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City Council faces a Hicks decision … 

Street Talk

Council Faces a Puzzle Over Hicks' PaymentNo Tips, They're Just Too TaxingJamison Adds His Bill to ListTrain Station's Arts Finalists PickedRichmond Native On Temptation Isle Council Faces a Puzzle Over Hicks' Payment The city had better do some head-scratching before it actually deposits the $43,563 it's been promised from Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David M. Hicks. True, Hicks has already announced he will write Richmond a check for the amount of money he paid himself as bonuses during the last three years. Although he maintains he has done nothing wrong, Hicks says the repayment will remove any "specter of doubt." And yes, the city manager has enthusiastically welcomed the offer, making City Council breathe a sigh of relief that it won't have to deal with the ticklish issue. Not so fast. Believe it or not, giving money to the city isn't as simple as it sounds. For obvious reasons, there are rules about giving money to the city. City Council must vote to accept any such gifts. They haven't, in this case. Besides, such a vote could prove awkward: Citing Hicks' potential conflict of interest — City Council oversees some of Hicks' funding — Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell just got him disqualified from prosecuting her for a potential violation of the City Charter. Would Trammell excuse herself from a vote on Hicks? But — and here's where it gets really interesting — if the money is considered not a gift but a reimbursement, isn't that an admission by Hicks that he's done something wrong? If Hicks is returning money to the city, that could mean it is the city's money to begin with — not Hicks'. And Hicks has made it clear he considers the payment to be out of his own pocket. Remember, he did nothing wrong in paying himself the bonuses. Apparently, nobody has tried to figure this out yet. City Attorney John Rupp refers calls to Mayor Timothy M. Kaine. Kaine says he isn't sure what to call the $43,563. "Right now, I don't know," says Kaine. "My sense is, [Hicks] is restoring the money to the budget the city had allocated to his office. That's the way I'm looking at this." Kaine says the money "came from the city, there's no doubt about that." OK, forget it. Maybe Hicks can just include a little extra when he pays his gas bill this month. Whatever happens, Kaine says, he's sure he can find some precedent to ensure a smooth transition from Hicks' pocket to the city coffers. "Whether it's a gift or not," Kaine says, "it makes me smile." — Jason Roop No Tips, They're Just Too Taxing When it comes to tipping, Nesbit Complete Body Salon has a new way of doing business. Tips, says owner Michael Wood, "are not a right and not to be expected." Instead, he says, "they should be appreciated." The Internal Revenue Service sure appreciates them. It used to be that stylists and other salon operators reported 8 percent of their income as tips to the IRS. But in the same spirit as the IRS' crackdown on the restaurant industry, "they're coming after the beauty industry," says Wood. "They're knocking on the doors of salons. And that's a lot of money — some [operators] make an extra $10,000 because of tips." So Nesbit signed a voluntary tip-reporting agreement with the IRS, promising to make sure employees report 100 percent of their tips. Now tips — which average between 10 and 25 percent of the cost of service — are tallied by computers and added to paychecks. Wood says he'd like to eliminate tipping completely because it can put customers in an uncomfortable position. But, he concedes, "if we were to implement that policy, we'd lose a lot of staff." Plus, he adds, the salon would have to raise prices 15 to 20 percent to make up some of what employees could stand to lose. Still, he says, if Nesbit opens another salon — which it plans to do someday — it will have a no-tipping policy. "Tips," he says, "are the curse of the salon industry." Wood says he likes the way employemployees no longer deplete the cash drawer each day for tip money to pay for lunch and other expenses. "It's so unprofessional to dig in the drawer for tips," he adds. "It makes them look like a truck-stop waitress." Brandon Walters Jamison Adds His Bill to List Add another city expense to the ongoing case against City Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell: the bill for City Manager Calvin D. Jamison's attorney. Already, three council members called to testify by Trammell's attorney, Michael Morchower, plan to ask the city to reimburse them for the attorney they hired to represent them. Jamison, who hired his own attorney, plans to do the same. Trammell faces charges that she gave orders to city employees, a violation of Richmond's city charter. If convicted, Trammell would lose her seat. Jamison, who has been called by Morchower to testify, hired federal judge-appointee Roger Gregory for guidance. "Anytime you go into a court situation," Jamison says, "you should have counsel to provide assistance." City Attorney John Rupp told Jamison he could not represent him because of the variety of city officials involved, Jamison says. "I don't feel like I need counsel," Jamison says, but Rupp recommended that he hire one. Of course, Morchower questions why Jamison needs an attorney at all — and argues that the added taxpayer expense is just another consequence of the commonwealth's attorney pursuing what he calls petty charges against Trammell. — J.R. Train Station's Arts Finalists Picked Using an all-for-one strategy, a three-member design team from Richmond has landed a spot in the pool of finalists who will compete to give the drab Main Street Station some artistic pizzazz. They are: Chris Chase, an artist and contractor with John K. George & Co.; Burt Pinnock, an architect with BAM Architects; and Camden Whitehead, an architect who teaches design at Virginia Commonwealth University. "We're the only locals? Get out of here!" says Pinnock when told that his competition comes from Nebraska, New York and Washington, D.C. City, state and federal officials are spending $46.6 million to revive Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom as a regional transportation center, and are in the middle of a search for artists to tie the station together visually, inside and out. The winner gets a budget of at least $350,000 to turn the sketches into reality. Nearly 100 artists, architects and designers from across the country — more than half of them from Richmond — submitted proposals for the job to the selection committee, organized by the city's Public Art Coordinator Sally Bowring. "We had the highest quality of people apply for this, and that's across the board," Bowring says. "It was just really fierce competition, which is great. There was not settling for anything." The other finalists, who want to design the exterior, interior or both, are: Jun Kaneko, from Nebraska; Red Grooms, from New York; Sam Gilliam, from Washington, D.C.; and Stephen Fox, from New York. Gilliam and Fox are represented by the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond. The three Richmond finalists, Chase, Pinnock and Whitehead, have known each other for years and were all interested in the project. They also figured they could each bring strengths, so they joined forces. They decided Main Street Station needed to become "more of a place," Pinnock says, and came up with three ideas to make it look that way. Their idea is to use media screens, a sort digital display, to wrap moving images around the ugly concrete pillars supporting the overpass to promote local events and attractions. They want to create a plaza, Pinnock says, with a kind of "steel-fingered awning." With a stipend of at least $1,500, the finalists have until April to come up with a more detailed plan for the station. During the spring, the public will have a chance to hear and see the artists' ideas before the commission is awarded in May. -J.R. Richmond Native On Temptation Isle [image-1]Tom RitchieIn relative obscurity, Tom Ritchie left Los Angeles last week and drove cross-country to Charlottesville. But when he resumes his graduate studies this month at the University of Virginia, he'll no doubt be the talk of the campus: Tom Ritchie, law and business major, has become Tom Ritchie, Tempter. Ritchie, 28, plays a "tempter" on "Temptation Island," a "reality" series on Fox that premiered Jan. 10 and continues for four more weeks. The show puts four "committed" but unmarried couples in an idyllic, tropical setting and puts their faithfulness to the acid test. The men are isolated from their girlfriends and mingle with 13 scantily-clad beauties. Meanwhile, the four women cavort with 13 buff stud muffins. Ritchie, a former Richmonder who attended A.P. Hill Middle School before heading north for prep school and college, is one of them. A scout spotted him while standing in line for a concert in L.A. Style couldn't reach Tom Ritchie while he drove cross-country. So we called his parents. "He hasn't told us anything [about how the series develops]. We're in the dark," says his mother, Virginia Ritchie, a former Richmond civic leader — she was president of the Central Richmond Association — who now lives in Charlottesville. When asked if she'd ever envisioned her son in that sort of role, Ritchie laughs and replies hesitantly, "My friends tell me he's good looking." Tom Ritchie hardly needs "Temptation Island" to find a date. He recently co-founded an online dating service, Luvv.com. "I guess we'll have to deal with celebrity now," says his father, John Ritchie, former executive director of the Virginia Housing Development Authority, with a sigh of resignation. Let the 15 minutes begin. — Edwin J. Slipek Jr.
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