Posts tagged ‘dwight jones’

Budget Bozos

City of Richmond’s budget is an ongoing soap opera of whodunits and epic missteps. It would be hilarious if it was just a TV show with some crack pot protagonists. Unfortunately, the crack pots are the politicians and the results of budget failures are very real. It ends up being less than funny for frustrated tax payers.

The latest boondoggle for Richmond is the proposed Maggie Walker statue and plaza. Originally intended to be funded with private money, now the Planning Commission has overlooked that 2010 resolution and are estimating a combined cost of $900,000 for the statue and plaza. Some, including members of the Public Arts Commission ( http://rvamag.com/articles/full/26318/public-arts-commission-members-protest-approval-of-maggie-walker-statue )    see this as a last gasp from Mayor Jones to resurrect his reputation. Others just see this as a continuation of luxury spending while basic services try to go down the drain, but can’t because the sewer gutters are blocked and flooding the streets. (more…)

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New Op/Ed on RVA Mag’s website!

Check out the new article I just got published thanks to the fine folks at RVA Mag! Mayor Jones’ Meals Tax Proposal Leads to Tummy Aches

Richmond’s A Christmas Carol – Past, Present, No Future #RVA ?


Soundtrack to the article…

 

The hope for every New Year is for a year that is better than the last. For Richmond, that hope is against all odds as our local government sets us up again and again for epic failures. It is up to you, the people of Richmond, to take a stand against the corruption, the incompetence, the utter lack of transparency, and the bad priorities pushed fervently by the local politicians and businessmen.

I present to Richmond, a slightly seasonally late Christmas Carol, with the hopes that being visited by the ghosts of Richmond’s past, present, and future will be a cautionary vision, leading the city to better decision making down the line.

I would compare Mayor Jones to Scrooge, and direct this message at him, but I’ve never been one to count on people in power or want to reinforce hierarchy, and frankly the man never has seemed to give a damn. Instead, this goes to the people of Richmond, the ones capable of rising up to change Richmond for the better and take it out of the hands of greedy developers and their ilk.

*chains rattling, fog rolls in*

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While there are many Ghosts of Richmond Past I could choose from, I’ll focus on a recent one – the Redskins Training Camp. The problems with the public spending on the Redskins Training Camp start with the bad investment, go to the bad decisions for the school system, the disproportionate spending of money in a patriarchical way, and end with the indisputable racism of the team’s name (ah but that doesn’t stop the white people). But the financial side of the Redskins Training Camp is what is relevant here, so let me run the numbers by you.

The City of Richmond paid about 10 million dollars for the original construction of the Redskins Training Camp. This of course happens at the same general time period where the City repeatedly refuses to put money towards public schools that are falling apart on students’ heads and relinquishes a public park to control by a private organization with gentrification plans over a measely 3 million dollars. (more…)

Sunday Sermon – The Appropriateness of an Easter Protest

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We are having a protest at the Easter Parade on Easter in Richmond. There were of course, critics. The Easter Parade is a family event, and Easter itself is Christian holiday which celebrates the Rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Clearly, that is some significant stuff.

However, we find the Easter Parade to be a completely appropriate setting for this type of a protest. I would go so far as to say that Jesus is/would be on our side and that we would be doing a great disservice to his message were we to not emphasize some of the incredibly salient points in Christianity which relate to current local political issues.

We are protesting against Venture Richmond (who now sponsors the Easter Parade and pushes for tax breaks while still getting more than their fair share of tax payer money), the privatization of Monroe Park by the Monroe Park Conservancy (one of whom’s members lives on the hoighty toit Monument Avenue at 1643), and the Revitalize RVA plan being pushed by Mayor Dwight Jones and Developers. What all three of these issues have in common, is that they largely benefit the rich, while deprioritizing other issues like schools, public parks, the history of the slave trade and institutional racism, poverty and the homeless.

We will again emphasize something very significant, which is the 27% poverty rate in the City of Richmond. 40% of the youth live in poverty. Richmond is a poor City, and the elected officials, corporations, and non-profits are not doing enough to help the poor and fight against all forms of oppression. Instead they are working to increase their profits, their money, and their power.

With the help of friends we have done some exploration of the bible and related texts to see what they have to say. We hope that folks at the Easter Parade and in positions of power in the City of Richmond will give these words the consideration they deserve.

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We start with the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the very telling lines, “Give us our Daily Bread and forgive us our trespasses”.

People deserve food, food is a right not a privilege. And in Monroe Park, people come for food, and they should never, ever be considered trespassers on public lands. Public parks should remain public.

This image is of a statue at Regis College, of homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench.
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“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven” Mark 10:25

This is just one of the many statements in the Bible critiquing the rich.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:17-18

We hear a lot from politicians talking about compassion for the poor or homeless, but at the end of the day we have seen very, very little. Words do not mean anything if not backed up by actions. The selfishness of many is reflected in the corporations in this City, who give only when tax deductible and consistently lobby for better deals for themselves while ignoring the poor.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” Proverbs 14:31

Privatizing parks, ignoring or making illegal the homeless, racial profiling by police, failure to protect folks of all genders and in the lgbtqia spectrum, classism, and racism are all forms of oppression constantly and consistently occurring in Richmond. There is nothing honorable about these forms of oppression, they are contemptuous. A specific example of this in Richmond is that the Richmond Police Department goes around and finds homeless camps, and then destroys the camps and throw away all of the belongings of the people who had lives there. The Richmond Police also force people with court ordered community service to participate in this violent, dangerous, and incredibly oppressive act. Any City official who does not stop this from happening is complicit. We are all complicit.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24

Mayor Jones, you have to choose. Who is more important, the private developers looking to make a quick buck, or the poor?

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“They also will answer, ”Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me'” Matthew 25:44-45

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them” Proverbs 22:22-23

And finally, a very powerful statement, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” Isaiah 10:1-3

For a Mayor who is also a minister, the City of Richmond clearly lacks leadership who will fight oppression and show compassion to the needy. We have built a new jail for the poor and needy, but we have not built them shelters. They are planning to use tax payer money to pay the utilities for a restaurant in Monroe Park, but they could not keep the Conrad Center funded as one (actually badly conceived and executed) location to serve food to the poor. The Mayor only pushes for grocery stores in food deserts when he can also build a baseball stadium on historic slave trade sites.

Something is wrong in Richmond. We do not have to be Christians to see that the Bible itself, and especially Jesus, had a lot to say which is valid and relevant. We hope that anyone will consider these words and take the messages to heart. We need a big change in our culture.

What Would Jesus Do?

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City Council Survival Guide

Thinking about going to a City Council meeting? Nervous about what to expect?

Here is my guide for surviving these sorts of meetings with your mental and physical health in mind!

City Council Survival Guide

When We Break, We Rise

Op-ed on the Resistance now online at Quail Bell Magazine!

When We Break, We Rise

Transgender Day Of Remembrance Memorial 2013 in RVA – We need more than the government’s pretty words

Richmond celebrated  Transgender Day of Remembrance with our 8th annual  Memorial Service yesterday, November 20th. It was the first year I attended. My friend Tammie and I spent a majority of our day acquiring produce and preparing some food to share at the reception after the memorial service. We were happy to do so and happy to see the 200 or so folks who came out to support each other.

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Photo by Kontra RVA of some of the attendees in the church, and the folks lined up to present stories of Transgender people who were murdered

The TDOR memorial was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown. The committee that organized it did a really great job. The sharing of stories was moving, and it was only through the clenching of teeth that I avoided breaking down. The song performed by My Darling Fury was beautiful. There were a couple of speakers, some sharing personal experiences and some talking more generally about the issue of violence directed at Transgender folks. After the service, the group assembled on the steps of the Church holding candles.

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Not to take away from the efforts and successes of the organizers and presenters, but there was one aspect of the event which I found to be uncomfortable. When we were outside holding candles, the Chief of Police Ray J. Tarasovic read a proclamation from City Council and (Dis)Honourable Mayor Dwight C. Jones.  This isn’t the first year Jones has issued such a proclamation (I’ve found news coverage of these proclamations back to at least 2010).

Mayor Dwight Jones is certainly not honorable (Dwight the Blight!), and as much as it might have made some folks feel better to hear the proclamation from him and City Council read by the police chief, there is a strong need to push back and demand more. If the Mayor and City Council and Police Chief want to be allies of trans people it is going to take a hell of a lot more that just showing up to a vigil and a memorial service with some fancy words.

The presence of police is not a welcome one for all attendees of such events. Many folks with histories of drug addiction, sex work, and crimes of survival are likely to have had negative run ins with the police before. The friendly face the police give to law abiding lgbtq folks is much different than the one the reveal to “criminal” lgbtq people.

The Richmond Police Department and City Council can talk solidarity with transgender folks in Richmond, but they fail when it comes to walking the walk.

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

The police and the sheriff’s department are responsible for enforcing a variety of different laws which  are particularly oppressive towards  and/or disproportionately affect transgender people. The Mayor and City Council have the power to change local laws and policies to be more trans friendly. The police and sheriffs have the power to change how they treat transgender people with whom they come into contact.

For those less familiar with the specific issues facing transgender people, I’m going to go into some of them here. I would add that these are also issues affecting other members of our communities struggling to survive. I’m intentionally limiting the discussion of these issues here to focus on the impacts specifically to transgender people.

As long as the Mayor, City Council and Police departments only give us fancy words and handshakes a few times a year, transgender people will suffer. In this case, suffering means being harassed, assaulted, homeless, sick, poor, raped, and murdered. This is a matter of life and death, which is why the proclamation read yesterday was so insulting.

As long as transgender people have no job protection, they will suffer.  Because there are no laws in Virginia to protect transgender people from being unfairly fired, their unemployment, poverty, and homeless rates are higher, and they will do what they need to in order to survive which sometimes means taking risks or breaking the law.

As long as sex work is illegal, and as long as the police enforce laws around sex work, transgender people will suffer.As long as sex work is illegal, the higher rates of violence against transgender sex workers will continue. Sex workers deserve rights and dignity, and keeping sex work illegal hurts transgender folks all the time.

As long as clean needles are illegal, and as long as police enforce laws to prevent needle exchanges, transgender people will suffer. Transgender people need legal access to clean needles to prevent infection and disease, to ensure their ability to take the hormones and medicines they need to survive, and to stay out of the criminal ‘justice’ system.

As long as transgender people are sent to the Richmond City Jail, where the Sheriff Woody prides himself on denying access to HIV medication, transgender people will suffer.  As long as transgender people are sent to jails and prisons with  cisgendered inmates transgender people will continue to suffer high rates of assault, rape, and murder.

As long as transgender people do not have the right to housing under Virginia laws, they will suffer. City Council could work to protect transgender people’s housing rights under local laws.

As long as two members of the police department glad hand at a few LGBTQ events a year but don’t actively disrupt the culture of police brutality that LGBTQ people bear the higher brunt of, transgender people will suffer.

What was offered by the Richmond Police Department and City Council on Tuesday was not enough. If the police and City Council want the benefit of looking good in front of the LGBTQ community and broader Richmond community, let’s make them earn it.

Some links with more information on the issues covered here, please check them out and further educate yourself and those around you!

Gay RVA’s coverage –  http://www.gayrva.com/news-views/richmonds-8th-transgender-day-of-remembrance-marked-with-police-chief-appearance-new-location-and-local-names-being-read/

Transgender women and HIV – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/transgender-women-49-times-likely-hiv-study_n_3000094.html (more…)

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