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For City's Trash Collectors, Time for Presents Isn't Past

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For City's Trash Collectors, Time for Presents Isn't PastDentists, Plastic Surgeons Do BattlePet Bill Targets Backyard BreedersMagazine Praises Richmond 'Renaissance' For City's Trash Collectors, Time for Presents Isn't Past Christmas is over for just about everybody but Dwayne Hopkins. He still has to deal with the case of the thrown-away Christmas presents. Hopkins, a supervisor with the city's Refuse Collection department, gets the call over the radio as he prowls the Fan in his city-owned Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck: A woman living on South Laurel Street has thrown away her gifts at 8 that morning. Now she desperately wants them back. Can Hopkins help? He can try. Hopkins finds the trash truck closest to the woman's house and tells the trash collectors to look out for the presents. They say they'll look for them but can make no promises. Does this happen a lot? "Boy, does it," Hopkins replies. Welcome to the week after Christmas, when trash collectors find what they're made of. The air freezes in their lungs. The city's trash cans overflow with cardboard boxes and wrapping paper. The roads are icy. And the office is short-handed because other employees are on vacation. "Every year there's more and more," says Reggie Tucker, a refuse collection equipment operator II, as he prepares to dump yet another Supercan. "As long as the economy goes up, a lot more people like to spend money." And that means more trash — and heavier trash. "We know that trash is going to be extremely heavy after Christmas because you get a lot of boxes and a lot of wrappings," Hopkins says. "It's normal to get an average two loads a day. And now during the Christmas holiday, we're running two-and-a-half to three loads a day." Then there are the forests of discarded Christmas trees. More than half the 15,000 units that are picked up every day in the city during the holiday contain Christmas trees, Hopkins says. Apparently, many city residents try to get rid of their Christmas trees as quickly as possible. That doesn't mean the collectors' work is over quickly. They won't stop seeing remnants of St. Nick until late January. Until then, there's work to be done. The trash is "just a mess right now," says Anthony "Smiley" Miller, a refuse collection operator II, his breath misting in the winter air. "A mess. And we have to clean it up." — Melissa Jones Dentists, Plastic Surgeons Do Battle Over what they call a life-or-death issue, plastic surgeons in Virginia are preparing to wage legislative war against dentists who do cosmetic surgery. A committee in the General Assembly is studying a bill that would broaden the a decades-old legal definition that lays out what kinds of procedures licensed dentists may perform. Many dentists want the definition changed to include more cosmetic surgery; many plastic surgeons oppose the change. "The definition is hugely outdated," says Dr. Robert A. Strauss, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Richmond and an associate professor in the school of dentistry at Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. As dentistry has evolved during the last 30 to 40 years, Strauss says, it has come to include a host of specialties, including his discipline, oral and maxillofacial surgery, as well as prosthodontists, who restore and replace teeth as well as other facial features. But if the definition of dentistry remains as-is, Strauss says, "it would eliminate the ability of 70 percent of the specialists in dentistry to practice and inhibit the care for patients." Not so, says Andrew Roth, president of the Virginia Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. Roth, who practices cosmetic and reconstructive surgery in Roanoke, is vehemently opposed to any change in the current definition of dentistry. Doing so, he says, would be "an evil thing" that could end up disfiguring or killing patients. "First off, this is not an update to the definition," says Roth, a cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon in Roanoke. "This is a change. And the reason for the change is that dentists want to exceed their abilities and branch out into cosmetic surgery, something they are ill-served and ill-suited to do." The proposed definition, introduced by state Sen. Warren E. Barry, is the result of three meetings this summer between representatives from the board of medicine, which licenses plastic surgeons, and the board of dentistry, which licenses dentists. Roth says his plastic surgeons' professional society will fight against the change. The problem isn't dentists who have had advanced surgical training, he says, but dentists who take "weekend courses" to learn to do such procedures as face lifts for an extra buck. "Basically, we need to regulate who does what in terms of cosmetic surgery," Roth says, "before there's a catastrophe that makes the front page of every newspaper." — Jason Roop Pet Bill Targets Backyard Breeders A new bill aimed at curbing pet overpopulation in Richmond may force dog and cat owners to neuter their pets or pay $100 annually for a breeding license — or face a $500 penalty. The city does not currently require a breeding license or permit. Councilwoman the Rev. Gwen Hedgepeth is likely to introduce the breeding bill Jan. 8, along with a measure to limit the number of pets per household. These are similar to regulations imposed in Chesterfield and Henrico counties. If passed by City Council, the mandate would require all pet owners to spay and neuter their pets by the age of four months or pay $100 for a breeder's permit. The city Department of Public Health would issue the license. The bill also would make it illegal to sell or adopt an animal before it is at least 8 weeks old and before it is immunized against common diseases. Additionally, any breeding-permit holder would have to display the permit number in any advertisement for the sale or adoption of any animal. Upon the transfer of the animal, Hedgepeth's bill would make breeders provide new owners with licensing and permit information and then send the Richmond Animal Shelter the new owners' names, addresses and telephone numbers within five days. If any of these terms aren't met, breeders could face a $500 civil penalty. Hedgepeth didn't return calls requesting comment. "We could attack a whole lot of problems with the breeding bill," says Jeanne Bridgforth, an outspoken representative of the nonprofit animal-protection group Save Our Shelters. "It goes after the backyard breeders who are ultimately responsible for so many homeless dogs that roam neighborhoods and become nuisance dogs … that end up costing the taxpayers and put the huge burden on animal control." Moreover, Bridgforth hopes the breeding bill will help attack what she believes is a grisly problem among some pit bull owners: dog fighting. Bridgforth says the bill is intended to go after pit-bull owners who "breed these innocent animals for such a horrible life and make big money off of it." But pit-bull owner Merritt Dixon says pit bulls - and their owners — suffer a bad reputation because they are often misunderstood. "They only get vicious when they are provoked," Dixon says. If the breeding bill is enacted, Dixon says he may have to spay and neuter his three pit bulls because the $100 breeding permit for each is too steep. Still, he hopes his 1-year-old American pit bull, Baby, will yield a healthy litter of puppies that could fetch as much as $200 apiece. That's the sort of sale Bridgforth hopes the breeding bill will prevent. "This is going to be the most aggressive legislation anywhere around," says Bridgforth. Brandon Walters Magazine Praises Richmond 'Renaissance' Dullsville? Not Richmond! Not any more. If a list were created of cities named to lists, Richmond would certainly rank high for its list-making achievements during the past two years. So it's no surprise that the capital city is starting the new year right. In the January-February 2001 issue of Utne Reader, Richmond is crowned one of the country's "10 Most Underrated" cities. Utne, a bimonthly digest of news from the left-of-center media, calls these cities "10 great places once dismissed as bad news or Dullsville (or both)." Well-regarded urban-design consultant Peter Katz, author of the magazine's list, ranks Richmond No. 9 as a center for visionary urban planning and development, part of an "urban renaissance" under way across the United States. "After several decades of slumber," Katz writes, "this old-line southern tobacco town seems finally to be hitting its stride." Although the 6th Street Marketplace "still scars" downtown, Katz writes, he praises Richmond for being "bypassed by much of the soulless '60s and '70s development." He also gives the Fan high marks for its "spectacular comeback." Katz praises T.K. Somanath, executive director of the Richmond Better Housing Coalition, for guiding "one of the country's most successful efforts to improve low-income housing," the Randolph Neighborhood. Katz also writes that "a growing gay population continues to play a significant role in Richmond's renaissance." — J.R.

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