Monthly Archives: June 2009

VCU: The Changing of the Guard

RachelinStyleRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Getting the Style Treatment:

Make sure to pick up a copy of Style Weekly. There’s an excellent story on the state of television news in Richmond. It really breaks down the challenges we face in this tough economy. The nice folks at Style caught up with me last week during an interview with Lt. Doug Perry in Henrico County. I have to tell you, it was a little nerve racking having my picture taken while I was doing my job. (I know! I know! I’m on TV everyday!) But there’s something about a picture that feels much more permanent. Also, when I’m on TV, it’s usually just me and a video-journalist standing there. So, I never let myself think about how many people are actually on the other side of the lens. (If I did, you’d probably see me stumble a little more often) 🙂

VCU: Then and Now

 It was a quiet last day for Eugene Trani on the VCU campus. He declined all interviews; stepping out of the spotlight to make way for new leader Michael Rao.

 

 

 

Trani Statue On Campus

Trani Statue On Campus

We visited the Life Sciences building (which is named for him) to see his new life size statue. We talked to colleagues about his legacy and we actually found students who had quite a bit to say about his tenure. (The last time I did a story on Trani it took 2 hours to find a student who knew enough to go on camera.) I had an opportunity to meet Michael Rao a few months ago. He starts tomorrow, but is spending the weekend  moving in and won’t physically be on campus until Monday.

19 years is a long time to run an organization. And by all accounts, VCU is a much different place than it was in 1990; not just aesthetically, but image-wise. I came to Richmond under a changing of the guard. In my first year here, I’ve watched a controversial mayor leave office, along with a school superintendent and a University President. It will be interesting to see what direction this city is moving in, one year from now.

CAO Update:

The city is making way for Byron Marshall. Acting Chief Administrative Officer, Chris Beschler has been named Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Operations. Which is basically an expanded role. He will now, not only head the Department of Public Utilities, but he will also be in charge of General Services. Beschler had applied to stay on as CAO. The City Council meets Wednesday to vote on the position. It’s expected Marshall will get the nod in a 9-0 vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under City Council, Dwight Jones, VCU

James River: Take 2

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

First order of business? City Business:

Before I post about the River Wild: Part Deux, lets get through the news of the day. City Council’s special meeting about the Chief Administrative Officer appointment is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:00 at City Hall. Don’t expect any surprises either. It appears Byron Marshall’s appointment will get a 9-0 vote… possibly an 8-1.  I won’t speculate on the lone hold-out just yet. But it probably would not surprise most people. 

Tubing on the James:

Went on my second adventure on the James River this past weekend. And unlike my first trip, which included high waters, rescues and my hilariously, funny analogy to a Kevin Bacon movie; this trip was uneventful. But, only because I had such high standards to live up to. Actually, this trip was even better than the first.

The water was below five feet. (So, no life jackets required). I felt safe. The company was awesome! And, because the water was not that high, the trip lasted longer. So, I was able to really enjoy the beauty of the James. It was really cool to go under the Nickel bridge while the guys were working on it. They were scaling the side of it with ropes and just hanging there, welding. A job with a high dangerous level, but amazing views.

All in all, people don’t appreciate that river enough. I had a few folks say, “EW! You actually got in the James???”

Um?!?! Yeah! I had a blast and I do it again!  

PS.. it’s our drinking water. Can’t be that bad.

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Filed under City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones, James River

New Crime Wave, New Hire, Old Problem

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

New Crime Wave: When Kitchen Utensils Go Bad…

So, I have to call Richmond Police today to ask about an assault case. Two women fought in North Richmond. One had a frying pan, the other? A steak knife. This comes one week after a man was beaten with a meat tenderizer. Too many cooks in the kitchen? (Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all night taking requests.)

New Hire:

Mayor Dwight Jones is certainly helping the city’s employment rate this week. He’s made another hire. This time for Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Economic and Community Development. He’s hired Peter Chapman who starts July 13th. Chapman comes to Richmond from Denver, Colorado where he serves as the director of a national community development organization.

Old problem:

Baseball, baseball baseball. I hear the city could announce a new team in three weeks. There’s also a new push to renovate The Diamond. Opening Day Partners out of Maryland (Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and businessman Peter Kirk) have a 28 million dollar plan to upgrade the facility and keep it open year round with other events. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority (which controls The Diamond) has stopped short of endorsing the plan but says it would be a good way to make a new team successful on the Boulevard.  Old problem, same discussion, nothing new here.  

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Filed under Baseball, Crime, Dwight Jones

My Unexpected Conversation With a Carjacking Survivor

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

As reporters, we do A LOT of waiting. Today I was waiting for information from police on a carjacking in South Richmond. My photographer, David Brakke and I, were tired of sitting in the office and decided to scope out the scene of the crime ourselves. We got some video and started asking people in the neighborhood if they’d heard about a horrible incident last night. Most of the neighbors had no idea and were shocked. Two women were getting in a car when I stopped them to ask if they too had heard about this terrible crime. One of the woman looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, I know about it. It happened to my friend.” She pointed to a timid woman sitting in the car beside her. I was shocked. And I immediately felt horrible for asking her if she knew about it. People often accuse the media of being insensitive. I can assure you, that is never my intention. And, this woman was gracious and wanted to tell me what happened.

She told me about parking her car and getting out when a man with a gun forced her back inside. She cried while explaining how this man threatened to kill her over and over for three hours. She cried when she thought about how she almost died over $40. She told me how she had seen stories like this on the news and read about in the papers, but never thought it could happen to her. She told me how she only looked at her assailant twice because he threatened to shoot her if she turned her head. She drove and drove and drove… in circles, in alleys. He made her call friends and beg for money to save her life. Eventually, the car was almost out of gas and he let her out. But not without taking her identification and cell phone. He threatened to come back and kill her if she called police. He threatened her family. And she wanted me to share this story with you. She wants apartment managers to take better care of lighting the parking lots. She wants you to be aware of your surroundings when you are getting out of your car. She never wants this to happen to anyone else.

I talk to a lot of people in this business and I’ve seen a lot of horrible things. And I can say with certainty tonight, she is one of the bravest I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

**Side note** According to Richmond Police crime is actually down 22 percent in the 3rd precinct. Last week, they made an arrest in 6 robberies and 2 attempted robberies. If you have any information on this crime you think might help police give them a call at CrimeStoppers. 804-780-1000

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Marshall Nominated: Answers Lingering Questions

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Mayor Dwight Jones says he was looking for three things when it came to nominating a CAO. He wanted someone with experience in a larger city. Check (Atlanta, Houston, D.C.)

He wanted someone from a city with accomplishments he’s striving for in Richmond. Check (Waterfront projects, developing the warehouse district)

He wanted someone who could not just build a downtown, but who could build neighborhoods. Check (President of Austin Revitalization Authority)

Byron Marshall appears to have all the qualifications Mayor Jones was looking for in a candidate.  But when news broke he was a finalist, information began surfacing from newspaper articles from his prior cities. Tonight, Marshall addressed all the questions. And he did so, frankly and publicly with the media AND at the City Council meeting.

As for his degree?  Marshall says he was awarded a B.A. in History in 1997. He says he has 24 hours of the 40 hours required for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University.  Marshall says, “Was the paperwork sloppy? Yes. Was I trying to fool anyone? No.” 

As for his reasons for leaving his Atlanta job? It was reported Marshall resigned in Atlanta after it was discovered he was also holding a job with Austin. Marshall says he was consulting for another city at the end of his tenure and it was known by his boss and not hidden in any way. He says an election was approaching and the second job became a campaign issue.

And as for the audit currently underway at his agency? Marshall says it is performance based and not financial. He says, “There’s been no determination of any impropriety nor has there been any suggestion that there has been.”

City Council will hold a special meeting next Wednesday. Five votes are needed to confirm the nomination.

 

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Filed under Breaking News, City Council, Dwight Jones

CAO D-Day! Looks like Marshall is the Pick

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

It’s D-Day at City Hall for Byron Marshall. (see postings below for his bio and background)He spent the weekend in Richmond meeting with the city’s top brass. This  morning he was introduced to a who’s who of the Richmond business community at the Suntrust Building. City Council meets tonight. I could get my first crack at Marshall this afternoon. Interviews with the media are coming.  And, it appears papers will be introduced tonight naming Marshall as the Mayor’s choice. The new buzz at city hall today is interesting. The Mayor may use a little known tool in the city’s charter called “expedited consideration.” Which basically means Mayor Dwight Jones may call for a vote to confirm Marshall tonight. He needs six council members to vote for an expedited vote. Then he only needs five votes to confirm Marshall as the new Chief Administrative Officer. Which means we could have a new CAO by 11:00 tonight. Stay tuned! 

**UPDATE**  Marshall’s meeting with the business community has concluded. It was convened by Venture Richmond. In attendance?

The company heads of: Suntrust, Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Hunton & Williams, Ukrops, Bon Secours, Altria, Capital One Financial, Federal Reserve, Dominion, Mead West VACO… 39 people in all were there.

**UPDATE #2**: Mayor Jones has named Marcus Jones as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Finance and Administration. This position reports directly to the CAO. Jones, 41, is a native of Caroline County, VA and spent over a decade in Richmond as Mark Warner’s Deputy Secretary of Finance.  He’s currently an assistant City Manager in Norfolk. He graduated from James Madison University and VCU. 

He begins on August 24th and “will provide key oversight for more than $1.4 billion in annual revenue collection and spending. He’ll be over the departments of Finance, Budget and Strategic Planning, Procurement, Information Technology and the Office of Risk Management.”  

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Filed under Breaking News, City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones

CAO Finalist Returns to River City

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

The front runner to be Richmond’s next Chief Administrative Officer is on his way back to the city.  He’ll arrive tonight (Thursday) and will spend the weekend in the River City meeting with council members. Councilman Bruce Tyler confirms he’s meeting with the Marshall on Saturday, while Councilman Marty Jewell says he’s has a meeting scheduled for Friday. The Mayor’s press secretary, Tammy Hawley, says this trip is “along the same lines as his last visit.” She says he will be interacting with City Council but she does not have his complete  schedule.  You can learn more about his first visit to the River City and about his controversial job history in my prior blog about Marshall here. Marshall is the only candidate that we know of , to be introduced to the City’s top leaders. Now that he’s coming back for a second trip, it’s safe to say he’s got the best chance for the job so far.

POLICE BEAT:

There was another robbery early this morning (Thursday) on Jeff Davis. This one happened outside the Wendy’s. Two female employees were robbed in the parking lot as they left work.  I met with Commander Steve Drew with the second precinct today. He says  police are heavily patrolling the area and just because you don’t see a cruiser doesn’t mean they aren’t there. He says police have stepped up undercover and covert work in the area.

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Filed under City Hall Talk, Crime, Dwight Jones, Richmond, Uncategorized