Ferguson and Charlottesville- a comparison of racist histories

Ferguson and Charlottesville- Comparisons of Local Racist Histories

NOTES
*Much of this information is based on my growing knowledge of Charlottesville history. There may however, be some instances where things are not right. Please advise me if you have found any glaring errors in historical fact or data, but please do not discount this analysis based on possible small errors.

** I hope to provide some references at a later date, much of this knowledge comes from materials available to all, again, please do not discount this assessment of history simply because I haven’t provided the references, just ask or call until I post material.

*** This may be a work in progress-toooo loooonnnnnggggg- if you want to edit feel free to send your changes to my e-mail address. Also- needs a better title.

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The events in Ferguson, outside of St. Louis, are no surprise to many. Some have the tendency, however, to view these spontaneous uprisings as being apart of and separate from our own experiences. When we make some observations we might see that what is happening in Ferguson right now could happen here quite easily. We might even go so far to say that many of things happening in Ferguson are already going down in Cville.

History plays a role in all matters of race, and it is not just a vague distant series of events that cause individuals to react in certain ways. The racist history of this country has deep impacts on the racist histories of localities and are very much a living part of our current situation in Charlottesville.  The historical themes we see relate to: promotion of white fear of blacks as an institutional program, the use of public funds to further private business interests, the exploitation of the cheapest labor that can be found, and the systems that enforce institutional oppression under codified law aimed at maintaining the racist continuum of history. We see Africa exploited, Slavery, Jim Crow, Urban Renewal, and the Drug war and mass incarceration. All common themes nationwide, but played out differently sometimes in Ferguson and Charlottesville and sometimes similarly, and some presenting a racist glimpse of Charlottesville’s future.

Ferguson is not Charlottesville. There are different histories, different themes to their local histories. Plenty of similarities yes, but plenty of differences. The differences however play out in a similar fashion in that they reinforce white dominance over and oppression of African-Americans. This dominance and oppression is largely driven not by individuals acting in a discriminatory manner, but driven by racist institutions that are simultaneously using economics as a weapon while seeking to fortify economic power as the end goal.

As someone who works very closely with the public housing community in Charlottesville I have had amazing opportunities to grow and to learn. One of the opportunities has been coordinating an intern program for PHAR. Part of what we do is learn the history of public housing in Charlottesville. Over the past few years I have gained a very solid understanding of Charlottesville’s racist past, present, and some seriously troubling concerns about our possible future.

So here’s what I have learned about Charlottesville. It begins in Africa (where all of human history begins) and with European empire expansion and the beginnings of the slave trade. White Europeans, in an effort to make money and secure a cheap labor force for their new empires being built in the Americas began kidnapping human beings from Africa, which had civilizations its own that were thriving, and brought them to the new world, the inhabitants of which were systematically being enslaved themselves, murdered en masse, or forced to flee. The Africans were forced to build the foundation of this country, and this continued for 400 years.

The natives and the Africans were not content with this arrangement and wars began both in the new world and in Africa. Slave rebellions, most of which we don’t learn about in standard US history, were crushed. At the time, news of slave rebellions were kept quiet mostly out of fear of other slaves getting wind of these uprisings. However, white landowners were consistently alerted of rebellions and the fear and propaganda promotion of the black person as being a threat began in earnest.

Systematically and as a matter of many laws and ordinances, white slave owners were told to fear the people they were oppressing and encouraged to carry out heinous acts of barbarism on their human property. The John Brown raid was one exception- we learn about John Brown because he was white, an attempt by modern Americans to alleviate some guilt and complicity in the continuance of perhaps the world’s greatest crime. This served a great purpose at the time- it was a warning to white people to not side with the people they were oppressing or it would mean their ass. This simple, though distant, observation of history should sound familiar to modern Americans: blacks are cheap exploitable labor and will make us all wealthy, brutal force is necessary to keep them from rising up, when they do rise up extreme force is necessary, everyone should be afraid because we have been treating these people so poorly for centuries.

Here in Charlottesville, the Saponi were killed off, enslaved, or driven away by white settlers. Africans came in to work the area plantations and Charlottesville itself became a hub for the slave trade (mostly internally after Europe stopped kidnapping people). Some very famous area celebrities profited immensely. Thomas Jefferson owned, and raped, a whole bunch of human beings. Contrary to popular belief but documented thoroughly, he was not one of the “good” slave owners. He was in fact notoriously cruel to his property. Lewis and Clark used dozens of slaves in the journey to explore the western parts of the new nation (hello Missouri! We’re coming right for ya!). Three of the most famous historical figures out of Charlottesville are considered founders of this country and great men. A few simple observations of local history show us that these “great men” were nothing without their property. The real human beings who built this country were forced to do so, and all right here coming out of little ol’ Charlottesville.

Of course, Missouri, including the area around St. Louis has a different history pertaining to enslavement and the elimination of native people. Westward expansion included the expansion of slavery and the forced removal of much larger Indian tribes. I don’t have a full knowledge of that time period beyond the Missouri Compromise. The compromise was that slavery was legal in the new state of Missouri but not in the rest of the Louisiana Territory (hello Lewis and Clark!). I wonder if the Africans had had a chance to chime in if that compromise would have been acceptable. In any event, the compromise led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision eventually playing a very large role in setting the stage for the US Civil War.

From a class perspective, the civil war was driven by the conflicting labor systems of slavery and the emerging capitalism. The northern free states enjoyed the raw material being produced in south, and reaped the profits. They had no need for slavery for a number of reasons, much of it being that the plantation system was not integral to its past. There was a huge concern however that the free labor source expanding into the west would undermine the ability of the capitalists and emerging industrialists to make profit when they had to pay their labor force. Of course, there were plenty of well meaning white folks who began to see this as a moral issue as well.

As we know, the Civil War happened and a whole lot of people died. President Lincoln, quite famously not concerned about liberation so much as ending the war, issued the emancipation proclamation. The idea was to gain some support of the oppressed slaves but more importantly to undermine the South’s ability to continue its war effort. In modern terms it was an attempt to have the slaves go on strike. The war did end and emancipation came to Charlottesville and Albemarle with Northern troops. With the end of slavery came the question- how do we deal with all of these people who used to work for free who now have to provide for themselves and more importantly to whites in the south and the north- how will this affect our economy? This is a question that should be studied and learned from if we are to become serious about ending mass incarceration and abolishing the current prison system. The US Congress had some ideas, but the emphasis eventually was moved from justice for the free slaves towards helping the US economy continue to benefit those wealthy white landowning men in both areas.

The system of sharecropping evolved in the south. Very few freed people migrated north, most stayed in the south. In spite of the government’s failure to provide reparations or institute some sort of justice for the newly freed Africans some blacks began to form associations, businesses, and began getting elected to public bodies. In Charlottesville the seeds for post-slavery black community were being sown in the form of schools, churches, businesses and associations. Political power began to be possible for a brief moment. Once the Northern troops had left however, terror, bigotry, and formal “Jim Crow” laws came into place to purposefully, violently, and implicitly returned blacks to their second class status. Charlottesville and Albemarle at this time became majority white. This is Charlottesville’s history as well as the history of many small towns in the south after slavery ended.

Despite Jim Crow and white terror, the black community in Charlottesville inched its way, struggle by struggle, towards building something for itself and determining its own future. Black businesses, churches, schools and other institutions grew in the 100 years following emancipation. Black people in Charlottesville owned homes, though most rented. They owned businesses, though most worked in manual labor or as domestics (not unlike today). What was built was enough to build an economic, spiritual, social, and political base for the community.  Neighborhoods were created, mostly in what is called Vinegar Hill (where Staples is now onto West Main and up Preston), Cox’s Row (where Westhaven is now), Garret Street (just south of downtown) and Hartman’s Mill (around South 1st street and 5th Street). These neighborhoods grew organically and contained all of the institutions built by black people in Charlottesville. Some owned homes, most rented. During the depression, whites bought up property in these neighborhoods and became wealthy slum lords. Some homes were in good shape, others were severely run down. What matters when we look at this is that as hard as it was, and as many struggles as people had, a community that had self control and an economic, social, and spiritual base existed and thrived.

By the time the Depression and World War 2 ended, southern African-Americans had migrated in large numbers off of the plantations and farms and into the cities. At this time Charlottesville’s black population grew somewhat, but the great migration typically was towards northern cities where work was found during and after the war. Places like St. Louis grew immensely. In the larger cities, migrating blacks began to form similar institutions and neighborhoods on a much larger scale. In 1947 the Federal Government passed the Housing Act, which began the public housing program, this was later modified to allow localities to determine the need for public housing and to determine the locations where public housing would exist. Across the country, including in Charlottesville and St. Louis, conversations began about so called “slum clearance” and urban renewal. What wealthy white business owners figured out was that public housing and urban renewal provided an excellent way to get their hands on valuable land near downtown and business centers using public funds.

Urban renewal in Charlottesville, and elsewhere, was driven mainly by white business elites and city planners. Urban renewal was an amazing opportunity for the elite because they could try to convince the population that slum clearance was necessary and good for all. In Charlottesville, and everywhere else, this “conversation” was overshadowed by school integration. While white elites were very much in favor of public housing and urban renewal, poorer whites were opposed because the locations of the proposed housing could force integration of their schools. Wealthier whites tended to support urban renewal and the construction of public housing because of the economic benefits to them, and because they knew all too well that public housing would never be built in wealthier white neighborhoods. In short, urban renewal happened so people could use public funds to exploit valuable land in black neighborhoods. Public housing was constructed because in order to do so the government required replacement housing for displaced people. The locations were chosen by referendum based mainly on how little the housing would influence segregation of the schools.

These themes of redevelopment, school intergation, and the use of public funds to access neighborhoods occupied by black people in Charlottesville are all back on the radar with current attention to redevelopment of public housing and the planning for the Strategic Investment Area (more on that in a bit).

The demolishing of Vinegar Hill and the effects are not the end point for urban renewal in Charlottesville. After the construction of Westhaven, a new round of urban renewal happened in the area south of downtown, the Garrett St. neighborhood. Cville talks a big game about Vinegar Hill, but many quickly forget that the exact same thing happened about a decade later in valuable areas near the downtown mall. Business was allowed to expand, new roads were built and new housing was built. Slum clearance and access to the land never got into Belmont where poorer whites lived, just up the street. In the current conversations around the SIA about the area we see the same approach.

So, after 400 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, the black community still managed to have something. What they had was wiped out in matter of 4 or 5 years by vote of city council and the people of Charlottesville themselves. The devastation of urban renewal is well understood by current residents who were here, their children and some other sections of the community. Charlottesville has apologized, but has yet to account monetarily for this crime. The white community has remained oblivious to this history and are simply told that Vinegar Hill should not have happened and can’t again. What the white community here doesn’t understand are the lasting effects of urban renewal, and slavery and Jim Crow before that, have on the existing community. Much of white Charlottesville wasn’t even present for these events or the events that followed and have a hard time understanding the influence of these events on the present.

In St. Louis urban renewal followed a mildly different course with similar results. Following the war, St. Louis had grown in black population as African-Americans migrated to where jobs might be found. Jobs there related to the war were subject to segregation as was housing. The population peaked in the 1950s. Slums existed and the land was valuable. Urban renewal, like elsewhere, gave the elites there a chance to access valuable land and destroyed black neighborhoods, poor as they were, and public housing high rises were built, notably the Pruitt-Igoe complex away from the valuable land being sought.

Over time, St. Louis actually began to lose population since whites already with solid incomes began to flee the city to get away from the black population and the beginnings of school integration. At the same time, decent jobs that could be accessed by blacks were disappearing at the end of the war, blacks were not needed anymore for the remaining jobs. White flight into the suburbs proceeded rapidly. St. Louis (like Charlottesville) is unable to annex land from counties outside its boundaries so new lily white suburban towns grew. The intense reduction of jobs and population left St. Louis with a very small tax base for social programming, and local funds were not able to keep pace with the need to supplement federal funding of public housing in St. Louis. What remained was a black community with inadequate and dangerous housing, welfare policies that significantly stifled black family unity, no jobs, and a city and suburbs that still discriminated in housing and education albeit not with legal sanction.

In St. Louis we similar themes with different details. Slavery there was more related to westward expansion and trade rather than hunkered down southern production. Emancipation brought other types of menial employment as opposed to sharecropping and agricultural work. The majority of the black population was still located in the south during the early parts of white terror and Jim Crow, and a large population shift happened during the depression and World War 2. However, blacks had experienced oppression there and white fear of blacks was exploited time and time again.

White flight never really happened in Charlottesville the same way it did in St. Louis since desegregation and urban renewal played out in a way that insulated white Charlottesville. White flight to Albemarle county did happen somewhat, and has since picked up speed. However, it is wealthier whites moving into Charlottesville that has occurred here on a large scale, bringing with it gentrification and the new “urban revitalization” and “deconcentration of poverty” philosophies with it. As Charlottesville grows with newcomers and an expanding student population we are starting to see black flight. This has a serious connection with a different housing program- Section 8- and federal incentives (money) for private developers to house low-income people. More and more low-income housing in the form of Section 8 and tax credits are being seen in Albemarle County as land in Charlottesville becomes more and more valuable, and Charlottesville continues to rely less and less on jobs that require cheap labor. But lets not get too far ahead just yet.

Public housing in St. Louis was generally considered a failure by elites, and the land associated with it still valuable. St. Louis’ public image was worsening due to the high numbers of blacks and poverty. The section 8 program and the new “urban revitalization” kicked in, and has led to a much greater example of what was described above concerning black movement into the suburbs. Having built and re-built black communities, the black population was once again on the roster for more movement and another wave of decimation, this time to the suburbs. From 1990 to 2010 the small town of Ferguson, Missouri (inside St. Louis County) changed drastically in racial makeup, from 73% white in 1990 to 67% black in 2010. Section 8 played a part, lack of affordable housing and jobs in St. Louis played a part. However there is more to it.

In Charlottesville and St. Louis and Ferguson (and everywhere else) a new wave of oppression came in two forms- gutting of welfare programs, and the 2nd drug war. The fear built into to these two programs is staggering, the motivations behind them are so sinister, and the effects on human beings so cruel that we must place them among the greatest crimes in US History along with Slavery, Native Genocide, Jim Crow/White Terror, and Urban Renewal.

Welfare “reform” and/or “elimination” really began at the outset of the New Deal. In order to placate the population programs were developed to assist people in need and confront the US capitalist experiment in an attempt to make its effects less disastrous during the Great Depression. The federal government created public housing, and a whole host of other programs. From the very beginning these programs have seen decreases in funding. Public housing never stood a chance. TANF and its predecessors have seen from the get go a decline in funding, food stamp reduction has its ups and downs. In the 1970s, business elites with influence in Congress got wise, they figured out how to take public dollars out of publicly run programs and funnel them into private business ventures.

The Section 8 program was added to the Housing Act and developers and individual landlords found a way to maintain slum conditions and get paid by the government to do it. This led to the furtherance of once again diminishing communities that had managed to rebuild in public housing what they had lost in urban renewal by forcing “deconcentration” of poverty and simultaneously earning amazing profits. This was much more acceptable to elites, but most whites still held the view that public housing/section 8, welfare, and everything else was theft of their tax dollars. This notion has been promoted significantly by many political stripes since welfare programs were begun. Crime is easily seen in socio-economic terms, but when it came to their tax dollars another crime was seen to be being committed by blacks against whites- “they’re stealing our money!”

The Reagan administration kicked this attack into high gear, and it was carried out in full by the Clinton administration. The former outright gutting programs and the latter transforming what remained into impossible standards for people to meet, and free market schemes to transform poor people into assets for rich people in the form of cheap labor (hello again!) and public funds for use as capital. This “reform” still exists. Unfortunately, few see these handouts to the rich as wealthy people robbing tax-payers. What we have seen with attacks on welfare and public housing is a group of people, originally kidnapped from their home, building this country for others to profit under criminal circumstances, white terror and the continued reinforcing of poverty and marginalization and what very little that could possibly be of help being used to further decimate and enslave a population, and then even that disappears leaving a terribly desperate situation. This was the case everywhere in the country, Charlottesville and St. Louis/Ferguson as well.

But wait there’s more!

During this same time period when white fear of blacks was supplemented by white assumptions of black laziness and welfare queens causing whites to be robbed by way of the IRS the power structure had some problems. One was that black people were simply not scaring enough people. By the late 1970s, despite amazing turmoil in the preceding decade, the prison population was decreasing. The abolition of prisons (yes really!) was becoming a mainstream idea. Despite all that had happened to black people, the struggle had brought forth some mild protections. Blacks were beginning to get paid better and have a somewhat better shot at decent wages than before. Blacks were becoming part of the power structure and earning more money. Cheap labor was becoming hard to find. Unions were maintaining some power. It was becoming difficult to maintain white fear of blacks and to preserve a cheap labor force. The Reagan administration aimed to change that, not just with the attack on welfare but using another piece built on white fear that could be used to exploit not just poor people in the US, but also in Latin America.

America’s second drug war began and mass incarceration was one of the goals. The drug war was extremely well fueled by the US government itself. CIA and NSA goings on in Latin America in an attempt to crush popular movements and preserve a growing US interest in cheap labor in places like Nicaragua. Guys like Ollie North creatively funded covert military operations throughout Latin America using well protected drug and weapon smuggling operations. We now have ample and documented evidence of the CIA introducing a cheap cocaine supply to dealers in Los Angeles (namely Freeway Ricky Ross) and even taught them how to make crack. The DARE program kicked in, Just Say No turned into “spread the word fast, they took our welfare now lets find a way to make money.” Ron and Nancy, and George Bush the 1st exploited this to the fullest.

Fear of black people was deliberately promoted in the War on Drugs propaganda, the drug “crisis” being promoted as being a black problem despite more whites using drugs than blacks. This came with legal support in the form of stricter sentencing laws for crack and lesser for powder cocaine. Funds from the federal government were given to localities to upgrade equipment for use in confronting families in their homes. Police forces nationwide were well armed and well funded. US friendly death squads in Latin America remained well funded and armed thanks to the continued flow of CIA sponsored drugs coming into US cities. The drugs and gangs grew. The prison populations grew, and grew, and grew. Entire communities became war zones, and then entire communities lost their male populations.

Police brutality and oppression in the cities, once reserved for enforcing Jim Crow were now an everyday part of the black experience in the US. From the slave driver and master to the Klan, to the southern and northern local police forces, the continuum of racism thrived in a new form.

A prison industrial complex emerged to the point where now it is so vital to the US economy it rivals the medical industrial complex and even the military. Human beings have become commodified, their families commodified. Prison guards, prison construction, prison food, communication, and now for-profit prisons all bringing in big bucks for private investors using public money as capital, public law as guaranteed profit. To top it off, prison labor, some of it absolutely free, available for large corporations and small alike. Slavery and the ownership of human beings run explicitly by the state this time emerges in its largest form since the beginning of the US Civil War. (a quick glance at the US Constitution shows that slavery in prisons is entirely acceptable) Cheap labor from prisoners, a decimated black population once again forced to compete for the lowest wages possible thanks to community devastation and welfare reform, and cheap labor in Latin America. This was a scheme so spectacular I can hear the Star Spangled Banner playing as I contemplate it!

Charlottesville and St. Louis were not immune to these new forms of institutional racism. In Charlottesville crack came in the nineties in a large way. In the years preceding, the community had found a way to function and again sow seeds for self determination after urban renewal and the construction of public housing. You can talk to old timers and they will tell you that the neighborhoods were nice, families lived together, events were organized, political power was starting to form, change was becoming possible. Welfare began to be dismantled and poorer blacks in town felt the pinch, but then in a matter of a few years something changed. Drugs were being sold openly. People were arrested consistently and systematically. Federal and local funding for Charlottesville’s drug war flowed and the cops needed to produce. Crack hit the streets in the 1990s, the community changed rapidly. Young men seeking to help their families were labeled gang members. Instances of extreme police brutality were commonplace, though documentation is hard to find. One need only ask around the neighborhoods to hear how low level drug offenders were beaten to near death before being hauled off to prison. Crooked cops and informants emerged, the most notorious being Deke Bowen.

White Charlottesville’s fear of black people were inflamed by the increased police attention to black crime and the local and national media coverage of the drug war. Things were bad, the community was ravaged, families were broken up, children began going to kiddie jails in large numbers. The Commonwealth of Virginia passed a Three Strikes Law, supported by a large amount of people, that locked up members of the community for life. This drug war has not ended, though the police attention to it locally has shifted somewhat. A quieter version of the drug war exists. In the nineties large amounts of people were incarcerated and began sustained contact with the legal system. People now being released are simply reeled back in based on past records, lack of true rehabilitation, and petty probation violations. Ex-felons returning home from prison have an extremely difficult time recovering from this trauma due to harsh parole  and probation restrictions, and failure to access the social safety net which was gutted in 80s and 90s. Concurrently, the Charlottesville black community as a whole has also had an extremely difficult time recovering as well.

Federal funding for the drug war internationally however has expanded. With Clinton’s NAFTA and Bush and Obama aggressively promoting neo-liberal privatization in Latin America the drug war continues its purpose in the form of US military presence in countries where US business interests and the globalization of capital has been challenged, a beautiful cover for strong arm military tactics under the guise of the drug war.

And all the while people are afraid. Afraid of drugs, afraid of drug dealers, afraid of (black) drug users who will steal your stuff, or beat you up, or whose kids will go to school with your (white) kids. The Republican and Democratic Parties both supporting this gutting of welfare and the the continuance of the drug war and mass incarceration. St. Louis too suffered this exact same thing, albeit a little closer in line with the propaganda seen in the nightly news. St. Louis is a large city, not LA big, but bigger than Cville. The effect on the community in St. Louis City and County was the same as in Charlottesville and in the larger US cities. Police brutality was more widespread, the cops were better armed. The effects of the gutting of welfare and social programs had an exponential effect in the larger cities. Neighborhoods post-urban renewal were reduced once again to slums, the people were locked up and murdered on a large scale. Recovery seemed impossible.

At the same time, “urban revitalization” went underway, forcing gentrification and pushing more and more blacks into suburbs in the county like Ferguson. Section 8 housing, that bastion of converted public money into private profits found a home in places like Ferguson. Ferguson’s white population started moving out as more blacks moved in, white flight from the suburbs back to the cities began, and black flight from the cities to the suburbs continued. The nearly all white police force in Ferguson has surely been influenced by the fear of black people that has been perpetuated for centuries and the funding for the drug war begun in the 80s.

And now, the latest trend in institutional racism, as old as slave rebellion itself, is being played out. Just as federal funds came to localities to fight the drug war necessitated their use, so too do War on Terror funds and surplus military equipment necessitate use. And not indiscriminately, but rather clearly with a purpose.

White elites learned that because they have oppressed people for a very long period of time, eventually they might decide to rise up, whites learned from slave rebellions that extreme force was necessary, and harsh measures must be taken afterward to further keep the oppressed in line, basically to keep the oppressed, well, oppressed.

As the rebellion there flourishes or recedes, we will no doubt here more of the racist history specific to the town of 20,000 people, but what we are hearing now is familiar to black residents in Charlottesville. As the conversations about privatization and Section 8-ization of Charlottesville’s public housing continue, we can see a possible future for Charlottesville’s black community: dilution of the community and possible dispersal to Albemarle County. We may yet see the current situation in Ferguson play out here as well. Our history of institutional racism, like every town in the U$A has provided a fertile soil for police atrocity and possibly the ensuing rebellion.

From Mass Kidnapping to Slavery, to Jim Crow, to Urban Renewal, to the Drug War and the New Jim Crow, African Americans in Charlottesville and St. Louis have built and rebuilt. The crumbs that are left over after great crimes are committed on whole communities are turned into the best that can be made by lack residents. Self determination begins, is destroyed, and begins again. Community adjusts. Recovery is slow. Some communities won’t recover. As mass incarceration continues to effect Charlottesville, and as Congress continues to either de-fund social programs or transforms them into money making schemes for rich people it is hard to see how the community can recover.

What remains are informal supports. Neighborhoods still exist. Those neighborhoods are under threat of extinction as the city, the university (built by slaves) and developers eye valuable land occupied by mostly black low-income residents in Charlottesville. Small area plans seek to force gentrification in the name of deconcentrating poverty. This could well be a fatal blow to black people in Charlottesville. We could be poised to add the next chapter to Charlottesville’s racist history, this time through a new round of urban renewal by another name.

The police in Charlottesville have no relationship with the African-American community. Like white people in Charlottesville, the police are afraid, and treat Black men and women as expendable. That is what mass incarceration does. A population as a whole is guilty no matter what. Stop and frisk data in Charlottesville shows that black comprise 70% of all stops. Juvenile statistics show that white kids are 3 times more likely to be diverted from the juvenile court system than their black counter parts. That’s just data. Ask around and you will find that police interaction with black people in Charlottesville starts with the assumption of guilt. It is only a step away from assumed guilt towards immediate punishment.

Like Michael Brown in Ferguson, when a community is guilty due process is only a formality, the oddball occurrence of imposing the death penalty without a trial is only a minor deviation from rounding up the scary people  in this racist and criminal system. And it could happen here.

Or not…

History is finite and its up to to us to interpret it.
The future is fluid and it is up to us to interrupt it.

Charlottesville is in a unique position to end the continuum of racism that has existed institutionally since its founding. We could collectively ensure that what remains of the black community despite these waves of racist attacks can remain and thrive. We could stop giving away public dollars to developers and instead invest those dollars in preserving neighborhoods. We could take the challenge of being a second chance city seriously by offering programs for ex-offenders that assist them in a meaningful way. We could find a way to address poverty beyond asking all black people to take “how to run a business” classes. We could commit to making reparations to our neighbors who lived through this racist history- economic reparations, and get serious about apologizing for urban renewal by putting our money where our apologies are. Ultimately, Charlottesville needs to find a way to ensure that the black community can determine its future and have some stake in its past. Self determination for the community, however, is not going to come from well meaning white folks. We’ve seen how that plays out.

Finally, I have not written much about rebellion in this piece. The odd case of John Brown is used to show how white history chooses which rebellions to highlight. We would do well to remember Nat Turner’s rebellion instead, or the rebellion in Haiti that was ultimately successful (though at war with the world ever since). I have the awesome experience of coordinating a program for residents of public housing. One of the more amazing moments happened recently. An intern expressed to me that she had never heard of any slave uprisings.  This is a terrible failure on the part of educators and historians to not show how widespread these rebellions were. 150 years since emancipation and white people can still not bear to have black people understand that slavery was not taken sitting down by the slaves. We have to note that rising up is a part of the experience. From Mass Kidnapping to Slavery, to Jim Crow, to Urban Renewal, to the Drug War and the New Jim Crow, African Americans in Charlottesville and St. Louis have also rebelled in large ways and small ways.

I want to hear those histories. In Charlottesville there were the sit-ins, integration was difficult for whites because they lost at massive resistance. There was an instance of a group of black people marching down to UVA to destroy property there (I think in the 80s? somebody has to know about this). An uprising happened around the Safeway near Westhaven. I have heard stories of racist whites coming into the Garrett Street neighborhood (before urban renewal) and attempting to chain blacks to their cars and black people physically confronting the white people who would do this. I have witnessed and been a part of protesters confronting police as they evicted an elderly resident of public housing, and was glad to have been there when a mostly black crowd of people took over the basement of city hall where the housing authority is located. In the 1970s a Black Panther Party member escaped from a Charlottesville jail. These are small yet meaningful incidents that we need to share, and I know there are more. Please send your stories my way!

A long piece, yes. Please note that I don’t talk much about individual acts of discrimination and prejudice. Individual attitudes can be changed. The conservatives say it is the individual that must be respected at all times and that racist attitudes should be protected. The liberals say that we can end racism in the here and now by changing individual attitudes towards one another. I think that this (very long, so sorry!) piece includes observations that show that racism is institutional and follows its own rules. These institutions must be changed or replaced. History must be re-routed somehow. My fear is that it is too late. When someone asks if a situation like what is happening in Ferguson could happen here I think we can see it easily could, and in fact, with one black person being killed by police in the U$A every 28 hours it is kind of surprising that it hasn’t yet. Would Charlottesville show up and rise up when this happens? I think we could say certainly that the conditions are right.

Is looting really a proper response? To 400 years of kidnapping, slavery, rape, mutilations, Jim Crow, lynchings, racism, mass incarceration, urban renewal, daily killings of unarmed Black people, etc? Probably not… But you don’t want to see the proper response to all that.

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So Now What?

February 2014
… now we organize…
… now we form associations and coalitions to challenge the status quo…
… now we take action independent from the Democratic Party and from the bottom up…
… the time is now to acknowledge that socialists can and do get elected…

Hello friends!
It has been quite some time since I posted on this site, rest assured I have continued my engagement in local, state , and national political struggles. I had intended for a while to revisit my platform and see where things stand and where things might be headed.

I have not been thrilled with direction Charlottesville City Council has headed since my competitors took office after the 2011 election. I had seriously considered a run in 2013, and saw it as necessary process by which to continue to promote my platform and gather support for a left analysis of politics in Charlottesville.

Instead- my long time life partner (my honey bunny!) Reagan became pregnant with twins! This has been an amazing journey, but a journey that would have been impossible to  begin had I ran in 2013. We actually were skirting back and forth from Martha Jefferson hospital and UVA Hospital on election day 2013 as our new babies struggled to get a solid start on life in two separate special care nurseries. Thankfully, they are super healthy and super awesome!

Nevertheless, Charlottesville increasingly is left without a progressive, or even a liberal, presence in decision making, much less a solid pro-socialist, anti-capitalist voice in government.

The 2011 election brought in Mr. Huja, Ms. Galvin, and Ms. Smith. They were added to seated incumbents Mr. Norris and Ms. Szakos. Watching this group of councilors work was fascinating. There were no clear alliances, but generally one could see where things would go by examining positions on an issue by issue basis. Dave Norris retained at least small amount of respect, but as possibly the most progressive of the bunch, was increasingly pushed aside, though not completely ignored. Losing councilor Holly Edwards, a friend and strong voice for marginalized people in our community, from political life seemed to leave Mr. Norris alone on council, though many times he would partner with Ms. Smith. Now we have Bob Fenwick on the council taking Norris’s old seat. I trust Bob, and have come to know him. I wish him well. Though his politics do not line up with mine, he is the quintessential underdog and common man and not afraid to buck the system.

I summarize all of this  mainly for my own benefit, but also so that readers might get a sense for how I see the dynamics of city council, though much it is totally apparent. A significant and focused effort has been made by the city council to over develop our communities from the top down. One need only look at the number of “small area plans” such as the Strategic Investment Area being promoted, and funded, by council to see how large an impact the current council will have on the future of our town, especially as it relates to housing, gentrification, poverty, and joblessness. That is to say- gentrification is not just being allowed, but specifically planned for. Affordable housing is not being addressed, decisions after decisions are made that push the notion that “you can’t build our way out of our housing problem” and that support the construction of large buildings designed for anybody except those who desperately need a home that they can afford. They bait and switch and offer up the delusion that increased construction, although dramatically hurting neighborhoods and displacing people will bring construction jobs. This is folly. A very small number of jobs for low-income people will materialize, and they will disappear once this round of construction is completed, we cannot build our way out poverty, but we could build some affordable homes if we wanted to.

Poverty and joblessness are approached with the liberal version of trickle-down economics, relying on the free market to magically improve our community. The twist comes with council’s philosophical support and funding of programs that seek to encourage entrepreneurship among our poorest residents at all cost and with nothing else. To that I say two things-

1. Not everyone can successfully create and sustain a business, especially those with little resources. Even with public support, convincing vulnerable people that their problems will be solved by taking on debt and struggling to operate a business seems painfully insulting, and negligent. The few examples of success in this philosophy do not outweigh the large numbers of people who need a living wage and sustained employment. We are talking about thousands of people, and changing the landscape so that struggling people can make enough money to live in this community. The City Council’s current philosophy buys into an ideological pipe dream that takes the burden of actually doing something about poverty off of the backs of elected officials.

2. Pouring public money into for-profit business starting schemes is not responsible use of public funds. The programs, in order to be successful, will require substantial public funding in perpetuity. Too many will fail, but the training and entrepreneurship would have to continue to be funded to have any kind of success. I don’t see the public, or the council committed to sustained funding for business classes for poor people. They will instead, continue to pass responsibility to non-profits instead of committing funds to increasing the actual number of jobs.

My 2011 campaign was not a total bust, though putting real pressure on decision makers was and is tough. The Democratic Party is a sure bet (for now!) so they don’t take electoral challenges seriously. I made a strong showing though, and have attended almost every city council meeting since, often promoting parts of my platform and even bringing forward a “people’s agenda”. I have also managed to continue to organize which is a much stronger and effective way to compel the council to address certain items. The real force of my campaign was to shame those elected into actually doing something to address our local crisis of poverty, housing, ecological devastation, and contribution to militarism. The 1500 votes i garnered, as well, were a wake up call for some councilors, though certainly not enough for anyone int he Democratic party to feel threatened. As the years have moved along I have seen some movement on items that were part of my campaign and I have been happy to support those changes. Many times, however, an issue is addressed and because the philosophy and analysis ios different from mine, the results wind up being mixed. More times than not, the council has either ignored or done the opposite of what I ], and a large group of residents of harlottesville demand.

A quick spin through my platform shows victory on these items
– end freeze on non-profit funding ( a small piece, this is worthless without those funds going to homeless shelters and housing)
– jobs center in downtown Charlottesville (almosty a reality)
– creation of more parkland
– formation of transit advisory board
– holiday bus service
– bus service to CATECH
– permanent downtown space for City Market (?)
– policy for de-barment in public housing
– funding for DoR
– Vinegar Hill apology (thanks Holly!)
– Alternative to Military service allowed at CHS (thanks CCPJ!)
– resolution to stop funding wars and don’t attack Iran
… and they called me unrealistic

Here are items that have been addressed, but only partially and without the proper approach, I supported these, but not being in the decision making body have no influence over implementation or the “spririt”: of implementation.
– non-profit funding- mentioned above, this was meant to free up funds for the Haven and PACEM and possibly for the creation of more shelters for homeless people.
– end utility shut -offs- this has not happened, though the council now recieves updates on the numbers of people faced with shut-offs
– CAT expansion- the results have not produced an expansion but rather a restructuring, from the top down, that has not benefited transit dependent people. Had I been elected this whole mess would have been avoided for certain.
– Recognize same sex marriage- I had called for this knowing it was not legal with the Commonwealth of Virginia- I would have voted to break the law and initiate a court challenge. City council did not have the political will to make marriage rights for same sex couples a tangible reality in Charlottesville. Instead they opted for symbolism (as they so often do).
– oppose the “Dillon Rule” council frequently includes items on it’s legislative agenda for Virginia, and spends some effort lobbying for these things. Mostly those items disappear from our minds forever. We need to remove some of the Dillon Rule barriers in order to make progress, council uses it as an excuse and simultaneously claims it is doing something about issues by moving them to the black hole of the legislative agenda.

I have made some attempts to keep some of my platform planks alive, and have found some support, but council has failed to take even the most modest of steps at addressing poverty, joblessness, homelessness, ecological degradation, unless the solution is promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and based on free market solutions to crisis situations. Here’s what they haven’t done:
– no attempts to build more affordable housing in Charlottesville
– no attempts to alleviate homelessness or build institutions to shelter the homeless
– “City of Second Chances” has been completely ignored
– no expansion of the bus system
– absolutely no attempt to employ large numbers of people using public funding
– absolutely no attempt to gain support for or implement a tax increase that could: hire a lot of people to green the city and build those structures mentioned above
– no attempt has been made to identify the root causes of gentrification, the effects on our communities, nor how to stop gentrification

and the list goes on…

What are we going to do about it?
I might run, I might not. We need to make the case to as many people in town as possible that the Democratic Party has failed the poor and working people of Charlottesville. And we need to organize around a common platform or set of principles to build power that will present a solid challenge to the status quo. Just voting for cool candidates (like myself) won’t do this. Voting for Democrats will not do this, and organizing in silos on issues won’t do this. We need a grand coalition. A poor people’s coalition that fights in solidarity, and has the potential to run and win elections. Of course I would choose for everyone to join the Socialist Party with me and my comrades, but this unlikely (but please consider joining! here)
One option is to get everyone together to craft a platform and agree to fight to make real change, to the point of drafting and supporting full slates of candidates for Council, School Board, applying for board appointments, lobbying for a platform, and organizing in the streets!

I have said before that I support principles and analysis over a simple platform, but this may be the way forward in Charlottesville.
Wanna help?

drop me a line at brandoncollins@comcast.net or give a call (434) 249-3312

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67 Years of Nuclear Weapons- Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembrance

*** This was written on behalf of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice to commemorate and remember the atomic bombings of early August 1945. I wrote this with a great deal of editing and support from CCPJ members Tony Russell, David Swanson, Kirk Bowers, and Bob McAdams. Please join us this Friday at our exhibit on the downtown mall highlighting the bombings, their vicious effects, the effects of nuclear testing, and the effects of decades of committed activism worldwide.

The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice asks all people in the Charlottesville- Albemarle area to reflect and mourn the deaths of over 200,000 human beings in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945. Many of those who died were children.  No matter what one’s opinion on the original use of nuclear weapons on human beings, we all might pause to reflect on the horror that occurred, and confront the reality that the world still lives with the daily threat of total annihilation through the use of atomic weaponry.

67 years is a very long time for the world to live in fear of almost certain annihilation were a nuclear exchange to take place. One would think that in all that time we would have found a way to limit our capacity to burn children in seconds, and murder one another not just as humans, but as nations, races, whole continents, our entire planet. We might have become concerned about the deaths and injuries of thousands due to nuclear testing, and the use of depleted uranium in “conventional” warfare. It is with these great concerns for humanity and the planet that the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice was founded, and with this concern that we call for a renewed spirit of harmony and compassion within the world and a renewed call for nuclear disarmament.

The earth today, despite the end of the cold war, is still confronted with the crisis of nuclear proliferation now more than any time since the birth of the atomic age. The U.S. and Russia still collectively control over 18,000 nuclear weapons with a combined 3,950 on active alert. These active weapons, again despite the end of the Soviet Union, remain at a moment’s notice, still aimed at the same targets (aka human beings) as they did in 1982 when the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice was founded in part “…as a grassroots response to the threat of nuclear war…”

In a matter of hours, perhaps less than an hour, the world can be destroyed in a ball of flame and radioactive rain by the decision of one person, human error, technological error, or escalation of conventional military engagements. Add to this global threat of approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons with approximately 4,400 active weapons not only the United States but the inclusion of China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel (as well as nations that “share” atomic weapons through NATO through NATO, such as Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey), who seek to use the concept of mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.) to meet their own political and economic aims. We can see why the commemoration of the original attacks, and a renewal of the call for total nuclear disarmament is as important now as it has ever been.

As lovers of peace and justice, we are grateful that no other country to date has followed the United States’ lead in actually using nuclear weapons, either on civilians or military targets. We are grateful that a movement for peace and sanity has thus far stalled the use of these horrific weapons since their debut in 1945. We are all too aware of the thousands of deaths and casualties as a result of nuclear testing and the use of depleted uranium in current wars that the U.S. are involved in. We recognize that the call for total disarmament requires the participation of all nations in order to become a reality, but that as peace lovers here in the U.S., where the largest arsenal of combat ready nukes are sustained and maintained, we have the responsibility to act where we live and atone for our past failures to do so.

We recognize that other nations cannot be forced to disarm, but they can be compelled to through international peace work. That peace work can only be accomplished if the United States, the only nation to purposely drop atomic weapons on human beings and the largest owner of nukes, set an example by taking meaningful steps. We recognize too that peace work requires an attention to solving this crisis through peace and diplomacy, not by military means meant to forcibly disarm other nations who currently have atomic weaponry, or who the US deems a threat because of a desire to acquire nuclear technology for medical or energy uses. A military solution only perpetuates the desire to acquire nukes from nations that don’t have them, and further erodes trust and relationships amongst nations of the world and especially of the U.S. where we control the largest amounts of weapons of mass destruction on the planet, have used them on people, and are the only country currently engaged in invading and occupying other nations.

In today’s climate of perpetual war and endless military engagements the cause for disarmament has often been overlooked in the buzz of the current wars and the next wars being planned by the war machine. We remind all peace loving peoples that the peace symbol, ubiquitous as a symbol for opposing war and solving conflict through non-violence, is actually a design based on semiphore for “ND”- “Nuclear Disarmament”.

We want a return to the logic and sanity that peace begets peace and that fundamentally the biggest threat to peace is the possibility of nuclear war among nations. Let us think big, let us renew the call for nuclear disarmament and start with our own responsibility to act first.

 

True peace can come only by removing the venom of fear, hatred, greed and cruelty.  We urge everyone to help bring real peace through justice and compassion.

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Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville !!!

Proud to announce, in continuing the fight for some of my platform items- the TRAC has formed and ready to push for changes! More stuff and links soon! For now I hope you’ll consider joining us:

Next meeting for Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville!

This Saturday, at noon, in the Jefferson Room at the Downtown Library.

All are welcome to attend the second meeting of this fantastic group dedicated to making improvements in Charlottesville’s public transportation system and giving voice to all transit users in town! Please bring your ideas for specific short term improvements (which routes to expand, times etc.), mid-term improvements, and long term solutions for a meaningful and amazing public transportation system in Charlottesville.

We will also be updating ourselves on the process for engaging with city hired transit analysts Nelson Nygaard, and figure out some sort of approach for having meaningful input from CAT riders.

See you Saturday!

(and feel free to forward this e-mail!)

Brandon

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Living Wage Now- Time for Action!

I wholeheartedly endorse the living wage campaign at UVA, and I call on anyone who supported my campaign to join the struggle right now and finally win it all once and for all. (click here to see what that means)

The data has been presented, the arguments have been made, the process has been respected and yet nothing meaningful has happened on this issue. I was grateful for the opportunity to help draft, circulate, and present a letter from a dozen community groups and individuals calling for action by Feb 17th. That action has not been taken, no commitment has been made- the time for action is now!

Join me and hundreds of others this Saturday, Feb 18th to give a response to the lack of response, and be prepared to show up and be heard everyday until this is won at 1 pm and 6 pm, and especially Feb 22-24 when the Board of Visitors will be here. I have spoken forcefully on this issue, and you know what I mean, drop me a line to learn more brandoncollins@comcast.net

read the full letter here, and see you Saturday!

Dear President Sullivan and University of Virginia Board of Visitors:

We, the undersigned, write to you today to express our commitment to economic justice and to call on you to act.

We are individuals and organizations who have great concern for the well being of the people who live and work in our community, particularly in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. We share a commitment to economic justice and to equity in our communities. Collectively, the organizations we represent have thousands of members.
As the area’s largest employer, the University of Virginia has a responsibility — indeed, an obligation — to improve our community.

We believe that the University has neglected this obligation and continues to do so. We call on you to take action by finally resolving the issue of living wages at the University in a fair, satisfying, and comprehensive way. We call on you to take this action now.

As you surely recognize, the University affects the cost of living in Charlottesville in major ways, particularly with respect to housing costs. We believe that the University could offset the negative impacts of its increasing these costs for some of our community’s most vulnerable members by paying its employees enough to meet the cost of living.

We remind you that in 2000 the University committed to a base pay increase for direct employees, and that we commended you for doing so. That increase, however, did not include cost of living adjustments, nor did it include contracted employees. We had hoped that these issues would be addressed in a timely manner — certainly by now, a dozen years later. During that period, the Living Wage Campaign, currently configured as Workers And Students United, repeatedly presented its scrupulous research and stated its case with deep respect for administrative process. Concurrently, we in the community have stood with workers, students, and faculty. We have called on you to listen to their concerns, rallied, written letters, and requested meetings. In good faith, all of us have asked for commitments from you. The arguments have now been presented, the necessity and practicality of action proven.

Overall, it must be said, we have not been satisfied with the University’s response. Frankly, at times we have even been disappointed by the dismissive tone of University communications. Such feelings, however, are fleeting compared with the enduring nature of the issues at stake.  And like those issues, the Living Wage Campaign will not go away — that is, until those issues are resolved in a fair, satisfying, and comprehensive manner.

The time for straight answers and firm commitments is here. The University of Virginia needs to pay a living wage to all of its employees. We believe that the University has the potential to be a powerful force for positive change in our community. To further this end, we call for:
– a living wage of no less than $13.00 per hour as the base pay for all direct employees;
– cost of living adjustments that are automatic and annual;
– all contracts with University service providers to include a living wage and cost of living adjustments

We stand with Workers And Students United and fully support their demands as presented on February 8, 2012 and will stand with them on February 17, 2012 and beyond if a commitment is not made to ensure a living wage, safe working conditions, and job security for all workers by that date.

As always, workers, students, faculty, and community are standing united in our call for a living wage. We are present, we are showing up, and we are taking the steps necessary to gain equity and economic justice in our community through the establishment of a living wage for all workers at the University of Virginia.
Respectfully,

Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP
Virginia Organizing
Legal Aid Justice Center
Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
Public Housing Association of Residents
Campus Workers United
Wayside Center for Popular Education
Cville Workers Action Network
Socialist Party of Central Virginia
Richmond General Organizing Branch Industrial Workers of the World
Joyful Dissent

Kristin Szakos- Vice-Mayor City of Charlottesville
David Swanson- founder WarIsACrime.org, author, blogger
M. Rick Turner- president Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP
Brenda Lambert- Community Activist
Jim Shea- Community Activist
Jeffery Fogel- Civil Rights Attorney

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A City Committed to Peace- An Agenda for the City of Charlottesville

* Tuesday, January 3rd, 7:00 pm I will be presenting this agenda, and a request from myself, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, and hundreds of Cville residents for an updated resolution devoting the city to peace (item a.). Show up early to speak in favor of a new peace resolution! Sign the Petition Here!
** completed Peace Agenda and updates posted soon!
*** learn more about why Peace is a Local Issue 

5. – A City Committed to Peace

In 2003 Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution proclaiming it a “City of Peace”. While this resolution on its own failed to keep the US government from invading and occupying Iraq at a cost of $799 billion and 4,484 US lives lost, as well as up to 1.5 million Iraqi lives lost, the resolution was part of a larger movement nationwide of local governments publicly stating their opposition to the disastrous war.

An updated resolution is needed, now more than ever, due to the financial burden placed on localities by increasing military costs, and the dominance of local economies by the military industrial complex.

Resolutions alone do not make changes in the broader society, but they do commit the body to taking a meaningful approach to peace. For this reason, I propose that the city do more than pass a resolution. That it also take steps to actively acknowledge their responsibility for maintaining the culture that imposes, even requires, warfare and to take adequate steps to resist the influence of the military industrial complex, the burden of a bloated military budget, the role of municipalities in city planning contributing to wars for resources, and the recruitment of young people and poor people to do the killing and dying in unnecessary, expensive, and illegal wars and occupations.

To this end, here is an agenda for peace, somewhat limited to what may have political support from City Council, but that a great many of our residents can support, and even mobilize to take steps to actively end Charlottesville’s participation in our increasingly militarized nation:

a. Resolution Calling for End to War and Bringing Our War Dollars Home
b. Cost of War Counter for City Hall and http://www.charlottesville.org
c. Exclude Military Contractors, Military Agencies, and Paramilitary Organizations from Charlottesville Community Job Fair
d. Committee to Convert Military Industrial Complex in Charlottesville to Civilian Use
e. Support for Advocate Committee to explore new Sister City Relationship(s)
f. Call for Arrest of War Criminals who Enter Charlottesville City Limits
g. Declare September 21st International Day of Peace, host IDoP Celebration
h. End Reliance on Oil Resources in City Planning
i. Support Community Efforts to Reduce Presence of Military in City Schools

##### 

 a. Resolution Calling for End to War and
Bringing Our War Dollars Home

Background
-In 1988 Charlottesville City Council declared the City “Nuclear Free” to add to the international calls for disarmament.
-In 2003 Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution proclaiming it a “City for Peace” in opposition to imminent invasion of Iraq.
-In 2011 Mayor Norris was the first to sign the “Mayors for Peace” statement, suggesting that an updated commitment to peace is warranted and desired by the citizens of Charlottesville.
-City councilors have expressed interest in an updated resolution on the effects of military spending on local budgets.
-Similar resolutions have recently been passed in Seattle WA, Portland OR, Hartford CT, Los Angeles CA, and San Francisco CA. These municipal resolutions are part of a widening movement to redirect military spending for domestic priorities.

Materials
Petitions reading “I believe the City of Charlottesville should follow the example of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and pass a resolution supporting efforts to speed up the ending of current U.S. wars, and calling on Congress and the President to bring the war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.” have been submitted January 3, including over 200 signatures (see attachment 1.) and 117 on-line signatures at http://warisacrime.org/petition/60191

-2003 City For Peace Declaration can be found in city archives.

-2011 Mayors for Peace Declaration:
CALLING ON CONGRESS TO REDIRECT MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
WHEREAS, the severity of the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls at all levels of government and requires us to re-examine our national spending priorities; and
WHEREAS, the people of the United States are collectively paying approximately $126 billion dollars per year to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
WHEREAS, 6,024 members of the US armed forces have died in these wars; and at least 120,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the coalition attacks began.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors supports efforts to speed up the ending of these wars; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy

Draft Resolution:
CALLING ON CONGRESS TO REDIRECT MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
WHEREAS, the severity of the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls at all levels of government and requires us to re-examine our national spending priorities; and
WHEREAS, every dollar spent on the military produces fewer jobs than spending the same dollar on education, healthcare, clean energy, or even tax cuts for household consumption; and
WHEREAS, U.S. military spending has approximately doubled in the past decade, in real dollars and as a percentage of federal discretionary spending;
WHEREAS, well over half of federal discretionary spending is now spent on the military;
WHEREAS, we are spending more money on the military now than during the Cold War, the Vietnam War, or the Korean War;
WHEREAS, the U.S. military budget could be cut by 80% and remain the largest in the world;
WHEREAS, President Dwight David Eisenhower warned us 50 years ago that “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”;
WHEREAS, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposed in both its Co-Chairs’ proposal in November 2010 and its final report in December 2010 major reductions in military spending;
WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, with the support of Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris passed in June 2011 a resolution calling on Congress to redirect spending to domestic priorities;
WHEREAS, the people of the United States favor redirecting spending to domestic priorities;
WHEREAS, the people of the United States in numerous opinion polls favor withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan;
WHEREAS, the United States has armed forces stationed at approximately 1,000 foreign bases in approximately 150 foreign countries;
WHEREAS, the United States is the wealthiest nation on earth but trails many other nations in life expectancy, infant mortality, education level, housing, and environmental sustainability, as well as in non-military aid to foreign nations;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the U.S. Congress to end foreign ground and drone wars and reduce base military spending, in order to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, re-train and re-employ those losing jobs in the process of conversion to non-military industries, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.

Cost to Charlottesville
no cost

Required Action from City Council
-Draft and approve resolution
-Circulate to Congressional Delegation and Staff

b. Cost of War Counter for City Hall and http://www.charlottesville.org

Background
-Citizens groups and city councilors have expressed an interest in making the costs of the United States’ engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan more visible to Charlottesville residents, particularly the cost to tax payers living ion Charlottesville.
-The National Priorities Project offers a war spending counter that is able to show the cost to all US taxpayers and for Charlottesville taxpayers specifically for both wars combined since 2001, or for Iraq since 2003, or for Afghanistan since 2001.
-A similar undertaking was made by the City of Binghamton, New York and was funded by private groups.
-The counter can be easily applied to the City website.

Materials
-View the cost of war counter at http://www.costofwar.com
As of January 1, 2011 the total cost of both wars to Charlottesville taxpayers is approximately $108 Million, for Iraq $67 Million, for Afghanistan $41 Million.
The total for both wars to the US is approximately $1.2 Trillion.
The counter can be applied to a website from http://www.costofwar.com

-Contact the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
PO Box 2012
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Phone: (434) 961-6278
e-mail: charlottesvillepeace@gmail.com

-Contact the National Priorities Project:
243 King St. – Suite 109
Northampton, Massachusetts 01060
Phone: (413) 584-9556
Contact form at: http://nationalpriorities.org/en/about/contact/#contact-form

Cost to City of Charlottesville
$0 – $6000
-The counter installed at City Hall in Binghamton, NY cost around $6000. The city could cover the total cost, part of the cost, or could rely entirely on donated funds. The Public Art Fund could be one source of funding if Council decided to do so. The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice is a non-profit 501c3 that could oversee fundraising for the project.

-No funds would be required for installing the counter at http://www.charlottesville.org

Required Action from City Council
-Decide to include total US war spending as well as Charlottesville war spending or both.
-Direct City Staff to include cost of war counter on city website.
-Indicate support for cost of war counter installation to Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice if private funding is desired.
-Decide on location, example: City Hall, City Space etc.
-Identify funding source, example: Public Art Fund, Private Donors etc.

c. Exclude Military Contractors, Military Agencies, and Paramilitary Organizations from Charlottesville Community Job Fair

Background
Since 2010 the City of Charlottesville has hosted the “Charlottesville Community Job Fair” attended by thousands of residents. The fair offers access to area, and out of area employers. Among the sponsors and employers participating in the fair are numerous businesses that contract directly with the military in number of functions. Some produce military hardware such as weaponry. Some produce research and development. Some produce intelligence. Some even create bio-weaponry. Along with these groups are included military agencies such as the US Army and the National Security Agency. These businesses and agencies thrive on taxpayer subsidies and funding.
-Military contractors are considered to be one of the biggest challenges to creating a world based on peace.
-Military agencies typically recruit from the low wealth people in our communities. Both military businesses and military agencies contribute to Charlottesville residents participating in the killing and dying associated with warfare.
-Both military and military related business have the ability to recruit employees through channels other than the Charlottesville Community Job Fair.

Materials
-City Job Fair website (includes links to various employers)

http://www.charlottesville.org/Index.aspx?page=951

-Past military contractors and military agencies who have sponsored and participated in the Charlottesville Community Job Fair:
Concurrent Technologies Corporation
Battelle
BAE Systems
Northrop Grunman
TEC Inc
TEKSystems
WISER
National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency
Virginia Army National Guard
OGSystems
Defense Logistics Agency Energy
Barron Associates
SAIC
National Security Agency
NIITEK
United States Army
SRC Inc.

Cost to City of Charlottesville
No funding is required.

Action Required from City Council
-Direct the Office of Economic Development to exclude military contractors, military agencies, and paramilitary organizations from the Charlottesville Community Job Fair as sponsors or employers (see list above), including but not limited to past employers participating.
-Direct the Office of Economic Development to require any employer and/or sponsor wishing to participate in the Charlottesville Community Jobs Fair, including US government agencies, to confirm that it does not contract with the military or is directly a military service or paramilitary organization.

d. Committee to Convert Military Industrial Complex
in Charlottesville to Civilian Use

Background
-Business based around military use reaps billions of taxpayer dollars in the United States and is considered one of the greatest challenges to creating a world based on peace.
-Charlottesville alone has at least 142 businesses that contract with the military.
-The United States, and the City of Charlottesville have built an economy based on warfare and all of the human suffering entailed therein.
-To begin the work of building an economy based on peace numerous challenges must be met. Profits made by the private sector using public funds, and the employment sustained by military contractors need to be addressed in order for a peace economy to be built and sustained. Charlottesville can be become a world leader and national model for the conversion movement.
-A 9 member committee supported and maintained by the City of Charlottesville and made up of 1 City Councilor, 1 representative from the Office of Economic Development, 1 representative from the Environmental Sustainability Division and 6 members of the Charlottesville Community would be created.
-The committee would be tasked with evaluating the presence of all businesses that contract with military, the potential for existing groups to eliminate military involvement, the re-purposing of facilities for a green economy, and make suggestions for conversion to the city and to business. In the second year the committee would actively work with business to address ways to convert to civilian use, and to further engage the City of Charlottesville. Interest has been expressed by Charlottesville residents to participate in such a committee.

Materials
-2011 Pollin and Garrett-Peltier Study from Political Economy Research Institute
Is attached and PDF can be found at http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/published_study/PERI_military_spending_2011.pdf

-A list of local military contractors can be found at: http://www.governmentcontractswon.com/department/defense/charlottesville_va_virginia.asp

Cost to City of Charlottesville
No extra funds would be required for this committee to be established. Staff would include their participation in their on-going duties. Any material funds for the committee would be paid from the operating budget for the Office of Economic Development.

Action Required from City Council
-Create “Committee for Conversion of Military Contractors to Peacetime Economy” made up of 1 City Councilor, 1 representative from the Office of Economic Development, 1 representative from the Environmental Sustainability Division and 6 members of the Charlottesville Community.
-Issue call for applicants, appoint committee members
-Craft mission statement, to include: evaluation of existing military contractors, income from military contracts, the amount of employees related to military contracting, and nature if contracting work. Explore potential for eliminating military contracts and the effects on existing business. Explore potential for replacing military contracts with other business, explore possible re-purposing of facilities for civilian purposes. Explore potential for “green” economic activity.
-Report to Council with findings and suggestions, engage community and business to address and implement suggestions for conversion.

e. Support for Advocate Committee to explore new
Sister City Relationship(s)

Background
-Charlottesville is engaged in four sister city relationships. These relationships have been created by groups of residents coming together to do the hard work of forming connections, an advocate committee, and maintaining the relationship with foreign cities.
-In an effort to continue to form bonds globally and decrease the likelihood of future wars or bring an end to current wars Charlottesville could explore new sister city relationships with countries currently under US military combat operations, or a city that may be the target of future military action, particularly in the Middle East.
-Due to the sensitive political nature of the areas to focus on, residents may be hesitant to form an advocate committee without some expression from council that they desire a new relationship.
-The council or other governmental body may also initiate a sister city relationship and council could consider this as well.
-In Charlottesville, residents and peace activists have formed bonds with communities in the middle east. Charlottesville recently hosted a back an d forth delegation to and from Kabul, Afghanistan. Charlottesville has a growing Afghan population, and peace activists have also formed relationships through Afghan Peace Volunteers. A combination of an already established relationship inside Afghanistan might be a great start to forming an advocate committee.
-Charlottesville residents also have established ties in Palestine and Iran.

Material
Information on the Sister City Program can be found on the Charlottesville website at http://www.charlottesville.org/Index.aspx?page=1735

Guidelines for Affiliating (attached)
Strategic Plan (attached)

Sister Cities International website http://www.sister-cities.org/
Cost to City of Charlottesville
-Citizen fundraising is vital to the sister city program, and would be for any new project.
Any city funds required would be from the existing operating structure of the Sister Cities Commission.
-A government sponsored advocate group would require extra funds from the city.

Action Required from City Council
-Indicate political support and/or preference for new sister city to area residents interested.
-Alternative- establish governmental agency to form advocate committee for sister city relationship.

f. Call for Arrest of War Criminals who Enter Charlottesville City Limits

Background
-Charlottesville has been visited by former officials who have been considered “war criminals” by various international courts and bodies.
-When these visits have been scheduled it is generally too late to build a case or instruct local law enforcement agencies to arrest the perpetrators.
-Councilors Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos were present and spoke to a rally in Charlottesville calling for the arrest of John Yoo in 2009. This suggests a willingness by sitting members of council to address the situation.
-Switzerland, Italy, Zambia, and localities in Canada have expressed interest in prosecuting for war crimes and would be a starting place for seeking to extradite as they are a part of the 147 signatories, including the United States, to the “1987 United Nations Convention on Torture”.
-Inside the United States a handful of localities have called for the arrest of certain former officials for their involvement in crimes committed against US citizens and foreign nationals including Brattleboro, Vermont and Marlboro, Vermont.
-In the interest of assuring justice and reducing the future acts of current officials to engage in illegal aggressive war, torture, and human rights violations the city could call for the arrest of wanted criminals, make those arrests and extradite the suspects or try them under local and state laws.

Material
An extensive list of war crimes participants and their crimes can be found at http://www.warcriminalswatch.org/index.php/the-culpable/36-the-culprits
The list includes:
George W. Bush- aggressive war (crimes against peace), torture, violations of human rights treaties
Richard Cheney- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties
Donald Rumsfeld- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties
Alberto Gonzales- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties
Condoleeza Rice- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties
Jay Bybee- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties
John Yoo- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties

Also to be considered:
Henry Kissinger- aggressive war, torture, violations of human rights treaties, genocide
Information available at http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Kissinger/CaseAgainst1_Hitchens.html

Ample material and hard copies of the above information can be obtained by request.

1987 Convention on Torture can be found at http://untreaty.un.org/cod/avl/ha/catcidtp/catcidtp.html
hard copy available upon request

Cost to City of Charlottesville
Funding would be included in existing budgets for participating agencies.

Action Required from Council
-Instruct Commonwealth Attorney, Sheriff Department and Charlottesville Police Department to investigate possible violations of local, state, national laws and international treaties.
-Instruct above agencies to consult with participants in the “1987 Convention on Torture” concerning possible extradition requests for those wanted.
-Draft and Issue a Statement to the following war crimes suspects that arrest and trial or extradition may occur if they enter city limits:
Elliot Abrams, David Addington, John Ashcroft, John Bellinger III, John R. Bolton, Paul Bremer, George W. Bush, Jay S. Bybee, Andrew H. Card, Richard Cheney, Michael Chertoff, Douglas Feith, Tommy Ray Franks, Jonathan M. Fredman, Robert gates, Alberto Gonzales, Stephen J. Hadley, Michael V. Hayden, William J. Haynes, Henry Kissinger, Lewis I. Libby, Stanley McChrystal, John Negroponte, Nancy Pelosi, Richard N. Perle, David Patraeus, Colin L. Powell, Erik Prince, Condoleeza Rice, John Rizzo, Karl C. Rove, Donald H. Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, John C. Yoo.
-Instruct Commonwealth Attorney to prepare for trial of war criminals under local jurisdiction.

g. Declare September 21st International Day of Peace,
host IDoP Celebration

Background
-The United Nations declared an International Day of Peace in 1981. In 2001 it declared that the Day of Peace be held every September 21st.
-For many years now the Interfaith Cooperation Circle has sponsored an International Day of Peace celebration in Charlottesville.
-In 2011 The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and the Interfaith Cooperation Circle hosted a series of events to celebrate IDoP, and built numerous community ties and found many participants for the celebrations. The coalition was asked to “envision peace”.
-Included in this coalition was the City of Charlottesville and the Charlottesville City School Board.
-On Sept. 19, 2011 Charlottesville City Council proclaimed September 21st, 2011 an International Day of Peace.
-Continued support for the IDoP celebrations has been expressed by councilors, school board members, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, and the Interfaith Cooperation Circle.
-Some residents have expressed interest in a IDoP parade in Charlottesville.

Material
United Nations General Assembly Resolution Sept. 7, 2001 (attached)

International Day of Peace website http://internationaldayofpeace.org/

Charlottesville International Day of Peace Proclamation Sept. 19, 2011:
Whereas, the International Day of Peace has been recognized and celebrated by millions of people worldwide since it was started by a United Nations resolution almost thirty years ago, and
Whereas, many civic organizations and religious congregations in our community have formed a coalition to both celebrate the International Day of Peace and to challenge our community to envision peace and non-violence in our society, and
Whereas, the benefits of peace and non-violence in our community include greater personal and communal well-being, greater public safety, and greater effectiveness in the resolution of disagreements,
We do hereby resolve that on the 21st day of September our community joins in the celebration of the International Day of Peace and that members of our community commemorate and strengthen the ideals of peace and non-violence.

Contact for Interfaith Cooperation Circle/CCPJ IDoP Committee:
Robert McAdams
rsm1539@earthlink.net

Cost to City of Charlottesville
No cost beyond normal operating expense to participate in the celebrations.
If council chose to waive fees for use of public space there would be minimal cost to the city associated with having custodial crew present for events or other city staff.
The cost of a parade would be entirely up to the city to decide, the main item being extra police officers present.

Action required from Council
-Draft and Issue an International Day of Peace Proclamation beginning with language included- “From this day forward September 21st will be…”
-Waive fees associated with use of public space for the International Day of Peace celebrations.
-Appoint proper city representative to International Day of Peace Planning Committee if so requested.
-Grant permit for parade on Sept. 21, 2012, waive associated fees for parade.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution Sept. 7, 2001:
“Recalling its resolution 36/67 of 30 November 1981, by which it declared that the third Tuesday of September, the opening day of the regular sessions of the General Assembly, shall be officially proclaimed and observed as International Day of Peace and shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples, 
Recalling also its other relevant resolutions, including resolution 55/14 of 3 November 2000, 
Reaffirming the contribution that the observance and celebration of the International Day of Peace makes in strengthening the ideals of peace and alleviating tensions and causes of conflict, 
Considering the unique opportunity it offers for a cessation of violence and conflict throughout the world, and the related importance of achieving the broadest possible awareness and observance of the International Day of Peace among the global community, 
Desiring to draw attention to the objectives of the International Day of Peace, and therefore to fix a date for its observance each year that is separate from the opening day of the regular sessions of the General Assembly, 
1. Decides that, with effect from the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly, the International Day of Peace shall be observed on 21 September each year, with this date to be brought to the attention of all people for the celebration and observance of peace; 
2. Declares that the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day; 
3. Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, regional and non-governmental organizations and individuals to commemorate, in an appropriate manner, the International Day of Peace, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”

h. End Reliance on Oil Resources in City Planning

Background
Oil and energy resources are driving our nation into a state of constant war and military expansion. Corporate oil and energy interests gain much from US military military support of strategic access to markets and reserves. These same oil interests gain much from American taxpayers in the forms of subsidies, sales, and taxpayer support of a bloated military budget. Charlottesville has committed to becoming a more sustainable city, this should not just be considered for the impacts on ecology but also for the impacts to global stability and peace.

Cost to City of Charlottesville
The costs to the city are difficult to determine but would fall under existing budgets.
The benefits to the city include increased savings on operations.

Action Required for Council
– Adopt and Adhere to Planetary Bill of Rights (4.a.)
– Declare Moratorium on Road Building
– Continue to Upgrade City Fleet
– Expansion of Public Transit (see 3.)
– Direct Planning Commission to Seek Ways to Limit Sprawl
– Include in Clear Goals for Reducing Oil Consumption and Sprawl in the Comprehensive Plan

 i. Support Community Efforts to Reduce Presence of
Military in City Schools

Background
Charlottesville City Schools have consistently allowed military recruiters into the school system, particularly during lunch periods in the school cafeterias. Numerous localities nationwide allow private groups to present an alternative to military service. A group of community members have expressed a willingness to begin “Alternatives to Military Service” program in the schools. As a result of the No Child Left behind Act, military recruitment is ensured in our schools, as is the sharing of student information with recruiters. Students and parents have the ability to opt out of information sharing, but the option is not well known. The School Board has the ability to issue periodic opt out forms to students and parents. Testing of students for military recruitment is present in many schools throughout the country, the school board has the ability to refrain from allowing the use of “Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery“ (ASVB). As a “City of Peace” the School Board has the duty to allow community members into the classrooms and into assemblies for information of peace building, peace history, and non-violence.

Material
Counter recruitment and Alternatives to Military Service materials will be submitted to Charlottesville City School Board.
Information from National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth: http://www.nnomy.org/
Information from War Resisters League: http://www.warresisters.org/counterrecruitment
Information from Rutgers School of Law found at: http://www.law.newark.rutgers.edu/files/Military%20Recruitment%20Report.pdf

Information on ASVAB http://www.studentprivacy.org/

Contact for “Alternatives to Military Service” in Charlottesville
Brandon Collins
536 Meade Ave
Charlottesville, Va 22902
(434) 249-3312
brandoncollins@comcast.net

Cost to City of Charlottesville
No Cost
Alternative- City contribution to alternatives to military service could be covered by City Schools budget or direct contribution from City of Charlottesville if desired by those bodies. This contribution would be small, less than $1000 for materials.

Action Required from Council
Express support for the following community efforts to Charlottesville City School Board:
– Allow “Alternatives to Military Service” table at Charlottesville High School during lunch periods.
– Opt Out of Information Sharing Notice Issued to Parents Twice Per School Year
– Seek Out Educational Presentations on Peace, Non-Violence, and Accuracy in Military Recruitment
– Ban Using “Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery” in City Schools
– Alternative- Require Parental Permission for ASVAB

 e-mail: brandoncollins@comcast.net to learn more!

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Message to Supporters- I Love You All!

Dear friends,

It has been a month since the election, and having gotten my ducks back in a row, and having caught my breath I have found the time to send along some thoughts and thanks to all who supported the campaign.

Thank you all for all of the support, the votes, the input, and the energy I have received throughout this city council campaign. I am deeply encouraged that so many people would cast a vote for someone like me, given the reality of Charlottesville’s political landscape. My belief is that there is likely even more support for many of the platform items I have presented.

I am preparing to move forward both as an activist, and as a politician, after meeting with as many people as possible to figure out what exactly folks think is the most productive way to move a social justice agenda forward.

The campaign gained some victories, some personal, some political, and some just plain old structural.

The obvious victory is that at least 1477 people (8%) expressed some interest in a different way of doing things, either specifically because of, in spite of, or in ignorance of, the fact that I am a card carrying socialist. Finding a way to mobilize or engage those folks may turn out to be tricky, but I am committed to figuring out how to do that. Keep in mind, many of the supporters of the campaign were not able to vote so that 3.7% of the population who voted for me is actually a bit higher.

Speaking of not voting, one thing that became important to the campaign early on was engaging ex-offenders. We had materials available for restoration of voting rights, and consistently brought issues of concern to ex-offenders and their families forward. I have been involved in the Believers and Achievers group since meeting some of them after a forum, and remain committed to being involved in that very important peer support group. Since we were able to include a great deal of their issues in the campaign, many seated councilors, and some of the candidates were made to pay attention to certain things. I hope the city remains focused on making this a city of second chances, and I hope to work towards making the city one of a solid first chance to begin with! Being involved with ex-offenders has been a victory for me personally, but also one where I think the campaign made difference.

Another personal, and political victory was being able to make some connections in public housing. Joy Johnson in particular was a great help to the campaign, and really did a lot to help me get my head around our affordable housing situation, as well as point me towards an interesting philosophy whereby the city could determine what it wants rather than open the door for any kind of business growth or housing developments.

As an activist, one goal I had set for the campaign was to make those connections in public housing and I hope to continue to build friendships, and help to organize. Politically we made it so that resident input is taken as a serious issue. Residents, not just in public housing, are consistently shut-out of the decision making that directly affects them. Sitting councilors like to say it isn’t so, but now they are being watched, we have called them out on it and we need to continue to do so. My fear is that we are now going to have a city council with a majority that isn’t interested in adequate resident input, and that redevelopment of public housing may proceed with too much influence from the top down and from business interests. Since we have raised that issue, we can continue to hold the fire to the new councilors when they are seated in January.

Along similar lines, despite terrible press coverage, we have made gains in making council, and the candidates, admit that we indeed have an affordable housing crisis. This issue may be the most in need of attention moving forward, and pretty much everyone I talked to on the campaign trail mentioned this as being the most important issue faced by the regular people of Charlottesville. Look towards an increase in the housing fund in the coming discussion about the budget, and look for ways to support that idea!

Jobs, jobs, jobs- This is where I think we have made the biggest impact on the discussions about Charlottesville. I was tickled pink to see at more than one council meeting the councilors falling all over each other to one up each other on how certain things could include a local workforce. I do think having raised the issue of what kinds of jobs and to whose benefit has really paid off. Early on in the campaign all of the candidates were talking about bio-tech and office parks. I am very glad to say that the follies of that kind of focus have been pointed out to many, and at the least some of the candidates had to adjust their positions on jobs in Charlottesville. The orange dot project, while still full of flaws in my mind, may have been influenced a bit as well, where now you are hearing a much bigger attention to actual people and job seekers rather than to solely contractors and entrepreneurs. I look forward to further pushing my idea of a jobs center in downtown Charlottesville, and seem to have the support of at least two councilors so far.

Early on in the campaign I pushed hard on public transportation expansion. This is moving forward. There is solid support from seated and incoming councilors for expansion. Holiday service is in the works, next stop- full Sunday service. I hope we can continue to push hard on this even with good support on the council. The better a system we can have the better off we are going to be. I hope pursue the creation of a Transit Riders Union if there is interest out there.

Frustration with the machine of media and government was anticipated before entering the council race. I have learned so much about local government and can honestly state that everything one thinks is broken and corrupt with society and government in general is certainly happening in our city in ways far more worse than I originally anticipated. Particularly when it comes to the discussions and decisions related to water, roads, and growth in general. There is big money out there working for its own interests, and both the Democratic Party and the press refuse to see any alternative to profit and the market as ways to address our biggest problems.

Nearing the end of the campaign, the media began to ignore us. I am not sure why exactly that is. Perhaps the message became more articulate and less lofty. More likely though is that the more we talked about something other than the water supply, the less spicy and controversial the campaign seemed to be in the minds of the press.

I was extremely upset that press coverage was tiny for the press conference on the affordable housing crisis (something that took me months to get my head around!). As the Bob and Dede folks continued to get their meme out there the press honed in on that as the controversial thing to report on instead of anything else. The media’s inability to critique the Democratic Party candidates, and their inability to even cover anything related to the issues or the campaign led to a great deal of voter disengagement right near the end. This played directly into the hands of the Democratic Party machine on election day when all that many voters needed to cast their vote was a sample ballot. Watching that all play out on election day was an eye opener for many of us, and was something that perhaps could have been anticipated a bit better.

The Democrats are indeed a machine that knows how to win, they play a numbers game, it is cynical and corrupt- I am so glad I am not one of them! Disenfranchisement of African-Americans indeed occurred and this played into both their numbers game, and in their political message which ignores whole sections of our city under the assumption that their votes are either taken for granted, or simply not needed.

The re-precincting shut out the entire community around the Jefferson School, as well as the community near Venable. These neighborhoods are mainly African-American, and low wealth communities. To move their voting place across town to a white, rich, neighborhood definitely reduced voter participation. I am not sure that this was done deliberately, but the decision was made without any consideration to those neighborhoods. I personally spoke to residents on those areas who expressed that would not vote on election day, and they were not surprised that their voices were not considered valuable enough to be included in the process. The neighborhood around Venable was also impacted, people used to voting at Venable for decades, who lived only two blocks away were re-precincted to Carver, which had been moved to Westwood road. This disenfranchisement should be of no surprise, even in a the supposedly “progressive” (whatever that means) town of Charlottesville the same old reinforcement of rich, white dominance occurs, and will likely continue to occur.

We did, however, make an attempt to give rides to the polls from Westhaven and the neighborhood surrounding it. Many thanks to all who helped in that effort!

The entire process was a learning experience, though much of what I learned was more a reinforcement of previously held beliefs. I do see a viability in independent political action. We influenced the discussion, and gained some influence with sitting councilors. People are hungry for justice, I had a lot to say and this was appreciated by a great many people. When people could hear the message and associate it with me, they voted for me. Had I been able to talk individually to 3000 more people I may have been able to win. I recognize that getting people to vote differently is tough, but not as tough as doing real organizing on issues. My hope was to motivate some to get involved in activism, and maybe a few have, but for the most part this still remains something that needs to be done. I am thrilled to acknowledge that my suspicions about the deep understanding that regular people have about alternatives to their economic and social situations were confirmed. People can make good decisions, they understand policy when it affects them, they see alternatives, and they have a healthy distrust of all systems of power.

So, moving forward I ask that all of you write me and schedule a time to meet. The main task is to figure out what those 1477 people were interested in most, how to reach them, and how to motivate them into action. Admittedly, I have been unable to jump right into post-campaign organizing, but I hope that using the “former candidate” moniker I may be able to squeeze some press attention out. The things is, what do I want to say?

Currently I have some things I am involved in, and have some thoughts on moving forward.

I would like to craft an agenda to present to council in January. Picking some of the more detailed and attainable parts of my platform and further laying them out with an eye towards finding some support from councilors. As an activist, I might then go on to move these things forward in various ways beyond the council. Here’s what I am thinking might work, and has some support on council-
-jobs center and influencing the orange dot project
-expansion of Transit- particularly Sunday service
-addressing the affordable housing crisis, expanding the housing fund
-alternatives to military service at CHS
…and probably more, I look forward to hearing from all of you on how this might work.

Another idea to look towards is the formation of a “People’s Council” that would include various social, economic, and environmental justice groups to craft an agenda, lobby council to make it happen, and engage in activism. perhaps with a goal of drafting candidates and filling commission seats at some point. I am working on sowing the seeds for this, and invite everyone to join in!

I am seeking to continue working on solidifying community support for the Living Wage campaign at UVA. Look for spam in your inbox on an interest meeting to consider a formal group or coalition to support Living Wage as they head into an aggressive late winter and early spring.

Of course, I really need to re-engage my ongoing committments to the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, the Socialist Party of Central Virginia, the IWW, and the Cville Workers Action Network and Virginia United Against Oppression. Feel free to drop me a line to learn more about these groups!

In Unity and Love,
Brandon Collins
(434) 249-3312

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