Joe Morrissey's dogs will bite for you? ... 

Street Talk

More Trouble Dogging Morrissey
Deans Promoting New Song Version
Warehouse District Gets New Status
Local Group Ready to Converge on Capital

More Trouble Dogging Morrissey

At least four people have been bitten in the past year by dogs kept at lawyer Joe Morrissey's riverfront estate, according to Henrico County police reports, but the canine-friendly counselor says he can't bring himself to put down the hounds, even though at least two of their victims are seeking thousands of dollars from him for injuries sustained in the attacks.

"I just don't have the heart to have any harm come to those dogs," the dog-loving defense attorney says of the half-dozen pit-bull mixes on his property. While Morrisey says the dogs are "as friendly as can be," three of their four victims required stitches, according to the police reports.

Morrissey says he pays the dogs' vet bills but insists they belong to his property manager, identified in the reports as Kenneth M. King, who lives and keeps the dogs at Morrissey's home on the James River near Varina.

"They're licensed to him, they're registered to him, and I just happen to love them," Morrissey says. "I don't know why they named me as a defendant, other than it happened on property that I own."

While apparently no lawsuits have been filed, two of the bite victims are in negotiations with Morrissey's insurers, the victims' lawyers say. Attorney David Durrett of Jay Tronfeld & Associates says he is representing a man bitten in November. As reported in Style in February, attorney Ted Galanides has advised a man bitten in August.

That man, Highland Springs building contractor Ricky Johnson, says his claim remains unresolved.

Morrissey would not comment on the incidents and says he's never seen the dogs bite anyone, but says he recently bought a fence to pen the dogs when the home has visitors. Morrissey does not require King to keep them restrained constantly, however, and "occasionally they'll chase deer through the woods or go down and go swimming" in the river.

"I love animals and I love those dogs as if they were mine," he says.
— Rob Morano

Deans Promoting New Song Version

That free music CD you just got in the mail isn't an offer to join a record club. Donna Meade Dean says it's the "latest and definitive version" of "Virginia," the state-song contender she and her Grammy-winning, sausage-selling hubby penned in 1997.

Mrs. Dean, 46, says she received a bulk order for "Virginia" last week and has been mailing copies to politicians, news media and radio stations. The Deans sang and played on the original entry, but the new version of "Virginia" is performed a cappella by the Vocal Majority Chorus, of Texas, where the Deans have business and family ties.

While there currently is no official process for picking a new state song, the Deans say they aren't giving up on getting "Virginia" named official carol of the commonwealth.

Members of the General Assembly have tried and failed every year since 1988 to find a replacement for "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," which contains outdated and, for many people, offensive lyrics. This year, after narrowing down 339 entries to eight finalists, a state-song committee disbanded without picking a winner.

The Deans' song "was way out in front, and then ... they decided they were going to postpone it for another year," Jimmy Dean, 71, says. He bristles at the suggestion that the selection process was tarnished because of his campaign contributions to some committee members, and the Deans' own campaign to promote "Virginia."

"I just don't understand things like that," he adds unapologetically. "They're afraid of their constituencies, is what it is, these political people."
— R.M.

Warehouse District Gets New Status

Like so much of Richmond tradition, its love of coffee is ground in its past.

Before the Civil War, much of the 254,000 barrels of flour manufactured yearly by the city's three major flour industries was shipped to Brazil in exchange for coffee. In fact, Richmond was the country's No. 1 java outpost.

One hundred years later, the site where all the coffee beans were spilled and traded is being recognized for its place in history.

Plans are in the works for the Manchester Warehouse District, located just south of the James River and southwest of the city's central business district, to become a historic business district recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

"It's already made it through the first hoops," says Nancy Kraus, a historian who is working with architect Doug Harnsberger to get the area that includes 51 buildings, sites and structures recognized as historic. Already the project has been given the nod by the state's Virginia Landmark Register.

According to Marc Wagner with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources — his agency reviews and edits the 30-page proposal — the National Park Service rarely denies a properly researched request to be listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Just what does this mean for the classic old warehouses in Old Manchester? Possibly everything. "It gives property owners an enormous incentive," says Kraus.

According to a national program begun 20 years ago, property owners in registered historic business districts may receive a 20 percent federal tax credit — and in Virginia, that amount is now padded by an additional 5 percent offered by the state. For businesses such Carter Ryley Thomas, with plans in the works for a massive renovation to its new location in the former Spaghetti Warehouse, the tax break makes doing business in the warehouse district a done deal.

"They're the reason Manchester [Historic Warehouse District] happened," says Kraus, crediting the public relations and marketing firm with mobilizing the effort.

And, says Kraus, it's an effort with layered rewards. "It gives historical approval to the property and who we have been; and it makes the property good for business and who we can become."
— Brandon Walters

Local Group Ready to Converge on Capital

Shawn O'Hern is doing everything he can to make April 16 a day to remember in the fight to end what some people see as an era of corporate rule.

The 24-year-old Richmonder is an organizer for the Richmond Anti-Globalization Network (RAGN), one of dozens of groups from around the country that will converge on Washington, D.C. during the semi-annual spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Think Seattle and the World Trade Organization. Only this is Washington and the IMF and the World Bank. The three governing bodies are loosely known as the "unholy trinity" to groups like RAGN, which consider the three to be a threat to the individual.

"The welfare of corporations takes precedence over the welfare of people," O'Hern says. He says that ending that plight is the group's overriding cause. "We're not trying to get people to recycle," O'Hern says. "We're just trying to get people to go up there."

Will they?

"Thousands are going to come," says Matthew Smucker, an organizer for D.C.-based The Mobilization for Global Justice, or A16. Smucker calls the protest, which will include speakers (including "Roger and Me" documentarian Michael Moore as emcee) stage shows and blockades, a "festival of resistance."

According to A16's Web site,, other organizations planning to send contingents are the 50 Years Is Enough Network, ACT-UP, American Federation of Labor (AFL), American Federation of Government Employees, Essential Action, Jobs With Justice, Friends of the Earth, Pax Christi, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, United Steelworkers of America, United Students Against Sweatshops and U.S. Student Association.

The Web site also makes clear what unites all these vastly different groups: " ... the people's movements of the world, will not stand idly by while those holding power continue to impoverish and oppress the majority of the world's peoples and ravage the earth's environment and resources while enriching themselves and corporations."

"Seattle gave everyone a lot of inspiration," RAGN's O'Hern says. "They stopped one of the most powerful organizations in the world."

RAGN's meetings, which are held Wednesday and Sunday nights at the VCU Student Commons, have attracted between 5 and 20 people. But interest may be growing. Between 50 and 75 attended RAGN's meeting March 25, a day-long teach-in at Shockoe Bottom Arts Center.

"We are the underdog," O'Hern says, "but there's a lot of potential."
— Wayne Melton


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