May 2, 2017
Welcome to another installation of my occasional newsletter as Mayor of Charlottesville.
It's been an exciting and busy last few months here. Our most important accomplishment, both in terms of dollars and political will, was to pass a $171.6 million budget that includes some major new investments.
I frequently say that I believe budgets are moral documents. Our new budget works hard to increase equity and opportunity in C'ville while making investments in a city already frequently rated among the country's best places to live.
Charlottesville is booming. Our population has gone up 12% in 6 years, and commercial assessments went up an average of 30% this year. This created a bounty of tax revenue but a lot of anxiety for property owners, and risks further increasing housing prices and our cost of living.
For those reasons, I was very proud that my colleagues supported my call in my State of the City address to double our contribution to our Affordable Housing Fund. Less successful was my proposal to lessen the impact of our taxes by reducing our real property tax rate from 95 cents to 93 cents, which was not supported by Council.
Our budget also invested an additional $2 million in our public schools, increased our public safety salaries by over $500,000, established a living wage for all City employees, invested millions of capital dollars in major infrastructure projects such as the West Main streetscape corridor connecting the Corner and the Downtown Mall, our new strategic parking plan, and a new BelmontBridge, and puts $2.5 million toward the redevelopment of public housing.
We also added over $100,000 to our overall support for nonprofit partners like the Community Investment Collaborative, African-American Teaching Fellows, the Charlottesville Free Clinic, the Thomas Jefferson Coalition for the Homeless, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Sexual Assault Resource Agency.
There have been other major accomplishments in recent weeks. I was very proud to lead a successful effort to cut taxes for small businesses earning between $50,000 and $100,000 in the City, by changing a rate charged against gross income to a simple $50 fee, saving 450 businesses hundreds of dollars a year.
Following on my promise at the Capital of Resistance press conference in January to drive action on immigration in our City, we unanimously passed a new policy setting forth the principles that will guide us on immigration issues.
We explained that our limited resources should be dedicated to local and state law enforcement, and made clear that we stand with our law enforcement professionals who all believe our limited and welcoming approach builds the bridges within our community necessary to maintaining public safety.
We also created and funded two important new programs -- a $10,000 allocation to the Legal Aid Justice Center to provide Know Your Rights trainings, education programs for immigrants and their families, and litigation support for detainees, and aresource brochure to be widely distributed through the community.
Another major step forward was our passage of a multi-faceted agreement to develop the blighted Landmark Hotel that has loomed for several years on our Downtown Mall--a major promise of my campaign for City Council. The agreement includes tax abatements and parking incentives and will bring a 5-star hotel and several related businesses to our key commercial sector, with an estimated $8-9 of tax revenue earned for each $1 invested by the City,
On the controversial issue of our Confederate statues, we also unanimously moved forward a $1 million plan to add new monuments to recontextualize both our Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson parks in a "precinct" concept Downtown.
There was also a divided 3-2 vote to remove the Robert E. Lee statue, which I voted against, explaining, "I worry about the impulse to remove, delete, and expunge that which offends us... we must see and defy these monuments to overcome what they mean." You can read my full speech here.
Finally, in a continuing effort to make our governance as efficient, engaged, and effective as possible, we affirmed our support for the new governing procedures we passed a little over a year ago, while adding 25% more public comment slots than in decades past.
Along the way, C-SPAN's American Cities tour visited our fair city and was kind enough to interview me both for a BookTV segment about my book Becoming Madison and a piece about the Resistance movement here.
Meanwhile, we supported the Tom-Tom Founders Festival with a $25,000 donation, which in turn brought tens of thousands of visitors to Charlottesville for an extended celebration of innovation, art, creativity, music. I was pleased to appear in the festival's opening event, where I presented a mayoral proclamation celebrating Tom-Tom's branding of Charlottesville as "America's Founding City,"
Finally, I was honored to appear at UVA's Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy with famed chef Alice Waters and Rosa Atkins, our Superintendent of Schools, to announce a week-long Farm to Schools and Healthy Schools Week this October, where we'll serve healthy and locally-sourced school lunches -- an initiative I developed after first meeting Alice here last summer.
That's it from here. I hope all is well with you and yours, and please don't ever hesitate to reach out with ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and questions.
May 2, 2017