Thursday, May 28, 2009

Governmental Operations Committee May 28, 2009

Richmond City Council's Governmental Operations Committee met on May 28, 2009 in the Large Conference Room on the 2nd Floor of City Hall. The meeting began 4:10PM.

Meeting highlights:

My comments at the opening of the meeting reference a drug smuggling ring that had recently been discovered at the Richmond City Jail. At least one inmate working on a work crew smuggled drugs (marijuana and heroin) into the City Jail. I said this was just one more argument against the use of inmate labor.

• Review of City's Procurement Policies – Eric Mens, Director, Procurement Services

Dwight Snead, President of Dwight Snead Construction Company and Kenneth Jones, President and CEO of Prestige Construction Group each expressed concern that the City’s use of the electronic procurement tool eVA might have a negative impact on minority-owned businesses.

• 2009 General Assembly Legislation Report – Valerie Salaam, Council Policy Analyst

Papers for Consideration:

1. Ord. No. 2009-82 (Patron: President Graziano) - To amend City Code § 2-221, concerning additional duties of the City Auditor, to remove the additional duties previously set forth in such section and to modify the method by which Council members request audits and projects from the City Auditor.

2. Ord. No. 2009-90 (Patron: President Graziano) - To amend City Code § 2-1057, concerning the composition and terms of office of the Audit Committee, to provide that citizen members shall be allowed to serve for up to three successive terms.

3. Ord. No. 2009-91 (Patron: President Graziano) - To amend City Code § 2-212, concerning procedures for disclosure of misconduct, to clarify the methods by which misconduct may be reported and to affirmatively require City employees to report instances of misconduct, including fraud, waste and abuse.

Discussion Items:

Vacancy/Turnover Report

Audit Consolidation Status Report

Board Vacancies
Audit Committee – 2 Vacancies
Nicholas Macauley – (Appointment)

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.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Venture Richmond, City Jail & more discussed at Finance Committee

Council Vice President Ellen Robertson began the meeting on time at 4 pm [the only meeting out of four this week that began on time] and opened with the Citizen Comment Period. I was the only citizen to speak and I spoke on a topic which I spoken to the Council on many times before. I implored the Council to hold their meetings at 6 pm to encourage citizen attendance at committee meetings and I also told the Council that I had to take time off work to attend their afternoon meetings and that caused an economic hardship for me.

The entire meeting lasted an hour and a half and was attended by Finance Committee members Ellen Robertson [Chair, 6th District], Bruce Tyler [1st District], and Charles Samuels [2nd District] as well as Council President Kathy Graziano.

The most interesting item on the Agenda were Ord. 2009-97, a downtown work plan and $2.7 million budget managed by Venture Richmond to operate the Clean and Safe Program, maintenance and landscaping along the Canal Walk, and marketing downtown Richmond. Their budget is composed of a $700,00 contribution from the City of Richmond (25% of their budget), interest, a fund balance from last year, Riverfront "other revenue" and over $1.7 million from a special assessment charged to properties that lie within the Special Assessment District. Management services account for $222,000 or 8% of the budget.

Another interesting paper is Resolution 2009-R64, which is required by the Commonwealth of Virginia in order for the City to be reimbursed up to 25% for money we have spent during the City's planning for a new jail.

Other papers considered at the meeting included Ord. 2009-99 which transfers $400,000 to the City Registrar's office to pay off bills associated with last November's election and Ord. 2009-98 which accepts $448,000 from the Commonwealth of Virginia to be applied to the Richmond City Health District's new clinic build out and enhanced health-related programming.

Council's Legislative Services staff also presented a Quarterly Financial Report.

Watch the entire meeting unedited below. Hour and a half long.

Broad Street CDA Expects Budget Shortfalls Will Continue

Monthly meeting of the Broad Street Community Development Authority [CDA occurred on May 21, 2009 at 9 AM in the offices of Troutman Sanders Attorneys, located at the Troutman Sanders Building, 1001 Haxall Point, near the old Hydro-electric plant on the James River.

To learn more about the Broad Street CDA, check out a website I put up in 2003,

Lynn Ivey gave an overview of the budget from 6:00 - 18:00 minutes, shortfalls were expected to continue in the next year, new contracts for insurance [entered into without legal consultation] and a new contract for expanded elevator service, saving money on legal expenses is something the board is trying to reign in. Yvette Neville, an upper level manager with Standard Parking will be leaving the company soon and Johnnie Hougue, also with Standard Parking would pick-up duties formerly performed by Ms. Neville, in an effort to save the Authority money. A new contract for parking with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I made a comment at the end of the meeting about having materials for citizens to review since it is a public meeting and a public board.

Watch the entire meeting below, an hour and a half long.

Swine Flu Presentation at Health, Human Services and Education Committee Meeting

On Wednesday May 20, Richmond City Council's Health, Human Services, and Education Committee heard a report from Dr. Donald Stern, Health Director at the Richmond City Health District, a division of the Virginia Department of Health, on the recent outbreak of H1N1, a new strain of flu virus, that has made many sick and killed several people since April.

Dr. Stern reviewed the Flu Pandemic of 1918, it's transmission, and simple precautions we can take such as washing our hands regularly and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Richmond Motorcycle Clubs Object to Discrimination at Public Safety Committee Meeting

At Monday's Public Safety Committee meeting many motorcycle club members came out to protest the treatment they are receiving as a result of a recent modification to the state code that prohibits individuals from wearing gang colors or gang symbols into establishments that serve alcohol.

The motorcycle club members are being told their outfits prohibit them from being served, even if they aren't drinking alcohol.

This video begins with comments' from Michael Weise, an attorney representing the Virginia Federation of Motorcycle Clubs and a founding member of The Untamed. His comments are followed by comments from Councilpersons Reva Trammell, Chris Hilbert,Betty Squire, and Major David McCoy from the Richmond Police Department.

Comments from the audience begin around 31:00 minutes and included comments from members of The Pagan's, The Devil's Grip Motorcycle Club, The Untamed, The Outlaws, and the Harley Owners Group.

The Rest of the Meeting

Received presentation on Gang Reduction Intervention Program (GRIP) from the Richmond Police Department.

Richmond Mayor Jones Releases Preliminary Results of Shockoe Center Study

At a 2 pm press announcement on Monday, Mayor Dwight Jones presented to members of the media and interested citizens the conclusions of the Executive Summary from a $100,000 study of the Highwoods Properties proposal to build a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom. The study was prepared by Davenport and Company, ERA AECOM, and Chmura Economics and Analytics; the same firms that previously supported stadium development in the Bottom in a previous study.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Times-Dispatch's Public Square on Baseball in Shockoe Bottom

On Tuesday evening, May 12, 2009, The Richmond Times-Dispatch held a Public Square Meeting on the topic of the proposal to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. The video below includes the entire debate portion of the meeting. In support of the project were master developer Highwoods Properties Vice President Paul W. Kreckman and investor Bryan T. Bostic with Richmond Baseball Club LLC. Speaking in opposition to the proposal were Charlie Diradour from Lion's Paw Development Company and Jean Wight, an attorney and historic preservationist.

In the video below are the complete recorded comments made by the audience.

Editor's Selections

This 12 minute video contains what I considered the strongest arguments in opposition to the proposed Shockoe Center Baseball Stadium in the Bottom.

The speakers are Brian Glass, a retail real estate broker; Herb Seiver of Tappahannock, Virginia; Terrell Bowers, a self employed realtor and investor; and Gustav Franco of Glenn Allen, Virginia.

Who is John Dodge?

The video below contains what I have identified as the "angriest" speaker at the event, John Dodge. He did not identify himself as living in Richmond, he simply said, "I've been here 27 years." I was not able to find any ready information about John Dodge from google. Mr. Dodge was the poster child for the forum on the Times-Dispatch's front page for May 13, however he was not quoted in the paper's story about the forum. I always think it is important to know who an individual works for because there is always a chance that the individual speaking may have an economic stake in a situation. Mr. Dodge was followed by Gary Armstrong, a Senior Vice President at First Market Bank and Chair of the Chesterfield Business Council. Mr. Armstrong wasn't mentioned in the Times-Dispatch article either. Why not mention these two seemingly important individuals?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This Week's Council Meeting, May 11, 2009

Introducing, the "Straight Cut," an unedited recording of a meeting. The purpose of doing it this way is to have the ability to quickly upload video without the time normally associated with dropping speakers' name in. But the purpose of the "Straight Cut" is to have an actual uncut version of the meeting exactly as it happened and always lots of shots of the crowd.

I'll try to upload soon a "Straight Cut" of the Ballpark discussion that occurred at the Times-Dispatch Building on Tuesday night. I already have some great ideas on presentation for the edited video. Humorous and newsy. Doubtless different from the RTD's own coverage.

I signed up to speak during the Citizen Comment Period, my subject was the budget process. My remarks begin around 47:00.

I'll write more of a report when time allows. Just wanted to post the video quickly.