Monthly Archive for February, 2011

County Proposal: Start School Two Weeks Earlier

Albemarle County is thinking about starting the school year two weeks earlier, Brandon Shulleeta writes in the Daily Progress. It’s still at the just-tossing-around-ideas phase, but the thinking is that this way students could take SOLs and winter exams before they leave for winter break, rather than after. It’s also possible that school would get out two weeks earlier for summer break. This year’s calendar had students starting school on August 25 and has them finishing up on June 10, so the proposal is presumably to have kids go back to school around August 11, and possibly get out as early as May 27. The idea came out of a discussion held by a panel brought together to consider the topic today. School board members agreed with the notion that any change should be announced at least a year in advance, so any changes likely wouldn’t come prior to the 2012-2013 school year.

Edwards Retiring from City Council

Holly Edwards in April 2007. By Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow / CC BY 2.0

Vice Mayor Holly Edwards is stepping down at the end of her first term, Brian Wheeler reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. In her announcement, she didn’t cite any single reason why she’s not running for reelection—is basically sounds like she’s done. Although Edwards was enormously active in the community prior to her candidacy four years ago, she’d never been politically active. She’s one of three councilors whose terms expire at the end of the year. Councilor David Brown has already said that he’s stepping down after this, his second term, while Satyendra Huja has not said what his plans are.

Presumably this should have a correlative increase in the number of people interested in running. There are a handful of people said to be considering running—all Democrats—and those who intend to do so should be tossing their hat into the ring in the next few months. Although the election is in November, the whole election process is in turmoil across the state, a result of redistricting. With the 2010 census data having just become available, the state legislature still needs to draw new district boundaries, and those have to be approved by the Department of Justice, the result of which is that primaries can’t be held until August, resulting in a significantly abbreviated general election period. Of course, redistricting won’t affect a city-wide council election, but this election will follow the same cycle as the statewide elections this fall, so anticipate an awkward process as a result.

Things Are On Fire

The smoke from a wildfire between between 29N and the Blue Ridge Mountains. By Jocelyn Dale / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are brush fires all over the area, as CBS-19 and NBC-29 report, or as you might have noticed if you’ve breathed today. The high wind means that small fires quickly become big fires. Lots of people are providing reports of small fires via Facebook, and Albemarle’s Fire Incident Display System is thick with responses to brush fires. Over at The Hook, Hawes Spencer has a dramatic photo of a wall of flames advancing through an Ivy neighborhood, said to be the result of some jackass deciding that the day with a 20 mph average wind speed would be the day to burn some brush. There are also good-sized fires in Esmont, 53, north of Crozet, and a thousand-acre fire in Louisa.

Here in northwest Albemarle, the air has been filled with smoke all day, the result of a fire between 20N and 29N. My house is perched on the side of the Southwest Mountains, and as the sun set, the low rays illuminated the huge cloud of smoke that is hovering over the area.

The strongest winds should peter out overnight, although it’ll still be decently breezy tomorrow, so it could be a bit until these fires are out and new ones stop popping up.

School Board Finalizes Buford/Walker Plans

The school board has decided to merge Walker into Buford, Brandon Shulleeta writes in today’s Daily Progress. They’re going to renovate Buford Middle School, shut down Walker Upper Elementary, and put the fifth graders into elementary schools and the sixth–eighth graders into Buford. Walker will likewise be refurbished, but to serve as space for preschool, adult education, and office space for staff.

City Manager Orders Censorship of Chalkboard

Jefferson Muzzles Promoted on the Free Speech MonumentBack when the city established the free speech monument, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression—which commissioned and funded the slate wall in front of city hall—made quite clear to the city that they must never, ever erase anything from it, because doing so would be an unconstitutional violation of individual’s right to free expression. Unfortunately, new city manager Maurice Jones apparently quite literally didn’t get the memo, because he recently ordered city staff to erase a drawing from the wall, Dave McNair writes for The Hook.

Local poet, musician, and all around great guy Browning Porter provided the following astute comment on The Hook’s website:

The free speech wall is a beautiful, ingenious monument to one of the cornerstones of democracy. When the weather is nice I take my two small children down there regularly to write and draw on it. They get a chance to be creative and learn something about civics at the same time. We bring our own chalk and rags and spray bottles full of water and we “go to town” literally and figuratively.

I can’t remember ever having seen anything on the wall that I needed to shield them from, and — given the limitations of the medium — it’s hard to imagine that I would. Stick figures in obscene postures? Dirty words? In my experience, they are far more likely to see these in bathroom stalls than on the free speech monument, and worst case, I get an opportunity to be there to give them some context or guidance. If, as a private citizen, you object to something you see there, you can express your objection yourself with one swipe with a chunk of chalk, conveniently provided.

This particular instance of censorship is hilarious. How can anyone even tell what that thing is? You have to have a dirty mind to recognize it as anything dirty. I asked my son what he thought it was, and he said “a rainbow apple.” So there you go. I think it looks a bit like a cross section of a bell pepper myself.

I am sure that there are more objectionable images and phrases from time to time, but that is the price we pay for free expression. Until you understand this, you understand nothing.

The city has waded into a legal morass with this unfortunate move. Either they need to immediately establish a policy making clear that under no circumstances are city staff to erase anything from the chalkboard, or they need to tear down the chalkboard and admit that free expression is more than Mr. Jefferson’s town can handle.



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