City Council: A model citizen

A Council landmark passes away, VCU wins an award, and Council takes over the Citizen Comment Period.

City Council will never be the same. Council landmark, Ruby Ethel Giles Turner passed away this weekend. Unlike most Council regulars, Ms. Turner was a person of few words, known mostly for sitting front row center behind the speaker’s dais watching and most likely praying. Ms. Turner was honored recently for a lifetime of civic engagement. When she did speak, it was with a quiet passion to better her community. She witnessed great change over her 84 years and even those who didn’t know her well will miss her. It’s hard to feel that she’s not still here watching–and maybe she is. Council presented her family with an award of remembrance as well as a standing ovation in her honor. She will be buried this weekend. Bliley’s Funeral Home can be contacted for the arrangements.

As usual, business goes on. It would be nice to call it a night, but there are appointments to be done, presentations to be made, laws to be passed, and a councilman who just won’t shut up. In other words, business as usual.

A second award this evening is given to VCU which is building a new Institute for Contemporary Art. The 38,000 sq ft design promises to “change the face of Richmond.” The institute will be built at Broad and Belvidere, one of the busiest intersections in Richmond and will join other nearby landmarks such as the Hess gas station, the Rite Aid Pharmacy, and one of VCU’s iconic dorms

After all the cutting and pasting, there is only one item on the Regular Agenda, an ordinance to rezone a stretch of Forest Hill Ave to Single Family Attached Housing. I’m not sure why this also isn’t on the Consent Agenda. There’s no opposition and almost no discussion before Council passes the paper unanimously. There were a couple of light moments when Chris Dorsey mistakenly got up to speak in favor (this never happens) and when “Tony” Amedudzi was (also mistakenly) cut off after 15 seconds. The look on Tony’s face was priceless. He was allowed to finish once we stopped laughing. We like Tony, but we like to laugh at him too. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Next up is the Citizen Comment Period, normally a time set aside for citizens to speak and council members to listen. Not so much in this case.

Theadora (Teddy) Parham told a tale of woe which included her stolen van, a boy on bail, and being pepper sprayed by the police. Five minutes later, after her mike was cut off, she was still speaking. President Graziano called a recess while she was escorted from the chamber. This was a sign of things to come.

William Howard pleaded his case for tax relief for the elderly, including himself. Before President Graziano could direct him toward help, Reva Trammell provided an extended statement of sympathy. Not to be outdone, Marty Jewell began a longer speech about the lack of customer service by the City Administration. Meanwhile, poor Mr. Howard stood half way up the aisle, not sure whether to come or go.

Beniny “Tony” Amedudzi got one last crack at the bat and this time received his entire three minute allotment.

Last up Scott Burger spoke about the $49.40 minimum service charges for water and sewer which he says are among the highest in the country. He called it “an unconscionable, regressive way of paying for repairs to the city infrastructure.” All very businesslike and to the point, right? Wrong. Marty Jewell decided to hold an impromptu hearing on water rates questioning Mr. Burger’s statistics. Twenty minutes later he was still railing on the subject and grilling DPU Interim Director Bob Stiedel. After repeated tries, President Graziano was finally able to shut him down. Like I said, this used to be called CITIZEN Comment. I think its time for sterner measures like shock cushions and trap doors. Nothing makes a point of order like an electric shock.

Last up on Ms. Graziano’s revised order of service is the Consent Agenda. Unfortunately the Tracy Thorne-Begland paper has again been continued. I was really hoping to hear more about Mr. Jewell’s criminal record. The Cannon Creek Greenway Trail is taking another step forward and the Mayor’s “RVAgreen” Sustainability Plan is adopted. Chris Dorsey is the only speaker in opposition, stating “since I’m against everything else City Council does, I’m against this (RVAgreen) too”. That said, it passes unanimously.

That’s it for business. An hour later they are still chatting up their announcements and their community meetings. I hear there’s an afterparty at Pennylane. I think I’ll pass.

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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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