Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ex-Councilors oppose their own water plan

Charlottesville, Va.—Thursday afternoon three former City Councilors, who approved the water plan exactly two years ago, recanted their support for the expansion of Ragged Mountain Reservoir. On Tuesday the plan received a permit from US Army Corps of Engineers, the final step in the approval process.

Rob Schilling, Kendra Hamilton and Kevin Lynch said they had been hoodwinked and not given adequate information about dredging. Given what they know now, they would have voted against the plan.

What they know now is what they knew then. They complained that there was no second opinion on dredging. Didn’t they know two years ago you should get several estimates from different people? When did they learn basic business practices? It begs the question: How many other projects did they pass without due diligent examination?

At the time, Lynch questioned the cost estimates coming from Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. Why didn’t he vote against the plan? Why didn’t he act on his principles when it mattered, when he had the power of elected office behind him? At this point, there’ve been at least three second opinions. They all agree that actual dredging is relatively cheap. The largest dredger in the country, brought into town by the critics, says 75% of the cost is for disposal of sediment after it’s removed from the reservoir.

The three ex-councilors told so many lies during the one-hour Schilling show on WINA that they couldn’t keep a straight face. They laughed and giggled throughout the show. Schilling gave it away when he asked how someone else could tell such a falsehood and keep a straight face. He described the political trio as the Three Musketeers, a fictional group of merry men with swords.

Lynch mentioned the 2002 drought. But during the entire hour, he didn’t have enough time to dispel the myth that 2002 was the worst drought on record. He’s known this fact for six years. On May 19 he said he would have made the correction if he had more time in his speech to Council.

Hamilton said Councilor Holly Edwards had a point Monday when the current Council reaffirmed its unanimous support of the plan Hamilton voted for but now condemns. Edwards said people don’t understand the city manager form of government and how it functions. The current system was adopted following a 1920 referendum. In the early 1900s most cities switched to at-large systems to prevent minorities from being elected to a district or neighborhood. In the at-large system, 51% of the voters choose all the City Councilors (and since Nov. 2005 the elected School Board).

As a city councilor, Hamilton opposed efforts to study the local electoral process. She opposed switching back to any type of district-based elections because minorities would have a greater opportunity to represent the community.

During today’s show Lynch said he could support a directly elected mayor. In his 2000 campaign he supported this. While on Council for 2 terms, he opposed an elected mayor. He and Hamilton also opposed the elected school board. Under an elected mayor, we’d still have the city manager form of government. The mayor would not be the city manager but only set the Council agenda and conduct meetings.

The lies were so obvious and easy to document as untrue that something else must be going on. It’s human nature that we want bad people to say why they’re so bad. You see this in courtroom dramas. But in real life, bad people rarely explain their bad decisions.

What about Blair Hawkins? Isn’t he a flip-flopper? He was a strong advocate for dredging. Now he supports the current plan. Why doesn’t he flip back to dredging now? Because I’m thinking about the community. It’s not my way or the highway. The critics present a false choice.

In the context that the majority had ruled out dredging, expanding Ragged Mountain is a good second choice. It was 2 years ago and it still is. I’m glad to be with the majority for a change.

On Tuesday the Army Corp of Engineers gave federal regulatory approval of the plan. All approvals have been obtained. The 1983 proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir was never fully approved. Some of that seized land will be conserved as stream buffer and wetland mitigation for Ragged Mountain. What happens to suplus land is to be determined.

“Council approves water plan again” Jun. 2, 2008

“School Board to remain at-large” Oct. 3, 2006

“Council may create new commission to update precinct boundaries after ignoring 2 commissions in 2 years” Jan. 17, 2007. Includes “Council Beat: Meredith Richards cameo, Elections report: distrust and disdain” Jan.8, 2005.

Councilor Kendra HAMILTON: Mumbles "Let's get it out of the way" as task force chairman readies to deliver the report.
The most anticipated moment of the meeting was the ward-mayor study. The speech by the task force chairman and Council discussion acted as a counter-balance to the remainder of the 4-hour session. The desire to change the local form of government stems from the perception that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. The task force was commisioned by Council in a 3-1-1 vote (for: Maurice Cox, Meredith Richards, Rob Schilling; against: Blake Caravati; abstain: Kevin Lynch) on Apr 5 2004.
HAMILTON: Would like to raise 2 issues. Who showed up at the meetings? The activist minority or the silent majority? Looking over the sign-in sheets of the meetings, it appears that the participation involved the "usual suspects" that are always vocal.

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

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

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

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

SCHILLING: "Yes, I evidently am."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Council approves water plan again

Charlottesville, Va.—Facing opposition from previous supporters of the plan, the 5-member Council passed the resolution unanimously Monday night to move ahead. The Council originally approved the expansion of Ragged Mountain Reservoir on June 5, 2006.

Well, it depends on the definition of the word “local water plan.” Several speakers argued that we can’t move forward because our plan doesn’t fit the state’s definition of a plan. So, when Judy Mueller of Public Works spoke during water rates discussion in the following agenda item, she coined the new politically correct term “local water project.” When a viewpoint is desperate, they redefine or change the words.

Councilor David Brown voted for the original plan. Also on Council are two long-time officials who dealt with water issues for decades. Satyendra Huja was the city’s urban planner 1973-2004. The water authority was created in 1972 amidst intense controversy. Huja received a Master’s Degree in urban renewal from Michigan State University in 1968. Julian Taliaferro moved here in the 1960s as a fireman and served as fire department chief for decades.

Combined with desperation are hypocrisy and dishonesty among the project’s critics. Kevin Lynch spoke again tonight and sounded like he was just making up stuff. He voted for the 2006 plan about to be implemented. At the last meeting (May 19) Lynch told me that RWSA consultant Gannett Fleming have stopped saying 2002 was the worst drought on record. I spoke right after him to correct another speaker’s assertion. When I sat down Lynch said he would have made the correction if he had enough time. But I didn’t believe him. He’s been challenged on this issue a number of times.

Kendra Hamilton has re-appeared, city councilor 2004-2007. She implored the councilors to “remember your professed ideals.” The links below document her credibility from a civil rights perspective locally. Hamilton said she’s now low-income because she lost her job and is now living on a graduate student’s stipend. Only now water rates matter to her. Karma catches up to everyone eventually.

Hamilton and Lynch will talk about the water on the Schilling show Thursday (I believe) at 1 pm on WINA 1070.

Other critics included Rich Collins, chairman of the Rivanna Water Authority 2001-2003 who didn’t tell any media that 1977 was the worst drought on record. So newspapers filed false reports and the community was misled. Collins implemented water saving measures in 1977 while he served as Housing Authority chairman, the city’s urban renewal agency.

While the critics derided the current council for their apparent deception, they left out their own deceptions and failure to act themselves. Jeff Werner pointed out the personal attacks and rhetorical tricks the opponents have been using. You can hear it in the way they speak.

They’re sarcastic. It’s personal. It’s hyperbole. It’s political theater. To read Hawes Spencer, editor of The Hook, who began covering this debate in a blitz which began only in March, the rhetorical tricks are clear to me, as is the hypocrisy. Talk about the history and say you’re a journalist and imply you actually covered the events you’re reporting.

To his credit, Hawes occasionally discloses that he only now discovered this issue because of the many notable citizens and former politicians. But he leaves out the specific footnotes they’ve left in the local history. I’m used to it. He left me out of his C-ville Weekly coverage of the 2000 city council campaign.

It seems to be the water that’s waking people up to how Council actually operates. It’s a shame one group of shady characters is accusing the other group of being shady. Fortunately the ones making no accusations are now in charge of our water supply.

Relate Links

“Dredging alternative at Citizens forum” May 5, 2008

"The emperor has no water" Hoax, Mar. 16, 2008

“2007: Year of the Non-Drought” Jan. 3, 2008

“50-year Water Plan for 76% more population: Ragged at same phase as Buck Mountain”, Sep. 18, 2007

“Rivanna uncomfortable using Buck Mountain land for Ragged Mountain plan” Nov. 2, 2006

“Council approves Ragged Mountain option: Water for another 50 years” Jun. 6, 2006. Includes Tom Frederick’s report to Council Feb. 7, 2005

All about "The Last Drought," Sep 3 2002

"Drought Perspective," Sep 18 2002 (comparison of droughts 2002, 1977, 1930)
All 23 pages of the 2001-02 pamphlet series, includes much local water history.

“Fifeville historic register nomination marches on” Apr. 2, 2008

“Council refuses to release urban renewal archives: Jefferson School conflict of interest: Blighted House has until Feb 15” Nov. 21, 2006

“Levy Avenue for sale: Eminent domain in your face” Dec. 15, 2006. Includes "Council Beat: Parade of grievances, Housing Authority report" Jan. 19, 2005 in Charlottesville Independent Media. Hamilton calls for more urban renewal. I’m the only media who reported this truth.

“Levy Avenue update: Proof of ownership incomplete” Nov. 15, 2007.

“Hamilton nodded in agreement when Johnson said we should preserve the history. Hamilton is unfriendly to preserving local black history and refused, along with the rest of Council on Nov. 20, 2006, to allow public access to Housing Authority Archives. She pretended not to know about the research effort despite a Jan. 2005 email and numerous newsblog postings that document the unwillingness to cooperate with historic preservation.”

“Va Climatologist Michaels resigns year after ouster attempt” Sep. 26, 2007.

“What a difference a year makes. Last August local blogger Waldo Jaquith and outgoing city councilor Kevin Lynch led a McCarthy-style campaign to have Patrick Michaels fired because Michaels' expert opinion on global warming differed from theirs. But they couldn't say that. So their grounds to have him removed was appearance of a conflict of interest. Michaels' position cannot be refuted. Hence the smear tactics and emotional reasoning. That was not a proud chapter in Charlottesville’s history. So you’ll rarely see mention of this story, except by those few who stood up for intellectual freedom and prevailed. Below are excerpts [and links] from a year ago.”