Council approves Monroe Park lease during rowdy meeting

City Council approved the proposed lease plan for Monroe Park, voted to spend $50,000 to pay a third party consulting firm to analyze Revitalize RVA, and expelled an activist.

Chris Dorsey, a frequent commentor at council meetings, was expelled early from Monday’s meeting for being “out of order,” according to Council President Charles Samuels (2nd District). Dorsey, who was videotaping an interaction with a staff member, was forcibly removed from the room by police. Council proceeded with the night’s agenda without much delay.

Councilwoman Reva Trammell (8th District) spoke out against Dorsey’s removal. “That should not have happened,” Trammell said, assuring the Council audience that a discussion on the matter would take place.

The meeting was disrupted again when a protestor spoke out of turn.

Derek Jones, who was speaking in opposition to the Monroe Park plan, had his microphone turned off because Samuels said his speech was not pertinent to the papers in front of Council. Jones continued to speak above protests from Samuels while audience members repeatedly made loud comments in protest of the limited public comment on the Monroe Park debate.

Samuels called the meeting into recess, and he and some other members left the meeting. Members Cynthia Newbille (7th District), Reva Trammell (8th District), Parker Agelasto (5th District), John Baliles (1st District), Michelle Mosby (9th District) and Council Vice President Ellen Robertson (6th District) stayed during the recess.

After less than five minutes, Samuels returned and called the meeting back to order. He threatened to continue to postpone the meeting, and to keep postponing it, until people spoke only on the papers in front of them.

Later, Mosby called the audience disrespectful because of the frequent interruptions during the night’s meeting.

“Everybody comes up here and acts like the people on this council have no feelings,” Mosby said.

In addition to the Monroe Park lease item, the council also passed an expedited resolution introduced by Agelasto in an attempt to appease some members of the public who opposed the deal.

Agelasto: “[This resolution] will put into a separate agreement provisions where council will have provisions to review the policy prior to that agreement taking effect.”

Later, protestors spoke against Agelasto’s resolution as a way to speak against the entire Monroe Park plan.

“Even with the motion, I feel that privatization in this instance is probably a bad thing,” said member of the public, Jonathan Arthur.

Although it did not vote on the budget, the council also listened to public comment on the budget papers, including opposition by police and firefighters on the suspension of the Career Development Program and the Educational Incentive Program, and pleas to increase the City school budget.

The council also voted to reduce the number council meetings to a once-monthly schedule on a trial basis, beginning in June.

Baliles said the reduction in formal meetings would be a way to save money and increase productivity.

“I don’t think it will decrease interaction with the public, I think it will make us more efficient,” Baliles said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it would be better for the citizens and the government.”

Council staff estimated $200,000 would be saved if the council decided to go to a once a month meeting schedule, Baliles said

“I’d much rather see an ordinance doubling your pay than cutting down the interaction that people have,” said audience member Caroline Cox.

Council also approved the week of April 20 to April 26 as administrative professional week, and proclaimed May 12, 2014 as Richmond Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.

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