Sunday, July 23, 2006

US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement

Last week City Council endorsed the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement that I somewhat precipitously signed this spring (I read about it, felt strongly that I should join well over 200 other Mayors in this, and went ahead and signed it, confident that Council would support me). In the meantime the Sierra Club and Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice gathered hundreds of names on petitions urging the City to sign up. It was appropriate we endorsed this the same week that An Inconvenient Truth opened at Vinegar Hill.

What does this mean? It means we pledge to reduce our emissions to follow the Kyoto Protocol - which the US never agreed to - by reducing our emissions 7% below 1990 levels, by 2012. Not only will this mean we are doing our part as a city and as citizens to address global warming, but by doing so we can save energy costs. We will inventory emissions and create a plan to reduce them, through land use and transportation policies, looking for alternative energy sources, increasing City and community conservation efforts, encouraging sustainable design, and promoting tree planting.

Councilor Dave Norris suggested a citizen advisory group to work with the City on this. The good news is that the City has been working on a number on initiatives in this area already - for example, replacing our vehicles with hybrids and dual fuel vehicles. For me, I want us to develop a plan to make sure we develop policies and programs to replace the trees we are losing to development, and make sure that energy saving approaches are implemented in our entire community, not just the affluent households. And I have already asked City staff to review our procurement policies, to make sure we use recycled products whenever possible.

And we need to get the bigger community - including Albemarle and the rest of our region - involved as well. Suggestions, anyone?


Last week I had dinner with a group of area residents who want to get more train service between Charlottesville and Washington. The Charlottesville Citizens for Better Rail Alternatives are promoting the extension of the Virginia Railway Express, which currently has two lines, from Union Station to Manassas and to Fredericksburg. This group, led by Thomas Kester and with the help of former councilor Meredith Richards, will be mounting a campaign this fall to get the community behind this idea. A couple years ago Charlottesville was left out when plans for the Trans-Dominion Express were made, although whether this plan will ever be realized is debatable.

Works for me - I frequently take the train to NY to see my father - and I told them I would do what I could to help.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

New York

My father moved to NY when I was in college-and as a consequence I go there a couple of times a year, at least, and just got back this afternoon from a long weekend visit.

It is always fun and amazing to run into someone you know in NY, especially if they also are visiting. Happens more often than you would think. Last year Jean and I ran into school board member Peggy Van Yahres at the new MOMA.

But it was especially fun this Friday night when I was walking along West 71st, and heard "hey - aren't you the Charlottesville Mayor"?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Outside Magazine

The August 2006 edition of Outside Magazine features "The Best Outside Towns 2006", and Charlottesville is the runner-up to Bend, OR, in the "Best Trail Running" category.

Putting aside concerns about whether winning the ratings game is a good thing for Charlottesville or not - do we really need to give people more reasons to pack up and move here? - what I think is interesting is that the article doesn't even mention the trail that many of us are very proud of - the Rivanna Trail circling the City.

Some great towns in this article - Austin, Santa Fe, Bellingham, Madison, Asheville, Durango, as well as several I have never heard of - Truckee, Sebastopol, Bishop, New Paltz.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society

Until I looked at their photos of Main Street before the mall was built, I had no idea how fascinating the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society's website is.

It currently features two photo collections about downtown, one that is also currently on exhibit at the Sage Moon Gallery and the other John Shepherd's photos taken in 1976, just before the mall was built. There are several other online photo collections - including one that I found very appealing, on "Ghost Signs and Vestige Billboards", a photo essay on the fading signs painted on our buildings. There is a list of previous exhibits at the Historical Society, most of which are available on loan. And there is a fabulous page of links, including one to the the Holsinger Studio Collection (9,000 images of turn-of-the-century Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the University of Virginia).

A great community resource.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Downtown Mall Anniversary

The City and the Downtown Business Association are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Mall.

Last night there was a presentation and discussion of the history of the mall in council chambers, to be rebroadcast on Ch 10. Participating were the two councilors who voted for the mall, Mitch Van Yahres and Charles Barbour (the other three councilors - Francis Fife, George Gilliam and Jill Rinehart - had conflicts of interest and abstained, although all were in favor), former City Manager Cole Hendrix and Planning Director Satyendra Huja, and Al Clements, a banker who led the committee for the mall.

John Shepherd showed some of the photos he took in 1976 of Main Street, just before mall construction.

The photos show the decline of downtown and why city leaders took the bold move, over much local (business) opposition, of a pedestrian Mall. Mitch's wife Betty said they received 100 calls the night before the meeting in opposition to the plan.

None of these leaders quite envisioned the mall the way it has evolved - especially the restaurant and entertainment scene (Al Clements jokingly referred to it as a food court) - and all admit to a time, maybe 15 years ago, when they were worried - vacancies and few people.

Check out the celebratory activities, next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.