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The Score 2011

Rating the year when the earth shook, basketball soared, and we were occupied by more than Hollywood.

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Richmond becomes Hoopstown USA. And we're still in shock. +9

It starts almost as a joke. After the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University make the NCAA tournament — both selected to the Southwest Region — the idea of the Rams and Spiders playing one another becomes a punchline.

Or is it more of a strange, unlikely dream? VCU didn't belong in the tournament. UR did, but few observers had selected the university to advance to the Sweet 16. But there they are in San Antonio.

University of Richmond President Ed Ayers, right, goes for a roof-raising cheer beside Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao. Mayor Dwight Jones speaks at the rally held at the Turning Basin before the Rams and Spiders headed for San Antonio. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • University of Richmond President Ed Ayers, right, goes for a roof-raising cheer beside Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao. Mayor Dwight Jones speaks at the rally held at the Turning Basin before the Rams and Spiders headed for San Antonio.

For the better part of a week, Richmond as Hoopstown USA defines March Madness. ESPN's deadpan comedian, Kenny Mayne, stands atop Church Hill, turning the moniker into satire. UR loses to the University of Kansas, the region's No. 1 seed and favorite to win it all, which then gets thumped by VCU in the Elite Eight. The Rams go on to the Final Four, becoming perhaps the greatest underdog story in tournament history. But VCU hardly plays like an underdog.

Virginia Commonwealth eclipses its cross-town rival, becoming the most unlikely Cinderella on the way to the Final Four. The team goes to the ESPYs. Visits the White House. Coach Shaka Smart, and his little-man strut, becomes the celebrity coach of the moment.

For one week, VCU and UR put Richmond on the map. One needed the other. There would be no Hoopstown without both.

And we won't soon forget. For once, Richmond is in the spotlight for something other than Confederate month declarations and "Daily Show" spoofs. And the capper? Both Smart and UR head coach Chris Mooney turn down other offers — and more money — to coach elsewhere.

They had their shining moments — and chose us.

A boy wanders into the woods, and we don't lose hope. +10

While the number of volunteers searching for Robert Wood swells past 3,000, and the nights grow colder, it seems like a lost cause. Wood, an 8-year-old who is autistic, wanders off during a family outing at North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County Oct. 23. For five days, search and rescue teams comb the woods of the rural county.

The streaming-news updates and social media chronicling the effort grow dire, but hundreds of volunteer searchers don't lose hope. Forget the horror of a little boy alone in the woods at night, with temperatures dipping into the low 40s. He needs his medication, food and water.

One finds him, curled up in the fetal position, in a gulley less than a mile from where he wandered off. He's alive and relatively stable. After a few days in the hospital, he returns home as healthy as a toad. Experts say his autism helped him survive, probably keeping him unaware of his predicament.

Happy endings? We don't get many. But this one should last us a while.


Mother Nature hits us with a double whammy. -6

So, where were you when you finally got tired of answering the question of where were you when the 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck Richmond?

The strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast in more than half a century strikes the city on an August afternoon, and when the tremors subside, Richmond calls its mother to assure her that it did not get swallowed up by the earth or crushed beneath a falling highway underpass — and then it goes back to work.

Four days later, however, President Obama declares a state of emergency for Virginia while Hurricane Irene bears down off the coast. The category-one hurricane leaves nearly 75 percent of residents in the region without power. For days ... and days. ...

Pat Robertson, of the Christian Broadcasting Network and reputed authority on the causes of natural disasters, does not weigh in.

  • Goochland County Sheriff's Office
  • Brenda S. Grubbs.

Embezzling proves profitable. -5

We see a rash of high-profile embezzlement cases in which people are charged with stealing from friends, employers, a church day care, a Catholic school and taxpayers. A sampling:

• David B. Kagey pleads guilty to embezzling at least $422,000 from his friend and business partner, dentist Edward D. Gardner Jr., over a five-year period. Kagey confesses that he spent it on redecorating, restaurants and "a lot of trips to the Paper Moon." His sentence: three years (40 years, 37 suspended).

• Marks and Harrison lawyer Kyle C. Leftwich is convicted of embezzling $430,000 from the law firm over seven years. Her sentence: just more than three years (32 years, 29 suspended).

• Former Goochland County Treasurer Brenda S. Grubbs pleads guilty to embezzling $185,000 in public money, which she sends, in the name of Internet love, to a Nigerian scam artist. Her sentence: four years (40 years, 36 suspended).

Compare: If you're convicted in federal court of possessing 28 grams of crack (about an ounce) you'll be handed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Even if it's your first offense. And you sure didn't make $430,000 selling it.

Remember, kids: If you're going to try crime, white-collar is the way to go.

Jennifer Walle.
  • Jennifer Walle.

A touchy subject puts City Hall in a pinch. -5

It's the type of political scandal to make this genteel burg clutch its collective pearls. In January, Jennifer Walle, a young aide to City Councilman Bruce Tyler, accuses her middle-aged fellow council public liaison, David Hathcock, of inappropriate touching during a meeting in her office in April 2010. Via an emailed response leaked to media, Hathcock appeared to acknowledge that some kind of inappropriate incident took place, writing: "I had the same thought. You are right."

It gets ickier from there. Walle elaborated in her lawsuit and interviews with media that Hathcock pulled her onto his lap and groped her, grabbing her buttocks. During the next several months the city's investigation ensnares Hathcock's boss, City Council President Kathy Graziano, and various other City Hall employees. Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit filed by Walle against Graziano, Hathcock and the city of Richmond for allegedly trying to bury the incident becomes a political hot potato. Also, Graziano may or may not have called Walle a "prick tease," as Walle alleges in a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Walle's claims against the city and Graziano are dismissed, and both Walle and Hathcock leave City Hall. But the unlikely alliance of councilmen Bruce Tyler and E. Martin Jewell — both outspoken critics of how the incident was handled — blossomed amidst the controversy (see "Bromance").

Lessons? There were plenty. "Don't touch co-workers inappropriately — unless you're sure they're into it," comes to mind. But it's best to delay that discussion until the scandal is finally concluded. Terms have been reached in Walle's civil battery lawsuit against Hathcock, says William Shields, her new lawyer, thought the agreement has yet to be finalized. Walle's employment commission complaints, however, remain pending.

Marty Jewell.
  • Marty Jewell.

A bromance blossoms on City Council. +2

He's the no-nonsense architect from the West End, with graying, Sonny Crocket hair.

And he's the freckled, excitable owner of a janitorial services company from Randolph.

Councilmen Bruce Tyler and Marty Jewell just aren't meant to be together — they're from different sides of the tracks. But they hook up in 2011. And you can bet Mayor Dwight Jones and Council President Kathy Graziano sure wish they hadn't.

The boys find their stride during the council liaison sexual harassment scandal, which kicks off in January. It happens to involve Tyler's former liaison, Jennifer Walle, and David Hathcock, Graziano's former sidekick and senior aide.

Bruce Tyler.
  • Bruce Tyler.

Tyler needs an ally; Jewell is there for him.

"She says to me, 'Bruce has made certain comments, but nothing offensive. I just took it as Bruce being Bruce," Jewell says of his conversation with Walle earlier this year, during his renegade fact-finding mission. He relays the message to Tyler, who's lying low amid the fracas: "He said, 'Marty, if you weren't so ugly, I'd kiss you.'"

From there, the relationship blossoms. During the course of the year, Tyler and Jewell become council's odd couple, challenging Jones and Graziano at every turn. During the debate on the city jail, Tyler and Jewell have the administration on its heels, questioning the minority contract, the selection of the construction company, the jail's size and location, even its height. Sure, seemingly innocuous screw-ups are perceived as conspiracies, and Tyler and Jewell may be guilty of a little political grandstanding. But so what? Maybe Jones and the Graz needed to be knocked down a few pegs.

While Tyler dissects the administration with his lawyerly inquisitions and architect's perspective on procurement, Jewell sets fire to chambers with his impassioned, if sometimes rambling, morality plays.

Still, what makes Tyler and Jewell such a breath of fresh air is their willingness to call their shots and follow through. While Tyler lobs emotionless critiques, tinged with fatherly disappointment — "It's been a disservice to the citizens, to the people in jail, to the inmates," Tyler says in the summer. "At the end of the day, we have not put our best foot forward." — Jewell tears the mayor a new one.

"I'm just troubled by the dumb-ass moves," Jewell says. "It's got a horrible odor to it."

The city scratches the surface of the Bottom. +1

Tepid approval greets the city's long-delayed Shockoe Bottom Revitalization Strategy, commissioned for $150,000 back in 2009.

True, the more enthusiastic reactions to the November presentation in the Bottom could have been drowned out by all the debate about just how disruptive — or not — the area's night life can be, and how much — or little — City Hall should be involved. But another possible explanation for the lack of hosannas is that that the success of the strategy seems to hinge on the train shed.

Yes, the train shed. The large, underused thing connected to Main Street Station that looks like the product of an architect's brutalism-themed nightmare. Optimistic city officials hope to transform it from dead weight to economic engine, the centerpiece of a new creativity district.

Naturally, Richmond asks questions: How will the city attract development to a location that remains in a flood plain? And what about the nightclubs that attract all those black and allegedly unruly youths?

Yes, the study concluded that more study is needed. At least we get a shiny new train shed, even if it's empty.

That's more than can be said for its stewardship of City Stadium. News that a local developer will float a proposal to transform the property into mixed-use retail leaks in February. Nearly a year later, the City Council-proposed economic study, one of several pending economic studies still being, well, studied, has yet to be released.

Veal marrow bone is seasoned with gray sea salt and served with tapenade bruschetta at the Blue Goat. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Veal marrow bone is seasoned with gray sea salt and served with tapenade bruschetta at the Blue Goat.

We dive into dining from nose to tail. +5

Local chefs finally get to cook what they want — the gutsier the better. Offal — and it's not funny to pronounce it awful — makes an impact, and pork belly and braised beef cheeks are almost de rigueur on any self-respecting gastro-pub's menu. Chef Kevin LaCivita puts crispy pig ears in front of a Country-Club-of-Virginia-heavy crowd at the Blue Goat near Libbie and Grove. He gets a wary reception but a lot of chatter and a partly grudging realization that crab cakes aren't so exotic anymore. Chefs Philip Denny (Six Burner), Francis Devilliers (Bistro Bobette), Owen Lane (the Magpie) and Lee Gregory (the Roosevelt) dig deep into the nose-to-tail harvest, giving us the nasty bits in the tastiest ways, and another slow step forward in the culinary universe.


We take off the training wheels. +6

In December 2010 Richmond throws its helmet into the ring to serve as host to the 2015 UCI World Road Cycling Championships, a nine-day event that promises to draw hundreds of thousands of rowdy cycling fans. Nine months later a big bundle of joy arrives: The city wins its bid.

Yes, car-loving, suburb-surrounded Richmond has started its own race to become bike-friendly. The mayor appoints the city's first pedestrian, bicycles and trails coordinator, Jakob Helmboldt. The city starts stenciling 80 miles of bike lanes and shared lanes. And the Virginia Capital Trail between Richmond and Jamestown aims to be finished by 2014. The mayor even rides a bike to work one day! (Before riding in his SUV to a news conference later.)

Will bikes ever rule Richmond? It'll take time, says Craig Dodson, a cycling mentor to city youth and a former pro racer. He's encouraged by the focused, top-down efforts, he says; but the biggest hazard isn't the roads. It's "the motorists," he says. "Because they're so impatient." Be careful, guys — we don't want to become known as the city that ran over the next Lance Armstrong.

We become total fame bores. +4

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln movie comes to town. And for nine straight weeks we chronicle such things as: John Hawkes goes to Starbucks, Gloria Reuben eats a black-bean quesadilla and James Spader buys a frying pan from Pleasants Hardware.

We're sorry, OK? We can't help that the stars act so damn nice and normal while they're in town. They're just like us! With a few more millions.

Daniel Day-Lewis — Abe himself — hurls no autograph seekers down the Libby Hill Park steps. Joseph Gordon-Levitt invites no Virginia Commonwealth University undergrads back to his place for a pillow fight. (That we know of, though there were some late-night dance sessions.) And Tommy Lee Jones does not laconically shoot anyone.

Then everyone heads back to Hollywood. (Which is, of course, noted on social media: "On a plane with JGL and James Spader, leaving #rva for #dfw best plane ride ever," @eleano22 tweets us last week). Muttonchops are shaved. Cabins and cannons vanish from the State Capitol. Richmond returns to its normal, more depressing gossip.

We have to say, it was pretty cool while it lasted.

The Virginia Historical Society’s new Civil War exhibit set attendance records on its opening weekend. “We let the people of the times speak for themselves,” says society President Paul A. Levengood.
  • The Virginia Historical Society’s new Civil War exhibit set attendance records on its opening weekend. “We let the people of the times speak for themselves,” says society President Paul A. Levengood.

We commemorate and confront our history. +6

Richmond greets the first year of the Civil War sesquicentennial with little hoopla. No big re-enactments or secession balls here, thanks. Although historic attractions report seeing more visitors, tourists don't swarm. (Wait until next year, when battle anniversaries begin.)

A few accuse the city of failing to capitalize on its Confederate heritage. Most Richmonders profess indifference. Isn't the Civil War over? Why do we keep looking backward like ol' J.E.B. Stuart's statue, perpetually staring down Franklin Street?

But the city takes a few steps forward, too. In April, 17 signs are unveiled along the city's Slave Trail so people can follow the history of enslaved Africans. And in May, after years of protests, Virginia Commonwealth University transfers to the city its parking lot at Broad and 15th streets, believed to contain part of one of the nation's oldest black cemeteries.

Next year the city's Slave Trail Commission will consider some exploratory excavation of the burial ground and hone plans for a slavery museum. It's all just beginning.

Gay pride gets a show of support. From the Fed. +4

Of all of the displays of tolerance and inclusion, it's striking when the Federal Reserve Bank flies a rainbow-colored flag in June, the month dedicated to gay pride.

It rubs some people the wrong way, drawing criticism from some employees and socially conservative politicians. Republican Delegate Bob Marshall pens a nasty little letter condemning the display. But Fed president Jeffrey Lacker sticks to his guns, refusing to take down the flag.

"The Pride flag underscores our overall commitment to inclusion and symbolizes that we respect all individuals and their many differences — and that we believe no one should face discrimination in our Bank," Lacker shoots back in a letter to Marshall.

The flag flies through the end of June. Lacker makes his point. Besides, there are still 11 other months for celebrating traditional marriage, the divorce rate, and good, old-fashioned hetero custody battles.

Lifelong friends Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay launched Richmond’s newest microbrews with the opening of Hardwood Park Craft Brewery. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Lifelong friends Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay launched Richmond’s newest microbrews with the opening of Hardwood Park Craft Brewery.

We like our beer crafted — and close to home. +5

From its new 12,000-square-foot home near The Diamond, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery begins to roll out its first batch in September, lovingly presided over by co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh. Later that month they throw open the brewery doors for an on-site tasting, and some 1,400 locals arrive to partake of Singel, the company's debut ale. It is blond, Belgian in style, and notably contains 6.2 percent alcohol by volume. In the ensuing months, Hardywood's maroon taps appear in bars across the city.

What does this prove? For starters, having two local microbreweries competing over Richmond's love — the nearly 18-year-old Legend Brewing Co. being the other local sweetheart — is yet more evidence that this city loves its beer — small-batch craft beer, especially.

Need more evidence? Ask someone if they know someone who brews up batches at home — like the beer heads of the James River Homebrewers, which holds regular meet-and-drinks at Mekong. In August the group is host to the 18th Dominion Cup — one of the state's largest homebrew competitions — at Capital Ale House.

And lest we forget, New Belgium Brewing Co.'s cash cow, Fat Tire, becomes available in Richmond for the first time, creating a sort of summer frenzy. Besides turning longtime fans frothy, it leads to a startling admission from Style Weekly's Jack Lauterback, who admits in a column to having sex with a cold pint of Fat Tire. "It was very satisfying," he reports.

We'll take your word for it, sir.

Virginia politics builds up to 2012 with a frothy head of steam. +1

The year starts strong for the Republican Party, which slam-dunks anti-Obama sentiment in midterm elections, propelling Henrico County's Eric Cantor into the serious leadership slot of House majority leader. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, his hair perfect, rakes in great popularity numbers. And wild man Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli tantalizes the tea party with his in-your-face conservatism.

Yet, as the coming year brings with it national elections, the Republicans have blown their big moment.

Cantor's no-prisoners fight over the debt-ceiling debate in the summer backfires, making him seem more Eddie Haskell than Abraham Lincoln.

McDonnell stays popular but his marquee initiatives of privatizing liquor stores and erecting offshore oil platforms go nowhere.

Cuccinelli remains as intriguing as ever. His plans to run for governor in 2013 topple the GOP's apple cart. The party's ruling Politburo already had selected the amiable but forgettable Bill Bolling, now lieutenant governor, as McDonnell's successor.

This should be good news for the Democrats, but they remain weak. Obama and the economy look better, but barely. Former Gov. Tim Kaine, running against former Gov. George Allen for Sen. Jim Webb's seat, hasn't much to show for running the national Democratic Party.

The coming year is Cuccinelli's.

Into the sunset: Liberty Valance. - SCOTT ELMQUIST

A little color's lost from our pallet of neighborhood hangouts. -4

Kitsch takes it on the chin this year, with some of the city's longest-running quirky businesses falling by the wayside, at least temporarily. Two were smoky havens for meat eaters — Liberty Valance, with its John Wayne-themed saloon, closed over the summer, and Shenanigans, with its stage load of twang and reverb going out with a blast in December but looking for a new home. And the biggest loss to a certain Westhampton set is Phil's Continental Lounge on Grove Avenue, where getting hammered but staying polite was an art form all its own. Not all is lost: Phil's is scheduled to resurface up the street soon in cleaner digs; the old spot becomes simply the Continental under the ownership of restaurateur Johnny Giavos, promising some scratched heads while customers wonder which continent they're on.

The mayor just doesn't deliver. -7

OK, so we're no longer on board. Mayor Dwight Jones talked about building this city by "design and not default" for three years. He finally got around to announcing plans for a couple of schools and a city jail, and pissed off just about everybody — the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, construction contractors, half of City Council, next-door neighbor Ray Boone. This was supposed to be the year he finally did something, but he just defaulted.

The problems are manifold. Jones' administration, thought to be smart and methodical, begins to seem, well, incompetent. During the jail fiasco the administration forgets to inform the state that its plans changed, jeopardizing $30 million in state funds for the $134.6 million jail — even after spending millions of dollars on jail consultants to keep them abreast of such things. The same administration bungles school building plans, causing innumerable delays, and only recently began breaking ground. And these are plans that were in place before Jones took office.

The Jones team likes to deliberate, but it shouldn't take years to study Shockoe Bottom; plans for a new Richmond Coliseum; a new ballpark; a new transfer hub for GRTC Transit System; selling the old City Stadium; developing North Boulevard; planning the riverfront. There's a reason why the Richmond Flying Squirrels have been threatening to move elsewhere. Jones promises big, but doesn't deliver.

Oh, and he's just not very personable, which is strike 10. The Baptist preacher refuses to let his guard down, and shows his not-so-neighborly side when Occupy Richmond protestors camp out next door in the front yard of the Richmond Free Press publisher, Boone. Remember the refusal to use the front door, the speeding black Suburban down the driveway, with Jones in the back? We do.

We expected more in the post-Doug Wilder era. So far, we're getting less.

Richard Branson. - SCOTT ELMQUIST

The creative class gets redefined to mean anything, and nothing. 0

The booster buzzword of 2011 is "creativity." And that's because it's a word and an idea so open-ended that Richmond's booster class can define it, and ignore it, however it wishes.

Several different civic campaigns emerge, designed to re-brand Richmond as a capital of creative thought — Innovation Excellence (i.e. "I.E."), RVACreates and Richmond Unite the most prominent. Unfortunately, the focus is on marketing the idea of creativity rather than on the broader sense of the creative-class theory, which holds that fostering street-level creativity and removing social barriers to ideas from outsiders has a trickle-up effect on the local economy.

The big catch is an appearance at a Richmond Unite conference by crusading U.K. billionaire Richard Branson. He tells Style Weekly that local governments ignore and stifle youth at their peril; at that exact moment, city officials place a reflexive curfew on area teenagers in light of a crowd fracas at a First Fridays Art Walk. So much for that.

Of course, this creativity trend is nothing new: The Greater Richmond Chamber, the Greater Richmond Partnership and others have been bringing creative avatars to town for years — social scientists who preach diversity, tolerance and the cultivation of weirdness to enthusiastically nodding crowds of business leaders. But Branson's much-hyped appearance only entices a half-full audience — there no longer seems to be a mass willingness to pay hundreds of dollars to listen to stories about the value of weird and leave it at that. Go figure.

Take the case of Dave Saunders, of the local marketing company Madison and Main, who publicly criticizes Mayor Dwight Jones' administration, or rather its economic development department, for awarding a lucrative branding contract to an agency in Denver, rather than hire a local ad agency (such as Madison and Main). This comes after a much-hyped appearance by the mayor at the Chamber's I.E. conference, where he touts all of the city's wonderful creative energy. It doesn't help perceptions that the director of economic and community development, Peter Chapman, has previously worked in Denver, and previously had been accused of awarding sweetheart contracts to favored clients.

The lesson: Talk is cheap. Richmond boosters and city officials can bring in all the billionaire visionaries, economic data and enlightened PowerPoint presenters they want. When the rubber meets the road, political patronage and corporate logrolling trump creativity every time.

“Portrait of Dora Marr”
  • “Portrait of Dora Marr”

We get Picasso fever and VMFA emerges as a player. +8

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction," the artist Pablo Picasso said. How true. After the massive and stunning $204 million renovation of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is completed, the creative challenge is how to top it. After all, what kind of art could follow — live up to — the most successful private building campaign in Richmond's recent history.

How about the only East Coast appearance of a massive, 170-piece exhibit that spans the career of Picasso, the most celebrated artist of the 20th century?

The Richmond appearance of "Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso" breaks attendance records (a whopping 229,729 people pass through the turnstiles) and, according to Chmura Statistics and Analytics, infuses more than $30 million into the Virginia economy. General museum attendance also triples and museum memberships soar.

After the Picasso jumpstart, VMFA continues to put Richmond on the map as a serious cultural player, not just a place with a cool new building. Popular exhibits follow on the bejeweled treasures of Fabergé, Chinese artist Xu Bing's unusual tobacco art, and the secrets of the Egyptian mummies, among many others — not to mention a Richmond Varietease burlesque show. "Give me a museum and I'll fill it," Picasso once boasted. And how.

Gifters: Sarah Belle and Neil November. - SCOTT ELMQUIST

Empire gets the sum. +5

The city's oldest active performing arts facility, the Empire Theater, gets a sweet 100th birthday gift when philanthropists Sara Belle and Neil November donate $2 million to owners Theatre IV/Barksdale to help with capital improvements and an endowment. The Empire building feigns nonchalance at the news conference announcing the gift, having gone Hollywood by impersonating Grover's Theater in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln movie.

We get occupied. +5

There are two types of political protests: Those that fail to capture the public's awareness and those that succeed. Count Occupy Richmond among the latter.

In October protestors barge en masse into Kanawha Plaza "in solidarity" with the Occupy Wall Street protests, which had gained national attention the month before. Protestors eat, sleep and do everything else while living in the downtown park. They hold rallies and teach-ins to help explain to a somewhat bewildered Richmond who they are and what they want.

It isn't an easy sell. They want, well, a lot of things, most of them related to the worsening gap between the rich and poor. And the water gets murkier when protestors begin a pissing match with City Hall about enforcement of city ordinances that bar camping in public parks. But there's a reason they and the rest of the occupiers protesting in cities across the country have taken over public spaces. It's to start a conversation.

The occupiers get 15 days of it before being kicked out during an early morning raid by police. Lucky for them they've gained a fan in the Richmond Free Press' publisher and editor, Ray Boone. At times a vociferous critic of Mayor Dwight Jones, Boone invites the protestors to camp out in his yard in November. On a drizzly night in November they take him up on the offer. Boone, it should be noted, is the mayor's next-door-neighbor. And the mayor is not pleased. (See: Mayor).

Boone's front yard empties out weeks later. A spokesman for the occupiers says the demonstration had "run its course." Question is, Has Occupy Richmond done the same? In the last days, there were between 10 to 20 occupiers living at the encampment full-time. There were at times more than 60 living at Kanawha Plaza.

The occupiers say they aren't going away. We await phase two, promised for January. Whatever the case, Richmond seems to be paying attention.

Gene Cox moves on. -4

Grumpily witty, observationally wry, seasoned — overseasoned, perhaps — NBC-12's Gene Cox retires after 33 years at the anchor desk, continuing with some special reports, books, tweeting, the occasional appearance. Who could possibly follow as the next Gene Cox? After plugging in various criteria and other local anchor attributes into sophisticated computer models, we just ended up with a number we couldn't understand, like pi. A few conclusions: Juan Conde gets points for some gray, but he's just too smooth. Ryan Nobles is more like Gene's sporty grandson. Greg McQuade's too smiley. Morgan Dean's too Morgany. Bill Fitzgerald who? If only Bill Bevins had time.

A district meant to help downtown arts groups splinters them instead. -8

It would appear to be as easy as placing a canvas on an easel: Designate an official arts district to help the galleries that make up the First Fridays Art Walk, spurring economic development downtown, an idea made possible by new General Assembly laws. Instead, the city's economic-development team comes up with a sprawling arts district proposal that seems to disregard input from the actual stakeholders — the arts groups — and is so large and open-ended (going w-a-a-a-y beyond Broad Street) that many of the desired benefits of a special district (better lighting, code easements, tax breaks) are rendered moot.

Nevertheless, some Broad Street gallery owners and cultural administrators jump at the city's plan, mainly because it does no harm (something you can't say about many of the city's downtown proposals or past arts patronage); one notable supporter praises it with faint damning, saying that "it's better than nothing." Meanwhile, Christina Newton — whose nonprofit, Curated Culture, oversees the Art Walk — supports a smaller, more dynamic plan concocted by Councilman Charles Samuels, who eventually withdraws his proposal in order to study the situation further.

The skirmish over these two competing visions — exacerbated by summertime incidents involving rowdy teenagers at the event — eventually creates a schism among the Broad Street galleries. Several defect from officially participating in the monthly event, saying that they'd rather have business leaders run First Fridays instead of Newton, the founder. Presumably, these would be the same kind of wise, arts-first business leaders who have made the struggling, money-hemorrhaging CenterStage such an inclusive and popular success story.

When the paint dries, Richmond can claim no special arts district and Curated Culture's grass-roots art walk, which was collectively named Style Weekly's 2009 Richmonder of the Year, is in danger of imploding. Proving that the marriage between Richmond's dynamic arts community and its city government can be as messy and divorced from reality as anything Jackson Pollock ever dribbled.

The 2011 Richmond Folk Festival - SCOTT ELMQUIST

We love getting together, especially when wristbands are involved. +7

Festival-it-is (Noun) 1. The overwhelming urge to attend one-day or multiday festivals that feature music, food or any number of shared regional obsessions. 2. An affliction that seems to provoke Richmond area residents into gathering up backpacks, foldout chairs and binoculars, and heading out to an event that is often free. 3. A most pleasant disease that causes more than 200,000 people to attend the Richmond Folk Festival, despite that most will be unfamiliar with the entertainment offerings on display. 4. An annual overtaking of the senses that causes unusual gatherings such as Best Friends Day to happen and to mark 10 years of exuberant alternative outdoor entertainment. 5. A semi-regular occurrence precipitated and fueled by a community's shared love for pigs, ethnic food, riverfront worship, the environment, Second Street and the like. 5. One of the best conditions that Richmond has contracted in recent years, totally superior to noise-ordinance fever. 6. A nice way for all of us to encounter and deal with each other, cool beverages in hand and with babies in slings. 7. A potent virus with no cure in sight and that's totally OK. No, really. Physicians don't need to be bothered on this one.

The Times-Dispatch publisher never grows listless. +2

From "50 Reasons to Celebrate the Richmond Reason" to "A Forward-Looking Richmond Region: 50 Ways to Get There," Richmond Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri discovers the simple beauty — not to mention the didactic value — of lists. Enlisting what must be an enthusiastic, if not beaten-down, graphic designer, Silvestri beseeches us all, in full-page, font-filled editorials, to be grateful for such local treasures as "bricks, bricks and more bricks" and shift our paradigms to embrace such forward-thinking ideals as "multicolors" and "looking ahead." And so we submit our own list as a show of support. Because true problem-solving indeed can begin with lists. With words. With ideas. With the use of Microsoft Word's built-in thesaurus. As Silvestri writes: "They're not meant to inflame. But rather, to inspire."

93 Powerful Ideas for Today and Tomorrow



Bow ties



Cute Babies


Virgil Hazelett

Endearing hobos

Alley mattresses

Duke's Mayonnaise


Arby's Dipping Sauce



Sheriff C.T. Woody

The Tri-Cities

Utility Buddy


Talking Pandas

Economic Impacting

Booster Balls

Public Servants


My Grandmother's Pie Recipe

Laser Cats

Training Wheels

RVA, RVA and More RVA

Post-Picasso Malaise

Personal Servants

The Pussycat Dolls

Cynicism Sucks

Historic Tax Credit Abuse

Richard "Dick" Holder


Community Cialis




Regional Cooperation Fantasy

Ballpark Boxing Bullies

High Meals Tax

Overbearing Neighborhood Associations

Crippling Admissions Tax

Williams and Mullen

Out of town consultants

Nicole Scherzinger

Bigger Dogs

Clueless Council People

Minimum Wage Servants



Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen (and other valued advertisers)

More studies

Creativity Scam


Retirees sitting on boards

Still more damn studies

Tireless boosters

Whiny Gallery Owners

Top down leadership

House Servants

Susan Greenbaum

Dearth of Goth Kids

Pet Carriers

Flavored Tobacco

Tall Bicycles


Skinny Jeans

Happy Dorks

Small Dogs that go "Yip, Yip"

Art kids carrying cardboard portfolios

Open air shopping

Field Servants



Foodie beards

War on Youth

Lincoln spotting

Never-Ending Arts Districts

Please Whisper

No, seriously, Whisper or Face Charges

You are Whispering too Loud.

Creative Denver People

Bosnia (ask Bill Pantele)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt



Four Loko

Free Festivals that will probably disappear because Cheap Ass Patrons Can't Even Donate a Buck or Two to Keep Then Going.

Pimento Cheese Documentaries

Did we mention the studies?


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