City Council: Fowl play

This week Council agrees to look into the costs and benefits of urban poultry.

I’ve just walked into an interesting discussion. The Informal Session is running late and Marty Jewell objects to an expedited paper by Chris Hilbert. I’m not sure of the subject but Jewell is stating that “this guy has got it out big time for black people.” Hilbert’s paper is a resolution commending Tracy Thorne-Begland’s service to the city and condemning the Republican General Assembly’s homophobic rejection of his judicial appointment. While the discussion remains civil, the tension starts to rise.

Mr. Jewell, it seems, is OK with the condemnation part, but not so happy with the commendation. He continued, and I’m paraphrasing, “I’m scared to death of this guy personally. I can give you chapter and verse how he prosecuted my family three times and went for straight the jugular.” Nobody seems happy with this discussion, but Hilbert presses his point. “I’m not comfortable waiting (postponing the resolution). I’m not going to suffer in silence insults (by the GA) from across the street. I want to take this to a vote.” The rest of the Council, excepting Charles Samuels, wants to shelve this and bring it up again next month. Seeing the writing on the wall, Hilbert withdraws his motion, but is clearly steamed. I’m glad I showed up early.

After a short delay, the regular session comes to order, we pray and pledge and sit down for business.

Tonight’s first item is the recognition of John Jasper’s 200th birthday. Jasper was perhaps the best known black preacher in Virginia’s history. Among other things, Jasper founded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in a horse stable shortly after the Civil War. His most famous sermon, De Sun Do Move, was delivered hundreds of times in front of black and white congregations. Sixth Mount Zion survives to this day in Jackson Ward, and a museum in Jasper’s honor is in the church basement. A “translation” of the sermon, spoken in the vernacular of the time, can be purchased from the Valentine Richmond History Center.

Fire Chief Robert Creecy is honored for 30 years of service to the Richmond Fire Department.

The Richmond Regional Housing Authority (RRHA) honored six recent graduates with $4,000 college scholarships.

Finally Jah Baba, a musical group from Benin, serenaded us with some West African ballads. It was very nice. You can hear them yourself this weekend at C’est La Vin in Shockoe Bottom.

The regular agenda

The first ordinance up for approval is a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a BP station on Grove, giving Councilman Jewell a brief trip down memory lane. When he gets back, the SUP passes unanimously.

Next up is an ordinance eliminating fingerprinting for concealed handgun permit–this brings Richmond into compliance with state law. Nobody is happy, but the city is required to pass this. Jewell votes no, and the rest of the Council holds their noses and votes yes. Why are they even voting on this: the GA is holding a gun to their head.

Last up to the plate is the “chicken” resolution, co-sponsored by Charles Samuels and Marty Jewell, asking the Chief Administrative Officer to “study the laws and regulations concerning the raising, maintenance and ownership of chickens and other poultry and provide the Council with recommendations”.

Proponents point out the benefits of urban poultry:

  • They represent a piece of food security in uncertain times
  • While community gardens offer residents relief in a food desert, chickens are the only “do it yourself” protein available
  • Only hens will be allowed, no roosters
  • They make less waste and less noise than dogs

Ginter Park resident Eugene Price explains his objections.

  • Nothing stinks like chicken “doo”
  • Who likes chicken feed? Rats do, that’s who
  • Chicken eggs? Well snakes like them too
  • Chicken blood is used for voodoo curses

Reva Trammel is also upset. There are already chickens running loose, dogs chasing them, and upset constituents on the phone. Samuels convinces her this is not a change in the law, only a request for information. The resolution passes unanimously. The egg is now in the Mayor’s basket. While the Mayor’s own Healthy City commission made this it’s top priority, the Mayor himself has been a bit cagey on the subject. I expect this proposal will lay around until early next year when he tosses it back to Council.

Nothing left now but the Consent Agenda. Buried in it is this little gem:

To approve the proposed resolution of the Rogers v. City of Richmond case by mutual agreement, to authorize the City’s counsel to endorse or execute all documentation necessary to effectuate the terms of the proposed resolution

Translation: The City owes Richmond Police millions in unpaid overtime.

Also on the Consent Agenda is another request by Councilman Samuels for the “City Administration to perform a study of the cruising and parking regulations currently enforced along the portion of West Broad Street”. I don’t think that requires any translation.

All this gets passed with barely a whisper of debate.

Well, I must be hopping along. Last one home’s a rotten egg.

— ∮∮∮ —


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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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