By Sean Tubbs


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

City Council

has further postponed consideration of a full-time employee to serve as a liaison between Charlottesville’s government and its neighborhoods. Further debate over the neighborhood advocate position will wait until a new city manager is hired.

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In February,

Council directed staff to study how an advocate position might be created

inside of the city manager’s office in order to improve the communications between city staff and neighborhood residents. They also asked staff to find out from neighborhood associations whether they supported the position.

“The goal of doing this would be to increase the number and diversity of people who are involved in volunteering in the community and neighborhoods,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.

However, acting City Manager

Maurice Jones

said reaction among neighborhood associations was mixed.


was in favor of the neighborhood advocate’s position,” Jones said. “They felt it could be proactive in preventing some of the issues that have arisen in Belmont over the last few months or so.”


Woolen Mills

and Johnson Village Neighborhood Associations also supported the idea, according to Jones.

However, Jones said representatives from the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association felt the position would lack the independence needed to provide information to citizens. Instead, they felt existing staff should be trained to become advocates for neighborhoods. The Meadowbrook Heights and North Downtown Residents Associations were also opposed to the idea.

Three out of the five councilors remained skeptical about creating a full-time position.

Mayor Dave Norris, Councilor Satyendra Huja, Councilor Kristin Szakos

“This position would not do much good in my mind,” said Councilor

Satyendra Huja

. He called a previous attempt to create a similar position in the early 1990’s a “colossal failure.”

City Councilor

Kristin Szakos

, who

raised the idea during last year’s election campaign

, said she was interested in the mix of responses to the proposal.

“It is the more affluent neighborhoods that don’t see a need for this,” Szakos said. “The more affluent neighborhoods are getting what they need and don’t see a need to improve things….There were neighborhoods that didn’t even come to the table, and to me that shows even more the need for such a position.

However, Szakos said she supported waiting until a new city manager is found. Mayor

Dave Norris

also supports the idea, but he agreed a final decision should wait until then.


David Brown

suggested an interim step could be to hold town hall meetings in underrepresented neighborhoods such as Locust Grove, Tonsler or Starr Hill.


search for a new city manager continues tomorrow night with a public forum

at which citizens have been asked to give their thoughts on the position and candidate qualifications.

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