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  Of Priorities and Parliamentary Procedures
September 30, 2004

What should a city do to provide minimal security to an asset worth $50 million to $80 million, or more? Not much, if the City is named Richmond. Read on.

On last Tuesday’s agenda for the Local reuse Authority/City Council Joint Meeting was Item D-1, “Joint Resolution of the City Council of the City of Richmond and Local reuse Authority approving the allocation of additional funds for legal services and security services from the Point Molate Security and Maintenance Fund (“Point Molate Fund.”). The Local Reuse Authority is the same thing as the City Council and is the governing body for Point Molate related business. It had to be joint meeting because the funds are held by the Richmond General Fund.

The short explanation of this item is that it is yet another effort to clean up a staff error of committing and spending funds without formal City Council approval – a hallowed Richmond tradition, and one that probably contributed to our reputation as a fiscally irresponsible government.

What drew my attention, however, was a hint that some of the funds from Upstream Investments had been diverted from Point Molate to City Hall security. Since September of 2001, the same company that secures Point Molate, DP Security, has also provided an individual to sign people in and out of City Council meetings. It’s never been clear to me what the purpose of this is, since the City Council Chamber is always crawling with cops. But, city staff knows all and must have some rational objective.

When the item came up for consideration, I raised my hand to speak on it. The mayor, however, proceeded to ask for a vote without first asking if there was any discussion on the motion. By the time I caught her attention, all but two City Council members had pushed their vote buttons. The mayor reluctantly recognized me, and I proceeded to inquire about the diversion of security from Point Molate. When I proceeded to attempt to discuss the issue further, the mayor and her tag team partner in train wreck parliamentary procedure, Everett Jenkins, cut me off and called me out of order. The rest of the City Council, most of whom have, themselves, been repeated victims of the mayor’s Nazi-style chairmanship, sat in silence and let this travesty transpire. So much for City Council teamwork.

The mayor said I should have posed my questions to staff previously. In fact, I did just that. After I had noted a lack of security at Point Molate the previous Saturday, I emailed staff for an explanation. As usual, no one responded.

Meanwhile, I was informed that “someone no longer with the City” had decided to curtail Point Molate security and spend the funds signing people in and out of City Hall.

This continues to concern me greatly. Point Molate includes a collection of dozens of irreplaceable historic buildings making up Winehaven, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a history of theft of copper wire, boats and vehicles stored at Point Molate. Buildings have been broken into and vandalized. This property belongs to the citizens of Richmond, and we have a duty to protect it.

One of the first things we need to fix in Richmond is the way City Council meetings are conducted. This is supposed to be a democracy, but in Richmond the mayor decides which City Council members will speak and what they will speak on. If she doesn’t agree with them, she interrupts, argues with them and calls them out of order. I don’t know why we continue to let this happen. The Charter gives the mayor the responsibility of chairing the meeting but not to be a dictator. The mayor has often cited a rule that City Council members cannot question or respond to speakers at Open Forum and that City Council members cannot make political speeches. She broke both rules last Tuesday, first entering into a dialogue with an Open Forum speaker, then following it up with a 20-minute speech before adjournment defending her “Kid’s First” program.

Meanwhile, Point Molate remains wide open.