Like most years in Richmond, things start out strangely.
As if the city didn't have enough shootings, some New Year's Eve revelers feel the need to fire shots in the air. The police chief complains, and rightly so. This is no way to celebrate, especially while there's a war going on.
Speaking of combat, a consultant declares that one of the big problems with Richmond City Schools is board infighting. Genius! Attorney General Jerry Kilgore declares war on gangs. Is he looking to run for a higher office?
The prices for tickets to the Josh Groban concert climb into the $500 range on eBay. Then, disaster: The dreamy Groban gets sick, canceling the concert.
In sports, the University of Richmond men's basketball team beats 12th-ranked Kansas. And in baseball foreshadowing, we learn that the $18.5 million renovation of The Diamond will be delayed a year. Could this be the work of some secret group of anonymous businessmen who want to move the Braves to the Bottom? That's crazy!
You know this is going to be a unique political year when the Democratic presidential nominees consider Virginia a battleground state. And here they are: Kerry, Edwards, Clark and Dean not to mention Al Sharpton clinking glasses at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
More on Kerry later.
But first: How can we forget Brian Curtis, the Virginia Commonwealth University student who becomes a finalist in the "Sexiest Vegetarian Alive" contest? For the first time, he feels like a piece of meat.
Wonder why the General Assembly session is taking so long? Maybe it's because they're talking about Janet Jackson's Super Bowl halftime show. Uh, guys, can we do this off the taxpayer clock?
Mayor Rudy McCollum delivers his state-of-the-city address, declaring this "the year of youth." There are a lot of challenges ahead including political ones. School Board member Charles Nance becomes the first person to declare his candidacy for Richmond's at-large mayor race. If he'd only known.
Kerry wins the primary in Virginia. We hope he savored it.
A sign of spring: Rare blue poppies bloom at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Maybe criminals are sniffing them. Police report some strange crimes, including a man breaking into an apartment and shooting a washer and dryer, and a burglar who steals a Dominion Virginia Power meter.
Another strange criminal, City Councilwoman Gwen Hedgepeth, refuses to step down while she faces bribery charges. Did she mean to do it? She is confused, she testifies. And falsifying campaign finance documents? Wrong, yes. But is it criminal? She didn't know, she says.
City Council, of course, stands behind her.
Speaking of pork, Jimmy Dean sues Sara Lee for control of his name on the sausage that she now owns. Sara wins.
There is hope in the city, though. The men's basketball teams of both UR and VCU get into the NCAA tournament. They eventually fall, but it's an exciting ride.
The words "REFUSE" and "SEEK" appear on a bridge. Police do their own seeking and bust a VCU student. The Fan District Association cheers.
It's starting to rain.
But that won't keep Richmond partyers away from the Strawberry Hill Races, which, of course, is all about horse racing. And classy behavior.
In what seems like a monthly occurrence, there's City Hall scandal news. Robert Evans, former assistant to the city manager, is sentenced to 10 years for taking more than $1 million from the city through unfulfilled work orders. And we just thought all that work not being done was business as usual.
In another undone-work category, there's transportation. The state says it will repave I-64 for three years so rides between Richmond and Jamestown are smooth for 2007's big party. Later, budget realities set in, but at least they tried. Bumpy rides ahead.
Richmond shootings focus attention on crime in Shockoe Bottom, when three customers at a pizza joint are shot. The River District Initiative will hold a series of meetings with City Council's public safety committee to address the issue.
Revelers from the College Hip-Hop Fest at Paramount's Kings Dominion spill into downtown streets again this year. Richmond Police are out in force, and are forced to respond to the homicide of a 21-year-old man.
We learn the secret identities of the Richmond Ballpark Initiative members when they unveil plans for their Shockoe Bottom ballpark. Who knew the Junior League was so into baseball?
With the Cinco de Mayo festival on Brown's Island, it's finally time to head outside to the concert series that rule summer. Boy, we just can't wait to be outside listening to music! It probably won't rain much or anything.
"Line of Fire," ABC's fictional crime drama set in Richmond, is starting to fade. The network announces that episodes are dwindling.
But we can't shake real crime. In a sign of the times, the Times-Dispatch runs blank boxes as part of its Newspaper in Education program. Kids are supposed to use the boxes to keep track of the week's gun murders and woundings. So much for the crossword.
Is this Garden of Eden syndrome? City Council seems to become self-aware and, well, embarrassed. Councilman Bill Johnson tries to take the council's live meeting broadcasts off the air in the suburbs. Take that, Chesterfield County! You might have to make fun of your own politicians!
It's the music get of the year for City Celebrations and its new leader, K Alferio: Richmond is selected as the site of the National Folk Festival in 2005, 2006 and 2007. A mighty wind is blowin' ...
Not a good month.
The numbers show the city's homicides are up from this time last year.
Friends of Hedgepeth asks for money. Just like Hedgepeth.
Five people are shot near a club in Shockoe Bottom.
And Virginia, in what might be the most sweeping move against partnership rights of gay citizens, enacts H.B. 751, over-the-top legislation that could stifle all kinds of legal partnerships including joint checking accounts.
In a different category of bad news, we learn that lovable and charming Channel 8 meteorologist Chesley McNeil fresh off a tie win as "Most studly TV news personality" in Style's The Most issue will be heading for Buffalo. We're a little weepy, but we can weather the storm.
There's a good kind of weepy going on elsewhere. Miss Greater Richmond brings home the title of Miss Virginia.
And after all his assurances to the contrary, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announces that he's going to run for mayor. Who would have thought?
Despite murmurs that he's on a long list of potential candidates, Gov. Mark Warner is passed over as Kerry's sidekick. Still, Warner pledges that Virginia will lend its support to the Democratic nominee. Good sport. Bad prediction.
The presidential race is way off. But the state's gubernatorial race is even further away. But that doesn't stop Kilgore and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine from stuffing their piggy banks to the tune of $3 million. We're sure the money will go toward positive, constructive, television advertising.
Speaking of green, Richmond serves as host to the Professional Putters Association championships. A local putt-putt course becomes holey ground.
Besides putting champions, there are other stars nearby, including Colin Farrell, who plays Capt. John Smith in "The New World," being filmed in Virginia. We hope they cast that slinky Pocahontas who sang her heart out in the Disney movie.
Layoffs continue at Capital One, which announces that another 1,400 employees will be leaving. David Spade, however, is hired.
Rain, rain. Go away.
City pressure apparently works. After a series of meetings with city officials to discuss the April homicide of a college student, Kings Dominion and Black Entertainment Television decide to end their annual College Hip-Hop Fest.
On the down-low, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visits Richmond, making the rounds of UR, the Jefferson Hotel and the Museum of the Confederacy.
Short Pump Town Center and Stony Point Fashion Park celebrate their one-year anniversaries. But what will happen to Cloverleaf Mall? Chesterfield, in the midst of marketing the site, sparks the interest of Richmond Faith Alive International Ministries, which wants to develop the site. But that's not exactly what the county has in mind. So it gets into a bidding war with the church and buys the property back.
Preservationists, as if they don't have enough to fret about, get upset at VCU's development plan, which includes demolishing West Hospital.
With a soggy field, the Braves take their home games to Norfolk.
Did we mention rain? The month ends with a flood caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston. This is no joke: Shockoe Bottom is devastated by a sudden onslaught of water, creating images that get national attention. Roads and power are interrupted. Eight lives are lost. And more storms are coming.
The city starts to dry out from Gaston, and Shockoe Bottom businesses begin to search for recovery assistance. Sen. George Allen joins in the cleanup effort and gets his picture in the paper.
It's back to school, and the first day on the job for Henrico County's new superintendent, Fred Morton. He fills the vacancy left by Mark Edwards, but can he work an iBook?
In another leadership change, Maj. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody becomes commanding general at Fort Lee. She's the first female to hold the position in the history of the Army base. Maj. Gen. Terry E. Juskowiak ends his 31-year Army career.
And in a race for leadership, the four mayoral candidates begin sniping at each other. Mayoral forums begin. And City Manager Calvin Jamison's future looks grim.
Kaine endorses Wilder.
Wilder doesn't necessarily endorse Kaine, or necessarily rule enorsement out.
Speaking of games, the State Fair opens. Racing pigs! Rides and ribbons! A goat mountain! And sugar everywhere.
Hey, hey, hey! It's Bill Cosby touring several city schools with pal Wilder. The comedian urges kids to study hard and be somebody.
This isn't a good month for roads. Paint thinner spills onto Belvidere, causing a traffic jam. And somehow, extra stripes show up on five miles of U.S. 1 and I-295. Drivers are flustered, and VDOT steps in. The blunder costs $100,000 to fix. If only the paint thinner had spilled onto the extra stripes.
We go crazy for Halloween. Who has to wait for tacky lights at Christmas?
And Chesterfield causes a stir when it announces plans to post police and sheriff's deputies at polling places.
There's a lunar eclipse, but no one can see it.
Election fever! Lines develop for a most important election. Wilder wins. Bush wins. A Chesterfield County bond referendum passes. A Hanover County tax fails.
VCU hires someone to create the nation's first major in homeland security and emergency planning.
North Side residents start hearing and feeling booms. What are they? The mystery continues, until police and fire officials find "pressure-producing devices." It turns out homemade pop-bottle gizmos have been dropped into the sewer. Some kids are arrested. Eventually, the booms cease.
In case anyone doubted Wilder would shake things up, a "For Sale" sign goes up on the lawn of Police Chief André Parker.
Varina High School's football team is fired up, winning big and looking good, but misses its shot at the state championships.
The much-anticipated Route 288 fully opens, completing a loop around Richmond and making drivers happy, especially between Powhatan and Short Pump. West Creek and the Short Pump mall are more accessible. And small-business owners hope to go along for the ride.
So what if Wilder's swearing-in is next month? That's not going to stop him from an aggressive transition period.
He meets with City Council, bringing his own agenda and creating an awkward exchange between him and the vice mayor. He meets with Jamison and Parker. Then he files a lawsuit to stop the outgoing council from giving Jamison a $174,000 severance package. (The court turns Wilder down.) And in case Parker wondered about his job, a "Help Wanted" ad appears in the Times-Dispatch for a police chief. (A Wilder associate says Parker can certainly reapply.)
Embedded with the 276th Engineer Battalion in Iraq, T-D reporter Jeremy Redmon and photographer Dean Hoffmeyer return chilling stories and images from a deadly explosion on U.S. troops in a dining-hall tent near Mosul. As the only journalists in the tent, their reporting reaches across the country.
The city, plugged in for its Grand Illumination, announces a plan to keep the lights on until February to help keep the "Easy to Love" spirit alive. Up north, visitors to the U.S. Capitol enjoy a Christmas tree selected from Virginia.
Merry Christmas, Brad Armstrong! The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation gets a boost from the Robins Foundation an additional $4 million pledge, for a total of $5 million to build a performing arts center downtown.
And even Wilder takes a break for the holidays, although his inaugural-ball committee may not.
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