- Scott Elmquist
Crime is down! Richmond has an extra $62 million! Groundbreakings galore! And that City Stadium study is about to get going, like, this week!
The mayor's first powwow with City Council in 2012 — happy new year! — got the city off to a heckuva start Monday, with boxed lunches, sparkling water and frowns turned upside down — despite the drab day: It started raining after the meeting began.
It might seem like the city is bloodier, with the recent Christmas Eve double homicide, the 3-year-old shooting victim and the missing man from North Carolina, whose body turned up in the canal Saturday. No foul play is suspected, according to the city police advisory, issued 15 minutes before the lunch meeting.
"The city continues to become safer," Mayor Jones told the council members, not wanting to give away too much of the next day's even bigger news in a conference with Police Chief Bryan Norwood and Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring.
But he can't help himself. "We have the lowest number of total violent crimes in recorded history," he says. "We owe a debt of gratitude to the chief and the police force for all of their hard work." Violent crime was down 5 percent in 2011, Jones said, and homicides are down 10 percent.
If anyone suspects that the city is going soft on crime, or, say, Chesterfield, think again. The mayor's big agenda item Monday was to sync with the council members — even you, Councilman Marty Jewell — on how to handle Delegate Manoli Loupassi, R-Chesterfield, and his push to steal Richmond seats from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority. Richmond appoints six of the 11 seats on the board, but Loupassi's bill would take three of the seats away from the city and reshuffle so Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield each have three.
You might think that would have something to do with the city receiving a big check from the authority — $62.3 million in late November, repayment for old debts related to the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway toll roads. In other words, the city got its money, so give the counties more say. But Jones figures the city would lose seats on the board anyway. (Previous attempts to equalize the board died only because Democrats controlled the Senate, which is no longer the case.)
Dickering over such things is pointless, though. Jones says now it's time to band together to fight and protect the city's assets. Talk to your representatives, your friends in the statehouse, tell them the story of Richmond sacrificing the land, tearing down homes and businesses to make way for the expressway system.
"What are the key things that we want to be offensive on, and defensive on?" asks City Council President Kathy Graziano, looking for clarity.
"We need to know our bottom line," Jones says, "where our lines in the sand are."
"And how we can extract some pain from them!" Jewell interjects, the elected officials around the table cracking up in laughter.
Yes, 2012 is shaping up.