City Council Recap-March 13, 2017

Monday night’s City Council Meeting took place on a snowy evening in Richmond’s City Hall Council Chamber.

Highlights

Awards and Recognitions

Richmond Multiple Myeloma Cancer Awareness Month

Council Vice-President Dr. Cynthia Newbille, Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, and Mayor of Richmond Levar Stoney have proclaimed the month of March as Richmond Multiple Myeloma Cancer Awareness Month. The award was given to Ms. Regina Leftwich, who Vice-President Newbille thanked for her ongoing work and effort in making the public aware of this form of cancer. Ms. Leftwich has worked hard to encourage screening for this cancer, to encourage ongoing research for a cure for this disease, to inform those affected by multiple myeloma that there are resources available to them, and to support those who have either been diagnosed with multiple myeloma themselves or have family members or loved ones who have been diagnosed.

Ms. Cuffee-Glenn, speaking for the Mayor as well, stated that they both understand the journey that she and others have gone through. “We’re fighting with you every day,” she said. Ms.

Leftwich thanked the Mayor, the CAO, and the City Council for the proclamation and declaration, and gave all of the City Council members wristbands in support of multiple myeloma cancer.

To read more about Multiple Myeloma Cancer, follow this link to the American Cancer Association’s website: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiple-myeloma/about/what-is-multiple-myeloma.html

Richmond Tree Stewards

Councilman Agelasto recognized the hard work of the Richmond Tree Stewards, an urban tree education and volunteer program that planted over 10,000 trees, hosted over 100 educational events, and have been “making Richmond a better, prettier, and cleaner place” for everyone. Councilman Agelasto said that in becoming a tree steward, those involved had to ask themselves, “What is your passion for trees?” In a personal anecdote, Mr. Agelasto mentioned how grandfather who would talk about the power of trees to sustain us and how many of trees, such as Maymont Park’s Darlington Oak, were here long before we were.

The volunteers educate people on the importance of trees in the community. They have talked to over 40,000 residents and have logged over 16,000 volunteer hours. “They are out there helping on a daily basis, working with the Urban Forestry Division and Parks and Recreation,” Mr. Agelasto said.

Ms. Louise Seals, spokeswoman for the Tree Stewards, thanked the Council for this recognition of their advocacy on the behalf of tree and their value to the community and environment. The Stwards put time and effort into their passion, going out in all forms of weather and all temperatures to do this work. Ms. Seals said that it is great to work with all of the people who are dedicated to maintaining and planting trees all around the City of Richmond.

An Act of Courage

Councilman Addison and Councilwoman Robertson recognized Elijah Johnson, a student athlete from Richmond Public Schools, for his outstanding act of bravery and courage. When two armed intruders broke into the home of his girlfriend’s grandmother and held Ms. Brown at gunpoint, Elijah ran to her rescue. He was shot seven times as a result of this brutal attack, but was able to prevent harm from coming to Ms. Brown due to his instinct to do the right thing.

Councilman Addison stated: “There are few times where you have the chance for bravery and courage.”

Bradley Heath, another student from Richmond Public Schools, had brought the story to Mr. Addison’s attention, as he had “Known he had to do something to recognize Mr. Johnson’s bravery. Elijah’s act was an “incredible display of bravery, character, and sacrifice.”

Councilwoman Robertson praised Elijah for not taking the time to think but taking the time to act, to save someone special’s life. “We’re grateful for what you’ve done and the blessing that you are still here,” she said. “We really appreciate you.”

Elijah thanked the Council, expressing the uncertainty he had at the moment and during the aftermath of the incident. “I didn’t think I would make it,” he said.

Law enforcement and emergency medical personnel were also recognized for their service during the attack. The Police Chief called Elijah “the epitome of bravery and courage.”

Citizen Comments

Richmond Branch Economic Development Team

Earl Bradley asked the Council to recognize the newly formed Richmond Branch Economic Development Team of the NAACP. This team works to improve the political, social, and economic status of African Americans by eliminating poverty, eliminating racism and discrimination, improving the economic status of Richmond residents, influencing legislation, community outreach, and improving relationships with leadership. The Team consists of three committees, focusing on Private, Non-Profit, and Government support for the Team’s mission. “Help us help you help the community,” Mr. Heath closed.

Opposition

Robin Shelton Jones of the 4th District and Chair of the Housing Rebuilding and Redevelopment Association asked the Council to oppose ROR: 2016-016 in the best interests of residents and the public. He stated that the challenges faced by the Council and the RHA are substantial, and that the council should simply appoint someone else.

Removal of Trees

Charles Woodson was displeased about the removal of trees in Monroe Park. According to Mr. Woodson, on December 16, 2016, healthy trees were destroyed without authorization. “14 healthy, mature trees were removed,” he said. “Which is counterintuitive, as trees help with storm water retention.” Due to this removal, Mr. Woodson said that there is now standing water in Monroe Park, when before this had never been an issue. The Tree Demolition Plan lacked transparency and communication, and Mr. Woodson requested that three things be done:

  1. 14 trees be appropriately replaced

  2. An addendum be added to the Monroe Park lease

  3. Diversify the trees

“Trees mean a lot,” Mr. Woodson said. “They are valuable assets.”

Councilman Agelasto shared this sentiment, stating that he would try to find out the explanation for this deviance, as trees that were declared dead but were not actually dead were removed from the area.

Patience Running Thin

Cora Dickerson, a 5th District resident and resident of Richmond for over 65 years spoke about the terrible state of transit care in the city. She claimed that passengers were either not picked up or picked up late. When picked up, passengers would have to ride several hours. Ms. Dickerson cited two personal incidents. She had a pickup time for an appointment at 7:59 AM. The transportation did not arrive until 10:50 AM, which therefore made her miss her appointment. On another occasion, when Ms. Dickerson had to be at the hospital for surgery, and had a pick up time of 5:30 AM, the transportation never showed up at all. Ms. Dickerson said that had Councilwoman Robertson not helped her make her surgery on time via the Senior Connect service, she would not have made it.

For the elderly and disabled residents with no other means of transportation other than the GRTC Care Van service, these issues are detrimental. Ms. Dickerson said that some people who call and make reservations were sometimes taken to the wrong place. She also said that the transportation issues result in job loss, as employers do not make exceptions for disabled workers. She told the Council that anything they could do would be greatly appreciated, as the system only seems to be getting worse.

Vice-President Newbille asked the CAO to arrange a meeting with GRTC for a resolution, as this ongoing issue is “not acceptable.” Councilwoman Trammel agreed, stating that these issues are “a matter of life and death” and that a conversation with GRTC is necessary.

Councilwoman Robertson, who is Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Standing Committee, plans to set up this meeting between her committee and GRTC executives tentatively for March 30th, the outcome of which will be presented to the Council in a follow-up.

Councilman Agelasto had a different mindset on the matter, as the issue is not going away and health, employment, and accessibility will continue to be negatively affected. He stated: “This Council owes more to this population than just asking questions.” He proposed launching a detailed investigation into the issue.

President Hilbert stated that the Council had broad investigative powers. He hopes for a positive resolution to this problem, as “everyone’s patience is running thin at this point.”

Utilities

Debra Furguson came forward to address an ongoing and serious issue with the Department of Public Utilities. Her payments have been going to an old account and the bill has been undergoing an astronomical increase. As a result of this incorrect bill, her utilities have been shut off.

Monroe Park Project

Lorraine Heath had some questions about the Monroe Park project, claiming that no work has been done except to put a fence around the area. “When will the work get done?” she asked. “And where have the homeless people been placed for getting food?”

Councilwoman Gray said that the work has commenced and that, although there is no plan for where the feeding of the homeless will take place, they are working to find an appropriate space. The current available space lacks infrastructure and utilities, which makes in an unideal space.

Consent Agenda

During the Public Hearing on the Consent Agenda, John Sigg, 2017 President of the Church Hill Association, spoke in favor of ORD: 2015-245. He support the building of a five-story building, as there will still be great view of the river from Libbie Hill and there will be limited use of brick and glass. “It’s a win-win!” he said, as he claims he would not have supported anything over five stories high.

Councilman Agelasto spoke of the ORD as a rezoning case that had a conditional B5 agreement. To preserve the view, there was an agreement to set a height limitation.

The papers on the Consent Agenda were adopted.

Regular Agenda

A representative from the administration, Matthew Addington, spoke on the special use permit (S.U.P.) that would allow the Maymont Foundation to renovate an older property to use as office space and a place for special events.

Public Hearing on the Regular Agenda

OPPOSITION

James Stace is in opposition to part o the plan. He claims to have emailed the Council members at 3 AM with a 9 point resolution in relation to his opposition. He says that the paper should not be passed, it should be continued. “This is a poorly crafted and poorly timed ordinance,” he said. He said he was perpetually bothered by the indifference and the hierarchal chain of command. He also said that the plan had strict limitations that he did not support.

Sarah Wiseacre was also in opposition, due to her concern about the impact of the ordinance on Byrd Park. She would like the S.U.P. to be revised, as the 20 year old contract between the City and Maymont is missing, and without those boundary lines, Byrd Park will be changed by the plan.

FAVOR

Jennifer Mullin of the Maymont Foundation stated that the plan consists not of indifference, but civic activism. She also stated that the Foundation is not operating outside of its operating agreement. “This is the opportunity to allow historic buildings to be renovated for educational purposes,” she said. “This ordinance was vetted do that we could further the mission of Maymont Park, which is a unique park, a jewel, with various components.”

Carl Whitehead of the Fourth District gave his support for Ms. Mullin, saying that this was the chance to “add beautiful property to beautiful Maymont Park.”

Clint Bows shared this sentiment, saying that they “take very seriously the responsibility to operate the park within the terms of the agreement and in the best interests of the community.”

Carla Murray, who has worked with Maymont for 20 years, wants to “make sure Maymont is the best it can be.” She has read FaceBook posts about Maymont, and all have been positive and glowing reviews. “We are doing our best to care for the treasure that is Maymont Park and continue to make Maymont magical and fun for all.”

Ann DuBois, director of advancement at Maymont, echoed the words of her colleagues.

Buzz Burwhite, who is in charge of the animals at Maymont Park and also teaches environmental education at the park, supports the ordinance because it added 70 spaces to the parking lot, which will bring more people to visit.

Peggy Singleton, who had been at Maymont for over 30 years, strives to make it a better place that is open and available to everyone. She supports this ordinance, as it would provide the members of the Foundation with a HQ Building.

Patterson Comp has been associated with Maymont for years and has been working on this pla, which he approves as a “great use of the property.”

James Stace came back to the podium, saying that he is in favor of the plan if the Council is willing to live with the flaws in the plan.

COUNCIL DISCUSSION

Councilman Agelasto, who reserved his remarks for after the Public Hearing, stated that “It is important to recognize the great work of the Maymont Foundation, which is truly on of Richmond’s landmark places.” He said that the paper before the Council is a “master plan.” He supports the relocation of the Headquarters and the seeking of the special use permit because the staff of Maymont are scattered.

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