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


Anonymous Alison Hymes said...

Thank you so much for posting your letter about your friend who was in Western. I have a copy of the Witness in question in my documents but it is very hard to read (was scanned by someone and I forget how I got it) and have been looking for a readable copy for a long time.

10/15/2007 11:25 AM  

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