Charlottesville Breaking News

Balance of power: What's at stake in the 2011 elections

Three perennials always make the list of top local controversies: the Western 29 Bypass, Meadowcreek Parkway, and the water plan. Whether you love these projects or hate 'em, the deciders on these and many other quality-of-life issues sit on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council. And who's elected to fill seats on those key boards on November 8 has the potential to shift the balance of power on these controversial projects.

In Albemarle, it's always about growth– tightly containing it or encouraging business-friendly expansion. And nothing exemplifies the shift in power in the county more than the Western 29 Bypass, which emerged this spring from the grave where it was believed dead and buried for more than 10 years.

The resurrection of the Bypass is symbolic of how much Albemarle County has changed since the 2009 elections.

For decades, limited-growth policy backers had a 4-2 headlock on the Board of Supervisors, and the county was seen as not so business-friendly.

That course shifted two years ago when Sally Thomas decided not to run for a fifth term representing the Samuel Miller district, and Republican Duane Snow won her seat. He was joined by another Republican, Rodney Thomas, who upset Democratic incumbent David Slutzky in the Rio District. Suddenly, the board had two new Republicans joining Ken Boyd for a 3-3 balance.

Throw in conservative Dem Lindsay Dorrier, who dropped his longstandin...

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Scrappy work: Preston recreates '20s in graphic book

If Caroline Preston had a time machine, she'd take it back to the 1920s. Instead, the Charlottesville author has brought the 1920s to today by channelling a lifelong collecting habit into a new book called The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, which– to use the parlance of the era– is getting a bee's knees roll-out.

"It'll be in the New York Times this weekend, and Women's Wear Daily and the Oprah magazine," Preston tells a reporter recently in her Rugby Road-area home, where vintage bubblegum toys vie with antique dollhouses and the vintage valentines she collected in college.

Little wonder Preston would work as an archivist at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and at Harvard's Houghton Library.

"Mark Twain was so avid," she says, as she grabs her great-grandmother's 1870s scrapbook, "that he patented a scrapbook with gummed pages."

Her debutante mother followed in her grandmother's footsteps by detailing South American travels in 1939-40. "I love the way the scrapbook told a story," Preston says. "It was a way to know my mother."

Scrapbooks were such the jazz-era rage that the period's icons, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, kept them. (This isn't the first time Preston has visited the Roaring '20s: Scott Fitzgerald was central to h...

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Retread: 'Footloose' remake out of step

There's one thing to be said for a remake of a 1984 movie that uses the original screenplay. This 2011 version is so similar – sometimes song for song and line for line – that I was wickedly tempted to reprint my 1984 review, word for word. But That Would Be Wrong. I think I could have gotten away with it, though. The movies differ in such tiny details (the hero now moves to Tennessee from Boston, not Chicago) that few would have noticed.

Was there then, or is there now, a town in Tennessee or any other state in which the city council has passed a law against "dancing in public"? There may have been a brief period, soon after Elvis first began grinding his pelvis and preachers denounced rock 'n' roll as "the devil's music." But for most young moviegoers this plot point is going to seem so unlikely as to be bizarre.

We again get a plot in which a high school beer party leads to a fatal crash, taking the lives of five teenagers. The city council bans the music, under the influence of Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid). Rev. Moore, who seems to be the only preacher in town, acts as the de facto civic moral leader. Full review.

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Halfaday arrested: Ex-candidate charged with falsifying address

Former Democratic City Council candidate James Halfaday was charged October 19 with four felony counts of election fraud for allegedly using a false address to certify his candidacy with the registrar.

"I am not guilty of these charges," says Halfaday in a written statement. "I ask that no one judge me before I have had my day in court. Until the cases are completed, I will have no further comments." Halfaday did not respond to a phone call from the Hook.

A Hook investigation in September discovered that Halfaday did not reside at 2423 Sunset Road, the Charlottesville address he used when filing for Council, according to the occupants currently living there. Another more recent address associated with Halfaday, 1248 Richmond Road, is in Albemarle County.

The Hook also discovered that a number of contributors Halfaday listed as having donated $499 to his campaign said they had never given him money.

"I can't say whether additional charges will be filed," says Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell. "The investigation is still under way."

In an increasingly bizarre series of events after Halfaday placed last in the August 20 Democratic primary, he accused a campaign worker for another candidate of violating an emergency...

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Day five: Abshire expressed marriage regret

Speaking in a soft– at times shaking– voice, Eric Abshire's high school sweetheart, Allison Crawford, testified unwillingly today and revealed that on the night of Justine's death, Abshire, with whom Crawford has two daughters, said he still had feelings for her.

"He asked if there was any chance for our relationship," Crawford recalled under oath of a late-night phone conversation she had with Abshire– one of more than 40 phone calls between the two on November 2, 2006, the last day of Justine Swartz Abshire's life. Crawford also testified that former dump truck operator Abshire, whom she first met at age 12 and began dating as a junior in high school in 1991, expressed regret that night that he'd married Justine.

"I may have made a mistake," Abshire allegedly told her less than two hours before he'd report finding Justine's mangled body on Taylorsville Road.

Crawford, who answered in the affirmative when asked by the prosecution if she'd "prefer not to be here," insisted, however, that the majority of her conversations with Abshire that day centered on the health of his mother, who'd been admitted to Martha Jefferson Hospital earlier and was "not doing well."

She also acknowledged that her relationship with Abshire had been continuous for 10 years, until 2001. Previous testimony has revealed Abshire and Justine began dating in 1999. Crawford said today that she'd met Justine only twice and had learned of Abshire's pl...

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