Monday, August 20, 2012

Update on Water Plan, Human Rights Commission

Tom Frederick, Executive Director of Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority since 2004.

Charlottesville, Va. – Construction of the new dam is proceeding. Bonds to finance the project have been validated by the Virginia Supreme Court. Granular-Activated Carbon and chlorine will disinfect the water. Chloramines (bleach + ammonia) are off the table. Three bids to dredge portions of the Rivanna reservoir were narrowed down to one for $3.5 million.

Executive Director since 2004 Tom Frederick presented a quarterly report to City Council after City Manager Maurice Jones called him a few weeks ago for an update. The two Councilors, who have opposed the 2006 water plan now moving forward, asked the most questions.

Dede Smith waded into the details. But Frederick said changing the coagulant would present higher costs and require more adjustments. The point of chlorination, waste water treatment plants, are fixed. When the new 42-foot dam is built at Ragged Mountain, it will be filled in stages with triggers as laid out in the cost share agreement and property use agreement.

Dave Norris was most interested in how construction was affecting the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. Frederick didn’t know the acreage already impacted. Norris asked if it’s okay for people to come out and take pictures. Frederick said no because of safety. Norris wants someone to take photos periodically to update the public.

Both Smith and Norris questioned why two of the three dredging bids were deemed as not qualified. Frederick said they did not meet the specific requirements. Smith complained the bids only addressed a small portion the reservoir.

Frederick said he couldn’t talk about it and was "bound" by confidentiality. They talked about the different processes available for selection of a bid, such as the Virginia procurement system. Putting out a new RFP does not guarantee cheaper bids.

Frederick updated the mitigation plan. Trees have been planted along Buck Mountain Creek and some creek restoration. They’re now working on the Franklin Street site for stream buffer along Moores Creek. Frederick invited people of all ages to visit and see how a stream buffer works.

Frederick said the controversial Woolen Mills treatment plant is in the “preliminary engineering” stage. Once RWSA staff have edited the engineering report, it will be made available to Council and the public in September. In October a five-member committee will evaluate the options. Public comments can also be left at the Rivanna website.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was formed 1973 to address waste water from Crozet discharged downstream into the new Rivanna reservoir since 1966. For grant money, the city and county partnered to bring waste to the Woolen Mills neighborhood for treatment and discharge back into the Rivanna. Sewage comes from as far away as Crozet and Forest Lakes to the Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is no longer big enough, hence the new controversial treatment plant nearby.

After the worst drought on record in 1977, the Rivanna agency acquired through eminent domain land for the Buck Mountain reservoir in 1983. Legend has it that the endangered James River Spiny Mussel thwarted approval of the regulators. In Feb. 2004 the agency still refused to give this land back to its legal owners. Chairman Mike Gaffney declared that the dam might not be built for a hundred years, but the agency was keeping the land as an “insurance policy” against future droughts, a clear abuse of eminent domain.

Following the drought of 2002, the community arrived at the 2006 Water Plan. It calls for more than tripling the volume of the city’s first two reservoirs built 1885 and 1908. Some Buck Mountain property is re-designated as stream buffer, which it is already. In 2007 RWSA wanted to centralize the water and abandon both the Rivanna and Sugar Hollow reservoirs, and the need for dredging. The Ragged Mountain Natural Area has existed only since the 1990s. Before that it was reservoir land purchased a century ago for future expansion.

But public outcry rose up. The water plan was delayed while the city and county argued. Finally in Jan. 2011, and for a third time in six years, after threats the city would take over the project, at least three members of Council approved the original plan.

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

Annexation History Drives Water Agreement, Jan 29, 2012. Includes list of links and coverage since 2002, graphic of 2006 water plan, Buck Mountain land RWSA claims to own.

22-item, 241-page Council Agenda with Background Material August 20, 2012. The 1st of 2 readings of the noise ordinance slipped through as one of 14 Consent Agenda items passed in single vote. I only watched from about 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Video of City Council August 20, 2012.

Human Rights Task Force

Since the commission was formed in February, how many and what kinds of complaints have there been? “Various areas,” responded committee co-chair Jesse Ellis. All the complaints have been by telephone. "We’re still working on it" and answers will arrive in a December final report, said Ellis.

The question of jurisdiction caused City Manager Maurice Jones to clarify the commission would apply only to Charlottesville’s ten square miles.

Councilor Kristin Szakos was hoping the commission would “make things less contentious…resolution-driven in a less-than-judiciary sort of way.” Szakos wrote a racist letter to the editor in the June 1, 2012 Daily Progress. She should abstain from the final vote, rather than taint the Human Rights Commission.

Councilor Szakos dismisses race violence as conspiracy theory, Jun. 3, 2012.

10-month Study for Human Rights Commission, Feb. 6, 2012.

"On February 6, 2012, at the request of the Charlottesville City Council, the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) was formed with the sole mission to determine if there was a need for a Human Rights Commission in Charlottesville and if so, a recommendation on a model to meet the unique strengths of the City." - Council Agenda with Background Material August 20, 2012.

Video of City Council August 20, 2012.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Meaning of Gay Marriage

An estimated 300 people turned out at the rally in Charlottesville to protest the Marriage Affirmation Act passed by the General Assembly, which goes into effect tomorrow, July 1 [2004].- Gay Rights Rally at Old Lane High, June 30, 2004, Charlottesville Independent Media.

Charlottesville, Va. – Gay marriage means gay families. Banning gay marriage means your gay son or daughter won’t be able to have their own family when they grow up and move away from home. Is that what you really want? Is it a family value to allow only heterosexuals marriage protection from their biological next of kin?

Imagine this scenario: Your spouse gets sick or dies. Your in-laws show up and act as legal next of kin. They say to the judge: “We understand this person has a marriage license with the deceased. But we are next of kin.” And the judge nullifies the marriage contract and the family is not the spouse.

That’s silly. Of course the marriage is a new, separate family with or without children. Each spouse is the sole heir and next of kin. Not really because marrying your next of kin is incest. Marriage is the creation of a family for legal purposes. You pay a fee for the protection from your family and for many other exclusive rights and privileges.

For gay people, that’s a real scenario. Ask the 1983 World Champion Body Builder, Mr. Universe Bob Paris, who came out on the Oprah Winfrey show 1989 and argued this point. No matter the powers of attorney, wills and legal contracts, the biological family can argue the contracts constitute a gay marriage, an attempt to protect a gay from his family, and therefore the judge should nullify the contracts. Paris argued, since he’s unmarried, he was at risk that his hateful family would try to take all he’s worked for at the first opportunity.

The ban on two-person families, except for one man and one woman, perpetuates a double standard, a two-class society based on hate of a particular sexual orientation. Since no one chooses his or her sexual orientation, heterosexuals fear gay marriage will turn everybody gay. For some reason gays don’t fear that heterosexual marriage will turn everybody straight.

Arguments to ban gay marriage

(1) Gays can’t have children. But children are not required for marriage. The requirement is for gays only, classic discrimination.

(2) If we allow gay marriage, we must allow polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, (insert bad thing). This tells us some people equate gay with those bad things. You could equally say allowing heterosexual marriage will cause those bad things. It’s a fact we allow marriage and polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality exist.

(3) Gay sex is disgusting. This one is pure emotion and trumps reason. The opinion is the most honest and doesn’t try to sound reasonable.

(4) Allowing gay marriage will cause everyone to turn gay and that would be the end of human society, thus elevating marriage to the ultimate moral imperative, thus permitting any means necessary to prevent gay marriage. This argument sounds logical and dramatic. The rhetoric creates a climate where crime against gays is encouraged. For example we don’t allow the N-word in order to discourage mistreatment of blacks.

(5) Gays are promiscuous and can’t form lasting relationships anyway. That’s like saying blacks were less intelligent than whites before the Civil War. But really laws prohibited blacks from learning how to read and write. We won’t know if gays can form relationships until all the obstacles are taken down and we can compare gays with heterosexuals on an even playing field.

(6) Being gay is a lifestyle choice. If you’re straight, ask yourself when and why you chose to be attracted to the opposite sex. You have no answer because sexual orientation is not in your mind. It’s in your body. You’re born this way. Like left-handed and right-handed, one side feels more natural although you can force yourself to use the weaker hand. And some people are ambidextrous.

(7) Being gay is a sin. Nowhere does that appear in the Bible. Gay sex is a sin maybe. Then God will deal with it. We should more clearly delineate the duties of government. We can’t allow hate crimes against unmarried family members based on religious freedom. Do we already have Sharia Law by another name?

(8) Gay marriage is unnecessary because gays can enter into other contracts to protect you from your family. Not in Virginia according to the Constitutional amendment passed Nov. 7, 2006 by 57% of the voters. Marriage is defined as one man and one woman. Any legal status, thing or combination of things, that “approximates” marriage (protects you from your family) is prohibited. When equal rights were approved by the voters for blacks, what was the percentage?

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage. - Marshall-Newman Amendment.

Everyday advice

The anti-gay bias isn’t passive. People actively seek you out for identification and unequal treatment. It’s most evident in a series of questions when you make new friends and coworkers. (A) Are you married? (B) Do you have any kids? (C) Have you ever been married? (D) Do you hope to get married some day? If the answers are no, what’s wrong with you? I recommend you lie and make up a girlfriend or boyfriend, as the case may be.

You don’t actually have to be gay to be gay-bashed or discriminated against. The perpetrator need only think you’re gay. What could happen if you’re forced out of the closet? You could lose everything  your job, house, family, friends, and dignity for starters. Sometimes gay joking around can give the onlooker the impression someone is gay. Later the onlooker attacks the suspected gay or his property. In the past attackers have gotten off with the defense the victim was gay and deserved it.

Should you come out to friends and family? It depends. The first thing they’ll say is “Why are you telling me?” But the longer they think you’re straight when you’re not, the more betrayed they will feel when they find out. And the more they will hate you. Besides it’s dishonest to give someone a false impression. It’s none of their business anyway and you must learn not to share with certain people.

My favorite bumper sticker now adorns office doors at the University of Virginia. It’s a giant V emblazoned with rainbow colors and the words “Safe Place.” It’s a reminder of the root issue and how the anti-gay marriage movement strips away family protections for gay people.

Related links with insight

Bob Paris Official Website. Paris won the body building championship 1983 when he was 23, only 4 years after being a homeless teen.

Bob Paris on Wikipedia.

How Many Current Professional Athletes Are Gay? June 4, 2006.

Homosexuality and Sports: A Look at History and the Long Road Ahead, Nov. 21, 2007.

Va. marriage amendment foes gathering momentum, July 7, 2006.
Reprints "A politician on the politics of gay" by Blair Hawkins, May 14, 2003, The Observer. “Like other underprivileged, they are invisible. As a minority, gays are like no other. They are the only people who routinely need protection from their own families. The best way to protect them is to extend the right to form a new family to all people.”

Goode Republicans elect chairman, marriage amendment resolution, Apr. 29, 2008.