Sunday, September 30, 2012

Urban renewal director Dunn takes heat for evictions

Director Connie Dunn and Chairman Dave Norris of the city land redistribution department.

Charlottesville, Va. – On Monday Sep. 24 the Redevelopment and Housing Authority (urban renewal agency) 7-member oversight commission declared a 30-day moratorium on evictions from public housing in response to two dozen angry speakers, recent news coverage of controversial evictions, and a memo from former city council candidate Brandon Collins outlining the new eviction policy.

The latest executive director since April, Connie Dunn stood her ground. Dunn said the agency has had fewer evictions under her tenure than there were last year. Currently there are 17 or 18 units that could be evicted because they have 3 strikes but are not since they are paid up.

The board also approved a Declaration of Trust on Real Estate Assets as required by Housing and Urban Development, which financed urban renewal of Vinegar Hill 1960s and Downtown Extended 1970s. The vote occurred at the end of the 2 ½ hour meeting. Presumably the Authority is using the land seized decades ago as leverage for more money to fund the now-stalled redevelopment planned for the 376 official public housing units, not counting Garrett Square and Blue Ridge Commons.

Analysis – Slaves want dignity on the plantation

Believe it or not, this was the first CRHA meeting I’ve watched from start to finish. The analogy with the plantation is the only way I can make sense of the rest of the meeting.

Imagine the plantation has public comment once a month. So some slaves complain they are treated without dignity when evicted from slave housing. Some threaten race riots and play the race card. And some say how well Master has always treated them. But none demand freedom and independence.

Master is a corporation with a 7-member board who hire an executive director to run the whole plantation. But there are also property managers, eviction prevention officers, maintenance personnel, rules and regulations. The slaves complain constantly that Master’s documentation does not match reality. The slaves say one thing. Master says another.

They complain about living conditions. The elevators at Crescent Halls don’t work. Playgrounds are locked out because they’ve been vandalized and set on fire with gasoline. Mold and mildew are everywhere. Slaves pay a fee when they file a work order to repair the slave quarters.

One lady never calls for service so her unit is falling down around her. They talked of grievances, unlawful entries, “bar-ment” policy to ban individuals from the plantation, lights and cameras because cars and mopeds are being stolen from the parking lot.

Theresa Stinnie warned that frustration and anger have already triggered race riots on West Main at the former Safeway grocery store next to Westhaven public housing “ all because the cry was not heard.” It’s a “generational curse” because Stinnie’s ancestors lived on Vinegar Hill.

To address the problems of slavery, director Dunn said staff will undergo “sensitivity and conflict resolution training.” We need to better clarify the rules and regulations, which forms are for what, who should refer who to who and for what. The bureaucratic mindset and blind obedience to rules were on display while major rules were ignored. The slaves don’t want freedom but rather to better understand the rules so they can live peaceably.

No one mentioned the institution of slavery might be the problem. The plantation staff will always say one thing and do another. The expectation that you should be able to trust the plantation staff, who are benefiting from your enslavement, is bizarre.

Change slavery to urban renewal, and you have the same processes playing out, tenants expecting trust from the staff renting out land stolen for private use under the power of public use. It’s insane to build trust on a foundation of fraud and expect the fraudsters to follow rules but not the law. Unrealistic expectations will always cause frustration and anger.

Video of the Sep. 24, 2012 meeting of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. You have to see for yourself the “vitriol” at these meetings, as described by former Councilor Kendra Hamilton who called for more urban renewal in Jan. 2005.

“Head of housing under fire” by Graham Moomaw, Sep. 30, 2012, The Daily Progress. Latest propaganda piece for Housing Authority.

“The remake: Housing Authority hires new executive director, partners with city on redevelopment” by Graelyn Brashear, Apr. 24 – 30, 2012, Cville Weekly.

Blair’s Blog – More details and discussion of Charlottesville’s urban renewal than any other location.


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