Rachel DePompa – bio | email
It wasn’t a shouting match or a down right argument, but things got a little heated at city hall Monday. It happened at a lunch between Mayor Dwight Jones and Richmond City Council members. These lunches were added by Mayor Jones as a way to keep in touch with the council. They usually discuss issues making the headlines and this week it was the proposals for a new city jail.
Richmond received 6 unsolicited proposals to build a new jail. Details on at least 3 of the proposals have leaked out to the press, which has caused concerned in the affected city neighborhoods. We learned today that 2 of the 6 proposals were disqualified by the committee vetting the plans. We don’t know which plans were sent back or why and that’s what started the debate today.
Councilwoman Reva Trammell represents the 8th district. She says one of the proposals under consideration would be in her district at an old Phillip Morris building. She wanted to know today, where the developers of the remaining plans are proposing to put their jails. This second clip, Mayor Jones openly disagrees with Trammell.
I spoke with both Trammell and Jones after the meeting. Trammell was still pretty mad about not being told where the jails could be built. She said, “Just like myself representing the 8th district, I need to know what’s going on in my district. He’s the mayor of this city. He should know where those other proposals are. Is there going to another one in the 8th district? The 1st, 2nd, 3rd? Where are the other proposals? He’s the Mayor. He should know. He said he doesn’t know. He does not want to know.”
Mayor Dwight Jones told me that a special committee is vetting the proposals so he does not know the details of any of them. He went on to tell me, “Let’s keep our powder dry. Let’s be calm. Let’s be collected. Let’s wait for the process to fulfill itself and then when we have all the information on the table we will make a decision. At the end of the process, after we’ve gathered all the information, that’s the time for the public to say we don’t like this or we do like it. And at the end of the day it’s not going to be my decision. City Council’s got to make that decision.”
The administration says it could be another 5 or 6 months before the 4 proposals are fully vetted. The committee will make a recommendation to Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall who in turn will make a recommendation to the mayor. City Council will vote on a final proposal if the process gets that far.
Rachel DePompa – bio | email
There’s a battle brewing in the city over the proposals for building a new city jail. One of the groups that submitted a plan is worried the city won’t even open their packet containing the proposal. That’s because the group didn’t pay a $50,000 fee. The city says the fee is required by state law for unsolicited PPEA proposals.
The Inside Baseball: The debate is over the word “unsolicited”. The group, made up of a Suffolk Construction and Strollo Architects, sent a letter to the city asking that their proposal still be considered without the $50,000 payment.
J. Pat Strollo told me by phone today that the fee amounts to “discrimination to small firms that can’t afford to pay.” In the letter, Strollo and his partner argue that the city’s invitation for proposals “was a solicitation for proposals and as such falls under the PPEA stipulation of solicited proposals.” The go on to say, “we do not believe, for the above reason, that any fees are required or justified for this process. Therefore, we are requesting that our proposal be opened and reviewed with the understanding that if this proposals is advanced to the next phase of detailed submission, fees may, be required.”
Mayor Dwight Jones’ Press Secretary, Tammy Hawley told me this afternoon that the city is required by state law to “advertise that we received an unsolicited PPEA and that others are allowed to submit if they so choose.” She went on to say the city advertised, but did not solicit proposals, meaning the $50,000 fee is required.
There were 6 proposals submitted to the city and they are still being vetted. At least one of the proposals submitted the fee. It’s unclear tonight how many of the other groups also paid up.
Rachel DePompa – bio | email
I saw a survey once that showed journalists were the most hated profession in America, topping even lawyers. While I do understand there are journalists out there who sensationalize and go too far, I also still see the good in this profession. We are the watchdogs. We are the folks who keep track of government. We hold people and public officials accountable. We are the eyes and ears of citizens, often in places they can’t be. We record history.
Quote on the wall at the Newseum
I had a chance this weekend to visit the Newseum in Washington, D.C.. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially the 9-11 exhibit. You must watch the video of the journalists who worked in New York City on that fateful day, it’s an amazing behind the scenes look at history. I do warn you… BRING TISSUES! The museum also has a portion of the Berlin wall on display, a great tribute to sports journalism and there is even a 4-D movie and interactive area for the kids. I also really enjoyed seeing all the Pulitzer prize-winning photos. You’ll probably need to give yourself a few hours to tour the facility, because it’s five stories and filled to the brim!
Since I’m writing about journalism, I wanted to give a shout-out to some fellow journalists who are protecting our rights and the rights of every citizen in the country. Two stories hit the wire today, that may not be the most interesting, but they are important to everyone seeking to uphold our first amendment rights.
Charlottesville Document Fight: The Washington Post, Associated Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Daily Progress are challenging a clerk of court in Charlottesville. The media outlets re-filed a motion today, asking for a court order with information related to the death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love be released. Now police have every right to get their search warrants sealed, however the warrants were not sealed in the first place and were already obtained by the media. And what is so strange in this case is that the actual order to have the records sealed was sealed with the documents. I’ve never seen that before and I’ve covered court case across Virginia for 12 years. The judge originally rejected the challenge on a technicality, but the media outlets have fixed the problem and re-filed.
Photos Returned to JMU Student Paper: Even fledgling journalists should have a voice. A Commonwealth’s attorney in Rockingham County, Virginia recently raided the offices of a student run-newspaper, called The Breeze, on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg. The prosecutor confiscated 900 pictures, taken by a photographer for the newspaper, from a riot at an off-campus party. This would be like the police showing up at your house and confiscating your personal pictures just because you may or may not have captured something of interest. Today we learned that a settlement has been reached. The paper has agreed to only hand-over 20 photos. Police and the Commonwealth’s attorney will reimburse the paper for $10,000 in legal fees.