Posts tagged ‘mayor 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…)

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

Children are the future, 40% of Richmond’s are poor, the future looks hard.

Flashy scandals frequently rock the City of Richmond’s government sector. From bad investments, to bad investments, to a lack of financial accounting or accountability, the administration routinely fails to make good choices about how the money it collects from all of us is spent.

And there is a percentage of citizens who routinely spend their time, energy, and money pushing back against the choices being jammed down the throats of us ordinary folks. Locals seem to lose out when local government decides how to spend money. This seems to be a consistent theme.

For the record, I will mention a few of these recent follies – the Redskins Training Camp, the Shockoe Baseball proposal,  the Stone Brewery deal, and the UCI Bike Races. All four of these involved large amounts of money, big financial promises, flashy promotion, and stepping all over the wants and the needs of local citizens, their businesses, and their projects and passions.

This is all frustrating, complicated, disheartening, at times even maddening. But what is missed, too much, is that this is quite frankly leading us to an incredibly scary situation. A situation where kids are getting shot on  a semi-regular basis and there is no reason to think things will get better.

Mayor Jones will have you believe that these long term investments of his will pay off and help the City. I want you to understand that we do not have time to wait for these schemes to possibly pay off. As of the 2010 census, 40% of the youth in Richmond lived in poverty. This is a scary high number. Combined with our failing, falling apart, and floundering public school systems we are setting ourselves up for a generation with too few skills, too little education, and not nearly enough hope.

(more…)

Public Parks – An Endangered Species?

Public Parks are one of the only great services provided by the government, and have value for many. Public parks provide and preserve green space and nature. In urban areas, like Richmond, these green spaces are critical for our sanity and health. Parks provide space for recreation – pick up games of football or frisbee, hula hooping, or tag. Parks provide space for meeting – picnics, friendships, organizations, and chance encounters with strangers. Public Parks provide a place where free speech can be exercised – folks can preach or protest or table without getting kicked out. Parks protect the rights and ability of poor people and people without property to have space to meet, greet, eat, play, and speak.

Rich people do not have the same need for the commons that poorer folks do. If you can afford property you can ensure you ability to access all of the things that a public commons can provide. Hell, you can have your meetings at the Jefferson Hotel, and join sports leagues or gyms. With the suburbanization of America, the concept of the public commons was neglected. Private shopping centers replaced public meeting places. And the consequences are things like the concept of loitering (existing without purchasing) and trespassing charges. You have no right to free speech at a private mall. You have no right to wear, say, or do what you want. And you are ultimately only allowed access if you are spending money or look like you have the potential to.

While the suburbs developed largely with the lack of public commons / public parks, most urban areas have managed to hang onto public parks. Something else is happening here. The public parks in Richmond seem to be slowly slipping out of public hands. The parks are not getting destroyed, but they are having entrance fees for events, new rules, new security, and other restrictive aspects applied to them. This neoliberal trend of privatizing the public needs to be confronted and stopped.

You might not have noticed what is happening with the parks in Richmond, so here are some examples for you.

Brown’s Island, and the Friday Night Cheers concert series used to be free. Now, Brown’s Island is “overseen” by Venture Richmond. Venture Richmond receives hundred of thousands of dollars annually from the City of Richmond. Members of City Council, Dominion Power, Massey Coal, all the major banks, lawyers and more sit on the Board of Venture Richmond. They very clearly represent the interests of those with money and power in Richmond. Under Venture Richmond, the Friday Night Cheers concert series now costs money, making Brown’s Island inaccessible to the public during those events. The finances of these things don’t make much sense, for the public that is. In many cases, Venture Richmond seems to be skirting the law. They take public money regularly, they avoid paying taxes on the property they manage, and yet they are profiting from events they hold. Tredegar Green is one aspect of Venture Richmond’s strange and likely corrupt relationship with public parks.

Monroe Park is now leased the the private group the Monroe Park Conservancy at the rate of  $1 a year for a 30 year lease. The plans presented by the Conservancy are a very transparent attempt to gentrify the park and remove the visibly homeless. Monroe Park has been the site of free food programs such as the weekly Food Not Bombs for over 21 years, and a site of public protest for even longer. The entire process of privatization by the Conservancy (who’s board consists of multiple Venture Richmond members and mostly rich and powerful folks) has been very UNtransparent. When the renovation plans for Monroe Park came under fire, the conservancy removed the plans from the internet. The Wingnut Anarchist Collective had saved a copy and was able to make the plans accessible again. Even now, the status of the Conservancy’s fundraising (they need to come up with 3 million), timeline for development, etc. are not publicly available. City Council members are even unsure as to the status of this project. For now, Monroe Park remains the same, but at any point this could change. Which would lead to a major social and political struggle.

Now Kanawha Plaza is on the chopping block. Renovation plans for Kanawha Plaza come with the post script, that once renovated Venture Richmond might be given control of the park. The WHY aspect of this change of management is ignored in the Times Dispatch article. The motivation or need for such a change is ignored.

Also largely ignored in Richmond is the history of inappropriate and largely corrupt action by Venture Richmond. From their spending on the political lobbying Loving RVA campaign to support the Mayor’s terrible Shockoe Baseball Stadium plan to the admission by Henry Marsh that Richmond Renaissance, the precursor to Venture Richmond was a “shadow government”, Venture Richmond has its own agenda, and does not seem to give a shit about what the people of Richmond want.

The best solution to neglected public parks is not privatization. It is for the local government to stop the neglect! Maintenance, provision of public restrooms, adequate lighting, and more would all allow public parks to thrive while still remaining public. The success of the James River Park System shows that Richmond can totally do successful public parks. We have problems in some existing parks. We should choose the logical solutions, not If people and organizations like Venture Richmond or the Monroe Park Conservancy are simply genuinely concerned with improving public parks, then surely they would be willing to do so without taking control or profiting off of them.

If Venture Richmond and the Monroe Park Conservancy and others are not interested in supporting thriving public parks without taking control of them, well then we, the public, need to  be highly suspicious of their motives. It is difficult enough for the public’s desires to be truly represented by local government. Throw in corporate control, and I wonder about how well tolerated say, No Atlantic Coast Pipeline protests might be. I know from the wording in the Monroe Park Renovation plans that visibly poor people are being explicitly targeted. It is past time to stop the privatizing of our public parks. Let’s stop spending money on Venture Richmond and start spending it on our schools and parks and other amenities that everyone regardless of income needs access to.

Come on Richmond, let’s do this.

Parenting Richmond

No, no – it’s not the children who need parenting that I’m concerned about, it’s the local government.
If you are a parent, or have ever acted as a babysitter, you will understand where this is going. You can’t have dessert until you finish your vegetables, and you can’t watch T.V. until you’ve done your chores. The #blacklivesmatter action at City Council follows the same logic. Mayor Jones and City Council can’t have football stadiums, baseball stadiums, or breweries until they finish their vegetables and chores. And as activists in Richmond have been saying for years, we need the basics taken care of here before the public boondoggles – I mean developments.
Mayor Jones’ concept of making Richmond a Tier One city is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. He and City Council seem to be continually interested in doing the fun stuff, while neglecting the hard work. Their general practices are the same thing as when your mom tells you to clean your room so you shove the mess into the closet. Well at the City Council meeting, everyone who’s tired of the mess spoke up.
A motley crew took action at the first city council meeting of 2015, presenting a list of grievances, a list of demands, and an ultimatum. The subject matter of the demands is very intersectional, including environmental, no stadium in Shockoe Bottom, public transportation, the schools, and protecting the right of the homeless to be in Monroe Park.
There has already been public reaction – why would anyone threaten the UCI International Bike Race? Trust me, it’s not because we hate bikes, or fun. It’s because we can not build a strong community or a tier one city without the items listed in the demands. And if you don’t do your chores, you get grounded. Frankly, it is surprising it has taken this long for residents of Richmond to put the Mayor and City Council on notice.
For folks who do not understand the #blacklivesmatter thing, well that’s a whole other article. But for this instance, calm down and take a gander at the list of demands. If everyone can take off their angry goggles for a minute, it is pretty easy to see how all citizens of Richmond, regardless of race will benefit from these demands being fulfilled.  Can you imagine if our schools had the funding to maintain buildings and build amazing curriculums? And if our bus systems was affordable and effective, creating more job access?
For all the grandstanding and puffery by public officials, Richmond is still in a very bad position to host a major bike race. We apparently can not currently manage our own parks, schools, buses, social services, etc. And for a bike friendly town, we aren’t that bike friendly yet. We need a better foundation in order to host awesome events, like bike races. You have to clean the house before you have company over.
To Mayor Jones and City Council, I say, get your chores finished and then let’s all enjoy a bike race come September.  You can do it.
To everyone else in Richmond, help out your buddies the Mayor and City Council. It’s always nice when your friends help with your chores so you can all hang out afterwards.
The threat of boycotting and disrupting the 2015 UCI International Road Championships is akin to your parents threatening to ground you if you misbehave. It is the kind of discipline Richmond needs to get the local politicians in line.

Let’s do this together,
Mo Karnage

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*

ghostpastredskinsmascot

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…)

Code Enforcement- the Slappin’ Hand of Gentrification

Code Enforcement- the Slappin’ Hand of Gentrification

“This used to be the United States,” Soffee said. “It wasn’t against the law to be poor.” – RTD 6/29/14 pg A6

Over several months I have heard from a friend who lives in a local trailer park, and a friend who’s relative manages said trailer park, about the plight they are going through dealing with the City of Richmond’s Code Enforcement Officers. The strong armed campaign to force compliance with building codes to Rudd’s Trailer Park on Southside made the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch today, opening the issue up to larger dialogue. If you have not yet read the article in the Sunday June 29, 2014 paper please take a few minutes to check it out.

The long and the short of it is, Code Enforcement has decided to focus on the 9 trailer parks remaining in the City of Richmond. To understand the whole reason behind what they are doing, and why what they are doing is problematic, we need to first understand some basic ideas about code enforcement. We also need to understand the context of targeting people who are low income, who may not have English as their first language, and who’s culture is different than the WASP mentality from which much of our local government stems. Additionally, we are – I repeat again and again – talking about a City with a 27% poverty rate, and where 40% of our youth live in poverty. Everything is about context.

Code Enforcement is not a neutral tool, and it is not an inevitable force. In fact, the way in which the City of Richmond (and many other places) uses code enforcement, especially via the CAPS program, reeks of selective enforcement. Selective enforcement being where laws are used at the whim of officials and not uniformly applied to everyone in a fair manner. One example of selective enforcement by CAPS was when several years ago they issued me a citation for my rotten soffets. I acknowledged my rotten soffets, and explained my plan to eventually get a loan to do roof and soffet repairs. But I asked the guy if he was issuing everyone in the neighborhood a citation – almost all of the homes feature rotten soffets. He said he was not, I accused him of selective enforcement, and he dropped the citation. Selective Enforcement is one of the major problems with how CAPS functions generally, and how this new attack on trailer parks specifically just stinks.

CAPS stands for Community Assisted Public Safety, and is a combination of Code Enforcement officers, Cops, and community members who snitch on their neighbors. Officially this involves five departments – Planning and Developement Review, Police, Fire, Finance, and the Virginia Department of Health. What it means on the ground is that they have meetings, like the MPACT ones, where citizens are able to make complaints. Then a code enforcement officer, often escorted by a cop (at least when they come to my house), shows up at the property to look at whatever the complaint was about, and to try to develop a laundry list of other violations.

If you haven’t read up on CAPS I suggest you take a look yourself, to see some of what is behind their attempts at “compliance”.
First off, the word compliance just leaves me with an icky feeling. Ugh -authoritarian much? Secondly, the way that CAPS functions gives NIMBY (not in my backyard) types, gentrifiers, and developers a platform through which they can try to impose their value systems on their neighbors. CAPS facilitates the prioritization of money over community, and the perpetuation of petty grudges and disagreements which then become backed by the power of the state. Concrete example of value systems conflicting- once a Code Enforcement officer came to my house, and I suspect knowing I wasn’t home, spray painted over the word “fuck” which was painted on my back fence which we use as a public graffiti wall. When I called him, irate, he explained he assumed it was not supposed to be there. I had to emphasize that, yes, I really did intend for the word Fuck to be on my fence and I did not appreciate his vandalism of my property.

At the Wingnut Anarchist Collective we have probably had CAPS called on us at least 6 times over the past 5 years. Primarily it seems to be the result of the police or yuppie neighbors who are mad about something we are doing (like our giant anti-cop mural), which happens to be legal, but so get code enforcement to come around to seek out anything that doesn’t meet code they can possibly spot. Generally code enforcement officers and cops are greeted by video cameras and curse words, cause we don’t want to encourage their return. We are privileged enough and have been educated on our rights and the local laws and codes enough that often we have been able to successfully argue back against bogus citations. Not everyone is in a position to do so.

You might also be tempted to think that every violation that Code Enforcement cites someone for is valid, but oh my you would be incorrect. I’ve had citations for ordinances which didn’t actually define any of the relevant terms, and for ordinances that the code enforcement officer didn’t actually seem to know what they meant.  I’ve known people who received violations for things like peeling paint, having recently repainted their property, only to eventually discover that the code enforcement officer found one house on the block with peeling paint, and simply went ahead and issued everyone on the block the same citation. Another friend was working through the code enforcement process recently over a non-functioning car, only to end up having code enforcement come and tow the car days after he brought the vehicle into compliance with tags etc. When you hear that code enforcement issued however many citations, take it with a handful of salt, and a critical eye. And hope that the folks who have the citations against them have the ability to push back against the irrational bureaucracy, read between the lines, and know enough to never trust a government official.

Assumingly the motivation behind CAPS comes from this tired old Broken Window Theory that law enforcement have been flapping their gums about since the late 70’s and early 80’s. Theory goes, that vandalism and ‘disorder’ in an urban environment spawn or contribute to further criminal activity. Primarily this theory has resulted in police working towards covering graffiti, enforcing building codes, and other petty visual issues in communities.

The broken window theory has also notably been the motivator behind such other authoritarian approaches like NYPD’s notorious stop and frisk program. Having witnessed the RPD engaging in similar stop and frisk harassment of primarily young men of color, it seems as though RPD has bought into broken window theory hook, line, and sinker.

One of the major problems I have with the broken window theory isn’t even that it is necessarily incorrect. Perhaps it is correct, and fixing up the physical environment somewhere convinces criminals to leave that area. But there’s the major problem I do have- also known as the bubble effect. Criminals maybe leave one area, but by failing to address the root cause of criminal behavior, you are simply perpetually moving the criminal activity around but never actually solving it. Crime isn’t solved because someone get’s their windows repaired (which I will repair for money by the way, holler), crime is ‘solved’ because there are jobs with dignity available, counseling, recovery programs, a well adjusted society, educational opportunities, access to healthy food, transportation, etc. The same thing goes for poverty or homelessness. Every single effort to move the poor around (cough privatizing Monroe Park cough), including the economics of gentrification and property taxes, does not end poverty. Mayor Jones might be content to do his best to relocate poor people outside of the Richmond City boundaries, but those efforts will not produce a successful and happy society nor an end to poverty or crime. We have to think regionally, and we have to work towards a more just society. Not one where we have forced the poor into the suburbs because of the reverse white flight tendencies of liberals.

Gentrification is the process through which low income people are forced out of one area due to increases in property tax and rent. In 2006, according to the RTD, Rudd’s Trailer Park was assessed at $908,000 – now in 2014 it is assessed at almost $2.5 million. That means an increase in property taxes annually – going from $10,896 in 2006 to $30,000 now (1.2% property tax rate). While the trailer park is different than single family homes the pricnciple is still the same. The landlord has to pay higher taxes, and no doubt that cost is reflected in increased rental rates for all tenants. Leaving tenants with less extra cash to take care of things like maintenance and repairs.

I propose that the City of Richmond work to slow down gentrification through several related policy changes. We should put a moratorium on zoning changes, a moratorium on increases in property assessments for single family dwellings, and start demanding through a combination of legal and PR means that any “non-profit” organization which pays any employee over $150,000 a year including bonuses, benefits, and petty cash have to start paying property tax on all of their holdings within City limits. This makes sense to me, given the million dollar paycheck VCU pays it’s basketball coach and the over $200,000 Venture Richmond’s head Jack Berry hauls in – just as 2 examples of what “non-profits” are doing with their money instead of pitching in to the property tax fund to benefit our local schools and other public resources.

City Building Inspector Mark Bridgman was quoted in Sunday’s paper stating that any people kicked out of their house through a condemnation would be given the information of the Department of Social Services offices on Southside. As if that guaranteed housing, as if that solved their problems, or was any kind of balm to the wound of displacement. As if that was sufficient in any way, or in any way guaranteed that these folks would not end up living in another below building code dwelling. Come the fuck on. Once the City’s Code Enforcement officers stick that orange Condemned sticker on a property, it is illegal for anyone, including the owner, to be staying there. The orange stickers then give cops the go ahead to patrol the buildings to make sure that no one take shelter in the dwelling.

Where we live is about a lot more than the building we live in. People live in communities, and it is through those communities that relationships and support structures are fostered and nurtured. Getting the address for DSS is a joke. The value of community is why organizations such as RePHRAME exist to try to protect residents of Public Housing from displacement as well. If we value the well being of people, then we have to value their relationships as well. You are not looking out for someone’s well being if all you do is insist they live in a house of particular building code standards. We need to be broader minded than that. Safety, sustainability, and community need to go together.

I am not arguing that anyone should live in unsafe structures. I am not for unhealthy conditions. But code enforcement, the way Richmond is implementing it, does not ultimately stop that from happening. It is a strong armed approach, which results in dislocation of primarily low income people, the trauma of the disruption of community and support networks, and gentrification.

Targeting some of the most impoverished neighborhoods is just code enforcement going for the low hanging fruit. Yes, folks need the larger society’s help. No, that does not look a damn thing like code enforcement coming in to intimidate and strike fear into people’s hearts. Soffee, the manager of Rudd’s trailer park gets it right when he said that “instead of ‘putting people out,’ the city should be focusing on how it can help them fix the mobile homes” (RTD 6/29/14 A6).

When folks can not afford to bring their homes up to code, we should help them. Whether that be via non-profits, government grants, or just community efforts. We should also take a holistic approach. Why perhaps have folks ended up where they are? We can work as a City to make sure we have public side walks, affordable and effective public transportation, healthy affordable food, educational classes etc. available in those areas. Folks who can’t get to decent jobs, or stay healthy enough to work consistently, aren’t going to have an easy time affording home repairs.

Unfortunately, this recent push to enforce the cleanup of local trailer parks is par for the course of bad policy by the City of Richmond. Instead of looking to the roots of the problem, instead of offering positive and productive community oriented solutions, the government does everything it can to criminalize and invisibilize poverty.
These efforts to make poverty go away won’t be successful, but they will cause a lot of pain and suffering, and cost the tax payers a lot of money in the mean time. Capitalism and the State do not hold the answers to our problems, and we need to seek community oriented solutions to local issues. While at the same time we hold the state back, and stand up against unjust enforcement and unjust laws.

If you want to “like” Rudd’s Trailer Park and start or join in on a conversation about how we can help folks in Richmond’s trailer parks you can check them out online – Rudd’s Trailer Park.

When We Break, We Rise

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

When We Break, We Rise

12/9/13 City Council Meeting and Ordinances Related to Minor League Baseball Stadiums

The City Council Meeting for Monday December 9th, 2013 originally had 4 resolutions related to minor league baseball on the regular agenda. The text for all 4 ordinances is at the bottom of this article.

At printing time of the agenda, around 3pm, all 4 resolutions were either withdrawn or continued to the City Council Meeting on Monday January 27th, 2014 (Ordinances 2013-222 and 2013-R255). However, at the meeting, Ordinances 2013-221 and 2013-223 were brought up to be voted on. These ordinances are not directly connected to Mayor Jones’ Shockoe Bottom Baseball Plan, but it is pretty transparent that they are related.  In fact, Mayor Jones was the patron of all four ordinances.

Byron Marshall the Chief Administrative Officer for the City presented the two ordinances.  Marshall used careful language to paint a picture of necessity, and inevitability of the end of baseball on the Boulevard. The gist of the ordinances is that the City of Richmond wants to reclaim the properties associated with the baseball Diamond on the Boulevard from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority (RMA).

Marshall suggested that the content of these ordinances was such that the City of Richmond would only have the properties reverted into their ownership if or when (he used the word when, I use the word if) baseball was no longer being played on that property. However, the text of the ordinances as presented in the agenda does not contain information about timing or conditions of the property changing hands. It seemed that members of Council had not been presented with all of the legal documents surrounding these ordinances, and several members, including 3rd District Representative Chris Hilbert voiced concerns about not having all the information.

A public comment period was held, where around 15 folks spoke in opposition of these ordinances and in opposition of the City Council voting on the ordinances during that meeting. It was brought up that a series of public meetings were being held to gain public input about Mayor Jones’ baseball stadium development plan, and since these ordinances are connected to that plan, the Council ought not vote on them without input from their constituents. People also brought up that there is no urgency to these ordinances, and that the pushiness of the administration to get them passed was suspicious and irresponsible.

The people who spoke and held signs  in opposition represented a diverse group of Richmonders, residents of potentially affected neighborhoods, and included members of many organization including the NAACP, RePHRAME, Collective X, Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality, Wingnut Anarchist Collective, Alliance for Progressive Values, and more.

The push to pass these two ordinances fell in line with the rest of Mayor Jones’ strategy around the Shockoe Bottom development. That strategy being to push for the development as if it were a done deal that had already been consented on. The fact of the matter is that the people of Richmond when polled are against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. The development and decisions are not finalized, and there is still plenty of opportunity to prevent a stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

There was only 1 person who spoke in favor of City Council voting on the two ordinances at the meeting.

City Council President Charles Samuels (2nd District) explained that some Council members had wanted to push for these ordinances to be voted on at the December meeting, out of fear that during the General Assembly starting in January, some law would be passed which might hurt the City of Richmond’s ability to regain control over the RMA managed Boulevard properties. Samuels stated that he personally had no problems with the ordinances, but had wanted to have them continued to give the public better participation. Chris Hilbert made a motion to continue the ordinances until January 13th (other Shockoe Development ordinances have been continued to January 27th). Reva Trammell ( 8th District) seconded Hilbert’s motion. Parker Agelasto (5th District) suggested that the language in 2013-223 be altered to include the timing and conditions mentioned by CAO Marshall. Council then voted unanimously to continue the two ordinances until January 13th.

http://shockoebottom.blogspot.com/

In no particular order, the ordinances, with the dates to which they have been continued in bold after them:

2013-223 To declare a public necessity for and to authorize the acquisition of the parcel of real property owned by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority and known as 3003 N. Boulevard for the purpose of owning, maintaining or operating a stadium, arena, or sport facility. {Planning Commission – October 21, 2013} Continued to January 13th, 2014

2013-222 To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer, for and on behalf of the City of Richmond, to execute an agreement between the City of Richmond as lessor and the Richmond Metropolitan Authority as lessee to lease certain real property located at 3003 North Boulevard and real property adjacent thereto for the management, maintenance, and operation of the stadium commonly known as the Diamond and the provision of parking ancillary thereto by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – October 22, 2013} Continued to January 27th, 2014

2013-221  To accept from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority a release of easement for the purpose of parking located in the vicinity of North Boulevard, Robin Hood Road and Hermitage Road. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – October 22, 2013}  Continued to January 13th, 2014

2013-R255  To express the City Council’s support for an economic revitalization and cultural heritage development project in the Shockoe Bottom area of the city at a cost to the City and the Economic Development Authority not to exceed $79,625,000, including a new baseball stadium; a Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site; private mixed use, commercial, retail, and residential development; and related public infrastructure improvements. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – November 19, 2013 & Finance and Economic Development – November 21, 2013} Continued to January 27th, 2014 

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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