December 28, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


Month by Month 


Forget New Year's parties. 2005 kicks off with the man in the boots — former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. The old guard is out, and Richmond has an elected mayor again. Seemingly everyone is all smiles at Wilder's inaugural ball, with about 1,100 people packing the downtown Marriott. Dancing is canceled, though — no room for the band.

For the first time in decades, a Democrat takes over as chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. The Richmond School Board finds its man in Stephen Johnson, who is elected chairman. Police Chief André Parker is out, however, along with City Manager Calvin Jamison. Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe is in.

Snow snarls us, rap star D'Angelo is arrested and the Virginia General Assembly kicks off proposing such legislation as the banning of violent video games. Could outlawing exposed underwear be far behind?

It's going to be a very political year.


Discussion turns to a proposal for a new $330 million ballpark in Shockoe Bottom that would include retail and residential development. Some plans are revealed, but there's not enough info. Get ready for some foreshadowing: The mayor wants to know more, and feasibility studies are ordered.

Introducing city-approved online smut! In an effort to curb vices, Richmond features people convicted of soliciting prostitution on its Web site. Meanwhile, metal detectors are removed from City Hall.

The circus arrives in town. But Richmond already has a few animal acts to be proud of: Two local dogs become winners of best-of-breed awards at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.

And the General Assembly rolls on. In news heard round the globe, legislators consider a bill that would make it illegal to wear pants low enough to see underwear. The bill dies, but embarrassment lives on.


Summon President Bush! We're sure he'd like to meet the members of the Virginia Union University basketball team, which wins the CIAA tournament and then the Division II national championship. Then again, maybe it's enough that he just invites them to the White House and ignores them.

The big fund-raising campaign can come later, perhaps. Because the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation can't wait to show off the seat-cushion patterns it's chosen for the planned theater. Come one, come all, to the foundation's mall tour!

Someone who is making money is Richmond Schools Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman. Thankfully, she takes herself out of the running for jobs in Norfolk and St. Louis to stay here, and gets a 5 percent raise.

In a blow to noses across the city: Interbake Foods announces it will close its cookie factory at Boulevard and Broad in 2006. We'll lose about 300 jobs and that sweet aroma of baking Girl Scout cookies.


A forecast causes the organizers of the Monument Avenue Easter Parade to postpone festivities, putting the hats on hold. It causes a little ruckus, but not as much as the brewing debate over the baseball stadium in the Bottom.

It's a big month in business. Richmond learns that its airport is going to get the low-cost AirTran Airways. And Philip Morris USA is going to open a $300 million research center downtown.

The gubernatorial campaigns are in full swing. And there's more evidence Richmond loves things running in circles: The NASCAR Nextel Cup is a sellout, and the Strawberry Hill Races are as popular as ever.

In a budget shocker, Mayor Wilder zeroes practically every community group from the city budget — from the big guys, like Richmond Renaissance and the Greater Richmond Partnership, to the little ones, like the Elegba Folklore Society. Richmond eventually realizes that city dollars aren't a given — at least without justification.

MAY +5

But City Council doesn't play. It sends Wilder's budget back to him, putting back some $18 million for those groups previously axed. After debate and discussion, the mayor gives in and restores much of the funds he cut out.

But he can't be turned around on the Virginia Performing Arts Center, which has announced it won't meet its fund-raising deadline. Vice president Joel Katz resigns. Wilder says the project is doomed, and he wants the land back.

There are sharp teeth in the suburbs, too. Chesterfield County's animal-control division calls in the USDA to catch an estimated 3-foot-long 40-pound alligator, discovered in the Falling Creek Reservoir.

Galactic moments: The final installment of "Star Wars" opens; the Rolling Stones announce that they're coming to Charlottesville; Jim and Fran McGlothlin pledge art and funds estimated to be worth at least $140 million; Bill and Alice Goodwin pledge $32.5 million to VCU's School of Engineering. It's a good spring.


But a sticky summer begins. Wilder and City Council continue to wrangle over the budget; state candidates rev up campaigns for the primaries (attended by less than 7 percent of registered voters); and police score a huge bust — seizing more than $3 million worth of marijuana, and counting, in raids across the area.

There's disappointment from the White House, where the champion VUU basketball team is invited but not acknowledged by the president. He shoots, he misses.

One man hardly ever misses: Cabell Staples. The local bull's-eye king practices hard in preparation for the World Masters tournament of darts in England.

Maybe the Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium developers can score: They return to the table with more detailed plans and financial assurances for Wilder and the committee he's set up to explore the subject. He puts down his Louisville Slugger.


We hit a record-temperature day with 100 degrees. The mercury's not the only thing rising. So is speculation about Gov. Mark Warner's future as a presidential candidate. After taking a fall during a bicycle ride and breaking his right hand, he takes a stand on national issues at the National Press Club.

The city gets a new fire chief in 23-year veteran Robert Creecy, just as a fire strikes the upper floors and roof of a Lovings Produce Co. warehouse in the Bottom.

Who needs the experts? That alligator on the loose is killed by a local fisherman — although he ends up facing a hefty fine and hiring an attorney because the reptile's endangered. There's gratitude for you.

We give thanks elsewhere, though. After the death of local philanthropist Thomas Cannon, folks across the area join to commemorate his life of service. And another local icon, Oliver W. Hill, is honored with the NAACP's highest award.

Wilder fills his 10,000th pothole.


Dropping like it's hot: In a spectacle that ricochets across blogs and news reports from coast to coast, Henrico County residents line up and get trampled for used iBooks sold cheap by the school system. A baby stroller gets crushed.

There's also a wild party that spills out from the Greater Richmond Convention Center, which brings out the pepper spray.

And the race for governor continues, made more interesting by the addition of Republican Party pooper Russ Potts, running as an independent. Another headline-maker, which becomes a campaign turning point, is incumbent Delegate Brad Marrs. His opponent, Katherine Waddell, seizes on his campaign mailer that makes an issue of one of her donors being homosexual. Marrs says the whole thing's blown out of proportion.

Fortunately, we can all come together over big pizza and NASCAR. Bottoms Up Pizza is back after Gaston. And Gov. Warner rallies tons of cheering Virginians to show why the region should win the race for NASCAR's Hall of Fame.


Shocked by news of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, residents pull together support for Gulf Coast victims, and Richmond adopts a city on which it can focus attention and aid. Virginia universities and schools open their doors to evacuees.

Closer to home, a local woman gets a shocker of her own, albeit less tragic, when she discovers that her neighbor's been spying on her with recording equipment he secretly installed in her house. He pleads guilty and gives us all a case of the willies.

South of the river, a new hospital starts taking patients — and puts the glitz in health care. Bon Secours' new St. Francis Medical Center features flat-screen televisions, good food and a high-end design. Local competition for nurses gets tighter.

School starts, the State Fair opens, college football launches, and 98.9-FM powers on as a no-format radio station where just about any song can turn up.

There may be a new beginning for D'Angelo, who pleads no contest to a charge of cocaine possession. He's given three years suspended. But it won't be the last of his troubles for the year.


The Stones rock C-ville, and the Boss comes to town. But what really gets Richmond's music scene pumping is the first National Folk Festival, which draws hordes of residents and tourists downtown despite the rainy weekend.

But it's not all good news in the arts world. After a troubling year for the performing arts foundation, with Wilder's public skepticism only adding to the organization's slow going, chief executive Brad Armstrong resigns. Attention shifts to at least renovating the Carpenter Center.

Other arguments are statewide: Kilgore and Kaine fire at each other in a televised debate, although Potts is left on the sidelines. He files a lawsuit to get in, and fails. Then CBS 6 comes up with an idea to sequester him, ask him the same questions in real time, and tape his answers for later airing. Democracy was never easy.


Finally, the campaign ends. And hometown boy Kaine wins the gubernatorial election. It's not even close — like the attorney general's race, for example.

Kilgore tells his election-night partygoers he has no regrets, although perhaps they have a few themselves. Time to start working on 2009.

It doesn't take long for Kaine to get moving. He holds a series of town halls across the state on transportation issues and starts appointing staff.

But wait! Warner's not ready to leave the spotlight yet. Time magazine names him one of the country's five best governors.

A former governor turned mayor decides to play conciliator, naming a committee to help study the situation with the proposed performing arts center. Jim Ukrop, Bill Goodwin and others buy into the idea.


The year ends with politics, just as it began.

Sheriff Michelle Mitchell creates controversy out of thin air by barring newly elected Sheriff C.T. Woody from the jail. Like all good hostage situations, she agrees he can come in alone — without any of his transition team or news media. He takes the matter to court. Thankfully, crime is down, so judges aren't that busy.

At the University of Richmond, where you must now sell a child to send a child, President Bill Cooper tries to work out the controversy over his leadership sparked by his now-famous "mush" comments. Can he overcome? At least the Spiders' football team had a turnaround.

Stephen Johnson is also trying to make something of his resignation as School Board chairman — after posting an explicit online ad on a pornographic dating site. He joins with local ministers, saying he'll help educate others about the problems with porn.

Maybe the holidays will bring a little peace. And if nothing else, at least Virginia's getting new highway welcome signs. S



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