Monthly Archives: May 2009

Baseball Debate Getting Ugly

Rachel DePompa – bio | email 

rachelheadshotThere are some days I’m glad that I’m a journalist. (Today is one of them.) Not having to weigh in on the “Great Richmond Baseball Debate” is nice. I get to just report the facts as we know them and sit back and watch all the opinions fly. From business owners to joe schmoes on the street, everyone is taking a side. Even the local blogging world is fired up about this one

As for me? I’m just going to follow around the Nolan Ryan Group today… hitting up a press conference with Eastern Baseball League, watching Nolan Ryan’s son tour the Diamond. I’ll be sitting on the sidelines, the dugout or whatever sports term I can come up with, watching the madness. Thankfully, I’m just reporting the facts on this one… waiting for someone to step up to the plate and make a decision.

PS… Or maybe it’s just that of all the sports in this country, baseball is the one I pay the least attention to throughout the year. If this was a football debate I’d be all over it! (Ahem, biggest Redskins fan in town!) Maybe we should go back to debating whether VCU should have a team?

 

   

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Decision Richmond hits the “Big-Time”

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotWe’ve made it! We’ve been discovered! Regular readers our hard work has paid off! We were quoted in the Times Dispatch today.  Well, my blog was quoted.. that counts right? I kid, I kid.  Though, it’s nice validation. And it’s good to know that my blog is actually read and all those hits everyday aren’t just me refreshing the page over and over and over! 🙂 

I do wish I’d been tipped off… but, at least now I know what it feels like to be surprised by a news story. Touche’. Nice story Will Jones. I have to agree with the assessment of the Richmond Police Department. Which has truly become more difficult to get information or interviews from in the last few months. Here’s a link to the article.   

City Council votes on the budget tonight. Word is there’s a small number of council members upset with the existing proposal. I understand Council member Marty Jewell could be leading the charge against the plan. There’s just one problem. If no budget is approved tonight then the city will revert back to the Mayor’s original plan. (and all the hard work of the last two months by council is null and void.) Should make for a good meeting.

 

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Filed under Blogging, Funny, Richmond

Richmond Tax Headache

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotSometimes you can just feel the spin. As a journalist there’s not much you can do about it either. You need to get all the sides and let people sort out the information for themselves.  So here goes….

Our phones started ringing off the hook last night from Richmonders who opened their mail and got a Real Estate Tax bill from the city. These are people who have mortgages and their escrow agents usually handle the bill. I interviewed several people today who tell me they called the city last night and were told it was a mistake. Several sources AT City Hall tell me it was a mistake. Several Council members tell me it was a mistake.

However, The City says the bills were sent on purpose. The City says the bills were mislabled but they were meant to help homeowners keep better records and to promote better transparency in Government.

The bill, (which I’ve seen) looks like a bill. There is no mention of the document being a duplicate copy. In fact, on the back it tells you to forward it immediately to your escrow company if you have an account. The City has apologized for any inconvenience to taxpayers and says it was only trying to be helpful.  

Also, it should be noted duplicate property tax bills were sent out to homeowners last year. People who paid their property taxes recieved a delinquent notice months later. It was a mistake.

And those are the facts I was able to gather today.

Here is the full statement from the city… 

City Statement on 2009 Real Estate Tax Billing
Richmond, VA –
Real estate tax bills were mailed on Friday, May 15, 2009, to all property owners and mortgage holders. The bills mailed to property owners were a duplicate communication and didn’t clearly indicate that escrow agents were also being billed directly.  The City apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused.

Property Owners who have escrow agents paying their real estate taxes should know that those escrow agents have been billed by the City.  This duplicate bill was intended to help property owners who may have recently paid off or refinanced their mortgages, as they may need this information to meet their responsibilities or forward to a new escrow agent.

Should you have a question regarding your real estate tax bill, please contact the City at 3-1-1 or finance@richmondgov.com.

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Covering the Bases: Baseball in the Bottom

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotFirst I’d like to thank everyone on Twitter for the great baseball analogy suggestions. By far, my favorite was “more costly than peanuts and cracker jacks.” But I digress….

Richmond’s Mayor, Dwight C. Jones unveiled the findings of his $100,000 dollar study of the Shockoe Center proposal. As expected, we learned the city would have to back the bonds if this plan is to succeed. According to Davenport, city backed bonds would mean the city’s cost would drop about $20 million to a $60 million investment. We also learned the city’s sales tax revenues would have to increase by 2.1% or 67 million dollars to cover the cost of the bonds. The information does give the Mayor and City Council a clearer picture of what it would be getting into, but it still begs the question…. if the city says no to the plan was the $100,000 spent on the study worth it?

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Filed under Baseball, Dwight Jones

Random Richmond Thoughts

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotI went to dinner last night in Shockoe Slip at Cha Cha’s with some fellow journalists. (Yes we can be friendly with each other.) Sitting outside on the patio, I was thinking how nice it is to live in Richmond. I’ve been here for over a year now, and this city still surprises me. 

I find I’m still fond of cobblestone. It makes me feel like I’m in an alley in Europe, far, far away.  Also, I should teach a class on how to navigate the slip in heels.

Despite all the crime I always report on, I still feel safe walking to my car or to my home at night.

I especially enjoy how Richmonders relish the past. We can be stubborn, but there’s something to be said for not letting someone tear down a building just because it fell into neglect. Taking the time to make it new again is pure brilliance. (This probably correlates as to why “The Fountainhead” is my favorite book. I’m apparently fascinated with architecture.) 

And even though Richmond politics can sometimes be infuriating…. walking into City Hall and going up that elevator to the second floor is still a privilege. I like knowing the who’s who of this city and trying my hardest to get them to spill their guts.

A year later, being a journalist in this town is still rewarding. This whole week has been rewarding in some ways. It’s nice to know that straight up investigative journalism can still happen and that this profession can truly be a watchdog for the community. 

I try….. I hope you will continue to watch….

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Filed under City Hall, Richmond, Writing

Sniper Shootings and Covering Court

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotToday I had to sit in court. A place I actually don’t mind to go. The legal system absolutely fascinates me. If I weren’t a journalist I’d probably be an attorney. (I know, the two most  hated professions in the world.) Anyway, I was in court listening to why John Allen Muhammad should have his death sentence overturned. The defense says Muhammad needed a competency hearing and his lawyers were ineffective because they did not tell the judge about his mental capacity. I have to say, the argument was convincing. If those trial attorneys never did tell the court about his competency problems they may have a case.  Even the state attorney admitted that in court today. But the state says it’s not true and that a doctor did not deemed Muhammad incompetent prior to his Virginia trial. The whole reason the Virginia case is being scrutinized is because Muhammad got the death penalty here and we all know a death sentence in Virginia is far more likely to be carried out than most other states.  It could be weeks before the judges make a ruling.

On a side (and funny) note… If you ever have to sit in court remember to eat BEFORE you go inside. The courtroom is often very quiet and you don’t want your stomach to growl sooooo loud everyone turns and looks at you. (that happened to me today. SO EMBARRASSING!) I’m talking the loudest and longest tummy growl you’ve ever heard.  I’m thinking today’s growl should be in the record books.

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Filed under Covering Court, Funny

The Dirt on City Hall: Updated

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotCity Hall is certainly not the place it was during the days of Wilder, but I can tell you juices are flowing this week. Police and Fire are coming out in (to use an over quoted media term) FULL FORCE. Everyone is scrounging for money is this tight budget year. Mayor Dwight Jones presented his proposal over a month ago and word on the street is he is not lobbying city council members. And the Council has made quite a few changes to his original plan. In fact, we haven’t really heard much from the mayor in the last few weeks about the budget. It may be time for me to put in a call and see what he thinks of the money fight. 

One a side note… you should check out Style Weekly’s inside dirt on city hall. Weekly is reporting that Richmond’s top community planner, Rachel Flynn is on the outs with some city council members.   Click here to check out the story.

**UPDATE: So, I hear the Mayor is happy with the way the budget has turned out. City Council put the finishing touches on it Wednesday night. What it has now will most likely be what’s voted on in two weeks.

Also… remember the baseball study ordered up by City Hall to review the Highwoods proposal for Shockoe Bottom? Well.. i hear people will be surprised by the findings. Apparently, the numbers served up by Highwoods are off. (The cost AND revenue figures) I’m working to get more information on this one. That’s all I’ve got for now…

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Filed under City Council, City Hall Talk