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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Joe Morrissey Enters Richmond Mayoral Race

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 10:46 PM

After months of hinting, it’s official. Joe Morrissey is running for mayor

He made the announcement to a crowd of nearly 300 people earlier tonight at the Satellite Lounge in South Richmond. After he strutted on stage with the theme song from "Rocky Balboa" playing -- a call to his nickname, "Fighting Joe" -- he stressed a platform of providing basic services and improving schools.

“If you elect me your mayor," Morrissey said, "you will get a full time mayor who will fight for everyone in this city, every ward, all day long."

Speaking to recent furor over the city's delayed leaf collection and prevalent potholes, he pledged to stay on top of such items. He promised to overhaul Richmond’s public school buildings, such as those in the South Side where several schools are overcrowded because of recent jumps in population.

"My children are going to be educated in Richmond Public Schools," he said, "and I don't want any child in any zip code to put up with those conditions."

Morrissey, who often seemed to be speaking to a target audience, peppered his address with Spanish phrases for what he called his “Hispanic and black friends.”

A few public officials also attended the address, including Richmond School Board member Mamie Taylor, Hopewell Mayor Brenda Pelham and Petersburg Police Chief John Dixon.

Morrissey took a winding journey to this political point, which hasn’t been without scandal.

The 58-year-old was accused of having sex with his current fiancee Myrna Warren, 20, when she was a 17-year-old receptionist at his law firm. In December 2014, Morrissey entered an Alford plea in the case, denying guilt but acknowledging evidence against him. He received a six-month sentence that was reduced to a three-month work-release term. He served it while holding the 74th District seat in the House of Delegates, to which he was re-elected in January 2015.

Morrissey gave up the office to run for state Senate last year, but ended his campaign, citing health issues when his diaphragm stopped functioning twice.

"I've had my missteps, trials and tribulations," he said. "There's nothing secret about my background. You just have to read the front page of all of our newspapers."

Morrissey enters a fast-growing field of potential candidates for the mayoral contest, which now includes community activists Alan Schintzius, Rick Tatnall and Lillie Estes, City Council President Michelle Mosby, Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold and former councilman Bruce Tyler. Venture Richmond President Jack Berry is in the running as well. He announced his resignation from Venture Richmond last week and a tweet from the organization wished him well in the race.

Candidates must file by June 14, but former governor and mayor L. Douglas Wilder is holding a forum for candidates next week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Former Occupy Richmond Activist Alan Schintzius Enters Mayoral Race

Says it's time to reverse "failed policies" of the Jones administration.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Community activist Alan Schintzius has joined Richmond’s growing list of potential mayoral candidates.

In a statement released today, Schintzius says that he's running on a campaign of being more inclusive and transparent in government, and criticizes what he says are the “failed policies” and “expensive projects” of Mayor Dwight Jones’ administration.

“The list goes on: The Bon Secours Redskins Training Camp, the Westhampton School giveaway, the Stone Brewing Co. deal, and the UCI World Cycling Championship race, all cost taxpayers dearly, enriched the few, and happened even as we witnessed the shocking collapse of core city services and the abject failure of the current administration to manage Richmond’s finances,” he wrote.

A carpenter by trade, Schintzius was active in the Occupy Richmond movement and helped spearhead the independent radio station WRIR-FM 97.3.

Community activists Rick Tatnall and Lillie Estes, City Council President Michelle Mosby, Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold and former councilman Bruce Tyler have also formally announced their intentions to run. Venture Richmond President Jack Berry is in the running as well. He announced his resignation from Venture Richmond last week and a tweet from the organization wished him well in the race.

Most of the candidates have announced plans to attend an April 6 forum held at Virginia Union University by former Gov. Douglas L. Wilder.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Richmond Mayoral Candidates Make Their Entrance

Joe Morrissey, announcing the birth of a daughter today, to announce intentions soon.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:01 PM

Former state delegate Joe Morrissey is the father of a new daughter, born this afternoon, named Bella Noel Morrissey.

But there may be more news on the way. A week from today, Morrissey says, he'll address speculations about his candidacy for the office of mayor.

Speaking to Style tonight, he says he plans to “make his intentions known” at a press conference Thursday, March 31, at 6 p.m., at the Satellite Lounge on Jefferson Davis Highway, as reported earlier by the Times-Dispatch.

Leading up to the event, Morrissey plans to meet with 30 pastors from across the city Tuesday to discuss what he thinks should be the priorities for the next mayor.

Morrissey's family news comes on a day when two other candidates for mayor made their intentions official, although the date to file is June 14.

Architect and former City Council member Bruce Tyler confirmed to the Times-Dispatch earlier today that he plans to seek office. The West End resident served two terms on council before losing his seat in 2012. He plans to run for mayor as an independent but sought the Republican nomination for a Virginia state Senate last year. He dropped out of the race after a few months.

Tyler says that improving the Richmond Public School system and providing basic services are top priorities.

“We need to be working with the school board and [Superintendent Dana] Bedden to get them where they need to be,” he says. “We need to be a government that takes care of the daily things we face as citizens, like walking on sidewalks and driving on roads -- that’s critical.”

Venture Richmond's Jack Berry is in the running too. He announced his resignation today after 18 years as the organization's director. While the official announcement didn't specify his plans to run, a later tweet said, "Sad to say goodbye to our exec dir Jack Berry but very happy to see him running to become the next mayor of #RVA."

Berry is a former Hanover County administrator. During his tenure at Venture Richmond, he oversaw initiatives to promote downtown development and oversee festivals and other promotional events. He told Style in February that he planned to announce his intentions in April.

Community activists Rick Tatnall and Lillie Estes, City Council President Michelle Mosby and Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold also have formally announced their plans to run. Other candidates also are expected to announce, getting the race off to a crowded beginning.

Most candidates seem to be planning to attend an April 6 forum organized by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, to be held at Virginia Union University.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Why Mayor Dwight Jones' Choice of Richmond Lawyer Isn’t So Surprising

Richard Cullen Sr. was the go-to for the McDonnells and other high-profile clients.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 3:10 PM

What do Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, a Democrat, and former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, have in common?

When they learned of investigations into their activities, they called the same top-drawer lawyer -- Richard Cullen Sr., chairman of the powerhouse downtown law firm McGuireWoods.

As first reported by the Times-Dispatch, Jones got in touch with Cullen after a city auditor’s report said that the city’s public works director, Emmanuel Adediran, spent hours on city time dealing with the construction of a church in Chesterfield County, where he is a member and Jones is senior pastor.

The mayor docked Adediran’s vacation pay and asked the state police to look into the matter. Now that query includes the mayor himself. Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring said that the state police sought and won approval from a grand jury to investigate Jones.

When McDonnell was governor, he quickly called Cullen in February 2013 after state police officers interviewed his wife, Maureen, about gifts the McDonnells accepted from vitamin supplement salesman Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

The Washington Post reported: “When she reported back to her husband, McDonnell’s response showed he understood the situation was serious. He did what any Republican politician of consequence would do in Virginia’s capital: He contacted Richard Cullen Sr.”

A former federal prosecutor and state attorney general, Cullen has a long record of taking high-profile cases. He worked for former U.S. Sen. Paul Trible during the Iran-Contra investigation. He also represented former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, a former House majority whip, in a long investigation of connections to lobbyists.

In the McDonnell matter, Cullen got busy helping the governor start to build a legal defense team. In September 2014, McDonnell and his wife were convicted of illegally accepting more than $177,000 worth of gifts from Williams. They were sentenced to prison terms and have appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the former governor’s case within a few months.

In the case of Jones, the former head of the Virginia Democratic Party, Cullen launched a six-week investigation of City Hall. He told Style Weekly that "We had taked to people who might have shed some light."

Cullen added that "I'm very confident that there hasn't been a crime committed." He said that Adedrian may not have violated city policy because he is a senior staff member not bound by rules covering most city employees.

About 10 percent of Jones’ top city staff members belong to First Baptist Church of South Richmond, where he is senior pastor.

Tammy Hawley, Jones’ press secretary, could be reached for comment by press time.

“There may be some similarities with McDonnell the more we learn about the Jones case,” says Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “The key question is if public resources were redirected in ways that didn’t serve the public interest,” he says.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

State of the Schools Address Comes as Division Grapples with Budget Shortfall

Superintendent could address division plans to deal with $18 million budget cut.

Posted on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 2:07 PM

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden is scheduled to give his annual State of the Schools address at 6 p.m. at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. And there’s plenty of ground to cover, with the district’s plans likely to be shaped by the possibility of an $18 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

Schools officials asked the city for an additional $18 million to fund initiatives such as teacher raises and academic improvement. But Mayor Dwight Jones announced on Friday that local funding for schools would remain level in his proposed budget.

More details about how the division plans to grapple with the shortfall may be forthcoming in Bedden’s address. In a meeting on Monday, the division outlined options it’s considering to cut costs – such as closing six schools and reducing bus transportation – while forging forward with its academic improvement plan and teacher raises.

The Times-Dispatch reports that the division expects to save as much as $3 million by closing six schools and officials suggest that four elementary schools, one high school and two specialty schools could be merged into other campuses. Another $3 million could be saved by reducing the number of stops school buses make and $2 million could be saved by increasing the teacher-student ratio from 22:1 to 12:1. Other items that could be on the chopping block include demolishing two unused schools, closing two office buildings, contracting janitorial services and eliminating various other items.

The budget reduction also halts plans to start the first $169 million dollar phase of a 15-year plan to overhaul crumbling schools facilities.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hillary Clinton Gets a Warm Fuzzy in Virginia House; Trump Doesn't

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 10:35 AM

One big winner in Super Tuesday’s presidential primaries got a big shout-out Wednesday in the Virginia House of Delegates. The other one didn’t.

Del. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, one of Hillary Clinton’s most fervent supporters in the legislature, delivered a warm tribute to the former first lady and secretary of state on the floor of the House, hailing her as “my personal friend.”

Spruill recounted Clinton’s history from her girlhood as a Brownie Scout to her presidency of the Young Republicans at Wellesley College to her work in the civil rights movement, saying a strong family foundation inspired her to achieve her dreams.

Spruill took two days off from his legislative duties last month to campaign for Clinton in South Carolina.

The ex-first lady won decisively Tuesday over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Virginia’s Democratic primary, one of seven states that gave her a majority of delegates.

The other big winner Tuesday was billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who also won seven states, including Virginia, on the Republican ballot. But no one rose in the House to sing his praises. No Virginia legislator has endorsed him.

Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax County, the Virginia campaign chairman for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, said after Wednesday’s House session that he was glad his candidate notched a strong second-place finish behind Trump in Virginia.

He’ll support Trump if he wins the nomination, Hugo said, but he still thinks Rubio has “a path to victory.”

This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com

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