Opinion & Blogs » Punch Drunk

Punch Drunk: Cutting the Metaphorical Grass



There’s been a lot of talk lately about Richmond’s faulty bookkeeping and monetary discrepancies. To hear it from any of the 89 mayoral hopefuls or City Council candidates, the city is more corrupt than Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.

Late audits, financial reports being turned in never, grass growing wild on city-owned property because of an inability to pay someone to cut it. It’s bedlam, I tell you!

And now a recent Washington Post opinion piece by Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman reveals that there’s a “little-known city charter provision to rip off poor residents by adding a phony, non-existent ‘tax’ — including a bogus federal ‘tax’ charge — to their water and certain other utility bills.”

This Jim Crow-era law was added by then-city leaders, a rip-off that Goldman and Leahy say will add up to $28 million extra to the fiscal year budget.

As someone who pays a utility bill in the Fan, it’s disconcerting. I wouldn’t even mind the tax if the city didn’t continue to plead poverty when it comes to fixing schools and mowing the grass.

Then last week, it was announced that the cost of metered street parking is going up 50 cents an hour July 5. This is in addition to City Council’s agreement to a new contract with Seibert’s Towing, which will raise the cost to the towee by $10. And by the way, this new contract, as noted by CBS-6, got only one bid — from Seibert’s.

Sure I could sit here and harp on Richmond’s byzantine parking and street cleaning rules all day, but what’s the point? Oh, there was a street-cleaning sign that was barely hanging on the tree by a string, and the sign’s times were written on duct tape that was peeling off? And that cheap-ass sign mysteriously went up an hour before the street cleaning?

Sorry I missed that! My fault.

And there I go harping.

Plus, having a friend drive you out to Seibert’s Towing at 9 a.m. with a hangover that can be described only as blistering is basically a rite of passage for 20-somethings in the Fan. Or in my case, 30-something.

And really, I’m totally OK with punishing scofflaw motorists, as long as the money is going where it needs to go. If the police need that money, OK, that’s cool. Are they getting it?

The bottom line is, we need more revenues and that means more taxes. You want our grassy medians to not give off a post-apocalyptic vibe? You have to pay. So what beloved Richmond institutions can we milk for extra cash?

How about a Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken tax? You want a bucket of extra spicy? That’ll cost you extra gravy. And unless you’re living well above the poverty line, don’t even ask for actual extra gravy. By the way, this is in addition to the beloved city meals tax.

After we’re done there, let’s walk next door to collect on a new Sauer’s vanilla extract tax. Want snow ice cream this winter? Pony up.

Tickets to Byrd Theatre will now be increasing — to 27 bucks apiece. Call it a Wurlitzer improvement fee, except that none of the money will go toward improving the Byrd.

The Nickel Bridge, which hasn’t cost a nickel since World War II, will now be $17 a crossing. Only $14 for pedestrians, though.

Want to look good? Want to get in shape? Oh, do you want to feel great? Want Agee’s Bicycle to bring out the best in you? Cool, that’ll be $70 additional per bicycle. Call it a Floyd Avenue improvement tax.

The city of Richmond needs a dolla, dolla, a dolla is what it needs. And coincidently, that’s what it will now cost to enter Barker Field. Poop tax not included.

Whether it’s Levar Stoney or Jon Baliles or Michelle Mosby or any of the eight billion people running for city office, you’d hope that the books are the first thing to get looked at and straightened out come January.

I realize that it’s not that easy though. It never is.

Well, not until we institute a city lawnmower tax. Of course, the funds raised from that will go somewhere other than paying the city’s landscapers. S

Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at jackgoesforth.

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