#79: Richmond, VA 1/9/17

When I tune in to a city council meeting, I’m expecting to see a dais, a half dozen fuzzy faces, and an oversize seal of the city staring at me.

What I’m not expecting is a TV host.

“Annnnnd this is Gavel to Gavel. I’m Dick Harman. Well, new year, new mayor, four new members on city council,” boomed a silver-maned announcer holding an old-school microphone that he may have bought secondhand off The Match Game.

With the conviction of a Super Bowl pregame commentator, Harman rattled off the stats about who was sitting next to whom on the council. (And coincidentally, I finally realized what my dream job is.)

“Boy, have there been some changes! So let’s get started,” he barked before reading off all 20 agenda items for my enlightenment.

“That’s the way it stands tonight. The new council is officially here. I’m Dick Harman–stay tuned!”

Me in 40…er, 50 years.

The new council was seated, eager, and ready to pounce on the People’s Business. But the real star of the evening was city clerk Jean Capel, who fluttered around her desk in a whirlwind of papers and binder clips, speaking like an auctioneer on stock show day.

“I need a motion for expedited consideration of that paper–Ms. Gray will you make that motion?”

“So moved!” Councilwoman Kimberly Gray jumped in without missing a beat.

“And Ms. Robertson, will you second that? Council is voting on expedited consideration of that resolution as read. Mr. Jones?” The clerk tore through the roll call, dispatching with this item in just under 40 seconds.

The Situation Room

Everything was running quickly and smoothly. But when Councilman Parker Agelasto politely requested that the city attorney share his opinion on controversial bonuses given by Richmond’s outgoing mayor, Councilwoman Reva Trammell poured some gas and lit a match.

“I guess he was sitting in his office with his feet propped up on his desk, smoking a cigar!” she ripped into the mayor. “Because he KNEW he was not going to run again and he KNEW he was probably going to give those four people–he was already thinking how was he going to reward them?”

The councilwoman pulled out the flamethrower and turned it to 11. “Mr. Ex-Mayor in my opinion did not have the right to do this. How can we stop this? The taxpayers are mad as hell!”


Councilman Agelasto swiveled in his seat and hesitated. “All that we’re trying to accomplish right now is to have the city attorney provide the legal opinion pertaining to the bonuses so that we can fix it.”

Council President Chris Hilbert gazed out at the room and issued a warning. “While I think we can all agree that this was unfortunate from a practical standpoint,” he drawled slowly, “we all took an oath last week to uphold the law.”

It wasn’t quite the torches-and-pitchforks response that Trammell was hoping for. But luckily, the meeting ended on a high note as the camera turned to a friendly face.

“Annnnnnd that is it for the night,” our distinguished TV host announced. “Don’t forget, two meetings a month from now till June. For Gavel to Gavel, I’m Dick Harman. Goodnight.”

Final thoughts: It was hard to pick the best part of this mee–I’m kidding, it was totally the host. A solid 10 out of 10 stars to him. I’m so jealous.


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