As area residents trickle through the open door of Charlottesville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the words “Peace Be Within Thy Walls, Prosperity Within Thy Palaces” hang in a stately arc over the podium.
The March 10 meeting, organized by the church’s pastor, Reverend Alvin Edwards, is just one in a string of reactions to the February 26 attack of UVA Student Council presidential candidate Daisy Lundy. A candlelight vigil would be held on the steps of the Rotunda on March 12, with a faculty-student exchange concerning race relations earlier that same day.
Edwards strolls the aisle, microphone in hand, repeating a single question: “This meeting will have been worth your time if we do…what? You fill in the blank.”
But as the crowd of more than 50 people, a handful of them affiliated with UVA, sits in silence an unsettling déja vu sweeps over the room.
Little more than a year ago, a mass meeting was held in this very church to brainstorm solutions to concerns raised after a string of assaults that targeted white UVA students. Among the issues discussed then were racial tensions between City teens and ’Hoos.
“Well, this is about the quietest crowd I’ve had in a long, long time,” says Edwards, growing visibly frustrated.
“The attack of Miss Lundy was unacceptable, punkish,” he says. “I wish I could say I’m shocked. I certainly am not.”
Edwards, citing examples of “blackface at frats” and “the Virginia gentlemen mentality” elaborates on his message that racial bias is alive and well at Jefferson’s university. In an effort to solve the problem, audience members should call UVA faculty to the carpet, he believes, along with the Charlottesville community and Governor Mark Warner.
“To appoint someone like [Warner], who makes appointments like [Terence Ross] to the Board of Visitors and he then makes public statements saying black folks are taking seats from whites,” says Edwards, “we obviously need to question our Governor.”
Edwards’ stance may be clear, but a solution to racial bias is not.
Hank Allen, a retired UVA faculty member is the first to stand and speak.
“We’re not going to ever solve our racial problem with this Band-Aid process,” he says. “We’re dealing with human feelings here, and that’s really hard.”
While Allen offers suggestions such as long periods of sustained interaction between racial groups, other audience members drive home the importance of respect.
“I see here tonight seven people who are non-Negro,” says a member of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association. “I don’t care if you don’t like me, as long as you respect me. We’re the reason you came here in the first place, we brought you here with Christopher Columbus.”
Other attendees express their disappointment at the lack of UVA students in attendance. Rick Turner, dean of the University’s office of African-American affairs, who is in attendance, blames faculty, too.
Describing a meeting he had attended just hours before at UVA, “with all the big shots,” he says he was “the only black man in the room.”
“There’s nobody there that looks like me except for the people cleaning up,” says Turner. “At the meeting, I asked them, ‘Why don’t you hire some brothers and sisters in the departments?’”
Turner waves his hands. The answer to his question was a “conspiracy of silence.”
“White folks don’t change, they don’t have the moral courageousness to change,” says Turner. “It’s the black folks that have to change.”
Edwards, switching the meeting’s focus back to his original question, again meets ambivalence.
“How are we going to proceed? Ask for a meeting with the community there at UVA?”
In the end, the conclusion is frustratingly familiar: to have a follow-up meeting.
“We need a commitment from everyone in this room that they’ll be here for the next meeting, though,” says Charlottesville City Mayor Maurice Cox. “Otherwise, we’ve done this before.”—Kathryn E. Goodson
Can’t curb it for free
The cost of hanging out on West Main goes up
The engines of industry are turning on West Main Street. The groaning bulldozers piling dirt across from Starr Hill Music Hall provide a hint of the facelift to come along that road. Yet on the verge of West Main’s transformation, Gabe Silverman wants out.
The developer and Main Street Properties partner says he wants to sell the oval-shaped gravel parking lot across from Starr Hill, and he’s looking for a developer to build retail, office and residential space on the site.
Silverman is bailing just as the real estate market on West Main is heating up. Those busy bulldozers are working at the behest of Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw, who is constructing student apartments across from Starr Hill, the bar and music venue he also bankrolls.
Furthermore, the City envisions West Main as a commercial district linking Downtown with UVA. City Council is working to replace low-income renters with homeowners in neighborhoods around West Main, and the City is also encouraging UVA to put new buildings along the road.
Isn’t all that activity a developer’s dream? More like a migraine, says Silverman.
“I worked with the City for a number of years and took my lumps on that site,” he says, referring to months of negotiations in 2001, when the City wanted to build a bus transfer station on the parking lot. When the deal broke down, City Hall decided it would erect the transfer station at the east end of the Downtown Mall. “I don’t need the headaches anymore,” says Silverman.
Although the biggest developments on West Main Street are mostly still blueprints, parking is already becoming a luxury item.
In September, Star Hill Automotive moved its U-Haul trucks across West Main and began charging $50 a month to park in one of 50 spaces at the old U-Haul lot at 856 W. Main St.
And until recently, people could park for free in Silverman’s lot. Last April, however, signs appeared like scarecrows: “No trespassing except patrons. Police authorized to arrest,” and “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed.”
The Piedmont Virginia Parking Company collects the money and splits it with Silverman. Parking company manager Tom Woodson says his company charges $5 per day or $40 per month for parking permits. When there’s a show at Starr Hill, two men stand beside a tiny shack or in a pick-up truck and charge drivers $3 to park in the lot.
“The owner asked us to start charging,” says Tom Woodson, manager of Piedmont Virginia Parking Company. “The reason is to make money. Why else would you charge for something?”
Starr Hill general manager Nikki Vinci says parking is always an issue––not so much for music patrons, she says, because most people expect to pay for parking when they see a show.
“But restaurant patrons don’t want to pay to park just to get a beer and hang out,” Vinci says. There’s a parking lot behind Blue Bird Café that doesn’t charge at night, she says, but losing Silverman’s parking lot “poses some problems.”––John Borgmeyer
Protesting the budget, teachers get testy
Like a band of desperados set to pillage the Wild West, principals, teachers and PTO heads came out March 12 to lasso the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
The public hearing on the proposed 2003-2004 budget, (a total $215.7 million without tax increases) attracted more than 200 area residents to the County Office Building’s Lane Auditorium.
One overriding sentiment dominated the night: Approve the School Board’s proposed funding request to the fullest and nobody gets hurt.
The Supes sat motionless, as rabid County schoolchildren could almost be heard in the distance hissing, “Dunk ‘em, Ma! Dunk ‘em!”
“In the 17 years I’ve been doing this,” said Margie Shepherd, President of the Albemarle Education Association, “I’ve not seen one of your faces in my halls except for Sally Thomas. We’re 60 percent of your tax base.”
Supervisor Chair Lindsay Dorrier repeatedly threatened members of the audience with dismissal if the cheering, clapping and hollering didn’t stop.
“We get awards for excellence in our schools and you get awards for being too tight-fisted to give budget increases?” screamed Shepherd. “You find the money, it’s all in the priority!”
As it stands now, the budget submitted March 5 by County Executive Robert W. Tucker, Jr. apportions $103.5 million for school division operations, a $3.9 million increase over the $99.6 million for the fiscal year 2002-2003.
Tucker also stressed that schools, receiving a 4 percent increase in funding, fared much better than all other programs, which received a 2.3 percent increase, on average. Still, mathematical reasoning aside, nothing could quell the angry mob.
“Until this Board pulls its head out of the sand there’ll be no more money for anything, or anyone,” said one man. “You need to change the way you tax, that’s the only way we’ll get more money for schools.”
The other tiny problem—a $1 million overall budgetary shortfall—only further ties the Supes’ hands. But when asked at what point County teachers will be satisfied with salaries, School Board member Gordon Walker said not until Albemarle’s are comparable to the national average (the County is off by about $4,000, said Walker).
Other employees of the County’s 25 public schools warned the Supes in pay-stub detail that they could make earn as much as $5,000 more annually at a Charlottesville City school.
“It is arrogant and dangerous on your part to take funding away from this proposed budget,” said one County resident. “Anyone could teach in the schools at this pay rate. And if you’re not careful, anyone will.”—Kathryn E. Goodson
The FCC won’t let WVTF’s Radio IQ be
Calls, emails and letters have been pouring into Roanoke-based radio WVTF since Radio IQ, 89.7, went off the air March 7. Worried the station has succumbed to political pressure to shut down the iconoclastic, Euro-focused news broadcasts, former listeners are contacting General Manager Glenn Gleixner on a daily basis.
Not so, says Gleixner. Even if it did carry the anti-Blair BBC newscasts, Radio IQ was not slanted. “If you listened closely to the programming, you’d know there was clearly an equal amount of pro-war and anti-war sentiments, despite the ‘worldly’ views expressed,” says Gleixner.
Upon the discovery of what Gleixner calls a “little known and arcane FCC rule,” WVTF began to dismantle Radio IQ immediately. The rule states that WVTF cannot microwave the Radio IQ programming from its original location at Ferrum College to its translators in Charlottesville (no, not little fellas who read the news with a Southern accent. Translators beam the signal from Roanoke to Charlottesville).
Although Gleixner would not comment on who brought the rule to the station’s attention, he did say that legal counsel had to take a magnifying glass to the original paperwork to even locate it.
Still, Gleixner is determined to return Radio IQ to the Charlottesville area. He’s in the midst of negotiations to purchase the license to operate WFFC, the current owners of Radio IQ.
“If the FCC approves the license transfer, Radio IQ could be back on the air within six to eight weeks,” says Gleixner. “We’re still not 100 percent certain, on anyone’s part that this will happen,” says Gleixner. “But extremely optimistic, let’s put it that way.”—Kathryn E. Goodson