As a City Councilor (2012 to present)
A Sustainable City
Transportation Choice, Renewable Energy, & Global Climate Change
• Making city streets safe and comfortable for walking, cycling, and taking the bus by championing the West Main Street and Belmont Bridge improvements (both have received state funding and are in the construction document phase) and new city street standards known as “Streets that Work;”
• Improving bus service in the City and County by working with County Supervisors, Jaunt and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on the Regional Transit Partnership; and
• Pushed for the East McIntire Park Bridge and Trails which will connect the Warner Parkway and the Downtown Mall with the YMCA, Meadow Creek trails, and Route 29, benefiting not only recreational users but also bike-pedestrian commuters;
• Committed Charlottesville City to establish Greenhouse Gas reduction targets in keeping with the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report by voting for the Global Compact of Mayors, and submitted annual requests to the General Assembly to let Virginia join a regional carbon cap and trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI);
• Supported efforts by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) to apply solar panels on the Ivy Land Fill so as to produce a utility scale source of solar power (which was technically sound but denied by Dominion Energy);
• Made solar refits more affordable by working with Albemarle County Supervisor, Norman Dill to secure the 2017 Solsmart Silver Designation; and
• Secured majority Council support to join other communities nation-wide in endorsing resolution in support of Federal congressional action to adopt legislation for a carbon fee and dividend policy to address climate change (in collaboration with the Charlottesville Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby).
Clean Air, Water, Stormwater Management & River Health
• Worked to make our Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) a leader in environmental stewardship by pushing for a water treatment odor control plan that improved the quality of life for the Woolen Mills, Belmont-Carlton and the Pantops areas, and best practices in water treatment;
• Reached agreement across jurisdictional lines to get the pump station out of the Woolen Mills allocate costs on all other future capacity waste water projects, which also made room for a positive working relationship between the City and County; and
• Voted for the Storm-water utility fee which has generated the funds needed to better manage storm-water runoff (which accelerates with each extreme weather event.)
• Worked on and voted for the cost allocation agreement for the “Water Supply Plan” between the City, County, Albemarle County Service Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), that guarantees an ample, safe water supply and distribution system for the Charlottesville and Albemarle County communities.
• As the Council’s representative on the RWSA, insisted that the public participate in deciding how to treat its drinking water which led to the installation of a granular activated carbon filtration system instead of using the chemical, chloromine.
An Equitable City
Employment & Economic Fairness
• Made ending poverty through employment a Council priority which gave rise to the City’s policy on ending poverty through employment known as the, “The Growing Opportunity” Report of 2013, the downtown job center, a full-time city workforce development specialist , and the Growing Opportunity (GO) job training programs that have helped over 200 city residents without college degrees become gainfully employed;
• Helped fund a “Bank On” position within the City’s Downtown Job Center, as part of a Legal Aid Justice Center initiative to steer low income residents away from pay day lenders;
• Worked with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Emerging Leaders Program, to design a community central kitchen (patterned after D.C. Central Kitchen) as one way to address the chronic poverty in some of our city neighborhoods as identified by the 2011 Orange Dot Study;
• Made sure that a developer met his promise to give $50,000 to PHAR and $50,000 to the City for their workforce development programs and arranged for the transfer of $50,000 from the Council’s Discretionary Fund to the PHAR, CRHA and Habitat for their housing rehabilitation/resident job training program;
• Secured city funds and majority Council support to create the New Hill Development Corporation, a community development corporation (CDC) committed to expanding African-American businesses and home-ownership in the heart of Charlottesville and establish a food equity coordinator position in partnership with the Health Department and food justice network to address food insecurity in Charlottesville; and
• Supported and promoted the Chamber Diversity Business Council and Forward/Adelante, two organizations that advocate for African American, minority and bi-lingual businesses.
• Championed the City’s first small area plan to preserve all 340 units of existing affordable housing, expand housing and job choice, make streets and intersections safer for pedestrians and provide parks, in an area of high poverty south of the Downtown Mall, known as the Strategic Investment Area (SIA);
• Worked with community stakeholders to explore and create a better zoning code in the heart of the SIA; one that builds affordable housing on site, maintains a human scale and makes it easier to have grocery stores and small resident-focused businesses;
• In 2018 submitted a comprehensive list of affordable housing policy ideas to Council and the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC), pulled from the 2018 Housing Needs Assessment and Bonus Height Analysis by Partners for Economic Solutions –PES (a member of the consultant team developing the form-based code), the Growing Opportunity Report in 2013 and the RCLCO housing study in 2015; and
• Together with my colleagues on City Council voted in April 2019 to contribute $10.6 million towards the residents’ efforts to complete the first phases of redevelopment for Friendship Court, Crescent Halls and South First Street, all without resident displacement and $3 million towards the reconfiguration of the Charlottesville City Schools, inclusive of an early childhood development center.
Human Health, Safety & Justice
• Together with former City Councilor Holly Edwards and the Central Virginia Health Services (CVHS), secured a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish the Neighborhood Family Health Center (NFHC) on Preston Avenue that provides access to medical and preventative health care services for our low income residents on a sliding scale;
• Supported funding the Senior Center at Belvedere to promote the health, well-being and social connectedness of our region’s aging community;
• Supported establishing the Mental Health Court which together with the longer standing Drug Court, put the City one step closer to decriminalizing mental health and drug addiction;
• Championed the funding of a food justice coordinator in 2018 to assess the equity of our current local food system, engage the community on an ongoing basis and make evidence-based recommendations on policy and practice;
• Advocated for bills before Virginia House and Senate committees, that prohibited automatic and semiautomatic rifles from public places and grant more decision-making authority to localities (by letting them decide what to do with the statues in their public parks); and
• Supported the “Believers and Achievers’” advocacy for the re-entry community (which informed the City’s policy on ending poverty through employment known as the, “The Growing Opportunity” Report of 2013.)
• In 2013 worked with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to find ways to decouple fines from drivers’ licenses (which has yet to be resolved and has now been taken up by Legal Aid);
• In 2017 with members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race and Public Space, wrote the resolution to redesign East Market Street Park (formerly Lee and Emancipation) and Court Square Park (formerly Jackson and Justice), inclusive of working with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to appropriately site the marker to commemorate the July 12, 1898 lynching of John Henry James, an African American from Charlottesville. In 2018 supported a community effort to commemorate John Henry James inclusive of a pilgrimage to Montgomery, AL.
• Together with my colleagues on City Council invested in “state of the art” laboratory facilities at Buford Middle School for the benefit of children and alternative learning environment called the Alicia Lugo and Rebecca McGinniss Academy; and
• Championed an on-site General Education Development (GED) test preparation course for public housing residents, in conjunction with the Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education (TJACE) Center, Office of Economic Development, Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) and Piedmont Community College; and
• In 2013 got City Council and School Board to appoint a Commission of community leaders with skill sets in city management, finance, development, education and administration to find a permanent solution to our division’s systemic fiscal problems and long-term modernization needs. The commission’s 2014 report provided a range of alternatives which have informed Council decisions ever since.
& Efficient Government
• Called for a strategic plan beginning in 2012 which was adopted in 2013. No organization, public or private can function effectively without a mission, vision statement, clear goals and objectives or achieve excellence without performance measures;
• In 2014 championed and got in place, an objective, consistent means of evaluating our city manager as recommended by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA);
• Advocated for proactive, community-driven planning (in the form of small area plans) to repurpose our older retail centers and declining industrial facilities so as to expand the City’s capacity for affordable housing within the context of healthy, inclusive neighborhoods. After eight years, four out of twelve small area plans are either underway, completed or being implemented: Strategic Investment Area (SIA), Hydraulic/Hillsdale, Cherry Avenue, Starr Hill;
• Submitted resolutions in 2014 and 2016 to replace our zoning with laws that promote affordable housing and the physical qualities of the places we love. Council voted in 2016 to create a Form Based Code in the SIA (still in process) and in 2019 to fund an outside consultant team to revise our city wide zoning ordinance to be in keeping with an updated comprehensive plan with an integrated affordable housing strategy;
• Pushed for and secured funding for a Manager for Long Range Planning and Design, directly under the City Manager from 2016-2018; and
• Worked with my colleagues on council to find and hire the City’s next City Manager, who began working for the City on May 13, 2019.