City Council Recap-January 23, 2017

The second City Council meeting of 2017 took place Monday night at City Hall. The meeting was short this evening. Former Council President Michelle Mosby has been replaced by former vice-president Chris Hilbert. Councilwoman Dr. Cynthia Newbille has assumed the position of Council Vice-President. Former School Board members, Kimberly Gray and Kristen Larson, are now on the City Council. Andreas Addison and Michael Jones are newcomers to the Council and Councilman Parker Agelasto and Councilwomen Reva Trammell and Ellen Robertson are all serving another term in the council..


Awards and Presentations

Richmond Free Press

President Hilbert took the time to recognize the Richmond Free Press for their 25th Anniversary. The Free Press is an independently-owned newspaper that published its first newspaper back in 1992. “There are other newspapers,” President Hilbert said. “But if you want to know what’s going on in Richmond, it’s good to pick up on Thursdays a copy of the Free Press.” The Richmond Free Press emphasizes the important role of having a free press in a democracy, especially when it comes to holding government officials accountable to the citizens they serve. “Thank you for all you’ve done for the Richmond community,” President Hilbert said. “You’ve enlightened many people over the years.”

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Dr. Norborne Norton

Councilwoman Robertson took a moment commemorate the 175th anniversary of Dr. Norborne Norton’s death. Dr. Norton was an upstanding leader who owned a vineyard. His disease resistant grapes have produced some of the best wines of the century. His grapes have produced leading wines and his grapes have been used all around the world. His grape is actually the official grape of the state of Missouri. Dr. Norton is buried in the historic Shockoe Hills cemetary.

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Citizen Comments

Freedom of Information Act

Mr. Hugh Brown came forward to address the Freedom of Information Act. Mr. Brown entreated the Council to make violations of the Freedom of Information Act a criminal offense. As of now, the Freedom of Information Act does not extend to private entities. “Violations of the Freedom of Information Act violates citizen’s civil rights,” he said. “It needs to be taken seriously.”

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Shopping Struggles for Seniors

Ms. Linda Jordan of the Fourth District is very concerned about the senior citizens, especially those with disabilities, who are riders of the GRTC. The GRTC has placed a ban on shopping carts due to the carts “taking up too much personal space.” According to Ms. Jordan, if a senior comes on the bus with a shopping cart, they have to take all of the bags out of the cart and place them on the seat or on the floor at their feet. “Something needs to be done, because that is unfair,” Ms. Jordan said. She was very concerned about seniors lifting their heavy grocery bags on and off the bus. Many seniors have been complaining of chest pains from all of the lifting, and she fears that someone may have a heart attack or worse. “Buses used to take seniors to the grocery store, but that’s been discontinued as well,” she pointed out. “This is not fair.”

Councilwoman Trammell shared Ms. Jordan’s concerns, as this was the first time she was hearing of these developments with GRTC. She promised to look into this issue and to get in touch with someone from the GRTC as soon as possible.

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Richmond’s TV Debut!

Ms. Ashley Till, television producer with CSPAN cities out of Washington, D.C., enthusiastically told the Council about CSPAN’s newest project that features Richmond, Virginia as one of the many unique cities of the U.S. CSPAN’s project places some of Richmond’s most famous places in the spotlight for the nation to see. Three videographers embed themselves into the city for a week to speak to people, officials, authors, artists, and more about the culture and history of Richmond. “Not only will we provide citizens with access to government officials, but we’ll also present the City of Richmond to the rest of the government!” The Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the Maggie L. Walker Historic Site, and Mayor Stoney will be featured in this special project. The finished production will be aired on CSPAN 2 and CSPAN 3 on February 17th and February 18th.

Bothersome Benches

Mr. Rubin Peacock came forth to inform the Council of an important and concerning issue. Mr. Peacock lives across from the Maggie Walker Plaza on Brook Road. He learned from contractors working in the area that the city plans to place two six-foot benches right in front of his home, in front of his plate glass windows and his front door. “What, I’m supposed to just say, ‘Hey, how you doing? No, I don’t have any money. Get that mess out of here?’ every day when I walk into my house?” Mr. Peacock stated that this was a disgusting sense of design that would have a devaluating effect. He also raised the question of liabilities. “If someone is drunk and gets their head cut off on my window, who is held liable for that?” Mr. Peacock told the Council to look into this issue and consider it very carefully. “The park is pretty big enough for the benches to go elsewhere.”

Councilwoman Trammell was concerned by this issue as well, citing it as a potential public safety risk. “If someone does get hurt, is the liability on the city or on Mr. Peacock?” she asked. President Hilbert replied that he was not sure, as he is not an attorney. The liability could fall on the city, as the benches belong to the city, but liability could fall on Mr. Peacock, as the injury would be occurring on his property.

Councilman Agelasto was also concerned, as the issue of the benches would also lead to problems with maintaining cleanliness. The presence of those benches would invite trash to be thrown on the curb and on Mr. Peacock’s property, which would result in another problem for Mr. Peacock if he were cited by the city for the appearance of the area surrounding his home. “You don’t do one thing at the detriment of another,” Mr. Agelasto said.

Councilwoman Gray agreed with her colleagues that these benches are a serious problem, especially due to the fact that these benches would be held to the ground with concrete, rendering them immobile. “What recourse would he have?” President Hilbert did not know what recourse could be provided to Mr. Peacock but promised that he and the rest of Council would “endeavor to do something.” President Hilbert asked Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn to look into the issue as well.

Richmond Ambulance Authority

Members of the Richmond Ambulance Authority, many whom were present at the night’s meeting, were recognized for receiving the 2016 Governor’s Award for Outstanding EMS agency. The RAA was thanked for their excellent work in “safeguarding our city and improving our quality of life.” Councilwoman Trammell asked, “Where would be if we didn’t have you?” Vice-President Newbille stated that the award was “well-earned” and “well-deserved.” Councilwoman Larson also gave the RAA a “thank you” for their hard work. A spokesman for the RAA thanked the Council for their recognitions and said, “I like it when we can bring forward good things.”

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The Amendments to the Council’s agenda were continued to later meeting. A motion to accept these amendments was accepted and passed.

Consent Agenda

There was no public hearing on the consent agenda, as no citizens came forward in favor of or in opposition to any of the items before the Council. Councilman Agelasto did speak in favor of the paper that would assist users of the GRTC Care Van Service. Instead of maintaining the contract with GRTC, Mr. Agelasto supports opening up to a third-party vendor that would support and start a system that would have an uber/lyft-like concept. Councilwoman Gray also supported this paper as well.

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