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 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


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