City Council Meeting Recap - 1/28
A moment of silence was given for the passing of former mayor, Walter T. Kenney Sr., who served as the mayor of Richmond from 1990-1994.
Officer Greg Felton was awarded after his retirement from the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department. Councilman Agelasto prided Officer Felton for being the bridge between the neighborhood and University. In response, Officer Felton stated he was “very humbled.”
Council President Newbile recognized Councilwoman Robertson for her 16 years of service in the City Council, having experienced through six elections. After a humorous few moments when the microphone was not working, Councilwoman Robertson was given a pin, and further recognized as the longest serving African American Councilwoman. Councilman Jones remarked on how she is known in the African American community for always championing their rights.
Robertson then responded on how thankful she was, and also mentioned how the former mayor, Walter T. Kenney Sr. was like a mentor to her.
Joe Cacciotti was in opposition to the Stony Point Community Unit Plan, as there are over 20,000 square feet of wetlands being destroyed over these new condos. In addition, he was disappointed in the development of the homes themselves.
Eliza Higgins also voiced her opposition to the plan, stating how the new condos would also cause the current homes in the area to be rezoned, and have their home values be dramatically changed. She also referred to the Equal Rights Amendment, urging the council to stay within the boundaries of Richmonders.
Laurie Masserini described herself as an environmentalist, and was also against losing the wetlands from the approved Stony Point Community Unit Plan. She worried for the soil and sediment standards of the region.
John Peter Patrizia also referred to the approved Stony Point Community Plan, ORD 2018-304. He stated the region already has runoff and storm problems, and the neighborhood currently does not have good drainage systems. He also found that the median price for current homes in the area is around $217,000. He saw that the new condos would cost anywhere between $250,000-270,000, which would not create affordable housing options. In addition, the area already has the Stony Point Apartments, so there is no need for the plan to create more housing.
In response to a majority of the citizens being from the 4th district, Councilwoman Larson remarked on how no permits have been issued, and there are more series of events that need to occur before the plan is realized.
Councilwoman Larson also touched upon ORD 2019-010, which discusses different precinct boundaries and polling places. She was grateful for the support, as the breaking up of the Precincts was working well, with lots of growth in the area.
ORD 2018-336 was moved to the consent agenda, which seeks to authorize the City Attorney to file an appropriate petition for concurrent jurisdiction by the City’s Department of Police and the campus police force of Virginia Commonwealth University in certain designated areas.
In support of the ordinance, the Richmond Chief of Police and VCU Chief of Police both commented on the close relationship of the VCU police and city police over the years.
In opposition to the ordinance were numerous individuals.
One man commented on how more VCU police will not make the VCU students feel any safer.
2 VCU students questioned how there would be morw VCU police in the African-American majority Richmond communities, criticizing the racial undertones of the ordinance.
One man stated how the VCU students, most notably minority students are ID checked by police constantly.
A local business owner stated that the VCU police are largely out for monetary gain. He questioned that when arrests occur, where is the money going? To the police or the city?
Ebony Jones, a Richmonder, stated that he opposes the ordinance. He felt as though there is no need for more jurisdiction. He felt that the VCU is a large “money-maker” for the city. He also commented on the extra security cameras in the dorms and how larger universities have less police than VCU does.
Claire, a resident of Oregon Hill, stated how VCU police are always in the area, and leave when they are filmed, knowing the area is outside their jurisdiction.
One VCU Employee stated how there is a lack of trust between the VCU police and the students, as the students feel overly policed.
One man commented on his own experiences, seeing how at around 9pm, police officers, while smoking cigarettes, would be trailing 9 year olds playing basketball.
Another VCU student commented on how the VCU police are always rushing them and moving them along and checking the IDs of students who “don’t look like students.” She lastly stated “George Felton is trash.”
In support of the ordinance, a man referred to how in 1999, the crime rate in the city was much higher. Now, he believes the RPD and VCU Police can help older people from other dangerous or disrespectful people.
Then, the VCU Chief of Police was brought up, so the council members may ask him more pointed questions.
Councilman Agelasto questioned the Chief on whether new officers would be hired to the force. The Chief responded that there is no specific manpower in mind, but the VCU will be sure to provide to the RPD, with no extra officers.
Councilwoman Gray speaks in support of the ordinance, stating how Richmonders are getting shot and jumped by kids, and other frightening situations in which a greater police presence would be beneficial.
Councilman Jones spoke, wondering that if no more officers are being added, why expand? He also emphasized how he believes that the police must reflect the community they serve. The VCU police does not represent the diversity of the VCU campus. By expanding the VCU police jurisdiction, more white male officers will be serving communities that they do not represent. Reflecting on the negative comments of the students, Jones questions on what communication the VCU police have with the student body. After all, the job of the VCU police force is to serve them.
Councilwoman Trammell felt sorry for the Chief for the disrespectful words thrown at him. She also did not appreciating bringing in “color” to the conversation of the topic, as an officer’s race or ethnicity does not play a role. She also distinguished homeowners from students. She mentioned a period when they were trying to get more “Hispanic-speaking” people to be on phones …
After this comment, many students and opposers of the ordinance began to speak over her, upset that she is placing students below homeowners, and correcting her statement to “Spanish-speaking.” However, due to this commotion, Council President Newbile called for a recess.
After the recess, all council members, beside Councilman Jones, voted in support of the ordinance, to which numerous students and spectators walked out of the council room.