seemed certain that Council, on May 19, would increase water rates and fees to help the RWSA pay for new construction and service its debt.

A bigger South Fork reservoir remains years away, so water officials pray the rain doesn’t dry up this summer. Tropea says a wet winter and spring have filled reservoirs and recharged groundwater, therefore he doesn’t expect to see mandatory water restrictions this year. Also, consumption could be trending downward: average daily consumption in April was 9 million gallons, compared to 10.5 million gallons in April 2002. Early this month, however, daily consumption climbed to 9.8 million gallons.

“We’re starting out in good shape,” says Brent. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen. It might not rain again until September.”––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Father figure

Josh Stewart-Silver preaches real-life daddy daycare

Father’s Day might be weeks away, but it’s never too early to show some appreciation for dear ole dad. Josh Stewart-Silver knows that well. While he makes a living as a residential counselor at Region 10, his real job in life is being a father personally and professionally. A dad to five, he also directs the Charlottesville Fatherhood Initiative.

With the intuition that many men want to be good dads but lack knowledge and support, Stewart-Silver restarted the dormant Charlottesville Fatherhood Initiative two and a half years ago “to help other men find the rewards and values of being a father.” He educates fathers on how to do their jobs and raises public awareness of fatherhood’s many challenges. Numerous programs address the problems of women and mothers, but Stewart-Silver sees a lack of analogous programs for men.

The heart of the issue lies in learning how to act “as a protector of your family and still find the rewards and values in being a father,” he says. But lack of preparation and know-how can be an obstacle to many well-meaning fathers. To that end, the CFI runs a variety of programs. They range from fatherhood boot camp, in which veteran fathers give expectant dads some idea of what to expect from fatherhood and how to cope with everything from diapers to mommy’s hormonal changes, to the Good Dads Program, a comprehensive system to provide skills and support to unemployed or underemployed fathers so that they can contribute positively to their families.

In his own home Stewart-Silver feels that playing the role of dad has meant protecting his kids, ages 11 to 22, from the insidious threats posed by the modern American consumer culture. He claims that this system targets kids as young as 3 years old and “focuses on getting them hooked on media, products and things…trying to make them be a certain way.” As an alternative, the Stewart-Silver family entertain themselves the old fashioned way—by interacting with each other. The children are mostly restricted from mainstream vices like television and video games.

That “deprivation” has seemingly done his kids good. His three youngest children, who joined him for an interview, seemed remarkably well adjusted, thoughtful and happy. They seemed to get along very well with each other as well as with their parents. Close but not sappy, they all seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Though Stewart-Silver has strong ideas on fatherhood and family life, he avoids being dogmatic. “Parenting takes all forms,” he says, and he places great importance on the conscious and careful consideration of what a parent should be. In the end, though, Stewart-Silver feels “the big thing about parenting is enjoying your kids.”—Josh Russcol

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Che behind the camera

Johnny St. Ours returns with his guerrilla film crew

Local “guerrilla” filmmaker Johnny St. Ours will soon be hosting the second summer session of his Guerrilla Film Unit Self-Taught Boot Camp. Anyone who is interested can show up at his studio behind Spencer’s 206 on South Street, shoot a movie on a chosen topic and play it to the group two weeks later. St. Ours, who can be reached at ironcaveartisans@yahoo.com, took a moment to field some questions from C-VILLE on the guerrilla aesthetic.

 

C-VILLE: What’s your idea of a perfect guerrilla film?

St. Ours: I think my favorite “guerrilla” film is a Turkish one by the name of Yol, which I seem to remember translates into “the journey of life.” It was made by an escaped Turkish political prisoner who, after immigrating to France, stole himself back into Turkey to shoot this film where it was meant to take place. If you look while watching you will see that the people in the film are not paid extras, but real live Turkish people. I would assume the same is true of the police and soldiers in some of the scenes. A dangerous film to make, admirable also because of its reality in the heart of the filmmaker.

 

What’s the biggest challenge posed by working with such constraints?

People. Filmmaking is not something you do by yourself in a darkroom or woodshop, you need a team of competent and energetic folks you can trust and rely on. Not always an easy thing to find. That is a big reason for the Boot Camp’s origin—I hope that through the common experience of trying to get a movie done, some of us Charlottesvillians will start helping each other out in useful ways.

 

Do you see yourself following in a tradition established by any other filmmaker?

I’m not the most literate filmmaker, so I don’t know specifics, but if this ship went down, I’d jump in the lifeboat with the early pioneers of film, folks like Sergei Eisenstein, who overcame society’s pessimism with a lot of thought and effort, not unearthly budgets and technological gadgetry.

 

What kind of people show up to a guerrilla film session?

Losers, masochists, bored people, and people stuck in the middle of going somewhere else for the most part. The thing we all got in common: We feel like we got a story to tell, feel it strong enough to hurt ourselves getting it out.

 

Why make movies?

Back in the “old days,” maybe folks gathered around the campfire at night and exchanged songs, stories. Well, since people started listening to the radio more than their fellow, the folk tale has been on the decline. Now I don’t usually go singing the praises of some new tech or economic scene, but with cameras doing what they’re doing and costing what they’re costing, we have a window here, a time that maybe we can make something that people will listen to again. It ain’t gonna last forever, especially if we drown the art house theaters in crap, so we better get good and quick as we can, and by our own development. There are no teachers at the GFU, no film studies programs, it is self-taught—come there and learn without giving up your folk. But if you start singing Hollywood’s song on my roof, I hope I won’t be the only one to tell you how much the world needs that breed of bullshit.

But really, I’d have an awful good time saying it, so come on down, and tell me what you think of mine. ’Cause if any of these films were really good, you wouldn’t see them here.—Paul Henderson

 

City goes Prospecting

“Criminal” neighborhood is up for grabs

Clutching a copy of City Council’s May 5 agenda, John Kiess rapped on the door of a duplex on the 700 block of Prospect Avenue on Saturday, May 3. The young, white, Americorps volunteer glanced nervously at Eddie Howard, the lifelong Prospect resident accompanying him through the neighborhood.

“It’s all you,” says Howard. “You got the information.”

“Yeah,” says Kiess, smiling. “But you got the word.”

From inside, a voice hollers for the visitors to come in. Class pictures of children adorn the living room walls, and in the kitchen three men and a woman are sitting around a kitchen table. Above the din of party music, Kiess explains to the residents how City Council wants to buy up the rental properties on that stretch of Prospect Avenue, to fix them and resell for owner-occupants. He reads from City Planner Satyendra Huja’s report to Council, which claims “there have been a lot of public safety problems in the neighborhood. Part of the problem arises from renters who are involved in criminal activity…This is especially a problem in the 700 block….”

“You might be getting a 30-day notice,” Howard further explains to the incredulous renters. “We’re trying to tell you what’s going on. The City is blaming you for the problems, then they’re trying to tell you what to do. We know how that goes,” he says, and his audience nods in agreement.

The news doesn’t play well with the people around the kitchen table, who ask that their names not be used for this article. The woman says she has rented at this address for 11 years. She’s especially incensed by the City’s implication that she and other renters are to blame for Prospect’s bad reputation. She says the young people who hang out and deal drugs in front of her house don’t live on Prospect.

“I see them park their cars, get out and just stand around,” she says. “None of them live here. The police know that. I’m always calling the police telling them to get out here and take care of this, and now the City wants to put it back on me?”

Although the City didn’t inform Prospect residents that Council would be discussing the proposal, housing activists canvassed Prospect residents during the preceding weekend to try to get them to turn out for Council’s May 5 meeting. Much of that evening’s public comment period was eaten up, however, by Mayoral proclamations honoring the Public Works Snow Crew, Water Conservation Month, an RWSA employee, Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month and Business Appreciation Week.

During the public comment period, Watson Morris, who owns several duplexes on Prospect that have been targeted by the City, said he has good tenants and doesn’t want to sell his property. Later, Huja said no one would be forced to sell.

Prospect resident Yvonne Shackleford was a teenager in the late 1960s, when Council undertook its first “redevelopment” project and bulldozed the black neighborhood known as Vinegar Hill to make room for commercial development.

“Once again, someone in strategic planning has decided that it is O.K. to uproot yet another black community,” she told Council. “If this is so important, why were the residents and owners not notified that this was being discussed?”

Huja says he couldn’t approach residents until Council approved the plan, which it did unanimously on May 5. He says current renters may apply to purchase the homes from the Piedmont Housing Alliance.

The City will invest $100,000 in the nearly $800,000 project, with most of the money to be lent by as-yet-unspecified area banks. In the past, according to PHA director Stu Armstrong, the Alliance has worked with “almost all the banks in town.” Huja says a private donor “with an interest in the project” has contributed $150,000.

Developer Keith Woodard, who denies being the private donor in question, owns about 18 acres between Prospect and Fifth Street, where he plans to build about 300 new housing units mixed with office space and some retail. Before he starts building, however, he’s “waiting for a few things to happen,” he says, like “sidewalks, better lighting and more concern for the neighborhood.”––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Power plant to the people

Unions and candidates protest Tenaska

Although it has yet to create one watt of energy, Fluvanna’s Tenaska Power Station continues to generate controversy. After weathering packed-auditorium protests, candlelight vigils and two lawsuits, the natural gas plant, which broke ground last year, has now run afoul of the Richmond Building and Construction Trades Council.

Rallying outside the Pantops Liberty gas station on Tuesday, May 6, union organizers and laborers protested the fact that Tenaska’s construction contractor, Gilbert Southern, is hiring primarily transient, out-of-state workers. Allegedly, only 20 percent of workers on site are Virginians.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” said Charlottesville City Councilor Meredith Richards, who is rumored to be considering a second run for Congress and who spoke at the rally. “Tenaska sold this project based on the fact that it’s supposed to be good for the economy… . Well, this is the first chance they’ve had to make good on their promise, and they are blowing it.”

Tenaska literature claims the company “works with its general contractor to assure that as many job hires as possible are qualified local people… . We want to be a part of the community, and there is no better way than to have people with local roots working for us.” Virginia workers are evidently still waiting.

“I’ve been out of work for a year, getting ready to lose my home, unemployment has run out, raising my grandkids,” says a Fluvanna welder. “I need a job bad. They won’t even consider me.” He shakes his head. “I see cars going to the doggone plant every day and no Virginia tags on them. It gets under your skin…I don’t understand it.” Nor do most of those concerned.

Rally organizers insist it’s not about unions. “It’s a Virginia thing,” says Benny Sowers, the IBEW Local No. 666 organizing coordinator. “We went to them when they first came to town…so far we’ve been stonewalled.” No one knows why.

Virginia, now at 4.3 percent unemployment, lost 20,000 jobs in the first months of 2003. The Fluvanna plant’s two-year construction will employ as many as 600 laborers, totaling $70 million in wages. “Times are tight,” says a local pipe fitter. “It’s a damn shame that somebody has to come here from out of state and take our jobs when we’ve got people unemployed here.”

A stagnant economy is not the only dilemma for these idle hands. An electrician from southern Virginia explains: “Right now we’re having a harder time, because they changed the EPA laws, which means we don’t have to clean power plants.… It’s been hard on all the trades from the iron workers to the pipe fitters.”

Senators George Allen and John Warner have written letters to Tenaska, as has Governor Mark Warner, to no avail. “Tenaska is trying to get the next plant built in Buckingham County,” says Richards. “As a result of this effort, Buckingham may be more interested in part of the deal being you hire Virginians.”

Brian Wimer

 

 

Breaking the mold

Supes consider the cookie-cutter development model

Enlarged development plans blanketed the wall behind the Board of County Supervisors during their May 7 meeting. The sketches represented North Pointe, a 269-acre development including 664,000 square feet of commercial space and 893 residential units. But while the plan’s renderings of large blocks of green space, sidewalks and tree-lined parking lots looked great on paper, the theory behind it, according to the County Planning Commission, did not.

That’s because the project “does not reflect the neighborhood model,” Elaine Echols, an Albemarle County planner, told the Board. The model, which has become the cookie-cutter development plan for Albemarle, encourages pedestrian travel, green spaces and interconnecting streets. For some Supervisors, it’s also become an apparent crutch for the planning commission.

“Do we really only have one way of doing development,” Supervisor David Bowerman asked Echols during her report, “the neighborhood model?”

“To a reasonable extent, yes,” was the answer from Supervisor Dennis Rooker. In that case, said Bowerman, in the future developers should be informed of the stringency of the neighborhood model ahead of time.

According to the Planning Commission’s report, North Pointe, set to be located at the corner of Route 29N and Proffit Road, lacks neighborhood-friendly streets, relegated parking and quality open spaces. Furthermore, the commission questions the proposed mix of housing types within the residential portion of North Pointe. But Charles Rotgin, Jr., one of the plan’s developers, along with Violet Hill Associates, Virginia Land Trust and the Estate of Edward R. Jackson, believes the planning commission’s bias has gone too far.

“We’ve come to recognize that the Planning Commission consistently disapproves of certain things important to many developments,” said Rotgin to the Supes, listing large stores, cul-de-sacs and buildings and residences with front parking. This, he explained, was the developers’ deciding factor to leapfrog the Commission, and bring the North Pointe plans straight to the Board.

“What we’re requesting here is some guidance,” said Rotgin. “Are things like cul-de-sacs going to be allowed?” But Rooker, like others on the Board, wasn’t prepared to make any decisions on the North Pointe development.

“We cannot do the work of the Planning Commission here,” he said. “This is problematic.”

The lengthy debate whether to handle the North Pointe issues themselves, or send them back to the Planning Commission for further review, ended in a motion to boomerang the plan back to the Commission. Still, the question of whether North Pointe will join the ranks of the neighborhood model remains outstanding.

“We have to remember that this is the biggest rezoning to come before the Board in 20 years,” said Rooker, “not including Glenmore.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Strip show

Local cartoonist places among national finalists

The proverb says that slow and steady wins the race. Case in point: Low-key local cartoonist Jen Sorensen, creator of the political strip “Slowpoke” (which runs in this paper), has been named a finalist in the 2003 Association of Alternative Newsweekly Awards’ Cartoon category, for strips syndicated in four papers or fewer nationally.

Sorensen says she was shocked to be named one of the top four choices, along with “La Petite Camera” by Garrett Gaston, “Suspect Device” by Greg Peters and various strips by Chris Ware. As for why she thinks the judges smiled on her work, “Well, I like to think it’s funny,” she says.

“I value humor and I think there’s kind of a need in the market for a new, funny strip,” she adds. “I like the ones out now, but there hasn’t been a new one in a little while that offers social commentary and political humor in a funny sort of ‘Simpsons’-esque way. But that’s my own completely biased personal viewpoint.”

Plus, says Sorensen, “Slowpoke” is “the leading cartoon in PCPP—Pointy-Headed Characters Per Panel.”

This is the first year Sorensen has been eligible for the AAN honor, although she’s previously won accolades, including a 2000 Xeric Grant. Given out by Peter Laird, the creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the grant helps independent cartoonists self-fund their publishing pursuits. Sorensen used the money to collect the first several years’ worth of her strips.

Sorensen started “Slowpoke” at the end of 1998 and it began running in the now-defunct Richmond weekly Punchline before getting picked up in the Funny Times and then C-VILLE Weekly in 2002. Now she runs in a total of six papers.

While Sorensen can’t yet know where she’ll place when the awards are announced June 8, she hopes that whatever her prize is, it will aid her goal of getting the strip in more papers.

“I think any cartoonist’s dream is to be able to make a living off their work,” she said. And while she likes her freelance work, such as drawing covers for this paper and contributing to magazines (Legal Affairs, National Geographic Kids and Nickelodeon Magazine), “The strip is sort of the main thing that is closest to my…oh, I don’t know. Just don’t use the phrase ‘closest to my heart.’”

Eric Rezsnyak

 

 

The mouse that roared

The Paramount’s fundraising confection stands out in a sea of capital campaigns  

The market has gone kaput, unemployment is on the rise and the days of fundraising pie-eating contests are behind us. What then is an arts organization to do to round out its capital campaign? Three local cultural groups face that problem in Charlottesville these days, with three different results.

Yes, it’s an untimely hour to be soliciting donations, yet The Paramount Theater, the City Center for Contemporary Arts (C3A) and UVA’s performing and fine arts center are each in the homestretch of massive fundraising campaigns for new buildings. With the goal to blanket major and minor contributors alike, all face a similar task: To distinguish their campaign from the other guys’.

“You always want to send materials that look nice, especially when you’re a non-profit organization,” says Moira Kavanagh Crosby, who directs the C3A $3.8 million campaign. “You never want to send the wrong message, even if you do have the resources.”

Crosby’s marketing efforts—including the blue and orange, cluttered, double-sided sheet mailed to up to 7,000 people involved with the building’s upcoming tenants—speak of “the transforming effect” the three-occupant building will have on Charlottesville’s cultural landscape. The Water Street building will be the new home to Second Street Gallery, Live Arts and Light House.

Similarly, the Paramount, within the pages of its Little Golden Book-style mailing sent to 7,000 affiliates of the theater, also speaks of transformation, but with phrases like “moving us into the realm of imagination.” And the Paramount tries to make good on that promise by writing its appeal literally in storybook style.

UVA, in its simple case statement—a comparatively austere seven page, black-on-white letter aimed almost exclusively at high-rolling donors—also pitches transformation. The added bonus at Mr. Jefferson’s University? Enrichment of the economy. “We intend to create a new environment to enrich the cultural, educational and economic life of the University and the surrounding community,” reads the fundraising missive for the $47 million project. (Earlier this month, Carl and Hunter Smith validated the sober approach with an announced gift of $22 million for the project.)

With nearly identical messages, the campaigns must strive to be memorable. UVA aims to be memorably low key, says UVA Art Museum Director Jill Hartz.

“We do things fairly quietly as far as fundraising goes,” she says.

By contrast, the most recent two-color mailing by C3A stresses the familiar theme “time is running out.” “To complete construction on schedule this fall, we urgently need to reach our next campaign milestone of raising $150,000 by July 1,” it reads. ”To do this we need your help.”

The Paramount’s $14 million campaign, titled “How Charlottesville Got Its Theater Back” aims to be memorably heart-rending—and achieves indelible sappiness on the way.

The dwarfish, four-color booklet depicts the story of Murphy the mouse, a theater resident who has hopelessly waited all these years “for the show to begin.” The community-minded “we can do it” approach is overdone, yet undeniably the small book holds a certain power.

“Everyone remembers the history of the Paramount,” explains Paramount Executive Director Chad Hershner. “That’s why we wanted to tell it through the eyes of a child.”

And according to marketing executive and Murphy creator Jane Goodman, the somewhat silly concept not only evokes strong emotions of the past, but brings in the donation checks, as well.

“All fundraising material you see these days is full of the same dribble drabble, with ‘This is how much money we need,’” says Goodman. “This concept was a novel idea because not only does it evoke childhood memories of the theater, but it’s a keepsake.

“People never throw it away.”

Kathryn E. Goodson

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Homebuyer beware

VDOT’s road-expanding project threatens Fontaine Avenue 

On April 16, a State appraiser showed Monica Vieira approximately how much of her front yard will be appropriated by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“I kept saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Vieira says. She and Kevin Kotlarski bought the house at 2316 Fontaine Ave. for $210,000 in December, after deciding against a bungalow on nearby Monte Vista Avenue.

“We really liked the character of this place,” says Vieira, standing beneath a towering pine tree. “I had all kinds of plans for fixing up the yard.”

Her landscaping agenda changed last month, when a VDOT official said the agency wants to purchase some of her land to widen Fontaine Avenue. Vieira and Kotlarski will lose several feet of lawn, including the pine tree, where their property borders Montpelier Street. If property owners along Fontaine don’t sell their land, VDOT can take it by eminent domain.

Furthermore, City Council in June likely will approve zoning changes to allow taller buildings on Fontaine. Drawings from the City’s comprehensive plan show a U-shaped apartment building where the Vieira and Kotlarski’s house now stands.

Had they known about the impending changes, would Vieira and Kotlarski still have bought the house?

“That’s a good question. I ask myself that every day,” says Kotlarski.

“We certainly wouldn’t have paid so much for it,” says Vieira.

The home’s previous owner, Michael Carmagnola, knew about the construction plans before the sale. “I was aware there were discussions about that, but I thought VDOT had put those plans on hold,” Carmagnola says. “I don’t recall if we had a specific conversation about it, though. I’m sorry that they’re upset.”

Kotlarski says talking with Carmagnola is “on the agenda.”

“We’re waiting until our emotions aren’t so much on our sleeves,” he says.

For now, the couple, along with other Fontaine residents, is directing its feelings at City Hall. On April 21, Vieira made a tearful appeal to City Council to stop or scale back the construction plans. Hans Gerstl, Jr. has been holding meetings with residents and City officials at his Fontaine Avenue restaurant, Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse.

“My mother and father started this business in 1970, and I lived up upstairs as a child,” says Gerstl. “I’ve seen all the nice homes on Jefferson Park Avenue turn into apartment complexes. We’re determined that’s not going to happen in our neighborhood.”

The Fontaine project, however, actually began during Gerstl’s childhood. In 1974 City Council first requested that VDOT widen the road, which is an important thoroughfare for UVA football traffic and one of the “entrance corridors” Council has long targeted for redevelopment. VDOT’s original designs called for a five-lane road, which residents thought was too massive. In 1996, a task force of City officials and Fontaine residents agreed that VDOT would instead make Fontaine three lanes––two travel lanes and a turn lane. The State also agreed to build sidewalks and plant trees. VDOT said it would pay half the cost to put utility lines underground, but City Council ruled that only commercial districts like Downtown and West Main require clear skies, and refused to pay for the undergrounding on Fontaine.

Since then, residents have come and gone in that neighborhood. “All the residents who sat on that task force no longer live on Fontaine,” says Councilor Meredith Richards, who works with the State on local road projects.

If Council were to back out of the project now, it would have to pay VDOT nearly $800,000 for engineering work that’s already been done. “That’s extremely unlikely,” says Richards.

Because major road projects are typically approved in one decade and built in another, new residents can feel ambushed when construction begins. As Vieira and Kotlarski can attest, homebuyers can’t rely on sellers or the City to warn them about projects that might be lurking in their neighborhood. Sellers want to seal the deal, and, say critics, City leaders keep residents in the dark so as to minimize political turmoil.

Kotlarski says he wants to delay VDOT’s land acquisition as long as possible in hopes of scaling back the widening project. Councilor Richards says the project may be “tweaked,” but will not be significantly changed.

Somehow Vieira has found the situation’s upside. “One good thing about this,” she says, “we’ve had all these meetings and we’ve gotten to know our neighbors pretty quickly.”

––John Borgmeyer

 

Two of a kind

Two of three local banks report profits 

During the past two months, most local banking news has been dominated by one story, the $2.4 million check-kiting scheme perpetrated by Ivy Industries against Albemarle First Bank. But recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Albemarle First and other locally owned banks indicate it’s not all bad news out there. “This is chapter one of a long story—and so far, so good,” says Virginia National Bank President Mark Giles, assessing his bank’s performance last year.

VNB and Guaranty Bank each experienced solid growth in 2002, according to annual reports recently filed with the SEC. Both posted earnings, too, in contrast to Albemarle First, which lost 22 cents per share for the year and, which, besides the Ivy Industries’ fraud, grappled with the lingering after-effects of aggressive lending and poor underwriting in previous years.

VNB grew assets by nearly $30 million in 2002, to stand at $170.6 million and earned 41 cents per share. Loans were up and VNB’s loan loss reserve was a healthy 1.07 percent of outstanding loans. Loan loss reserve refers to the allowance for bad loans that a bank builds into its financial calculations.

“It’s an unfolding story,” says Giles. “We’re ahead of where I expected us to be in all areas, and we’re still growing into our capital, which will take a couple of years.”

On May 1, VNB stock closed at a price of $18.50 per share, on the low end of its 52-week range.

Last year VNB posted a small dip in mortgages and consumer loans. Giles says that alteration doesn’t reflect a specific bank policy: “I can’t imagine why in 2002 anybody would get a car loan when they could get one from GMAC with 0 percent interest. It’s not so much our intention as it is the way the world has evolved.”

Guaranty Bank showed the most dramatic progress of the three locally owned banks, earning 89 cents per share in 2002. On top of that, this year Guaranty has already paid out a cash dividend to shareholders and has announced a second dividend to come. While assets have steadily decreased in the past two years to stand at $209 million at the end of 2002, this is positive news for the bank. Guaranty has undertaken a steady process of reform after entering into an agreement in October 2000 with the Federal Reserve Bank. Generally, a written agreement between a bank and the Fed indicates that regulators harbor some reservations about whether the bank is being run in a safe and sound fashion. As part of the agreement, Guaranty revised a number of its policies and realigned its loan portfolio. Its real estate-related loans have been on the decline, while its commercial business loans have seen steady growth.

Guaranty President William E. Doyle, Jr. says it’s all blue skies for Guaranty: “There was a very rapid ramp-up in lending practices and a high concentration of real estate-related loans,” he says.

“We were on a rapid-growth track, and the bank just didn’t have the procedures and personnel in place to take care of that,” Doyle continues. “There was a conscious decision to downsize the bank, not with a target in mind, but to focus on profitability as our primary objective.”

Indeed, commercial business lending currently comprises 51 percent of total loans outstanding at Guaranty, and residential mortgages decreased by half in 2002 from the previous year to $20.1 million. Its overall loan loss reserve last year was 1.36 percent.

Guaranty’s shares closed on May 1 at $14.76, at the high end of their 52-week range.

While Albemarle First posted a loss last year, its total assets climbed to an all-time high of $101.1 million, nearly a 12 percent increase over 2001. The bank’s loan loss reserve was 1.58 percent, reflecting the risky loan portfolio that has troubled the institution. Albemarle First President Thomas M. Boyd, Jr. predicts 2003 will be the start of a turnaround, even as the lender copes with fraud: “We’re working on our loan portfolio and the size of the troubled loan portfolio will decrease this year.

“Later on this year,” he continues, “things will improve greatly.”

Albemarle First shares closed on May 1 at $8.24, in the middle of their 52-week range.

—Aaron Carico

 

Batesville P.O.

Town faces identity crisis last business goes on the block

A dilapidated barn slouches along the side of Plank Road. The overgrown entranceway of Lochwood Farm waits quietly, not a car in sight. Just 100 feet beyond the farm’s tilting brick pillars, a small sign reads “Welcome to Batesville, established 1741.” It’s the only indication that this rural Albemarle area has a name, not to mention a community. But with the closing of the only general store in the area, Page’s Store and Post Office, locals wonder how long Batesville’s identity will stay intact.

“We wouldn’t have a community out here if it weren’t for the store,” says Rose Page, who owns the barren and musty remains of Batesville’s Page’s Store, “or the Post Office for that matter.”

Opened in 1914, Page’s Store and Post Office was originally purchased by Rose’s father-in-law in 1913. His son, Charles Page, took over the store in 1939, also becoming postmaster. When Charles married Rose in 1942, she became the store’s bookkeeper, making certain the full line of meats and produce were in stock, the horse collars and shoes were ordered and the monthly bills for freezers and televisions were being paid.

But when their son Charlie, who began working in the store in 1970, decided not to run it any longer, the Page family store closed its doors in 1994—on its 80th anniversary.

“We had all grown up in the store,” says Charlie, whose grandfather and father prided themselves on providing Batesville with everything from groceries to baby clothes. “There wasn’t anything the store didn’t sell at one time or another,” says Rose.

From January 1996 to July 2001 a local retired couple occupied the store carrying, according to Rose and her son, “a miniscule amount of stock in comparison to ours.” For the few years to follow, the 200 local postal boxes would continue to be filled by the new Postmistress Debra Fitzgerald. The need for a place to quickly grab a gallon of milk would not.

“The community’s identity is in this space,” says Charlie. “If we lose the post office for example, then Batesville’s mail will filter through Charlottesville or Afton, and Batesville will no longer exist.”

Furthermore, if no one purchases Page’s Store any time soon, it could face the fate of many other retail locations in rural Albemarle being changed into single-family residences.

But that’s progress, a movement nearly as incomprehensible as the laws that govern it. An arcane ordinance at best, the present RA—or rural areas district zoning—hovering over Page’s Store hasn’t been updated since 1969, a time when most rural general stores survived as “stores” under grandfather clauses.

But RA zoning laws, born out of concern for preservation of rural agricultural activities and water supply, can go into effect if the store isn’t occupied within two years. Page’s Store’s grandfather clause will then expire, and so will the only retail operation in the village.

“Page’s was a legal nonconformity, and we allow it to stay in that existence,” says John Grady, manager of zoning permit review for the County’s Building Code and Zoning Services. As a nonconformity, Page’s Store is declared incompatible with the RA zoning district in which it’s located unless it is discontinued, removed or changed. If it’s vacant for more than two years however, then it must go back to residential to fit into the original zoning ordinance. Some in the village claim this alone is pushing retail opportunities right out of town.

“There were once five stores here,” says Charlie Page, “now they’re all homes.

“This was once a self-contained, self-sustaining village.”

Currently listed at $285,000, the Page’s Store building does include the post office, which is due to renew its lease in 2005. If renewed, the new owners of Page’s Store would also be the proud owners of the local post office at least until 2010.

Still, while locals fight to keep the last remaining vestige of business alive and well in the community, not every Batesvillian understands the need to live in the past. Carol Marvel, three-year Batesville resident and the current Postmaster relief for the Batesville Post Office, is one of them. A Postmaster by trade, she’s not necessarily wedded to the Batesville Post Office, or store.

“Batesville is on some maps, and I don’t know why,” says Marvel. “It must be from something in the past, and I just haven’t found it yet.”

Marvel, like others, sees no need for the store, or the rural mentality. “Maybe some feel more secure in staying within the little community, but we have our big city problems here, too,” says Marvel, whose husband is the Pastor of Batesville United Methodist Church. “They just get shuffled under the rug a little more.”

Although Page’s Store has seen a small amount of retail action as of late (local artisans held sales there during Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year), there’s still some debate as to whether this July will officially marks its second year of vacancy.

“If we lose the grandfather clause,” says Charlie, “there’s never a chance to get it back.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Cupola hoopla

Mt. Vernon turret moves north to 7-Eleven

Fans of historical preservation have a new friend: The 7-Eleven at Woodbrook Village Shopping Center on Route 29N. Now you can catch a glance at the bygone days of Charlottesville while picking up a Coca-Cola Slurpee. How so? Management for the shopping center on April 25 imported the stately cupola formerly perched atop the Mt. Vernon Hotel.

The hotel on 29N near the Route 250 Bypass exit is undergoing demolition to make way for electronics superstore Best Buy. While others in town opposed to big box development did the normal Charlottesville thing—they held meetings—Van der Linde Homes, the new owners of the Woodbrook strip mall, decided to preserve a part of the 55-year-old structure by saving the ornamental roof piece.

According to Patty Cornell, property manager at Woodbrook Village, it’s all part of the shopping center’s mission to bring “a little bit of Williamsburg to Charlottesville.” (Among other Woodbrook Village businesses are Amigo’s and Paint Plus. We’ll have to look for them on our next trip to the colonial tourist destination.)

Cornell says that the cupola transfer was precipitated by Van der Linde Homes’ owner Peter van der Linde’s desire not to lose a piece of what is the City’s past as well as his own. “Mr. van der Linde stayed there when he was a kid and first moved to Charlottesville,” Cornell says, adding she did the same. “It’s got such a history to it and it’s such a beautiful piece of architecture that we though it would make a beautiful addition to the shopping center.” (See photo, page 5.)

Van der Linde made arrangements with the Mt. Vernon owners and voila, the cupola now sits atop the gas-and-grocery while the Woodbrook’s carpenters intermittently fix it up. After that it will be relocated again to the top of the Pakistani/Indian eatery Taj Mahal. As an added bonus, Cornell says the light that briefly beamed from the cupola may be reinstated after renovations (apparently years earlier the airport forced the Mt. Vernon to quell the light since the megawatt bulb interfered with planes).

Cornell says the shopping center would be open to incorporating other historical artifacts, but only if they fit the Williamsburg theme. Perhaps they could find a home for poor Aunt Sarah from the Pancake House, which is also in the line of Best Buy’s construction. We hear she makes a mean flapjack. What’s more colonial than that?—Eric Rezsnyak

 

Write turn

West Main typewriter still key after 50 years

West Main Street, like most City streets, carries the whiff of technology. Cars stop and go while their occupants devour precious cell phone minutes. Joggers adjust headsets and catch their storefront reflections mingling with Sprint offers for the next wave of wireless. Still, efforts to turn the street into a high-tech corridor have crashed so far like an overtaxed hard drive. Nowhere is this more evident than on at the intersection of 10th and West Main where low tech decidedly has the upper hand.

That’s the corner that for 50 years has been home to the Charlottesville Office Machine Co., a business that has weathered the whims of City officials, developers and, lately, the digital world. The view through the window is itself a trip through history: Remingtons with the intricate workings of a baby grand piano, slim portable Olivettis, hefty Selectrics.

Inside, owner Ted Wood cheerfully explains that even in the age of the PDA, his customer base is “almost everyone.” It’s not just Grandpop who’s browsing Wood’s shop for a machine, ribbon or repair.

According to Mike Moore, a national service manager for office equipment company Olympia, typewriter buyers range in age “from 16 to 80.” And with the average price for typewriters ranging between $300 and $800, Olympia has no plans to phase out the machines, Moore says.

Not that Wood’s prices fall into that bracket exclusively. He sells plenty of second-hand machines, too. Apparently, “The older they are the quicker they sell,” he says.

Still, much of the store’s business is in repairs, an increasingly rare service. Customers lug their ailing machines from as far away as Washington, D.C.

First trained in his craft in 1955 on sturdy Underwoods, there’s little that by now Wood hasn’t encountered in the way of keyboards, platens and return carriages. In 1987 Wood bought Charlottesville Office Machine, which he shares today with his wife, Shirley, and son, David.

While Wood believes typewriters of all makes still linger in the shadows of most offices, cranking out government forms and more, he’s heard the statistics: Smith-Corona went bankrupt, IBM no longer manufactures typewriters…. (Even company man Moore admits that the rigor of Olympia’s typewriter sales has everything to do with “the demise of competitors.”)

Yet Wood has a survival strategy, namely his son. Besides selling elegant Royals and charmingly dated-looking electric models, David fixes computer printers and fax machines—a market with a clear present and foreseeable future. This not only keeps business rolling. It frees up dad Ted to do what hardly anyone else in Virginia can: tune up the Underwoods and refurbish the finicky IBMs.—Sheila Pell

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Switch hitters

Two candidates pick parties and abandon Independents

Blair Hawkins and Eric Strucko, among the most recent candidates to announce their intentions to run for office in November, have something in common: Both lost their previous runs as Independents—Strucko for the White Hall seat on the Board of County Supervisors in 1999 and Hawkins for City Council in 2000.

But on April 21, Strucko announced his second go ’round for Walter Perkins’ White Hall seat, this time as a Democrat.

“Last time, I thought running as an Independent would be the best way for me to reach across party lines,” says Strucko. “This time, I feel comfortable running as I am.” And well he might: He has a long list of public service stints to his credit, such as regional planning committee DISC and Albemarle’s housing committee. On top of which, he is as yet running unopposed.

Vice President of Business Planning and Financial Operations for local financial services firm AIMR, Strucko sees the County finances as his starting point.

“I want to make sure the County budget has prioritized spending needs with an eye to saving tax dollars,” he said during his announcement, also stressing the importance of expediting the County’s neighborhood model plan.

While Strucko’s campaign announcement on April 21 at the County Office Building was businesslike and promising, Hawkins chose to announce his intentions—and political party switch-over—straight to his opponent.

In an e-mail to Mitch Van Yahres dated March 15, Hawkins announced his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for the 57th district in the Virginia House of Delegates.

A rascally write-in candidate for City Council in 2000, Hawkins knows earning the Republican nomination is his first battle. Then he can tackle the problem of unseating the 77-year-old Van Yahres who, after 22 years in the House, is clearly comfortable right where he is.

“In my speech at the convention,” Hawkins writes, “I will paint the campaign as a historic contest between a man who voted for urban renewal and a man whose family was displaced and disempowered by those votes.

“The election will be a referendum on the Fifth Amendment.”

Van Yahres’ reply was evasive, according to Hawkins: “He said he looked forward to a stimulating campaign.”

Hawkins insists his main intention is not necessarily to win, but to at least pave the way for someone else. The 39-year-old also wants to get Van Yahres talking again.

“I want Mitch to explain Garrett renewal and threats from the City to annex the County,” says Hawkins. “Even though all I really expect back from Mitch is the usual silence.”

In Hawkins’ mind, City annexation of the County and urban renewal are the two issues that explain every aspect of current-day local government. Indeed, he wants to introduce a bill that would extend the right of self-determination to County residents. That, he says, would make it impossible for the City to profit from threats to annex the County. “Ultimately, this would improve City-County cooperation,” says Hawkins.

So far, not all Republicans are supportive of Hawkins’ announcement. While some are calling Hawkins a very recent Republican, others are concerned running such an amateur will not make the party look good.

“My election is a long shot, but my main purpose is to discredit Mitch and his ideas,” says Hawkins. “The weakening of the Democratic party strengthens the opposition.

“It’s way past time for a change.”

—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

 

This space not for rent

Council rebuffed for ignoring renter woes

As a UVA student, Jennifer Isbister held the rosy view of Charlottesville common to undergraduates and others who live removed from the City’s underbelly. After she graduated and began working here as a social worker, however, she says her feelings about the town have changed.

“Now when people ask me about Charlottesville, I tell them it’s a world class city…for the upper class,” Isbister told City Council during its regular meeting on Monday, April 21.

Seeing firsthand how low-income residents struggle with the housing market––and the City’s apparent disinterest in their plight––changed her mind, she says.

Mayor Maurice Cox invited Isbister to stay for a “reality check,” to be provided by Satyendra Huja, the City’s director of strategic planning, in his annual housing report to Council. His report described how the City is encouraging middle-class home ownership, including gentrification and financial incentives for some first-time home-buyers.

Isbister’s comments and Huja’s report illustrate the growing disconnect between officials and residents on the topic of “affordable” housing. In Isbister’s view, the big problem is that rents have climbed much faster than wages. As a result, the poorest residents must work multiple jobs and spend significant portions of their income on housing. But when the Council looks at housing, they are most interested in City Hall’s own pocketbook.

For the past 10 years, City leaders have treated low-income renters as a financial liability, because they add to municipal expenses by enrolling kids in school and applying for social services while paying less in property taxes than middle-class homeowners. The City’s strict concern for property taxes derives from the State code that makes property taxes the primary income for most cities and counties.

For 20 years, the flight of middle-class homebuyers from City neighborhoods to County suburbs has threatened Charlottesville’s economic health. Consequently, many of Council’s decisions are designed to increase the City’s appeal to middle-class homebuyers.

According to Huja’s report, 60 percent of the City’s 16,850 housing units are renter-occupied, and two-thirds of renters spend more than 25 percent of their income on housing. Between 1990 and 2000, the median rent in Charlottesville rose to $530 from $468.

Homebuyers, however, enjoy more public assistance than renters. Last year, Council spent $1.37 million from the City’s general fund and channeled another $38 million of public and private money into home-ownership initiatives.

The City’s 2003-04 budget sets aside $95,729 to be used as rent relief for the elderly and disabled. Currently, there’s a two-year wait to receive Federal Section 8 rent assistance in Charlottesville.

Cox’s “reality check” perhaps refers to the facts of the free market and City-County politics. “There’s not much we can do about affordability, other than increase supply,” says Cox.

Council’s real housing strategy seems to be calling on Albemarle. Last year, about 1,700 new homes were built in the County. The County’s real estate department couldn’t say how many of those were assessed below $100,000, but Councilor Kevin Lynch says it’s probably not very many. Speaking to the composition of the region’s real estate market overall, Lynch said, “If two-thirds of the County’s new homes were in that price range, we might be more affordable.”––John Borgmeyer

 

O give me a yurt

Local woman takes up “cyberbegging”

Panhandling is so 2002. Anyway, Jenevieve Piel is too sick and too shy to sit on the Downtown Mall with a tin cup. Instead, the 53-year-old massage therapist is “cyberbegging” to help her escape homelessness.

Piel runs a website called help4jen.com, on which she solicits donations to help her buy a yurt––a modern version of traditional nomadic homes in central Asia, whose simple design seems to fit Piel’s crunchy, holistic style. She plans to live on her cousin’s land in Texas, where she will write books on pain management and studying nutrition. Piel says she turned to cyberbegging, as it’s known on the web, when chronic back pain forced her to stop accepting new clients for the “connective-tissue therapy” she provides from her home.

A self-proclaimed “shopaholic” named Karyn Bosnak pioneered the trend of cyberbegging one year ago when she started www.savekaryn.com to get herself out of debt. Not only did she collect more than $20,000, she also landed a book deal after showing up in the New York Times and on the “Today Show.” Now, cyberbeg.com lists hundreds of websites requesting that surfers “help me get out of debt,” “help me pay child support,” “send me to law school” or “help me get out of the porn industry.”

“When my friends heard about Karyn,” says Piel, “they said ‘Your story’s better than hers. She got money for being stupid. You got screwed over by the government.’”

The story there begins with Piel’s claim that she was poisoned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1980, when she worked for the agency monitoring the population density of fruit flies in Southern California.

“I found the first medfly before the huge outbreak in California,” she says. “If I had known all the trouble it would cause me, I would have flushed it.”

Without her knowledge, Piel says, the USDA included the toxic pesticide Dibrom in the traps she used to catch the flies. After six weeks of working with the pesticide without protection, she began feeling disoriented and dizzy. During one spell, she says, she fell off a steep curb and ruptured a disc in her back.

The Dibrom also left her with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which renders her allergic to almost everything––including the ink on this newspaper.

Piel had always been interested in alternative medicine, so she ignored her doctor’s advice for back surgery and treated herself by visiting chiropractors and ingesting 50 grams of Vitamin C daily. The pain improved for a while, she says, but has recently returned.

“I don’t regret not having surgery,” she says. “Nine out of 10 people I talked to said their pain was worse after surgery. I believe from personal experience that the healing ability of the body is truly awesome.”

Piel arrived in Charlottesville in 1998, coaxed by a sister who lives in Nelson County. “It was O.K. the first year, then the rents just got out of control,” she says. Currently, she struggles with a rental apartment in the City.

Because of her back condition and allergies, Piel is ineligible for health insurance, as well as many jobs. As for her own work, which she describes as “sensing through the fingertips where things aren’t sliding and gliding” to discover the source of pain in another person’s body, she has had to cut back on that, too.

So far, Piel has collected $2,743 over the web. She saves the money, she says, in a special “housing fund.” That’s a long way from the $40,000 she says she needs for her yurt and moving expenses.

“It’s very hard for me to put myself out there, but that’s what I have to do,” she says. “I don’t know if my body will let me work much longer. I’m asking people to invest in my future, and they’ll have the satisfaction of helping other people get out of pain.”––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Garden weak

Pumping the media, Kluge forgot to water the flowers

Any press is good press, so the saying goes. But not any press release is a good press release, as was proven afresh on April 22 when, succumbing to a forestful of faxes and daily phone calls, we answered the summons to view the gardens at Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard. In honor of Garden Week, C-VILLE had been invited—no, begged (beseeched, really)—to witness the beauty and scope of owner Patricia Kluge’s “impressive oasis” south of Ash Lawn-Highland. Indeed, we were beside ourselves with the prospect of touring the gardens of the woman who is described by her hand-picked media specialist as “one of America’s most prominent women.” (Just in case you missed that episode of “America’s Most Prominent,” all you really need to know is that Kluge, a regular on all the best guest lists, is the ex-wife of Albemarle County gajillionaire John Kluge.)

But maybe something was lost in the translation. For where we had been promised visions of “succulent plants as well as drifts and puddles of the textures and jewel colors that these many varied plant species exhibit,” what we found instead could most generously be described as a trio of impressive stone obelisks punctuated with a pair of old boots serving as cacti planters.

Trying to keep hope alive, we turned our attention to the nearby herb garden, planted for the benefit of Kluge Estate executive chef Dan Shannon. For that, our expectations had been moderated, as we were promised that the rectangular raised beds would exemplify simply “an artistic arrangement of varying colors and textures.” And yes, we did encounter wooden beds, which, with their lean content, we reckoned would be picked over by Shannon in a week’s time. (Maybe Mrs. Kluge dines out a lot.)

To be fair, the four walls of the Albemarle House Conservancy contained numerous impressive tropical plants, such as a rouge plant and a banana-less banana tree. Perhaps the gardens would justify the 13 phone calls after all. Oops! Guess not. Our guide informed us shortly after we entered that the tour was over. After only 20 minutes. Perhaps, we reasoned, “estates” just aren’t what they used to be.

Certainly the dominance of the gift shop on grounds would suggest that the days of the leisure class now accommodate a little commerce, too.

Heading back into town bereft of all hope for a succulent garden experience, we were soon beckoned by a tiny white sign labeled “Garden Week.” We followed a winding driveway and evidently crossed the invisible line separating the grandeur of Mrs. Kluge’s world from the grandeur of Mr. Kluge’s world. At the end of the road, past a row of topiary horses, bears and giraffes, we discovered ourselves on the grounds of John Kluge’s Movern gardens. The oasis, at last, was unearthed. For there, we feasted on rows of trees, tulips, rose bushes and dramatic sculpture accenting the eight-acre garden. There was even a goldfish-filled wading pool, covered in floating lilies.

And neither a media specialist nor press release was anywhere in sight.

—Kathryn E. Goodson

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Charging elephants

Republicans stand up for John Q. Public

Tax day makes everybody cranky and on Tuesday, April 15, Charlottesville Republicans were no exception: Prominent elephants got down- right snippy about the Democratic establishment. In separate instances, Councilor Rob Schilling and GOP stalwart Jon Bright declared that City Council couldn’t care less about the little guy.

The uprising began shortly before noon, when Council was scheduled to approve the City’s 2003-‘04 budget, including a series of fee hikes. Schilling phoned local reporters to convene a press conference following the vote.

City officials had worked for months on the budget, and the four Democratic Councilors arrived at chambers dressed casually for what would be a five-minute meeting. Schilling, however, took his seat dressed in dark lavender suit and cowboy boots.

Schilling voted along with his fellow Councilors to lower the City’s real estate tax per $100 of assessed value to $1.09 from $1.11. But he voted against raising the meals tax and other fees. He agreed that funding was needed for capital improvements, new police officers and waste disposal, he said, but he didn’t support “the means.”

After the vote, Schilling retired to the steps of City Hall to read from a prepared statement. Mayor Maurice Cox and Councilor Kevin Lynch followed.

“As a Council,” Schilling began, “we could have worked harder for the people in this community.” The City should have reduced spending on architects and social service funding, among other things, and dipped into the City’s rainy day fund instead of raising fees and putting undue burden on Charlottesville’s working class, he said.

“From Belmont to Greenbrier, from 10th and Page to Alumni Hall, I hear you loud and clear,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Lynch, in response, was quick to allege grandstanding.

“If Rob spent as much time getting his ideas across to Council as he does getting in front of the camera, he might make some progress,” said Lynch, further alleging that Schilling, a three-year City resident, has spent less time than his peers incorporating his vision into the budget.

Cox, also vexed, said in more measured tones that budgets always require compromises between raising fees and cutting services: “We have a social safety net here. Maybe Mr. Schilling doesn’t realize that’s what makes this a humane place to live.”

Meanwhile, a few blocks west on the Mall, Bright, who owns the Spectacle Shop, assailed the leadership of a steering committee on which he sits as one of 15 members. Assembled by City Council to guide a Federally funded, $6 million bus transfer station at the east end of the Downtown Mall, the committee earned his enthusiasm when he began to serve one year ago. Now, he says, it’s clear Council is using the group to rubber stamp its plans.

“The project hasn’t changed one iota from when we heard about it the first time,” says Bright. “I feel the City has wasted our time as committee members.”

During the course of at least three public meetings, Bright says, people have questioned the building’s location, size and style, along with the availability of parking. Steering committee members have suggested the center will need more lavatories or a permanent concession stand. Many business owners say the area needs more parking.

Dan Pribus, who runs the Blue Ridge Country Store on the east end of the Mall and now feels similarly let down, says he joined the committee because “when the architects talk about the geo-sociopolitical significance, I ask where they’re going to put the trash.”

Former Mayor David Toscano heads the steering committee and has spent the past year selling the transfer center to the Mall’s notoriously conservative business community. He says the City has listened to the public by, for instance, responding to citizen opposition to opening a new traffic crossing on the Mall.

Mike Stoneking, an architect who also sits on the steering committee, says, “you can’t make a building by committee. It gets out of control. You have to make a decision.”

Deadlines have also put pressure on the process, says Toscano. The City spent more than a year negotiating with developer Gabe Silverman to build the bus transfer center on West Main. When that deal collapsed, the City opted for the Mall location because it already owns the property. Now, the Federal grant is about to expire.

“Either we build this project, or we give the money back,” says Toscano.

But Bright, who has been active in City politics for nearly 20 years, complains that the City’s public hearings are merely theater.

“If you already have a plan, why involve citizens,” he says, “if you’re not going to listen to them?” ––John Borgmeyer

 

Cracking the case

“No coke,” says local man, suing WVIR for $10 million

A Greene County man can soon expect his day in court after two years of what he describes as the tooth-breaking anguish he has suffered at the hands of Virginia’s self-described “most powerful” TV station. Jesse Sheckler has filed a defamation suit for $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages against the Virginia Broadcasting Corporation, the parent company of local NBC affiliate station WVIR-TV 29. In the suit, filed on March 21, 2002 in Charlottesville Circuit Court, plaintiff Sheckler cites news reports on April 6 and 7, 2001, and again on October 29 and 30 of that year, that falsely claimed he possessed cocaine. WVIR reported, “DEA and JADE forces had confiscated 50 grams of crack cocaine and 500 grams of powder cocaine in a March 2001 raid on the home and business of Jesse Sheckler.”

Sheckler was arrested in March 2001 after a Federal grand jury indicted him on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Novice WVIR reporter Melinda Semadeni covered news of the indictment on April 6. According to court filings from plaintiff’s counsel, Semadeni spoke to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Pagel whom she claims supplied her with news of the confiscation. Pagel denies the allegation and asserts that Semadeni never requested a copy of the original indictment. Semadeni kept no notes or record of her interview with Pagel.

According to court documents, the 11pm newscast on April 6 displayed a photo captioned “Drug Bust,” which showed two armed officers handcuffing a white male in front of a house. In court documents, plaintiff’s counsel notes that Sheckler’s arrest occurred in a public space in Greene County and contends the image was neither of Sheckler nor his home. Sheckler’s attorney at the time, Denise Lunsford, left voice-mail messages at the WVIR newsroom that were not returned.

Although the drug weights were included in the indictment, U.S. Attorney Pagel tells C-VILLE that such data “does not mean that that amount was seized and it doesn’t mean that it was seized from a particular defendant. It doesn’t mean that it was seized at all.”

Covering Sheckler’s trial on October 29, 2001, reporter Pedro Echevarria included the cocaine confiscation in his report, after consulting archived material from Semadeni’s story. Sheckler was acquitted on November 1.

Matthew Murray, Sheckler’s current attorney, said news of the confiscation “was absolutely false. He was never charged with any possession. They [WVIR] were asked to retract it, and they did not.”

Discussing his damages in court filings, Sheckler claims the incident left him with stress, acid discharge, teeth breaking and a root canal, among other problems. Sheckler also claims “I cry in my heart,” when thinking about WVIR’s assertion.

“For a private plaintiff to win punitive damages,” according to Tom Spahn, author of the book The Law of Defamation in Virginia and a partner in the Tyson’s Corner office of law firm Woods McGuire, “a person has to prove actual malice,” defined as the defendant’s knowing falsity and reckless disregard for truth. “To win compensatory damages, he must prove negligence,” defined as deviating from a common standard of practice.

Thomas Albro, attorney for the Virginia Broadcasting Corporation, would not comment.––Aaron Carico

 

Across the great divide

Community group wants to heal the black-white rift

Ara mi le, oh ya ya,” Darrell Rose shouted from the auditorium stage at Buford Middle School, beating the Nigerian rhythm on the djembe he clutched between his knees. In Yoruba, the phrase means, “My whole self is well, oh yes.” Rose and his drum kicked off a community forum on race relations on Saturday, April 12, at the school. He intended the chant as a meditation, preparing the more than 150 attendees to confront Charlottesville’s racial sickness. Skeptics, however, wondered whether the “Many Races, One Community” forum was real medicine or just another sugar pill.

The event was organized by Citizens for a United Community, a 14-member group comprising City officials, former mayors, church leaders and prominent citizens. The CUC group has received $1,000 from the City as well as donations from the Charlottesville-Albemarle Community Foundation, UVA, the local NAACP, several churches and more than three dozen citizens.

The CUC formed last year when 10 black students from Charlottesville High School were arrested for beating up UVA students. Since then, the group collected donations and held fundraisers for the victims and the attackers’ legal fees. Not that the do-gooding has been universally lauded. Public housing advocate Joy Johnson, for one, says the group only seems interested in racial problems affecting Charlottesville’s middle class.

“My peers were not represented in this group,” says Johnson. “We rally around a certain group of kids. But every day we see kids getting into trouble in the low-income community, making mistakes, and they’re not doing anything about it. Where’s the balance?”

Another demographic largely absent was people under 30. About 10 students from UVA and City schools said racial tensions are not high among the City’s diverse student body––especially at CHS, where interracial dating is fairly common, according to one student––but black and white students simply don’t hang out with each other. In general, black students are over-represented in “special education” classes and under-represented in advanced classes throughout the system.

As the participants dined on fried chicken, a few CUC members consolidated the small-group notes into one presentation that former Mayor Nancy O’Brien said would identify problems and propose “concrete” solutions. For instance, affordable housing was identified as a problem for which the solution could be “working for better wages.” There was no mention of racial profiling or gentrification. While everyone seemed to agree racism is a real problem, no one offered a definition of racism or instructions on how to spot it.

Charlottesville’s ugly racist history is still very much alive. Slaves are gone, but many of their descendents still perform service jobs for poverty wages. Black residents still live in segregation, receive extra scrutiny in stores and get stopped by police simply because of skin color. Groups like the Virginia Organizing Project are already working on race and class issues, but the CUC meeting did not distribute literature about other extant organizations.

Most participants agreed no meeting can “cure” racism, but Anjana Mebane-Cruz says she felt the forum was successful because it marks a year-long interest in race relations. “That shows responsibility,” she says.

There was no shortage of warm fuzzies––as the group joined hands and sang the freedom anthem “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Johnson wondered if the CUC was really intending to compare its agenda to the civil rights movement. But the four-hour meeting succeeded in bringing blacks and whites together for both serious discussion and lighthearted socializing, which participants agreed happens all too infrequently in Charlottesville.

“It was a good effort,” said Karen Waters, director of the City’s Quality Community Council. “Any effort is better than nothing. But if everyone at that meeting would invite a black person over for dinner, it would do more for racial harmony than any amount of meetings.”––John Borgmeyer

 

Horse cents

ABC collects fine from Foxfield—as big race looms 

The April 16 headline in The Daily Progress may have stated “ABC reaches agreement with Foxfield,” but the president of the semi-annual equestrian event couldn’t disagree more.

“We didn’t by any means reach an agreement,” says Benjamin Dick. “we were given an order. I couldn’t believe that headline.”

On April 15, after months of deliberations, decisions and re-made decisions, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board moved to allow the racing association to keep its Equine Sporting Event license so long as it employs one security officer for every 200 ticket-holders, with at least 50 of the officers empowered to make arrests of underage drinkers. ABC had filed in January a disorderly conduct and intoxicated loitering complaint after the fall races. In the ABC’s “order,” Foxfield will also have to cough up an $8,000 fine.

“This whole ordeal is really hurting the race,” says Dick, who spends most of his time these days placating the fears of Foxfield’s biggest supporters—the horsemen and owners.

“This is also hurting us financially here—just in order to meet the ABC order, we’ll have to spend an extra $20,000 to $40,000 on security,” he says. On top of that, the ABC is sending more than 40 of its top-notch enforcers to scout the scene for the April 26 race.

“This is the first time ever that we haven’t sold out all the rail parking spaces,” says Dick.

But some sponsors of this year’s Foxfield season aren’t scared off by ABC allegations.

“It’s my understanding that they’ve had these problems for years,” says Donald Marks, owner of Readings by Catherine, a main sponsor of this year’s events. “But truth is, Foxfield itself never sold an alcoholic beverage there. They’re an asset and I really disagree with the ABC here.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Full capacity

Landfill refuses fuel tanks following fatal explosion

Following an explosion earlier this month that killed an employee, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority has temporarily stopped accepting old fuel storage tanks at the Ivy Landfill. Director Larry Tropea says he will wait to see the results of State and local investigations before making any permanent policy changes.

On Tuesday, April 10, Landfill manager Wayne Stephens, 46, died in an explosion while apparently cutting into a tank with torch. “There were no witnesses, so it will be hard to pinpoint a cause,” says Tropea. “Stephens had been there an awfully long time. He was the senior person at the site.”

The Landfill has always accepted a wide assortment of garbage, including empty fuel tanks. Tropea says the tanks are supposed to be inspected by two people, then stored between two and six months to allow volatile chemicals to break down or air out. After that, holes are cut into the tanks and they are taken to a scrap metal yard.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry will conduct a six-month investigation; the County fire marshal and the RSWA authority will also investigate the accident.

“We need to assess all of our procedures to determine whether we’ll continue accepting old storage tanks in the long run,” Tropea says.––John Borgmeyer

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Mean streets

City Council vs. cussing, racism—and taxes

This summer, the City will flex more police muscle to keep the Downtown Mall a pleasant place to spend money.

During City Council’s regular meeting on Monday, April 7, Park Street resident Stan Tatum described eating dinner outside on the Mall recently. He said a group of young people—some 8 or 9 years old, some teenagers—shouted obscenities as they walked along the Mall, with no police officers in sight.

“I’m no prude, and I’ve used some of those words myself,” Tatum told Council. “But there’s a reasonable standard of public conduct, and we should expect it to be the norm.”

Councilor Meredith Richards said she recently witnessed a serious fight on the Mall. “There were no police officers near,” she said. Downtown disorder “is a problem that has developed this year. I’m very concerned about the effect this has on visitors,” said Richards.

City Manager Gary O’Connell told Council he had already talked with Tatum and taken his concerns to Police Chief Tim Longo, whose department is currently five officers short of capacity. “I don’t think you will see a lack of police presence on the Mall this summer,” O’Connell said.

Currently, one officer patrols the Mall. This week, Longo will add two officers on Thursday and Saturday, and four officers plus one sergeant on Fridays. He says no officers will be pulled from other duties; instead, officers will work overtime on the new Mall patrols.

Charlottesville has laws against loud profanity, and on Monday Council passed a panhandling ordinance that prohibits “aggressive” soliciting.

Also on Monday, folk singer John McCutcheon and former Mayor Nancy O’Brien asked Council for $1,000 for their group Citizens for a United Community, which formed last year after 10 black CHS students were arrested for assaulting white UVA students. The group has already received money from UVA, local churches, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Foundation and individual donors.

On Saturday, April 12, the group met to decide on a series of specific actions to address Charlottesville’s racial divide. “A lot of us who have been around for more than 10 years have seen this concern arise and groups appear,” said O’Brien. “The commitment we have in this group makes it different.”

Mayor Maurice Cox, who has attended some of the group’s meetings, said “I think it’s the beginning of a very big success.” At the end of the meeting, Council appropriated $1,000 for the group.

By the time Council got around to the business of crafting the City’s 2003-‘04 budget, most of the spectators had departed. A few lingered, however, to say that Council should reduce the City’s $94 million budget instead of raising fees.

One man said high real estate taxes had forced him to sell his car, give up his health insurance and may force him to sell his Druid Avenue house. “Can I give the City my house and get a place in public housing?” he asked. Tatum returned to the podium to note that while Charlottesville’s population has remained fixed, the City staff has increased by 17 percent since 1990.

Council is proposing to lower the real estate tax to $1.09 from $1.11 per $100 of assessed value. On Monday, Councilor Rob Schilling pointed out that real estate assessments had risen so much last year that Council could cut property taxes to $0.99 per $100 and still reap the same taxes it did in 2002-‘03. “In my opinion, this is still a tax increase,” he said.

Council performed a first reading of its proposal to raise the meals tax to 4 percent from 3 percent; to increase vehicle decal fees to $28.50 from $20 for cars and to $33.50 from $25 for trucks; also, Council proposed roughly doubling existing trash and dumpster fees. The hikes will likely be approved on Tuesday, April 15—appropriately enough, tax day.––John Borgmeyer

 

Gimme shelter

“Fair” rating leads to SHE’s reduced funding

The April 9 Board of County Supervisors’ final proposed budget public hearing was calm, productive and sparsely attended. With nary a screaming teacher frothing at the mouth for higher salaries to be found, the Supes could attend to more pressing money matters—like funding for the Shelter for Help in Emergency.

Within the newly revised 2003-‘04 budget, the funds now available to the Board total $1,395,721. Revenue changes such as increased sales tax projections ($350,000), increased business license tax ($200,000), availability of one-time funds ($668,491) and the increased motor vehicle tax ($3.50 more per vehicle amounting to $227,500) add to the County’s coffers this time around. But not all programs made out as well as the school division, which will receive an additional $466,500. One of the social programs taking the biggest hit to its funding request is SHE.

The Supes reduced SHE’s appeal for an operating budget of $77,723 by 3 percent—a loss of $2,259. SHE’s education and training component took the brunt of the funding cuts.

“We are asking for the funding for training and educating the volunteers,” one woman told the Supes, breaking down the number of hours required to complete training at SHE. “How can we educate others without this money?”

The Shelter, which provides temporary refuge for victims of domestic violence, as well as a 24-hour hotline, counseling, court advocacy, information and a children’s program, serves an average of 750 residents per year. But due to only a “fair” rating by the County’s Budget Review Team and further concerns about the efficacy of the community education program, requests for SHE funding may not be fulfilled.

“I came here tonight prepared with a speech,” said another audience member speaking on SHE’s behalf, “but as I was watching TV this afternoon, seeing the Iraqi people tearing down a statue of this terrible tyrant, I began crying tears of pure joy for those people.

“I myself was liberated by the education I received at the Shelter for Help in Emergency to end the cycle of violence I was trapped in. Without the shelter, my two children also may have never broken out of the cycle of abuse,” she said. Another woman stood and referred to herself and her children as refugees.

“But I never would have left my violently abusive husband without the shelter to go to,” she said. Still, the pleas from more than nine speakers before the Board couldn’t overcome the effect of a less-than-stellar rating.

“The shelter is important, it’s helping people re-work their lives,” said Supervisor Sally Thomas, “but I want to make sure we don’t break down a system of rating we’ve developed.” Fortunately for SHE, not all Board members agreed.

“I don’t understand why we cannot fund the Shelter’s [training and education] program this year,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker, “then have the review committee follow it closely.”

But even if SHE obtains its increase in funding later this week, it still has the “fair” rating weighing on its shoulders.

“If they shape up and then we give them the money, this then could result in an important change,” said Thomas.

“But this is a public safety organization,” said Rooker. “I don’t know that if we pull the program out, that it won’t absolutely affect other programs there.” The Board will make a decision at its April 16 meeting.—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

Rocking on

MRC finds a home, loses a leader

The Music Resource Center keeps hanging on. Contrary to popular belief, the non-profit recording studio for local young people isn’t feasting at Dave Matthew’s table.

“Everybody thinks we’re DMB’s pet project. We’re really not,” says Rafael Oliver. He’s acting as interm director of the Center, overseeing its search for new money and new leadership.

Back in October, UVA evicted the Music Resource Center from its original home above the music club Trax on 11th Street, which the school demolished to make room for a parking garage. After frantic searching, the Center found a new pad at the former Pace’s Transfer and Storage buildings on Forest Street. At 9,000 square feet, the Forest Street location is more than three times larger than the old Trax space. But it’s also more expensive, and much of the space is in disrepair.

Oliver says DMB paid for two sound booths and a baby grand piano for the new location, but the band isn’t funneling money into the Center. “We’re not really getting help from them at all.” He says it will cost about $25,000 to repair a decrepit stairwell, and even more to renovate and equip the rest of the building, which is now dominated by exposed particle board.

In late March, director Ivan Orr quit his position after seven months. Oliver says Orr quit amicably to “get on with his life.” But now the Center is without a permanent leader in perhaps the most critical phase of its seven-year history, as it struggles to grow into its new space.

Oliver says he and the board of directors are “looking at several people” to take over. The new leader will be expected to continue where Orr left off, transforming the Center from a hang-out spot to an educational resource.

“We want to turn this place from a drop-in into a place where kids could actually learn,” says Oliver.

He says the Center has been trying to implement an orientation workshop in which students must pass a test before earning the right to use the equipment. Students who pass a series of advanced tests would be allowed to use the Center after hours, and to earn money recording for local bands. The increased formality and emphasis on process met with some resistance from long-time Center users, says Oliver, and so for now the workshops are optional.

While Center attendance is down about 50 percent from its heyday on 11th Street, when it was serving about 500 teens per year, the group is optimistic about its change in location and philosophy.

Ashley Walker, a 17-year-old senior at Covenant School, credits the center as integral to her musical development as she prepares to go off to Bluefield College as a voice major, possibly on scholarship. She feels that the new attitude at the MRC has been positive, cutting out the “riff-raff” and says of the Center, “I don’t know what I’d have done without it.”––Josh Russcol and John Borgmeyer

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What is it good for?

Protesters answer: War is good for civil action

March 20, 2003, was another date, like September 11, 2001, destined for infamy. So believe those who took to Charlottesville streets on March 20, despite the downpour, as bombs rained down on Baghdad.

Drenched, they marched from Downtown to UVA and back to approving honks and the occasional middle finger. All walks. All ages. One unified message: “1-2-3-4…We don’t want your racist war 5-6-7-8… Stop the bombing stop the hate.”

No silent vigil here. “The lesson of the Holocaust was the complicity of the Germans in their silence,” says Susan Oberman of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice (CCPJ). “Each of us has a responsibility not to be silent when our government is committing atrocities.”

“Walk out and protest,” shouted the flyers, pasted up late Wednesday night. Several hundred Citywide answered the call. There might have been more. Charlottesville public school students were told they’d be suspended if they walked out. But neither administrations nor rain could deter all.

“I don’t want to be home alone, depressed about what our country is doing,” said CCPJ’s Sarah Lanzman. “I prefer to be with other people. I don’t feel as powerless.”

But war is underway. And one march isn’t likely to end it. “God has not called me to be successful,” said one protestor, quoting Mother Theresa. “He has called me to be faithful.”

The faithful, evidently, have some new converts. Outside UVA’s Cabell Hall, a few hundred students converged under umbrellas in a rally organized by the UVA Anti-war Coalition.

Back Downtown, rumors of civil disobedience manifested in a “direct action” as protesters blocked the intersection of Water and Ridge streets. Their human chain broke when a minivan indifferently drove through it.

Andrew Holden, of Citizens Against Global Exploitation, defended such civil disobedience. “If it means blockades, I’ll do it,” he said. “We take action against repression of any kind.”

But, he added, “All our actions are non-violent. We never hurt anybody.”

Case in point: Ten protesters, among them two professors and five Quakers, “sat-in” Thursday at Representative Virgil Goode’s Downtown office and refused to leave.

Goode spoke with the protesters by phone. “He told me the United States’ national sovereignty shouldn’t be constrained by the U.N.,” said UVA Professor Herbert Tucker. “Does Iraq have national sovereignty? Goode said that they did. Aren’t we infringing on their national sovereignty now? Yes, said Goode, but that’s war.”

Before being led off in handcuffs, Michele Mattioli offered a constructive plea. “I taught pre-school for 17 years,” she said. “I just want to say to George Bush, ‘We don’t hit. We use our words.’“—Brian Wimer

 

 

Sculpture stays hidden at UVA

Race is at issue in a public art controversy

Although it’s been out in the open for years now and even Monticello talks about it, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings still has the power to frighten some people at UVA. A large public sculpture by New York artist Dennis Oppenheim was acquired by the UVA Art Museum more than two years ago, yet it remains in storage—partly because it’s been linked to that master-slave relationship. Ironically, Oppenheim himself probably didn’t intend the Jefferson/Hemings connection.

“Marriage Tree” was part of “Hindsight/Fore-site,” a 2000 show curated by local gallery owner Lyn Bolen Rushton that addressed “our Jeffersonian heritage.” Oppenheim was already working on sculptures using life-size wedding cake figurines when show organizers approached him. Because the 20 or so brides and grooms in the steel-and-fiberglass piece are multiracial, says museum director Jill Hartz, “a link was made between trying to reinterpret the piece to reflect Jefferson and Sally Hemings and multicultural society today. I don’t think Dennis minded, but it was never his intention.”

At show’s end, the museum bought the piece based on Hartz’s belief that it would be placed at the Kluge Children’s Center (it’s too big to fit inside the art museum). Around the same time, a new Public Art Committee was forming at the University. Hartz says she alerted the committee (which isn’t supposed to have jurisdiction over museum collections) only “as a courtesy,” but encountered resistance.

“Because it was associated with that exhibition,” Hartz says, “people were unwilling to consider it having a separate existence or meanings outside of that.”

According to committee chair Don Innes, it was the Kluge Center that officially balked at siting the sculpture at its facility on Route 250W due to “staff concerns that controversy would detract from the center’s mission.” Hartz, who says she was “blindsided” by the move, has been seeking a site for the sculpture, which is valued at $100,000, ever since.

Lately, “Marriage Tree” has become a cause célèbre among UVA art faculty and students. Bogdan Achimescu’s digital arts students are doing digital simulations of the piece in 19 different sites around Grounds.

Others find it ironic that inter-racial coupling seems to be a bigger deal for UVA than it ever was for Oppenheim. Students in Howard Singerman and Bill Wylie’s public art class are researching the issue. Maggie Guggenheimer, a member of the group, says, “We were really surprised to learn that Oppenheim’s intentions for the piece were really quite different from the way the piece was received in Charlottesville.”

Tellingly, Oppenheim (who Hartz calls a “major sculptor”) has repainted the piece in neutral shades. “It’s as though he wants to take the question of race out of it entirely,” says Singerman.

But, says Hartz, “Once a work is put in the public domain, you can’t control its interpretation, nor should you want to.”

Erika Howsare

 

Backyard blues

Buckingham Circle worries: ‘Hoos or hotels? 

It was another case of “not in my backyard” at the March 19 Board of County Supervisors meeting. Make that “not in my backyard, UVA student-body scum.”

Fifteen residents of the Buckingham Circle neighborhood gathered to demand the Board deny rezoning of more than 12 acres on Fontaine Avenue. If applicant Wes Bradley’s request passes, the property, now zoned as Highway Commercial, could be rezoned as R-15 Residential. Translated, that means it could become condominiums for college kids. The request, which earned a 2-2 vote from the Planning Commission, received even less support from the Supes.

Colorado resident Larry Burnett, Bradley’s representative, requested a deferral from the Board—heavy snowfall back home had held up the arrival of his paperwork. Hardly sympathetic, the Supes moved to hold the public hearing anyway.

“I believe what I’m proposing is not a detriment, but a benefit,” said Burnett, denying the accusation that the 112-unit building would house ’Hoos only. He also delivered a veiled threat: If you don’t approve the condos, I can always put a hotel on the property instead (If he felt an urge to stick out his tongue and wag his hands behind his ears, he resisted it).

Regina Carlson, a 16-year resident of Buckingham Circle, was the first to express serious anxiety.

“These units will appeal only to the student condominium market,” she said. “I’m so concerned about the loud music, the parties, the reckless driving on Fontaine Avenue.”

“We’re stewards of our land,” said another 16-year resident, “not student housing.”

One ninth-grade student gave the Supes a lesson on the wildlife near his house, followed by, “…now there will be beer cans all over the woods where college kids have been drinking.”

Other audience members had a different question for the Board: What ever happened to the neighborhood model?

“Here you’re provided with an opportunity to promote good growth,” said 15-year resident Ruth Goldeen. “Do it.”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker explained that the Board doesn’t have the power to redesign buildings, only to approve or reject them.

Although Supervisor Sally Thomas moved to defer a motion until Burnett weighs his options, residents concluded a transient hotel would be better than semi-permanent students.

“With a hotel,” said one resident, “they’ll be gone by morning.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

 

What’s a name worth?

In a 3-2 vote, council puts the price at $2,280

History is big business around here, which perhaps explains why the City recently paid top dollar to get its name on the Historical Society’s marquee.

Last week, City Council approved a deal with the Albemarle County Historical Society, changing that organization’s name to include “Charlottesville.” In exchange, Council will cut the rent the Society pays for the McIntire Building at 200 Second St. N.E. by 95 percent to $120 per year from $2,400.

The City has long wanted the Historical Society, founded in 1940, to include Charlottesville in its title. Typically, such groups are named for counties, says ACHS president Garrett Smith. Virginia’s unusual political system divides cities and surrounding counties into separate legal and political jurisdictions.

“I don’t think the people who established the society were aware of the legal technicalities,” says Smith.

One of City Councilor Blake Caravati’s last acts as Mayor in 2002 was sealing the name-change deal with the Historical Society. He says the “economic synergy” of the change is well worth $2,280 in lost annual rent, but some Councilors were not convinced.

“It’s a budget issue,” says Councilor Rob Schilling. “It’s a bad deal, and I think we’re sending the wrong message to citizens that we’re not looking out for their dollars.”

Councilor Kevin Lynch agreed. In an unusual alliance, he and Schilling voted against the deal, which passed 3-2 anyway.

At Downtown’s “fair market” rent of $15.86 per square foot, the McIntire Building could yield about $69,000 a year for Charlottesville, according to the City Manager’s office.

But when Paul McIntire donated the land and the building to the City in 1919, it was on the condition that the building would always be used for a library. When the Historical Society library moved in 10 years ago, the City contributed about $50,000 toward a $375,000 renovation project for the building.

Historical library Society librarian Margaret O’Bryant says many of the 2,500 people who visited the library last year were interested in family history and City architecture records. She supports the name change, but says Charlottesville shouldn’t worry about getting its share of the limelight. The local Chamber of Commerce and realtors’ association, for example, she points out, each include “Charlottesville,” but not “Albemarle” in their names.

“The City came out of Albemarle, but Charlottesville will always be a recognizable name,” says O’Bryant. “Albemarle is the name that needs to be protected.”––John Borgmeyer

 

 

Savings and groan

Bank investors gripe about kiting scheme  

Last week, the most noteworthy business story in town involved a $2.4 million check-kiting scheme perpetrated by John C. Reid, former CEO of Ivy Industries, against locally owned Albemarle First Bank. “It was just like somebody coming through the front door with a gun,” bank CEO Thomas Boyd Jr. told C-VILLE.

In a panic sell-off by stockholders on March 13, the day the scheme was revealed, the bank’s stock plummeted to a low of $6.84 from $9.78 per share before closing at $7.10—a 27 percent drop in value. In contrast to skittish investors, depositors seemed to remain confident. Industry analysts and bank management expressed belief that the bank would recover.

“Check kiting isn’t that rare,” says Joe Maloney, a bank and thrift editor at SNL Financial, a Charlottesville firm that tracks the activities of financial institutions. “It happens with some regularity in the banking industry. It’s typical that when check-kiting schemes are released to the public there’s a panic sell-off at least for a short time.”

Check kiting occurs when checks are drawn against accounts at two or more banks that do not contain sufficient funds to cover the check. The Ivy Industries scheme involved accounts at Albemarle First and SunTrust Bank. Albemarle First has filed a $10 million lawsuit in Albemarle County Court against Ivy Industries and four of its officers.

For the small bank, which has assets of about $96 million, the fraud could be a relatively large nuisance, however. “It is kind of a problem,” Maloney says, “because this company is pretty young as far as banks go, and it hasn’t historically made a lot of money.”

Albemarle First Bank was founded in 1998 and went public two years later, with an initial offering price of $10 per share, according to SEC filings. The stock reached a high of $10.85 per share on July 11, 2002, meaning that initial stockholders have yet to see a significant return on their investment. The bank has posted a quarterly profit only two times since its IPO, most recently in the fourth quarter of 2002.

But investors won’t be expecting profitable news to come out of the current quarter. “It’s going to generate a first-quarter loss [this year] of $1.94 a share,” says Steve Marascia, a stock analyst at Anderson and Strudwick, citing information from Albemarle First management. He notes that the $2.4 million kiting loss drops shareholder equity to $7.6 million from about $10 million.

Not that the kiting should raise doubts about Albemarle First’s viability, according to some. “The bank should continue to function, and it doesn’t bring solvency into question,” Marascia says.

Indeed, Boyd said he expects his company “will be a good corporate citizen for a long time to come.”

Bank patron Clem Samford said on a recent trip to the Route 29N branch from Ruckersville that the news spurred no anxiety in him. “As a customer, no. If I were a stockholder, yes,” he said.

By March 20 shareholders seemed to be coming around as Albemarle First’s stock rebounded slightly, closing at $8.08 per share.

And Boyd was looking toward the future. “We’re very upbeat,” he said. “Nobody was killed, but it was the same kind of thing.

“We’re out looking for new business.”

—Aaron Carico

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On February 26, UVA sophomore and Student Council presidential candidate Daisy Lundy was assaulted in what police described as a possibly racially motivated attack.

By that evening, a cluster of emails and outpourings about the widely reported incident had been dispatched campus-wide, including this confronting question by undergraduate Tiffany Chatman: “Still think racism doesn’t exist at UVA?”

For Corey D.B. Walker, Associate Professor of African-American Studies at UVA and Director of the Center for the Study of Local Knowledge, the answer is, yes, of course racism still exists at UVA.

“I am not surprised that it has degenerated to this,” he says. “I am surprised at the severity of it.”

University Police Captain Michael Coleman reported that an 18- to 20-year-old heavyset white male shoved Lundy’s head against her car early on the morning of February 26. Afterwards Lundy, who was involved in a run-off election for Student Council President, reportedly told friends the attacker said, “No one wants a nigger to be president.” If Lundy wins the now-postponed election, she would be the first black woman to lead the UVA student body.

The immediate response to the assault was a flurry of activity. There was an impromptu meeting of students, faculty and staff, dubbed a “Community Reflection and Response.” A $2,000 reward was posted for anyone with information leading to a conviction.

In a mass email from President John T. Casteen III to everyone connected with UVA, he wrote, “The decades-long efforts to make this University an authentic cross-section of what we are as a people, and the hard-earned progress made toward this goal, are too important to be cast aside by some senseless acts.”

Despite Casteen’s assertions, progress in University race relations remains elusive, say critics.

Chatman, who is a member of UVA’s Black Student Alliance and an outreach group called “Building Legacies and Connecting Classes,” says the racism on campus is shrewd—not usually so overt as Lundy’s attack. “The subtle way that people are generally unfriendly to me…” she says, “I really get this feeling that I’m not exactly welcome here.”

In her courses, for instance, Chatman says, the soft racism is at its prime.

“In my French class last semester, I was so uncomfortable,” she says, “that I was afraid to speak up, afraid to make a mistake. It killed my performance. When we would divide into groups, not one person would walk up to me to be my partner.”

Indeed, racism has become a familiar reality to many African Americans at UVA. Last December, fraternities Zeta Psi and Kappa Alpha were acquitted of disorderly conduct after photos circulated of two white men dressed in tennis skirts and blackface as Venus and Serena Williams. Last spring, students at the UVA Architecture School hosted a “Medallion party.” The legend on the invitations? “Callin’ all chicken heads and thugs.”

“The party was clearly making fun of us,” says Chatman.

Walker believes change won’t come until UVA is more racially diverse. “Less than 2 percent of this faculty is African American,” he says. “What is that alone teaching?”

Indeed, undergraduate black enrollment has decreased to 1,436 in 2002 from 1,698 in 1991. And for the 2002-2003 school year, out of 18,250 students at the University overall, 9.3 percent is black, according to UVA statistics.

Still, Walker says the tense racial situation on campus has its roots in the misconception that race problems don’t exist. “The unwillingness to face it,” says Walker, “only advances it. The faculty must be charged with teaching the unvarnished racial history of our area.”

During the “Community Reflection and Response” meeting, UVA Dean of Students Penny Rue had much the same response.

“Goodwill and trust have been eroded here,” she said, making the question not how to get it back, but was it ever there in the first place?

Walker suspects what’s required is a systematic change from the senior administration down. “We need new strategies in thinking, more research of the continuing significance of race in our society,” he says. But when asked to put a timeline on when some new strategies might start to pay off, his answer is grim.

“Definitely not in my lifetime,” he says, “that’s for sure.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

 

You go, G.I. Joe!

Campus hawks rally ‘round the flag

On February 24 area Republicans gathered in front of the UVA Rotunda to rally around one message: It’s high time we stopped protesting the start of a war already in progress, and started supporting President Bush and our armed forces.

After a brief prayer by Reverend Peter Way, who once held Republican Rob Bell’s seat for the 58th District in the House of Delegates, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The succession of Republican speakers began, from Bell to Matthew Rubin, head of ‘Hoos for Israel.

“How many of you support the war on terrorism,” Keith Drake, Chairman of the Albemarle County GOP asked the riled crowd. “We’re already at war. We’ve been at war since September 11.”

“We will show our support for the military,” said Ben Beliles, President of the UVA College Republicans, who organized the rally, “which is preparing to go into harm’s way to defend the freedoms we are all privileged to enjoy.”

The rally, a protest opposing recent anti-war demonstrations, drew more than 100 area Republicans armed with signs such as “Fight for peace” and “God bless President Bush! God bless our troops!” The Rotunda stairs, enshrouded with a large banner signed by College Republicans and members of the rally, read “We Support Bush!”

The overall sentiment was clear: UVA College Republicans stand in support to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, even if it means going against the grain.

“I am here today because my brother’s in the Navy,” said College Republican Kristin Hendee, “and he tells me of how disconcerted they all are with the protesting. He thought it was amazing I was coming here today to show my support.”

Lindsay Brubaker, another UVA Republican added, “We’re here to express our willingness to support Bush in this endeavor.”

The pro-Bush stance wasn’t the only message delivered during the line of Republican speeches, however. Four UVA Democrats (one with a Burberry handbag in tow) came bearing signs of peace and asking for more time for inspections, not war.

“When I saw the pro-Bush rally going on,” said undergraduate Devon Knudsen, “I wanted to come and see what the [Republican] positions were. Then I realized I didn’t want anyone there to think I was supporting what was being said.”

That’s when Knudsen grabbed a yellow poster board and marker and squatted on the sidelines to scrawl a statement of her own.

“I don’t want [the speakers] to get away with this without seeing another side to think about,” she said.

U.S. Senator George Allen couldn’t attend the rally in person, so someone read a letter from the former Republican governor: “Senator Allen says he is completely behind our troops and our President. Saddam Hussein has no right to be the leader of any country.”

Congressman Virgil Goode, drawing continuous clapping and cheering from the crowd, painted his own down-home view of Saddam Hussein.

“I would love to see that Saddam Hussein has decided to destroy all these weapons of mass destruction,” he said, “but it’s kind of like being in the room with a rattlesnake. Are you just going to wait until it bites you?”

Goode, ending his speech with thanks to those who attended the rally in support, also took a minute to thank the anti-war demonstrators.

“I want to say thanks to those who came today in opposition,” he said. “This is the home of the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But I dare say, your free speech wouldn’t be welcome in Iraq.”—Kathryn E. Goodson

 

 

You have been disconnected

But not everybody has gone surfin’ with Wi-Fi Internet

There was a time when there was only one seat in the house for Downtown regulars seeking Internet access and a cup o’ joe—the lonely workstation at the back of Mudhouse. Caroline Cobb would head there at lunchtime to check her e-mail. Same for Mike Winn, a computer-less continuing-ed student at UVA. But now, thanks to a tech trend known as Wi-Fi, Web users have their choice among the 40 seats in the coffeehouse. If they’re willing to invest an initial $50 for a wireless modem and then shell out $25 per month for service, that is.

Wi-Fi, or “wireless fidelity” access, has been a mainstay in bigger cities for the past couple of years. It’s creeping into Charlottesville, not only at Mudhouse, with several providers promising access elsewhere soon. In the case of Mudhouse, Web surfers will need to create an account with the wireless firm Airpath, which charges $25 per month or $3 per hour. Once established though, users can access the satellite Web service anywhere that Airpath, or its partners, provide service (called “hotspots”). Sounds good, but right now the only other Airpath location in Charlottesville is the Doubletree Hotel near Sam’s Club on Route 29N, not exactly the stomping grounds of coffeehouse regulars.

Internet junkies with slightly broader roaming instincts may want to wait until April when Ntelos will begin to offer unlimited wireless Internet for $50 per month. The $100 set-up fee will get you going and includes the external modem. Initial coverage in Charlottesville will be only “south of Rio Road” but, according to a rep, that should expand over time.

Still, Mudhouse’s Wi-Fi service seems custom made for Raman Pfaff, ExploreLearning’s chief architect, who says he “lives in the wireless world.” But, despite his assertion that “whenever I’m here, I’m online,” Pfaff says that after the free trial period is over, he won’t be signing up. His thinking is that since Mudhouse already pays for Internet access, it may as well provide free wireless access.

Mudhouse is not the first coffeehouse to get into the Wi-Fi game. Nationally, Starbucks has partnered with T-Mobile to provide hotspots in all its stores. The newest Charlottesville Starbucks on Pantops already has equipment in place, but, according to manager Sheri Craft, it won’t go live until the other two area stores are wired and ready to go. Access at Starbucks will not be free, either, although rates are not yet set.

“Free” is the going rate at Everyday Café, also on Pantops, but the Internet service is not wireless, it’s T1 Ethernet. Still, it might satisfy somebody like Corey Brady, a UVA graduate student who says she chooses a café “more and more based on whether Internet access is available.”

But free wireless is on the horizon locally. John Leschke will be opening a new Ivy Road café, Java Java, in April. There he will offer 14 wired Ethernet ports and up to 14 wireless connections. And the former UVA professor doesn’t plan to charge for the Web. “I’m a coffee shop!” he says.

Clearly, demand for Wi-Fi is on the rise, if for no other reason than to raise Charlottesville’s hip quotient. (Imagine the e-mail: “Hey bro, I’m sipping a café breve and smoking an American Spirit out on the Mall. Gotta run.”) Without any advertising, 25 people signed up in just two days for the Mudhouse service with about 40 total to date.—James Weissman

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The $10 million principle of the thing

After tears, jeers and more tears, WVIR is ordered to pay up for its cracked reporting

“Thirty-some years of my ambition to make something out of my life has been destroyed,” Sheckler wrote in court documents prior to the trial. “I have suffered so much mental anguish over this I don’t know how I stay alive.” On Friday, May 23, a City Circuit Court jury vindicated his anguish and gave him a reason to live—more precisely, a $10 million award in compensatory damages.

A Federal grand jury indicted Sheckler in March 2001 on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, although he was later acquitted. Novice reporter Melinda Semadeni of WVIR covered the indictment and falsely claimed, “DEA and JADE forces had confiscated 50 grams of crack cocaine and 500 grams of powder cocaine in a March 2001 raid on the home and business of Jesse Sheckler.” This single, erroneous sentence formed the crux of the multi-million dollar suit.

Sheckler alleges that WVIR’s report laid financial waste to his eponymous garage and used car business in Stanardsville and, according to his psychiatrist, left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. WVIR counters that broadcasts of Sheckler’s drug indictment, regardless of factual errors, would have had the same effect on his reputation and livelihood and, further, that a link between their broadcasts and the plaintiff’s ailments cannot be proven. News of the fabricated raid and drug confiscation aired on April 6 and 7, and again on October 29 and 30, 2001. No retraction has been issued, nor is one likely, since News Director Dave Cupp testified of one vague recollection in his 23 years at WVIR of issuing an on-air retraction.

The testimony of VCU mass communications professor Ted J. Smith opened Murray’s case, and in it, Smith stated that the most “bone-chilling” call a newsroom can receive, short of contact from the FCC, is a lawyer’s call regarding the facts in a story. Sheckler’s criminal attorney in 2001, Denise Lunsford, would testify that she contacted WVIR about their errors, although they never seriously addressed them. Murray made Smith’s claim his refrain, repeating—and savoring—the word “bone-chilling” almost hourly.

Murray pushed his next witnesses toward discrediting Semadeni. Her own video deposition rendered a barrage of equivocations, such as “I don’t recall” or “I really don’t recall” or “I believe so.” The hedging abruptly stopped when she was asked where she obtained the drug bust information. She remembered distinctly, it seems, her lack of fault. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Pagel, she said. So the passing of the buck began.

Here’s a brief outline of the buck’s progress (don’t forget your trail of bread crumbs): Attorney Lunsford complained to Semadeni via telephone on April 7. When asked, Semadeni said Pagel was her source, but she referred Lunsford to Greene County reporter Nordia Higgins. Lunsford spoke to Higgins on April 9, but Higgins referred her back to Semadeni. Higgins and Semadeni exchanged e-mails. A WVIR employee passed a vague version of the complaint to News Director Cupp, who then told Station Manager Harold Wright. Then, nothing from either side until March 2002.

Enter Attorney Benjamin Dick. Dick testified in a later deliberation, which the jury did not hear, that he called Wright in March 2002 representing Sheckler. Dick’s inquiry into retraction elicited Wright’s purported response, “We’re not interested in a retraction. Go ahead and sue. We’ve got the best lawyer money can buy, and we stand by our story.” Presumably, although he would not comment, Attorney Albro is seeking the best writ of appeal money can buy.

When Sheckler, a big man with rough hands and a pencil moustache, took the stand next, Murray asked him how he felt when he saw WVIR’s report. Sheckler paused, bowed his head and, sobbing, replied, “I fell to the floor.” News Director Dave Cupp appeared moved, reporters Nordia Higgins and Semadeni listened with a flat, almost smug, affect and reporter Pedro Echevarria appeared to be nodding off. The plaintiff wept profusely all three days.

“What did people say to you?” Murray asked.

“It’s gotta be true. It’s on TV,” Sheckler replied, and a later string of Greene County witnesses seemed to confirm his assertion.

Sheckler’s wife and two daughters also testified through more tears.

“I don’t go out at night,” his wife Becky said, crying, “because I don’t wanna see people looking at me.”

 

Albro’s defense began with DEA agent Stan Burroughs, a man built like a linebacker. Burroughs arrested not only Sheckler, but also Sam Rose, to whom Sheckler loaned the $37,000 that brought his indictment. Convicted in October 2001, Rose drove lavish vehicles and made promises of lavish paybacks and—surprise!—dealt at least one kilo of cocaine per month. Burroughs said that Sheckler denied any financial relationship with Rose when confronted, telling him that anyone who made that claim “was a liar.”

Murray cross-examined Burroughs and, gathering his papers to finish, asked him, “Sometimes you get the wrong man, don’t you?”

“No,” Burroughs replied.

Leaning forward, Murray said, “You still think he’s guilty, don’t you?”

“Guilty as sin,” he said.

Albro objected, the judge sought order and Sheckler’s family gasped in disbelief.

To defend WVIR, Albro trumpeted erroneous reports regarding Sheckler’s indictment printed in both the Greene County Record, a newspaper with a circulation of 5,000, and the Daily Progress, papers whose representatives claimed to have acquired their inaccurate information from Pagel as well. Neither print report contained the fabricated drug bust.

“Rumor was spreading like wildfire” about Sheckler’s drug involvements, Record reporter Allen Browning testified.

In a coup de grace, Albro called Progress reporter Keri Schwab, who covered Sheckler’s indictment on April 11, 2001. Earlier, the grave and hard-hitting Pagel, who drafted Sheckler’s indictment, testified for the plaintiff that WVIR’s Semadeni visited his office and sobbed. Semadeni swore she had never seen Pagel until his testimony. Schwab admitted that it was she who had visited the Assistant US Attorney’s office and broke down in tears. The confusion and mistaken identity seems to speak to a low official regard for the press: one reporter’s the same as another.

Albro argued that Sheckler had an established history for his gastrointestinal problems, anxiety and depression, and that his arrest and criminal trial caused most of the harm. His witness, Dr. Bruce Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist, cited a litany of doctor’s reports filled with diagnoses and treatments of the very ailments Sheckler said WVIR caused, but which inconveniently predated the broadcasts and seemed to be linked to the anxiety of his criminal trial.

Asked by Albro for his professional opinion of the broadcasts’ direct harm to Sheckler, Cohen said with finality, “It is my opinion that you can’t come to an opinion.”

Poison dropped into the edge of a pool will eventually kill all life in the pool,” Murray said in his closing argument, drawing a metaphor to the continuing effects of defamation that goes uncorrected.

“You wanna talk about stress?” asked Albro in his closing, in a nod to Cohen’s testimony. “Would you want Stan Burroughs and Bruce Pagel after you?” If a retraction would have solved everything, he told the jury, then Sheckler should have asked for one, but since he didn’t, he deserved no compensation.

The jury disagreed.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Murray told C-VILLE in a post-verdict interview. “This man was terribly damaged by what WVIR had broadcast…. Maybe $10 million is too low,” he mused. “There is no price that can be placed on a man’s reputation.”

To win compensatory damages, a plaintiff must prove negligence, defined as deviating from a common standard of practice, according to defamation expert Tom Spahn, a partner in the firm McGuireWoods.

“It’s not uncommon for plaintiffs to win against media defendants,” Spahn told C-VILLE. “It’s very difficult to retain those on appeal. Nearly all of them are overturned. The appellate courts are more inclined in a First Amendment case to look at what happened, and most well-publicized verdicts are reversed and thrown out.”

“The money was not the issue,” Sheckler told C-VILLE. “It was the issue, but not for me personally….”

Sheckler interprets his trial as a sort of crusade.

“It’s gonna get in their pocketbook and sting the hell out of them,” he said of the $10 million award. “If we destroy that…we haven’t done our job…[and] I didn’t do what God put me here to do.”

And if the jury had not found in his favor?

“It would have completely destroyed my life,” Sheckler said over the phone between tears. “And I think I would have gone. I don’t think I would have stayed here. Even though the case is over with, I still have all kinds of dreams, nightmares, can’t sleep….”

Publishers, take note: This is not the last that will be heard from the suddenly lugubrious Sheckler.

“I’m gonna be writing a book about it. They definitely destroyed my life. It’s a mess,” he said. “You see, I’ve got to live with that for the rest of my life. At least I’ve got a chance to live now, whereas before, I don’t think I did.” —Aaron Carico

 

 

Double the fun

Local filmmaker seeks twins to shoot  

“The idea just occurred to me—what if these Siamese twins that were separated found that they missed each other, and could they find someone to surgically reattach them?” asks local artist and filmmaker Russell Richards. “That’s basically what the story is about, it’s about conjoined twins who are severed, and who later try to get themselves reattached because they decided they liked things better the way they were before.”

That’s the premise of Richards’ new short film, tentatively titled Separation Anxiety, and the 33-year-old is anxiously scouring the streets of Charlottesville for twins, or even people who look a lot alike, to star.

If it seems a slightly bizarre, slightly comic, slightly unsettling sort of topic, that’s intentional. Richards says his films feature “a grotesquely over-the-top sort of humor.” This sensibility is on abundant display in his previous work, fetish (the film was shown at the Vinegar Hill Film Festival), a nifty little black-and-white number that treats the human foot with about as much care as it can be treated, with a twist.

He works fast—Richards anticipates wrapping his newest project up in a couple of days, after the cast is assembled. “I just need a day to shoot interiors and a day to shoot exteriors, and a couple of fittings because I need to design some costumes for the conjoined twins scenes,” he says.

The final version will be about five minutes long or shorter, the latest in a series of what Richards calls “short, perfectly wrought little films.”

Richards, who has a studio at McGuffey Art Center and supports himself as a printmaker and sculptor, is looking to make filmmaking his “principal career.” He cites directors such as David Cronenburg, Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam as influences, “filmmakers who have kind of an imaginative flair or make a personal statement.”

Apparently, he already has something in common with many of the greats he admires: a dash of hubris.

“I’ve decided recently that filmmaking is just a real talent of mine,” he says. “I think I’m really good at it, and I think that it might provide me with a more certain future than art.”

After severing and reattaching twins, what’s next?

“I do have a feature film script that I’m working on now, called Lust of the Monster. It’s about a Creature from the Black Lagoon type of monster who goes to Hollywood and becomes a movie star.”—Paul Henderson

 

 

Resale for sale

In the world of gently used, twice is no longer nice

Pamela Juers has tried everything to attract customers to her children’s resale consignment shop. Every morning she drags a few select items—strollers, clothes racks, wooden toys—outside to attract visitors, only to roll them back inside by evening. She’s even taken a massive yellow “Kids Resale” sign and hung it upside down along the sidewalk in front of her store. But with the exception of a passer-by who regularly comes in to notify her, “Your sign’s upside down, you know,” nothing seems to be working.

When Juers opened My Silly Goose exactly two years ago at the Seminole Commons shopping center near Forest Lakes, business was booming. Each month sales grew by more than 10 percent, and on busy days Juers would see upwards of 30 customers. Last November, however, her business dropped off by more than 50 percent.

“Maybe the newness wore off, I don’t know,” says Juers. “But after November, business just stopped, and never, ever recovered.”

Juers isn’t the only one to feel the pain of the faltering consignment world lately. In April, the Junior League’s Opportunity Shop announced it would be closing its doors by the end of that month. And Evelyn Davison, co-owner of the children’s resale and consignment store Heaven to 7 on Zan Road says that although her location has been open only one year, she’s already feeling the pinch.

“I have terrific days, I have good days,” says Davison, “and then I have days I only get by.”

Although Davison and Juers think the problem is partly rooted in a local mentality to buy upscale, shiny and new, not everyone agrees. Tamar Pozzi, proprietor of Glad Rags on Commonwealth Avenue, says she’s had her best year in recent history, partly due to shoppers wanting to spend less in a slowing economy, and partly because she refuses to carry hard-to-move products such as children’s wear.

“When I started out, I was selling kids clothes and I gave up within one year,” says Pozzi. She then turned her focus to women’s clothes and jewelry. “Children’s resale is a very hard row to hoe—you have to sell a whole lot, for only a little money,” she says.

Still, some blame the recent failings of area consignment shops on the mindset of the general public that resale shopping is more hobby than necessity.

“The first time we really felt the pinch was around this past Christmastime,” says Marie Donella, who’s been running Nelly’s Place consignments on the Downtown Mall for a decade. “The department stores were offering such huge sales. It affected consignment.” Donella, by the way, also closed shop—perhaps temporarily—last month. She is uncertain if she’ll reopen after summer.

For Juers, she knows that if business at My Silly Goose doesn’t pick up soon, she will be forced, like others, to close her doors.

“I think if people just knew that I was so close to closing that they would come in,” she says.

Glad Rags’ Pozzi believes things might be turning around, based on her store’s performance. But Juers, who plans to hang onto her children’s resale boutique until her lease expires next year, isn’t quite as optimistic.

“Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘Geez, I wonder what ever happened to that store?’”—Kathryn E. Goodson