New city councilor Holly Edwards has described stepping into the 40-year debate over the Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP) as something akin to walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. She and I talked about the MCP a bit for the story that’s in this week’s paper, and she framed it in a way that I hadn’t heard any councilor, opponent or activist frame it.
"I believe that the desire [to build the parkway] came at the same time as Urban Renewal," she says, sitting at a table in The Nook. "There was this vision of developing Downtown that was about business and transportation and economic stability. And even when those decisions were made, ‘economic justice’ was not the term that was used because urban renewal was poor people removal, bottom line. And there’s no getting away from that."
It’s an interesting connection: the MCP and Urban Renewal. And one that needs to be considered. As long as I’ve been covering the whole MCP saga, the points of contention have centered around the environment, our culture of transportation and whether Downtown businesses will shrivel and die if a road isn’t built directly to them.
But the debate hasn’t focused on people—not people on the lower end of the economic spectrum, or, in Edward’s view, African Americans.
"Even just the face of the people that are in this conversation, I wish there were more African Americans involved in the conversation," she says. "But there even seems to be a cultural divide in that respect. It’s priorities, a sense of making a decision as to where the involvement in civic engagement is even practical. I think that many times within that community there is a sense of apathy that prevents people from getting involved."
And to abruptly switch gears here, today, May 1, besides being International Workers Day (national workers are celebrating even having a damn job, I suppose), is the day that the Charlottesville School Board makes a decision whether to approve the use of land near the high school for the MCP. And after speaking to the chairperson, Ned Michie, I don’t think there’s going to be much of a push to oppose the Parkway.
But that doesn’t mean MCP opponents haven’t been trying. Michie told me that he’d received some e-mails from people urging him to block the MCP with this decision. And the local Sierra Club sent a mass e-mail to its supporters urging them to connect with school board members and ask them to oppose the land agreement.
It even included some helpful talking points:
- "Students should not have to give up their athletic field for an unnecessary parkway.
- Road construction so near the high school will cause increased pollution and hazards for students.
- School personnel were not consulted during parkway planning.
- The parkway will drastically reduce the amount of "greenspace" in the city by paving over part of McIntire Park and a softball field.
- Funds for the parkway should instead be invested in public transit, bike and pedestrian trails that will benefit our students."
All this said, I’ll be surprised if anything comes out of this evening’s meeting other than a rubber stamp.