Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blair to be on WINA Friday 12:30 pm

Charlottesville, Va. – I will be talking about last Sunday’s Daily Progress front page calling the $300M Strategic Investment Area a “Shadow of Vinegar Hill.” You can listen live at and listen later to the podcast at .

Something weird is going on when people refer to our lost neighborhoods as Vinegar Hill. Imagine you have a few children but only know the name of one child and you only have pictures of that one child. How do the other neighborhoods feel when they are referred to as a shadow or echo of Vinegar Hill? What motivates so many politicians to refer to Vinegar Hill in the plural?

When I point out the active suppression of local history, people react by saying the politicians are uninformed. That argument evaporates when government and news outlets are informed by speeches, letters to the editor, mailed publications, emails, comments to stories a couple times a year for a decade, and other people speaking at meetings asking for everybody’s history to be included.

Rob Schilling just did it on the radio, said I’ll be talking about Vinegar Hill. I thought I’d be talking about the Strategic Investment Area, Garrett urban renewal. “Is it Vinegar Hill all over again?” asks Rob. Does he mean: “Is it Vinegar Hill all over again all over again all over again?” When did all of our urban renewal neighborhoods become renamed Vinegar Hill?

Ask Mayor Huja, who claimed on WCHV during his campaign that urban renewal happened before he became city planner in 1973 because Vinegar Hill happened before 1973. But Joe Thomas did not ask him about Vinegar Hill. He asked about urban renewal. Why does Huja deny the urban renewal post-1973? Huja is an urban renewal expert (I kid you not) with a 1968 Master’s Degree in urban planning from Michigan State University. His thesis was the human and material effects of settling land AND resettling displaced populations. What Vinegar Hill happened after Vinegar Hill? Garrett Street urban renewal as the Daily Progress called it all through the 1970s, and then made a policy decision to only mention Vinegar Hill.

Ask former Mayor Dave Norris, who has been actively suppressing urban renewal history except Vinegar Hill since November 2005. That’s when I asked him to help get the public housing archives published so people would know the full story of urban renewal, not just one project. Norris claimed to have no knowledge of the archive issue, and therefore refused to use his connections as chairman of the urban renewal agency (Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority) to get the archives published. And for at least 8 years Norris has lied about urban renewal by claiming the first urban renewal is the only urban renewal in Charlottesville.

And a whole lot of people are repeating that false impression because all their information comes from oral history, what politicians are quoted as saying what the history is. Reporters are careful not to fact check because they would see the politicians are disconnected from the written history in newspapers, courthouse deeds, Historical Society publications, everywhere you look outside the Echo Chamber.

In 2007 city politicians, UVA historian Scot French and the Carter Woodson Institute promised to digitize and publish the Housing Authority archives. But instead they decided only to build a website about Vinegar Hill. Why did they promise to publish the archives, but then only publish a small fraction of the archives? The Woodson Institute claims they made no copies of the electronic information, indicating their true goal was something other than preservation. The scandal grows as more people suppress the full history.

So now somebody still has to go down there and scan 6,845 text documents, 1,189 photographs, 189 maps and blueprints, and GIS satellite data identifying the location of each property the Housing Authority seized. Unfortunately, City Council, Housing Authority and UVA are documented for years now as actively suppressing our local history. How can I accuse a historian of being anti-history? I saw it with my own eyes and documented the history on my blog and as comments on other sites (Daily progress, Hook, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and elsewhere).

So, with all the investigative reporting I’ve done for years, all that research published on the internet, the number of people who still maintain Vinegar Hill is the only urban renewal is shrinking. But the gap between local politicians and reality is bigger than ever.

If you support the truth, please contact City Council and ask them to publish the full public housing archives. Why do you think the years-long effort to redevelop the public housing has not moved forward? Because the community does not want more urban renewal. This year the Housing Authority’s frustration was on display. Suddenly the agency wanted to divest the housing to HUD’s RAD program and focus on the redevelopment, seizing and selling real estate.

I am doing all I can for truth and justice. I applied to be an urban renewal commissioner on Oct. 14, 2013. Clerk of Council Paige Rice said she would keep my application on file for a year. My main goal is to get the full archives published and account for lost archives stolen most likely by the politicians actively lying for so long about our history. My secondary goal is to abolish the Housing Authority on Constitutional grounds and based on the long history of unnecessary suffering. But I would be only one vote out of seven.
Urban Renewal South: The Best-known Secret in Charlottesville's History. March 5, 2002.

Links Documenting Local History

A Community in Turmoil: Charlottesville's Opposition to Public Housing. 1998 by Christopher S. Combs. Historical Society article talking about the full story of urban renewal with no effort to minimize the history as only one neighborhood.

More Urban Renewal Archives Online, Jan. 18, 2010.
Includes the Vinegar Hill Project 2007, about 300 copies of Housing Authority archive photos, Daily Progress archives talking about Garrett urban renewal. Includes 1977 article where history is reinterpreted that people support Garrett urban renewal but have resentment toward Vinegar 17 years earlier. 36 years after 1977, the Garrett neighborhood is now called a “Shadow of Vinegar Hill”.

Garrett urban renewal makes front page Daily Progress, Dec. 22, 2013.

Galvin’s crusade to redevelop Garrett urban renewal zone, Dec. 19, 2013.

Urban Renewal Application on file for a year, Dec. 15, 2013.

Resolution 1313: Housing Authority is city agency, Dec. 30, 2012.
Documents Daily Progress refusal to report that Councilors and the public wanted the Human Rights Commission to apply to the Housing Authority. At a forum Councilor Kristin Szakos claimed the state law doesn’t allow the HRC to apply to CRHA. State law says the HRC can’t protect gays but that’s in the ordinance. Why is the law for gays but not for public housing residents? Our system is truly broken.

How Eminent Domain Perverts Legal System, Mar. 17, 2012.
Includes City Council’s quick take effort to seize a chunk of the Fry’s Spring Beach Club.

Wanted: New urban plan for Garrett urban renewal zone, Mar. 5, 2012.
Garrett neighborhood now called the “area south of the railroad tracks” as suppression of history continues.

Blighted House Demolished by Eminent Domain Ordinance, Nov. 19, 2011.
The process of urban renewal on display for one house.

Council prepares fake apology for urban renewal, Oct. 18, 2011.
Summary of the issue, the history, and the archives. Ten “whereas” bullet point for Vinegar Hill but only one bullet for the Garrett project at least 3 times bigger than Vinegar Hill.

UVA’s Garrett Hall namesake suppressed by newspaper, Aug. 28, 2011.
More proof that Daily Progress is actively suppressing history.

Sustainability Fair at old Lane High School, Apr. 27, 2011.
Sustainability people pass along false history claiming the first housing strategy was 1990, when Vinegar Hill was 1960 and Garrett was 1967. Later the Sustainability Director embezzles half a million dollars in plain view. The vision of the planners is the same as urban renewal, so they don’t want you to know their new plan is really an old plan.

Historical Society: Jefferson School 1865, Aug. 17, 2010.
Another example of Daily Progress suppressing history.

Newspaper updates 38-year-old Levy Avenue urban renewal, July 27, 2010.
Another example of an urban renewal story completing omitting any mention of urban renewal.

Levy Avenue: All 5 owners identified, Nov. 17, 2007.
Example of diversity of ownership on just one block of the Garrett neighborhood. Despite nobody saying this is urban renewal, City unable to sell it since 1972. Apparently buyers look at the deed before sealing the deal.

Perriello protest in Garrett zone, July 2, 2009.
Photo essay of Garrett neighborhood 2009.

Latest Archive Request on WINA, Feb. 12, 2009.
Includes a timeline.

New Urban Renewal Director, Same Old Lies, Dec. 23, 2008.
Includes archive of Housing Authority assets in case the information is removed from city website.

Another Urban Renewal Director Resigns, Oct. 5, 2008.

Land for Vinegar Hill condo tower once owned by John West and Madam Marguiretta, Sep. 13, 2007.
Another example of how tracing a deed is full of interesting history.

Democrats nominate Huja, Edwards, Brown: challengers Seaman, McKeever to remain active, June 3, 2007.
Example of how much news media have to ignore to report the convention as if there had been no mention of lost neighborhoods, redevelopment, economic development and all the code words for seizing and selling real estate without due process. You know...urban renewal

This is not a complete list of my articles on this subject. It should be enough for an open mind to understand what I'm trying to say.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Garrett urban renewal makes front page Daily Progress

Charlottesville, Va. – The article is called “Shadows of Vinegar Hill seen in $300M city plan.” If anything, Garrett urban renewal eclipses Vinegar Hill in scale, impact, controversy and documentation in Daily Progress archives, which are not online. Both City Council and Daily Progress oppose publication of the City housing archives detailing the history of the Garrett neighborhood now called the Strategic Investment Area. Their opposition has been documented for at least a decade. Also the Court Clerk won’t put real estate records online despite promises to do so, and former clerk Paul Garrett having to return grant money after he lied three times claiming the deeds were online.

Notice how the artist's vision of the future Garrett neighborhood has no resemblance to anything historic. There's a stark difference between South and North Downtown. North Downtown is a historic district. South Downtown is where Council's stated principles don't apply.

Reporter Aaron Richardson maintains the biggest lie in local history, that Vinegar Hill is the only urban renewal in Charlottesville. This is the only part of town that has lost its name. So Richardson calls it “the area between Garrett Street and Elliott Avenue, bordered by Avon Street and Ridge Street.” The plan calls for a “central greenway, mixed income housing, shopping and jobs.” Basically to re-create the Garrett neighborhood which City government destroyed in the face of incredible opposition. Nobody opposed Vinegar Hill. That opposition arose only as an example of why you should oppose Garrett urban renewal.

City Councilor Kathy Galvin was on the Coy Barefoot Show Thursday Dec. 19 talking about her commitment to make the biggest controversy in local history become successful somehow. Today the urban renewal of the historic Garrett neighborhood can only be referred to as Vinegar Hill urban renewal. That’s how controversial the Garrett history is today. "Galvin’s crusade to redevelop Garrett urban renewal zone", Dec. 19, 2013. More detailed discussion of the history, the issues, and the archives. Includes a timeline for historical context.

Comment to

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Galvin’s crusade to redevelop Garrett urban renewal zone

1935 Charlottesville, Va.
Charlottesville, Va. – Why is the “area south of the railroad” a dead zone? Think about it for a minute. Stand at Live Arts on Water Street and look out on a sea of urban renewal. All those parking lots and open space was anti-development. We’re going back in time when landmarks like the EconoLodge on Emmet across from the JPJ arena become vacant land again. That’s happening all over town. Imagine demolition happening to an entire mixed-use neighborhood.

City Councilor Kathy Galvin refers to this region as the Strategic Investment Area. She promised to use City government to re-create every detail of this neighborhood. The problem with past efforts is that only affordable housing was addressed while industry and jobs moved out. In her “out-of-the-box, bold” vision, government may have to create all the jobs as well. Her faith in socialism is complete. She believes government can mandate the ideal neighborhood, which City government literally destroyed in this case.

Galvin doesn’t know much about the history of this neighborhood. She knew that the Ix textile factory once made parachutes. She didn’t know that the factory opened in 1929 and carried the city through the Great Depression becoming the largest employer during World War Two. She knew there was industry but didn’t know this was a residential neighborhood.

She said this is a traditionally poor area. No, this was an affluent neighborhood where poor people had moved into rundown, grand homes. Count up public housing units in this area (150 units at Friendship Court + 126 at Crescent Halls + 58 at S. First + 25 at 6th SE + ? at Midway Manor = 359+) and you have the number of units lost to urban renewal in this part of town alone. Add a church, a preschool, 30 businesses. The reasons for a dead zone start to add up.

Does the history of this neighborhood have any lessons to teach us? Absence of government leads to the ideal neighborhood, where no zoning leads to mixed-use, pedestrian friendly, human-scale, etc. Property rights lead to investment. If the previous owners of the now City-owned land can have their homes taken for private use without Due Process, why would any potential investor put money where the local government has a history of stealing real estate investments, and the same regime is in power? Crime causes poverty and other problems even if the Supreme Court says it’s good for the public. The Constitution makes it unlawful because the practice causes so many problems throughout history.

Maybe I’m wrong and there’s nothing illegal or embarrassing. This is a proud history of government intervention. Why is it called the Warehouse District? Whatever happened in the 1970s, people quit talking about it. So new people came and saw warehouses. So they misnamed it and no elder leader like Mayor Satyendra Huja corrected them because of his own involvement. Actually it was mixed-use before mixed-use was outlawed by zoning and now mandated by zoning.

Not talking about it has moved into Phase 2: Withholding knowledge to allow you to talk about it. In this case it’s the public housing archives. Will Kathy Galvin crusade for more education and historic preservation of history? Will she make a motion that City Council order the Housing Authority to allow people (Blair Hawkins) to come down there sometime with a laptop and scanner, and start publishing this history. It should only take me about ten years since the text documents alone are 6,845 items.

I didn’t call the Coy Barefoot show this afternoon because I thought it would be a waste of time. Galvin has talked about her socialist dream in previous appearances. I called the Schilling Show in 2009 asking Councilor Holly Edwards for help getting the archives published. On air she promised to help. Off air she played games and said she would get back to me each time I contacted her. She wanted me to meet the 2 people blocking the history: UVA historian Scot French and Housing Authority then-director Randy Bickers. Now I have history to tell. Holly Edwards does not want people to know what’s in these archives, as documented by the broken promise made on the Schilling Show.

What is the motivation of City Council? They don’t want people to know how big urban renewal really is? They don’t want people to know that seizing and selling real estate violates the civil right of due process? Information is dangerous and the masses should know less, not more?

Or maybe they just don’t care? Nope! If they didn’t care, they would stand aside and allow volunteers to preserve the only thing left of a historic neighborhood which made so many contributions. Where's the mercy of Council? It’s only words and pictures. What could be so dangerous about that?


1762 – Town of Charlottesville chartered. Thomas Jefferson was 19 years old.
1825 – Alexander Garrett builds his mansion on his 117-acre farm called Oak Hill removed for Garrett Square/Friendship Court 1977. Friend and financial advisor of Jefferson, Garrett witnessed Jefferson’s last breath and recorded the moment in a letter excerpted in Daily Progress Apr. 2, 1952 when the dilapidated house was torn down.
1860 – Garrett Street developed.
1865 – Private all-black Jefferson School opens on West Main.
1870 – Town’s first public school on Garrett Street.
1915 – Development of 4th SE, renamed Ware St., what’s left renamed 2nd St. in 2002. People making the decisions are disconnected from our history.
1929 – Ix factory booms. People’s bank turned a profit during the Great Depression with large base of small account holders.
1954 – Era of Urban Renewal begins with creation of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Eminent domain to seize and sell real estate is legal for the first time.
1960 – Vinegar Hill urban renewal, now mentioned exclusively by politicians to give the impression Vinegar Hill was the only urban renewal.
1967 – Strategic Investment Area urban renewal begins. The World War Two of redevelopment.
2004 – First request to view the public housing archives and discovery that they are closed to the public (Blair Hawkins).
2006 – City Council unanimously in regular meeting refuses to allow access to the archives. No news outlet recorded that history. But the video camera recorded it..
2009 – Holly Edwards lies on the Schilling Show. “Latest Archive Request on Schilling Show”, Feb. 12, 2009. Includes a more detailed timeline and photos before and after Vinegar Hill.
2013 – Dec. 19 Kathy Galvin’s utopian socialist dream to mandate an ideal neighborhood, aired on Coy Barefoot's Inside Charlottesville on WCHV radio FM 107.5.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Urban Renewal Application on file for a year

Charlottesville, Va. – In response to a Dec. 13 phone call for the status of my application hand-delivered Oct. 14 with an Oct. 15 deadline, Clerk of Council Paige Rice finally informed applicants if they were appointed or not. The original posting did not state which positions were up for appointment. The City website is still asking for applicants without saying which positions are open.

The only way to know that an appointment was made is to compare the previous board with the current board. You can only do this if you already know who was on the previous board. That information is not available on the website or in the announcement. Presumably the appointment was made at a City Council meeting. But you have to be watching during the exact minute when the unannounced appointment was made.

City Council is doubling down on the 9-year refusal to release the publicly-owned, historical archives documenting felony crime at the Housing Authority since 1954. The archives consist of 6,845 documents, 1,189 photos, 189 maps and blueprints, and GIS satellite data pinpointing the crime scenes.

Application for Housing Authority Board, Oct. 22, 2013.

Dear Mr. Hawkins,

It was good speaking with you this afternoon. Thank you very much for your interest in serving on the CRHA Board. The opening on the CRHA Board was for a resident position, and you must be a resident in public housing in order to hold that particular seat. As such, I regret to inform you that Council was not able to appoint you at this time.

I encourage you to reapply for future openings; I will keep your application on file for a period of one year. If you are interested in applying for another board during that time period, please contact me at 970-3113 or, and I will resubmit your application. Again, thank you for your interest and your willingness to serve. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Paige Rice
Clerk of Council
(434) 970-3113