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Monday, May 09, 2005

Remarks to City Council

Well, I made my debut performance at the City Council tonight. I've been watching the council on TV for years, but I've never attended a session. Two weeks ago I went to my first meeting, but I couldn't speak since I hadn't registered. This time I prepared a little better, I registered this morning and wrote my remarks over lunch. I had written essentially a one page introduction along with a few comments. I was very nervous, but when my name was called I approached the lecturn calmly and spoke from my notes. All I can say is three minutes passed real fast. I was about half way through when the flashing yellow light warned me I was on my last 30 seconds. After another warning from the City Clerk, I went to my main point, wrapped it up and thanked the council for it's time. While it wasn't a brilliant performance, I feel pretty good about it. I spoke clearly and slowly, I managed to wrap it up without panicking and I got a positive response from two councilmen when I was done. Not bad for my fist time out. Too bad I ran out of time, I left some of my best stuff on the page. Well, here's the full text. The blue, bolded portions are what I actually said.

Good Evening Vice Mayor Loupassi, Assistant Vice Mayor Jackson, members of the City Council,

It’s an honor to be able to speak to you this evening.

My name is Paul Hammond, I live at 116 E Franklin, in the 2nd District. This is my first time speaking to the council.

I have corresponded with several of you and I have appreciated your prompt replies. I would especially like to thank Councilman Pantele and his assistant Jan Girard for their help in getting the water pressure corrected in my building. There was a sudden improvement in the attitude of the building management and I know you were responsible for that.

I also want to thank you for broadcasting these proceedings. To some it is considered cheap entertainment, but I think it is a great lesson in democracy. I have grown to appreciate the workings of the Council and the passion of its citizens. I’ve learned a lot about tolerance and admired the way you in most cases have turned away from divisive debate and worked together for the benefit of the City. I think a lot of people would be surprised at the number of unanimous and near unanimous votes there have been. It’s a tribute to the goodwill of the council.

I have the privilege of living in downtown Richmond. I moved here three and ½ years ago from Florida and I consider it the best move I have ever made. When I came here, even though downtown was rundown, I could see the framework of a vibrant community based on a vibrant past. Since then things have been gaining momentum and hardly a week goes by when I don’t see fences going up around a redevelopment project. Some are small and some aren’t, but together they represent the beginning of an Urban Renaissance.

I live in the western section of downtown, between 3RD Street and Belvidere, which is mostly residential. There are numerous high rises and many smaller developments in historic buildings. My previous residence at Grace and 1st dated back before the Civil War. This area is undergoing rapid redevelopment and soon I hope to see some of the amenities currently missing in my neighborhood, such as a bookstore, a grocery, clothing store and restaurants open after 6:00 PM.

The most significant problems my neighborhood suffers from are panhandling, homelessness, and crime. These are real problems. Just yesterday I witnessed a group of frightened ladies giving several dollars to a panhandler. There was probably no danger, but it must have seemed safer or easier to give him money than telling him no. It is a common occurrence and there is a significant population that survives this way. It is unfair to the merchants, residents and customers to have to tolerate this. Our parks and libraries have become day shelters for the homeless. I know many people who refuse to use the Main Public Library for this reason. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and some creative solutions are required.

Downtown is improving, but there is much that can be done to assist that process. I look forward to a future with a downtown that is cleaner and safer. A place where I will be able to walk without fear to dining, shopping, a concert in a new music hall and a ballgame in a new downtown stadium.

I thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you to build a better Richmond.

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