Art Museum Should Be Held AccountableVMFA's recent bulldozing of a carriage house and trees at the Confederate Memorial Park raises some serious concerns and questions ("Confederate Sons: Arts Museum Wrecked Historic Site," Street Talk, June 14).
In most states, when an individual acquires a historical home, he or she has to obtain permission from the town and/or the local historical society in order to make any improvements to that home. Such stipulations are usually made quite clear when the individual acquires that home, and are well-rooted in common sense.
It would appear that VMFA considered itself exempt from such stipulations when it "paved paradise to put up a parking lot"! Since they have been formally called to account for their actions, I wait with bated breath to hear their explanation for their actions.
Bill VallanteCommack, N.Y.
Sons of Confederate Veterans associate
Wilder Critics:Get Out of the WayMayor Wilder's detractors ("Taming Wilder," News & Features, June 21) remind me of President Bush's detractors. They are probably the same people.
Anyone who has spent time in Arabia in the past 30 years understands that war between the restrictive East and the expansive West was inevitable; President Bush only performs his duty and destiny.
Anyone who has lived in Richmond for the past 30 years understands that it was a city in collapse. Mayor Wilder, almost single-handedly, redefined the governmental structure so that real problems could be dealt with effectively.
And he started with scraps. City Council is just beginning to understand its limits as ordinance writers and keepers of the purse. Meanwhile, I thrill every time I hear of some defective bureaucrat getting fired or that another source of squandered money is staunched.
My only complaint is that the mayor is not mean enough. Richmond is still plagued with street bums, houses in disrepair, too-loud music and barking dogs, for starters.
In 2003, 80 percent of Richmond voters voted for a strong-mayor form of government. In 2004 over 80 percent of voters voted for Doug Wilder to be that strong mayor. In 2006 less than a dozen folks stand on the corner downtown and Melissa Scott Sinclair declares, "For the first time, anti-Wilder sentiment is spilling onto the streets." I suspect Ms. Sinclair was looking for a story here and found a few folks on the street to sound off. So be it. that's the American way.
However, while some are standing on the corner, others are hard at work on changing the management of Richmond city government. Mayor Wilder has brought to City Hall talented new faces: Harry Black in finance, Rachel Flynn in community development and Jeffrey Powell in the Department of Public Works, to name a few.
Since elected, Mayor Wilder has assembled transition teams and efficiency teams, yes all hell has broken loose: We have Police Chief Rodney Monroe one of the best police chiefs in the nation. We have a mayor who can look at any issue and not worry about the race card. Some will stay on like CAO William Harrell, while some will go. The point is that the voters of Richmond asked for change and change is what they are getting. With a voter mandate unlike any in modern times, we have an elected politician doing exactly what he said he would do.
The mayor's "City of the Future" is education-driven. Old run-down schools can be closed and new ones built, and does that ruffle feathers? You bet it does. Crime and education have been put on the front burners. In one fell swoop the mayor brought four booster groups together under one roof ("City's Renaissance Done," Street Talk, June 21). Instead of four groups fighting for funds and pet projects, now we have one united group. The new combined group is now working for the mayor not the other way around. I have not heard anyone suggest that challenging the poor finances of the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation was ill-advised. The VAPAF had failed to raise the needed state, federal and private funding to do any more than dig a hole on Broad Street and raise our meals tax. Now we have a unified performing arts plan and the Virginia General Assembly has stepped to the plate with additional funding.
As a member of the Mayor's Inter-Agency Task Force on Community Infrastructure, I can say that proposed changes in zoning, permits and affordable housing are moving forward with amazing speed and expertise. I have never seen so many private citizens working with city staff and national and regional experts to better our city since I arrived in Richmond 26 years ago. If Councilwoman Ellen Robertson (my representative in Shockoe Slip) believes that "the prognosis isn't sunny" (referring to Wilder's 18 months in office), then she should find the light and get involved.
I believe dissent is healthy in any political environment, but so is recognizing when a politician actually does what he told you he was going to do if elected. Since Mayor Wilder was elected to bring change to City Hall, then maybe you could ask those of us who are working for change and not just those standing on the corner complaining.
Michael T. Byrne
City's Housing Czar Should Be "Separated"There's no excuse for blighted houses in any neighborhood ("Housing Czar's Dilapidated House Draws Ire," Street Talk, June 14). Henrico seems to have a better handle on dealing with dilapidated homes.
Were it up to me, Freed G. "Mike" Etienne, new housing czar for the city, would be fired yesterday. Anyone who can't maintain his own house has no business being in charge of anything.