Another long, fruitless and late evening through 11:30 PM with the council reviewing only three and one half items of thirty three on the agenda.
The mayor had her JPA socialist propaganda presented a proclamation ("Days of Action on Military a spending") directing the military to cut it's spending and redirect monies to social programs. As a result, It was so embarrassing and confusing the mayor failed to request a vote in support of the resolution. I know our congressional representatives are eagerly awaiting what the City of Richmond thinks before passing their next budget.
After hearing various comments from the audience under open forum, the council reviewed a housing development appeal that was approved by the design review board and subsequently rejected the appeal of the next door neighbor.
The controversial living wage ordnance was the third item discussed and several small businesses requested additional time for them to present their view points. Mayor McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Councilman Jael Myrick had proposed this item with RPA leadership without including many of the businesses who would be affected. Councilmembers Tom Butt and Corky Booze are the only ones on the council who operate a business in the city. Councilman Butt questioned the lack of transparency and supported the small businesses request for the continuance and asked why the rush in that the ordinance was not to take effect until January 2015. As expected, the mayor and vice mayor demanded the second reading of the ordinance be approved tonight despite the small businesses request for additional time. Finally, in reading the ordinance prepared by the Mayor, Vice Mayor and Councilman Myrick, it was discovered the effective date was not January 2015 but July 2014. The mayor went ballistic and stated the legal staff made the mistake and it was a small error and that the council should pass it with the minor correction. To the mayor's dismay, the city attorney ruled it was indeed a major change and the ordinance had to go back for a first reading to be adopted. The mayor became incensed and wanted a second legal opinion of the city attorney's ruling from another attorney of whom, we all are uncertain. The ordinance was continued at the request of the city manager and a majority of the council until May to the displeasure of the mayor and vice mayor.
The next item was a demand by Councilman Butt for the owners of the Pacific East Mall, the third largest city of Richmond sales tax business generator behind Hilltop Shopping Center and Costco Warehouse, to remove a LED sign that was administratively approved by a chief planner and the planning director and has been erected for some five years. For some unknown reason, never mind the legal consequences, Councilman Butt, who has passed by this sign at least a thousand time, now want the sign removed because, as he stated, he did a poll and found some of his friends do not like LED signs. For an analysis, suppose you were provided a building permit signed by a chief planner and the planning director to build a $500,000 home and lived in it for five years, only later it was challenged by your neighbor that the granting of the permit was invalid, in a jury trial, what do you think the neighbor's chance would be in winning the case?? Slim to none. This is the way Councilman Butt wishes to run our city and what a waste of time energy and taxpayers dollars should we pursue this through the courts. The item was cut short because of time and continues to a meeting in May.
Like I stated earlier, 3 1/2 items out of 35 and 12 out of 20 council items passed with one motion was not a bad night considering we did not have one recess nor anyone thrown out of the council chambers. This indication is that we will have the same 20 items plus others on our next agenda April 22, 2014. Maybe, just maybe, if we held council meetings each week day until we cleared the backlog, we again might shed the dysfunctional reputation this council is noted for.
- Nat Bates, Richmond City Council