Noon mark: Mall to get new $25,000 clock, sundial

onarch-clock_webEd Smith's proposed timepiece and teaching tool.

Back in August 2009, the City launched a design contest for the creation of a clock on the Downtown Mall that would honor Charlottesville's relationship to its three Sister Cities and cost less than $25,000. Since then, a couple of things have changed: we've added another Sister, and it appears the clock will actually get built.

If you're having trouble keeping track, the Sister cities would be Besan§on, France; Pleven, Bulgaria; Poggio a Caiano, Italy; and the newcomer, Winneba, Ghana.

At the time of the contest announcement, officials weren't sure if the winning design would get built, a reminder of the 2007 design contest that cost $150,000 in taxpayer funds to generate ideas for the development of the Water Street parking lots where nothing ever got built.

In November 2009, a jury of architects, artists, and business people selected a winning clock: a 12-foot tall granite obelisk called the "Meridian Clock." Envisioned by local designer Edward P. Smith and headed for a location between the Transit Center and City Hall, it would include various timepieces including a noon mark, a simple sundial to note each day's noon.

"I'm an amateur astronomer and geographer," says Smith, who took home the $1,500 prize. "That summer I had been messing around with types of noon marks and using the sun to find True North when I happened to read about the competition. I thought, 'This could work.'"

In addition to second and third place designs by Paul Tassell of the Gaines Group and Michael Stoneking, who received $1,000 and $500 for their efforts, there was also a '"people's  choice" award winner by a trio of local designers–- Bill Hess, Jim Respess, and Bob Anderson–-selected after a public viewing at City Space. That one would have included four video screens showing real-time images from the four Sister Cities. Tassell's design featured a clock high atop a slim brick tower across from the Landmark hotel site, while Stoneking's clock sat atop a stout kiosk. There were ten entries in all.

Two and a half years ago, Neighborhood development chief Jim Tolbert suggested that construction costs could be covered by "left-over Downtown Mall re-bricking funds." Last month, however, City Council decided to build Smith's clock with a $25,000 budget Tolbert now says will come from a percentage of the city's public art account.

The Meridian Clock [7mg PDF] will be placed on a meridian line, a one-foot-wide strip of granite built into the brick surface that will run true North and South, all the way from the stairs of the Transit Center to a planting bed near the entrance to City Hall. It will operate like a sundial that marks winter and summer solstices, spring and fall equinoxes, and months of the year. There will also be two electric, analog clocks embedded atop of what Smith calls a "decidedly modern" and "deceptively simple" obelisk.

The structure will include seals identifying the Sister Cities, but it's the solar-powered "teaching tool" aspect that seems to thrill Smith the most.

"I'm very excited," says Smith. "While public sundials are fairly common, as far as I can tell, this type of noon mark will be wholly unique to Charlottesville."

Of course, no structural change on the Mall would be complete without the Board of Architectural Review making their mark on it.

"Ed is currently working on final details to bring back for BAR approval," says city design planner Mary Joy Scala, who says construction will begin after the 2011 Charlottesville Pavilion music season, "but it should look the same."

According to BAR vice chair Syd Knight, the Board asked Smith to "refine a few details" and offer more specific information about the color and finish of the granite and the placement of the Sister City seals.

"Once the details are resolved," says Knight, "I think this will be a very nice addition to the Mall."

Others aren't quite as impressed.

Back in 2009, frequent Mall visitor Kevin Cox thought it was a "poor way to spend 25k," but predicted that the City "would do it anyway."

"It's a silly idea for an expensive, archaic monument," says Cox today. "I think they ought to erect a smartphone tower instead." Cox also expresses concern about the "chaotic architectural themes" on the east end of the Mall and thinks the obelisk will add significantly to the overall clash of design styles.

"There are a number of bold and distinctive elements already in place at that end of the Mall," says Knight, "but I think that the basic design of the clock fits its context. One of the strengths of the Mall’s design is that it is simple and bold enough to accommodate strong ideas without being overwhelmed."

However, given the current state of the economy, Charlottesville native Toni Roades isn't especially impressed by the clock project either.

"Even if my property taxes hadn't been raised 15 percent the year that City property values plunged 15 percent, and even if my household's City tax burden didn't exceed 20 percent of my household's net income, and even if I hadn't fallen seven times in the last dozen or so years because of ill-maintained and/or non existent City sidewalks," she writes in an email, "I would be appalled at this truly World-Class waste of public money and civic capital."

Updated: 1/27/2011 10:47am


What a foolish waste of money - again! With all the electronic gadgets that most everyone carries with them, they certainly won't know how to tell the time from the proposed 'clock' unless it's displayed in a digital format. Maybe all the homeless people on the mall can use it to guess what time their next meal will be.

Squandering money on this type of nonsense seems to be par for the course in C'ville.

Strange looking transportation center, even stranger looking pavilion, a strange freedom of speech chalk wall full of pointless idiocies, then a random clock and sundial thrown in the middle of all of it to tell time when everybody has either a watch or a cell phone.....hahaha!

Funny how no matter how many protests something gets, the city is just gonna do what it's gonna do, and nobody can stop them. Even funnier how the incoming councils and department leads, no matter how seemingly diverse, male or female, different races, different backgrounds, different generational ages, **they always seem to be in line with strange spending choices and nonsensical decisions and vote or sign off on things that are not in the residents' best interests.**

Really makes you wonder, doesn't it, how it could be possible that all these various department heads and Council members, despite their diverse backgrounds, cultures and ages, could consistently be against **common sense** and **prudent spending choices** and **the City's best interests.** I mean, consistently.

You know, it's almost like it's a conspiracy or something. Really, it is. "Things that make you go hmmmm."

This type of wasteful nonsense is at least partly responsible for the Ruckersville Renaissance. People are leaving "Cville" in droves. Drive through Ruckersville one day soon. It is a boomtown! New construction everywhere, Restaurants, retail, and rentals galore. No need to waste gas to go to "town" anymore. If you lived in Ruckersville, you'd be home now.

A $25,000 phallic symbol is just what Charlottesville deserves.

Is there such a thing as a World Ass city?

There is now.

Agreed, yet another huge waste of money. Maybe the'll also put a huge sign 20 feet from it to point it our. Can't wait to see the chalk graffitti all over it, whoo hoo!

@boooo! this is how it all happens. For the convenience of candidates not having to do fund raising for their campaigns, The majority of the money comes from individuals who write checks for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. They are usually called the old heads. They usually have a fund raiser in late winter or so called a spaghetti dinner where Black people are told they can eat for free. As pay back tor this easy money, Council has to support the special projects of the main contributors: Sister Cities, Legal Aid, historic districts, roof top gardens, ex-con voting rights, etc. Notice that ASAP was given $11k to provide the city with information it has never used nor intends to.
@Barbara Myer, no actually the art fund is not as formal as that. It is really a Council guideline that says that a certain percentage of certain types of CIP funds will automatically go into this fund. It is actualy voted on every year when Council votes on the guidelines. I believe it was something put together by K. Slaughter and S. Huja and subsequently supported by Maurice Cox.
@Bill Marshall, outhouse comment is delicious.
@Sam, "...socially liberal but fiscally conservative democrats in C-ville..." we don't have any. We have learned to borrow money to buy what we want and pay for it later. That is why Council is looking for new ways of finding funds for bonds. That is why the school board (all Democrats) wants $36M to move the6th grade back in with the 7th and 8th graders, where they were in 1974. They would have us believe that it is detrimental to the education of the fifth and sixth graders if they share a building.
@Everyone, how long will Syd Knight serve on the BAR spewing out hot air? And, actually, the obelisk will be the most attractive thing on the east end of the Mall even if I don't think this is a good expenditure. Instead of spending time worrying about a clock, Council should be worrying about the debacle at Ragged Mountain. I guess these are the more important things that Council would like to spend its time on, fluff and frill. The Charlottesville voter always get exactly what he deserves. David Brown, Blake Caravati's lackey, are you listening or are you still oblivious?

I know what y'all mean. That mall, there, is full of odd people, with their **store-bought haircuts** and **spectacles**. Makes me nervous, I'll tell ya.

I have some vague recollection that some minute but set percentage of either new construction or renovation or both is requred by city law or ordinance or charter to be spent on public art. Whether this particular project should be funded or not is debatable, but I think they're mandated to spend the money on some kind of art.

The article doesn't actually say what the cost will be, just that the budget was $25,000. There is also the cost of the granite strip to consider.

I wonder what the bids are/will be, but since the budget has already been made public, the city has destroyed any negotiating position it may have had. Seems to be something they specialize in. I won't be surprised if they spend more in the end.

This is a joke right?

Thanks so much for giving the tea party and Repubs. something else to hit us over the head with. We Dems might as well get ready for another shellacking in the next election. Where are the socially liberal but fiscally conservative democrats in C-ville? We need to get more fiscally conservative or we will see George Allen back.

I like it.

But I'm sure the mall dogs will like it more.

It'll be a great pee-mail hotspot.

JeffC I am woth ylu on the new giant signs everywhere. What a waste and what giamt eyesores. Who thlught they were a good idea?

@Daniel, you're right $25k isn't that much money. Why don't you pay it and we'll catch you the next time around when a lot of money is being spent?


I agree with Dave. We really appreciate the use of your real name. We'll be in touch soon about that voting stuff.

@ Daniel

"It’s 60 cents from each of us for something that will last, I don’t know, thousands of years."

That's interesting that you put it that way. Recently I've been having thoughts of what this area will look like in 100 years. 500 years. 1000 years. What will be left?

The obelisk marker may be here, the bricks may still be around, but the rest won't.

Will the world be decimated by then? Wasteland that was bombed out by a meteor/cometary impact? Buried under 100 feet of ice and snow? Grown over with grass and forest taking the land back over again the way it should be? Some super high tech urban metropolis? But maybe under a protective dome because the atmosphere is no longer breathable or because the climate outside is not tolerable? Will this obelisk become a future archaeological ancient ruin that the next species of human tries to figure out? "They had rudimentary time tracking capabilities as evidenced by this stone fixture that works in conjunction with the sun. We theorize that this area was a gathering place of some sort based on the remnants of what appears to be bricked and paved roads that our archaelogists discovered buried under the surface." :D

Makes me wonder....

Yes, Boo!
In keeping with the lost-time-capsule theme, we could re-use the Citizen's Bank facade to create a 2001: A Space Odyssey monument...
or build black boxes around those shameful, 1920's, Jim Crow monuments.
"World Ass City" gets to me.

Biff: does that lunch counter in the bus terminal still serve goat meat? At least the visitor from Ghana would feel right at home.

Daniel: Send me $25,000.00 It isn't that much money to you, but, to me it would be a major financial help. So, howabout it?

Why isn't the City requiring that this obelisk be constructed out of sustainably harvested granite?

Antoinette you've got world-class cojones, eloquent prose, factual arguments, and deep love for Charlottesville. Count me in your fan club.

Daniel for just pennies a day you can...[fill in with any sucker-oriented commercial copy]. It's not the personal stake in the $25K; it's the amount in the aggregate that matters. Imagine the alternatives for that money! Why just think we could have a visitor from France, Bulgaria, Ghana, and Romania come here and walk up and down the mall with Dave Norris, and still have money left over for 20" x 24" sister city flags to hang in the world's least practical bus terminal.

confused easily, et al.:

Both as an individual and as a reporter who has covered voting matters in various jurisdictions, I know that there's nothing remotely unusual about retaining a voting address in the place one considers home. I did not consider myself a permanent resident of any other place I lived. I did not own property in any of those places. I did not have a family base where the bulk of my belongings were stashed in any of them. As far as I was concerned, I was just passing through -- which proved to be the case every time. And in gaps between new assignments, I did indeed live here. That's the same reason I retained my Virginia driver's license.

As you would know if you'd followed such issues over the years, people who've made the opposite decision have often found themselves the subject of legal scrutiny. For instance, at various times students have sought to register to vote where they attend school only to be told that they cannot be considered legal residents of anywhere but their hometowns. Courts continue to grapple with such matters.

(Actually, I covered such a case in College Park MD decades ago. Several University of Maryland students sued for and were granted the right to register locally. I called two of them the morning after Election Day to ask about their experiences. It turned out that both had slept through their sought after opportunity. Sic transit democracy.)

Ex White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel is in a much too interesting (from his point of view) variant of this situation at this moment. Although he moved to Washington in 2009, he continued to vote in Chicago. Now that he's gone home to run for Mayor, he's being told by a judicial panel that he's ineligible to run because his absence disqualified him as a legal resident of his native city (where he also owns a house, albeit one rented out). But there's been no mention -- even in what is indisputably one of the most combative political venues in the country -- of his having voted illegally over the last couple of years. And that's because he didn't.

I'm afraid, troops, that you just don't have a case. But don't let that prevent you from heckling me. Hey, not only do I post under my real name, I'm in the phonebook, too. Just think. You could make anonymous calls and say rude things. You could even sneak up after dark and throw something at my fence. The possibilities are truly endless.

Cville Eye and Hoover are missing the point. You read 25K and think, "hmm ... I could use that to build a new deck. Would I rather have a deck or a weird obelisk?" But you're using a household finance benchmark to judge a whole city of 40 thousand people (and more if you consider tourists and other folks throughout the region who may enjoy this and spend more money here). That's why I broke it down to 60 cents a person. You're complaining about spending 60 cents.


"I was thinking more along the lines of macaroni and cheese, milk and bread."

You can buy a box of dried Macaroni and powdered cheese for 60 cents.

Personally I would rather see the 25k go towards the AshLawn Opera, or a more pleasant place than the Pavillion for small local brass concerts. That sort of art.

It's a waste of public funds, even though small compared to other monies squandered on dumb projects. It will at least provide a nice smooth easel for local street artists to tag.
I'm just surprised they didn't pay $150K to some consultant to do a "feasibility study".

Hey Dave, I think the Hook needs a permanent feature that will list all the ridiculous spending the City does. When people read about them one at a time, they don't have the same impact.

Here's a start: (can you verify dates and amounts? Thx)
Sundial Obelisk (2011) $25,000
New Signage (2010) $600,000 (???)
Rebrick the Mall (2009???) $7.0 million (???)
Water Street Design Contest (2007) $150,000

Like most people, I try to put this wasteful pattern out of my mind until the next one pops up. Problem is there is always another one and then I wish I'd made a list. Can you be the list keeper?

"Why isn’t the City requiring that this obelisk be constructed out of sustainably harvested granite?"

Dang, confused easily, I was wondering the very same thing. And I also wonder why it is not free of bovine growth hormone, genetic modification, grown free range with no MSG, and hydroponically nurtured. Perhaps it could even be started in a little pot with heirloom seeds as well. And bio fuel should be used to get it to Charlottesviille with solar cells as auxiliary and back up power. Then only a few carbon credits need be paid to Al Gore.

Can you say: Sustainably Harvested Cranium?

Is it going to be positioned for EST or DST?

My bad! Kevin already said that.

Also @ Antoinetc: Blind people can hear better than we can, so would be less likely to walk when a vehicle approached.

When decorating and you are not sure what to put there, make it a clock! Goodwill has dozens.

Just not the right time. The sundial is a cool idea to explain to kids how folks used to tell time. Ms. Roades gets my vote for telling it like it is. Why can't we all just get along...

A 12-foot tall granite obelisk doesn't cost anywhere near $25,000, even with delivery and installation.

I wonder who's taking the city for a ride on this purchase?

Antoinette, are you sure you don't want to be a city councilor?

CC should change the shape of the 12 obelisk just a little, ad the BOS as co-sponsors, rub it down with petroleum jelly and formally present it to the tax payers of cvill and albemarle county as a monument of gratitude for all their hard work.

That's funny CC!

Or, perhaps they could erect a 12-foot digitus medius and point it towards Washington, DC to honor Charlottesville’s relationship with their sister wasteful government.

At least if the new planned mega dam springs a leak they'll have a place to stick the obelisk.

I'll take ancient wisdom and archaic any day over a stupid smartphone tower.

Like. It adds aura.

I already use the Landmark Hotel as my own personal sundial.

I like it.

One more reason for a recall effort.

The sun dial will be useful to those waiting on the smelly city buses nearby. Both are prime examples of archaic technology that the City continues to utilize in the present day.

To elaborate on my previous point - it's almost like these department leads and/or council members are paid off, or make a deal with someone/something, or are programmed in some way to agree with strange nonsensical practices that serve to **drive the city into the ground.** Really, it's like they're purposely **trying** to create the fiscal downfall of this city. How else to explain a long list of fiscally draining decisions, some of them made AFTER it was announced how the city was going to be experiencing budget shortfalls starting in the next couple of years. (Included on that list of fiscally irreponsible and draining decisions would be the pointless "Dialogue on Race" initiative, which only serves to create the illusion that "something is being done about race relations" to the tune of well over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS in employees salaries/consultant fees, food, supplies, advertising, etc.) the "CLDA" employee program to give motivation to "Emerging Charlottesville Leaders" to the tune of TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, the "Emergenetics" employee personality profiling so employees can discover how much people skills they have and whether they're naturally organized, to the tune of THOUSANDS of dollars total (and not even counting lost man power, as the city employees are away taking their personality profiling and training during work time on the taxpayers' dime), and on and on and on.

Really, you have to wonder about all this. ;)

@ boo.

Sure, let's discuss how money should be spent to benefit the community. All I'm saying is that, in order to do this well, we need to really understand what the costs are. My hunch is that folks see the number in the headline, imagine what they could spend 25K on personally, and then immediately break into the aggrieved taxpayer dance. It really does look wasteful that way. The fact that Cville Eye and Hoover responded by suggesting that I pay it myself confirmed my suspicion.

I'm not giving an answer, just setting up the question: "Is it worth 60 cents to you?" not "is it worth 25K to you?" That's a big difference.

The drawing does not do it justice... just imagine how nice it will be with posters all over it promoting all the bands playing, new resturants, outdoor sporting events, political campaigns and yard sales.

If they want to teach us about how we used to do things that we have in common with our "sister cities" why not just install an outhouse? It would cost less to build and they would have somewhere to throw the leftover money.

Just imagine what it will look like when the spring comes. A bunch of young people enjoying the place, how cool it is and friendly. Where are all the old creeps? Prackiting Richcraft.

@cookie jar: C.I.P funds, Tax payer money

So -- how much money is sitting in the 'art fund'? Could we buy something really cool, or does this pretty much empty the fund and we won't have to kvetch about this next year?

It kinda' amazes me that we think artists aren't local, don't count, and frequently don't make less than most of the rest of us. Artists do silly things like taking over McGuffey when no one else thinks it's worth it. Or Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Or, say, all of Detoit today. Or our downtown mall twenty years ago. Or Belmont ten years ago.

Tons of people, who aren't artists, make money on the positive energy artists create. Artists regularly get priced out of real estate no one wanted, until they took it over, improved real estate values, and were unable to contine to live there because the neighborhoods were now 'desirable'. Artists are monstrously effective rehabilitation engines.

We should have some public art. Public art is why many of us travel to Europe. Public, being Kings and stuff. Now Kings have become democracies. $25K isn't going to lay Charlottesville taxpayers low. The sort of thing that will do that is the Federal government no longer paying for services to the addicted and mentally imapired and the homeless. Oh, yes, and the schools in the form of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. Oh, yes, and the state housing prisoners in our local jail at "expense only" rates, disregarding the cost of building the jail --- that's just outsourced to the localities and not reimbursed by the state.

Really, people, argue that it isn't good art, if that's what you would like to do, but don't argue that art is expendable. I have no idea what 'art' is, but I know it makes me human. And I know we should invest in humanity. And I really know I'd prefer any of my tax dollars go to 'art' than to, oh say hanging Saddam Hussein. Which is a thing my government (at least one of them) has made me invest in.

All this complaining. C'mon now. 25K is not much money. It's 60 cents from each of us for something that will last, I don't know, thousands of years. That amortizes to .00000006 cents a year. Just skip the next supersize and put up with the medium fries for once (you get refills on the soda anyway) and you've got it covered.

@Barbara Myer , maybe some people are saying that they haven't seen any public art around here and they are tired of their money being spent on what someone else thinks is art. That's one of the arguments against "public art." Perhpas if it were donated?


Just want to correct your identification of me as a "long-time city resident." That would make me one of many who came here at some point and decided to stay a while. In fact, I'm a native of Charlottesville (the City, not the area) -- to which my father's family arrived in 1859 and my mother's family arrived in 1868.

By noting that difference I'm not trying to pull rank. In a way, I'm doing the opposite. Often, my fellow complainers in these threads conclude their comments by saying something like, "Time to move on." Given what's going on here, I have to envy their sense of mobility.

For 16 years, I lived and worked elsewhere -- in Richmond, Middleburg, Washington DC, Bucks County PA, and New York City. But I've always voted here. And when I came back and found much changed -- in some respects for better, in others for far worse -- I didn't have the option of not caring.

I'm not alone in this regard. Plenty of us hereabout are cumbered by long personal memories further extended by forbears' experiences and, in cases like mine, by primary-source research. So we can't help grieving for days when local elected officials saw themselves first and foremost as stewards of public resources rather than individuals privileged to pursue pet projects at public expense.

Public art? Yes it's important. And thanks to private generosity we have multiple world-class examples. Meanwhile, I have to think about the acres of art threatened or actually destroyed by the City's reprehensible neglect of public cemeteries. Not just burying grounds, they're also three-dimensional historical documents (which is to say, true timepieces), valuable parks, and wonderfully varied sculpture gardens. Once -- can you imagine? -- the City payroll included full time custodians who not only took meticulous care of their beautiful and fragile inventories, but served as ad hoc guides to visitors. Now, however, City "care" consists of hiring outside contractors whose way-too-heavily-equipped workers do as much or more damage than the freelance vandals who labor unchecked under cover of night. The result is both heartbreaking and infuriating.

Seeing such things makes me wish desperately that I could "move on." But even if I had the means to acquire a new address, it wouldn't help because Charlottesville would still be home.

Antoinette: how is it that you get to vote in Cville during a 16 year period in which you "lived and worked elsewhere"? Sounds like voter fraud to me.


I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out. And kudos to you posting under your real name. We wish more people would do the same.



Everybody contributes 60 cents, it eventually adds up to a nice chunk of money like $25K..........and then it's thrown away.

It doesn't matter if everybody contributed $5.00, $1.75, 60 cents or a penny. All that matters is the final grand total that was gathered up and how that final grand total chunk was utilized. Was it utilized towards something useful, practical and worthwhile, benefitting the community and its residents in some way, or was it thrown away on something stupid?

So I think you're the one missing the point here. But that's just my opinion.

@ Hoover: I have to watch my pennies too. The good news is that we will have to pay quite a bit less than 60 cents for the clock, because our assessed property values are below average (or the taxes for the rental unit that's passed on as part of the rent).

@Daniel: The deck will have to wait. I was thinking more along the lines of macaroni and cheese, milk and bread. Get a grip.

All art should be donated. Individual Artists should not be supported by the taxpayers. They should get a job and do their craft on evenings and weekends like 90% already do. I would imagine if the city solicited artwork donations they would be given a wonderful array of choices. If private foundations wish to subsidize it then they can submit their offer also. There is no reason for society to subsidize a business plan that does not work. There are lots of carpenters and house painters who cannot survive in this economy and we do not subsidize them.

Having the fruits of your labor viewd by hundreds of people daily should be enough satisfaction for anyone. Especially if it leads to retail work. Kind of like radio stations don't have to pay to play songs. The exposure has proven to be payment enough.

Charlottesville could learn a lesson from the Kluge fiasco.

radio stations do pay to play songs

Mr.Kluge did very well fo himself owning Metromedia which pad royalties of all sorts to creative people for their work

i don'think the sundial is a good idea though

Can you write on it with chalk? ;)

cookieJar and Biff Diggerence:

I appreciate the appreciation, which I take to have more to do with information delivered than with me as deliverer.

We all need to know much more about what's going on around us. Although it may be difficult for more recent arrivals to believe, the citizenry here was actually much better informed in times past. More hard news was available on a daily basis. And because that news came from a limited set of outlets, more people knew the same things -- a condition crucial to good public decision-making. Opinions, meanwhile, dominated only a couple of newspaper pages and private conversations.

Collective memory is crucial to good public decision-making, too. In April 2010, C-VILLE introduced its readers to "25 Famous Charlottesville Locals You May Never Have Heard Of." The list included Maurice Cox, mayor through June 2004 and prime maker of the very current Ridge-Cherry mess and much more that remains relevant besides. The ferret-like local attention span that signifies is scary. So I second the call for a running list of wasteful City projects.

A few more nominees (sans price tags because I'm researching something else just now) in no particular order:

~~the cost of the unnecessary fix to not-broken McGuffey Park plus the cost of fixing the very broken unnecessary fix

~~the cost of an artificial community Christmas tree pursuant to the costly removal of the big, beautiful Deodar cedar in front of City Hall

~~the cost of installing the "traffic calming" peninsula (aka "pork chop") in front of Cherry Avenue Christian Church because, supposedly, the neighborhood wanted it plus the cost of removing said "pork chop" because the neighborhood said it didn't want it

~~the cost of irritating yacky pedestrian signals that do nothing to enhance pedestrian safety -- because they have absolutely no effect on driver behavior (red-light running, illegal turn-making, ad inf.) -- but actually undermine safety for the unwary by giving a false sense of security

~~the cost of large caliper trees (which require more care to establish than smaller caliper ones) for the new bus barn on Avon where they were left to die during summer's drought plus the soon-to-come cost of replacing those dead trees

And re the rapidly devolving Ridge-Cherry mess (aka William Taylor Plaza): This very minute, the City is busily rewriting at Southern Development's request the sales contract approved in 2008 by which SD would acquire two City taxpayer-owned Ridge Street parcels for $253,000. Among new terms expected is the waiver of the $253,000 cash payment in return for additional "affordable" units in a much enlarged project. This is being done so that SD can immediately flip the two Ridge Street parcels together with five it owns to Pinnacle Construction's William Park -- a transaction that will apparently yield SD cash for all the parcels (as in "bailout") plus tax credits (as in "Biscuit Run").

If you care, people, please sound off to both City Council and Planning Commission pronto.

I like archaic things and I like this design. I'd like to have it in my backyard. I'd also like to see 25k go towards essential repairs of the city's infrastructure. There's plenty to fix.

I appreciate many of your comments, particularly your remarks about the Neighborhood Associations. They frequently do not represent the neighborhoods but seem to have begin given official government status by the staff and City Council. I do have to ask you if you know that the talking walk signals are there for blind and visually impaired pedestrians? Knowing when the walk signal has changed does enhance their safety. Of course, if the police were more aggressive in enforcing traffic laws much of the recently purchased pedestrian infrastructure would not be necessary.

Kevin Cox

Maybe the arts community could have used the 25K to come up with an Art-in-place exhibit on the east side of the Belmont bridge. It would serve to block off the east side of the Belmont bridge but look better than the "rent me" fence and sand bags that we will all be looking at for some years. Once the tourist get past the "rent me" fence and sand bags they can see this new sister city clock.

Seriously we need some Art-in-place on the Belmont bridge. "Don't touch the art, and don't walk near it either".


I understand completely the argument that the talking signs serve the blind and visually impaired. The problem is that given the behavior of drivers, they can in fact put the most vulnerable walkers in lethal harm's way.

A month or so ago, I was waiting to cross Water Street from south to north in front of the Federal Courthouse as the signal barked overlapping Wait messages. "Annoying, isn't it?" I asked a woman standing next to me. "Yes, very," she said. "But my husband is legally blind, so he's grateful for it."

Well, two days later, then again a day after that, I was waiting to cross at the same point. And when the signal announced that the Walk light was on, I glanced to my left to see a vehicle making a high speed left turn on red into Water. Had I stepped off the curb with the Walk light either time, I would have been struck and possibly killed. Had that woman's husband stepped off the curb when the signal announced the Walk light either time, he would have been struck and possibly killed. And such things happen all the time.

Truly, I have great sympathy for those who can't look right, left, ahead, and over their shoulders as I do before stepping into Charlottesville streets. But I also have great concern for them as well as for those others who choose to trust the signal rather than look.

Also, I can't help thinking that City officials' bought those signs in part because they wanted to appear to have responded appropriately to a situation that actually requires a great deal more response in the way of education, enforcement, etc.

Cordially, too,


In the interest of keeping on topic I'd like to suggest that The Hook sponsor a contest. How long will it be after the erection of the granite slab before someone uses the chalk provided by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to embellish the slab and make it appear even more phallic? How often will city crews be diverted from their daily tasks to clean off graffiti created with the TJ Center's chalk?

No blind pedestrian would use the audible signals as an absolute guarantee that the intersection is safe to cross. The signals are only intended to provide additional information about the signal cycle. To safely cross an intersection a blind pedestrian must first determine the traffic pattern. They listen for the sound of oncoming traffic and ultimately base their decision to cross on what they hear. At some intersections, like Ridge/West Main/South/Water/Ridge-McIntire it is very difficult for a blind pedestrian to determine the traffic cycle. Even with additional enforcement, education and civility the audible signals still help a lot.

Kevin Cox

"Ruckersville Renaissance"

funniest two words in sequence ever.

man, that just totally made my day. ROFL.


Let's not forget:

--natural gas buses that didn't work
--the traffic calming chicanes (chicanery?) that didn't allow
two buses to pass at the same time
--the free loaner bikes (didn't work in Paris either)


You've touched on something that's been bothering me. I learned through a Neighborhood Council Rep that proposals for things like speed curbing, etc. are supposed to be vetted through neighborhood associations. Yet these are not people that I vote for in public elections (although those in my neighborhood seem high-minded enough). If I have a suggestion, complaint, or proposal I don't want to go to local busybodies, however benevolent they may be. I want to work within a clearly delineated hierarchy that is publicly elected and accountable.

"Is it going to be positioned for EST or DST?"

Generally, a sundial would be positioned/calibrated to record the time of solar meridian passage, or if you were a mariner you might call it the Noon Shot.

However, it being a Charlottesville project....

Perhaps it would be called Charlottesville Expense Time: CET


On both topics, I'm wondering whether you think that the obelisk would aggravate a problem on which you have spoken out in the past -- that is, what an obstacle course the Mall constitutes for the sight-impaired. If I recall correctly, you were particularly concerned about the post-and-chain barriers that define outdoor restaurant spaces. Would another post -- a much bigger one -- make matters worse?

And about the talking signal posts: Because you know considerably more than I about the challenges facing sight-impaired pedestrians, I'll happily accept your view that oral cues help them without posing new hazards. And I'll also remove those signal posts from my boondoggle list. But they will stay on my concern list so long as I see naive sighted walkers taking their marching orders from the signal posts rather than the evidence of their own eyes.

Biff Diggerence:

Good ones. How could I have forgotten the marvelous vanishing bikes?


"Seriously" you're right. You do need something to counter the ugly intrusions on the east side of Belmont Bridge. Perhaps Andrew Owen of LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph could lend some of the bold images printed on vinyl and displayed on the Mall during previous runs. Such flexible artwork could easily wrap the chainlink panels there now. (Meanwhile, something else needs to address the obvious safety problem those fenced-off portions pose pedestrians by forcing them into the roadbed.) If the City does close off the entire east side walkway, LOOK3 outdoor images, meant to be seen from a distance, could form a gallery along there.

I don't think that the obelisk would create an additional obstacle to blind pedestrians. It could even help them. As long as it is detectable with a cane and doesn't have any overhanging protrusions it could be a helpful landmark. The space where it is going is a large open space with few detectable landmarks. Finding the obelisk with a cane would help the blind orient themselves. The chains are treacherous because they are not easily detected with a cane.

The audible signals are not intended to provide information to sighted pedestrians. They are there to give the blind the same information that sighted people get from the visible walk light. The reason they beep intermittently is to make it easier for the blind to locate the button. People who rely on the audible or visual signals alone are putting themselves at risk and suspending common sense. Even when I see the walk signal change I always look and listen first, before crossing.

Kevin Cox


I actually understand completely that "(t)he audible signals are not intended to provide information to sighted pedestrians" and that those who don't look all ways before crossing "are putting themselves at risk and suspending common sense." I simply point out that sighted people are in fact using the signals for information and reassurance. The Law of Unintended Consequences was promulgated to describe just such situations. And until it's repealed, I reserve the right to keep the signals on my personal concern list.


Antoinette W. Roades

It doesn't matter to me if you keep the audible signals on your list or not. But then I also know that it doesn't matter what I think. Unfortunately, your list also doesn't matter to those who should care, the city staff and the City Council.

I repeated myself in the hope that others who don't understand the signals will learn more about them and perhaps become a little more tolerant.
Always Cordially,
Kevin Cox


People care what you think.

Portland Oregon's rules for new sister Cities are on the internet. If someone suggests a City there has to be enough proven support for an outside non profit committee to do everything in regards to it. The non profit has to keep at least $10,000 monthly in an account to prove there is enough continuing independent support to continue to handle everything in regards to the new City. The day is coming when someone is going to put forward a City in Latin America or Asia here. If there is enough support to raise and keep 10K in a savings account for each sister City and fund everything yourself then go for it.

However, given the current state of the economy, Charlottesville native Toni Roades isn't especially impressed by the clock project either.
"Even if my property taxes hadn't been raised 15 percent the year that City property values plunged 15 percent, and even if my household's City tax burden didn't exceed 20 percent of my household's net income, and even if I hadn't fallen seven times in the last dozen or so years because of ill-maintained and/or non existent City sidewalks," she writes in an email, "I would be appalled at this truly World-Class waste of public money and civic capital."<<<

I have fallen in love with Toni - or at least her comment.

Mayor Dave Norris discusses Charlottesville's Sister Cities with host Jan Paynter on the locally produced cable 13 show "Politics Matters":

Can't unnecessary expenditures of this size be put to a referendum? It is OUR money! We might have voted against a $25,000 ceramic christmas tree that got smashed on its first day out.!

Maybe the sundial will serve as a head stone for the eventual " Ruins" of the downtown mall!
( It's just a matter of "TIME")

As a county resident and taxpayer, it drives me up a wall when the city get's $18 million of county money from revenue sharing and pisses it away on crap like this.Then they have the nerve to whine about their finances!!!