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Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023

Our main story today is about a trail. Stay with me — it’s way more interesting than it sounds.

Generations ago in Charlottesville, there was a short trail through the woods that connected homes on Prospect Avenue with businesses on Cherry Avenue. It might have extended as far as UVA Hospital. No one knows who created the trails, or when. But longtime residents remember them being well worn by the 1960s.

Then, in the 1980s, the trails were taken away. They were on private property, and the owner blocked access on one end. It was the height of the crack epidemic, longtime Fifeville resident Dorenda Dickerson Johnson recalls, and the trails were becoming dangerous. The city blocked access on the other end after someone was killed on one of them.

The city might have had good intentions, but in the decades that followed residents missed their shortcut. Anyone living along Prospect Avenue or Orangedale Drive without a car had an unpleasant — if not outright dangerous — walk along 5th Street to get into town.

So, two years ago, the neighborhood decided it was time to take their trails back. This is their story.

Three people walk through a leafy trail with tall trees
Credit: Marco Sanchez/Piedmont Environmental Council

Fifeville residents restore a long forgotten trail system that enables pedestrians to safely bypass 5th Street

There was big news from Charlottesville City Council last night. Councilor Sena Magill is resigning. Her last day is Jan. 11. That means, there is an immediate opening on the Council.

Per state law, the remaining four Council members will appoint Magill’s replacement. They plan to accept applications for the position for the next month, then make their selection in February. They will post an application to the website sometime this week. (Keep opening these emails — we’ll share it when it’s available.)

Screenshot of YouTube player showing a woman with the nameplate Magill at a table with a handkerchief to her face, and a man with the nameplate Payne speaking in a microphone. The text reads, "City Council Meeting January 3, 2023."
Credit: Screenshot/City of Charlottesville

Charlottesville City Councilor Magill resigns, remaining four members will accept applications to appoint her replacement

By the end of the week, two Charlottesville elementary schools might have new names. 

On Thursday, the Charlottesville School Board will vote on renaming Venable and Clark elementary schools. The board’s options are limited: For Venable, it will vote exclusively on whether or not to change the school’s name to Trailblazers Elementary School. For Clark, the board will have a choice to name the school either Friendship or Summit Elementary School — or to reject both names.

There’s still time for community members to weigh in. The board is specifically interested in feedback on whether residents prefer Friendship or Summit as a replacement for Clark.

After Thursday, two elementary schools could have new names if the school board reaches a consensus

The University of Virginia failed to pay some of its graduate students on time this month, as reported by CBS19 News. It’s an error that university officials are fairly tight lipped about. I emailed a university spokesperson yesterday asking the following questions:

1. What department is responsible for distributing graduate student stipends?

2. What specifically happened that these stipends weren’t processed? And when were they processed?

3. Has this ever happened before?

4. What specifically is being done to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

5. Why is this something that impacted grad students, but not other university staff pay?

The spokesperson replied with the following statement:

A change in this year’s staff and administrative calendar resulted in the delayed release of stipend disbursements to a limited number of graduate students.

“The stipends typically appear in the accounts of graduate students by the first of each month. A shift in the processing date due to UVA’s winter break, which was expanded by two days this year, meant that some of the funds were processed later than is customary. This impacted a minority of the number of graduate students at the University. The University was able to release all of the stipend funds before the first of the month, but it is possible that some reached students after the 1st, depending on how they were processed at their individual financial institutions. In addition, the University is closely examining this process to ensure this error is not repeated.

“We have reached out directly to all of the affected students and offered assistance with late fees or other issues that may arise as a result of this episode.

Regarding the difference between these payments and University payroll, they are processed through a different system.”

The statement doesn’t answer all my questions, so I’ve followed up with the spokesperson asking for more details about how a change in the administrative calendar equals graduate students not being paid — and asked for answers to my other questions, too.

If you have questions about this incident that you’d like me to ask the university, hit reply to this email and let me know!

The one tangible thing that has come out of this incident is the UVA chapter of the United Campus Workers of Virginia is taking up the graduate students’ cause. They are pushing not just for the university to correct its graduate stipend payment system — which students say are regularly late — but also for the university to raise graduate student pay. VPM wrote about the effort in this story. The union is also chronicling its push on Twitter, which you can follow here.

We hope you had a joyful holiday. Welcome back, if you’ve been away!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

P.S. If you missed these emails last week, check out some highlights from 2022, First Person Charlottesville essays you might have missed and five charts to help you understand Charlottesville.

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.