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 School Budget

Recently seen flyer:

From recent Times Dispatch article:

Newly seated Mayor Levar Stoney, who promised a smoother process on the campaign trail, is hoping to head off the tense public display this year.

His administration has been working behind the scenes for weeks with representatives from the City Council and the School Board to hammer out a draft of an “education compact,” which lays out shared goals for the school system and plans to develop a long-term funding plan to support them.

People should not forget Open High’s march from two years ago.

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.

Radio Show Open Source RVA Shares Call For Monroe Park

From WRIR radio show Open Source RVA:

Open Source RVA has been following the progress of the Monroe Park renovation for more than three years, and our next episode will explore breaking news on the controversial dealings of the private Monroe Park Conservancy, which has been given control of the park. Here is former Monroe Park Advisory Council member, and Sierra Club Green Giant award-winner, Todd Woodson on a hastily-scheduled meeting that is happening next week that would apparently (no pun intended) cover up the destruction of healthy trees in the park. He also has a call-to-action:

“As you’ve probably noticed, the historic tree canopy in Monroe Park has recently been decimated by the removal of mature healthy trees. Last December, 14 beautiful trees were destroyed illegally- 7 without the requisite variances and 7 after being declared dead, although photographic evidence refutes that claim.
Now, in typical Richmond form, there is an application before the Richmond Urban Design Committee (UDC) this Thursday, February 9, 2017 seeking approval of a component in the updated Monroe Park Plan called “Tree Removal Plan” – this “plan” seeks to legitimize this tragic removal of tree canopy, even though the trees were destroyed over a month ago without public notice. We’ve seen the tree damage Richmond is capable of – the Redskins Training Park as well as Kanawha Plaza and the Maggie Walker Memorial live oak.

I urge you to read the following paragraph and if you agree, please sign and forward to the UDC at Kathleen.Onufer@Richmondgov.com

‘Dear members of the Urban Design Committee
I am opposed to the component in the updated Monroe Park Plan seeking approval this Thursday, February 9, 2017 entitled “Tree Removal Plan”. Mature healthy trees were removed in December 2016 with no public notice or requisite variance. I support a full investigation into this loss which is not only aesthetic and ecological, but constitutes a financial loss to the taxpayers of Richmond as well. I also support holding those accountable for the replacement of these trees. Thank you,'”

Part Of Oregon Hill Votes Tomorrow In Special Election

There is a special election for the 71st District Virginia House of Delegates tomorrow, February 7.

It looks like Oregon Hill voters who reside north of the Expressway are part of the 71st District and can vote in the election tomorrow. This boundary is confusing and aggravating.

There are three candidates running to replace Jennifer McClellan (recently elected to VA Senate):

John Barclay – Libertarian candidate, public school teacher at Franklin Military.

Jeff Bourne – Democrat, 3rd District School Board Representative, Deputy Attorney General at Virginia Office of the Attorney General.

Regie Ford – Independent, Air Force veteran, past President of the Richmond Crusade for Voters.

‘Critical Mass’ Bicycle Ride On Friday

From the FaceBook event page:

Meet at 6, ride at 6:30.

Rain, fascism, or shine.

Our usual meeting spot in Monroe Park has been fenced off for renovations for the next year or more… For now we will meet at the same intersection, just across the street on the sidewalk in front of Altria Theater, to avoid too much confusion. A different meeting place may be chosen in future months, so keep an eye on the location!

What is this event?!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass_%28cycling%29

Last Friday evening of every month! Come out on your bikes and ride en masse through the city, for any number of reasons: just for fun, to celebrate bicycles as an alternative to cars, to spread awareness that bicycles share the road, or as a form of political protest. Wear costumes, bring music, noisemakers, flags, ribbons, etc. Ride a skateboard, roller blades, unicycle or some other human-powered bike alternative. Make it a parade!

Many interesting routes (and stops) are planned in advance, but some are unplanned and can simply be determined spontaneously by whoever is riding in the front. Ride SLOWLY so we can all stay together, enjoy the ride, talk along the way, and encourage people to join us.

This Saturday- Shiver In The River and Richmond Democrats’ Fifth District Meeting

This Saturday is Shiver In The River, a benefit riverfront event for the Keep Virginia Beautiful organization. There is a clean up, a 5K, and yes, a ‘polar bear plunge’ in the James River.

Click here for more details.

Also, the Richmond Democrats are holding a strategy meeting to discuss how they will organize neighborhoods for the upcoming 2017 elections. They are asking everyone to invite neighbors.
Saturday at 10 AM – 11:30 AM at Tower of Deliverance Church (118 Cowardin Ave, Richmond, Virginia 23224)

(Editor’s note: I am happy to post meeting notices from other political groups as well)

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/

Councilperson Agelasto Releases Statement As New Council Is Sworn In

The Times Dispatch had an article this morning on the Council meeting last night, where new members were sworn in and 3rd District Councilperson Chris Hilbert was elected President of City Council.
The article reported that 5th District Councilperson Parker Agelasto (Oregon Hill’s representative) had a pointed statement released after the meeting:

However, in a departure from what is typically a unanimous, nine-member vote for council president, Agelasto opted to abstain.
After the meeting, Agelasto distributed a statement saying he didn’t vote for Hilbert because he was disappointed Hilbert didn’t appoint him to any leadership positions on the council’s committees and, instead, stripped him of the position he had held as vice chair of the council’s finance committee.
“During my first four years on City Council, I attempted to bring greater transparency to council operations and greater accountability over how taxpayer monies are spent,” he said. “I realize this new way of doing things was not greeted with open arms by some on council, who were wedded to past council actions that too often led to spending abuses and fixations on shiny projects at the expense of funding for schools, public safety and basic city services.”

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.