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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The First Time I Heard of Bill Pantele

There was a vote to approve the tax breaks for a condo development. I didn't know much about City Council politics and Bill Pantele was on vacation in Greece when the vote took place. As best I remember it was a 4 to 4 tie, which meant the motion failed. Someone had unexpectedly changed their vote. I thought it was pretty lame that he missed such an important vote, but as things turned out the motion passed on the next vote and the development was a great success which has led to further development on and near the river.

I am by nature, pro City. Anything, almost anything that benefits the city, any city, over suburban sprawl appeals to me. Trends and 30 years of social disintegration have conspired against urban centers across the United States. I grew up in the suburbs, but always had a heart for the city. As soon as I was able I move to a city with a history of jazz, ethnic politics and political chicanery, Kansas City. I lived in an urban neighborhood that never got out of neutral. It had it's cool elements, but never moved beyond that. After a decade in Tampa, I happened upon Richmond. Here was a town that had never quite lost it's soul. I don't know exactly what took my heart, but I dove in head first and haven't looked back. After Kansas City, this is the first real home I have known as an adult.

I tapped into city politics by watching City Council on cable. I am not embarrassed to say that Rudy McCullom gave me faith in what was possible. I only expected the worst and when Said El Amin or one of his cohorts tried to poison the water, Mayor Rudy would calmly steer the discussion back towards civility. I was so impressed that a black politician refused to play the race card that I got hooked. After 45 years of opinionating, I went public and testified. It was an innocuous 3 minutes. I simply thanked the Council for restoring my faith in democracy. Perhaps if I had been through the previous 20 years I would have felt differently. At middle age I represent new blood in this city. I feel bad for those who are stuck in the old Richmond. It is a trap which limits the possible. Richmond is being borne anew despite the weight of history. We are perhaps 5 years behind the curve, but we are catching up. Downtown is being booming and the city is rebuilding from the inside out. With new leadership and regional cooperation the inner suburbs will rebound.

It's a new day and the tide is turning. I'm glad I stuck around to see it.

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Unknown said...

FYI - That was Councilman Loupassi who was on vacation in Greece when that 4-4 vote happened. Panetle was there and voted. Good story though.

Anonymous said...

Wrong again, Paul.

This was not a condo development that council was voting on. The vote you are referring to was to award Dominion Resources valuable land along the river - land that is now largely inaccessible to the public, as Michael Paul Williams mentioned in a recent T-D column.

How something like this benefits the greater whole of Richmond is beyond me. I assume that this deal is the model of "great success" you talk about when you say that politicians should ignore the new Downtown Master Plan and award the rest of Richmond's riverfront property to more developers.

What's even worse: in your zeal to both endorse unrestricted development AND Bill Pantele, you can't even get the name of the councilperson right. It was Manoli Loupassi who came back from vacation embarrassed that he couldn't serve his corporate masters on that vote, not Bill Pantele.

Damn, and you even misspell Rudy McCollum's name. This is pathetic in almost every respect, Paul. If you are going to be a shrill shill for corporate interests and their political enablers, at least be an informed one.

Paul Hammond said...

Thank you Dan for the correction.

Don, if you read the body of the post you would know that it was not about Bill Pantele or Manoli Louipassi. I was telling my story. The project in question was not Dominion Power. It is the condo project sitting on Brown's Island. I can see it from here.

I know how much you care about spelling, punctuation and capitalization. I'm sure you can find plenty more where they came from. Glad to know you are still a reader. That makes two or three today.

How are things over at SR?

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