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RICHMOND AND THE POLITICS OF LAND DEVELOPMENT

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"The problem with land is that they are not making any more of it." A land surveyor.

There are many who say religion is the cause of most wars. Religion is often just a pretext or an ideology to whip public opinion up for one of the main causes of war. Land. Real estate. Economic riches to be derived from it.

The USA was founded on land battles . Today, the struggle between Native Americans and European settlers has been romanticized in a thousand western movies. Obviously, it was about land.

Slavery was a major cause of the Civil War. One of its theatres was over slavery being allowed into the western lands.

Other cultures and lands are no exceptions. Israel and Palestine is a major modern example of two people locked in a death fight over land. Popular fantasy might see it as a religious struggle but at its core is a struggle over land.

In Europe, wars over land went on for thousands of years. The most notorious land grabber in the 20th Century, Adolph Hitler, rationalized his land grabs in Eastern Europe as places for Germans to expand and live.

Richmond and its surronding counties have their land battles too. Hardly as dramatic as World war II, cowboys and Indians, Palestinians vr. Israeli settlers, these battles are in the legislature, board rooms,courts and public opinion. Lately, they have been about Monroe Park and the Shockhoe Bottom area.

On one side is the Iron triangle. This triangle is made up of elected politicians, unelected government bureaucrats and real estate /corporate development intrests.

Politicians and bureaucrats like development because it feeds the coffers of the public till. This feeding trough allows politicians to have funds for projects without raising the most obvious usage for the citizen. Property taxes based on ,you guessed it, land and property

Corporate developers like it because its their bread and butter via profits. Allied with them are construction companies who make money from building these projects as well as engineering firms designing them. Plus, these companies and employees spend money in the local economy. Sounds like a winning combination all around right ?

Some people disagree with the Iron Triangle.

In the case of Monroe Park, local residents, homeless aid groups and others decry the privitazation of the park into private hands. In the case of Shockoe Bottom, the citizens oppose building an expensive baseball stadium with public funds on a former slave burial ground that is a sacred part of Richmond history.

Citizen input into the debates over land are often considered trespasses into the chummy politics of the Iron triangle. Politicians ,who often get funds for re-election from the developers must weigh electoral consequences of an angry electorate with protest politics pitchforks.

Bureaucrats become burdened with demands for transparency. Transparency is usually not the natural habitat of a bureaucrat. Better to be shadowed within the confines of the chummy Iron triangle than open to the glaring light of citizen transparency.

For the corporate intrests, the bottom line dollar are paramont. At the same time, corporate intrests have PR intrests, too. Many, not all , corporations want to be seen as corporate neighbors even if they are not in reality. This must be balanced against the need for profit.

For the citizens, putting a mass movement against the Iron Triangle is a lot like the basketball saying : Take what the defense gives you.

No one tactic will win the against the Iron Triangle usually. It usually takes a bag of tactics for citizens to prevail. It may entail lawsuits, speaking out at city council meetings, stepping out at public info rallies, petetions and phone calls and meetings with politicos and bureaucrats. It could also involve demonstrations, protests and in extreme cases, civil disobiedence.

But the bottom line is that City Hall or in this case, the Iron Triangle will prevail if you do absolutely nothing.

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