The 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.