Last February, Ocean View slumlord developer Ronnie Boone, Sr had a problem. 19 of his properties in Norfolk lacked proper inspection and occupancy certificates, required before they could be legally occupied. Well, just a year and change later, Norfolk has finally gotten around to resolving issues with 16 of the properties, and another has been demolished, leaving just two more properties in limbo. Not bad for 14 months work, right? That’s more than 1 per month! 1.214 per month, to be exact.
But the question of what was going on with these properties lingered around City Hall like the smell of spoiled bait at Ocean View Fishing Pier, in the form of an audit of Norfolk’s building inspection procedures. It hasn’t been quite a year since that audit was requested, so it’s still only in draft form, and apparently not available for release to the public yet. We can look forward to calculating the number of months per page on that one once it’s out, though.
Another part that really stinks here is how City building inspectors routinely did not follow up on expired permits, despite having an automated computer system that notified them when those permits were up (City officials claim that has been addressed and corrected—follow-up, please, someone?).
Most troubling though in this specific instance is the fact that, despite regularly flouting City requirements for permits in the past, Boone was essentially given a pass from any punitive action by City Attorney Bernard Pishko, despite internal objections from the City’s planning director (who apparently had a road-to-Damascus conversion some months later and overcame the strenuous objections he raised in an email obtained by the Pilot through a FOIA request). As reporter Tim Eberly writes: “The lack of punitive action raises the question: Since Boone was allowed to build first and fix any problems later, what’s going to prevent other builders from doing the same?”
Of course, the problem here isn’t just isolated to this issue in particular. Take it in sum with other recent City actions when a developer is involved: the proposed outlet mall, the proposed S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co. plan for St. Paul’s Quadrant in Downtown, and so on. The City’s laws and ordinances exist to protect ordinary citizens by holding violators accountable, but what seems apparent here is a pattern of City officials choosing to bend them or simply to not enforce them on behalf of a privileged few. A democratic society doesn’t function like that.
A former Virginia Wesleyan College student faces imprisonment after applying for 104 credit cards with the stolen identities of fellow students—which she obtained through “unrestricted access” to the school’s student and alumni database while previously employed by the college. The student was a convicted felon with a history of thievin’ from employers, but Virginia Wesleyan doesn’t run background checks on student employees.
Virginia Wesleyan’s statement: “¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”
How much do I love The Economist? Anyone who is seriously interested in current affairs should be reading from it on a weekly basis. This week, they bring us a thoughtful reflection on the 200th anniversary of the eruption of Mount Tambora, in what is today Indonesia (below), and the profound effects it wrought on the world of the early 19th Century. The vast amounts of sulphur poured into the atmosphere triggered a “little ice age,” ruining harvests for years and killing millions of people. Of course, at the time, information flowed much more slowly, and sciences like geology were just in their infancy, so there was no warning of the eruption, and little opportunity to address the problems that came after in anything like a global way, as would (and has) happen today. But volcanoes are one reminder that despite our technology and sophistication, we still remain largely at the mercy of the primordial forces lurking just below the surface.
Also of note: It was the climatological effects of the Tambora eruption that kept a small group of British literati stuck inside their Swiss vacation chalet while unseasonable storms raged outside, forcing them to entertain each other with chilling tales of horror. Among them was Mary Shelley, and her Frankenstein is today a byword for man’s inability to tame Nature.
And also, in unrelated Frankenstein news, Chris says:
In light of that whole “we don’t do business with the gays” thing, Indiana hired a global public relations firm to help rebrand the state as a welcoming place for anyone with a disposable income! I miss the days when I just associated Indiana with Parks and Rec. But maybe this PR firm will have the state marry two gay penguins ala Leslie Knope? It wouldn’t make up for the incredible shitshow thus far, but it would be a small step. I suggest gold and celadon for the wedding colors.
In the wake of the announcement that a framework agreement had been reached to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, Russia announced it would resume the sale of an advanced anti-aircraft weapon system to the Islamic Republic. The sale had been halted under the crippling sanctions regime imposed on Iran in 2010.
This is a really good opportunity to show the sophisticated diplomatic maneuvers happening now between Iran, Russia, and the US and its European allies (the “P-6”). Part of this is about calling any sort of bluff on the road to a final agreement with Iran and the P-6—if (as the Russian line goes) Iran is behaving like a responsible member of the international community by negotiating instead of fighting or going it alone, why shouldn’t they be able to purchase defensive weapons, like any other country? (Nevermind that the agreement is simply a framework for a final version.)
But, it’s also about sending a message to elements inside the American government (Congressional Republicans, looking at you), and outside the talks (Israel), that the negotiations are believed by the parties to be solid enough that they should not derail them by interference—and this is something that all the parties have a vested interest in communicating, if the agreement is to be successful. So, in the end, Russia both strengthens (by telegraphing to outsiders that they consider the agreement to be inevitable) and weakens (by undermining the current sanctions regime, still in place) the position of the US negotiators. It’s too simple to say that Russia is just running circles around America—diplomacy is a three-dimensional game.
I’m not usually one to espouse my religious views, but I can’t fathom how you could ever deny the existence of a supremely generous and loving God when headlines like this come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts.
Here’s how this miracle came to be: on an episode of Divorce Court (that show is still on?), Nathan Sellers accused his girlfriend Lia Palmquist of a Ruckus in B Minor (Full Dirty Version) with—well, I’ll let them tell it:
“This sounds ridiculous, but he accused me of sleeping with the entire Wu-Tang Clan,” Palmquist said before the courtroom, which erupted into laughter.
“She did,” Sellers claimed, while Judge Toler asked incredulously: “Well, do you even know the Wu-Tang Clan?!”
Palmquist confirmed she did. “I did. I had an amazing night, one night,” she claimed. “I had a really good opportunity.”
And the ghost of O.D.B. continues to watch over us all.
OK, so this isn’t really something that’s in the paper, except maybe in the movie listings, and that is a damn shame. Every Wednesday night, our own Naro Cinema shows a new documentary film, with a discussion following facilitated by local experts. Last week’s showing of Red Armyled to a fascinating conversation on 20th Century Russian history, and how the experience of the end of the Cold War illuminates the current political skirmishes between Russia and the West. And this week they’ll be showing The Hunting Ground, a searing look at the institutional cover-ups of on-campus sexual assaults, as well as the struggle for justice by and on behalf of the survivors of these crimes. Discussion after the film will be led by Prof. Terri Babineau (EVMS) and Prof. Roberta Rosenberg (CNU). Show time is at 7:15. Come see this movie. Come see all these movies. This is an incredible thing that happens almost every week at the Naro, and people gotta know.
And finally, on the Armadillo Beat (out of respect for TSwift’s request for privacy this week), Laura says:
Submitted for this week’s edition of “Hey, Wasn’t This in a Flannery O’Connor Story?”