This is not the final Saturday of 2021, but this is the final Saturday edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement for this two thousandth and twenty-first year of the common era. There’s been nothing common about this year, or any other, for that matter. This newsletter and podcast seeks to point out items of note, though it’s up to you to decide if there’s a tune. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.
This newsletter and podcast is supported by readers and listeners. Sign up for a regular update on what’s happening in the community, and decide later whether to pay!
On today’s show:
* An update on the pandemic including a recommendation related to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine
* An Albemarle Supervisor has concerns about the MPO hiring a consultant to craft a strategic plan
* Albemarle is considering three software platforms
* The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society explains its Race and Sports initiative and how it advances the study of the era of school desegregation
In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out:
Algorithms know how to put songs and artists together based on genre or beats per minute. But only people can make connections that engage your mind and warm your heart. The music on WTJU 91.1 FM is chosen by dozens and dozens of volunteer hosts -- music lovers like you who live right here in the Charlottesville area. Listener donations keep WTJU alive and thriving. In this era of algorithm-driven everything, go against the grain. Support freeform community radio on WTJU. Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control endorsed a recommendation that individuals should receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine over the Johnson and Johnson shot. Both Moderna and Pfizer use messenger RNA. Still, the CDC recommends any vaccine in the face of another surge of cases nationally and internationally. (CDC release)
“In general, the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna should be used in preference over Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, the director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System.”
Dr. Sifri said the new preference is due to new information that shows the possibility of higher rates of blood clotting than was previously known.
“Still, it is a rare event but they are higher and it led to the change in stance,” Dr. Sifri said.
The Blue Ridge Health District announced Friday that the Johnson and Johnson shot will only be offered a first dose but boosters will no longer be provided at community-based vaccination events or in mobile vaccination clinics. They will still be available at the community vaccination center at Seminole Square while supplies last.
Dr. Sifri said those who have had the booster of the Johnson and Johnson should monitor for any symptoms of blood clots such as shortage of breath. He said UVA Health is recommending those who have not had the J&J booster select either the Moderna or Pfizer when they go in for a booster.
Two-thirds of Virginians have now received enough doses to be considered fully vaccinated, or 5.7 million people. So far, only 1.7 million of Virginians have had a booster or third dose.
“This is the time now to get your booster,” Dr. Sifri said. “The time for getting boosters to prepare yourself for the holiday season is starting to run out. It takes a little bit of time for that booster to take effect and to boost your immune system to encounter what it may encounter along the way.”
As of yesterday, the seven-day average for vaccines administered is at 42,631 shots a day. The seven-day average for new cases was 2,760 a day and the percent positivity is 8.6 percent. The next set of numbers in Virginia will come out on Monday. Dr. Sifri said he expects the surge to continue.
“We are anticipating that we’re going to see more cases and I think the likelihood that’s going to translate into more hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Sifri said. “We’re starting to see modeling information from the CDC that is warning of that possibility so we are concerned about that. That’s similar to what we saw last year as well.”
The difference this year is a supply of vaccines. To inquire about vaccination opportunities at the UVA Health System, call 434-297-4829. You can also visit the Virginia Department of Health site at vaccinate.virginia.gov.
Albemarle County software
Albemarle County’s procurement office has identified that the firm Granicus will be awarded a sole-source contract for a community engagement platform unless other vendors come forward. In a notice dated December 17, procurement officials state that Granicus “is the only source practically available” and the platform Bang the Table is mentioned. Their website lists it as “a platform to listen, inform, measure, and build community” and also has a helpful online assistant known as Eddie the Engager. Other vendors have until December 28 or the contract will be awarded.
In similar procurement notices, Yardi Systems has a sole source award for the Breeze Premier platform for property management and that closing date is December 27. Lexis Nexis Systems has a sole source award that closes on Monday for the Accurint Virtual Crime Center which is touted as a way for law enforcement to obtain “a comprehensive view of people’s identities.”
New transportation personnel
Two new faces joined the virtual table at the December 7 meeting of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board. The federally-mandated body consists of two Albemarle Supervisors, two Charlottesville City Councilors, and the head of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District. That’s now Sean Nelson, who became District Engineer in mid-October replacing John Lynch.
“I’m glad to be a part of this team here,” Nelson said. “I look forward to continuing to keep things going the way John Lynch did and just hold the steering wheel and carry us in to the future. I appreciate being here and plan to be an active participant.”
Ted Rieck is the new director of Jaunt after a period running a similar agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Really happy to be here in Charlottesville,” Rieck said. “As you all know, this is great community and a great part of the country. I look forward to hopefully being a contributor and a partner to all of you as we development transportation and transit in the area.”
MPO Strategic Plan?
Staffing shortages at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District have meant some delays in work that transportation staff had expected to work on. Director of Planning and Transportation Sandy Shackleford said planners are focused on what has to be done.
“We are preparing for things like our long-range transportation plan and that we’re going to be able to do a good job with that,” Shackleford said. “It does mean that there are some projects that we just haven’t been able to pursue for right now like focusing on how we can better integrate climate action initiatives into our long-range transportation plan process.”
Shackleford said another item that will be delayed will be the creation of a strategic plan for the MPO. She suggested additional funding could be placed in an existing item would outsource that work rto a consultant. That idea drew the concern of Albemarle Supervisor Ann Mallek.
“This makes me very nervous that we’re going to turn over something as particular and local as our strategic planning to some consultant who probably has no familiarity with us at all,” Mallek said.
TJPDC Director Christine Jacobs said the plan already had been to spend $25,000 on a consultant to do the plan, but no firms responded at that price. The new idea is to increase that amount by using funds that have not gone to pay a TJPDC staff member. Shackleford said no other MPO in Virginia has a strategic plan. Mallek suggested waiting until the local elected bodies are sat and select new MPO members. The MPO Policy Board will next discuss the matter in January.
Julia Montieth, a land use planner at the University of Virginia’s Office of the Architect, said the pandemic has delayed creation on a master plan called the Grounds Plan.
“We ended up putting the project on hold until post-COVID or post-better understanding of COVID,” Monteith said. “But one of the things that we did during that year was we did some enabling projects in-house that we felt we were capable of doing to inform the plan. That lowered our fees once we got to hiring the consultants.”
You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time for a second Patreon-fueled shout-out:
Winter is here, and now is the time to think about keeping your family warm through the cold Virginia months. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!
Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society’s Race and Sports project
The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954 led to the eventual desegregation of public schools. For many schools created for Black students, that ended an era for beloved institutions. That’s the case with Charlottesville and Jackson P. Burley High School.
Dr. Shelley Murphy is the chair of the board of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society, which has been working on collecting more oral histories as part of a project called Race & Sports: The Desegregation of Central Virginia Public High School Athletics.
“Our goal is to collect 50 to 60 interviews from those in our local communities who were young students at that time, many of whom were in the athletics who desegregated the first teams at Lane and Albemarle high schools and some of whom went on to the University of Virginia to play teams there.”
Murphy and others presented their work on November 28 to as part of the Sunday Sit-In series put on by AARP Virginia. You can watch the event on their YouTube page.
Former City Councilor and historian George Gilliam is one of the participants in the project. He provided some historical context.
“So in 1954 in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional,” Gilliam said. “That put Virginians into a box because Virginians had adopted a state constitution in 1902 that provided ‘white and colored children shall not be taught in the same school.’”
Virginia resisted the directive even after a reaffirmation in 1955 that ordered desegregation happen with “all deliberate speed.”
“And after two years, some Charlottesville residents got frustrated and finally brought suit against the Charlottesville School Board seeking admittance of Black children to all-white schools,” Gilliam said. “The Virginia General Assembly then sprung into action enacting a package of laws providing that among other things that any school that desegregates, whether voluntarily or pursuant to court order, is to be seized by the Governor and closed.”
Gilliam said this era is known as Massive Resistance because the state government refused to comply with the law. He said in the fall of 1958, the state closed Lane High School when it appeared some Black students would be admitted. The Massive Resistance laws were determined to be unconstitutional.
“In 1959 the parties reached a compromise,” Gilliam said. “The schools agreed to ease Black students into the previously all-white student bodies achieving full desegregation but not until the fall of 1967.”
For this period, Jackson P. Burley High School remained open for several years while the transition took place. This is where athletics come in.
“Charlottesville’s Lane High for white students and Burley High for Black students both had championship football teams,” Gilliam said. “The high school for white students had a 53-game streak during which they were undefeated. And Burley, the high school for Black students had an entire season where they were not only undefeated and untied, they were not even scored upon!”
Gilliam said the legacy of the Burley Bears was threatened with the order to desegregate.
UVA historian Phyllis Leffler said telling that story is crucial to understanding many of the dynamics of the time in a way that transcends the legal framework.
“The Race and Sports inserts the voices of those who lived through a critical time in our local and national history,” Leffler said. “Those voices of Black and white athletes and what they went through are in danger of being lost. So many of the people we would have liked to speak with are no longer with us so it is imperative to document this period now with those who have stories to tell.”
Leffler said a common assumption is that sports was seen as a way to bring the community together, but some of the stories paint a different picture.
“We are still living the consequences of racial inequities that go back 400 years,” Leffler said. “This project will hopefully help bring our divided communities together by honestly looking at the costs and benefits of desegregation.”
Support the program!
Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:
* Free installation
* Second month of Ting service for free
* A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall
Additionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here!