City Council postpones controversial agenda items

Council postponed all regular agenda items for later meetings, despite a protestor turnout looking for a discussion on the proposed baseball stadium.

The resolution to declare a handful of areas in Shockoe bottom a world heritage site was postponed by the Richmond City Council on Monday, to the disappointment of dozens of protesters attending the council meeting.

Protesters carried signs saying “NO Stadium! YES Historic District!” although no mention of the baseball stadium was made by council members during the meeting.

Resolution No. 2013-R278 (PDF) declaring Lumpkin’s Jail, the Slave Trail, and Richmond’s African Burial Ground in Shockoe Bottom a United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site was pushed from the council agenda until February 24th.

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones introduced his Revitalize RVA proposal to the council in November, which includes plans for a Shockoe ballpark, and development of the Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site. The plan is slated to bring over $200 million to the city in net revenue over the next 20 years, Jones stated in a press release.

Protesters whooped to comments from former 5th District Councilman Chuck Richardson during the meeting.

“I’m not against this, but I’m saying, don’t take it for granted,” Richardson said. “I hope you all consider the project, dig into it, don’t take it for granted, don’t look at it with rose colored glasses, look at the facts not the emotional beauty of what someone’s heart wants.”

Richardson was elected in 1977 and held office until he resigned in 1995 after he was allegedly videotaped selling heroin.

The former councilman presented a position paper during the meeting comparing the Revitalize RVA plan to a similar project from 1985—the old 6th Street marketplace redevelopment project that ultimately failed and lost the city over $200 million, Richardson said.

“We rushed headlong into something over emotions and going up campaigning instead of looking at the facts.” Although he did not openly oppose the agenda item, Richardson criticized the council for not being more critical of Jones’s new “campaign speech.”

Activist Mo Karn later criticized the council for postponing the controversial agenda topic.

“The majority of the people in the audience today came here because of the baseball stadium stuff on the agenda,” said Karn, a member of The Wingnut Anarchist Collective.

Over 60 protesters attended the meeting, Karn said.

“It doesn’t feel like any input and participation is welcomed when agenda items are swapped sometime between last Friday and today, and we don’t even get an explanation at the meeting as to why that happened, what changed.”

The UNESCO project was put off in order to allow for a representative of the National Park Service to speak at a meeting of the Slave Trail Commission on the issue later in the spring, Councilman Parker Agelasto said in response to Karn’s comments.

The council passed items including resolutions to name the road connecting South 2nd Street and Tredegar Street to “Brown’s Island Way,” and a redevelopment and conservation plan for the Nine Mile Road and Conservation Area. The group also agreed to pass an ordinance allowing a deal between the Chief Administrative Officer, the City of Richmond, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Buckingham Branch Railroad Company to create a concrete crossing surface at a railroad crossing on Hospital Street near Interstate 64.

The council postponed all regular agenda items for later meetings.

District meetings will be held for the next two months discussing the Revitalize RVA plan and its financial implications over the next few months.

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