Mailbag: C-VILLE readers’ letters, November 6-November 26


Mailbag: C-VILLE readers’ letters, November 6-November 26

History speaks

The anticipation of Spielberg’s Lincoln has been marked with numerous reviews, interviews, and personal stories. No doubt that such a highly financed production by both the state and Hollywood’s most successful director can bring about national attention. For many, as you have written [“Shooting Lincoln,” November 6], this event has marked an important point in people’s lives; a departure from the usual and mundane into something almost dreamlike. To say the least, it was a thrilling time.

But there-in lies another question: Will our interest continue in the days or months to come? Historical films can serve not only as entertainment but often as thought-provoking tools to understanding American stories. They add realism and feelings otherwise unavailable from classroom text books. Walt Whitman reflected that, “the real [civil] war will never get in the books.” As contributors, financiers, movie-goers, and common people, we need to believe this subject not only important to our Commonwealth and personal memory, but also to what it stands for on the Sesquicentennial of the war itself.

From what has already been commemorated, newly discovered and reinterpreted, we are not selling ourselves short.

Jason Spellman



Grateful doc

I’ve read and reread your article about Charlottesville’s gay community [“Before out was in,” November 13], and I was deeply moved. The background work you did for the article and the thought you put into its construction were simply superb. I know the wider community needs to read it and I hope it has the impact on many that it had on me.

I have been an HIV primary and specialty care doctor since 1990, in the Miami, Florida area, and I am all too familiar with the devastating impact of HIV on the gay, and other, populations it has ravaged over the past 30 years. My wife and I moved to Charlottesville in August 2011, and I was soon embraced by the AIDS/HIV Services Group, about which you wrote so lucidly and admiringly. I knew little of the formation of the outstanding organization of which I am now a board member other than a broad overview, and now I look forward to meeting some of the wonderful, devoted people who brought it into being.

I salute you for your effort, insight, and talent.

David Schmitt, MD




In an article about tolerance and the need to move beyond stereotypes [“Before out was in,” November 13] I would like to object to J. Tobias Beard’s prominent use of the phrase, “feared redneck hordes,” printed once in the article and then highlighted again in large, bold type.

Surely you realize that the Charlottesville/Albemarle region is one that faces deep class divides. The verbal “ghettoization” of some of the members of our non-middle classes is insensitive and offensive. Further, it marginalizes members of our community who have much to offer—culturally, musically, as local historians…and in many other ways.

If there are those who, as members of this subgroup, would like to appropriate ownership of such phrases, I encourage them to do so. For the rest of us, let’s put such language to rest.

Beth Norford



Neighborly interaction

Like those quoted in the article [“Critical mass: Planning Commission approves permit for an even bigger Plaza on Main Street,” November 13], I was deeply disappointed that Planning Commission Chairman Ginnie Keller endorsed a massive student rental complex on West Main Street despite reservations about the impact and impersonality of such a structure. But I was further distressed at the example she cited for her concern, i.e. the complex opposite her North First Street home. I recognized it by location, but not by her characterization.

Charlottesville Towers (511 N. First), was built in 1967 in a style that will always clash with the historic houses around it. But its residents didn’t clash with those who lived in those houses. I know that because my parents became renters there in 1968 after the city condemned for a public parking lot the house we lived in nearby. Convenience prompted their choice. My father could continue walking to work at the Main Post Office, then on Market Street. Coincidence favored it, too. My father’s grandfather, early Charlottesville photographer William Roads (as he spelled it), had 422 N. First St. built in 1870, and my father’s father was born there.

Many of 511’s early residents also had tight local ties, and that remained true even in the years just after the complex went condominium about 1981. Among my parents’ neighbors were several downsizers who’d owned homes nearby for decades. Another old timer, a retired railroad worker, recalled being dispatched from the depot as a young messenger boy with notes for my mother’s train conductor father. Among newer comers were a young chef-restaurateur busily upgrading Charlottesville’s culinary scene and a physics professor emeritus whose wife invited fellow residents to student chamber music recitals in their apartment.

Lobby conversation was lively. Residents helped one another. Whenever one couple’s city police officer son visited, he would cheerfully act as ad hoc security consultant. Even though the building looked like a blocky island in its asphalt sea, however, its denizens weren’t insular. They walked out to Main Street and the library and church as did the surrounding house dwellers of similar backgrounds: a city librarian, a popular piano teacher, another faculty couple, et al.

My father died in 1980, and my mother left 511 in 1985—one year after Ms. Keller’s husband became owner of their house. Certainly, the building’s cast of characters has changed somewhat since then. Notably, some units have been bought by investors. But familiar names still appear in its ownership records
—more, in fact, than appear on the rest of North First, where current owners are clearly much more affluent than their predecessors and much less likely to have local roots.

At the November 13 hearing, Ms. Keller complained that 511 displays a “Keep Out” sign and that neighborhood children cannot ride bikes there. That would be because such complexes have chronic problems with non residents poaching residents’ spaces and that children on bikes are legal liabilities in that they can easily become casualties.

But even if all who dwell in 511’s 64 units (with about 100 bedrooms) and park in its completely adequate lot were the aloof aliens Ms. Keller implied, her comparison of them to the undergraduates who will turn over constantly in the West Main complex’s 219 units (with 595 bedrooms) and overflow its completely inadequate garage is egregious. Residents of 511 may not “interact” as Ms. Keller would dictate, but I’m quite sure they’ve never prevented her peaceful enjoyment of her own property. Those of us forced to be neighbors of the behemoth she endorsed will not be able to say the same.

Antoinette W. Roades



Unpopular populist

Good luck with the optimism of the Read This First blurb this week [“Dems celebrate demographic shift, hail rebirth of populism,” November 14]. I’m going to save the blurb next to my computer. You (and maybe Perriello) like the demographics and the “working class” and “populism”? They don’t call it “working class” for nothing.

They don’t call it the “risk taker” class or the “creativity” class or the “entrepreneur” class or the “investment” class or the “job creation” class. I don’t even think it’s the “savings” class. Maybe those Midwest manufacturers actually do exist. By the way, your president dropped almost 7 million votes from 2008— the first time a president has been reelected with fewer votes (about 10 percent fewer!) in a long time if ever. 49.4 percent of voters looked at the Obama name and voted for somebody else. I wonder what analysis Operative Perriello has for that one.

My two cents: Indiana is the first state in the rust belt to get the message. Look for the other rusties to follow soon. But you do have me reading.

Rob Tureman