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Opportunities abound for sounding off about Richmond's future …

Street Talk

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Let 'Em Know Where You Think City's HeadedT-D Union Spurns Contract ProposalTraffic Diverter Gets Low Marks in StudyMcQuinn, El-Amin: Cut East End Grass

Let 'Em Know Where You Think City's Headed

Richmond residents and businesses are getting three - count 'em, three - chances to sound off on the direction of the city.

Public and quasi-public groups are soliciting citizen input to plan a glorious, glorious future for our proud 'polis.

Of course, as this is Richmond, some of that inputting will be by invitation only.

The Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce expects 500 business, government and community leaders to attend a Sept. 20 Siegel Center gabfest. As of early last week, about 350 of the city's elite had registered, says Chamber President James Dunn in a statement.

The chamber's "Vision 20/10" event will address questions such as, "What will Greater Richmond look like in 2010? What are the things we need to do to improve our business environment and to be considered a world-class region?" the statement states.

Not a business, government or community leader? How about a "Downtown Stakeholder?" If so, you can participate in the Richmond Renaissance "2000 Special Assessment District Business Opinion Survey - September 2000." The seven-page survey was sent earlier this month to about 3,500 downtown businesses, property owners and residents, according to a statement.

Not a "DS," either? City Council will hold a public hearing Oct. 2 to discuss the Richmond 2000 Master Plan, which "will provide a guide for the physical development of the city … for the next 20 years," a news release states. The Master Plan addresses land use, transportation, housing and other issues.

That's what the statement says, at least.

Rob Morano

T-D Union Spurns Contract Proposal

After two negotiation talks last week failed to get anywhere, the Richmond Professional Newspaper Association is licking its wounds and deciding what to do next.

The independent labor union works to ensure fair and competitive employment contracts among non-management employees at the Richmond Times- Dispatch.

Style reported Aug. 22 on the failed efforts by the 160-member group to schedule the required meetings with management negotiators consider proposals for a new contract.

The daily paper's labor union even filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the National Labor Relations Board office in Baltimore.

But now that negotiations have started, some employees are even more outraged.

Jon Pope, president of the RPNA, says the labor organization had made three requests: a merit increase and salary hike of 7 percent; adoption of Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday; and the start-up of a management and development training program for minorities. If early talks are any indication, it doesn't look like any of the three will pass across the table.

What was proposed by management was not a 7 percent across the board pay raise, but a 0.25 percent merit increase for only one-third of newsroom employees - individual recipients of the merit increase are determined by management.

Pope says folks in the newsroom figured the hike, for those who get it, to be somewhere in the ballpark of 50 cents a day or $130 a year - however you prefer to look at it.

"They're really pushing hard for it; they came in to bolster management's power and take away the grievance process," says Pope. "They know we're not going to strike. The last time we went on strike they fired everybody."

The strike was in 1971 and not an edition - morning or evening was missed.

Bill Millsaps, senior vice president and executive editor for Richmond Newspapers remembers it well. "Negotiations are always hard," he maintains. He declines to comment on anything specific to the contracts, particularly the merit increases. "I have hopes we will reach an agreement."

Pope doesn't think it's likely. Still, he insists, it's a pretty great place to work.

"They told us the quarter percent was a starting point. … We're not supposed to be insulted by this. But there are those who give up their time, their families and work tons of overtime, while every year [management] plays harder at the negotiating tables."

Brandon Walters

Traffic Diverter Gets Low Marks in Study

It's official: The West Grace Street traffic diverter that has pitted residents against businesses, and neighborhood association against association, has failed to function as desired.

According to traffic study results released last week, the curved curb in the intersection of Grace and Ryland streets, intended to funnel westbound commuter traffic north to Broad Street, instead has overloaded nearby roads and alleys.

The study, completed by the city's public works department in May, raises "issues of concern" about the diverter, says department spokesman Bill Farrar.

While the department has "not taken any position on whether the diverter is a good thing or a bad thing," Farrar says problems have arisen since its installation in January.

While the diverter has reduced weekday westbound Grace Street traffic by as much as 82 percent, it has not diverted much traffic to westbound Broad Street.

"In a lot of cases, that's not happening," Farrar says. The study found that weekday traffic on northbound Ryland from Grace to Broad rose from 1,000 to 3,500 vehicles, but there was only a 9 percent increase in vehicles turning west on Broad.

Instead, the diverter has caused increased traffic on nearby roads and alleys unequipped to handle it. Traffic in one alley used to skirt the diverter rose from 600 to 1,200 vehicles, according to the study.

"They're using alleys to get around the diverter," Farrar says. "Alleys are not built for that type of traffic."

Traffic in an alley adjacent to St. John's United Church of Christ on Lombardy Street has been a "huge problem," Carolyn Clark, an administrative assistant at the church, told Style in July. "We have an elderly congregation. A number of people have almost been hit."

Farrar notes many vehicles also swerve around the diverter and continue west on Grace Street: "Clearly that's a safety concern."

R.M.

McQuinn, El-Amin: Cut East End Grass

And you thought you were having a hard time keeping up with the grass this summer.

City Council members Delores McQuinn and Sa'ad El-Amin say parts of their East End districts are going unmowed.

"I need some help," the 7th District's McQuinn told the council recently. "This wouldn't be tolerated in other districts."

McQuinn and the 6th District's El-Amin related their dismay over getting and keeping public plots maintained. McQuinn said she recently held a neighborhood event and was embarrassed and disgusted by the city's failure to cut the grass at the site beforehand, as she had requested.

Other council members noted there is confusion about which city department is responsible for which city-owned plots.

City grass is getting cut every 10 days to two weeks on average, says Angela Jackson-Archer, spokeswoman for the city's parks and recreation department, the primary grass-cutter. "It's been such a rainy year, of course it's been a difficult year," she says. "Think about your yard. You cut your grass, it rains three days in a row and it's long again."

Archer says the department doesn't have the resources to cut more frequently, but "all of our facilities are on schedule."

McQuinn told the council she thinks increased use of private contractors rather than city employees to cut the grass is part of the problem. El-Amin agreed. "These [contractors] give it a once-over with the mower and charge the city $300 for a small plot. That's not even for trimming." Nevertheless, El-Amin said he's been so disappointed with the city's own grass-cutting performance - he cited "muskrats running around" in some uncut areas - he wants to use some of his discretionary funds to hire a contractor himself to cut parts of the 6th District.

R.M.

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