Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Organizational Development June 1, 2009 - Censorship & Closed Door Dealmaking

Above, complete video of Richmond City Council's June 1, 2009 Organizational Development Committee meeting.

The first minute of this video is a compilation of clips from the 10 minutes I was waiting for the meeting to begin. It is one of my constant criticisms that Council does a crummy job starting their meetings on time. However, if they were good about starting their meetings on time, my complaint would change and I'd ask them to start the meetings 5 minutes after the hour to allow additional time for citizens to arrive without missing any of the meeting.

The first topic discussed, Dr. Tyrone Jackson, Director of Human Resources, asked the Committee to waive a requirement that jobs must be advertised in the newspaper. Dr. Jackson was requesting this for seven positions that are currently staffed but are proposed to be done away with. The seven employees will have "first crack" at 200 vacancies the city is planning to fill.


At the end of the meeting the committee went into Closed Session to discuss Ordinance 2009-105 which proposes to extend the option to sell 3101 East Main Street, Intermediate Terminal Building No. 3, and adjacent land fronting East Main Street, at 4303 and 4319 East Main Street to "Restauranteur, Inc." which is registered with the State Corporation Commission. The registered agent since August 15, 2003 is William F. Etherington, and the previous registered agent was D. H. EURE beginning in August 25, 2001. The registered address is 701 E. Franklin Street Suite 1200 which is the offices of Beale, Davidson, Etherington & Morris, PC.

The ordinance seeks to grant the purchaser 7 additional months in which to buy the property for $725,000. View the original ordinance, Ord. 2004-133-156. According to this ordinance [2004], the purchaser was supposed to build a restaurant on the property. The purchaser paid a deposit of $25,000 once the ordinance was adopted and had 5 years to complete the purchase, which was supposed to include $57,000 from meals taxes paid by purchaser on sales above $2 million in the first 12 months of operation of proposed restaurant. Doesn't this financing scheme sound similar to the plan to pay for Shockoe Center?

Shocking Revelations on President Graziano's Leadership Style

Censorship or what?

In the clip above, Angela Montgomery, a policy analyst in Council's Legislative Services Department, read a prepared report regarding the May 18 Public Safety Committee meeting.

In Ms. Montgomery's report there was no reference to the 50-65 motorcycle club members who came out to register their opposition to a recent modification in the Code of Virginia that prevents establishments that serve alcohol from serving patrons who are wearing gang colors or insignia. Ms. Reva Trammell objected to the omission and it turns out President Graziano request that portion of the report be omitted in order to save time. Both Ms. Trammell and Mr. Marty Jewell stated they resented the action.

This is not the first time Mrs. Graziano has taken liberties with "shortening" a meeting. In fact this is the fourth time I am aware of shenanigans like this. Most recently at the second Council meeting in February '09, she insisted that the public comment period be shortened to 15 minutes [from the normal 30 minutes] for each side regarding two ordinances dealing with the Commission of Architectural Review [CAR], Oakwood Heights, and a fence in front of Jennie Dotts' house near Chimborazo Park. There were many citizens to speak in opposition to the Oakwood Heights development who did have an opportunity to speak.

The first time I recall Mrs. Graziano doing something similar was in February 2008, when she was chairperson of the Land Use Committee. Mr. Hilbert and Mr. Jewell had co-patroned a resolution, Resolution 2008-R13, to express the City of Richmond's opposition to Dominion Power's proposal to build a new coal fired power plant in Wise County, in Southwestern Virginia. At this committee meeting there were many environmental activists and Mrs. Graziano said when they considered this resolution that each side would have 15 minutes to comment. She requested the environmentalists speaking in support of the resolution each take only two minutes. Meanwhile, the only opposition to the resolution was a lawyer representing Dominion Power and he was allowed to speak for the entire 15 minutes. It's not fair, and it is a clear sign that Mrs. Graziano does not hold the citizen comment period in high regard.

The citizen comment period is the public's most effective tool for holding elected officials accountable and allows citizens to contribute to the political discussion, though comments are often disregarded by the Council.

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