Sunday, April 30, 2006

Response to David Toscano and Tammy Londeree on my endorsement of Rob Schilling published on George Loper's blog

Dear George,

If I may, I'd like to respond to my critics for whom I'm thankful. Feedback really does make the world a better place.

First in regard to David Toscano:

"to correct Blair Hawkins posting on Mr. Schilling and eminent domain, since I was the patron of the bill, I should know a little about it. The initial language that Mr. Hawkins referenced passed the Senate by a wide margin. I was concerned about the eminent domain provisions in the bill and offered a substituted version that stripped out the language and left in the affordable housing initiative. That substitute passed with almost no opposition in either the House and Senate and has now become law."

Actually, as best I can tell, Senator Creigh Deeds changed the amendment, which was necessary to survive a Senate subcommittee. Toscano introduced an identical bill in the House which passed unanimously. The final bill passed the Senate 37-2.

History of Toscano's HB998 and Deeds' SB202. It is kind of hard to figure out what happened.

But compare how Toscano speaks and how I speak. In the letter, I was pointing out the importance of a minority voice. So I gave what I thought was the final vote count. I omitted the unanimous House vote because it didn't add to my point. But Toscano says "wide margin" and "almost no opposition." We don't know if the House vote was 99-1 or 80-20. He gives his conclusions but omits the details.

Whereas I have built trust by giving the details and my conclusion. It's not unusual that others look at the same facts I have presented and arrive at a different conclusion. By not speaking substantively, Toscano misses an opportunity to be informative on an issue people apparently care about and to demonstrate that he is informed.

Toscano is correcting me to say the initial language passed the Senate by a wide margin and he changed the amendment which was later passed. He doesn't give a link where you can see his source information because you might arrive at a different conclusion.

I spoke briefly with Toscano in the hall outside Council Chambers on Nov. 21, 2005 the night the original amendment passed City Council. He's a nice guy with no ill will. He asked me what I thought was the motivation for the amendment. I theorized that Council wanted more direct control of its real estate business.

The letter I wrote to Toscano and Deeds opposing the amendment Only Deeds wrote me back. Both representatives deserve credit. But Deeds deserves a little more.

Here's what The Progress had to say about the bill:

"City's home loan bill passes committee"

By Bob Gibson, Daily Progress staff writer, January 18, 2006

RICHMOND - A bill to allow Charlottesville to create loan and grant programs to help low- or moderate-income residents buy a home scraped through a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. Hours later, the bill sailed through a full committee after it was amended to ensure the city would not be taking property through eminent domain.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said his measure is a charter bill requested by the city. It was amended twice in the Senate Committee on Local Government.

Deeds' Senate Bill 202 limped into the full committee on a 3-2 vote Tuesday morning from a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon.

The full committee endorsed the bill on a 13-1 vote hours later after Hanger supported it and helped amend the measure. The bill is intended to give Charlottesville some powers in its city charter to deal with affordable housing problems using tools Alexandria already has.

"Some of my colleagues never want to emulate the city of Alexandria," Hanger said of some fellow Republicans who view Alexandria - and Charlottesville - as small urban hotbeds of liberalism with political atmospheres that should be neither encouraged nor enhanced.


As bills to amend the city charter, the Deeds and Toscano measures must pass each chamber by two-thirds majorities. Neither legislator said he is certain of approval in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

And now for Tammy Londeree:

"I am not sure that Hawkins can make the assertion that Schilling is the "only" candidate who does not like the City taking private property to claim as their own. In the League of Women Voters' Forum, a citizen questioned all three candidates about certain property grabbed by the city for their own use. I was impressed with how Dave Norris said that he did not believe in that use of power by the city and he asked Julian Taliaferro about the last time the city took private citizens land. I believe they both said that they had not heard or seen any such abuse by the city government in more than ten years. They said that the actions of the city have been more fair and upfront."

I think you'll find a compelling argument that the Democratic candidates do indeed support what Schilling has taken a pledge to oppose. Eminent domain to seize and sell property. Please explain to me how I'm wrong.

Eminent domain dominates Charlottesville Council race: Schilling & Weber on May 2 April 25, 2006

Dave Norris knows my political agenda, which is obvious. I'm building a foundation that one day may lead to a city charter amendment to outlaw what happened at Vinegar Hill and elsewhere. If not, maybe a better job or book deal. My writing has certainly improved but still sometimes inflammatory.

I don't see how we put urban renewal behind us with a simple verbal promise not to do it again while asking for more power to do it. I began speaking on this issue in 2000 and local politics has changed dramatically since then. Until there's a clear law that prohibits the seizing and selling of real estate, this issue is going to grow even bigger.

Blair Hawkins

Friday, April 28, 2006

Eminent domain dominates Charlottesville Council race:Schilling & Weber on May 2

(First published on Richmond Indy Media April 25, 2006)

2 Democrats and 1 Republican for 2 seats in 5 member Council. The Dems turn negative 1 week before election May 2. What does this add up to? Democrats are rightfully scared but as yet unable to admit they have a problem.

Dave Norris, Rob Schilling, Julian Taliaferro April 24

There’s an old saying: If you ignore a big truth long enough, it becomes your master.

The campaign turned muddy Monday morning when Democrats Julian Taliaferro and Dave Norris began running negative ads on WINA AM-1070 radio against opponent and incumbent Republican Rob Schilling. The 3 men are seeking 2 seats in the 5 at-large member Council.

At 5pm on WINA’s Charlottesville Right Now, Schilling explained the votes that were cited in the attack ads. Curiously, at the 6pm candidates’ forum sponsored by the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association and hosted at the Cherry Avenue Christian Church, the negative campaigning did not come up.

Until now, Dave Norris had promised not to turn negative. In the 5:30 segment, Tom Vandever, former Democratic party chair, called in to the show to say he had written the political ads and relied on the Minutes of the Council meetings to back up his assertions.

How is eminent domain dominating Charlottesville politics?

Dave Norris is a former chairman of the city’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He has been calling for the city to sell some of its "surplus vacant lots" for affordable housing. At one time, most of these empty lots were homes and businesses. Norris also says he has never supported eminent domain ("Second discussion on persistence of poverty", Jan 26 2006 ).

Selling property acquired through eminent domain-- isn’t that support of eminent domain? Many of the surplus lots have been on the market for decades. The acquisition of the lots back in the ‘70s faced intense opposition. Selling the properties, instead of returning the land to its rightful owners, exposes Norris as a supporter of eminent domain, and not the good kind.

Julian Taliaferro has been a fire fighter and fire chief here for 34 years. The city’s fire station is across the street from some of those controversial properties, the Alexander Garrett Warehouse district, south downtown razed in the ‘70s. At the April 12 League of Women Voters forum in response to my question on legitimate public projects, Taliaferro remembered when the old fire station moved from Water Street to Ridge Street right where a black middle class family was already living.

At the forum, both Democrats denied the city’s longstanding policy and practice of targeting minority communities with eminent domain of some sort. Republican Schilling had to leave the forum early and before I asked this question. But he has a record to stand on. (see letter below)

Given the decades-long outcry by the minority community denouncing the clearance of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood in the early ‘60, what message does it send for an urban renewal director to run for Council? Is the city addicted to eminent domain abuse? Is it a cry for intervention? How bold can you get? Where is the Commonwealth’s Attorney?

Last November, the City Council passed a charter amendment for sweeping new eminent domain powers. Fortunately, the Republican-controlled State Senate intervened and stripped these new powers out of the amendment.

Actually, over the last few years, high profile local officials who support eminent domain for private use have been coming out of the woodwork. Perhaps they’re hoping someone will expose their records so justice can finally be done.

Bern Ewert, Democratic hopeful against Virgil Goode, was exposed when he ran for City Council in 2002. He was not happy about it. He denied supporting eminent domain for clearing an entire neighborhood by saying it happened before and after he was deputy city manager 1971-1976.

Rich Collins offered himself as a candidate for Democratic nomination for House of Delegates 57th district last year. Collins was chairman of the Housing Authority from the ‘70s to the ‘80s. Since then, he has come out in support of the Kelo v. New London decision by the Supreme Court.

And of course, Mitch Van Yahres, City Councilor 1968-1976 and Delegate 1981-2005. Blair Hawkins campaigned in 2003 against Van Yahres’ record of eminent domain abuse during the ’70s. Van Yahres announced his retirement on Hawkins’ birthday, March 5 last year in the very neighborhood whose destruction Van Yahres had supported decades previously.

A defining principle of the Charlottesville Democratic leadership is that the government should be able to seize and sell real estate owned by minorities and the poor. While the Democratic stated intentions are noble and colorblind, the practice is Unconstitutional and discriminatory regardless of the lofty goal.

Don’t forget to vote on May 2 for Cville’s first ever elected school board.

Letters, The Daily Progress, P.O. Box 9030, Charlottesville, VA 22906

April 19, 2006

Dear Editor:

I would like to endorse Republican Rob Schilling for a second term on Charlottesville’s City Council on May 2, the city’s final spring election.

During his first term, Schilling has been the proverbial grain of sand that irritates the oyster to produce a pearl. So far, we now have an elected school board. The real estate tax rate has dropped twelve cents to 99 cents per $100 assessed value. Even so, it’s still another tax increase. But it could be worse.

Schilling is the only candidate who has pledged to support legislation to limit eminent domain. So it made sense when he voted against the city’s charter amendment to expand eminent domain. Although he didn’t say why he voted no, seven of the eleven provisions dealt with acquisition and disposition of land and buildings for affordable housing. Schilling stood alone and kept his word.

The Virginia Senate amended the charter amendment to remove the broad eminent domain language. The much-scaled down version of Section 50.7 is now referred to variously as the grant/loan/tax deferral/rebate program for low to moderate income constituents. The full Senate voted for the final version 37-2. Again, two Senators stood on principle against the overwhelming majority.

The final version of the amendment did not come back to Council for a vote. But at the League of Women Voters forum April 12, Schilling stood on principle again. He described the program as redistribution of wealth. Some property owners pay more so others can pay less. In effect, the program is a progressive property tax that shifts a greater burden to those who already pay a greater burden. It takes courage to stand alone against popular opinion.

Some have said Schilling votes no on everything. How come the Democrats never vote no on Schilling’s proposals? All they have to do is not second his motion. That’s why we need a second Republican on Council to force reforms to a vote. I plan to write in Charles Weber, who’s been speaking out on property taxes and will likely become the next chairman of the party.

Schilling and Weber on May 2.

Blair Hawkins

(I mailed the letter Thursday. Deadline was Friday. They received it Monday. So it will not be printed in the paper.) (Dave Norris) (Julian Taliaferro) (Rob Schilling)

Campaign against Van Yahres eminent domain position:

The letter that stopped Charlottesville’s eminent domain amendment:
This article originially posted to

Monday, April 10, 2006

Race Violence in our Schools?

April 4, 2006

Letters, The Daily Progress, P.O. Box 9030, Charlottesville, VA 22906

Dear Editor:

I write hoping to provoke a more detailed discussion of the school violence in our community. What is the nature of the violence?

My observation indicates anonymous black-on-white attacks of opportunity. Thirteen was the latest number of recommended expulsions with no other specifics.

At Charlottesville High, I was looking in my locker one day 25 years ago, when a student I didn’t know punched me in the face. I reported the incident. The guy was suspended for three days. I saw him again but he staid away.

That was one of dozens of assaults. You never know when it’s going to come, so you avoid the black students. In order to talk about the violence, we must acknowledge the racial component.

Some local leaders recently have sounded like the Bush administration on Iraq. Since the insurgents are a tiny minority, it’s not a civil war. Since it’s a small number of violent students, let’s focus on the positive. The terrorism analogy fits because of the anonymous, random nature of the violence.

Others condone the violence by making excuses and espousing racist ideals such as affirmative action and separate, unequal restorative justice for blacks.

Charlottesville’s first black Mayor Charles Barbour called for a racial quota of two blacks on City Council on March 4.

Back on November 21, Councilor Kendra Hamilton said, "I never thought that I, as a black woman, would be reduced to explaining to a bunch of white people that I know what I’m talking about."

That’s like me saying I’m an expert on white people’s issues because I’m white. Cville Weekly reported the racist remark and its editor echoed the story on WINA radio.

Most civil rights leaders in the 1950s, like Martin Luther King Jr., insisted on nonviolence because their goal was integration and inclusion. If people are afraid of you, they exclude you. But Malcolm X advocated violence because his goal was a separate black nation, the ultimate segregation.

The devil is in the details. The true nature of the school violence won’t be known until we learn the details.

Blair Hawkins
Charlottesville, Virginia

Daily Progress Editor Anita Shelburne has decided not to print the letter because I can’t prove the race violence is continuing. I said it is common knowledge and political correctness is preventing us from talking about it. The only detail officials will release is the number of students recommended for expulsion. At the March 28 forum, incumbent school board member Ned Michie said the number was 13.

What do you think is the nature of the violence? How come nobody knows for sure? I feel uncomfortable talking about it, too. But it’s an important issue.

Media Watch

"Man accused in death had history of violence" by Matthew Lakin. Apr 6, 2006. The Daily Progress. List of specific allegations reveals the nature of the violence.

"Seeking answers" by Liesel Nowak. Apr 5, 2006. The Daily Progress. About how officials refused to release information on the plots to bomb Albemarle High.

"Harsh treatment counterproductive" letter by Dylan Rosenthal. Apr 1, 2006. The Daily Progress.

"Don’t define Buford School by a few" letter by Lois Wallenhorst and Syd Knight. Mar 28, 2006. The Daily Progress.

"Task force to deal with violence: City middle, high schools targeted" by Sarah Barry. Mar 23, 2006. The Daily Progress.

"School Board seeks solutions following violence at Buford" by Sarah Barry. Mar 17, 2006. The Daily Progress.

Education ought not be through coercion

January 9, 2002

Letters, The Daily Progress, P.O. Box 9030, Charlottesville, Va. 22906

Dear Editor:

I have enjoyed the education debate in The Daily Progress letters forum. A 1982 graduate of Charlottesville High School, I would like to add my two cents.

The one thing that would revolutionize education is to legalize truancy; in other words, have no legal consequence for not going to school. The economic consequences should be sufficient motivation.

Making school voluntary would reaffirm freedom. Our forefathers thought freedom meant that no one, including government, may require anyone be present anywhere for any reason except through a written court order specifically naming the individual whose liberty is curtailed. The two exceptions are parental control over children and military conscription.

If education were truly important, its compulsion would not be necessary. Food is more important but there’s no law to eat. Shelter is more important but being homeless is legal. College is voluntary but somehow enrollment is at an all-time high. Can you imagine Patrick Henry saying, "Give me education or give me death?"

Educational requirements serve to set aside the high-paying jobs for those who can afford a higher education. No amount of self-study, hard work, ability or accomplishment will qualify you for a job if you don’t have the degree. Old-timers used to ask, "Why don’t you get a job at the ground floor and work your way to the top?" They quit asking because that kind of upward mobility is no longer permitted.

I have a dream that some day I’ll get the best job because I am the best, not necessarily the best educated.

Blair Hawkins
Printed 14 Jan 2002.

Compulsory Education is Unconstitutional

College is much safer than middle and high schools because college doesn’t force people to attend. Private school is safer than public school because private school doesn’t force people to attend. Instead of expelling disruptive students, why not let them go away voluntarily?

When I was in college, sometimes half the students in a class would skip. I don’t remember any mention of a truancy problem. How come private school doesn’t have a truancy problem?

What if a private school tried to force a student to attend? That would be illegal. Yet a government school can compel that people be in government custody five days a week. Which is also illegal. Rule of Law means, if it's unlawful for me to do it, then it’s unlawful for the government to do it.

But parents can force their children to go to school. Private schools have more parental involvement because the government hasn’t supplanted parental authority. The schools can’t do everything. If the parent doesn’t make a kid go to school, how can the schools become the parents? Schools must recognize their own limitations.

If education is a right, then you have a right to refuse the education. If you have a right to free speech, that doesn’t mean you have to speak. If you have a right to bear arms, that doesn’t mean you have to carry a weapon. Not being forced to attend school doesn’t mean you can’t attend if you follow the rules.

What happens in the schools is reflected in the community. That should not be a rationale for tolerating violence. It gives me no pleasure to talk about race tensions in our community. I don’t think anyone should have a trump card they can pull out to allow what otherwise would be prohibited.

Only the truth will set us free.

Monday, April 10: 7:00 PM. NAACP sponsors a City Council Candidates Forum at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, East Market Street, Charlottesville.

Wednesday, April 12th, 7:00 PM. League of Women Voters candidate forum for City Council candidates. City Council Chambers at City Hall.