Tag Archives: Doug Wilder

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

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

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

Doug Wilder: Out of Office, In the News

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

When you least expect it, Doug Wilder slips back into my blog. And this one has turned into a doozy of a story. I had a headache most of the day trying to track down all the sides to this one. Here’s the basics: In 2007, (Under the Wilder administration) Richmond decided to buy 40 new police cruisers. The city bought them from Sheehy Ford and spent just under a million dollars. Sounds easy enough, right? Leave it to City Auditor Umesh Dalal to find the rub.

Turns out the city broke its own rules. (Procurement rules) Dalal says the city should have used a sealed bid process and given every Ford dealership in the area a chance to get that contract. We don’t know why this one dealership was choosen. (I’m digging) A city official has now resigned. 

ERIC MENSDirector of Procurement Eric Mens handed in his resignation on June 30th for August 30th.  And Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring is investigating. We tried to reach Mr. Mens but he’s out of the office until Monday. This story is not over yet. If this investigation makes it to a grand jury, it will be interesting to see who names who and who says what.

Here is Mayor Dwight Jones full statement on the matter:

“These are very serious allegations. I’ve had discussions with my leadership team about this matter. As a result, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Byron Marshall, has initiated an administrative review that will be conducted by the Deputy CAO for Operations, Chris Beschler and will be completed within a week to ten days. While this review is underway, Garland Williams will serve as acting director of Procurement Services. Williams is presently acting as assistant director of the City’s Department of Budget and Strategic Planning and has previously served as acting director of the City’s Department of Economic Development.

“This administration has respect for the rules of law and will not condone any misuse of public office. In follow up to the City Auditor’s submission of his report to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, I contacted the Commonwealth’s Attorney to indicate the City’s desire to cooperate and offer any assistance that may be necessary if the matter should require action on their part. We want to ensure a procurement process that is fair, competitive, transparent, cost-efficient, impartial and above all, ethical.”

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Filed under City Hall, City Investigation, Dwight Jones