Thursday, October 23, 2008

Petersburg city attorney, Robert Dawson, resigns

City attorney resigns
By Markus Schmidt
Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:52 AM EDT
PETERSBURG — City Attorney Robert Dawson, a central figure in trying to reform Petersburg’s government, has resigned.

Dawson’s resignation will be effective Nov. 21, roughly 27 months after he started the job.

After calling a number of city officials yesterday to inform them of his decision personally, he sent a formal resignation letter by e-mail to all council members, City Manager B. David Canada, the Clerk of Council and other officials.

Dawson’s letter of resignation did not disclose any reason for his resignation and he didn’t want to add much over the phone.

"There was no specific reason for my decision," he said. "I thank the people of Petersburg for this opportunity."

Dawson has been a key official in getting an efficiency review for the city, which exposed many flaws in the operations of the local government. He is also the author of a memo that questioned the city’s ownership with the Petersburg Generals. In the October 2007 memo to the council, Dawson expressed his concern over the legality of such ownership and demanded an internal investigation. After this was made public, Commonwealth’s Attorney Cassandra Burns launched a criminal probe into the matter.

Dawson lost the support of some council members after the Generals issue became a public issue. Many council members and city officials privately blamed Dawson for revealing an issue that most would have liked to remain disclosed.

But the city’s efficiency report by Berkshire Advisors Inc. praised Dawson’s performance.

"The City of Petersburg is fortunate to have a capable city attorney with the background and experience needed to support effective city operations," the report said. "Indeed, during his tenure with the city, the city attorney has achieved some significant accomplishments."

However, the report foreshadowed problems between the city attorney and others in city government. The report noted that some city officials didn’t understand the role of city attorney and others preferred to make decisions without the input of legal counsel. The report concluded that "the city does not always make effective use of the city attorney to protect the city’s legal interests."

Councilman Ken Pritchett said he was first impressed with Dawson, until he started to look into matters "that were in the past and couldn’t be changed." Pritchett also said the city needs to react quickly and advertise the open position immediately. "It would not be a good idea to spend more money on outside lawyers when we can have one on salary," he said.

Vice Mayor Horace Webb said he wouldn’t comment on the recent controversy around Dawson, but said he thinks highly of him. "Mr. Dawson has demonstrated that he is very knowledgeable when it comes to city government. I really enjoyed working with him and I wish him all the luck," he said.

Other council members declined to comment or could not be reached.

In spite of the controversy around him, Dawson remained diplomatic in yesterday’s confidential memo. "I sincerely appreciate the opportunity that the city gave me to serve as the City’s Chief Legal Adviser," he wrote.

Dawson declined to say if he had already a new job and if he was going to leave the city.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Leading by example?

You know that old saying about fiddling while Rome burned?
This was taken from the City's homepage.

This was taken yesterday 8-29-08.

Just makes you wonder how is the City going to encourage its residents to be responsible stewards of our resources when the City feels they do not need to be.

So glad that golf course greens are exempt, cause everyone knows clean drinking water comes second to perfect greens, not to mention all the gas that is used to cut those greens because they are watered so much- which causes more of a demand for the commodity which makes our current gas prices so volatile... Sorry don't get me started, this is about water.

I enjoy the beauty and the sound of the fountain immensely and have called Public Works many times when it has malfunctioned, but the time has come for us to be responsible. If the City is expecting us to tighten our belts in order to prevent a larger crisis, we should be expecting the same from the City.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Poplar Lawn Makes the News

We were in the Progress-Index this past Thursday, and on Petersburg Peoples News too, because of the Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood SaluteSM prize.

Who's with me on trying to get some other positive news out about our fair neighborhood?

Below are several links to award nomination forms for neighborhoods, neighbors, even urban gardens. Please consider our neighborhood, its sites and your neighbors for awards. And please post in the comments your nomination submissions, so that we all know about them!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Goodbye to Christine and Christopher Shorr

Yesterday, our neighbors Christine and Christopher Shorr left for new adventures North of the Mason Dixon line. As a friend, I will miss their overwhelming sense of generosity and kindness, their creativity, and their incomprable entertaining. As a member of this fair city, I feel their loss in the myriad projects they have put into place, the connections they have made between people, and the organizations they have served, even founded.

When I first came to Petersburg five years ago, Christine, the president of the Historic Poplar Lawn Association at that time, was one of the first people that I met. She welcomed my overwhelmed self, a complete stranger whose husband had not yet moved to join me in our monstrosity-project of a house, into her home to show me photos of their house when they started working on it. She encouraged me. She made me an instant friend.

That house, where I have spent countless wonderful hours eating amazing food, imbibing, dancing, playing board games or Guitar Hero, and laughing---always laughing---with a good portion of Petersburg's residents, was condemned when they purchased it. Every beautiful detail was lovingly restored by them, eclectically decorated. It became a house full of life and love. I cannot believe that today it stands empty.

That house was where Sycamore Rouge started, people brought together by Christopher before there was ever a building or funding. It started with his idea. Sycamore Rouge was a passion: it was exciting to watch the entire entity grow from nothing, to be a part of it, to have new people move to Petersburg and get involved because they were brought together by these kinetic people, their home, their projects.

Even in their departure, Christopher and Christine were bringing people together: they made sure that the woman purchasing their home met many of their neighbors on their way out of town. Ladonna is lovely. She will make a great addition to our community, and she promises to keep up the great parties in a house that just seems to be built for entertaining.

And so, I wish our friends well---with a sad heart for myself and my community, but with a joyful one for them and their newest adventures---and thank them for helping our neighborhood and city on its way. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they are headed is so very, very fortunate.

edit, added 07/09/08: Petersburg Peoples News
edit, added 07/24/08: Progress Index

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Historic Poplar Lawn Winner of Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute

You may remember way back in April, the HPLA board at that time had been looking for ways to promote our lovely neighborhood, particularly the positive, friendly and active aspects of it.

We had requested that Poplar Lawn neighbors enter our neighborhood into some contests, and guess what? Historic Poplar Lawn is a grand prize winner of Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood SaluteSM, a national contest.

Edy’s Slow Churned Neighborhood SaluteSM has been bringing ice cream block parties to cities all across America for four years, and our block is next!

The winning entry:
Nestled in the middle of downtown historic Petersburg, Virginia, Poplar Lawn boasts a lovely historic park, gorgeous old homes, and some of the friendliest fun-loving neighbors you’ll ever meet.

The neighbors in Poplar Lawn, a nationally registered historic neighborhood, are not only friendly but also community-minded. In addition to Neighborhood Watch and a very active neighborhood association, Poplar Lawn works to keep neighbors in contact through phone calls, flyers and an email distribution list as well as with a blog.

Lively conversation and wit on the blog and in neighborhood meetings is often inspired by local government, community projects and the trials and joys of being a part of a redeveloping urban community. Everyone’s opinion is welcome to be expressed, and at the end of the day, regardless of opposing opinions, the neighbors are always friendly to one another.

The neighborhood is a lovely walking community, and people visit on the porches in the warm months, often offering a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. Several neighbors throw themed parties, encouraging everyone to dress up. The neighborhood association has even hosted an Oktoberfest and a holiday party that featured belly dancers.

The neighborhood also works to serve its community by restoring and preserving historic spaces, maintaining and patrolling a centrally located park and participating in civic activities like a city-wide food drive, planting gardens in public spaces and participating in local clean-up days.

Since nearly everyone in the neighborhood is restoring historic homes, neighbors always chip in to help each other out when something goes awry during construction, or when neighbors need encouragement. We celebrate community successes and joys and mourn community losses, a built-in support system during times of both birth and passing. The neighbors are all very generous and work to welcome new members as well as check-in with long-time residents with friendly conversation and baked treats or some tomatoes from the garden.

Historic Poplar Lawn in Petersburg, Virginia is beautiful and historic, yes, but its charm and life come from its neighbors.

Stay posted for more information about our upcoming block party from Edy's!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Your fifteen minutes of fame: a living art project

You may remember the recent appearance of some artwork in Central Park created by Noah Scalin of the Webby Award-winning blog,

Skull #328,
Rock 'N' Skull is still a temporary feature in the park, in fact Public Works weed-whacked around it the last time they mowed, which is pretty cool for it to be recognized that way.

Well, now you too can be a part of web-project-art history. On June 1 at 9:00 am on Belle Isle in Richmond, VA, you too can be a part of a giant, living skull.

How cool is that?

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Current Events

When the Intelligent, fearing interaction with the Ignorant, choose silence over contribution. Thus begins the censorship of intelligence.

Resist contributing to this, the worst kind of censorship!

Derek Jones

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Time for a Prostitution Free Zone

For over 1 year now, many of us have been advocating Poplar Lawn Park be designated a "Prostitution Free Zone" only to be brushed off by the city, saying that we do not have an issue with prostitution in the area.

The recommendation for a Prostitution Free Zone was made by the police, to make their job easier, the idea being that they know regular prostitutes on sight and can arrest those who have previous prostitution records for being in that designated area because anyone with a prostitution record is not allowed in the zone. (We had also asked for a "Drug Free Zone" in the same area for the same reasons.)

I (or should I say our Dogs) routinely find used condoms around the park. While I commend those that are doing this for practicing safe sex-(*Petersburg in #1 in the state for STD cases) there is probably a number that do not.

On Friday(May 2, 2008), in preparation for an event in the Park on Saturday the Public Works crews mowed all the grass in the Park, so I know that sometime Friday Night/Saturday Morning there was quite a bit of action happening in the park.

What I find disturbing is the number of items left behind, indicating the amount of activity, the close proximity to the residences in our neighborhood, and that these items once used are considered "bio-hazards" because they can spread blood-borne pathogens (ie: Hepatitis, HIV). This is no different than if a local Doctor's office was dumping medical trash in the park.

This is the tree where it happened. Notice how close it is to the fountain and the street.

How many more pictures do we need before we can make the park a Prostitution Free Zone?

Wrapper 1 Wrapper 2 & 3
Wrapper 4 Fake Nail & Wrapper 5

The 5 used condoms to match the wrappers. Any amateur Detectives want to gather DNA Evidence? Two are still in good shape, other three were not as careful.

Finally possible evidence for payment. There was a distinct rough impression in the wrapper, that would suggest it contained a crack rock.

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