Monthly Archive for May, 2007

Your City Council Endorsements?

Charlottesville Democrats will be holding their convention on Saturday to choose three nominees for City Council among candidates David Brown, Holly Edwards, Satyendra Huja, Jennifer McKeever, and Linda Seaman, with Mayor Brown seeking reelection. The event will be held at the Charlottesville Performing Arts Center beginning at 1pm, but anybody who wishes to vote must arrive prior to 1pm in order to get signed in.

I live in the county, so what I think doesn’t particularly matter, but my favorite candidates for the two open seats are Holly Edwards and Jennifer McKeever. They’re smart, engaged, and experienced, and are very much their own women. (Holly has the added bonus of being a total badass.) I know and like all of the candidates, and, for the first time in my memory, I can say that I’d be very happy to see any of the candidates serve on Council. Both Linda Seaman and Satyendra Huja have enormously valuable experience and long histories of service to the city, and I quite like them both personally.

Now you’re up — who do you support, and why?

Foreclosures Skyrocket

'We Buy Houses' SignI’d wondered to what to attribute the “We Buy Houses” signs all around the county, planted illegally in the right of way. (The sign at right was planted by DMT Properties, one of dozens that literally litter the landscape.) They’re a scam, of course, but Commonwealth Attorney Jim Camblos has apparently chosen to turn a blind eye. Turns out there’s a reason for the flourishing signs, as Brian McNeill points out: rising adjustable mortgage rates mean that people’s homes are being foreclosed on as they fall behind on their payments. The purpose of the signs is to prey on these desperate souls, offering them false hope at a chance to escape foreclosure.

Foreclosure notes in the paper during the first quarter of this year are up 27% from the same period last year. The Piedmont Housing Alliance says they simply can’t keep up with homeowners seeking help, which has increased by five-fold since this time last year. Subprime lenders have provided mortgages to people who simply can’t afford them, and now the industry is collapsing.

I’m mystified that no local media outlet has done a story about DMT Properties and their ilk. The business is a scam, their method of promotion is unsightly and blatantly illegal, and yet nobody says boo. What gives?

05/29 Update: DMT Properties responds.

Privatizing the Downtown Mall

In the current week’s Hook, columnist Peter Kleeman decries the loss of public space on the Downtown Mall, now that it’s being leased for the exclusive use of not just cafés, but to the ever-growing Charlottesville Pavilion. The agreement between the city and the pavilion allowed them to occupy a certain amount of space, which was extended down the Mall a bit while the transit center was under construction. Construction is finished, but the pavilion wants to continue to cordon off the Mall beginning at the end of the free speech monument, completely blocking the entrance to City Hall. The city is considering allowing the pavilion to continue doing this permanently, any time that they hold an event.

Henry Graff picked up the story for NBC 29, interviewing local blogger Sean McCord, who was recently surprised to be halted at the barricades while taking a walk.

It was only two years ago that Rich Collins was arrested while campaigning on private property. He decried the loss of public space to privatization, a concern that looks downright prescient now.

Independent Candidate in Sheriff’s Race?

WINA is running a curious story right now, “clarifying the position of [Sheriff Ed Robb]” in the sheriff’s race. Robb wants listeners to know that “he will not make any public endorsements in the race to succeed him until after June 12th.” Republicans and Democrats have chosen their candidates, which would normally be the end of things, but the filing deadline for independents and third party candidates isn’t for another few weeks. This is a strange thing for Robb to say unless he suspects that another candidate may be jumping into the race. Interestingly, Robb apparently requested this correction as a result of Republican candidate Chip Harding claiming that he had Robb’s support in the race, indicating that Harding had cause to believe that the incumbent is backing him.

Robb won last time around with 49% of the vote, a result of a third candidate garnering just 13% of the vote. The guy who came in second? Larry Claytor, with 37%, the man who is the Democratic nominee this time around.

Mall Overhaul Planned

The thirty year old brickwork on the Downtown Mall is long overdue for replacement, Seth Rosen writes in today’s Progress, and the city plans to spend $1.72M to replace the bricks over the next four years. The two automobile crossings are in particularly bad shape — the physical infrastructure was never meant to routinely handle anything heavier than pedestrians. An employee in the city engineering department told me, many years ago, that the contractor who installed the brickwork in the first place failed to meet the spec, which dramatically shortened the lifespan of the surface. The brick replacement is just a small part of the $7.5M in planned improvements, which will include “buying new street furniture, upgrading underground utilities, adding new lighting and improving the surrounding landscaping.”