Newscast

Newscast for January 15, 2019

Greetings and welcome to the local and regional newscast for Tuesday, January 15, 2019. On this first day of the third week of the new year, our program is sponsored by Court Square Tavern, where the Roast Beef Chili is always a good option. Court Square Tavern is located in the old Monticello Hotel above the Downtown Mall. And now, onto the information.

Today the Commonwealth Transportation Board will be presented with the preliminary scores for new road and multimodal improvements across Virginia. Since 2015, projects submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation have had to compete with one another on a variety of different factors, including how they address traffic congestion and promote economic development. There are 468 submissions from across Virginia, including 43 in the Culpeper District, which includes Albemarle County and Charlottesville. There are 71 projects from the Staunton district, which includes Harrisonburg and Waynesboro. Competition is tight. In all, those requests total about $7 billion, and there’s only about $800 million available in funding.

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A bill that would increase Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2021 has made its way out of the Senate Commerce and Labor committee. The panel voted 6 to 4 Monday to advance the legislation from Senator Roz Dance of Petersburg. The bill passed with support from two Republicans including Chair Frank Wagner, who told the Virginia Mercury that “Virginia is getting more expensive.” The Mercury also reports that the bill may have the votes to pass the Senate assuming Wagner and fellow Republican Tommy Norment continue their support.

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One seat remains open in the Virginia House of Delegates. District 86 is vacant now that Democrat Jennifer Boysko has won election to the Virginia Senate. The Virginia Mercury reports that Speaker of the House Kirk Cox has announced the special election to fill the open seat will be held on February 19. That’s four days after this session of the General Assembly is scheduled to conclude. All 140 seats in the House and Senate are up for election this November.

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A state senator who represents Danville has told the Register and Bee that he thinks efforts to build a casino there would be a short cut in the city’s overall economic development plan. Ralph Stanley of the 20th Senate District said he has not made up on his mind on whether he will support legislation that would give Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth the ability to have one casino in each locality. House Bill 2536 from Delegate Israel O’Quinn and Senate Bill 1503 from Senator Bill Carrico await action in their respective committees.

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Charlottesville’s City Council continues to get more crowded. Transit activist Paul Long has said he will make his fourth independent bid for Council. The Massachusetts native placed fourth in the 2009 race with 7.5 percent of the vote, withdrew from the 2011 race for health reasons and placed fifth in 2017 with three percent of the road. Another independent who is running, John Edward Hall, placed last in the 2017 race. Five people have declared so far for the Democratic primary, which is on June 11. They are Michael Payne, Don Gathers, Sena Magill, Lloyd Snook and Brian Pinkston. So far, incumbents Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin and Wes Bellamy have not indicated their plans.

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There will be several key meetings across the region today. The Albemarle Economic Development Authority will have their first meeting at 4:00 pm in the county’s office building on McIntire Road. That will be followed by the Albemarle Planning Commission at 6:00 pm, with action on a utility transmission line as well as a steep slopes waiver for a new development off of East Rio Road. The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review meets at 5:30 pm with a review of the final phase of the William Taylor Plaza as well as installation of two metal grates at 500 Court Square. The BAR meeting will be televised.

 

 

Newscast

Newscast for January 14, 2019

Good morning, and welcome to another week of news headlines from in and around Greater Charlottesville. Today’s edition is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, a local institution since 1976. Court Square Tavern is open for lunch Monday through Friday, and for dinner and drinks Tuesday through Saturdays. Come on and give us a try!

As the General Assembly prepares to enter its second week, action will continue on several pieces of legislation to improve and expand the 325 miles of Interstate 81 that travel through Virginia. The Roanoke Times reports on various proposals that are expected to be filed this session. Some legislators see tolls as the way to fund $2 billion worth of improvements, while others think the problem can be tackled through increases sales taxes and revenues. The only piece of legislation filed at the moment related to I-81 is from Delegate Dave LaRock, which would establish the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Transportation Commission. (HB2571). In related news, tomorrow the Virginia Department of Transportation will release the preliminary scores for the next round of road improvements in a process known as Smart Scale.

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As legislation proceeds to approve casinos in economically distressed areas of Virginia, the Virginian Pilot reports that one native tribe is objecting to another’s plans to build one in downtown Norfolk. The Pamunkey tribe wants to locate the state’s first casino on waterfront land next to the city’s Harbor Park, but the Nansemond tribe claims the land actually traces back to their ancestors. The Pamunkey are the only one of Virginia’s seven federally recognized tribes who have the right to offer gaming on their lands, but the terms of a trust on their reservation east of Richmond bands the practice. The Nansemond claim the land the Pamunkey want to buy for their resort and casino is theirs. Meanwhile, there are several bills in the General Assembly that would allow casinos to operate in communities with higher unemployment figures than the state average. All are still awaiting action in their various committees.

Casino-related legislation:  (HB2536) (SB1503) (HJ658) (HB1890) (SB1126)

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The legal battle between Dominion Virginia Power and opponents of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline continues. On Friday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Appeals Court denied a request from Dominion to clarify a recent decision by the court to temporarily block an environmental permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a statement released over the weekend, the utility defended the need for the pipeline and said its delay will slow the company’s growth. Meanwhile, opponents of the project are calling today on the Department of Environmental Quality to schedule a date for the State Water Control Board to reconsider a water certification permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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Automation at parking garages at the University of Virginia have led to early retirement for several attendants. The Cavalier Daily reports  that a decision by UVA’s Parking and Transportation department to move to a self-serve payment system for its garages, meaning that humans will no longer be paid to make change. The head of that department said employees were notified of the impending change last fall and were offered other positions at UVA. Two attendants profiled in the article opted instead to leave.

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There will be at least one open seat in the Albemarle School Board race this year. Last week, Steve Koleszar said he would not seek a seventh term representing the Scottsville District on the board. The Daily Progress reports that Koleszar said it was time to “pass the torch” to a new generation. He said he served a sixth term in order to help select the new superintendent, Matt Haas. Neither White Hall District representative Dave Oberg or Rivanna District Jason Buyaki have not announced their plans. At-large member Jonno Alcaro will seek a second term as the body’s at-large representative. The school board has a seventh member elected by all voters, whereas the Board of Supervisors only has six members.

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And finally today, a public meeting to get information about area transportation projects will still go on despite weekend snowfall. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization will present a draft version of the Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan, which is intended to assist Albemarle and Charlottesville as they build more “multimodal” pathways throughout the community. There will also be a change to give input on the Long Range Transportation Plan, a document required by the Federal Highway Administration. The event begins at 5:30 at the Water Street Center at 401 Water Street in downtown Charlottesville. Let us know if you went, and what you thought.

 

Monday, January 14, 2019

 

Newscast

Newscast for January 10, 2019

(Programming note: The audio for this newscast will be available later this evening due to a logistical error. We apologize for the inconvenience.) 

Why, hello! And welcome to your daily digest of news and information from in and and around Greater Charlottesville. This is the eighth installment of what is shaping up to be an informative way for you to get a quick look into what’s happening in local and state government. Today’s edition is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, a local institution since 1976. Along with the great beer, keep in mind the most expensive food item on the menu is $13! At those prices, you can’t beat Court Square Tavern.

There are now four people who have indicated they are seeking a Democratic nomination for Charlottesville City Council. Defense attorney Lloyd Snook will launch his campaign on Tuesday at an event at Bashir’s Taverna on the Downtown Mall. According to his website, Snook grew up in Charlottesville and is an occasional commentator on local news stations. Yesterday, another city native, Sena Magill, announced her candidacy at an event in CitySpace. Magill is a member of the Region 10 Board of Directors. This week, housing activist Michael Payne announced his candidacy and his running mate Don Gathers will publicly declare in the near future. Both are running on the Progressives for Cville banner.  The Democratic primary is June 11. The three incumbents have not said whether they are running again.

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Ned Gallaway is the new chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Gallaway is the newest member of that body and takes over from Ann Mallek. Unlike in Charlottesville, the presiding officer in Albemarle usually serves one term. The exception in recent years is when Supervisor Ann Mallek served for four years in a dispute related to transportation issues.

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Soon after Gallaway became Chair, Rivanna District Supervisor Norman Dill announced he would not seek a second term. That means there will be at least one open seat up for election this year in Albemarle. Ann Mallek said she would make an announcement next week on whether she will seek a fourth term in the White Hall District. Rick Randolph did not say anything about whether he will seek a second term in Scottsville. In addition to the supervisor races, four members of the School Board are also up for election, including the at-large seat currently held by Jonno Alcaro.

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Efforts to have Virginia becomes the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment took one small step yesterday. The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 8 to 6 to approve Senate Joint Resolution 824. ERA was first proposed to Congress in 1972 and opponents argue that a ten-year deadline for the amendment make ratification impossible. However, the resolution points out that the 27th amendment to the Constitution became law 203 years after first being proposed by James Madison. Earlier in the day, Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, a co-sponsor of an equivalent ERA resolution in the House of Delegates made an impassioned plea from the floor. The next step for House Joint Resolution 579 is the House Privileges and Election Committee. The Virginia Mercury has an article today that explores it chances in that body.

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And finally, City Councilor Mike Signer has the Planning Commission to hold off on scheduling any more meetings related to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

“Mike has asked us to hold off on future meetings for two or three months while he puts together a memo moving forward with staff or consultants or a combination of the two to help us move forward with the land use plan,” said Lisa Green at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. 

The Commission has been working on the Comprehensive Plan since early 2017. Virginia law requires every community to create such a plan, and many have been requesting delaying completion of the current revision until the city can create a strategy to increase the number of affordable housing units. More details on what Councilor Signer wants will be revealed at the next City Council meeting on January 22

 

Newscast

Newscast for January 9, 2019

Good morning and welcome to another edition of the the news today newcast. The name’s still a work in progress, but this is now the seventh installment of this program. We’re glad you’re listening. Today’s edition is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, the closest thing Charlottesville has to a public house – or pub. Open since 1976, consider Court Square Tavern the next time you want to hang out with some good friends.

The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board has voted 4-0 to approve a permit for a compressor station at Union Hill in Buckingham County. The vote came despite opposition from many in the audience who felt the predominantly African-American community was not a suitable place for the 54,000 horsepower facility, a necessary piece of infrastructure for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Virginia Mercury reports that board member Ignacia Moreno voted with the condition that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality conduct a health assessment in Union Hill, a community populated by the descendants of former slaves. Dominion has halted all work on the pipeline after a federal court invalidated another of the project’s permits.

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The first of what will be many campaign announcements has taken place for the Charlottesville City Council race. Housing activist Michael Payne launched his bid for one of three Democratic nominations at an event at Kardinal Hall.

“Our community is at a crossroads,” Payne said. “Charlottesville is rapidly changing and we’re seeing a lot of change and a lot of growth, and with that comes a lot of significant problems.”

Payne said that among those problems is an affordable housing crisis, deteriorating public housing and income inequality. However, he said he has hope that the city can overcome these issues.

“We can do something unprecedented by expanding and having public housing become a crown jewel of our city and send a signal that working families can afford to live in this city and we want to provide affordable housing as human right,” Payne said.

Payne’s running mate on the Progressives for Cville ticket, Don Gathers, was unable to attend the event due to an illness. However, Gathers did announce via email that he will step down from the Civilian Review Board.

The Democratic primary is on June 11. Today, Sena Magill is set to announce her candidacy at an event in CitySpace. There’s no word yet whether Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin or Wes Bellamy will seek election to new terms.  

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Today is the first meeting of the Albemarle County Supervisors in 2019. The six-member board will meet at 1:00 p.m. and will begin with the election of a new chair and vice chair. Then they’ll get right to business with a work session on stream health as well as updates on transportation, water and sewer issues. On the consent agenda, the board will direct staff to begin work on zoning changes, including adjustments to the county’s rules governing events at farms, or agricultural operations. The public has two opportunities to address the board – shortly after 1:00 p.m. and at 6:00 p.m.  

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Greene County has selected a new administrator. Mark B. Taylor will take over day-to-day management of the county later this spring. Taylor is currently the adminstrator in Spotsylvania County and will replace interim administrator Brenda Garton. Garton has served since John Barkley resigned from the position last June. Taylor inherits a county wrestling with many growth issues, including how to pay for expansion of a new water supply system that has a price tag in excess of $45 million.

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Proffitt Road in Albemarle County is now reopened to through traffic. The Virginia Department of Transportation had scheduled for the road to be closed all week to clear debris that had piled up under a bridge that crosses the Rivanna River. The debris was the result of multiple flooding events last year due record amounts of rainfall.

And that’s it for today’s installment. Once again, today’s installment is brought to you by Court Square Tavern. It’s like a public living room, and the perfect spot for you to come by and hang out with some friends. Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back tomorrow.

 

Newscast

Newscast for January 8, 2019

Good morning and thanks again for listening to the Daily Newscast; still waiting to reveal the name. Today’s installment is brought to you by Tastings, a wine bar, wine shop and fine dining establishment. Come by today and discover a whole new world. That’s Tastings in the Market Street Parking Garage.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has released its annual report on the health of the estuary, giving it a D+. That’s the first downgrade the foundation has given in ten years. The lower ranking is due to heavy rainfall in 2018 which increased the amount of nitrogren, phosphorous and sediment that reaches the bay.

“The bay suffered a massive assault in 2018,” said Will Baker, the foundation’s president. “The bay’s sustained improvement was reserved in 2018, exposing just how fragile the recovery is.”

The organic materials from wastewater treatment plants and fertilizers lead to algae blooms, and sediment makes it harder for bottom-dwelling organisms to breathe. The foundation is following a Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint to help the spread of underwater grasses and to reduce the size of dead zones that have no oxygen.

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Albemarle officials are holding a roundtable today to discuss potential changes to the rules under which “Homestays” are allowed to operate in the county. Homestays is the official phrase used in Albemarle for bed and breakfasts, AirBnB, short-term rentals and other similar arrangements. The Board of Supervisors amended the code to enable the county to impose a tax on homestays. In the development area, these are only permitted in single-family homes and not condos, townhouses or apartments – and a resident manager must be on site.

Now the county is taking another look at the ordinance in part to ensure that homes in the rural area are not being purchased for the express purchase of becoming homestays. Some supervisors are concerned that will drive up the cost of housing. The roundtable begins at 4:00 p.m. at the county office building on McIntire Road.

 

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The Greene County Board of Supervisors tonight will consider support for naming two rural roads as Virginia Scenic By-Ways. Greene County has joined forces with Albemarle and Madison counties to designate Route 810 and Route 230 as part of a nearly 90-mile roadway that would connect Crozet with Front Royal. Towns along the way include Stanardsville, Madison, and Sperryville. The goal would be to boost tourism in Greene County, a key element of its economic development plan. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Transportation would need to sign off on the idea. (link to item on agenda

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Delegate Dickie Bell of Waynesboro has filed legislation that would give Waynesboro property owners the right to a hearing with the city assessor if they believe that they have been aggrieved. That requires a change to the city’s charter. Other charter bills that have been filed include one in Newport News to allow the City Council to set the time and location for its inaugural meeting each year. The Town of Irvington in Lancaster County wants to update how its boundaries are described. Charlottesville City Council is seeking a patron for a bill to allow a charter change to raise their salaries. Delegate David Toscano has told the Daily Progress he will not introduce such legislation. The General Assembly begins its 30 day session on Wednesday.

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There’s a vacancy on the Roanoke City Council. Independent John Garland resigned last week, according to the Roanoke Times. Elected in May 2016, Garland stepped down due to potential conflicts of interest due to his profession as a developer.  The Roanoke Council has until the end of the month to choose a replacement who will serve out the rest of Garland’s term.

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And finally,  Charlottesville City Council has discussed potential changes to their meeting schedule for 2019. Councilor Mike Signer asked his colleagues if they would support starting their meetings earlier.

“There’s the idea, especially with three of us having young kids, have every other meeting be what they do in the county where it would be during the day,” Signer said, referring to Albemarle.

Councilor Wes Bellamy said he liked the idea, but was concerned that it would reduce access.

“We may have a much more involved constituency who enjoy coming to our meetings or like to be involved and know what’s going on for a variety of different reasons,” Bellamy said.

Vice Mayor Heather Hill suggested Council could get more of its business done before public hearings begin. No major changes were made at the meeting, except for a decision to only hold one meeting in July.

Newscast

Newscast for January 7, 2019

Welcome to another week of information about government in and around the greater Charlottesville area, in newscast form. We’re still working on a name, but our goal is to bring you information we think you need to know so you can make your own decisions about the immediate world around you.

Today’s installment is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, a downtown institution since 1976. It’s a great place to spend time with your friends, and maybe a great place to meet some new ones. Open Tuesday through Saturday nights, but not too late. Visit Court Square Tavern on Facebook for more details.

Tonight’s the first City Council meeting for 2019, and the five members have a full agenda agenda lined up for the night. There are five public hearings, all on technical issues. The final one relates to a plan to better define what a “dwelling unit” means in the zoning ordinance. Late last year, the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the city’s rules aren’t clear. Council will also decide whether to appoint a new commission to offer advice on what priorities should be made when funding non-profit groups. Last year the city pulled out of a joint process that included Albemarle County. Council will meet two other times this week. On Tuesday they will hold joint public hearings with the planning commission and on Friday will hold a budget work session.

There are now three candidates in the race for three seats on Charlottesville City Council. Don Gathers and Michael Payne will be the first to officially announce at an event to be held Tuesday at Kardinal Hall at 722 Preston Avenue beginning at 5:00 p.m. The pair are running under the slogan “Community Driven, Community Focused.” On Wednesday, Sena Magill will announce her candidacy at an event in CitySpace at 10:15 am. All three are running as Democrats in the June 11 primary. Gathers served as co-chair of the Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces and is a co-founder of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter. Payne is a housing activist with the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition and works for Habitat Virginia. The pair’s campaign is being run by a PAC called Progressives for Cville. That organization had $95 in the bank as of September 30, 2018 according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

In Richmond today, the Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding will meet for its first meeting of the year. Topics include “resilient enterprise solutions”, “securing prosperity in the coastal zone” and an update from Governor Northam’s special assistant on coastal adaptation.

Tomorrow in Richmond, the state Air Pollution Control Board will be asked to consider the suitability of a site in Buckingham County for a compressor station necessary for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Union Hill is a predominantly African-American community where the 54,000 horsepower facility will run 24 hours a day to ensure that natural gas can flow.   Former Board Member Vivian Thomas writes in the Virginia Mercury today how the panel operates and explains her opposition to the project.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Governor Northam wants to spend $175,000 on a gambling study before Virginia proceeds with legalizing casinos in certain cities. Delegate Matthew James of Portsmouth has filed a bill that assigns the Virginia Lottery Board with the responsibility of regulating casinos.

Among other conditions, the legislation would only authorize such facilities in communities that have an unemployment rate four points higher than the statewide average. Leaders in Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth have all indicated support for the idea. Meanwhile, the Bristol Herald Courier reports that Northam’s political action community received $25,000 in December from backers of a casino in Bristol.

And that’s it for today’s edition. We’ll be back again tomorrow. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget that support for this program comes from Court Square Tavern.

Newscast

Newscast for January 4, 2019

Welcome to another look at local and regional government, in newscast form! Today’s installment is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, open in historic downtown since 1976. Consider Court Square Tavern for the next time you want to get together with a bunch of friends in a comfortable and welcome setting. Now, onto the news.  

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will meet all day tomorrow to begin the third year of reviewing the Comprehensive Plan. State law mandates that every planning commission in the state create a plan “for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.” Charlottesville City Council approved the last comp plan update in 2013, and began its review in early 2017.

“I don’t think that it’s any surprise that this is a major undertaking and that probably we understand how important this particular Comprehensive Plan is to our city at this time,” said Lisa Green, chair of the Planning Commission at a Council meeting in December. 

There has been a lot of turnover on the group since the review began with several new members appointed in the wake of a renewed community effort to increase the number of affordable housing units in the city. Commissioners will meet all day in city hall to discuss the land use chapter of the plan, as well as something called the future land use map. A revised map could eventually lead to more homes in some neighborhoods. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you informed.

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The current Comprehensive Plan designates the western edge of the city’s Little High Neighborhood as “Neighborhood Commercial.” That designation seemed confusing to many residents of the neighborhood when Council in December 2017 approved a special use permit to build over 120 apartments on a site currently owned by a former doctor’s office. That would double the number of housing units in the neighborhood. In addition to filing a lawsuit against the city, Little High residents have also asked for a historic survey of their neighborhood to see if it might become a historic district. On Monday, Council will see on their consent agenda an appropriation of just over $21,000 in city funds toward the effort. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has awarded another $12,000.

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Danville has joined the list of Virginia cities that are calling upon the General Assembly to legalize casinos within the Commonwealth. The Danville Register and Bee reports that the City Council has passed a resolution in support of upcoming legislation that would allow citizens in Danville, Portsmouth and Bristol to decide in a referendum whether gambling resorts could be operated in those cities. Councilors said such a resort could inject Danville with a massive influx of new revenues.

“This is the most significant economic development opportunity Danville has seen in my lifetime,” said vice mayor J. Lee Vogler. “We’re talking about nearly 7,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion into our local economy in the next decade.”

The vote to adopt the resolution was unanimous on the nine-person body. Mayor Alonzo Jones said the additional revenues could help prevent future tax increases and would help rebuild the city’s schools. The legislation has not yet been filed with the legislative information system.

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A member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Vienna has filed a bill that would change the way members of some state environmental boards are appointed. Currently the governor appoints all of the members of the Air Pollution Control Board, the Waste Management Board and the State Water Control Board. Proposed legislation from Delegate Mark Keam would allow legislators to name five members to each body, reserving only two for the executive branch. Last month, Governor Ralph Northam drew fire for naming two new members to the Air Pollution Control Board shortly before that panel was to vote on a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County necessary for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That vote has been delayed until next Tuesday, and the new members will not participate.

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And finally, Delegate David Toscano said yesterday that he will not carry legislation to amend Charlottesville’s charter to allow City Councilors to raise their salaries. A split Council voted in December to request such a bill as part of the city’s legislative package. Toscano told the Daily Progress he felt the idea needed to be vetted by the public. Localities in Virginia must get permission from the General Assembly to amend their charters, which are documents that lay out the basic rules for municipal government. Senator Creigh Deeds has not indicated whether he would introduce the bill.

And that’s it for today’s installment. Thanks to our sponsor, Court Square Tavern, for their support of our program. We’ll be back on Monday for another week of quick round-ups of local government news from across Virginia. Thanks for listening.