/* left_sidebar content begin */ /* left_sidebar content end */

Monday, April 21, 2008

I have memories

Oscar Wilde wrote in "The Importance of Being Earnest" that "Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us."

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder

Visions Newsletter


Richmond's own diary of financial waste and excess is a long one filled with not-so-pleasant memories. Unfortunately, short memories and the circumstances of the past sometimes blend together and misrepresent the true facts of the present.

Last week, as soon as it was brought to my attention that I had been receiving an auto allowance after Chief Monroe established the security detail, I authorized the elimination of that subsidy and paid back those funds. The auto allowance development does not – and will not – stop me from continuing to point out waste and to bring to people's attention those circumstances, as no one is excused from this.

Our collective memory will recall that, not too many years ago, major corruption and abuse were the norm in Richmond. Even if problems were identified, there was no guarantee they would ever be corrected.

For example, it was revealed in late 2003 that a top aide to the City Manager ran a three year scam that cost the City $900,000 for work that was never done, yet money was paid to one of the "companies" that had ceased to exist two years before.

Much of the money was stolen from Council members' PayGo accounts and the top aide got his idea from a City Councilwoman who told him to issue bogus expenditure vouchers for her. She was later convicted and served prison time for taking bribes.

When I came into office, it was discovered that the director of the Richmond Hospital Authority had issued contracts worth about $1 million to a company she owned. I eliminated the contract and replaced the director and was later criticized by a former Mayor for not being courteous in this matter. This problem had existed for years and was not a secret – yet no one took action!

A month before I assumed office in 2005, City Council approved a $174,000 severance package for the outgoing City Manager. He, in turn, issued a $100,000 severance package for the outgoing Police Chief only days before I took office. Instead of promising to keep him on the force, I thankfully hired Chief Rodney Monroe.

Another action I took was to eliminate the City's Industrial Development Authority after it was discovered that $242,000 in outstanding loans were neither repaid nor accompanied by proper financial records to show who borrowed the money. Up to that point, loans had been issued for years with no attempts at collection; records were incomplete. This had been occurring for years even though a member of City Council served on the IDA Board.

When I took office, an audit revealed the City had 6,000 gas cards for the City Fleet but only 2,500 vehicles. After selling 500 vehicles last year, I recently issued the latest crackdown on use of gas cards and implemented new controls that further limit fueling hours and directly link the gas cards to specific employees for greater monitoring and accountability.

These are the types of abuses I aim to eliminate and where I have found waste and abuse, I have worked to correct it. If you remember back four years ago, those that were in government or opposed to the Strong Mayor form of government said that the City was doing great and didn't need any substantial or dramatic change.

Just before the election in 2004, the City Manager distributed 85,000 copies of a glossy report entitled "Five Years of Phenomenal Progress and Success," which claimed the City had seen "a dramatic increase in citizens' satisfaction" and "significant gains in public safety measures."

This perfectly illustrates that those favoring the status quo believed there was little need to strive to make the City any better. To them, everything was good and no degree of change was necessary.

Did anyone in 2004 think that four years later we would have our lowest crime rate in 26 years and that Richmond would no longer be on the Top 25 Dangerous Cities List? Did anyone believe we would be pumping $300 million into "City of the Future" projects across Richmond that would otherwise never be funded? Had the general public ever heard of, or been invited to participate in, the development of a Downtown Master Plan?

I have not been afraid to take on topics and personalities in our local government that, for years, ran things blindly and ignored the need for improvements. I have been forthright in my desire to root out waste and corruption.

I stand firmly on the ground that the blatant and continued abuses that took place in preceding years, as referenced above, are not and will not occur under my leadership. While all of the holes have not yet been filled, the ones that were sinking the boat have been plugged and patched.

My Administration will continue to seek out and correct wrongs and eliminate waste when and where we find it.

Author David Gerrold once wrote a line that sums up our continuing efforts at charting Richmond's future and distancing ourselves from a checkered past:

"I have memories - but only a fool stores his past in the future."


"Missing silverware found in Mayor's pocket"

Tobacco Avenue

"Wilder ‘didn’t not know’ he was receiving car allowance"


Mayor shift has a price
Change in Richmond's form of government has cost at least $13.4 million

Wilder says administrative budget hikes needed
Spending on Richmond's city administrators looks to again outpace spending on police, streets, schools and parks.

Key items missing from Richmond eviction papers

Style Weekly

Another Director Receives Auto Pay for City-Owned Car

Hat's Off to Stakolee

James River Maven: Doing My Job For Me

Facebook StumbleUpon Digg Technorati Delicious Google Bookmark Yahoo


** **