Tuesday, January 27, 2015

More archives

Please check out BlairHawkins.net
(Update May 8, 2017)


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Garrett urban renewal 2015

Charlottesville, Va. - Garrett urban renewal expands 5-fold as the Strategic Investment Area approved by a 4 to 1 vote Feb. 3, 2014. City Council scheduled this agenda item Jan. 20, 2015 as the last topic of the night, the most controversial of all the agenda items. On this map the brown-shaded areas are claimed to be owned by the City's urban renewal agency, Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, stolen following a 1967 referendum "authorizing" the felony civil rights violations. City Council and staff are documented by name now for more than a decade actively suppressing the history that there ever was a Garrett neighborhood.
I've started a facebook group called the Lost Garrett Neighborhood where I've been posting recently. Anyone is welcome to join and contribute.

Friday, July 18, 2014

$50K arts grant for public housing quilt map

Charlottesville, Va. – Four resident artists will be brought in to spend the money. One proposal is for the community to design a symbolic map of the Strategic Investment Area, the city’s largest urban renewal project now at 330 acres begun in 1967. One of 66 cities awarded Our Town grants from National Endowment for the Arts, Charlottesville’s to-be-determined “round of arts programming” called Play the City may include festivals, performances, art itself, workshops to plan and design this 1860 neighborhood yet again. Ultimately “we want to understand what people see and give them a voice,” says Matthew Slaats. Really? It’s more like Play Deaf City. They won’t accept the stories people are telling so they constantly call for some other story. “Please, people, tell us your story. We don’t have Google.”

“Charlottesville receives $50,000 arts grant” by Michelle Delgado, July 17, 2014, Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“strategic Investment Area letter to Daily Progress” by Blair Hawkins, Feb 3, 2014, Blair’s Blog.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Update on Job

Charlottesville, Va. - I haven't posted since March because my time and energy have focused on work. I applied to replace the retiring supervisor. I didn't get the promotion. But I feel the cover letter and vision statement added value to myself and to the department, and allowed me to blow off steam in a constructive, professional manner. Working my way through college for a 1993 meteorology degree and 20 years as a bricklayer and 14 years as a writer, I might be of greater value working in your department. The best workers are not just hired. They are recruited.

Cover Letter and Proposal to Modernize the Asbestos Department
Posting Number: 0614156
Working Title: Asbestos Supervisor

Dear Human Resources:

I’m applying for the position of Asbestos Supervisor. I’ve worked in this department for four years. I’ve shown initiative, leadership, and management ability. I’ve had extensive leadership training in the military. I have supervised others in civilian life. I can articulate and communicate abstract technical details as well as the big picture verbally and in writing.

In some ways I’m already the supervisor. I’ve brought innovations. Visitors to the job site approach me thinking I’m the supervisor because I wear the photo ID. I’ve seen how out of control a worker can become if the supervisor doesn’t enforce the limits. It finally got so bad, I brought the complaint to the next level supervisor, documenting in writing the allegation, and receiving threats of violence. The problem worker was transferred to a neighboring department where we see each other everyday. Now I’m respected to a degree because I had the courage to do the right thing.

If hired, I would implement my vision statement to modernize the department. But I would also have to deal with personnel issues, explain and enforce University policies which require federal, state and local regulations be strictly followed. In most businesses, not following your procedures can get you fired. In the asbestos industry you could be sent to prison for skipping steps outlined by OSHA and EPA.

This is the weirdest and most dangerous job I’ve ever had. Inhaling asbestos is the safest part of the job. More immediate dangers are heat exhaustion, dehydration and altered mental state after wrestling with asbestos while wearing a protective suit and respirator sometimes in a confined space at temperatures over a hundred degrees or on a ladder where the work is above your head. Wait a minute! If you’re breathing asbestos, you’ve skipped a step somewhere.

Removing asbestos is negative and destructive. You don’t create anything. It’s like being an industrial janitor in a sauna. You make disappear what someone else created. Also nobody trusts you because of the history of the asbestos industry knowingly poisoning the world and saying asbestos is perfectly safe. And the crew doesn’t trust supervisors and inspectors either when they say a material is safe for the same reason. When a supervisor orders you to do something, you can only do it if you agree it’s legal under the regulations. A stressful part of the job is to resist peer pressure to take shortcuts in the mandated procedure.

The world has known of the danger since ancient Rome when slaves in the asbestos mines were dying off faster than other slaves. Asbestos fibers were mixed with paint to cover a body for cremation, so the ashes of the fire don’t mix with the ashes of the deceased, usually royalty or wealthy. In modern times more than 3,000 products contain asbestos. So when people hear asbestos, they freak out because of the history of the asbestos industry. Occasionally there are still news stories where people are poisoned with asbestos and the owner or contractor goes to prison.

 In order to do this job, you must identify sources of negativity and create positives. The accompanying vision statement is a positive creation to offset the negatives. You could say we create a safe environment. Or we build goodwill when people trust we’ve done a good job.

This job has many moving parts, a complex balancing act of blue-collar and white-collar skills. One advantage is I can communicate in writing. When I hire a crewmember, he can read the departmental plan so he knows what he’s getting into. Management, inspectors, OSHA, parents of students or any member of the public reading this vision statement can have a better understanding and confidence the university hires quality people for this weird and dangerous job.

I wrote the vision statement to demonstrate that I’m the most qualified person to step in as Asbestos Supervisor. I have a thorough understanding of the subject matter, the integrity to enforce the rules, and a verifiable set of goals. If hired, I will do my best to implement this system and make it work. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Thank you for considering this application.


Blair Hawkins
May 27, 2014

Vision to Modernize the Asbestos Department: Organize. Lead. Communicate.


Organizing principles: (a) so you can see everything at the same time, (b) so you can access everything without moving other stuff, (c) nothing on the floor unless it has wheels or legs, (d) one in use, one in reserve, (e) centralize the inventory if possible. In this case two locations: office climate-controlled and storage garages. Then you can take a picture of the inventory. So when you’re in the office ordering supplies and not sure if you need an item, you can look at the picture. You can print the picture and circle the item if you send someone to get it. Everything becomes easier and quicker when you’re organized. If supplies are kept in multiple locations, you can see where it is. Nobody can remember everything. Inspectors, managers, crew, anyone seeing your space trusts you and the university more because you’re organized. Organization is a form of leadership.

(1) Personal safety supplies always on hand. Half-face respirators and filters, full-face respirators with batteries in good condition, variety of protective suits for various work conditions and skin sensitivities, safety glasses, variety of gloves, reflective vest, hearing protection, hard hat, rubber boots, harness. Some items are used quicker than others like protective suits. One box of half-face respirators open, one in reserve. When the last box is opened, write this item on the list to order, which is on the bulletin board, where everyone can see it and add items.

(2) General safety equipment. 4-gas air monitor required for confined spaces. The “one in use, one in reserve” works here so the reserve is also a backup if the primary fails or allows two crews to operate. This monitor is the most important piece of group safety equipment. UVA gives an 8-hour class to stress the danger of going into a confined space and how people have died when an air monitor would have prevented their deaths. Other equipment includes Lock Out / Tag Out, orange traffic cones, heat blanket to put over a hot pipe to protect crew from burns.

(3) Equipment for abatement. Sorted by function and similarity. The storage garages would be divided into sections. (A) Supplies to remove pipe insulation: HEPA vacuum, vacuum bags, variety of glove bags, high temperature bags, disposal bags, rolls of plastic, water spray tank, soap. The water tank might be 2 in use with spare parts, nozzle, pump cylinder. The tanks are indestructible. But the nozzle and pump corrode and wear out fast. (B) Removing vinyl floor tiles and mastic. Hand tools, protective gloves, putty knives, various razor scrapers, scrubbies, towels, burlap bags, tile bar, various buckets of chemical mastic remover. All the chemicals would be in the same section at the entrance to a unit. (C) Containment equipment, showers on wheels, shower pump, waste water filters, hot water heater on wheels, decon unit frame and accessories, buffer and buffer block, buckets of mastic remover, bales of absorbent (shredded newspaper). (D) Negative air machines are big metal boxes on wheels and they all look alike. The air handlers should be labeled so the crew can document the service history of the big-ticket item. Accessories like correct air ducts and filters should be located with the air machines. If there is an emergency where the air needs to be cleaned, crew can respond quickly and know which machine they deployed. Usually you look at the inventory to see what’s getting low. Sometimes an item does not get low as it should, which may indicate a step is being skipped such as installing a new filter after each job. The storage units would have at least two more sections. (E) A place for items no longer functional, like vacuums that haven’t worked for decades.  These items are cluttering up the space and are to be recycled or disposed of within regulations. (F) A place where crew can just throw a bunch of stuff, maybe a heavy-duty table with guard rails. This feature works with human nature and allows some disorganization. After work slows down, crew can clean up the storage units. (G) Large items like ladders, scaffold on wheels, rip-r-strippers, airless sprayer.

(4) Various hand and power tools. This could be its own section. The list is long from razor knives to drills to specialized saws. The power tools might stay in the office for greater security and access to battery charging station. When the organization actually takes place, there will be a master list of the entire inventory and catalog numbers so the crew can order supplies if supervisor is out.

(5) Work van. Schedule maintenance and repairs. Cargo section sealed off from passenger section. Need a rail along one side so supplies come off the floor, line up for inspection, and be accessed one at a time. Items along the side include rolls of disposal bags, glove bags, plastic, burlap bags, water tanks. The HEPA vacuum has wheels so it can sit on the cargo floor. Generally only waste items should rest on the cargo floor. The crew section of the van always needs organizing. Tools under and behind the seat, boxes of protective suits, hard hats, respirators, First Aid kit, change of clothes if uniform becomes soaked with sweat, eye and ear protection, other things, and paperwork like the work order, description of work, and MSDS for chemicals on board, map of the campus, extra maps for people asking for directions.

(6) Schedule. Basically wall calendars and bulletin boards so the crew can see and be informed, see mistakes and give feedback. Two main calendars, one for the Past (what happened that day, work order, hours worked, disposal bags into covered dumpster, linear feet or square footage of work completed), one for the Future (upcoming jobs and work orders, scheduled days off, safety meetings, supervisor meetings, classes, events). The idea is so you can see everything at once. The crew and management can be informed. Sometimes jobs are scheduled months in advance and won’t fit on the calendar. So you have to write those dates where everyone can see them. If supervisor is sick or on vacation, the crew can easily see what’s going on. This system is duplicated on the university project software. This written communication does not replace talking to people.

(7) Office. The office would be opened up and divided into stations. (A) Calendar and bulletin board. (B) Library of asbestos reference books, UVA employee manual, phone books, dictionary, notebooks. (C) Battery charging station. (D) Supplies in drawers or storage boxes or cabinets. (E) Computer. Take one of the two monitors and connect it to a keyboard and mouse so my crew can use it during breaks or for training, entering time, checking company email, and so on. (F) Printer needs to be a 3-in-1 copier, scanner, printer. (G) Refrigerator. (H) Microwave. (I) Personal lockers. (J) Key cabinet where all keys return at end of day. (K) Archives. This job generates a great deal of paper. to be safeguarded for future personnel to reference just as we look at old records to see if a location has been abated or surveyed. Records of daily time cards, scheduled physicals, fit tests for respirators, training and certificates, uniforms, company policies, emails, and more.

(8) Workday. How to use the time within the day. Stick to your routines for break and lunch. Don’t do a removal on an empty stomach. Stick to your calendar because some jobs can only be done at the scheduled time. Briefcase toolbox with hand tools and handy items like pen and paper, wires to jab into the water spray tank nozzle when it clogs up, knives, etc. Enough tools so every crewmember can work simultaneously. Supervisor should be at work when crew arrives so he can supervise crew coming to work on time, give a briefing for the day, show job to crew, location of bathroom and water, give crew copy of work order, check tools and supplies needed. The supervisor has already looked at the job. Every job takes longer than expected. Hurry-up-and-wait is the policy of every company. It’s not wait-til-the-last-minute-and-hurry-up. Sometimes there’s a lot of waiting for the inspector to check your preparations, pipes to cool to safe temperature, another crew must finish first, etc. Take tools and PPE with you at end of day in case you’re called to a different situation the next day. You can haul away sealed disposal bags another day. When the bags go into cargo van, they must go directly to the covered dumpster so you can complete the task at hand and use the cargo space.
(9) Training. Post on the bulletin board a schedule of classes and opportunities to increase your skills to move on to a less physical job. Write checklists of procedures. Copy of the regulations in the office library. Training is ongoing, not just one day a year. Training is a conversation about the details of the work. Here’s an example: Supervisors are often labeled yes-men for accepting work they’re paid to do. When is it appropriate to say no? If someone tells you to go into a confined space without an air monitor, you must say no. Otherwise you’re violating company policy and endangering your life. If someone wants you to remove non-asbestos without your PPE because people might think it’s asbestos work being done in secret and freak out, you should say no. There is no requirement that you breathe non-asbestos particles like fiberglass and dust from the floor. The solution is to schedule the work when the area is unoccupied. If anybody asks, tell the truth. We are called to non-asbestos jobs because we have the equipment to clean up the mess, clean the air and protect ourselves from contacting or inhaling anything but clean air. This is an example of training that builds confidence in crew’s ability to make decisions based on clearly stated policies.

(10) Organize the organizing. It would take a week or two just to organize the inventory. Schedule appointments with EHS to survey defunct equipment and chemicals, and advise how to properly recycle or dispose. The supervisor and crew are not expected to know everything and must establish a good relationship with inspectors by fostering two-way communication. Supplies needed: Several heavy-duty storage shelving units, small bulletin board for each storage area, bungee cords, ratchet straps, storage boxes, stationery like permanent markers, note cards, folders, pushpins, clipboards. Organizing is dynamic, not a one-time-only activity. It evolves. There can be exceptions to the system. The goal is to find things easily and quickly so you can focus on doing a good job.


A good supervisor works with human nature, not against it. It’s human nature to want a routine, predictability, to have expectations. It’s also human nature to test the limits, to see what you can get away with. Everybody likes to have limits so they test to reassure themselves the limit is still there. This testing is called a power struggle in the workplace and takes many forms. 

(I) Power Struggle: You’re not the boss of me. Technically that’s true. No one can order you to violate a law or regulation. Here every asbestos worker is supervisor-certified. So they supervise themselves. As a sports analogy, they are free agents working as a team. The 40-hour supervisor course and annual re-certification is the contract we sign, the rules we agree to. The inspectors are the referees. UVA owns the franchise. 

(II) Calm Energy. When I get a new hire, much of my time is spent to calm down the worker so he can have calm, positive, constructive energy. Identify sources of negativity, which subtract from the work. The negative energy manifests itself in unpredictable ways. For example, the worker has an expectation to be off work this weekend and over-time is added. Not meeting expectations is a negative. The negativity reappears when the worker is grumpy and perceives the supervisor has started a power struggle. Supervisor is exceeding his limits of power by not adhering to scheduling policy. So the worker responds with “You’re not the boss of me” and “I don’t have to do a good job.” Now there are three sources of negativity: poor scheduling, poor performance, poor quality work. Inspector tells supervisor the work was sub-par. Supervisor blames worker. Worker blames supervisor. You can see how a single negativity ripples out and causes seemingly unrelated problems. What’s the solution?

(III) Honesty is the best policy. The supervisor should admit he made a mistake in scheduling and ask workers if they can help out. You should respect the workers’ time off. But sometimes a negative is disguised as a different negative. The supervisor calls the over-time an “emergency.” But it’s not a bona fide emergency. Now the supervisor has set in motion two negatives (poor scheduling, cover story). Integrity is when there’s only one version of events; image equals reality. The negatives add up, cause the worker to be uneasy, lose the calm energy, and turn a small job into a big job where a crew must return instead of doing a good job the first time. Sometimes the negativity comes from inside the person who struggles against any set of rules.

(IV) Serious problems. No supervisor wants to write up anybody. It’s extra work and it’s negative. But if you don’t do it, the problem gets worse as worker moves on to test the next limit and the coworkers become resentful. The road to workplace violence has four stages: (1) Worker talks about violence, wishes violence toward others as a form of justice. (2) Worker is violent against inanimate objects, slams things around, breaks equipment, becomes unpredictable, makes others nervous with dramatic physical movements. (3) Worker horse-plays or play-fights a coworker as intimidation. (4) Worker claims the violence was an accident or the victim threw the first punch after a lengthy provocation. Here’s a clear limit – You should be fired if you say something like this: “If you tell anyone I’m not following the procedures, I’ll kick your ass!” In a dispute, who will the supervisor believe? The person who follows the most rules, who is the most cooperative, consistent and positive. The worker needing discipline is in a complex power struggle. “You’re not the boss of me. I don’t have to follow the rules. You can’t make me. And I can resort to violence.” When this situation occurs, the supervisor must consult management and other resources.

(V) It’s not my way or the highway. Supervisor comes to work and tells crew we have 1-2-3 things to do. Crew becomes grumpy and starts slamming tools around. Where’s that negativity coming from? Crew sees an easier way but don’t say anything because past supervisors are negative and discourage feedback. Supervisors are not perfect and make mistakes. Nobody wants to waste time doing something if there’s a better way. At the end of a briefing, the supervisor should ask if the plan makes sense, ask if there’s a better way. Once you have a good relationship, the crew will automatically question and give feedback. Encouraging communication is a positive. 

(VI) Soap makes water wetter. This is a required step in the removal process. If all the supplies are available and the crew is skipping this step, that indicates more training is needed or disciplinary action is called for. OSHA calls soap a surfactant because it breaks down the surface tension of water so soapy water spreads out and captures more asbestos fibers. Plain water beads into drops while soapy water has air bubbles. It’s easy to see the difference. Training in the details of the procedures builds confidence of the crew that they truly are doing a good job.

(VII) Conflict resolution. Supervisor sends one 2-man crew to do a job. Supervisor arrives at site and discovers there are two 1-man crews. Each guy is working independently of the other and not communicating at all. It is the supervisor’s duty to figure out the problem and find a solution. Often you have a good worker and a bad worker teamed up. The lead-man has the responsibility but no authority. The follow-man wins the power struggle when the lead-man gives in to get along. This negative causes good workers to become depressed, lose their calm energy, not care anymore, and eventually move on. The supervisor’s primary duty is to have a functioning crew. 

(VIII) Excessive overtime. When people say they want overtime, they mean one or two half-Saturdays per month. They don’t mean 7 days a week for week after week after week. When you work people like this, they begin to have a nervous breakdown, cannot control their emotions, fly into a rage over nothing or start crying or drive aggressively or lose self-confidence. These symptoms occur 24 hours a day, not only at work. When the overtime is excessive, the entire crew starts bickering and fighting with diminishing returns for productivity.

(IX) Day off or day of leave? If you’re working almost every Saturday, why don’t you change your schedule to Tuesday through Saturday? People need a routine to have a day of rest. So you get paychecks with 100 hours worked and 8 hours leave taken. How can you work so much overtime and still use leave? Because the time system is set up for Monday through Friday. If you work Saturday and Sunday, you forfeit your days off.

(X) Leave home at home. Leave work at work. When your family asks what you did today, you should be able to say you helped remove 50 feet of pipe insulation or 50 square feet of floor tile and you can talk about how you did it. Whatever emotional negativity is bothering you, you must leave it at work. Write it down and post it to the bulletin board. Be respectful and professional. Don’t take it home with you. That way the department can address the frustration or negativity head-on. You spend so much time at work, your coworkers are like a second family. Everybody gets mad at everybody from time to time. You must be able to forgive and move on.


Here’s the big picture. The system is set up for communication and collaboration. The supervisor creates tools and policies based on feedback from the crew. The briefcase toolbox addresses the problem of not being able to find hand tools in the morning. But you need the rule “tools back in toolbox into work van at the end of the day.” A system can work only if you use the system. The system includes feedback from the inspectors, management, customers, vendors, passersby. The system improves over time and gets easier to use.

There’s information useful to the crew such as which key opens the job site, where’s the water source for spray tank, where’s the bathroom. Supervisor likely has already been to the site so he can write that information down to save time and frustration for the crew, build confidence with the customer because you have a paper checklist, a written system of information to speak for you when you can’t be there. But no one can anticipate everything. 

Filling out daily time sheets becomes easy when the hours are written down somewhere. University policy is to enter the time at the end of the shift unless there’s a special circumstance. But crew would also be able to see the schedule for weeks and months into the future. That makes it easier for crew to plan time off around the work schedule. 

If sincerely implemented, the system makes any department more efficient and more productive and more enjoyable. You shouldn’t need to work so much overtime. The job posting says 40-hour workweek with alternative schedule. If the crew is over-worked or overwhelmed by negativity, they won’t follow any system and there will be constant problems. 

Vision Statement to Modernize the Asbestos Department 
May 27, 2014.
Blair Hawkins

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kelo wasteland 9 years after eminent domain case

"The 90-acre [neighborhood] once earmarked for office buildings, luxury apartments and a new marina, remains vacant. Seven residents who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep their working-class homes in the city's Fort Trumbull section have only their memories and whatever remains of the money they were forced to accept. In the landmark 5-4 ruling,...Previously, eminent domain had been seen as limited to cases involving projects deemed as benefiting the public, but not a private economic interest."
At least Fox News acknowledges that previously (forever?) eminent domain has been "public benefit", not public use as defined in the 5th Amendment. Seizing homes, neighborhoods, businesses, industries for economic development (more tax base, more jobs, transfer of ownership to benefit private economic interest, blight, anything you can think of) has been widespread across America since the 1950s. This is our most recent lost history.

Monday, February 03, 2014

SIA redevelopment plan passes 4 to 1

Charlottesville, Va. - Newest Councilor Bob Fenwick was the only no vote. Councilor Kathy Galvin gave the most passionate arguments for the nonbinding list of suggestions and goals to redevelop a 47-year-old urban renewal project. Most informed of the history of this project was Mayor Satyendra Huja planning this project since hired in 1973 BUT Huja has no knowledge of his work experience and seemed to know it's all a charade. Fenwick warned the public to be skeptical because of the history. So Galvin's noble goals were cancelled out by Huja's dastardly deeds. After my speech, people were left doubting Council at the most basic level

My speech was the letter to the newspaper. And it resonated through the meeting. Councilor Kristin Szakos said no public land will be sold as a result of tonight's meeting and property can be developed by-right. This is only the first phase of a 30-year plan to attract $300 million for a 330-acre zone but it's really only about 60 acres in the Garrett Street urban renewal area still vacant and for sale. Sort of like a free speech zone. I thought the entire city was an investment area if everyone has the same opportunities. Neighborhood Development Services Czar Jim Tolbert confirmed the City government will "suggest" you build what the City wants.

Councilor Dede Smith corrected something I said Dec. 27 on the Schilling Show. Apparently someone wants to knock down the 1951 Standard Produce except it's 1910 and the date is on the building. Apparently there was a talk on the business history but nothing about urban renewal.

Blair Hawkins is 6th speaker in Public Comment
Charlottesville City Council video Feb. 3, 2014

Strategic Investment Area letter to Daily Progress


December 31, 2013

Dear Editor:

Why would anyone invest in the Strategic Investment Area? In response to City Councilor Kathy Galvin’s letter (“SIA development plan benefits city,” Dec. 31, 2013, The Daily Progress), I would like to present a different view and constructive solutions.

It’s funny how proponents of a project can claim there’s been no pushback when people have been pushing back for years. On Dec. 27 on the Schilling Show I described the history. First there was Vinegar Hill. Then there was another Vinegar Hill three times bigger than the first. The second Vinegar Hill is called the Strategic Investment area, historically named after Alexander Garrett.

Vinegar Hill kept its name so most people know about it. The Garrett neighborhood lost its name so today most people don’t know it ever existed.

The current plan is to sell the city-owned open space that was occupied land 40 years ago. During those decades there has been redevelopment such as Friendship Court and other public housing, the Glass Building, Dittmar Condos, Luxury Gleason and Norcross Apartments, ACAC. But this urban renewal project was so big there’s still a lot of land un-redeveloped.

Why not sell the surplus land at auction? Some tax revenue would be better than the zero revenue now. But if you buy this land, you have to invest and build what the City wants, not what you want. And it appears the City wants more than was there 40 years ago, not more than the zero now. Potential investors are concerned the City might take back the land before the investment is recouped as it was taken from the previous owners.

In order to move forward, the City must do two things. City Council should affirm true private property rights by passing an ordinance to protect existing property tax revenue from government action that favors speculated future revenue increases. And the City must publish the Housing Authority archives and tell the full history.

Blair Hawkins

I haven't seen the letter printed but I missed a few days. I don't see it on the website. City Council received the letter 3 weeks ago. What fact or opinion do you think is too radical to print?

Blair Hawkins on WINA Dec. 27, 2013 talking about Strategic Investment Area dead zone south of Landmark Hotel

City to weigh SIA for plan, Feb. 3, 2014.

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 http://wina.com and listen later to the podcast at http://schillingshow.com .

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 http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/shadows-of-vinegar-hill-seen-in-strategic-investment-area-plan/article_0379ed7c-6aba-11e3-a31b-001a4bcf6878.html

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. http://super-blair.blogspot.com/2009/02/latest-archive-request-on-wina.html
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.