Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Being Mayor

In Charlottesville the Mayor is elected by City Council, and has three roles, aside from being a member of council: chairing the meetings, setting the agenda, and serving as the ceremonial head of the City.

The ceremonial part is fun. A frequent ceremonial duty (or request), and one that I really enjoy, is to welcome various visitors or guests to Charlottesville. Most often this is for conferences held in Charlottesville (or Albemarle - somehow being welcomed to our area by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors sometimes just doesn't seem to have the same appeal - sorry, Dennis.)

Groups I have had, or will have, the opportunity to welcome, include the state associations of:

Independent Resource Centers (Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities)
Building Inspectors
Parks and Recreation Departments
Zoning Officials
Historic Preservationists
First Night Committees (Nationwide - there are First Night Celebrations in an amazing number of communities, including Delray Beach, Fort Collins, Missoula and Akron)
Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World
Police Chiefs

There are a number of other groups that I can't think of at the moment, but you get the idea.

Traffic Synch

Both the Daily Progress and CvilleNews have had stories this week on one of the more noticeable improvements the city is making - computer synchronization of the traffic lights (aka ITS). We are not yet fully synchronized or computerized, but what we have has already made a big difference on West Main. This will gradually extend to all of our lights and will connect to the VDOT synchronization on 29 north of Hydraulic. Kevin Lynch deserves credit for pushing this project, and if anyone has questions they should ask him (he is a systems engineer), not me!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Free Expression Monument

Today was the dedication of the Free Expression Chalkboard on the mall. I was asked to say a few words, and was followed by noted writers George Garrett and John Grisham and musician Boyd Tinsley. Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick was the keynote speaker - if this is podcast she is definitely worth the time, and if you haven't followed her on Slate, you should. CHS student Brandon Dudley, a member of the Music Resource Center, concluded with an original rap performance - not only was he poised and articulate, but what a great choice of music for the free expression ceremony.

For me, it was one of the few occasions where I thought I could make "political" remarks, so in addition to welcoming everyone and thanking the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, I expressed some (brief) concerns about the freedoms we are losing:

"As my sons move into adulthood and I think about their future, I worry about the steady erosion of freedoms I have always taken for granted.

Some of these freedoms we seem to give up willingly. We allow databases of personal information of our buying habits to be built, in exchange for a savings card at Harris Teeter or to gain frequent flyer miles with our Mastercard. We allow databases of our travel habits in exchange for the convenience of EZPass.

Some freedoms we give up less willingly, as private information is collected every time we visit the hospital, or as we submit to searches of our belongings in order to travel.

And some freedoms are simply being taken away from us, through the Patriot Act, through the imprisonment of members of the press, and more recently, through unauthorized wiretaps."

Afterwards the speakers were given chalk and we had the honor of being the first to write on the chalkboard. I had written down some quotes - a couple from TJ, a couple of others - but somewhat typically for me I left them home. So I wrote what is maybe most important to me at the moment:


Friday, April 14, 2006

Walk Bike & Run Update

I've been plugging away at my goal of walking, biking or running on every street in the City while on City Council.

The City is hillier than I thought. Although I have been running in the city for almost 25 years (including the 10 miler several times) my routes are usually the larger streets - Main, Preston, Rugby, Park, JPA - which are on generally flatter and the hills less steep than many neighborhood streets. And there are a lot of dead-end streets, many of which I have never been on. Baker Street off JPA is a steep downhill curve dead-end. Long way back up to Cherry.

This morning my run included Edgewood Lane, a beautiful hilly deadend - especially today, with the dogwoods and redbuds blooming. Edgewood is the home of some very interesting city residents - Kevin O'Halloran, who is on the planning commission; Saphira Baker, formerly director of the Commission on Children and Families, who is now Doug Wilder's Deputy CEO in Richmond; and Jeff Rossman, Professor of Russian History and civic activist, just to name a few.

On Sunday Bill Emory is taking me on a bike/walking tour of Woolen Mills. Any other tourguides out there?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Paramount 3rd St Commemoration

Tonight the Paramount is having an event to commemorate the theater's 3rd street entrance - the entrance that from 1931 to 1964 was the "colored" entrance. During that time there was a separate entrance, box office, concessions and seating, with African-Americans restricted to the balcony. A display has been created detailing the story of segregation at the Paramount.

Soprano April Jana Johnson-Bynes is performing, accompanied by Jonathan Spivey, and I know that councilor Kendra Hamilton will be among those making remarks.

8pm, with tickets available at the door ($10 students up to $50 patron, which gets you in to a reception afterwards).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gravity Lounge

I love the Gravity Lounge.

Great acoustics, nice staff, good beers and wines, unique atmosphere, and, most importantly, great acts. No smoke, and shows start early. Last night Jean and I went with friends to hear Darrell Scott. Fabulous guitarist and singer songwriter. Place was mostly full, which is good for a musician most people have never heard of. And the opening act - Doug and Telisha Williams, from Martinsville - were charming.

Some of my favorite musicians are coming back to Gravity - Eliza Gilkyson April 26, Steve Forbert May 19, Lucy Kaplansky June 24. And some bigger names - Jesse Colin Young, Holly Near, Janis Ian, Tom Rush, Odetta - in the next couple of months. Just to name a few.

The Gravity Lounge is seemingly carved out of a basement space, and rumor has it that they couldn't get equipment in so developer Oliver Kuttner dug the space out, himself, with a wheelbarrow. True or not, one of my favorite places anywhere to hear music, and a significant contributor to making Charlottesville a great live music town.