Posts tagged ‘monroe park’

Welp, They Fenced Off Monroe Park – Here is your background a little too late

They finally fenced off Monroe Park, much to the suprise of people who didn’t follow the issue from 2010-2014. I am honestly so pissed and frustrated and busy I can’t write a big ol opinion piece on this at this time. Instead, allow me to suggest that folks read the DOZENS of opinion pieces and articles that were written on this issue over the 4 years we fought tooth and nail against this crappy, gentrifying, neoliberal nonsense plan.

Go to these websites for all you need to know:

https://thewingnutrva.wordpress.com/tag/monroe-park/

https://monroecampaign.wordpress.com

https://monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com/

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.

Citizens Opposed to Monroe Park Conservancy Lease – 2014 March 18

Part 5/7 – Citizens Opposed to Monroe Park Conservancy Lease – 2014 March 18 – Land Use – Richmond City Council – Richmond, VA from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

April 9, 2014 Special Meeting of Land Use Committee to Consider Monroe Park Bids

2014 April 9 – Special Meeting of Land Use To Consider Monroe Park Bids – Richmond City Council – Richmond, Virginia from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

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…)

City Council Funds Vulture Richmond, not Schools, Libraries, or Firefighters

If you weren’t at City Council tonight, here is my recap.

Before the meeting I spoke again with Michelle Mosby (9th district), who informed me that per our agreement after the last meeting, she had gotten the Public Comment period moved to earlier in the meeting’s agenda. I had made the request because I feel that Charles Samuels intentionally pushes that comment period later in the meetings to avoid having more attendees hearing what the public has to say. Typically by the end of the meetings many people have filtered out. It also seems that the public should have their say before votes happen, in case their information might be influential to a council person in some way. In exchange for the moved public comment period, I agreed to yell less and be more ‘respectful’. This all came about as I tried to explain to Michelle that when Charles Samuels refused to allow public comment on agenda items, the public was going to have their say one way or another, which was what we saw at the earlier April meeting. I hope that public comment stays early on the meeting agendas. Although the new 6 month trial of 1 meeting a month seems likely to cut into the ability of the public to speak.

About 16 RPS students came to express dismay at the refusal by the administration to fully fund schools. Their presence was a follow up to this morning’s walkout protest where around 200 students from 5 different Richmond Public Schools left school and marched to City Hall to protest the lack of full funding for schools, and the poor condition of many of the schools. #rvawalkout was the tag used for this campaign.

Isabella Arias, a student at Open High, spoke in the public comment period, but essentially had their concerns dismissed by Charles Samuels. Isabella made several salient points, including that to be a first tier City Richmond needs first tier schools before stadiums.

The other major issue I picked up on tonight was item 10 on the consent agenda. The way the agenda was written was very deceptive, and the ordinance sounded vague. Charles Pool tipped me off that in fact the ordinance had to do with giving Venture Richmond money.

“Ordinance Number 2014-80 (Patron: President Charles Samuels – To approve the Work Plan and Budget for the fiscal year ending Jun. 30, 2015, for the provision of services in the Downtown Richmond Special Service and Assessment Districts. “:

That ordinance is about, well, it is hard to tell by the little bit of information put on the agenda.

However, a closer read of the full text of the ordinance revealed that it would give $700,000 to Venture Richmond for their programming, including Canal Cruises, Friday Night cheers, Tredegar Green, their ‘ambassadors’, and more.  The full text of the ordinance was not in the agenda, and was not among the papers placed on the ledge to be distributed. I found it only with the help of Silver Persinger, in the giant binder of ordinances down in front.

I asked City Council members to vote no on this item. The sneakily worded ordinance was very misleading to residents. An additional problem at this meeting was that, as usual, there were not nearly enough agenda’s printed to go around. Many people in the audience wanted agendas, and could not get copies, and therefore had a very difficult time following along.

One reason to vote no on giving Venture Richmond money or tax breaks is their Tredegar Green amphitheater plan. Residents of Oregon Hill, neighboring Tredegar Green, overwhelmingly object to the project, and Council should not support this funding.

The ‘Ambassador’ program which is also funded through this grant, says that Venture Richmond’s ambassadors “discourage behavior that threatens the future prosperity of downtown”. To my ears, this sounds like a gentrification patrol, using their authority to promote a set of standards which residents have not had a say in. I question who’s standards and who’s prosperity are being kept in mind and promoted by these ambassadors, and seriously question why tax payer money should be supporting their agenda.

The $700,000 also funds events like Friday Cheers and Canal Cruises. Friday Cheers is the Venture version on an event which used to be free on Brown’s Island, but now costs $5-10 depending on the show. Somehow getting public money for the event has resulted in them charging attendees. The Canal Cruises are another money making enterprise for Venture Richmond, but subsidized by the taxpayers. The tickets for the cruises cost $5-6 depending on your age.

Additionally, Venture Richmond has used their money to fund the sorts of political lobbying campaigns that non-profits are not actually supposed to engage in. As of February 5, Venture Richmond had stated they spent $32,500 on the Loving RVA campaign, a transparent support campaign for Mayor Dwight Jones’ Revitalize RVA baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom plan. Dwight Jones is also the President of the Venture Richmond Board of Directors. City Council President Charles Samuels (2nd district) and Vice President Ellen Robertson (6th district) are also on the Board.

The bottomline here, again, is that City Council is spending tens of thousands of dollars on plans that are not fairly bid, not wanted by residents, and not beneficial to residents. Parker Agelasto (5th district) and Reva Trammell (8th District) have both supported the idea of getting the $40,000-50,000 necessary to open one library location on Sundays for a year. Currently no City libraries are open on Sundays.  Well, shoot, with $700,000 we could keep 14 libraries open on Sundays for the year, more than 1 per district.

$700,000 could also go a long way towards fixing the roof of school, and other urgently needed facility repairs on school buildings. In fact, $700,000 is exactly how much money the School Board is looking for in order to repair the roof of one elementary school and one middle school. While City Council and the School Board play pass the blame, but not the buck, students pay the price.

Firefighters have also recently come to council to ask for more financial support, specifically for their career development. These folks help our communities to stay safe, and deserve support.

The 3 million needed to be raised by the Monroe Park Conservancy, who recently landed a 30 years for $30 lease on Monroe Park, is basically just over 4 times that $700,000. Maybe if we kept that money for our park system Council would not feel the urgent need to privatize our public spaces.

The leasing of Monroe park and this grant to Venture Richmond are both examples of essentially no bid auctions of public resources. These are plans designed for 1 specific group. In the case of Monroe Park, the call for public bids was a technicality followed only when Caroline Cox pointed out their illegal no bid process. My bid was the only competing bid, and it was a protest bid. While the Monroe Park Conservancy had over 3 years to develop a plan and then a bid for the plan tailored for them, I had 30 days. For Venture Richmond’s 700,000 grant, which they receive year after year, the issue isn’t even up for a bid at all.

We have the money for our parks. We have the money for our schools. We have the money for our libraries. We have the money for our firefighters.  We have the money, City Council just consistently chooses to spend it on corporate welfare and the rich instead of the things the rest of us want and need. Vote them out in 2016.

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

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