Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hurricane Camille: Nelson County’s #1 Story

Friday night, 37 years after the great flood 30 miles south of Charlottesville, at least two hundred people packed an auditorium to learn about the county’s defining moment.

The event was held at the Nelson Center just south of the traffic light on US-29 in Lovingston. “Views of Camille: Sights, Sounds, Interpretations” was sponsored by Oakland – the Nelson County Museum of History and by the Nelson County Historical Society. The reception began at 6pm and the program at 7.

I arrived at 6:45. I knew I was in the right place when I saw the crowded parking lot. The auditorium was already filled and all seats taken as people waited for the program to begin as two slide-shows displayed photos of the disaster. There were a few cookies and carrots and one cup of punch left.

To say the least, the turnout was larger than anticipated. Even after the program began and for $10 admission, people kept arriving. People were standing along the walls and the crowd flowed into the hallway.

The first guest speaker was Tom Gathright, retired supervisor of geological mapping, US Department of Mineral Resources.

His presentation must have been the reason for the two slide projectors. One displayed a topographic map with actual flood paths in red of the Lovingston to Woods Mill area, Davis Creek and Rockfish River. The other displayed closeups— actual photos of the devastation cross-referenced to the map.

Gathright explained the mechanics of what happened. Because the ground was already saturated from a wet summer, the soil slid off the smooth bedrock on the hillsides. The debris of trees and boulders flowed into the valleys sweeping away everything.

One photo showed a morass of trees that had been shredded by the churning. Gathright pointed out, what you can’t see is the bodies mixed in.

Nobody knows how much it rained the night of August 19-20, 1969, because all outdoor containers were filled. At one place 31 inches fell—before the barrel overflowed.

Ed Tinsley was a state trooper and assigned to emergency rescue and recovery in Nelson. A few days into the aftermath, he was reassigned from the field to operations dispatch. Though disappointed, as dispatcher Tinsley became a witness to every detail as he relayed communications.

He kept a sporadic reel-to-reel audio journal because he wanted to record some of the history and his reactions. Over the years, because of the enduring significance of the event, he made a few copies. Today the original tape has been lost but one tape copy remains and the content is now on compact disc. Some journal entries were transcribed and published in a Lynchburg newspaper in 1989.

Tinsley stressed the importance of making copies and sharing the records with others so the history can survive and be of interest to future generations.

Judith A. Howard talked about the emotional and spiritual side of the story. She is co-author of Category 5: The Story of Camille – Lessons Unlearned from America’s Most Violent Hurricane.

The clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Ruston, Louisiana, said the effects on people last far longer than the disaster itself. She cited studies that show 3 of 4 survivors of the 9/11 attack continue to be affected, from being on edge to depression to more serious issues.

Since Hurricane Katrina last year, the suicide rate has tripled in New Orleans, said Howard. Another study post-Hurricane Andrew indicated the more you talk about it, the easier it is to move on with your life. She referred to a slogan of the 12-Step program: if you can name it, you can tame it.

The final segment of the program comprised excerpts from three oral histories. Oakland Oral History Program Coordinator, Erin Hughey-Commers, pointed out that the first excerpt was from a lady who had never been asked to tell her story until now.

The lady remembered hearing thunder all night but learned the next morning that it was the sound of boulders crushing everything in their path. It rained so hard water came down the chimneys and leaked throughout the house.

Another lady and her husband returned home after the flood but moved away a week later because of the stench of decomposing animal and human bodies.

There are other witnesses to the havoc of Hurricane Camille. The Nelson County Historical Society hopes you will share them so the story and its lessons are not swept away from memory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Va Education Secretary: UVA has oversight of state climatologist

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Governor

August 15, 2006

Dear Mr. Hawkins:

Governor Timothy M. Kaine has asked me to thank you for and respond to your electronic mail message regarding your concern of Virginia’s climatologist.

Please be advised that the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Secretary of Education have no authority or jurisdiction over the issue discussed within your correspondence. This is a matter that must be addressed and handled by the University of Virginia(UVA). Managing an employee’s performance is the responsibility of the institution’s officials.

Again, thank you for writing to Governor Kaine.

Thomas R. Morris
Secretary of Education

Letter to governor to keep Michaels as state climatologist, August 12

McCarthy crusade to purge diverse views on global warming at UVa, August 11

Nelson official shocked at suspicion of eminent domain

Cultures clash in Nelson

By ALICIA PETSKA, The News Virginian, Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The biggest concern seemed to be that the government would invoke eminent domain to pursue the plan, taking property owners’ land by force to build these new developments. “I was so shocked people thought we would do that,” [supervisor Constance] Brennan said afterward.
NELLYSFORD - Two Nelson County supervisors faced a barrage of outrage and indignation during a three-our-long meeting in this small mountainside community Tuesday afternoon.

With about 50, mostly angry, landowners sitting across from them during a public input session, Supervisors Constance Brennan and Tommy Harvey struggled to maintain a constructive atmosphere in the room.

At one point, Brennan thanked a man for his comments, and he responded he didn’t want her thanks.

“Why don’t I know you?” the man, Walter Martin, asked Brennan, who represents his district. “… It’s up to you to let your constituents know what’s going on. When they don’t, you’ve failed at your job. And ma’am, you are terrible at it. Harvey’s not even any good at it.”

Martin, a 20-year Nellysford resident and president of the volunteer fire department - where Harvey is chief - went on to threaten to vote Brennan out of office. “Do it!” chimed in one man in the crowd.

As the county’s Nellysford representative, Brennan took the brunt of these and similar tirades, which she accepted with a silent stoicism. Other officials intervened, asking residents not to make the issue personal.

“The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes,” said Harvey, a former Nellysford supervisor who, through redistricting, no longer represents the area. “To sit here fussing and arguing is not doing any good.”

At the center of the impassioned discussion was a controversial development plan drafted for Nellysford by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

Designed in response to a series of open public meetings last fall, the plan envisions numerous changes to the sleepy Nellysford area, including a traffic roundabout, nature trails, a townhouse subdivision and commercial/office complex, and a sector reserved for community resources like a ball field, community center and library.

It’s a picturesque, bustling little village the planners have laid out. And the residents hate it.

“Can I make a suggestion?” asked Bonnie Hughes, who’s lived on 9 acres in Nellysford since 1954. “That we let Nellysford alone. Leave it like it is and let it develop itself.”

The room broke into applause for that statement.

The biggest concern seemed to be that the government would invoke eminent domain to pursue the plan, taking property owners’ land by force to build these new developments.

“I was so shocked people thought we would do that,” Brennan said afterward.

During the meeting, she told the audience she’s lived in Nelson County for 30 years and wasn’t here to change it. Officials stressed this was only a draft plan and nothing was set in stone, particularly if it was objectionable to the area’s residents.

Sore points included a lack of information given to the 30 or so landowners this plan would affect, as well as the fact $25,000 of the taxpayers’ money was spent on the design.

The bulk of the conversation Tuesday focused on the road changes proposed to encourage drivers to stop speeding through the community. The majority seemed to agree speeding was a problem, but strongly resisted the proposed road improvements, like medians and roundabouts, as a solution, saying people would just speed through them as well. Vocal attendees advocated a bigger law enforcement presence, but officials said that would cost too much.

“What we’ve got to do is take up the positions we can agree on and work from that,” Harvey said after the meeting. “And safety is a big thing we can all agree on. I don’t think anybody wants to see Nellysford turned into a city.”

Harvey has derided this community plan himself in the past, lamenting the board’s approval of the funding and saying they could have gotten a child to draw a better plan. Brennan said she was sorry they ever put drawings down on paper.

Other underlying tensions also seemed to be informing the discussion, with several residents saying this plan would only benefit Wintergreen developments, while destroying the area for those who do not live within that posh development’s confines.

One of the only people to speak up in favor of the plan was a Wintergreen resident. John Gurr, of the Stoney Creek at Wintergreen subdivision, tried to explain his position but was shouted down by others.

“He’s not a landowner! He’s not a landowner!” shouted well-known resident A.G. Small, who has large landholdings throughout the county, including his home in Nellysford.

“I am a landowner!” Gurr shouted back in a tone of disbelief.

But Stoney Creek, as far as these hecklers were concerned, wasn’t a part of Nellysford and certainly had no say in this development plan. Small, who’s also Harvey’s father-in-law, shouted for people to walk out if Gurr continued and several people stood up with him.

At the beginning of the outburst, Harvey made a subtle motion to Small, appearing to indicate he should stay quiet, but the supervisor’s attempt went unheeded.

Gurr, who has clashed with Small before as an active opponent of a controversial grinder operation Small helps run on his land, was silenced and left shortly after.

Small, 70, is a lifelong resident of the area. He declined to comment to a reporter later and insisted his name was Paul Jones.

One of those who stood up to walk out, Grady Wortham, also 70 and also a lifelong Nellysford resident, said the beef wasn’t with the Wintergreen residents.

“It’s got nothing to do with the people; they’re fine people,” he said. “It’s the developers and contractors. They’re trying to run over everything, including people.”

Wintergreen has been aggressively developing Nellysford for the past few years, clearing hundreds of acres annually to make way for new homes.

Both Harvey and Brennan were contrite about the intense criticism they received, agreeing they had erred by not making a bigger effort to speak with landowners.

Growing hostility over the issue prompted Tuesday’s meeting.
Officials remained in Nellysford all afternoon to answer questions from lingering residents or, upon request, walk through the area to discuss specific properties.

Several attendees said they felt better after hearing from the supervisors.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of change,” Harvey said during an interview. “… They have to convince me how these other things are going to work and that they won’t affect landowners.”

Brennan noted that the much-hated road project didn’t even have VDOT funding yet. Funding takes years, sometimes decades to secure, even in the case of small projects.

“Absolutely nothing is going to happen for years,” said Brennan. “But I do think you’ll start to see added pressure as these other developments [now under construction] are finished. It may take a crisis before anything is done.”

Monday, August 14, 2006

To set the record straight: "Blair Hawkins to Fight Windmill"

(Sorry about the glitch. First time I published this, it came back with an error saying I was out of space and I lost the file and had to retype the first few paragraphs and clean up the rest to delete special characters and white space. Then I reposted. Then I discovered both files so I deleted the first.)

In 2003, dues-paying Republican Blair Hawkins was the only announced oppostion to Democrat Mitch Van Yahres. The filing deadline was announced only a couple weeks before the nominating convention and the filing fee was $500. Hawkins was out of town working for Blue Ridge Light Forms and missed the deadline. Hawkins kicked off his campaign 8 weeks before nomination and, out of courtesy, informed Van Yahres of the campaign 10 weeks before nomination. Hawkins repeatedly sought the filing deadline so his campaign could build momentum.

In 2005, the filing deadline was publicized 10 weeks before nomination and the fee was only $200. Hawkins was aware of the double standard he was working against at the time. Understandibly, he wasn't too happy to be working against both parties. Chairman of the Republican Party, Bob Hodous, should have had the integrity to inform Hawkins his participation was not welcome so he could have switched to a public awareness campaign. Hopefully, the new chairman Charles Weber will be more inclusive and fair.

In retrospect, the clash of cultures and obvious discrimination are clear. Today it is common knowledge that Van Yahres supports substituting eminent domain for due process to seize property for private use.

Timeline and documents from Hawkins' 2003 campaign

Calling his bid a David verses Goliath challenge, Koleszar said, "Rob Bell is this professional, polished, personable politician who everybody thinks is this giant ... I look around and I don’t see anybody else coming forward to do this, so I am going to have to do it." ( "Democrat to challenge Bell for 58th House seat", March 17 2005, The Daily Progress)

Blair Hawkins to Fight Windmill, May 30, 2003

Jack writes: Local Republican Blair Hawkins says that he intends to run against Mitch Van Yahres for Delegate, despite that fact that he missed the deadline to officially file his candidacy. Stating that “The campaign is far from over,” Hawkins explains that he missed the deadline because he was out of town working as a lighting technician for weddings. In a separate statement, he has offered that he was unaware of the deadline because he has not checked his email in several weeks. Hawkins intends to deliver a nomination speech at the Republican mass meeting on June 2 at McIntire Park. 06/03 Update: Hawkins bowed out at last night’s Republican mass meeting.

Press Release: May 29, 2003

The Hawkins campaign for House of Delegates 57th District continues.
“I will be at the Republican mass meeting Monday June 2, 6 pm, at McIntire Park. I will deliver my nomination speech and/or hand out copies of the speech to those interested. The speech will explain the reasons I have to run.

A political ad will appear in the Public Notices section of the Daily Progress classifieds for one week beginning Friday May 30. The campaign is far from over.
I failed to file by the deadline for the Republican Convention because I have been working out of town and very long hours the last few weeks as lighting techinician for weddings and big tent parties. I simply missed the newspaper with the announcement that came just one week before the convention.

I look forward to a stimulating campaign over the summer. The incumbent Mitch Van Yahres will have opportunities to explain why he opposes the Fifth Amendment and supports Urban Renewal.”

Blair Hawkins

13 Responses to “Blair Hawkins to Fight Windmill”

Jack Says: May 30th, 2003 at 11:32 am
I can’t decide whether this is funny or just sad. Perhaps Mr. Hawkins is under the impression that the job in question will not involve such hurdles as deadlines, communication, homework or organization that he has such difficulty with. Then again, maybe Rob Schilling has provided him with a shining example of how one can fail to overcome such deficits while still holding public office.

Indie Says: May 30th, 2003 at 1:01 pm
What a joke… Why is anyone even bothering paying attention to this guy?

Big_Al Says: May 30th, 2003 at 1:39 pm
AH - so the established rules only apply when convenience allows. Yeah - this guy will make excellent cannon fodder! Tilting at windmills, indeed.

lettuce Says: May 30th, 2003 at 3:34 pm
When did Mitch Van Yahres say that he opposes the 5th Amendment? My other question is, what’s wrong with supporting urban renewal? We’re just supposed to abandon our cities or something?

Big_Al Says: May 30th, 2003 at 3:50 pm
As long as the tax cuts are big enough and deep enough, the cities will rebuild themselves. Don’t you understand anything about the new economics?

Indie Says: May 30th, 2003 at 3:58 pm
Hawkins is talking about Vinegar Hill. He won’t let this issue go.

JizzMasterZero Says: May 30th, 2003 at 5:10 pm
He crazy.

Jack Says: June 2nd, 2003 at 12:32 pm
Why Blair Hawkins chooses to cc me- an officer of the Democratic Party in Charlottesville- utterly eludes me. I can only conclude that Mr. Hawkins seeks my help in publicizing the sad intrigues of the Cville GOP.
Here ’tis.
June 1, 2003
Dear Bob Hodous,
If I can’t stand up to a local political party, how will stand up to the General Assembly on behalf of this community?
At tomorrow’s mass meeting, a member of the party will make a motion that the floor be opened for nominations for the 57th House District seat. A second member will second the motion. You will have to vote to exclude members from consideration as candidates.

I will arrive at McIntire Park at 5 pm to put up a poster or two, hand out buttons or cards, give interviews, and to get my uncle, veteran politician Thomas Dowell settled in. Mr. Dowell ran for City Council three times in the 1970s to stop urban renewal and was denied the opportunity to present himself before the Republican party as a candidate for the very seat I now seek.

I will have the filing fee in the form of a cashier’s check from Virinia National Bank in the amount of $500 made out to the 57th House District Republican Committee. Mr. Hodous, if you support the Democratic nominee, please resign as chairman of the Charlottesville Republican Committee.
Blair Hawkins

— “Robert P. Hodous” wrote:
Dear Blair,

The rules laid down in the properly-approved call for the meeting are to be followed. I shall be happy to recognize you for a brief issue speech, but at this time there is no one who can be nominated as the Republican candidate.

Robert P. Hodous
(adress omitted)

—–Original Message—–
(email list)
Subject: Re:

Press Release: May 29, 2003

The Hawkins campaign for House of Delegates 57th District continues.

“I will be at the Republican mass meeting Monday June 2, 6 pm, at McIntire Park. I will deliver my nomination speech and/or hand out copies of the speech to those interested. The speech will explain the reasons I have to run. A political ad will appear in the Public Notices section of the Daily Progress classifieds for one week beginning Friday May 30. The campaign is far from over.

I failed to file by the deadline for the Republican Convention because I have been working out of town and very long hours the last few weeks as lighting techinician for weddings and big tent parties. I simply missed the newspaper with the announcement that came just one week before the convention.

I look forward to a stimulating campaign over the summer. The incumbent Mitch Van Yahres will have opportunities to explain why he opposes the Fifth Amendment and supports Urban Renewal.”
Blair Hawkins

Lafe Says: June 2nd, 2003 at 4:42 pm

cornelious Says: June 2nd, 2003 at 6:06 pm
Not an issue. It`s history.

mmike87 Says: June 3rd, 2003 at 9:12 am
Wow - a genuine card-carryin’ member of the Democratic Party of Charlottesville.

mmike87 Says: June 3rd, 2003 at 9:16 am
No, we should not. We should repair, rebuild, and renew regardless of cost.

Jack Says: June 3rd, 2003 at 3:42 pm
Yep. For some reason, Blair Hawkins likes to cc me on all sorts of things. I’m not clear on why he would expect me to provide him with any kind of support or publicity. Maybe he’s just trying to be friendly. I don’t understand it at all, but I do get a kick out of the email.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Traffic thumb removed after year of complaints

Removed weekend of July 30, 2006 (photo Aug. 10)

At least 6 speakers addressed the concrete “tongue” or “thumb” endangering traffic flow at Cherry Avenue, Willard Drive, and Cleveland Avenue.

Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association president John Stankowski said the thumb was installed in August 2005. He recommended removal of the hazard and installation of stop signs or stop lights.

Bob Archer, trustee and deacon at the Cherry Avenue Christian Church at this intersection, said he’s been following this issue all along and has been unable to get a response from city government.

Johnny Parks, elder at the church, said the traffic tongue has hurt parking for weddings and funeral services. He said Teague and Hill & Wood funeral homes have sent letters to the city regarding this issue. The church is also the voting location for the Jefferson Park Avenue precinct.

Joe Mooney is on the board of directors for the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association and lives 2 blocks from the notorious tongue. After asking Council to forgive him for what he was about to say, and reminding Council members that he has supported them in the past, he declared the thumb to be an “astonishing example of bumbling bureaucracy.”

Mooney said the minister looked out his window one day and saw the construction and that was the first time anyone knew about the street modification. He further said no one in city government knows who ordered or designed the tongue.

("An inconvenient truth": Report from Housing Authority: Update on archives, HUD request, July 17, 2006)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Letter to governor to keep Michaels as state climatologist

August 12, 2006
Dear Governor,

I ask that you keep Patrick Michaels as the state climatologist. Michaels was appointed by Governor John Dalton in 1980. Michaels has much experience and institutional memory. He has observed Virginia's climate with his own eyes for decades.

Michaels is an independent thinker and has the integrity and character to stand by his conclusions. I hope you will see through the arguments for his dismissal:

(1) He accepts funds for research from private entities who have interest in his expertise, which is allowed for 52 days a year for all professors. Michaels' dismissal would set a chilling precedent in the academic world. Robust debate is not possible when all the debaters are in agreement.

(2) Some have charged that Michaels is not the true state climatologist because he seems to be appointed for life. Like the vast majority of employees, he was hired for an indefinite term, until he becomes unavailable or is replaced. Examples of indefinite appointments include city managers, police chiefs, sheriffs, directors of innumerable agencies. These non-constitutional office-holders do not require rehiring at specified intervals.

As an at-risk high school student, I worked for a UVa graduate student helping with his dissertation for two summers in the late 1970s in the environmental sciences department. I remember seeing Michaels. I went on to earn a B.S. in Meteorology from N.C. State University.

I ask that you look beyond the the current campaign of innuendo and McCarthyism to remove Michaels. Please stand up for a minority viewpoint on a controversial scientific topic. Please stand up for intellectual and academic freedom.

Please do not fire Pat Michaels.

Blair Hawkins
Charlottesville, Va.
Email the Governor
telephone (804-786-2211) or fax (804-371-6351)

Friday, August 11, 2006

McCarthy crusade to purge diverse views on global warming at UVa

McCarthyism: the use of unsubstantiated accusations or unfair investigative technigues in an attempt to expose disloyalty or subversion. (Webster's College Dictionary)

The effort to rid the academic community of differing conclusions on global warming have this summer been spearheaded by Charlottesville City Councilor Kevin Lynch and blogger Waldo Jaquith. Here's their argument.

The state climatologist has no credibility because he solicits and receives private funding from electric companies for some of his research. Under this rule, all scientists who are paid to do scientific work lack credibility. University scientists routinely solicit funds to finance their "objective" research and to pay personal expenses such as shelter, food, clothing. Every grant proposal is a solicitation. Every grant is a conflict of interest.

But since public funding influences recipients to reach biased conclusions that keep the grant money coming, and since Va. Climatologist Patrick Michaels is a minority point of view in the scientific community, Lynch and Jaquith have taken upon themselves to impoverish the climatologist in an effort to have him fired. But since the governor's office and UVa will not cooperate, the public relations campaign continues. So now the McCarthyites have resorted to labeling articles that disagree with their politically correct point of view as editorials. Ironically, the only charges against Michaels have come in the form of editorials.

No one who has followed Charlottesville's political history would be surprised. Poverty creation? Intolerance of minorities? On WINA's Charlottesville Right Now August 4 where Lynch was a guest, Eric called in and described the two-person campaign to purge us of dangerous ideas as "green McCarthyism."

Patrick Michaels is not actually our state climatologist.

Conflict of Interest and the State Climatologist

"I cannot see how any impartial observer could avoid the conclusion that using an official publication of the State Climatologist as an editorial vehicle to promote the agenda of Dr. Michaels’ power company funders is anything other than a clear conflict of interest."

Kaine, UVa differ on climatologist

Global Warming Rhetoric Heats Up in Charlottesville

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Manager of shopping center ends silence: Rich Collins sought arrest for publicity

Shopping center action reasonable

Letter by Charles T. Lebo, Albemarle County. August 2, 2006. The Daily Progress

About a year ago I was contacted by a store manager from one of the shopping centers that I manage near Charlottesville. He was receiving complaints from customers about being harassed by someone handing out political literature. The manager asked the person to leave and he refused. I was asked to intervene. The Albemarle County police and I attempted to reason with this individual, who again refused to leave the premises and was subsequently arrested for trespassing.

This act has been described publicly as instilling a "culture of meanness." I am taken aback by this insult to my integrity.

I have contributed to this community for more than 30 years, and those who know me can vouch that I am not a "mean" person.

For more than a year I have been quiet about this episode. Now it is my turn.

I went to the shopping center and saw this individual approaching customers as they were getting out of their vehicles. I told him he was on private property and explained that soliciting at any of the shopping centers that I manage was not allowed. I politely asked him to leave. He then stated he had certain constitutional rights and refused.

I had no choice but to call police. For more than an hour the officers and I pleaded with him to leave the premises. The police were truly professional and could not have been kinder. We told him repeatedly that if he would simply leave, he would not be arrested. He eventually said he wanted to be arrested, as this would provide publicity for his campaign.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up his case and wasted our tax dollars on a trial and appeals. Esteemed judges in two local courts ruled against this individual.

The rights of those of us who espouse personal property have thus far won. The battle is not over. Because of the large donations made to the Rutherford Institute and the ACLU, these organizations can continue to challenge our personal property rights. They are appealing this case for a third trial; if they lose, they will eventually take this to the Virginia Supreme Court. When is enough, enough?

There is no "culture of meanness" here. The Rutherford Institute and the ACLU need to find better justifiable causes before they attack persons like me.

Despite such attacks, I contend that my contributions to this community are a testament to my being a good citizen.

Land theft proponent invokes free speech defense in trespass conviction

Eminent domain spotlight on Long Branch, NJ

Will the Government Take Your Home?
In the one year since Kelo, more than 5,700 homes, businesses and even churches were threatened with seizure for private development, according to the nonprofit Institute for Justice (IJ), and at least 350 were condemned or authorized for condemnation. By comparison, about 10,000 were similarly threatened or taken over from 1998 through 2002.
By Sean Flynn. Published: August 6, 2006. Parade Magazine.

Joy and Carl Gamble bought an English stucco house in Norwood, Ohio, in 1969. They raised two children there and worked seven days a week in their small grocery store to pay off the mortgage. “ We had the house fixed up just the way we liked it,” Carl says. “When we retired, we planned to sit down and enjoy it.”

But now the Gambles live in their daughter’s basement. Their house stands vacant in the weedy field that was their neighborhood—seized by the city and transferred to a developer who wants to build shops, offices and condominiums.

In Long Branch, N.J., Denise Hoagland, 39, has an endless view of the Atlantic Ocean from the cottage she and her husband, Lee, bought 13 years ago. Their garden blooms with so many flowers that their three daughters call home “the place where the butterflies fly.” But Long Branch wants to take their home and about 35 other properties so a developer can build luxury condos. “It’s theft,” Denise says. “It’s legalized theft.”

Technically, it is a forced sale, because the government has to pay for the property. And it is legal: In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments can seize homes to make way for private development. The decision in Kelo v. City of New London triggered a sort of government land-grab.

In the one year since Kelo, more than 5,700 homes, businesses and even churches were threatened with seizure for private development, according to the nonprofit Institute for Justice (IJ), and at least 350 were condemned or authorized for condemnation. By comparison, about 10,000 were similarly threatened or taken over from 1998 through 2002.

Government always has had the power to force the sale of private property for public use—a process known as eminent domain. But what is “public use”?

Historically, it meant highways, railroads, schools and sweeping urban-renewal projects, such as the redevelopment of the Baltimore waterfront. But Kelo made clear that middle-class homes could be replaced with malls, offices, luxury homes—anything that might increase tax revenue.

“It’s a blatant example of reverse Robin Hood—taking homes from the poor and the middle-income and giving them to the rich,” says Scott Bullock, the IJ attorney who argued (and lost) Kelo.

“The fact is, a shopping mall does usually produce more taxes than a house,” says IJ attorney Dana Berliner. “An office building does produce more taxes than a church. But if that’s the rule—that anyone’s home can be taken away from them because something else will produce more taxes—then no one’s home is safe.”

But Kelo also has sparked a backlash. In the past year, more than two dozen states introduced or passed legislation and constitutional amendments to stop what critics call “eminent domain abuse.” Even the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill aimed to restrict eminent domain. Residents also are fighting back through courts of law and public opinion.

In Norwood, the Gambles and two other property owners represented by IJ brought their case to the Ohio Supreme Court. (At press time, the court had yet to rule.) [See editor’s note below.] In Long Branch, two dozen residents, also working with IJ, are suing to stop their neighborhood from being replaced with 185 condominiums. And in Lakewood, Ohio, my hometown, the people of Scenic Park waged such a successful public campaign three years ago that voters spared their homes from being taken.

In each city, the process unfolded almost identically: A private developer, with the government’s backing, wanted a big piece of property—cliff-side homes with valley views in Lakewood, ocean-front cottages in Long Branch—and tried to negotiate deals with each owner. When some refused to sell, the cities threatened to invoke eminent domain to clear the holdouts.

In order to do that, however, city officials first needed to declare the neighborhoods “blighted.” But the legal designation of “blight” bears little resemblance to a commonsense definition. In Lakewood, for example, Scenic Park is a charming neighborhood of older, well-kept homes. But because they lack such modern touches as attached two-car garages and central air-conditioning, the city deemed them blighted—a standard by which more than 80 percent of Lakewood, even the former mayor’s home, would likewise be blighted.

“We always bit on the word ‘blight,’” says Julie Wiltse, 63, who helped neighbors distribute 20,000 fliers and sponsor a series of blight events: a Blighted Block Party, a Blighted Chili Cook-off, even a Blighted Groundhog Day (which predicted four more months of blight). TV cameras and newspaper reporters loved that stuff.

“We were very successful in explaining to the community, ‘If we’re blighted, you’re blighted,’” Wiltse says.

Likewise, the Hoaglands’ neighborhood in Long Branch isn’t “blighted” in any meaningful way. With one or two exceptions, it’s a few blocks of low-key bungalows where families have lived side-by-side for decades, even generations. The shabbiest touches, ironically, are the posters in nearly every home’s windows with the words “eminent domain abuse” inside a red-slashed circle and the several homes that have been bought by the developer and boarded up. What the area doesn’t have, however, are the $500,000 condos or the restaurants with $12 hamburgers that were built immediately south of the neighborhood.

“When they want to revitalize,” says William Giordano, 41, whose great-grandfather built his house, “suddenly we’re not good enough to live here.”

The city has put prices on the houses it wants to take: $400,000 for the Hoaglands’ house, $374,000 for Lori Ann Vendetti’s, $410,000 for the home her parents built across the street and $325,000 for Anna DeFaria’s tiny gray cottage. Those might sound like hefty sums, but not on the Jersey shore. “ I can’t get anything in Long Branch for three and a quarter,” DeFaria says, “let alone an ocean view.”

But what’s money? “The memories are here,” says Lori Ann Vendetti. “They can come in with a million dollars, two million—we won’t take it. A lot of people think we’re bluffing, that everyone has a price. The Vendettis don’t have a price.”

Neither do the Gambles. Most of the properties that the Gambles and their Norwood neighbors owned—69 out of 75—were sold to the developer, who was required by the city to pay at least 25 percent above market value. Three others later settled with the developer. Then the city used eminent domain to claim the last three, concluding that the neighborhood was deteriorating, based on a study that was paid for by the developer.

Tim Burke, a lawyer for the city, argues that the government had to clear the holdouts, especially because there were so many other property owners who had agreed to sell. “Would Norwood have used eminent domain if it had to acquire 69 of the properties? Clearly not,” he says.

As Burke explains it, Norwood is an old industrial town that lost its industry and a third of its population. The city needs to redevelop to generate new revenues, and clearly most of the Gambles’ neighbors weren’t opposed. “When you’re a community like Norwood, you’ve got to be concerned with the entire citizenry,” Burke says. “And, yeah, there are going to be instances where, in order to better the lives of the many, the property of the few will have to be taken.”

But what if you’re one of those few? “That this is happening here,” says Joy Gamble, “in the land ‘ of the people, for the people, by the people…’” The thought trails off, and she just shakes her head.

What You Can Do

Stay informed: Eminent domain projects usually are years in the making—but quietly and without public reference to “eminent domain.” Watch for words like “redevelopment,” says Scott Bullock, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice.

Make noise: March, rally, call local newspapers and TV stations. Try to turn community opinion to your side.

Ask for help: Several organizations may take your case for free. But even if you have to hire your own lawyer, you can fight City Hall.

Pester your state legislators now: Some states already have passed new rules that restrict eminent domain.

Fight for the best deal: If you simply cannot save your home, make it as expensive as possible. An analysis by The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed that owners in Norwood, Ohio, were paid on average twice the appraised value of their homes. However, the ones who fought got even more.

Editor’s Note

On July 26, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the city of Norwood can't use eminent domain to take Carl and Joy Gamble’s home solely for economic development. The United States Supreme Court had ruled previously that there is nothing unconstitutional about a government taking private property, with just compensation, solely for economic development but left it to state courts to decide whether such takings violated their own state constitutions. The Ohio Supreme Court further rejected Norwood’s claim that it also could use eminent domain to eliminate the Gambles’ neighborhood because it was a “deteriorating area.” The court ruled that the phrase “deteriorating area” was too vague—that it was, in effect, a standardless standard. The court ruling means the development group has to return the house to the Gambles. “Our state supreme court did what the the U.S. Supreme Court did not do: It protected our home,” Joy Gamble told reporters.

Eminent domain battle now on national stage
Long Branch has truly become the national poster child for eminent domain abuse, its sad story shared with what Parade magazine claims were likely 78 million readers last Sunday alone.

Greg Bean

Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and the members of his "Schneider Team" should be so proud - they've gone from being villains on a local and regional level to villains of national renown.

If you read a daily newspaper, chances are that last Sunday you noticed that a Long Branch family, the Hoaglands, were featured on the cover of Parade magazine, along with the headline "Will the Government Take Your Home?" Also featured on the cover were a poster urging a halt to eminent domain abuse and a photo kicker stating, "A family fights back."

The three-page story that accompanied the cover photo chronicled the battle that the Hoaglands, and others around the country where local governments are taking property by eminent domain for redevelopment, have undertaken to save their properties.

It even included a take-out box outlining what you can do if the government says it wants to take your property for redevelopment, and discussed the national backlash that resulted from last year's decision by the United States Supreme Court in the Kelo v. City of New London (Connecticut) case. In that case, the court ruled that local governments do have the power to seize homes and turn the property over to private developers, on the theory that the new developments will bring in more tax dollars.

The Hoaglands are members of MTOTSA (Marine and Ocean Terraces and Seaview Avenue), the group of homeowners who stand to lose their properties to eminent domain, so a developer can build 185 expensive condominiums. Their story has gone from creating outrage around New Jersey and the region, to creating outrage on the national stage in the pages of publications like The New York Times and now Parade magazine, the largest circulation publication (35 million weekly) in the entire United States.

Long Branch has truly become the national poster child for eminent domain abuse, its sad story shared with what Parade magazine claims were likely 78 million readers last Sunday alone.

Over the last two years, Greater Media Newspapers - in particular the Atlanticville and reporter Christine Varno - have written dozens, if not hundreds, of stories about the eminent domain battles in Long Branch. We were on the story long before any other publication in our area, and we have stayed on it week after week because we believed, and still believe, that this conflict playing out in our backyards has significant implications for every homeowner - not only in New Jersey, but in every other state in our nation - who goes to sleep at night under the mistaken impression that his home is safe from the whim of a government that might decide that a new Starbucks or Pump 'n Munch franchise is a better use for the property.

The national spotlight now being trained on Long Branch proves that we were right, and I expect other national publications will pick up the story in the very near future.

Parade magazine used one of our photographs by staff photographer Miguel Juarez, but did not mention the body of work we have published on the eminent domain controversy in Long Branch. So last week, before the Parade article was published, I asked Sean Flynn, the author of the article, what had drawn his attention to that community.

Initially, he said, his interest was piqued because the eminent do-main dispute in Long Branch was brought to his attention by someone at the Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit organization that has taken the issue on as a crusade. He visited the city in early June.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful place but the tension between the city's need to redevelop and the people's rights to live in their homes was dramatic," he said. "In my mind, what is going on in Long Branch really crystallized the issue. I certainly wouldn't say those properties are blighted ... the shabbiest part was the 'Stop Eminent Domain Abuse' signs."

Will the national attention help the MTOTSA families save their homes? Flynn doesn't know.

"I don't know if it will do them any good," he said. "You look back at the Kelo case, and it didn't do those people any good."

But Kelo did start a national backlash, and Flynn agrees the Long Branch dispute is serious fuel for the fire.

On July 30, Adam Liptak, writing for The New York Times, discussed that very subject, the national "tidal wave of outrage" generated by the Kelo case.

"Sometimes," he wrote, "Supreme Court cases have a way of highlighting issues that had been absent from the national agenda, and the cases can provoke reactions that have a far greater impact than the ruling itself."

He quotes Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Texas, who said, "I always tell my students that one of the best things you can do is lose a case in the Supreme Court."

And later, he quotes Dana Berlinger, from the Institute for Justice, who said, "The decision brought to light this incredible rift between what lawyers and cities thought was the law and what the American people thought was the law. This is certainly the situation of losing the battle and winning the war."

In other words, the Kelo decision didn't help the people who lost their property in Connecticut, but it may wind up saving the properties of thousands.

By extension, the national outrage generated by the coverage of the Long Branch battle may be too late to save the MTOTSA members' homes, but it may steer the country's course when it comes to future cases of eminent domain abuse.

That, in reality, will be the "Schneider Team's" legacy. To go down in American history as the leaders of the community that caused a nation to say, "Enough is enough."

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

School board study: only wards can guarantee diversity

Under the old system, Council has appointed more blacks but those blacks have not come from historically African-American parts of town. The 2 blacks elected in May live on the north side.

Charlottesville, Va.-- Following the first direct election of school board members on May 2 and referendum mandate of November 8, the city’s school board election study task force of 8 appointed members recommended 2 options as to the system to be adopted for electing the 7-member school board.

Continue the appointment tradition of 4 wards and 3 at-large seats. The 4 & 3 model beat out the 7-neighborhood model, which held third place in public supporters and was aligned more with the schools. The 4-3 scenario is the conservative position: to seek historical continuity and a more gradual changing of the system, according to task force chairman Lloyd Snook. This system guarantees diversity-- at least in where the members live.

Or continue the current system in the form of "resident districts" where everybody votes for everybody and the majority selects all candidates. There could be 4 wards, or 2 to simplify redrawing of the boundaries with every census. The citywide majority would elect members for their neighborhoods and for yours.

That majority comprises the Recreation and [Walker] precincts, the most populated and affluent of the 8 precincts. Tonsler is the smallest. While resident districts also guarantee geographic diversity, political diversity is guaranteed to be excluded. The residents district paradigm is de facto at-large and more conservative because the change is no change. [corrected. originally said Carver instead of Walker.]

Councilor Kevin Lynch pointed out newly elected Dave Norris as an example of how this would work. Norris lives in poor “downtrodden” Belmont (annexed 1938) and is the first Belmont resident to get elected in 30 years. Lynch concluded that you can have geographic diversity in an at-large system.

Yes. But not political diversity. Because of low voter turnout, 1 in [6] registered voters have actually voted for the current councilors. Moving elections to November next year for the first time is another reform intended to improve participation. [corrected. mistakenly said 1 in 8.]

The task force has met 12 times and held 3 public hearings where 20 people spoke out, said chairman Snook. Input was solicited by email and by survey.

The study found no correlation between school performance and the system of electing school board members. Many officials contacted in other localities didn’t even know how their school board was selected.

During the course of the study, Snook said he read James Madison’s Federalist #10, which talks about balancing majority rule with minority rights. The great compromise was Congress, a mixed ward/at-large model.

Snook acknowledged there is a distinct north/south divide in Charlottesville. Residents on the south side of town have a longstanding feeling of being “on the short end of the stick.”

Historically almost all candidates have come from the north side, said Snook. Under the old school board, the majority party appointed from the south side because of the ward system.

Snook pointed out that under the old system, Council has appointed more blacks but those blacks have not come from historically African-American parts of town. The 2 blacks elected in May live on the north side.

The next school board election is November ’07 and candidates’ filing deadline would be June, increasing the time to campaign from 2 to 5 months. A ward campaign would save time and money compared to having to canvass the entire city.

Snook recalled the Daily Progress editorial advocating a do-nothing solution. Snook said, if council does nothing, this report would be the second study on election reform to be ignored.

Lynch said he was concerned about the idea we should do something simply under pressure to react in some way. He’s less concerned about geographical diversity than racial, socioeconomic and professional diversity. In his view it’s more a problem of candidate recruitment by the political parties.

Following Lynch’s disparaging comments about Belmont, Snook said political participation is a luxury item. A single working mom has little time to attend meetings and campaign. Another idea the task force discussed was increasing school board member pay.

Mayor David Brown interjected at this point and wrapped up the discussion. He said geographic diversity does matter and Norris joins 4 other council members from the north side. He’s concerned wards will create safe seats and be less competitive.

Council did not take a vote or endorse the report. Kendra Hamilton was absent.

Then followed Parks and Recreation Director Mike Svetz’s report on the state and future of city facilities, pools and parks. Because the facilities are 40 to 50 years old and ending their useful lives, Svetz estimates $11.5 to $12.5 million in necessary capital improvements.

In order to move forward in the planning, Svetz wants council to articulate a facilities development philosophy: whether to abandon current resources and build one giant fitness facility, or refurbish existing parks. Council didn’t really give an answer.

Only Carver Rec at Jefferson School and Washington Pool on Preston Ave. generate in admission more than 50% of their operating expenses.

If city parks were a private company, they would be forced to adopt the mega health fitness club model such as Atlantic Coast Athletic Club and Gold’s Gym.

Lynch thought the abandoned city yard between Jefferson School and Westhaven would be a good site. Norris wondered how we could replicate the success of ACAC and AFC (UVa’s Aquatic Fitness Center).

The difference between city parks and these private facilities is that the city allows anyone to use them. ACAC and AFC have exclusionary policies.

Council took no vote and will ponder the matter.

In another item, Council agreed to continue to designate its Housing Authority as a priority neighborhood for the purpose of Community Development Block Grant funding. Councilors agreed that public housing is more in need than any other neighborhood.

I watched the regular City Council meeting live on Adelphia Channel 10 from 7:26pm til 9:57pm. Next meeting September 4.

Task force studies how to elect school board

Friday, August 04, 2006

Va Supreme Court: VDOT must return land seized in 1973

Virginian Pilot Editorial, July 29, 2006

The Virginia Department of Transportation has a sorry reputation for bullying property owners.
An unnecessarily antagonistic dispute in Chesterfield County shows why it is so well deserved.

It is a case in which VDOT bought land for a road project (under threat of condemnation), didn?t use the land, then refused to give it back to the original owner.

Last month, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously -- and properly -- ordered VDOT to give the land back. It is hard to fathom why it took an order of the Supreme Court to accomplish this.
Here are the basic facts.

In 1973, the highway department bought two residential lots -- nearly two acres -- in a new subdivision for $21,000. The developer knew that if he didn't sell voluntarily, the land would be condemned.

The state planned to build Route 288 across those lots, but that never happened. The neighborhood was built and the two lots remained vacant.

Then the story gets complicated.

The original development company that sold the lots was merged into another company. Then the corporation was dissolved for not paying its annual registration fee. By 1988, the corporation no longer existed.

Meanwhile, VDOT kept the two acres. The agency put a construction office on the land for a different road project, but the original highway was never built there.

Then VDOT decided in 2003 to sell the two empty lots -- 30 years after the original purchase.

Here's where the story gets nutty.

The original developer, a man named J. Kenneth Timmons Jr., wanted his land back. Rightly so. He had sold it to the government for one purpose, but it was never used. Timmons offered to return the $21,000 to VDOT in exchange for his property. State law backed him up. That is, indeed, how transactions of this kind are supposed to be handled.

VDOT had other ideas.

The land had increased in value over three decades. The land was worth $21,000 in 1973, but by 2003 it was worth about $95,000. VDOT told Timmons the land would be sold to the highest bidder. Timmons sued.

There were several complicating issues. First, the judges had to decide whether Timmons could claim the land after his corporation was dissolved. The court said yes.

Then the court had to decide whether Timmons had filed his request for the land too late. The court said no.

What the court did not ask -- but we, as common citizens, can ask -- is: Why didn't VDOT just do the right thing? Not the legal thing, but the right thing. Why was VDOT entitled to make a profit on land it should never have acquired in the first place? Why not just sell the property back?

Eminent domain is a messy-enough business. Some folks take the extreme view that government shouldn?t seize private land ever, for any purpose. But surely, if government does buy land for purposes that are never fulfilled, it is obliged to give the land back -- even 33 years later. Even if the land is worth a lot more.

Now, finally, VDOT will do that. But only after its hand was forced.

If you ever wonder why so many people distrust their government, read the case of Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner vs. Windsor Industries Inc. It should be required reading for every manager who draws a government paycheck.


What VDOT takes it never returns

Yes, VDOT should sell the land back at 1973 prices. - Not! Did the original owner pay taxes on it for 20 years ? Did he not get fairmarket value for the property when he sold it? If you buy a corvette, never drive it for 30 years, when it becomes valuable should the dealer be able to force you to sell it back at the same price you originally paid? If the city was to sell back city property at the price it purchased it for many years ago, would you then write an article about the idiots in city council cheating the taxpayers with sweetheart deals to developers? I think you would. Me thinks you, and your newspaper have a hardon for VDOT. And VDOT doesn't make profits -all monies made from anything offset the taxdollars that the taxpayer entrusted to VDOT. The developer was paid a fair price for the year he sold the property, and should now pay fairmarket value for this year, instead of getting a free ride at taxpayer expense.
- Joe M. - Cash

VDOT should return land with punitive damages

Not only should VDOT return the land free to the rightful owner, but VDOT should pay back rent at fair market value and punitive damages for not returning the land when it became clear the public use for which it was seized (Route 288) had evaporated. Because of VDOT's actions, the land in question cost taxpayers 33 years of taxation of the property. Public property pays no real estate tax. The VDOT director, who decided not to return the land on the day he learned Route 288 would be located elsewhere, should be arrested for felony violation of the public use clause of the US Constitution. That may be extreme. But certainly the official who decided to sell the property to private use should be charged. These public servants, aka free riders, do outrageous things because the worst penalty for them is to get fired. If this was money instead of property, somebody would go to jail in some of the more outrageous cases.
-Blair Hawkins - Charlottesville

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Global Warming Rhetoric Heats Up in Charlottesville

"UVa climatologist sparks constroversy"

By Carlos Santos, Media General News Service, The Daily Progress, August 2, 2006

Patrick J. Michaels may be the state climatologist, but his private scientific findings and fundings are his own business, his University of Virginia department chairman says.

Michaels does private research, including that on global warmin, outside his duties as a UVa professor and state climatologist, Jay Zieman, the chairman of UVa's environmental sciences department, said Tuesday.

Michaels, who has been the state climatologist since 1980, has come under fire after news reports said a Colorado utility raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges to help him analyze other scientists' global warming research. The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fundraising drive.

UVa professors are allowed 52 days a year for private consultant work, Zieman said.


The state climatologist's office was run by the federal government in Blacksburg until it was discontinued in 1973. UVa revived the office in 1977, when [Bruce P.] Hayden was appointed by Gov. John Dalton to be the acting state climatologist until Michaels was recruited for the job.


"UVa Prof Takes Money from Utilities", July 28, 2006

Comment #37 by Blair Hawkins:

cvillenative Says:

(1) the President of the American Ass. for the Advancement of Science states “The fact is that the drumbeat of science and people’s perspectives are in line that the climate is changing.” –Cvillity

(2) Know what else is a theory? Gravity. And any physicist who argues that it doesn’t exist should be fired. –Waldo

(3) Aside from the ethical debate of whether a scientist should accept money from an interest group — cvillenewser

(4) Nobody claimed scientists are public officers.– Waldo

(5) KevinLynch Says:
(A)I am surprised that anyone living in this area for the past 5 years believes Michaels has any credibility as a ‘climatologist’, after the drought of 2002. That drought was the worst on record and was 4 years in the making, however up until the end of 2001 Michaels denied that there was any drought. He changed his tune sometime in the Spring of 2002 when it was plainly obvious that the reservoirs had not recharged over the winter. By then, we were running something like a 30 inch rainfall deficit over 4 years.

(B)As far as Michaels taking money from the power companies, of course its an issue. He’s not just a random Envi Sci prof trying to bring in a little extra grant money for his department - He’s the State Climatologist. Does anyone think it would be a conflict if the head of the State ABC board was being paid 150K to do ‘research’ for the alcohol lobby to support the thesis that underage drinking is not really a problem and shoudnt be discouraged?

(C)The Office of the State Climatologist is part of UVA’s Department of Environmental Sciences. It has a line in the State budget but I cant figure out under what authority he was appointed. Maybe Blair knows. Maybe no one knows, which would possibly explain why he hasnt been replaced with a credible scientist by now.

[and more recently]

(D)There are a couple of other interesting questions that Jack raised earlier – Namely: How does one get to be State Climatologist and is it a lifetime appointment? Seems like valid questions and I’ve made a number of inquiries over the past two days to try to answer them. The short answer is no one seems to really know.

Can anybody guess what I’m going to say? We see the liberal play book right here.

(1) How dare you question authority? How dare you disagree with what the majority has concluded? If you have 2 authorities competing (Assoc of Science and state climatologist of Virginia) side with the position that has greater funding, larger majority, or the one you feel more comfortable with.

(2) Waldo’s not watching enough History or Learning Channel. Newton himself,
responding to scientific critics of his day, confessed he had no idea what gravity is. To this very day, nobody knows. Newton’s equations are scientific only in that they predict behavior, but not why. We call it gravity, but that’s just another way of saying it follows Newton’s Laws. Dark matter is an example of the faith we place in science.

Instead of accepting the possibility that the Gravitation equation might not be exactly the same across the expanse of the universe, we’d rather imagine invisible, unmeasurable stuff so that the equation works out.

(3) Why is it ethical to accept public funds? How is the government not an interest group? What if Michaels accepted money/salary from a non-profit group or the government and used it to pay his mortgage and whatever? How would this not be a conflict of interest influencing him to arrive at conclusions that keep the $$$ coming to buy a new car?

(4) How is a public scientist different from a private scientist? How is it that one is naturally ethical and the other assumed to be a greedy charlatan?

(5)(A) Kevin is revising history and basing his claim that ‘02 was the worst drought ever because a government agency (RWSA) said so. (how dare you question authority?) Since Kevin is a government authority, should we take his word? Actually the reserviors did recharge over the winter ‘01-’02 magically and without any rain. According to the Virginia Climate Advisory and the precipitation records from McCormick Observatory (which I have in an Excel spreadsheet thanks to Mr. Stenger in the climatology office) ‘99-’02 is not the worst drought on record. Proclaiming a dire emergency and scaring the public allowed the gov’t to impose water restrictions, but they had to raise the trigger from 65% of capacity in ‘01 to 70% in ‘02 because still the drought was not as bad as just 25 years before when those guidelines were developed. [And the trigger for mandatory restriction in '00 was 60% acording to RWSA director Arthur Petrini at the Sierra Club forum for council candidates in 2000.]

Michaels never changed his tune. In ‘02 he said the drought was worse than in ‘01, ‘00, and ‘99. Michaels never said it was the worst drought on record, because it’s not.

(B) Here’s another analogy: What if you were paid $150K by ABC to do ‘research’ to support or oppose a new bill that ABC proposed? Would that influence the scientific results? How is accepting public funds not an inherent conflict of interest?

(C) I don’t know for sure but I think the Governor appoints the State Climatologist who serves at his pleasure. Michaels served under Democratic and Republican administrations. He could have been replaced anytime in his 26-year career, much as his predecessor Bruce Hayden was replaced for not handling the drought of 1977 very well or the following years which saw record cold and energy rationing in Virginia.

(D) Ah, no one seems to know the answer to your question. That seems to be going around.

Here are the facts. No need to demonize me or call me names. My skin has become rather thick in the last 6 years of speaking truth to power. What liberals hate the most– a minority point of view.

The Last Drought: Has Time Stood Still for 25 Years? Sep 3, 2002

Drought Perspective Sep 18, 2002

The Witness Report This newsletter from Aug ‘01 to Apr ‘01 was inspired in part to document the disparity between government pronouncements and the reality of the drought-water issue.

I have already been keeping CvilleNews junkies informed with scientific information on water supply and drought issues. Except my truth is invisble to the supreme arrogance that allows Waldo to substitute ad hominem attacks for scientific arguments, all for the purpose of furthering his agenda and providing a smoke screen to hide his ignorance, and inability to separate a person’s status from the content of his conscience. Imagine a world you treat those who disagree with you the same as those in agreement. Ah, that would not be Cville.

Excerpt from
my report on the city council meeting 7-17-06.

“Then followed Mayor David Brown’s “Climate Protection Agreement.” The Council voted unanimously to support the ideas contained in the 12-point document. The resolution has no legal weight and expresses only Council’s opinion. However, resolutions often precede legislation in the process of incrementalism.

Despite the speakers earlier and large crowd of environmentalists, some with hand-held signs, no one explained how global warming and man-made warming are the same thing. No one explained how the ending of the current ice age is not normal, or how man caused the 9,800 years of warming prior to the industrial revolution and age of fossil fuels, or the billion year warm period prior to the present 3 million year cycle of ice ages. However, Al Gore’s propaganda film “An Inconvenient Truth” was mentioned.”

Comment #40 by Waldo Jaquith, the site's adminstrator:

According to the AP, Prof Michaels is not just taking power company money -
he is soliciting it - for a clear purpose.

Oh, damn.

Pat, Pat, Pat.

Being attacked by Blair Hawkins is like being called a Zionist by Mel Gibson. I can’t wait to start being woven into his conspiracy theories — looks like it may have started already. It takes me back to the good old days when he tried to run for House of Delegates, but just couldn’t get his act together.

The same story on Jaquith's personal blog:

Hawkins' comment:

Waldo, are you running a myth factory? Or is it a religious crusade? Laid off but still gets a paycheck? I guess that proves he’s an impostor, or that public funding is worse than the bankroll from the utilities. Where’s your credibility? Where’s the love? Where’s the tolerance for diversity?

UVa Prof Takes Money from Utilities See comment 37 for a quick rebuttal of the character assassination and inuendo practiced by Waldo and Kevin.

Jaquith's response:

Jack, the person who posted that is Blair. He’s the sketchy, unshaven, wild-eyed guy who used to stand outside of Council chambers after meetings and push copies of his mimeographed conspiracy theory sheet, “The Witness Report,” accusing Councilors of working with the Illuminati to take away private property rights to give them to the space aliens.

He’s also the guy who tried to get the Republican nomination for the House of Delegates a few years ago, to the shame and horror of local Republicans. It turned out he was too incompetent to even file the paperwork, though that didn’t keep him from, bizarrely, trying to get the nomination anyhow.

I imagine he’s upset that he didn’t spot this particular conspiracy theory first such that he could include Masons and Mitch Van Yahres into an otherwise-reasonable accusation. It’s tough being crazy, I guess.

Hawkins' response:

Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t see anywhere a mention of global warming or anything weather related or scientific. Oh, did you mention, I also kill puppies and eat babies while I’m not playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never called Mitch a bad name. I simply pointed out his record (the only bad thing I could find) and acknowledged that he believed in his heart what he was doing was and is the right thing to do, results be damned. I realize many people prefer candidates to be unopposed when they run for elected office. What we have here is a clash of cultures, and hatred of one toward the other. Guess which one.
Other Links:

"Public Disservice, Melting Myths" by Patrick Michaels, July 27, 2006

Articles about global warming on