Charlottesville Breaking News

Year in review: The best and worst of 2011

December 22, 2011 Since the Hook started doing a year-in-review issue 10 years ago, we've always wanted to say that this is the best year ever: The economy is on a roll, employers are hiring as fast as they can, partisanship is passé, elected officials value compromise to make our country a better place to live, people feel optimistic about their future, and that of their kids.

Alas, that would not be 2011.

But there were some interesting rumblings. The Arab Spring and Occupy Wherever suggest an awakening and a weariness of the status quo. Whether these incidents of "I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" will amount to lasting change remains to be seen. But having the masses willing to rise up peacefully is always a refreshing development.

Also good news is that the long war in Iraq is over for American troops.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty that has mired us since 2008 continues. Maybe our home values have stopped plunging quite so much, but what's going on in Greece and the European money markets makes us uneasy, as does the brinksmanship that recently put the U.S on the brink of default.

The year's natural disasters frankl...

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What's your New Year's resolution?

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The year in Charlottesville-Albemarle real estate

As the New Year approaches, questions about the future of the housing market are more abundant than ever. Has the market hit bottom? Are hopes of recovery realistic? Will prices continue to drop as inventory continues to rise? And what about interest rates– are they going to go up, come down, or remain the same? With conflicting indications from market reports and continuing uncertainty over recovery, professionals and laymen alike wonder what’s in store for our area in the coming year.

With December drawing to a close, a number of national and state forecasts are being released citing predictions for 2012. In most cases, however, these reports are subject to the same variance in interpretation that has characterized the market reports provided throughout 2011. Credit reporting agency TransUnion foresees a significant drop in the number of delinquent mortgages over the coming year. Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict that home prices will– finally– hit bottom by summer of 2012. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, provides a similarly optimistic outlook in his ...

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Buckalew family killed in plane crash

Two St. Anne's-Belfield School students have died along with their parents in the crash of a private plane along a busy highway in New Jersey. Jackson, a fifth-grade boy, and Meriwether, a first-grade girl, perished along with their mother, Corinne, and their father, Jeffrey F. Buckalew, who led an arm of a leading mergers and acquisitions firm.

The Buckalews had divided their time between Manhattan and Eagle Hill, a sprawling estate in Free Union.

According to news accounts, the crash took place shortly after 10am Tuesday, December 20, over horrified drivers on Interstate 287. Witnesses reportedly described a single-engine turboprop plane that seemed to weave erratically before breaking apart and crashing into a wooded median.

Also killed in the crash was one of Mr. Buckalew's colleagues at New York-based Greenhill & Co., Rakesh Chawla, a University of Virginia alumnus. An onboard dog also reportedly died in the crash.

“The firm is in deep mourning over the tragic and untimely death of two of its esteemed colleagues and members of Jeff’s family," reads a statement from Greenhill, which notes that pilot Buckalew, one of its first employees, had a passion for flying.

Mr. Buckalew is believed to have been operating the single-engine plane, which reported mid-air icing and which appeared to have suffered catastrophic component failure before impact.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Mr. Buckalew served on that...

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Child un-support: State agency blames parents for flawed deposit

Every month, Charlottesville resident Sherry Nist gets a child support payment of $1,500 when her ex-husband writes a check to the state, which then moves the funds into her bank account. In early December, however, instead of the usual $1,500, the agency credited her account with just $15. The missing funds wreaked havoc on her finances, and state officials are now refusing to compensate her for the more than $600 in ensuing overdraft fees.

The check for $1,500 showed up in Nist's state account on Friday, December 2, as just $15. And even that money didn't reach her bank account until Tuesday, December 6, and that's when Nist realized she had a big problem.

"I was trying to buy coffee, and my debit card was declined," she says. "I had some auto pays that had posted. It just built so that I couldn't use my account. It was exponential."

Nist contacted the state agency, the Division of Child Support Enforcement, which promptly blamed Joe Yung, the check writer.

"The noncustodial parent made an error on his check," says Phyllis Sisk with the Division.

And yet a copy of the check provided by Yung shows a top line of "$1500." Although the zeros are written smaller, there also appears to be a notation for zero cents, and the second line is even more clearly marked: "Fifteen hundred even."

The release of the check hasn't prompted the state to admit any responsibility.

"Both our worker and the bank read it as $15," says Sisk, noting...

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