Saturday, April 26, 2014

Richmond Public Schools: The Law is Clear

Sometimes, it is very frustrating to be a maven. You write and you write but nobody seems to listen. I can’t count the number of times I have explained the laws controlling the operation of the public schools in Richmond, VA, USA. And just when I think everybody understands, I see a turf war breaking out in our lovely city on the James between City Council and the School Board. City Council wants to form a committee composed of representatives of the mayor, council and school board to formulate a three-year plan for the operation of Richmond Public Schools. The School Board strongly objects to what it sees as an invasion of its jurisdiction. I don’t have time to go into more detail, so if you want to know more read these two articles. 1 2  

Now, pay attention. I will explain this once more. 

Article VIII, Section 1 of the Virginia Constitution provides:

“The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.”

Article VIII, Section 7 of the constitution says:

“The supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board, to be composed of members selected in the manner, for the term, possessing the qualifications, and to the number provided by law.”

In implementing these constitutional mandates, the General Assembly enacted VA Code section 22.1-28 which provides:

“The supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board selected as provided in this chapter or as otherwise provided by law.” 

The drafters of the constitution could have chosen to place school divisions under the control of local governing bodies like city councils or boards of supervisors. That would have been logical. But they did not. They put supervision of local school divisions in school boards that are independent of local governing bodies. I assume they did so to insulate school operation from local politics.

The citizens of Richmond maintained the independence of their local school board in the City’s charter. Section 20.01 of the charter reads, in part:

“Except as provided in this Charter the School Board shall have all the powers and duties relating to the management and control of the public schools of the City provided by the general laws of the Commonwealth. None of the provisions of this Charter shall be interpreted to refer to or include the School Board unless the intention so to do is expressly stated or is clearly apparent from the context.”

So, what about the City Council? As the City’s governing body, does it have no role to play in Richmond Public Schools? Yes, it has a role. That role has to do with providing funding for the operation of the schools. Section 22.1-93 of the Virginia Code states:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law . . . the governing body of a municipality shall prepare and approve an annual budget for educational purposes by May fifteen or within thirty days of the receipt by the municipality of the estimates of state funds, whichever shall later occur.”
The state law also mandates that the local governing body provide a minimum amount of local funding to supplement state funding for public schools. Section 22.1-94 says:

“A governing body may make appropriations to a school board from the funds derived from local levies and from any other funds available, for operation, capital outlay and debt service in the public schools. Such appropriations shall be not less than the cost apportioned to the governing body for maintaining an educational program meeting the standards of quality for the several school divisions prescribed as provided by law.” 

This requirement was incorporated in Section 6.14 of the City Charter that provides:

“It shall be the duty of the school board to submit its budget estimates to the mayor at the same time as other departments and in the form prescribed by the mayor. The mayor and council may take any action on the school budget permitted by § 22.1-94 of the Code of Virginia or any other provision of general law not in conflict with this charter.” 

But maven, surely the City Council has the statutory authority to create a committee to formulate a three-year plan for Richmond Public Schools.

Trusted reader, you have not been listening carefully. I have found no statute authorizing City Council to take such action. This is no different than two years ago, when Mayor Jones created a school accountability and efficiency task force. As I said then,

“Certainly, the mayor has appointed it. However, he can only assign to the task force authority which he has as mayor. He cannot create a committee or task force that has more authority than he has.”

Likewise with the Council’s committee. Council can create it, but it cannot assign to it authority that it does not have. 

Maven, are you really saying that City Council has no authority to make sure Richmond Public Schools is operating properly? 

Now, dear reader, you are putting words in my mouth. Of course the City Council has authority. As the appropriating body it has the implicit authority to oversee Richmond Public School’s use of the money it gives it. As part of the yearly budget process, the School Board submits its annual budget, which should explain how RPS used past appropriations and how it intends to spend the money School Board is asking for. If the Council is not satisfied with the explanations in the School Board’s budget, it has the right to ask the Chair of the Board or the Superintendent of Schools to explain in more detail.

Let me plagiarize some words I wrote two years ago:

“Despite the separation in rolls specified in state law, this maven is not advocating that the mayor and city council have no responsibility for the operation of Richmond Public Schools. On the contrary. I think that in the past some members of the city council have sidestepped issues relating to RPS by saying it is the responsibility of the school board not of the council. The condition of RPS is far too important to the city for any elected official to ever say, ‘It’s not my responsibility.’ I’m sure I have said it before, but if I haven’t I will say it loudly and clearly now: The City of Richmond will never be a great city until it has great public schools. It really doesn’t matter what else the city government does. So long as our schools are not world-class, Richmond will only be a C+ or B- city.”

So, Maven, what should we do?

Patient reader; you know that before I enrolled in the Maven Academy I was an attorney. So I know how to operate within the bounds of the law. I have two suggestions that can be implemented immediately.

1- Let the city councilmember and the school board representative in each of the city’s nine electoral districts get together to discuss how the council and board can work together to improve Richmond’s public schools. This will provide an opportunity to defuse the current dispute and to build trust between them. This trust can be brought by each back to the fully body. 

2- At least twice each year, the City Council should invite the Superintendent of Schools to meet with them to share his plans for the public schools. This meeting will also give each councilmember the opportunity to make suggestions to the Superintendent on how things may be improved. 

The city councilmember and school board representative in each district were elected by the same voters. The voters expected both people to do their statutory jobs and to work together to make Richmond become the best city it can become. It is time for these 18 people to forget blame and personalities and get on with the business of the City of Richmond.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Richmond School Funding: Déjà Vous, Again and Again and Again

My one fan out there knows that almost as long as I have been a maven I have been complaining that the City of Richmond doesn’t provide enough money for Richmond Public Schools. Rather than listing all the posts in which I have made that argument I will just refer you to the last one. 1  Guess what? It is budget season again in River City and our Mayor has cut the school board’s proposed budget by about $3.8 million. So here we are in 2014 and AGAIN the maven has to argue for more money for our children.

I have pointed out before that as a percentage of its general fund expenditures Richmond spends less on its public schools than almost any other jurisdiction in Virginia. So, to save time, I won’t say that now. I have also talked about the fact that the percentage of general fund expenditures going to Richmond Public Schools is constantly going down. This I need to talk about again. But first a little disclaimer. I find Richmond’s budget documents available on line to be confusing. In the past, when I reported to you the percentages, I relied on the pie charts contained in annual budgets. But the on-line collection is not complete so there are some years for which I don’t have pie charts. In addition, the pie charts don’t always agree with the tables contained in the budgets. Finally, because of the bi-annual nature of Richmond budgeting, there are different amounts in the documents designated as “proposed”, “amended”, “adopted” and “actual.”

Let me give you a few key numbers. For fiscal year 2009, the Mayor proposed and the City Council approved a budget that provided $161 million in general fund payments to Richmond Public Schools (RPS) out of a total general fund budget of $658.1 million. Under this budget the schools were receiving 24.47% of the total. For fiscal year 2014, the most recent year for which the council enacted a budget, the Mayor proposed and the City Council approved a budget that provided only $154.4 million to RPS out of a total general fund budget of $760.5 million. The schools’ share of total general fund expenditures has dropped to 20.2%. So how, dear reader, has this happened?

In March 2009 Mayor Jones informed City Council that, because of the economic recession, city revenues would be down considerably and that therefore the city’s payment to RPS for fiscal year 2010 would have to be reduced by 4%. The dollar reduction to RPS was about $8 million. The recession ended and city revenue increased considerably. However, neither the Mayor nor the City Council ever restored the $8 million that had been cut from RPS. As you can see from just the two years indicated in the preceding paragraph, total city general fund spending has increased by more than $100 million since fiscal year 2009 while the amount the city contributes to RPS is still more than $6 million less than it was then. 

The mayor and the chair of the council’s budget committee have argued that the percentages don’t matter; that the city is committed to its public schools; that the Mayor’s proposed increase ($1 million of the $4.8 million requested by the school board) from last year is adequate. But nobody talks about the lost $8 million. If the city is really committed to public schools the annual percentage of general fund expenditures for RPS should stay pretty constant. Yet, if the Mayor’s proposed budget is adopted by City Council, the RPS slice of the pie will be down to 20.1%. Any members of City Council who votes to approve the Mayor’s budget will be hard-pressed in the future to claim they really care about the children of Richmond.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our Tax System is Broke

Well fellow citizens, it is April 15, affectionately known as “tax day.” This is the day when most of us end our annual battle with the Infernal, er. . . I mean Internal Revenue Service. I assume most of you are like me—you don’t mind paying taxes, you just hate this annual battle. I think each of us are torn between two fears; 1- that we’re paying more taxes than our neighbors, and 2- that if we claim a questionable deduction IRS agents will be knocking down our doors to drag us off to federal prison. I also think that a lot of us feel kind of resentful on tax day because we keep hearing that rich individuals and corporations never pay their fair share of the costs of government.  

A few years back, this maven wrote a piece on the Fair Tax proposal, which was sort of popular for a while. I think the Fair Fax proposal has moved to the back burner. But some of the stuff I said then still applies and I will quote it here. Don’t worry; I gave myself permission to plagiarize so there are no copyright problems. 

“A tax system should have only one purpose—raising revenue for the government to carry out the functions that the representatives of the citizens have assigned to it. In addition, under the theory that those who accumulate the most wealth derive the most benefit from the country or state, the tax system should be progressive. Those who earn the most should pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than do those who earn the least. Finally, a tax system must not only be fair, it must also be perceived as fair by the citizens.

“Under these standards, our current tax system ranks low. First, rather than being only a mechanism for raising revenue, our current system is used continuously by the government as a mechanism for controlling the behavior of individuals and corporations in our society. When the government wishes to encourage certain activities it offers tax incentives to those who abide by those wishes. Likewise, when the government wishes to discourage certain behaviors it places tax costs on those behaviors. This management of our society by use of the tax code is probably as old as the code itself and has been used by both Republican and Democratic governments. It explains why the Internal Revenue Code is thousands of pages rather than only a few pages long.

“Second, our tax system is unfair and is perceived by most citizens as unfair. It is set up as a yearly game between the citizens and the IRS. The objective of the IRS in this game is to maximize the amount of taxes each citizen pays. The objective of each citizen is to minimize the amount of taxes he, she or it pays. The rules of the game are tens of thousands of pages long, and those who can afford expensive CPAs or tax lawyers who have mastered those rules are going to play the game much better than those who can’t. A tax system in which the amount you pay depends on how clever you and your tax preparer are is not a fair system. And it cannot be perceived as fair. Many taxpayers get the feeling that somehow they are paying more than their fair share of taxes. They fear that their neighbor has discovered a hidden deduction that they don’t know about. Or they fear the dreaded audit in which the IRS will discover that they have claimed more in deductions than the law allows.

“The unfairness of the system extends into its progressiveness. Although our tax system is, on its face, progressive, the presence of so many loopholes and deductions and credits and shelters reduces the tax burden on those with higher incomes. The result is that in many cases individuals with high incomes may be paying a lesser percentage of that income in taxes than do individuals with lower incomes.”

I would love to see our present system replaced with a tax system that is fair. I would love to see the IRS disappear. I would love to eliminate the anxiety I suffer every year in playing the 1040 game. 

We’ve been using the income tax as our primary source of government revenue for just over a hundred years. It’s about time we think this through again.


Friday, April 04, 2014

What’s With the Petitions in River City?

While we’re talking about Mayor Jones’s proposal to develop Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, have you noticed there are two petitions floating around the city that stadium opponents think will put an end to the mayor’s madness. As you know the drafters of the Bill of Rights guaranteed the right of the people to petition the Government for redress of their grievances. So I guess that petitions are good. On the other hand there are so many people with grievances, and in this age of instant mass communications, I am asked to sign at least a dozen petitions a day. The Federal Government itself has a website encouraging citizens to submit petitions for the president to address. But, I am sort of wondering why the need for these two new petitions. 

I haven’t seen the petitions physically yet, but I understand that they are submitted under the authority of section 3.06.1 of the Richmond City Charter. That section provides that if a petition is filed containing the signatures of 10% of the highest number of voters who have voted in the city in the past five elections (a number that is estimated to be 9,800) requesting an amendment to the city charter, then the amendment shall be put on the ballot as a referendum question for all city voters. If the voters approve the referendum, the amendment is to be submitted to Virginia’s General Assembly for its approval. The two petitions circulating today request the following amendments to the City Charter: 

1- Proposition A proposes an amendment to the Charter creating a new section 2.04.02, providing that under the City Council’s powers contained in section 4.02 of the Charter, “there shall be created and funding provided for” the Historic East End Shockoe Bottom Commission. The Commission shall prepare (within nine months of its creation) a report to the Mayor and City Council on “how best to achieve economic growth while at the same [time] preserving the vital history of [the] area including the historic record regarding those uniquely significant events having taken place in the Shockoe Bottom area of the Historic East End.” Proposition A also provides that the City Council shall take no further action concerning the mayor’s Shockoe development plan until the Commission submits its report.  

2- Proposition B proposes an amendment to section 3.06.1 of the Charter broadening the authority of a minority of members of the City Council to call for an advisory referendum on issues relating to Mayor Jones’s Shockoe development proposal. With regard to ordinances relating directly to the baseball stadium proposed by the mayor the amendment would allow 3 of the 9 council members to call for an advisory referendum. With regard to ordinances dealing with various funding options for the Shockoe development the amendment would allow 4 of the 9 council members to call for an advisory referendum. Under existing language in section 3.06.1 a Council resolution calling for an advisory referendum requires that the issue be submitted to the voters and that the results of the referendum be reported to City Council for “such further action as it may deem advisable and in the best interests of the City.” 

Reader, to fully understand the significance of these two petitions you should understand the governing philosophy of Richmond’s City Charter, our local constitution. Chapter 4.02 of the Charter provides “All powers vested in the City shall be exercised by the Council except as otherwise provided in this Charter.” This means that the City Council is the governing body of the city. Unless the Charter assigns them elsewhere, all decisions regarding the governance of the city are to be made by City Council. The Charter does create the offices of mayor and chief administrative office of the city and assigns certain functions to the persons holding those offices. It also authorizes the City Council to create departments and other subdivisions of the city and to delegate governing powers to those subdivisions. In short, the City of Richmond is not a democracy. It operates under a republican form of government. We elect our nine members of the City Council. They in turn make the decisions that govern the city. 

The Charter as presently worded provides for three instances in which specific issues may be voted on by the citizens of Richmond. Two of these are in section 3.06.1. The first paragraph of that section authorizes the City Council, presumably by a majority vote, to request an advisory referendum on any proposed ordinance or proposed amendment to the Charter, the results of which are not binding on the Council. The second paragraph permits a referendum, under the procedures I described above, on an amendment to the City Charter itself. The third referendum provision is in section 7B.05. It provides for a referendum on an ordinance authorizing the city to issue bonds if within 30 days after the City Council passes the ordinance a petition with signatures of 10% of voters is submitted to the Richmond Circuit Court. 

I firmly believe that if something ain't broken, it don’t need to be fixed. So what exactly is wrong with the Richmond City Charter that it needs to be amended now? Is the structure of the city government unsound? Is there some inherent inefficiency that can only be solved by what are essentially constitutional amendments? Is the City Council as formulated and empowered under the current Charter incapable of governing? Trusted reader, let us skip through all the arguments and get to the actual reason that opponents of the Shockoe development plan are circulating these petitions. They have been convinced, by people who speak loudly and type in capital letters, that under the current political circumstances they cannot win. They have been told that if the process is allowed to work out as envisioned by our Charter as currently worded, the mayor’s proposal will be approved by City Council. Since they think they cannot win under the current rules, they seek to change the rules. 

But, forgetting motivation, and forgetting that it is generally bad policy to amend a constitution to achieve a single issue (remember prohibition?), what will these petitions accomplish? The first thing you need to understand reader, especially if you are a citizen of River City, is that these petitions will not permit the voters of Richmond to decide whether or not they want a baseball stadium to be built in Shockoe Bottom as part of the mayor’s development plan. If someone asks you to sign either or both of these petitions and tells you it is all about letting the citizens decide whether to build the stadium, they are, to put it politely, deceiving you. There is nothing in either petition that allows that. Both petitions only change the procedures or delay actions by City Council. Nothing more. They will not allow you to decide the stadium question. Do we really want to amend the City Charter just to delay the project? 

And what of the specifics? What exactly will this Historic East End Shockoe Bottom Commission be? The petition says nothing. It says “there shall be created and funding provided for” this commission. It says it is to be created under the City Council’s general powers so I assume that the Council is being mandated to create and fund the Commission. But the petition is silent on how many members shall be on the Commission. More important it does not say who shall appoint them—the Council itself, the mayor, the chief administrative officer. And how much money is contained in “funding provide for”? How much does it need to do this job--$50,000; $250,000; $5,000,000? The proposed amendment is silent. And what will be the effect of the Commission’s report? Are we trading government by an elected City Council to government by an appointed commission? I suspect that the drafters of Proposition A gave this little thought because the really important part of the amendment is not the Commission but subsection (d), which prohibits the City Council from acting until the Commission submits its report. 

With respect to Proposition B, is it really good government to allow a minority of the members of City Council to force the court and the board of elections to put a proposition on the ballot which will only be advisory? Special elections are costly. If it is good government, why not do it for all issues; why limit it to the mayor’s Shockoe development project? Personally, I think it is not good government to allow a minority of Council to have so much power. With respect to the stadium itself, the proposed amendment would allow only three of the Council’s nine members to force a referendum. The proponents argue that the amendment is designed to effect democratic decisions. Dear reader, is it democratic to allow 1/3 of a legislative body to control its actions? 

I could go on, but by now I am probably losing your attention. If you are a citizen of Richmond you will have to decide whether to sign these petitions. In making that decision consider that these petitions will not give you a vote on whether you favor or oppose the Shockoe stadium. Then consider whether you really think that our City Charter needs to be amended so as to delay the City Council from carrying out its assigned functions. As for me, I will not sign them. They are bad government.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

“Voting Rights” Attack: Has Paul Goldman Gone Too Far?


I met Paul Goldman in June of 2008 at the office of the City Registrar here in RVA. I was submitting my petitions to be on the ballot as a candidate for the School Board. Mr. Goldman was submitting petitions to be on the ballot as a candidate for mayor of our fair city. Neither of us was elected: I lost on Election Day; Mr. Goldman dropped out of the race and endorsed Dwight Jones for mayor. After that we were sort of Facebook friends for a while but via email rather than FB. Our contacts faded to virtually none over the years. 

Recently, CBS Channel 6 here in Richmond has engaged Mr. Goldman as sort of a political guru, in which roll he gives his comments on happenings both in the General Assembly and Richmond’s City Hall. Lately, Mr. Goldman has commented a great deal on the proposal by Mayor Dwight Jones to develop the Shockoe Bottom area of Richmond, including a new stadium for Richmond’s beloved Flying Squirrels. Mr. Goldman’s comments have been particularly aggressive toward what he refers to as the Jones-Marsh Democratic machine. (Jones is Mayor Dwight Jones; Marsh is state Senator Henry Marsh). Mr. Goldman has also gone beyond merely commenting by providing legal services to a group of Richmond citizens who oppose the Shockoe development plan; including helping them launch a petition campaign to force a referendum on the plan. 

I ought to add a few other facts about Mr. Goldman. In the past he has managed the campaigns of several candidates for high office in Virginia. He has also served as chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. He also participated in drafting the current Charter of the City of Richmond. 

Although I have been critical on Facebook with regard to several of Mr. Goldman’s attacks on Mayor Jones and the Shockoe development plan, it was not until I read his current comment on the Channel 6 website that I decided I had to update this blog. 1 In this piece, Mr. Goldman accuses Mayor Jones, Senator Marsh and Democrats on Richmond’s City Council of deliberately depriving Richmond citizens of the right to vote on the Shockoe development plan. (With respect to Senator Marsh, this is a particularly nasty attack because Henry Marsh has devoted most of his life working to assure that all people regardless of ethnicity or economic status can exercise their right to vote.)  

In his latest piece, after pointing out the efforts of Virginia Democrats to block Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters, Mr. Goldman goes on the attack: 

This time, it is Mayor Jones and his Democratic allies denying VOTING RIGHTS to these very same WHITE residents and RACIAL MINORITIES in Richmond. 

The Richmond City Charter—supposedly guaranteed by Section 7B.05—intends to give Richmonders an absolute Voting Ability to tell the Mayor and City Council “NO WAY ARE YOU GOING TO WASTE HUNDREDS OF MILLION OF PUBLIC DOLLARS on a Shockoe Stadium” when we need this money for more pressing needs. 

The first part of Section 3.06.1 is intended to give citizens another Voting Rights option in such matters, but Richmond Democrats on City Council are ALSO DENYING THIS RIGHT TO THE PEOPLE OF RICHMOND.


(All of the capitalization is in Mr. Goldman’s original). 

Since Mr. Goldman is an attorney and because he is one of the principal drafters of the city charter that he refers to in the above language, I almost feel that I should simply assume that his interpretation is correct. However, because his charge that city Democrats are deliberately depriving citizens of the right to vote is so severe, I really need to give it a fact check. 

One section of the city charter that Mr. Goldman does not mention in his attack on Richmond Democrats is section 4.02. This section provides “All powers vested in the City shall be exercised by the Council except as otherwise provided in this Charter.” This section grants to City Council all governing powers in the City of Richmond, unless there is some other provision in the charter that moves that power elsewhere.  

So what about the people’s right to vote that Mr. Goldman claims is being denied? Well, first of all, the charter clearly states that it is the people of Richmond who elect both the mayor and the members of the City Council. Section 3.01, section 3.01.1. I know of no attempt by any Democrats in the city to deprive citizens of Richmond of this right to vote for mayor and members of the City Council. In fact I know that before the most recent municipal election Richmond Democrats worked hard to register as many voters as possible. 

Well Mr. Goldman says that the city charter “intends” to grant to Richmonders an “absolute Voting Ability” to tell the mayor and city council that they cannot spend taxpayers’ dollars on a Shockhoe stadium. He says that this intent is “supposedly guaranteed by section 7B.05.” What is this absolute Voting Ability that Mr. Goldman talks about?  

Chapter 7B of the charter describes the city’s ability to borrow funds by issuing bonds, notes or other obligations. Section 7B.04 sets forth the procedure to be followed by City Council in passing ordinances authorizing the issuance of bonds. This procedure is the same as in passing other ordinances except that it requires six votes to pass such an ordinance. Subsection 7B.04(a) provides further that no ordinance authorizing bonds “shall take effect until the thirty-first day after publication of notice of its adoption…” 

Section 7B.05 of the charter provides that if, within thirty days after City Council has adopted an ordinance authorizing bonds, a petition containing the signatures of 10% of the city’s voters (Mr. Goldman has calculated the number as being 9800 voters) requesting that the ordinance be submitted to the voters of the city is filed with the clerk of the Richmond Circuit Court, then the ordinance shall be put on the ballot at an election called for such purpose. I assume that this must be the “absolute Voting Ability” that Mr. Goldman is referring to. 

But, section 7B.05 does not create a right in the people to decide whether city funds should be spent on a stadium or on other needs. Section 7B.05 is limited in its scope. It applies only after the City Council has adopted an ordinance authorizing the issuance of bonds. And it grants to the citizens the right to vote on the limited question of whether those bonds should be issued only if a petition with approximately 9800 signatures is filed within 30 days.  

So, how does Paul Goldman support his accusation that Mayor Jones and his Democratic allies are “denying VOTING RIGHTS to these very same WHITE residents and RACIAL MINORITIES in Richmond”? He points out that Mayor Jones has amended his development proposal so that not all of the city payments will be financed by bonds issued by the City. Instead, some of the costs will be financed through the city’s Economic Development Authority. Mr. Goldman insists that the mayor made this change only to deny citizens the right to vote on an ordinance authorizing the issuance of bonds. In Mr. Goldman’s own words: 

“Because doing it this way ELIMINATES THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO VOTE DOWN WASTEFUL STADIUM BONDS, since the right to vote doesn’t apply to EDA bonds since it is not covered by the Richmond City Charter.”

I am not sure how Mr. Goldman knows that Mayor Jones and his Democratic allies changed the financing for the proposed Shockoe development for the sole reason of avoiding a possible referendum. Perhaps Mr. Goldman understands Machiavellian thinking better than I do. There may be many reasons why EDA financing or funding from other sources make more sense than issuing bonds for the Shockoe project.  

Mr. Goldman also makes the accusation that Democratic members of the City Council are denying Richmonders “voting rights” under section 3.06.1 of the city charter. This accusation is even more unfounded than the accusation I just discussed. This section provides:
The Council shall have authority to order, by resolution directed to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, the submission to the qualified voters of the City for an advisory referendum thereon, any proposed ordinance or amendment to the City Charter.”
If City Council did decide to ask for an “advisory referendum”, the results of the referendum would be reported back to it for “such further action as it may deem advisable and in the best interests of the City.”  

What exactly is Mr. Goldman thinking? There are no “voting rights” here. This section merely provides City Council with the authority to ask the people what they think. The fact that the City Council has not chosen to exercise that authority does not deprive the citizens of Richmond of anything.  

I do not know why Mr. Goldman made these baseless charges against Mayor Jones, his Democratic allies (including Senator Marsh) and the Democratic members of the City Council (whom we can’t even identify because in Richmond Council members are elected in a non-partisan election). He chose to attack on the issue of voting rights (a particularly sensitive issue for Democrats) and he chose to use lots of capital letters. I assume he is very angry about something. Whatever the reason for his attack, Mr. Goldman owes apologies to Mayor Jones, Senator Marsh, members of the City Council, Richmond Democrats and all other citizens of the city.