City Council: a calm before the budget storm

A slow night for City Council as they prepare to take on the Mayor’s proposed budget. Some awards, notes on Occupy Richmond, and a few other tidbits in this week’s recap.

Well it’s 6:15pm on a Monday, and the regular crowd shuffles in. Nine seats and nine council people. Dick Harmon, also an Episcopal lay minister, reads the invocation, we pledge our allegiance, and are ready to begin.

First up, the awards.

It’s Women in Construction Week. Since no one is here to accept the award, Kathy Graziano shrugs and marks the occasion by saying, “I guess we’ve come a long ways baby.”

Next up are the Girl Scouts who are celebrating their 100th Anniversary. Chief Girl Scout, Viola Baskerville, accepts the sincere congratulations of former Girl Scout and Brownie Graziano.

Last up is Lanexa Denise Beal, a junior at Open High School, with a list of accomplishments a mile long–not the kind of publicity Richmond schools often gets.

We are moving at a brisk pace tonight as Council quickly reshuffles the consent agenda, moving three items to the regular agenda which they promptly address. A rezoning issue is passed quickly without much discussion.

Next up is a revision to the city debt policy, and there is a fairly detailed discussion on the borrowing capacity and policy of the city. The city budget is looming in the background, but this is routine maintenance. After a brief discussion it passes 7-2 with Tyler and Trammel voting against. Another budget item, personal property tax relief, passes unanimously without any discussion, and that’s it for the regular agenda.

The consent agenda follows. Chris Dorsey speaks against something called the Police Mutual Aid Joint Aviation Agreement which he likens to a mini air force used to spy on Occupy Richmond and violate the rights City residents. Despite his vehement objections, the agenda passes unanimously.

Last, but not least we have the citizen comment section and the opportunity for a bit of drama.

Donald Hatcher is back with a long litany of complaints. It’s a ritual Council goes through every 90 days, but even Mr. Hatcher seems to tire of it and gives an uninspired performance.

Curtis Robb of the Cherry Garden Community Association is here to ask for sidewalks for his neighborhood. Reva Trammel promises help, if only to lend a sympathetic ear, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a new sidewalk or two. It’s part of what keeps her getting re-elected.

Cliff Troutman, with a chest full of medals, pleas for help in finding the family of a Vietnam Vet after which he jokes, “We’re Marines, we are not allowed to die without permission from God.” This gets a few chuckles and a pledge of assistance from Council.

Regina Neblett is angry about criminal activity in the city, part of which she blames on “The Brotherhood,” a shadowy organization of white police officers and their black collaborators.

Alhajji Shabazz, from Occupy Richmond, has urgent concerns and unanswered questions:

  1. As some Occupiers complete their community service they have been forced to clean up possessions left behind by homeless people in Jackson Ward, an activity he calls heartless.
  2. He calls Police City Command a bunch of jackboots and thugs. He claims there is dissension in the police department between those who support Occupy Richmond and those out to destroy it.
  3. In addition he wants to know who gave the order to raid the camp. After 90 days he still has no answers, but he knows who to blame: Mayor Jones.
  4. Why do we only get three minutes every ninety days for citizen comment. How about every 30 days? How about no restrictions at all?

Another regular, Charles Evens Hughes, wants street signs in city cemeteries. For anybody who has search among tombstones for a loved one, this would come as a great idea.

Kathy Graziano keeps a close eye on the clock, and tonight’s session wraps up in under two hours for the second time in a row. This is not a streak that is likely to last long though. The Mayor released his budget last week with more money for baseball and less money for schools, among other things. Council has already started its review, a process which will take weeks and some twenty meetings, many of which are open to the public. Regular budget sessions often stretch past midnight with dozens of speakers and hours of debate.

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Paul Hammond

Paul has been writing about life and politics in Richmond for 11 years. You can often find him walking his dog up and down Franklin Street and yes, he does bite, the dog that is.

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