City Council Recap-April 10, 2017

Highlights

Awards and Recognitions

Richmond Public Safety Emergency 911 Telecommunications Week

The second full week of April was declared Richmond Public Safety Emergency 911 Telecommunications Week by Mayor Stoney and Council President Hilbert. Mayor Stoney said that “We have one of the best telecommunications in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They’re always there, and they always respond.” President Hilbert commended the knowledge and expertise of the “100 heroes behind the scene” who keep the City of Richmond safe 24/7. Richmond has the second biggest call center in the Commonwealth, and according to Mayor Stoney, it exceeds national standards.

Councilwoman Trammel also expressed her thanks to the telecommunicators and emergency dispatchers, stating that she knows how stressful the job can be.

Richmond Affordable Housing Awareness Week

Councilwoman Robertson declared the last week of April as Richmond Affordable Housing Awareness Week, recognizing the great work of several individuals and organizations that that worked for several years to get affordable housing for individuals in the city. “Housing is fundamental to neighborhoods and to the individual,” Councilwoman Robertson said. “Anyone who spends more than 30% of their income on housing is not living in affordable housing.” The individuals who have worked in this area have made significant contributions to the city, ensuring that people could receive decent housing that was affordable and up to the city’s standards.

That being said, Councilwoman Robertson, Richmond still is nowhere near meeting the need and demand for affordable housing, as Richmond is still approximately 50% house poor. “We still have a long way to go,” she said.

Mayor Stoney added that “It takes an individual to make a home, but one cannot make a home without a house.” President Hilbert thanked Councilwoman Robertson for her leadership in this area, in addition to thanking the Richmond Community Development Team, an alliance of 12 organizations, for their hard work. The members of the Team stated that they will continue to work together with the city to achieve the affordable housing needs in the community.

Richmond Child Abuse Prevention Month

Councilwoman Robertson also took time to acknowledge the work of those individuals working to prevent child abuse in the community. She cited that in the past year, there were 52,821 Child Protective Services interventions due to suspected cases of abuse. Councilwoman Robertson believes that child abuse contributes to a lot of issues both for the child and for the social issues in Richmond, calling it “the most inhumane experience” a child could go through. The services of those fighting against child abuse is critical to the success of the child survivors.

Mayor Stoney said that Richmond’s #1 asset is our children and that they deserve the highest standard of life.

A representative from Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) thanked the Council for their recognition, stating that it is crucial that the effects of the adverse of adverse experiences and trauma on children (ACEs = Adverse Childhood Experiences) contribute to problems in schools, the juvenile justice system, and adulthood. “Trauma informed education makes a big difference,” she said. “The power of resilience is strong…We need to be able to recognize the triumphs and achievements, not just the hurt and pain.”

Virginia Union University Lady Panthers Basketball Team

Council President Hilbet took the time to recognize the VUU Lady Panthers for their outstanding 2017 season. The Lady Panthers had advanced to the NCAA Finals Tournaments and had won the National Championship game. The team went from a losing record to #2 in the nation. President Hilbert praised their hard work and dedication, calling them “champions both on the court and off the court.” He said the game was exciting to see and that the Lady Panthers are definitely “The pride of Northside” who give “all of us inspiration.”

Mayor Stoney acknowledged how it is not easy to be a student athlete and recognized the ladies for their hard work to “bring it home,” noting that their hard work had not gone unnoticed.

Coach Gilbert, the proud coach of the victorious team, thanked everyone for their support, which she said “helped propel us to the top.” She said the Lady Panthers do it not just for the name on their jersey, but for every little girl who may one day aspire to play college basketball.

Fatah Muhammed

Councilwoman Trammell took the time to recognize the advocacy Fatah Muhammad, whose advocacy on the Southside helped create better relationships with police to reduce violence in Richmond. He worked with young men to keep them away from crime. She said she had never thought that he could break the barriers he did, as there was a time in Blackwell when “the police didn’t trust us, and we didn’t trust them.”

Councilwoman Trammell met him in 1996, back when she was not welcome in the Blackwell area. Mr. Muhammed had let her in, and had told members of the community not to look at her as white woman, but as an ally. She said that Mr. Muhammed had never let her down and that she loved him very deeply. “My brother, if it was not for you, we would not have community policing,” she said. “Stay strong.”

Mr. Muhammed, who is battling cancer, expressed his appreciation for everything that Councilwoman Trammell has done, and promised that he will still continue his hard work. He and she had worked together for a long time to make the community better and fight crime.

Mayor Stoney thanked Mr. Muhammed for his selflessness, saying that Mr. Muhammed was driven by “something greater” and has been a great example. “We will follow your lead,” the Mayor said.

Citizen Comments

“We Welcome You!”

John Moeser, who lives in the Sherwood Park area, thanked the members of City Council for their unanimous passing of an ordinance affecting the neighborhood. Mr. Moeser said that President Hilbert’s leadership was critical, that Councilwoman Gray’s draft of the legislation contributed to the passing of the ordinance, and that Councilwoman Robertson, his former student, made very sharp observations. He also commended the eloquent manner in which the members of Council spoke about this ordinance.

Mr. Moeser spoke of Sherwood Park as an integrated neighborhood where everybody is welcome, and in appreciation of their support, all members of City Council have been declared honorary neighbors of the neighborhood. “We welcome you,” Mr. Moeser said.

Symbol of Unappreciation

Glenwood Burley, a retired police officer, informed the Council of a plan to hold the first meeting of a committee to get a new barn and living space for the horses of the police on horseback (the mounted patrol). The police horses are currently sleeping on concrete slabs in poorly kept stables that Mr. Burley compared to “some redneck joint on Jefferson Davis highway.” The treatment of the horses, according to Mr. Burley, is a sign symbol of unappreciation. From Council, Mr. Burley expects respect, support, appreciation, no procrastination, and for members to take a tour of the facilities for themselves.

“I told the horses, ‘I’m gonna get you out of this hellhole’,” Mr. Burley said. “And the horses understood me. No one has ever told them that before.”

A One-Time Investment

Leslie Buck of the FORM Squad echoed the sentiments of Mr. Glenwood Burley, asking the Council for funding for a new barn. According to Ms. Buck, the current stable has been condemned since 2001, and is unsafe for the horses, police officers, and visitors due to its close proximity to gas lines and mold. “This would be a one-time investment, and the benefits will outweigh the costs,” she said. She shared that there has been an outpouring of community support and that the City Council should allow for the designing of a barn within its financial limits.

Unassigned Budget Surplus

Chris Lombardi asked that no member of Council vote to take any money away from Richmond Public Schools, and that if there is such a vote, the other members do not support such a vote. He does not believe that the School Board was hiding the money, he believes that they were saving it, which was the best practice. “Do not redirect the money,” he said. “The schools need it for unexpected expenses, and all the government bodies need to work together on a decision about the $8.3 million surplus.” Mr. Lombardi asked that an amendment be passed in order for RPS to keep the money.

Councilman Agelasto informed Mr. Lombardi that the schools cannot carry an unassigned budget surplus according to state code. Mr. Agelasto said that ideally they do not want the money taken away, they want the schools to keep it.

Councilwoman Gray added that the budget has to be assigned and not appropriated, and that the request has to come from the School Board directly.

“Don’t Punish the School Board, Let Them Keep the Money”

Ansley Perkins also came forward about the Richmond Public Schools budget surplus, dissatisfied by a lack of thorough reporting by the media. She expressed her hope that the City Council would not punish the School Board and that the School Board will be able to keep the $8.3 million. She also expressed he support for the Mayor’s Education Compact.

Illegal Dumping

Ann Wortham spoke about a problem that her Council representative has failed to address. There is one trash dump, south of the river, that is currently open. According to Ms. Wortham, there used to be two dumps, but the second one was closed down. The closing of the second dump has led to the illegal dumping of household debris, like mattresses and tires, in her area. “The illegal dumping is growing as fast as the population,” she said. She suggested that another dump be opened, because the old and handicapped have been working to get rid of the trash, and this has only caused more infirmities.

Councilwoman Trammell expressed her lack of knowledge that the second dump had been closed, because that meant that the trash from Ms. Wortham’s district would have to be brought into Councilwoman Trammell’s district.

Council Vice-President Newbille said that this is the prime time to discuss this matter, now that the Council is in budget time.

An Ask for RPS

Joseph Notarnicola, a PTA member, came forward to address the unassigned fund balance of Richmond Public Schools, echoing the sentiments of the speakers before him. “I ask that you ensure that the funds are returned and utilized by Richmond Public Schools.”

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