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March 11, 2008

Response mixed to IMPACT's challenge at annual assembly

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20080310impact1On March 10, 2008, the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together (IMPACT) held its second annual Nehemiah Action assembly at University Hall in Charlottesville.

According to IMPACT officials, over 1,900 members from twenty-eight church congregations were present.  They gathered to obtain public commitments from local healthcare agencies and from local government officials to address a lack of adult dental care and the need for affordable housing.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080310-IMPACT.mp3

IMPACT leaders met in advance with each of the officials who were called upon at the assembly to make public commitments on the questions presented to them.

Father Dennis McAuliffe introduced the commitment process and rules to the assembly.  "We will treat our guests with respect....We are asking our public officials to make individual commitments, which are not to be construed as a vote by the Board or Council," said McAuliffe.

Each guest was given two minutes to address the questions, followed by the IMPACT spokesperson asking for a 'yes' or 'no' response to the question.  "A 'yes' means 'yes,' anything else is 'no,' said  McAuliffe.  "We will give hearty applause to our guests when they say 'yes.'  We will be silent when they say 'no' to show our disappointment....Our collective silence will speak volumes in displaying our disappointment."

The first item before the assembly related to healthcare.  Six local organizations were asked to make public commitments to support paid dental programs in the community to serve low income adults.

  • Charlottesville Free Clinic
  • Thomas Jefferson Health Department
  • Children’s Dental Clinic (CADA)
  • Martha Jefferson Hospital
  • UVa Medical Center
  • Charlottesville Albemarle Dental Society

All six organizations made affirmative statements to support the implementation of IMPACT’s proposals to implement and support dental programs.

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Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown

The second item before the assembly related to affordable housing.  IMPACT sought commitments from Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to each invest $500,000 in their 2008-09 budgets to support rental housing initiatives for the working poor.

Four of the five City Councilors answered 'yes' to IMPACT's commitment question on affordable housing.  David Brown's response was interpreted by IMPACT as a 'no.'  Brown said IMPACT had correctly identified the "pressing need in the community for low income rental housing."  Brown said his support, however, was conditioned on similar action being agreed to by Albemarle County. He would not give an unqualified response and cited the fact that IMPACT had not asked as much of the County as it did of the City of Charlottesville last year.  The City, according to IMPACT, increased its funding of affordable housing from $400,000 to $2.1 million.

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Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Only two of six Albemarle County Supervisors answered 'yes' to IMPACT's commitment question on affordable housing. Answering in the affirmative were Supervisors Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) and David Slutzky (Rio)

The Supervisors answering 'no' cited a number of reasons for doing so. Ken Boyd (Rivanna) pointed out to the assembly that there were numerous competing demands for funding in the County budget and that he was not prepared to commit to $500,000 for affordable housing at this early stage in the budget process.  Ann Mallek (White Hall) said, despite understanding the tremendous need for affordable housing, she could not give a 'yes' answer, but that she would work towards IMPACT's goals.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) described the County's existing efforts on affordable housing. Rooker said he would not indicate whether he would support the proposals during the assembly.  He said those decisions, in his mind, required public meetings which allowed discussion by the Board, public input, and feedback from County staff. Rooker pledged to work with the City to try and find some way to fund the proposals.

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) also said she could not support the proposals as presented at the assembly, though she hoped they could be supported eventually in the Board's budget process. She said IMPACT was asking the Board to support funding recommendations that didn't even exist yet from an affordable housing task force created by the City, County, and the University of Virginia as a result of IMPACT's 2007 Nehemiah Assembly. "That's not a commitment that I can make tonight," said Thomas.  She also pointed out that other interest groups could hold similar meetings and ask for commitments on other matters before the Board. "For us to make a commitment when we have just finished our first work session on the budget is something that I don't think you want your politicians to do..."

Highlights of Audio

  • 01:12 - Welcome, Father Dennis McAuliffe
  • 09:00 - Spanish translation summarizing proceedings to this point
  • 11:21 - Prayer, Rabbi Dan Alexander
  • 13:20 - Reflection, Rev. Rickey White
  • 19:15 - Spanish translation summarizing proceedings to this point
  • 20:50 - Call to Order by Dennis McAuliffe
  • 21:46 - Board of Supervisors meeting called to order by Chairman Ken Boyd
  • 22:25 - Roll Call of Congregations
  • 29:00 - Heathcare testimony, Carlos Pina
  • 31:50 - Statement of healthcare problem and solutions, Janie Eckman & Joan Burchell
  • 39:10 - Responses from officials on healthcare (six organizations represented)
  • 56:22 - Affordable housing testimony, Sherrika Nowell
  • 59:37 - Statement of affordable housing problem and solutions, Travis Harris & Susan Pleiss
  • 1:07:35 - Responses from Charlottesville City Councilors
  • 1:20:20 - Responses from Albemarle County Supervisors
  • 1:37:10 - Board of Supervisors meeting adjourned
  • 1:37:55 - Summary of results and next steps

Brian Wheeler

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