Thursday, August 30, 2007


Curbside recycling in the City has expanded again (wasn't too long ago that we started picking up plastic bottles and cardboard). We now accept all types of paper that can be recycled - phone books, office paper, junk mail). A brochure outlining how to properly recycle (ie, junk mail and office paper in a paper bag in the recycling bin; avoid putting paper out on rainy days; cardboard in bundles, etc.) will be in the next City notes with the utility bills (and is on the website). Great news!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The City's Population

One issue that seems to arise every year is a population estimate from the Weldon Cooper Center, or the US Census Bureau, showing that people are leaving Charlottesville. In 2005 the US Census thought we had lost 4000 people since 2000;we appealed this and won. This year the Weldon Cooper Center thought we had lost 140 people since the year before. This position seems at odds with almost everyone's intuitive sense of the City - not to mention things like building permits, car registrations and the like - so I recently met with some Weldon Cooper folks to see why they think we are shrinking, and to tell them why we think they are wrong.

This is what I learned. Basically the Weldon Cooper Center looks at the increase in state population, and estimates what portion of the increase goes to each locality by looking at changes in a locality's housing stock, school enrollment, births, tax return exemptions and driver's licenses. And also takes into consideration "group-quartered population" - military, prisons, jails, dorms, etc.

The problem (assuming that I am right, of course) lies mostly in the peculiarities of being a college town - of UVa's 18,000 or so students a significant portion live in the City, although I should note that the dorms are technically in Albemarle County. Some issues may lie with students not having their fair share of babies, not to mention school-age kids, or not getting a local driver's license, or not claiming any exemptions. But the bigger issue may be that the density for much of our housing, and hence our population, is higher than our housing stock would lead you to believe. In other words, a significant amount of new housing in the City is near the University (our 2003 zoning ordinance allowed much denser buildings adjacent to UVa) where the number of bedrooms, and shared bedrooms, is likely higher than the state average. The WC Center assumes a certain number of persons per household, and we discussed that a way to get at this would be a survey of households to determine a more accurate assumption for the City.

I also learned that one problem with the way the U.S. Census Bureau conducts their estimates is that they look at how many people have moved into a locality vs. how many have moved away. This information is gathered, at least in part, by looking at where you live each year when you file a tax return. So UVa undergrads move here, often not filing a tax return - so we don't get credit for the inflow. But when they move elsewhere, and file a tax return, it is counted against us. According to this model we had a net loss in population, from coming and going, of almost 6000 people from 2000 until now.

Is it worth doing a survey (at our expense) to help the Weldon Cooper Center conduct a more accurate estimate? The financial implications of a small discrepancy in population are not large, and not consequential if we are talking about a couple of hundred (couple of thousand might be a different matter).

But I just hate to leave any impression that people are choosing to leave the City, when the reality is, I think, just the opposite.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Best of C-Ville 2007

Even though I never get around to sending in a ballot for the Best of C-ville (not even the year I got Best Chiropractor, honest!) I always like to see how my favorites stack up.

Glad to see that my dentist (David Dalley) and doctor (Greg Gelburd) got the nod. Blue Wheel Bikes and Gravity Lounge - both of which I have previously singled out in this blog - also made the Best Of list.

My Pilates instructor, Robin Truxel of TruPilates, was voted runnerup. Pilates is great stuff - a very good complement to chiropractic for back pain patients - and Robin, a physical therapist by training, is fabulous.

And my current favorite restaurant - Aqui es Mexico - was also a runnerup. If you haven't tried this authentic, inexpensive Mexican - Salvadoran restaurant, on Carlton Road, be sure to.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Plastic Water Bottles

Recently the Mayors of Salt Lake City and San Francisco banned the purchasing of the ubiquitous plastic water bottles by their cities, as a green measure to save energy. Not only does the production of these bottles consume a lot of energy – enough in this country to fuel 100000 cars for a year – but only a small percentage of these bottles are recycled. And water is heavy – not exactly a great thing to move all over the place.

So at last week’s Council meeting I brought up to Council the idea that we look into following the lead of Salt Lake and SF. Not a great reception – Kevin Lynch in particular was skeptical. We decided to have the Sustainability Committee take a look at it.

In the large scheme of things the City doesn’t use that much bottled water; more important is to get everyone in the entire City to avoid buying plastic bottles of water. I think that City action would just be a way of calling this to everyone’s attention.

We signed the Mayor’s agreement on Climate change a year ago, joining hundreds of other cities in agreeing to dramatically decrease energy use – and the only way this will work is to get the entire community, not just the government, to use less energy.

Like drinking our own water.