Dude, This Isn’t Chicago

Mayor Dwight Jones responds to questions about his security detail. Photo credit: WTVR.

Mayor Dwight Jones has done a creditable job overall running the City of Richmond — far from perfect but above what you’d expect from a locality with a deep-blue electorate. I’ve never had cause on this blog to criticize him. Until now. I do have to say, I’m taken aback by the revelation that he put $400,000 in the city budget, approved last week, to pay for three police officers and two cars to transport and protect him.


cars? Really? That’s like a mini-motorcade. Four guards? That sounds like round-the-clock police protection.

City council persons had tried to transfer $100,000 of those funds to a reserve fund to pay for temp staffers at the city’s 3-1-1 call center in the event of emergencies. That would leave him with $300,000 — certainly enough, one would think, to provide him with police protection while he’s out and about town on official duties. But somehow, the money found its way back into the budget via what Councilwoman Reva M. Trammel called “backroom shenanigans.”

Style Weekly checked three other cities of the size of Richmond — Des Moines, Baton Rouge and Boise — and only one offered regular police protection for the mayor. And that city, Baton Rouge, budgets only $150,000.

It’s not as if Jones’ avocation — pastor of the First Baptist Church of South Richmond — takes him in harm’s way. Nor does he have a lightning rod personality like his mayoral predecessor, L. Douglas Wilder.  As Trammel says, “What is he afraid of? Who the hell knows him? Unless he goes around out there and says, ‘I’m Mr. Mayor.’”

I remember spotting Tim Kaine around town when he served as mayor, and later as lieutenant governor. One time he was walking down the sidewalk, once he was in a movie theater, and once he was enjoying lunch with his family at a Shockoe Bottom diner. I saw no guards. Richmond’s crime rate has gone down since then. One would think there would be less need for security today.

If Jones has encountered specific security threats, there has been no word of them. He says he’s just following the advice of the police chief. Methinks he ought to follow the advice of Councilwoman Trammel instead.


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11 responses to “Dude, This Isn’t Chicago”

  1. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    Oh my. These sorts of attitudes typically lead to bigger trouble sooner or later.

  2. larryg Avatar

    It’s a sad fact that there are loons running around with deadly weapons these days.

    We do not know if threats have been received but these days you cannot ignore them.

    Kaine did what he did – at some risk to his life.

    it’s a sad fact that public figures are the targets of loony people…

    I cringe every time I see Obama in a crowd and pray the secret service is effective – because I have absolutely no doubt for a minute – that in the current political environment – there are nut jobs running around ready to kill if they can.

    I don’t know about the Richmond Mayor. I’d need to know a little bit more about whether there are credible threats he has received but 400K is chump change these days for protecting a public figure – 24/7.

    it’s just one of those awful realities of life nowdays.

  3. Breckinridge Avatar

    At the National Governor’s Association meeting in Williamsburg last summer, it would not be an exaggeration to say that one third of the people in the big meeting room were security personnel for the governors. Another third were the coat-holders and brief case carriers to fill out their ego-swelled entourage. The governors moved around the room in little cocoons of bodies.

    The security around Eric Cantor these days is similar to the security around the president thirty or forty years ago (two big black cars, 3-4 personnel with communication and probably heavy weapons), and around the president of course it is equivalent in personnel and equipment cost to a combat battalion on a battlefield. It may discourage the bad guys, but the truly crazy and committed probably can still get through.

    The security for the mayor is a silly waste of taxpayer dollars.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Well said. Its also a metaphor for much that ails our government officials.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Didn’t Maureen McDonnell, the governor’s wife, require governor’s protective service when she went on promotion trips for big time McDonnell contributor Star Scientific from whom McDonnell accepted many gifts?

    Jim Bacon, please help me out here. Is this “blue” behavior or “red” behavior?

    1. This isn’t “blue” behavior or “red” behavior, and I didn’t paint it as such. (I specifically mentioned Tim Kaine, a Democrat, as a politician who seemed to have minimal security.) Also, as Breckinridge points out, Eric Cantor travels with a heavy security detail. I’ve seen in a couple of places — one a restaurant, one a Starbucks — and he had security people around him. I suppose you could argue that he is a national figure and a polarizing figure, so maybe he had more reason for concern. But this is not red or blue.

    2. Breckinridge Avatar

      It is human behavior.

      1. larryg Avatar

        re: human behavior – including all including the Mayor?

        I’m primarily focused on – if we have a standard criteria/protocol for deciding the scope and scale of security for public officials or is it purely a case-by-case basis and the public basically “votes” on what they like or not depending on their political or personal views?

        Do mayors of most cities the size of Richmond have security protection ?

        My understanding is that the 400K is 1/2 of what Wilder spent.

        so what is going on now?

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    “Above above what you’ve expect from a DEEP BLUE electorate?”

    Once again I am entering the BACON ZONE where I read one thing and then am told something entirely different.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    It’s a Richmond thing, I guess. Does Will Sessioms have a police entourage? He’s the mayor of a city with more than twice the population of Richmond. How about the Board of Supervisors of Arlington County? More people live in Arlington and it has a much higher population density than Richmond. Alexandria has almost as many people as Richmond. Does the mayor of Alexandria require an armed escort before venturing out into the mean streets of Old Town?

    Issue the mayor a side arm and a concealed carry permit.

    Case closed.

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