Monthly Archives: December 2010

Top 10 Richmond Stories of 2010

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

The list is back! The top stories to happen in the city this year. My only qualification is that the news happened in “city limits”. Here’s my list from last year if you want to compare.  

#10. JR Pope/Deskgate: (Auditor Strikes Again)

This story eeks in at number 10 on our list.  JR Pope (longtime city parks champion) resigned days before a City Auditor’s report revealed extreme waste in his department. In fact, we haven’t heard the full story yet. The entire audit on the Department of Parks and Recs will be released in 2011. What grabbed people’s attention was the $36,000 spent on a desk for a community center.  Council members were outraged,  citizens angry and many people also came forward in defense of Pope.

#9 Rudolph Deflation: (Red Nose Blows Out)

A viral video makes the list purely for its hilarity. (If you haven’t seen in please look it up on You Tube!!!) Rudolph goes down in the city’s annual Christmas Parade. Its head ran into a light post and Rudolph popped! Then the video, taken by a Richmond family, hits the internet and  news outlets around the country. The video appears on the Nightly News and even the late night talk shows. Richmond’s Rudolph rupture will go down in history!

#8 VCU/Michael Rao: (The Non-Story Story)

Did his wife fire someone in the president office? Why were there confidentiality agreements on a University campus? What happened during his review by the Board of Visitors? The Michael Rao saga of unanswered questions makes our list at number 8.  

#7 Tameka Claiborne: (Missing Mother)

A mother goes missing. Her toddler is found wandering in an apartment complex. Her boyfriend, gone. It was a wild and heart wrenching story that ended when Tameka Claiborne’s body washed up in Charles City County in the James River. Her boyfriend goes on trial for murder next month.  

#6 Justin French: (Police Fizzle French Plans for Richmond)

It started with his declaration, Justin French was purposely defaulting on 10’s of millions of dollars in loans on 5 local banks. Than came word he was under investigation. Days later the feds raid his Shockoe Slip office. A week after that he’s arrested at the Richmond Airport trying to leave the state. The saga of high-profile developer Justin French will continue well into 2011. What exactly he did with State and Federal money is the question to be answered. In the meantime, many of his city properties remain in limbo.

#5 Noise Ordinance Unconstitutional: (City Law Quieted)

It was meant to help neighborhoods in the city gain some control over nuisance neighbors, but when City Council passed its new noise ordinance, controversy ensued.  A rock band was cited and then decided to fight. The judge agreed with a local attorney and ruled the ordinance over board and unconstitutional for making a religious exemption. City Council is back at the drawing board. A new proposal is expected next year.

#4 Richmond Squirrels Success: (Going Nutzy for Baseball) 

Gotta have some good news stories on the list! The Squirrels certainly know how to make an entrance. They built excitement after announcing their arrival and the ball park was packed both opening and closing weekends. The organization drew sizeable crowds throughout the year and they provided family fun entertainment (just like the promised). Also, that darned Mascot was EVERYWHERE! Nutzy headlined ground breakings, was caught skating and even scaling tall buildings. Where will we see Nutzy next?

#3 Apostle Anthony Taylor: (Police Chase Death)

Coming in at number 3 on our list is a story that broke a lot of hearts this year. A pastor, who had just wrapped up a sermon, was driving home and was hit and instantly killed by a man leading Henrico Police on a high-speed chase. Apostle Anthony Taylor’s church was devastated and so were many in the tight-knit Church Hill community he worked in. And now his death may lead to major changes in police polity, statewide, when it comes to police chases. The General Assembly will take up the issue this January.  

#2 Snowmageddon: (Winter Wipe-out 2010)

It closed schools, airports, entire interstates and trapped Richmonder’s weekend after weekend. Old man winter certainly played a joke this year, pelting the region with record snowfall. Snow removal budgets were blown state-wide and grocery stores couldn’t get enough bread or milk on the shelves. When I moved to Richmond, people told me Summers were HOT HOT HOT and it NEVER snowed. Um, yeah…  

#1 Ukropalyse: (Ga-Ga for Groceries)

What’s more Richmond than a grocery story dominating the headlines, TV, Radio and blogosphere for months? The Ukrop family is iconic Richmond and the brand, a part of the city’s fiber. The deal to sell was inked at the end of last year, but it took months in 2010 for the sale to finalize and the transformation into Martin’s to happen. I’m anxious to see which grocery chain is on top when the yearly rankings come out after this winter. In the meantime, you can still get those famous white house rolls at Martin’s and I won’t be surprised when they are one day available at other grocery story chains.

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Noise Ordinance Found Unconstitutional

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

Attorney Steven Benjamin has been leading the charge for months now, consistently lambasting the city’s new noise ordinance as “unconstitutional”. He gave countless interviews to media outlets and even took up a case for free to fight it. Sure enough, a judge agreed with him this week.

Richmond General District Chief Judge Robert Pustilnik declared the ordinance unconstitutional. He ruled it was  too broad and unfairly promotes religion.

The ordinance prohibits noise that can be heard 50 feet away after 11:00 at night. Violators face a class 2 misdemeanor and up to 6 months in jail. The ordinance allows for religious music, church bells and organs to be heard at anytime.

Steven Benjamin said after the hearing, “The city’s ordinance is completely unconstitutional on its face. It criminalizes noise that one makes within one’s own home and it advances religion and religious noise. The ordinance makes it impossible for people to know whether the sounds they make in their daily living are lawful sounds or not.”

Judge Pustilnik gave the city until December 14th to appeal his ruling to Circuit Court. If no appeal is made then Pustilnik will dismiss the charges against the four band members. Either way, it appears City Council will have to take up the issue again.  Assistant City Attorney Greg Lukanuski says the city will take its time deciding whether or not to appeal.

Steven Benjamin said, “I hope the city will make the responsible decision and not waste anymore time defending this ridiculous thing, and will instead go to work and give us the noise ordinance that we deserve.”

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling, Councilman Charles Samuels (who led the way for reforming the noise ordinance) said he was, ” disappointed by the outcome, but respects the judge’s decision.” Samuels went on to say, ” Much has been made of the issue with our city’s current noise law. After the Virginia Supreme Court’s Tanner decision nullified the “unreasonably loud” standard in 2009, I worked with the city attorney’s office to review what other options we had. Since April I have been meeting with a workgroup to craft a new noise ordinance which I hope to introduce in December or January of 2011. ”

Here’s a link to a blog with more information on the “Tanner Decision” from the fine folks at VA Lawyers Weekly.

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