Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Activist Hawkins Applies to Urban Renewal Commission

The most compelling application to a government board you will likely ever read.

Charlottesville, Va. – This is a rough draft of my application to become one of seven commissioners that govern the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The commissioners are appointed by City Council. CRHA is a political subdivision of the City of Charlottesville since 1954.

Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority commission info. The page claims that CRHA is an “independent political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” But on Dec. 20, 2012 the board passed Resolution 1313 that CRHA is a local department of the City. The vote was unanimous. But we still have some City Councilors and CRHA commissioners claiming CRHA is an independent rogue agency. Where is the written proof one way or the other?

Full list of Boards and commissions seeking applicants. Deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

Attached Page to CRHA Application (Rough Draft) one week before deadline.

(1) Qualifications. Honest and knowledgeable of Housing Authority and its history. 13 years writing, researching, reporting and publishing stories about the Housing Authority and City Council. Effective communicator with many letters to the editor and appearances on local talk radio. I’m the person who recorded the 2000 to 2013 history of urban renewal in Charlottesville as that history unfolded.

(2) Experience. Former resident of three local public housing complexes. My family integrated Westhaven when I was in 5th grade. Moved away 6 months later because it was too dangerous. Kids were being attacked while playing in the front yard. While in high school, we moved to Garrett Square and South First Street apartments.

(3) Primary Goal. I will advocate the publication of the full housing archives consisting of 6,845 documents, 1,189 photographs, and 189 maps and blueprints. Account for what’s missing from the archives by cross-referencing courthouse deeds.

The City has been stonewalling since my first request to view the archives on March 25, 2004. City Council refused to release the archives officially on November 20, 2006. In February 2007 the assistant city manager Rochelle Small-Toney allowed me to view a notebook of 152 pages containing 287 images after claiming I already had access to the full archives in two previous meetings where a handful of photos were presented in isolation. That same month UVA historian Scot French and the Carter G. Woodson Institute promised to publish the full archives but only created a website about Vinegar Hill.

On July 1, 2009 CRHA Chair Jason Halbert indicated that lack of “time and energy” is the only reason the CRHA won’t digitize and the blog won’t house the archives. At this point there has been at least one volunteer offering to do it for 5 years. Now it’s been 9 years that CRHA and City Council have blocked local history from being published. If appointed I will advocate that Council grant funding to hire an outside firm finally to digitize and publish this history in order for CRHA to build trust with the community and move forward..

(4) Secondary Goal. I will not support the so-called redevelopment of public housing, a.k.a. expansion of urban renewal. I will advocate abolition of the Housing Authority and its board. Nobody gets kicked out of their apartment.

(A) Immediate freeze on selling or buying any real estate until the complete archives are published.
(B) Return vacant land to its legal owners.
(C) Convert public housing apartments to condominiums owned by the current tenants free and clear.
(D) Property seized and already sold can’t be undone. But its history is preserved in the archives. Garrett Square / Friendship Court is a special case.

So I will vote no to violating civil rights, no to claiming public use when it’s private use, no to seize and sell property without first finding the owner guilty of a crime.

(5) Understand and respect minority culture. For example, when someone says a civil right has been violated, I won’t refer to courts or experts to dismiss their complaint. How can you trust a court that ruled slavery is legal, separate is equal, to seize and sell without due process is Constitutional, and other crazy decisions? In contrast I will address the issue and question authority.

If I’m appointed, that will indicate City Council is ready to tell the whole truth and stop acting perplexed that no one trusts the urban renewal agency. It will indicate Council is ready to put the archive grievance to rest while building a body of knowledge to improve the Housing Authority. But CRHA commissioners should already know this history. None of them is calling for specific reforms. So it’s an irrational fear that knowledge of a bad thing will stop the bad thing. Only action can stop a bad policy.

Attached Page to CRHA Application (Rough Draft) one week before deadline.


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