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Blair's Magazine of Lost History | Charlottesville, Virginia | healingcharlottesville@yahoo.com

Blair 2003
Blair Hawkins for House of Delegates 2003.
2003 Blair Hawkins Stands Alone For Due Process. Wednesday October 11, 2017.

Convert Crescent Halls APARTMENTS to Gleason CONDOS across the street.

Why can the Gleason residents use their apartment to bail their kids out of jail? But across the street at Crescent Halls you cannot do that. In both cases the land was seized by Charlottesville City Council through their Urban Renewal agency. CRHA is the city's real estate department with authority to buy land that's not for sale (stealing). If the City stops taking the HUD money, HUD has no control or ownership of anything in Charlottesville.

Why did the City divide this land into Yes-Civil-Rights and No-Civil-Rights zones? How can we fix it? A simple City Council vote declaring Crescent Halls to be a Condominium. They can't do that? They did it for the Luxury Gleason Condos across the street. They don't WANT to do it.

(a) They don't want public housing residents to be able to bail themselves or others out of jail while awaiting trial.
(b) They don't want you to be able to take in a relative during an emergency. You'll get evicted.
(c) They don't want you to have equity and ownership of where you live.
(d) They don't want you to have any control over management and residential rules.
(e) They don't want you to be able to save up for a better life. Your rent goes up if you become successful as a way to keep you impoverished. But across the street your tax stays the same so you can save for a better life.
(f) If you can't pay the rent, the landlord has the option to evict you. If you can't pay the tax, only a court can evict you after you're found guilty of not paying the tax. Then the condo is sold at a police auction.

Why is there such a gap from one side of the street to the other? With such obvious inequality, why doesn't City Council vote to convert Crescent Halls to Condos? Or vote the Gleason to become renters...the same way City Council voted for the previous owners to become renters...if they were poor?

City Council has a lengthy history of using Land Grants to transfer land. It's a 2-step process– (1) Seize the land with Eminent Domain. (2) Sell the Surplus Public Land for $1 to your buddy (no auction).

Why did the rich receive Due Process of ownership but the poor received an arbitrary landlord? Why has City Council reversed the legacy of Vinegar Hill? Why does City Council use the police power to transfer real estate from the poor to the rich?

The 2003 campaign is continuing today. We still have people who claim to support the poor AND support urban renewal. That's impossible. Despite City Council efforts to expand urban renewal further, quiet civil disobedience continues to stall the efforts. Mainstream media have no idea why the 5-fold expansion of Garrett urban renewal in 2014 to the Strategic Investment Area is not moving forward. Blair's Magazine of Lost History and Blair's Blog have massive documentation on this issue.

Timeline of 2003 Campaign against Mitch Van Yahres' Urban Renewal.

2000 Feb. Blair Hawkins decides to run for City Council as certified write-in.   Summary of campaign.

...Kevin Fletcher decides to run a write-in campaign against Lindsay Dorrier, Scottsville district, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, for two apparent reasons- Fletcher has an issue and the incumbent is unopposed ("Write-in", Sep 24 2003, The Observer; "Write-in: Latecomer challenges Dorrier", Sep 25 2003, The Hook).
— Jun 5. First speeches on urban renewal:

Letter to Mayor
Letter to Mayor Virginia Daugherty to Investigate Urban Renewal.
Property Street
Name Connector for Sally Hemings and Laura Dowell.

2001 Feb 28. Constitutional argument in a newspaper. "Free Speech Wall Unnecessary", The Observer.

The referenced articles are reprinted below.
— Aug 27. The Witness Report newspaper debuts. Sixth and final issue April 30. All 19 pages as jpg images (100k-200k each) on one page best viewed at 1024x768 screen resolution. All 23 pages from 2001–2002.

— Nov. Hawkins begins telling people he will challenge Van Yahres if he runs unopposed again in 2003. Van Yahres is elected to his eleventh 2-year term with 167 write-ins opposed.

2002 January. HealingCharlottesville website debuts.

Yahoo eliminated free personal webpages.
— Apr 2."Schilling and Salidis for Council", The Daily Progress. Incumbent mayor Blake Caravati (D) and challenger Rob Schilling (R) were elected.

— Dec 19. Landmark essay on public housing. "No reparation for slavery... Yes restitution for renewal".

2003 Mar 15. "Ides of March" email to Van Yahres.

— Apr 7. Campaign website debuts. Campaign kicks off. Vision and biographical resume articulated.

— Apr 16. "GOP adds two to House races", The Observer.   (The other candidate was Delegate Steve Landes for re-election.)

— Apr 17. "4 better or worse", The Hook.

"Best long shot in the 57th District. Blair Hawkins challenges Democrat Mitch Van Yahres for the General Assembly seat Van Yahres has held since 1981. Best Credentials. Hawkins is two-time winner of the Clark School spelling bee, according to the press release announcing his candidacy."
— Apr 21. First two planks articulated:

1. Fifth Amendment vs. Housing Authority.
2. Education.

— Apr 29. "Switch hitters: Two candidates pick parties and abandon Independents", C-ville Weekly. (The other candidate was Eric Strucko for the White Hall seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.)

"...In Hawkins' mind, City annexation of the County and urban renewal are the two issues that explain every aspect of current-day local government...."
— Apr 30. Classifieds Legal Notices, The Daily Progress.

Physical Stock Assessment. The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) seeks proposals from A/E firms to evaluate its physical stock. The successful firm will conduct a comprehensive assessment of CRHA's physical assets and develop a long-range capital plan based upon the agency's mission, market conditions, best and highest use, and effective use of resources. Submission deadline is 12:00 noon EST on 6/11/03."

— May 6. CRHA Board Chairman Dave Norris identifies modern urban renewal.

— May 10. "Housing director resigns: No reason offered for Harvey's action", The Daily Progress.

— May 14. Third plank: "A politician on the politics of gay", The Observer. Position echoed in "Domestic partners walk many paths", Sep 21 2003, letter in The Daily Progress.

— May 28. "Several Va. races lack challengers", The Daily Progress.

"...Blair Hawkins, who garnered four votes as a write-in candidate for Charlottesville City Council in 2000, failed to file the necessary $500 check by the deadline and thus will not be eligible for nomination even though he had announced as a candidate, said Robert Hodous, city Republican chairman..."
— Jun 2. "Undelivered Nomination Speech" at Republican mass meeting at McIntire Park. Democrat incumbent Van Yahres runs unopposed.

— Jun 3. "Republicans nominate NFL referee for board", The Daily Progress.

"...Blair Hawkins threw in the towel and acknowledged he was giving up a quest for the Republican nomination after missing a filing deadline last week... WVIR-TV Dateline29 News gives the candidate a few minutes of fame.
— Jul 11. "From The Editor", The African American Reflector.
"...I have learned that many feel that the same "Urban Renewal" that dismantled the famed Vinegar Hill as a black business district is resurfacing in the form of housing programs that many feel are preying on the ignorance and misfortune of the elderly and poor for the express purpose of acquiring property in traditional black neighborhoods and building housing that is not affordable in their place..."
— Aug 20. "Eminent Domain is main issue in Va. state house race 2003" email to Neil Boortz' radio talk show syndicated on WINA AM-1070.

— Sep 29 Monday - Boortz spends half the three hour show talking about eminent domain abuses. Citizens Fighting Eminent Domain Abuse.

— Oct 16. "Write in urban renewal!", The Hook.

— Oct 22. Final Letter of Campaign to The Daily Progress.

Campaign Slogan – Private Property for the Common Good

Ad in The Daily Progress Classifieds Special Notices for 7 days centered on June 2 – "Private Property for the Common Good." Blair Hawkins for House of Delegates 57th District. Republican Convention Jun. 2, 6 p.m. McIntire Park. Election Nov. 4. "geocities.com/HealingCharlottesville/Campaign2003"

Reflections of the candidate. (Sep 29)

I've always known that urban renewal is a big story. But it wasn't until I ran for Council and talked to people that I realized just how big a story it really is.  

People generally fall into two groups: those who have never heard of urban renewal and think all those parking lots south and west of downtown have always been there, and those who know what has happened. Those who know fall into two subgroups: opponents and victims who are happy to talk about it, and supporters and officials who avoid the issue. Most of the opponents have moved away. The supporters remain and have risen to positions of leadership and wealth.

The discussion on my part seems already to have shifted away from public housing and the facts of urban renewal to redevelopment. After all, the housing authority is the redevelopment authority. Since some high profile officials of urban renewal are now members of ASAP (Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population), a few logical questions follow:

1. Does ASAP support the creation of a development agency in the county, whose mission would be to override eminent domain to accelerate development but whose result would be to slow growth in the county, a rural area?

2. Does ASAP support the elimination of the city development agency in order to encourage growth in the city, an urban area?

The biggest irony of the campaign would have to be the anti-Patriot Act resolution introduced by Richard Sincere to the Republican mass meeting. The resolution warned of possible future civil rights violations by a federal agency while I had just run a campaign against known civil rights violations by a specific local agency. The resolution passed and moved on to City Council. I guess I'll have to write a resolution informing city employees that they could be arrested for grand larceny if they participate in the taking of property under eminent domain for private use.

There is no shortage of ideas on how to grow this issue: Such as a petition drive for a referendum to abolish the Redevelopment Authority. A run for Congress would be an escalation. Or maybe even a lawsuit as the Authority sells its eminent domain property to private developers. Only time will tell.

I am very happy that this issue went national (CBS "60 Minutes", Sep 28 2003). I am proud to have participated in the movement to restore Fifth Amendment property rights in America. My goal is to compile this work as a Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat file for distribution on CD to book publishers by Christmas. I hope also to reproduce a dozen or so old articles from The Daily Progress.

On November 4, I will write in myself to record for history that I publicly stood up for private property. When an incumbent runs unopposed, that's a golden opportunity to write in the one issue you think needs to be addressed. Any of these phrases would be support of my issue campaign:

    Voter Registrar now reports write-ins only if they are pre-certified and spelled exactly. It's the latest effort to block the public from communicating to local government.
  • urban renewal
  • eminent domain
  • due process
  • Fifth Amendment
  • civil rights
  • private property
  • land use management
  • housing authority
  • redevelopment authority
  • Vinegar Hill
  • Garrett Street
  • Levy Avenue
  • any address taken under eminent domain for private use
If you are happy with the way things are, you should vote for the incumbent, Democrat Mitch Van Yahres.

The opponent: Mitch Van Yahres

Mitch Van Yahres Acceptance Speech for the Democratic Nomination May 29 2003. Democrats Nominate Mitch Van Yahres/ Delegate Criticizes GOP Plan/ Hawkins' Press Release May 29.

"Mayor Mitchell Van Yahres said the council will meet...and immediately vote itself into executive session" ("Closed Annex Meeting Set", Jul 28 1971, The Daily Progress).

"The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority has begun to file for condemnation proceedings for acquisition of land in the Garrett Street urban renewal area" ("City Authority Begins Filing For Garrett Condemnations", Jul 28 1971, The Daily Progress).

"Ides of March" email to Van Yahres. March 15, 2003.

Dear Mitch Van Yahres,

In May, I will declare my intention to seek the Republican nomination to represent Charlottesville and Albemarle in the Virginia House of Delegates. At that time, I will file official papers and post this email to my website.

In my speech at the convention, I will paint the campaign as a historic contest between a man who voted for urban renewal and a man whose family was displaced and disempowered by those votes. The election will be a referendum on the Fifth Amendment.

I will build a coalition among rich and poor, black and white, Democrats and Republicans, and also people who have not voted for years. In this moment of history, it would be irresponsible for me to sit quietly at home. I look forward to a literate and spirited debate on the major issues of the day.

Best of luck to you,

Blair Hawkins, http://geocities.com/healingcharlottesville/

Cville Native to Oppose Mitch Van Yahres: Mr. Sterling Goes to Richmond. Mon Apr 7, 2003.

Blair 2003
Blair Hawkins.
A white man who grew up in poor black neighborhoods and public housing of Charlottesville, two-time winner of the Clark School spelling bee, Blair Hawkins announces he will seek the Republican nomination to represent Charlottesville and Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Delegates.

"My immediate strategy is to inform the public how they can join the Republican Party in order to vote at the convention to make sure the election is about issues, not incumbency," says Hawkins. "A vote for me is a vote for inclusion in the political process. It's also a vote for equal protection of the Fifth Amendment."

The convention should be in early June, but the date has not been set.   The filing deadline and fees have not been determined. Hawkins is asking for contributions to pay for filing fees and to advertise his message.

He says, if elected, he will use the office to bring about positive change locally. He will argue and introduce legislation to cut funding to the Housing Authority because of its well-known history of violating the Fifth Amendment process for taking property. These large-scale violations have created unintended consequences.

"Urban renewal has contributed to a shortage of affordable housing, high rents, high property values, loss of confidence in property as a safe investment, declining civil rights as the amount of private property decreases, mass exodus of residents, loss of history, labor shortage, increase in violent and race-based crime, economic stagnation, and general civic shame for the most recent chapter of local history.

"My plan is to increase the supply of real estate by changing one word. Convert public housing 'apartments' to 'condominiums' owned by the current residents.   Instant empowerment of low income people through a land grant." Fifth Amendment vs. Housing Authority.

Hawkins' basic message is to force reductions in harmful services by cutting taxes.  

"No agency or company will reform if the revenue stream continues at or above past levels. Sometimes a new program is the solution. But sometimes repeal of a bad law will improve quality of life."

His is a cautionary tale. "If you stop forced renewal and subsidized housing, many of our social problems will magically go away. If we don't address these two practices, some kid who lives on Tenth Street today will have a similar message forty years from now, just as people are still talking about Vinegar Hill forty years after the last building was torn down."

Biographical Resume.

Born Mar. 5, 1964 at UVa Hospital. Mother went into labor with her third of five children at the Paramount Theater on East Main Street during the Doris Day, Rock Hudson film, Pillow Talk.

Schools Attended.

  • Hope House for Preschoolers on Garrett Street.
  • Greenbrier.
  • Burnley-Moran.
  • Clark.
  • Buford.
  • Walker.
  • Jefferson alternative school.
  • Charlottesville HS, 1982 graduate in top ten percent of class, Honor Society, French Club President, first speech delivered to ELKS Club on subject of school violence.
  • UVa First Summer Foreign Language Institute 1981, German Program 4.0 GPA.
  • Georgetown University Russian Program, freshman year.
  • North Carolina State University, B.S. Meteorology 1993, Computer Science Minor; 3-year Army ROTC scholarship, Dean's List 3 semesters.
  • Piedmont Viginia Community College.
  • Cleveland State University, computer technology.
Places Lived
  • 509 and 522 Ware Street (Photo Vignette).
  • Ridge Street.
  • Pine Grove trailer court at southwest corner of Hydraulic-Emmet Street intersection 30 years ago.
  • Westhaven public housing.
  • 1100 block of Market Street across from Skate Town.
  • Garrett Square public housing.
  • South First Street public housing.
  • Harris Street house and trailer park (both gone).
  • Sixth Street trailer park.
  • North Garden in southern Albemarle county.
  • Rugby Road.
  • Belmont Avenue.
  • Raymond Avenue.
  • Cottage Lane apartment in Rosser Mansion on 200-acre farm that once stretched to the Rotunda.
  • Also Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio, and Caribou, Maine.
  • Summer 2002 camping in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, northeast of Seattle, Washington.
Military Service.
  • 1983-85 Enlisted, Private First Class; Basic Training Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Advanced Individual Training 96B Interrogator, Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Defense Language Institute at Monterrey, California, Introduction to Arabic; US Military Academy Prep School, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.   The Army paid off my college loans.
  • 1985-88 Army ROTC, NC State University; Color Guard, Ranger Trooper, Public Affairs Officer; Advanced Camp at Fort Bragg; Northern Warfare Summer Course, Fort Greely, Black Rapids, Fairbanks, Alaska, in July; Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia; Second Lieutenant Commissioned Officer.
  • 1996 Reserve Obligation Expires.
Positions Held.
  • Daily Progress newspaper boy with routes south and east of downtown core.
  • Lawn boy.
  • After school painter, dishwasher, construction worker. Cook at Fellini's in the glory days.
  • 1994-97 Meteorologist for National Weather Service. Resigned to take care of father who passed January 11, 1998. (Photo of Marvin Hawkins).
  • Brick Mason, Journeyman, Apprentice, Laborer.
  • Webmaster, Content Writer, College Level Tutor, Delivery Driver, Barista, Handyman, Tent Erector, Events Lighting Technician.
  • Volunteer Service:
    • LiveArts Spotlight Operator for Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Robber Bride Groom; Slide Projector Operator for The Cryptogram.
    • Candidate for Charlottesville City Council 2000. (Speeches and documents of the campaign).
    • The Witness Report Pamphlet, 7 issues, August 2001 to April 2002.
    • HealingCharlottesville Website of political activism, created January 2002.
    • Letters of Charlottesville in hiatus after 2 issues.
Special Thanks to Teachers and Mentors

"It's impossible to name every person who has influenced my life. But some deserve mention.

  • Clark School 1st grade Ms. Staggers who taught phonics. Ms. Bohr for science. Fifth grade Ms. Carter who put her job on the line to have a violent boy expelled for the few months that remained in the school year.
  • Ms. Carson for 6th grade math and joke teller extraordinaire on the Upward Bound bus trip from D.C. in a snowstorm. And the late principal Ralph Law, who gave me three whacks of the paddle in his Buford office.
  • Will Paulson and Tom DeMayo of Outreach.
  • Michael McCumber, UVa grad student who hired me as an intern for two summers between 9th and 11th grades to help with computer modeling of thunderstorms over Florida and Oahu, Hawaii.
  • Mesdames Morton, Rose, and Decanio for French.
  • The teacher I think about most is Ms. Miles, 11th grade English, essay-style expository writing. I use her techniques over and over. Thank you again."

Fifth Amendment vs. Housing Authority. Mon Apr 21, 2003.

The Constitutional Argument.

  • "Free Speech Wall Unncessary," Feb 28, 2001, The Observer.
  • Speech before City Council, June 5, 2000.
  • "No Reparation for Slavery...Yes Restitution for Renewal," Dec 19, 2002, HealingCharlottesville.
Shortage of Affordable Housing. "The good news is that houses in the County and surrounding counties with smaller price tags tend to be more numerous" ("Home is where the help is," Mar. 25, 2003, Cville Weekly).  

Blair Hawkins New Voice Old Wisdom
In 2000 Blair stood alone against hostile annexations & illegal payments not to annex. Being the first is very lonely.
But those counties don't have a housing authority. The City has had one since 1954. Shouldn't the City have a better position on affordable housing? One unintended consequence of this agency is the opposite of its stated mission. That alone seems sufficient reason to eliminate the agency.

High Rents.  High rent is a reflection of high real estate assessments. The tenant pays the property tax, rainy day repair fund, landlord's mortgage, and landlord's profit. A mortgage is cheaper than rent plus you have property rights.

High Property Values. High assessments are most likely the result of a smaller real estate market because of government expansion. The more land the City, County, UVa, State, and Federal own, the less private property exists. According to supply and demand theory, the more scarce a commodity, the higher its value. The total amount of land does not change.

A second phenomenon is also at work. The economic cycle where a property's value appreciates and depreciates alternately has been interrupted. The consequence of declining assessments in the 1950s and '60s was urban renewal or redevelopment, as it is today. By not allowing property values to decline, the office of the assessor is protecting us from the Housing Authority.  

As a side-effect, the range of value from the cheapest to the most high-end property remains the same. Some property assessments have to go up dramatically to offset property that normally would go down.

A third possibility is that rising assessment is a defacto tax increase to generate more revenue. Another way to fund the rising cost of services is to sell off public property, thereby creating a revenue stream of taxation. At the same time, cost of services would go down because that property would then be privately maintained.

Loss of Confidence in Property as a Safe Investment.   Traditionally, if you expected your stay to be brief, you would rent. If you expected to settle down, you would buy a house. This was the culture a hundred years ago.  

So people settled south and west of downtown where land was cheap. Some of them built grand homes for their extended families.   In the '50 and '60s, these homes were occupied by old people. Their children had grown up and moved to their own homes. Because property values were in decline, the poor had opportunities to buy a grand ol' money pit, live in it, renovate it later, and meanwhile use the advantages of property.

Then urban renewal came to town. It targeted the cheapest real estate regardless of the owner's race or economic status. These areas happened to be predominantly black neighborhoods. The Elderly highrise on South First Street was built to house the displaced senior citizens. They were not allowed to die in their own home or to pass their estate to their children. In many cases, those grand homes are now parking lots or open space.

The lesson is this: If you get old or sick and unable to maintain the exterior of your house, a program is headed your way whether you want the help or not. City inspectors actively enforce the blight ordinance, which is forcing the elderly out even today.

The County does not have a blight ordinance, another reason for a better supply of affordable housing. The County eyesore ordinance comes closest to a blight ordinance. But a private citizen must complain to trigger enforcement. City inspectors have no such restraint.

Declining Civil Rights as the Amount of Private Property Decreases. The right to a speedy trial or presumption of innocence, let's say. If I'm arrested and can't post bail, I can use my free public education to write letters asking people to post my bond. I should not have to sit in jail for months waiting for trial only to be found innocent.

A greater supply of land would likely mean a greater number of landowners and more people I can ask for help. A few thousand dollars of land to buy a man's feedom. I wouldn't be a flight risk because I don't want you to lose your estate. If I'm found guilty and sentenced to prison, I still owe you a favor because you took a chance on me.

The ability to risk private assets to help others is the glue of a free society. When the government owns all the land, what freedom is there?

Mass Exodus of Residents. "Although Charlottesville's overall population has remained flat over the past few decades, the number of UVA students housed off-grounds increased from 3,185 to 12,326 between 1960 and 1995...The growing number of students living off-grounds has...put enormous pressure on the City's own housing market, decreasing the supply and driving up the costs of housing for working poor and blue-collar families" ("UVA's failure the crowding source" letter by Dave Norris, Mar 27, 2003, The Hook.)

If population has remained constant and new people have moved here, such as students, where did the former residents go? When and why did they leave?   Mostly they moved to Albemarle and surrounding counties. Their presence helps to explain intitutional differences between the city and its neighbors.

Dave Norris is the chairman of the board for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Presumably, he has a say in whose property the agency will take next. The Housing Authority blaming UVa for a shortage of affordable housing is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Loss of History.

  • "Housing Authority is controversial because of urban renewal's history," Aug 20, 2002, Daily Progress.
Labor Shortage. The Charlottesville area routinely has the lowest unemployment in the state. Some economists consider an unemployment rate of less than 2% as a labor shortage. The problem locally is not a shortage of jobs, but a shortage of people willing to do the work for the wage offered.   Now is the the time for workers to ask for a raise.

The shortage may also stem from a generation of working-class residents who have moved out of the city. They moved for the American Dream, the security of knowing you have a place to stay in your retirement. They moved for a lower cost of living and less regulation.

Public assistance also contributes to the labor shortage.   Some people who are able to work prefer to draw disability or Region Ten subsidy.   These workers are lured away on the promise that they can do nothing and live "independently."

Economic Stagnation. The shortage of labor suppresses economic activity and investment. At any given moment, businesses fold while new businesses start up. Stagnation is more of a feeling that the economy is not performing.

A subjective indicator of economic stagnation is the same one used for blight. You just look around and take notice of vacant buildings and failed businesses. The Terrace Triple next to Kmart. The four vacant buildings across from Jefferson Theater. The Paramount's inability to bring itself back to life. The current state and future of the Frank Ix textile mill, which opened in 1923, lessened the impact of the Great Depression locally, was the largest employer during WWII, and helped make South Downtown the most integrated neighborhood in town in the '60s. The Charlottesville Warehouse Corp. vacant building should go under historic designation as one of the few historical markers remaining to recall how things used to be.

Increase in Violent and Race-based Crime. Like economic stagnation, this indicator is subjective. People generally judge their safety based on what they hear from others, what they see in the media, and what they observe. Older folks report the perception that life was safer before urban renewal. Some say you were able to leave your doors unlocked even in poor neighborhoods. Public housing appears universally to be less safe than privately-owned slum housing.

Civic Shame for the Most Recent Chapter of Local History. Another subjective indicator. I realize this issue was widely discussed in the '70s. But as a representative, my job is to focus on the one or two areas that are likely to improve quality of life the most. It's time for a new generation to examine the wisdom of their parents.

Urban renewal was optional. In general communities without housing authorities have more affordable housing and property, and are better places to live. Compare Waynesboro, Lexington, Gordonsville to Charlottesville, Richmond, D.C. Public housing is a bad idea no matter how you look at it.

Apartment Condo
Pay rent as tenant. Pay taxes as owner.
Annual lease the landlord can decide not to renew. Permanent resident.   Only due process can evict.
Lease. Deed.
Cannot sublet. Can rent out.
Landlord decides number of tenants, not leaseholder. Owner decides.
Can move. Can move and sell condo, move and rent out condo, stay and rent condo from new owner, or let condo sit vacant.
Cannot be used by tenant as equity or collaterol. Owner can get equity loans and leans.
Cannot be used as bond to get anyone out of jail. Legally just like real estate.
Expectation that you are transient with short-term interest. Expectation that you are a permanent resident with long-term interest in community.
Timely rent payments reflect positively on credit history. Instant credit rating.

The Office of Delegate.

The responsibility of a delegate is to represent his district, to articulate concerns and issues relevant to residents of the district, and to express those views to the General Assembly. What I have to offer are ideas, words, a way of thinking about things.

On most issues in the House, I will vote as the majority of my constituents feel. But occasionally I will have to say no to the majority. In the case of having government take one man's property for someone else to own, I will say no regardless of political pressure.  

Rule of Law should apply locally. The Fifth Amendment means you cannot vote to take your neighbor's land. As delegate, I will officially affirm the principles of Free Enterprise, private property for the common good.

Education. Mon Apr 21, 2003.

As delegate, I would not represent a school board, board of visitors, board of supervisors, or city council. A delegate represents the residents of his district directly.

Jefferson School. The Charlottesville city school system can expect a series of funding cuts as political pressure to reform.  

Less Need. This school year is the first since 1865 that Jefferson is not open as a school. The city now has 8 schools instead of 9. Fewer schools to maintain, fewer expenses. That comes out to an 11% reduction in need from now on.
Less Merit. The Charlottesville School Board's handling of the debate over Jefferson and its preschool was a poor example for our children.   Postponement of hearings until interest had diminished and scheduling the hearings for late in the evening when the crowd had thinned out were both intended to exclude voices and ears from the public process.

As your representative, I will tell the General Assembly that city schools have capital needs. But my constituents believe the school board should not be rewarded for its recent performance. I will have to hear from my constituents about the state of public education in the county.

Support Teachers. Teachers should earn enough pay so they can afford to teach. I believe a good teacher is good regardless of pay. Teaching is not a job. It's a calling. The General Assembly decides the level of funding to a school district. The school board decides how much to pay teachers.

Trust Teachers. If a teacher says a disruptive student should be removed from the classroom, that should be the end of it. A teacher has no interest in picking on a kid.   Removing children from school does not make a teacher look good. Trust the judgment of our teachers. Parents who always take the side of their kid undermine respect for authority.

Protect Students. – "If any teacher makes the statement that Joe beat up John, then Joe should not be allowed to return to the same school with his victim. When Joe runs out of schools to attend, his family will have to move away if they want him to have a pulic education" (at the Education Forum, CHS, Apr. 13, 2000). Younger children have more chances because there are more elementary schools.

Repeal Compulsory Education. Making school voluntary would achieve these results.

  • Truant officers and social workers would not force violent and diruptive students to attend school.
  • Truant officers and social workers would not force good kids to attend a school that is unsafe.
  • Truant officers and social workers would be laid off. The money saved could be used for educational purposes.
  • More parental involvement because parents would be responsible for their children's attendance.
  • If society continually underfunds education, let the education establishment shrink to a level we are willing to fund.
Out-of-City Tuition. Since public schools are funded primarily from local real estate tax, it seems reasonable to charge a fee for students who reside outside the jurisdiction. As it stands now, city schools are free to city residents and the same fee for everyone else. But Albemarle county pays revenue sharing to the city at around ten percent of the city's annual budget, all of which goes into the general fund and can be used for education. Because outlying counties do not subsidize the city tax base directly, they should be charged tuition to attend city schools. Charlottesville schools should be free or discounted to Albemarle residents.

Merit Testing. Allow people to get jobs by demonstrating skill or knowledge. Relax educational requirements for those who can't afford college. Dress Code. Students and teachers should dress for success. T-shirts, torn jeans, and unkempt appearance are not appropriate for public school. Because of taxpayer funding, public school should be held to a higher standard than private school.

College Welfare. UVa President John Casteen has said that the state continually underfunds the University. If UVa were short of funds, they would not be building a new athletic arena, parking garage, library, and monuments to benefactors. They would also not be buying up real estate for future expansion.

UVa Logic for Recipients of Pulic Funds. What if President Casteen lived in public housing and a social worker came by one day and saw his brand new furniture, TV, computer and appliances? Social worker: "If you can afford all this, then you don't need public assistance." Casteen: "That money was specifically earmarked. I'm not allowed to use it for rent or groceries (or basic education)."

State Pay Raises. It's easy for state workers, such as public school teachers and university professors, to call for tax increases because they don't pay taxes. They are paid from taxes. I would ask government employees to share the sacrifice and draw unemployment if you are laid off. Meanwhile, we should make policy changes to retain quality teachers.

CRHA Board Chairman Dave Norris identifies modern urban renewal. May 6, 2003.

Had City Council been more interested in hearing from the public last night before moving ahead on its Prospect Avenue gentrification project, here are the comments I would have made.

Good evening, my name is Dave Norris and I live at 1508 Green St. in Belmont. I rise tonight to thank you for appointing me to the City’s new Housing Policy Task Force. I look forward to working with my fellow Task Force members to produce some substantive proposals for addressing the affordable housing crisis here in our community.

One of the specific ideas that I will be pushing the Task Force to consider is a set of principles to guide the City’s efforts in revitalizing low-income neighborhoods. These principles will serve to encourage public and private investment in distressed neighborhoods while ensuring that the result of this new investment is community empowerment, and not community gentrification.

At a minimum, I would hope that anytime there are public dollars invested in a neighborhood redevelopment project in the future, there is:

  • a well-defined vision and plan for how the project will uplift the whole neighborhood
  • full involvement by neighborhood residents in the development and implementation of this plan (with groups like the Quality Community Council and PHAR helping to build the capacity of residents to assume leadership in this process)
  • use of the Weed and Seed approach in weeding out known criminal elements, building code violators and irresponsible/absentee landlords and in seeding the neighborhood with community policing, youth programs, training and education initiatives, infrastructure improvements, etc.
  • one-for-one replacement of any affordable rental units lost to redevelopment [when the demand for affordable rental housing is so severe, we've got to at LEAST preserve what small stock we have now]
  • deliberate targeting of new homeownership opportunities to existing neighborhood residents
  • deliberate targeting of new employment opportunities to existing neighborhood residents
  • measures to ensure the affordability of new housing for the long-term (in order to ensure that public dollars remain in service to the public good) With provisions like these in place, you will see a much different result than we’ve seen in other redevelopment projects, and you will realize a much higher long-term gain on your investment. Instead of using the redevelopment process to displace and relocate problems, you will be using the redevelopment process to solve problems.  
Instead of using public dollars to evict poor families and further restrict housing choices for people who are already struggling to get by, you will be using public dollars to expand housing options, help low-income families build assets and skills, and foster a much greater sense of ownership and pride among neighborhood residents. Instead of encouraging community gentrification, you’ll be encouraging community empowerment.

Unfortunately, the Prospect Avenue proposal you have before you tonight contains few, if any, of these kinds of provisions. Furthermore, it adds insult to injury by blaming renters as a class of people for the problems in that neighborhood. It is easy to stigmatize low-income people and it is easy to stigmatize renters but evicting an entire block of low-income renters is not the answer. I would challenge you to look into the eyes of each of the families you will be evicting and explain how it is that they are bringing down the neighborhood. If there are problem tenants and problem landlords, by all means let’s deal with them – but don’t use their bad example as an excuse to make life even harder for others.

I applaud the City and the Piedmont Housing Alliance for your interest in helping to revitalize low-income neighborhoods, but I strongly encourage you to learn from the lessons of Charlottesville’s checkered redevelopment history and make the effort to show that this time, on Prospect Avenue, it can be done right. (Dave Norris, May 6, 2003.)

A politician on the politics of gay. May 14, 2003.

I would like to thank The Observer (defunct) for its coverage of my announcement to seek the Republican nomination for House of Delegates 57th District.

I'd like to take issue with "The Spur: the politics of 'gay'" (Apr. 30) and express a candidate's view. "…if Charlottesville is the liberal Mecca of Virginia, the gay presence has been, to date, a little underwhelming."

As a gay man, born and raised here, and out of the closet for fifteen years, I can tell you that gay people are everywhere. Like other underprivileged, they are invisible. As a minority, gays are like no other. They are the only people who routinely need protection from their own families. The best way to protect them is to extend the right to form a new family to all people.

Married people don't seem to be aware of their privileges. So naturally, they don't want to pay the marriage penalty, a higher income tax to pay for those special rights. Only a man and a woman can designate each other as next of kin, power of attorney, and sole heir in a single legal document. Of course, everyone can write a will and assign power of attorney. The exclusive right of marriage is the ability to choose your next of kin as many times as you want.

Usually, your closest blood relative would have your best interest at heart. This is often not the case for gays. It becomes apparent if you find yourself suddenly hospitalized or jailed. Next of kin, whom you haven't seen for decades, can show up and, legally, make decisions for you. You don't have to be gay to have a hateful family.

Gay marriage seems to be a contradictory phrase. Marriage is a religious term. The government should not discriminate on the basis of religion. We should recognize nontraditional families. Marriage certificate for a man and woman. Next of Kin certificate for everyone else. Fee for both. If you're happy with your next of kin, you need do nothing.

Two old ladies living out their retirement as roommates should be able to designate each other as next of kin to protect themselves from greedy children. Would you want someone to make life or death decisions for you if you knew that person would choose death? A Next of Kin license is just a piece of paper naming your closest legal relative. Government agencies would regard the name on the license as your closest family member.

What exactly is a family? A group of people with common relatives? Related by blood or by marriage? Or two people who care about each other more than anyone else? I consider my coworkers as family because I spend more time with them than I spend with anyone else. In some circles, 'family' is code for gay. It is already legal for gays to be closest next of kin; for example, two orphans or man and woman married for convenience.

I favor equal rights, not special rights. Every crime is a hate crime. Pressure should be placed on judges and prosecutors to enforce the law equally. The legislature should pass laws that apply equally to everyone. The right to form a legal family would make the world a safer place for all people.

This kind of honest analysis and focus on basic principles distinguishes me as a candidate. If elected, you can expect more simple solutions to complex problems. I will try to make the world a better place one person at a time.

Letter to the Editor, The Observer. May 14, 2003.

Undelivered Nomination Speech.

McIntire Park, Charlottesville, Virginia, 6 pm, Monday, June 2, 2003

I would like to thank you all for attending this historic gathering. A political drama is unfolding here tonight.

I am seeking the Republican nomination because no one else has the courage to oppose the Democratic nominee. I also believe that my ideas are more powerful than those of Mitch Van Yahres. Because I have observed and studied recent local history, my conscience compels me to seek the 57th district seat of the House of Delegates.

As a native of Charlottesville, I care about this place. So I am trying to make a difference. I don't own property or a business. I don't have money, power, or influence. I don't have a network of cronies to whom I owe political favors. What I have to offer are ideas. As delegate, I can write letters, propose and vote on legislation, deliver speeches, make phone calls, give interviews. I cannot be a successful representative without your support.

Honestly, I don't think I can win the nomination or the election. Public housing remains popular in both parties even today. I'm running for office to bring attention to the Fifth Amendment.

Urban renewal is the most important issue we are facing.   Can the government take your property just because they want want someone else to own it?   We fought a revolution to remove this power from government. Taking your land to sell to a developer is a property transfer, which is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. Can the Housing Authority take my house because they want someone else to live there? Some people in this community live in fear that their home will be taken when they need it most, when they become elderly or infirm and unable to maintain the house.

In his nomination speech, the only thing Democrat Van Yahres has to offer is fear of Republicans and repeated calls for us "to do something about it." He offers no specific action that we should undertake. So I will. Here are some of my campaign promises.

  • On behalf of the 57th district, I will ask Attorney General Jerry Kilgore to issue a legal opinion of urban renewal.
  • I will ask the General Assembly to eliminate funding of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and convert public housing apartments to condominiums owned by the current residents.
  • I will introduce a bill that annexation require voter approval of those to be annexed.
  • I will bring attention to Jefferson School and local heritage lost to urban renewal.
  • If elected, I will represent the residents of the district to the best of my ability. I will make mistakes along the way but have learned from the mistakes of others.
I would like to thank a few of those involved with urban renewal over the years. The League of Women Voters who opposed the creation of the Housing Authority in 1954. Mrs. Nimmo and her family who put an ad in The Daily Progress opposing Ridge Lane renewal in 1965. Frank Tomlin and Sherman White who ran for City Council in 1976. Dave Norris, current chairman of the Housing Authority board, who circulated an email stating that urban renewal is in progress right now. And Del Harvey, who resigned as director of the Housing Authority since my campaign began in April.

For me, it's not just local history. It's family history. I'd like to thank my grandmother Mrs. Laura Dowell, who gave up her estate to the Housing Authority in November 1971 after a court battle. I would like to thank Ed Wayland who represented my family in court.

Thomas Dowell
Thomas Dowell ran 3 times in 1970s on Anti-Urban Renewal platform. He tried to run for House of Delegates but Republicans would not allow it.
A special thanks to my uncle Thomas Dowell here with us today. Thomas ran for City Council three times in the 1970s on a platform to stop urban renewal. He once sought the Republican nomination for House of Delegates but was not allowed to give a speech at the convention. He has been a member of the Republican Party since the '50s and Belmont precinct captain since the '70s.

I will continue an awareness campaign. My next scheduled appearance is the Independence Day parade in Scottsville. I will cruise down the strip in a 1967 Pontiac Tempest. 1967 was the year that Charlottesville voted to demolish my childhood neighborhood. I will build more time machines. I will add more photos to my website. I will try to publish as a book the body of knowledge of urban renewal now available to commemorate with the 50th anniversary of the Housing Authority.

Thanks again to those who helped in this campaign and those who offered encouragement. You participated in history.

Blair Hawkins, 908 Cottage Lane, Apt. 1, Charlottesville, Va. 22903
Disqualified for failing to meet filing deadline. Democratic nominee runs unopposed.
Completion of Campaign for Republican Nomination 2003.
Update:  I did not appear at the parade.

Write in urban renewal! Oct. 16, 2003.

Since I campaigned for the Republican nomination for the House of Delegates seat held by Mitch Van Yahres since 1981, I thought I should weigh in on gentrification which I favor.

Antoinette Roades is correct [Letters, October 2: "Fifeville wasn't Fife's"].   Poor and working class neighborhoods are and always have been more diverse than affluent neighborhoods.   Fifeville was not a poor neighborhood when it was new. If you own a cheap house in a run-down neighborhood being gentrified, that's your ticket out of poverty.

Whatever the assessed value, you should ask for two or three times that amount.   If your selling price is too high, you continue to own the property and pay taxes at the assessed value.   Don't sell unless you get enough to buy a decent place with money leftover to spend.   Gentrification is the kind of redevelopment that can benefit everyone.

My campaign was against urban renewal, the process by which homeowners and businesses are forced out or threatened to be forced out by the government for the express purpose of selling the land to a private developer.   According to public statements by citizens and officials, the one-block renewal on Prospect Avenue, and individual houses on and near Tenth Street NW are examples of urban renewal 2003.

The only thing I can do about it is write this letter. Unlike Mitch Van Yahres while he was on City Council 1968-1976, I don't have oversight of the Redevelopment and Housing Authority.   I have no reason to think that he has changed his position.

On November 4, I will write in myself because I actually tried to get the nomination.   When an incumbent runs unopposed, that's an opportunity to write in the one issue you think needs to be addressed.   The incumbent will still win. Write in Urban Renewal so we can begin to put this chapter of history behind us.

Letter to the Editor, The Hook. October 16, 2003.

Final Letter of Campaign. Oct. 22, 2003 .

I enjoyed Bob Gibson's article on the perception that public discourse is less civil than it used to be ("Former Texas official bemoans loss of honor," Oct. 22, 2003).   America has a tradition of harsh rhetoric beginning with Thomas Paine, who defined the art form.   I think we would be hard-pressed to outdo our predecessors.   But I'll give it a try.

I'd like to update your readers on my campaign to make people aware of urban renewal and how it influences us today.   I was uniquely suited for this task.   As a bright kid, growing up two houses north of the Ix textile factory, I am an eyewitness to Garrett Street urban renewal.   Frankly, I'm not sure I would believe it actually happened if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

What was the stated purpose for clearing this neighborhood?   Housing and redevelopment.   What have we today?   Garrett Square and parking lots. What happened was, a city agency invoked eminent domain for the explicit purpose of reselling the area to private developers, who would grow the tax base by redeveloping the land, which would mean higher assessments and greater revenue to fund ever-expanding services for the public good.   Also, a federal grant was available to finance the project.   Problem is, few developers have been interested in this prime real estate.

As it turns out, this practice is widespread.   "Steal from the poor and give to the rich."   Today, it's more likely to be called abuse of eminent domain.   One study has documented 10,000 instances of this abuse nationwide in just the last five years (castlecoalition.org).   "60 Minutes" (CBS, Sep. 28, 2003) exposed the case in Lakewood, Ohio, where the mayor wants to condemn an old neighborhood of senior citizens so a developer can build condos.   Unlike a generation ago, the developer is likely to be already lined up today.

On November 4, since Mitch Van Yahres is unopposed for reelection and unable to condemn urban renewal, I'm asking people to exercise the write-in option to send a message.

If you think urban renewal is the issue we most need to deal with, write in Eminent Domain or any address you may know that was taken under eminent domain for private use.   If you think something else is the bigger issue, write that in.   If you are part of a voting block, write in your pivotal issue. There's no reason to vote for an incumbent who is unopposed.   But vote anyway.   Think of something important and write it in.

Blair Hawkins

Daily Progress Editor Anita Shelburne said she chose not to print the letter due to lack of space (Oct. 31).

Free Enterprise Monument Instead of Free Speech Wall. Feb. 28, 2001.

As an alternative to a monument to free speech, Charlottesville should seriously consider a monument to free enterprise.

We already have forums for free expression.   There is a kiosk on the downtown mall.   Beta Bridge is on Rugby Road.   The concrete retaining wall at the student parking lot a Charlottesville High is a grafitti wall.   Your newspaper prints letters from readers.   The expression of ideas through spoken and written words is not in danger.

Instead of memorializing the second clause of the First Amendment, the final clause of the Fifth Amendment may be overdue for a tombstone.   This clause defines free enterprise.

No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

The government can take your property by court order and for public use.   The only other way the government can come into possession of your property is if you freely give or sell it to them.   There is no other lawful method.   Ballot initiatives and referenda cannot take property even if the vote is 99.9 percent. Public use is not the same as public good.   Renewal, improvement, and revitalization are not valid reasons to take property.   The intent of urban renewal was to renew the urban area, not for the public to use.   Vinegar Hill was a vacant lot for twenty years after demolition.   Obviously the public had no use for the property.

The city should explain how poor people benefit when their property is taken and sold to rich people.   City council should elaborate on why homeowners and entrepreneurs should invest in blighted neighborhoods if the government can take your property for public use and then not use it.

The lingering outrage over urban renewal inspired a Live Arts play last year called Vinegar Hill.   Garrett Square is also a history lesson.   The property, taken for public use, is now owned by a private corporation.   Crime, thought to be high before renewal, is unquestionably higher today.   If entire historic neighborhoods had not been made new, there would be less clamor for historic preservation today.

A free speech wall is unnecessary.   A free enterprise resolution might begin to restore confidence that Charlottesville is an American city.

Letter to the Editor, The Observer. February 28, 2001.

Move council election to November and media coverage of candidates. Oct. 31, 2002.

Charlottesville should move council elections to November, but not for the reasons your paper states (October 17).   The best reason is that increased voter turnout will bust the Democratic monopoly of city council as more people vote along party lines.   With the nation and state leaning more Republican, council is unlikely to change a system that has served Democrats well for decades.

Your newspaper states that "the media will pay attention" if candidates are more interesting and hold more appearances.   Paying attention is not the same as media coverage.   The last council election proves the point.

There were six forums, nine candidates, and no debates.   The most interesting candidate, the only native, struggled for coverage.   Only WINA radio covered my candidacy before the first forum and throughout the campaign.   I circulated several platform letters to media during two months before the official campaign kicked off.

At the first forum, I accused city council of treason because of revenue sharing.   I said it was taxation without representation, a crime against democracy, the highest crime in the nation.   The Daily Progress reported only that I hammered on the Constitutionality of revenue sharing.   No other paper reported the story.   No one has refuted the charge.

At the second forum, I said city council policies create a climate where serious crime flourishes and goes unreported.   That same morning a school bus of students witnessed a gun fight on Hinton Avenue.   I appeared on WVIR-29 because I came out to investigate from my apartment one block away.

At the third forum, I related first-hand knowledge that Charlottesville High is a violent school.   I was the only candidate who had attended the schools that are funded by city council.

Only after these performances did the Observer invite me to write a candidate’s essay on education.   I wrote about the history of Jefferson School.   It was the most requested pamphlet of my campaign and added value to the Observer.

At the fourth forum, I speculated a connection between pancreatic cancer and the drinking water.   No one reported it.   Sixteen months later, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has responded only with speculation that the water is safe.   The last two forums were a refinement of my positions.

A week before the first forum, the C-ville Weekly censored the second certified write-in candidate in the city’s history. Editor Hawes Spencer stated in writing that his paper was not covering any write-ins. He kept his word until after Election Day.

Your guarantee that media will pay attention to interesting and accessible candidates rings hollow.

Letter to the Editor, The Observer. October 31, 2002.

Schilling and Salidis for Council. Apr. 2, 2002.

I would like to endorse the Republican Rob Schilling and the Independent Stratton Salidis for the Charlottesville City Council in the election to be held May 7.   I also support Waldo Jaquith as a certified write-in candidate.

Rob Schilling and his wife moved here a few years ago.   He represents the traditional opposition of the Republican Party.   As a realtor, he knows the connection between private property and civil rights.   His campaign slogan, "Common Senses Leadership," is reminiscent of Thomas Paine's Common Sense pamphlet published in January 1776.

Thomas Paine used logic to arrive at emotional conclusions, to inspire change.   He had only been in America a few years, never held elected office, and died in poverty and obscurity.   But without Thomas Paine, the world would be a different place.

Stratton Salidis is also new to Charlottesville.   His views are aligned closer to the Democrats.   He and I became friends a few months before we both ran for City Council in the last election.   He expresses clear opinions on issues and civic projects.   He trusts students to design their own curriculum thereby minimizing teachers.   His faith in the establishment was further undermined by a petty marijuana conviction last year ("Salidis only candidate with non-traffic criminal record," The Daily Progress, March 25).   I'm sure he realizes that liberty is the most important quality of life.

Waldo Jaquith, the youngest, has the longest political resume and has been in town the longest of the three.   Joan Fenton tossed her support to Waldo after being eliminated in the voting at the Democratic conventionin February.   Waldo did not receive the nomination but enjoyed boisterous support.   He says he carries a copy of the Bill of Rights in his pocket.   If so, Waldo has the blueprint for freedom and prosperity in his pocket.

The last day to register to vote and to certify a write-in candidacy is April 3. The office of the voter registrar in the City Hall Annex is the place to go.

Letter to the Editor. The Daily Progress. April 2, 2002

Housing Authority is controversial because of urban renewal's history. Aug. 20, 2002.

As a former resident of public housing (Westhaven, Garrett Square, and South First Street) I would like to give back to the community by explaining why the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is controversial.

The authority was created narrowly by voter referendum in 1954 - the same year the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" was an oxymoron.   Ironically, the local elite, who opposed the CRHA for fear of federal pressure to integrate, later supported urban renewal.

The CRHA was the instrument of urban renewal. The two are synonymous. The CRHA appears on deeds as part of the record of ownership of parcels in Vinegar Hill, the Garrett area, and elsewhere around town.

Urban renewal is the big story today not because it was wrong or unjust, but rather because of the excessive number of historic buildings destroyed and because half the population moved away, taking their oral and documented histories with them.  

As a result, Charlottesville has suffered a major break with its recent and distant past.

The next study commissioned by the CRHA should answer these basic questions:   How many parcels of land have been owned by the CRHA? What percentage of city acreage is that? Who owned the land before and who owns it now? How are the assumptions of urban renewal and present-day CRHA different? Should the government convert poor people's property to affordable housing for poor people to rent?

Until we have these answers, newomers and community leaders will not know the scale, duration, or impact of an ongoing, well-intentioned program.

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Progress. August 20, 2002.

No Reparation for Slavery… Yes Restitution for Renewal.

"What other explanation is there" for black poverty other than slavery? asks Neil Steinberg in a Chicago Sun-Times essay, reprinted in Charlottesville's The Hook Dec.12.

The obvious answer here and throughout the country is urban renewal, also known as public housing. Interestingly, renewal has created social unrest in Chicago for generations as poor neighborhood after neighborhood was bulldozed in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. The land then became public property or was sold to developers. Several books have been written about Chicago renewal alone.

Renewal came late to the South but with the same devastating effects for blacks. Some black leaders have called for reparations for slavery while remaining silent about renewal. The silence may stem from a desire not to criticize the Democratic party.

Comparing slavery, segregation, and renewal leads to startling conclusions. Indeed, they are different forms of the same peculiar institution.

  • Slavery ended 140 years ago. Segregation ended a half century ago. Renewal replaced segregation and remains the law of the land.
  • Slavery denied all rights to blacks. Segregation meant blacks could own property in areas zoned for blacks, but most other rights were restricted. Renewal denies the right of individuals of any race to own property by taking it from the private sector and selling it to more desirable individuals.
  • No court order was needed to enslave or segregate blacks. No court order is needed to take property from anyone anywhere if the land grab is for the purpose of urban renewal.
  • Slavery and segregation were typically enforced by violence of individuals with government sanction. Urban renewal is a government program, usually a housing authority, backed by the same deadly force.
  • No slave is alive today. Segregation survivors are an aging and shrinking population. The total number of renewal victims is growing.
  • Slavery and segregation applied exclusively to blacks. Renewal targets whoever owns the cheapest property when a grant is awarded to improve housing or economic development.
  • Whites never feared they would be enslaved or segregated. But today whites have no protection from renewal.
  • Slavery and segregation violated the Bill of Rights but somehow were interpreted as legal at the time. Renewal violates the same but has not yet been struck down.
The specific rights violated by renewal are these: (1) The owner sets the selling price, not the buyer. (2) The owner does not have to sell at any price.

The Fifth Amendment allows two exceptions. A court can force the owner to sell when he is found guilty of a crime. Also any agency can force the owner to sell if the property is to be used by the public (eminent domain). The minimum requirement for public use is believed to be public ownership, such as schools, highways, and reservoirs.

The problem with renewal is its goal of redevelopment, the desire that private developers buy and develop the land after government clearance. In order to declare eminent domain to take property for private use, public use must be equated to public good.

A renewal project is doomed for failure. Investors fear lawsuits from previous owners charging the program is a property transfer, not public use. The new investors fear what happened to the previous owners will happen to them when a new development idea comes along (Preston Commons?)

Investors also do not want to involve themselves in controversy. Here in Charlottesville, they did not want to appear to benefit from the destruction of the city's premier black neighborhood or the city's industrial base. Vinegar Hill was vacant for twenty years after clearance. Except for a privately owned public housing project, the Garrett renewal area has a tenth of the businesses there in the '60s. Only one business has not been displaced or gone under – Standard Produce since 1910.

How do controversies like slavery, segregation, and renewal live on for decades and generations? Because they violate Fifth Amendment due process, a core American principle. Such a violation is a felony without a statute of limitations, outweighing all other injustices except treason.

This lack of a time limit is why blacks can claim the injustice of slavery can be righted with reparations. If a slave were alive today, he could sue for enslavement and receive compensation. Whether next of kin can bring suit is not so clear.

Reparation is a kind of restorative justice where the transgressor makes amends before ordered to do so by a court. This good will gesture is intended to minimize the penalty if found guilty or simply to make right a wrong without involving a court.

Unlike slaves, renewal victims and witnesses are still alive. The documents of slavery are not well preserved. Renewal was widely reported and well documented. Locally, Vinegar Hill assessments cross-referencing deeds have been lost. The city assessor has safeguarded the Garrett renewal record for public inspection and research.

Vinegar Hill may be a fifth of the total area affected by renewal. The exact percentage is not known because there has been no study of which projects had the most impact. Such a study would be a form of restorative justice.

How do we make right the injustice of urban renewal? First, we acknowledge the history and admit the offense occurred.

Charlottesville is in denial. One day before the Democratic convention to select council candidates in February, a former official and candidate denied renewal.   Bern Ewert said he was deputy city manager 1971-1976 after the 1972 Garrett clearance.

Second, we must realize the problem will not go away on its own.

The first opponents to Vinegar Hill renewal appeared in 1960 before the first structure was torn down. They made the same Constitutional arguments I have outlined.

The opposition to public housing was strongest in the mid '70s. Black independent Sherman White ran against the Democrats in 1976 blaming them for renewal. At the time, Vinegar Hill and now Garrett lay vacant. Also in 1976, Thomas Dowell ran for council a third and final time on a platform to stop renewal. The following year, his mother's house was demolished in the 1977 clearance of Ware Street, the last historic neighborhood to be razed. Whites had lived on this street surrounded by blacks.

Renewal seemed unstoppable and undiscriminating. Opponents began moving away along with county residents who had become city residents in the 1963 annexation. Urban renewal accelerated urban sprawl.

At the public hearing to name the Tenth Street Connector after Sally Hemings on June 5, 2000, that campaign was born again when I asked Mayor Virginia Daugherty to investigate urban renewal. In other words, I was asking her to explain why the Housing Authority should not be abolished given its record of performance and damage to the black community.

The Jefferson School controversy in January 2002 showed that the issue is real and contemporary. Do the Democrats want to tear down Jefferson to finish the job they started forty years ago? The fate of Jefferson School is now in committee. Third, we must acknowledge the magnitude of the problem. Like slavery and segregation, renewal touches almost every issue. Perhaps the greatest damage is to history itself when old buildings are destroyed and old people are reluctant to talk about the past.

When mandatory water restrictions began in August, nobody knew about the last restrictions in the drought of 1977. RWSA board chairman, Richard Collins, Housing Authority board chair in 1977, didn't tell anybody. Interim RWSA exective director last year, Cole Hendrix, city manager in 1977, didn't tell anybody. RWSA director, Eugene Potter, RWSA operations director since 1977, didn't tell anybody.  

In bipartisan spirit, Charlottesville Republican Committee chair, Robert Hodous, Housing Authority board member in 1977, did not write a letter to a paper or call a radio station to say, wait a minute, the last water crisis was 1977. There has been a breakdown in communication.

Fourth, we should stop honoring those who support urban renewal. The Charlottesville Democratic Committee this year gave the Drewary J. Brown award to Francis H. Fife. Fife was mayor for 1972 Garrett clearance and vice mayor for 1977 Ware St. clearance. The late Brown was president of the local NAACP. But somehow the committee claims the award is not a civil rights honor.

Fifth, we should explain how renewal is wrong and harmful and promise not to do it again. We must make institutional changes. Abolish the Housing Authority so urban renewal can come to an end. Abolish the Board of Architectural Review, which is an attempt to blame the private sector for the loss of history caused by government renewal.

Major reform must occur with city inspectors. I’ve heard more complaints about inspectors than all other issues combined. I respond that it didn’t get this way overnight. Many people, black and white, argued against it. But the fear of urban renewal has now arrived at every doorstep. Nowhere are the assumptions of renewal more apparent than with city inspectors. The idea is that you must improve your property or the city will destroy you literally.

If these good will steps do not prevent a trial, will the accused plead the Fifth when they are charged with the Fifth? Will they continue their silence?

If a black leader made the same statement as Trent Lott, that we would have been better off with segregation, the sentiment would make perfect sense. The lesson of integration for many blacks is be careful what you wish for. The glory days for the black community in Charlottesville was the 1950s, the height of segregation and separate education.

Urban renewal did what segregation never tried to do. It took real property that could be used to secure civil rights. The legal system favors landowners. Take away the land and you put the citizen at a disadvantage.

Integration allowed white schools to prove that blacks are less smart. In the '50s, Jefferson School was proof that blacks are no less intelligent than whites. Sherman White thought it inconceivable that blacks would vote Democratic.   Government programs weaken the fabric of society. Public housing perpetuates poverty, violence, and segregation.

The Dixiecrats did not become Republicans here. The Democrats of urban renewal are the Democrats of today. City Republicans generally opposed public housing for the damage it would do to the black community. They opposed renewal to protect the economy.

Since the '60s, the nation has become more suburban and more Republican. People fled renewal and rejected its poisonous fruit, public housing. The Republican party will become stronger in the black community until urban renewal is outlawed.

The year 2004 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Urban renewal will have been ongoing for half a century. Is now the time to evaluate whether voters made a mistake in 1954? If a mistake was made, how do we make it right?

The only thing to prevent a fresh wave of forced renewal is nothing.   "Philadelphia embarked last [spring] on a $295 million, five-year plan to demolish 14,000 largely abandoned homes, renovate 2,500 buildings and clear 31,000 vacant lots...Not since the 1970s has an American city undertaken such a vast clearance...The second largest city on the East Coast, with 1.5 million people, Philadelphia has lost 500,000 residents since 1960...government plans to build several thousand apartments for the elderly and poor in the next five years" ("Raze of Sunshine in Philadelphia? City Pins Renewal Hopes on Clearing Vast Areas of Blight, Inviting Development," Mar. 19, 2002, The Washington Post).

An alternative to clearance is to give the parcels of land and abandoned houses to people in public housing. They would instantly become landowners with long-term interest in the community. They would have equity to get loans for business or home improvement. Or let the buildings crumble some more until the property is cheap enough to attract investors. Or reduce regulation. If clearance is inevitable, compose the historical markers before the demolition.

If, back in Chicago, you're still seeking the solution to black poverty, maybe you’re looking in the wrong place.

"The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind."

HealingCharlottesville. December 19, 2002.

Blair Hawkins | Charlottesville, Virginia | healingcharlottesville@yahoo.com | Résumé | Top

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