Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Richmond Regional Candidates’ Forum

Richmond Regional Candidates’ Forum - Sept. 30, 2009 from Silver Persinger.

Above, watch the entire meeting. The forum opened with comments from Jay Squires, President, Gay Community Center of Richmond and Jon Blair, Equality Virginia. The forum was moderated by Kathy Benham of Benham Consulting.

September 30, 2009
7pm to 9pm
Gay Community Center of Richmond
Richmond, VA 23220

One of the first candidate forums of the 2009 campaign season.

Candidates present: Robert N. Barnette, Jr. [55th District], James O. Towey [56th District], Lashrecse D. Jones, Representing Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance [63rd District], William K. "Bill" Grogan [68th District], Henry Otis Brown [70th District], Delores McQuinn [70th District], Jennifer McClellan [71st District], Silver Persinger [71st District], Jimmie P. Massie, III [72nd District], Tom J. Shields [73rd District], Joe D. Morrissey [74th District]

Sponsoring Organizations

Equality Virginia
Fan Free Clinic
Gay Community Center of Richmond
Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) of Richmond
Gay Pride Virginia
LGBT Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party
Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia
Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond
Mothers and Others
PFLAG Richmond
People of Faith for Equality in Virginia
Richmond Lesbian Feminists
ROSMY
Virginia Organizing Project
Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club

Below, watch opening remarks from the candidates.

Candidates' Opening Remarks at Forum - Sept. 30, 2009 from Silver Persinger.

Questions were offered to candidates prior to the forum. The question are presented below.

1. Do you believe that employees of state and local government should be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state and local employment? Will you co-patron and support legislation (like HB 2385, 2008) to ban such discrimination?

2. Do you believe that GLBT people should be protected from violence directed at them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression? Will you co-patron and support legislation to extend Virginia’s hate violence law to include such violence?

3. Do you believe that students should be able to form Gay Straight Alliances in Virginia public and private schools that strive to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression? Will you oppose legislation that seeks to ban such organizations in schools?

4. Do you support comprehensive training for all Virginia youth and family service providers and Family Life Education and guidance programs in public schools that offer age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence based information on sexuality, tolerance, homosexuality, gender identity, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS?

5. Do you believe that GLBT couples should have equal rights to government recognized marriage and all of its benefits, some other form of relationship recognition, or no legal recognition? Please explain your position and the reasons for it. Will you support repeal of all or part of the constitutional amendment banning any and all relationship recognition, including recognizing lawful marriages entered into in other states? Please explain your position and the reasons for it.

Written questions from the audience.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Formal Session - Sept. 28, 2009

Watch the entire meeting.

Richmond City Council - Sept.28, 2009 from Silver Persinger.

* * * Hi-Lights * * *

Citizen Comment Period

Citizen Comment Period - Sept. 28, 2009 from Silver Persinger.

The speakers this evening were the following:

Karen Atkinson, Owner, The Umbrella Market
European style Farmers Markets in City Parks

Kurt Crampton
on Removal from CARITAS with Nowhere to Go

Ray Muhammad
Discrimination at Staples Mill AMTRAK Train Station

Clarence Kenney
Fired from City job for Running for Council

Seldon Richardson
City Neglect of Leigh Street Armory

Melvin Jones
Drainage Concerns

Informal Session - Sept. 28, 2009 - Car Port / Curb Cut Discussed

Informal Session Sept. 29, 2009 - Regular Agenda Discussed from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

As a part of the Docket Review during Council's Informal Session which began at 3:22 PM, Council discussed three items on the Regular Agenda. Ord. 2008-189 was continued, Ord. 2009-80 was striken by members of Council, with Councilmen Bruce Tyler [1st District] and Charles Samuels [2nd District] supporting the paper. Ord 2009-138 was withdrawn and a new paper will be introduced.

Ordinance 2008-189 [Hilbert] opposing the installation of a turning circle at Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road was continued to the Oct. 26 meeting.

Ordinance 2009-80 [Tyler] sought to revoke the permit which allowed the installation of a concrete driveway at 3304 Stuart Avenue. The paper was struck from the Agenda.

Ordinance 2009-138 [Hilbert] to establish procedures and policies for maintenance and removal of trees on City owned property. The paper was withdrawn.

Watch the entire meeting.

Richmond City Council - Informal Meeting - Sept. 28, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Informal, indeed.

City Announces "Blight Reduction Program" / Expansion of Inmate Labor Program?

In a press release today, Mayor Dwight C. Jones' Office announced their new Urban Blight Reduction Program. The program proposes private property be maintained by the Richmond's Department of Public Works. The negligent property owners will be assessed a fee, a lien on their property, and one could easily imagine late fees, interest, and other penalties to the point where they can no longer afford the property and lose it to the City.

The City's Inmate Labor Program [budgeted by a part of the city's Community Development Block Grant (CDGB)] where inmates are paid $10 a day for 8 hours of labor for clearing weeds will be incorporated into the Dept. of Public Works' program.

And Richmond City Employees are so stupid, they haven't organized a union to represent their interests to their employer, as they are entitled to under Virginia State Code, Section 40.1-57.3. They aren't making a fuss now that their jobs are being outsourced to inmates who work for $10 a day. Slavery by another name is just an inexcusable today as it was 200 years ago. Where do you draw the line? I'm not telling you, I'm asking you?

The complete press release is reprinted below:

CITY OF RICHMOND News Release

For Immediate Release Contact: Tammy Hawley (804) 646-3110

September 28, 2009

City Implements Urban Blight Reduction Program
Immediate benefits of organizational restructuring realized


Richmond, VA – As part of the recent reorganization of several city of Richmond departments, the city has implemented a new program aimed at reducing urban blight. The new program, being orchestrated by the Department of Public Works (DPW) will address the maintenance needs of vacant properties in four city precincts. To date, more than 250 privately owned properties, which previously came under the purview of the Department of Community Development (DCD), will now be mowed and maintained by DPW.

“I believe this new program follows Mayor Dwight Jones’ dedication to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars and implementing operational efficiencies,” said city Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall. “The Mayor takes great pride in the city, its beauty and rich history. As such, all neighborhoods will receive the same level of service to maintain the aesthetics and integrity of our community, as we work toward making Richmond a tier one city.”

This phase of the program, which began on September 23, 2009, includes mowing and removal of overgrown vegetation and refuse from all four precincts. Three of the precincts (108 properties in total) will be completed by September 30, 2009. The remaining 132 properties in Precinct 1 will be completed no later than October 31, 2009.

Subsequent phases of the program include, but are not limited to:
• Coordinating efforts with other city departments to identify and address other areas in need of maintenance.
• Implementing a system for routine maintenance of lots in need of maintenance
• Working with the City Attorney's Office to increase pressure on those property owners with significant amounts due to the city for work performed on their properties to recover the amount due.

The city's division of code enforcement will continue to inspect and identify potential code violations. Once it has been determined that a property has reached the level of non-compliance and the property owner has failed to address the deficiency, DPW will manage the maintenance of such properties. DPW plans also include the use of local inmate labor to bring cited properties back into compliance. Also liens will be placed on each property in an effort to ensure that the city will be compensated by the owners for the work performed.

An advisory group, consisting of the City Attorney’s Office, DPW, and code enforcement, will determine the best method of returning these vacant properties to productive use, as well as developing a system of recouping any costs incurred by the city as a result of code violations.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Governmental Operations - September 24, 2009

Governmental Operation Committee - Sept, 25, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Meeting start time 4:13 PM

Agenda

Draft Audit Reporting and Draft Investigative Reporting Policies - Umesh Dalal, City Auditor

Charter Review Commission Presentation of Recommendations - John Douglass, Chairman

Standing Committee Staff Report - Valerie Salaam, Council Policy Analyst

There were no papers for consideration

Discussion Items

Functioning of Boards, Authorities, Commissions and Committees
2010 General Assembly Review Process (Timeline)
2010 Legislative Agenda Items
Review of Vacancy & Turnover Report – FY2009 4th Qtr.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turning a Circle Around a Confederate Monument / Curb Cut in the Museum District is a Big Deal

Land Use, Housing & Transportation Committee Sept. 22, 2009 - Confederate Roundabout / Museum District Driveway / Part 1 of 2 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

In video above you can hear comments made during the Citizen Comment Period to Richmond City Council's Land Use, Housing, and Transportation Committee chaired by Councilman Doug Conner [9th District]. Other members of the committee are Council Vice President Ellen Robertson [6th District, 3:08 PM] and Councilman Charles Samuels [2nd District, 3:07 PM]. Councilman Bruce Tyler [1st District] was present when Mr. Conner called the meeting to order at 3:05 PM. Council President Kathy Graziano also joined the meeting at 3:54 PM, during the discussion of Ord. 2009-80 to revoke a permit to install a driveway on Stuart Avenue issued by the Dept. of Public Works.

Mrs. Robertson explained the reason she was late was because she had been attending the Audit Committee's meeting which began at 2:00 PM. Ron Jordan, Managing Partner, Advantus Strategies and the City's hired lobbyist to the General Assembly presented to the committee a brief report on Council's 2010 Legislative Agenda.

Next was the citizen comment period which was mostly made up of individuals speaking to an item that had been removed from the Agenda and continued, Ordinance 2008-189 to prohibit the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue sponsored by Councilman Chris Hilbert [3rd District] were the intersection is located. I also spoke to complain about short notice on the Committee's Agenda, it had just been sent out via email 22 minutes before the meeting. And I complained again about the meeting starting at 3 PM instead of after 5 PM.

At 35:45 begins the story Ordinance 2009-80 where the City granted a building permit and a permit to encroach on the "public right of way" [AKA "the sidewalk" and "23 feet of on street parking"]. It's a long and interesting story. What do you think the Council should do? It would be great to get some comments on this story.

Land Use, Housing, & Transportation Committee - Part 2 - Sept. 22, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

In the second part of the meeting they discuss the following:

Public Works

Res. No. 2009-R118 (Patron: Mr. Tyler) - To impose enhanced speeding penalties pursuant to the City Code *** to authorize the placement of signs giving notice thereof on the portion of Cary Street Road located between Cameron Street and Three Chopt Road.

Ord. No. 2009-154 (Patron: Mayor Jones, By Request) - To amend *** Ord. No. 94-17-32 *** which authorized the special use of the property known as 5409 Hull Street Road as a Single Room Occupancy housing facility, to authorize a building addition with 21 additional units and other site improvements ***.

Real Estate

Ord. No 2009-162 (Patron: Mayor Jones, By Request) - To *** acquire, at a tax delinquent judicial sale, the property located at 1209½ West Leigh Street and to authorize the conveyance of such property to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the purposes of eliminating blight and making such property available for redevelopment.

Rec. & Parks

Res. No. 2009-R137 (Patron: Mr. Conner) - To express support for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities’ application for a reimbursement grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Virginia Recreational Trails Program for the development and protection of the Reedy Creek Greenway.


Board Vacancies


City Planning Commission –Robert C. Burns, Doug Cole, Mark S. Linsey, Lynn McAteer, Jonathan W. Shultis and Fara E. Jenkins Steves, Meghan Z. Gough and Dom Nozzi

Building Code Boards of Appeals – General Division – John L. Bock

Monroe Park Advisory Council – John Peters, Terence Britt Smith

Greater Richmond Transit Company – Paul W. Kreckman, David Rennolds, R. Webb Moore, Robert C. Burns, Staci L. Boone, Robert P. Englander, Jr. , Mark Romer, Peter Chapman

Upcoming Richmond City Council Meetings in October

RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL: 2009 OCTOBER SUMMARY OF OFFICIAL PUBLIC MEETINGS

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009: 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Richmond City Council COMMISSION ON ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW TASKFORCE
The purpose of the Taskforce is to review the process and guidelines of the Richmond City Council Commission of Architectural Review, which provides oversight and review regarding erection, reconstruction, alteration or restoration of buildings or structures within designated Richmond Historic Districts as to architectural compatibility with existing historic landmarks, buildings or structures. Citizens wishing to speak are required to register prior to Noon on Thursday, October 1, 2009 by contacting the Clerk’s Office, at 804.646.7955.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
New Taskforce plans to meet the first Thursday of the month until completion.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2009: 4:00-6:00 p.m.
Richmond City Council FALL RETREAT (Being held in place of Richmond City Council Organizational Development Standing Committee)

LOCATION
Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street, 2nd Floor, Conference Room

Frequency
Typically meets in the fall of the year.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2009; 3:00-5:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council INFORMAL MEETING
Responsible for reviewing information and preparing for “Formal” Council meetings. Meetings may include presentations from city administration or private entities.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the second and forth Monday of each month; 3:00-5:30 p.m.
(With the exception of August, when no Informal meetings are held, and holidays)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2009; 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council FORMAL MEETING
Responsible for deciding official Council action, which includes discussing, adopting, rejecting, and amending laws and approving the budget. Formal meetings include a time for pubic comment and are televised live on the local PBS station and are replayed in Richmond on Government Access Channel 17, beginning at Noon and 7:00 p.m. daily.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the second and forth Monday of each month; 6:00-8:30 p.m.
(With the exception of August, when no Formal meetings are held, and holidays)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2009; 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council FINANCE STANDING COMMITTEE
Responsible for oversight, monitoring and recommending laws and policy regarding city fiscal operations, which includes the budgetary process, annual/biannual fiscal plan budgets, revenue and expenses and internal fiscal controls.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the third Thursday of each month; 4:00-5:30 p.m.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2009; 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council PUBLIC SAFETY STANDING COMMITTEE
Responsible for oversight, monitoring and recommending laws and policy regarding judiciary, law enforcement, fire and emergency response and prevention, ambulance services and emergency communications. Location recently changed from Council Chambers to Police Academy.

LOCATION
Richmond Police Academy - 1202 W. Graham Road (Richmond’s Northside)

Frequency
Typically the third Monday of each month; 5:00-6:30 p.m.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER, 20, 2009; 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council LAND USE, HOUSING AND TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE
Responsible for oversight, monitoring and recommending laws and policy regarding real estate, housing, environmental issues, and public transportation.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the Tuesday following the 3rd Monday of each month; 4:00-5:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2009; 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE
Responsible for oversight, monitoring and recommending laws and policy regarding public mental and physical health, social services, recreation, and the public library. The Committee balances the primary role of the Richmond Public Schools Board regarding oversight of Richmond Public Schools against Council’s responsibility for appropriation of public funds.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the third Wednesday of each month; 5:00-6:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2009; 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS STANDING COMMITTEE
Responsible for oversight, monitoring and recommending laws and policy regarding Richmond City Council Standing Committees/Boards/Commissions; and, all other items not related or assigned to or by other Council Standing Committees.

LOCATION
Richmond City Hall, 2nd fl; 900 E. Broad St., 2nd Floor, Conference Room

Frequency
Typically the Fourth Thursday of each month; 4:00-5:30 p.m.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2009; 3:00-5:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council INFORMAL MEETING
Responsible for reviewing information and preparing for “Formal” Council meetings and may include presentations from city administration or private entities.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the second and forth Monday of each month; 3:00-5:30 p.m.
(With the exception of August, when no Informal meetings are held, and holidays)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2009; 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Richmond City Council FORMAL MEETING
Responsible for deciding official Council action, which includes discussing, adopting, rejecting, and amending laws and approving the budget. Formal meetings include a time for pubic comment and are televised live on the local PBS station and are replayed in Richmond on Government Access Channel 17, beginning at Noon and 7:00 p.m. daily.

LOCATION
Richmond Council Chambers, Richmond City Hall, 2nd floor; 900 E. Broad Street

Frequency
Typically the second and forth Monday of each month; 6:00-8:30 p.m.
(With the exception of August, when no Formal meetings are held, and holidays)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Towing Rates Up, People with Disabilities Speak Up, 911 = $3.5 M Shortfall, Crimes Against the Homeless

Councilwoman Reva Trammell [8th District] held a nearly 3 hour long Public Safety Committee meeting. Councilpersons Betty Squire [7th District], Chris Hilbert [3rd District], and Marty Jewell [5th District] were also present.

Public Safety Committee - Sept. 21, 2009 Part 1 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Above, watch the Citizen Comment Period and a report from the Richmond Towing Advisory Board where they recommend raising the price of towing from private property from $65 to $125.

Public Safety Committee - Sept. 21, 2009 Part 2 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

In Part 2, watch Linda Broady-Myers' presentation on issues affecting people with disabilities. She reported 42,000 people in Richmond have some disability. The majority of her comments dealt with curb cuts [AKA wheelchair ramps on sidewalk] that are not correctly made, do not exists, are not properly maintained, or blocked by illegally parked cars. She also spoke about the blind who walk into traffic signal boxes attached to poles and into trees that are not maintained above sidewalks, among many other items. Kellie High-Foster, Deputy Director, Financial Services Division from the Police Department, gave a report on the City's 911 Emergency Communication System and proposed expenditures and shortfalls. Major Eric English of the Richmond Police Department spoke about recent crimes committed against homeless individuals. Ron Jordan, Managing Partner, Advantus Strategies and the City's hired lobbyist to the General Assembly gave a presentation on the City's proposed 2010 Legislative Agenda.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finance Committee Meeting -September 17, 2009

Finance Committee - September 17, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

A couple of firsts at this meeting. I believe this was the first time Council's youngest and newest member Charles Samuels [2nd District] chaired a committee meeting. This was also the first time (to my knowledge) Joe Young appeared before the Council. He identified himself as being the Volunteer Coordinator with Youth & Work Force Development, under the Department of Economic Development.

Health, Human Services, & Education Committee - September 16, 2009



Above, I offered comments during the Citizen Comment Period. I reiterated the demands of RePHRAME [Richmond Public Housing Residents Against Mass Eviction] that were presented the night before at the 2nd Annual Community Forum on Public Housing held at Faye Towers in North Jackson Ward. The demands of RePHRAME are 1. One to one replacement of public housing 2. Right to return for all current residents without having to be re-screened and 3. To increase tenant representation on the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority [RRHA] Board from 1 to 3 members.

I also complained about Ordinance 2009-143-161 which had been approved at the most recent Council meeting of Sept. 14, 2009 and allows the construction of electric fences in Richmond, Virginia in areas zoned M1 and M2 Industrial, and B3, general business. Previously all electric fences had been banned in the City.

Watch the Entire Meeting Below

Health, Human Services, & Education Committee - September 16, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

This meeting starts off with Councilman Chris Hilbert [3rd District] speaking to me about starting the meeting late. At a previous meeting Mr. Hilbert pledged for every minute he started a meeting late he would donate $2 to the charity of my choice. Today's meeting started 2 minutes late, so that was $4 for the Black History Museum in Jackson Ward.

UPDATE 09/17/09 - Mr. Hilbert gave me a check for $25 made out to the Black History Museum of Virginia. I told him, he just owed me $4 and he said he didn't want to make out a check for just $4. Well, good enough. Maybe this will serve as an incentive to start the meetings on time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RePHRAME - 2nd Annual Community Forum on Public Housing - Sept. 15, 2009

RePHRAME September 15, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.



The Second Annual Community Forum on Public Housing organized by RePHRAME [Richmond Public Housing Residents Against Mass Eviction]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Performing Arts Center Management Topic at Organization Development Committee Meeting

Organizational Development Committee - Richmond, VA City Council from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Richmond City Council held their first meeting since returning from their August break. Starting ten minutes late at 4:10 PM in the Large Conference Room on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, all members of Council were present, Councilman Marty Jewell came in 7 minutes after the meeting started.

Hope to write a more detail report later. Check out the video, as always, interesting stuff.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Echo Harbor Presentation & A Vision for Black History in Shockoe Bottom

Echo Harbor Presentation - September 1, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Delegate Delores McQuinn made an appearance and reminded the group that she was seeking office and to be sure to vote and tell your friends to vote on November 3.

Attorney James W. "Jim" Theobald from Hirschler Fleischer on behalf of Echo Harbor LLC presented a verbal argument in favor of the current redesign for Echo Harbor. He presented computer renderings of the design and views of the streetscape. He took questions from the audience and notably the organizers of the forum were supportive -- Antione Green, President, Richmond Crusade for Voters and Carrie Cox, President, Greater Jefferson Davis Area Civic Association. Councilman Marty Jewell [5th District] was the only member of City Council present. Three members of Council's Department of Legislative Services were present: Anthony Dale, Council Budget Analyst, Philip Leone, Council Fiscal Analyst, and Steven Taylor, Council Policy Analyst.

Mr. Theobald's argument essentially was that by right of current zoning his client could erect a 300 foot tall building with no breaks to preserve the view. He also demonstrated how the developer had made multiple revisions to the design to address complaints from Church Hill residents. He highlighted that the right of way would be deeded to the Capitol Trail and the developer would shoulder the costs of installing the portion of the trail that would pass through the property as well as other improvements to city property in the area. Interestingly, Mr. Theobald said that the project had morphed from more of a residential project into more of a commercially based project that will include shops, restaurants, hotel, and office space, as well as condominiums.

Phil Wilayto, editor of the Virginia Defender, presented his and his wife, Ana Edwards' vision for Shockoe Bottom development to include a genealogy center, slavery museum, and respecting the sacred burial grounds and the site of Lumpkin's Jail. I considered Phil's talk educational and inspiring. He spoke 20 minutes but about 15 minutes into his talk, I noticed a couple of African American audience members rolling their eyes. It was a little on the long side but it was interesting, I learned a few things I didn't know. Nothing compared to the presentation from our developer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Echo Harbor Nightmare Tonight!

By far the more interesting meeting tonight will be an event organized by the Greater Jefferson Davis Area Civic Association and the Richmond Crusade for Voters that is being billed as a forum with Echo Harbour Developers.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009 6:30 PM-8:00 PM

Southside Community Service Center
Southside Plaza
4100 Hull Street Road
Richmond, Virginia 23224


For more information please contact Civic Association President Carrie Cox at (804)743-1636

Charter Review Commission to Hold Public Hearing Today

Today, Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6:30-8:30 p.m. the Charter Review Commission will hold a public forum to hear citizens' feedback on the recommendations proposed by the Commission.

The forum will be held in Richmond City Council Chambers, City Hall, 2nd floor, 900 E. Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please call Daisy Weaver, Council Chief of Staff, at (804)646-5921, or daisy.weaver@richmondgov.com

For more information about the Commission, visit their website.


The Commission's recommendations for clarifying the roles of the City Council and Mayor are enumerated below:

Richmond City Charter Review Commission
Preliminary Recommendations – For Review and Comment
July 6, 2009


Process:

The Commission began its work by requesting the views of a broad constituency. We solicited input from present and past Mayors, Council Members, Heads of City Departments and a variety of others. We set up an online system for inputs from the general public. The Commission then elected to focus its efforts on the key issues highlighted by those sources and on the issues that had given rise to litigation between Mayor and Council.

Below are the current, preliminary recommendations of the Commission on those issues. We are sharing these recommendations with the Mayor, Council, their staff and heads of City Departments, and we will post them on the Commission website for public comment during July, August and September. We plan to offer further opportunities for comment during a public hearing to be scheduled in September. We expect to issue our final report and recommendations in October.

Recommendations:

1. Appointment and Removal of Council Staff

Current Status – Charter 5.02 grants the CAO power to appoint and remove employees in “administrative departments.” Section 5.03 grants the CAO “ultimate responsibility” for hiring and removal of “city personnel.” Some city employees (e.g. Council Chief of Staff’s office employees, Council Liaisons) arguably are not within “administrative departments.” The Charter does not explicitly address the power to hire and remove those employees. A dispute over this question led to a lawsuit in the previous administration.

Recommendation – Amend Charter section 4.02 to provide that Council may appoint employees to assist in its legislative, oversight and constituent relations functions, and that Council shall have the power to remove such employees. Amend section 5.03 to clarify that the CAO’s power relates to administrative personnel and does not extend to hiring/removal of “legislative” personnel appointed by Council.

Comment – This recommendation is consistent with Judge Margaret Spencer’s resolution of the previous lawsuit. It does present some drafting challenges in defining “legislative” and “administrative” personnel. The Commission is working with the City Attorney on appropriate language.

2. City Attorney

Current Status – Section 4.17 provides that the City Attorney shall be appointed by Council and shall serve at its pleasure.

Recommendation – Amend section 4.17 to provide that (a) the Mayor shall appoint the City Attorney subject to the advice and consent of a majority of Council; and (b) the appointment shall be for an indefinite term; and (c) the City Attorney may be removed from office by concurrence of the Mayor and a majority of Council.

Comment – The City Attorney serves as chief legal advisor to council, the mayor, CAO and all departments and agencies of the city. While all of those constituents rely on his advice, no single constituent is his “client.” Rather, the City Attorney represents the city itself as an entity, much like the general counsel of a corporation represents the corporation, not its individual officers and directors. In delicate matters regarding the respective powers of Council and the Mayor, the City Attorney must be free to exercise independent judgment and “call them as he sees them” when he offers legal advice. The current structure gives Council sole control over appointment and removal of the City Attorney. That appears to be a holdover from the Council-Manager form of government. The report accompanying the 1948 charter stated that the City Attorney’s “paramount duty is to advise the Council in its legislative and policy making functions” (p. 76). That no longer is the case, as a matter of structure or as a matter of daily practice.

The Commission believes that the City Attorney’s role as independent and neutral legal advisor to the City would best be served by a structure that provides Mayor and Council equal roles in appointment and removal of the City Attorney.

The term of office is a difficult issue. An indefinite term assures maximum independence. And it contributes to experienced judgment that comes from continuity in office. On the other hand, a fixed four-year term that coincides with the election of a new Mayor would give each new Mayor a say in appointing a City Attorney. But that practice could make the appointment more subject to political patronage. The Commission has not reached consensus on the term-of-office question. Currently, a majority favors an indefinite term while a minority view favors a longer and renewable fixed term (e.g. six or eight years).

3. City Auditor

Current Status – Section 4.18 provides that the City Auditor is appointed by Council for an indefinite term and Section 4.14 provides that Council may remove anyone appointed for an indefinite term.

Recommendation – Amend section 4.18 (a) to provide that the Mayor shall appoint the City Auditor subject to the advice and consent of a majority of Council; and (b) the appointment shall be for an indefinite term; and (c) the City Auditor may be removed from office by concurrence of the Mayor and a majority of Council.

Comment – Just like the City Attorney, the City Auditor serves the city as an entity and must exercise independent judgment. Just as with the City Attorney, the Commission feels the Auditor’s role as an independent and neutral investigator is best served by a structure that provides mayor and council equal roles in appointment and removal.

3A. City Assessor

The City Assessor currently is appointed by Council, but functions in many respects as a component of city administration. The Commission is considering whether the authority to appoint and remove the City Assessor should be modified in any respect. The Commission continues to study this question and does not yet have a recommendation.

4. Appointment of CAO/Acting CAO

A. Appointments

Current Status – Under 5.01.1, the Mayor appoints the CAO subject to advice and consent of a majority of Council, and the CAO serves at the Mayor’s pleasure. The Charter does not set time limits for the process or provide for any contingency where the Mayor and Council are unable to agree on a CAO.

Recommendation – Amend section 5.01.1 to: (a) Establish time limits for the Mayor’s designation of CAO and Council’s vote to accept/refuse the selection. (Our proposal calls for the Mayor to submit an appointment within 180 days of a vacancy and for Council to approve or reject within 30 days.); (b) Provide for a “second try” at the process with a fixed time limit (Our proposal calls for the Mayor to submit a second appointee within 30 days of rejection of the first and for Council to approve/reject within 30 days thereafter.); and (c) If there remains no agreement, submit the decision to a neutral body for selection. See Comment below regarding selection by neutral body.

Comment – The Commission sought a solution that would avoid extended periods without a CAO. Time limits should serve to move the process more expeditiously but, of course, Mayor and Council still may not agree on a candidate. Under that circumstance, the only way to avoid an indefinite vacancy would be to submit the choice to a neutral body. We also believe the prospect of decision by a neutral body would create an incentive for Mayor and Council to resolve disagreements.

Identifying the neutral body and establishing the format for selection pose difficult issues which the Commission is still considering. One proposal would provide for a petition to the Richmond Circuit Court, which would then make the appointment. The Virginia Code (section 24.2-228) provides for a similar practice in appointing interim members to fill vacancies on Council. Another proposal would be to create an independent panel of persons with experience in city government to make the selection. In either event, an additional question would be whether the court/panel would be empowered to choose a candidate from names provided by the Mayor, by Council, by both, or from other sources. The Commission continues to study these questions.

B. Acting CAO

Current Status -- In case of absence, incapacity or resignation of the CAO, section 5.07 provides that the Mayor shall appoint an acting CAO, subject to advice and consent of Council, from among the heads of departments.

Recommendation – Amend Chapter 5 to provide that the CAO shall designate a senior deputy CAO (SDCAO). Upon a vacancy in the office of CAO, the SDCAO would serve as Acting CAO until appointment of a CAO by Mayor and approval by Council. Include in Chapter 5 the requirement (in a new Section 5.02.1) that the SDCAO receive the advice and consent of Council.

Comment – The Commission acknowledges the importance of having continuity in the CAO/Acting CAO position with Council approval. Under this approach a CAO, while in office and in the normal course of business, would identify a person (SDCAO) who would fill the role of CAO in the event of a later vacancy. The SDCAO might be designated from among existing heads of departments or, if Council chose to create and fund an additional position, the SDCAO might hold that position and have additional duties. In either event, the SDCAO would be “pre-designated” before any vacancy occurred in the office of CAO. Hence, in the case of vacancy, the succession of SDCAO to the office of CAO would be automatic. Failure of Mayor and Council to agree on an Acting CAO would not result in a continuing vacancy in the position.

5. Sale/Lease of Real Property

Current Status -- The Charter authorizes “the City” to sell or lease land and buildings belonging to the City (section 2.03). The “default powers” section of the Charter (section 4.02) provides that all powers vested in the City shall be exercised by Council except as otherwise provided. No other provision in the Charter explicitly authorizes the sale or lease of city real estate. Hence, by “default,” it would appear that the power to sell or lease real estate currently rests with Council. In addition, the Constitution of Virginia requires a three-fourths vote of a city’s governing body (i.e. Council) in order to sell its “public places.”

The Charter does not explicitly identify a role for the Mayor in sale or lease of property. The veto provision in Charter section 5.05(d) gives the Mayor the power to veto any ordinance that imposes a duty on him, on the CAO, or on an administrative department. Arguably, an ordinance calling for the sale or lease of property would impose such duties, but that could be unclear under some circumstances.

Recommendation – Amend section 5.05(d) to clarify that the veto power extends to any sale or lease of real property, subject to Council override. (See below for a related recommendation on the veto power generally. If that recommendation is adopted, it would encompass this recommendation as well.)

Comment – The Virginia Constitution and the current Charter require approval of real estate transactions by Council. The Commission does not seek to change that (and no Charter amendment could trump the constitution in any event).

The Mayor’s veto power could add a useful balance, allowing the Mayor to disapprove of a transaction and at least require reconsideration by Council. Council, of course, would retain authority to override (and would be required to approve a sale by three-fourths vote in any event under the constitution).

We are concerned, however, that the scope of the veto power may be ambiguous. Section 5.05(d) creates a power to veto only those ordinances that “impose [a] duty” on the Mayor, CAO or department head. It is unclear whether that power would extend to some or all ordinances calling for sale or lease of real estate. The solution, we believe, is to amend the veto provision. The simplest amendment would explicitly extend veto power to any ordinance (see below).

6. Mayor’s Veto Power

Current Status – Section 5.05(d) grants the Mayor power to veto any ordinance that “impos[es] … duties” on him, the CAO or any department head.

Recommendation – Amend section 5.05(d) to provide that the Mayor has power to veto any ordinance, subject to the existing override power of Council.

Comment -- The breadth of the Mayor’s veto power is unclear under the Charter. Some ordinances may explicitly require the Mayor or CAO to perform some act and would clearly fall within the veto power. But other ordinances, while not explicitly requiring the Mayor, CAO or a department head to act, might still create some duty to act as a practical matter. (e.g. an ordinance banning Frisbees in public parks imposes no duty directly, but would require administrative action to enforce; an ordinance leasing real estate (see above) might implicitly require a City department to provide keys, remove furniture, etc.). The Commission believes the veto power needs greater clarity. A general veto power applicable to any ordinance would be clear, unambiguous and would be consistent with the balance of legislative and executive power in most American jurisdictions.

7. Budget Process

A. Budget Adoption

Current Status – Chapter 6 of the Charter prescribes a procedure and a time sequence under which the Mayor proposes a budget, Council adopts or amends it, the Mayor may veto items, and Council may override vetoes.

Recommendation -- The Commission believes the budget adoption procedures are sufficiently clear and does not recommend any amendments.

B. Budget Amendments or Fund Transfers after Adoption

Current Status – Under Section 6.16, after a budget is adopted for the fiscal year, any budget changes or transfers from one department to another must be initiated by the Mayor and approved by six votes of Council.

Recommendation – The Commission believes the current Charter is sufficiently clear and does not recommend any amendment.

8. Investigations/Inspector General

Current Status – Under section 4.16(a), the Council has power to investigate matters pertaining to any department, agency or officer of the City. Similarly, under section 4.16(b) the Mayor, CAO, City Auditor, and heads of departments and commissions all have power to investigate matters relating to the performance of their duties. Section 4.16(c) provides power to subpoena records and witnesses in connection with any investigation. The Commission was asked to consider a variety of issues, including whether investigative power should be more limited or whether a separate office of Inspector General should be created.

Recommendations -- The Commission believes the current Charter is clear, reasonably balanced and provides self-limiting mechanisms that could serve to curb abuses of investigative power. The legislative branch and executive branch have independent and equal powers. While investigative power is spread widely across departments, the Mayor and CAO are in a position to prevent abuses through their authority to appoint and remove department heads. The Commission is not aware of any history of substantial abuse of investigative power and does not recommend a change.

As noted in part 2 above, the Commission believes that an independent City Auditor serves a crucial investigative function. The Commission’s recommend- ation regarding appointment and removal of the Auditor is designed to strengthen that function.

9. Boards and Commissions

In the course of addressing issues relating to the appointment and removal of City officers, the Commission noted an additional issue relating to the appointment of members of boards and commissions. A variety of commissions and boards play important roles in the operation of city government. Many have a direct impact on the functions of city departments that are otherwise under operational control of the CAO. As a general rule, either under the Charter or pursuant to ordinance, most of those commissioners and board members are appointed by Council. In many instances the Mayor has no direct role in such appointments. In its final report, the Charter Review Commission may call for a review of the appointment and removal authority for city boards and commissions with a view toward considering the appropriate balance between Council and Mayor in making appointments.

10. Dispute Resolution

The Commission was asked to consider Charter amendments that might provide a mechanism, short of a lawsuit, for resolving potential future disagreements over the relative powers of Mayor and Council. We continue to pursue that question. Our tentative conclusion is that mandatory dispute resolution processes, written into a Charter, may be impractical. Nevertheless, in our final report we hope to include some recommendations for voluntary steps that may help guide future efforts to resolve disputes.

MEMBERS of THE COMMISSION

The Richmond City Charter Review Commission consists of nine members, who either live or work in Richmond; four of which appointed by Richmond City Council, four appointed by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and a member selected by the original eight members of the Commission from outside the group to serve as chairman. Members of the 2008-2009 Richmond City Charter Review Commission include:

1. Chairman, John G. Douglass, Esq. - Selected by Richmond City Charter Review Commission Members, November 10, 2008

2. Ms. Jeannie Baliles - Appointed by Mayor Wilder

3. Mr. Orran L. Brown, Esq. - Appointed by Richmond City Council

4. Ms. Jacqueline G. Epps, Esq. - Appointed by Mayor Wilder

5. Dr. Robert Holsworth - Appointed by Mayor Wilder

6. The Honorable Benjamin Lambert III - Appointed by Mayor Wilder

7. Mr. Frederick Marsh, Esq. - Appointed by Richmond City Council

8. Dr. John Moeser - Appointed by Richmond City Council

9. Mr. John Thompson, Esq. - Appointed by Richmond City Council