City Council: Shut up and vote

At last night’s City Council more debate on the jail, plus guest appearances by Occupy Richmond and the Tea Party. No one was happy about anything.

Note: this is our play-by-play of last night’s City Council meeting, written as the meeting progressed.

Things haven’t even gotten started yet and they are already annoyed with each other. Kathy Graziano, Bruce Tyler, and Marty Jewell are going tit-for-tat over procedure and this is still the informal session. Chris Hilbert’s last comment was, “Can we get this over with before the entire metro area is watching on TV?” Who could blame him? I know the ratings for these broadcasts must be in the single digits–by that I mean less than 10 people. But, I think you are going to be sorry you missed this one. This morning’s RTD reports Occupy Richmond will occupy Mayor Jones front yard if they don’t get a 24-hour “occupation” permit by 5.00pm. As it is now 5.30pm, I assume this might be a subject of discussion. I’ve spotted at least three occupiers so far, and just to make things interesting the tea party is here as well. Funny how you can tell them apart.

Council has been busy since we last met*. During the off week(s) Council decided not to ask for a raise. They are currently making $25,000 a year. Council President Graziano makes $30,000. Let me tell you right now, it’s not worth it. As glamorous as it is, I’d ask for $50K, not a penny less.

Occupy Richmond and the Tea Party are here in strength. They all sit on the right side of the chamber. Here’s a Council tip. If you want to be on TV, sit on the right side of the chamber. My Richmond Times-Dispatch tells me Occupy Richmond has signed up for ALL eight slots in the Citizen Comment period, but the Tea Partiers tell me they have two more. That makes TEN three minute slots if they stick to their time limit. I’m not optimistic.

It’s a quarter to six and they are still in informal session. I have time to hit the snack bar and take a nap before they get started for real.

I’ve hardly taken my seat before President Graziano gavels the meeting to order. We say our prayer, recite the Pledge, and we are off. After a couple of quick votes it is award time.

The Mayor is here. He’s giving away a pieces of asphalt. Really. They are in a nicely framed plaque.

Awards are given to the Fan District Association and the Richmond Alzheimer’s League. Mayor Jones congratulates everyone.

There is an award to the Richmond Police Homeless Outreach program and another for Homeward’s efforts to deal with long term homelessness. The award for the best comment of the night award goes to Chris Hilbert and I quote:

Not every panhandler you see is homeless and most homeless people do NOT panhandle. I want you to consider this the next time someone asks you for change. I urge you to give your money for real change, not spare change.

In other news the Police and Firefighter are getting a one time bonus. It passed unanimously.

The City Jail – Round IV

Several speakers agains the jailt cite previous complaints of abuse of process, lack of true minority participation, and lack of public input. Occupiers repeatedly clap their approval. After President Graziano scolds them they limit themselves finger wiggles. It’s very weird.

On the pro side, Sheriff Woody asked Council to vote for better working conditions for him and his family–he might have said his employees, but in this case it amounts to the same thing. Others spoke passionately about inhumane conditions and overcrowding in the jail, including one occupier.

There’s nothing new that can be said about this project, but I’m expecting at least two Council members to speak at length.

I’ve change my mind about the salary. I won’t settle for a penny less than $75k and all the DPU water I can drink. Yes the Department of Public Utilities has their own bottled water exclusively for Council use. I snagged a bottle. It’s delicious.

Now it’s Council’s turn and Marty Jewell takes charge of the opposition. He begins quoting Martin Luther King and soars into a rapture. I’ve never seen him quite so in the moment. While inspiring, I wish they’d just shut up and vote. Not a chance. I’ve got my pictures and half a story. As promised I’m outta here, and I see others heading for the exits.

This works out perfectly. I have time to drive home, walk Arnold (my dog) and grab another snack. I turn on the TV just as Reva Trammel was making her last stand. If ever there was a moment when Dwight Jones would lose his temper it would be now. She very nearly barked at him, and he was as silent as a sphinx. The vote was in the bag. Council voted 5-3-1 with Samuels, Connor, and Jewell voting against while Trammel abstained with an angry caveat. Mayor Jones then slipped quietly from the Chamber while Occupy Richmond lined up to speak. I’m watching them now with sound turned off. Unfortunately life does not come with a mute button.

The gavel has dropped and that’s a wrap.

* This is a good time for me to put in a plug for Will Jones of the Times-Dispatch. If you want the straight news on City Council, look for Will’s byline. That’s what I do.


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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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