City Council Recap - June 8, 2020

The invocation for this meeting was given by Dr. Sheary Johnson of the Victory Family Worship Center.

This city council meeting saw twice as many speakers for the citizen comments period than normal. 18 people requested to speak. The council members agreed to suspend rules to allow all of them a chance to speak, but for two minutes instead of three.

Before the citizen comments period, the Board reappointment recommendations were approved. There were also no awards and presentations for this meeting.

Citizen Comment

The first speaker is Katherine Brown of the 7th district. She joined the Zoom call to speak regarding the legislation about monument removal. She called on the council to do more for the city calling the monument removal a “a great start.” Brown contacted all the council members for clarification, but only received a response from one member’s staff.

The next speaker Mera Carle addressed police brutality and the Richmond Police Department’s excessive use of force toward peaceful protestors. During her two minutes she gave a list of demands and among them were the following: an immediate transition to defund RPD, reallocation of those funds, a police free citizen review board, removal of RPD from schools, and the enactment of the Marcus Alert.

Ebony Opong Brown recounted about how her group 3GM (3 Girls with a Message) passed out water and granola bars to protestors. Her main reason for calling in was to ask for the council’s support in an online black-owned restaurants event on July 5, 2020.

John Bradley from the 1st district called the police department’s response to the protestors undemocratic and a betrayal of public trust. David Robinson, a Marine Corp veteran, said that something beyond a citizen’s review. He recommends a reevaluation of police education requirements. Instead of a high school diploma all police officers should be required to have four-year degree.

From the 2nd district, Marshall Turner began his comment with a reminder of the unnecessary death of Marcus David Peters by the RPD. Turner was involved in the recent city protests that have been mentioned several times throughout the meeting. RPD used tear gas against peaceful protestors 30 minutes before curfew those involved included children. As a result of those actions, Turner says that the relationship the community has with the police is in pieces. Like the others before him, he called for taxpayer money to be reallocated to fund mental health resources and education.

Talal Bitar brought up the city budget arguing that a city review board is not enough. Bitar specifically included the fact that the education budget is $196 million, and the police budget is $170-180 million. Within the police budget, $2 million is allocate for vehicle repair and that figure is equal to the entire social services budget.

Jason Douglass Reed presented the city council with a different issue. He addressed the loss of parking and paved access to his home on the 4400 block of Patterson Ave. He wants to pause the installation of a bike lane until his proposal can be considered.

The 7th district’s Hillary Small expressed her grievances with the RPD and her gratitude that the monuments will be coming down. Kathleen Johnson wants the city council to reallocate 20% of RPD’s budget into mental health support, affordable housing, and schools. She also stated that the removal of the monuments must be followed by action.

Beyond the statues of Monument Ave, Leslie Johnson told the city council that the remaining statues in RVA should be removed. Johnson also addressed the education requirements to become a police officer, believing that they should at minimum have a two-year degree in criminal justice. Jayqua Williams shared a survey that she created so the people in the community and the surrounding counties can express their grievances, problems, and solutions.

After the citizen comment period, Councilman Michael Jones thanked all the speakers and echoed some of their sentiments. He acknowledged that public trust was severely damaged last week.

Consent Agenda

During the public hearing on the consent agenda, Attorney Blake Gale called on behalf of his client, David Williams. He asked to reject ORD. 2020-111 and ORD. 2020-124. Both ordinances pertain to his client’s property, 1201 Porter Street, and the approval of a Spotlight Abatement Plan for it.

Dashell Brown, a licensed mental health profession and counselor, called to speak on RES. 2020-R037 to address homelessness in the city.

Only two citizens elected to speak on the consent agenda, so President Newbille opened it up to council members. Council members Kristen Larson and Kimberly Gray asked for more information regarding the Porter St. property. The response was provided by the City Attorney who stated that there is no reason the council cannot vote on the paper. If the ordinance is adopted, the plaintiff will still have legal recourse. Mark Olinger, the Director of Planning and Development Review noted that the property has been vacant for 18 years.

The papers on the consent agenda were adopted.

Regular Agenda

On the regular agenda is Item 21 ORD. 2020-132. The Director of Budgeting and Planning is on the call to offer more information on the ordinance. It involves a $1 million increased into the affordable housing fund bringing it up to $3.9 million. Also, an addition $300,000 to Homeward, and $500,000 more for the Richmond Foundation. Council member Gray voiced her concern that the ordinance did not go far enough to find savings in the budget.

The ordinance is adopted with only Council member Gray voting no.

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