Dangerous streets, Albemarle elections, city leases: Newscast for January 23, 2019

Good morning and come on in as we read some top headlines from in and around the greater Charlottesville area. We’re entering our fourth week of this experiment, which is intended to  help you learn more about what’s happening. Today’s installment is brought to you Rapture, a restaurant and nightclub on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Tonight’s Wednesday Music Showcase presents the band Toad Head in a free show beginning at around 10:00 pm. Before, come on in for a great dinner. And now, that news we told you about.

The Equal Rights Amendment may have been defeated in the Virginia House of Delegates. The House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 4 to 2 to “pass by indefinitely” a bill that the Virginia Senate approved last week on a 26 to 14 vote. The Virginia Mercury reports that the only woman on the subcommittee, Delegate Margaret Ransone, said she did not need “words on a piece of paper” because she said “God made us all equal.” Supporters of the bill are still hoping it can be brought to the house floor for a full vote.


There are now two candidates for the open race in the Rivanna District on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. The Daily Progress reports that Bea Kirtley of Keswick will also seek the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Norman Dill. Dill announced earlier this year he would not run for a second term representing the northeast portion of Albemarle County. Kirtley moved to the area in 2007 after a long career in public service in the Los Angeles area, including a stint on City Council. Jerrod Smith announced last week that he would run for the seat as well. Ann Mallek has said she will run for a fourth term representing the White Hall district in northwest Albemarle. She has not been opposed since 2007. Rick Randolph, the incumbent in the Scottsville District, has not announced his plans.


In other Albemarle election news, longtime public defender Jim Hingeley is set today to announce his campaign to be the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Albemarle County. That seat is currently held by Republican Robert Tracci, who defeated Denise Lunsford in 2015. Hingeley created the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender and served there for 18 years.


The group Smart Growth America has issued its annual Dangerous by Design report, which states that drivers kill 13 pedestrians a day in crashes across the United States. The report ranks cities and states on something the group calls the Pedestrian Danger Index. Virginia is ranked as the 23rd worst state on that index.Most of the communities with the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities are within Florida. From 2008 to 2017, pedestrian deaths increased 35.4 percent while vehicle miles traveled increased by 8.1 percent. Smart Growth America calls upon states to adopt Complete Streets policies to make them safer for people on foot as well as cyclists. Charlottesville adopted such a policy in 2016 called Streets That Work that is used to help prioritize what projects get funded locally.  


If you’re interested in transportation issues, there are a couple of meetings in the next two days you might want to know about. The Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board meets at 4:00 today at 410 Water Street in downtown Charlottesville. The MPO is made up of two Charlottesville City Councilors and two Albemarle Supervisors, as well as the head of VDOT’s Culpeper District. The policy board will discuss the Long Range Transportation Plan, the Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan and will review how area transportation projects fared in a statewide funding competition. As we reported last week, the Smart Scale process has only recommended $2 million in funding for the West Main Streetscape project. Projects to improve the area around the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road were not recommended for funding. We’ll bring you some of that conversation on today’s installment.


Tomorrow, the Regional Transit Partnership will meet in the same place at 4:00 p.m. The partnership is similar to the MPO, but is a non-binding advisory group that works to try to encourage and implement cooperation between the three main transit agencies that serve urban Charlottesville. They are the Charlottesville Area Transit, JAUNT and the University Transit System. We’ll have a preview of that meeting tomorrow.


Finally today, Amtrak will begin a second daily passenger train to Norfolk from Washington D.C. beginning in March. The new service was announced at the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting last week by Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. Passenger service to Norfolk was restored in 2012, three years after daily passenger service came back to Charlottesville. Passenger service was restored to Roanoke last year. Have you taken the train? Let us know in the comments or send us an email.


Audio-only: City council discussion of the lease extension for the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society. 

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