City Council: A tale of two Richmonds

This week was Council’s last meeting until September. Here’s a look at how they closed out the session and a look at another Richmond’s Council meetings.

While trolling for Richmond City Council news, as often as not I get news from other Richmonds across the country and around the world. Frequently the news there is more interesting than the news here. Like tonight for example: you can feel it in the air, nothing is going to happen. It’s the last session before the August break and like the last day of school, nobody’s heart is in it.

So here’s a peek in at one of our sister cities, Richmond, California (RCA). RCA is about half the population of RVA. Both have challenges with education, crime, and poverty, and both have City Councils that can alternately entertain and aggravate. While tonight’s City Council meeting in RVA is a sleepy affair, RCA’s Council has been picking up the slack. Here are a few highlights from Richmond Confidential.

“One of the things I have a problem with, Madam Mayor, is when I was your boy and Tom Butt’s boy, I could say anything I wanted at the podium. You were in charge at that time. Every time I spoke against you you’d cut me off. You must treat everybody equal,” (Councilmember Corky) Booze said.

…audience members argued from their seats with members of the council and with each other.

(Mayor) McLaughlin called repeatedly for order, told the audience to be quiet, threatened to have the police remove audience members who did not listen and sent the council into multiple recesses.

“I just want to say that frankly this council is extremely dysfunctional. ”

There’s more where this came from and here’s my favorite item,

In the last hour of the meeting, the (RCA) council approved an ordinance that changed the status of people with pets in the city from being the pets’ “owner” to their “guardian.”

Like I once said, you can’t make this stuff up. Compared to RCA, RVA seems the very model of city government. Now on to the RVA council news.

The one award of the night goes to radio DJ Tony Booth celebrating his 50th year in broadcasting. Mr. Booth manages to turn a run-of-the-mill oldies show into a front row seat for a lesson on rock and roll history. A former colleague of our own Dick Harman, he is old school radio personified. Check him out afternoons on Big Oldies, 107.3 FM.

There are only two items of note on tonight’s Regular Agenda, both related to the 2nd Street Connector. This road, to be partially financed by Dominion Power, is designed to relieve traffic on Tredegar and provide additional access to the riverfront. New Market Corp will donate 3.7 acres of land and the city will spend $400,000 to preserve the Kanawha canal for future use. Marty Jewell objects to additional expenditure, and Chris Dorsey, again, objects to everything. Without further discussion, the measure passes unanimously.

All other items (some 36 in all) have either been continued, withdrawn, or moved to the Consent Agenda. Marty Jewell’s perennial measure to allow camping in Kanawha Plaza has been withdrawn along with Chris Hilbert’s resolution on behalf of Tracy Thorne-Beglund. The Consent Agenda is now full of mostly non-controversial goodies with one exception, that being the final approval of the $7 million police overtime lawsuit. This money is coming from Richmond’s Rainy Day Fund. Yes, that’s what they call it.

Other items include a $135,000 agreement with the National Railway Historical Society to develop the former Hull Street Railway Station, a Cooperation Agreement to administer a $10 million HUD loan program, accepting $131,000 from the State to pay for the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary (Why again do we pay for that?), and an ordinance by Reva Trammel to allow the City to start naming roadways in city cemeteries. A small, but dedicated crowd sticks around for the short discussion and departs immediately after the agenda passes unanimously.

There are only two speakers on tonight’s Citizen Comment list. Melvin Jones is back again to push his proposal for a statue honoring Maggie L. Walker. Originally proposed for the corner of Brook, Adams, and Broad, he is now suggesting Belevidere and Leigh Streets as an alternative location. A better location, I think, would be in Abner Clay Park, which is in the heart of Jackson Ward and slated to begin renovations this year. There’s plenty space and she could keep an eye on the playground. I know I wouldn’t want to be caught acting out by Ms. Walker. If she could found and run her own bank in 19th Century Richmond, she could keep those playground kids in line.

Last up is Reginald Elam who is tired of playing Chinese Checkers with South Richmond’s pot holed streets. After spending $1,000 on shocks, struts, brakes, and tires last year he has now learned that a year’s worth of driving on Jeff Davis Highway will cost him another $1,000 to have the same work done all over again. Before Reva Trammell can recommend a good lawyer to him, Kathy Graziano refers him to the ever ready Administration official to see if he can ease his pain.

Now it’s time to ease some of my pain: there’s a virgin Tom Collins with my name on it waiting for me after I write all these words. This is my 20th Council meeting and the end of my first year writing Council recaps. Council doesn’t meet again till September when maybe election season will liven things up. Till then, have a happy summer.

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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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