Brews & Views: Jobs & the Economy

Queen City Brewing

It’s all about the economy. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Show me the money!

You’ve heard it all before from Washington. Now it’s time to bring the discussion about jobs into Staunton.

Everyone knows we need good jobs right here, in the city. But how can we get them?

  • Do we have to wait for the economy to turn around or for the Economic Development Department to recruit some big employer into town?
  • Or is there anything that citizens can do now, working together?
  • Should we start thinking about jobs and making a living in a different way — perhaps with more emphasis on starting businesses?

Join me on Monday, June 23 at 7pm for the third in my Brews & Views citizen discussion series on issues that matter to Staunton held at Staunton micro-breweries.

This time we’ll be at Queen City Brewing Company for a special event designed exclusively for local conversation on jobs and entrepreneurship in the Valley.

Cash bar; carry-in food.

City Council Meeting 2/13: Support for the arts

ShenanArts logo
ShenanArts is one of three Staunton arts groups that City Council will talk about supporting this Thursday evening.

This Thursday evening, City Council will consider whether to offer support to three Staunton arts groups. We’ll also talk about sewer connection fees! As always, we’ll hold two back-to-back meetings, both at City Hall.

Work Session (5:15 pm in the Caucus Room)

  • We’ll discuss whether to raise the fee to connect new properties to the City’s sewer system. The current fee is $2,100 but the City actually loses money on each connecting, spending an average of $3,105 each time somebody wants a new connection. To try to bridge this gap, we’ll talk about raising the fee to $3,000, still not the full average cost, but less of a loss to the taxpayers.
  • We’ll consider whether to reapply for state matching funds for us to support three Staunton arts organizations, the Stonewall Brigade Band, the Staunton Augusta Art Center and ShenanArts. Each $5,000 grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, when split three ways, would yield about $1,667 from the state to be matched by the City, providing a total of $3,333 to each organization.
  • A closed session to consider new projects from the Economic Development Department.

Regular Meeting (7:30 pm in the Council Chambers)

The agenda for the big meeting is pretty straightforward and I don’t expect the meeting to last long.

  • We’ll just hold public hearings and then vote on each of the two issues discussed above: the sewer fee increase and the state grant for arts organizations.
  • Then we’ll vote on a resolution endorsing the Economic Development Department to apply for a grant for $126,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help the Staunton Creative Community Fund create a Small Business Toolkit to make it easier for potential entrepreneurs to start new businesses in the city.

Check out the full agenda for both meetings in the City Council Agenda section of the City’s website. If an issue interests you on the agenda, why not come to the work session to learn more or attend the regular meeting to make your voice heard? And as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if there is any way I can assist you.

– City Councilman Erik Curren

Youth from Ideas to Action: Thurs 2/6 @ 7pm

Brews and Views #2 poster
Event poster by my talented wife Lindsay Curren.

In response to popular demand, I’m holding my second Brews and Views event at Redbeard Brewing in Staunton to talk about youth issues.

Our first meeting was a dynamic discussion about what young people want.

This meeting will be about taking action to start to make it happen. Just to give a little preview of my presentation, let’s say you’ve got a great new idea to improve Staunton for young people. Congrats! That’s the first step. But to try to make it reality, you’ll need to:

  • Make friends — Generate support and recruit allies from other likeminded citizens. When it works the way it should, democracy is all about giving the majority what they want. So try to build a majority for your idea.
  • Show up — Come to meetings of City Council, boards and commissions, civic groups, nonprofit organizations and other places where decision-makers do wehat they do…make decisions, that is.
  • Stick with it — Have patience! Rome wasn’t built in a day and Staunton won’t be changed in one either. Only those who stick around and keep trying will succeed.

With City Council elections coming up this May, there’s never been a better time than now to get involved with local politics in Staunton. I’ve invited several potential candidates for City Council to join us on Thursday night, so that you’ll get a chance to meet them, ask them questions and decide if you’d like to support their campaigns.

The event is open to people of all ages who want to take part in the exciting work of making Staunton more friendly to the Millennial generation. I hope you’ll join us!

Brews and Views #2 with Councilman Erik Curren

I’ll present on the issues, talk about how you can make a difference, and then offer you opportunities to get involved.

meeting locationThursday, February 6, 2014 from 7-9 pm
Redbeard Brewing Company
120 S. Lewis Street (View Map)
Downtown Staunton near the Wharf

Again, this is an event open to all ages who care about making Staunton more youth friendly. And attendees under age 21 are welcome if accompanied by a parent or guardian. I hope to see you there!

Brews and Views review: what young people want in Staunton

WHSV TV story
Watch the story from WHSV TV on the event.

I held my first Brews and Views meeting at Redbeard Brewing Company near the Wharf in downtown Staunton a couple weeks ago. Based on the event and comments I heard afterwards, I’d say the event was a success. And to meet demand for another discussion, I’ve scheduled a followup discussion for early February. More on that below.

But first, let me recap what happened at the first discussion. The topic, what young people want in Staunton, attracted about 50 citizens. Attendees enjoyed the craft beer and cool atmosphere of Redbeard, thanks to owner Jonathan Wright. And they also enjoyed hot pizza courtesy of John Huggins at Shenandoah Pizza. Many seemed to be in their twenties or thirties. But a dozen more advanced folks who care about young people and want Staunton to be more friendly to their concerns also participated in what turned out to be a lively discussion.

Everybody didn’t always agree on everything but a few major concerns emerged:

  • Some people had questions about the outdoor noise ordinance that was passed a couple years ago.
  • Some brought up issues with law enforcement both downtown and at the skate park at Gypsy Hill Park.
  • This was a pretty eco-aware group, with interest in walkable streets, recycling and urban gardening.
  • The biggest support came for starting a grass-roots music and art venue to replace popular spots of the recent past and give younger people a place to hear bands from near and far, to give their own performances and to get together with other fans.

Overall, attendees said they liked the chance to talk with a member of City Council on their concerns and hoped that local government would do more outreach in the future and would pay more attention to the needs of young people in Staunton.

After the group discussion broke up, I had the chance to chat with several attendees. And afterwards, I’ve had the chance to hear from a few more. And all agreed that we should find a way to continue the discussion about young people and find ways to address some of the issues raised.

So, in response to this interest, I’ve scheduled a follow-up meeting to take place again at Redbeard. In this meeting, I’ll give a short presentation where I’ll explain a bit more about how City government works and present opportunities for citizens to get involved ranging from contacting your Councilmember to applying to join a board or commission to running for City Council yourself. Here are the details:

Making Staunton More Youth Friendly: From Ideas to Action

Brews and Views #2 with Councilman Erik Curren
I’ll present on the issues, talk about how you can make a difference, and then offer you opportunities to get involved.

meeting locationThursday, February 6 from 7-9 pm
Redbeard Brewing Company
120 S. Lewis Street (View Map)
Downtown Staunton near the Wharf

Attendees under age 21 are welcome if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Stay tuned for more details and a cool poster from my wife Lindsay. I hope to see you there!

City Council 1/23: Joint meeting with school board

instructional technology
Keeping up with advances in instructional technology isn’t cheap. Money for schools will top City Council’s agenda this week.

Highlights of Staunton City Council meetings for January 23, 2014.

Headlining this Thursday’s Staunton City Council meetings will be a joint session with the Staunton City School Board.

The purpose? To talk about common concerns that come about every year about this time, including issues for the Virginia general assembly (currently in session for just a couple months) and potential school-related expenses for the Staunton City budget that City Council will start working on soon for the fiscal year that will begin July 1.

As always, on Thursday night, City Council will hold two separate meetings at City Hall. The public is welcome to observe the work session and to speak at the Regular Meeting, both in public hearings on agenda issues and on any topic during Matters from the Public at the end of the meetinng.

Here are the highlights of each meeting:

Work Session (5:15 pm in the Caucus Room)

  • Joint work session with Staunton City School Board.
  • Discussion of Capital Investment Plan — We’ve seen the plan before and tonight, at the regular meeting we’ll vote on it. This is the document that guides the City in putting aside money for big future building projects, including $2.6 million in improvements to Shuterlee Mill Rd and Richmond Rd near the Villages at Staunton complex, as well as money for a new roof on the main firehouse (the current one leaks!). The new plan will also incorporate funding for a long-planned Staunton greenway, a bike and pedestrian path that would connect downtown to the Frontier Culture Museum.
  • Update on utility connection costs and facility fees. Staff recommends that fees for new water connections remain at $2,100 but that sewer connection fees go up from $2,100 to $3,000. The fee increase would take effect on April 15. If Council agrees, we’d hold a public hearing on the issue on Feb. 27.
  • Discussion of parking equipment upgrade for New Street Garage. Spending $75,000 would allow the City to get a system to accept credit cards and also to charge hourly, increasing parking revenues.

Regular Meeting (7:30 pm in the Council Chambers)

  • Request by VanFossen Self Storage, LLC to open an infant and toddler care center at 2507-A W. Beverley Street. The center, to be located in a building that formerly housed a plumbing and mechanical business, would be renovated to serve kids from six weeks to two-and-a-half years old.
  • Presentation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2013. Interested in how the City spent about $100 million in the 2013 fiscal year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)? Here’s where you’ll get to hear about the auditor’s report of City finances for that period. No surprises here, and everything does seem to add up.
  • Consideration of the Proposed Capital Investment Plan for FY2014. Here’s where we’ll vote on the building project savings plan that we discussed at the work session.

Check out the full agenda for both meetings in the City Council Agenda section of the City’s website. If an issue interests you on the agenda, why not come to the work session to learn more or attend the regular meeting to make your voice heard? And as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if there is any way I can assist you.

– City Councilman Erik Curren