The City Council elected in 2012 met for the last time Monday. It closed out the year with a robust public comment period, a full audience and some goodbyes.
A few take-aways from the meeting:
- Police funding will rival school funding in importance come budget time next year. The Richmond Police Department showed it had a similar support system, packing the council chambers for a show of concern about police recruiting, salary and safety. Officers, religious leaders and community activists spoke, and the council unanimously passed a resolution to bring in $1.8 million for 40 new recruits.
- Reva Trammel found a way to bring Mayor Dwight Jones’ defunct police detail into the discussion with a pointed dig at the outgoing administration. Like others, she expressed hope for Levar Stoney’s leadership in 2017.
- Parker Agelasto got into a tense discussion with chief administrative officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, who Stoney has announced he will retain. He wanted to know where the money will come from to keep the 40 new officers. “Thanks for not answering my question,” he said as a way of ending the discussion. This earned Agelasto a rebuke from Chris Hilbert.
- Hilbert handed out shiny plates to the outgoing council members – Michelle Mosby, Jon Baliles, Kathy Graziano and Charles Samuels – and speeches ensued. Mosby called Graziano “my little old white lady.” A clerk got teary eyed.
- A Department of Public Works official stood to oppose lowering the speed limit on Park Drive between Pump House Drive and Blanton Avenue from 35 mph to 25 mph. The rationale: People already go over the 35 mph limit.
- One of the most anticipated votes of the evening had an anticlimactic end when it was continued to the Jan. 9 meeting, with Samuels saying the new council should decide. Bob Englander of Cathford Consulting was “disappointed” by a delay of the sale of a downtown 1.6-acre parcel of city-owned land for $3.95 million to his company and Taylor & Parrish.
- Englander dismissed, more than once, concerns that 800 parking spaces were too many as the concern of “bloggers.”
- Partnership for Smarter Growth, a local nonprofit with no blog, sent a letter to council about that concern. “Our city is plagued by large above ground parking structures and too much parking downtown,” it reads, noting the coming bus rapid transit a block from the proposed development.
- Englander says the parking is market-driven, not determined by zoning rules that may change soon. “If we have 100 apartments or condominiums, our investigation shows we need two spaces per unit,” he says.
- One concern not raised is whether the city is getting the best deal for a parcel assessed at $6.3 million. The current bid is the only one, unsolicited.
- Englander repeated a desire to work with the city to save the historic parking structure on the lot. Agelasto pointed out that contract language says the developers “will demolish” the deck. Englander says the language formerly read “may demolish” and that change is the city’s doing.
- Some Richmond Kickers fans came to their first City Council meeting and had to sit through most of it to show their support for the unanimous approval of the Kickers’ 40-year lease on City Stadium. “That was quite the civics lesson,” said one member of the red army as he left.