Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Kevin Morrissey Has Died

Kevin MorrisseyThis morning, shortly after 11:00, my friend and boss Kevin Morrissey took his own life at the coal tower. He left his apartment, walked down Water Street and called the police to report a shooting at the coal tower, a shooting that actually came shortly thereafter. A lifetime of grappling with depression combined with recent stresses proved too much for him. He was the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia since 2003. Kevin was dogged at his work, meticulous in his detail, and one of the finest human beings I’ve had the privilege to know. Survived by his father, sister, and brothers, he was was 52 years old.

Woman Who Appeared with Obama a Convicted Criminal

Charlottesville’s Leslie Macko, who stood at President Obama’s side as an example of people who need unemployment benefits, actually lost her job because of after a conviction for prescription drug fraud. Jessica Jaglois at CBS-19 dug up this gem, which certainly has the potential to become national news. Macko said that she’d been laid off from ACAC, and needed unemployment benefits extended since there were no other jobs to be had. In fact, ACAC fired her after she was convicted. Which leaves me wondering how she’s getting unemployment. Don’t you have to be laid off to be eligible?

07/29 Update: ACAC has added an update to the story to clarify something that definitely wasn’t clear the first time around, which is that her firing had nothing to do with her drug conviction. She was convicted of prescription drug fraud (and, in another incident, grand larceny), and she was fired, but that the two aren’t related.

Why the Pushy Beggars Downtown?

The cover story of the current C-Ville Weekly asks what’s behind the rash of beggars on the Downtown Mall? There’s the obvious point that we’re in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which would explain the (apparent) increase in numbers, but what’s up with the new faces, displaying signs and soliciting cash? It’s not clear that there are more beggars, but there are some new faces, employing new tactics, eschewing the passivity common among the chronically homeless who beg downtown. As of 2007, the local homeless population was more likely to be local than the population at large, which busted the “Charlottesville is a homeless mecca myth. This January’s survey showed an 18% increase (with 274 homeless Charlottesvillians in total). Now we’ve got The Haven, the day shelter on Market Street, just a block off the Downtown Mall, and it’s certainly possible that facility has something to do with this. The folks who run it argue that they’re in the habit of upbraiding people for panhandling and, more important, helping people get employed (and employable) so that they’re not homeless.

I visited Reno a couple of years ago, and they had a clever solution to the problem of the hordes of pushy panhandlers wandering around downtown. Near the busiest intersections, in front of the garish casinos, large, eye-catching collection boxes were set up, with signs saying that the best way to help the homeless is to donate to the organizations to assist them, not to give money to individuals. That had the effect of pushing panhandlers away from that block. That may be overkill for Charlottesville, but it could help.

Local Man Buys Ice Park, Intact

In this week’s Hook, Courteney Stuart explains how 29-year-old businessman Mark Brown came to acquire the Ice Park. He bought it last week for $3M, and intends to keep it closed it for the summer while he has some modifications made to the facility. Brown is taking the financial leap that the prior owners could never justify: installing a removable rink floor, so that it can be closed and rented out each summer as a general-use large venue. (The rink alone is three times larger than The Omni’s ballroom.) It’s slated to re-open on September 15.

“Literally the gayest thing I’ve ever done.”

In Saturday’s Progress, Brandon Shulleeta had a long, detailed article about a ridiculous sounding “gay-to-straight camp” run by a guy in Greene County who says he can change people’s sexuality. He claims a whopping 13% success rate for attendees of his $650 weekends. (For straight folks who can’t understand why this is so dumb, consider whether a weekend-long camp would be sufficient to make you gay. Yeah, you neither, huh?) This isn’t normally the sort of thing I’d write about here, but there were a couple of paragraphs in there that I loved—I’ve revisited them with a chuckle about once a day since—and I’ve just got to share. Shulleeta talked with Ted Cox, a straight guy working on a book about the faux science of gay-to-straight therapy, who attended the camp, posing as a gay guy wanting to go straight:

At one point during a camp weekend, participants were told to perform a hold with each other that’s similar to how a parent would hold a child, Cox said. Another hold involved one man leaning back into another’s chest. The positions were not sexual in nature, Cox said, but he doesn’t see how they could help someone become straight.

“I would think that some of the things we did at the camp would be counter-productive,” said Cox, who called the weekend “literally the gayest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

If you think that’s as funny as I do, you might enjoy an article Cox wrote about the experience.