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.


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