Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolution 1313: Housing Authority is city agency

“It is not now a question of whether or not you can come to an agreement that everybody would like. The question is whether you will comply with it.” – Speaker identified only as Mr. Fogel.

Charlottesville, Va. – The urban renewal agency meeting December 20 put to rest any question that the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is a city department under the control of City Council, who appoints the 7 commissioners. All 40 acres of CRHA land is city-owned and acquired by condemnation or threat of eminent domain. Until recently the local agency had federal funding exclusively from Housing and Urban Development, but Council now contributes some money as well as all the land.

However today’s newspaper commentary paints a different picture. Current commissioner and chairman 2005 to 2011 Jason Halbert asserts the city and its urban renewal agency are separate. But at the Dec. 20 meeting Halbert agreed to seek guidance from the entity that controls the board – City Council. It’s as if the commentary was written before Dec. 20, or Halbert is clinging to old, discredited propaganda. (“Housing, growth fight poverty, aid economy” by Jason Halbert, Dec. 30, 2012, The Daily Progress)

Current chairman of the board and chairman in 2002, current city councilor, Dave Norris called the non-binding study proposed for Council a “3-month due diligence review period.” He said CRHA is a political subdivision of the City and the separation is an “artificial wall.” The purpose of the study is to improve effective and efficient management of the housing authority. Apparently the authority has not been studied since its creation in 1954.

Commissioner Joy Johnson claimed former Councilor Holly Edwards had planted the seed of separating the redevelopment arm from the public housing authority. Actually the Daily Progress documents in 3 articles a movement in 1977 to split CRHA in just that fashion. Blair’s Blog has documented for several years Edwards’ opposition to publishing the full housing archives, which allows her to present old ideas as new ideas.

As further proof CRHA is the City, Resolution 1313 was brought forth by Allyson Manson-Davies, Deputy City Attorney. The city attorney’s office represents the city, including its public housing department. In 2007, on request for proof of ownership of Levy Avenue, CRHA employee Randy Bickers gave some deeds but held back on the condemned properties. Upon further request, Barbra Ronan of the city’s legal department gave the full information. Bickers later became executive director and resigned only 2 years later.

Two other items were considered in the 40-minute meeting before the board went into closed session to review Executive Director Connie Dunn’s performance since hired in April.

Resolution 1312 is the Barment Policy to ban and un-ban individuals from public housing sites. CRHA/City attorney Davies said the new policy is “essentially the same” as the old policy. For the lowest level of offenses the banishment is changed to 6 months and the middle tier is changed to 2 years and the most serious offenses become 7 years. There is better tracking of changes in the document and a clean edited version.

Identified only as Mr. Fogel, the lone speaker (except for a Brandon Collins cameo) argued that approving the new policy is one thing, but what about the 400 people on the list now? The problem has two parts: offenders are not being notified under Virginia Code 55-248.31.01 and there is much redundant language.

According to Fogel, the most egregious case was a tenant with kids who wouldn’t cooperate with police because he had been abducted. Not cooperating with police should not be a reason to bar someone, said Fogel. Therefore there’s a problem with the current barment list. The commission should not approve the current barment list unless notice is given. To pass it “would violate your oath of office to follow the law” and make the board susceptible to a lawsuit.

The board passed it unanimously and talked about hiring temporary staff to clean up the list. Private housing operates much differently where everyone is barred from trespassing unless given specific permission. Public housing is public property so there’s an expectation of use by the public even though the property is being used as a private residence where city government is the landlord.

Finally the board wanted to appoint 3 members of public housing in the Garrett urban renewal zone to a steering committee for Strategic Investment. But nobody applied. However Commissioner Johnson said she knew of 10 residents who said they might be interested if they knew more about it. With a sense of urgency, the board was willing to approve whoever Public Housing Association of Residents or the neighborhood association nominated to represent Crescent Halls, South First and Sixth Street public housing sites.

Brandon Collins said PHAR;s next meeting is the second Monday in January. Collins asked if Council is waiting for the names. Chairman Norris said “No, no,” the board just wants to get it done. Apparently rushing things through without notice is tradition and policy for the housing authority.

Related Links

Video of Dec. 20, 2012 CRHA Board Meeting.

“Housing, growth fight poverty, aid economy” by Jason Halbert, Dec. 30, 2012, The Daily Progress. Halbert doesn’t list any sources for confirmation of anything he says. The Daily Progress has a higher standard for letter writers than for public officials whose propaganda undergoes no vetting or fact checking.

“Race commission on agenda” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 17, 2012, The Daily Progress.

“Race commission postponed, Dialogue on Race forever” by Blair Hawkins, Dec. 18, 2012. Reports CRHA chairman wants Human Rights Commission to apply to the urban renewal agency.

“Human Rights Commission taking shape” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 19, 2012, The Daily Progress. Does not report CRHA / HRC connection talked about at length during the meeting.

“Housing board mulls overhaul” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 21, 2012, The Daily Progress. Still no mention of Human Rights Commission to have jurisdiction over the housing authority. Moomaw parrots the story line echoed in today’s commentary by Halbert.

Blair Hawkins calls Schilling Show Dec. 21 to warn listeners not to trust Daily Progress reporting particularly this week regarding Housing Authority and its relationship with the Human Rights Commission. "This was a big week for urban renewal."Podcast 12-21-2012 Hour 1 first call.

“Race relations fight continues” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 26, 2012, The Daily Progress. Still no mention of human rights and housing authority in same sentence.

The Daily Progress has a well-documented, decades-long, de facto policy to not report housing authority history even if it's in the Daily Progress archives. So each new article is as if it’s the first article on the subject.

Editorial Page Editor Anita Shelburne practically spelled out the policy in two recent editorials: “CRHA must balance goal, public image” Oct. 4, and “Any CRHA study should be flexible” Dec. 23. Balance the goal of truth-telling with the public image of CRHA. Maybe it’s time to scrutinize the agency but any study should be meaningless.

Editor Anita Shelburne is still opposing the Nov. 6 Property Amendment, which passed with 61% in Charlottesville and 75% statewide. “Loophole may hamper property law” Dec. 19. Shelburne is still talking about public use, which didn’t change much. Just Compensation was the major reform, which Shelburne can’t talk about because this is where the law has its teeth.

“Newspaper confuses Va. Eminent Domain amendment” by Blair Hawkins, Nov. 3, 2012. Exposes as false Editor Shelburne’s daring claim that the Daily Progress has a “decades-long history” of supporting private property rights.

Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority official website contains no history, not even the year the agency was formed (1954).

Housing Authority Blog from May 2009 to October 2011. Comments are closed for all posts. Apparently the blog was the sole effort of Redevelopment Director Amy Kilroy, whose name no longer appears on the official website.

Blog has a history page linking to Historical Society article “A Community in Turmoil: Charlottesville’s Opposition to Public Housing.” The article talks about Vinegar Hill and public school integration. But the article spends most of its words talking about Garrett urban renewal since it was larger and more controversial.

Everything Must Go! June 14, 2011. “[S]ince purchasing the former Walker Garage site [next to Levy Avenue site] last fall, we also inherited a pile of auto repair merchandise that was left behind by the previous owners. This includes things like hydraulic lifts (x5), miscellaneous tools, diagnostic machines, a variety of storage bins and other items of value.”

City of Charlottesville shows 2 items on auction: HVAC filters at $1 and Aluminum Hydraulic Shoring $500 current bid. Why does the City sell surplus property at auction, but not surplus land?

Public Housing Association of Residents blog. Latest post “Barment and Un-Barment Policy Adopted!!!” Dec. 21, 2012.

Official List of Urban Renewal Commissioners/ Abusers of eminent domain.

1. Ms. Sherri Clarke - Resident Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/14
2. Ms. Claudette Green- Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/14
3. Ms. Joy Johnson -Resident Commissioner/Treasurer, Term Expires: 6/30/13
4. Mr. Hosea Mitchell – Chair, Term Expires: 6/30/14
5. Mr. Dave Norris - City Council, Term Expires: 12/31/12
6. Mr. Robert Stevens - Vice Chair, Term Expires: 6/30/13
7. Mr. Keith Woodard- Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/13

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Race commission postponed, Dialogue on Race forever

Charlene Green and Elizabeth Breeden of Dialogue on Race and Brandon Collins in front row.

Charlottesville, Va. – Despite a full chamber enthusiastic for action now, City Council agreed without voting to form a Human Rights Commission with full enforcement powers allowed by state and federal law in late January or February. The 3-year-old Dialogue on Race will likely be institutionalized and re-organized as part of the commission.

One commissioner engaged in grandstanding to assert racism because the school placed her son in an all black class. But it was a class of all black boys. Black girls are not segregated to keep fellow students safe because girls are not acting up as routinely as black boys. Other speakers brought up the idea that non-racial, substantive issues are being ignored.

The enforcement powers mean a commissioner hears the complaint and decides if it’s illegal discrimination, talks to the accused employer (for example), brings the two together for mediation, referrals to other agencies, and whatever’s spelled out in the enabling ordinance. As a last resort the case would be referred higher up the governmental hierarchy. Councilor Dede Smith kept asking what’s the next step. The answer never came.

That’s because we have a dual justice system at every level of government. The courts judge people as individuals without regard to their group status and rule based on fact and evidence, the American system. The legislative branch, such as City Council, judges you according to how people in your group should be treated, the socialist. The courts have equal justice. But tonight the talk was all about racial justice, economic justice, social justice and social equity, redistribution by public hearing. Council tries cases involving eminent domain and housing code violations while parking tickets go to real court.

Councilor Dave Norris was the most ardent supporter of the most hardcore commission. Norris claimed he had voted for the commission in February by voting no for the task force to study it. He repeated the charade of wanting the commission to do all things. But Norris was more organized this time and tried to rattle the commissioners with a tattoo of a dozen yes or no questions mostly about gay rights.

To his credit Norris pointed out at a forum at First Baptist Church that, out of dozens of complaints of discrimination, all but one was legal discrimination. Norris also wanted the commission to apply to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which is in “chaos” according to one speaker. Norris is long-time chairman of the board for this agency. So he’s basically asking someone to stop him from the discrimination and illegal violation of eminent domain his job requires.

Councilor Dede Smith also warned the public, “We can’t be relied on” to follow the reports and commissions we authorize. We can’t be trusted to do the right thing. To her credit Smith’s logic brought her full circle. The commission would basically apply to the largest employer in town, which is the city.

But the task force pointed out the commission would only apply to the urban renewal agency or police or city government if the enabling ordinance specifically addresses it.

More than anything we saw how communism works. You have one-party rule. People are divided into groups and labels and not treated as individuals. In public comment there were calls for both. People wanted the homeless to be treated like individual human beings. And others set up false conflict between groups, gays and straights, black and white, native and immigrant, abled and disabled, and on and on.

The Council meeting format is designed to “cool out” the public, release a little steam, make it look like the decision-makers are listening. Most people were there for the race commission. Why didn’t a councilor make a motion to move the commission item to first place when the interested public is actually there? Because the five councilors agree unanimously to deliver poor public service. And now the vote is postponed again?

Early in public comment it seemed the public wanted the commission to target private businesses for the insults, humiliation, lack of respect and dignity. But as the meeting wore on, it became obvious that the biggest transgressor is the city government and its agencies. But newspapers will dutifully report the rosy picture as the infrastructure and vacant buildings crumble.

And community leaders like former Councilor Holly Edwards will work to erase local history and black history by playing games with the urban renewal / Housing Authority archives as documented here and on the Schilling Show talk radio. Communism requires you erase history because, if you knew the past, you would [stop] doing the crazy things that lead to humiliation and poverty. You would stop stereotyping and treat everyone in a way that has equal value.

Elizabeth Breeden of the Dialogue on Race said one of their priorities is to make “invisible history visible.”

Last Tuesday Daily Progress reporter Graham Moomaw deliberately and carefully misled the public on the heritage of Jefferson School. Even the mayor thought the school was the most deserving of a landmark but didn’t know why. The Progress has a policy to make invisible the full heritage. The policy was discovered when the newspaper refused letters giving the original date for the school. What’s the most important date in your life? Your birth date. But for Jefferson School there’s a double standard. More recent dates give the impression there are no earlier dates. But all dates are factually correct when alone and out of context (“Former school transformed, renewed,” Dec. 11, 2012).

The heritage of Jefferson School is it opened 5 years before public schools in Virginia. How hard is that to say? When the human rights commission talks institutionalized racism, will they call up the Daily Progress? Oh wait, that’s legal discrimination.

Update on Property Amendment Results

Thanks to Rob Schilling, who sent me the results he requested from Voter Registrar Seri Iachetta. The amendment passed with 61% of the 66% turnout, making it harder for the government to take your property. The amendment passed statewide by 75%.

Locally about 2 thousand voters skipped the ballot question while 8 thousand voted no to show their support for redistribution of real estate.

I don’t expect to blog again until next year. So Merry Christmas and happy holy days!

Video of Dec. 17, 2012 Charlottesville City Council.

Agenda Dec. 17, 2012 with background materials.