Monthly Archives: September 2009

By the Power of City Hall!!!!!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email

For those of you who just got my slight He-Man reference in the title… Kudos! ūüôā (Sorry, child of the 80’s here!)

So, who has the power to do what at City Hall? Simple enough question, but the answer varies depending on who you ask.¬† It’s still hard¬†NOT to forget the¬†power struggle we saw nearly every day at¬†City Hall¬†during the Doug Wilder Administration.¬† But the question has arisen again, even when everyone¬†is “just getting along.”

The Shake-Up:

Shortly after the Jones’ Administration announced its first major internal shake-up , I got a few calls from people telling me the move was a violation of city’s charter. And on the surface, they appear to be correct.¬† According to sec. 4.02 of the charter. Only the City Council has the power to create, alter or abolish departments.

Sec. 5.03 of the charter also says the Chief Administrative Officer has the power to make temporary transfers of personnel between departments.

The Debate:

The changes to the Departments of Community Development and Economic Development were announced last week. People were shuffled and the deal was done, without ever getting approval from the council. As some council members put it to me: It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. People¬†appear to be¬†hung up on “the process.”

The Mayor’s Press secretary says, the CAO made the moves after first consulting with the City Attorney. She also said he’s already told council he plans to submit papers this budget cycle to “officially” seek approval.¬† But as some council members point out…..¬†the changes will have already been in place for months before the council ever has a chance to sign off on it. Council member Bruce Tyler has asked the City Attorney to render an official opinion. Tyler and Councilman Charles Samuels would both like papers introduced to council sooner rather than later.¬† They city has indicated MORE changes are coming and that it wants to wait until they are all complete.

The Talk:

Bruce Tyler says, “I think the Mayor’s trying to do the right thing but we’ve got a little bit of a miss step here and we need to get the thing lined back up and put in the proper order.”¬† I’ve consulted with a few members of the Charter Commission (a group put together to clarify the current charter) and they said it appears to be a clear violation of the charter. The City Attorney,¬† however, still has to officially weigh in. And, as the Mayor’s Press Secretary, Tammy Hawley aptly points out, “The intent [of the changes] is to improve services and to generate an efficient operating government.” By all accounts, the move itself is not under the microscope…¬†just the process.

Charter Commission:

The Charter Commission has wrapped up its meetings and has submitted a list of recommendations for changes to the charter. Those changes will be reviewed jointly by the Mayor and City Council. The two want to present a united front to the General Assembly. State lawmakers have the ultimate say to any proposed changes to the city’s charter.

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Filed under City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

Talking Trash in Richmond

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email

Apparently, Richmonders are trashy…. I mean they produce 82,000 tons of trash each year. (couldn’t resist the little joke) I got to venture out of my beloved city today and into the far off land of Henrico County. (In case you were wondering, I rarely get to leave the¬†the city. My beat is¬†strictly Richmond!) ¬†I went to Henrico to see the new garbage trucks that Richmond is planning to buy.¬† I was amazed how efficient they were. No more waving to the garbage man out your window as he picks up your trash cans. There’s an automated arm that now reaches out and grabs your garbage cans. My photojournalist Matt Butner and I had a hard time keeping up with the trucks, they were so fast. The city says these new trucks can carry more and will cut down on routes and trips back and forth to the transfer station. The city will also go to a four day work week… no longer picking up on Fridays. The changes won’t happen for some time, and they will differ depending on where you live. So, place close attention in November and December to any literature that shows up on your front door from the Department of Public Works.¬†

Ukrop’s: I know many of you are anxious for updates, but haven’t heard any new buzz lately. As soon as I hear something, I’ll let you know.

Restructuring Planning and Economic Development: Keep close watch this week¬†on Channel¬†12….. I’ve got a very interesting update coming on this story. Wish I could say more, but I know my competitors read my blog. ūüôā

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Shake-up at City Hall

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email¬†

In Dwight Jones’ first major power play as mayor, big changes were announced at City Hall today. The city is billing this as a reorganization and merger of two departments. But, what it means in a nutshell is Carthan Currin is out, Rachel Flynn’s role has been muted and Jan Ferarra will head the merged departments.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Former Director Economic Development

Former Director Economic Development

Richmond’s Director of Economic Development, Carthan Currin was let go. The¬†city says he is leaving for a law firm. His position was eliminated in a move to merge two departments.¬†I’ve tried, but have been unable to reach Currin for comment.¬†

The other big news is Rachel Flynn… the city’s Director of Community Development and long time proponent of “controlled” development along the riverfront.¬† Flynn has basically¬†been stripped¬†of several of her duties. The city is then merging the two departments to create a Department of Economic and Community Development.¬† Former Real Estate Services director Jan Ferrara will take the helm as the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer.

Here’s the city’s spin:

City Restructures Economic and Community Development Departments

Office of Real Estate Services is also part of change

 

Richmond, VA ‚Äď City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall, along with Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic and Community Development, Peter H. Chapman, put forth a restructuring plan today that will enable local government to pursue a more comprehensive and strategic approach to economic and community development.¬† “We are announcing the first of several organizational changes that are designed to make the Richmond City Government a much more effective facilitator of both economic development and community revitalization,” Marshall said.¬† “The Mayor has asked for a more competent, responsive and technically proficient administration and I believe the changes being put forth will bring about many of the operational efficiencies he is looking for.”

 

Central to the changes being announced is the consolidation of the City’s Office of Real Estate Services into a proposed Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).¬† The Office of Real Estate Services, which has been managing the acquisition, disposition, and leasing of city-owned real estate, will become an important division within DECD. This will allow DECD to fully draw upon and better leverage the city’s valuable real estate assets.¬† It is also proposed that the Department of Community Development be renamed to the Department of Planning (DOP).

 

“This restructuring will create a more robust and interdisciplinary agency that is fully equipped to undertake a more aggressive redevelopment agenda for Richmond.¬† This approach will help us grow by design and not by default,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

 

Additionally, the federal grants unit‚ÄĒwhich administers Community Development Block grants and other U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development dollars‚ÄĒwithin the Department of Community Development will be shifted to DECD. This will allow all of the city‚Äôs real estate and business development financing programs to be managed by a single agency, enabling the city to address the needs of non-profit and for-profit developers as well as other customers more efficiently.¬† This will also allow the renamed Department of Planning (DOP) to focus exclusively on planning functions as well as zoning, inspections, architectural and design issues; which will help DOP build upon the great work it is capable of as demonstrated by the Downtown Master Plan.

 

To further enable the enhanced focus on planning and  implementation, the private property maintenance functions routinely carried out by what was formerly Community Development are being reviewed and the responsibility for grass cutting and refuge removal has been placed with the Department of Public Works where there is an existing parallel effort for public property.

 

“Now that we’ve had some time to evaluate the revitalization opportunities and challenges confronting Richmond, and best practices for addressing complex urban development needs, it’s clear that these organizational changes make sense.¬† Among other benefits, this consolidation moves us away from the fragmented management of our reinvestment programs, and positions us to establish real momentum as we try to stimulate the type of growth and development that the Mayor, City Council and citizens expect,” said Chapman.

 

Building on Mayor Jones’ theme of communication, cooperation and collaboration, a Development Council is also being established.¬† The Development Council is designed to bring about increased cross fertilization and coordination of effort and resources among relevant city agencies and authorities.¬† It is envisioned that the Development Council, which will be chaired by Peter Chapman, will include the DECD, DOP, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond Police Department, the Office of Minority Business Development, the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities, and the Departments of Public Works and Public Utilities.¬†¬† Based on project need and project interest, other authorities and agencies such as Public Libraries, Public Health, EDA, CDA and the Port of Richmond will work with the Development Council as necessary.¬†

 

Mr. Chapman noted that the changes being brought about also require some changes in leadership and personnel.  Ms. Jane Ferrara, an experienced and respected real estate professional who has served as director of the once stand alone Office of Real Estate Services for four years, will become deputy director and chief operating officer of an integrated DECD.  For an indefinite period, Mr. Chapman will assume the duties of the director while continuing in his current role as DCAO. The existing director of Economic Development, Carthan Currin, will be leaving the agency to join a local law firm.  The deputy director for Economic Development, Dara Glass, will be leaving to pursue other opportunities as well.  The service and contributions of these two have been recognized in many ways and will be appreciated for years to come. 

 

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Filed under City Hall, City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

Baseball Comes Swinging Back!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email¬†

As a huge sports fan, I can’t for the life of me understand why Richmond doesn’t have any sort of professional team. I’m originally from Maryland (just outside DC) and I can’t miss a Redskins, Capitals or Maryland Terrapins game. Throw in the Wizards, and the Nationals and I’m set! So, why oh why can’t a professional team catch on here in Richmond? People have told me over and over “Richmond is just not a sports town.” I’m still trying to figure out why.¬†

 

 

The scene is set for Baseball at the Diamond

The scene is set for Baseball at the Diamond

In the meantime, I got to meet the owners for the new team in town and I have to say they were all pretty cool guys. They seem genuinely excited to be in the River City and are optimistic their product will catch on. Only time will tell, but I plan on catching a game or two, to see what all the hub-bub is about. Will you?

 

 

 

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My 6 Month Blogging Anniversary!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email¬†

So, I’ve had this blog for half a year now. (minus the delay in posting after the November Mayoral Election. I WAS EXHAUSTED!!!) I have to say, it’s nice to see that my readership is steadily increasing and that people in this city actually look to this page as a source for useful information.¬†I find that the blog challenges me too. I’m constantly looking for updates. I feel the pressure for a new post. I don’t want people to get bored or go elsewhere… (not that there are any other local¬†reporters blogging besides my good friend Ryan Nobles.) But I also want to make sure I¬†give you good stuff.¬†

I have to say, it’s¬†been really nice to have this outlet. I’m not always able to fit every bit of information I would like into a two minute story. I’m also able to give you the fun anecdotes that made a story possible. I really hope you¬†(my faithful readers) enjoy this endeavor¬†because it’s definitely been rewarding.¬†

As for the news of the day: 

#1 Ukrop’s:¬†You wouldn’t believe how popular my Ukrop’s blogs are.¬†People really do want every little bit of information I can dig up. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been anything new this week. But i’m looking!¬†

#2¬†Farmville:¬†What a sad and¬†scary story. Yesterday I had to dig into the suspect’s past and what I found online was just so disturbing.¬†It’s hard¬†not to wonder if there¬†is some sort of link between¬†the lyrics to his songs and what he’s accused of doing. My heart goes out to the families.

#3 RRHA Voucher Program: The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority is in crisis mode right now. The feds are running out of voucher money for a housing assistance program and now the RRHA has had to cut families from the waiting list. Check out my story tonight!

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Filed under Blogging, Richmond

Another Sign of a Ukrop’s Sale???

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email¬†

Ukrop’s is moving out of Roanoke, Virginia. The¬†grocery chain is closing its only store in that area.¬†The Ivy Market store¬†¬†has only been open for a little more than two years.¬†Just one more sign that Ukrop’s may be positioning itself for a sale. The Ivy store struggled to catch on in Roanoke. So why not cut your losses and make¬†the deal sweeter¬†for a potential buyer? This is an interesting development.

Here’s the press release:

Ukrop’s to Close Ivy Market Store

¬†RICHMOND, Va. ‚Äď Sept. 18, 2009 ‚Äď Ukrop‚Äôs Super Markets, Inc. today announced it will close its Ivy Market store, located at 2331 Franklin Road, Roanoke, Va., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009.

 The First Market Bank branch in this store will remain open until Friday, Dec. 18, 2009.

¬†‚ÄúWe are making this announcement this afternoon after talking with store leadership about this tough decision,‚ÄĚ said Ukrop‚Äôs Chairman, President and CEO Bobby Ukrop. ‚ÄúWe wish it had worked out differently. It‚Äôs painful for many reasons, not the least of which is that we will no longer be able to offer employment to associates who have diligently served Ivy Market customers.

¬†‚ÄúWe are grateful to the Roanoke Valley customers who have loyally supported us with their business and will do our best during the next five weeks to provide the quality fresh food and superior customer service they have come to expect from Ukrop‚Äôs,‚ÄĚ added Ukrop.

¬†About Ukrop‚Äôs : Ukrop’s Super Markets, Inc., founded and headquartered in Richmond, Va., with more than 5,500 associates, operates 27 retail food stores (26 after the Roanoke store closing), Joe’s Market (a regional specialty market), a central bakery and kitchen, and a distribution center. Since 1937, the privately held business remains dedicated to its version of the Golden Rule: “treating customers, associates, and suppliers as they personally want to be treated.‚ÄĚ Each year, Ukrop’s gives a minimum of 10 percent of its pre-tax profits back to the community. Ukrop’s was a pioneer in both loyalty marketing and meal solutions when it launched its Valued Customer¬ģ program in 1987 and its chilled prepared foods in 1989. In 1997, Ukrop’s established a unique partnership to place banks in its retail locations. Today, it co-owns, with Markel Corporation, 25 First Market Bank branches in Ukrop’s locations and 14 free-standing branches.

www.ukrops.com

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Filed under Not Richmond, Ukrop's

Brown Watch 2009

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa ‚Äď bio | email

I¬†knew twitter was getting big, but I never thought it would control my work day. I was¬†on the road, putting together a story about homelessness¬†when¬†Tappahannock Native and notorious R &B star Chris Brown decided to¬†tweet, “On my¬†way to¬†community service.” The hunt¬†began….

¬†I was put on Chris Brown¬†watch and told simply, “find¬†him!”¬†I spent two hours¬†with my¬†videojournalist Nathan McCann searching the jail and police headquarters. We had given up and¬†were driving to our next story when “low and behold” there¬†he was.¬†No joke. My dumb luck paid off. (we’ll talk about my lucky streak another day.) Chris Brown was standing right next to my car pulling up brush.¬†There were no other reporters or photographers around.¬†I couldn’t believe it.¬†We were on Brook Road at the Richmond Police horse stables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Brown Clearing Brush
Chris Brown Clearing Brush

We spent about an hour watching him pick up trash before other media outlets figured out where he was. I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled by my assignment today. I felt like paparazzi and I kept thinking, “And why is this news.” But then again, he’s a celebrity, he’s a local talent, and someone needs to make sure he’s actually fulfilling his court ordered punishment. His crime was serious and far reaching because of his celebrity. So.. he’s¬†news.

Fun facts for the Brown obsessed: 
*Several fans showed up to watch and take pictures as he worked. All of them were women and they all still loved him despite what he had done. Actually, every fan I spoke to was very aware of why Brown was doing this work and they each said they hope he learns something from this experience.
*Brown’s body guard and a friend were at the work detail waiting for him to finish. They wore shirts that said, “Stop the violence.”¬†
*He got an hour long lunch break and ate McDonalds. 
*This is day one of 180 days of community service. So you will see him for the next few months doing work like this.  

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