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Richmond Council Approves $786 Million Budget

The Richmond City Council has approved an amended version of Mayor Jones' $786 million budget. Council included bonuses for all city employees, investments in career and professional development for police and firefighters, $3 million for the riverfront plan, $1.8 million for vehicle replacement.

Councilman Parker Agelasto says the strongest statement Council made with the budget was fully funding the school board’s request for an additional $4 million for operations and $7 million for capital improvement.

Mayor Jones Withdraws Shockoe Stadium Plan

15 minutes before last night’s Richmond City Council meeting, Mayor Dwight Jones withdrew his Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal from consideration after a majority of council members expressed opposition to it.

Councilman Parker Agelasto believes many of the financial details of the Mayor’s plan were overly optimistic.

Councilman Jon Baliles says the plan put a moral obligation on the city that he was uncomfortable with. Baliles says Council members will have to meet with the administration to decide where the money set aside for the Shockoe project will now go.

Committee Sends Shockoe Ordinance to Council with No Recommendation

The Richmond City Council Committee on Land Use has sent the ordinance which would pave the way for a Shockoe Bottom stadium to the full Council with no recommendation. The committee heard presentations on traffic and parking options for the ballpark complex. City officials estimate that the neighborhood will require $3.5 million in public and private funds to widen streets, divert traffic and improve signals.

Council members expect to know more by Tuesday’s meeting.

Morrissey Threatens to Sue City Over Shockoe Stadium Plan

Democratic Delegate Joe Morrissey of Henrico is the second Richmond legislator this week to challenge the legality of Mayor Jones’ Shockoe Bottom redevelopment plan. Morrissey is joining Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi of Richmond in asking House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones to require that any state dollars for Shockoe development be contingent on all of the projects being open bid. He says if Jones does not include this stipulation in the budget amendments will likely be offered on the floor.

Shockoe Stadium Critics Say Plan Would Fund No-Bid Contract

Shockoe stadium critics say taxpayers are indirectly funding a no-bid contract to build an apartment complex, which is central to the Mayor’s Shockoe Bottom development plan. Paul Goldman, former advisor to Governor and later Mayor Douglas Wilder, says the Jones administration is using the Economic Development Authority in order to bypass city and state laws requiring public projects be open to competitive bidding. He calls the deal a back room scheme that stems from an administrative culture of corruption.

Jones Fills Two Key City Positions

Mayor Dwight Jones has filled two key administrative positions appointing in what he describes as the troubled agencies of Finance & Administration and Human Services. Norman Butts, Director of Finance for the town of Leesburg, will take over June 23rd as Deputy Chief Adminstrative Officer for Finance & Administration. Butts replaces Sharon Judkins, who left the position last week and was granted a $400,000 increase to her retirement fund, drawn from 800 hours of unused sick leave. Commonwealths Attorney Michael Herring is  investigating the matter.

McDonnell Trial to Proceed, Former Governor and Wife to Be Tried Together

U.S. District Judge James Spencer denied a motion by defense attorneys for former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen to dismiss the corruption charges against them as well as another motion to try them separately. In his ruling, Judge Spencer wrote that a jury must decide whether the former governor and his wife misused their official positions to trade influence in governmental decision making for the $165,000 in gifts and travel the McDonnell’s accepted from former Star Scientific CEO Johnnie Williams.

G. A. Lawyers Say Governor Can't Spend Without a Budget

The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony yesterday from lawyers representing the General Assembly that the state will not have a mechanism to pay state employees should the General Assembly fail to pass a budget by July 1st. The lawyers told committee members that the Governor does not have the authority, as he has previously suggested, to spend state dollars in the absence of a budget.

Virginia Revenue Collections Down Significantly

Virginia Secretary of Finance Ric Brown reveled yesterday that state revenue collections are down significantly for the month of May. If the downward trend continues over the next 40 days, the state could close this fiscal year with 300 million fewer dollars than expected. The news puts additional pressure on lawmakers to reach a compromise on the state budget, which must be passed by June 30th to avoid a government shutdown. Governor McAuliffe told House and Senate budget negotiators it was time to get back to work.

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