Sunday, January 28, 2007

Berkeley affordable housing crisis religious fervor

We the undersigned petition the City of Berkeley to replace all future HUD funding shortfalls out of the City's General Fund, as a means to properly maintain the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of the poor, elderly and disabled.

Berkeley Housing Authority. BERKELEY HOUSING AUTHORITY BY-LAWS Resolution No. 3. In effect: May 11, 1967. (Amended numerous times over the years. No mention when the authority was created or brief history of the agency.) City Of Berkeley Housing Authority

Save The Berkeley Housing Authority

To: Berkeley City Council

Petition To Save The Berkeley Housing Authority

We the undersigned believe that the City of Berkeley is on the front line of attacks by the Bush Administration's efforts to destroy the nation's housing assistance programs.

We therefore believe that progressives and humanitarians of the world need to draw the line in Berkeley, to stop these vicious attacks on these much needed housing assistance programs throughout the nation.

We the People believe that if the right-wing agenda of the Bush Administration is successful in destroying the Berkeley Housing Authority, other Housing Authority's across the nation may follow suit and allow themselves to be eliminated.

Therefore, We the People urge the City Council and Mayor to do everything that is possible to save the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of low-income people that may need housing assistance in the City of Berkeley.

We the undersigned petition the Berkeley City Council and Mayor to stop any and all attempts or efforts by the City Manager to negotiate with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to dismantle the Berkeley Housing Authority or to allow it to fall into receivorship.

We the undersigned petition Berkeley's City Councilmembers and Mayor to stop any or all efforts by the City Manager to consolidate the Berkeley Housing Authority with any other agency or entity which would result in the loss of local control by the City of Berkeley to administer it's own Section 8 housing programs or it's public housing programs.

We the undersigned petition the City of Berkeley to replace all future HUD funding shortfalls out of the City's General Fund, as a means to properly maintain the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of the poor, elderly and disabled.

We the undersigned pray that the City of Berkeley listens to the voice of the People from all walks of life and destinations, who for humanitarian reasons sign this petition as a means to save the Berkeley Housing Authority for the future generations of Berkeley's citizens.

Sincerely, The Undersigned (118)

Berkeley Housing Authority Crisis Deepens
Berkeley Housing Authority Forced To Cancel Meeting On January 30, As Affordable Housing Crisis Only Gets Worse!

by Lynda Carson ( tenantsrule [at] ) Thursday Jan 18th, 2007

Amid increased alarm over the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, the crisis at the Berkeley Housing Authority deepens with every passing moment.

On March 1, a reduction in federal housing voucher payments goes into effect in Berkeley which places 750 Section 8 families at risk of major rent increases, forced relocation, or the loss of their housing vouchers in a worst case scenario. "During last December, we had a meeting in San Francisco with local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) director Richard Rainey, in an effort to seek a waiver from the decrease in voucher payments scheduled to occur in March, and no one felt positive about the outcome of the meeting," said Ariana Cassanova, Assistant to Berkeley's Mayor.

HUD decided that the Fair Market Rents were too high in the Bay Area, and decreased the value of Section 8 vouchers as a result. Meanwhile Tri Commercial Real Estate Services out of Walnut Creek, reports that during 2005, rents in Alameda County rose by 0.6 percent, and according to the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County, rents jumped in Oakland by 8.5 percent during the same period.

In an effort to speak out against the life threatening cuts to their housing vouchers, Section 8 tenants had planned to go to the Jan. 30, Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) meeting, until they learned during mid January that the meeting had been canceled.

"We had been placed under great pressure by HUD to cancel the meeting, because we were not sure if it would be legal under current circumstances," said Cassanova. "We are going through a restructuring process and could'nt have a meeting on Jan. 30, because we were not sure if it would have been legal, and are waiting to hear back from HUD for assurances that our new model of governance structure for the BHA has been approved."

While in discussions with HUD during the past year, the need to restructure the governance of the agency became essential for it's future success, and on June 27, the BHA Board authorized Executive Officer, Phil Kamlarz, to negotiate with HUD on an alternative management structure. The governance models being considered for the BHA included other Public Housing Authorities, such as in Sacramento City, Reno, Oakland, Santa Barbara, Portland, San Francisco and Benicia.

As of September, 2006, the BHA was still currently designated as a "troubled" agency, and since then major efforts to improve the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) scores, failed to change that situation.

In a November notice "BHA Hap'nings", sent out to Berkeley's Section 8 tenants, it confirmed that the BHA still remained listed as a “troubled” housing agency by HUD, because it failed to acheive enough points in it's efforts to pass the latest SEMAP scoring process. The new model of governance restructuring taking place in the BHA, is a desperate attempt to satisfy HUD's demands, in an effort to keep the BHA under local control in Berkeley. HUD has threatened to remove the embattled agency from local control if it does not improve in it's day to day operations (SEMAP score), and being listed as a "troubled" agency for the 6th year in a row, only makes matters worse for public housing and Section 8 tenants in Berkeley.

Out of 1,750 families in Berkeley's Section 8 program, 750 families are now at risk of losing their housing when their housing vouchers will be decreased in value, as of March 1, 2007. These particular 750 families face a reduction in voucher payments the next time their Section 8 contract comes up for a renewal after March 1, because their landlords presently are demanding the maximum allowable limit in voucher payments allowed in Berkeley. As a result, when the vouchers become worth less in value during the next contract renewal, the families will have to make up the cost difference in rents, or relocate to cheaper housing, because the landlords are still demanding the same amount in monthly rent payments regardless of what the vouchers are worth.

Families in 3 bdrm units face a rent increase of $187 per month, $97 per month for those in 2 bdrm units, $45 per month in 1 bdrm units, and increases of $35 per month for those in studio apartments.

Berkeley Section 8 tenant Patrick Kehoe says, "I think it's a terrible idea to cut back on voucher payments to existing contracts. I am one of those 750 people facing cuts, and in addition to all the other Section 8 tenants facing cuts, it's the small landlords being hit the hardest because most large landlords refuse to participate in the Section 8 program. It's a tough situation all the way around. I don't know how myself or any other tenants can afford a rent increase at this time, when considering how little money we do have to survive on."

Since 2000, the Bush Regime cut back on HUD funding by 20 percent, and making matters worse during December 2006, HUD announced that Public Housing Authorities across the nation would only receive 76 percent of their needed operating budgets to run public housing programs for the poor, elderly and disabled.

As recent as January 10, in protest over the HUD budget cuts, over 90 Housing Authorities across the nation shut down their operations in what was called a "Day of Silence", to let different regions of the country know what it's like for a day, to be without an agency that assist's the poor in their housing needs.

A Jan. 9, press release from Oakland's Housing Authority states that, "Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) will receive $2.9 million less than it is entitled to and requires to cover basic operating costs for the city’s public housing program, which currently houses 2,717 of Oakland’s lowest-income families. It will be extremely difficult for OHA to fill the gap left by the 24 percent loss of federal funding. Services, particularly property improvements that would have been provided with full funding, will be seriously reduced. The Housing Authority’s ability to respond to community concerns about the quality of public housing properties will also be seriously affected by this ongoing disinvestment by the federal government."

As the affordable housing crisis continues to unfold in Berkeley and elsewhere, activists are urging Berkeley's Section 8 tenants to speak out against the budget cuts at the next BHA Meeting scheduled for 6pm, on February 27, at Berkeley's Old City Hall.


Help from Linda, a Sec 8 recipient in Berkeley

by Linda Smith Friday Jan 26th

Hello, my name is Linda Smith, and I'm a recipient of Sec 8 benefits in Berkeley. I do not wish to move from my nice, North Berkeley 1-bedroom apartment to, say, Oakland or further south. I am praying to God and the Angels of Housing and the Needy. Following is my prayer: I give thanks that all of us on Sec 8 in Berkeley, and all over the USA, are able to keep our housing, at an affordable rent level. God watches over all of us, and God will help us keep our rents affordable and our homes pleasant and comfortable places to live. I have also told Linda Carson that I am volunteering to build a website to help Save BHA and Sec 8. I am going to be in touch with her soon to help plan out and design that website on paper, first. I'm a webmistress in training. I am glad to help. Thank you God and the Guardian Angels of Housing and of People in Need! Amen.

Commentary: Saving the Berkeley Housing Authority
By Eleanor Walden (08-01-06)

Suzanne La Barre wrote an interesting report on the July 25 City Council meeting pertaining to the crisis of the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA). While the governing body of BHA (the nine City Council members and only two appointed members at large), assumes the posture that it just now recognizes that new governance is essential to the stability of the agency, the cry of "Shocked! Shocked!" sounds a bit hollow given the history. Let’s see if we can round up the usual suspects!

In the early 1980s, the governing body of BHA went from an independent board to the City Council. On the third Tuesday of the month they meet for about half an hour before the council meeting. Did it take 20 some-odd years for the members of the board to conclude that it "had too much on its plate ... to adequately oversee Housing Authority staff and operations"?

Then, since 2003, HUD designated BHA a "troubled" agency, for various administrative and managerial inadequacies, including a backlog of inspections and re-evaluations, and housing quality issues. In the past three years what part of "troubled" did they not understand? Is it that HUD funds BHA for $27.4 million a year and is now threatening to take its money elsewhere? Is it that the plight of poor people is generally underrated, especially when those doing the rating do not have to worry about having a roof over their head?

Last Tuesday, according to Daily Planet reporter Suzanne La Barre, more than three-dozen tenants "flooded" the City Council meeting. That public response to the housing crisis was stimulated by an ad hoc handful of people from the community who had the courage to make an appearance and get media attention. I submit that it also got the City Council’s attention.

Councilmember Spring submitted a two part motion: that the council adopt a resolution in favor of turning the authority over to another body, and secondly that an announcement be sent out to all Section 8 and Public Housing tenants from BHA inviting people to a public meeting for 2 p.m. Aug. 26 at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Ms. La Barre correctly reports that the council did not vote on the resolution because it was not on the agenda, but she did not cover the fact that they unanimously adopted the motion to send out notices and have a public meeting of tenants.

The aforementioned citizens who now call themselves the Committee to Save Berkeley Housing Authority, with Councilmember Spring, initiated that meeting. Committee members worked on the wording for the notice and began to secure speakers and arrange an agenda for the Aug. 26 meeting, the intended purpose of which is to activate Section 8 and public housing tenants to act in their own behalf by petitioning their Federal representatives and demanding that HUD protect affordable housing.

Housing Director Steve Barton seems to have a different viewpoint on the scope of this meeting. He sees the meeting as "informational," having the new BHA manager describe, "what is going on." Would it be too rude to ask how she or he will know "what's going on" being appointed only as of July 31, having the job for less than a month that has seen three new directors since the beginning of the year? Mr. Barton also proposes "the Section 8 tenants … can (be) invited to a meeting with the Section 8 Resident Advisory Board."

What Mr. Barton did not say is that the Section 8 Resident Advisory Board (RAB) does not exist in any sort of meaningful way; it does not have elected board members, and it lacks four out of the five board members needed to constitute an official body, and it has not officially met for two years. It is not the intention of the people who activated this grassroots campaign to turn the public meeting over to a non-existent, bureaucratic-front organization. We expect that when the dust settles the public meeting will take place in the manner and with the intention with which it was proposed and voted on by the City Council.

Eleanor Walden is a member of the Rent Stabilization Board.

Monday, January 22, 2007

6% cut in Housing Authority: Plan to divert 1% property, 25% hotel taxes

Charlottesville, Va.-- Already operating at 85% of needed funding, the Redevelopment and Housing Authority's federal funding was cut 24% or by $318,000 as of January 1st and CRHA will have to dip into its $600,000 rainy day fund. The agency manages 376 public housing units at 11 sites and 345 Section 8 apartment units.

Director Noah Schwartz said, "This is going to be felt by the tenants" but he doesn't expect to lay off any of the agency's 24 employees. Former chairman of the urban renewal board of directors, Howard Evergreen said, “If we don’t do something, that’s 376 units [public housing] that could disappear.” ( "Housing authority faces cuts: Federal funding slashed", By Brian McNeill,, January 21, 2007 )

At the Housing Authority's website, I don't see a link to this story or the finances of the agency.

On January 18, 2005, City Councilor Kendra Hamilton said the Charlottesville's Housing Authority had a $5.5 million budget, the vast majority from Housing and Urban Development. $318,000 is only 6% of $5.5M. 85.5% of $5.5M is $4.7M. 24% of $4.7M is $1.1M. There seems to be an error somewhere.

[Update/Correction Jan. 25: Housing Authority annual budget is $4.5 million. 24% of $4.5 million is $1.08 million. $318,000 is 7% of $4.5 million. The authority now reports 300 Section 8 apartment units.]

During her report, she called for more urban renewal-- the seizing and selling of real estate for use and ownership of third parties, which is a felony in the United States. "This was one of the big lacks, is that the Redevelopment portion of the Housing Authority's title had been neglected over the years," said Hamilton ( "Council Beat: Parade of grievances, Housing Authority report", Jan. 19, 2005 ), who is now chairman of the 7-member commission appointed by City Council to oversee the authority.

At the Jan. 2 Council meeting three weeks ago, Hamilton said the latest proposal to address affordable housing relies on the availability of lots owned by CRHA. She said mixed income redevelopment can be created on lots currently owned by CRHA. ( Official Council Minutes for Jan. 2, 2007 open meeting )

Levy Avenue is an example of property the Housing Authority claims to own and wants to use for this purpose Dec. 15, 2006 update.

The proposed plan to divert funds from other areas to the Housing Authority has 5 parts, according to Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services.

1) commit all CDBG and HOME dollars that are not dedicated to administrative or social programs to this project for 10 years
2) set aside 25% of transient room taxes
3) dedicate the equivalent of one cent of the real property tax to the fund
4) using the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to administer the workforce housing dollars
5) direct HOME/CDBG dollars to CRHA?

Even if all federal funding of the Redevelopment and Housing Authority, created in 1954, is eliminated, city leaders are resolved to continue its gentrification programs in the name of affordable housing.

On Nov. 29, 2006 the Housing Authority issued a press release stating that HUD had removed CRHA from its "troubled" list because the Section 8 housing voucher program after three years on the list. The agency was upgraded to "standard performer."

2006 Draft Annual and 5-year Plan

Plan is Due to HUD by January 17, 2007

"form HUD 50075 (03/2003) Table Library Page 8

The substance of this Annual Plan clearly defines current practices and is similar to those submitted in previous years. It does not, however, adequately describe the enormous change this organization is undertaking through new, on-going initiatives or the development of critical operational plans. Moreover, while daily operations are the truest expression of our policies, our work to refine those policies and better plan our activities are the best indicator of our future service delivery. As such, it’s important to take a moment to describe that work here.

With strong support from the Board of Commissioners, CRHA has begun a process to re-assess it’s philosophical foundation and put new baseline policies into place. This begins with an open discussion about mission and organizational by-laws as a Board retreat topic to be carried out over the next 6 months. Questions as to what CRHA’s goals, principles and values are will be posed and answered to create a shared understanding of our mission. Agency by-laws defining governance, Board structure and responsibilities will undoubtedly be altered as part of this review to better describe this new understanding.

While the basic organizational philosophy is being defined by the Board of Commissioners, staff will be developing a set of basic operational policies for community and Board consideration. These policies will include a new Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)/Section 8 Plan, a new Public Housing Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP), a new Maintenance Plan, a new set of Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and a new set of Financial Operation Procedures (FOPs). These policies are the backbone of organizational operations and will be the most critical factor in determining future success. Some of these documents are already under development such as the HCV/Section 8 Plan and ACOP. As currently vacant key management positions are filled (e.g. Public Housing Manager, Finance Director), policy development will begin to move forward more quickly. Final approval of these documents (as well as any number of other supporting documents such as a new lease, capital budget plan, etc.), subject to board and community consideration, should move forward in phases over the next 6-18 months.

Both enabling and supporting this work are two important endeavors. The first is filling vacant staff positions and continued staff training. With a new organizational structure approved by the Board of Commissioners in September 2005, the agency’s top program management position (Public Housing Manager), top public housing program position, front line HCV/Section 8 program position and Finance Director position and three maintenance positions are all vacant. CRHA fully expects to fill the program positions over the next 60 days. Maintenance positions have historically been harder to fill but should be in place within 90 days. With so many current staff new to the agency (13 hired within the last 6 months) and seven more to come on board, training for all will be vital to our success. Thus, the organization must continue to seek affordable, programmatically succinct trainings to participate in.

The second endeavor we must successfully take on is to change our integrated software to a more modern, user-friendly system, better able to create the kinds of reports CRHA administration needs to manage the organization. As part of this process, the agency must move to site-based accounting and management. This software and accounting practice change is of the up-most importance and very hard to over-state. It will not only give us an enormous system tool for managing our activities, it will allow us to do so consistent with the private market model so strongly backed by HUD. Although this is a particularly complex project, the agency intends to make this conversion by the end of FY06.

The scope and time table for the initiatives described above are daunting. The projected schedule will be hyper-sensitive to other “environmental” issues that may arise (e.g. unforeseen staffing problems, new regulatory concerns, unexpected programmatic concerns, etc.) and must be carried out while delivering normal programming. For CRHA, that means this work will get done while we continue to conduct a full file review, “catch-up” with annual re-certifcations, comply with our SEMAP Action Plan, and improve performance in all functional areas. This agency, it’s staff and Commissioners, are up to the task and these goals will be met.

News and Press Releases Printer Friendly CRHA Out of "Troubled" Status

Notification from HUD Great News
Posted Date: 11/29/2006

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) received formal notification this week from HUD Richmond Field Office that their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program has achieved “Standard Performer” status. CRHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program had been classified as “troubled” each of the previous three years.

Noah Schwartz, CRHA Executive Director stated that “This is a great accomplishment for an agency that has struggled over the last few years. This has been a group effort all the way along beginning with our board’s work putting the plan together and its implementation by our dedicated program staff and ending with a successful on-site review of our activities. I really couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished-.”

Schwartz continued, “Clearly, we still have many challenges before us and we’ll need continued improvement of program delivery if we are to successfully fulfill our mission to provide housing opportunities to low-income families. Nonetheless, this is a terrific first step.”

Jason Halbert, a member of the CRHA Board of Commissioners, said “As a new Commissioner it is great to see this agency turn-around under the leadership of Noah Schwartz and his team, especially in light of decreasing funding and increasing demand for affordable housing.”

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program status is determined annually by certification of program performance standards as detailed in the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP). Program standards are evaluated in 15 different categories with the resulting score determining program status. CRHA underwent an extensive on-site Confirmatory Review prior to receiving a final score and status.

CRHA is a quasi-government organization operating in the City of Charlottesville. The agency manages a number of programs in addition to the Housing Choice Voucher program including Public Housing (375 units), Down Payment Assistance, and Closing Cost Assistance programs. CRHA serves over 1600 individuals each year.

For more information on CRHA, visit, call (434) 970-3253 or e-mail Noah Schwartz at

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Apology for slavery insincere

"NEW ON THE BLOG: McKenzie says he's sorry" January 18, 2007, The Daily Progress

Comment by Blair Hawkins posted January 19:

Let me bring clarity. An apology has three parts that must all be true for the apology to be sincere.

1. Say what you did wrong
2. Say why it was wrong
3. Promise not to do it again

I can't apologize for slavery because I didn't commit the wrong. I can't promise not to do it again because I didn't do it in the first place. However I can say why it was wrong.

If I say I'm sorry for your loss to a grieving widow, what am I really saying? Am I really apologizing? No, I'm just saying I feel bad for you and empathize with you. I'm just being polite.

[Del. Frank D. Hargrove, R-Glen Allen] doesn't want to apologize for something he didn't do because that would be dishonest. He can't apologize on behalf of his political party either. Republicans freed the slaves. Ironically Democrats in the House are eager to apologize for slavery on behalf of someone else- the government of Virginia which never actually owned slaves.

Once in a while someone will ask me why Charlottesville has never apologized for urban renewal. Because it's not over.

1. They can't say what they did wrong becaue they're still doing it.
2. They can't say why it's wrong because they don't think it's wrong.
3. They can't promise not to do it again because they're still doing it with future plans to do more.

Now that slavery has ended, we have the opportunity to get over it.

See also: "Delegate's comments on slavery criticized", By Bob Gibson, January 16, 2007, The Daily Progress

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Council may create new commission to update precinct boundaries after ignoring 2 commissions in 2 years

This is the 4th time in just over 2 years the Council has been asked to modernize its antiquated precincts.

Charlottesville, Va.-- Tuesday night voter registrar Sheri Iachetta asked the Council to create a committee to study a redrawing of the 8 precincts because they currently are "not optimally configured." There are now over 23,000 registered voters in the city compared to 18,000 when Iachetta became registrar. The city's population has remained unchanged.

She was joined by electoral board chairman Rick Sincere, who said voting patterns have changed and updated precincts would mean better allocation of resources and manpower on election day. He said Justice Department approval is needed only if a precinct has more than 5,000 voters.

This is the fourth time in just over two years the Council has been asked to modernize its antiquated precincts.

First time was the Council Election Report January '05. Then again in August '06 by the School Board Election task force. In October the Council voted unanimously to continue at-large elections for the school board that had been appointed 4 wards and 3 at-large before the Nov. '05 referendum.

In 1920 a referendum approved the change in city government from a 12-member mixed ward/at-large bicameral City Council modeled after the federal system of representation to the current 5 at-large members modeled after corporate governing boards.

The councilors wanted all other steps looked into before changing anything. Councilor Kevin Lynch cited an example where a pool table was moved, which created the needed space at a polling station

Iachetta and Sincere said they will look into it and are to report back to the Council in two weeks.

Last night's meeting kicked off with a full chamber. Half the people were high school students there for extra credit. The other half wanted to closed Old Lynchburg Road at Moore's Creek to prevent commuter traffic.

The president of the Fry's Spring neighborhood association spoke along with a half dozen others. Their chief complaints were speed and volume of traffic, narrow streets with high pedestrian traffic but no sidewalks, and drainage issues as the road runs along a stream bed. One person said 95% of the neighbors supported the closure and 72 on the streets actually connecting to Old Lynchburg have signed a petition to that effect.

The Councilors were sympathetic but agreed that closing the road would be a last resort. Several expressed exasperation that Albemarle County is not building connector roads to handle the explosion of development south of town. The Council promised to look into it.

Last summer the neighborhood association and active neighbors packed the chamber and had a traffic thumb at Cherry/Willard/Cleveland finally removed after a year of unanswered complaints.

The other interesting thing from this meeting is the design competition to develop 2 blocks on Water Street, the City Market and municipal parking lot/H&R Block and the private lot across the street from Live Arts.

Councilor Kevin Lynch opposed the $150,000 competition because there is no developer interested in either property. Unlike the $25,000 Sunrise Trailer Court design competition, a developer was already planning to redevelop the property.

Lynch recalled 2 times already that the city has tried to sell the City Market block, most recently in 2002. City Manager Gary O'Connell recalled only one time around 1998. This time as well, after the competition and the money is spent, there's no guarantee anything will be built there. No action was taken tonight.

Think about it. Who would want to buy a piece of land and not be able to build on it what they want? If you buy this property, you'll have to build what the city wants and follow someone else's design selected by a committee. But the city just doesn't understand why people don't want to buy their stolen properties and have its use dictated by the seller.

Council Beat: Meredith Richards cameo, Elections report: distrust and disdain

Blair Hawkins, Charlottesville Indepenedent Media, January 8, 2005

The highlight of the Monday evening meeting was the radiant Meredith Richards and her public comment. She has drafted a letter in support of a regional rail system. She asked Council to endorse the petition and forward it to the governor and transportation officials. Richards failed to receive the city's Democratic nomination for a third term last year, but received seven hundred writein votes. And she subsequently voted for the Council Elections Task Force before leaving office on June 30. ( Photo on her last day as a city councilor: "Gay rights rally at old Lane High School", )

The most anticipated moment of the meeting was the ward-mayor study. The speech by the task force chairman and Council discussion acted as a counter-balance to the remainder of the 4-hour session. The desire to change the local form of government stems from the perception that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. The task force was commisioned by Council in a 3-1-1 vote (for: Maurice Cox, Meredith Richards, Rob Schilling; against: Blake Caravati; abstain: Kevin Lynch) on Apr 5 2004.

While the report dealt with the community's mutual distrust of city government, the bulk of the meeting illustrated the parts of the machine that need repair and foster distrust. These broken pieces take the form of policy statements and guidelines, ordinances and resolutions, subsidies and exemptions. The good working parts are consistent with our core values and promote them. The broken parts, the misaligned priorities, seemed to be on display to begin the new year.



Councilor Kendra HAMILTON: Mumbles "Let's get it out of the way" as task force chairman readies to deliver the report.

Sean O'BRIEN, Council Elections Task Force chairman: Thanks to everyone. The changes studied in the report, last studied in the 1980s, would have profound implications. He said the task force was surprised at the low turnout at the 8 public forums given that the civic study was well-publicized. He attributed this apparent low interest to disillusionment lingering from last attempt at major reform, the perception that those in power won't do anything to threaten that power, and general apathy of the public reflected in declining voter turnout. Two camps of participants: those who feel everything's okay and those who feel totally ignored. Communication seems to be the underlying problem. He sees this report as a starting point.

BROWN. Thanked the committee. Wants to have a work session.

CARAVATI: Thanked the committee for its hard work. November just saw the largest voter turnout in a while.
LYNCH: Since we seem to have a high school class here, getting a copy of the report might be worthwhile. Talked about the proposal that councilors have additional staff to help them serve the constituents.

O'BRIEN: Thought it was a meritorious idea.

HAMILTON: Thanks for creating an enjoyable, accessible and brief report. Does mixed ward-atlarge create a two-tier system?

O'BRIEN: The option increases access to public office for more people.

SCHILLING: Read lengthy remarks and entered them into the record. Invited O'BRIEN to sit for the remarks. (Those high school students all got up and left at this point, to the delight of CARAVATI and HAMILTON at the timing.)

Schilling's remarks gave some historical perspective for discussing these issues. He ended by mentioning the experience in Richmond with its new strong mayor, former governor Doug Wilder.

CARAVATI: If you went to an elected mayor, the form of government would have to change substantially.

O'BRIEN: This study only considered if the mayor were directly elected with no other shifts in power.

BROWN: Is there evidence that elections by ward increase voter turnout?

O'BRIEN: The evidence is mixed.

LYNCH: When campaigning, especially on southside of town, many people can't vote because they are exfelons.

O'BRIEN: Restoring voting rights is a state issue.

HAMILTON: Would like to raise 2 issues. Who showed up at the meetings? The activist minority or the silent majority? Looking over the sign-in sheets of the meetings, it appears that the participation involved the "usual suspects" that are always vocal.

O'BRIEN: Some people came to the forum just in their precinct and one person came to every forum. "Just because you're vocal doesn't mean you should be ignored." Because of the level of participation, we expected a higher turn-out.

HAMILTON: Another issue lacking was a class analysis. In the last few decades, Recreation and Walker precincts had the most candidates and councilors, while Clark and Tonsler had the fewest. Recreation is the most populous, Walker the most affluent. On the southside there is a wealth gap, contacts gap, and education gap.

O'BRIEN: Just because you are elected to a neighborhood doesn't mean you "represent" the neighborhood or even know the historical problems that affect Belmont, for example. We did talk about African-American represenation as well as socioeconomic issues.

HAMILTON: "One final thing is that the voice of the people has been ringing my line. And the people that I have been hearing from, 90% of whom are African-American, have been urging us to keep things as they are. So you're evidently talking to different people, Mr. Schilling."

SCHILLING: "Yes, I evidently am."

BROWN: Wants us to keep in mind there will be a work session on this subject.

LYNCH: Went to all but one of the forums. There seems to be a myth about how approachable Council really is. All of us are in the phone book. Don't call me after midnight. We are happy to hear from people.

HAMILTON: My number changed so I'm not in the phone book. After being prompted, she called out her new contact number, 245-0241.

LYNCH: Another theme was communication. People want advance notice of changes.

O'BRIEN: Some people seem to be intimidated by elected official and don't want to bother them.

CARAVATI: While mayor, he had office hours and talked to over 500 people. So, if you make yourself available, people will talk to you.

The discussion came to a close. There was no vote resolving to endorse or support the study.

POLICY OF STREET CLOSING presented by Lisa Kelley, assistant city attorney.

SALE OF CITY LAND presented by Craig Brown, city attorney.

These two subjects were tedious and difficult to follow but were not acted on by Council. They will resurface at a future meeting when staff have done more work. The city attorney did define fair market value as the price a willing buyer will pay to a willing seller, neither one being under any compulsion.


Staunton to seize house for Charlottesville nonprofit director: Owner promises sustained legal battle

Wanda Yvonne Stevens, director of Staunton Redevelopment and Housing Authority, wants to seize and sell Gerard Labreque's house at 18-20 Stafford St. and others to Staunton Development Solutions headed by Stu Armstrong, director of Charlottesville's controversial nonprofit Piedmont Housing Alliance. Staunton will get $1.4 million in grant money to boot.
Read the full story: "Owner promises fight over property: Labrecque challenges plan to take over Newtown lot" by David Royer, The News Leader Staunton, Va.

Perspective from Charlottesville

The Piedmont Housing Alliance was created in 1983 under the name Thomas Jefferson Housing Improvement Corporation. The nonprofit was reorganized and renamed in 1997. PHA staff.

In February 2005, the city of Charlottesville announced their intention to use PHA as a middle-man to donate land seized in 1967 to Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity against state law. Sure enough, in September '05, PHA recieved the land and passed it on according to online assessment records.

Update on illegal Habitat houses Dec. 18, 2006. Includes "Council Beat: Habitat for Humanity land grab, 64 signatures in opposition", Feb. 23, 2005 and "Charlottesville gives public land to Habitat for Humanity" Mar. 8, 2005.

"Charlottesville Council resolves support of gay civil rights: Dice urban renewal vote postponed" Nov. 17, 2004, reproduced below. Stu Armstrong misses important meeting asking the city for more land in the Fifeville neighborhood. PHA is criticized for its gentrification program for "affordable housing" in the 1oth and Page neighborgood. Two weeks later, the Council approves the sale.

"Charlottesville Council resolves support of gay civil rights: Dice urban renewal vote postponed"

Blair Hawkins, Charlottesville Indepenedent Media, November 17, 2004

The Dice project has every element of urban renewal for which Charlottesville is infamous. A private developer partnering with the government to purchase, improve at taxpayer expense, then resell private property to a different owner for a profit. Tax value of the property is promised to increase dramatically.

Monday evening, City Council passed by 4-1 a resolution expressing the body's desire that the General Assembly, in its next session, repeal House Bill 751, the Marriage Affirmation Act, which became law on July 1 and can be interpreted to nullify civil contracts between same gender couples who are not related by blood or "marriage." ( Gay Rights Rally at Old Lane High School [Jun 30]: )

The chamber was near full and enthusiastic but dwindled by the time the resolution came to a vote. The public comment at the beginning of the meeting, with a few notable exceptions, spoke to the proposed resolution.

- Then followed the pre-kickoff of the city budget battle which officially kicks off in March and takes effect July 1. Council delayed adoption of the long-term budget guidelines.

- The Downtown Recreation Center, built as a National Guard Armory in the 1930s, was renamed after Herman Key.

- Council exempted proposed Linden Town Lofts on Linden Avenue from the zoning ordinance by allowing 26 townhouses on one acre instead of 21 allowed by zoning. The developer promised that 5 of the condominiums would be "affordable."

- Council resolved to support 8 of 9 bullet point recommendations, setting the "housing strategy" aside for later. One part of the strategy is to make the housing task force permanent. Councilor Kendra Hamilton wondered if the wording of number 6 could be changed "so that it doesn't sound like the city is proposing to get in the business of competing with the private sector to redevelop property." The irony here is that, by funding Piedmont Housing Alliance, a private developer with non-profit status, the city has created an unfair environment for competition and is, and has been for a long time, in the business of redeveloping property. The next agenda item illustrates the point, followed immediately by the gay rights resolution.


Jim TOLBERT, Neighborhood Development Services Director:

"Several months ago, actually earlier this year, Mr. Huja, I believe, came to the Council and talked about a project that would partner with PHA to do some improvements in the Dice Street area and in transition, that's been working through a few issues but it's ready to come back before you now."

There is a proposal that would purchase 4 structures and 2 vacant lots in the 400 block of Dice Street. 2 structures would be demolished and 2 rehabilitated. There would be a new apartment in a basement, 3 new units for a total of 6 housing units when completed. This project would be similar to partnerships for revitalization on Hinton Avenue and Starr Hill.

"The proposal is that the city would invest $148,250. The PHA would directly invest $215,000 plus additional loans and grants for $471,000 for the acquistion, demolition, rehab and new construction and there would also be 350 linear feet of new sidewalks built on the west side of 4th Street which is an area that's had drainage problems affecting these properties for a while. PHA has agreed that these would be provided for home ownership, and that their estimate is that a family earning $32,982 a year, which is 57 percent of the metropolitan median income, would be able to afford these that would have a net mortgage of $128,000 and a gross sales price of $185,000."

"These have a current assessed value of $143,000 and it's projected that would increase to $875,000 when this project is complete. Again it would leverage 148,250 of city dollars with $686,000 coming from various sources that PHA has under its control and provide 6 affordable units. I would also add, excuse me, that PHA has agreed that these would, when the deeds are done, these would go into a capital gains sharing formula and that the monies, if they were resold, would go back into the housing trust fund for the city of Charlottesville."

Councilor Kevin LYNCH: Is anyone from PHA here?

TOLBERT: Stu Armstrong was here but had to leave.

LYNCH: You've called this the Dice Street Home Improvement, but 3 houses are on 4th St. and 1 on 5th St.

TOLBERT: It's part of the Dice Street neighborhood.

LYNCH: I thought it was the Fifeville neighborhood.

TOLBERT: The neighborhood and police department call it that.

LYNCH: Can you give us an update on the Piedmont Housing Alliance progress on 10th St and 9th/10th? I'm concerned we're getting too far ahead.

TOLBERT: I don't have the numbers. Anderson St. is almost finished and other spot houses. Problem with replanning the property at 10th and Page intersection. They are resolved and moving forward.

LYNCH: In total there were 26 or 28 houses. Anderson is 4 houses.

TOLBERT: At least half the houses are built and occuppied, "probably closer to two thirds."

City manager Gary O'CONNELL: We'll get a status report.

Mayor David BROWN: Any other questions?

Councilor Kendra HAMILTON: What is the status of the houses you plan to demolish?

TOLBERT: Under condemnation or in and out of citations, continual problems. Much cheaper to rebuild than rehab.

Councilor Rob SCHILLING: Disturbed that property sale prices are so far above fair market assessed value. For example, one property assessed at $3,800 is to be purchased at $25,000, 670% over the assessed. Cumulative under-assessment of $112,000. Why is there such a discrepancy in one? Why are we paying so much more than assessed? For that reason I cannot support this.

LYNCH: Good point about under-assessment of some properties.

HAMILTON: Some neighborhoods have consistent under-assessments, some properties selling for triple the assessed value.

LYNCH: Wants PHA to explain progress on 10th St. before approving this. I'm concerned because they demolished a number of houses on 10th St. that have not been replaced as promised.

TOLBERT: Mr. Armstrong would have that information.

Councilor Blake CARAVATI: I find it ironic that some councilors are complaining about under-assessments related to real estate taxes. Three concerns: the houses not be sold to a family earning more than 57.6% of Charlottesville median income, 3-year deadline, and would like to see the "profit recovery mechanism in writing" since we are about to codify the contract.

BROWN: We need a mechanism to prevent affordable housing from becoming market housing. Perhaps we should postpone this decision.

CARAVATI: I withdraw the motion.

LYNCH: Motion to postpone for 2 weeks.

The Council voted unanymously to postpone the funding of this subsidy.


The Council discussion and vote on this controvery was anti-climactic. Caravati introduced the resolution and read it. A couple paragraphs were removed. Hamilton expressed her support. Schilling said the topic was beyond the business of Council. The proclamation passed with only Schilling voting no.


Perhaps not since 1775 has the irony been so great. That's when Patrick Henry gave his "Give me liberty or give me death" speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Not only did the speech claim that the colonies were already in a state of war with Great Britain, but also that, by restricting citizenship rights, Britain desired to enslave the colonists. Patrick Henry himself was a slave owner.

At Monday's Council meeting, the audience seemed unconcerned that property rights were being trampled before their eyes. It may have been a different story if the Dice neighborhood property owners were gay.

The Dice project has every element of urban renewal for which Charlottesville is infamous. A private developer partnering with the government to purchase, improve at taxpayer expense, then resell private property to a different owner for a profit. Tax value of the property is promised to increase dramatically. The desire by one councilor that the purchase price be limited to fair market assessed value brings in the issue of eminent domain, otherwise someone would have pointed out that these higher prices are simply the prices set by the owners. To pay less than what they are asking, you have to invoke eminent domain.

Through its partnership with the city, is the Piedmont Housing Alliance asking Council to take this land and give it and taxpayer money to the PHA in the hope that assessments sky rocket? Is PHA petitioning Council because the PHA cannot acquire the land in any other legal manner? If the PHA told me they could force me to sell my house at their price so they can resell the property to someone else, I would definitely believe them.

Last spring, city native Kenneth Jackson ran an unsuccessful bid for City Council on the Republican ticket. On WINA radio, he informed the public that old-fashisoned urban renewal is alive and well today while his Democratic opponents remain in a bizarre denial.

In the summer, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that economic development is not, and never has been, a Constitutional justification for use of eminent domain. The power to take private property is restricted by due process and eminent domain. Economic development is neither one of those. ( Michigan Supreme Court rules: Economic development is not eminent domain [Aug 2]: )

The US Supreme Court announced on September 28 that it will hear an urban renewal case in New London, CT, where the city wants to use eminent domain to take land from homeowners so developers can build oceanfront condos and office parks, employing the same logic and methods used here in Charlottesville. I heard about it at noon on CBS radio news on WINA. ( )

Will the highest court in the land follow Michigan's example and rule that eminent domain real estate manipulation schemes have been unlawful ever since the Constitution was ratified in 1789? How ironic is it that the Number 1 city in the USA would have no regard for property rights for one minority but care about civil rights of a minority that is even more hated?

The Council holds regular meetings the first and third Mondays in City Hall at east end of Downtown Mall. The meetings run from 7pm until about 10pm. These meetings are open to the public but closed sessions are not uncommon. The open meetings are broadcast live on Adelphia Cable channel 10. I hope Adelphia will decide to replay the meetings a few times in between the live broadcasts so interested people can have a better opportunity to become involved and prepare for the next meeting.

The gay resolution is over. But Dice urban renewal is up for a vote at the next meeting.


Piedmont Housing Alliance
Neighborhood Development Services
Office of Economic Development

Is Charlottesville the next Staunton? (Letter to Editor)
How to bring Free Enterprise back
"is staunton the next charlottesville?" ("City on a Hill: Is Staunton the next Charlottesville", Feb. 19, 2004, The Hook) I hope not.

I have friends and relatives in Staunton and have visited many times, and I grew up in Charlottesville. I've been telling people that Staunton is how Charlottesville used to be.

"Once stately facades in the central Beverly Street district deteriorated into ramshackle shells. And because Staunton had no preservation laws, owners were free to demolish their buildings at will. Finally, in 1971, as a new highway project threatened to decimate the old railway district known as 'The Wharf,' concerned citizens formed the Historic Staunton Foundation to stop the demolition madness. It was a start. But by that time, 50 historic buildings had fallen victim to the 'urban renewal' impulse of the 1960s..."

In Staunton, urban renewal is 50 properties demolished by their owners because the buildings were literally falling down. In Charlottesville, urban renewal is 500 properties demolished by city government under protest of the owners. If you include properties after 1980 and other forms of eminent domain abuse, such as widening Preston Avenue to clear out a mixed-use, mixed-income community, that number may be over a thousand.

When's the last time you read an article stating the total number of properties that comprise Charlottesville's urban renewal? You haven't because we're still counting. This is so serious that you couldn't write a story called "is charlottesville the next staunton?" Charlottesville has a long way to go.

In Staunton, you can buy or rent a big old cheap house without fear that a wrecking ball will show up if the assessments go down. People are less cynical and feel better about the community in Staunton.

Charlottesville would have plenty of cheap old houses today, ready to renovate, if not for the "demolition madness." Everybody would feel more secure, too. But instead, urban renewal has become a permanent part of Charlottesville's culture, its defining symbol.

Here's how Charlottesville can catch up with Staunton:
(1) Stop abusing eminent domain.
(2) Tally the number of cases.
(3) Compensate the victims.
(4) Establish penalties for the abuse.
(5) Change the city charter.

Because Staunton can talk about its urban renewal, we can all talk about the town's entire history. That's not yet the case for Charlottesville.
Charlottesville Independent Media, March 15, 2004. Submitted to The Hook February 22 and printed April 1.

U R A dope
by 3Nation
cheap old house's dont "tax" well...thats why they were torn renew the urban area and enlarge the tax "base".

About Taxes
by toblerone
Conservatives are wrong when they say that taxes = theft. Liberals would be just as wrong if they tried to picture all taxes as good.

City governments have a vested interest in making sure the tax base stays high, but the reason they should care is because greater revenues = more services to citizens (in theory, anyway). More services/infrastructure, in general, means a better quality of life for residents.

Therefore, if an old home could be torn down and replaced with a higher use (read, higher assessed use) they should only do so if the gain to the quality of life through higher taxes outweighs any damage the higher taxed property might impose on the community (or the loss to the community from the original use).

I do believe the city has been overly enthusiastic about converting older homes which contribute, for want of a better name, cultural capital to Charlottesville. I believe the city is becoming more conscious of this now then it has in the past.

I'd be interested in joining with other Charlottesville citizens to create a cultural atlas of the city, helping to identify properties, environments, neighborhoods, and hangouts that should be preserved for the cultural capital of the city.

taxes or theft?
by Blair Hawkins
The "higher tax base / more services / quality of life" reasoning of transferring land from you to someone who has more means to make it more valuable was precisely the policy of Great Britain before the American Revolution. They called it the public good.

Originally, eminent domain meant that the King's government could take land for any reason. So the King did so often. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution redefined eminent domain as public use, a major restriction on the power of government to reward the rich with the land of the poor.

America defined and implemented Free Enterprise:

1. Private property exists and is good and taxable. If theres private property, there must be public property.
2. The government's power to take your property is limited by due process and public use. These limitations will lead to limited government.
3. If these limitations are exceeded, that is theft.

You tell me. Is a land transfer the same as a tax? Hmmm. So they can take my house if some affluent person can build a more expensive house in its place? Oh, I don't mind paying the tax. How much is it? Please, don't take my humble land, I'll pay the tax. How much do I owe?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Your money or your property: Condemnation next day: Supreme Court won't hear eminent domain extortion case

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because the extortion is happening in a "redevelopment zone,” it can’t stop the Village of Port Chester, N.Y.
Federal Court Allows Developers To Demand Cash Payments Under Eminent Domain Threat, January 16, 2007, The Free Liberal

Arlington, Va.—“Your money or your property” may soon become the mantra of politically connected developers nationwide as the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement today that it will not consider the appeal of an eminent domain case involving attempted private extortion.

The case the Court declined to review arose out of the Village of Port Chester, N.Y., one of the nation’s worst eminent domain abusers. The Village’s chosen developer approached property owner Bart Didden and his business partner with an offer they couldn’t refuse. Because Didden planned to build a CVS on his property—land the developer coveted for a Walgreens—the developer demanded that Didden either pay him $800,000 to make him “go away” or give him an unearned 50 percent stake in the CVS development. If Didden refused, the developer would have the Village of Port Chester condemn the land for his private use. Didden rejected the bold-faced extortion. The very next day, the Village of Port Chester condemned Didden’s property through eminent domain so it could hand it over to the developer who made the threat.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved this extortion scheme using eminent domain under the Kelo decision, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled eminent domain could be used by the government for private development—handing over one person’s home or small business to a developer who merely promises to pay more taxes or create more jobs with the land. The 2nd Circuit ruled that because this is taking place in a “redevelopment zone,” it couldn’t stop what the Village is doing.

“This abuse will only grow worse until the courts do their job and set some limits on government’s power of eminent domain,” said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents Didden and represented the Kelo property owners. “The Court wrote in Kelo that ‘conferring a private benefit on a particular private party’ would still violate the Constitution. Well, here was that exact case—where a developer was trying to use eminent domain to extort cash from a property owner; about as private a benefit as it gets—and yet they punted. The Court will have to review an eminent domain case sometime soon, and the Institute for Justice intends to pursue this area of litigation until the rights of property owners are fully protected from this abuse of power.”

Didden expressed disappointment with the government officials responsible for protecting his rights. “What really surprised me about this whole ordeal was the total lack of concern my situation earned from the Village politicians, to the County District Attorney’s office, all the way into the federal courts. A private citizen using the government’s power is extorting me. And the government that should protect my rights is nowhere to be found. If anything, the government is making this extortion possible.”

Monday, January 15, 2007

Eminent domain topic at Republican Breakfast

Charlottesville, Va.-- John and Nancy McCord of the Virginia Property Rights Coalition spoke to a crowd of about 50 people at Golden Corral Saturday January 13. The forum was sponsored by the Albemarle County Republicans and questions from the audience were entertained.

The McCords said they became eminent domain activists nine years ago when American Electric Power wanted to run power lines through their property in Blacksburg. The McCords did not dispute that utilities are a legitimate public use. They thought the purchase offer was half the actual value of the land.

When asked why they weren't offering just compensation, the power company said they're offering what the law allows. If you have a problem with that, change the law.

So that's what John and Nancy have been trying to do ever since.

John traced the problem to a 1953 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that allowed Norfolk to seize non-blighted property if it's located in a redevelopment zone. He said, in Virginia, redevelopment and housing authorities exist only to transfer property from one private owner to another. And the flood gates have opened up.

Nancy said judges began to chip away at property rights in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Many of the New Deal work programs, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, seized land through eminent domain and displaced families and businesses.

The McCords urged people to contact their Delegate or state Senator and let them know it's time for real eminent domain reform.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2006 Review: Another year of inconvenient truths ahead

(January 9, dates not always was down for a while today)

The new year kicks off with 25 eminent domain bills introduced in the General Assembly. The first day of the ’07 session is Wednesday.

Richmond Sunlight is a new website that tracks bills moving through the General Assembly. Search of eminent domain returns what may become law and make Virginia the 36th state to reform eminent domain since the Kelo ruling of June 23, 2005.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling said Monday on “Charlottesville Right Now” that the 140 representatives will meet in Richmond and then reconvene in Williamsburg because of a Constitutional requirement. Somehow I think the framers intended that “meeting in Richmond” would mean conducting the people’s business in the state capitol, not showing up for a roll call and then leaving.

On Saturday, January 13, Nancy McCord, director of the Virginia Property Rights Coalition, will speak in Charlottsville at the Albemarle Republicans monthly breakfast at Golden Corral beginning at 8:30am. The public is invited and welcomed.

Also this month, I expect to photograph and share with my readers more documents of urban renewal. I called assistant city manager Rochelle Small-Toney January 2 to follow up on her promise to arrange a viewing of the archives. UVa professor Scot French has had the archives for a while. My initial request was made March 25, 2004. I’ve been allowed to photograph two dozen photos in two visits.

January 31 is the deadline for the blighted house at 610 Ridge Street. At the November 20 Council meeting, if repairs are not made by the deadline, Mayor David Brown promised that the invocation of eminent domain at the February 15 meeting would go through as a consent agenda item without any public hearing or Council discussion.

Building a Future

Near the end of 2005, after 2 years of contributions, the Charlottesville Independent Media website crashed and lost 6 months of data when restored. It was back up briefly in early ’06 before dying for good.

Now my home is here: I was using Cville Indy as a blog anyway. If you searched my name, all my articles listed out.

What was I trying to do? I was building a future by working hard today. I knew that in the future, if I persisted, I would be in a better standing when I referred to past articles and achievements.

I saw urban renewal as an opportunity. Since so few locally who were involved are talking about this, I had the opportunity to write the history of urban renewal. Six years ago I was writing to a future audience. But today, I’m writing mainly to an audience outside Charlottesville.

The Daily Progress is an example of a newspaper that is not building a future.

Here are some examples:

In November ’05 a reporter does a promo story on the eminent domain amendment vote that evening, without mentioning eminent domain. Then there’s no follow-up. When the amendment became state news in January by squeezing through a Senate committee, the second reporter was unable to refer back to the Council report for anything meaningful. The paper was unable to show that they do indeed follow up on stories. The January article was the first time Progress readers learned about the eminent domain.

The same Council reporter does a story on the Planning Commission declaring a house to be blighted, allowing the Council to invoke eminent domain. But when the issue comes to Council, the newspaper doesn’t cover the agenda item. So when the issue moves to a higher level, maybe the Supreme Court, the new reporter will be unable to give context or even know who the players are.

The Cville Weekly reported that a state Senator “dissed” Charlottesville by saying he doesn’t want to encourage the political atmosphere in liberal hotbeds like Charlottesville and Alexandria. But the newsmagazine conveniently left out the context of the statement—Charlottesville’s trying to expand its urban renewal powers.

Also, the Progress chose not to cover the school board task force and the study whether to continue mixed-ward or switch to an at-large school board. The paper didn't cover the Council election study task force of '04 and final report January '05. If you want more information on these issue, the Daily Progress won't be your source.

Things are changing. The more political news is reported like sports news, the bigger the market you’ll have. Not just sports analogies, but numbers of players and their names, their records, when the last time something similar happened, and so on.

Typically a political reporter thinks his job is to report on government. So he reports what the officials have to say and reduces 10 or 20 public comments to a few sentences. Politics is the interaction of the people and their government. So the report becomes extremely biased by excluding the biggest part of the story.

Why would a newspaper report the names of all speakers at a public meeting? To sell more newspapers, of course. And to record a fuller version of events you can reference and sell even more papers in the future. To empower readers and future reporters.

As part of my “Council Beat” series late ’04 early ‘05, a regular feature was Matters by the Public where I summarized in a paragraph what each speaker had to say. Inclusion is good business and good politics every time it’s tried.

I hope '07 will be bigger and bolder, as every year has been since I became active on eminent domain issues. The links below do not include everything on the blog and there's much overlap of issues in various articles.

Top Stories on Blair's Blog in 2006

1. First elected school board members endorse violence April 25. New superintendent legitimizes gang activity in the schools in a newspaper interview.

Cville School Safety March 22

Council, school board candidates forum at Region Ten March 29

Race Violence in our Schools? April 10. Includes letter "Education ought not be through coercion" January 14, 2002. Also "Compulsory Education is Unconstitutional".

Democrats regain monopoly in Charlottesville: School Board weak on safety May 4

Analysis of school board referendum results May 9

Task force studies how to elect school board May 19

Should school board be at-large? Daily Progress says yes June 1. Includes letter "Interest in mayor system ignored," August 30 2004, The Daily Progress.

New superintendent: Both bad and good gangs in city schools, maybe June 23

School board study: only wards can guarantee diversity August 8

School board to remain at-large October 3

2. Ragged Mountain reservoir expansion awaits regulatory approval. Proposed Buck Mountain reservoir still waiting.

Council approves Ragged Mountain option: Water for another 50 years June 6. Includes RWSA report to Council on Feb 9, 2005. Timeline of South Rivanna reservoir.

Drought Watch: Lawn watering only at night, reservoirs full, half normal rainfall June 19

Drought Watch: here we go again June 22

Rivanna uncomfortable using Buck Mountain land for Ragged Mountain plan November 2. The agency's signature eminent domain scandal. Includes map of disputed land.

Public Servant of the Year: Thomas Frederick, Rivanna water director, a role model for government employees everywhere.

3. Eminent domain culture of corruption. Fuzzy history coming into focus. Massive resistance to Rule of Law.

The only opposition to Charlottesville charter amendment to expand eminent domain January 8

Charlottesville's affordable housing amendment is amended: Officials back off eminent domain January 18

Second discussion on persistence of poverty January 26

Eminent domain reform marches on: 36 reforms in 6 years, 15 pending January 30

Democratic hopefuls vie to oppose Virgil Goode February 1

Nominated: 3 whites for 2 seats: First black mayor calls for racial quota on Council March 5

Levy Avenue for sale, eminent domain bills to be heard Monday March 20

Proof that Cville is criminal March 28

Council, school board candidates forum at Region Ten March 29

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

Response to David Toscano and Tammy Londeree on my endorsement of Rob Schilling published on George Loper's blog April 30

Democrats regain monopoly in Charlottesville: School Board weak on safety May 4

Technicality saves Norfolk junkyard from eminent domain for Coke parking lot June 9

President limits eminent domain for federal agencies on Kelo anniversary June 23

Libertarians protest Kelo June 25

Weyers Cave mega-secrecy, fears of eminent domain June 26

Weyers Cave study released: Unable to acquire 1600 acres June 27

Eminent domain stars reveal legislative agenda June 29

Will higher tax rate on land solve the blight problem? July 19

Cville Weekly covers urban renewal report of 7-17-06” Daily Progress takes another pass July 25

Ohio Supreme Court ignores Kelo precedent: Revenue, development not public use: other stories July 29

Va Supreme Court: VDOT must return land seized in 1973 August 4

Eminent domain spotlight on Long Branch, NJ August 10

Nelson official shocked at suspicion of eminent domain August 17

’Blighted’ house to be seized: eminent domain by Council vote or due process by Court ruling? October 15

Va. governor: $12.8 million state funds for 50-acre seizure for rail yard only if truly last resort October 21

How to get a church out of your way: eminent domain October 28

Council to rule on ordinance violation: ‘Blighted’ house to be seized November 2

Eminent Domain on Election Day November 15

1875 church to move to make airport approach safer November 16

Luxury Gleason Condos: urban renewal still not over November 27

Va lawmakers gearing up for eminent domain in ’07 session December 13

Deeds and Toscano: Eminent domain not a problem in Va. December 14

Levy Avenue for sale: Eminent domain in your face December 15

False press report on homicide at Friendship Court: Eminent domain of location cover-up December 31

4. Truth behind the Downtown Mall

The men behind the Mall: we did it to save downtown July 1

Truth behind Downtown Mall slowly coming out June 28

5. Jefferson School

Origins of Jefferson School and Public Education in Virginia December 4

$1 million Jefferson School makeover: Council hears 3 B.A.R. appeals

6. Archive pursuit

”An inconvenient truth”: Report from Housing Authority: Update on archives, HUD request July 17

Council refuses to release urban renewal archives: Jefferson School conflict of interest: Blighted House has until Feb 15 November 21

Urban renewal archives now open to public by appointment December 11

7. Other civil rights issues

Is drinking a civil right if you can afford the booze? June 1

JADE continues pot prohibition war, Scottsville front June 25

When people fear government: Tyranny July 7

8. Global Warming

Global Warming Rhetoric Heats up in Charlottesville August 2

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

Letter to governor to keep Michaels as state climatologist August 12

Va Education Secretary: UVa has oversight of state climatologist August 17

Blair Hawkins endorses George Allen October 8

9. Hurricanes

Hurricane Camille: Nelson County’s #1 Story August 19

The 25 eminent domain bills introduced in '07 session of Va. General Assembly

Richmond Sunlight

HB1820: Condemnation by authorities; exercise of power of eminent domain must be approved by governing body.

HB2009: Housing Authorities Law; exercise of eminent domain authority; compensation for certain landowners.

HB183: Condemnation; offer to repurchase.

HJ126: Constitutional amendment; exercise of eminent domain powers (first reference).

HJ62: Constitutional amendment; exercise of eminent domain powers (first reference).

SJ121: Constitutional amendment (first resolution); exercise of eminent domain powers.

HB1824: Housing authorities; limits power to acquire property w/in conservation area through eminent domain.

HJ579: Constitutional amendment; prohibits taking of private property by eminent domain powers.

SB4: Outdoor advertising structures; adjustment or relocation thereof.

HB1254: Outdoor advertising structures; adjustment or relocation thereof.

HB923: Condemned property; compensation for property owners.

HB184: Spot blight abatement; condemnation.

SJ139: Constitutional amendment (first resolution); exercise of eminent domain powers.

HB1974: Economic revitalization zone; created.

SB735: Spot blight abatement; interest on liens.

SB692: Blight abatement; authorizes localities to place lien on properties repaired or acquired.

SB311: Spot blight abatement; interest on liens.

SB781: Private property; definition of public uses, report.

HB2164: TransDominion Express Commission.

HB2128: Adjustment or relocation of billboard signs.

HB2117: Community Investment Corporation Development Act.

HB2011: Residential Property Disclosure Act; amends required residential property disclosure statement.

HB1658: Real property; survey of property required when purchased by public bodies.

SJ333: Commending Native Americans and African Americans on their contributions to the Commonweath.

HB1200: Population brackets; replaces other descriptions found in Code of Virginia with locality names.