The real power struggle in Charlottesville, as a reporter for The New York Times astutely observed in a story about Mayor Nikuyah Walker last year, is not between left and right. It’s “between those who want Charlottesville to go back to the way it was before the rally, when a Google search brought up “happiest city in America”…and those like Ms. Walker who say that the city must make sweeping changes to address deep-seated racial and economic disparities.”
Of course, the pull between progressive change and the status quo is one that existed long before the summer of 2017 here, in a liberal college town that’s nonetheless conservative in the “small c” sense.
Lately, the will for change seems to have some momentum. Following a ProPublica story that brought national attention to longstanding racial inequities in city schools, the school system hired its first supervisor of equity and inclusion and has announced it will overhaul its gifted program.
On June 11, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a church rezoning in Belmont that would bring affordable apartments for the disabled, over neighborhood concerns about traffic and noise.
And in the recent primary election, progressive candidates Sally Hudson and Michael Payne, both of whom described themselves as community activists, beat establishment candidates Kathy Galvin and Lloyd Snook.
On the other hand, only 19 percent of registered voters cast a ballot for City Council. The statues are still up, a reminder, as Maurice Cox told us, of “unfinished business.”
The power list we’ve compiled this week aims to be an interesting, even entertaining read, our best take on who’s shaped the city this year. But the bigger story—of whether power is really shifting in this town—is still being written.