Passion and fear: 2004 review of the year


A hooded prisoner at Abu Graib. Same-sex couples lined up at San Francisco's City Hall. Howard Dean's immortal "yarrrgggghhh!" These are the indelible images of 2004.

It was an emotional year. Passion and fear mobilized millions of normally apathetic Americans and sent them scurrying to the polls in record numbers. Could it be that the lesson learned in 2000– that one vote really can make a difference– made us take our civic duties more seriously?

For many, electing anyone but Bush became a crusade. To even more Americans, staying the course during war and passing state constitutional amendments banning gay marriages (in 11 states) ultimately re-elected George W. Bush on November 2. Passion and fear.

The war in Iraq has claimed nearly 1,300 American lives, a fraction of the number of Iraqis who have died. More horrific images seared our mind's eye: Hostages crudely beheaded without the 18th-century finesse of the guillotine. Charred bodies dragged through the streets of Fallujah. Did we ever imagine the 21st century would look like this? Remember when we'd never heard of Fallujah, a place where insurgents now fight the American occupation as if they have a stake in the fate of Iraq? Passion and fear.

The photographs from Abu Graib once again dashed a myth we hold dear, that Americans are always the good guys. Certainly we knew something was amiss with Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo for three years (so far), but there's nothing like pictures of a man on a leash or a heap of nude prisoners to bring home the point.

Still in our post-9/11 hangover, Americans cited terrorism as the number one threat. Boulders were hauled in to protect the Albemarle County Office Building, only to be replaced by giant planters. Fear in the number-one best place to live.

Even as the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, American homosexuals struggled for the same civil rights enjoyed by their fellow hetero citizens.

The 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage reverberated throughout the country early in the year, with public officials in Seattle, Portland, and even Asbury Park marrying anyone who asked– until court injunctions brought those wedding ceremonies and giddy couples to a grinding halt. Passion, with fear temporarily abated.

Virginia, of course, took no part in such hijincks, and– just for good measure– added two new statutes to bolster laws already on the books defining marriage as a man-woman thing and further limiting the rights of gay couples. Charlottesville City Council, of course, voted 4-1 to pass a resolution urging a repeal of the state's "Affirmation of Marriage Act."

And although the Supreme Court declared sodomy laws unconstitutional last year, a Newport News woman was charged with felony sodomy for having oral sex in a car, just like in the old days. Passion and fear.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was one of the year's biggest money-making movies– and one of the most controversial, the other being Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11. The two directors come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they share one marked quality: a tendency to preach to the choir– with passion and with fear.

The year offered second acts in American moguldom. Martha Stewart went to jail– and is planning a new TV show when she gets out in the spring. The Donald premiered a hit reality show, The Apprentice, and shilled for Visa while his Trump casinos filed for bankruptcy protection in November.

ABC copped hit-show honors for the fall season with Desperate Housewives, drawing millions of viewers on Sunday night with its irresistible combination of passion and fear in the soap opera format we much prefer when the nightly news gets too real.

And in Charlottesville, well, our town is changing right before our eyes. With the year drawing to a close, The Hook takes a look at the best– and the worst– of 2004.

Biggest change to the landscape– county: Hollymead Town Center, home of the long-awaited Target– breaks ground on 29 North, leaving acres of bulldozed ground and traffic jams in its wake.

Biggest change to the landscape– city: Seventh Street closes, and the east end of the Downtown Mall falls under the 'dozer as well, as the new transit center and amphitheater construction get under way.

Biggest public-private partnership: Charlottesville turns over $3.4 million in loans as well as control of the amphitheater to DMB manager/rock promoter Coran Capshaw, who plans a controversial big tent to cover the former grassy lawn, which will give way to concrete.

Worst news for Fridays After 5: The event is homeless at press time because the new amphitheater won't be ready for the start of the 2005 season.

Most prescient decision: The Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, which ran Fridays for 17 years and is unsure of its role in the new Capshaw-dominated event, had already formed a venue-search committee.

Biggest downtown land baron: Coran Capshaw, who seems to be buying every commercial property in sight. A partial list of his holdings currently under construction includes the new ACAC in the old Ivy Industries building, SNL, the amphitheater, Walker Square, a 472-unit subdivision near Johnson Village, and– had he not demolished it in late August– the Peyton Pontiac building on West Main.

Brightest second act: Developer Lee Danielson– who once vowed never again to build downtown– unveils his plans in January for a beacon-topped, nine-story hotel.

Harshest rebuke to an outgoing mayor: City Council quashes "Preston Commons," Maurice Cox's new urbanist dream of condos on an oversized median, on March 1.

Biggest upset: Two-term incumbent Meredith Richards is ousted from City Council February 7 when fellow Dems fail to endorse her candidacy at the convention.

Worst setback for Republicans: The minority party persuades candidates Kenneth Jackson and Ann Reinicke to run at the last minute, but Democrats hold tight to their City Council majority, electing newcomers Kendra Hamilton and David Brown, who breaks seniority tradition to become mayor.

Latest Republican strategy: Council's lone Republican Rob Schilling espouses direct election of the mayor and a return to the ward system in hopes of breaking Dem dominance on City Council.

Longest odds: Of the Democrat majority Council backing Schilling's proposals.

Longest wait: Year 26– the Meadowcreek Parkway continues to not get built, despite a majority of citizens favoring the road.

Most successful Freedom of Information Act case: When the City of Charlottesville refuses to provide a cost breakdown of its new $6.6 million CityLink computer system, citizen Jim Moore appeals to General District Court May 21 and wins.

Biggest real estate milestone: A house in Belmont tops $400,000 in the spring.

Most dubious award: A Jefferson Muzzle Award is given April 13 to the Albemarle County School Board for its "ridiculous or egregious affronts" to free expression after 6th grader Alan Newsom is forced to wear his NRA t-shirt inside out, even though the County had no rule prohibiting wearing pictures of weapons. Newsom sues the county for $150,000 and keeps his shirt in the settlement. The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression hands out the prize.

Biggest sigh of relief: In the first year that SOL credits are mandatory for graduation, no Albemarle students are denied diplomas, while Charlottesville has two who don't graduate in June.

Worst blow to Charlottesville City schools: Clark Elementary doesn't meet federal No Child Left Behind standards, and 32 children opt to transfer to other city schools.

Most embattled school superintendent: City supe Scottie Griffin, hired in May, faces a mob of parents by September enraged by sweeping changes and her "noncollaborative style," according to some disgruntled parents. The School Board reiterates its support for Griffin.

Worst graduation surprise: Monticello High football and track fields are backhoed in the wee hours before commencement June 5 and damages are estimated at $75,000. Two members of the Class of '04 are arrested and charged with felonies in the extreme senior prank.

Most hotly disputed county zoning decision: Planned Parenthood's Herbert C. Jones Center on Hydraulic Road draws protests and a lawsuit.

Lengthiest hotly disputed county zoning decision: For over three years, the Ivy Community Association has staved off Faulconer Construction's proposed storage yard on Morgantown Road in Ivy with a lawsuit– turned down by the state Supreme Court last month– and now headed for a decision by the Board of Supervisors.

Biggest wing-clipping: Montpelier begins demolishing the historic house's DuPont additions in May to return the mansion to its appearance in President Madison's day.

Biggest purchase: Monticello buys the 330-acre Brown's Mountain– which Mr. Jefferson called Montalto– for $15 million.

Biggest B&E at Monticello: UVA nursing students Heather Lynn Horn and Connor Hyland Ginley are arrested March 21 for breaking and entering Jefferson's former digs. The felony charges are reduced to misdemeanor trespassing May 6.

Best field trip (until the police came): UVA teaching assistant Justin Gifford takes his detective fiction class to Blue Ridge Hospital. The UVA Foundation, which owns the derelict property below Monticello, charges the 23 UVA undergrads and Gifford with trespassing. Gifford is removed as teacher of the class, but gets another shot as TA in a spring Shakespeare class.

Biggest protest inspired by a Hook  article: Following Courteney Stuart's November 11 cover, "How UVA Turns Its Back on Rape,"400 students protest UVA's code of silence that allows those the school's Sexual Assault Board convicts of rape to remain enrolled, while victims are prohibited from talking about the cases.

Best reprieve for Fido: UVA stops allowing live dogs to be used by med students in the elective Life Saving Techniques class February 26, and replaces the pooches with simulators.

Most dissatisfied doctoral candidate: Charles Bly, 52, is arrested January 8 for sending allegedly threatening letters with bullet-riddled targets to 48 people, including UVA general counsel Paul Forch, the FBI, Virginia's senators John Warner and George Allen, Governor Mark Warner, and members of UVA's Board of Visitors.

Worst flashback to Daisy Lundy: Someone scrawls a racial epithet on the car of fourth-year Lawn resident Amey Adkins September 8. Outrage follows over the incident– and the Cav Daily's initial failure to report it.

Best April Fool's prank: A sign stuck on the Corner Bodo's says it's opening and promises free bagels.

Most earnest but least likely threat to UVA fundraising: Fed up with the lack of benefits to gay partners at UVA, two recent grads set up a website,, in February.

Worst continuing rape story: The serial rapist, who's attacked at least six women since 1997, remains on the loose and strikes again August 18.

Worst fallout from police attempts to catch the rapist: Community outrage that over 600 black men have been asked to provide DNA samples prompts Charlottesville police in April to review and revise their procedures for requesting a buccal swab.

Biggest first-degree murder trial: So-called "Black Widow" Donna Somerville is acquitted June 29 of charges she poisoned her wealthy husband, Hamilton, at their Orange County manse.

Biggest second-degree murder trial: Former UVA student Andrew Alston is convicted of voluntary manslaughter November 9 in the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Walker Sisk, and the jury recommends a three-year jail sentence.

Longest check-kiting sentence: Former Ivy Industries CEO John S. Reid gets four years in jail May 10 for bilking four area banks of nearly $7 million by floating checks in a misguided attempt to keep the company alive.

Worst roommate for a pedophile: Richard A. Ausley, 64, convicted of kidnapping and raping a teenage boy he buried in a box, is found slain in his cell January 13.

Best hair day for Darrell Rice: Charges are dropped February 6 against the man accused of the 1996 murders of two Shenandoah Park hikers, Julianne Williams and Laura "Lollie'' Winans, when a hair found at the crime scene does not match either Rice or the victims.

Best capture of a fugitive spanker: Former Fork Union Military Academy teacher Gregory Moyer is arrested April 16 in Mexico after he tells his students to look him up on the Internet. They discover Hook articles and an America's Most Wanted website describing Moyer as on the lam since May 10, 2001, following his conviction on 14 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Latest in the "Eight years for a minor offense" saga: The Bleak House Road house where George and Lisa Robinson were busted for serving alcohol at her son's 16th birthday in 2002 burns to the ground October 18. Their eight-year jail sentences, later reduced to 27 months by an Albemarle Circuit Court judge, sent shockwaves through the community. The Court of Appeals of Virginia hears the no-longer-married Robinsons' appeal November 30.

Lowest-speed chase: Charlottesville's first Segway helps nab a thief in May.

Best nurse-in: After a local burrito shop evicts a nursing mom in late May, breast-feeding fans rally on the Downtown Mall.

Best use of an old church: Mt. Zion Baptist, renovated with proceeds from the DMB's fall '03 Central Park concert, becomes the new home of the Music Resource Center in March.

Happiest trail: The recently paved Greenbelt Trail is renamed the Rivanna Trail October 2.

Unhappiest trail: The razor-wire protected portion of the Rivanna Trail that crosses Shirley Presley's Bland Circle property without her permission. So far, Presley has thwarted Charlottesville's efforts to force her to remove the concertina wire, and the fence has drawn blood at least twice. The two-year-plus standoff is guaranteed to be continued in 2005.


Best arrest photos: Conservationist Louis Schultz is arrested August 30 when he sits in front of a paver asphalting a disputed driveway beside his Woolen Mills home.

Most expensive apology: WVIR's news director and anchor Dave Cupp admits January 30 the station erred when it reported that crack and cocaine had been found at Jesse Sheckler's home and business in April 2001. Sheckler sued and was awarded $10 million last May, the largest defamation award in Virginia before a judge slashed it to $1 million.

Biggest changing of the local anchor guard: Cupp signs off at NBC29, where he's worked for 26 years, December 19.

Biggest challenge to the NBC29 monopoly: Two new Gray Television affiliates– WCAV (CBS 19) and WVAW (ABC 16)– begin broadcasting in August.

Worst loss of a local paper: The Observer, Charlottesville's oldest weekly, folds August 4 when C-Ville Weekly publisher Rob Jiranek withdraws his offer to buy the struggling paper two hours before meeting with its staff. Started by Kay Peaslee in 1978, the Observer swung from left to right under the regime of former Conservative Coalition spokesman Jeff Peyton and Ronald Reagan Cabinet member Don Hodel, who bought the paper in 2000.

Best resurrection: Eightyone, which folded in 2002, returns to publish another day in the Shenandoah Valley.

Biggest media sale: Eure Communications sells its three radio stations– WINA, WQMZ, and WWWV– to Michigan-based Saga Communications in October.

Best news for satellite dish owners: Dish Network begins offering local broadcast channels in late August.

Biggest schism: Charlottesville's oldest nonprofit coffeehouse, the Prism, is roiled in the spring over the management style of longtime artistic director Fred Boyce.

Biggest buffalo roam: Millionaire Edgar Bronfman suddenly folds his local bison farm and businesses (except for the Buffalo Hill shop in Madison) in March.

Worst shocker for anti-growthers: In March, Frommer's whets the relentless influx by rating Charlottesville America's best place to live.

Greatest loss of local luminaries: Alexandra Ripley, 70, author of Gone With Wind-sequel Scarlett, dies January 10; James "Jim-Bob" Hamner, 67, real life brother of Waltons creator Earl Hamner, dies April 1; former Albemarle County supervisor Walter Perkins, 62, dies May 19; former Charlottesville planning commissioner Herman Key, 39, dies June 20; former UVA president Frank Hereford, 81, dies September 21; first female Board of Supervisors chair Charlotte Humphris, 73, dies October 24; and "Superman" Christopher Reeve, 52, treated at UVA Medical Center in 1995, dies October 10. (A local doc calls Reeve's bedsore infection death "100 percent preventable.")

Most iconic city departure: After 31 years of shaping Charlottesville– from creating the Downtown Mall to the Rivanna Trail– Satyendra Huja, the planner some called the "Urban Turban," leaves City Hall in June.

Most iconic UVA departure: The man who coached Ralph Sampson and went on to build the new arena, Terry Holland, leaves UVA in July for East Carolina University.

Biggest gross: DMB– despite ticket prices of about half those of fellow contenders Elton John, Bette Midler, and Madonna– becomes one of only 10 musical acts to gross over $1 million per city. Even sans band, according to Pollstar magazine, Dave Matthews & Friends averages $750K/city.

Shiniest prize: Albemarle equestrian Kim Severson silvers at the Olympics in Athens.

Tiniest prize: An August settlement means shareholders of Value America– that Amazon-esque dot-com that flopped in 2000– win a settlement of six cents per share.

Most crusted stuff: DMB sludge coats Chicago tourists and net the band a pollution penalty in late-August.

Widest-circulating 'Lawn' streak: Three nude Hoos (a record) pose for the September Playboy.

Least Greyhound-like: The Starlight Express, a new bus to NYC, makes its first run October 23.

Most like your mom: The City of Charlottesville decrees that by November 1 moped-ers must not only wear helmets but also some sort of eye protection.

Most controversial reenactors: Street thespians crash the 11th annual Jeffersonian Thanksgiving on Court Square and raise hackles with a "slave auction."

Harshest year for Richmond: A March inferno jumps Broad Street to consume over 20 structures, and then a late-August deluge from tropical storm Gaston sends a car-tossing torrent through Shockoe Bottom.

Fastest film release: Newbie feature film director Nicole Kassell snags Kevin Bacon for the lead in her new film. By fall, she earns a major distribution deal (and locally debuts The Woodsman at Culbreth), with Oscar talk greeting the picture's release in December.

Slowest film releases: After failing to find a distributor despite casting Harry Connick Jr., veteran film guys John Grisham and Hugh Wilson send locally shot Mickey to DVD release at The film debut of Dave Matthews fares slightly better, as the remake of Where the Red Fern Grows gets a December DVD release from Disney.

Glitziest opening: Although technically a pre-opening, the $250+ per-seat show at the Paramount December 15 features master crooner Tony Bennett.

Highest-profile name changes: In April, City Council names the CHS theater for MLK. In December, the law firm of Chandler Franklin & O'Bryan becomes the Chandler Law Group.

Most sobering news for holiday partiers: Thanks to Delegate Rob Bell, the toughest DUI laws in the country go into effect July 1. First-time offenders with a blood alcohol level over 0.15 get a mandatory minimum of five days in jail.

Most fondly mentioned Hook  story: "Mooners: Bottoms up at upscale eatery" by Courteney Stuart about a memorable July evening at Duner's.