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Charlottesville City Council
Albemarle County Supervisors
The great divide
Unlike almost 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.
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 $16,000 for the position) and is simply the member of City Council who sets the agenda (and cuts a lot of ribbons). In recent years, there's some buzz about having the mayor directly elected by citizens rather than by fellow councilors, who all get $14,000 annually and are all officially part-timers.
Annual operating budget: $133,810,453 for FY 2012--2013, up 2.72% from FY 2011-2012)
Next election: November 2012.
The five councilors serve four-year terms and choose a mayor every two years among themselves. They are all elected at-large.
Satyendra Huja, Mayor
On Council since 2007, he was re-elected in 2011, when he was appointed mayor for a two-year term. 977-5094
Kristin Szakos, Vice Mayor
On Council since 2010. 987-1042
Elected in 2011. 979-2890
Served as mayor before Huja. On Council since 2006. 242-5165
Elected in 2011. 296-0074
City Council meetings
Meets: 7pm on first and third Mondays. Televised live on Channel 10
Where: City Council Chambers in City Hall
Located: Corner of Seventh Street NE and Downtown Mall
Clerk: Paige Barfield 970-3113
City Manager- Maurice Jones 970-3101
The Charlottesville Code is available online or can be obtained at the local library or via the City Attorney's Office (970-3131).
didja know? Got a wonkish streak, but don't enjoy sitting through long meetings after work? Charlottesville City Council meetings are available on demand anytime via streaming video and as a downloadable podcast.
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 the poor and maintaining architectural purity grab all the headlines, growth and road controversies are almost always the biggest issues the county faces. Supervisors voted themselves a 1%, $145 raise this year, upping their salaries to $14,687 for this part-time job, with the chair earning an additional $1,800 stipend.
This year's operating budget: $275,717,124 for FY 2012-2013, up 2.7% from the previous year.
The six Albemarle County supervisors are elected for four-year terms staggered at two-year intervals. Three seats will be up for grabs in November 2013.
Ann Mallek, Chair
White Hall District
Jack Jouett District
Duane E. Snow, Vice Chair
Samuel Mller 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 Jordan, 296-5843
Tom Foley - 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 in both the city and county. The Commonwealth of Virginia levies income taxes.
Property: $0.95 per $100 value
Personal property (cars and boats): $4.20/$100 value (mobile homes: $0.95/$100)
Restaurants: meals tax 4%
Short-Term Rental: 1%
City Treasurer: Jennifer Brown, in City Hall - 970-3146
Property: $0.762 per $100 value
Personal property (cars and boats): $4.28/$100 value
Restaurants: meals tax 4%
County Finance Department: Betty Burrell, Director of Finance, at the County Office Building (complete with a deluxe drive-thru, bill-payin' window during tax time) - 296-5855
Virginia laws are made every year by the General Assembly, composed of 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 when the biannual budget is concerned. In 2004, the normal 60-day session stretched an extra 106 days as legislators grappled with a budget. In recent years, budget shortfalls have been the norm, along with painful cuts. Virginia started 2010 with a $1.8 billion deficit, but somehow ended up with a $220 million surplus.
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. Five years later, Charlottesville blogger, political commentator, and cyberwunderkind Waldo Jaquith launched Richmond Sunlight, a free bill tracking service that's searchable by keyword and includes podcasts of legislative sessions, RSS feeds for each legislator, and a comments page for every bill.
Republican and former attorney general Bob McDonnell took office in January 2010, and under Virginia law cannot seek a second consecutive four-year term.
House of Delegates members will all up for reelection again in November 2013.
25th House District- The Crozet area in Western Albemarle plus some terrain in the Valley counties of Augusta and Rockingham. Redistricting in 2011 brought Ivy and Jack Jouett precincts into the district.
Delegate: Steve Landes R-Weyers Cave.
57th House District- All of Charlottesville and much of central Albemarle County
Delegate: David Toscano D-Charlottesville. Toscano is a former mayor of Charlottesville. Now serving his fourth term representing a reliably Democratic district, he's House minority leader.
58th House District- Part of Albemarle, the western half of Fluvanna, all of Greene, and part of Orange County, with parts of Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley added in 2011.
Delegate: Rob Bell R-Albemarle. Bell has been in office since 2002 and is running for attorney general in 2013.
59th House District- The southwestern chunk of Albemarle, Nelson, Buckingham, Appomattox, and Cumberland Counties, with a big chunk of Campbell County added to the district in 2011.
Delegate: Matt Fariss R-Rustburg. Was elected in 2011.
25th Senate District- All of Charlottesville, Buena Vista, Covington, and Lexington, all of Alleghany, Bath, HIghland, Nelson counties, and part of Albemarle.
Senator: Creigh Deeds D-Bath
Next election: November 2015. Deeds was handily reelected in 2011 after being trounced in his 2009 run for governor against McDonnell. In 2005, he fell just 323 votes (or .00016 percent) short of becoming attorney general, again against McDonnell.
17th Senate District- All of Fredericksburg and Orange, the northeast section of Albemarle, and parts of Culpeper, Louisa, and Spotsylvania counties.
Current Senator: Bryce Reeves R-Fredericksburg
Next election: November 2015
Can you believe it-- Charlottesville/Albemarle are chopped into four different House districts. Can you say gerrymandering?
Your two U.S. Senators (every state gets two, remember?) are the following:
Jim Webb - D
Next election: November 2012
Likely successors: Webb figures six years in the U.S. Senate is enough, so two former Virginia governors are duking it out for his seat. Republican George Allen was the former holder before his "macaca" blunder in 2006, and Dem Tim Kaine gave up his fundraising as Democratic National Committee chair to raise funds for his own campaign.
Mark Warner - D
Next election: November 2014
Opponent: Too early tell who will want to take on the popular former governor who beat his opponent by nearly 30 points in 2008.
Your Representative in the 5th District of the House of Representatives:
Robert Hurt - R
Represents: Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Fluvanna, and Buckingham counties, extending all the way down to Danville and the North Carolina border and after redistricting, now stretches on up to Fauquier.
Next election: 2012
Opponent: Democrat John Douglass, a retired brigadier general, was going to run in the 10th District, but then got redistricted into the 5th.
Your Representative in the 6th District of the House of Representatives:
Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke)
Represents: Most of the Shenandoah Valley, including Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta and Rockingham counties, extending southwest down to Roanoke
Next election: 2012
Opponent: Goodlatte is so firmly entrenched that he ran unopposed in 2010. Democrat Andy Schmookler is trying to keep Goodlatte from an 11th term.
Your Representative in the 7th District of the House of Representatives:
Eric Cantor (R-Richmond)
Represents: Madison, Orange, and Louisa Counties, extending north to Rappahannock County and southeast to Richmond
Next election: 2012
Opponent: As House Republican Whip, Cantor has quickly become one of the most prominent GOP faces. In debt limit ceiling negotiations, he walked out of a meeting with the president. Some believe his sights are set on House Majority Leader John Boehner's job. He's being challenged by Democrat Wayne Powell.
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Other local governments:
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 is usually rubber-stamped by the Board of Supervisors in the county.
Albemarle Planning Commission
Calvin Morris, Chairman
Russell (Mac) Lafferty, Vice-Chairman
Julia Monteith, UVA Liaison
Meets: Meets Tuesdays at 6pm unless otherwise noted.
Where: Lane Auditorium on the second floor of County Office Building
Contact: Wayne Cilimberg, 296-5832 ext. 3254
Agendas: Available online or by phone at 296-5824
Charlottesville has a planning commission, too, but the board that gets more ink is the Board of Architectural Review, which is charged with preserving the city's historic character.
Charlottesville Planning Commission
Genevieve Keller (chair)
Dan Rosensweig (vice chair)
Meets: 2nd Tuesday at 6:30pm
Where: City Council Chambers
Every year is an election year in Virginia. Thanks to the 1996 "motor voter" law, you can register to vote at the DMV and by mail. October 15 is the last day to register for the November 6, 2012, election. Bring a photo ID when you come to the polls.
Charlottesville held its last city elections in November 2011. Local elections follow the general state election schedule.
Registrar: Sheri Iachetta 970-3250
Elections occur along with the general state ones in odd-numbered years. While Albemarle previously housed its elections office in the DMV, it's now in the County Office building on 5th Street.
Registrar: Richard ("Jake") Washburne 972-4173
Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases and is part of the 16th Judicial Circuit. Located in a classic brick building on East High Street. 970-3766
Presiding Judge: Edward Hogshire
Clerk: Llezelle A. Dugger
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 a "small claims court." 970-3388
Presiding Judge: Robert H. Downer
Clerk: Mary Alice Trimble
Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases and also is in the 16th Judicial Citcuit. Located in the same historic courthouse that Mr. Jefferson frequented on "Court Square." 972-4085
Presiding Judge: Cheryl Higgins
Clerk: Debra Shipp
Albemarle General District Court- Located in the courthouse in Court Square. The clerk can explain the procedures for using this as a "small claims court." 972-4005
Presiding Judge: William G. Barkley
Clerk: Phyllis Stewart
Juvenile & Domestic Relations- This court serves Charlottesville, Albemarle, and more in the 16th Judicial District. It hears all cases involving those under 18, from traffic to assault, as well as custody, support and visitation cases. It recently moved back into its new and improved home at 411 E. High Street, which suffered a collapsed wall during renovation in March 2006. Its judges are appointed by the General Assembly for six-year terms. 979-7165
Chief Judge: Edward DeJ. Berry
Clerk: Jody Ann Shelley
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
Judge: Glen E. Conrad
Clerk: Julia C. Dudley
Appeals: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. 804-916-2700
See the two "General District courts" above.
In Virginia, potential jurors are selected randomly by jury commissioners using lists designated by the court, such as the voter registration list and the driver's license list. You are reimbursed $40 for each day you serve.
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 good old-fashioned black and white stripes. Superintendent: Ronald Matthews 977-6981
First county seat
Originally, the county seat was Scottsville, but that was when Albemarle stretched all the way down over what is now Buckingham County. Since 1762, Charlottesville has been the county seat.
Weird UVA note
Much of UVA, including its Central Grounds, is considered Albemarle turf. When Charlottesville initially annexed the land around the university, it couldn't annex the actual university because it was state property and thus part of Albemarle County and remains so today. Subsequent expansions by UVA (like the UVA Medical Center) are considered city property. (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 tax revenues to the city. Shortly after that deal, the state put a moratorium on annexation.
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government (540-353-8264) helps citizens keep an eye on public records, meetings, and elected officials. Better known as the Sunshine Office, it was instrumental in the state's creation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. They can be reached toll-free at 866-448-4100.
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; a person denied rights under FOIA may file a petition for mandamus or injunction.
During the Hook's existence, there have been several 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 (current Board of Supervisors chair Ken Boyd, and former School Board member Gary 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."
In 2011, in the course of reporting on a glitchy software system purchased by Albemarle schools, the school division billed the Hook $1,464 to respond to its FOIA request.
And this year, the Cavalier Daily's FOIA request of UVA Rector Helen Dragas' emails provided insight into her attempted ouster of President Teresa Sullivan.
Like the national Citizen Access Project, a group called The Virginia Public Access Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving public understanding of money in politics and reporting donations to political candidates. 804-353-4300