Advocate on city interjecting in ballot vote on schools: ‘The people are fed up’

Advocate on city interjecting in ballot vote on schools: ‘The people are fed up’

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond city officials are considering legally challenging a referendum or question on the November ballot to be voted on by residents. The referendum would change the city charter, forcing the mayor to come up with a plan to fully modernize and fund all of Richmond’s aging schools, within six months, without raising taxes.

The advocate behind the effort, attorney Paul Goldman, who worked in former governor Doug Wilder’s administration, raised funds to help petitioners gather more than 16,000 signatures. Goldman succeeded, and the referendum is now slated to be on ballot, in the hands of the people. It would ultimately still need to be voted on by the General Assembly and signed by the governor.

Goldman fought back against the effort by some city officials, and city council members to stymie his effort.

“Let me see if I understand this,” said Goldman in front of City Hall. “The people who have been claiming to be for school modernization for all these years… all of a sudden they’re against the only proposal that might actually get school modernization?”

In 2015, the Richmond School Board voted on a plan to modernize all schools, totaling about $563 million. The plan came after 18 months of research by a Facilities Task Force committee within the School Board. It involves rebuilding, renovating and rezoning Richmond schools, according to City Councilwoman Kristen Larson. Larson co-chaired the task force with City Councilwoman Kim Gray. Both served on the school board in 2015.

Larson says it’s unrealistic to find funding in such a drastic and short period of time, as six months. She also says that the City Council is awaiting reaffirmation of the school facilities plan by the current School Board, in order to then work it into future budgets.

Goldman questions why the 2015 plan hasn’t been fully funded already and has no issue with funding school modernization in phases.

“Bottom line is this… they have had years. The people are fed up,” said Goldman.

“We’ve got young children in schools, who are trying to learn, and their teachers are wearing masks. Rocks are falling on their heads from the ceilings. And that is intolerable,” said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond.

Loupassi supports the measure, forcing the city to put money for school repairs where their mouth is, finding an estimated $563 million. Ongoing reports from NBC12 show schools getting shut down for mold, leaks, falling ceilings, and other infrastructure failures.

However, the city attorney argues the ballot question doesn’t technically fit into the required category of changing city government structure or administration. Goldman says he’s ready to battle that move.

“Wait a minute. Asking the mayor to come up with a plan to fix the schools, somehow is not the administration… What is the administration of the government?” questioned Goldman.

Larson says the measure is rushed, and unrealistic.

“We need to make sure it’s done in a responsible way,” said Larson.

The Richmond School Board finalized a plan to fix schools in 2015. However, the funding is far from being identified. Larson says the city still has careful steps before the money is finalized.

“Work is being done. The school board is looking at the needs. They’re looking at this report that was put out in 2015. So this report is still fresh,” continued Larson.

CBS 6: Proposed law would block new E-Z Pass fee

CBS 6: Proposed law would block new E-Z Pass fee

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)— A delegate who represents parts of Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico is trying to make it so that VDOT will never be able to charge such a fee.

Thousands voiced their concern over the Virginia Department of Transportation’s proposed monthly fee on E-ZPass transponders, which caused the department to rethink their fee structure.

“We got a pass, that’s enough. We don’t need another monthly fee in there to be taken out,” said Rita Williams from Chesterfield.

Delegate Manoli Loupassi, R-68th District, has decided to take action in the Virginia General Assembly.

“My legislation would stop them from having any monthly fee on those transponders,” said Loupassi.

On Monday, Loupassi filed a bill that would prevent VDOT from charging customers a monthly fee for use of any automated pay program on Virginia toll roads.

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Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘Sweetheart’ Redskins’ deal questioned

RICHMOND, Va. — State Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, and former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman are questioning the merits of what they call a “sweetheart” deal between the city and Bon Secours to build a new training camp facility for the Washington Redskins.

Loupassi said the lease arrangement, which is to be for a term of 60 years at an annual rate of $5,000 according to a letter sent out by Bon Secours Virginia Health System CEO Peter J. Bernard, amounts to a giveaway of a valuable piece of taxpayer-owned property.

“I really felt that this was not a good use of a massive amount of taxpayer dollars, Loupassi said in an interview. “That’s prime property, right there on Patterson and Libbie. It’s worth an awful lot of money.”

“From what we know right now, the deal now on the table is not in the best interests of the city of Richmond, all things considered,” the letter says.

Loupassi, a former City Council president who represented the 1st Council District for 6½ years, said he hopes the council will weigh whether the deal makes economic sense.

“I would hope they’re going to look at it extremely carefully. They’re dealing with the taxpayers’ dollars and it’s an extremely serious enterprise,” he said.

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Richmond Times-Dispatch: Legislature elects 1st openly gay judge to Richmond court

The Virginia House and Senate elected interim Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland to a full term on the Richmond Manchester General District Court today, giving legislative approval to the state’ s first openly gay judge after rejecting him last year.

The Republican-controlled House voted first, approving him 66-28 with one abstention, and was followed by a Senate vote of 28-0. Twelve social conservatives in the Senate did not vote.

“I want to thank the members of the General Assembly for their thoughtful deliberation concerning my nomination,” Thorne-Begland told The Times-Dispatch. “I also want to thank my family for their support throughout this process, and I look forward to continuing my service on behalf of this great commonwealth.”

The respected ex-Richmond prosecutor is a decorated former Naval aviator who in 1992 challenged the military’s now defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibiting gays from serving in the armed forces.

The House roll call was taken without floor speeches or debate, and cleared the way for the expected approval in the Senate of Thorne-Begland’s election to a full six-year term.

On Monday, leadership in the Virginia Senate all but guaranteed Thorne-Begland would be approved by the 40-member chamber. A majority in the House and Senate must agree to elect a judge in Virginia.

The House vote was a dramatic turnaround from May, when Thorne-Begland’s nomination was derailed in a contentious, late-hour debate that arose over questions of his military service and concerns voiced by social conservatives that he would be an advocate for gay issues from the bench.

The judges of the Richmond Circuit Court subsequently appointed Thorne-Begland to the vacant Manchester Court post, where he has served on an interim basis since July, handing a full docket of criminal and traffic cases in South Richmond.

On Monday, Thorne-Begland appeared before the joint judicial appointment panel of the House and Senate Courts of Justice committees, and spent 45 minutes answering questions surrounding his military service and his views on the role of a judge.

The public appearance was procedural, but underscored what had been a months-long process during which Thorne-Begland met with numerous lawmakers who had expressed concerns and attempted to clarify misinformation and misconceptions about his candidacy.

In the House, Thorne-Begland received the votes of 29 Democrats and 37 Republicans, including House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford; Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights; and House Courts chairman Dave Albo, R-Fairfax.

His nomination was also supported by the entire Richmond House delegation of Democrats and Republicans.

“The vote today confirmed that irrespective of your race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, the only crucial and paramount quality is judicial fairness and open mindedness,” said Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico.

“I’m extremely excited — it’s been a long time coming and I think it’s the correct result,” said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, who was Thorne-Begland’s sponsor in the House. “He’s qualified, well thought of, and he’s going to do a great job.”

Loupassi attributed the difference in support for Thorne-Begland a second time around to lawmakers having the time to gather more information and understand the issues and the circumstances of Thorne-Begland’s career in the military and his views as a judge. He said it all pointed to the same conclusion — that he was qualified to serve on the bench.

All 28 of the votes against Thorne-Begland were cast by Republicans, including a contingent of military veterans who had earlier raised objection to Thorne-Begland’s decision to publicly come out as gay while serving in the U.S. Navy.

Asked if Thorne-Begland’s sexuality played a role in the vote that elected him, Loupassi responded: “Not today.”

“This is a big step forward after last year’s actions made embarrassing national headlines,” added James Parrish, executive director of the gay rights group, Equality Virginia.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” Parrish said. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

“We’re glad the House of Delegates took a second look at his candidacy and this time the decision was based on his qualifications and not on who he is or who he loves.”

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