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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

City Explores Tax on Richmond Airbnb Rentals

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 12:03 PM

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There are 315 rooms and houses listed in Richmond on Airbnb.com, the online booking site that lets you turn your house into a hotel room. And that has two Richmond City Council members wondering: Should we be taxing those private rentals?

“Since it’s unchartered territory,” 2nd District Councilman Charles Samuels says, “we thought it would make good sense to ask city staff and the administration to look into whether any of our ordinances need to be updated to reflect changes in technology.”

Samuels and 5th District Councilman Parker Agelasto have proposed a resolution asking city staff to investigate whether the rooms should be taxed and whether city codes need to be changed to do that. The move comes in advance of the UCI Road World Championship bike race, to which the city plays host in September. More than 400,000 spectators are expected.

Richmond has an 8 percent lodging tax paid by hotels. City staffers have yet to publicly weigh in on the legality of peer-to-peer overnight rentals. In other cities, Airbnb has proved contentious. New York, the site’s largest market, has taken a hard line against the service, in some instances fining residents who use it. Airbnb recently launched a marketing campaign urging the city to legalize the rentals.

The Charlottesville City Council has debated the issue without reaching consensus, according to reports in C-Ville Weekly. But the city expects hosts to pay lodging and sales taxes on rentals.

A Carytown resident who rents space in her home frequently using the website says she contacted City Hall to ask about its legality. She says she was told she needed to apply for a permit and that City Council would approve it. The woman, who asked not to be named, opted to skip that step because it sounded onerous and approval appeared unlikely.

Samuels says he doesn’t necessarily think the city needs to start collecting money immediately, but that the city needs a clear policy.

“The last thing I want is a year from now people to say, ‘Look at all the money you should have been collecting,’ or, ‘How dare you collect all this money when you shouldn’t have,’” Samuels says. “We want to make sure that before the race gets here, we have an answer for why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Joe Morrissey Sues to Get on Ballot

Says party officials violated his “fundamental right to participate in the political process.”

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Before Morrissey filed his paper work to appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary, he called reporters to Richmond City Hall on March 24, attempting to get Voter Registrar Kirk Showalter to review his signatures. She declined, citing state code. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Before Morrissey filed his paper work to appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary, he called reporters to Richmond City Hall on March 24, attempting to get Voter Registrar Kirk Showalter to review his signatures. She declined, citing state code.

Embattled former delegate Joe Morrissey filed a lawsuit seeking to salvage his run for the state Senate on Monday. He’s asking a judge to force the Democratic Party to put him on the ballot, or at least prevent ballots from being printed until his case is heard.

Morrissey made headlines in January when he campaigned for and won a seat in the House of Delegates while serving a jail sentence.

His next political ambitions included the state Senate. He moved from his Henrico County house to a Church Hill apartment in the 16th Senate District last month to make a run for the seat formerly held by Henry Marsh, who retired last year and was replaced in a special election by former Petersburg delegate Roslyn Dance.

But Morrissey didn’t make the primary ballot after party officials certified only 222 of the 972 signatures he submitted with his filing. He needed 250.

Morrissey isn’t pleased. In his suit, he alleges violations of the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, including his right to due process, political speech and right of association.

He alleges that the party “arbitrarily and capriciously rejected the signatures of Jane Doe and John Doe and other unnamed petitioners, each of whom signed a petition seeking to place Morrissey on the ballot as a candidate.”

In his lawsuit, Morrissey asserts that enough signatures were “wrongfully rejected” that, should they be restored, would qualify him for the ballot. He says the party “unreasonably rejected many of the signatures for non-material inconsistencies” with voter records, such as a different address.

Morrissey doesn’t name specific people he says were wrongfully disqualified, instead asserting that the John and Jane Doe named in his suit “represent one or more real persons [he] believes will be located.”

Morrissey says he’s gone through only 20 percent of his signatures, but already found seven qualified voters whose signatures were rejected.

He also alleges that multiple Democratic Party officials refused to accept the signatures for pre-approval, which he says is a common practice, and intentionally avoided him before the filing deadline.

Morrissey wasn’t immediately available for comment. Morgan Finklestein, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, says Morrissey’s lawsuit is baseless.

“We have applied consistent, transparent standards to all of our potential candidates when they file,” Finklestein says.

Dance and Delegate Joe Preston of Petersburg made the primary ballot. Mayor Dwight Jones’ son, Derik Jones, also filed but failed to clear enough signatures.

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