Tag Archives: Richmond

Hiring Bonanza at City Hall

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

New faces are coming to City Hall!

Mayor Dwight Jones has hired for three key positions, including one job that’s been open for more than a year and a half.  That’s right, the city has finally hired a Director of Economic Development. Councilman Chris Hilbert famously worried the job had a “reputation” and consistently asked the administration about the vacancy over the last two years. Here’s more on that exchange.

Economic Development:

Lee Downey

There’s been 14 directors in 15 years. Mayor Jones acknowledge the jobs stigma, but also reiterated the fact that economic development was happening in Richmond, director or not.  Jones said today, “We’ve had so many economic development directors our Deputy (Peter Chapman) has been doing double duty, and so, an announcement today is welcome news.”

Jones hired Lee Downey, who starts May 2nd. Since 2008 Downey served as the vice president of business development for McKinney and Company in Ashland. He’s also worked as Marketing Manager for McGuireWoods LLP and as a business development project manager for Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). During his time as VEDP, the city says Downey managed a variety of business development projects, creating more than 4,000 new jobs and $375 million in new investment for the state.

Downey said today, “I’m excited, I’m excited! My family lives in the city, we love the city. My background, my love, my career, my excitement is economic development and blending the two is a dream come true for me as a career. Being able to have my job be something that I’m so passionate about is exciting.”

As for the job’s notorious turnover rate, Downey says, “no reservations in that point.”

Chris Hilbert said today he’s excited to finally see the job filled. “The Picasso exhibit, the VCU men’s basketball team, the Squirrels… people who live in the counties are coming into the city now because of these things and we need to build on that.”

Mayor Jones said, “It also would not have helped us to choose somebody because the gun was at our neck. We wanted to make sure that we got somebody good. Somebody who had the training and the expertise. Someone with a record of having done economic development. A lot of times (the city’s) named people to economic development because they’re a good guy. We need somebody who can get the job done.”

Parks and Rec:

Dr. Norman Merrifield

This is another job a lot of people in the city had their eyes on. Former director, J.R. Pope left in the middle of a scandal involving a scathing audit report on his department. You can get the back story here on “Desk-gate”. 

Today the Mayor announced he’s put Dr. Norman Merrifield in the position. Merrifield starts on May 21st. He most recently served as the administrative executive officer and director of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.  He’s also served as director of parks and recreations for the city of El Paso, TX.

 

 

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Finance:

Eric M. Tucker

A position I usually dub the “finance guru”! Marcus Jones early this year to take a job as the City Manager in Norfolk. You can read all about that here.  Today the mayor announced he had selected Eric M. Tucker for the position. Tucker comes to Richmond from Prince George’s County, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan where he coordinated ratings efforts leading to upgrades for both jurisdictions’ bond ratings. The city says Tucker managed a turnaround of a $63 million deficit into an $18 million surplus.

Tucker said today, “Having worked in Maryland and being familiar with this area, I know that Virginia has historically been one of the best-managed states in the country and Richmond is now becoming one of the best-managed cities. I certainly hope to be part of, as the mayor said, continuing that process to make this a top-tier city in the state and in this country.”

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Filed under City Hall, Dwight Jones, Uncategorized

When it Rains it Pours News

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

Yesterday was not a day to be in a newsroom. Around 2:00, which is already starting to be crunch time in the news business, “breaking news” began.  You probably see those words all the time now. CNN and FOX constantly call things breaking at the bottom of your TV screens. But, in the local news world, “breaking stories” mean, news that happens at the most inopportune time that we MUST cover.

Example:  Around 2:00, dayside reporters like myself are probably back in the office and writing their 5:00 and 6:00 stories. Nightside reporters, or “nightsiders” as we call them, get in around 2:30. That period of time inbetween is limbo.

Yesterday, I was covering the vandalism of two statues on Monument Avenue. It was a story I knew the other stations didn’t have and once I found out they did, I was able to break it. As I was breaking it though, we found out 2 Richmond city teachers were disciplined in a standardized testing scandal. And, while we were deciding what to do with that bit of info, I got a call that a story I’d been working on was about to break as well…. (9 city workers arrested in an over-time scandal)  Soon after we learned a Chesterfield County student was arrested for making an explosive. Geez. Everything happened in a span of 5 minutes! It all got covered (and well I might add) but that gives you a little sense of an “atypical” reporting day. (And what a local news reporter means by “breaking” news)

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Summer Vacation Over, Council Falls back into Action

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

I took a little vacation from blogging since there were no City Council meetings in August. I’m back and ready to keep you up to date on the goings on at City Hall! And there’s much to talk about. For one, that 6.7 million dollar surplus. Mayor Dwight Jones says, “I think it’s wonderful news for the city. We want to be a triple bond rated city and that’s going to require us to be very fiscally responsible.”  The Mayor recommended the money go towards a few programs and that two million was set aside for an emergency fund, which City Council approved on Monday.

Also announced this week, Richmond was awarded $2.4 million in Neighborhood Stabilization funds from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to address foreclosed and abandoned properties in the Highland Park, Barton Heights and Church Hill neighborhoods. Twenty foreclosed properties are being renovated with the hope of getting them rented out or even possible sold.  According to a release from the city, marketing and sale of the properties will be provided to income qualified households for homeownership at a discounted price.  Down payment and closing cost incentives will be available to qualified buyers.

And here’s a list of  the homes being renovated…

Church Hill:

2616 P Street /1309 N. 23rd Street/ 822,824,826 N. 27th  Street/ 1220 30th Street/ 1435 N. 32nd Street/1305 N. 37th Street

Highland Park:

3600 Delaware Ave/3315 Florida Ave/1030 Fourqurean Lane/3020 Garland Avenue/ 509 Gladstone Ave/1805 Rose Ave/1700 4th Ave/ 1201 Spruce Street/1203 Willow Street

Barton Heights:

206 Home Street/ 1802 Monteiro Avenue/ 3023 Montrose Avenue

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Filed under City Council, City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

Fighting Blight

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

Did you know 85% of houses in Richmond were built before 1979? Each year the city invests $2 million into code enforcement… aka fighting blight. Did you  know there are 1,400 vacant buildings in the city? I learned a lot today from the city’s latest audit. It’s an eye opener. According to the report the Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Division in the city has some major problems.

There’s no doubt blighted properties ugly up the neighborhood. But several recent studies suggest they do way more than that. It’s called the broken window theory. Studies show that blighted, vacant properties invite illegal activities. They invite crime. The audit as a very interesting diagram that shows high crime areas of the city versus high blighted property areas. You could almost overlap the two and get the same map.

Here are the salient findings from the report:

* PMCED has taken steps to reduce blight through property rehabilitation. However based on available data, auditors were unable to determine the total number of properties rehabilitated or the overall impact of these efforts on the resolution of code violations in Richmond.

* The auditors also found that certain City owned properties and City right of way areas were not in compliance with City code. PMCED must communicate code violations on City owned properties to the appropriate agencies.

* During the audit 46% of requested files could not be located. Some of the files may not have been maintained because inspectors have been instructed to destroy environmental files once abated.

*  Auditors found that 40% of selected vacant properties were not monitored in a timely manner. It is important to monitor vacant and abandoned structures because they invite crime, cause community blight and present potential hazards.

The city declined to comment and said the audit speaks for itself. However, it is noted in the audit that several of the recommendations will be implemented.

PS.. I interviewed the writer of Church Hill People’s News for my story on the NBC12 homepage. Check it out!

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Filed under Audit, City Hall

Random Richmond Musings and the Canal Walk

Style Weekly Photo

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

First. If you haven’t read Style Weekly’s article on Gene Cox stop reading my blog and go there first! It’s an amazing article with great insight into the man who helms our news.

Second. Richmonder’s apparently love the Olympics. Ratings are through the roof. I’m partial to the hockey, but many events are keeping you glued to the tube at night. Thanks for watching us.

Third. I’m working on a ton of Richmond stories for the rest of this week so stay tuned. Some good stuff coming down the pike. And as always, if you hear of anything interesting or want me to investigate something, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.  

Canal Walk: It’s years in the making. It’s supposed to be like the River Walk in San Antonio, TX. I’ve been there. The Canal Walk isn’t even close to the River Walk at this point. Though, officials in Texas said their prize destination didn’t happen over night and took 30 years to build. If that’s the case, than Richmond is moving in the right direction. Today two local developers announced they are buying up the old Reynolds Plant for condos, shops, restaurants and business. Here’s my story.  One of the developers told me today, building the new apartments is the first step. He said,  “Once you get people, you get activity then the shops and the restaurants follow.”

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Thieves Think AC Units are Cool

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

North Richmond homeowners keep a close eye on your property. Thieves are stealing the air conditioning compressors right out of backyards. I’m talking about the big boxes in the backyard… you might also call them heat pumps. Apparently, the parts are big money and there’s a bonus… many units also have copper inside! (Copper is still a big seller these days at salvage yards) Today, I visited a house on Edgewood Avenue, where the thieves got on their hands and knees and crawled under the home to steal the goods. Yep! They broke in through the crawl space. Creepy… and crazy at how desperate people are becoming. The crime is mostly happening at homes that are “for sale”, “for rent” or under renovation. So, watch out for your neighbors. Thieves are apparently watching neighborhoods in Battery Park, Ginter Park, Highland Park and Laburnum, looking for opportunities.

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Filed under Crime, Richmond

Long Time No Post!

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

I know, i know… long time no post! Ok, but it’s not my fault. I spent a week in Appomattox and Lynchburg and then got shuffled to Charlottesville. I’ve been drowning in sad, terrible stories. I didn’t have the energy, the will to write, the mental state or the time. (Excuses, I know, but the truth.)

Appomattox:

My trip west was difficult, trying and sad. I was in Blacksburg when Cho went on his murderous shooting spree at Virginia Tech, so naturally my station sends me to Appomattox.  I have experience covering a story like this, but it doesn’t make it any easier. So, much loss of life for no reason is still astounding.

Missing Morgan:

I was covering a funeral in Lynchburg for the Appomattox shootings on Monday and by Tuesday I was rushing to Charlottesville where a body was found. I knew instantly it was Morgan. I called her parents as they were on their way to identify their daughter’s remains. There was terrible sadness, but also much relief in their voices. I can’t imagine going three months not knowing where your daughter is or what state she’s in. I know they have found some peace finally having her body to bury.

Snow:

Remember when snow was a pure joy? You couldn’t wait to get outside and play in it.? Snowball fights, ice castles, frozen toes.? (I used to fight with my mom about how long I could stay out in it without freezing.) I remember hoping for snow on a weekend so we could enjoy it and then have extra days off from school. There was  nothing better. Oh what a difference adulthood makes! I now hate snow. I hate the word and I hate standing in it. Snow = work. There’s nothing worse than standing outside all day telling people not to drive because it’s dangerous. You freeze and you repeat yourself over and over and no one listens. Today I saw more than 100 abandoned, disabled and crashed vehicles. UGH!

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