City Council Recap-March 27, 2017
Awards and Recognitions
100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entering World War I & World War I Memorial Carillon
City Council President Hilbert and Councilman Agelasto came forward on Monday night to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I on April 6, 1917 and to recognize those individuals who have worked to support the Virginia World War I Memorial Carillon located in Byrd Park. The Carillon is the official memorial to those individuals who perished in the worldwide conflict. Three thousand and four hundred (3,400) Virginians perished in World War I, which was the war that began modern warfare as we know it today. The U.S. made the decision to enter World War I when a memo asking Mexico to declare was on the U.S. was intercepted. Congress allowed the declaration of war against Germany by President Woodrow Wilson on April 6, 2917. The war ended within 18 months of the U.S. entering the conflict. The U.S. entering World War I marshalled in the end of the United States’ isolationist policy and the emergence of the U.S. as a World Power.
Councilman Agelasto stated that many of the geopolitical issues that our world is dealing with today have origins in World War I. He said that upon the 100th Anniversary of this event, it is important that our consciousness does not lose attachment to this historical event, and that we recognize those lives that were lost in the event. He pointed out Virginia’s role in the war, explaining how Virginia was the center of war logistics and how military action in Petersburg and Newport News were particularly significant during the war effort. He also said that we should not forget about those individuals who served on the home front while the soldiers were away in the fight. He expressed his pride in what Virginia did because it shows “what it means to sacrifice for your country.”
Delegate Betsy Carr and two other representatives of the Carillon received the formal award from President Hilbert and Councilman Agelasto. Delegate Carr thanked the two for their recognition and commemoration and also thanked the many volunteers who have supported the Carillon. She stated that World War I has impacted much of the world as we know it today and that it is important that we remember those who perished. She explained how the return of the soldiers from World War I served as the catalyst for change in the U.S., which allowed social movements like the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement to gain much needed momentum.
The Virginia General Assembly has an official World War I and World War II commission. Delegate Carr announced that a rolling exhibit entitled “Profiles of Honor” will be traveling throughout the state in the month of April to commemorate the war. There will also be a symposium and other events at the Memorial Carillon that the public is encouraged to attend.
Melvin Jones had 15 photographs to present to the members of Council. While he spoke on several issues, including the need for city employees and retirees to receive a raise and the fact that some of the school buses coming out of Henderson Middle School and John Marshall High School have holes in them, Mr. Jones focuses specifically on the prevalence of potholes all over the City of Richmond. He was confused as to why there was so much effort done to put cement in an alleyway, but the city’s streets and roads are full of holes. “I can’t understand it,” he said. “I’m tempted to park my car and ride the bus because of these potholes…It’s ridiculous and doesn’t make sense.” He expressed that he did not understand the purpose of putting cement in an alley when there are so many potholes. He stated that he would even go around the city and show the members of Council the potholes that need to be fixed.
A Trashy Situation
Annie Gaines came to talk about where she lives. In addition to constantly having to pick up trash from in front of her door, there is a trash pile on her street that she alleges has been there for 10 years. In addition, a drain in her backyard has contributed to her grass becoming molded and her yard sinking in when she walks back there to rake the leaves. A former Councilman used to help her with the issue but now she feels that no one is helping. She claimed that Public Utilities has done nothing to get rid of this trash. She characterized her backyard as a “mud hole” and a “sewer.”
Councilwoman Trammel thanked Ms. Gained for keeping her peace while dealing with this issue and stated that she would make inquiries into why the trash in the Southside is not being picked up by Public Utilities or Public Works. President Hilbert asked a member of the administration to speak to Ms. Gaines on the issue.
Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park Proposal
Anna Edwards came forward to discuss with Council the community proposal for a memorial park in Shockoe Bottom. She stated that there strong support and consensus on this project and that a masterplan approach needs to be taken in order to avoid a lack of cooperation and coordination between competing construction plans. She spoke about specific financial planning and budget funding issues that are currently at the forefront, but stated that the project should not cost more than $11 million. Ms. Edwards proposed that the future site of the memorial park be secured for the future so that funds can be raised for the project to come to fruition.
She had three asks of Council:
Support the historic park
Protect the burial grounds
Commit to the master plan approach
Rodell Hunter spoke in support of the historic African American burial ground and other sites that would be highlighted by the proposed memorial park. After quoting President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where the 16th President said that historic places should not be consecrated, Mr. Hunter said that those burial grounds and other sites need to be commemorated. “African American and minority history have been ignored, rejected, and falsified,” he asserted. “We have been given neither recognition nor dignity.” He stated that the creation of this memorial park would be a marvelous deed and would allow for the celebration of the struggle and pain and the endurance of African Americans and other minorities. He also made a point in saying that the city complains of the high rates of violence in the city, but yet the city has memorialized several symbols of war throughout. “This is the chance to do something united,” he said.
Robert Newegg from the National Trust called historic Shockoe Bottom “a national treasure that should be protected.” He suggested that Mayor Stoney convene a taskforce to protect this crucial archaeological and historic site. He also suggested that the scope of the Lumpkin’s Jail site be expanded to include the park, and that there be an interpretative aspect of the park to promote dialogue in the community. He echoes Ms. Edward’s desire for a master plan approach to this community project.
Back the Blue
Sheryl Neicey O’Connell, a former police officer, was shot in the head in 1984 in front of the Marriott hotel by a man who had killed his wife and another police officer. The man is currently incarcerated, but every year she must go to the parole board to ensure that his request for parole is denied. He is 9 years overdue at this point, and O’Connell is worried that this man will be released. “I will have no closure until he dies behind bars,” she said. She is concerned about the fact that she will not be notified if this man is released due to “concerns for his safety.” O’Connell believes he should not be released and should not have parole. “He tried to kill me, I didn’t try to kill him,” she said. “Public safety is my right.
O’Connell asked that we “stop the silence in order to end the violence” in the City of Richmond. She stated the need for funds to retain police officers, rather than spending the money to fill in the vacancies of those officers who are leaving the city for the counties. She said that “our officers deal with stuff that the counties do not” and that many officers are leaving because of the “safer working environment in the counties.
She stated that there is a need to “Back the Blue” in addition to the “Red, White, and Blue.” She distributed “I Love RPD” T-shirts to the members of Council and asked those individuals who support Richmond’s police officers to stand.
Elle Shirley Harvey came to talk about the state of the City of Richmond, which she alleges is the same as it was back in 1969. She stated that it is shameful that those on Council who are “Negroes” (as she does not like the term “African American”) do not know about Curtis Hoke, who went out of his way to ensure that African Americans be represented on the Council of a city that is majority African American.
She stated that poverty, crime, and great corruption are serious issues in the city. She also alleged that there is somebody stealing money from the city and that she knows who it is and can prove it. She claims that the auditor knows about this as well. She stated that the City needs to turn from its wicked ways and pray about these issues, after which she recited a prayer before Council.
Public Hearing on the Consent Agenda
Julie Curr was in opposition to ORD: 2016 -221. She said that the maps will cause people in the area to be blindsided by the new changes. She asked how structures in the path of these changes would be considered and stated that it was “unfair” for the D.P.U. to have so much discretion on the matter. She said that unsuspecting citizens will face hardships that are both stressful and expensive due to this ordinance.
Miles Morum spoke in opposition to RES: 2017-R012 on the grounds that the investigation to end fracking in the city was a waste of time. He stated that Richmond had zero (0) potential for oil or gas because Richmond sits on granite, which is an igneous rock, and oil and gas need sedimentary rocks in order to be extracted. He said that the city should focus on other things and that to launch this investigation into something impossible is not a good precedent to set for business.
A second speaker in opposition to this Resolution echoed Mr. Morum, stating that “there is nothing to frack down there” and that if anything, the city should divest funds from banks that invest in fossil fuels.
David Clark, a lawyer out of the Church Hill, said that imposing a ban on the fracking of oil and natural gas is “a solution in search of a problem.” He opposed this Resolution on the grounds that he was concerned about the precedent this would set, in addition to the exposure to expensive litigation that the city would undoubtedly have if this Resolution moved forward.
Scott Burger supports the ban on fracking, because oil and natural gas have worse effects than coal and fracking also causes earthquakes. He said that “Standing Rock is coming to Virginia” and that Council needs to take a stand and do their homework, or else things are going to get ugly. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he said, alleging that fracking would be the cause of all kinds of conflict and fighting. “It’s wise to get ahead and research these things.”
A Mr. Grutter called for the banning of fracking in the state of Virginia as a whole, and that we should divest from fossil fuels and use renewable energy. He even brought up the fact that marijuana can be used a better source of energy than fossil fuels.
John Scheen Basiactily favors Mr. Agelasto’s ban on fracking because of the effect of this practice because of its effect on water, air, soil, and human health. Fracking leads to methane exposure, which is worse for climate change than coal and oil.
Laney Sullivan echoed Mr. Basiactily’s sentiments, saying that Richmond is a “progressive city” and that this Resolution is a “progressive ban.” She stated that ban was symbolic, and that there is need for better options because fracking is not good for the environment.
Barbara Adams came to podium to talk about climate justice and stewardship in a regional and global context. “Fracking is unsafe and undesirable,” she said. “We do not want it in our city.” She stated that hydraulic fracking is a dangerous fracking method that is destructive to water, land, and air. She called Mr. Agelasto’s ban a “bold preventive measure.”
Another speaker spoke of the need to protect urban health and living. In addition to concerns about public health (skin, respiratory, and neurological effects) and environmental health (danger to water due to waste and chemical contamination, in addition to the formation of large cracks in the ground), this speaker pointed out the light and sound pollution and disturbances that would result 24/7 from the large, heavy fracking equipment. “Fracking has no place in our city,” he said. “It’s an unacceptable risk.”