After months of debate, City Council passed a budget with little opposition–including a restructuring of water and sewer rates and an increase in parking meter fees.
A long awaited, and somewhat controversial, budget passed City Council last night after months of amendments and debating. Council voted to restructure utility charges in the city as well as other measures during a meeting that less than 50 people attended.
The budget was the most important and lively act of the evening although only three members of the public chose to speak against the measures, voicing concern over the increase in taxes and fees on utilities in the city and the rising cost of parking. One of the speakers, Chris Dorsey, spoke twice in opposition of the budget proposals and other items on the agenda and accused the council members of being uninformed and unaware of the content they were voting on.
Only councilwoman Reva Trammell voiced concerns about the budget during the discussion but focused on an amendment that adds $100,000 to the mayor’s security detail. Trammell said that she and a few others had openly opposed the amendment at a previous meeting and were under the impression the amendment would be removed from the budget they were later presented. Trammell said although she thought they had agreed to take the amendment out of the budget papers, council president Charles Samuels had snuck it back in. She said the betrayal had hurt her personally and accused the president of going behind both the public’s and the council members’ backs to include the amendment.
Trammell also expressed adamant concern about the lack of involvement by the public during the budget process and complained that instead of speaking out before the budget was passed they will instead show up to district meetings enraged about the changes that were already made. Samuels later apologized for not speaking directly to Trammell about the change.
After some discussion about who voted for what in regards to the amendment under fire, councilman Chris Hilbert said that despite the issue at stake, voting for the budget that night was crucial.
Trammell said she would vote in support of the budget for a similar reason: if City Council did not pass a budget now the original budget submitted by Mayor Dwight Jones would be enforced.
Only councilman Parker Agelasto showed any dissent during the vote and opposed the increase in the charges for recycling in the city, the suspension of the Career Development Program and the Educational Incentive Program for police and fire officers, and other measures.
The council also approved over a dozen other uncontested items including:
- The establishment of the Floyd Avenue Bike Boulevard project that aims to improve bicycle access on Floyd between North Thompson and North Laurel streets.
- An ordinance that further regulates the cost and running of parking meters, raising the cost of one hour of parking from $.50 to $.75.
- The authorization of approximately $545,000 to Great Shiplock Park from the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation to create a new trailhead.
- The declaration of June as LGBT pride month
- Abbie Zwicke appointed to two years of service as an alternate member of the Richmond Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.