Richmond's City Council met last night, and, per usual, the meeting was strewn with contention and heated debate. While much public comment was heard, it came at the expense of pressing legislative action.
What did happen:
The place and shape of public comment was the focus of the July 15th City Council meeting. Between infighting among members of the Council, public comment both thoughtful and absurd took the majority of last night's time.
What some members of the public saw as an attack on First Amendment rights, others saw as a means of protecting Councilmembers from harassment. At hand was item I-8, a piece of legislation spearheaded by Jovanka Beckles and which was voted early in the meeting to take precedence over all other items. I-8, which passed 6-1, directs the city manager and city attorney to look into rules for handling disruptions during City Council meetings. Recent weeks have seen a veil of stagnation fall over the Council as each meeting was taken over by impassioned comments from the public, bringing progress to a standstill.
Public comment both in favor and against Beckles and the proposed legislation took an hour and a half to complete and the Council was exhausted when it finally came to an end just past 11. A detail recap of the lengthy discussion may be found here. Two pressing, time-sensitive matters kept the Council from concluding the meeting at that time, but the half hour allotted to debate wasn't enough to handle the matters.
What didn't happen:
By all appearances, much did happen last night, thought little of it had any legislative impact. Only two of the 24 items slated for discussion were approved. Of the many pieces left out of the discussion was a pressing matter regarding the North Richmond Waste and Recovery Mitigation Fee Expenditure Plan. This item has been on the docket for approval since the June 24th meeting and has yet to be approved, resulting in a loss of funding for some North Richmond services.
While there was much discussion of item I-8 and the rights and restrictions of speech during last night's meeting, little of it had an impact on the day-to-day operations of Richmond. With the approval of I-8, however, a return to functionality in the City Council that many longed for last night may be on its way. The City Council will meet again Tuesday, August 5th.