Charlottesville Tomorrow Launches

There’s a new organization devoted to the future of the region, Charlottesville Tomorrow, which describes themselves as:

[A] new non-partisan organization dedicated to informing public opinion and policy on land use, transportation, and community design issues to ensure sensible growth and to realize the best possible future for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.

The group was announced at a press conference held today. They’ve got an all-star Board of Directors, a paid executive director, a pretty extensive website, and a blog, so they’ve certainly gotten a good start. Oddly, they’ve declared themselves to be neutral on the topic of growth, which is clearly the biggest issue facing the region — it’ll be interesting to watch them try to dance around the issue.

9 thoughts on “Charlottesville Tomorrow Launches”

  1. I do have one question, doesn’t a potential conflict of interest when Charlottesville Tomorrow, a political advocacy group, is being run by an elected official, Brian Wheeler of Albemarle school board. The possibility is quite apparent. What happens when Mr. Wheeler runs for re-election or another office? If the board of Directors wants to follow a course of action that is contrary to the wishes of majority Albemarle Citizens; what does Mr. Wheeler do? His paid job at Charlottesville Tomorrow or his paid position at the Albemarle school board.
    This is not the same as another school board member, Gordon Walker, who is the head of JABA. The two boards have little if any overlap.

  2. Of course, that’s the classic conundrum presented to elected officials: Is their job to do what they judge to be best, or what the majority desires? If Brian sees his role as an independent decision maker, doing what is best for Albemarle, presumably his two roles overlap entirely. In both capacities, he is doing what is best for Albemarle. Though I see that it’s possible for a board of directors to direct him to do something that he doesn’t want to do — or that would conflict with his work on the school board — I hope that both he and the board would handle such things cautiously.

  3. I’m new to C’ville, so I’ll readily admit that I’m currently ignorant both of many of the specific local issues here and also to the personalities involved. But what struck me in looking over the bios of the board for this new advocacy group is that of the ten people listed, nine of of them live outside the city of Charlottesville (one person didn’t list their residence). After looking at their bios, one could also raise concerns about the issue of class in the makeup of this group. In their mission statement, they state that they “seek to protect and build upon our region’s distinctive character by promoting common values of a high quality of life and economic vitality.” I’m a bit skeptical of their notion of “common values” — do the lower and middle class of this area have the same values as their group? Hard to tell since their website lacks much in specifics.

    I have lived in numerous other cities in this country (Chicago, Seattle, Austin, Milwaukee, & Madison, WI among others) and I have to say that Charlottesville has evidence of some of the worst planning and zoning I’ve ever seen (and yes, I know that the cities listed are much larger than C’ville, but I’ve lived in better planned smaller towns as well). In my opinion, it’s often people that choose to live outside metropolitan areas but still avail themselves of the services and amenities that cities offer that are some of the prime contributors to the problems of lack of or ineffectual planning.

  4. But what struck me in looking over the bios of the board for this new advocacy group is that of the ten people listed, nine of of them live outside the city of Charlottesville (one person didn’t list their residence).

    Welcome to Cville! The issues Charlottesville Tomorrow seems to be aiming to deal with are regional problems with regional solutions. Whether the City admits it or not, it is not an island answerable only to itself. I would hazard a guess that several, if not most, of the members of the Board either have lived in or currently work in and/or employee people who work in and commute to the City, (convoluted sentence notwithstanding).

    … do the lower and middle class of this area have the same values as their group?

    My thought is that we all want clean water, air, easy commutes, picturesque rural areas, secure property rights, etc. I am hesitant to say that those are “class issues.”

    This group seems to have stepped to the plate when no one else would; their board is about as diverse as one could imagine. The founder of the SELC and a REALTOR serving together? That they have agreed they share a common goal (and are willing to publicize it) is a good sign. For those that employ the lower classes, wouldn’t it make sense to promote an agenda that will enable their employees to both afford to live and work here?

    Give them a chance before the skepticism sets in. They might actually be up to some good.

  5. I don’t get it. They claim they will be addressing three topics: water supply, rural area protection, and quality growth. But how do these folks qualify as experts on these issues? Based on reading their qualifications and experience, they appear to be no more than arm chair enthusiasts, not to mention the fact that they’re not even going to take a position on these issues. Aren’t there already enough nonprofits (SELC, PEC, TNC, Citizens for Albemarle, Rivanna Conservation Society, etc.) in town that deal with these issues? At what point do citizens just become more confused by more emails, mailings, and websites with differing messages?

  6. Some good questions have been raised in this discussion. As the Executive Director of Charlottesville Tomorrow, I’ll add a few comments.

    First, Waldo describes Charlottesville Tomorrow as “neutral on the topic of growth.” Charlottesville Tomorrow is about QUALITY growth. We are going to grow as a community, so let’s make it growth that is well-planned, benefits the community as a whole, and protects the area’s quality of life, rural character, and healthy environment. With a Board of Directors representing diverse political viewpoints and areas of expertise, Charlottesville Tomorrow will seek to reach a broader audience in the community to have that discussion.

    “perlogik” asks about conflicts with my School Board service. Charlottesville Tomorrow will steer clear of school business because of my position on the Albemarle County School Board. As a School Board member, I have to file my annual Statement of Economic Interests (e.g. gifts over $50–never had one since being elected). I have signed the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) Code of Ethics. It says in part, “I will refrain from using the board position for personal or partisan gain and avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety.” Should any direct conflict exist on a given vote before the School Board, for example if one of my Director’s children was before the School Board for a disciplinary matter or an attendance appeal, I would certainly recuse myself. I believe my work for Charlottesville Tomorrow will make me an even more knowledgeable School Board member. Even running for re-election to the School Board should not be an issue. Now if I ran for City Council or Supervisor, that WOULD be a problem since Charlottesville
    Tomorrow is going to be involved in those elections, albeit in a non-partisan manner.

    “conroy” made a solid observation. Our Board is currently all County residents. That is not what we want and we are still recruiting board members so we will have City representation as soon as possible.
    We are also still seeking minority representation on the Board.

    “Jim” observes correctly that some of us have worked Downtown for many years. Certainly several of the Directors employ City residents at their businesses. I have worked in the City since 1990 and during 1997-2005 served as CIO at SNL Financial where I had regular dealings with senior City staff as SNL’s operations moved in and around the Downtown Mall. I was a city resident during some of my time at UVA too. Still, our goal is to have City residents on the Board of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

    “cvillity” has doubts. I hope they will subscribe and examine how our information compares to what is currently available on these issues (water for now) and the County elections. SELC’s Executive Director, a PEC board member, and a TNC board member are ALL on Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Board. They saw the need for a new approach that could compliment and strengthen the efforts of other groups.

    Brian Wheeler

  7. Brian Wheeler, I applaud you appearance in this forum and appreciate your directness. However separating the question of growth and the school system may be more difficult than you imagine. Though you could make the argument that the Albemarle school system is growing so slowly that there is no problem. Certainly you could further argue that the slow growth of the school system is what you are looking for in the county, as a whole.
    It seems to be a fine line you must navigate, on certain issues, to be sure. What happens if a developer proffers an incredible tract of land for a school but the development is opposed by Cville-tomorrow. The school board might well be asked if this is a needed site. While the school board might directly not approve a development their input and even a vote might be needed. It is this kind of unexpected event that will put you to the test.
    My congratulations for trying to focus the debate on local issues. For Cvillenews sake, I hope you don’t “steal” all his bloggers.

  8. perlogik – As currently envisioned, it is unlikely that Charlottesville Tomorrow would take a position on a particular site plan. As we have done with the Water Supply, we may evaluate the pros/cons, fiscal impacts, etc. of the options under consideration. We may suggest alternatives be put on the table. As a result, there shouldn’t be any conflicts of the type you mention. With respect to theft of Waldo’s bloggers… he seems to want that to happen! Waldo writes, “I know I’ve said this before, but if we get enough people blogging in Charlottesville — and we have a lot of blogs here now — and they represent a broad cross-spectrum of the area, I’ll be happy to see rendered useless.”

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