Human Rights Commission update, ABC still under fire, and an Osher grant: News briefs

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Diantha McKeel, an Independent running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, gathers with supporters. Photo courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow. Diantha McKeel, an Independent running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, gathers with supporters. Photo courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Check c-ville.com daily and pick up a copy of the paper Tuesday to for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’ve had an eye on for the past week.

CORRECTION:

In a brief about campaign finances of Albemarle County Board of Supervisors candidates that ran last week, we misidentified Jack Jouett district candidate Diantha McKeel as a Democrat. McKeel is running as an Independent.

Human Rights Commission application now open 

After months of debate and discussion about race and how to address discrimination in Charlottesville, the city is now moving forward with filling the nine spots on the Human Rights Commission. City Council approved the proposal for the commission at the end of May, and a city press release sent on July 25 announced that applications are now being accepted.

The commission will act as an advisory body to City Council in matters pertaining to human and civil rights, the press release said, and members will be expected to serve as public leaders.

For more information on the Human Rights Commission or to apply, check out Boards and Commissions section of the city’s website at www.charlottesville.org. Preferential treatment will be given to residents of the City of Charlottesville, and applications are due by Friday, August 23.

Investigation of Virginia ABC continues 

More problems are developing for the department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, as state records obtained by The Daily Progress highlight several incidents of misconduct by employees. High-ranking ABC officials violated department policy by using state vehicles to commute to and from work, a practice only permitted if officials might need to respond at any moment to job-related emergencies. In another policy violation, an ABC special invest-
igator used the department’s criminal database for personal reasons, running a background check unrelated to the department’s mission.

As evidence of misconduct comes to light, adding to the general air of clumsiness that has defined the agency in the press since its mishandling of the botched arrest of a UVA student in April, some voices are calling for big changes. Delegate David Toscano told The Daily Progress he’s received complaints from constituents about an apparent culture problem at the agency, and State Senator Creigh Deeds has introduced legislation that considers shifting alcohol control responsibilities to the Virginia State Police.

ABC has made minor operational changes since the story of Elizabeth Daly broke in June, like requiring a uniformed officer to be present when plainclothes agents suspect a person of underage possession. Virginia State Police are conducting an external review of the incident of April 11th, when Daly spent the night in jail after fleeing from ABC agents who confronted Daly and her roommates in a grocery store parking lot, mistaking a pack of sparking water for a case of beer.

Local brain injury center closes 

A local brain trauma facility for veterans was closed by the federal government due to rising costs and low patient volume. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on East High Street, which opened in 1999, treated current and former military members with traumatic brain injuries, helping them return to duty or transition to a civilian lifestyle.

A spokesperson for the national organization, Kathleen Taylor, told The Daily Progress that the center needed over $4 million in upgrades to meet Department of Defense standards.

Senator Tim Kaine criticized the closing as the consequence of federal budget cuts, saying he had “serious concerns” about the burden it would place on local veterans in need of immediate care.

The center released its last patient in May, and most of the staff left in June.

Osher Foundation grants $1 million to local continuing education program for seniors 

The local branch of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a national education network for “seasoned adults,” will continue to expand over the next several years, thanks to a new million dollar grant from the Osher Foundation. Recognized by the UVA Board of Visitors as a University-related foundation, the continuing education program for seniors will offer 72 courses this fall after attracting more than 800 students last semester. OLLI has continued to grow since it began in 2001 with 17 courses.

Available courses range from “The Political Economy of Haiti” to “Sand and Imagination: Glassmaking.” Interest in the program is booming, OLLI president Joan Kammire told NBC29, thanks to a large contingent of “well-traveled, well-read” retirees in Charlottesville and Staunton.

“They love learning and teaching with other people who are of like minds,” Kammire said.

She said the million dollars will go towards salaries, office space, and operational costs for years to come.

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