Police prepare a hiring freeze … Movie hires Ric Young, features local fields … Channel 12 workers try to unionize … Jacob's Ladder hits its 10th birthday. 

Street Talk

Police Budget Halts Hiring10 Years of Helping Bridge the GapChannel 12 Workers Try to UnionizeMovie Hires Anchor and Local Fields

Police Budget Halts Hiring

There are only so many ways you can slice a pie. Few know better than David Meadows, budget manager for the Richmond Police Department.

Ever since he took the job in July, he's been trying to figure out how best to divvy up what he calls a scarcity of funds.

And with City Manager Calvin Jamison's police budget expected to get a green light from City Council in the next few weeks, Meadows will have some more slicing to do.

Jamison has recommended a police budget of $50.9 million for the next year. The department had asked for $57 million. So Meadows is braced to cut some more. Next in line: new recruits.

Currently the city manager's budget authorizes 866.5 civilian and officer positions. Of those, 784.5 are filled, leaving the department 82 vacancies. Of the 82 vacancies, 65 are allocated for sworn officers.

But Meadows calls the 866.5 number a "misnomer," saying that the budget really allows for only 795 positions. "That is the maximum number of people this organization can bring on and fund."

And that is likely to be bad news for those hoping to land a job anytime soon with the Richmond Police. "Right now, we're in the process of understanding when we can have an academy, when we can afford to bring them onboard," Meadows says.

On July 13 the Richmond Police Training Academy will graduate 19 officers — whose salaries began at the time of recruitment — and the vacancy gap will close slightly. But not for long, Meadows says.

More police are leaving the force than are being hired by it. Though the police can budget only one class of up to 30 recruits per year, the department loses about 72 people a year to things like retirement, job changes and disciplinary review.

Meadows is quick to emphasize that day-to-day police services are not going to change. Instead, officers who had been assigned to special task forces or teams will be reassigned back to "core services" such as normal street patrol and investigations.

"We will probably have to use our people differently," Meadows says.

Brandon Walters

10 Years of Helping Bridge the Gap

When Aubrey Hall and his wife, Margie, took a trip to the Eastern Shore 15 years ago to help poor migrant workers there, they didn't expect it would uproot their lives.

But for Hall, a former teacher and real estate developer, the experience was dramatic.

He saw kids who were bright and motivated but lacked resources to help them get ahead.

So Hall, 59, decided to do something about it. In 1991 he founded Jacob's Ladder, a nonprofit that helps gifted students whose parents don't have the means to help them go to college. And this week, with little fanfare, Jacob's Ladder celebrates its 10th-year anniversary.

"This year is very special to us," says Hall. "We will have our first graduate return and serve as a counselor."

Jacob's Ladder is a five-week summer camp that disadvantaged kids from Virginia attend for five years beginning in the 5th grade and continuing through the 8th. The aim is to prepare kids to do well in high school — 16 have received scholarships to area prep schools — so they have a better chance of receiving scholarship money for college.

The camp is free to kids but costs the nonprofit organization $3,600 or roughly $550 a week. Students take classes in everything from law to foreign languages to mystery writing. There are scads of outdoor activities, too. In the past the camps have been held at Christchurch Academy and Blue Ridge Academy. This year Chatham Hall School in Danville is hosting the camp.

Since it started, the program has grown significantly. In all, 110 boys and girls ranging in age from 10 to 14 have gone through camp. Half are boys and half are girls. They represent various ethnic groups. This year 15 new recruits and 35 returning campers are expected.

The impact Jacob's Ladder has had on kids extends far beyond getting a head start on high school. Friendships develop that last a lifetime, says Hall.

But one thing is missing from the program that Hall hopes the next decade will bring.

Currently, Jacob's Ladder staffers follow up on kids throughout the school year, but only through the eighth grade. Hall hopes to put the funds in place to offer counseling and advice to the students through high school. "Financial aid and the application process are daunting, to say the least," says Hall. "The follow-through will be the next step."


Channel 12 Workers Try to Unionize

A group of behind-the-camera workers at Channel 12 are trying to organize the first union of its sort in the area.

In a petition filed last week, the union the workers are trying to join, Local 2201 of the Communications Workers of America, has asked the station and its owner, Jefferson-Pilot Communications Co., to hold an employee election on whether to unionize.

If half the station's approximately 55 technical and production employees vote yes, Local 2201 would negotiate a contract for the workers with the NBC affiliate. The contract would affect employees who hold such positions as editors, directors, camera operators and master control technicians.

A few of those employees initially approached the CWA in December, says Laurie RaBorg, an organizer for Local 2201.

"They felt that they have gone to the company and asked for raises and asked for improvements, and the response has generally been, 'Our hands are tied,'" RaBorg says. "So they haven't been able to do anything singularly or in groups."

Don Richards, general manager of WWBT, says the station does not comment on personnel issues. But a source not involved in the union effort at the station says many of the workers worry that their jobs will be lost to automation.

A vote is generally held 40 days after the filing of a petition.

There is no union at local stations WTVR TV-6 and WRIC TV-8, although there have been attempts that never got off the ground, RaBorg says. But if a union forms at Channel 12, she says, there is a chance other stations would follow.

Jason Roop

Movie Hires Anchor and Local Fields

Ric Young is going Hollywood again.

The WTVR-6 weekend anchor/reporter, fresh from his screen appearance as a reporter in "Hannibal," is slated to deliver a sports report in the John Grisham-written movie "Mickey," which starts filming in Richmond on Sunday.

The scene takes him to his old stomping grounds, WRIC TV-8, whose news set will be used in the movie. Young was an anchor at the ABC affiliate until he was replaced two years ago by Juan Conde, another actor.

Broadcaster Steve "Mr. Beach" Leonard, host of The Sunday Night Beach Party on WRCL-FM 106.5, also has been cast in the movie.

The film is about a 12-year-old named Derrick, whose father (played by Harry Connick Jr.) is on the run from the IRS. Father and son flee Virginia for Las Vegas and assume new identities. But Derrick continues to play baseball under the name Mickey.

Along the road to the Little League World Series, there are lots of twists and turns — and lots of baseball games. That's created some critical supporting roles in the Richmond area: baseball diamonds.

Selecting the fields wasn't easy, says film publicist Leslie Strickler, because fields must comply with dimension and base regulations approved by Little League Baseball, which is officially sanctioning the movie.

Last week, Richmonder Chris Rock (not that one — he's the movie's assistant location manager) drove director Hugh Wilson around the area to make some final decisions on fields that will be used in the movie.

So far, six local fields have made the cut, according to the preliminary shooting schedule: at Clark Springs Elementary, Robious Elementary School, Lucille Brown Middle School, J.R. Tucker High School and the field in Byrd Park.

Fields that don't meet regulations will be used only for partial scenes.

The Richmond-area fields will portray diamonds in Northern Virginia and Las Vegas. The games leading to the World Series will be filmed at the Petersburg Sports Complex in Petersburg. And the World Series will be filmed at its home in the Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

Shooting in Richmond wraps on Thursday, June 21. The movie is scheduled for release early next summer.


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