City staff want $750k for signage, and council is balking, Seth Rosen writes in today’s Daily Progress. It was just last year that council met staff’s $500k signage request with $200k in funding, so it’s hard to see why they’d support a request so large so soon. Councilors David Brown and Satyendra Huja are quoted as clearly opposing the proposal, Mayor Dave Norris doesn’t think it’s a great idea, and Julian Taliaferro supports it.
27 thoughts on “More City Signs Proposed”
The amount of money requested is certainly not outrageous, nor is the premise that visitors need help locating downtown. What needs to be considered is that most people have already googled Charlottesville and mapquested us before leaving their homes. Many people that venture here have a GPS system installed on their dashboard!
Lets try not to clog up the scenery with more signs.
“This way to the Great Egress!”
Not outrageous? You’re right…I call it exorbitant and wasteful. Don’t forget, C’ville signs have to have the messages in at least two languages plus “uni” symbols, be made out of green materials and be designed by a “Visual Message Specialist” to be aesthetically appealing and contemporary. Oh yeah, it can’t be made in China either.
I dispute the whole premise that we should be making an effort to get more tourists downtown.
This is quite enough as it stands. It’s become very difficult for locals who live and work here to find decent parking. So we should support efforts to shovel even MORE cars down here to compete with us?
If we shove any more tourists down here than we are already getting, downtown Charlottesville will end up like Vail, CO or Napa, CA or Carmel, CA. All are places that catered to tourists to such an extent that the locals mostly got forced out.
This is my home. This is where I have worked and played since I was 15 years old. It’s where my library and city hall are. It is not a resort, it is a community. When city government pursues Napa or Carmel style development, that ultimately robs the locals of their community. We get priced out. Rich tourists can afford to pay $12 a day to park during their vacation. But ordinary people from Charlottesville and Albemarle who come here every day certainly can’t. And when you shove more and more of them down here, the businesses that we need get pushed out in favor of those that the tourists want. Art galleries and 2 star restaurants are great and all. But we also need places to buy a gallon of milk or a pair of jeans.
Who is benefiting from the Napa-fication of downtown? A few local retailers will do better. And that’s nice. Then a bunch of out-of-town millionaire developers will get even richer. The City will take in higher taxes, which I suppose can then be used to buy more signs to direct more tourists. I can’t imagine how this is worth screwing Charlottesville locals out of their community center in the long run.
Hear, hear! (to Jackson, plus sound of clapping).
City Council reviewed the initiative at their budget work session on March 13, 2008, and did not appear to be too receptive to the idea. We have the recording of the work session at Charlottesville Tomorrow, along with a timeline so you can head right to that section. 41 minutes in.
It might be more useful to make the existing street signs – the green street markers, not the fancy signs pointing us downtown – large enough to actually be legible from a fair distance away. It annoys me to death when they try to cram two long street names onto one sign by making both of the names in small print – an example would be the sign at the intersection of JPA and Emmet. If you are trying to read signs to figure out where to turn, you can’t actually read the sign until it is way too late to get in the correct lane, particularly in heavy traffic. My parents and friends get lost because of this just about every time they visit. Also, some of the neighborhood street signs aren’t lit up and are way too dim to be read after dark.
If signs are not actually large enough that you can read them while driving and use them to navigate, what’s the point in having them?
That’s a good point, Meg. And people who have already mapquested the area will be looking for street signs. I’ve had out-of-town visitors get hopelessly lost because of confusing streets signs, especially when we have so many different streets with the same names: Monticello Rd and Monticello Ave, etc.
I say spend about 20 bucks at wally world on some bright colored paper and some magic markers. The end result is the same, right? JC
Yeah, we could have a “sign design” contest with Charlottesville City School kids and the winner would get an all expenses paid trip to The Governor’s School.
And let’s not forget how one stretch of road changes name multiple times. Will city council put up a new sign at each spot when Main Street becomes University Ave which becomes Ivy Road which becomes 250W? As we know there are many roads matching this problem.
Meg is spot on — those are the kinds of signs that are needed.
I am not familiar with City`s mnagement organizational structure.
Sometimes I wonder at the budget proposals which are credited to “Staff”.
I would have thought the City “Staff” reports to the City Manager; and in that case the various proposals should be marked as emanating from the City Manager, not Staff.This assumes, of course, the staff reports to the City Manager, not the Council.If so, then he (City Manager) bears the responsibilty for these proposals.
Let the City Manager take the responsibility for forwarding these proposals to the Council not merely cropping up as staff proposal.
Cornelius that is one of the ways city government uses to keep the citizenry off balance and confused. Vodoo. No body knows for sure who is running this ship of fools, city manager, staff, commissions or council, and the budget keeps spiraling up, up and upward….. I for one would like to see a decrease in the budget and a decrease in city services, i.e. social services, CTS, Police, fire and school budgets…(have read that the school superintendent is proposing in the school budget funds for gym memberships for all school employees. Don’t know whether its Gold’s Gym or ACAC. that’s a hell of a fringe benefit. wonder what the justification for benefit was.) No wonder my real estate taxes keep going up, up and up.
I discovered, when doing contract ethnographic survey work in South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, a general rule about tourism “development.”
The greater the role that tourism plays, as measured by percentage by industry, in a county’s overall economy, the lower the wages of the average tourism worker.
There are a number of possible explanations for why this is so, but it is also demonstrably the case that the vast majority of hospitality-related jobs are low-wage and unskilled. The stereotype is largely true: flipping burgers and making beds.
I have come to the conclusion that tourism development does NOT raise the overall well-being of a community. Increased reliance on tourism as a component of economic development is almost always disastrous for the majority in the community.
There was a classic case study done about 15 years ago on tourism development in Gatlinburg and Dollywood that showed that the majority of jobs created were , for women, cooking and cleaning, and for men, construction, and in boths cases the jobs were seasonal. The rest of the year the folks whop work those jobs either migrate to new work, or collect food stamps.
I concede that there’s tourism and there’s tourism, and that cultural tourism (the arts, history), like so-called “green tourism” is somewhat less objectionable than, say, casino or theme park tourism, but the argument still stands that the ones who benefit from tourism development of any sort are NOT the working poor.
The study citation:
Michal Smith, “Behind the Glitter: The Impact of Tourism on Rural Women in the Southeast.” 77 pages. Published August, 1989, by Southeast Women’s Employment Coalition/140 East Third Street/Lexington, KY 40508. “prepared under awards from the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute Rural Economic Policy Program and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Project No. 99-06-07258” ; LoC catalog card no 89-063002
See also: Now and Then: The Appalachian
Magazine published by the Center for Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State
University. Volume 8, Number 1 (Spring, 1991) was a special issue devoted to
tourism in Appalachia and Pat Arnow published several pieces on Sevier County,
Tennessee, including “Tourist Central: Scourge or Salavation?,” “Dollywood:
Changing the Profile of Pigeon Forge,” “The Great Indoors by the Smokies:
Outlet Malls and a Convention Center,” and “Sevier Statistics: Is the Boom a
That is enormously interesting. It’s precisely the opposite of what I have long believed. The upshot, presumably, is that tourism is a good and healthy thing, as long as it’s in proportion to what the economy can bear and it’s of the sort that is good for employment.
Jackson Landers and D. Turner Day make points which truly deserve attention.
Every year Gary O’Connell asks his department heads to have their staff to brain storm about what new projects they would like work on. The public is not invitied to these in-house meetings. After they put a dollar amount on the request, the department head adds all of them to the budget request he makes for his department. Gary O’Connelll then compiles it all, estimates total revenues, separates each item as funded and unfunded requests and throw the whole thing into Council’s lap and tells it to fight it out with the public. For some reason Neighborhood Development Services wants to trash Huja’s signs and put in their own. Is this nothing but revenge? If these signs are so necessary, would the city staff that requested be willing to forgo its 6 or 7% effective raise to pay for it? I doubt it.
If the above is factual then O`Connell is not a value added entity.
O’Connell has never been a value added entity and for that matter neither have the members of city council who rubber stamp every thing O’connell says and sit in aw of him. Mindless spineless morons the whole lot.
Rather than waste money on signs why not put the money in to more and better parking alternatives for the citizens who live here and have to work or go down town ocassionally?
I think of O’Connell as more of a value subtracted tax. I wonder if some other locality would hire him with his record of unfinished projects, top-dollar spending, high individual salaries, high payroll, spiraling budget increases, constant equipment purchases, excessive number of employees, extraordinary retirement benefits, and massive infrastructure bills to name just a few items in his resume.
If, indeed, O`Connell does little, in the budget cycle, except to pass on budget requests, without adding judgement value; then it is, of course, Council, not O`Connell, who is managing the City.
Or perhaps, O`Connell has the best of all worlds, salary without responsibility.
Which might boil down to a pointed question of “Who is responsible?”
Perhaps I was unclear Cornelius. The draft budget goes to O’Connell with price tag. O’Connell gets an “conservative” estimate of total revenues. O’Connell decides which items stay in as Capital projects (some bondable and some coming from the General Fund), which stay in as General Revenue sourced, after allowing first for payroll, and which are placed on the “unfunded requests” list. He wisely includes in the final budget that he submits to Council, the relatively small amounts that each Councilor requests for his special projects, e.g. $120,000 for a fire truck, $75,000 for a design center, $400,000 for undergrounding utilities around Court Square, etc., and direct the budget work session discussions on the Council’s priorities. Council spends a month discussing less than $5M in expenditures, get exhausted, pass O’Connell’s budget with insignificant modifications and feels it has done an excellent job of managing city money. O’Connell’s judgment value comments are usually limited to such statemnents as, it is important to have a AAA bond rating, Charlottesville is the only city its size to have a triple bond rating, we must maintain a flush Risk Management account, we have to follow a sound business model, it should provide a good return on our investment dollars down the road, it is important to invest in our staff, we need a systematic approach to the replacement of big equipment, we must provide strong support for our schools, and, if we lower the tax rate, we will not be able to fund Council’s priorities. Because O’Connell has had double-digit revenue increases in recent years, he has had very little to do. Then, in the fall, he announces a $5 – $7M “surplus” made up of primarily “unanticipated revenues” due to “a conservative estimate of revenues during the budget process,” he usually passes some to the school system and the rest the city staffers keep. The discussion of what to do with this surplus usually stretches over two Council meetings without Council’s considering the “unfunded” priorities of the previous spring. These actions take a lot of O’Connell’s time and comparatively little of Council’s time. Council’s discussion of about $5M of the $140M is a less than 4% contribution. The best thing is now there are recordings of the budget work sessions this year on the City’s website and the voters can listen and judge for themselves.
I’m usually tolerant of people ranting about people in the local public eye, especially when I agree with them, in the interest of Free Speech for All, even the Ill-informed.
But I think you guys have gone overboard in your vitriol against Gary O’Connell.
I have worked with Gary several times over the past few years.
When he visited the library at the Historical Society, where I was until recently the ED, Gary worked with us diligently and respectfully through the during his own research on several different aspects of Charlottesville’s history. Peg O’Bryant and I jumped at the opportunity to help Gary is his research (as we normally did with anyone who has exhibited a sincere interest in this community and how it’s gotten to be where it is now, and not just to big-wigs and gentry).
For a public servant who is dedicated to his community, an historical consciousness is something to be nurtured and encouraged, and says something valuable about his character and his approach to his work.
Gary has also responded very well—better than many dozens of metropolitan bureaucrats I have worked with over the years—on every occasion I have crossed his radar screen.
City Managers are usually the only municipal bureaucrats hired by the Council, not by department heads or human resource directors, and that’s one things that separates . Even City Managers are only employees. Any half-way good professional bureaucrat, especially in a managerial or leadership role, relies heavily on the recommendations, advice, and plain, hard grunt work of their department heads and staff. Managers who value their staff’s loyalty, goodwill and cooperation, will have to take their points of view into account.
Gary takes recommendations from his staff, whose job it is to serve the needs of their constituency, and who, in turn get feedback from citizens and constituent interest groups and council appointed-committees and commissions.
And generally, with a very few individual exceptions, local municipal government is extraordinarily top-notch, at the least when compared with other municipal governments I have worked with over the years. I’d go so far as to say that Gary and his staff is about as progressive and efficient as I have seen in similar-sized cities or “small metropolitan area” in much of the country.
Good, hardworking, dedicated civic bureaucrats don’t fall off trees, people. Based on the quality of his staff as only one marker, Gary’s doing a PFG job, and we’re lucky to have him.
Lighten up, let the guy do his job.
Sorry. High on Paint Fumes while Blogging. (HPFWB)
Edited version of the same:
I’m usually tolerant of people ranting about people who in the local public eye, especially when I agree with them, but always in the interest of Free Speech for All, even for the Ill-informed.
However, I think you guys have gone overboard in your vitriolic attacks on Gary O’Connell.
I have worked with Gary several times over the past few years, as I have with many, many other high-, mid-, and lower-echelon City staff.
When he visited the library at the Historical Society (where I was until recently the ED: see The Hook: search for “Hysterical Society” in the archives), Gary worked with us diligently and respectfully during his own research on several different aspects of Charlottesville’s history.
Peg O’Bryant and I jumped at the opportunity to help Gary is his research (as the ACHS normally does with anyone who has exhibited a sincere interest in this community and how it’s gotten to be where it is now, and not just to big-wigs and gentry who are looking up their ancestor’s land grants).
But we also jumped for Gary because, for a public servant who is dedicated to his community, an historical consciousness is something to be nurtured and encouraged. The very impulse to look at history, in my opninion, says something valuable about anyone’s character and his approach to his work.
Gary has also responded very well–better than many dozens of metropolitan bureaucrats I have worked with over the years–on every occasion I have crossed his radar screen with every little frustration about vandals and vagrants and skateboarders, and about the homeless, the walking wounded, and the drug-addicted, Gary has shown both a compassionate concern and a realistic pragmatism.
City Managers are usually the only municipal bureaucrats hired by the Council rather than by department heads or human resource directors, and that’s one important thing that separates City Managers from City Council, and from almost any other City employee. A hard position to play. Not a politician, and not a functionary.
Any half-way decent professional bureaucrat, especially in a managerial or leadership role, relies heavily on the recommendations, advice, and plain, hard grunt-work of their department heads and staff. Managers who value their staff members’ loyalty, goodwill and cooperation have to take their point of view into account.
Gary takes formal and informal recommendations from his staff, whose job it is to serve the needs of their constituency, and who, in turn, get positive and negative feedback from citizens and constituent interest groups and council-appointed committees and commissions and task-forces.
This is how it’s supposed to work, and seems, to me to be how it works in C’ville.
Generally, with a very few individual exceptions, local municipal government is top-notch, at the least when compared with other municipal governments I have worked with over the years. I’d go so far as to say that Gary and his staff are about as progressive and efficient as I have seen in similar-sized “small metropolitan area” in much of the rest of the country.
Good, hardworking, dedicated civic bureaucrats don’t fall off trees, people. Based on the exceptional quality of his staff as but one marker, Gary’s doing a PFG job, and we’re lucky to have him.
Lighten up, let the guy do his job.
D.TurnerDay, I can appreciate your opinions of Mr. O’Connell’s pursuit of his hobby centered around Charlottesville’s history. However, I can also appreciate the valid information I have received (and often verified) from my wife and many other employees through the years who actually work with Mr. O’Connell on an on-going basis. If there is anything that you know that I have said that isn’t true, or is a distortion of the truth, I will gladly stop saying it. Evaluations of people’s performances should not be based upon whether they are likeable or not, unless they are your child’s baby sitter. When the City digs deeper into my pocket, I have less money; when the City digs deeper into Mr. O’Connell’s pocket, he gets a substantial raise. I would be curious to know if you have listened to any of the online work sessions?
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