Tag Archives: Bruce Tyler

Mayor Wants New Budget Deadline

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

It seems like I need an office at City Hall because I’m about to start spending a lot more time in the building. Fall proposals and deadlines are ramping up and budget time is already here. Mayor Dwight Jones officially began the process today, by asking City Council members for more time to put together his 2011 budget.  He said, “This will be the first, truly, outcome based budget that Richmond has ever had. We’re not just putting numbers together. We have goals and priorities to meet.”

The Mayor is asking the council to allow him to present his final budget proposal on April 7th. By law, the council has to pass a budget by May 31st. The  mayor is also offering to hold more joint meetings with council members during the budget process.

Councilman Marty Jewell says he doesn’t mind extending the Mayor’s deadline. He said, “It’s a good idea. Usually we wait until February/March to get his budget. Well, this way we’re able to input into that budget all year-long.”

Council member Chris Hilbert says he’s concerned about not having enough time. He said, “This is a big, thick, document that we have to go through line by line and we owe it to the taxpayers to be able to deliberate over that.”

Bruce Tyler also says April 7th is too late to wait for the budget report. Tyler added, “It’s going to be very difficult for us to ask questions and get good answers back. So, I believe we need to roll it back to the traditional date.”

City Council members will have the final say on this issue. The mayor must formally submit the proposal and it must be approved by the council.

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Filed under Budget, City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones

City Council Members Call for GRTC Task Force

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

GRTC Task Force:

The GRTC may be under new scrutiny this year. Two city council members, (Bruce Tyler of District 1/Doug Conner from the 9th) want to create a special GRTC Task Force. Here’s a link to the actual ordinance under consideration. Under the proposal, the council would appoint 9 voting members to recommend new legislation, plans, policies and programs that promote efficient mass transit in the city. The task force would also look at working with interested private organizations to improve the service and the efficiency of the GRTC.

Bruce Tyler came up with the idea and told me, “Personally, I believe the GRTC could have done a better job of managing their business. At the same time, I’ve gotten a lot of folks saying they’re doing a great job. I feel like the only way to get to the truth in the matter is to have a task force.

Doug Conner is a co-patron of the ordinance and said, “I thought i t was a great idea, because, once and for all, we can look into the GRTC and figure out the pros and cons.”

Tyler (who has been a constant critic of the agency) pointed out that the City Council gives the GRTC about 11 million dollars a year. He said, “I want us to look at innovative solutions to take th is into the next 20, 30, 40 years. I also want us to look at this from an efficiency standpoint. We can do it better. We can do it more cost-effective.”

I caught up with GRTC Ceo John Lewis. He tells me that he welcomes the extra attention. He said, “I’m excited and pleased that the council is willing to put together a comprehensive task force. Hopefully, with the expertise needed, to really take a comprehensive look and how we operate public transit in the region.” Lewis says his agency was already vetted by the federal government, state government, and by a panel of peers. He says national experts named the GRTC the leading transit system in the country in 2008. He says, “We’re the only system in the country of our size that does not have a sustainable revenue source.” He says of the task force, “let’s be bold with the opportunity. let’s look at how we can make this system better; how we can make it sustainable; how we can make it long-lasting. Anything else would be a disservice.”

The full city council has to approve the creation of this task force. It could take up the issue this September. If created, this task force would have one year to meet and come up with recommendations.

Extras: And, just wanted to say thanks to this local blogger for the shout-out. 🙂

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Filed under City Council, GRTC

Wilder Sighting and Budget Woes

Rachel DePompa – bio | email      

Catching Up with Wilder:   

Yes, you read that headline right! I ran into former Richmond Mayor and Virginia Governor Doug Wilder today. I don’t have a lot to report, but I can tell you… He says he’s doing well, enjoying teaching, (he doesn’t miss his old job) and he’s working on a book that should be out later this year.  

On To Bad News Monday:  

I knew I was doing a budget update today, but the news just seemed to get worse as the  morning progressed. (I’ll start with the good news) The city’s projected budget shortfall for this year is far less than expected. It was thought to be at $10 million, but now is estimated to be $2.8 million.  Mayor Dwight Jones says, “This is largely a result of unanticipated improvements in real estate and sales tax performance as well as a better picture of State Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).”    

Now to the bad news…. Next years budget is far worse than expected. There’s already a $30 million budget gap and that number could grow. Furloughs, position eliminations, layoffs and cuts to services are all on the table. Councilman Bruce Tyler told me today, “Yeah, there are going to be tough choices but quite frankly, I’ve watched fellow collegues have to go through that and it’s time for the city to do the same.” Council President Kathy Graziano said, ” The Individual is in the same boat as the government. Two years ago you went out to dinner three nights a week and had a great time. Now you don’t go out to dinner. Governments are in the exact same boat.” She went on to say, “It’s tough times. The money’s not there and we’ve got to figure out how we can best spend our resources.” Mayor Jones has also asked for more time to get his budget recommendations together. He normally presents his plan to City Council on March 5th, but he’s asking for an extra month so he can get a better handle on what the General Assembly does with taxpayer money.  

 And just when I thought I was done with budgets for the day, I went to see school Superintendent Yvonne Brandon who was delivering difficult news to teachers and parents today. She say the school system is $14 million in the hole for the 2011 budget and that number could grow to $23 million depending on what the General Assembly decides. She says every single RPS employee will have to be furloughed at least a day, possibly three. I learned today that one day of furloughs at RPS equals $900,000. Brandon says she’ll do everything she can to avoid layoffs. Classroom sizes will also increase by at least one student. Brandon will deliver her recommended budget cuts to the School Board next Tuesday. Both the Mayor and Superintendent will then seek public input on the cuts. It’s going to be a long couple of months at City Hall….    

 

   

   

    

    

   

  

 

 

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Filed under Budget, City Council, Doug Wilder, Dwight Jones, Richmond Public Schools

By the Power of City Hall!!!!!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email

For those of you who just got my slight He-Man reference in the title… Kudos! 🙂 (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