Monthly Archives: July 2009

Richmond Round-Up 07/31

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

It’s been a slow week! You always know that is the case when I start looking for story ideas in a folder on my desk called “evergreens”. I did a few of them this week.

If you’re looking for city hall gossip there really isn’t any this week. All’s quiet with the Mayor. Maybe too quiet. We need a little spice around here!

Child Death Investigation:

I do have an update today on the state investigation into the death of a toddler at a Richmond Day Care. (13 month old Andrew Johnson was left inside a  day care van for 7 hours in 84 degree weather.) The Department of Social Services wrapped up its investigation late yesterday and held a press conference today. The state is recommending the Day Care lose its license to operate. The owner of the Yellow Brick Road Day Care is vowing to fight. And several sources tell me there will be more updates to this story very soon. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m on-call this weekend and really hoping for nothing to happen. Wish me luck!

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Filed under City Hall Talk, Crime

Richmond Police Trial: Lessons Learned

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Three Richmond Police officers were fighting for their careers this week. They were accused of obstructing justice. And a jury of Richmonders found them NOT GUILTY. The officer’s attorneys had one question today… “was it worth it to bring these charges?”

I will say, it’s a tricky question. There were obviously witnesses at the scene who felt they were being disregarded. I know if I witnessed a crime, at the very least, I would expect police to take down my name and number. But, I’ve also witnessed just how chaotic Shockoe Bottom can be in the early morning hours. People are all over the place… walking the streets, the sidewalks. And I know that crowd control can be one of the scariest and most difficult parts of a police officer’s job. A jury found these officers not guilty, but an internal affairs investigation determined things were mishandled at the scene and the officers were punished internally. One phrase really sums up this case: mis-communication. We don’t want our officers worrying they’ll be accused of obstruction of justice every time they write up a simple report, but we also don’t want them treating citizens, who witnessed a crime, like they don’t matter. It looks like there are lessons to be learned all around.

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Filed under Richmond Police, Uncategorized

Virginia Tech: Two and a half years later?!?!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

You mean to tell me, the former director of Virginia Tech’s mental health facility just happened to have Seung Hui Cho’s medical records in his house for 2 1/2 years!!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me?!?! How could those records never have surfaced during the state’s investigation into the massacre? Was the former director ever interviewed? Why did he have student records at home? And why did he STILL have them after leaving office? Seriously, this is ludicrous! I know I usually just write about Richmond, but this story really gets to me. As many of you may know, I was at Virginia Tech the morning of the shooting working as a journalist for WDBJ. I heard the frantic calls by police for help. I heard the shooting in the background on my police scanner. I witnessed the faces of everyone in the room when VT President Charles Steger first addressed the world and said “20 fatalities and that was a ballpark figure.” I was on that campus for 72 hours reporting non-stop. I saw the faces of countless family members as they learned what happened to their loved ones. I met many of them personally. I will never, EVER forget. And to hear that Cho’s missing medical records were in a house and never reported to police for the last 2 and 1/2 years??!!?! It makes me wonder what else was missed? What else is out there? What else we can learn from this terrible event?

April 16th still gets me. (That cold, breezy Monday.) Even now.

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Filed under Not Richmond, Uncategorized, Virginia Tech

Wilder’s Legacy: Defining the Balance of Power

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

After 4 years of doing battle, the City Charter may finally get an overhaul. And I believe we have Former Mayor Doug Wilder to thank. (In fact, it may be his legacy from his time at City Hall) For better or worse, Wilder constantly pushed the boundaries of his authority. You could say,  he helped the city discover the holes in the charter.  The charter was never fully changed after city voters changed Richmond to a Council/Mayor form of government. Wilder tried to establish a stronger role, but may have ended up creating a stronger charter.

An independent review commission was formed in July of last year to patch the holes. The group is made up of 9 members,  with 8 of them evenly appointed by the Mayor and the City Council. The 9th member is selected by the other members to be the leader. The commission has come up with 10 recommendations. Here’s a link to the proposal

The most controversial centers on City Auditor Umesh Dalal. The group wants the mayor to appoint the City Auditor instead of City Council. Several City Council members tell me they oppose this idea. Some say it would place all the checks and balance with the executive “which is not a good idea.” These recommendations still have to be fleshed out. There will be a public forum this September. The General Assembly also has to vote on the changes. Not the most titillating blog post, but something I believe all Richmonders need to know about.

 

 

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Filed under City Council, City Hall, Doug Wilder, Dwight Jones, Uncategorized

Richmond Roundup: Ukrop’s, Ukrop’s, Ukrop’s

Style Weekly Photo

Style Weekly Photo

Rachel DePompa – bio | email 

I’ve decided to try something new. Starting today, every Friday I plan to post a round up of the week. Random thoughts, Random events. Let’s see how this goes and how long it lasts….

UKROP’s:

First, if you’ve come to this blog looking for the latest on the Ukrop’s saga, I don’t have anything new to say. (Other than my blog has had more hits in the last three days than it’s had all year.) I was tempted to just write a blog entry that went something like this…

Ukrop’s is for sale. Ukrop’s has a buyer. Ukrop’s Urkop’s Urkop’s, Harris Teeter, Ukrop’s. Bobby Ukrop’s letter to employees, Ukrop’s speculation. Ukrop’s blog. Ukrop’s is not for sale. Ukrop’s Ukrop’s Ukrop’s  (All of these phrases and 20 more were searched on google just today.) 

No really, there’s nothing new to report. But, believe me, If I can dig anything up on this story YOU WILL KNOW! 

Police Cars: (If I was Style Weekly this would be a -20 score)

Not a good week for Richmond Police cruisers. First, Mayor Dwight Jones changes the police take-home car policy. Officers now have to live in the city to take a car home after hours. But, we learned on Tuesday, city cop cars don’t fair too well in city limits. Just ask the 4th precinct this week. One of its cruisers was set on fire in North Barton Heights.  Someone slammed a brick through the windshield and lit it up.

And then we learned, even new police cars can give the city trouble.  In 2007, the Wilder Administration bought 40 police cars. Sheehy Ford got the contract, but Crossroad’s Ford in Prince George County blew the whistle. Calling out the deal as shady. That dealership’s complaint may have led to a City-wide investigation. Not a good week to have flashing blue and red above your head. 

Cameras in town:

And finally, if you see a lot of camera crews around town this weekend. Don’t be alarmed. There’s a 48 hour film festival with 30 teams trying to make movies. You will see them filming all weekend long. Have a good weekend.

 

 

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Filed under Crime, Richmond, Ukrop's

Ukrop’s: Rumor, Myth, Reality

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Every morning I can log onto my blog and see what people searched on sites like google to end up at my musings. Most days I see “Rachel DePompa’s blog” or “New City CAO” in the little box. But, for a week straight I’ve had these interesting searches… “harris teeter buying ukrops” “Ukrops for sale”.  I’ve never written a Ukrop’s story before today, so those postings really got my attention. This community has been nuts since the news broke Ukrop’s may be looking for a buyer. There are now countless twitter postings and facebook groups. It’s amazing how fast a rumor can spread these days.

Here’s what we know so far:

Ukrop’s is not denying a sale, but calls the talk speculation.

Harris Teeter won’t comment.

Food World (citing unnamed sources) says Ukrop’s is circulating a “prospectus.” That’s a document that breaks down the company to see if there are potential buyers.

Food World (citing unnamed sources) says Harris Teeter and Supervalu responded to the prospectus.

Employees tell us Ukrop’s recently stopped matching their 401k’s. They also say the buzz is Harris Teeter is the frontrunner and a deal could be inked by September. (Again just rumor)

President and CEO Robert Ukrop wrote this to employees today: 

“There has been a lot of speculation in the last few days about the future of Ukrop’s,” he wrote. “All of this is based on rumors, anonymous blog postings, and industry chatter. Anything I say at this point would just add fuel to the fire.”

 

 

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Filed under Richmond, Ukrop's

D.M.P. vs Echo Harbour: Round 153

Style Weekly Photo

Style Weekly Photo

Rachel DePompa – bio | email 

Nope! That headline is not a typo. I wasn’t meaning to refer to my beloved “Dave Matthews Band”.  I’m actually going to talk to you today about the Downtown Master Plan. (From here on out, referred to as the DMP) FIRST, let me just say, I’m  kinda glad I could watch last night’s City Council meeting from the comforts of home. Seeing as how it took 5 million hours and they saved the best for last! GEEZ!

So, let us be plain and simple. Last night’s MPD discussion was really all about Echo Harbour.  From speaker after speaker to Marty Jewell’s last stand, everyone was pretty much referencing the controversial project. For those of you who don’t know what that is…. It’s a more than $150 million plan to build luxury condos, office space, restaurants and shops along five acres of the James River. The land sits right in front of Libby Hill Park in Church Hill. (The view that named the city) 

Echo Harbour

Echo Harbour

The council voted last night not to remove wording from the DMP that would place fewer restrictions on the Echo Harbour site. What is most interesting was the vote tally…  4 to 4.  (Kathy, Ellen, Charles and Betty VS Marty, Reva, Bruce and Doug) It’s believed that Chris Hilbert would have sided with the first group. (You have to wonder… is this also how a vote on the project’s special use permit will go???) This project has been on the table for years, but a new special use application was filed in April. It is currently being reviewed by city staff and could go before the Planning Commission this Fall.  The permit would allow the developer  to build the residential units. Under the current zoning, they could just go ahead and put an office tower there if they wanted to.

 It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. Especially because, the DMP will recommend buildings with heights of 4 to 6 stories. Echo Harbour developers want buildings with  heights ranging from 6 to 11 stories. With Doug Wilder out of office and City Hall in the middle of a Kumbaya peace accord, this is the closest thing we’re going to get to fireworks.

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Filed under City Council, Echo Harbour, James River, Uncategorized