Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Council, school board candidates forum at Region Ten

Charlottesville, Va.

Last night's forum was sponsored by the 10th and Page neighborhood association and moderated by its president Gate Pratt. It took place in a basement room of Region Ten on Preston Avenue.

First there was a crime report by several police officers who patrol this neighborhood. Then the 3 Council cadidates for 2 seats answered questions. Finally, the 6 candidates for the 3 school board seats spoke to the smaller crowd that remained.

The officers handed out crime statistics for the neighborhood from West St. to Hardy Dr. and from 7th to 11th streets NW. From 2001-04, the were around 1,900 calls for service a year, dropping to 1,410 in '05, while the number of serious "part 1 crimes" has been steady between 55 and 67 each of the last 5 years.

Citywide, statistics from last year and this year were presented. 4 roberries last year and already 12 this year. Burglary 10 last year and 28 this year. 3 rapes last year and none yet this year. One murder last year and murder-free so far this year.

What was unusual is one of the officers apologized for not having more specific statistics for the neighborhood. Apparently, the position of "crime analyst" is unfilled. The job of crime analyst is to retrieve crime data. Therefore, the data was unavailable. The explanation was awkward and seemed to show embarrassment.

Then followed the main event: City Council candidates

Julian Taliaferro would have to be the newsmaker of the night for dismissing a citizen's comment as untruthful.

A lady reported that, in the early 1990s, fire trucks would park on Water Street so firemen could work out at ACAC (Atlantic Coast Athletic Club) while on duty. At the time, the city's main bus transfer location was on Water St. The woman said she missed the bus a few times because the bus driver's view of riders was blocked by fire trucks, essentially.

So she tried for two months to have an appointment with the fire chief, Taliaferro. When she went in for the appointment, she was told the chief was too busy to talk with her. So she aired her complaint at a city council meeting. And the fire trucks immediately stopped parking on the street.

She asked Taliaferro if he would continue this mentality if elected to City Council. Taliaferro said he couldn't believe she was unable to get through. The lady even said, "I'm not making this up." And Taliaferro dismissed her testimony even further. It was an incredible thing to witness.

Rob Schilling is the incumbent who led the movement to switch from an appointed to an elected school board. The referendum passed last November by a 3-1 margin, with voter turnout 3-4 times the typical May election turnout. Schilling asked that voters re-elect him so he can help guide the school board transition and because the change continues to face great institutional opposition.

Schilling also took leadership credit for lowering the real estate tax rate from $1.11 to $1.05 per $100 assessed value. Even so, the city budget has doubled in 10 years. Schilling also cited constituent services as a reason to vote for him. If you have a problem with the city, Schilling is the councilor most likely to listen with respect and help you get the information you need.

Schilling seemed a little grumpy when someone asked him why he doesn't support tax relief for poor and elderly. It did sound like a seminar question designed to make the candidate look bad. Schilling said he does support the relief. The guy asked a followup: if so, why did you vote against the budget. Schilling replied he couldn't support the majority of the budget, so he had to vote no even though he supported some parts. He recommended a book by John Norquist called "The Wealth of Cities".

Several times, Schilling warned ominously that "sooner or later" we'll have to deal with the budget in a serious manner. Seems we're headed for a train wreck.

Dave Norris is the third candidate for Council. He gave credit to Schilling for addressing the high tax aspect of affordable housing. Norris said the city should create a housing trust fund for loans to low-income home-buyers. The loans would be paid back if the house is later sold.

Norris said the city has a number of surplus vacant lots it could sell for affordable housing. Norris was appointed as chairman of the board of directors for the Redevelopment and Housing Authority about 5 years ago. His tenure lasted only a couple years. He did not say how much surplus land the city has available or how much land in the city is not paying taxes.

First ever school board election in Cville: 6 candidates for 3 at-large seats

Leah Puryear and Juandiego Wade, the only black candidates, have paired themselves together as a ticket. They share the same slogan "REACH TO TEACH!" Their campaign brochures had the same format. And they both asked that people vote for the both of them. They seem to be a team.

Vance High has taught in Seattle schools and moved herein 1990. He ran for Council as an independent in 2004, receiving around 700 votes. If elected, he said he would donate the $3,000 school board member pay to fund school supplies for teachers.

Sue Lewis has been applying for the school board since the '80s and has served on important commissions: Planning Commission, Housing Authority, MACAA, FOCUS, LWV.

Ned Michie is the only incumbent. He was appointed to the school board by city council and was on the board during the controversy surrounding the previous superintendent. He said there's been 4 superintendents in 5 years.

All the candidates agreed on the platitudes with which we all agree. Close the achievement gap. Safe environment for everyone. Adopt best practices. Accountability.

Charlie Kollmansperger stands out as the only candidate with a coherent vision. He was the only candidate who came close to articulating a policy on violence. If a student hits a teacher, said Kollmansperger, it would be hard to justify keeping that student in school. All the candidates support safe schools. But only Kollmansperger was willing to go to any detail.

His brochure was the best of the four available. He's the only candidate with a website. His ideas are organized in the acronym CHANGE.

C communication and connectivity
H high expectations
A attention to achievement
N no excuses
G gather and generate support
E efficient use of resources (Dave Norris) (Julian Taliaferro) (Rob Schilling)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Proof that Cville is criminal

Not something you'd like to be able to prove so easily.
----- Comment 21 -----

Waldo, I never said there was a secret cabal. I've always maintained that the crimes occurred in public, in plain view, and documented in newspapers.

Now let me try to prove, once and for all, that saying "Cville=criminal" is not libel.
IF A=B AND B=C THEN A=C. If the first two propositions are true, then the conclusion must also be true. (syllogism)

Let's say, A="Felony" and B="seizing property for private use without due process" and C="Charlottesville."

Do you see the light? But wait, you might say that's not a felony as the Supreme Court ruled last summer in Kelo v. City of New London. Fortunately, nobody takes an oath to uphold the Supreme Court. The same court upheld segregation and slavery, known civil rights violations at the time. If the court rules 1+1=3, that's it? Burn all the math books--court says so.

Under the Constitution, property can be seized for private use through due process. Often confused is eminent domain, where property can be seized for public use without due process. These are the only two ways gov't can seize property. Our founding fathers wanted to keep it simple so even the uneducated could know and understand their rights. Any violation of the Bill of Rights is a felony without a statute of limitation.

Now if I could show that Cville has seized a parcel for private use without charging the owner with a crime or breach of contract, that would be grand larceny. What if there were hundreds of properties seized for private use? Would that add up to multiple felony counts?

What about Vinegar Hill? Estimated 150 properties. Except for McIntire Road and Federal Courthouse, everything else is a felony. Does it matter that a referendum okayed the action? Does it matter the mayor was quoted in the newspaper saying the intent was to sell the parcels? Does it matter nobody bought any of the stolen land for 20 years? Does anyone think Vinegar Hill clearance was a good idea and should be repeated?

What if other cities are committing the same crimes? I guess that makes it alright. But it's still a felony that you got away with.

What agency is committing these crimes? Redevelopment and Housing Authority. First they seize your house and sell the land for somebody else's private use. Or they seize your house and rent out the new development for private residential use. Yes, public housing is a felony even though the govt still owns the land.

Do you think people don't know these facts? If public housing itself is a felony, wouldn't you expect it to be a magnet for criminal activity? So it does trouble me that Dave Norris supports the Housing Authority, whose mission is to commit felonies against minority and disadvantaged citizens in order to help other citizens. Norris hasn't mentioned a single reform for the agency.
The evidence consists of deeds sitting right in the courthouse for easy reference. To say the Great Society was flawed to begin with is an understatement.

Somebody will always be talking about the crimes of urban renewal. They're on the same scale as segregation and slavery, and somewhere between the two on the scales of justice. The reason it's against the law in the first place is because of all the trouble it caused last time.

Waldo, not knowing about these "alleged" felonies perpetrated over 4 decades means either (a) you're out of touch or (b) you've never read that Bill of Rights you supposedly carry around in your pocket.

I'm sorry too. It's not my opinion that Vinegar Hill and Westhaven (etc.) are felonies. That is a fact that proves Cville=criminal. It helps to explain a lot of our problems.

----- Response -----

Waldo Jaquith Says: March 28th, 2006 at 10:54 pm
I’m just going to back…away…slowly and not make any sudden movements.

----- Response -----

cvillenative Says: March 28th, 2006 at 11:15 pm
See. And your response is to trivialize. I take it my proof is sufficient. Thanks Waldo.

( )

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cville School Safety

Dear Coy Barefoot, for Mar 21 show

School safety and Why we refuse to accept the only solution:

"Expulsion for unprovoked violent assault." A simple policy. How many times should you be allowed to assault teachers and fellow students before you're kicked out of school? How should the good students react when authorities fail to protect them from a known threat? Shouldn't violent kids be segregated from the general population of those who want to be there and want to learn?

Please bring up these ideas in your discussion on Charlottesville Right Now.

Why can't we expel young thugs from our schools? Funding. At the school board candidates' forum Saturday, activist Karl Ackerman said there had been 19 assaults against teachers and 24 expulsions recommended. The school board must approve any expulsion of a student. Incumbent school board member Ned Michie downplayed the number as a few to come before the board.

If the school board expels 24 students, the schools would lose $288,000 at $12,000 annual cost per student. Councilor Kendra Hamilton has said there are at least 30 students each grade from 5th grade on who will or should drop out because they're not learning ( ). These 240 students would add up to $2.88 million.

Someone else at the forum said there are 100 to 150 students at Buford who will continue to be problems right on through high school. Why can't we kick them out now? 150x12,000= $1.8 million.

I disagree that education is a right. I believe education is a privilege reserved only for well-behaved children. I expect a significant number of parents will have to remove their kids from school until that revenue loss outweighs the loss of kicking out the violent students.

Charlottesville, CHS graduate 1982

Audio of school board forum:

Mar 22: Thanks Coy for asking my question on air.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Levy Avenue for sale, eminent domain bills to be heard Monday

The Housing Authority board met January 10 to discuss a sale that has had no takers for decades. The agency will only sell the land if you build what they want-- "30 units, single-family homes and town houses and on-site parking." The housing board must approve your blueprint. Howard Evergreen said that CRHA has owned, free and clear, nearly one acre on Levy for many years. [CRHA rents the parcel to the city as an employee parking lot for $1 a year.]

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Feb 3 2006)


January 10, 2006

The Redevelopment Committee of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and HousingAuthority met in Regular Session on January 10, 2006 in the Maintenance OfficeConference Room.

Committee Members Present: Rick Jones, Howard Evergreen, Kendra Hamilton, JasonHalburt, Ron Higgins, Jeff Sties and Richard Funk

Staff Present: Noah Schwartz, Executive Director

Jeff Sties introduced himself as an independent architect operating his own firm. His current work centers mostly on single-family homes.

Mr. Evergreen summarized the committee’s efforts to develop housing at the Levy Avenue site to date. He explained that CRHA has owned, free and clear, nearly one acre on Levy for many years. With the intent to build affordable housing on that site, the committee released an RFP for architectural services in February, 2005. From that RFP, the committee chose to negotiate with one architect. From that negotiation, it was determined that the cost of the proposed architectural services was beyond what CRHA was willing to commit to.

The committee then re-thought the process and decided to pursue an architecture/builder team in an effort to create positive synergy and lower the cost. An RFP for those services was released in July, 2005. Though the committee held a number of discussions with interested firms, with the award date looming and many questions still to be considered, the committee decided not to make an award at that time and to re-think the project again.

While considering the RFP process for the third time, the committee received guidance from CRHA’s legal representation that suggested a combined RFP for architectural and construction services was not the optimum route. Further, it was strongly suggested that the committee develop a more concrete set of ideas as to what this project would look like before writing and issuing an RFP for architectural services.

Today’s meeting, with two new committee members (architects) was being held to try and come up with a more detailed project plan to serve as the basis to issue and RFP for architectural services.

Committee members asked how much detail does the committee want to get into? Do we want to look at exterior finishes?

Mr. Sties suggested that more detail is better though it will allow less flexibility down the road in terms of builder alternatives.

Committee members asked about building costs associated with modular structures. Mr. Jones asked if there might be a modular package CRHA could use for building town homes on the site. Mr. Evergreen responded that, in his experience, we may be able to do so but that anything we did would required some amount of architectural design work.

Mr. Halbert stated that decisions about how green or how affordable a project should be are best done in early stages.

Members of the committee asked if Mr. Halbert had any recommendations on the green issue.
Mr. Halbert and Mr. Sties responded that there are any number of models available, from EnergyStar to Earthcraft to LEED. He explained that EnergyStar really focuses on energy usage, such as with appliances, while the Earthcraft model focuses more on energy systems such as insulation, framing, air infiltration and other building envelope features. The LEED system gets into issues such as site location, transportation issues, etc.

It was asked if we should take the LEED standard in doing site review and focus on key points. Mr. Schwartz asked if there was any consensus as to whether or not that approach sounded reasonable.

Mr. Jones suggested that we take a look at cost factors first and then decide what energy efficiency measures we can afford.

Mr. Funk suggested the committee look at our market before we get into too much detail on these points.

Other committee members asked if we were talking about home ownership? Are CRHA’s residents the target market? Do we want condominiums? Do we want apartments?

The committee discussed two separate development models. The first model was consistent with how this project had originally been pursued with the profit from market rate units used to subsidize below market unit sales to low-income families. The other model is dependent on external revenue streams like those from private foundations or government sources to subsidize the entire project.

The committee discussed these points and whether or not they could be merged.

Additionally, the committee discussed who the target low-income population was and came to some agreement that units should be affordable to market rate buyers (70%), low-income buyers at 50% of the regional AMI (15%) and low-income buyers at 80% of the regional AMI (15%).

Mr. Higgins stated that the original goal of the project was to develop a model of mixedincome development and that we need to decide if that is still the intent. The committee appeared to support that original goal and targeting three buyer groups; market rate buyers (70%), low-income buyers at 50% of the regional AMI (15%) and low-income buyers at 80% of the regional AMI (15%).

The committee agreed to pursue two sets of tasks at this time. First, Mr. Halbert would begin to investigate the availability of grant funds for this type of project. Second, the committee would continue to pursue the project consistent with the original goal. Mr. Funk and Mr. Sties agreed to review previously submitted plans and try to come up with some general ideas for the group to consider. Their basic assumptions would be that there would be about 30 units, single-family homes and town houses and on-site parking.

The next meeting is planned for January 24 at 8:30 AM. at the Maintenance Office.


1. Mr. Steven Blaine - Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/07
2. Ms. Christina Delzingaro - Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/08
3. Mr. Jason Halbert - Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/08
4. Ms. Kendra Hamilton - Chair/Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/06
5. Mr. Richard H. Jones - Vice-Chair/Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/07
6. Ms. Brynda Loving-Kotter –Resident Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/07
7. Ms. Debra Godfrey - Resident Commissioner Term Expires: 6/30/08

(Accessed Feb 3 2006. I'm not sure why the minutes refers to Howard Evergreen as a committee member and the same website excludes him from the official list.)


"City has plan for Levy site: Mixed-income idea novel for housing," Jun 19 2003, The Daily Progress.

"Levy Avenue Design Workshop," Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association Newsletter, Summer 2003.--"This spring, neighborhood residents and city leaders, including Mayor Maurice Cox, gathered for a design workshop sponsored by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to explore options for development of the Housing Authority property at 405 Levy Avenue, next to Walker's Auto Repair... On the ground level at the Avon Street and 6th Street corners of the property, participants recommended higher density buildings, housing apartments above, and uses like cafe, video store, laundromat for the spaces at sidewalk level. At the center of the block, participants recommended construction of rowhouses, like those in Richmond's Fan District, with a shared private park/garden behind, and garages with 'Granny-flat'studio apartments."

****************************************In the General Assembly:

Monday morning [Feb 6] at 9 AM the Senate subcommittee of Courts of Justice will hear all Senate Eminent Domain Bills and possibly a new version of HB94, which, though modified because of property owner opposition, is still totally unacceptable.

Every Coalition member, please take a minute to contact the Chair of this subcommittee, Senator Tommy Norment and let him know you are opposed to SB394 patroned by Senator Stolle, as well as HB94, which will be heard in the Senate soon, and that you support the SB631 substitution patroned by Senators Obenshain, O'Brien, and Cuccinelli.

Let them know clearly that you expect the General Assembly to protect you from the Kelo decision as they promised to do with clear straightforward language that does not have loop holes designed to protect developers and allow your property to be used for local development.

It is not hard to define public use or to exclude the use of eminent domain for econimic development, if the will to do so it present. Support:SB631 Patroned by Delegates, Obenshain, O'Brian, & Cuccilelli Oppose: HB394, Patroned by Senator Stolle HB94, Co-patroned in the Senate by R. Creigh Deeds, Jay O'Brien , Frank M. Ruff HB 94 is the bill universally supported by the developers and the local governments, which in itself speaks volumes. If you are a constituent of any of these Senators, contact them immediately and urge them to drop their support of this bill and consider the language in SB 631

Nancy McCordPresident, Virginia Property Rights Coalition

SENATE BILL NO. 631 Offered January 16, 2006 A BILL to amend and reenact § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia, relating to definition of "public use." ----------Patron-- Cuccinelli ----------Referred to Committee on Local Government ----------Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
§ 15.2-1900. Definition of public uses.

The term "public uses" mentioned in Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia is hereby defined to embrace [strike]all uses which are necessary for public purposes[strike]
[replace with] only the possession, occupation, and enjoyment of land by the general public or by public agencies, or the use of land for the creation or functioning of public utilities. Public benefits or potential public benefits, including economic or private development, or an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment, or general economic health, shall not constitute a public use. The question of whether a taking of private property is for a public use shall be a judicial question to be determined without regard to any legislative declaration regarding the nature of the use.

HOUSE BILL NO. 94 Offered January 11, 2006 Prefiled December 19, 2005

A BILL to amend and reenact §§ 15.2-1800 and 15.2-1814 of the Code of Virginia, to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 1-237.1, and to repeal § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia, relating to eminent domain; definition of public uses. ----------

Patrons-- Suit, Albo, Athey, Brink, Callahan, Cole, Cosgrove, Crockett-Stark, Dudley, Frederick, Gear, Hugo, Hurt, Johnson, Kilgore, Landes, Lingamfelter, Lohr, Miller, Morgan, Nutter, Orrock, Parrish, Peace, Purkey, Rust, Tata, Waddell, Ware, R.L., Wittman and Wright;
Senators: Deeds, O'Brien and Ruff

----------Referred to Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns ----------Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That §§ 15.2-1800 and 15.2-1814 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted and that the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 1-237.1 as follows:

§ 1-237.1. Public uses.

A. The term "public uses" mentioned in Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia is hereby defined to include any uses necessary for public purposes where a governmental entity is the owner of the private real property acquired by the use of eminent domain. However, where any private real property is acquired through the exercise of the power of eminent domain for public purposes and is conveyed to a nongovernmental person or entity, the power of eminent domain shall only be used where the property being condemned is acquired:

1. Pursuant to Chapter 1 of Title 36 generally known as the Housing Authorities Law;

2. By a local government for the purpose of conveyance to a public service corporation or company that is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain pursuant to § 56-49;

3. Pursuant to § 33.1-96 by the Transportation Commissioner for the purpose of relocation of utilities or other facilities located in the highway rights-of-way;

4. For the purpose of constructing, maintaining or operating public highways or other transportation facilities of the Commonwealth or a locality;

5. For the purpose of being used as a qualifying project as defined in the Public-Private Transportation
Act of 1995 (§ 56-556 et seq.);

6. For the purpose of construction, operation or maintenance of local government facilities or infrastructure as designated in the capital improvements program of the locality pursuant to § 15.2-2239 or required as part of a land-use approval under Title 15.2, including but not limited to sanitary sewer, water, and stormwater management facilities;

7. Pursuant to Chapter 51 of Title 15.2 under the Virginia Water and Waste Authorities Act for water or waste facilities;

8. Pursuant to § 15.2-2306 A 4 for preservation of historic sites and architectural areas;

9. For the purpose of being used as a qualifying project as defined in the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (§ 56-575.1 et seq.);

10. Pursuant to § 15.2-1801 for acquisition of land adjacent to public parks;

11. For the purpose of acquiring clear title if one or more of the landowners consents in writing to the use of eminent domain; or

12. Pursuant to other general law expressly granted by the General Assembly.

B. Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent a governmental entity from conveying surplus property to a nongovernmental person or entity as otherwise provided by law.

C. Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the power of eminent domain referenced in subdivisions A 1 through A
11. § 15.2-1800. Purchase, sale, etc., of real property.

A. A locality may acquire by purchase, gift, devise, bequest, exchange, lease as lessee, or otherwise, title to, or any interests in, any real property, whether improved or unimproved, within its jurisdiction,
for any public use. Acquisition of any interest in real property by condemnation is governed by Chapter 19 (§ [15.2-1900] 15.2-1901 et seq.). The acquisition of a leasehold or other interest in a telecommunications tower, owned by a nongovernmental source, for the operation of a locality's wireless radio communications systems shall be governed by this chapter.

B. Subject to any applicable requirements of Article VII, Section 9 of the Constitution, any locality may sell, at public or private sale, exchange, lease as lessor, mortgage, pledge, subordinate interest in or otherwise dispose of its real property, which includes the superjacent airspace (except airspace provided for in § 15.2-2030) which may be subdivided and conveyed separate from the subjacent land surface, provided that no such real property, whether improved or unimproved, shall be disposed of until the governing body has held a public hearing concerning such disposal. However, the holding of a public hearing shall not apply to (i) the leasing of real property to another public body, political subdivision or authority of the Commonwealth or (ii) conveyance of site development easements across public property, including but not limited to, easements for ingress, egress, utilities, cable, telecommunications, storm water management, and other similar conveyances, that are consistent with the local capital improvement program, involving improvement of property owned by the locality. The provisions of this section shall not apply to the vacation of public interests in real property under the provisions of Articles 6 (§ 15.2-2240 et seq.) and 7 (§ 15.2-2280 et seq.) of Chapter 22 of this title.

C. A city or town may also acquire real property for a public use outside its boundaries; a county may acquire real property for a public use outside its boundaries when expressly authorized by law.

D. A locality may construct, insure and equip buildings, structures and other improvements on real property owned or leased by it.

E. A locality may operate, maintain and regulate the use of its real property or may contract with other persons to do so.

F. This section shall not be construed to deprive the resident judge or judges of the right to control the use of the courthouse.

G. "Public use" as used in this section shall have the same meaning as in § [15.2-1900] 1-237.1.
§ 15.2-1814. Acquisition authorized by chapter declared to be for public use.

Any acquisition of property authorized by any provision of this chapter is hereby declared to be for a public use as the term "public uses" is used in § [15.2-1900] 1-237.1.

2. That § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia is repealed.

Nominated: 3 whites for 2 seats: First black mayor calls for racial quota on Council

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Mar 5 2006)

Yesterday, a hundred-fifty Democrats nominated Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro for the two Council seats up for election on May 2. Today, 13 Republicans nominated Rob Schilling for a second term.

Despite rumors that Republicans would offer a stealth candidate, none materialized. Democratic leader John Conover revealed his party's campaign strategy: just say Schilling abstains on everything.

Rob Schilling responded today in his nomination speech by saying he has never missed a regularly scheduled Council meeting, implying that all 4 of his colleagues had missed at least one meeting.

If you miss a meeting where a vote is taken, your vote is recorded as an abstention. Besides, you're ethically bound to recuse yourself when there is a clear conflict of interest, according to Schilling. And sometimes you must vote no and make the hard decision.

The strategy to focus on abstentions explains why the Democrats asked Charles Barbour to speak. Locally, the most famous abstention controversy is the Downtown Mall.

It was approved in 1974 with 2 Yes votes and 3 abstentions. The state attorney general issued a legal opinion that it was a valid vote. Charles Barbour and Mitch Van Yahres voted for the mall. Francis Fife was one of those who didn't support or oppose. But that abstention didn't seem to hurt him any.

Barbour said that Thurgood Marshall spoke in 1958 to his senior class at Jackson P. Burley High School. Barbour claimed that the Council of 1970 was the first after integration and the best Council ever. He listed the Democratic Party's main accomplishments since 1970: downtown mall, more swimming pools, more bus service, more zoning, increased from one to two blacks appointed to school board.

"The things that happened in the '70s we're all enjoying today because we had the guts and determination to make a change," declared Barbour.

Since 1970, there's been only one black Council member at a time. Barbour challenged his party to have the courage to make a change and have two blacks on Council from now on. Such a challenge would make sense except the party had just nominated 2 white guys.

Barbour's speech was symbolic of the division between the leadership and rank and file in his party. He represents an old paradigm of race-based demagoguery. Both Bern Ewert and Al Weed, Democratic hopefuls against Virgil Goode, did not speak even though they have active campaigns.

To sum up Charles Barbour: It's time to make a change so let's expand whatever we've been doing since 1970, the best Council ever.

The Republican convention was much different, much smaller, and much more substantive.

John Pfaltz and Charles Weber nominated Rob Schilling. Bob Hodous, who is retiring as party chairman, agreed to stay on until after election for the purpose of continuity through the campaign.

His likely successor is Charles Weber, who has been active on the property tax issue. No one thinks the property tax rate would have fallen from $1.11 to 1.05 without Schilling. The rate reduction has only mitigated the actual tax increase because of rising assessments. The city budget has been outpacing inflation for decades and high taxes make living less affordable.

Schilling asked that those who voted for the elected school should vote for him so he can help guide the transition and because all four of the other counilors have stated opposition to the new board. If you voted last November but don't usually vote in the May contest, it's important to vote in this last spring election.

High voter turnout carried the school board. High voter turnout will decide if there is a sustained mandate for a democratically elected school board. If re-elected, Schilling would still be the only one on Council who supports the elected school board.

Eminent domain reform marches on: 36 reforms in 6 years, 15 pending

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Jan 30 2006)

Virginia's reform movement began in 1999 with passage of SJ 271 establishing a Joint Committee to study "the fairness of compensation when land is taken by eminent domain and make recommendations to the General Assembly." The Committee brought in nationally recognized experts to examine Virginia's Law and held public hearings, attended by over 700 people. Hundreds testified about abuses they had suffered under the system, urging reform. The experts who examined the law unanimously agreed to its inadequacy, finding it among the worst in the nation.

The work of The Committee resulted in passage of nine badly needed reforms in 2000 and over the next 5 years there have been 27 additional changes designed to give property owners greater fairness when their land is taken. These reforms are listed below.

In 18 other states when the property owner proves that the amount offered by the condemnor was not fair, the court may order the condemnor to reimburse the property owners court costs, including attorney fees, or the condemnor is automatically required by law to reimburse all of the property owner's litigation expenses. This more than any other change to Virginia's laws would create a fairer system because it would encourage condemnors to offer a fair price initially and it would assure "just compensation" to those property owners who prove the condemnor wrong in court.

In 2005 the General Assembly passed landmark legislation that allows the judge to order the condemnor to reimburse some of the property owner 's litigation expenses. However, attorney fees and other miscilaneous fees are still not included and until they are property owners will be lucky to keep 50% of any benefit gained by going to court. Property owners will not receive the "just compensation" required by the Virginia or the US Constitutions, until the law requires reimbursement of all court costs. 18 State Require "litigation reimbursement".

2005 Legislation Enacted, Impacts Title 25: Eminent Domain

1. Requires the condemnor to offer to sell the property back to the former owner at the original price plus six percent annual interest, including price adjustments for any improvements made, if the property acquired by eminent domain is declared surplus within 15 years of the condemnor taking title. SB 301, "Senator Jay O'Brian"

2. Requires the condemnor "to request permission" to enter property being examined for eminent domain acquisition; by certified letter, by guaranteed overnight courier, or other means that provide a signed receipt as proof of delivery. The condemnor must also post notice of their intent on the entry way of the building or business and include the specific date or dates the inspection is proposed to be made; the name of the entity that will be entering the property; the purpose for the entry; and the reason for testing, appraisals, or other examinations to be performed. The notice shall be made not less than 15 days prior to date of intended entry. HB 1820, "Delegate Terri Suit"

3. Requires the condemnor to reimburse the property owner for any damages resulting from entry. If a dispute arises over the amount of damages that results in a court challenge, the court shall award the owner his reasonable attorneys' fees, court costs, and fees for up to three expert witnesses; if the court finds that the condemnor maliciously, willfully, or recklessly damaged the owner's property; or the court awards the owner damages 30 percent, or more, above the condmenor's final written offer. HB 1820, "Delegate Terri Suit"

4. Requires the condemnor to make a bonafied but ineffective offer prior to beginning condemnation proceedings and for the initial amount to be for no less than the agency's approved appraisal of fair market value of the property. HB 1821, "Delegate Terri Suit"

5 Requires the condemnor to have deposited the agreed purchase price in court before the owner can be required to surrender possession. HB 1821, "Delegate Terri Suit"

6. Requires the condemnor and the property owner to disregard any decrease or increase fair market value caused by the proposed public improvement, or by the likelihood the property will be acquired, or due to anything other than physical deterioration within the reasonable control of the owner in determining the amount of "just compensation" for the property. HB 1821, "Delegate Terri Suit"

7. Requires the condemnor to provide the property owner, with a written statement and summary of the basis for the amount established as just compensation, together with a copy of the appraisal of the fair market value upon which the condemnor based the offer. Where appropriate, the amount of just compensation for damages to remaining property will be separately stated. HB 1821, "Delegate Terri Suit"

8. Gives the judge discretion to require the condemnor to reimburse the property owner's reasonable appraisal and engineering fees, as well as reasonable fees and travel costs for up to three expert witnesses, testifying at trial, if the owner is awarded compensation that is 30 percent or more greater than the amount of the condemnor's written offer. This does not apply to VDOT or to cases involving easements valued at less than $10,000. HB 1821, "Delegate Terri Suit"

2004 Legislation Enacted Impacts Title 25: Eminent Domain

9. Establishes the date of property valuation at the date of adoption of the conservation/redevelopment plan, if a locality initiates condemnation proceedings against a property owner located within an already adopted conservation or redevelopment plan and any of the property is then down zoned by the locality without the consent of the property owner. HB 1821 "Delegate Thelma Drake

Establishes the date of property valuation at the day before the property was down zoned if the condemnation is against the same owner who owned the property at the time of the down zoning, the down zoning occurred without consent of the property owner, and the locality initiated condemnation proceedings within five years after the adoption of a conservation/redevelopment plan that was not part of a comprehensive rezoning plan. HB 1820, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

10. Bars VDOT from forcing an owner of improved owner occupied property to relocate until the owner is allowed to withdraw funds in the amount represented by the certificate of take filed with the Court. Should the owner refuse to withdraw the funds or if the Commissioner believes the owner does not possess clear title, that ownership is disputed, or that certain owners cannot be located, the Commissioner may petition the Court to establish these facts and request authority to force relocation. HB 834, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

11. Requires the VDOT to institute condemnation proceedings, including appointing commissioners or a jury to determine the amount of compensation to be paid for the property and any damages done to the property within a period of 180 days from the date the property is taken by condemnation. Prior to enactment of this bill property owners having their land taken by VDOT could be in limbo for a full year. HB 835, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

2003 Legislation Enacted Impacts Title 25: Eminent Domain

12. Requires VDOT" to file condemnation within 180 days after recording a certificate to take the property, unless an agreement with the property owner as to compensation for the taking of or damage to the property has been reached. If the VDOT fails to institute proceedings within this 180 day period, the owner may file a proceeding in circuit court. HB 1946, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

13. Prohibits VDOT from offering evidence of the value of the property taken or damaged that is less than the amount that was either previously deposited with the court or represented by a certificate of deposit filed with the court, in a condemnation hearing. HB 1949, "Delegate Thelma Drake."

14. Provides that interest on certain VDOT obligations to property owners acquired through condemnation proceedings will accrue at the rate of interest established pursuant to §621 (a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code. HB 1950, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

15. Directs localities in condemnation proceedings to reimburse property owners, or others legally obligated to pay the property taxes, for the pro rata portion of real estate taxes that have been paid for the period of time prior to the date of title vesting in the locality or the effective date of possession, whichever is earlier. SB 990, "Senator William Mims"

2002 Legislation Enacted Impacts Title 25: Eminent Domain

16. Requires condemning authorities to provide the property owners with a copy of the title status report prepared in connection with the acquisition of property. This was only required of VDOT in the past. The condemnor must complete the title examination prior an offer being made to acquire the property. SB 995, "Senator William Mims"

17. Requires pretrial, non-binding mediation before a neutral third party when requested by either a condemning authority or the property owner whose property is being acquired by such authority. HB 843, "Delegate Thelma Drake"

18. Recognizes billboard owners in eminent domain proceedings and defines and clarifies terms in Virginia's Eminent Domain Laws. HB 918, "Delegate Morgan Griffith"

2001 Legislation Enacted Impacts Redevelopment Housing Authorities and Public UtilitiesGoverning Public Utilities / Governing Housing Authorities

19. Requires housing authorities, to identify funding sources sufficient to acquire property under consideration. HB 2438 "Delegate Thelma Drake"

20. Requires housing authorities to acquire property or to have begun condemnation proceedings within five years of the redevelopment plans approval or the land is no longer eligible to be acquired unless the parties agree to the acquisition. HB 2438 "Delegate Thelma Drake"

21. Requires localities to reaffirm a redevelopment plan within three years of the plans approval. "Delegate Thelma Drake"

22. Allows localities to adopt a new redevelopment plan that includes property under a previously adopted plan. HB 2438 "Delegate Thelma Drake"

23. Requires property owner reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred in connection with a proposed acquisition when a Redevelopment Housing Authority decides against acquiring previously identified property. The bill also allows for alternative dispute resolution. HB 2438 "Delegate Thelma Drake"

24. Requires that owners of property within the route of a proposed gas pipeline or electrical transmission line of 150 kV or more be sent a notice of the proposed construction by first class mail and that the notice includes a written description of the proposed route of the line and a map or sketch of the route. HB 2268, "Delegate Jim Shuler"

25. Requires that property owners conveying a right-of-way to a public utility have the right to refuse to convey those rights not included in eminent domain. HB 1766 "Delegate Chip Woodrum"

26. Authorizes local government to request of the SCC that utilities share easement corridors. HB 767, "Delegate Chip Woodrum"

27. Requires the State Corporation Commission to hold public hearings if requested by 20 or more property owners. HB 2268, "Delegate Jim Shuler"

2000 Legislation Enacted This Impacts Title 25: Eminent Domain"Senator Madison Marye & Thelma Drake"

28. Requires condemnors to provide property owners with a copy of the appraisal upon which their offer to purchase the property is based *** SB 453(i)

29. Raises the limit of compensation for a survey conducted by a condemnee from $100 to $1,000. *** SB 453 (ii)

30. Requires condemnors to conduct a title search of the property before making an offer to purchase or filing a certificate of take; in order to avoid delays in payments to condemnees.*** SB 453 (iii)

31. Requires VDOT to use licensed real estate appraisers in conducting its valuations for property acquisitions. *** SB 453 (iv)

32. Allows tenants whose lease is 12 months or longer to intervene in eminent domain proceedings. *** SB 453(v)

33. Gives property owners the option of having compensation awards determined by a jury, in addition to the option of using the commissioner system. *** SB 453

34. Requires the condemning authority to make fair and reasonable relocation payments to displaced persons and their family, including the expense of searching for a replacement property. Actual re- establishment expenses for a business or farm shall not exceed $25,000. *** SB63

35. Requires VDOT to notify the owner of a building, structure or other improvement, if they intend to condemn property in a manner that would result in the taking of such improvement. This allows the owner of such improvements to present evidence of the value of in condemnation valuation proceedings. Provides definition of fair market value and of owner. SB 452

36. Prohibits VDOT from using eminent domain to acquire any portion of an existing commercial establishment, if a purpose of the acquisition is to control or limit access to commercial establishments located within 300 feet of an interstate highway. *** SB110

***Legislation recommended by The Joint Subcommittee Studying Eminent Domain

( The Virginia Property Rights Coalition: Dedicated to Reform of Virginia's Eminent Domain Law )

Va. General Assembly 2006

Steve Landes House 25th -- Waynesboro (for example)
HOUSE BILL NO. 924 Offered January 11, 2006 Prefiled January 10, 2006 A BILL to amend and reenact § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia, relating to eminent domain; public use. ----------
Patrons-- Landes, Athey, Callahan, Cline, Cosgrove, Crockett-Stark, Frederick, Gear, Gilbert, Hargrove, Hurt, Morgan and Scott, E.T.
----------Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice ----------Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. That § 15.2-1900 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
§ 15.2-1900. Definition of public uses.

The term "public uses" mentioned in Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia, for purposes of private property subject to condemnation, is hereby defined to embrace [strike]all uses which are necessary for public purposes[strike]

[replace with] only those uses that are public uses and shall not include private property to be taken by eminent domain for public purposes. Public purposes or benefits, including an increase in tax revenue or an increase in jobs, shall not constitute or be deemed a public use. Any public use that is a sham or a pretext for the furtherance of private purposes or benefits shall also not constitute a public use, and courts shall be permitted to examine the motives and intent of the condemnor when determining whether a taking is for a public use.

Democratic hopefuls vie to oppose Virgil Goode

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Feb 1 2006)

Al Weed and Bern Ewert are competing for the Democratic nomination to oppose incumbent Republican Virgil Goode for the 5th congressional district. The two Democrats squared off at JABA (Jefferson Area Board for Aging) on Hillsdale Drive. About 50 people listened as the two candidates responded to 25 questions. I arrived in the middle of Weed's opening statement and missed Ewert's opening statement.

Al Weed said he would vote to impeach president George Bush if the opportunity arises. He said 9/11 was a tragedy but we've let fear take our rights away. He said the president has a history of fearmongering. And it was a Democrat who said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Bern Ewert does not support impeachment because the drama would distract us from focusing on more important issues. He said we've gotten through tough times before but always under Rule of Law. He said we're not safer today and the world is not as unsafe as Bush portrays. He called the Bush policies "insane."

Ewert stressed a theme of real issues, real solutions for real people. He has a 20-year record in civil service at the local level, most recently city manager of Roanoke. He's often acted as a "hired gun" such as when he was called on to help Galveston TX to create a plan to deal with impending bankruptcy. We need to "rebuild the institutions of America."

Al Weed has 20 years of military service, highest rank Command Sergeant Major in the Army. His vision seemed more abstract and idealistic. He talked about building and rebuilding the foundation and all parts at the same time. Instead of fixing leaks, replace the roof. But he pinpointed 3 areas of concentrated effort if he's elected: Martinsville, Danville, and biofuels.

Weed's been studying biofuels and switch grass for eight months. The biofuel generates 4 times the energy needed to manufacture. He would support tariffs for ethanol and biofuels imported, for example, from Brazil which is 20 years ahead of us in this technology. He said we have a responsibility to face global warming since we consume 25% of the world's energy.

Ewert said we should have mandated better gas mileage long ago. He reported only 50,000 cars can use ethanol. He favors more mass transit, more compact neighborhoods, and fund research to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Biofuels is the key to our future.

Both candidates believe abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Weed said the typical woman who seeks an abortion is a single mom with 2 kids. Ewert wants to expand the WIC program.

Both oppose the marriage Constitutional amendment that may be on the ballot in November. Ewert said this hot button issue is an attempt by Republicans to distract us from real issues. Weed said the amendment would set up a Jim Crow-style set of institutional discriminations.

On the issue of tax fairness, both candidates called for more progressivity in the tax code, where you pay a higher rate the more you earn. Ewert wants to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Weed wants a simpler system but the idea of a flat tax is a "shimmer. He said "every loophole represents a constituency" and we should tweak the homeowner deduction.

Overall, the competition between the candidates seemed cordial. In closing remarks, Weed said this is "not an ego race." He said he's learned from the mistakes of his failed campaign against Goode in 2004. Weed implied that Ewert had no support staff by emphasizing that Weed has a seasoned campaign team already organized.

Ewert said he didn't know of anyone who had won only 36% of the vote who later won against the same opponent. He said people want real solutions, not some theory. Ewert left public life in 1991 and has never held elected office.

Second disussion on persistence of poverty

(Charlottesville Independent Media, Jan 26 2006)

More than a hundred people crammed into the Westhaven community center Thursday evening. The discussion that brought together this diverse group was "The Poverty of (Re)Development."

Westhaven opened in 1964, the first public housing project in Charlottesville. The complex of townhouses replaced tenement houses on Cox's Row north of West Main Street. Westhaven is named after John West, a wealthy local black man in the 19th century. The low-income housing served the black residents displaced by the Vinegar Hill redevelopment approved in a 1960 city referendum and was integrated in the mid '70s. The Omni Hotel was built in the '80s and marks the lost neighborhood.

Karen Waters of the Quality Community Council moderated the discussion and had to end the meeting after two hours although more people wanted to speak. There were at least two dozen questions or comments.

The panel:
1. Noah Schwatz, director of the Redevelopment and Housing Authority created in 1954
2.Joy Johnson, public housing advocate and resident
3. Dave Norris, former chairman of the Housing Authory's board of directors and current candidate for City Council
4. Lynn Wiber, former homeless person now involded in PACEM, Norris' interfaith initiative to provide shelter for the homeless
5. Theresa Tapscott, director of AHIP (Albemarle Housing Improvement Program)
6. Corey D.B. Walker, UVa professor of religious and black studies

One question asked was why it's so hard to get into public housing. Housing director Schwartz blamed federal requirements and others agreed. Means testing assumes people are trying to scam the system. One person said it's a catch-22, you're not eligible with bad credit or unpaid utility bills--the reason you need assistance is because you can't afford the bills.

One person who grew up in the Westhaven neighborhood said the city is in denial about its homeless population. A homeless man said he expects to have a magazine ready for publication by next month. Another person said people need to envision a more dense city and then left before the panel had finished answering his question. Someone cited eminent domain as one of three main resons for continuing poverty. And of course, many more comments. These are the ones that stick in my mind.

Noah Schwartz said too much focus has been on "bricks and mortar" redevelopment, and not enough on the people side. He called for more subsidized rental housing. He said 50% of people in public housing have been there more than 5 years.

Dave Norris said the city adopted in 1999 a housing strategy to encourage more expensive development because there was too much low-income housing. He said gentrification is modern-day urban renewal.

Theresa Tapscott remembered as a child asking her father where the people of Vinegar Hill were going to go. The question was rhetorical. But the real answer was Westhaven.

When the crowd was dispersing, as I helped put away the chairs, Norris told me that I had misrepresented his position. On I had said he was a flipflopper. He pointed out that, at the City Council meeting on Nov. 21, he spoke in favor of the charter amendment based on the grant/loan provisions. His not speaking against the eminent domain aspect does not mean he supported it. He said he has never supported eminent domain.

In that case, maybe, in the course of his campaign, he will explain how he can support the Housing Authority given its history and authority to abuse eminent domain. Same goes for Noah Schwartz.

Here are two ideas from the reporter.

1. If the federal bureaucratic rules are so bad, why don't we stop taking the money. But how would you pay the rent? If your rent is $500 and you pay $100, $400 comes from HUD. The city owns Westhaven. Why don't they just charge $100 and better serve the residents and the community?

2. Why don't they convert Westhaven to affordable condos? What is their true motivation?
Council Beat: Parade of grievances, Housing Authority report (Jan 19 2005) for more urban renewal--remember that?)