Charlottesville Breaking News

Cuccinelli effect: Rob Bell and Obenshain eye AG job

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's recent decision to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2013 has opened the door for those who'd like his job, including Harrisonburg state Senator Mark Obenshain and local Delegate Rob Bell.

"I had been looking at it the past few years, but until Ken Cuccinelli decided to run for governor, the position wasn't open," says Bell, who officially announces his run December 6 in Richmond.

Former Orange prosecutor Bell, 44, has represented the 58th District, which includes northeastern parts of Albemarle, since 2001, and has built a legislative record as a law-and-order guy. Drunk driving, bullying, and keeping sex offenders out of schools are areas in which he's carried multiple bills.

As the AG, Cuccinelli has been involved in several high-profile battles including a quest for emails from climate scientist Michael Mann, a legal challenge to so-called "Obamacare," and– most recently– a fight against Charlottesville resident Hunter Craig's quest for millions in conservation tax credits.

As for Obenshain, elected to the state Senate in 2003, he hails from Virginia Republican royalty. His father, Richard Obenshain, chaired the Republican Party of Virgina and co-chaired the Republican National Committee in the '70s, and was running for U.S. senator in August 1978 when his airplane crashed. His death opened...

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Very Veronica: Unclothed Occupy protester explains why

The woman whose nude protest and arrest sparked questions in the final moments of the Occupy Charlottesville encampment says she's a little surprised by the attention but definitely not regretful. While over 7,000 online viewers may know her as "the naked lady," she is a 33-year-old freelance author/editor named Veronica Fitzhugh, and she says she did indeed have a mission when she disrobed November 30 to give a public reading.

The mission began with what she read: the Declaration of Occupy Wall Street. Organized like the Declaration of Independence, the document lays out a litany of alleged offenses and injustices recently practiced by too-powerful corporations including a practical take-over of American government.

As for the nudity, that too had a point.

"I felt that nude protest is a blend of vulnerability and empowerment; and, quintessentially, that is the basis of most passive resistance," says Fitzhugh. "Also: the idea of being completely exposed, which can be considered an extremely weak position, while having something strong to say."

Her gesture won respect from the man whose name that night was angrily spat by some of her fellow colleagues for not allowing the protest to continue. While some anonymous online commenters made derisive statements, Mayor Dave Norri...

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Ready to roll? Boyd pushes Meadowcreek Parkway opening

Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd wants the Meadowcreek Parkway open, and he wants it open now– or at least by December 8.

Boyd introduced a resolution to the Board of Supervisors at its November 2 meeting to open Albemarle's portion of the parkway, which has been completed for over a year and was temporarily opened for six weeks in October 2010. The board held off on a vote until Virginia Department of Transportation traffic studies were complete. Now Boyd plans to bring the resolution back at the December 7 supes' meeting.

"VDOT says it can open it the next day if the resolution is passed by the board," says Boyd. "The road has been certified, and it needs to be used, or it will deteriorate."

"The road is ready for traffic," says VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter– although he's not able to confirm that VDOT can open the road within 24 hours of a county request. Signals have to be turned on. "I'm not sure how fast signal work can be done," says Hatter.

Also, says Hatter, VDOT would like for both the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council to request the opening.

That's not quite the understanding Boyd has, and he disputes the notion of any formal agreement between city and county that the parkway wouldn't open until its three separate segments– the county's already-finished Meadowcreek Parkway, the barely begun McIntire Road Extended, and the completely uncommenced grade-separated Meadowcreek Parkway Interch...

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Crossed over: Artist Mitchell dies four years after crosswalk incident

Less than two months after settling his lawsuit against the Albemarle County police officer who struck him in a crosswalk in November 2007, artist Gerry Mitchell has died.

"The idea of not seeing him again is unimaginable," says friend Jennifer Grant, who stayed with Mitchell over the last week of his life until his death late Saturday night, December 3.

While Mitchell had suffered from AIDS and related complications since the 1980s, his doctors say his health woes were exacerbated by injuries sustained when he was struck as he crossed West Main Street in his wheelchair on November 5, 2007. Community outrage soared with news that pedestrian Mitchell, who'd been crossing with a green light, had been ticketed by Charlottesville police in what many saw as a police cover-up.

News that Albemarle County Officer Gregory C. Davis had been texting during the accident, information that came out through the $850,000 suit Mitchell filed, stoked anger and led to the County's offer to settle in October.

For Mitchell, the settlement was small consolation, says his younger brother, Corky Mitchell.

"All he ever really wanted out of that situation was an apology," says Corky. "He never got that, and that's a sad sign of the times."

If the case th...

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Unhappy New Year: Local Sperry HQ to shut down as layoffs loom

Northrop Grumman announced plans Friday to shut down its Charlottesville-based Sperry Marine U.S. headquarters, leaving its 37 employee with uncertain futures. While a spokesperson for the company says that a "small number" of employees will be allowed to transfer to the company's large Marine Systems unit on Route 29, the rest will be "laid off" at the end of January 2012.  

“Every effort will be made to assist impacted individuals in finding new employment," says Northrop Grumman spokesperson Jack Martin in an email to the Hook. "Affected employees will receive all separation and other benefits to which they are entitled, and the company will also provide outplacement assistance to help those who will be seeking other employment including at other Northrop Grumman facilities."

Martin says that a United Kingdom-based Sperry Marine facility will take over the Charlottesville office's duties, though workers in Europe are not immune to Northrop Grumman cost-cutting efforts. Martin says that 60 to 70 positions through Europe could be eliminated as well.

The international marine industry has been hit hard by the global recession, explains Martin. As a result, orders for Sperry Marine products and services are down.

"It is imperative that we realign our facilities and staffing levels to better meet the requirements of our customers," he says.

Martin says the current announcement will not affect the...

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