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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blair, I have been reading your writing for many years now and I have even commented before to say the same thing. It is virtually impossible for me as an interested reader to figure out what you are rambling on about in almost every single post you make on the subject of eminent domain.

I have asked several other people what your purpose is and not a one has reported being able to make any sense of your comments or your blog. Those are people who know who you are, know of your many comments online to news articles etc., and who have heard you speak on the subject, but who like me still can't figure out what you are trying to say.

You need to figure out what your point is before you write, then lay out your argument and ask yourself if your writing makes your point. Ask a friend to help if you can convince anyone to bother.

You put so much energy into this, and I suspect that it is possible that you have a relevant point to make. Make that effort worth someone else's effort to follow along and you might actually make a real difference someday.

12/27/2013 1:20 AM  

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