City Council: Awards and Presentations

With little on the agenda to speak of, there is still an eclectic group gathering for tonight’s session: a youth choir, a collection of ministers, some well dressed kids, a troop of boy scouts, and the usual bunch of coconuts.

With little on the agenda to speak of, there is still an eclectic group gathering for tonight’s session: a youth choir, a collection of ministers, some well dressed kids, a troop of boy scouts, and the usual bunch of coconuts. Most have gathered for the awards and presentations, a few are here for citizen comment, and the rest are here out of habit. There’s nothing on the agenda to get worked up about, because, well, there’s nothing on the agenda. Almost all items have been struck, withdrawn or continued, including Marty Jewell’s perennial proposal to make Kanawha Plaza a round-the-clock Free Speech Park.

Tonight’s show gets started with awards and presentations. While not officially on the agenda, TV host Dick Harmon gets a public celebration of his 24th anniversary covering City Council meetings. By his count he’s been to 550. By mine it’s over a thousand since he doesn’t count the informal sessions. However many, it hasn’t affected his sunny disposition. Kathy Graziano wishes him 24 more years. It’s well meant, but brings a lot of laughs. As it is, he has outlasted the last ten mayors and three City Council presidents.

The first award goes to Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) in acknowledgment of Child Abuse Awareness Month. It’s not a time for serious discussion of a serious issue though. President Graziano and Bruce Tyler present the award and another plaque goes up on their wall. The same goes for the second recipient, The Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, which is celebrating its 100 year anniversary. Such an event deserves cake and ice cream, but they too have to settle for a plaque.

There is more of the same. Council staff is thanked for shepherding them through the reapportionment process without bloodshed. The fact that they were able to please almost everybody deserves an award and maybe a day off with pay. They settle for the award.

Now for my favorite award of the evening. Fourth Precinct community officer Lt. Hood receives an award for 29 years of service in the Richmond Police Department. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him while covering the news in Jackson Ward. He will be greatly missed by 4th precinct residents who have come to appreciate his hard nosed attitude toward crime and genuine concern for the people he served. Holding back tears, he thanks his family, his fellow officers, and the people of Richmond for the honor of serving them. After 29 years, he deserves a break, but we miss him already.

Reverend John Bright is here to be recognized for his contributions to the Southside community. A white pastor in a largely black community, he seems genuinely liked. To mark the occasion, the Young People’s Community Choir, an organization he sponsors, has come down to serenade him with an original song, “If Given The Chance, I Will Go To The Dance”.

Lastly is another surprising product of the Richmond Public Schools and RRHA’s Fairfield Court, Christopher Mason. He cuts a sharp figure as “Youth of the Year” and credits his mentors and the Boys and Girls Club for his success. He is the recipient of a $15,000-per-year scholarship and looks forward to coming back to serving the community and helping other young people follow his example. He’s another reason to believe that kids can survive and thrive on the mean streets of Richmond’s public housing projects. Expect to see more of him in the future.

Ceremonies aside, Council quickly passes the remaining items on the consent agenda which contains such items as $1,000 to the “Peep This” program at VCU, $1,000 for adult Zumba classes, $500 for the “Date with Dad Dinner and Dance,” and a slew of appointments to citizen oversight boards. Two big ticket items also pass: a million dollars for sidewalks and authorization to issue $162 million in “general obligation improvement refunding bonds.” Both pass without citizen input or Council discussion, at least during this session. A lot of these matters are hashed out during the informal sessions and committee hearings before they come up for a vote.

The meeting ends on an unpleasant note, Patricia Lewis, accompanied by Council regulars Chris Dorsey and Teddy Parham, has come down to bring attention to the beating her son received in the Richmond City Jail. While she speaks, Dorsey and Parham wave a picture of her son’s black-eyed and bruised face. It is unclear who administered the beating, but the posters proclaim police brutality. While Council is inclined to help, Dorsey exchanges harsh words with President Graziano and walks away declaring that Council is out of order and complicit in the beating. Councilmen Jewell, Graziano, and Trammel offer help in getting to the bottom of the matter.

With that bit of drama, Council goes into their closing ceremonies of district announcements. Lest you think they are getting slack on the job, Bruce Tyler informs me they he spent five evenings last week attending hearings on the City budget. There are a dozen more on the schedule before the budget comes up for a vote in mid April. If you want to participate see the schedule here.

That’s a wrap folks.

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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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