Is Henrico County's decision to do away with its county car decals a case of citizen responsiveness or concern from officials that they'd created the state's biggest moving violation?
Style broke the story about the county's new 4-inch-square car decals Jan. 31, triggering a flurry of local media reports about citizen displeasure with the stickers' size. In the initial report, Virginia State Police officials said the stickers were legal.
Last week, however, State Police e-mailed Style with a clarification.
"The size of the Henrico sticker ... does violate the state restriction that prohibits stickers from exceeding three inches," wrote State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Saturday on the county's error, saying it was brought to the attention of the county by a state employee. Another citizen, identifying himself online only as "Fred F.," may deserve more of that credit. It was his e-mail to Style on Feb. 1 that prompted Geller to review the initial State Police response to the new stickers.
By day's end, State Police were in contact with Henrico County officials and State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty was entertaining the possibility of granting a temporary variance "to allow Henrico County the chance to redesign [or] re-size its decal so it will be in compliance with the law," Geller wrote.
That the stickers were illegal didn't come up during Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett's press conference last Thursday.
He painted the decision to eliminate the stickers in a rosy light: savings of $60,000 to $100,000 a year. And he reasserted in a later interview that the decision was driven only by a desire to do the will of the citizens.
"My first concern was the citizens and their reactions," Hazelett told Style last Friday, denying knowledge of state law or of contact with State Police over the legality of their sticker. "I have not received any information from [State Police].".
"Fred F." knows better. A former state vehicle inspector, he says his initial worry was that the county's illegal sticker might give police probable cause to pull drivers over. "Does it give an open thing for a cop to pull everybody in Henrico County?" he muses. "What a can of worms." S