Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Headaches: This Time from Within

Apparently inspired by the glorious traffic circle at Marshall and Adams, William Tally has not only ignored our sensitivity about the presence of the Public Defender's Office, but now rubs our collective faces in it. The Public Defender's Office, housed in Mr. Tally's Building on the Northeast side of Marshall and Adams, has been a sore spot with all of us in the neighboring area for some time. Whatever good this office does is irrelevant. It should not be here, period. This new sign, however, seems to make their presence a moot point. As a mere technicality, why was this sign approved, without a public hearing? Can I put one in my yard for some other kind of business?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Channel 12 Not On Our Side

The little message below has been sent to Channel 12 and a few zillion other people. It concerns a minor event, and while it bears no specific relation to Poplar Lawn, it does say something about how our city is treated by the media. If we who contribute to this blog, or others, want to kick and scream, bitch and moan to each other about life in Petersburg, that's OUR business. Deep down inside, we are all motivated by a single goal—to make this, our town, our house, better in some way. But when outsiders, especially media outsiders, say something bad about us, either directly, or by implication, then I really get pissed.
Like all Small Market media, Channel 12 is big on self-promotion, general hype, and sensationalizing the most meaningless trivialities. They also manage to make Henrico look like the 7th level of hell, and Petersburg not far behind, not necessarily through facts, but through the way they present the facts. Anyway, what's done is done. But maybe the next time you see their little van parked somewhere, ask them what they're doing in our house, and point them back to that dysfunctional hick town from which they came, where whatever bad they find here can be found a hundred times over.

"Dear Channel 12
Your report last week about purse snatchings and the dangers of holiday shopping was disturbing. Not because of the seasonal crime that always accompanies the holidays, but because you chose to report on the Petersburg incidents from the heart of Old Town, at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

If a robbery is committed in Church Hill, do you go to Stony Point to tell about it? Is an Henrico theft reported from Short Pump? I think not, even though they are all part of Richmond. So why then, when reporting on thefts in the furthest ends of Petersburg do you allow your cameras to scan the safest, most upscale business section of the city? Why interview the police about crime on Old Street, which is far removed from where said crimes were committed. You could have accessed the actual crime scenes just as easily, and the police station is only a block away. Why didn’t you go there?

One has to wonder what channel 12 has against Petersburg. When negative events occur, your crews are quickly on the scene, while the dozens of positive events now occurring regularly are all but ignored.

In this instance your actions reflect either sloppy, insensitive journalism, or an intentional attempt to further denigrate a city that has benefited from, and seen considerable investment and hard work from individual entrepreneurs—not from the government nor from corporations. These private business owners now bring the most to Old Town Petersburg, yet they are the ones to whom you have done the most harm. Your report, which used some of these businesses as the background, at the height of the shopping season, implied that all of Petersburg might be high-risk for shoppers.

Whether this all happened out of long-held prejudices against our city, or simply thoughtless, unprofessional journalism is something you alone can answer. In this instance, you have failed at your fundamental responsibility to present the news without bias. This report left viewers with an impression of Old Town that is completely false.

This has not gone unnoticed by the local business community and we will become ever vigilant and ready to defend ourselves in the face of lies, or negative innuendo, however subtle.

Petersburg is changing. New businesses and real estate sales are booming compared to elsewhere in the region—even as For Rent signs appear in block after block of a once-thriving Cary Street.

Many of us, newcomers from New York, California, Chicago, DC and elsewhere, do not take media condescension lightly. So the next time you do a report in Petersburg, please show a little respect, a little common courtesy. Next time we’ll see you coming."

Jeff Abugel

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How to get people's attention in Petersburg

Well, it seems that we've done what visits to city council, meetings with city officials and letters to the newspaper cannot do: we've gotten everyone's attention and are the talk of the town.

More people are contacting me about Poplar Lawn's canceled holiday party than the traffic circle, trash cans and last year's armed robbery combined.

Here's the scoop that everyone wants: what happened with the party? The answer: the party did not happen for several reasons. A few of those reasons follow.

*We have very little budget to work with because we have not collected everyone's dues. We could not afford to rent a location, and no one wanted to offer a space.

*The usual players who balance the majority of the neighborhood association's workload were all stretched thin with work, moving, job searches, family commitments and illness, and travel.

*The neighborhood was asked for help, and everyone else was too busy as well. Everyone in our neighborhood is busy: we all have careers and commitments and old houses that need fixing and families, etc. All of those things are priorities and should be.

*Finally, much discussion went around the board trying to justify a party that may not even be well attended: our last several have been a waste of money and really poorly attended. Ideas were thrown around to instead do something community-minded and improve the city with something other than a party that gets lost amidst all the other celebrating of the season or have a party at another time of the year.

I think that a lot of this conversation around the parties highlights that the holidays are a busy time, that people are over-extended, and that we all have a difficult time making it to all of the potential engagements. That this is scandalous or a failure on the part of the neighborhood, our association or our board is overreaction.

If anyone would like to host a party in January or February, as has been suggested by several people, please let us know. I will address everyone's individual inquiries in time. Thank you for your patience. I have been traveling and have returned to a lot of deliverables, so I have been and will be somewhat out of pocket.

In closing, since there has been more than one accusation that we did not promote last year's All Neighborhoods Party, I am attaching the below email that was sent out last year as notification of that party. I also personally delivered to residents the hard copies given to us by High Street and did the usual call tree calls for that party last year.

Please do contact me about whatever concerns you have, but please be patient with my slow response time.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Tulip Alley Worse Than Ever

Poplar Lawn and its many problems continue to suffer the neglect and indifference of the city. Aside from the issues addressed below, and the fact that most of Petersburg has other hotspots of drugs, group homes, slumlords, and calculated indifference, Tulip Alley is in our district, our neighborhood, and continues to be a sore on the face of all surrounding streets. Tons of money have gone into the restorations of Marshall Street and Jefferson Street, with tons of increased taxes going into the city's ungrateful coffers. So why do we have to endure the nonstop drug trafficking, late night drug pickups, drunks and lowlife that frequent the alley? Perhaps the owner of the Tulip Alley firetraps, who lives at Tulip and Jefferson could tell us? When was the last time these rat holes were inspected? How many people "live" there, and why do they have company all hours of the night and day? Must we resort to vigilantism in order to get anything done about this?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


"Y'know, a town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!"
-Lyle Lanley

Well here it is- A week's worth of re-wiring around the fountain so that the circuit doesn't trip when it rains and another week of putting the lights together. Figure there was about 3 people working each day on average (some days 8/some days 1) that's about 240 hours of labor for something that is just going to be taken down again in a few weeks to the cost of another 100+ hours of labor. Let's not even consider the cost of energy that those lights take.

Here are 3 suggestions of what that same 340 labor hours could have accomplished in the park on a more permanent scale followed by ~~why I haven't done it myself:

1) Used 55 gal. barrel of cooking oil sitting next to a tree since May 20, 2007.
** Numerous calls to both sanitation and the health department. Health department did give the city an October 1, 2007 deadline to remove it- follow up calls to health department unanswered.
~~Barrel weighs about 500 lbs. Even if I could lift it into my truck the barrel is not sealed, and this is considered Household Hazardous Waste and as a private citizen I am limited to disposing 5 gallons.

2) Balustrade hit by car in January 2006.
** Filed Police report the day it happened. Follow up calls & emails to city departments asking for it to be fixed. City vehicles just drive over it as if it was meant to be like that causing more damage.
~~ Do not have access to the key to unlock the chain. Do not have access to power auger. Do not have ability to replace broken parts.

3) Railing on bridge broken Christmas Morning 2006.
** Filed Police report that morning. Picked up broken pieces to prevent them from being stolen by metal scavengers. Arranged a safe place for them to be stored. Called and emailed city departments about where the pieces are being stored. Pieces still sitting where they were put Christmas morning.
~~ Do not have access to the type of welder needed to make this repair. Also since this railing is over an 8 foot drop, there are probably building codes that need to be followed, and I am not going to put myself in a position to be liable in case someone gets hurt. Good Samaritan laws probably don't cover welding railing in public spaces.

There is so much that needs to be done, but unfortunately that would start to cost actual money to repair so I will need to write to (insert allegorical holiday figure here) about that and believe in magical park elves to fix it.

As you drive by, enjoy the lights- but remember those projects less fortunate this holiday season.

Happy Holidays Folks.