Interview With Beth Marschak, Richmond Earth Day Founder

Style magazine has a nice interview with Beth Marschak, one of the founders of the Richmond Earth Day celebration (and a former Oregon Hill resident).

Here’s an excerpt:

Beth Marschak, now an HIV prevention specialist, was 20 when she helped organize the city’s inaugural Earth Day at Monroe Park in 1971.

In a nod to Saturday’s yearly acknowledgement of the planet, Style spoke with Marschak about some of the progress made — and to worry about the future.

Style: Why did you want to bring Earth Day to Richmond?

Marschak: I was in a student group at Westhampton-University of Richmond called S.H.A.M.E – Studying and Halting the Assault on Man and Environment. That was back when people liked names like that.

Most of the people in our group were science majors. I was a chemistry major at that time. People had a fairly sophisticated view of the problems affecting the environment and ecology from a scientific standpoint.

And, of course, if you looked at the James River back then, it was terrible. Sewage was going directly into the river. You would not want to get into it. Now people tube down it and swim in it and fish. You could not do that then. You wouldn’t put a toe in it.

So it was really one of those things where, right here in this area, you could see some major impacts from not having policies protecting clean water, clean air.

She also recently wrote a letter to the Planning Commission, asking that they spare remaining mature trees in Monroe Park. However the Planning Commission voted in favor of removing the trees.

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.

Early Bird Registration for Shiver in the River Ends Today

RichmondOutside.com has post that reminds everyone that the ‘early bird’ registration for the Shiver In The River (happens end of January) ends today.

What are you missing out on by not registering now for Richmond’s most epic polar plunge? How about the chance to win an overnight stay at the Hilton in downtown Richmond on either Friday or Saturday of Shiver weekend (January 28, 2017), a $50 gift card at Hilton’s new 1885 Cafe & Market, and a $50 gift card to Penny Lane Pub. Pretty sweet swag, I’d say.

In other news, KVB’s Mike Baum tells me the 5K that precedes the Shiver will incorporate the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the T-Pot Bridge), which Brown’s Island and Manchester. The exact route hasn’t been mapped yet, he said, but it should be the first race in Richmond to include the gleaming new pedestrian bridge (which opens this Friday night at 6 p.m.).

Click here for more on Shiver in the River and to sneak in under the wire for early bird registration.

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Water Rate Issues Resonate For Fifth District Candidates

The Times Dispatch asked the 5th District City Council candidates some questions. Here’s one:

Outside of citywide concerns about schools and basic services, what is the biggest issue facing your district? How do you hope to address it?
Agelasto: We need to create good-paying jobs that are accessible to all our neighborhoods. The city can help cultivate many small entrepreneurial businesses in areas like Hull Street. Carytown has over 4,000 jobs. Let’s spread that success to other areas rather than relying on incentives to corporations.
Magruder: I plan to address the increasing water rates by first requiring the disclosure of the PILOT fee and seeking a possible legal challenge to it. I’ll also seek reductions in the base service charge for unmetered homes as it’s heavily regressive to the poor.
Sawyer: Water utility rates. City of Richmond residents pay more than surrounding counties. In 2013, we saw an increase of $1.63 per CCF of water to $3.21. Waste water changed from $2.59 per CCF to $5.82. We must reduce the service charge in line with other communities and raise the CPU of water.

Water Utility Reform and Local Elections

Although multiple media outlets covered the City Democratic Committee mayoral forum at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School this past Tuesday, the Times Dispatch newspaper captured this exchange:

Morrissey also chided Berry, a former assistant city manager in Richmond and county manager in Hanover County, on his response to a council candidate’s concerns about high city water rates that are inflated by an annual payment to the general budget in lieu of taxes.

Berry had warned that eliminating the payment from the public utility enterprise fund would hurt the city’s general budget. “The problem is if you take that away, it’s money that goes away from the general fund.”

Morrissey responded, “Just because you need the money doesn’t mean you can add a phony, faux tax to the water bill.”

Councilperson Baliles, who could not attend that forum, released this video:

On top of that, there was this announcement:

On today’s packed edition of Open Source RVA, we talk with city council candidate Charlie Diradour about his campaign to represent the second district. We discuss Richmond’s water rates, transparency in city government, what’s happening with Monroe Park and a host of other topics

We also welcome back to the program Farid Alan Schintzius, who talks about his legal efforts to appeal the decision by the city’s electoral board that disqualified him from the mayoral ballot. Too much show? You decide. Listen in at 2PM on WRIR 97.3 FM and http://wrir.org.

That’s today (Friday, Sept. 9 at 2pm).

So…The ongoing citizen campaign to reform City of Richmond’s water utility has become part of the local election landscape. Oregon Hill neighbors and others who have worked over time to bring water utility reform forward are excited to hear what the candidates have to say going forward.

It continues to be outrageous that small volume residential citizens can pay as much as 78% of their water/sewer bill for service charges, while some above average volume users can pay as little as 11%.
Will the candidate support removing the federal income tax surcharge on the water rates?
Will the candidate support lowering the base service charge that all customers must pay before receiving the first drop of water?
Will the candidates support discontinuing the use of the water utility as a cash cow for the city’s general fund?

The Pool Under Main Street

While we are still in the heat of summer, WTVR has a cool little report on “Richmond’s most famous pool, built 90 years ago – under the Altria Theater”.

Excerpt:

Tile from Spain and Italy covered everything, even some of the ceilings.

The pool was deep – nine and a half feet in the deep end, which had a diving board. It was still there until just a few years ago, Miller said.

The city would take over the historic building, turning it into the Mosque concert and theater venue.

The pool was filled in and covered over with concrete – it was just too structurally unsound.

But the original wall tile and floor edging, including the depth markers, remain in this 90-year-old uncanny pool room now serving as a storage area.

New Petition Asks For Political Debate On Water Utility Reform

Building on previous efforts, a new online petition asks local candidates to address water utility reform issues.

Of course, this issue has been brought up before here, and more recently in the Washington Post.

From the new petition language:

We need our local elections to be more than just popularity contests. To that end, citizens need to demand more substantive discussion of issues and platforms. In the last six years or so, issues have been consistently raised by grassroots citizens in regard to reforming the City of Richmond’s water utility.
We point to the previous Change.org petition, “Reform Richmond’s Water Rates”, with over 1700 signatures. We reference the Sierra Club Falls of the James’ statement on how there are also significant conservation concerns with the City utility’s relatively high base rate for residents. We call your attention to the recent Washington Post editorial, with the headline, Richmond Is Ripping Off It’s Residents”. It is outrageous that small volume residential citizens can pay as much as 78% of their water/sewer bill for service charges, while some above average volume users can pay as little as 11%. Furthermore, we note that the City administration has broken its promise to list all charges on their billing.

We the undersigned feel that the Richmond water rates are a vital but neglected issue that should be addressed in this election in November. The undersigned request that all candidates address this issue and request that all debates include these 3 questions:

Will the candidate support removing the federal income tax surcharge on the water rates?
Will the candidate support lowering the base service charge that all customers must pay before receiving the first drop of water?
Will the candidates support discontinuing the use of the water utility as a cash cow for the city’s general fund?