Archive for the 'Programs' Category

Virginia 57th and 59th Districts Candidates Forum

Sunday, October 17th, 2021

Incumbent Sally L. Hudson (D) and challenger Philip Andrew Hamilton (R) are seeking election to the 57th House District. Incumbent Matt Fariss (R) and challengers Dr. Benjamine A. Moses (D) and Louis V. Scicli (I), are seeking election to the 59th House District. All five candidates spoke at this Senior Statesmen of Virginia Candidates Forum. Topics include: improved broadband access for Virginia, more money for education and health care workers and COVID vaccination mandates.

The program was introduced by SSV President Jeff Gould and moderated by SSV member Bob Beard, a former news anchor with CBS 19 in Charlottesville. The forum was streamed on Zoom and a video of the event can be accessed by clicking here.  A podcast of the forum follows.


From left to right: Bob Beard (Moderator), Matt Fariss, Philip Andrew Hamilton, Sally Hudson, Dr. Ben Moses, Louis Scicli

Program Summary

The candidates gave two-minute opening statements and then replied to questions asked by moderator Bob Beard as well as questions submitted by the Zoom audience. COVID vaccination mandates were challenged or supported and were the most contentious of the topics. Each participant was asked their legislative priorities if elected. Hudson would work for more money for education and health care workers, Hamilton would focus on term limits, laws forbidding cities from removing monuments and more funding for police. Fariss wants to focus on healthcare, eldercare, police and schools. Moses wants improved broadband access with the goal of improving healthcare, schools and business opportunities. Scicli also stressed improving broadband, schools and police. Other questions were about candidates’ positions on gun control, abortion, waitlist for services for Medicaid disability waivers, and how each person would plan to work with their colleagues from the other party.

Candidates Forum – Charlottesville City Council

Saturday, September 18th, 2021

The four candidates invited were Brian R. Pinkston (D), Juandiego Wade (D), Nikuyah R. Walker (I), and Yas Ariel J. Washington (I) and they accepted the invitation to participate in a Candidates Forum to be held on September 8. The four were running to fill two seats for the Charlottesville City Council. The forum was planned to be in-person at The Center at Belvedere and simultaneously broadcast via the Zoom internet platform. Ten days before the program, Ms. Walker notified SSV that she would participate via Zoom but not in-person. Then, the morning of the program, she announced that she had withdrawn her candidacy and therefore would not participate.

Once the forum began, the audio for the in-person audience was good, but unfortunately the audio signal going out for the Zoom audience was so severely corrupted as to be indecipherable. Also because of this, no recording was available to produce a podcast or video of the event. Isabel Cleary, multimedia journalist with WVIR NBC29 News, covered the entire event and generously provided the SSV media team with copies of her files, but still there was insufficient audio to produce a complete record of the event.

The program was moderated by SSV member Bob Beard. Bob is a former news anchor with CBS 19 in Charlottesville and a longtime reporter in Washington, D.C., including CNN, NBC and Reuters.

Program Summary

The forum was covered by both WVIR NBC29 and The Daily Progress.  Their summaries of the meeting follow.

Ms. Cleary’s NBC 29 News coverage can be viewed by clicking on this link: Charlottesville City Council candidates gather for forum (

Here is the text of her coverage:

Charlottesville City Council candidates gather for forum

Isabel Cleary, WVIR NBC29 News multimedia journalist

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – Charlottesville City Council has two of five seats up for election this November and on Wednesday, September 8 candidates gathered to discuss important issues for the city including Police Chief RaShall Brackney’s firing and vacant business on the Downtown Mall.

While each candidate did not really get into their own opinion on Brackney’s firing, they each said new leadership in the department is necessary.

Over the past three to four years Charlottesville has seen four police chiefs. I believe we would like to have one that is going to be in it for the long run and one that can uphold ethical policing, make sure that they are attending trainings,” candidate Yas Washington said.

I would not want to venture to speculate to what took place, I do know that if elected I will work with the City Council and the public to hire a police chief so that we can move the city forward,” candidate Juandiego Wade said.

I am optimistic that we are going to find someone that will be a better fit for our community. The change in management is really hard and its hard to move an organization from one state to another state, particularly when in something like policing. There are a lot of cultural changes that need to happen,” candidate Brian Pinkston said.

Another issue candidates addressed was vacancies on the Downtown Mall and how to support businesses.

We need to support them because they not only are bringing tax revenue but they employ our residents, they employ us and so we are all in this together,” Wade said.

If we want to do the things around equity that we keep talking about then we have to have that private sector and do all we can to support programs,” Pinkston said.

The forum also received extensive coverage by the Charlottesville Daily Progress and that can be viewed by clicking on this link:

City Council candidates talk equity, major issues facing the city at candidates forum | Latest News |

Here is the text of Ms. Bixby’s coverage:

City Council candidates talk equity, major issues facing the city at candidates forum

Ginny Bixby. The Daily Progress city reporter

Charlottesville City Council candidates discussed the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, school reconfiguration, the Future Land Use Map and other issues affecting the city during a candidates forum on Wednesday afternoon.

The forum, held at The Center at Belvedere auditorium, was hosted by the Senior Statesmen of Virginia, a nonprofit that aims to keep seniors informed about the work of the local and state government and various political issues. The forum was simultaneously broadcast via Zoom webinar.

Democratic nominees Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade and independent candidate Yas Washington participated in the forum. Mayor Nikuyah Walker was previously slated to participate but withdrew from the election earlier in the day.

The debate was moderated by Bob Beard, a former news anchor with CBS 19 and a longtime reporter with CNN, NBC and Reuters. Members of the audience could submit questions both in person and through Zoom.

Beard opened the forum by asking the candidates for their thoughts on the sudden termination of Brackney’s contract.

The candidates were hesitant to offer an opinion on Brackney’s termination, saying they don’t have a full understanding of the situation, but they offered their perspectives on how the police department should move forward.

Washington, an entrepreneur, said she believes it is important to reimagine policing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd, including ensuring representation for communities of color.

We need to make sure individuals are represented,” Washington said. She said she wants the city to hire a police chief who will “enforce ethical policing for the long run.”

I don’t want to speculate on what took place,” said Wade, a current school board member. He said he has had positive experiences working with Brackney.

If elected, I will support the City Manager and City Council in hiring a police chief … That’s one of the critical leadership positions that the city needs to hire,” Wade said.

Pinkston, a project manager, pointed out that all three candidates are supportive of the existence of the Police Civilian Review Board and that he thinks it is an important resource moving forward.

I think that Chief Brackney was trying to make some important changes,” Pinkston said. “But I am optimistic that we’re going to find someone that would be a better fit for our community … There’s a lot of cultural changes that need to happen.”

Beard asked each candidate what they felt were the most important issues facing Charlottesville.

Washington said she feels the most strongly about environmental sustainability, public safety and affordable housing. “We’ve seen an increase in the population, we’ve grown as a city. Now is the time for development to take place,” Washington said.

Pinkston said he’d prioritize positive relationships between councilors, affordable housing and equity. “We really need to have a stable government in city hall … having the City Council functioning as a team,” Pinkston said. “Disagreement is an important part of the democratic process. But internal disagreement in this council has had some negative effects.”

Wade said his top three issues are leadership and stability, economic development and public safety. “We have to get our hands around public safety … and that’s going to take working with the police department but also community nonprofits and individuals,” Wade said.

All three candidates voiced their support for affordable housing being worked into the Future Land Use Map.

Pinkston acknowledged how controversial the map has been from many different perspectives, and commended the Cville Plans Together team for trying to “thread the needle” between these contrasting views. He wants to address the legacy of redlining in the city.

In Charlottesville … we care for one another. Homeownership is so tied into the equity conversation for persons of color,” Pinkston said. “I don’t support density for density’s sake,” Pinkston said. “But I think density should be tied into affordability.”

Wade said he thinks it’s important to address concerns about redlining but also be realistic about the need for affordable housing. “I know people on both sides of the issue … This is a big issue,” Wade said. “I don’t know the answer.”

Wade said he wants to figure out a way to address the rising prices of housing in the city. He would like to see more of a variety of home prices and types as opposed to a stark divide between single family homes and public housing complexes.

We need to look at what affordable housing looks like,” Washington said. Similarly to Wade, she said it’s important to have different types of affordable residences available, and that seniors and families need different things, for example.

All three candidates supported reconfiguration of Charlottesville City Schools.

Wade cited his 16 years on the school board and said he looks forward to making improvements for Charlottesville students. He said it’s important for the City Council and school board to compromise. “We’ve been talking about this for all my 16 years,” Wade said. “There needs to be some modernization … The plans for what we want to do could be really spectacular, amazing work.”

Pinkston said he supports reconfiguration but feels the city needs to determine a practical way to fund it. “We need to minimize the number of transitions … and look at this from an equity perspective as well,” he said.

Washington said she supports reconfiguration but wants sustainability to be prioritized. She also said she supports working a charter school system into the reconfiguration to give students more opportunities.

The City Council election is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin Sept. 17 at the Department of Voter Registration and Elections and will run Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Oct. 29.

CANDIDATES FORUM – House of Delegates Districts 25 and 58

Monday, August 16th, 2021

All four candidates for House of Delegates Districts 25 and 56 were invited to attend the Senior Statesmen of Virginia biennial Candidates Forum. Challengers Jennifer Kitchen (D-25th House District) and Sara Ratcliffe (D-58th House District) came and participated in the forum and discussed their positions on the issues facing Virginians, and also responded to questions from the audience. Incumbents Chris Runion (R-25th House District) and Rob Bell (R-58th House District) declined to participate.

The program was moderated by SSV member Bob Beard, who is a former news anchor with CBS 19 in Charlottesville and a longtime reporter in Washington, D.C. including CNN, NBC and Reuters.

The forum was held in-person at The Center at Belvedere and also streamed on Zoom.

Click here to see the event.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Program Summary

In their opening statements Jennifer Kitchen stressed her position that rural areas interests are underrepresented in the legislature as the major reason for wanting to run for office. Sara Ratcliffe stressed her position that after 30 years in politics it was her belief that the state level is where the work is done. Both candidates felt that their interests lay in supporting the rural communities and the importance of collaboration in making good policies to resolve the problems of their communities.

The remainder of the session was used for taking questions from a wide range of topics from the audience, e.g. budget surplus. Both stressed the necessity of getting broadband to their areas. Ms. Ratcliffe added that this would benefit small business, healthcare, childcare and educational interests. Ms. Kitchen said that service to all citizens should be mandated no matter how remote. Both women support promoting trade education for high school students to increase the awareness for good jobs. Both candidates support repealing the right to work law. Concerning mental health issues, Ms. Kitchen felt the goal was to destigmatize the topic and work with criminal justice groups to help resolve the situation. Ms. Ratcliffe emphasized collaboration among police, healthcare individuals and legislature to make the best policy.

Both candidates agree that Governor Northam, following the guidance of science, has done a good job dealing with the pandemic.

Broadband And Internet Access in Virginia

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Evan Feinman, chief broadband advisor to Governor Ralph Northam, spoke at our June meeting. The following topics were covered.

· WHAT are the plans to expand high-speed Internet to every Virginian?

· WHAT are the greatest challenges?

· WHERE are the least served areas?

· HOW can broadband access to the Internet be accomplished?

· WHO will make this happen?

· WHEN will this be done

The meeting began with Jeff Gould our president.  Then SSV Board Member Norman Dill introduced our speaker. A video of the meeting can be accessed here:

If you would prefer an audio podcast, click below.


Jeff Gould, SSV President – Norman Dill, SSV Board Member – Evan Feinman, at bottom

Evan Feinman is both the executive director of the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and Governor Northam’s chief broadband advisor. He was previously deputy secretary of Natural Resources, deputy policy director for the Governor McAuliffe’s transition team, and the McAuliffe campaign’s policy director. Evan has worked on multiple campaigns at the state and federal level, and at the Commonwealth Institute, a budget and fiscal policy think tank in Richmond.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, spent two years on a fellowship focused on energy and transportation policy, and then received his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law. A Lynchburg native, Evan currently resides in Richmond with his wife, Annalisa Feinman, an attorney with the Richmond Public Defender’s office.

Program Summary

Evan Feinman presented an excellent talk on Broadband and Internet Access in Virginia. In 2018 Governor Northam set an ambitious, but achievable, 10-year goal to reach universal coverage of broadband to all Virginians. There were three main reasons for this top priority of the governor. The first is economic. Businesses are not interested in relocating to areas with no access to broadband costing Virginia an estimated potential loss of $16 billion/year in growth, mostly in rural underserved areas. The second is social and political demand. Currently there are 660,000 with no access, and for this group that is their top priority for government. Third reason is the moral and social responsibility of government to its citizens in a vulnerable section of the population: children for schooling needs; elderly for the goal of staying in place as they age; and the large number of veterans in rural areas.

To accomplish these objectives, a plan developed by the Broadband Committee has been to make policy changes so that changes can be made to promote broadband development, e.g., letting electrical companies have larger cables that allow them to lease extra space to Internet providers for access to underserved areas; to work with local governments for planning support at no cost; and by creation of the Commonwealth Connect Coalition, a group of 125 organizations that is fully committed to the concept and funding for universal broadband coverage. The grant programs have provided internet access to over 140,000 homes at a cost effective support between partnerships of government and private corporations.

Virginia General Assembly Report

Friday, May 14th, 2021

The annual General Assembly wrap-up meeting was held on May 12 with five local representatives participating: Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegates Rob Bell, Matt Fariss, Sally Hudson and Chris Runion. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Sue Friedman.  Topics included: Criminal justice reform, broadband access, the pros and cons of Zoom including changing role of lobbyists, the death penalty, redistricting, and passenger rail.

Click here to see a video of the meeting –

Listen to the podcast here:

Program Summary

The Zoom session started with a four-minute opening statement by each presenter on their impression of significant and essential issues of the session. Bipartisanship and collegiality were often described. Among those mentioned were a new license plate stating, “I have difficulty communicating,” criminal justice reform, broadband access, pros and cons of Zoom including changing role of lobbyists, death penalty, redistricting, and passenger rail.

Following the initial portion, questions were asked from the audience with each representative having a chance to reply. Topics were varied. Involvement of the minority party in decision making (21 D and 19 R in the current session) focused on informal discussion and learning from each other. Is it time to rescind the state of emergency? This is the governor’s job, but all were encouraged by decreasing COVID cases and increasing vaccine rates.

That there is no redistricting representation from the Charlottesville-Albemarle area will not be adjusted until next census, but there is plenty of opportunity for local citizens to participate in hearings, which they were encouraged to do. Passenger rail service was enthusiastically received and encouraged by the panel with all pleased with federal funding assistance. The final question dealt with the legalization of pot and was the most divisive among the speakers. Emphasis is that the bill currently is a work in progress and the public health concerns will be studied over the next three years.

Behavioral Health Services during COVID

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Lisa Beitz, executive director of Region Ten Community Services, and Rebecca Kendall, director of the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition spoke at the April SSV meeting on the behavioral health services available to the greater Charlottesville community. The program was moderated by SSV President Jeff Gould who recently completed six years serving on the Board of the Region Ten Community Services.

The Zoom video is available by clicking

Lisa Beitz is the executive director for Region Ten Community Services Board. This is the public behavioral health safety net serving the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson. Lisa is a doctoral candidate in social work, has a master’s degree in social work, and holds a license as a clinical social worker (LCSW). Lisa has worked for 29 years in various public and nonprofit settings that serve the most vulnerable people in our communities. Lisa believes that “there but for the grace of God go I”: we are all vulnerable to experiencing a behavioral health challenge, so we must embrace other people’s struggles as if they were our own. Lisa is a leader who is amazed by incredible resiliencies all people possess and believes in services and supports that honor and respect the unique recovery journey for each individual.

Rebecca Kendall is the director of the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition.  She has a master’s in social work and over two decades of leadership experience in community health.  She is passionate about promoting health equity and building effective collaborations to improve mental health and wellbeing in our community.  She is also a mom of a teen and a tween and is juggling many balls during COVID homeschooling.

Program Summary

Rebecca Kendall stated that the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition collaborates with providers through planning, advocacy and delivery of effective services to promote behavioral health and wellness. She stated that all their services have been affected by COVID. Problems occurring include effects of social isolation, food insecurity, unemployment and school closings among others. Some of the consequences have been increased alcohol consumption, increase in requests for services and overdoses seen in ERs. On the positive side the increase in Zoom telehealth services, where available, has been very fruitful. Two new services have been developed: Warmline–to help people who are stressed and to connect them to local care (877-349-6428), and a free service for essential workers (434-202-6322).

Rebecca Kendall, Lisa Beitz and moderator Jeff Gould

Lisa Beitz is the executive director of the Region Ten Community Services Board which is required by law to be available 24/7 to assess people for involuntary hospitalization and case management assessment for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders as funds allow. Region Ten serves the City of Charlottesville and the Counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson, and is involved in over 40 programs and has more than 550 staff, though one-third have been furloughed as a result of COVID. Local trends exacerbated by COVID include lack of psychiatric hospital beds and closing of resources that keep individuals safe in the community leading to more hospitalizations. As the stressors increase, the need for services has increased. She concluded with the challenge of trying to create a workforce to work with challenged individuals in the future.

U.S. Immigration – The Basics

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Current U.S. Immigration Law is based on the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act.

 · US immigrant population changes over time 

· How the US government operates and enforces US immigration law 

· How US policy has affected our immigration situation today 

· Current U.S. Immigration Law is based on the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act

 · The national immigration questions we face today 

· Current policies and practices 

Alyson Ball addressed these things at our March meeting, which marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of SSV.  Ms. Ball earned a B.A. from Cornell University and an MBA from The Wharton School. After a career in corporate marketing and international strategy, she worked as a microfinance troubleshooter in Africa and Central Asia.  Having moved to Charlottesville in 2003, Ms. Ball consulted with and taught nonprofit boards and their executive directors.  Currently, Ms. Ball volunteers as a member of the Community Development Committee of the International Rescue Committee that resettles refugees in Central Virginia.  For the last five years, Ms. Ball has spent winters in Southern Arizona and has studied U.S. Immigration — giving fact-based presentations about US immigration to the general public nationwide.

The program was moderated by SSV Board Member Peyton WilliamsThe video of the program can be accessed by clicking here.  Or listen to the podcast.

The meeting was held via Zoom.

Alyson Ball

Peyton Williams

Program Summary

From the beginning, Ms. Ball stated that she was not here to convince one of a policy, but rather provide a fact-based presentation. She began with a brief history of US immigration when all immigrants were accepted and it was easy to become a citizen to the 14th amendment after the Civil War where being born “in soil” led to citizenship to the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act where Family Preferences and Skills, Country Caps and temporary VISAs were the basis for laws, i.e., we let in people we want and whose skills we need.

There are about one million individuals seeking a pathway to citizenship. Of that group, three-fourths are family based, 140,000 are employment based and 130,000 are humanitarian. Detention Centers was another topic. These are operated by the Federal government (10%), local government (20%) and profit-making companies (70%). The average cost is $100-200/ per day. In discussing unauthorized immigrants, 42 percent overstay a legal border crossing, may have worked in the US for years and are essential frontline workers, not taking jobs from Americans, but rather doing jobs Americans won’t do and need to be done.

During Trump’s presidency over 1,400 changes were made to immigration policy through executive orders, federal registry rules, attorney general and budgetary decisions and international agreements. These policies were accomplished without changing any laws and many have been challenged in the courts. Biden through executive orders has reversed several including refugee caps, border wall and DACA restrictions.

In conclusion, Ms. Ball’s desire is to have Americans understand our immigration systems and work to make better immigration policy.

UVA Health – Challenges during COVID and the future

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Dr. Craig Kent, executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Virginia, spoke on the challenges during the COVID pandemic including UVA’s COVID vaccination rollout first to health care staff and then to those over 75, and on the current status and future of UVA Health.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

To determine current eligibility and fill out a survey to obtain an appointment, go to the Virginia Department of Health, Blue Ridge Health District at, or call the district hotline at 434-972-6261.  There is now a state-wide hotline at 877-275-8343 that is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To see a video of the Zoom presentation with moderator Rich DeMong, SSV Past President, click this link:

A podcast is also available here.

Dr. Craig KentK. Craig Kent, MD, is the executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Virginia. He is responsible for overseeing all UVA Health operations and reports directly to the president. A researcher, educator and physician, Dr. Kent is an internationally recognized leader in academic medicine. He was elected to the 2019 class of inductees into the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. He is the 2019-2020 chair of the American Board of Surgery.

Prior to joining UVA Health, Dr. Kent served as dean of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, vice president for health sciences and the Leslie H. and Abigail S. Wexner Dean’s Chair in Medicine. In his nearly four years as dean, Dr. Kent helped Ohio State make significant investments in research through growth of infrastructure and recruitment.

Before Ohio State, Dr. Kent served as chair of the Department of Surgery at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health, and was chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Columbia College of Physician Surgeons.

He has been a funded researcher for more than 25 years, investigating molecular mechanisms underlying vascular disease with the goal of developing new treatments using innovative methods of drug delivery.

Dr. Kent has authored more than 325 articles and 65 book chapters and has served on the editorial boards of multiple medical journals. He has lectured nationally and internationally with more than 50 named visiting professorships and keynote presentations.

Dr. Kent earned his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, where he also completed his surgical residency. He then completed a research and clinical fellowship in vascular surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Program Summary

UVA Health has four sections: the medical school, nursing school, physician organization and hospitals including three hospitals in Northern Virginia. It has 14,000 employees and yearly revenue of $3 billion. One goal of the organization is to transition from the patient coming to the doctor, with the doctor going to the patient and care provided by a whole team on site, not just one physician. This new philosophy will be one focus of the new strategic plan being developed in the summer of 2021.

COVID information and questions from the audience filled the remainder of the meeting. UVA developed a COVID test early that had a six-hour turnaround time to diagnose the disease. They built negative-pressure rooms holding 84 beds to provide care for very ill COVID patients to decrease mortality.

Concerning the administration of the vaccine, Dr. Kent said that the VA Department of Health controls the supply distribution. Currently UVA has a location in the former Big Lots building  in Seminole Square, and has a capacity to deliver 3,000 shots per day. The supply has only been 3,500 per week. Admitting that specific answers for seniors would be preferable, Dr. Kent stressed that the recommendations for COVID vaccinations and the supply of vaccine are moving targets, and they change when more information is available from the Department of Health. For those who have had the vaccine, the current plan is to “stay the course” with masking, social distancing and personal hygiene.

Criminal Justice Reform- A Dialogue

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Our January program featured the Commonwealth’s Attorneys from Albemarle, James Hingeley, and Charlottesville, Joe Platania. They discussed the recent changes in law as passed by the 2020 General Assembly and some of the proposals being put forward for the upcoming session.  Jeff Gould, president, Senior Statesmen of Virginia, moderated the discussion and took questions from the Zoom participants.

Click to watch the Zoom recording.  The podcast can be obtained below.

James Hingeley took office January 1, 2020, as the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney for Albemarle County and is a member of Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice.  He served as public defender for Albemarle County and Charlottesville from 1998 to 2016, and was public defender for Lynchburg, Virginia, from 1991 to 1998.  From 1978 to 1991 he was in private practice in Charlottesville.  After graduation from UVA Law School in 1976, he completed a two-year judicial clerkship for the West Virginia Supreme Court.  Hingeley is a 1969 graduate of Harvard.

 In 2005, Hingeley was named a fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation, and in 2008 he was named a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at the Harvard Law School.  In 2014 he received the Virginia Bar Association’s Roger D. Groot Pro Bono Publico Service Award, and in 2017 he received UVA Law School’s Shaping Justice Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Service. Hingeley has served as president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Virginia Fair Trial Project. He served on the Board of Governors of the Virginia Bar Association and was a member of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section Board of Governors.  In 2013 he was elected to Bar Council, the governing board of the Virginia State Bar, representing the 16th Judicial Circuit.  In 2016, Govenor Terry McAuliffe appointed Hingeley to a three-year term as a member of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission.

 Joe Platania graduated from Washington and Lee School of Law in 1998 and started his legal career at the Virginia Resource Center where he represented Virginia inmates that had been sentenced to death. 

 He came to Charlottesville in 1999 as one of the original attorneys at the then newly opened Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defenders Office. Platania joined the Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in 2003 and was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2017. He was a cross-designated special assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia from 2008-2017. In addition to his duties as Commonwealth’s Attorney, Platania currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Virginia State Bar’s Criminal Law Section and is the board president of the Charlottesville Albemarle Drug Treatment Court. He is the vice-chair of the 7th District Disciplinary Committee of the Virginia State Bar and is the director of the Prosecution Clinic at the University of Virginia School of law. Platania is also a member of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference which is an organization that seeks to improve criminal justice in Virginia by assembling selected legal professionals and stakeholders in the field of criminal law to study and discuss issues of interest, to gather information, and, when substantial consensus can be reached, to propose legislation or rule changes to effect reform of criminal law and criminal procedure.

 Program Summary

How did two men with criminal defense attorney backgrounds become Charlottesville and Albemarle County commonwealth attorneys?  Jim Hingeley (county) and Joe Platania (city) spoke at the January 13th meeting and explained how this came to pass. Then for the remainder of the session answered questions from the audience. Both men agree that their backgrounds led them to better understand why crimes were committed and addressing those challenges would reduce criminal behavior. They see their roles as prosecutors as balancing the safety of the community with the rights of the defendants. These attorneys are both known as “progressive prosecutors” and hope that their philosophy will lead to criminal justice reform.

They reviewed new laws passed in the 2020 General Assembly including the banning of police from executing unannounced warrants, using choke holds, or conducting searches based on the smell of pot. Other new laws include empowering localities to form police civilian review boards with the power to subpoena and impose punishments. Juries will decide guilt or innocence, but no longer be imposing sentences. Judges will assume sentencing as they can have more knowledge and a better understanding of the law. Also, in certain categories, prisoners can earn good time credit and reduce their sentences.

In response to questions about the effect of the pandemic, both men agree that trying to reduce jail population has been a goal. A collaborative group including attorneys, jail personnel, judges, OAR, and clerks as well as program services providers work together to find alternatives to serving jail time has met with success while keeping the public safe.

The commonwealth attorneys agreed on most subjects discussed. Both feel that there are bigger priorities than prosecuting pot infractions; that judges should be deciding sentences rather than mandatory sentencing for convictions; that the death penalty should be ended. Both men are interested in seeing the details of the bills promoting the expunging of nonviolent records and ending parole before forming opinions.

Community Policing

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

The chiefs of police from Charlottesville and Albemarle explored these issues and many more during the December SSV Zoom meeting.

●Supporting our police while conveying the message we want to see change; ●De-escalating strategies; ●Implicit bias training; ●Lessons learned about policing from cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit; ●How to engage our community in a conversation with our local police about these issues? 

The Zoom video of the “Ask the Chiefs” event can be watched by clicking here.

The podcast is also available.

Prior to her appointment as the chief of police in Charlottesville, Dr. RaShall M. Brackney retired after 30-years with Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Additionally, she served as the chief of police for the George Washington University. She is a recognized expert in the areas of harm reduction, procedural and restorative justice practices, and community-police relations. Additionally, as a result of her work in social and racial justice, Dr. Brackney was granted a fellowship to Carnegie-Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy where she specializes in the influence of race on politics and policy. She earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Carnegie-Mellon University and a Ph.D. from Robert Morris University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia; the United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection course in Washington, D.C.; and Leadership Pittsburgh XIX.

Ron Lantz, chief of police for Albemarle County, completed his career with the Fairfax County Police Department by serving as a district station commander where he was responsible for 155 officers providing police service to the 125,000 residents. He has been with the Albemarle County Police Department since December 2012, where he served as Deputy Chief until his appointment to chief June 1, 2016. In addition, Ron was responsible for leading the implementation of the County’s Geographic Based Policing initiative, which was launched in 2012. Ron serves on several boards to include the ECC executive board, the ASAP executive board, GRACE executive board, VLEPS commission, and executive director of region for Special Olympics Torch Run.

The program will be moderated by Thomas Frampton, associate professor of law, University of Virginia School of Law, an expert in criminal law and constitutional procedure.



Program Summary

The Zoom meeting began with President Jeff Gould presiding over a brief SSV Annual Meeting. The slate from the Nominating Committee was approved with Sue Friedman for vice president/program chair; Jim Peterson for treasurer; and Bonnie Brewer and Norman Dill for directors. Financial, membership and program committee reports were presented.

President Gould then turned the meeting over to Thomas Frampton, UVA Law professor and expert on criminal law and constitutional procedure, who would moderate the program. Charlottesville Police Chief Dr. RaShall Brackney and Albemarle Police Chief Ron Lantz were the presenters. An “Ask the Chief” presentation followed with questions from the audience and moderator.

The first question was, “How do you define community policing?” Lantz explained that since 2012 the county has been divided into two geographic based districts with each staffed by its own officers in order for the community and officers to get to know each other better. As a result, there has been a 30 percent decrease in crime and police response times, and there is increased trust between the police and community. Brackney avoids the term “community policing” and stresses her emphasis on relationship building with citizens in order to determine what they want, need and deserve.

The effect of COVID on police policy has both departments relying more on phone or online reporting from citizens, which has been beneficial in some instances and may be used more in the future. There has been a decrease in violent crimes and traffic stops. On the other hand, there have been concerns about increases in domestic violence, homicides and suicides as well as an underground economy with so many unemployed, e.g., drug dealing.

Other questions involved how prepared are the police for the next big demonstration, internal and external oversight of the police, 5th amendment right about property taken by police, progressive prosecutors, and implicit bias training of police.  

This program was very informative and the chiefs covey a sincere desire to improve the relationship between the citizens and police and are working hard to promote public safety. You are urged to watch the video or listen to the podcast.