Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Housing Authority plans redevelopment but no reforms

City seeks to redefine public housing: Redevelopment ideas bring hope, skepticism
(By Seth Rosen , October 28, 2007, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia)

When community activists and Charlottesville officials describe the potential redevelopment of Westhaven and other public housing complexes, they depict a sweeping, audacious vision.
The goal is ambitious - revamping the public housing sites into mixed-income communities that intermingle market-rate apartments, single-family homes, office space and shops with public housing. Overhauling some of the 11 complexes, supporters of redevelopment say, would not only improve the quality of life for the housing authority’s 1,000 residents but also supply a stepping stone to help them escape poverty.

Renting and selling market-rate units to middle-class families would likely provide the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority with something it desperately needs - a steady stream of revenue to replace dwindling federal subsidies.

But redevelopment will be a massive undertaking, perhaps costing north of $100 million. And though discussion is in its infancy, residents already fear that they could be shipped elsewhere to make room for new tenants, citing the authority’s spotty record as the source of their mistrust.
If done properly, redevelopment can redefine public housing in the region, while providing the authority with financial independence and more money for social programs. If the project stumbles or lacks resident support, it could take a place alongside Vinegar Hill as paragons of city planning gone awry.

The question, then, is whether the housing authority is up to the task. While redevelopment has been on the table at the housing authority for years, the major players are getting serious for the first time.
“Right now, we have these sort of isolated pockets of poverty that we have neglected, and this is an opportunity to change the whole dynamics of poverty in Charlottesville,” said Councilor Dave Norris, who served as chairman of the housing authority’s board earlier this decade.
The stigma associated with public housing and safety concerns could dissuade potential residents from living there, some say. In the past six weeks, there have been two shootings and a stabbing in Westhaven, with 21 crimes reported there so far this year.
Skepticism about the intentions of the housing authority runs deep among many residents. Part of that mistrust stems from Charlottesville’s history and part from past actions of the authority.

Vinegar Hill was a thriving black cultural and business hub in Charlottesville that was razed in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal. Some of the displaced residents relocated to Westhaven. But the area was never redeveloped as promised, and lay fallow for years - fostering resentment in the local black community.

Now, some residents fear that the scenario could play out again. In interviews with Westhaven residents, several said that the phrase “redevelopment” conjured up memories of that misbegotten legacy of city planning.
The housing authority has pledged that everyone who lives in public housing before redevelopment would have a place afterward. But there’s no guarantee that it would be in the same place.

There are other reasons for the suspicion. The housing authority has suffered from a lack of consistent leadership - Schwartz is the fourth head in nine years, though he has been universally praised for his stewardship. The authority has been plagued by staff shortages and maintenance backlogs. For three straight years earlier this decade, the authority was listed as “troubled” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Residents “have every reason to be distrusting based on the way public housing has been run in the community,” said [Holly] Hatcher, of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

One of the main complaints from residents is that the buildings require major maintenance work. Charlottesville’s stock of public housing has reached middle age, with all the requisite wear and tear that comes with growing older. Westhaven, the largest site with 126 units, is 42 years old; Crescent Halls, with 105 units, just celebrated its 31st birthday. Five of the other sites are at least 26.
The solution, some have surmised, is for the authority to create its own reliable stream of income. And, some say, the best way to do that is to leverage its greatest asset - its 40-some acres. By renting and selling market-rate condos and houses, the authority would have a greater flow of revenue every year.

Full Story at The Daily Progress

No mention of the giant elephant in the room—eminent domain. So far as we know now, redevelopment of Westhaven will not require additional land. If new land were seized, you probably wouldn’t read about it in any local newspaper. This article is newsworthy because it’s the first to acknowledge post-Vinegar Hill urban renewal (Crescent Halls).

For the first time a news article reports 4 public housing sites after 1981. The two most controversial, Garrett Square / Friendship Court and Midway Manor, are not included in the 11 and are no longer called public housing because they’ve been sold to the private sector. They’re subsidized (Section 8 and Social Security) housing and we pretend they never existed.

Levy Avenue for sale: Eminent domain in your face December 15, 2006

False press report on homicide at Friendship Court: Eminent domain of location cover-up December 31, 2006.

6% cut in Housing Authority: Plan to divert 1% property, 25% hotel taxes, January 22, 2007

Cavalier Daily can’t say Westhaven day after Obama visit

Officials aim to revamp low income area: Residents of 10th Street, Page Street wary of public housing project plan
(Cait Speaker, Cavalier Daily Associate Editor)

As the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority looks to redevelop public housing in the 10th Street and Page Street area, residents are increasingly skeptical of the success of such an endeavor.

The Housing Authority plans to build 376 units for about 1,000 people in the area as part of an effort to encourage a mixed-income community that will ultimately better the community financially, according to Noah Schwartz, executive director of the Housing Authority.
Schwartz and Charlottesville Mayor David Brown maintain that the Housing Authority is better posed for success in housing development than ever before.

"The housing board has a very strong board and good leadership, and the City Council has put a large number of funds towards the Housing Authority for projects like this one," Brown said.
The negative result would be similar to the Vinegar Hill housing "disaster" that occurred 40 years ago, Brown said.

Residents of the Vinegar Hill area, where the Omni Hotel is now located downtown, were uprooted by housing redevelopment in the 1960s and many moved to what is now the 10th Street and Page Street area, he added.

Full Story

This story fans fears of eminent domain by implying there would be a new public housing project in a neighborhood that already has one. If it was Westhaven to be redeveloped again, they would have said so, right? The article seems confused with 376 units being the total public housing units, not the 126 at Westhaven.

The story is on the front page to the left of Barack Obama, Democratic Presidential candidate who held a fundraiser at the downtown Pavilion. Westhaven is named for John West, a black real estate developer who first developed Vinegar Hill.

It’s interesting that, when I first viewed this story online, at the bottom of the screen was an ad for the yet-to-be-built Luxury Gleason Condos in the Garrett Street urban renewal zone.

“The Gleason” Upscale Condominiums– On their website, the location’s history begins 1919 when the Gleasons expanded their store which originally opened 1871 at 401 E Main.

Across the street from the Gleason, in 1919, stood the 1820s home of Alexander Garrett, first bursar of UVA and friend of Thomas Jefferson present at Monticello when Jefferson died. Garrett’s mansion was torn down 1952 and Garrett Street developed 1860.

Because of the incredible controversy of razing this neighborhood in the 1970s a full decade after Vinegar Hill, by people like Satyendra Huja now a candidate for City Council, only I am allowed to tell the original history of any part of South Downtown.

Luxury Gleason Condos: urban renewal still not over November 27, 2006

Monday, October 29, 2007

Move to weaken eminent domain reforms

"Tax cap, eminent domain divide legislative hopefuls at debate"
By Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot, © October 28, 2007

There was also a partisan divide on the issue of eminent domain. [Sen. Nick Rerras, R-Norfolk] and [Hank] Giffin said they want the General Assembly to roll back some provisions of a new law that makes it more difficult for government to force landowners to sell property.

[Ralph] Northam and [Del. Paula Miller, D-Norfolk] said they generally liked the new law though they have benefitted from eminent domain.

Miller lives with her husband, Circuit Court Clerk George E. Schaefer, in an Ocean View home acquired by the city as blighted and sold to a developer, who sold it to Miller and Schaefer.

Northam lives in a new home in East Beach, a 100-acre area cleared of 1,600 mostly blighted homes by the city's housing authority.

Northam said the changes in the eminent domain law were made "to prevent the bad dream of bulldozers and trucks showing up on our property to take it down. The law was being used to create tax revenue for cities."

Replied Rerras: "The bill did some good things. But it went too far in setting back redevelopment efforts in cities like Norfolk."

Giffin noted that he bill was passed because of abuse, but he called it an overreaction. "A building has to be falling down, leaning over or a health hazard, and somebody can come up and fix it up just a little bit" and get back in compliance, he said.

Miller and Northam said the cities need to use aggressive code enforcement before taking property. But both softened their stance from earlier in the campaign, saying that if the current law proves too restrictive, some change may be needed.

Full Story

"Virginia 36th state to reform eminent domain", April 8, 2007. Institute for Justice and Va. Property Rights Coalition interpret the 3 statutes.

Eminent domain; definition of public uses and limitations thereon.

HB2954 : SB781 : SB1296

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Council forum: NAACP advances racial agenda

(Peter Kleeman, Barbara Haskins, David Brown, Rick Turner, Satyendra Huja, Holly Edwards)

Charlottesville, Va. – The City Council forum Wednesday evening Oct. 17 served to promote the NAACP’s agenda rather than distinguish the five candidates based on their positions.

Director of the local chapter, M. Rick Turner, conducted the forum. Turner asked the first three questions and selected three audience questions to ask from note cards submitted. Each candidate asked the other four candidates a question. And each candidate made opening and closing statements. (“City Council Candidates appear at NAACP Forum”, Oct. 22, 2007, Charlottesville Tomorrow. Includes audio podcast of the forum.)

Turner is his own controversy. He’s best known for incendiary remarks in support of black school superintendent Scottie Griffin in 2004. In July 2006 he resigned as UVA’s Dean of African-American Studies.

“Turner, 65, the former dean of African-American affairs at UVa, announced his retirement Wednesday, 13 days after signing a pretrial felony diversion agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office admitting to making false statements to investigators about a “known drug dealer.” UVa placed Turner on administrative leave the following day, July 14, which coincided with the agreement being filed in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville.” (“UVa to announce interim dean within week” By Aaron Kessler, Daily Progress staff writer, July 28, 2006)

Turner’s first question asked why there has been only one black on Council at time since 1970. Turner listed the five Democrats:

Charles Barbour (1970-1978)
E.G. Hall (1980-1988)
Alvin Edwards (1988-1996)
Maurice Cox (1996-2004)
Kendra Hamilton (2004-present)

All five black Councilors continue to support urban renewal—except for Vinegar Hill which happened before they took office. Democrats are the only blacks to be elected in Charlottesville.

But other blacks have run for Council. Kenneth Jackson ran as a Republican in 2004. Sherman White ran as an independent in 1976. Both candidates spoke in their campaigns against urban renewal. While the national NAACP has adopted the Democratic Party, the local NAACP has remained in opposition on issues like a ward system because at-large shuts out non-majority candidates. The Tribune, owned by Agnes Cross-White and founded 1954, is the conservative African-American voice locally.

Historically the NAACP and the Democratic Party have been archenemies. Democrats enforced the Jim Crow laws, massively resisted the integration of public schools and the Voting Rights Act. Subsequently Democrats destroyed as many black communities across the nation as federal grants would allow.

Yet today blacks are thought to be overwhelmingly Democratic. What could possibly entice people to support a political party that hates them so much?

Money. That’s my theory: welfare made it affordable to live without civil rights. You don’t need due process protection if you don’t own any property. You don’t need a job if you have a permanent income stream. If you don’t need a job, then you don’t need an education, right?

Rick Turner asked an audience question about “tracking” in schools, de facto segregation by race, the high dropout rate and gang violence. No one seemed to know the relationship between violence and segregation.

“Most civil rights leaders in the 1950s, like Martin Luther King Jr., insisted on nonviolence because their goal was integration and inclusion. If people are afraid of you, they exclude you. But Malcolm X advocated violence because his goal was a separate black nation, the ultimate segregation.” (“Race Violence in our Schools? “ Apr. 4, 2006)

King noticed and spoke out against the rise of black violence he observed in the years leading to his assassination in 1968. King knew that fear is the root of segregation. The violence continues while black leaders wonder why our society remains segregated. Black-on-black crime is also high.

Earlier this year there were multiple high-profile assaults by gangs (blacks wearing oversized white T-shirts) near downtown. Early in 2006 there was much concern about the gang violence in the public schools. Yet black leaders, such as Turner, have been silent. Turner may think talking about it reinforces the stereotype of violent black men. But the silence reinforces the stereotype. Condemning the violence would break the stereotype and show that not all blacks seek to be segregated from society.

The high dropout rate is the first step to incarceration. Dropping out of school is illegal. So the time between when you stop going to school and the time they quit trying to make you go creates a lifetime of distrust and resentment of authority.

The lack of safety in our schools is a major factor in segregation. The fact that Rick Turner is still director of NAACP demonstrates a leadership vacuum in the black community. Who will step forward, address the "stark racial divide", and not embody the stereotypes underpinning the segregation?


“Nominated: 3 whites for 2 seats: First black mayor calls for racial quota on Council”, Charlottesville Independent Media, Mar 5 2006

"Democrats regain monopoly in Charlottesville: School Board weak on safety", Blair's Blog May 4, 2006

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (usually abbreviated as NAACP) is one of the oldest and most influential civil rights organizations in the United States.[1] The NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909 by a diverse group composed of W.E.B. Du Bois (African American), Ida Wells-Barnett (African American), Henry Moskowitz (Jewish), Mary White Ovington (White), Oswald Garrison Villard (German-born White), and William English Walling (White, and son of a former slave owning family)[2][3], to work on behalf of the rights of African Americans. Its name, retained in accord with tradition, is one of the last surviving uses of the term "colored people". The group is based in Baltimore, Maryland. (Wikipedia)

Daily Progress continues black-out of urban renewal debate: One candidate aware of the issue
(Charlottesville Independent Media, April 22, 2004)

Three of the six candidates at the League of Women Voters forum last night responded no to this question:

"Do you believe it is a proper function of government to transfer property if the transfer is for the purpose of economic development or to raise the tax base?"

Independent Vance High was not aware of any controversial land transfers in Charlottesville's history. He said blight was a justification, but economic development and tax base were not. He said it depended on the specific case. Coran Capshaw and Bill Dittmar were cited as examples of individuals receiving transferred land locally.

Republican Ann Reinicke also seemed unaware of the status quo land policy in Charlottesville. Her answer to the question was no.

Democrat David Brown wondered if there had ever been a condemnation in Charlottesville for the purpose of transferring land. Of course, there have been many. His answer seemed to depend on public opinion.

Democrat Kevin Lynch said that "public good" was the criterion for transferring land, not economic development.

Republican Kenneth Jackson was the only candidate familiar with the issue. He said this happened to him four years ago and that house is now a parking lot. He acknowledged that urban renewal land transfers have been common and continue to this day. He said this is just one of the many "dirty little secrets" they don't want us to know.

Democrat Kendra Hamiltion related her experience with integration in the '60s and '70s in South Carolina. Her final answer to the question was no.

Elizabeth Nelson wrote the Daily Progress article that omitted this question from the newspaper's coverage of the League of Women Voters forum 2004. ("Candidate platforms find focus at forum," Apr 22 2004, The Daily Progress) She also wrote the article last year about Levy Avenue without mentioning its urban renewal status. The Housing Authority has been unable to resell this land since it was demolished in 1972. ("City has plan for Levy site: Mixed-income idea novel for housing," Jun 19 2003, The Daily Progress)

NAACP forum: Democrats poised to lose power on May 4 2004
(Charlottesville Independent Media, Apr 28, 2004)

[…] Cindy Stratton asked all six candidates the first four questions. Members of the audience asked the remaining questions.

Question 1: What do you have to offer that no other candidate brings to the table?

HAMILTON: She said she would bring leadership. She has been active in the Rose Hill neighborhood, which was named neighborhood of the year by the city Planning Commission. She herself was named citizen planner of the year. As an activist, she has helped protect neighbors from developers. As a journalist for 21 years, she has worked in a "contentious environment" and knows how to get people to work together. She promised to offer solutions and address the "distribution of resources."

HIGH: Education. Ten years experience teaching at secondary schools and community colleges in Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington state. He promised to emphasize healthcare, environmental protection, and homeownership. He said homeownership was linked to student achievement. He would build consensus on the issues. He was one of the founders of the AIDS Services Group and was a journalist the first few years of college.

Note: Vance High was the only candidate to provide the public with copies of his platform and a professional black&white brochure on plain paper that were available at the beginning and end of the forum.

LYNCH: He would bring 4 years experience on City Council. He moved to Charlottesville from Alexandria in 1980 and became a neighborhood activist 12 years ago. He said we need to stress education, transportation, sidewalks, bike lanes, and neighborhood parks. As an engineer, he enjoys problem solving. He knows the "difference between talk and action. Actions speak louder than words."

He asked that the Republican candidates explain incumbent Republican Rob Schilling's positions on the following 4 issues: living wage, drug court, education funding, and community policing. He said that, by voting against the budget, Schilling did not keep the council pledge of "40% of new property revenue to education." He said that car decal fees were raised to pay for community policing.

Moderator Cindy Stratton informed him that the rules of this forum do not allow candidates to pose questions to other candidates. If any candidate would like an answer to such a question, he would have to go out into the audience to ask it and not return to the dais. She would have to repeat this admonition to Lynch and others a few more times.

BROWN: He said he would bring skills, experience, and character to the table. As a resident of Rugby Avenue and husband of Jean Hyatt, he is a "consensus builder." He is a chiropractor with his office in the Starr Hill area of West Main. He has volunteered with OAR (Offendor Aid and Restoration), Virginia Board of Medicine, and soccer outreach coach. He has been active in the community for 22 years and has a foster child. He said he was "hardworking and dependable, straightforward and sincere, open-minded and fair" and listens to people. He is also the former chairman of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee.

JACKSON: He said he was the "homegrown tomato," the 37-year-old city native who grew up in the Starr Hill neighborhood. He said he has the experience because he's "been there" and "lived it." In regard to leadership, he said he would "roll up his sleeves" and take the job serious. He promised to represent each and every citizen, maintain financial stability and quality education, and try to close the achievement gap.

REINICKE: She said the city has a divere makeup but she would represent all of Charlottesville. As a southside resident in the Orangedale neighborhood, she would also give a voice for the southside residents. She said the Charlottesville Police Officers Association has endorsed her candidacy. She said she has witnessed the negative impacts of city policies. She said she has the experience to "help me help you." She said "we cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of homeowners and renters." She would bring "an open mind and fresh ideas" to the table. She said she will "work for you, the citizens of Charlottesville."

Question 2: What are the city's strengths and weaknesses?

HAMILTON: In the 10 years she has lived here, she has seen the Downtown Mall go from a ghost town to a popular destination. She said that 44% of residents cannot afford the $698/month fair market rent. She said people are begging for $80,000 to $120,000 houses while $250,000+ houses go up just across the border south of the city. She wants more diversified housing options.

HIGH: Strengths: UVa and the hospital, tourism, Rivanna Trail, at least 19 parks, 2 indoor pools. Greatest strength is our people. Weaknesses: disparity between haves and have-nots, 44% of students qulaify for free lunch, affordable housing, availablility of water, new wells changing the water table, can't use bladders to increase height of dams and reservoir capacity. "It will take time" to address these problems.

LYNCH: Strengths: small city with high quality of life, education, cultural center of region, good efficient government compared to the county and private business. Weaknesses: "Our strengths are not distributed equitably."

BROWN: Strengths: students from region pay to go to Cville schools (and others reporter didn't write down). Weaknesses: disparity of haves and have-nots, affordable housing, privatization has led to lower wages, "town of limited opportunities", surrounded by different jurisdictions, growth treatens environment, need to work on regional scale, "protect our environment and history."

JACKSON: Strengths: people and schools. Weaknesses: budget laden with spending, "study upon study", the budget shrunk by $250,000 when Oven Air on 4th Street left. Charlottesville is "not considered a business friendly town...not real estate friendly." "Fast food got me through." It takes every kind of citizen and enterprise to make the society function.

REINICKE: We must protect our green space and parks. The city has allow schools to fall into disrepair so that we now face a $7 million repair bill. "A world-class city should not have a third-world infrastructure." Al though we have a AAA bond credit rating, the real estate assessment policy is irresponsible. There is no contingency plan to deal with a real estate bust. City participation has a lack of "diversity of thought" and diversity of socioeconomic status. A mixed ward system would mean better representation. She said she favors a 4 ward, 3 atlarge system.

Question 3: How would you propose to close the achievement gap?

HAMILTON: High quality early and elementary school education. In regard to the current search for a superintendent of schools, she said we "need somebody who can turn the schools around."

HIGH: Back to the basics-> teach test taking skills, more writing papers and science projects. First 5 years of school should provide a strong foundation. Stable housing is necessary for learning. We need team work of school, parents, and students. City schools have a "tremendous turnover" of students and teachers.

LYNCH: This issue is the "most pressing and important problem" facing us. His first Book Buddy at Johnson school is now close to graduation. Johnson has improved by implementing best practices and "consistent learning environment." Many students lack support and individual attention. We need a more consistent curriculum in elementary schools.

BROWN: Two primary ways to close the gap: fund the schools and appoint the school board. 40% of new revenue to schools. Support families, affordable childcare and housing, good jobs, early education, Computers 4 Kids, Music Resource Center, Book Buddies. "Expectation of success for all our children."

JACKSON: Graduated from Charlottesville High School in 1986. "4 areas of achievement gap: K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12." We should provide 1-2 hour in or after school tutoring. Stop promoting by percentage. Promote by merit and achievement levels. "I was poor but it doesn't mean you can't learn." He also said that education is 29% of this year's budget, not 40% as implied by Lynch and Brown.

REINICKE: We have excellent schools, advanced programs, and an award-winning orchestra. But the pace to SOL has been slow. Some students will be held back. Of the achievement gap, "If I sound angry, it's because I am." She said elected school boards generally find more funding and more reliable sources of funding.

Question 4: How would you promote economic development and attract business and investment?

HAMILTON: She disagreed with Jackson that the city is unfriendly to business. She said the city is "open for business" and the county has the anti-growth policies. Small business development is the engine for growth. We should link up individuals with grants and minority set-asides.

HIGH: We need tax incentives, lower taxes and fees. We should subsidize business and need more partnership initiatives. He would provide sound leadership, "say what I mean, mean what I say." He accused Lynch of flip-flopping 3 times. At the Apr 6 Fry's Spring forum, Lynch said a developer was fined for cutting down trees but actually the developer was simply asked to replace the trees. Originally Lynch said that a ward system was a bad idea but later accepted it. And finally, Lynch supported then opposed Preston Commons development on a green island at intersection of Preston, Barracks, Grady and Tenth NW.

LYNCH: Huntley was the name of the development, not the developer. Hickman was the developer. He wasn't fined but had to spend money for 40 trees that were removed against the site plan. The ward system is a bad idea but no harm studying it (Lynch abstained from the vote to study it). He said he was the only one who voted against spending money on Preston Commons. He did observe the "problem of council starting programs and stopping support midstream."

BROWN: He said there is not a lack of jobs but a lack of good jobs. We should keep profits in our community. He agreed with Hamilton that Charlottesville has a good business environment but needs more workforce development.

JACKSON: He said the living wage is unaffordable for business. He said a ward system would address the population shifts within the city. He said we are "business unfriendly...lot of lying on council...you can play dumb if you want...bald face lies..." He said the city is not rated highly by AAA or Rand-McNally. Whether we're number one depends whether you ask the haves or the have-nots.

REINICKE: She said we need to look at cost of living and the size and type of tax base. "Higher fees hurt business." We should protect commercial zones such as West Main, more variety and fewer empty buildings. She called for the revitalization of the Downtown Mall. We need to "stem the flow of revenue to the county."

Question 5: The Republicans propose raising fees on citizens but lowering fees for business. Is this a "regressive revenue enhancement policy?" (Peter Kleeman, resident of north downtown and Democratic Party operative)

HAMILTON: would not support this policy

HIGH: would not support.

LYNCH: would not support. One weakness we have is that we are the "social service provider of the region." At the same time, the state is getting out of social service business by closing Western State Hospital in Staunton and jails. You must "pay for civilization."

BROWN: We should not decrease fees on business while raising them on residents. Increasing fees for building permits would not "stifle" building. We should "disagree in a civil fashion." Of the bald face lies comment, Jackson "should back it up."

JACKSON: We should cut out unnecessary spending and distinguish wants versus needs. (After consulting with the moderator, Jackson did not respond to Brown's "question" as per the rules of the forum. Candidates are to address the questions from the public, not each other.)

REINICKE: We need fiscal responsibility and relieve the burden on residents. Possible cuts: $2.3 million in consultation fees and $6 million plus for a new software computer system.

Question 6: What would you ask UVa for? (Peppy Linde)

HAMILTON: Relieve housing, parking, build more dorms. UVa is part of reason rents are rising.

HIGH: Housing, transportation, combine UVa-CTS bus systems, issues of crime and safety.

LYNCH: There should be an agreement for UVa to pay taxes on the property it is purchasing. As a "state institution," the university is exempt from local laws and taxes.

BROWN: Enforce housing regulations.

JACKSON: Communication is very important, for example, the approving and building of the parking garage at Emmett Street and Ivy Road. The city has spent $30,000 on photos when we could have partnered with the photography department at UVa. As for housing on JPA, at one time you couldn't find a place to rent, plenty of places for rent now.

REINICKE: UVa could provide commuter parking and expand adult degree program.

Question 7: How will you deal with the budget? (Ann Mender, resident of southside, annoyed at what some of the candidates are saying)

HAMILTON: Simplify the budget.

HIGH: Read the budget 56 days ago. We should simplify it so a 12th-grader could understand it.

LYNCH: Services do not come for free. Gilmore's car tax repeal was a gimmick that shidted the burden onto the property owner.

BROWN: (reporter was distracted for a moment)

JACKSON: The budget should be organized in line-item format so you'll know where the money is going. The state does provide some funding for our jail. What happened to the money from the decal fee increase to hire 5 new police officers?

REINICKE: Would like to decrease taxes without decreasing services. Some jail funding comes from state inmates. What about the $2.3 million for consultation and $6 million software?

Question 8: To LYNCH: I'm disgusted by all you airbags. "Lynch has a catchy name." You have no content. All you do is attack. Nothing going for you. Please explain your personality. (Mary Joe Lang, Cville Dem from the north)

LYNCH: It's not my personality that's the problem. Accountability is important. We have a repsonsibility to propose actionable solutions.

Question 9: Please explain these Meadowcreek Parkway misconceptions: that it will reduce traffice in the city, that we are committed to build it even though county and VDOT have already broken their agreements, and if we don't use the money, we will lose it. (Stratton Salidis, independent council candidate in 2000 with about 300 votes and in 2002 with about 600 votes)

HAMILTON: They are not misconceptions. They are facts.

HIGH: He is for the parkway if the studies are made available. As of March 10, the city's representative that High had consulted on this issue, David Beardsley was no longer employed by the city.

LYNCH: He believes the Chamber of Commerce wants the parkway so developers can build near CATECH and Dunlora on Rio Road.

BROWN: The parkway should be built only as part of a regional plan.

JACKSON: In the last poll, 67% were in favor of the parkway. "Majority rules." We can't just spend funding on anything; all funding has strings attached. The parkway-250 interchange is an F GRADE interchange as envisioned now, which is failing, A being the best. We should "work with Albemarle for what's best for Charlottesville."

REINICKE: She acknowledged that the parkway will not decrease traffic in the city, but it will decrease traffic in neighborhoods. She said we have plenty of F ratings in Charlottesville and along 29 North, yet somehow we survive.

Question 10: How do we assure jobs for exfelons? What are we going to do about the youth in Charlottesville? (Harold Foley)

HAMILTON: Exfelons often have a better understanding of politics than the average citizen because they have dealt with the system, but felons are locked out of voting anyway. She promised to work to restore felons' rights whether elected or not.

HIGH: His roommate in college was an exfelon and is now a grant writer in Washington, D.C. He said there is a "prison pipeline" for African Americans. We must all get involved.

LYNCH: He would support a faster track to restoration of rights and GED programs in jail. He said it's too easy to become a felon.

BROWN: He remains active in OAR and we must "shine the light of the press" on this issue.

JACKSON: He said he has first-hand experience in this issue. He said his credibility has been called into question because of his criminal background. He knows someone who was denied by the governor restoration of voting rights. He asked rhtorically is voting is a right ot privilege. He thought that after 5 years your right to vote should automatically be reinstated.

REINICKE: Her husband works at the Joint Security Complex Regional Jail on Avon Street Extended south of the city limits. He helps inmates find jobs while in jail (work release) and upon release.

Question 11: Have you been on a ride-along with police? Have you been involved with the "stop and swab" program? Are you a member of the NAACP? (James Cane, officer of NAACP)

HAMILTON: No, lots of questions, No.

HIGH: Yes, Yes but favors only one swabbing, No.

LYNCH: Yes several times, "the line was crossed," No. The car decal money for the 5 new police officers acyually went into police overtime.

BROWN: Yes, not involved, No.

JACKSON: No, he would have given the swab, No.

REINICKE: Yes, need to regulate use of DNA, No.

Question 12: Given that wages are not comparable with cost of living and the disparity between the haves and have-nots, how would you monitor hiring and retention of minorities? (Cindy Mindy of Ridge Street)

HAMILTON: There is a lack of professional jobs for African Americans.

HIGH: If qualified, you should get the job.

LYNCH: Longtime city policy to have a diverse pool of candidates to consider for an opening.

BROWN: (reporter distracted again)



Question 13: The police department has spent $10,000 at $50 each on DNA testing of black men. How can you prove your innocence? The mayor has said that Police Chief Longo is out of line with the community in the DNA racial profiling controversy. It is fairly obvious that Charlottesville is one of the worst places in the nation for African Americans. (Raymond Mason)

HAMILTON: It's a scandal we have only one African-American landmark. "Our story has not been told."

HIGH: The issues are all interconnected.

LYNCH: The boundary was overstepped with respect to "reasonable suspicion."

BROWN: By coaching low-income kids from Garrett Square (Friendship Court), he has seen discrimination he might not have otherwise seen.

JACKSON: He has seen other blacks become successful. There are role models. He wants equal treatment. Blacks have to use the laws that whites use, "play the game they play." We can't let our society by based on race. Because of gentrification, he has seen "our neighborhoods destroyed."

REINICKE: DNA used to be $600 a test, now only $50 per. DNA should never be used to prove innocence, unless you've already been convicted.

Charlottesville Schools' Superintendent Resigns
(WTJU 91.1FM News, April 22, 2005)

Last night the Charlottesville School Board accepted the resignation of Charlottesville School Superintendent, Dr. Scottie Griffin. Dean of African American Affairs at the University of Virginia, Dr. Rick Turner, says this is "a sad day in the Charlottesville community...sad for the African American community and for the children." In 2004, the Charlottesville City School Board appointed Dr. Griffin... formerly of the New Orleans school system... to the superintendent position replacing the retiring Ron Hutchinson.

Turner says he is "wounded" by the series of events culminating in Griffin's resignation... Turner says he believes Griffin "was doomed before she arrived." Turner also says a "racial conspiracy" exists within Charlottesville. He says the city is in "denial about race..." and goes on to compare the state of the African American community within Charlottesville to that of a "slave-like condition...[where the African American community] protects the master at all costs." Turner is "ashamed of black leaders" not rallying to support Griffin and dispel the "lies, innuendos, and rumors." Turner says "any competent African American man or woman [is] no protected or respected" within conditions like that found in Charlottesville. Turner says of last night "a contemporary lynching" took place.

Mayor David Brown says he has confidence in the school board and supports them in accepting Griffin's resignation. Brown say... "It has been hard this year for the teachers and staff with the turmoil."

Brown calls for the focus once again to concentrate on the education of Charlottesville's children. When asked if the School Board, currently appointed by the City Council, might be popularly elected... Brown says, "Nothing calls for an elective school Board."

Dr. Rick Turner says the City Council selecting School Boards members is problematic. Turner says "the City Council is selecting an incompetent School Board..."

Turner will read a prepared statement at the next School Board meeting on May 5. The May 5 School Board meeting will be held at Charlottesville High School in the Media Center.

UVa to announce interim dean within week
(By Aaron Kessler, Daily Progress staff writer, July 28, 2006)

The University of Virginia will be ready to announce an interim successor to M. Rick Turner within a week, and possibly sooner, officials say.

Turner, 65, the former dean of African-American affairs at UVa, announced his retirement Wednesday, 13 days after signing a pretrial felony diversion agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office admitting to making false statements to investigators about a “known drug dealer.” UVa placed Turner on administrative leave the following day, July 14, which coincided with the agreement being filed in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. University spokeswoman Carol Wood said UVa officials are looking to quickly fill the post with a candidate who can “create some stability in the office,” particularly because the start of the academic year is approaching.

“The goal is to make sure that the students and staff are feeling comfortable,” Wood said.

Associate dean Sylvia Terry has been serving as “acting” dean in Turner’s sudden absence. But Wood said Patricia Lampkin, UVa vice president for student affairs, is preparing to name a full-time interim dean who can lead the office of African-American affairs, for what could be months, until a permanent replacement is named.

“That will give [Lampkin] time to consider the next step,” Wood said.

Turner will remain on administrative leave until his retirement takes effect Monday. He is also president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville chapter of the NAACP and will continue to serve at least until his term ends in September.

Alvin Edwards, chairman of the Charlottesville School Board, said he believes Terry is doing a good job keeping things running at UVa and that she could be a good candidate to fill the slot on an interim basis. Edwards, who said he has not spoken with UVa officials about the matter, noted that what’s most important is for the office to avoid losing its footing and to keep the students in mind.

“For me, when there is a low, a gap, you have to keep going,” Edwards said. “You cannot stop, because if you do you sink into despair. You have to keep the focus on the students. The focus needs to be the future.”

Edwards thinks the relationship between the university and the African-American community as a whole in Charlottesville has been “evolving and growing,” and that education needs to be paramount for things to move in a positive direction.

“It was Rick Turner himself, actually, that reminded us years ago that not one student from CHS [Charlottesville High School] was attending UVa,” Edwards said. “Hopefully we’ve improved that relationship since then.”

But Turner has also been a somewhat polarizing figure, known for his heated rhetoric when it came to matters of race. His outspoken nature at public meetings is almost legendary. And last year, the Charlottesville school system itself bore the brunt of his criticism, with Turner accusing opponents of embattled former superintendent Scottie Griffin of being racists.

“She’s being dragged through the mud because she’s black and female,” Turner said during his 2005 “State of African-American Affairs” speech.

Edwards, though, said he bears no ill will toward Turner.

“Whenever anybody is down, I always try to support them,” Edwards said. “I don’t add to what they are going through.”

Turner’s agreement with government prosecutors requires him to complete 12 months of probation and to testify truthfully in any future court hearings if called as a witness. In return, the federal attorneys will not bring charges against Turner for what they allege were his false statements about his “knowledge of the activities of a known drug dealer.”

Federal officials have so far declined to name the drug dealer in question.

Dean Turner's legacy of divisiveness
Opinion, Saturday, August 19, 2006 Cavalier Daily

Karen S. Ramirez, Guest Column

Former Dean of African-American Affairs, M. Rick Turner, as usual, got a free pass from the University of Virginia, which has closed the investigation into his agreement to testify for the U.S. Attorney's office after he acknowledged his role in a drug case. Turner retires with all hands at the University publicly lauding his tenure and the high graduation rate of Afro-American University students. There are glowing references to his service to the community.

I would like to offer a somewhat different perspective. I matriculated at the University in 1976. I became a member of and active with the Black Student Alliance, participating in a sit-in in the University President's office and various protest marches.

I graduated from the University in 1981 with a major in Religious Studies and have remained in Charlottesville. During the mid-eighties, I was a journalist here, often covering University matters for WINA radio. I then obtained a registered nurse license and have worked in a number of settings, including local school districts, teaching LPNs, and the University Health Sciences Center. I have continued to observe and read about my alma mater. I currently have a 13 year-old son who has attended Jackson-Via and Walker Schools.

M. Rick Turner is neither a scholar nor a gentleman. His syllabus and coursework for SOC 410 is a disgrace, requiring three books and essentially asking students to parrot his own views. In June, he shared the podium with three other speakers at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, all of whom were notable academically and in positions of serious responsibility. I include the University of Virginia's own William B. Harvey, Ph.D, who has a record with some bones and meat in it. Turner's CV is noticeably bereft of any true scholarship but puffed up with self aggrandizing listings of accomplishments.

The trail of enmity, bitterness and discord he left in the Charlottesville School System is something that it will take our school community a while to recover from. But that process began as soon as the Scottie Griffin matter was resolved and Rick Turner was no longer a fixture at meetings. When the "hot story" left, so did Turner. Rebuilding trust between parents will continue the way it always has, with moms and dads working quietly at PTO fundraisers and as school volunteers for the mutual good of their children. If you want to see actual work done by African American professionals for our children of all colors, look no further than the many fine teachers, guidance counselors, school nurses, custodians, coaches, school cafeteria workers, and administrators and administrative assistants working for all our children in the Charlottesville system. In particular I would mention Valeta Paige, past principal of Jackson-Via and now in the central office. Turner, unfortunately, whose children are grown, was one of the most ill-mannered, hateful people I have ever seen at Charlottesville school board meetings. It is a shame he wasn't just asked to leave some of the meetings for rudeness and racist remarks. The meetings would have been shorter and far more civil.

I hate to think how much money the University is going to waste buying Turner off with his retirement package. The more things change, the more they stay the same. My alma mater is like an errant child who will never take responsibility for its own problems. For thirty years I have watched administrators close their eyes, cross their fingers, and count on the lack of focus of the public and local news media to shirk responsibility for messes made in house. I don't hold out much hope of Turner growing up. I will continue to hope that my alma mater will. Maybe William Harvey and Sylvia Terry, relieved of babysitting Turner, will actually be able to accomplish some of this.

My hope for Turner is that he live long and prosper, but hopefully he will do so in his old haunts in Connecticut and California. There were African-American carpetbaggers during Reconstruction, and there were white civil rights workers who died in the sixties. Turner's world view is too narrow and polemical to acknowledge either of those facts in any meaningful way. He will continue his life long pattern (even illuminated in the Albemarle Magazine puff piece profile of him) of leaving his mess for others to clean up. May he only come back to Virginia to testify for the U.S. attorney's office in Roanoke.

Karen S. Ramirez graduated from the School of Arts & Sciences in 1976. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Arin Sime for Va Senate

I first met Arin Sime on February 15, 2005, at a forum he hosted as chairman of the Jefferson Area Libertarians, a student group at UVA's Maury Hall. Steven Anderson of the Institute for Justice spoke about the Kelo v. New London, CT case a week before the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments.

A true leader is seldom identified by his actions alone, but by how much the world changes because of his actions. Because of Sime, JAL is much stronger and libertarian solutions are more relevant than ever.

It’s time for Sime! www.arinsime.com

UVa alumnus talks about eminent domain
(Charlottesville Independent Media, February 16, 2005)

"Government should get out of the land business" -- Steven Anderson, attorney

The day after Valentine's and a week before the issue goes before the Supreme Court, an attorney for the Institute for Justice came to Charlottesville to talk about eminent domain abuse. Steven Anderson is a UVa alumnus and coordinator of the Castle Coalition. And about 30 people were in attendance.

Anderson's speech focused on the 'public use' requirement of eminent domain, with a brief discussion of 'just compensation' issues.

He said eminent domain is a "sovereign power" that predates the Constitution. The king could take land for any or no reason. The Constitution limits this "despotic power," as the Supreme Court described it two hundred years ago.

He said there were 3 main exceptions to the public use restriction against private transfer of property:

- Public necessity of extreme sort, such as canals and railroad
- Government retains strict control, such as utilities, power, water
- Facts of independent public sigificance

This third group of exceptions includes urban renewal, which the Supreme Court ruled Constitutional in the 1954 Bermam v. Parker case in southwest Washington, D.C. At the time, cities were thought of as organisms with diseased or blighted parts. Justifications for blight removal were health, safety, and morals. In southwest D.C. there was an outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease. The approach to blight was not piecemeal. You could tear down a nice house next to a blighted house. But southwest D.C. is no better today than it was 50 years ago.

Anderson went on to say that the tide of eminent domain for private purposes may be turning. Last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned its own 1981 decision to allow a neighborhood be cleared for a General Motors auto plant. This was the first case where economic development and increased tax revenue justified eminent domain for purely private use. This project also fell short of its promises. The Michigan court reversed itself in an 8-0 ruling. ("Michigan Supreme Court rules: Economic development is not eminent domain", Aug 2 2004)

Before the U.S. Supreme Court next Tuesday at 10am, attorneys for 7 people who own 15 properties in New London, Connecticut, will argue that their land should not be transferred to a "10,000 pound gorilla," Pfizer Pharmaceutical who has been thinking about moving their headquarters here since 1988. The locality is bound by the public use guarantee through the 14th Amendment of equal protection.

The attorneys will argue this seizure does not fit the 3 exceptions, continued Anderson. In this case, there is no pretense of blight. Since the city has no control over any aspect of the development and no recourse if developer's promises are not kept, the "lack of certainty" means it is not a public use taking. The attorneys will also argue that the compensation is not just. There are other losses such as memories, physical stress, relocation expenses, new mortgages because the compensation is not enough to maintain the standard of living. People have suffered illnesses and even died while condemnation negotiations have dragged on.

Anderson further said that, if the high court rules in favor of the city of New London, every property in the country is at risk. The people most at risk are "overwhelmingly minority and elderly." Friend of the court briefs have been filed by the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership founded by Martin Luther King Jr., the AARP, Rutherford Institute, farm bureaus, and others.

He listed a few "bogus blight designations." In one area, a house over 40 years old was defined as blighted. The White House would qualify. In Lakewood Ohio, the story on 60 Minutes Sep 28 2003 and replayed July 4 2004, a house was blighted if it didn't have an attached garage. Since then, a referendum has rejected the blight designation and the mayor was voted out of office. In Norwood, Ohio, the neighbors, who sold out early thinking no one would fight, have directed anger at the few holdouts against a shopping mall expansion. The true anger is at the worse financial situation they now find themselves in, having to take out second mortgages to sustain a lower standard of living.

He reported that "clear cutting" is widespread in Philadelphia and Camden just across the river. In Riviera Beach, Florida, the city wants to transfer 1,700 acres where 5,100 people live. The Southwest Illinois Development Authority rented out its eminent domain power. You could pay them to take someone's land for you and the agency even used the words "private use."

In his final remarks before the question period, Anderson said "government should get out of the land business."

I asked, if the court rules in favor of property rights, what happens to land seized 30 or 40 years ago, that remains open space. Still nobody wants to buy the property because of the intense controversy. Anderson said it's too late. The court's decision will not undo what's already happened. There would have to be legislation to have the land returned to its rightful owners.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Council forum: Welfare State on Steroids

From Left: Sean Tubbs, Neil Williamson, Peter Kleeman, Holly Edwards, Satyendra Huja, Babara Haskins, David Brown

Charlottesville, Va.—Three Democrats and two independents refined their positions Wednesday evening Oct. 3 in City Hall Council Chambers. On Nov. 6 Charlottesville voters will elect local offices for the first time and from now on in November of odd years. Previously city elections had been held in May of even years.

One of the independents is Barbara Haskins, a psychiatrist at Western State Hospital since 1987. So this report demands a psychoanalysis of the body politic. How do we reconcile thought and behavior? If doing the same thing and expecting a different result is insanity, what sane person will you write in? (Full disclosure: I filed a complaint against Western State in 2000, documented below.)

Charlottesville Tomorrow has an excellent report of the questions and answers, as well as the video you can view to form your own conclusions.

Haskins describes herself as a taxpayer. But she doesn’t pay taxes. How can this be, you ask?

Haskins works at a state mental hospital and is paid from taxes. When she pays real estate tax, she uses someone else’s tax money. Every time she pays taxes, there’s less money in the treasury. Regardless of how much tax on her pay stub, her paycheck drains the treasury. She’s a welfare psychiatrist, a tough truth to live with.

What would you call this psychological condition? Cognitive dissonance? Believing fantasy poses no danger in itself and should be considered a neurosis. But allowing people who are disconnected from reality to make important decisions may not be wise.

Haskins wants to disband the City Council. Come on, man, she didn’t say that. Are you sure?

She’s been talking about merger, reversion, revenue sharing. The purpose of each action is to make someone else pay more of the city government’s expenses. She wants to revisit revenue sharing, not because it’s an invalid contract, but to pressure the county to pay more. In a reversion, the city would become a town funded and controlled by the county. In a merger, there would be a new government to replace and unify the city and county.

Is this a psychosis or neurosis? It’s suicide. So it’s definitely a psychosis you could rationalize. For people there is a will to live. In politics there is a desire that the political subdivision (town, city, county, state, nation) continue to exist. Given the city’s record on civil rights, its dissolution would bring many benefits to city and suburban residents alike. The liberty of people would outweigh any desire for political stability, when status quo becomes intolerable.

It’s not unusual that people become frustrated and want to give up. The talk of reversion and revenue sharing comes up every decade or two and reflects nostalgia for the good old days that justified the town becoming a city in 1888. There was talk in the 1990s until millions of dollars in revenue were found in a clerical error. It seems like only last year the city magically found $9 million that had been overlooked. Both times the surpluses were spent immediately.

In 1970 problems were so bad there was a merger referendum. The city had cleared Vinegar Hill 1963-64. 1963 was the controversial annexation of newly built Barracks Road Shopping Center. 1967 was the triple referendum approving a larger urban renewal scheme for Garrett, South First, and backyards of Ridge Street. In 1970 court battles were beginning and HUD approved a $3 million grant. And Vinegar Hill was vacant space surrounded by four schools (Lane, McGuffey, Midway, Jefferson).

The 1970 merger referendum was defeated 2 to 1 in the city and 4 to 1 in the county. For county residents, annexation threatened a desire for stability, that the government continue to exist. But if you move to the county and wake up in the city, you now have to deal with a new government or move back to the county or beyond the reach of annexation. If you wanted to live in the city, why would you move to the county? In 1982 the city and county agreed to revenue sharing, 10% of county real estate tax to the city for not annexing. Subsequently annexation became illegal in Virginia.

In light of this background, it makes sense that Haskins would mention public housing in connection with reversion. Otherwise the two are not related, except the county would likely dismantle public housing and correct this historic injustice. But she makes it sound like the city is the victim instead of the victimizer. What’s a good name for this syndrome? Reverse Patty Hearst syndrome, where the kidnapper identifies himself as the abducted?

“WHY BUY THE COW WHEN THE MILK IS FREE? “ by Barbara Haskins, July 7, 2007

I don’t mean to pick on Haskins. But I would be negligent if I omitted that she favors Community Land Trust real estate scams. The programs, favored by the government and its nonprofit (tax-exempt) agencies, claim to sell you a house but a nonprofit corporation actually owns the land. To participate the home buyer would have to give up his due process rights of ownership. The corporation, not a court of law, would set the rules where you could be evicted.

Typically there’s a 99-year lease and you give up the right to set the price when you decide to sell. You’d have to move the house or sell it to the landlord at his price. If there’s a real estate bubble, you wouldn’t be able to cash in because the trust needs to keep the homes affordable. As long as you live here, you will have fewer property rights than those who own their homes 100%.

The own/rent scheme preys on those unaware of the many rights they give up to live at an affordable price. Among the questions raised, it’s unclear whether banks will want to give mortgages to renters, even if you call those renters homeowners (“Affordable housing model considered” by Jeremy Borden, Sep. 23, 2007, The Daily Progress).

The Daily Progress editorial page editor Anita Shelburne has endorsed the fraudulent scheme (“Strategy for housing costs”, Sep. 25, 2007). On the same page, Kenneth Jackson, who ran for city council 2004, made a plea to the black population. “We must regain our historical pride and rekindle the dream” (Fight crime by building dreams”). Back then blacks weren't on welfare. Nobody is proud if they’re on welfare. Dependency and limitation of rights are forms of slavery. And nobody’s American dream is to own a home sort-of or own a house partially.

Property rights opponent Richard Collins also supports the trade-off between affordability and civic pride ("Letters to the Editor: Blair Hawkins Comments on Rich Collins' Community Land Trust Idea", May 11, 2005).

Barbara Haskins Campaign Blog

Peter Kleeman is the other independent. He sought the Democratic nomination in 2000. He has continued to speak out at Council meetings and serves on a transportation committee. He was a political commentator for The Hook until his latest bid for Council.

Since the failed nomination Kleeman has watched a 7-year campaign to expose eminent domain abuse specific to Charlottesville unfold before his very eyes. The campaign reached a milestone April 4 of this year when the governor signed eminent domain reforms into law. This blog is the current incarnation of that campaign.

Yet I can’t say with certainty what is Kleeman’s position on eminent domain. I assume he would agree with the statewide reforms and stand idly by while those laws are broken and rights are violated. The closest article I can find on his campaign blog is “Council Asked to Grant VDOT a 22 Acre Construction Easment for $1.00”, Jul. 9, 2007, Kleeman for Council.

What would you call this syndrome, where you condemn an act and do nothing to stop it? Apathy? Hypocrisy? We’re all guilty to some degree. I don’t expect every candidate to be an expert on everything. But they should be well informed on the 2 or 3 dominating issues. Transportation and taxes are dominating. Real estate seems pretty important.

Peter Kleeman’s Campaign Website

Satyendra Huja is the Democrat who received the most votes (304) at the June convention.

“During the 1960s, city planners and developers bulldozed hundreds of predominately African-American communities across the nation to make way for freeways, public buildings and private development. Such projects were grouped under the name “urban renewal,” though they displaced thousands of citizens nationwide. Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill was one of those communities.” ("Urban renewal start of chaos for displaced: Vinegar Hill razing 'still plagues us'" by Scott Weaver, Oct. 5, 2007, C-ville Weekly

Huja was one of those city planners. He has denied his involvement by invoking the Vinegar Hill myth: that the city’s first urban renewal project was the city’s only such project. When Huja became city planner in 1973, the city was involved in “Garrett Street urban renewal”, four times larger and more controversial than Vinegar Hill, with the Luxury Gleason Condos approved late last year being the latest redevelopment project in this zone.

Huja has claimed cultural and historic preservation as one of his accomplishments. Yet he has not made available any piece of history he has preserved. While he lists Midway Manor subsidized elderly housing as an accomplishment, he didn’t preserve any history of Midway School sacrificed for the displacement housing. That omission contributes to the myth that the open space across from the Lewis and Clark Statue has always been open space and not the city’s high school.

Stayendra Huja’s Campaign Website

Holly Edwards came in second at the Democratic convention. She’s a nurse at Westhaven public housing clinic, among other involvements. She wants to connect those in public housing to available services and expand dependency. She, like her colleagues, wants to help those drowning by throwing them a lifesaver so they can tread water at the edge of drowning. Why don’t they have a plan to lift people to dry land? Affordable housing that’s not market rate? Housing without property rights? True help is when you improve a person’s condition, not facilitate the problems you aim to fix.

Holly Edwards Campaign Website

Mayor David Brown came in third place at the convention. He was elected May 2004. Just days after the Kelo decision of June 23, 2005, he said in the newspaper he couldn’t imagine the city using eminent domain. In Jan. 2005 I sent all the councilors an email asking for help getting access to the city’s urban renewal archives. Blake Caravati and Rob Schilling responded but did nothing.

On the day of the Kelo decision, I was interviewed by Council for the last appointed school board in history, the first and last such interview open to the public. While I wasn’t appointed, I cited my eminent domain campaign as evidence that I can follow an issue over the long term. So several days later, Brown should have been aware of the magnitude of eminent domain in Charlottesville.

On Nov. 21, 2005 Brown voted to redefine affordable housing in city charter amendment Sec. 50.7 to add eminent domain, a definition closer to public housing. But the eminent domain language was removed by a state Senate committee before the scaled-down tax rebate for qualified homeowners passed.

Nov. 20, 2006, Brown, along with the other four councilors, refused to release the urban renewal archives held by then assistant city manager Rochell Small-Toney. The same night, Brown threatened to use eminent domain to seize 610 Ridge Street but later backed down.

At the June Democratic convention Brown cited as an accomplishment that the Council is now providing a direct funding stream to its urban renewal agency. In recent years the Redevelopment and Housing Authority has seen federal funding decline as the national conscience becomes more aware that eminent domain for redevelopment and public housing are criminal enterprises and violation of civil rights.

David Brown’s Blog

This winter my attention will turn to the Carter G. Woodson Institute at UVA. Before taking a job in Savannah, Georgia, Small-Toney donated the archives which, along with a separate donation of real estate assessment records, total 6,845 physical documents, relics of history. I’m now estimating more than a thousand properties that comprise urban renewal.

That number could be even larger and might explain why Councilor Julian Taliaferro has claimed that public perception is greater than reality…because reality is far greater than the myth of Vinegar Hill standing alone. No one has ever done a study of the magnitude of urban renewal in Charlottesville.

“Doing the Right Thing” Award

“Mr. Hunter Deeley, a University of Virginia student, invited Council and the public to a Mid-Autumn Carnival on September 15 in Madison Bowl. He said the purpose of the carnival is to integrate the Charlottesville and University communities.” (“Council Minutes Sep. 4, 2007” by Jeanne Cox, approved by Council)

What the Minutes does not record is that this group announced they will no longer donate funds to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing authority as they've done in the past, but will continue donating to an African charity. Deeley said a suitable local charity will be determined at a future date.

“In Memory of Emily Couric: Region Ten, Western State expose”, Nov. 19, 2001, The Witness Report

State Senator Emily Couric succumbed to cancer of the pancreas October 18. She will be missed.
I spoke with her on WINA radio talk show Feb. 10. The topic was how to resolve the budget with the car tax cut.

I proposed that agencies violating law should not be funded. Two examples might be Region Ten and Western State Hospital.

A special election to fill the 25th state senate seat will be Dec. 18. I believe the late senator would want the story passed on to her successor, Creigh Deeds (D) or Jane Maddux (R).

The documentation takes the form of letters I wrote on behalf of a close friend.

Richmond Times Dispatch
August 12, 2000

The purpose of this letter is to inform the public that a citizen of Virginia is being held in the criminal unit of Western State Hospital without bail, without conviction, indefinitely, in secret, without visitation rights.

Nicholas Shannon is accused of public intoxication and assault on two police officers during his arrest at [Blue Ridge Brewery now Starr Hill on West Main] on November 12 [1999]. The officers suffered no injuries.

This is his first offense. He was held for 12 days after the arrest until I raised 125 dollars to pay a bondsman. He remains in custody since July 7 when he appeared in court for trial. The judge ruled he was incompetent to stand trial. His family has reappeared to make all his decisions. He is 38 years old.

I wrote a letter to the court and to the Inspector General through Delegate Van Yahres. I called the office of Senator Emily Couric. There has been no response. The patient rights advocates are not helpful.

Will Governor Gilmore reassure Virginians that gays have the same rights as heterosexuals? Will the governor travel to Western State to inspect Mr. Shannon’s physical health and safety?
Turns out that two nurses violated state law by restricting a patient’s visitors. A patient advocate said my complaint was not reason enough to ask nurse Leslie Gordon her side of the story.

A week after Nicholas was released and sentenced to eleven weeks time served and two years supervised probation, a patient tried to choke nurse Gordon on Sep. 22, 2000 (WKDW AM-900 Staunton).

After seven visits in three weeks Dec. 1999, Region Ten gave Nicholas medication but refused the homeless man admission in a halfway house with a known vacancy. The following month, Region Ten did not know the psychological condition they were medicating.

A UVA graduate, Nicholas now lives in Alexandria. His restrictions of liberty expire September 14, 2002.

— Blair Hawkins, Editor

All 19 pages of The Witness Report pamphlet

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Columbia U. psychiatrist talks urban renewal at UVA

History of the Health Sciences Lecture Series 2007/08


3 October 2007, Wednesday, 12:30-1:30 pm

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York NY;
M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., Family Medicine and Center on Health Disparities, UVA;
Maurice D. Cox, B.Arch., Architecture, UVA, and Charlottesville City Council

Urban renewal projects in the 1950s-1970s bulldozed entire districts and traumatically displaced hundreds of African American communities. The residents of these areas experienced “root shock” from the destruction of their physical and emotional ecosystems. With this perspective on urban renewal, including projects like Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill, what can we learn about the health status of urban African Americans and the health of our cities and neighborhoods?

Issue #19.41 :: 10/05/2007 - 10/11/2007
Urban renewal start of chaos for displaced: Vinegar Hill razing "still plagues us'
BY SCOTT WEAVER, C-ville Weekly

During the 1960s, city planners and developers bulldozed hundreds of predominately African-American communities across the nation to make way for freeways, public buildings and private development. Such projects were grouped under the name “urban renewal,” though they displaced thousands of citizens nationwide. Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill was one of those communities.

Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, spoke at the UVA School of Medicine on October 3 about the physical and emotional impact of these projects on the people displaced. She called it “Root Shock,” the destruction of one’s known world. Maurice Cox, associate professor of architecture and former mayor and, as was announced at press time, new Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts, spoke following Fullilove.

“Urban renewal echoes and reverberates” into the present, said Fullilove in her presentation. “Our cities are fractured. They’re not full of cancer. Metaphors of cancer and blight have been horrible metaphors to work with.”

In the mid ‘60s, the 20-acre area of Vinegar Hill was razed, displacing families and dozens of businesses. Much of that community was moved to public housing in Westhaven, located in a little-accessible nook between 10th and West Main streets. “The loss of memory and identification still plagues us,” Cox said to the crowd of UVA students. [...]

Meanwhile, what was once the center of Charlottesville’s African-American community is currently awaiting the construction of a nine-story condo that City Council approved last month. While the city will receive $300,000 in proffers for affordable housing from the developers, Cox says the city missed the opportunity to integrate a wide range of affordable housing. [...]

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Maurice Cox, advocate for urban renewal (Courtesy C-ville Weekly)

Maurice Cox served on City Council 1996-2004. He was present when I delivered my first speech on urban renewal June 5, 2000, the night of the hearing to name the 9th/10th Connector after Sally Hemings. But Cox took no action, not even a symbolic statement of condemnation of urban renewal. In 2003 he lent his support to sell the Levy Avenue consolidated parcel, now a parking lot, property stolen three decades ago that the Housing Authority has been unable to unload ("Levy Avenue Design Workshop," Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association Newsletter, Summer 2003).

Levy Avenue rents for $1 a year.

"While the city will receive $300,000 in proffers for affordable housing..." This is a false statement made by Scott Weaver. The donation was for urban renewal and to be given to the Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The money could fund redevelopment of parking lots or public housing.

In November 2005 City Council passed a city charter amendment to redefine affordable housing to add eminent domain to seize private property for use by third parties, which is a felony. A Virginia Senate committee blocked the amendment until the Unconstitutional powers were removed. The donation is actually for gentrification because there's less affordable housing now than when the urban renewal agency was established 1954.

The letter that stopped Charlottesville's affordable housing amendment, Jan. 5, 2006

New report on eminent domain and African-Americans: urban renewal display Feb 24

"Between 1949 and 1973 … 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African American,” making blacks “five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population."

“Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful,” concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her report titled, “Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?”

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which examine the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts.

Read the full 10-page report.

In the endnotes, the author cites a Roanoke newspaper article as an example of sources that have estimated the one million figure for the urban renewal diaspora from 1949-1973. This number does not include people displaced by eminent domain for other purposes or since 1973. "Street by Street, Block by Block: How Urban Renewal Uprooted Black Roanoke" by Mary Bishop, The Roanoke Times, Jan 29, 1995 [...]