Right now, Mayor Patricia A. Lewis and the city council of Granville, West Virginia are probably sipping brandy and snorting lines of weapons-grade rhino horn off of a three thousand dollar coffee table while contemplating their next act of obscene evil.
At least, that’s how I will continue to picture it, as long as the mayor keeps refusing to return my calls like some kind of jilted lover.
It’s over, Trish. I want my stuff.
I’m an agnostic, meaning when it comes to Hell, I hedge my bets. And Mayor Lewis had better hedge hers after the bad craziness surrounding the impending eviction of author Patrick J. Russell. Throwing a blind man and his wife out of their home and into a “polar vortex.” Killing their dogs if a replacement home isn’t found. It’s something you and I would only do under extreme duress and in the throes of a highly theatrical revenge plot.
Patrick J. Russell is a writer and a favorite promoter of independent artists. He’s been legally blind since the 90’s, and works out of his home, which, as of 5:30 pm January 6, was condemned by the City of Granville. Russell, his wife, and their five dogs are being forced to vacate their home of twenty years.
“I haven’t been out of my house in 11 years. I don’t know anybody around here anymore. My eyes, the inflammation, my eyes get worse. So yes, my home is everything to me,” Russell told Lauren Talotta of WBOY news.
The house (pictured at left) is admittedly in some disrepair . Not surprising, considering the owner is disabled. But you’d think in a town with a population of 1,477 people, where “small town values” should be popular, that someone would’ve lent a neighbor a helping hand where it was needed. It would’ve been a little more pleasant than throwing a blind man and his family onto the streets while the state is experiencing its lowest temperature in twenty-five years.
The city also rejected the couple’s plan to put a mobile home on the property and live there, instead. “Granville told me they changed the rules and don’t allow a trailer on a private property,” says Sylvia Smith, Russell’s wife.
According to Smith, the city sent a notice on January 2, saying the house would be condemned on January 6. She filed an appeal the next day, and was told the matter would be placed on hold until a meeting of the Board of Appeals.
Nevertheless, someone from the city showed up on their doorstep yesterday with a court order to inspect the property. They returned later in the evening and officially condemned the place, citing failure to meet city building codes.
Which is probably true, but the real problem probably isn’t the condition of the house. It’s the land it’s sitting on.
Russell’s home is right on the edge of land where the county plans to build a baseball stadium for West Virginia University, which according to the Charleston Daily Mail, is going to be shared between WVU and a minor league team. The potential monetary gain to be had here certainly puts the local government’s decision under suspicion.
After all, the house belongs to Russell. Kicking his family out and blowing the place to smithereens is definitely cheaper than figuring out how to convince him to sell.
But Mayor Lewis and her cohorts obviously don’t understand the internet and its penchant for grassroots justice. They seem to think that screening calls from the press will keep this ugliness out of sight. I’m sure they’ve seen Russell’s 18,000 followers, but aren’t quite able to piece together what that number really means.
What it means is that all those artists who’ve been supported by Russell in the past get to pay back the favor by putting up their services as rewards for his gofundme page. Anyone who is reading this and would like to help the family with their moving fees should take a look.
The situation has also gained the attention of Anonymous, whose #OpSafeWinter is dedicated to helping get the homeless off the streets. So, hopefully the mayor will start feeling the pressure, soon.
In the meantime, as I write this, Russell and his family are sitting on pins and needles. An appeal hearing has finally been scheduled for tomorrow morning, and some WVU law students have stepped forward to represent them. But no one’s really sure where they’ll end up tomorrow afternoon.
Follow Russell on Twitter @patrussellbooks for current news on the situation.