More Monroe Park Trees Threatened

The City’s Planning Commission yesterday ignored the recommendation of the Urban Design Committee and the staff of the planning department to consider alternatives to cutting down the magnolia and maple trees in Monroe Park for temporary tents.

On Sunday, at the Monument Avenue Easter Parade, the Sierra Club Falls of the James collected many petition signatures in favor of saving the the trees.

It will be really awful if the City continues to ignore PUBLIC concern for trees on PUBLIC property.

The photo below of the maple tree was previously published in the Times Dispatch:

Mayor Stoney and The Cloak Of Invisibility

Charismatic Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney won this past election partly with strong calls for transparency and involvement, but, only a few months into his reign, there have been rumors that he has been briefly trying on one of his predecessors’ favorite talismans, Richmond City Hall’s Cloak of Invisibility.

Supposedly a leftover from the Lord of the The Rings or the Harry Potter sagas, the Cloak has well-worn history in Richmond politics.

Certainly the Mayor cannot be accused of being absent. He often posts a public schedule and continues to make public appearances. He was at the Church Hill Irish festival last weekend, complete with green shirt. He was interviewed on WRIR not too long ago and he likes to visit schools and inspire children.

Yet City Hall watchdogs point to recent financially oriented incidents like when the proposed budget disappeared for a time, or when a dispute with auditors suddenly ended shortly after it surfaced. Activists wonder about his responses to Monroe Park and Shockoe Bottom concerns.

Of course with Altria, VCU, and Dominion involved, there may be politicks. Citizens should polish their crystal balls and hope Stoney can resist the Cloak’s allure. Remember the powerful and cleansing properties of pure, clear water.

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.

Continue reading

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, VaSun.org 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.

Oversubscribed

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.

https://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2017/hb2315/

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:
http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php?committee=H18

Also see previous post here:
http://www.oregonhill.net/2016/11/15/some-election-thoughtstime-for-rcvirv/

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.

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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.

Recount

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.