Friday, April 10, 2009

Two Interesting Stories from RTD in Last Two Days - 100th Anniversary

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently reported two stories that I found particularly interesting. In yesterday's newspaper, it was reported in an article entitled "Richmond looks to reassign workers to avoid layoffs" that Mayor Jones' budget proposed to eliminate 150 positions bringing the city's number of employees, "non-school, full-time-equivalent positions from 5,108.6 to 4,958.94."

This is interesting because the "total number of city employees" that has been thrown around at City Hall for the last few years has been 4000. Recently and notably by Dr. Tyrone Jackson, Richmond's Director of Human Resources. Listen here as Dr. Jackson references the city's "4000 plus" employees during his presentation to the Governmental Operations Committee on February 26, 2009.

However, the Times-Dispatch article took no exception to this discrepancy, even though it represents a difference of 20% over what had been the conventional wisdom on the employment number. The above example is the sort of thing that bloggers and watchdogs can be effective at exposing. And with the ease of digital recording, it makes it easier to hold people accountable and serves as an aid to remember what they said. It also highlights, the failure of our newspapers to be a valuable asset in assisting the public to make informed decisions about our government.

The second story I was interested to read in today's newspaper was entitled, "Richmond jail inmates to pay $1 a day." The article stated that it would generate $500,000 annually. The jail's current operating budget is $30 million. I think that is a crummy idea and is petty "feel good" act of meanness towards individuals whose lives are already being destroyed by their mere jail sentences. The best way to save money at the City Jail is to reduce the number of people in the jail. Deal with the mentally ill in an appropriate manner and don't jail non-violent and drug offenders and release individuals who can't pay their bonds when such bond is less than $500.

Today marks 100 days of blogging the Richmond City Council Reporter and Telegraph.

It has evolved in that short time. I have decided to focus more on the video format. After three years of making audio recordings at Council meetings, I recently bought a video camera and have been filming the Council meetings. The videos are so much more compelling to watch than the audio recordings were to listen to. There is so much going on in the videos and visual signs of the speakers show meaning that is not captured in an audio recording.

I'm still trying to figure out how I should be making videos. The long format, entire meeting is nice but I know people would be more inclined to watch a ten minute summary. I will experiment and try to come up with different ways to present information. And be sure to leave feedback when you think something is working or not working. And let me know what you want to see.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I was going to give up on this blog. I didn't and in the last couple of weeks, I have really put a lot of work into it. I hope I can keep it up. It is taking up a lot of time and space.

1 comment:

  1. Right on, catching that discrepancy!

    As for the $1 a day deal, doesn't that seem a bit Dickensian? To pay for your jail time would not only send us screaching backwards in terms of penal reform but I imagine could also lead in time to a tier system of services whereby inmates can purchase better treatment, a la Mr. Dorrit of the Marshalsea.