Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Limbo: City Market, Belmont Bridge, Public Housing, Louis Schultz

Charlottesville, Va. - I only watched the first hour of last night's City Council meeting. Most of the public comment was about City Market. The study report was the last item on the agenda so Mayor Huja moved it to #4 when it should have been moved to #1. Some speakers drove an hour to comment. Everyone wants City Market to stay where it is now on Water Street EXCEPT City Council. Council values future revenue more than existing revenue. So they're willing to sacrifice City Market to sell the lot for development on speculation of higher tax value to generate MORE revenue. Problem! Nobody wants to buy it as it's been on the market for years. In City Hall there is no history unless it supports your current position. Council wants to move City Market a couple blocks away to a smaller lot on Garrett Street, which nobody supports. At least they didn't say "the street south of the railroad". We can still say Garrett. Some people want City Market at the Ix textile factory 1929 to 1999.

In a normal world-class town you would expect your bridges to be repaired and maintained as routine. Only if someone else pays for it. Several speakers addressed Belmont Bridge as a physical barrier, racial barrier and psychological barrier.

But history reared its ugly head when public housing came up. Councilor Dede Smith pointed out that Friendship Court is an example of what the Housing Authority wants to do-- sell the public housing to a nonprofit (Piedmont Housing Alliance), public housing becomes Section 8 housing vouchers which Housing Authority administers, then Housing Authority orders the nonprofit to repair and maintain the housing which Housing Authority has never been able to do for some reason.  Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) president Brandon Collins argued for the status quo. He said the RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) program to make public housing into housing vouchers is the biggest change since Vinegar Hill. Collins remains in denial of all the history that followed Vinegar Hill. Why would he only know the first piece of the history? Councilor Dave Norris used history too. He said on Nov. 24, 2008 the CRHA board approved the PHAR Bill of Rights, basically guaranteeing current residents a public housing unit forever. City Council approved the covenant on Dec. 15, 2008. RAD limits occupancy to 2 years and you have to find another place. The #1 complaint is that CRHA does not follow agreements or laws, with a long history to prove it.

Louis Schultz is a long-time property rights activist, defending his own land and house near the end of Market Street in the Woolens Mills neighborhood. Schultz spoke in public comment but no councilor responded to his allegations. Schultz wants to "press charges" against the city for a long list of offenses. Problem is Schultz doesn't have many resources, other than his house. He should ask the Institute for Justice to take his case, or at the very least to archive his story with others across the country. Sometimes the police will press charges even if you don't, sometimes they press charges on your behalf, otherwise you have to sue. As property owner, Schultz has standing to sue.

The theme of government and City Council is everything's in limbo, uncertainty, just one vote and one election away from being taken away. Well not everything, just whatever is popular and will hurt the most people if taken away. "Give us more money or the teacher gets it" we hear every budget season. Is there someone more reliable than the government we can turn to? Did we turn to the government in the first place because the private sector was doing so bad? Or is there another reason? Did we lose faith in the individual? Or just certain individuals?

Also Council appointed the 11 members of the Human Rights Commission, and has already hired a director. But according to Joe Thomas on his radio show this morning, who applied to this commission, he was told the appointments would be made in November.

Also I have heard nothing since my application to be on the urban renewal commission. I don't see anything on the city's website. I guess I'm in limbo!



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