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Cantor, Stewart spar over campaign allies …

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Cantor, Stewart Spar Over Campaign AlliesFormer State Senator Says Scrap the TollsEarley Thwarts KKK SignageMonument Gets the El-Amin TreatmentCafé Seeks Seat Snatchers

Cantor, Stewart Spar Over Campaign Allies

After a paper-thin margin of victory in the Republican primary, Del. Eric Cantor doesn't seem to be taking much for granted in his bid for Virginia's 7th District seat in the House of Representatives.

Perhaps that's why he even sent a fund-raising letter to Democratic opponent Warren Stewart's campaign chairman.

In a mailing-list lapse, the former Goochland County school superintendent's campaign chief David B. Robinson got a Sept. 14 invitation to join a Cantor "Advisory Committee" and, of course, to make a contribution.

Robinson filled out and returned the form - sans contribution - and provided copies to Style. "As a CPA, I think that any person who spends $900,000 to win a primary by less than 300 votes needs all the help I can give him," he tweaks.

Chagrined Cantor spokesman Jason Kello says the campaign nearly processed Robinson's form and invited him to a pre-election strategy session. But, he adds, Robinson was invited because his name turned up on a list of donors to Tom Bliley, the retiring 7th District congressman.

Robinson denies ever giving money to the Republican, but says he was a Bliley "supporter" long ago.

Back on offense, Kello released a list of prominent Democrats and independents in Cantor's camp, including Richmond Vice Mayor Rudy McCollum, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks and former state Del. Lawrence D. Wilder Jr., the former governor's son.

Rob Morano

Former State Senator Says Scrap the Tolls

Former state Sen. Eugene B. Sydnor Jr. is having the last laugh.

It isn't just his cheerful disposition. And it isn't entirely because, after a long life of public service, the 83-year-old Richmonder has earned a comfortable retirement sailing, enjoying the arts and visiting with family. It isn't even due to the fact that he resides in an affluent West End neighborhood near the Country Club of Virginia.

Rather, these days his justified smile lights because of talk in state circles about scrapping the tolls on the Downtown and Powhite expressways. (A General Assembly commission will make a recommendation on that in December.)

It's not as good as scrapping the expressways themselves, he feels, but it's a start.

Sydnor was among those who decades ago opposed construction of the Downtown Expressway in its eventual form. "We called it 'The Ditch,' which would separate the waterfront from the rest of the downtown area," he says. "At most I didn't want it to come beyond Ninth or Seventh Street."

Sydnor says that instead of aiding Richmond, the expressway has been a net negative, exacerbating white flight to the suburbs and stymieing development along the canals.

"We just stuck our heads in the sand and it got to be a sewer," he says of the area around the current Canal Walk. "Now I think it's going to flower and be something that's very good for Richmond."

And while Sydnor acknowledges tolls have been "absolutely essential in some ways" to funding the expressways, he feels the state's $316 million-and-growing debt on the projects now ought be eaten by the state, with the toll booths abandoned: "If we had gone ahead and done it back then, we wouldn't have the headache we have now."

R.M.

Earley Thwarts KKK Signage

Attorney General Mark Earley last week announced a plan that would foil KKK members who hope to gain visibility, if not recognition, alongside Virginia's highways.

The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Realm of Missouri, recently asked to participate in that state's Adopt-A-Highway program - a Department of Transportation citizen initiative that exists here also. In appreciation for their volunteerism, members of the show-me-state's KKK then requested the state put up the same highway markers that other civic associations, families and groups receive for helping to keep Missouri roadsides litter free.

"Missouri denied the request," says Earley.

But the KKK took its case to federal court and won. "Missouri had to put up their signs," explains Earley. "That's why in Virginia, we've taken the lead against it in forming a coalition with 28 other states. Obviously, the reason is [the KKK] has a real history of violent racism. … For states to be forced to give them recognition would be wrong."

Earley fears that if highway markers commending the KKK remain in Missouri, it could lead to similar action by Virginia Klansmen. Ultimately, Earley hopes his brief to the U.S. Supreme Court will convince it to take the case on appeal.

The Virginia Department of Transportation Web site states that anyone - businesses, families, civic groups - may participate in the Adopt-A-Highway volunteer effort. More than 8,000 do. In exchange, VDOT provides the trash bags, safety inThe Virginia Department of Transportation Web site states that anyone - businesses, families, civic groups - may participate in the Adopt-A-Highway volunteer effort. More than 8,000 do. In exchange, VDOT provides the trash bags, safety information and highway signs designating the stretch of road for the group that keeps it clean. VDOT officials were not available for comment at press time.

Earley says there's "no requirement in the Constitution for the signs the Klan demands."

Likewise, he says denying the Klan's signage isn't an infraction of the First Amendment but is a case of a state exercising its right to control its own speech. "We believe this is an instance of government speech. The signs are owned and maintained by the state. They may be allowed to be volunteers but that doesn't give them the right to hijack the state's signs with their speech."

Brandon Walters

Monument Gets the El-Amin Treatment

When Sa'ad El-Amin suggested the city stop maintaining memorials to Confederate generals, he was talking about the ones on Monument Avenue.

But it appears to have already happened to a statue at Hermitage and Laburnum roads. General A.P. Hill's monument looks as though it's been boycotted by city landscaping crews, North Siders say.

"There is quite a bumper crop of weeds growing on that plot," says Bellevue Civic Association Vice President Tim Pfohl. "I've been watching that get taller and taller over the last few weeks."

What makes it worse is that the monument also is a gravesite. (The remains of Ambrose Powell Hill Jr. have rested here since 1891. It's the third grave for Hill, killed near Petersburg in 1865.) But Pfohl and the members of other North Side civic groups say the situation is more a shame than an outrage.

Richmond parks department spokeswoman Angela Jackson Archer says the city isn't ignoring the monument. "We have only so many people to go around. We try our best to maintain everything. It's just a cycle." Archer didn't provide a maintenance schedule for the monument by press time.

Some nearby North Siders sympathize, however. "I pay more attention to traffic than the monument because it's such a tricky intersection," says Chuck Epes. John Fisher agrees: "It's not an intersection where you can get out and kind of walk up to the statue."

R.M.

Café Seeks Seat Snatchers

Last month, when River Road's Café Mosaic employees arrived at 8 a.m. for their Saturday shift, the patio wasn't the way they left it the night before.

Sometime between midnight Friday and Saturday morning Sept. 9, the lot of 32 chairs was stolen from outside the popular café.

The crime was reported to local police, but so far, no clues as to the chairs' whereabouts have surfaced. Understandably, Café Mosaic wants them back. So much so, they've posted signs on the door seeking help from anyone who may have witnessed the caper.

"They were a special order," says restaurant manager Donna Santiago, about the silver aluminum chairs with basket-woven backs and seats. "It's not like you could pick them up at Lowe's." Santiago estimates their worth at nearly $3,000.

Fortunately, the café has backup chairs so diners can continue eating outdoors. Santiago says they'll see to it that it doesn't happen again. "We had been leaving everything outside. Now we bring everything in at night."

Although the chairs can stack, lifting and hauling them away would require more than one person and a vehicle larger, even, than a Suburban.

"We kind of thought it was a fraternity prank or something," says Santiago. "Who would have use for 32 chairs? You couldn't exactly put them on your deck."

B.W.

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