City council punts budget, other items during Monday meeting

Richmond city council on Monday voted to award $700,000 to Venture Richmond for the Downtown Special Assessment District, to donate sheds and salvaged material from the 17th Street Farmer’s Market to the Enrichmond Foundation, and to encourage Richmonders to “practice random acts of kindness” during their formal meeting.

The council postponed several items from the regular agenda and postponed voting on the budget papers until later meetings.

Early in the meeting Council President Charles Samuels (2nd District) told the audience that the council would take a serious look at the openness of the council dais and will be temporarily closing the press gallery. Samuels referenced the expulsion of audience member Chris Dorsey from the April 14 meeting. During the previous meeting Dorsey was sitting in the media section when he was asked to leave by staff; police later forcefully removed Dorsey.

During the public comment period Glenwood W. Burley, a retired police officer, expressed concern for the integrity and qualifications of police officers present at council meetings as well as the safety of the council members when weapons are brought into the chamber.

Burley referenced the recent incident with Dorsey, who was carrying a gun in a holster on his hip at the time of his expulsion.

Carrying a gun openly is allowed in several public buildings in Richmond.

Also during the public comment period Open High School student Isabelle Arias spoke to protest the conditions of some Richmond Public Schools, including reports of pest infestations and decaying ceilings.

“At Open we don’t have rats like Carver does, at Open we don’t have snakes in our school like Armstrong does, and at Open we don’t have black water dripping from our ceiling like at Thompson … We want to have all Richmond schools be like Open or even better.”

About a dozen other local students came to support Arias’s plea. Arias said about 200 students marched to city hall earlier in the day in protest.

“This city cares more about commercial endeavors than enhancing our educational system,” she said.

Samuels responded to Arias’s plea by encouraging her and other students to reach out to the school board.

“We cannot tell the school board how to spend their money; we can only provide what they have asked for,” Samuels said.

Speaking against papers in the consent agenda, Silver Persinger, Moriah Karn, and others spoke out on what they perceive as increasing complexity of language in the descriptions of bills on the agenda. Karn said the vaguely worded description of Item 10, an ordinance to approve the work plan and budget for the services in the Downtown Richmond Special Service and Assessment Districts, misled Richmonders from understanding the item would allow a grant of $700,000 to Venture Richmond.

“Anyone who read what is on this agenda would have no idea what that was about,” Karn said. This vaguely worded ordinance on the agenda is misleading to residents.”

The grant is for the Downtown sidewalk cleaning, landscape maintenance, and other cleanliness related services and is funded through a special tax on business and property owners as well as city funds. Venture Richmond is awarded the grant for its Clean & Safe program in the special district. The council approved this item and others unanimously.

Although it postponed the budget papers and other items on the regular and consent agendas, the council passed 22 other items, including:

  • Ord. No. 2014-72 (Patron: Mr. Agelasto) – To donate sheds, together with any salvaged material, located at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market, to the Enrichmond Foundation to benefit public schools, parks or other cultural or recreational aspects of life in the city.
  • Ord. No. 2014-80 (Patron: President Samuels) – To approve the Work Plan and Budget for
    the fiscal year ending Jun. 30, 2015, for the provision of services in the Downtown Richmond Special Service and Assessment Districts.
  • Ord. No. 2014-83 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to accept funds in the amount of $400,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to appropriate the increase to the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Special Fund Budget by increasing estimated revenues and the amount appropriated to the Department of Economic and Community Development by $400,000 for the purpose of providing for the assessment of vacant and underutilized commercial and industrial properties with perceived or actual environmental contamination.
  • Ord. No. 2014-84 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To amend the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget
    adopted by Ord. No. 2013-103-72, adopted May 15, 2013, as previously amended by Ord. No. 2013-242-223, adopted Dec. 9, 2013, for CDBG, HOME, ESG and HOPWA funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by transferring HOPWA funds in the amount of $120,714 from the William Byrd Community House and by appropriating funds in the amount of $80,714 to the Fan Free Clinic and in the amount of $40,000 to Virginia Supportive Housing.
  • Res. No. 2014-R61 (Patron: Vice President Robertson) – To encourage the citizens of the City of Richmond to practice random acts of kindness, in the spirit of compassion, kindness and goodwill toward all persons.

The council appointed Susangeline Strickland to the Board of Directors of the Richmond Ambulance Authority and honored city clerks ahead of the May 4 to May 10 Municipal Clerks week.

The council also recognized in advance the 20th anniversary of the Museum District Association’s Mother’s Day House and Garden Tour that will happen on May 11.

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