Don’t start your engines

Don’t start your engines

I’m sure Wade Tremblay has many good points and qualities, but if actions speak louder than words, what his business has done to Wertland Street and other areas around UVA demonstrate that his goal is to maximize his number of student rentals at any cost [“Housing authority readies for redevelopment,” Government News, January 22, 2008]. He ought to spend more time thinking about where the many residents of Westhaven are supposed to go, when he applies his scorched earth tactics to one of the last places in Charlottesville where poor people can live. It is too easy and too flip for him to state that Westhaven was “flawed when it was built.” If he were to read the history of that era more carefully, his thinking process might go a little deeper than “let’s just tear it all down and let the white developers get hold of this choice and centrally located piece of land.” He reminds me of the businessmen of that time, the white civic leaders and chamber of commerce types, the movers and shakers, who convinced the city to go ahead with the Vinegar Hill demolition (which incidentally passed by only a hundred votes or so in a citywide referendum). A quick look around that area today, 40 years later, shows how little planning and true need there was for that land. Except for Ridge/McIntire Road, which has become a vital link, the hodge-podge of giant parking lots and random, undistinguished and unrelated faceless buildings is a pretty meagre legacy and a poor trade-off for the damage that was done on many levels to the local black community. The fact is that today, as in 1960, the poor African-American enclaves are a hindrance and a nuisance to developers. Please, let’s do a little more planning before we start warming up the bulldozers.

Jeremy Caplin

Intersection rage

I was appalled to read your advice to Emile E. Post, whose wife prefers to “creep” into an intersection (under a green light) in preparation for a left-hand turn [“Virginia creeper,” What’s up with that, C-VILLE?, January 29, 2007]. In your answer, you state the opinion of a Driver Education Teacher (for Albemarle County) that such a maneuver is “illegal.” Excuse me? If you wish to reference law in your response, why not consult a lawyer? Or even more simply, look up the Virginia code on the matter.

I could find no codes that make the practice illegal. Two codes do apply: +cod+46.2-833 and cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-825.

Neither of these codes prohibit “creeping” into the intersection. On the contrary, they advise traveling into the intersection under a green light, while making sure to yield to vehicles already in the intersection (this is an important point, notice below).

It has always been legal to enter an intersection under a green light. Naturally this would include entering an intersection for the purpose of making a left-hand turn. At many intersections, you would NEVER be able to make a left-hand turn—in busy daytime traffic—unless you entered the intersection under the green light, and then waited near the middle of the intersection for your chance to turn. Many intersections are too large to allow a safe turn from behind the stop line, given the voluminous oncoming traffic and the long distance to go. (There are times when one should NOT enter an intersection under a green light, such as when the way ahead or to the left turn is blocked by jammed up traffic).

What’s interesting about the Virginia code is that it clearly states drivers must yield to vehicles already in the intersection before proceeding under a green light. Such vehicles in the intersection are often cars that have been waiting to make a left turn, where “their” light has now turned red.  In other words, the code specifically protects “Virginia Creepers” from cross traffic that has received a green signal, and thus by my interpretation gives its blessing to the practice.

Speaking to the social task of driving, I’d like to suggest to Mr. Post that he is doing his fellow motorists a disservice by not “creeping.” Often I am stuck in traffic behind drivers who are “hanging back,” consequently who will not soon have a chance to turn left. The result is fewer cars getting through the intersection on any given cycle of the light, and if you multiply this effect throughout the street grid, traffic delays increase significantly for everyone. I believe it is every driver’s duty to keep the traffic flowing as best as possible, and setting up properly for a speedy and safe left hand turn is part of that obligation.

Thus Mrs. Post’s preference to “creep” remains the polite solution to a nettlesome traffic problem.

Boris Starosta

Big questions for Ace

Dear Ace: There were some errors in your column on leaf collection [“A dirty story,” Ask Ace, December 18, 2007]. You wrote that the leaves are collected, compacted in 20′ cubic masses (then what? Off to the landfill, and somehow that’s green). Actually, it’s the plastic bags that are compacted into cubic masses. The leaves themselves are taken to Panorama Farms, where they are composted and sold to the public as mulch.

But questions about leaves remain unanswered. Ace, why does the city do this? Why don’t they mandate composting of leaves on all property where space allows? Why this fetishistic passion for mowing in the first place and the renaming of grass as lawn? Why does the city spend $400,000 a year aiding and abetting this unhealthy obsession? Why do lawn sizes remain unlimited? Why isn’t grass allowed to grow to its mature stage so we can admire how it sways and whispers in the wind? Why are people penalized and stigmatized if they allow their grass to grow? Why don’t urban meadows fit into our civilized utopia?

Additionally, aren’t people aware that in drought conditions, such as we episodically suffer, tall grasses will conserve more moisture than short grass? Do they realize lawn mowers lack pollution control devices, and chemical weed killing treatments threaten the potability of our wells and groundwater? Have they heard about the gases released into the atmosphere from the cut grass?

Are we incapable of change, Ace? Or have we evolved into a race of self-indulgent children, as some have hinted at? Out in the drought-ridden West, people are being paid by the square foot to tear up their lawns and replace them with something more sensitive to earthly referent. The referent here was woodland. Will it take something epic to allow for the possibility of change?

Also, Ace, when responding, could you avoid using the phrase “The news isn’t all bad”? I want some genuinely good news, Ace, untainted by caveats, exceptions and grim footnotes.

Sky Hiatt

Ace replies: Ace is green with envy for the amount of interesting questions you’ve come up with, Sky. If he could produce as many insightful queries as you have, his readers would no longer feel the need to write in—every week would be yet another column about the nuances of turning “green.” And, as thought-provoking (and vital!) as that topic is, many related questions are more rhetorical than answerable. For example, “Are we incapable of change?” is certainly one question Ace has an opinion on (not to mention his ex, who may have a few bon mots on the topic), but perhaps it’s better left swaying and whispering in the wind. Something Ace does need to address, however, is his mistake. While he wrote that the leaves were compacted into cubic masses, he really meant to say “bags.” With recycling, just one person can make a difference. With writing, the difference in meaning may be just one word.

Big question for Mormons

Your piece on the LDS community was really interesting [“When the Latter-day Saints come marching in,” January 29, 2008]. They sound fairly hip and open-minded and I really like a lot of the LDS students who I know here at UVA. I’ve been a bit shy to ask my classmates where they stand on LGBT issues though. Mitt Romney was governor of the only state to pass gay marriage, but has been vocal in his criticism of the practice. It would be interesting to hear how some of the local folks who you interviewed feel about homosexuality.

Jennifer Carnahan

More than just the facts, ma’am

Even though I do not know the facts of the case, I don’t doubt that something happened [“Overinflated?” Courts & Crime News, February 5, 2008]. These inflatable forms of recreation seem to be popping up everywhere (no pun intended). As a safety professional, I see many cases where they are not properly set up and are not properly staffed and users not properly instructed.
Ken Martin
Amusement Ride Safety Consultant

Unfair-y tale

“And they lived happily ever after.” Unfortunately for the young couple featured in C-VILLE Weekly’s Lawsuit of the Week [“Taken to the cleaners?” Courts & Crime News, January 29, 2008], a fairy tale wedding was followed by a nightmare—thanks to Brown’s Cleaners. Last May I attended the wedding of a beautiful young couple. The bride was a sight to behold in her elegant dress; however, Brown’s Cleaners lost her wedding dress shortly after the wedding. This dress, a quite expensive custom-fitted gown, was a wedding present to the bride from her maternal grandmother. Upon returning to Brown’s to pick up the potential heirloom, the young husband was told by the attendant that they did not have the dress and had no record of its ever being brought in. The young husband, exhibiting the claim ticket he had received from Brown’s, protested vigorously. In spite of the ticket, all of the employees with whom he spoke stuck to the story that the dress had not been left there.

Incredulous and broken-hearted, the couple finally took the receipt for the gown and the claim ticket to small claims court, certain that justice would be served. The Brown establishment, with the help of an attorney, was able to convince the court that the claim ticket, in their words, “meant nothing.”  Any such expensive items would have been entered in a special record book and there was no record of the dress. That’s like a bank robber being found innocent because he didn’t write about the robbery in his diary!

I understand that this is not the only wedding gown that has been “lost” at Brown’s Cleaners. Fortunately for another couple, who had the same experience, the gown that supposedly didn’t exist miraculously reappeared some weeks later.

I sincerely hope that there is a fair and impartial judge in this vicinity that will hear this case when it is appealed. Meanwhile, I suggest that we all use caution before leaving any valuable clothing with this unscrupulous company that has replaced a couple’s happiness with angst.

Geraldine Kruger
Albemarle County

When contacted by C-VILLE, Toby Brown, the owner of Brown’s Dry Cleaners, said he had “no comment” on the suit or this letter.—Ed.