Sunday, February 21, 2016

City Reveals Maggie Walker Statue Plans

Tree lovers upset about draft designs.

Posted By on Sun, Feb 21, 2016 at 12:25 PM

The city provided a first glimpse of what a statue and plaza dedicated to Maggie Walker could look like yesterday -- a week after a committee decision to chop down the oak tree that towers over the site.

Conceptual drawings of the plaza, at the intersection of Broad Street and Adams and Brook roads, show a Walker rendition that towers over the center, where the oak stands. Artist Toby Mendez says that draft plans have Walker standing at a height of 12 to 14 feet, on a pedestal of about five feet, which he says is proportional to the site. Walker is upright, with a bank ledger in her hand.

“She feels close to you,” Mendez says, “but it still has a sense of formality.”

A few other prominent features of the plan include several trees would stand at the edges of the plaza. The section of Brook Road that fronts the plaza is incorporated into the design as a brick pedestrian walkway.

The Public Art Commission unveiled the plans during an open house at the Richmond Public Library on Saturday, where attendees mingled around several renderings of the design, and had the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions. A week earlier, the statue’s site selection committee, which reports to the Public Arts Commission, voted to remove the tree from the site.

Lovers of the Southern live oak aren’t happy.

Those who are in favor of the oak remaining say they're upset that the city didn’t present designs of a plaza with or without the tree, after officials said that plans with both options would be presented. A small protest rally was held around the tree after the unveiling.

“It makes me mad,” tree supporter Kathryn Henry-Choisser says. “I thought there would be plans with the tree and without the tree.”

City officials caution that the design isn’t finalized. It will go before the Urban Design Committee, the Public Art Commission and the Planning Commission before final approval.

Mendez and Sarah Driggs, who heads the site selection committee, say they have concerns that the tree would dwarf the statue. Those who want to see the oak removed hold the same view.

Asked why only one rendering was presented, Driggs said that it would have been good to have included one that the city drafted of the site with the tree.

“I think if people had seen the rendering with the tree they would see that the tree overwhelms the monument,” she said. “So, maybe we made a mistake.”

Ellyn Parker, the city’s public art director, says that the selection committee made its decision after meeting with Walker’s descendants, the Historic Jackson Ward Association and Maggie Walker High School Alumni.

“They were adamant about moving forward without the tree,” she says.

She says that feedback from multiple public meetings also was considered.

J. Maurice Hopkins, an alumnus of Maggie Walker High School, says that placing that statue under the oak would be distasteful. “There’s a negative connotation toward the lynching of black folks many years ago,” he says.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Who Will Run in the New Fourth Congressional District?

State Sen. McEachin mentioned as Forbes jumps to 2nd District.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 4:46 PM

A major redrawing of congressional districts is prompting U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, a pro-military Republican, to switch his district from the 4th to the 2nd because he fears new voters might not re-elect him.

That begs a question: Who might run to take his place in the new 4th District?

The one name that comes up is that of state Sen. A. Donald McEachin, says Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.

“It’s still a little early to say who might be in contention,” Farnsworth says. “We’ll have to wait until the General Assembly session is over. But now that Forbes has made his announcement, more names are likely to come out.”

Forbes and McEachin, a Democrat, are very different. Conservative Forbes prides himself on his anti-abortion, pro-gun and religious liberty stands.

Most of all, he says he’s in line to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He already serves on that committee and oversees programs involving the Navy Marine Corps and some in the Air Force. The Hampton Roads area that is partly in Forbes’ district is chock-a-block with military installations and support facilities.

McEachin is a black lawyer from the Richmond area who takes more liberal positions. And race is very much involved with the redistricting. Federal justices have ruled that blacks were unfairly packed into the 3rd District, which used to cover parts of Richmond and Henrico County to make adjacent districts easier for white candidates.

The new plan changes Forbes’ 4th District from being 33 percent black to 43 percent black, making things tougher for Forbes as he seeks reelection later this year.

Now Forbes, who lives in Chesapeake in the 4th District, will run in the 2nd District which is centered in Virginia Beach. He maintains an office there.

The U.S. Supreme Court must approve the redistricting decision, which Republican members of Congress are challenging. Farnsworth says that it's unlikely that the high court will interfere.

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