Sunday, September 23, 2007

New Civil War in Richmond

On Friday morning I drove up to northern Virginia to visit some relatives and to pray on Yom Kippur with my former congregation. I spent about a day, starting sundown on Friday, fasting, examining my sinful behavior during the last year and asking God to forgive me. I ended up feeling peaceful and refreshed. I drove back to Richmond today bringing that peaceful feeling with me. When I got home I checked two days of unread TD and…

Saturday’s headline “Chaos Erupts at City Hall.” Sunday’s headline “Uncertainty Pervades City Hall Amid Turmoil.” This maven was out of Richmond for only two days and war had erupted. What kind of insanity is going on in our beloved city?

I read the stories. Mr. Doug ordered the Richmond Public School administration to be evicted from City Hall. The police kept the public from attending a School Board meeting. Doug will require City Council member’s personal staff to submit to interviews to keep their jobs. The Circuit Court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the continued eviction of the RPS administration from City Hall.

I looked at the newspapers again. Was this Richmond or was it the capital city of some dictatorship? It all would have made sense if this were a military junta ousting the democratically elected government of some country in South America or Asia or Africa. But this is the City of Richmond, Commonwealth of Virginia, United States of America, in the Twenty First Century. The mayor of this City of Richmond is ousting the administration of this city’s public schools from its offices! The mayor of this city is threatening the jobs of City Council employees! The police department of this city kept the public from attending a meeting of their elected School Board! Hey, I thought we had defeated totalitarianism in the last century. But what is going on in Richmond is real despotism.

When we voted for an elected mayor in Richmond, and when we elected L. Douglas Wilder to be that mayor, we were not giving our approval to a prolonged civil war between Mr. Wilder and the City Council, School Board, School Superintendent, City Tax Assessor and even the City Auditor. In previous postings I have described the many instances in which Mr. Wilder, rather than seeking to bring unity to the City, has used his claimed power to insist on getting his way Each time His Excellency has acted I have wondered how he could possibly do any worse. And yet a few weeks pass and he does something else to crush opposition to his policies in Richmond. Mr. Wilder’s methods can best be described as “divide and defeat.” He makes outrageous accusations against other civil servants to try to crush any independent thinker in the city. Except for the lack of a dress, Mr. Wilder’s behavior is like our beloved J. Edgar Hoover, former tsar of the FBI. If you oppose Mayor Doug, you have to expect that he’ll never rest until he gets you.

So how did we in River City get into this mess? From nearly the day he was sworn in, Mayor Doug has been thumbing his nose at the city’s leadership and at us its citizens. He has engaged in activities of questionable legality. He has been sued by the School Board and by the City Council for trying to usurp their authority. He has threatened the jobs of city employees. He has used his “Vision Newsletter” to attack people in Richmond who are only trying to do their jobs. And during the entire time that Mr. Wilder has been waging his campaign to become the King of Richmond, hardly anybody has spoken out.

But this time, the mayor has extended his attack to the students in our public schools. He has demonstrated that he simply does not care who gets hurt as long as he can have his way. The question now is how long will the parents in this city put up with a man who is willing to risk the future of their children in his continued attempt to be the King of Richmond?

To both my Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors in Richmond I wish a healthy and prosperous year. To the City of Richmond I wish a restoration of peace and tranquility.

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