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Street Talk

Channel 6 Is Moving On Up
Police Car Topples Historic Marker
Mystery Letters Sought
Police Run, Bike and Challenge Media, Too
Fan Store Requires Older Beer Buyers

Channel 6 Is Moving On Up

After years of wrangling over mixed signals, WTVR Channel 6 will get the 9 slot on MediaOne cable television here starting next month.

"It's a situation that we are looking forward to," says station marketing director Brent Struense. The move will eliminate MediaOne customers' shadowy Channel 6 reception — "the ghosting problem" — that has particularly plagued viewers near the station's West Broad Street broadcast tower.

"Nobody likes watching a football game and seeing two receivers catch a pass," Struense says.

The move to cable 9 also ends tension between Channel 6 and MediaOne over fixing the problem, which Struense says MediaOne agreed long ago to correct but never "followed through after telling us they would do it."

MediaOne marketing manager Donna Coming says it's a simple matter of incompatibility between cable and broadcast technology and not MediaOne's fault. "They can't fix the ghosting problem," she says, adding that the problem occurs because televisions receive Channel 6's cable and broadcast signals at visibly different intervals, a problem that gets worse closer to the Channel 6 broadcast tower.

In addition to improving picture quality, Struense hopes the channel change will help the station by clustering it with the better-watched WRIC Channel 8, CNN (cable 10), ESPN (11) and WWBT Channel 12. MediaOne customers received letters earlier this month mentioning the change, which includes moving current 9 occupant, The Weather Channel, to cable 38, and 38's occupant, the community access station, to 6. Coming says the channel changes will start May 25 and that MediaOne will promote them more intensively closer to that date.

Struense says Channel 6, too, will keep a low profile about the change until the week before May 25 so that viewers do not get confused during the "sweeps" ratings period earlier in the month.

Viewer response to the channel changes will have to wait the test of time, but MediaOne and Channel 6 are hopeful that viewers agree with Jimi Hendrix, who once sang: "If 6 turned out to be 9, I don't mind."
— Rob Morano

Police Car Topples Historic Marker

What happened to this once-proud street marker between the 3000 and 3100 blocks of Brook Road is pretty clear. What will become of it is not.

Richmond City Police spokeswoman Cynthia Price says a police cruiser toppled the small stone monument designating the Rennie Avenue cross street after the cruiser struck the rear of a vehicle about 5:45 a.m. April 1.

Lewis O. Yancey says the cruiser struck his vehicle as he was driving southbound on Brook Road to his job with the city's refuse collection department. The cruiser struck the rear of his car at a "very high" rate of speed, which Yancey estimates at between 60 and 70 mph.

Yancey says he watched in his rearview mirror, horrified, as the police car accelerated and hit his, causing an estimated $4,000 damage and straining his neck and back.

"He told me he was looking at the computer" in the cruiser and didn't see him, Yancey says the officer told him after the accident. Then the cruiser veered across the northbound lanes and struck the stone marker, he says.

Katherine Wetzel, who lives two houses from the marker and is a member of the Ginter Park Neighborhood Association, says they want the marker restored. "We're hoping that the city would do that rather than picking up this stuff and taking it to the dump," she says.

But who, exactly, owns the varied stone street landmarks, which sources say Lewis Ginter had erected to mark off streets for his turn-of-the-century North Side development, is unclear.

Harry Bluford, who lives closest to the marker, says he thinks he owns it and is having a hard time getting the city to give him information about the accident and to fix the marker. "They don't even try to get in touch with you," he says.

The city's public works department does not list the markers as city property, and a source in Richmond's historic preservation division says that while Ginter Park is a state and national historic district, it is not listed on the city's roster of historic sites, and the division has no authority to preserve or restore the marker.

Mike Hulsey, chief of the city's bureau of risk management, says he is aware of the accident — "I saw the pictures" — but doesn't know who owns the marker, either.

"We would pay to put it back," if ownership can be confirmed, he says. Hulsey says an owner would need to file a claim with the city attorney's office to start the process.

Bluford says he has contacted the city attorney's office but adds they're putting the onus on him to provide accident information and prove his ownership. "Why do I have to write it up?" he asks with frustrated bemusement.
— R.M.

Mystery Letters Sought

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney David Baugh wants to know what's in the cryptic letters he says a source tells him were recently mailed to people who have been hanging out in Bryan Park.

According to Sarah Davis, an attorney in Baugh's office, the alleged group of North Side residents are overstepping the bounds of typical neighborhood watch-type patroling. "They're a group of citizens that will stake out the cars and turn over information to the vice unit. It's my understanding that [those frequenting the park] are mostly homosexual men." What's disturbing is the charge by Baugh says his source is making: that the police are sharing vehicle registration information with the group, which is then sending out letters warning the parkgoers not to return.

"We asked for a list of the license plates that have been requested," says Baugh. Through the Freedom of Information Act, he says his office should have those details in the next few days. If it's true, Baugh says, "it's criminal conduct."

Either way, Baugh says he's itching to get his hands on one of the so-called letters.

"That is absolutely not true," says Christy Collins with the media relations office of the Richmond Police department. "We would never give out information on anyone," she insists, adding that no one in the vice unit had ever heard of the group .
— Brandon Walters

Police Run, Bike and Challenge Media, Too

Area police soon will be on the run. 120 miles to be exact. And that's a long, long way go when your hot pursuit takes you over hill and dale in sneaker treads.

What's more, the Richmond Police department has a trick up its sleeve, even if it's one that promotes health and fitness and supports a good cause.

It's an invitation for the media to run or pedal along local police officers in the annual Bike for the Blue or Run for the Ranks drive to raise money for Virginia Special Olympics and the National Police Memorial in Washington, D.C. What it promises in return: a chance to get the story firsthand.

This marks the first year that Richmond Police runners will join its core group of cyclists.

"The Run for the Ranks is [Col. Jerry Oliver's] idea," says Christy Collins with the media relations department of the Richmond Police Department. "And we have every expectation that he will run." Collins says it's not so surprising that officers are signing up to run as much as 50 of the 120 miles of the race that starts at 6 p.m. on May 13 and goes from Richmond to D.C. "We've got a lot of runners," says Collins. "We've got one officer running in the Boston Marathon," she adds, "and this is his training.
— Brandon Walters

Fan Store Requires Older Beer Buyers

Don't think being 21 means you can buy a six pack anywhere in town.

The Community Pride grocery store on Harrison and Grace streets near Virginia Commonwealth University says: no more.

Signs in the register aisles flash the caveat: "Stop! You must have a valid Virginia's driver's license and be 25 years old to purchase any beer or wine from this location. No exceptions."

"It's a problem," says Community Pride President Johnny Johnson about minors trying to buy alcohol. What's more, he says it's one his employees have seen more in recent months.

"We got hit by the ABC board," he explains, saying that the store's closeness to VCU makes it a likely choice for underage students trying to buy beer or wine with fake IDs. "The IDs, from what I've been told, look perfectly real."

Johnson says the decision to hike the age requirement is a reasonable solution, one that will make it easier for his employees to determine who gets the goods. "It's not against the law to raise the age. It's a lot easier to tell if someone's closer to 25 than 21."
— B.W.

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