Special Feature! “Best Thing, Worst Thing”

This week, we air the newest episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project featuring a big-name city: Richmond, Virginia. I talked with many different residents about their favorite and least favorite things about Virginia’s capital. Many brought up the city’s ties to the Confederacy and the legacy of segregation. Others talked about the extensive collection of neighborhoods. You’ll come with me to a rally with the mayor, stroll along an island, and visit the pew where Jefferson Davis sat in church.

For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you are ready to learn which historical figure had turkey quills shoved up his nose, head to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.

Episode 10: Richmond, Virginia

mainstreet.jpg

Photo source: Main Street Station

Richmond is a city of 220,000 people and the capital of Virginia. It was also the capital of the Confederacy and that legacy still lingers. The James River provides recreational opportunities and the Amtrak station provides a connection to Washington, D.C. and beyond. During our visit, we stand in the middle of the water, attend a rally with the mayor, and visit a restaurant that will be gone in a year. We hear from a real estate agent, some college students, a teacher, a tour guide, people who have moved away and returned, and two political watchdogs.

#58: Harrisburg, PA 10/11/16

The Harrisburg city council had a smorgasbord of issues to consider on Tuesday night. And 99 percent of them came from one kindly, train-loving citizen.

“First, my request to city council: please have police officers on Second Street Wednesday night and Thursday–and especially Friday and Saturday night. Check the Sawyer’s restaurant for noise violations. This summer when they had special music concerts, they shut off the music concert by ten o’clock in the evening at the latest. Sometimes, people are not as good.”

The aged man folded his slender arms in front of him, a large black glasses case protruding from his shirt pocket. He spoke haltingly, clearing his throat directly into the microphone–which made it sound like someone was piledriving just outside the chamber.

har3.jpg
This man has a clear message: shhhhhhhh.

“Also, there are some fellows who play music instruments on the sidewalk at the pizza shop next to Zembie’s on Friday and Saturday nights. And sometimes they get loud. And my request is to please have police officers there and check on them and make sure they cut off their music by ten o’clock in the evening at the latest.”

But before you label him a run-of-the-mill city hall gadfly, I’ll have you know that this man can do more than lodge noise complaints. In fact, he’s a regular Ferdinand Magellan–traveling the globe from Central Pennsylvania to as far away as Eastern and Western Pennsylvania. And he knows a thing or two about the romance of the rails:

“Okay, another issue: I asked the city of Harrisburg and the state to support adding one additional passenger train on the Amtrak line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. The train we have now, it’s a good train. It’s a beautiful, thrilling ride, but the schedule requires at least one overnight stay in Pittsburgh and the hotels that I checked in Pittsburgh are awfully expensive.”

It was barely perceptible, but as he talked more and more about the trains, you could tell THIS was the thing that truly excited him.

har1
His bumper sticker reads “My Other City Council is a Train.”

“And one other thing: back in June, I went on a beautiful Amtrak train trip that was fantastic from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and then going across Northern Virginia and West Virginia, and then overnight to Chicago. And the ride I liked the best was going across Virginia and West Virginia and went over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Praise god and the Amtrak people! And the other railroad people also did a great job!”

Hey, Amtrak, are you hiring spokespeople? This guy praised god AND Amtrak people in the same breath! Can you at least give him free rides for life between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh?

Speaking of spokespeople, Council President Wanda Williams had her own exciting transportation announcement:

“I’m proud to say that my husband won the ‘direct support professional’ for the state of Pennsylvania,” she grinned with pride. “He was chosen among 200 other applicants. He represented the state of Pennsylvania in Chicago.”

Then, the bombshell.

“His picture is now on the billboard going towards I-83 south.”

Other council members chuckled approvingly. “Okay!” “Yeah!” they murmured.

har2
“Drive slowly–my husband is watching you.”

Final thoughts: It’s a three-way tie, folks: 10 out of 10 stars to the citizen commenter, the council president’s husband, and trains. Hooray, trains!