Posts tagged ‘Vulture Richmond’

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.

Let’s spend all the money on stupid stuff!!!

ALL the money!!!

Richmond seems to have access to ALL the MONEY!!! For any stupid, classist, racist, sexist, etc. idea that comes down the pike. This is what half of my articles are about as is, but I could not let the $53,000 for a fence to keep homeless people from possibly sleeping under a new bridge pass without comment.

News story here if you hadn’t heard about this bullshit.

And if you’ve missed about all the other crap we spend public funds on, check out this article I wrote recently recapping some bad investments.

Just remember- the people who run this town (for now), think it is perfectly reasonable to spend Fifty Three Thousand Dollars to build a fence to prevent homeless people from having the shelter of a bridge if they choose it. But they privatized a major park, want to build a baseball stadium, neglect the schools, built a football stadium for a racist team, are funding a brewery and restaurant, don’t have a central homeless shelter (more coming on that from a group of us soon), fail to maintain public housing in good conditions, etc. Basically – what the hell!

And, this involves Venture Richmond, who LOVE to act like they are nice people, and Dominion Resources – the fuckers behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Venture/Vulture Richmond has mega ties to Dominion and McGuire Woods Law Firm who is representing Dominion to sue landowners etc. It’s basically all connected, from environmental issues to homelessness to eminent domain etc. We have to pay attention and call out this stuff constantly.

This has been  a rant.

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

Sunday Sermon – The Appropriateness of an Easter Protest

jesuswashomeless

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.

IMG_91901843394478

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.
homelessjesus

“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?

wwjcut

“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?

jesusflogg

From Redskins to Monroe- We Shall Not Be Moved

Update!! Easter Sunday – protest Venture Richmond, a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, and Monroe Park Lease at Robert E. Lee statue at Monument and Allen in front of Alice Massie’s house from 1-5pm Please Share!!! Spread the word and bring signs and banners and noisemakers!!!! #rvacouncil #monroepark #venturerichmond #nostadium #shockoebottom #rva #foodnotbombs #rvafoodnotbombs #anarchist #radical #wingnut #vulturerichmond

This is the text of the speech I will be delivering on 4/14/14 at City Council during the public comments period. Below the speech are 2 amazing songs and information on the May Day Parade and Celebration in Monroe Park!!!

Sign made by Sarah Boggs for City Council Meeting

Sign made by Sarah Boggs for City Council Meeting

In 2013 the City of Richmond spent 11 million dollars to build a training camp for the racist football team from D.C. That racist team is the 3rd richest of all the teams in the NFL. But the City of Richmond has to pay them half a million dollars a year to practice here for 8 weeks. That comes to a total of 4 million dollars over the course of the 8 year contract. The rest of the year the facility remains vacant.
The training camp space can and ought to be used as a homeless shelter and resource center for the poor- who make up 27% of Richmond residents. The locker rooms and other aspects of the facilities make the training camp a huge improvement on existing options for the homeless.
Oh – and speaking of the homeless, they are facing the very real threat of being evicted from Monroe Park by the Monroe Park Conservancy if City Council approves this bogus lease tonight.
I have to ask- what kind of people spend 15 million dollars on a racist football team that is already the 3rd richest in the league, but would rather put at further risk some of our most vulnerable residents in order to not spend 3 million more on Monroe Park? What kind of people?

If the City of Richmond funded the entirety of the Monroe Park Renovations that would only be 2/5 of the amount being spent on that racist football team.

If City Council chooses to pass the leasing of a public park, which is an invaluable resource to low income residents, to a private entity made up of the rich and powerful who which to silence and make invisible the homeless, City Council is engaging in violence, classism, and morally reprehensible behavior.

If City Council supports the racist football team from D.C., Council is disgusting and oppressive.  The Washington D.C. City Council voted in 2013 to condemn the racist name, and Richmond City Council needs to as well.

If you support the construction of an unnecessary baseball stadium on historic slave market grounds, you need to step back and educate yourself on racism. If you think the public should fund the baseball stadium spending over  80 million dollars before taking care of our schools and parks you are ethically bankrupt and have no business acting as a leader in this region. Funding the entirety of the Monroe Park Renovations without leasing the park would cost 1/13 of what the stadium is projected to cost.

As my friend Gary Llama pointed out, this City government is acting like an irresponsible person with a credit card who spends money on fun frivelous things like eating out, vacations, and videogames, while ignoring their rent and utility bills and debts. This behavior is fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible and I urge you to change your ways.

Our public schools are literally falling down on and around our students. In Sunday’s paper Mayor Jones is quoted saying, “When that community re-gentrification takes place, thats when schools really start turning around”.

April 13, 2014 Richmond Times Dispatch

April 13, 2014 Richmond Times Dispatch

So according to the Mayor, when low income and people of color are forced out of a community by upper middle class white people the schools get better. He thinks that the violence of displacement is necessary to improve schools. I bet if the Mayor and City Council did not spend public funds on baseball, football, and tax breaks for Vulture Richmond there might be money for our schools and parks.

I am telling you, we will not go quietly. Scratch that, we will not go. The neoliberal direction of this administration is creating a resistance among the people, and we will not go, we shall not be moved.

 

We Shall Not Be Moved by Pete Seeger – some get pumped music for the resistance. Because Resistance is fun – which is also why you should join the fight to Keep Monroe Park Open and Free at the annual May Day Celebration and Parade! Info Below!!

Update on May Day from the meeting last night –
May day parade will meet at 2pm on Thursday May 1st in Clay abner park.

The parade will leave the park around 2:30 and march to Monroe Park.

Getting to Monroe Park by 4 at the latest. In Monroe Park there will be a potluck cookout, speakers, workshops and bands as we hold down the park until dark.

We want May Day to be fun, invigorating, and anti- stadium, anti-privatization of Monroe Park, and in support of Fast Food workers and everyone fighting for a Living Wage.

So make your own signs and banners and puppets and parade floats and costumes and bring a dish to share!

All Saints Theater will be organizing their puppets with support and determining the parade route.

Day of, we will need bike marshalls, medics, legal observers, copwatchers, and more!

And another of my favorite resistance songs- Which Side Are You On by Rebel Diaz!

Venture Richmond // Vulture Richmond

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

I used my immeasurable Paint skills to whip up this logo for Venture Richmond // Vulture Richmond

Use how you please!

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.

(more…)

Tag Cloud