In brief: Albemarle’s climate plan, monument case breathes new life, Brackney pushback, and more

Inching closer

Albemarle County staff is recommending the Board of Supervisors consider adopting an ambitious climate goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, aligning themselves with the same goals as the city.

Last month, county staff gave the Board of Supervisors a second update on the first phase of their Climate Action Plan. The current phase focuses on higher-level, community-wide initiatives and immediately actionable efforts to locally address climate change. The second phase will iterate detailed strategies within different sectors to minimize the county’s carbon footprint.

The input process for the Phase 1 action plan began in February. Narissa Turner, climate program coordinator for the county, predicts the finalized plan will reach the supervisor’s desk for a vote by the end of 2019.

“There hasn’t been a lot of refining, or any digging into the details, cost analysis, anything like that,” Turner said. “We’re not ready to call it a draft plan.”

In the past, the county has had a checkered relationship with climate initiatives.

The board voted in 2011 to end its membership with the Cool Counties initiative—a non-binding commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The same year, the board left the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an organization dedicated to local sustainable development.

The county recommitted itself to supporting local climate action in 2017, later adopting the “We Are Still In” declaration—a commitment to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement—in 2015.

According to Turner, the Climate Action Plan is the first of its kind in the county.

“The plan moving forward is to refine and do a gap analysis [and see if] are there any major strategies missing in the list of recommendations we currently have.” Turner explained. “Really turning this list into something that actually looks like a climate action plan.”

Equity emphasis

Charlottesville City Council is considering the creation of a department of equity and inclusion to coordinate city- wide equity efforts.  At council’s meeting on October 7, Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy presented a report on the costs of creating the department.

The City Manager’s Advisory Committee on Organizational Equity studied data on city employees by race, job category, and salary, and reviewed equity measures in other communities. It found that black employees make on average 17 percent less per hour than white employees, considering wages overall—not the pay of people with the same job.

The committee made two recommendations for the city: prepare its staff by providing organizational context for a culture change, and create an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, costing an estimated $42,080 and $155,101, respectively. The total $197,181 would come from the Council Strategic Initiatives account, which has $444,560. Of that amount, $159,860.97 is unallocated funding and $284,700 is funding previously dedicated but not spent on equity package items.

Quote of the week

If you eat anything that eats hay then there’s a problem.Elaine Lidholm with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who spoke with WVTF about the drought that saw several rural counties experience their driest September on record

In brief

Back in the ring

A little less than a month after a judge issued a permanent injunction forbidding the city from removing its Confederate statues, Charlottesville City Council voted October 7 to appeal the circuit court decision. Judge Richard Moore ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but has yet to determine how much the city must pay for its opponents’ legal fees. The next hearing in the original case is scheduled for October 15.

Development decisions

City Council also voted on several zoning and development plans at its meeting October 7. It approved the Hillsdale Place project, signing off on the redevelopment of the Kmart site at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 that a rendering suggests could include a Target. In a 4-1 decision, City Council also approved a special use permit for luxury apartment building Six Hundred West Main that will allow it to expand into the former site of University Tire next door.

Under fire

A petition is calling for the resignation of Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney after she testified to Congress that “any weapon that can be used to hunt individuals should be banned.” Brackney spoke September 25 on behalf of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, adding, “what stops a bad person with a gun is keeping a gun out of their hands to start with.” As of press time, the petition had over 1,400 signatures.

600-mile controversy

The U.S. Supreme Court decided October 4 that it would hear arguments on the decision of a Richmond appeals court that ruled the U.S. Forest Service acted outside its authority when it approved a $7.5 billion pipeline project led by Dominion Energy that would run underneath the Appalachian Trail between Augusta and Nelson counties. SCOTUS is expected to hear the case in 2020, with The Daily Progress reporting that a decision could come as early as June.

Slap on the wrist

Frequent downtown sign holder and protestor Mason Pickett was found guilty of a misdemeanor assault and battery charge October 4, resulting in a $100 fine. The longtime Wes Bellamy critic, known for scrawling obscenities on the Free Speech Wall, engaged in an altercation with a man protesting the Robert E. Lee statue on August 12 of this year, but the exact details haven’t been released. Pickett was also handed two assault charges for two incidents in 2017, but was eventually found not guilty.

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