The great divide
Unlike every other state, in Virginia cities and counties are completely separate entities. The downside of that arrangement is that regional issues can involve many players. The upside is that citizens, by their choice of residence within the same general area, get to "choose" between two different governments.
First county seat
Originally, the county seat was Scottsville, but that was when Albemarle stretched all the way down into what is now Buckingham County. Since 1762, Charlottesville has been the county seat.
Weird UVA note
UVA's Central Grounds are considered Albemarle turf. County spokeswoman Lee Catlin says that situation results from a longtime city concession to UVA. Despite numerous annexations, the city has allowed the Central Grounds to remain part of Albemarle County. (No official UVA property, whether in city or county, pays taxes.) All this can occasionally create population havoc with the U.S. Census Bureau.
For a small town, Charlottesville has had a lot of government-sponsored neighborhood clearing, including the Vinegar Hill (in the '60s) and Garrett (in the '70s) neighborhoods.
In a deal widely seen as a sort of bribe to prevent Charlottesville from annexing county land, Albemarle has agreed since 1983 to give 10 cents per $100 of its property revenues to the city.
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government helps citizens keep an eye on public records, meetings, and elected officials. It was instrumental in the state's creation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council (better known as the Sunshine Office). 866-448-4100
Agroup called The Virginia Public Access Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving public understanding of money in politics. 804-353-4300
Tips to citizens: The law limits fees for copies of official records to "actual cost." Contact the Sunshine Office if you get a raw deal. In May 2003, the above Council ruled that failure to respond to a FOIA request is deemed a denial of the request and is a violation of FOIA; person denied rights under FOIA may file a petition for mandamus or injunction.
During the Hook's existence, there have been few Freedom of Information brouhahas, but here's one of them: On June 13, 2002, the Albemarle School Board imposed a gag order on itself. By a 5-2 vote (Boyd, Grant dissenting), the board declared that even post-meeting, topics discussed behind closed doors had to stay that way. But there was a curious and contradictory caveat: "Nothing in this policy shall be construed to limit rights protected regarding freedom of expression or freedom of speech."
More recently, a citizen named Jim Moore filed a FOIA request with Charlottesville to learn the cost breakdown of its new $6.6 million CityLink computer system. The city denied his request, citing a confidential contract with the vendor. Moore appealed to General District Court. The judge upheld his request, and the city threatened to appeal, but then capitulated and turned over the information Moore requested.
Charlottesville operates under the "council-manager" form of government. That grew out of a national mid-century reform movement to stop patronage and align government with the business model of an elected board of trustees (City Council), which hires a CEO (the city manager) who is insulated from the political rough and tumble. The mayor has no special powers (but earns $12,000 for the position) and is simply the member of City Council who sets the agenda (and cuts a lot of ribbons). There's some buzz about having the mayor directly elected by citizens rather than by fellow councilors (who all get $10,000 annually). Since city councilors are all officially part-timers, some believe that Jeanne Cox, the City Council clerk, actually runs the city.
Annual operating budget: For fiscal year '05-06 starting July 1, $106 million
Next election: May 2006-and then City Council elections move to November starting in 2007 to be in sync with traditional election time.
The five councilors serve four-year terms and choose a mayor every two years among themselves. They are all elected at-large. If Republican Rob Schilling has his way, that will change to a ward system with seven councilors.
David Brown, Mayor
On Council since 2004
On Council since 1998
On Council since 2004
Kevin Lynch, Vice Mayor
On Council since 2000
On Council since 2002
City Council meetings
Meets: 7pm on 1st and 3rd Mondays. Televised live on Channel 10
Where: City Council Chambers in City Hall
Located: Corner of Seventh Street NE and Downtown Mall
Clerk: Jeanne Cox 970-3113
City Manager: Gary O'Connell 970-3101
The Charlottesville Code is available online, or can be obtained at the local library or from the City Attorney's Office (970-3131).
The county uses the same basic structure as the city government, but the ordinance-makers are called supervisors, they're chosen by district, and there are six of them. Unlike the city, where regulating Downtown Mall cafés and maintaining architectural purity grab all the headlines, growth is almost always the biggest issue the county faces. Supervisors earn $13,016 annually for this part-time job.
Last year's operating budget: $162.4 million (fiscal year July '04-June '05)
This year's operating budget: $176.6 million (fiscal year July '05-June '06)
The County Supes
There are six Albemarle County supervisors, one from each magisterial district. Supervisors are elected for four-year terms staggered at two-year intervals. Typically, they deal with one issue: growth.
Election 2005: Bowerman is not seeking reelection, and three candidates want his seat on the county's district most affected by U.S. 29 north development: Former School board member Gary Grant (R), environmental policy consultant Dave Slutzky (D), and Ragazzi's senior marketing director, Tom Jakubowski (I).
Kenneth C. Boyd, Vice Chairman
Dennis Rooker, Chairman
Jack Jouett District
Election 2005: Rooker faces challenger Christian Schoenewald.
Samuel Miller District
Election 2005: Thomas won her seat as a write-in candidate in 1993, and no one has dared challenge her since.
David C. Wyant
White Hall District
Board of Supervisors Meetings
Meets: First Wednesday at 9am; second Wednesday at 6pm.
Where: Second floor, County Office Building
Located: Corner of McIntire Road and Preston Avenue
Clerk: Ella Carey, 296-5843
County Executive: Robert W. Tucker Jr. 296-5841
The main ones you need to worry about are real property taxes and personal property (car) taxes which are due on June 5 and December 5 of each year in both the city and county. The Commonwealth of Virginia levies income taxes.
Property: $1.05 per $100 value (Thanks to soaring real estate assessments, the rate has been reduced six cents since 2003)
Personal property (cars and boats): $4.20/$100 value
Restaurants: meals tax 4%
City Treasurer- In City Hall - 970-3146
Property: $.74 per $100 value (The tax rate dropped two cents this year after average biennial real estate assessments jumped 27%.)
Personal property (cars and boats): $4.28/$100 value
Restaurants: meals tax 4%
County Finance Department- At the County Office Building (complete with a deluxe drive-thru, bill-payin' window) - 296-5851
Virginia laws are made every year by the General Assembly, which comprises the House of Delegates (whose members serve two-year terms) and the State Senate (whose members serve four-year terms). Their work writing bills usually happens pretty fast– except for 2004, when the normal 60-day session stretched an extra 106 days as legislators grappled with a budget, which is done every two years. The 2006 session convenes January 11– and it's another budget year.
In January 2002, the state government began offering a free tracking service that allows citizens to follow up to five bills per session via email alerts.
He is Mark Warner, who was elected in 2001 and under Virginia law cannot seek a second consecutive four-year term. He's getting buzz as a possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate. Running for the governorship are Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democrat, and State Senator Russ Potts, the "independent Republican."
25th House District- The Crozet area in Western Albemarle plus some terrain in the Valley counties of Augusta and Rockingham
Current Delegate: R. Steven Landes (R-Weyers Cave)
Next election: November 2005 (Landes is unopposed.)
57th House District- All of Charlottesville and much of central Albemarle
Current Delegate: Mitch Van Yahres (D-Charlottesville)
Next election: November 2005. Van Yahres is finally stepping down after 24 years in the General Assembly. Former mayor David Toscano (D) and Republican Tom McCrystal vie for the seat at the polls November 8.
58th House District- Part of Albemarle, the western half of Fluvanna, all of Greene, and part of Orange
Current Delegate: Rob Bell (R-Orange)
Next election: November 2005. Albemarle School Board member Stephen Koleszar (D) challenges Bell.
59th House District- The southwestern chunk of Albemarle, Nelson, Buckingham, Appomattox, and Cumberland Counties and even a little swath of Prince Edward
Current Delegate: Watkins M. Abbitt Jr. (I-Appomattox)
Next election: November 2005 (no opponent yet)
24th Senate District- The Brownsville, Crozet, and Free Union precincts of Albemarle, plus parts of Rockbridge and Rockingham, and all of Augusta, Greene, and Highland County, plus the cities of Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro
Current Senator: Emmett W. Hanger (R-Mount Solon)
Next election: November 2007
25th Senate District- all of Charlottesville, Bath, Buena Vista, Nelson, and parts of Albemarle, Alleghany, Buckingham, and Rockbridge
Current Senator: Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)
Next election: November 2007– but Deeds is running for attorney general this year, so if he wins, the 25th District can expect a special election.
(Deeds was elected December 18, 2001, to fill the unexpired term of the late Emily Couric.)
Can you believe it #1– Charlottesville and Albemarle are chopped into four different House districts. Can you say "gerrymandering"?
Can you believe it #2– Most state senators had no opponent in the elections in November 2003. Why? Most pundits blame gerrymandering for putting so many like-minded folks in the same districts.
Your two U.S. Senators (every state gets two, remember?) are the following:
John Warner - R: 202-224-2023 voice; 202-224-6295 fax
Elected: 1978 (now in his fifth term)
Next election: November 2008
Likely opponent: He will not be a young man in 2008.
George Allen - R: 202-224-4024 voice; 202-224-5432 fax
Next election: 2006
Likely opponent: Former Virginia gov Allen is another name being murmured for the 2008 presidential race. Will he square off with Mark Warner for his Senate seat in 2006, or for the presidency in 2008?
Your Representative in the Fifth District of the House of Representatives:
Virgil Goode (R-Rocky Mount) 202-225-4711
Next election: 2006
Opponent: None yet. In 2004 Goode defeated Nelson County Democrat Al Weed.
In both the city and county, this board takes a look at new building projects and helps guide development. While the commission's vote is merely advisory, it's usually rubber-stamped by the Board of Supervisors in the county.
Albemarle Planning Commission
William B. Craddock
William D. Rieley
Rodney S. Thomas
Meets: Meets Tuesdays at 6pm unless otherwise noted.
Where: Room 241 of County Office Building
Contact: Wayne Cilimberg, 296-5832 ext. 3254
Agendas: Available by phone at 296-5824
Charlottesville has a planning commission, too, but the board that gets more press is the Board of Architectural Review, which is charged with preserving the city's historical character.
Charlottesville Planning Commission
Cheri Lewis, chairman
Kevin O'Halloran, vice chairman
Meets: 2nd Tuesday at 6:30pm
Where: City Council Chambers
–>>See our architecture page for the enforcers in the architectural world.
Thanks to the1996 "motor voter" law, you can register to vote at the DMV and by mail. The deadline to register is 29 days before any election. Bring a photo ID when you come to the polls.
In addition to general elections in November, Charlottesville will hold its last May City Council (and other constitutional officers) elections in 2006, and then switch to November in 2007.
Registrar: Sheri Iachetta 970-3250
Elections occur along with the general state and national elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Albemarle takes "motor voter" so seriously that it moved its elections office to the DMV.
Registrar: Linda Helf (acting) 951-6798
Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases. Located in a classic brick building on East High Street.
Judge: Edward Hogshire
Clerk: Paul C. Garrett 295-3182
Charlottesville General District Court- Located in that small brick building that also houses the Police station at 606 E. Market St. by the parking garage. The clerk can explain the procedures for using this as "small claims court." 970-3388
Judge: Robert H. Downer
Clerk: W.C. Calk
Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases. Located on the second floor of the same historic courthouse that Mr. Jefferson frequented on "Court Square." 972-4085
Judge: Paul M. Peatross
Clerk: Shelby J. Marshall
Albemarle General District Court- Located in the Courthouse Annex in Court Square. The clerk can explain the procedures for using this as "small claims court." 972-4014
Judge: William G. Barkley
Clerk: Phyllis Stewart
Juvenile & Domestic Relations- This courts serves Charlottesville, Albemarle, and more in the 16th Judicial District. It hears all cases involving defendants under 18, from traffic to assault, as well as custody, support, and visitation cases. Temporarily located at the Levy Opera House at 350 Park Street while its permanent digs at 411 E. High St. undergo a much needed renovation. Its judges are elected by the General Assembly for six-year terms.
Judges: Edward DeJarnette Berry, Dwight D. Johnson, Susan L. Whitlock, Frank W. Somerville.
Clerk: Alice Price Waddy 979-7165
U.S. District Court Western District of Virginia- Located at the top of Vinegar Hill on the corner near the Omni hotel. 255 W. Main St. 296-9284
Judges: James H. Michael, (senior U.S. district judge), B. Waugh Crigler (magistrate judge), J. Harvie Wilkinson (appeals)
Appeals: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond 296-7063
SMALL CLAIMS COURTS
See the two "General District courts" above.
The great big pink building facing I-64 and Avon Street is the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Trusties wear orange. Other inmates wear blue or old-fashioned black and white stripes.
Superintendent: Ronald Matthews 977-6981