October 16, 2002 News & Features » Cover Story


8 over-the-top moments at City Council 

It's easy to guess how an elected body -- especially one with 18 legs and half as many tongues and discretionary funds -- would be prone to such spasms. In the high-pressure world of city governance, who can resist a little name-calling and rule-bending from time to time?

We understand.

City Council's shouts and shenanigans make us smile. Sure, sometimes it's our way to mask pain and disgust. But we smile just the same.

Here are a few tender moments that have helped ensure that our nine-member cast of City Council stays near and dear, inexorably, to our hearts. And who can say what Nov. 5 and a new year will bring?

1. Reggie, the defender.

In 1994 councilman Reggie Malone -- now a school board member, accused then-Mayor Leonidas Young of vulgarity and plotting against L. Shirley Harvey, his fellow council member.

2. Chuck's charges.

Long before his days as felon, thespian and chauffeur, Chuck Richardson, was a kind of neighborhood czar. He didn't foresee that adding certain illegal substances to his daily intake would land him in the slammer and oust him from his 5th District seat on Council. In September 1995 it did. Chuck went to jail for selling heroin.

3. Shirley's car troubles.

In 1996, 6th District councilwoman and current council candidate L. Shirley Harvey was chided for indefinitely keeping a city car at her disposal, in her driveway, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $350 a month. The controversy spilled into debates over everything from expense reports to whether Council members should be drug-tested like other city employees.

4. Dumping Bob Bobb.

After considerable squabbling, City Council in 1997 chose to dump City Manager Robert Bobb for being, among other things, authoritative and blunt,-and for constantly injecting himself into the Council's business. Yet oddly, his public send-off to Oakland, Calif., was nothing short of a love fest. "Rarely in life to you meet a person who is so kind they take your breath away," Councilman John Conrad was quoted as saying.

5. Promise of Sa'ad.

In 1998 before City Council elections 6th District candidate Sa'ad El-Amin, an attorney, told Style he would change the way City Council does business. Enough said.

6. Mural madness.

Should it stay or should it go? Discourse about the appropriateness of putting Robert E. Lee on a mural at the Canal Walk put Richmond on the national harpooning map. City Council fanned the flames.

7. Gwen's fast.

9th District Councilwoman the Rev. Gwen Hedgepeth vowed in the spring of 2001 to become a shadow of her former self. She planned to wear black doing it. Her fast was supposed to be a martyrlike reproach of her colleagues for not endorsing funds to build a new family community center in her South Side district. In time -- the fast lasted for more than a month -- Hedgepeth allowed herself to eat during an eight-hour window. Council members -- if not most of Richmond -- seemed unimpressed. Still, months later, City Manager Calvin Jamison earmarked $1.5 million for Hedgepeth's pet project.

8. Reva!

By the summer of 2001, Council's antics were as robust as ever. Those who normally wouldn't watch public-access TV, let alone council meetings, tuned in. The spicy 8th District Councilwoman Reva Trammell was much of the reason why. She got herself and her colleagues caught in a muck of lawyers after she allegedly gave orders to a city employee. She somehow got cozy in a police cruiser with a married cop. She blamed former Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver for much of her mess. Then, in the spring of 2002 and in the wake of Oliver's departure, Allen Price entered the mix. The WRVA talk show host incessantly -- one might say obsessively -- needled Trammell for, among other things, wearing hot pants and wearing out mattresses. Trammell threatened to sue, and eventually complained to the deaf ears of the District Court.


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