Monday, January 25, 2010

Council Gives $600,000 to Wealthy Landowner-Developer Ronald Stallings & Abolishes Admission Taxes for Businesses at Request of Business Group

Above, you may listen to my comments during the citizen comment periods speaking in opposition to Ordinance 2009-217 to grant $600,000 for the Hippodrome/Taylor Mansion renovation on 2nd Street and Ordinance 2009-237 which abolished the Admissions Tax on complimentary tickets.

Part 1 - Richmond City Council • January 25, 2010 - Awards Period from Silver Persinger.

Part 2/5 - Hippodrome $600,000 Grant - Ord. 2009-217 - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Part 3/5 - Richmond City Council - Consent Agenda - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Part 4/5 - Richmond City Council - Council Reports & Announcements - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Part 5/5 - Richmond City Council - Introduction of New Papers - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Dr. Donald Stern on the "Status of the City's Health" @ Informal Session

Part 1/3 - Report from Richmond City Assessor / Docket Review @ Informal Session - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Part 2/3 - Dr. Donald Stern "State of the City's Health" @ Informal Session - Jan. 25, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Support Keeping Inmates in Their Local Communities

It was announced in December that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine had negotiated a contract with Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections to bring 1000 inmates from Pennsylvania and keep them in Virginia's prisons.

According to an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch [Dec. 22, 2009]:

"Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said the general terms of contract reached but not yet signed with Pennsylvania call for a payment of $62 per day per inmate to stay at the 1,000-inmate prison near Chatham.

Gordon Hickey, spokesman for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, said the contract could bring in $20.4 million annually, of which the Department of Corrections would keep $10.5 million for operating expenses and the remaining $9.9 million would go to the general fund."

Another interesting bit from the article:

"Virginia now hosts 269 inmates from Wyoming, 38 from the Virgin Islands and two from Hawaii, Traylor said.

After parole was abolished in 1995, the state picked up the pace of prison construction. But the prison population did not rise as fast as expected. As a result, the state was renting out 3,300 prison beds and grossing $78 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2001."

The Pittsylvania County Branch of the NAACP is circulating a petition to oppose the transfer of local inmates because it would place additional burdens on the families of inmates. On Tuesday, January 19, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to the same effect.

Please Sign this Petition to show your support for keeping inmates close to their families at Green Rock Correctional Facility.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

$600,000 Grants for Millionaire Ronald Stallings' Hippodrome Theater / Taylor Mansion Project / Abolish Admissions Tax Revenue Now?

Here are a couple of recent worthwhile articles on the Hippodrone deal written by Isaac Graves, a former aid to Mayor Douglas Wilder.

Hippodrome deal merits further Council scrutiny as City finances become constrained

Ron Stallings and The Hippodrome; the final act or only intermission in a lengthy play?

At Thursday's Finance Committee meeting, I spoke in opposition to Ordinance 2009-217. It would give a $600,000 grant to millionaire Jackson Ward developer Ronald Stallings' Hippodrone Theater and Kelvin Hanson's Taylor Mansion. By chance, Kelvin Hanson's name was on the agenda, named as a reappointment to the Economic Development Authority. The summary of Ordinance 2009-217 reads, "To authorize the CAO to execute a Development Agreement between the City of Richmond, Virginia and the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond, Virginia for the purpose of implementing economic development and HOME grants for a mixed use development..."

Does something sound wrong? Should a developer who is a member of the Economic Development Authority also be a primary developer in a project financed by the Authority?

Part 1A - Marcus Jones on Future Economic Outlook for Richmond @ Finance - Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Part 1B - Byron Marshall on Budget Process for FY 2011 @ Finance - Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Finance Committee Discusses $600,000 Grants for Hippodrone Theater - Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Above, listen to the entire Council discussion of the ordinance. The final vote from the Committee was 2-1 . Mrs. Ellen Robertson [6th District] and Mr. Charles Samuels [2nd District] in the affirmative and Mr. Bruce Tyler [1st District] voted in the negative.

Silver Persinger Speaks Against Exemption from Admission Tax for Business - Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Ordinance 2009-237 proposes to abolish admissions taxes on complimentary tickets. I spoke in opposition to the paper. This paper was inspired by the Virginia Automotive Dealers Association not being happy to pay the $7000 for handing out 20,000 complimentary tickets. So they sent their representative to their friend Mr. Doug Conner [9th District], a friendly ear in the auto body repair business, himself.

Why should businesses be exempt from paying the same taxes that us regular citizens have to pay? When I buy two tickets, I am paying the admissions tax. This is the cost of doing business. Perhaps there are better ways they can spend their marketing dollars. Corporations and business organizations should not have so much influence creating legislation.

As you can see from the existing legislation, there are already exemptions for children under 12 and for free admission to "museums, botanical gardens, or zoos."

Part 2- Shall Business be Exempted from Tax? Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Above, watch the entire discussion on abolishing the admission tax on complimentary tickets, the discussion starts around 3 minutes, 30 seconds [3:30].

Part 4 - Consolidation of Departments Discussed / Bond Issuance Rushed to End Meeting Quickly - Jan. 21, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

City of Richmond Debuts New Website & New Blogs!

Check it out.

According to a blog post at yesterday at 12:18 PM, the Press Secretary's Office announced the newly redesigned website.

It has a nice look. My only criticism so far of the updated site is that URL addresses changed. This would make links on bloggers, individuals, and organizations websites return a broken link. It is important to preserve the accessibility that the community builds around the City's website.

Also worthy of note is the Jones Administration's recent effort to improve communication with the public. Here is a list of official City of Richmond, Virginia blogs, many are new.

Richmond Police Department's Blog The Police Department's blog began in January. Track crime in the "Noteworthy Reports." View photos of wanted and arrested individuals. I learned this interesting fact from the blog, "Further details can be obtained from incident reports at RPD Headquarters’ Information Desk or by calling the numbers listed below. Reports are kept on file for public review for 24 hours."

Press Releases from Mayor's Press Secretary This blog is a collection of Press Releases that have been issued by Press Secretary Tammy Hawley and Michael Wallace, Public Information Officer III.

Mayor Dwight Jones' blog, nothing on here yet.

City News

Department of Community Development Blog

Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities Blog

Department of Public Works Nothing yet on this blog.

And a heck of a lot of blogs about Procurement.

Procurement Requests

Procurement Request Proposals

Procurement Informal Bids

Procurement Formal Bids

Procurement Construction Bids

Procurement Awards

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Robertson's 75th Monthly Town Hall Meeting - Where are we going? What are our priorities?

Part 1- Ellen Robertson's 6th District Town Hall Meeting - Jan. 9, 2009 from Silver Persinger.

There were two topics of discussion at today's meeting. The first hour was spent reflecting on the monthly town hall meetings, themselves -- the format, substance, and purpose of the monthly 6th District Town Hall meetings. Should they continue meeting monthly, every other month, or quarterly? Would a newsletter be better? Councilwoman Ellen Robertson wanted suggestions from everyone in the room about how to increase citizen participation at the monthly meetings.

There were suggestions from nearly every person in attendance. The discussion ended with the decision to continue with monthly meetings, however they will be moved around the district quarterly,

Part 2 - Ellen Robertson's 6th District Town Hall Meeting - Jan. 9, 2010 from Silver Persinger.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Free Parking Now Available for City Council Meetings at 10th & Broad Streets*

* Note: This only applies to the 6 PM Council meetings held on the second and fourth Mondays each month.

News Release

For Immediate Release
Friday, January 8, 2010

Additional Parking Spaces Available for City Council Meetings

Richmond, VA – Virginia Commonwealth University has agreed to allow the city of Richmond to use the surface parking lot at the corner of Broad and 10th Streets for public use during City Council formal sessions. This lot will provide more than 100 free parking spaces for each City Council formal session, which are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6 pm in the second floor of City Hall.

The entrance to the parking lot is on 10th Street directly across from City Hall. A parking attendant will allow entry into the lot and provide parking directions to residents. Exits to the parking lot are located on both 10th and 11th Streets. The exit gate will open automatically when the sensors are triggered.

Virginia Commonwealth University and the city of Richmond are not responsible for vehicles parked in the lot. Any vehicle left in the lot at the conclusion of a City Council formal session will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Contact: Michael Wallace
(804) 646-2772

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Education on Mass Marketing, Propaganda and Social Control

Here is an excellent BBC documentary directed by Adam Curtis.

From a description of the video:

"THE CENTURY OF THE SELF Adam Curtis' acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty. To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really?

The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund's devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund's great grandson, Matthew Freud. Sigmund Freud's work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society's belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man's ultimate goal."

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year from the Richmond Telegraph : An Editorial

This blog is one year old. Over the year I've posted 120 entries and entertained over 7400 visitors. Some of the posts were simply reprinting of Press Releases from Mayor Jones' office announcing some new appointee. Sometimes, the post included an article and many times the only item posted was a video of the meeting with no report. My preference is to have report accompany the video. It is important to have keywords -- names, projects, developers, etc. to make the video even more accessible to the people who are interested in watching the video and don't even know it.

If you ever see a video without an article, feel free to write one and submit it to me. I will post it and give you credit. Though I reserve the right to edit for accuracy and may add additional information. Any article is better than no article.

This year, in 2010, I am proposing to scale back my coverage of the City Council's committees. I will still record the twice-a-month, 2nd & 4th Monday meetings. I will still film committee meetings that begin after 5 PM. However, I will not attend many Council meetings that begin before 5 PM. On one hand this is a protest, for years I have requested that they hold their committee meetings at 6 PM to encourage the public to attend; rather than holding meetings at 3 and 4 PM, when many people are working. I don't want to lose any more wages due to attending Richmond City Council meetings. It produces a tangible and real economic hardship for me. Readers of this blog have not contributed one cent to subsidize my efforts. I lost wages and this blog consumed a considerable amount of my free time in my evenings over the past year.

I think it is worthwhile to video record the meetings. There is a lot that is discussed and a picture tells us a hidden story that is not immediately comprehended, yet recorded. Videos allow people to see how government is conducted and who believes what by what they say.

I have enjoyed documenting the Richmond City Council over the last year. I encourage citizens to attend all the Council's meetings. You can see a calendar listing of upcoming meetings here. One may initially think it would be boring, but you learn all kinds of things about what is going on in the city. Then there is the comedy of the Council members themselves. They love to speak much and say little. They are all interesting people and personalities. All likable on a one on one basis; yet each one has their own mind, beliefs, and motivations. At a certain level, the display is pure theatre, made more pathetically humorous by the lack of engagement by the citizenry of Richmond.

By being the most vocal critic and active citizen-observer of the Council, I am in a unique position to criticize the institution. I am sure there are many unsavory discussions that go on behind the scenes that even a regular attendee of meetings does have access to or knowledge of.

People who live here [in Richmond, as well the U.S.], don't take our democracy seriously.

What do you think will happen if every citizen sits back and doesn't hold our government or the corporate press accountable?

What happens, is what is happening now -- corporations, government, and career politicians have allowed our nation's economy to wither from a productive one based on industry and agriculture to one based on consumption and services. Military imperialism to defend US economic interests is the order of the day. Private property and accumulated capital are protected and legitimized at the expense of the public's well being. People are ignorant of the conditions and mechanisms of society.

The power of democracy is that one can speak for others. By using the power of free speech, an individual can appeal to another's reasoning or emotions. By discussion, dialogue, and argument a reasoned opinion can be achieved. Unfortunately, democracy also requires the Free Press. This is unfortunate because newspapers are private concerns and reflect the interests and political views of their publishers. Many times, the Richmond Times-Dispatch does not cover very important issues that are discussed at meetings. Since the public does not attend the meeting and they are unable to read an honest account of the meeting, the public largely remains in the dark. If I can see this occurring at the local level, you can be sure it is likely worse at the state and federal levels.

Please leave any feedback in the comments area. Suggestions or things you'd like to see me do. Thanks for reading and for your interest in Richmond, Virginia's government.