LETTER- Give O'Connell credit

So former Councilor Rob Schilling is blasting City Manager Gary O'Connell? [June 5 online story: "Schilling blasts water project, O'Connell's ‘fiefdom.'"]

No surprise there– Rob's contempt for government (and his dislike of O'Connell) was clear at the time he was on Council and is even more apparent now to anyone who listens to his radio show. It appears to me that Rob is trying to boost ratings.

On Council, Rob always asked, at the last minute, for ridiculous amounts of information from City staff, and never getting enough information was his justification for abstaining from voting. In the two years I served with Rob, he abstained over 30 times on policy votes.

But it saddens me to see efforts to promote the water alternative become personal criticism of Gary O'Connell. Gary withheld no information and pushed no agenda; rather he worked to make the planning process a remarkably open one and to help Council understand a very complicated plan. City staff works hard to ensure councilors get comprehensive information; differing conclusions can be and frequently are drawn from the same information.

The most that can be said in this case is that he conveyed high dredging estimates from consultants– and as we take a look at maintenance dredging we will see how high.

Council, the press, and residents may not always agree with Gary O'Connell, but make no mistake– he is a dedicated professional with an obvious love for the City. Gary has been City Manager since 1995. And while, like all communities, we have our share of challenges, Charlottesville is indeed a great place to live– and Gary deserves no small share of the credit for that.

David Brown
City Councilor



It is most important for elected city officials to ask questions, lots of questions, any good government teacher will tell you that. Mr. Brown says frequently to his fellow councilors that they should not try to second guess city staff. Mr. Brown also did not support looking at any kind of dredging at any time; just look at the video on the city's web site for his own words. Is this letter a slightly-veiled attempt to make Overrun O'Connell's performance look better, thereby making his look better also?
Yes, Mr. Schilling abstained from voting probably 30 times; he frequently complained that complex issues should not be decided by council between Thursday (when council received its voluminous background material) and the following Monday when they were asked by the then-mayor Brown to limit the amount of time each councilor could ask questions (oh yes he did limit them when he was mayor!) or debate. Maybe this conducting of public business may appeal to Mr. Brown, but nobody can honestly say that it leads to good decisions. And, of course, poor performing politicians will always try to deflect the attention away from them and on to somebody else. In this case, it's a poor attempt by Mr. Brown and Mr. Caravati to try to rely upon the heavy Party - leanings of the vast majority of people in the city to gain a sympathetic ear. Obviously, their letters indicate that they are aware that there is a growing distrust among the voters of Charlottesville or they wouldn't have bothered. That's why Mr. Brown didn't mention that two fellow Democrats, Lynch and Hamilton did most of the talking on the Schilling's show.

Do the facts support the Hon. Mr. Brown when he claims Mr. Schilling abstained "over 30 times" during Brown's two years on council? How about referring to C-ville Weekly's reporting for a fact check:

2/27/2006--C-Ville Weekly

The King of Abstentions opts to run for Council again

On Tuesday, February 21, City Councilor Rob Schilling announced his intention to run for a second term in May’s citywide election, casting himself as the guy who’s been standing up against “business as usual.” Though he was referring to Council’s budgeting process, an assertion that was forcefully derided by fellow Councilor Blake Caravati in the next day’s Daily Progress, there’s one area where Schilling, Council’s lone Republican, definitely runs against the pack. By a margin as high as 4-1, Schilling stands out as the Councilor with the greatest number of abstentions.

According to C-VILLE’s search into City records, during Schilling’s first two years, under Mayor Maurice Cox, he abstained on eight of 127 votes. The closest non-vote contender was Caravati, with two abstentions from July 2002 to June 2004. Cox abstained once; Councilors Kevin Lynch and Meredith Richards did not abstain at all.

Since 2004 Council has had 52 major votes (C-VILLE did not tally votes on consent agendas). Schilling abstained seven times, followed by Kendra Hamilton with four abstentions. Caravati and Lynch have one each in this period; Mayor David Brown has not abstained on any vote. All told, Schilling has abstained on more than 8 percent of Council votes in nearly four years.

Explaining his record, Schilling credits his abstentions to poor information. “I’ll never guess at something. That’s what I would consider poor public service,” he says.

But his colleagues see something different at work. “I don’t think that other than Rob there’s been much precedent for people using abstentions,” Richards says.

“You’re put there to be a legislator, a voice for the people,” Caravati says. “When you don’t take positions, especially when you take the excuse that you have no information, you’re not doing your job as a legislator.”—Cathy Harding, with additional reporting by Esther Brown and Nell Boeschenstein


Only children in high school vote along with the pack. What does Schilling's abstentions have to do with bad government policies and processes? He left council in 2006. Here's a link to the Hamilton-Lynch-Schilling show's audio on the Ragged Mountain debacle: http://www.wina.com/page.php?category_id=361&item_id=28050