Posts tagged ‘shockoe bottom’

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…)

Oscar Recap: Translating Film to Real Life

Check out my new article about some important social issues brought up by Sunday’s Oscars!!

Oscars Show How Far We Have To Go

The Resistance

 

There has been a lot going on in Richmond for the past months. 2014 is turning out to be a pivotal year for this City. A year where everything is on the line. Right now, on the precipice of multiple changes, I’m taking a look into my crystal ball to see what the future may hold. Like any prediction, this is no static vision. Things don’t have to turn out like what I’m seeing.

 

What happens if a development in Shockoe Bottom is created using 80 million of public funds to build a ball park in a historic site? What happens if Monroe Park is privatized and attempts are made to kick Food Not Bombs and the homeless out? What happens if our schools and children continue to suffer because Vulture Richmond gets tax breaks they don’t deserve?

 

Well, what I’m seeing is:

 

The Resistance is what will happen.

 

The Resistance won’t be a formal organization, but a banner taken up by dozens, hundreds, thousands, who are so sick of living in a place where the few rule the many, where money speaks louder than our voices, and where there is more oppression daily.

 

The Resistance won’t stick to one set of tactics, but will embrace a true diversity of tactics to liberate Richmond from the oppressive bad decisions brought about by Mayor Jones, City Council, Vulture Richmond, and the Monroe Park Advisory Council – among others.

 

I’m seeing members of the Resistance outside of the houses of members of City Council, Monroe Park Advisory Council, Vulture Richmond, Looting RVA, local Developers and more, holding up boom boxes John Cusack style, blasting “No where to run to baby, no where to hide” by Martha and the Vandellas . Because, as we all know from campaigns like Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty – the enemies have faces, names, and addresses. Any good resistance will be sure to gather this intel, and use it appropriately, to bring to the protests to the people responsible for the decisions privatizing our City.

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Richmond Needs Community Not Cool

Big news for Richmond, making the Frommer’s 2014 list of 14 places to visit. I can’t muster up the enthusiasm about this that seems to be the mainstream response. 2014 is the 150th anniversary of many battles in the Civil War, and this history is one of the main reasons Richmond made the list.  Additionally restaurants and breweries and the rapids of the James are our selling points. I’m not buying.

And the part that everyone keeps repeating –  ” While you weren’t looking Richmond got cool” – really makes me mad.

I’m sorry,  but some old colonizing asshole “finding” Richmond in 1737 doesn’t make it cool, and neither does some out of town hipsters “finding” and gentrifying Richmond in 2013.

Shockoe Bottom, the controversial potential site of a bad public investment in a baseball stadium, is named from the Powhatan village which once was on this ground, Shocquohocan. And that area is full of historic sites of the slave trade which once dominated Richmond. We have history, no argument there.  We have so much history we haven’t processed it all yet.

My argument lies in the fact that Richmond’s history is completely intertwined in our present. Our history isn’t an object gathering dust in a museum for tourists to check out. Our history is a constant battle. It isn’t quaint, or past, or collectible. It’s struggle.

People who colonize ruin the things that make a place ‘cool’. Richmond has a twisted grim history and a future that is really up in the air right now. Don’t yall remember our poverty rate? How about incarcerated folks? How way too much money goes to the police? How money is spent on sports, not schools?

I mean honestly Richmond isn’t cool – its complex. If you blaze ahead with fancy lofts and art galleries while ignoring the people who live here already you will ultimately ruin everything that once drew you here. And aside from ruining the character of this place, you will cause harm to people who live here.

There is some potential for tourism or development to help alleviate suffering in Richmond. But within the context of capitalism and the institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia etc. that permeates our culture I don’t see how. Bringing more people or money to Richmond won’t just trickle down automatically. Any attempt at drawing in tourists ought to be working closely with community organizations to make sure that impact is a positive one for the parts of our communities which need it the most.

I think that the people of Richmond are proud of our City. But there is something not right about attempts to be proud about gastropubs and new breweries and high end retail, which aren’t things that represent most Richmonders.

Stop telling people Richmond is cool. Why? Cool is attained with privilege. And a lot of folks who live in Richmond don’t have that kind of privilege. Bringing in fast development and fancy yuppie venues won’t help Richmonders.

Its not cool to be poor, hungry, homeless, without mental health care, without healthcare, stopped and frisked by the police based on racial profiling, without work, without living wages, without good public transportation and without engaging schools. These aren’t just generic issues, they are issues Richmond faces moreso than many other places.

Richmond has a higher poverty rate than surrounding areas. 25.3% is the official poverty rate in Richmond according to the Mayor’s 2013 Anti Poverty Commission Report. So 25.3% of our citizens living in poverty, which isn’t cool. We are twice as poor as the national average, and two and half times more poor than the state wide average.

One of my strongly held personal beliefs is that my life is only as good as the lives of the people around me. It is in my best interest for my neighbors to do well. Unfortunately I think some Richmonders feel this way, but think the best way to accomplish a good life is to push out the people who aren’t doing well and replace them with people with more money.

The Fast Food Workers Strike and VCU Living Wage Campaign are just two of the many campaigns in the works to make Richmond a better place. There are community organizations on the ground, doing grassroots work to alleviate poverty and suffering, and doing battle with the oppressive institutions. They need the spotlight, they need our support because they are doing work with and as the people who live here.

Don’t come here unless you are coming to help and stand in solidarity with the struggles around these issues.

The bottomline is – I don’t want to live in a place that’s cool. I have a lot of values, and cool isn’t one of them. I’d rather live in a place I could be proud of.

 

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons A Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons a Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

nostadium

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Dwight Jones is a scumbag. A scumbag with a plan to develop Shockoe Bottom, and undoubtedly gain some personal reward down the line. The idea of moving Richmond’s baseball stadium from the Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom has been brought up repeatedly, but the public doesn’t enthusiastically support such a change. In fact, the drive for this change of venue seems to be coming out of nowhere – or mostly from some local developers/land owners who would profit by the move.

Momentum against Mayor Jones’ stadium proposal has been ongoing. This week it was revealed that the Mayor’s plan has added bells and whistles. These additions to the stadium plans are a transparent attempt to trick citizens of Richmond and City Council members into feeling like they must support his proposal despite the multitude of reasons baseball doesn’t belong in Shockoe. This new, larger, plan will not stop the campaign against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In fact, his newest attempt should create more momentum against this proposal and Jones’ shitty politics.

Here’s my top nine reasons why (it was going to be ten but I got hungry):

1) Food – The Mayor has added to his proposal the development of a grocery store in Shockoe Bottom. This should not sway you towards his plan, for a couple reasons. Shockoe Bottom already has one grocery store. Although, not my personal favorite, it exists and is available to the local population. Outside of that area, Richmond has many Food Deserts (one ‘s’ not 2, NBC 12, cause with dessert you want more, with desert you do not. p.s. hire me as a copy editor please). A food desert is an area where the local population does not have access to healthy, affordable food. Mayor Jones isn’t really helping Richmond’s population by adding a grocery store to a non-food desert zone. Neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Manchester pop into mind as places in need of a grocery store.

2) Utilities –  Mayor Jones has added to his plan the repair of the water/sewer utilities in Shockoe Bottom to try to entice people’s support. Here is why this is a problem- the City has an obligation to maintain and repair public utilities and that has NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL. Richmond already has the world’s highest known water utility minimum rate. We already pay too much for our water utility – and we shouldn’t have to support the bad public investment of a baseball field in order to have our utilities repaired.

3) Housing – Jones’ plan calls for 750 apartments to be developed in Shockoe Bottom along with the baseball stadium. Richmond does NOT have a housing shortage. What we do have is a shortage of low income and affordable housing. If public money and support is to go towards any development of new housing it should be housing for the folks who need it the most – low income, elderly, single caregiver, etc. Sorry out of town yuppies and future gentrifiers, we have to take care of our own first. We need to prioritize the people who currently live in Richmond, and make a Richmond for us, not for folks some developers wish lived here.

4) Parking and Public Transit – The proposal includes the creation of 1,700 parking spots. In Richmond, we have our priorities wrong. We are putting effort towards creating more parking spots, which studies show will just create more demand. Instead, we should and NEED to be focusing on drastic improvements to our public transit systems and options. Why do I say need? Well, because in 2015 there is going to be a giant bike racing event here, which will draw crowds of over 450,000 . The UCI Road World Championships is a bike event, which no doubt will mean some roads are shut down for the races. Richmond roads, parking and public transit all lack the capacity to take on that many people for 9 or more days.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a flip about the bike event itself, but it’s a great jumping point to push for better public transportation.

5) Salomonsky is a crook – Developer H. Louis Salomonsky is a crook, convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion by trying to bribe a City Council member in 2004.  More recently he tried to manipulate reality to score historic tax abatement that he didn’t qualify more. I dunno yall, sounds like a bad person to be involved in a development partnership with. Who knows the types of behind the scenes deals that have been going on with this guy involved in the planning. Not the type of thing public money should be invested in, certainly.

6) This investment perpetuates patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia – I wrote a much longer op-ed on this issue which I will link at the bottom. But basically, professional sports like baseball, are cis-men only sports, and putting public money to support baseball or football unequally ends up supporting men and a patriarchical culture. Women, trans folks and non gender conforming folks, never have a chance to play on the Flying Squirrels and are disproportionally involved in these endeavors.

7) Racism and Sacred Ground – This point seems painstakingly obvious, but a Flying Squirrel doesn’t suit an area historically known for being a site of slave trade and the African Burial Ground. Richmond would do well to remember our historic racism in order to better confront our modern racism, and we need to give space, respect, and dignity to those historical sites in Shockoe Bottom. I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again – No one ever suggests putting parking or a baseball stadium on Hollywood Cemetery. Think about why that is and why these two sites look so different today. We have a legacy of racism, and we have to begin unwinding it somewhere.

8) If this was really such a great financial investment, don’t you think private investors would just do it? – It is a well understood fact that sports complexes like this proposed one, do not economically benefit the surrounding area enough to make up for the public investment. If a new stadium was economically sound, I think the Flying Squirrels would fund it themselves, or get private investors. There is a reason they are trying to blackmail Jones and Richmond Citizens for a new stadium- cause it won’t make enough money. We already built one bad investment sports stadium this year (see Redskins Training Camp is Racist and A Bad Investment), Richmonders can not afford a second bad investment in sports.

9) The people do not want it – Residents of Richmond are not clamoring for this plan. Mayor Jones is not responding to a cry for help or a dream emerging from the people. Mayor Jones is responding to that funny smell money gives off. Mayor Jones is trying, really, really hard to create a demand that just isn’t there. He is using all kinds of tricks to make it appear that people want this stadium, and that this stadium is a done deal. Neither are true. Below are linked several polls as well as an online petition showing this to be true.

Basically, ballparks are bad public investments, this particular location is particularly bad, and the bells and whistles Jones has attached to the baseball plan are ill informed, ill executed ideas which show a basic lack of understanding of both the needs of Richmond and the effective ways to meet those needs.

To Dwight Jones, I say, we all die one day, and I’m thinking your grave sounds like a super place for a game of catch.

– Mo Karnage

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If you don’t feel sufficiently informed by the above points, please educate yourself around this issue. Some resources that can help explain it to you:

To hear about the 2015 bike event- (more…)

Follow Up on Baseball Stadium op-ed

http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/3/post/2013/11/follow-up-richmond-virginias-shockoe-bottom-baseball-stadium.html

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