More Depressing Local Politics – Taxes & Water

An email has been circulating which reportedly calls for a boycott of restaurants that are resisting Mayor Stoney’s meals tax increase proposal. I would hope that Mayor Stoney would disavow this email and tactic, but perhaps he does not recall how bitter the last meals tax increase debate was. The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation and Center Stage backers told City Council that they would personally lobby to rescind the increase once the Carpenter Center was fully renovated. They dishonorably lied, and on top of that, the City has had to continually bail out that private project. Now, once again, citizens are being told it is ‘for the children’ and must hurry and approve a meals tax increase.

We were hearing about an impending tax increase this past October, but it is becoming more obvious that this current proposal is more about distracting from the original Put Schools First referendum, which received overwhelming support from Richmond voters. I urge folks to continue to support the referendum in the General Assembly.

Sadly, there are still dishonest people spreading disinformation about the original referendum. Two very important points for people to understand- One, If the referendum had included language about raising taxes, it would not have been allowed on the ballot. Two, the referendum language does require the City leadership to first come up with a plan to modernize ALL the schools without considering a tax increase in their budget wrangling, HOWEVER, that does not preclude the City leadership from coming up with a second plan that does include a tax increase.

What’s even sadder is that the City leadership continues to ignore other income sources. Consider the Larus Park deal. What a waste of an opportunity to fairly increase revenues. Why is Mayor Stoney going to lease park land to Chesterfield County for only $1.00 per year? Why is the Mayor not willing to increase the mark up on the water sold to the counties from 5% to 10% (from $0.035 per ccf to $0.07 per ccf). So what if Chesterfield has to raise it’s water cost to $1.88 per ccf, Richmond residents are paying $4.04 per ccf. We have covered the need for water utility reform here before, yet City leadership would rather we hurry up and support another(!) ridiculous meals tax increase.

Speaking of the Larus Park deal, its worth watching City Council Monday (if they can get their microphones to work this time) and see how they handle it. The deal is a lose, lose, lose, for City parks, water reform, and residents, but evidently it is a City leadership priority that Chesterfield County get its cheap water.

A scorecard of sorts:

There are five ordinances and one resolution (some are relatively good and some are bad) regarding the Larus Park issue that are to be considered at the special February 5th City Council meeting:

Ordinance 2017-208: this ordinance authorizes utility PILOT money for the purchase of the 18 acres

Ordinance 2017-209: this is the “stinker” ordinance that allows Larus Park to be leased to the county, along with the lease agreement that is unfavorable to the city

Ordinance 2017-221: this is the ordinance that declares a public necessity to purchase the 18 additional acres

Ordinance 2017-253: this is the “stinker” ordinance that states that “not withstanding” city code section 8-2 (c) [which specifically prohibits leasing Larus and other parks] the city is leasing Larus Park

Ordinance 2017-254: this is the “stinker” ordinance “notwithstanding” city code section 8-2 (c) AND city code section 8-57 granting easements by the county to work in Larus Park [passing this ordinance would mean that all of the city parks are just one vote away from being sold]

Resolution 2017-R097: this is the “excellent” resolution to authorize the conservation easement on Larus Park.