Solving The Middle East This Saturday

Well, that may be overselling it, but the Richmond Forum is hosting a program entitled “PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST: PROSPECTS AND ROADBLOCKS” this Saturday at the Altria Theater. It’s probably already sold out.

Ehud Barak has served as the Prime Minister of Israel and, more recently, as Defense Minister. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and was a leading figure in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. For the first time anywhere, these two respected voices will sit down together for a discussion of their differing views on Middle East peace prospects in a conversation moderated by longtime journalist, author, and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright.

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The Status of The Fountain Fence

As the Monroe Park Conservancy continues to tighten its corporate control of Monroe Park, Oregon Hill residents are becoming increasingly discouraged and alarmed by how it is gradually stripping away its authentic, historic features. In addition to questionably removing healthy, old-growth trees, the fountain fence is no longer there. Supposedly, the 1920’s fencing is being stored offsite during park renovations and will be returned.

Laurel Street neighbor Charles Pool has used the Freedom of Information Act to gather more information. According to the Monroe Park drawings that he received, the fencing is being replaced and only the posts restored. This seems to conflict with specs provided where the decorative metal railings were to be repaired. It is doubtful that the City’s Urban Design Committee gave permission to replace this historic fencing. At 125 feet long, the fencing is substantial and curved to match the perimeter of the fountain.

Undoubtedly, low-grade hollow-core, easily damaged, pickets probably will replace the existing solid substantial fencing that could last hundreds of years if properly repaired and kept painted. The fencing is an important part of the historic fabric of Monroe Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Monroe Park fountain fencing pickets were dumped in outside storage at DPW storage at 810 Forest Lawn Drive. Photos from Charles Pool show that the pickets are all in excellent condition with practically no evidence of rust. (Many neighbors remember what happened to the stone balustrade that was removed at the Oregon Hill overlook- we were told that it was in “storage” but the stone later found a decade later in a heap behind the Carillon.)

It is important for the public to know that the authentic fencing is slated to be replaced without approval from the UDC.
It is the opinion of this community news site that the authentic, solid Monroe Park fencing should be fully restored, not replaced.

Dominion’s Coal-Ash Ponds Leaking Into River; Go Solar!

There are reports that the coal ash ponds are causing more pollution in the James River. From Times Dispatch article:

“We can see things bubbling up, essentially, and our position is this is leaking from the coal ash. We’ve tested the water and sediment here. We found arsenic at incredibly high levels, 282 parts per million right here, which is higher than many Superfund sites that have really bad pollution problems,” he said.

Several rounds of tests in the past year seem to show leaking from Dominion ash ponds, including prior work by the James River Association and separate sampling by a Duke University-led team. The Duke team found unpermitted leaking from coal ash facilities in five states, including at Dominion’s Chesterfield and Bremo Bluff power stations.

Chesterfield officials don’t seem to care and continue to allow Dominion to burn coal.

With Dominion’s poison in mind, it’s more important than ever that area residents push for more renewable energy.

Tomorrow night, is hosting a Greater Richmond Solar Co-op Information Session at the Glen Allen Library.

From their webpage:

Community members across Richmond have formed a solar co-op! From Ruther Glen in the north to Petersburg in the south, Powhatan in the west to New Kent in the east, the Greater Richmond Solar Co-op welcomes homeowners from across the region. Greater Richmond Solar Co-op members can save up to 20% off the cost of going solar and have the support of fellow co-op members and VA SUN throughout the process.


The unseasonably warm weather this past weekend made it seem more like May than February. Visitors flocked to river (and hopefully gained some appreciation for the need to protect it). While it was wonderful to see people getting outdoors and enjoying the riverfront, the crowds also illustrated overcrowding at the Belle Island parking lot. Streets in Oregon Hill were also overflowing with visitors’ vehicles.

This is a worsening problem that needs attention. Some have suggested building more parking lots, but more parking lots will not come close to addressing the existing pent-up demand for easier access to the riverfront. Besides, Dominion Energy and other entities already have parking lots that could possibly be made accessible to the public during weekend hours. The Virginia War Memorial is supposed to be building a large underground parking deck. Even including these, they are not enough for all the park visitors and they come with their sets of problems, such as more stormwater runoff and eradication of more natural habitat and features.

The Sierra Club Falls of the James group and the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association have repeatedly suggested that mass transit be connected more to the river park system. In the City’s Riverfront Plan, plans for a newly renovated Shiplock Park and’Sugar Pad’ landing in the East End will benefit from a planned, nearby Bus Rapid Transit stop, but still nothing for Tredegar Street and Belle Island. Perhaps a seasonal van shuttle can be created as a public amenity. As GRTC meets and plans for its new route structure, there needs to be more consideration of this issue.

Pipeline Protest Tomorrow

And, by the way, the RVA Environmental Film Festival (FREE ADMISSION) will be cranking this weekend. The Virginia film contest winner is Trouble Water: Voices From Bath, will be screened Sunday afternoon. It’s about Virginians facing Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

It’s important to remember that Dominion officials themselves say they could make money from renewables like solar and wind. Why don’t they? Because they insist on using their regulated monopoly to make just a bit more profit from dirty fossil fuel. They don’t care about the risks to our water and our planet.

Support IRV Voting Reform

Republican member of the House of Delegates, Nick Freitas, is introducing a bill which would give Instant Runoff Voting for statewide Virginia elections. It would provide for instant runoff voting in elections for statewide offices, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the General Assembly.

The initial language is from the Piedmont, Virginia Green Party group.

Please contact the privileges and election committee members of the House of Delegates here to urge them to pass HB2315! You can get there contact information through this link:

Also see previous post here:

Support The Recounts – for Monroe Park and National Election

The Sierra Club Falls of the James has joined some Oregon Hill and Fan neighbors in calling for a community review and ‘recount’ of the trees that have been removed recently from Monroe Park.


As one neighbor, Turk Sties, put it,
The conservancy should be following the approved master plan. The master plan was clear on what trees would not be removed. I don't know if the removed trees were to stay per the master plan. But the plan should be followed.

Funding was obtained to effect the master plan. How can it be spent for anything else, especially for removing trees the master plan deemed integral to the rejuvenated park?

The tree work should be investigated by the city auditor to determine whether or not the conservancy has removed any trees that were to remain. If the conservancy has caused the removal of "spared" trees, the conservancy board members should be removed for cause and replaced with other people who can follow instructions. If that is not possible, it is time to require the addition of three "at-large" board members who can represent the citizens' interest.

On the national front, the courageous Jill Stein continues to push forward for recounts of Presidential ballots in key swing states, despite setbacks. Using fundraised money, the state recount efforts have not found evidence of foreign actors, but have found many systematic problems. Perhaps the most troubling of these is a preponderance of undercounting in predominantly black Michigan districts.

At the same time, Clinton emerged to condemn ‘fake news sites’, while some established newspapers have published unverified, anonymous CIA leaks that claim Russian intervention in the election. Regardless of veracity, foreign agents installing a right-wing leader? You can almost hear other countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Iran singing in their best Bob Dylan (and for the record, I am not a big fan) voice, “How does it feeeeeel?” As Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept put it, it’s also “a good indication of how confused and lost U.S. political culture has become in the wake of Trump’s victory.

How will this all be sorted out going forward? Not sure, but in my book, trees and votes do matter and deserve more attention.


The Times Dispatch is reporting that

Richmond School Board member Mamie Taylor has filed a petition in Circuit Court requesting a recount in the campaign she lost Nov. 8 to a local doctor.

Taylor is asking that the city pick up the tab for the recount “because the difference in votes cast for myself, School Board Trustee Taylor and Patrick Sapini is less than one-half of 1 percent.”
A hearing on the petition is scheduled for noon Wednesday in Richmond.

The article also questions Taylor’s math in her filing for the recount.

At the same time, turning to the Presidential election, Style magazine says that Oregon Hill may once again be the most-Green voting neighborhood in the whole state.

Which is pretty interesting given that Green Party candidate Stein is now getting more media attention for calling for some state recounts than she did for her entire campaign.

While is unlikely that Stein will call for a recount in Virginia, I would not totally rule out the possibility either. As she explains, it’s up to everyone to stand up for election integrity. Don’t believe all the misinformation going around, Stein is not doing this for Clinton or Trump, and the Green Party has a history for defending voters’ rights to be counted properly.

Btw, see earlier post on the election results by clicking here.

‘Neighborhood Batteries’

New technology is coming. How soon can Oregon Hill take advantage of it?

From article:

Solar City shareholders meet today in the Bay Area to vote on a proposed merger with Elon Musk’s Tesla. The merger will likely supercharge a growing trend of big battery facilities that can store enough electricity to power a neighborhood, small town, university or even an island like Kauai.

Grid storage is making people’s lives easier (and cheaper) by allowing communities to unhook themselves from the utility power grid. In some cases, it’s also providing an incentive for switching to renewable energy sources, which tend to dry up either at night (solar) or during the day (wind).

Some Election Thoughts/Time for RCV/IRV

It’s been a week since Election Day and we have seen a lot happen. Many students and City residents erupted in protest that Trump won the Presidency. Some people asked what their demand was (my personal favorite suggestion: a civil action by Bernie Sanders to exact monumental damages from the crooked-at-the-core DNC dealings exposed by WikiLeaks), but truthfully, Trump’s rise to power has installed fear in many different minority groups (including political dissidents) and the marches reflect that.

While the Presidential election was close and had low turnout, one thing is clear- third party voters’ hands are clean, especially here in Virginia where Clinton did win. Although some Democrats are sore losers and still want to scapegoat third party voters, they cannot. Don’t believe me? The Washington Post lays it out: “You can blame the electoral college for Trump winning. But don’t blame Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.”


Locally, the Mayoral election was close. The local media does not want to talk about that too much though. For one thing, the City Board of Elections was pretty strained, and it was not totally clear if someone had won the election for a good day or so. And hey, have they finally come around to announcing an official winner in the 5th District school board race? Last I heard from media outlets, it is likely Dr. Sapini.

For another thing, much of the media prognostication about the Mayor’s race was wrong- many were suggesting that it had come down to a two candidate race between Joe Morrissey and their favorite, Jack Berry, when in fact many residents had already determined the need for and existence of a third.

Perhaps more importantly, notice how the local media is not talking very much about how their candidate (endorsed by both the Times Dispatch and Richmond Free Press) was knocked out. They don’t want to admit that they picked badly and more importantly, that the voters ignored their input. ‘RVA’ rejected their fear mongering against Morrissey, and the corporate pressure for Berry, and went for someone else altogether.

So, a few more thoughts and questions-

Levar Stoney won the 5th District and others to win the election. Jack Berry stumbled here. My personal opinion: He should never have disrespected Oregon Hill. He was too arrogant to even try to make amends and figured his fancy commercials and billboards would make the difference. Thanks to work by Jon Baliles and Stoney’s hard-working campaigners, residents saw and took the alternative. Will Berry try to return to his job at Venture Richmond? Hope not. What can Stoney do for Oregon Hill and other neighborhoods? Well, that is not clear, but I hope to try to make it clearer in the next week or two, when I revisit and renew the Top Ten Issues For The Neighborhood post. Please feel free to submit your own.

On the national level, there are other Election Day outcomes to consider- more marijuana ballot initiatives passed in other states, and significantly, ranked choice voting passed in the state of Maine. Many countries and cities already give their voters more voice and more choice with RCV/IRV. Jill Stein’s campaign is already taking the ‘spoiler’ issue head-on with its enthusiastic support for RCV/IRV.

Locally, consider how close the Richmond Mayoral race came to going to an expensive run-off. Given this, will the local media even mention IRV/RCV? While I give Paul Goldman a lot of credit for almost single-handily obtaining the 10,000 signatures needed to make the City charter change for voting Mayor at large in the first place, it’s time for more electoral reform. We know we need to update and strengthen the City’s Board of Elections anyway, so we might as well join other cities around the world in enacting RCV/IRV.

I know I don’t want to have the same old debates in 2020.

Lastly, regardless of how you feel about the effectiveness of the anti-Trump protests, now’s not the time to stop protesting- reminder: today was a national day of action in support of Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Local water protectors were in force today at the Chesterfield office of the Army Corp of Engineers.

15032231_1511560975527488_4771775265799503420_n (photo courtesy of David Martin)