I’d like to be able to say Mayor Jones said something surprising, or even interesting, during last night’s Town Square over at the Times Dispatch. But he didn’t. Mostly he talked about what a great place Richmond is and what a great job he is doing. If anybody thought they could ruffle his feathers they were wrong–a few tried.
Move along folks, there’s nothing to report here. I’d like to be able to say Mayor Jones said something surprising, or even interesting, during last night’s Town Square over at the Times Dispatch. But he didn’t. Even now I’m having a hard time remembering what he did say. I do have notes and I’ll recount them shortly, but mostly he talked about what a great place Richmond is and what a great job he is doing. If anybody thought they could ruffle his feathers they were wrong–a few tried.
The Town Square is a pretty staid event next to anything Occupy Richmond puts on. I have to admit, I’ve have yet to attend any of their events, but I do try keep abreast. Besides, they keep showing up at places I go. There was small group in attendance and at least one spoke. These crowds trend older, but, maybe due to the Occupiers, there was a pretty broad spectrum of ages and races. Times Dispatch publisher Tom Silvestri played the emcee as 65 to 70 Richmonders gathered to pester, question, or just listen to what Mayor Dwight Jones had to say this evening. One thing I’ll say for Tom, he runs a pretty tight ship and keeps a clock on almost everybody. This was only partially successful. He should have kept a clock on the Mayor.
Promptly at 6:00pm Mayor Jones took his seat and the meeting was called to order. We started by shaking hands with our neighbors, much like we used to do in church. I had hopes for some real news or maybe an incident to report. Maybe there will be shouting, maybe the Mayor will shout, maybe not. He was his usual, unflappable self: calm, friendly, and personable. I know there’s a Baptist minister in there somewhere just crying to get out, after all he is a Baptist minister.
Here’s the good news according to Dwight.
The city has a AAA credit rating, four new schools are or will be under construction, and we just picked up a $63,000,000 check from the RMA–that’s 63 Million in case you lost count of the zeros. Furthermore, Richmond has five newly renovated libraries
and soon will have a “Tier 1” jail. Well, he didn’t say that, but something very close to it. Even further, we will host UCI Cycling World Championship in 2015 and were just named the “Best Small City of the Future” by Foreign Direct Investment Magazine.
Lest we should get too proud, the Mayor pointed out our high poverty rate and that one in ten Richmonders lives in public housing. He did talk about his anti-poverty commission. I can’t remember just what they are doing, but they are working on the problem. They are, he said so.
Let’s move on from his opening remarks to the first topic of the evening: poverty. After some more remarks on his part, people did actually get to ask questions. Here’s a few.
- How do we abolish institutional racism?
- Will economic development replace public housing?
- How can you stand there and blow smoke at us? (Really, this was a question.)
The answers were, generally, “I’m not sure” and “No”.
Next topic: Economic Development
More words by the Mayor. It’s all good news, I mean really good. 1/2 BILLION dollars in projects, infrastructure, and a new cultural arts district downtown. Main Street Station will be upgraded (again) and High Speed Rail is on the way, _maybe not in my lifetime, but in yours, I feel sure_*. Not only that, but there’s the Slavery Museum (there is?) and God knows what else, but that’s good too.
Here are the questions:
- Are you going to let Echo Harbor destroy the “view that named Richmond?”
- Why does the Council disagree with your decision about the RMA funds?
- Do you support a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom?
Next topic: Sustainability
It’s all resume building stuff: green buildings, green buses, a bicycle coordinator, and our great riverfront?
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You might guess from all this, that I’m mad at or don’t like the Mayor. Truth is, I don’t know. It is very hard to get mad at him because he is so unremittingly pleasant. Just once I’d like to see him bare his teeth. After the jail deal fell to pieces, I felt sure we were going to get to see the real Mayor Jones. I think there is a lot to say for a calm, passive demeanor. We were all sick and tired of Mayor Wilder and desperate for a change. I think it’s safe to say we elected the most anti-Wilder candidate possible, and to his credit he hasn’t fired any City Council staff or mounted a coup d’état at the School Board. As a matter of fact, his greatest accomplishment may be that he is NOT Doug Wilder. So no, I don’t dislike him. I had hoped for more, but in today’s world, maybe that’s accomplishment enough.
Just in case you’d like to find out what he really DID say, there will be a transcript in Sunday’s Times-Dispatch or you can watch it on TimesDispatch.com.
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* Paul Simon The Cool, Cool River – The Rhythm of the Saints