Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Week's Council Meeting, May 26, 2009

Opening Formalities

Above, the Richmond City Council May 26, 2009 meeting included an opening prayer delivered by John Westbrook [of Morning Star Baptist Church and Councilwoman Ellen Robertson's legislative assistant], the pledge of allegiance, roll call [all members were present], the fire evacuation plan, the appointments of Neville C. Johnson and Anita Randolph as members to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Oversight Board, and amendments to the agenda.

Awards and Presentations

Above, two awards were presented at this meeting. One award was presented to Richmond Public Schools' 2009 Graduating Class Valedictorians [Charmesa Cousins (Armstrong HS), Sheltia Strickland (Franklin Military Academy), Gina Gabriel (George Wythe HS), Marshé Minor (Huguenot HS), Dakeisha Bowman (John Marshall HS), Michelle Lewis (Richmond Community HS), Juan Wilson (Open High), Lamont Banks (Thomas Jefferson HS)]; another award was given to Richmond Public Schools' 2009 Mind Games Team Winners from Westover Hills Elementary School and Fisher Elementary School.

Citizen Commment Period

Theodora Parham commented on poor service of GRTC Care Vans and drug dealing neighbors. [0:30]

Ted Moody urged funding Recreation Workers for city youths. [4:15]

Keery Keenan and Todd Schall-Vess urged City Council's support for Friends of Dogwood Dell Arts Program. [6:45]

Allender Griffin
opined the Echo Harbor development and baseball in Shockoe Bottom. [10:50]

Pamela Bohannon requested financial assistance to send her daughter on a trip to Japan to take part in the People to People Student Ambassadors Program. [14:40]

Jackie Kothe questioned the Council regarding legality of panhandling at the I-95 South Exit onto Cary Street. [18:00]

The Donald Hatcher Incident

Above, Council regular Donald Hatcher expressed his views on the 26 separate ordinances that constitute the City of Richmond's budget. However, after 3 minutes had expired, he wasn't done talking and challenged the limitation.

What followed was a tense standoff between President Graziano, Mr. Hatcher, an officer from the Richmond Police Department and Councilman Marty Jewell stepping in with a motion to allow Mr. Hatcher additional time to speak. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Reva Trammell. The vote was 3 [Jewell, Trammell, Tyler] to 5 [Graziano, Robertson, Hilbert, Samuels, Conner] with one abstention [Betty Squire].

Up until last year, citizens had the right to comment up to 3 minutes per ordinance or resolution. In an effort to curtail citizen participation (including my own), Council amended their Rules of Procedure [on Feb. 11, 2008, with Resolution 2008-R18-27, See page 11; Ms. Trammell and Mr. Jewell were the only Council members to vote against the change] and enacted an even more rigid standard where citizens are given only 3 minutes to comment on the Consent Agenda [which is commonly made up of 10 - 40 separate items] and papers that are called together [ie. bundling papers to limit opportunities for citizen comments]. Under the old rules, a citizen could spend his entire allotted 10 minutes speaking to the Consent Agenda alone.

My Comments

As usual, I hadn't planned to speak so much but found I had much to say. I spoke in opposition yet one more time to the use of inmate labor as currently proposed in the Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] Budget [Ord. 2009-50] under a line item entitled "Environmental Code Enforcement" managed by the Dept. of Community Development, the Richmond Sheriff's Office, private contractors HDL Services LLC and F.U.N. Construction and budgeted at $260,000.

I also spoke in opposition to continued support for Venture Richmond [Ord. 2009-97], a group that markets the city and operates the "Clean & Safe" program, operates the canal boats, and maintains the Canal Walk and Brown's Island, and is funded by a $1.7 million special assessment fee on properties located in the downtown and river front special services districts, in addition to a $700,000 contribution from the city; in opposition to the way the budget was prepared with almost no input from the public; in opposition to 8 papers that were being expedited in order to expend Council District Funds before those funds reverted to the General Fund.

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