The “Wild West” Council

Radio Free Richmond

blogimage.jpgThe Richmond City Council retained its “wild west” reputation at Tuesday’s meeting, as Vice Mayor Jonvanka Beckles was unable to corral the members to accept her suggestions for new rules of order.   The meeting dissolved rapidly and ended in disarray.

Councilmembers and residents have alike have expressed disapproval in the council’s ability to keep order, citing multiple recesses, excessive debate, and general disrespect shown between colleagues on the dais. While the council had accepted new rules governing speaking time, the Mayor has been unable to enforce them.  Beckles’ new suggestion that the City Manager, Police Chief, and City Attorney come up with additional rules and punishments fell on deaf ears.

The meeting had already been extended thirty minutes past the 11 pm deadline when the Council started discussion on Beckles’ proposal. Councilmember Nat Bates argued that there would there be significant changes to the councilmember makeup in five months given the upcoming election, making the rules ineffective.  Bates also said that asking subordinates to the council to come up with rules to govern it creates an uncomfortable position for city employees. Councilmember Tom Butt repeatedly tried to end the discussion, saying that everyone needed to go home.

While Beckles promised her peers that they could get the item accomplished in fifteen minutes, everyone but the Mayor disagreed.  Councilmember Jim Rogers, the same councilmember who successfully pushed new rules through in an attempt to limit meetings going past 11 pm, declared it unrealistic to think the council to get through the issue in fifteen minutes.

After arguing for ten minutes, the Mayor asked for a suspension of the rules and to extend the meeting again for fifteen minutes. The motion failed and an argument broke out between the City Clerk and the Mayor over whether the meeting had ended. One more motion occurred asking to suspend the rules and allow for two speakers from the audience to speak on the issue, which also failed. At this point, several councilmembers got up and walked out of the chamber, forcing the Mayor to formally end the meeting.

It appears that the City Council’s new rule to limit the length of meetings failed to force them to complete the meeting on time last night.  In addition, arguments over new rules added to the already heightened discord on the council.


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  • Don Gosney
    commented 2014-06-20 15:00:24 -0700
    The Council—or at least the leaders on the Council—seem to ignore the option of comporting themselves so the public isn’t always ticked off at them.

    They wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with the “problem” if they didn’t help create the “problem” to begin with.

    Part of this means telling their own supporters not to sit behind people they disagree with, physically touch them and verbally threaten them—all because they have a difference of opinion.

    This also means refraining from tossing F-Bombs at fellow Councilmembers during recess—especially in front of the public.

    This also means treating everyone the same. This means not giving friends and fellow travelers special considerations by allowing them longer periods to speak and allowing them to speak even though they missed the sign-in deadline.

    This means that when their friends make loud noises from the audience or when they utter threats of violence and physical harms to people they disapprove of, that they should be admonished the same way as the Mayor’s opponents are admonished.

    This means pretending that the title “Mayor” not be confused with “Goddess on High” or “The Great Leader”. This would require Her Lordship to “interpret” the rules the same way reasonable people might interpret them so as not to insult the intelligence of the public.

    Apply the rules equally and quit pouring gasoline on the fire and the meetings might less disruptive.

    Even when the Mayor disagrees with other members of the Council, she might try applying some of those social graces most parents teach their children—especially the one about not interrupting other people when they’re speaking. Whether it’s Councilmember Boozé or speakers from the audience, it’s less disruptive to simply allow them to finish what they’re saying instead of spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make them do exactly what she wants them to do.

    Even when Mark Wassberg rises to speak and says things that are disagreeable to many of us, by the time the Mayor gets around to having him cited and thrown out of the chambers, the damage has been done. So why disrupt the meeting after the fact? What does this accomplish? We all know that simply throwing him out of the room isn’t going to keep him from returning at the next meeting and saying something objectionable. We have three members of the public who have mental issues but still rise to speak. The law says that they’re allowed to speak so just let them speak and sit down. Whether it’s a speaker demanding that 7-11 install more slurpee machines or another speaker ranting his homophobic opinions, for the sake of the meeting they should be treated equally and be allowed their 2 minutes and allowed to sit down. Then we can just move on.

    There are solutions to many of these problems but out Council leadership seems to have a closed mind to alternatives to their failed policies of dealing with these issues. Until their minds are opened, they’re doomed to repeat their failures.
  • John Mullany
    commented 2014-06-19 16:06:31 -0700
    All we need for this circus to be complete is for the Mayor to attend these meetings wearing her clown outfit.
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