Charlottesville Breaking News

Local legislators: Tebow, triggermen among their bills

Every January, the six men representing the gerrymandered chunks of Albemarle and Charlottesville (and Rustburg!) head east on I-64 to participate in Virginia's part-time legislature. For 60 days, they'll strive for a budget and deal with the 2,228 bills (at last count) that the General Assembly's 140 members bring to the table, down from the 2,900 they wrote in 2008.  Mercifully, most bills die in committee, but some become part of Virginia's law.

With both the Senate and House of Delegates firmly in Republican hand, do any bills rise to the wacky level of 2007's attempted ban on droopy drawers or 2008's truck nuts bill?

"I don't think there's anything stranger than usual," says Richmond Sunlight creator Waldo Jaquith. "What's notable is that the stranger legislation has a better chance of becoming law because there are more far-right Republicans. In the past, the Senate acted as a brake to the crazier legislation coming out of the House."

But that was before that body split 20-20, with Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling ready to cast tie-breaking votes.

Delegate David Toscano, who represents Charlotte...

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Biscuit Run reform: Deeds would loosen secrecy... some

In Virginia, tax returns are so sacred that a section of code forbids state officials from revealing individual info– even if those individuals have reaped millions of dollars for their land from state taxpayers.

Such was the case of Biscuit Run, where developers attempted to parlay a dubious $88-million appraisal– practically double the land's $46.2-million boom-time purchase price– into a bail-out for the underwater development by re-purposing the land as a state park and taking $11.7 million in tax credits atop the $9.8 million sales price, all aided by a Virginia law that shrouds the details from public scrutiny.

It was only a leaked appraisal that allowed the public to see how Biscuit Run's former owner, Forest Lodge LLC, was attempting to recoup its losses at taxpayer expense. And with Virginia's land conservation easement program, which has been called the most generous in the country, handing out over $100 million a year to landowners, the potential for abuse is significant.

Last year, even as outrage mounted, the program's creator, State Senator Creig Deeds, declined to promise major reform. However, now that the Biscuit Run backers have risked further...

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FunStuff: Charlottesville events January 26 and beyond

Alternative country
They're often billed as alt-country, but the track from the Old 97s that appeared on the 106.1 The Corner sampler a coupla years back, "Dance with Me," seems like power-pop and pretty far from Nashville. And speaking of that video, who can't identify with the nerd who wreaks havoc (at least in his own mind) on the bouncers at a snooty nightclub? On their ninth studio album, The Grand Theatre, Volume Two, they seem more thrasher than crooner. Anyway, these guys from from Dallas will have Charlottesville's unsnooty Jeff rocking this Saturday night.
January 28, Jefferson Theater, 9pm, $15/$17

 

Aye, capella
It may seem like a steeper than usual price point for vocal performances...

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Dumb and dumber: Silly stuff that's supposed to be green

With the recent Detroit Automotive Show focusing on electrics and the Sierra Club having an electric car columnist, America continues to believe technology will save us. Let's see how that's working.

In 2011, only 17,345 Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs, 38 percent below projections, left U.S. showrooms while the percentage of hybrid vehicles dropped from 2.4 to 2.2 percent of auto sales. These are echoes of natural gas vehicle results and should be reminding us that the ethanol program is a debacle and the history of the CAFE, Corporate Average Fuel Economy, standards is the epitome of counter-productivity.

Australians call our American obsession with something new a “technological trap,” and I argue that it’s a key component of our national state of denial. There is no way we’re going to get out of our oil vulnerability, health, foreign policy, pollution, and greenhouse emission quandaries without addressing our individual consumption of energy, especially gasoline and diesel. We must change our lifestyles. No new product, even one with $7,500 federal subsidies like electric cars, will do the trick.

While the evidence is clear that there must be individual behavioral change, as the author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, notes, we keep producing technological “solutions,” like electric cars or florescent light bulbs, instead of dealing...

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Pain and frustration: Two years later, 'We know her agonies'

They'll never have their daughter back, but for the parents of murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, the unsolved status of the case two years after her body was discovered in a remote pasture on a southern Albemarle County farm is added anguish.

"It doesn't get easier," says Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington, a week before the grim January 26 anniversary. If the mystery has begun to fade from the national spotlight, it still has legions of followers thanks in part to coverage on national programs including Nancy Grace and the Investigation Discovery channel's Disappeared.

The latest, Harrington says, is that, although an air date hasn't yet been set, America's Most Wanted is planning an episode. Locally, the Charlottesville band Howard/Johnson & Friends has written a song that's one-third inspired by the Harrington case.

Titled "Ode," the folksy ballad offers tribute to three seemingly unconnected tragedies: the 1933 death of starlet Peg Entwistle, who infamously committed suicide by diving off the 'H' in the famed "Hollywood" sign; the 1985 double homicide of Derek and Nancy Haysom by their UVA student daughter Elizabeth and her fellow Echols scholar boyfriend Jens Soering; and Morgan Harrington, who inspired singer Cheryl Knight to voice the following:

Something vile crept through that night
Tore away that young girl's life
Her parents search for the killer still
My heart cries out
...

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