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Bo the police horse is gone but his memory lives on

Street Talk

No One Protests, Burns Or Otherwise Notices New Mural
Gas Prices Resurrect GRTC Ad Campaign
Happy Trails, Bo
New Shelters Strong Enough to Stop A Bus
City Workers Get Morning Pep Talk
Science Museum Bash Set for Fall

No One Protests, Burns Or Otherwise Notices New Mural

No one seems to mind Robert E. Lee sharing space with Arthur Ashe, Maggie Walker and other black heroes on this mural.

Make that these murals — the two on the side of the Office Equipment Rental Inc. building at 709 W. Broad St. Owner Dale G. Forrest, who has been there 28 years, says he's heard nothing but nice things about the multicultural mosaic.

He commissioned spray-painting of the brick canvas in November, after a group of young graffiti artists approached him with the idea of revising their previous work there, a montage of scenes from around the city, as a response to the Flood Wall fiasco.

Brad Bacon, a VCU art student, says the group has painted the sides of other buildings in town, usually for little or no pay. (Forrest's only expenditure, for example, was the rental of a lift truck to do work high on the wall, where ladders wouldn't reach.) Bacon says the 14 personalities on the two murals were selected not for political effect, though, but because they had interesting faces and "we wanted there to be somebody everybody could identify with." Ashe, Lee and Walker are joined by Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Cash, Afrika Bambaataa, Edgar Allen Poe, Leonard Peltier, Bruce Lee, Freddie Mercury, Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman.

Even Ted "The Unabomber" Kaczynski made a brief appearance — not Bacon's idea, he says — before Forrest saw him and decided that he might be a little too interesting and identifiable.
Rob Morano

Gas Prices Resurrect GRTC Ad Campaign

You've given in and paid the price — a whopping $1.40 and higher a gallon.

Gas prices are the highest they've been in 20 years, and it's likely they'll keep climbing.

Experts predict prices of $1.80 a gallon by July.

But is it really worth shooting yourself in the head over?

Of course not.

In an ad for Greater Richmond Transit Company, a distraught-looking man holds a gas pump to his temple, as if it were a gun. The copy simply reads: Take The Bus Instead.

It's not the first time the ad has appeared on billboards and buses and in movie theaters throughout Richmond. The very same campaign ran back in the spring of 1996, not surprisingly, the last time gas prices skyrocketed.

"GRTC brought back the ad in January 2000 when gas prices spiked," says Bridget Gilbert, a marketing coordinator with GRTC. "Whenever gas prices spike, GRTC will run the ad, and the reason is, people get it and it gets people's attention," says Gilbert who confesses GRTC has received some calls from people who find the ad "provocative" if not disturbing.

"It's a humorous take," says Chuck Miller, a media placement director at Market Strategies Inc., the company that developed the ads for GRTC.

Miller declined to comment further on the ad, except to say that he did not know the reason why in one ad the pump is pressed against the man's head, but in another, it's pulled away.

But Gilbert says the bottom line is this: "GRTC is a viable means of transportation and is more cost efficient than automobiles.
- Brandon Walters

Happy Trails, Bo

"The only thing he didn't like were cement mixers," recalls Richmond Police Mounted Unit Officer Jeff Napier. Tow trucks? No problem. Ditto for tractor-trailers, buses and other big vehicles. Even screaming ambulances.

But something about mixers always made Bo, Napier's strikingly handsome, strikingly sable mount of the last four years, skittish. "He wouldn't do anything stupid, but you could tell he wasn't happy," Napier says. "He'd kind of prance a little bit."

In 16 years of service, it was as close as the officer's even-tempered steed would come to showing that he was, after all, a horse — a gelding, solid black, a Tennessee walking horse — and not just an officer of the law.

He was first and foremost that, though: Bo chased down plenty of suspects, even a stolen car in Shockoe Slip once, which so surprised the driver he stopped and surrendered. Last year, Bo and three other Mounted Unit equines dispersed 1,000 post-concert rabble-rousers blocking Broad Street; and in 1997 he waited calmly in the cold for eight hours, with 400 other horses at President Clinton's second inuaguration, the proudest one there.

"Very striking-looking horse," Napier says. "Real handsome."

Public relations was, in fact, Bo's biggest job. He excelled at it. "He loved women and children, and tolerated men," Napier says. "He would drop his head all the way down to handicapped people for them to pet him. ... Everybody loved Bo."

Not Napier — at first. "I'd never ridden a horse before I got on Bo's back," Napier says. "He took advantage of me." That was 1996, when Bo already was a 12-year veteran of the force. Napier recalls clearly their first time out on the streets together: "I didn't know how to use my legs ... and he kind of took me for a dance, in circles and sideways." Probably not what most motorists expected to see on Chamberlayne Avenue that day.

This year Bo and Napier spent time around Capitol Square. Lobbyist Susan Seward — "I'm a horse person myself" — looked forward to seeing the pair. Then one day: no Bo.

Intestinal cancer, Napier explained. Just like that. The Charlottesville vet said there was nothing they could do for him.

It was January. He would have been 20 in May.

Napier clipped a lock from his sable mane; then he went home, and looked at the pictures of the two of them together, wishing there were more.

On March 16, a Blab-TV program will feature the Richmond Police Mounted Unit. The show is dedicated to Bo. — Rob Morano

New Shelters Strong Enough to Stop A Bus

"I wish it had a green roof," says architect Jim Glave of the bus stop shelter his firm designed a few years ago for the city. But otherwise he's pretty pleased with the white-topped version a citizens' committee ultimately approved, and with the shelters themselves now sprouting like metallic mushrooms along city streets.

The shelters — 63 in all — come courtesy of the federal government, which agreed to pay 80 percent of the $775,000 project, with the city and state splitting the difference. GRTC Assistant General Manager Matt Tucker says the shelters are aimed at improving the "comfort and convenience" of riders, particularly the elderly and disabled.

Vicktoria Badger, principal planner at the city's Community Development department, says the shelters resemble those in Charleston, S.C., and San Antonio, with their railroad motifs. But form meets function here, as each shelter's two circular seating areas can hold up to eight passengers.

And strong? A GRTC bus ran into one of the first shelters erected — a little too close to the street, apparently — and "the one that took the damage was the bus," Badger says. "They're very, very sturdy."

Tucker says the shelters are going up at "highest-ridership stops," with old-fashioned benches going in at some others.

Riders sitting under the new shelters say their backsides speak for themselves, but, standing near a shelter at Broad and Harrison streets, Tennyson Jackson was less complimentary. "I think it's a waste of time and space and money," he says. "I can understand, for the older people; but for the younger people, they can stand up.
- Rob Morano

City Workers Get Morning Pep Talk

What were you doing at 7:30 a.m. last Thursday?

If you are a city employee, chances are roughly 50-50 that you were sitting on a hard bleacher bench in the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center on Boulevard, listening to City Manager Calvin Jamison tell you what a great job you are doing and that you need to do an even greater job.

If you are a journalist, you weren't invited. If you were spotted, you were asked to leave. Not all journalists were spotted.

So: half of the city's 4,500-plus workforce attended the early a.m. session, the rest having attended one at a more humane hour earlier in the week. And while it may not have been the ideal time or place for a pep rally — the facility gave the event the aura of a high school assembly, and even smooth-talking Jamison occasionally was unintelligible with the reverb — it seemed to go over well enough with its audience.

"I heard some stuff I wanted to hear," says Calvin Jackson, a seasonal employee in the recreation department. He would not elaborate, but presumably was referring to Jamison's recitation of City Council's priorities and how well they were being met.

What really perked up the troops, though, were the prizes (from T-shirts to a TV) raffled throughout the hour-and-a-half event, and the recognition given to individual employees for outstanding customer service (clearly Jamison's passion). His receptionist, Iris Thomas, got a plaque and a standing "o" for her tireless pleasantness. George Berry, a maintenance worker, got an oversized check for $2,906 for saving the city money on wood-chipping machine costs.

Jamison also took written questions from employees, but by that point several groups of workers had begun to desert the bleachers for the coffee tables readied for the final, "Interaction & Refreshments" portion of the program.
- Rob Morano

Science Museum Bash Set for Fall

The Science Museum of Virginia has something up its sleeve.

It's not a soiree like the Virginia Museum's Fabergé Ball, but the hoopla could be even bigger.

After more than five years and $21.5 million, the historic renovations to the Science Museum finally are nearing completion. Begun in 1917, the old Broad Street train station took two years to build — three less than its renovations.

Thousands of people boarded the trains between 1919 and 1975, when the station closed. The Science Museum established its home there in 1976. Now, nearly 25 years later, the museum that started with only the "Discovery Room" is celebrating its history and its growth.

"We've brought the old railroad track back into the building," says Nancy Tait, public relations coordinator with the museum, who adds that new glass elevators allow passengers to see the inner workings of how they operate.

In addition to new and improved facilities and fascinating gadgets, the museum will display its largest life-sciences exhibition ever. Plus, it will feature a new forensics exhibit — created with a $250,000 gift from, you guessed it, Patricia Cornwell — where you help solve a crime.

And while the details and theme for the Oct. 20 grand unveiling and gala event are, for now, top secret, Tait does say it'll be worth the wait. A public opening will follow with special events scheduled. "It's gonna be awesome," Tait assures, "quite the deal."
-Brandon Walters

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