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tonight’s charlottesville city council agenda. the bulk of that is just the consent agenda. most of the items tonight are related to the budget - we’re *almost* done with budget season! 🙏
the meals & lodging tax increases are on the consent agenda - those appear to be a done deal. the proposed budget does NOT include the previously discussed increase of the real estate tax rate, but that is still open for discussion. lots of people here for public comment.
you can watch live at home here:

dr wes bellamy asks for a moment of silence for @NipseyHussle
we’re through announcements (DMV select is now available in the city hall lobby, etc) and now onto pre-consent agenda public comment on consent agenda items. a rare occasion - we have a taker!
a woman has some questions about the public access tv lease & licensing agreement. a second speaker (who has a public access show) says public access is a constitutional right.
i admit i did not see this as a possibly contentious issue and did not read the background on this consent agenda item!
the virginia public procurement act does not apply to real estate, says city attorney john blair. i’m confused about what we’re even talking about or why, to be quite honest.
the clerk is now reading the TWENTY ITEM consent agenda. it’s a lengthy one.
(item O is the one the two people got up to comment on)
signer is explaining the rules to the mayor? he said “one of the options” when a councilor disagrees with a consent agenda item is to have it pulled (she knows) but says he won’t ask to PULL the meals tax increase, he just wants to talk about it now.
he just wants everyone to know he disagrees with it and will vote against the entire consent agenda to show his “reservations” about the item. nikuyah asks him if he’d rather pull it, he says “i thought it would be more efficient” to do it this way (this is not efficient)
and we’re pulling it, but instead of putting it at the end of the meeting as is standard, it’ll be voted on separately from the rest of the consent agenda right afterward. this is not how it works, mike.
the consent agenda minus the meals tax passes unanimously. now voting on the meals tax separately, 4-1 with only signer dissenting. applause from the gallery.
now city manager’s response to matters by the public from the last meeting...
city manager mike murphy will be REVIEWING OPTIONS for bench placement downtown. this has been an ongoing saga.
the new trolley route involves the loss of several parking spots downtown - those will be posted.
there’s been some issues raised about accessibility of the vietnam veterans war memorial. “we’re looking at the possibility of benches” and signage.
(bellamy brown, not to be confused with wes bellamy, recently announced his candidacy for city council with this as a main issue)
the city is still collecting feedback about the trolley route change - wes says he’s been approached by many people who do NOT want the route to be changed. murphy says he’s open to proposed methods for collecting that community feedback.
now we’re doing dueling anecdotes. wes says he’s been approached 4-5 times in the last two weeks by people who don’t want the change. murphy says the feedback he’s received has been “balanced,” but ends by saying “everybody else thinks it’s a good idea.”
mayor walker asks what the harm is in trying out the new route and taking feedback from there. kathy asks if this is a time limited pilot (it isn’t right now, but murphy says it could be) - it involves reversing the direction of traffic in two places.
“that’s what pilots are for - to test out an idea,” says kathy. she proposes checking back in after six months.
murphy says it could be instituted may 1 through nov 1. kathy & nikuyah seem satisfied.
we’re talking about benches again kathy is subtly implying that business owners are concerned about the benches going back in their old locations (which upset business owners who hate poor people)
“we all got a very detailed 18 page memo” about the vietnam veterans memorial, kathy says. she doesn’t understand why a small parking lot can’t be built adjacent to the memorial.
“there are multiple complications with that,” murphy says.
that memorial is built in a weird spot, traffic wise. there isn’t a reasonable way to construct a traffic entrance at that location. it would involve putting a road all through the park or building a bridge over the railroad (which is a complicated proposal)
“all the folks you’ve been having reach out to you coordinated with us on its location,” murphy says. he’s hard to read and never changes tone much, but he seems irritated.
kathy asks him to provide the documentation of these issues to the people asking for the lot.
this seems small and not overwhelmingly important? but monuments are a sticky subject in this town & we have a council candidate running with this as his primary issue.
now on to matters by the public. the first speaker is from a group called spread the vote that helps people get registered to vote by assisting them in many ways - transportation, help getting documents, and direct assistance.
next speaker is in support of “any conceivable tax increase” that would help support public housing. (the meals and lodging tax increases already passed but we’re still on the edge of our seats about the real estate tax rate!)
nancy’s up next talking about “the commitment that you’ve made to people who work here every day” and want to live within the city. “you were going to be bold by investing in a housing package,”
“but it looks like there’s a snag in that you want to renege on boldly funding housing initiatives” by walking back the real estate tax increase.
nancy: we’re already 1000s of units behind & we’re poised to lose a pocket of affordable housing - a developer has given people 60 days to vacate so he can renovate.
what can the city do to ensure those units remain affordable after the renovation?
they’ve let her go over her time a bit, and she finished by asking everyone who supports the tax increase to stand - most people did!
next up is a representative from the cville low income housing coalition (CLIHC) also speaking in favor of the real estate tax increase.
“the tax relief program is a progressive tax” avenue that is available to the city. forgiving past tax debt is also an option.
they’re asking the city to increase the income threshold for full tax relief to $30k.
next is another rep from CLIHC. she thanks council for raising the meals & lodging taxes & urges council to fully fund the affordable housing fund & find a permanent revenue stream for housing
“we need expanded tax relief for low income home owners” up to lower-middle class homeowners. tax relief programs are a workaround to the state laws that don’t allow progressive taxation at the city level. wealthy people need to be paying their share, she says.
“we want to create and preserve a just and equitable charlottesville” and says she doesn’t understand how anyone in this room could say no to that. she too asks supporters to stand and most of the room does.
mayor walker says the tax relief program was expanded to: full relief for people earning up to $25k with a sliding scale that ends with $500 for people earning $45k-55k. she says they’re still working on that.
“i’m a landlord trying to keep three units affordable and there IS another option” (other than raising the real estate tax) this woman says just as her time is ending. i guess we’ll never find out what this genius landlord came up with.
the next speaker is the second woman who spoke earlier on the issue of public access tv. she has a show that airs 3 hours per week. she says there are 100 slots available but only 12 or so have been occupied for the past few years. she sees lots of possibilities!
damn maybe we should all get public access shows.
the next speaker says she’s still holding out hope that kathy galvin will recommit to the 1-1-1 tax increase plan she herself proposed. she is a homeowner in the city and sees the tax increase as a way to “undo the damage we’ve done.”
“this is a long term problem that needs a long term solution” - the real estate tax increase came off the table because of a one-time find of $850k in the budget - the tax increase would be a long term source of revenue.
she encourages outgoing councilors to consider making this part of their legacy.
city council candidate michal payne up now, also talking about legacies. he urges council to support CLIHC’s recommendations & fully fund affordable housing, rent relief, tax relief.
payne says we need to ensure long term stable revenue streams to build internal capacity for projects like zoning reform (which we do delaterately need).
the next speaker is a representative from SURJ in coalition with CLIHC.
they urge council to raise the real estate tax rate to fund “permanent solutions to the affordable housing crisis”
“i’m hearing a lot about business owners and not a lot about workers” re: the meals tax - if business owners paid workers a living wage maybe we wouldn’t have an affordable housing crisis.
“housing justice is a racial justice issue,” charlottesville has a long history of intentional racially motivated displacement. “this town was literally built on white supremacy.”
“if the largest gathering of white supremacists in modern history wasn’t enough to open our eyes to the fact that we’re doing something wrong in this town then i don’t know what is.”
next up is tanesha hudson - “if you can afford to eat out downtown, then you can pay that” (re: the meals tax)
to kathy about the benches - “i shouldn’t have to buy a $30 salad” to sit downtown.
“let’s not even think about a parking lot of a bridge,” she says about the vietnam memorial. “that million dollars” could go to affordable housing.

she’s reading them the riot act about their willingness to hear hotel industry folks complain about booking rates.
“y’all making it clear who you really represent” when you say what you don’t support. mike signer is inside council at willow tree, which is moving to the county. when she points out that willow tree won’t be paying these tax rates, signer mumbles “i don’t wanna talk about it.”
ms katrina says her neighbor’s house is going into foreclosure over $3000 in unpaid taxes.
mayor walker asks her to send her some more information about this particular woman’s situation.
walt up now. his daughter, now a playwright, got her start on public access! he thanks them for their commitment to public access tv.
“i was a big skeptic about the skate park,” but he’s seen it highly used & “i appreciate the fact that i was wrong”
(it’s always packed!!)
he thanks the police department for their quick & effective handling of the online threat that closed charlottesville city schools. “credit where credit is due,” but also says we need to end stop & frisk and improve police-community relations.
ms rosia up now reiterating her concerns about an intersection (did she say 8th and main? i missed it). murphy says he’s spoken with the traffic engineer who says the rapid flash beacons aren’t warranted at that location.
oof yeah now that i think about it i have nearly hit a pedestrian on main near mel’s a few times.
a speaker approached the podium just to thank mayor walker for her genuine concern for ms katrina’s neighbor’s tax situation.
the next speaker says they just moved here a few months ago. they began transitioning last year & have found the acceptance and culture here “not perfect” and “a work in progress” but they’ve felt “extraordinarily welcome.” ❤️
we are back from recess and getting into the first agenda item.
verizon is asking for a 15% reduction in their lease for communications equipment in the market street parking garage. must be nice to have that kind of bargaining power. i’m imagining proposing that kind of arrangement to my landlord 😂
the second half of the meeting is streaming live here:
kathy asked the city attorney if we could enact a policy requiring third party review of things like this (and references the FEMA maps of the flood plains for the hogwaller development as another instance where there should’ve been third party analysis)
murphy: “it’s unknown that the marketplace” is for this type of thing (placement of small cell communications equipment on public property)
staff have said “the original amount is appropriate,” murphy says (rather than the discounted rate verizon proposed)
the representative from verizon says because of the increasing number of small cells installed all over the country, the rents have gone down & tend to be focused on utility pole installations rather than on buildings. “but we do want to renew this site, for sure.”
nikuyah says she agrees with galvin that we don’t have enough information to support a reduction. no takers on public comment on this issue.
“just getting the information from verizon” isn’t sufficient, she says. galvin reiterates her desire for a third party market analysis.
verizon seems to prefer an approval tonight at any rate over a delay for a market analysis. heather moves to approve the lease renewal at the current rate & it passes unanimously.
wow extremely called out by city manager mike murphy - “i believe ms conger said she could give the presentation at this point,” he says before launching into a powerpoint i have seen nine thousand times.
i remain extremely grossed out and confused by the $124k allocation for “marketing assistance” for restaurants out of the meals tax revenue.

some possibilities for what to do with the surplus at the end of FY19
(that’s a citywide compensation STUDY, not stud - the Y is hidden by murphy’s head)
and now for the public hearing on the budget. three people are signed up but we’ll likely have additional takers. the first speaker represents IMPACT (a local interfaith coalition) - they applaud the investment in public housing redevelopment & expansion of rental assistance.
IMPACT continues to urge council to fund homelessness services. they agree with CLIHC on the need for a permanent revenue stream for the affordable housing fund.
“i think this is a historic budget when it comes to affordable housing and there’s a lot to celebrate in it,” says council candidate michael payne. but he again urges them to think long term - especially with the school expansion project looming.
“200 years worth of history have led to this problem,” walt said. he encourages them to think long term to solve this longstanding problem. “we’re still playing defense by thinking short term” when it comes to affordable housing.
walt references the 46 units nancy mentioned earlier tonight who are facing eviction because the developer is renovating. what can be done to ensure those people can afford to move back in?
he reiterates the importance of raising the real estate tax.
we have to play offense- “we have to think about land acquisition.”
“we’re just bleeding diversity in this town,” walt says as he closes his comments, again urging council to think about long term solutions to the housing crisis.
“i’m still not 100% sure on how you found it,” says the next speaker on the mysterious $850k they found in the budget.
“i can understand how that would feel like a miracle if you’re running for office,” of kathy’s remarks at a previous meeting calling this revenue a miracle.
and that closes out the public hearing on the budget.
nikuyah asks the city attorney what else needs to be done. the budget will be voted on next week, april 8th.
kathy “would like to make a comment” 🤦‍♀️
galvin wants to “reveal a little bit about” her thought process over the course of march. she was the original proposer of the 1-1-1 plan, and now opposes raising the real estate tax rate. i imagine most of the donors to her state delegate campaign aren’t in favor of an increase.
she’s using her whiny voice and it’s killing me
“i do believe that human reason and hard work and getting outcomes” are “a minor miracle.”
kathy what are you talking about.
“we forget all the debates and struggles that we had about needing an affordable housing strategy,” galvin says to a room full of housing activists. this is unbearable.
“we need a hard, fast, clear strategy” for housing, galvin says. she again reiterates the need for tools for more progressive taxation.
again, localities can’t do this in VA. we’re working around it with robust tax relief programs, but she’s talking like delegate kathy not councilor kathy.
“we’re definitely not at the end, we’re at the beginning of this process,” says mayor walker, affirming her commitment to making sure low income home owners are protected from increases that would drive them out of their homes.
the budget will be voted on april 8 at 2pm. mayor walker says she will need to use one of her two allowable meeting call-ins, as she’ll be out of town.
moving on to the water and sewer update!
“i’m pleased to say our reservoirs are full of water and that’s really good news!” says the presenter. well it’s nice to get good news.

(in even more surprising good news: this is the last agenda item! we could get out of here uncharacteristically early!!)
oh wow we are watching a VIDEO about the reservoir! i kind of love this.
“capacity is something we have to have in advance,” the presenter says on response to heather hill’s question about spending on unneeded capacity.
“even though it might not be clear today,” “we are trying to plan ahead.” he cites the increasing severity of extreme weather events as an example of something we need to plan for in our long term planning for water treatment.
“it takes a long time to fill it,” he says of the 2 billion gallon reservoir that is currently filled via a trickling pipe with a 4 million gallon per day capacity.
“i’ve been on the [rivanna water and sewer] board so i feel an obligation to explain all these things,” kathy galvin says at the end of a long rant i wasn’t listening to
we’re no longer able to recycle plastics 3-7 - apparently there was some issue with the company we were sending it to not actually recycling it, so there’s no sense continuing to believe we’re recycling when it’s going to a landfill.
the speaker notes that the recycling program overall “loses money.” signer asks how much. he’s not sure, “several hundred thousand dollars.”
(... it never occurred to me this wouldn’t be the case? we aren’t recycling as a revenue generator.)
and with no takers on closing matters by the public, the meeting is adjourned! this may be the shortest city council meeting i’ve ever attended. a minor miracle.
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