Posts Tagged ‘city of richmond’

For Immediate Release:

The Wingnut Anarchist Collective House is located at 2005 Barton Avenue. We have now become victim of one of the symptoms of a failing infrastructure in the City of Richmond.

Many folks are familiar with the numerous problems with the City of Richmond’s public utilities like water- from the flooding that occurred in Battery Park several years ago to the fact that we have the highest minimum water rate in the world and yet most of that money does not go into repairing our ailing sewers.

Last weekend we noticed the water in our downstairs toilet was bubbling up with air bubbles from sewer gas- clearly not supposed to happen. Then on Saturday March 30th, we were doing yard work and discovered, much to our dismay, that on the side of our house the sewer had backed up/built up pressure so much it blew about 10 inches of our clean out pipe clear off and spewed raw sewage in the yard. I immediately called 311 to get folks from the City of Richmond out to deal with the problem.

When the City workers showed up they made me sign paperwork saying I would have to pay them at such and such a rate if the problem were found on my property. I had to take down a section of our fence to give them access to our 2nd clean out that is located in our back yard near the alleyway. They said they were first going to run a plumbing snake through the sewage lines on our property to make sure the problem wasn’t there, because if it was they wouldn’t fix it. They ran the snake from the alley to our house and found no problem. Then our next door neighbor came out and said that the sewer had backed up in his yard as well. Clearly this was a problem outside of any individual property.

Finally the City utility folks got a big truck and ran  a big snake through the sewer pipes in the alley, found some massive clog, and dealt with it. I thought it was all taken care of.

Unfortunately I later realized that the City of Richmond had not fixed my broken clean out pipe, or the pile of raw sewage in my yard (both of which were clearly caused by their sewer backup). I was planning to call them on Monday since it was now Easter Sunday and the problem was in a section of yard us and our dogs do not regularly access. I went downstairs and used the toilet in the half bath. None of us had used that toilet since the fiasco the day before, as we tend to use the upstairs toilet more frequently. Rather shockingly, upon flushing, water dumped from the toilet onto the floor. I assumed it was coming from the base of the toilet, like the wax ring had failed. I called 311, and told them I really did need them to come fix the clean out pipe, raw sewage, and look at the damage they had caused to my toilet. I went in the bathroom to move some things around so the City workers would be able to have better access to the toilet. That is when I discovered that a piece of the porcelain from the toilet had been blown off, and was on the bathroom floor. Water leaked when I flushed the toilet because the toilet was missing part of its side! Somehow enough pressure had built up to just blow that part of the toilet clean off.

When the City workers showed up that afternoon, I showed them the toilet and the blown up clean out. They then informed me that they couldn’t do anything about those issues. They got me to put a some dye in the toilet water and flush it so they could look at the clean out near the alley to see how long the water took to get there. Which is when we discovered that the water from the drains in our house is no longer even getting to the alley. Something that either got shoved into our sewer pipes by the back up or their snake  or some break along those pipes from the incredible pressure caused by the failing sewer is now preventing our sewage from going where it is supposed to go. So now we can’t use our drains, toilets, or shower for fear of causing a secondary or tertiary problem if our water use ends up backing up somewhere else or leaking somewhere along the way.

We have called a plumber who is supposed to come today, and also begun the process of filing a claim with our insurance company.

Unfortunately for the rest of our community, this is not an isolated issue. We talked to a 3rd neighbor last night who is also having problems with the sewer backing up and not functioning properly. There are many condemned and/or abandoned houses in our neighborhood, so it is hard to get a grasp on how large this problem is, as there is no one in those houses to issue a complaint. A lot of folks who don’t maybe realize that the problems they are experiencing are the City’s fault or who just don’t know to call 311 to get emergency water/sewage help might not be filing complaints.

Human waste is incredibly toxic and full of total coliforms and e. coli. This is a huge public health issue – you can get sick and die! Not only does the city need to pay for the damage to the property, they also need to pay for temporary shelter (like a hotel) for folks who experience these major sewage problems.

We don’t have a quote from a licensed plumber yet, but are hoping to get one day. I renovate houses and can say with confidence that this has easily caused hundreds of dollars of damage. We will have to replace the toilet, possibly some flooring and subflooring around it, get the raw sewage cleaned up, get the cleanout replaced, and figure out where and break/clog is now which could be simple or could involve replacing buried lines.

Our neighborhood, Southern Barton Heights, is largely comprised of working class people of color and low income folks. We have many elderly members of our community as well. Unfortunately, this neighborhood receives more attention by means of the Richmond Police harassing young black men on the street than we do with groceries, jobs, transit, or city utility. Folks in this neighborhood are underserved by the City of Richmond, though we all pay the same minimum 49.40 a month just to have our water/sewer cut on.  Scott Burger has been a driving force with a campaign to reduce the monthly minimum rate to encourage conservation and help out low income folks. This point hits home even harder now. If we are paying the same 49.40 a month as everyone else, then we demand that our neighborhood receive the same respect and services as Windsor Farms and all other sections of Richmond. The systematic neglect of certain areas of the city reeks of environmental racism and neglect (and in this case raw human sewage).

On one level, we just want to be able to go to the bathroom and do our dishes. But this issue IS larger than that, and we hope this aspect is not lost to anyone reading this. If folks want to have further conversations around these issues, drop us a line or 804 303 5449 or come on by 2005 Barton Avenue (go to the bathroom before you head over).

Pictures below:

The hole in our toilet

The hole in our toilet

Broken clean out pipe and raw sewage in our yard

Broken clean out pipe and raw sewage in our yard


Latest injunction from RPD:


The Richmond City Police Department and the City of Richmond have alleged, based on speculation, that the one or more of the defendants in this action (they don’t identify which one) have converted (taken possession or exercised dominion and control over) a portable hard drive that is apparently missing. Of course, as they have sued ten individuals whom they do not identify except as “Does 1-10”, so the defendants to this action could be anyone. They do not explain in their pleading how this hard drive was lost, when it was lost, or where it was lost. They do not describe what the hard drive looks like.

They allege that the hard drive contains what they describe as “confidential” information or documents that has made its way into the public domain and was republished on various websites. The Richmond City Police Department and the City of Richmond allege that they are suffering and continue to suffer damages as a result of the alleged conversion of this hard drive and the loss of the documents on the hard drive.

If the person in possession of this hard drive (if it exists or still exists) reads this post, some or all of the defendants would probably appreciate it if this hard drive were delivered to the clerk of the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond (see order below). You may wish to consult an attorney since the Richmond City Police Department has threated criminal charges in what in the opinion of one or more of the defendants is not only a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but also an apparent effort to cover up the incompetence related to the dissemination of the information that they claim to be “confidential,” apparently without adequate password protection or encryption.

Defendants would appreciate it if you would notify counsel for Nathan Cox and Mo Karn if the hard drive is delivered to the clerk.

The city said we needed to fix our fence (oh CAPS…), and our friend Steve came to town to help us.

We found materials in our own yard to fix the crappy parts of the fence. YAY!

Here are some pictures for your amazement and amusement:


Old camper roof = strongest part of the fence yet! Plus a window...

The cute pictures come next: (more…)

The only reason the construction of a new Richmond City Jail has ever seemed even mildy palatable is due to the inhumance conditions at the current facility, which result in numerous deaths each year.

However, City Mayor Jones and members of City Council have just revealed how their jail plans that they are trying to push through are actually not going to result in a more humane situation.

Apparently the contractor involved as well as some of the politicians failed to do their research into requirements regarding jail construction, and have been presenting City Council as well as the public with plans that include at least one major mistake. The mistake is that the jail cell size they proposed doesn’t meet state regulations. Apparently changing the plans would cost money, so now they are pushing to get an exception made for cell size.

In an effort to save money, the City of Richmond wants to build the new jail with jail cells that are double bunked and with 35 fewer square feet per cell than State regulations call for. The size cell that the City of Richmond wants to build now fits the standards suggested by the American Correctional Association- a group of people who make a profit off of the prison industrial complex.

How can we expect better jail conditions when the City of Richmond is trying to cut corners at the cost of the inmates before ground has even been broken on the project? This new jail, as proposed, will start over crowded, and no doubt get worse from there. No new jail, no old jail. The City of Richmond is not competent, kind, or rich enough to provide a safe and relatively humane jail, therefore we deserve none at all. (more…)

Wingnut Statement On The Monroe Park Renovation Plan

The current renovation plans for Monroe Park are riddled with problems and are overall, entirely unacceptable.

Our demands regarding the park are as follows:

We oppose the renovation plans in their entirety, as they are racist, classist, and a thinly veiled attempt at privatizing and capitalizing on a public park.

  1. There needs to be an immediate cessation of all attempts from MPAC and the City of Richmond to criminalize the homeless.
  2. We demand the inclusion of homeless people in all decisions relating to homelessness, housing, free food programs, etc. We demand that the homeless be given roles with the power to make decisions about their own futures in whatever groups or organizations are making these decisions.
  3. We demand the cessation of the endless promotion of the Conrad Center as the solution to homelessness in Richmond. We demand the cessation of the attempts to centralize all programs that serve the homeless at the Conrad Center, which has aggressively pushed its agenda of misinformation for years now.
  4. We demand that there be NO paid park director, especially at the outrageous salary of 150,000 a year. (more…)

Today we received an interesting package from the City of Richmond, hand delivered to our door.

The documents within informed us about a court case in the works (“The Chief of Police Bryan Norwood and The City of Richmond v. Mo Karn”), and include an:

“Emergency Motion for Protective Order and to Compel the Return of Tactical Information and to Prevent the Disclosure of Said Information on behalf of Plaintiffs Chief of Police Bryan Norwood and The City of Richmond”

You can see the documents here (they are almost identical):

What it boils down to is they’re trying to sue Mo Karn, saying some of the police documents we received via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) are documents they shouldn’t have sent us, specifically ones including “tactical plans”. They are going to attempt to get an order “(A) compelling the return of certain exempt information, (B) preventing the disclosure of this information to the general public, (C) enjoining the defendant from publicizing this information, and (D) granting such other relief as the Court deems appropriate.”

The first reason stated for this in the Emergency Motion is the most obvious:

“1. Defendant Mo Karn is a known and admitted anarchist. See generally

It goes on to detail most of the mundanely routine email conversation between Mo and the Angela Harrison (Associate General Counsel, although titled in the case documents as a “Program Manager”) of the RPD, to whom our FOIA request was directed. When she mentioned that certain documents included tactical plans, Mo stated very clearly, “I understand that tactical plans may not be subject to FOIA. However if any of the manuals and orders I have requested include tactical plans I would expect that tactical plans sections to be blacked out, but the non-tactical information surrounding them in the manual to still be included.”

In the official response to the FOIA request, the bit about redacting information goes thusly: “in order to completely and properly respond without negatively impacting public safety and our intense operational responsibilities, the Department is entitled to and elects to utilize seven additional work days to respond”.

Well, despite addressing those concerns and the seven days the RPD had to go over the documents, apparently we got some information they thought we shouldn’t have anyway. The Program Manager’s “production of these documents exceeded the authority granted to her,” and she sent them “without first obtaining permission to do so from Chief Norwood.”

Unfortunately that means not shit to us. If the RPD feels they shouldn’t have sent out these documents, maybe they shouldn’t have done so. The idea that they can sue anybody for having information that they gave us is utterly ridiculous.

That said, the list of documents that the RPD feels you shouldn’t read include the following:

Sadly, we already uploaded ALL of these ostensibly public documents (linked above) prior to learning about their illicit nature. We no longer have the ability to remove them from the internet, or the public domain. We encourage you to look through these documents and more on our Richmond Police Department Documents page.

For our part we’re seeking legal counsel on the issue. If it ever goes to court we promise you’ll hear about it.

Charles Samuels and the Monroe Park Advisory Council are putting a lot of energy into telling people that the renovations of Monroe Park must be done all at once with the entire park fenced off for the duration. The cite money as one of the major factors of this. And they have also frequently insisted that it is basically impossible to do the construction in stages. At last night’s meeting they even had Glenn Telfer, an engineer from Draper Aden Associates, get up and speak to the need to close down the entire park to do the necessary renovations.

However, I (Mo Karn) went up to Glenn Telfer after he spoke and asked him about the possibility of doing the renovation of Monroe Park in stages. He said it was of course possible, though potentially more costly. But plans for a staged renovation keepig a section of the park open the whole time could be made. He said if the City of Richmond wanted such plans drawn up he or his firm would.

If you think about it, lots of utility work and construction on public use areas is done in stages. Take roads for example. When a highway like 64 has to be repaved, they do not just shut down the entire highway to repave it at once. They repave roads in stages. Yes, it takes longer and can cost more money to do this work in stages. However, VDOT and the City of Richmond frequently do important renovation work in stages because they are balancing the financial cost with the human cost. It would be incredibly inconvenient for entire roads to be shut down for repaving, or entire lengths of roads shut down at once for working on water mains or what have you.

Public works projects are commonly done in stages, at a slightly higher cost, because the idea is to avoid inconveniencing people too much during renovations. It is possible that the only reason this has not been the suggested method of construction in this case is because the folks making decisions about the Monroe Park plans do not place value on the people they will be inconveniencing the most. At best this is an oversight on their part. One which we wish to point out.  The people who use Monroe Park ARE valuable. It would be incredibly harmful for a variety of reasons to shut down the entire park, just like it would too harmful to shut down all of Chamberlayne to re-pave it. The park is used by a lot of different people and has developed many different types of community and connection through the interactions of people in that space. Not only will homeless people be inconvenienced, but also VCU students, Oregon Hill residents, and many others.

The engineer at the meeting also mentioned that they were dealing with some unknowns in terms of what exactly is under the park as utilities.  This makes it seem even more important that a section of the park remains open. Unknowns might make the renovations take much longer than the projected time period. Who knows, this might even turn into some Big Dig fiasco. The unknowns and lengthy time period make it vital that a section of the park remain available. If not we may have VCU students who miss out on using the park for years of their Richmond experience, homeless who can’t connect to other homeless or any homeless services, and a city missing a vital greenspace.

Other things to consider are that Monroe Park has the only public restrooms and drinking fountain in the area. If these will be unavailable, there need to be others made available and well advertised.  If not, where will people go to the bathroom without risking trespassing or public urination charges? If there is not a supply of public drinking water how will people with little or no money stay hydrated through a hot Richmond summer? (more…)