A fairly large crowd from around the area turned out Saturday morning for 7th District Council Representative and Vice President Delores McQuinn’s Town Hall Meeting at the United House of Prayer (926 Chimborazo Boulevard). The meeting began amidst murmered chatter about the previous night’s events at city hall…
After a welcome from Representative McQuinn, first up was City Assessor James Hester speaking on the role of the City Assessor’s office in an attempt to get ahead of the yearly crunch that happens early in the year. The core responsibility of the Assessor’s Office is to assess the value of a property as of a certain day. This is based on general changes in the market and the physical condition of the property. Towards this end, they are in the field year-round checking on the physical data. Once the assessment value is determined by the office, the Department of Finance actually does the billing. To talk about how the value was determines, contact the Assesor’s Office. To discuss the billing, contact the Finance Department. The tax rate, which actually determines what a resident pays as their tax, is determined by the City Council.
Next to present was City Auditor Umesh Dalal. Dalal explained that his 12-person office is tasked to ensure that there is proper accounting in city offices and that the city is in compliance with laws and policies. He stated that the maximum benefit comes from reviews of efficiency and effectiveness among city programs, looking for fraud, waste, and abuse.
The City Auditor’s Office has performed several audits since Dalal’s arrival, with a look at the Richmond City Public Schools occuring soon after he arrived. From looking at the Richmond Public Schools numbers, it was determined that RPS spending per student is some 20+ percent higher than surrounding school systems. Dalal stated that, astonishingly, per student technology spending is higher in Richmond than in Henrico but that a much lower percentage is actually spent on the students. Also: more ongoing audits of RPS; have also audited administration (calling the Fleet Services “mismanaged”, no other way to put it); recent audit of Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA). Fraud hotline: (804) 646-5697 or Richmond Fraud Squad.
Next was a presentation of recent 1st Precinct crime stats from 1st Precinct Executive Officer Jeff McKenney. He began by thanking the crowd for turning out and emphasizing the importance of community involvement. The 7th district is about 2/3rds of 1st precinct; for both this is the 3rd consecutive year of crime being down. As you know, citywide in July & August robberies went up (there were 19 robberies in 7th district in August, for instance). In response, the police initiated a targeted initiative which resulted in there bieng only 3 robberies and 7 arrests for robbery in September. Homocide is down for the year, which is in contrast to the national trends. The clearance rate on homocides is 20-30% higher than national average.
Voting at Precinct 703 has been moved from the Boys & Girls Club based on ADA issues with the Boys & Girls Club. A representative gave a quick overview of new voting machines that can be carried out to car to help ensure than seniors are able to vote without having to go into the building to vote.
George Ross, representative of the firms working on the Echo Harbor project, gave a prentation on the development that they are working to build on the currently vacant industrial site. They’ve been working for almost 2 years towards getting the 200 unit river front condos bult. They showed plans that have been “redesigned to accommodate community concerns”. The buildings are 80 to 180 feet in height, with an average height of 150-160 feet. Ross spent some time talking about the benefits of the project: many of the units would be garden-roofed, an extension of canal-walk/river walk, improvements to Shiplock Park, plans to use condo fees to help maintain area. He cited studies that show that the condos would be expected to send 6x the money back to city what the city would need to spend on sevices. I had to leave during this presentation; I have no idea what happened after this…
When I had to leave, presentions were still on the agenda for Bill Axsell speaking about Rocketts Landing, a look at Elected vs. Appoointed School Board, and time for open community concerns.
Next meeting is scheduled for Octobe 25th, 2007, at 6:30PM @ The Neighborhood Resource Center in Fulton Hill.