City Council Recap - November 9, 2015

November’s meeting was the focus of the university’s annual city council excursion, which is sponsored and organized by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the university. After introducing students from Dr. Julian Hayter’s class to council’s agenda for the night, the meeting began at 6:33 p.m. and we remained in attendance until 7:45. We, at RVAGOV, wanted to wait until the updated agenda was released to report on the meeting in its entirety. Please excuse the delay.

Highlights

Presentation of Awards

The meeting began with award presentations to those who are working to make Richmond an “even better place.” The first award was given to Melvin S. Jones Jr, founder and advocate of the initiative that has led to the development of a statue in Maggie L. Walker’s honor, which is designed to go up in a plaza near Broad Street in 2016. The council recognized the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of their service across 13 localities. Two Richmond firefighters were then recognized for going “above and beyond the call of duty.” Pastor Victor Torres of New Life Outreach International Church was recognized for the various outreach programs he’s started for troubled youth, people recently released from incarceration and those struggling with drug-abuse. Finally, the Memorial Rifles were recognized, two days before Veterans Day, for their “noble service provided” for veterans.

Citizens Comments

Mass Incarceration

Speakers on behalf of the New Virginia Majority addressed issues concerning the school-to-prison pipeline in Richmond. They argued for the need to protect youth and craft programs to keep them out of prison. The coalition went on to discuss the need for more programs to assist in incorporating those released back into society and supporting them once reincorporated. Drawing constantly on themes of injustice, they closed with the announcement of a letter submitted to City Council that “voiced the thoughts” of Richmonders, which hoped to aid in creating a “functional village” for Richmond youth.

GRTC Pulse

The main point of contention during the citizens’ comments turned out to be the development of Richmond’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System, the GRTC Pulse. The Pulse, which is still in the early phases of its development, is set to finish construction sometime in 2017. However, the development was met with opposition by a coalition that took up half of the seats at the meeting. There were several speakers from both supporting and opposing sides, but the issues constantly argued were matters of logistics, budget plans, and route planning. The public present at the meeting saw the new development, if conducted properly, as a potential “moment to unite the city.”

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