Did you know that there were death threats recently made in person against the City Council? Yep. It happened. What steps have been taken since then, and how did the City Council start off 2012?
I’m coming to you once again from the comfort of my own living room where the sultry strains of the City Council warm-up music puts everybody in a good mood for tonight’s meeting, the first of 2012. The chamber—from what I can see of it—is only partially full. The agenda, such as it is, is in the process of getting slashed and barring any surprises this will be a short night. I, wrapped in a couple blankets and sipping a home remedy, will be appreciative.
Since the last City Council meeting of 2011, there has been a security scandal. Numerous news outlets reported that a council gadfly, one Leroy Taylor, waltzed into the City Council offices and threatened to shoot some, if not all, council members. It took a few minutes to realize that the literal panic buttons recently installed for just this did not work, and in fact were not even hooked up. After a few minutes of increasingly anxious button pushing, calls were made to security officers, who eventually showed up to lead Mr. Taylor away. On the way out he was heard threatening to kill everyone on the floor, starting with Mr. Jewell. Jewell reacted calmly. “I never personally felt unsafe…I had dinner with [Mr. Taylor] for Thanksgiving,” Jewell said. Reva Trammell seemed more concerned with stray bullets: “Anybody can do anything, and a bullet doesn’t have a name on it,” she said. “Some citizens feel we are sitting ducks.”
Public works director James Jackson has assured council members that the situation has been rectified and the panic buttons do indeed work
In one of his first acts as Mayor, Doug Wilder pulled the metal detectors and security from City Hall entrances and hired a 24-hour security team to escort him around town. There are no plans at this time to reinstall the metal detectors. As a safety precaution, citizens are “requested” to sign in before City Council meetings, but this is easily avoided.
Back to last evening’s meeting…
There were a couple of celebrities on hand for awards tonight, including Thomas Haynesworth and State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who shepherded Haynesworth after the latter was released from prison after serving 27 years on a rape conviction that DNA testing later proved he did not commit. They appeared one after another receiving the thanks and appreciation of City Council. Final words from Charles Samuels encouraged the public to get involved in the Innocence Project.
The other award of the evening went to Richmond Big Brothers and Sisters who are celebrating their 50th Anniversary.
The only point of contention during the evening was a debate over parking spaces for Eggleston Plaza, the mixed used development slated for the site of the former Eggleston Hotel. The Planning Commission recommended 31 spaces, one for each unit, while the developer proposed 16. President Graziano moved that the proposal go back to committee to resolve the dispute. Councilmen Samuels and Tyler were the only ones voting against.
Nothing else of substance was discussed this evening, and the meeting did indeed come to an early close as council members Conner and Trammel hawked their bits of swag, refrigerator magnets, and smoke detectors.
Before closing, the Council bid a fond farewell to Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Will Jones, who is moving on to another job. I’m not sure where he is going, but this will leave a hole in the RTD’s City Hall reporting. Will Jones is a workhorse and is great at reporting the details. He will be missed.
photo by Gage Skidmore