Tag Archives: City of Richmond

Times-Dispatch Omits Facts Instead of Including Them

by Jon Baliles

Public safety is one of every locality’s largest and most important responsibilities. If the sidewalks, streets, and neighborhoods are not safe, people go to places where they are. Walkers, joggers, businesses, customers, and everyone else won’t go to places where they feel their safety in in jeopardy.

At the same time, that responsibility of providing that level of safety of the people enforcing the law comes with the burden of being better than the people that are breaking the law and/or causing trouble. It is a two-way street. If you don’t have people enforcing the law, you will always have people breaking it, and then society and streets and neighborhoods break down, and chaos and despair follow. That’s a fact, even though some choose not to acknowledge it.

What is disturbing is what happened on a downtown street last summer when a 911 call led to an encounter with two Richmond Police officers responding to the call and ended up in a takedown and arrest of a gentleman named Mr. Holley at the Maggie Walker Plaza on Adams Street.

You can read the article about this by Luca Powell in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that ran on January 31, but it turns out that was a less-than-complete (to be generous) accounting of the facts. After the article ran, the Commonwealth’s Attorney felt compelled to write a lengthy and detailed email to the newspaper “to correct the inaccuracies and incomplete information. Had you taken the time to contact me directly, I would have provided you with the following information that would have resulted in a more informed and balanced article.”

What should trouble residents of the City is that the story that was reported seems to have omitted more facts of the case than it included. Maybe that was on purpose, maybe it was just sloppy reporting and a lack of proper editing. But the fact that it drew rebukes from both the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and then a lengthy statement from the Interim Police Chief, Rick Edwards, suggests to me that important parts of the story that were omitted in the newspaper can be relayed in a forum like this newsletter where accuracy and counterpoint do not give way to space for ads and revenue. Continue reading

Roller Coaster Casino Ride

by Jon Baliles

The road to a casino in the General Assembly is on a roller coaster ride that is careening down the hill and likely to jump the tracks at any minute. Last week alone, the bill that would allow a casino referendum in Petersburg and block a second one in Richmond until Petersburg has a chance has taken the following ride:

  • Cleared a Finance General Laws subcommittee on a 7-2 vote on January 26;
  • Cleared a Senate General Laws committee on a 11-4 vote Wednesday;
  • Failed in a Senate Finance committee on a 7-8 vote Thursday evening;
  • Cleared a House of Delegates General Laws subcommittee on a 5-2 vote on Tuesday;
  • Cleared a House of Delegates General Laws committee vote 7-4 on Thursday;
  • Cleared the House of Delegates Appropriations committee 11-9 on Friday afternoon.

So what’s next? Well, there are three possibilities: (1) the bill dies because the House and Senate won’t find a suitable compromise, which means the Petersburg proposal could vanish and Richmond gets another referendum; (2) the Petersburg referendum is inserted into the final budget language (as it was last year) and their referendum will proceed and Richmond’s put on hold; or (3) the zombie apocalypse will commence.

Personally, I’m rooting for the apocalypse. Continue reading

Thawing the Brain Freeze at City Hall

Richmond City Hall

by Jon Baliles

We can be thankful for a weather warm-up this week after last week’s bitter cold. Maybe it will help thaw the brain freeze at City Hall and enable them to fix the shelter situation before the next bitter cold arrives (hint, it’s coming back).

Last week, after Tyler Lane at CBS6 filed a cringeworthy report about the failure of the City to provide enough shelter and people being turned away, City Hall was opened at the last minute for the two days over the Christmas weekend for people to warm up. But then those in need were turned back out into the cold at 4 p.m. each day just as the temperature fell back into the teens.

The City did get two shelters open in Manchester with a capacity of about 100 beds in November (with about 450 needed total) through two non-profits. The excuses from the Administration for not opening the other shelters and expanding capacity were legion. The City is still quibbling with one non-profit over contract terms before they can get funding and open for the winter (they opened last week briefly with private funds to get through the cold spell). Continue reading

Richmond’s Next Chapter

by Jon Baliles

The Times-Dispatch Editorial Board printed a piece this week entitled “The city’s Lost Cause statues are all gone. So what now?” While it recaps the events and protests of 2020 and the fact that all of the former Confederate statues have been removed, it offers a bit more foresight by looking at what will be required of our City and our leaders in the future.

The piece points out that the removal of the A.P. Hill statue was characterized by Mayor Stoney as an opportunity to “start writing a new chapter for the city” and to make the accident-prone intersection more safe. “That’s the blocking and tackling of running a government,” Stoney said. The editorial, however, goes a little deeper than the Mayor:

Charting a new chapter for Richmond, however, requires something more than “blocking and tackling.” In the summer of 2020, a broad coalition of Richmond citizens and public officials — including Stoney — embraced a newfound commitment to breaking down systemic racism and creating a more inclusive, equitable Richmond. In the winter of 2022, we still have little to show for it.

It runs down the list of things that you constantly hear Stoney talking about but providing very little in the way of policy solutions that are implemented and working.

City schools are struggling with a leadership crisis, a teacher shortage and a student population that’s been devastated by pandemic-induced learning challenges. The affordable housing crisis, especially for the poorest Richmonders, has only grown worse. Evictions and homelessness are spiking, with no comprehensive plan to address it. The Richmond Police Department is grappling with more than 150 officer vacancies as gun violence surges — disproportionately impacting Black families, of course — as it begins the search to replace yet another departed police chief.

It talks about the housing crisis, and that apartments are going up with lightning speed in Manchester and Scott’s Addition and (soon) in the Diamond District, while “South Side and the East End are left to fend for themselves. Redevelopment of public housing complexes remain stuck at the starting gate. The new Richmond takes priority over the old.” It does point out some of the positive news we have seen, like poverty dropping to 18% (lowest in two decades) and our “urban cool” is on the rebound as the pandemic years are more in the rearview mirror.

But the thing that struck me the most about this piece is that it is really the first marker of issues that are and will be on the table and need to be addressed in 2024 when the City elects a new Mayor and City Council (in which, I will not be a participant). We have heard lots of talk and seen lots of tweets over the years from the Mayor and others about all they are doing for the City. But we can no longer afford trading real political solutions (including listening, compromise, and common ground) for self-promotion on social media just to rack up more clicks, likes and retweets and counting that as a measure of success.

As Denzel Washington once said, “Just because you are doing a lot more, doesn’t mean you are getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress.” Continue reading