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Lawmaker spends a day working as baggage handler, barista

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Downtown

Mayor Stoney Appoints New Police Chief

Gerald Smith, Deputy Police Chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is the new Richmond Police Chief.

RVAHub Staff

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Interim Police Chief William “Jody” Blackwell announced on Friday that he was stepping down as Interim Police Chief. Blackwell’s brief term of 10 days was marked by violent actions towards peaceful protestors and extensive use of teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other non-lethal methods.

In a move that surprised everyone Mayor Stoney the same day announced that he was appointing Gerald Smith, Deputy Police Chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, as the department’s new chief. In his prior position as Deputy Police Chief, Smith oversaw criminal investigations including domestic violence, crimes against children, sexual assault, and homicide.

“Deputy Chief Gerald Smith is who Richmond needs right now – a reform-minded leader with deep experience in community policing and de-escalation,” said Mayor Stoney. (Full Press Release Here)

The Charlottesville-Mecklenburg police department currently faces legal action over its use of “riot control” agents during a peaceful June 2 rally.

Meanwhile the very next day. This ad runs in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The lack of any community involvement in the hiring decision hasn’t sat well with many citizens.

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Downtown

Legislature delays minimum wage increase amid budget concerns

The identical bills, introduced by Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, originally would have raised the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2021. The governor’s amendment pushes the start to May 1, 2021.

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By Will Gonzalez

Labor advocates and Virginia legislators worried the recently passed bill to increase minimum wage might die during the reconvened General Assembly session Wednesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendment deferred the start date of the original bill by four months in response to the economic blow dealt to the state from the coronavirus pandemic. The recommendation was one of many made to trim the $135 billion, two-year budget passed in the spring. Republican lawmakers wanted to reject the amendment in order to stall the passage of the bill and have the governor amend it further.

During the relocated Senate floor session held at the Science Museum of Virginia, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, argued that now is a risky time to consider raising the minimum wage given the COVID-19 crisis. He said the legislature should reject the governor’s recommendation and send the bill back for reconsideration.

“Voting ‘no’ on this amendment keeps this issue alive,” Obenshain said. “It sends it back to the governor, and the governor has one more chance to do what’s right, not just for businesses, but for workers.”

Lawmakers who oppose minimum wage increases argued that those working minimum wage jobs in Virginia are young people entering the workforce, not people trying to support families. Other legislators pointed to the essential workers now serving the public from the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, many of whom make minimum wage.

“Quite frankly I find it hard to believe we’ve got people in here who don’t think somebody working full time in any job should earn at least $19,600 a year,” said Senate majority leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “There’s no one in here … that would work for that kind of wage. No one.”

There were impassioned pleas from several House members to accept the recommendation instead of risking the bill being vetoed, though one delegate voiced resentment at having to make the choice. Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, said the COVID-19 crisis has spotlit “one of the most glaring contradictions in our economy” — that workers paid the least are often deemed most essential to society.

“We are saying to these people ‘you are not worth a pay raise come January,’” Carter said. “I’m not gonna fault anyone that votes ‘yes’ on this, for taking the sure thing four months later rather than taking the chance, but if that’s what we’re gonna do … I can’t be any part of it.” Carter did not cast a vote on the amendment.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, said that some legislators’ notion that families don’t depend on minimum wage is a myth.

“I’m glad they acknowledge that there are people in Virginia who cannot live off minimum wage,” Guzman said. “Actually, what they do is they get a second job, or a third job in order to make ends meet.” Guzman immigrated to the U.S. from Peru at the age of 18 and worked three jobs to afford a one bedroom apartment.

The House of Delegates voted 49-45 to accept Northam’s amendment to their bill. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax made the tie-breaking Senate vote when its version ended in a 20-20 tie.

The identical bills, introduced by Sen. Saslaw and Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, originally would have raised the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2021. The governor’s amendment pushes the start to May 1, 2021.

The wage will then increase to $11 in 2022, $12 in 2023 and by another $1.50 in 2025 and 2026. Every subsequent year the bill is to be re-amended to adjust the minimum wage to reflect the consumer price index.

Virginia’s cost of living index is very close to the national average, but it ranks in the top four among states where the minimum wage equals the federal rate of $7.25, according to an analysis of data from the Missouri Economic Research and Development Center.

Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, said now is not the time for Virginia to turn its back on low wage workers.

“We have been fighting for a decade to push for people who are working hard to make ends meet, to support their families and to be able to do so with dignity,” Scholl said. “That’s what raising the minimum wage is about.”

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Downtown

Editorial: Misguided Rally Taking Place on Wednesday

“Federal and Commonwealth officials are recommending at least a 14 day period of declines in positive tests before baby steps are taken to re-open businesses. It’s the height of selfishness not to follow this basic benchmark. One person’s desire for a haircut shouldn’t cost someone else’s life.”

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On Wednesday a group plans to exercise their Freedom of Speech rights to protest the current Federal and Commonwealth guidelines in the fight against COVID-19. Protesters will be driving around the Capitol grounds, honking their horns in an effort to pressure Governor (a medical doctor) Northam to lift the mandatory business closures that are in place. The rally coincides with the Legislature’s one day Veto session.

This rally is being promoted by Senator (not a medical doctor) Amanda Chase who just happens to be running for Governor.

The rally has provided talking points for the protestors if contacted by the media. Simple logic, which is not likely to be found at the rally, shows how this event is misguided and, frankly, dangerous.

  1. “Government Coronavirus projections have proven markedly inaccurate, as evidenced by them being continually revised downward” – Projections are a fickle beast. They’re never going to be perfect. These projections were also impacted by the shut-down and social distancing efforts.
  2. “Even at the Coronavirus peak, in such hot spots as New York City, the predicted hospital bed and ventilator shortages did not materialize, and hospitals remained well below capacity.” – This is a good thing and shows that efforts taken can and will work. There are several analogies bouncing around the internet, my favorite is, “The parachute is slowing my descent, I can take it off now.” Let’s wait until we land before we cut the cord, shall we?
  3. “Due to the Governor’s orders, hospitals are not allowed to perform ‘non-essential’ procedures. Patients needing cancer surgery, joint replacement, and other vital hospital services are unable to receive them.” – This is true. However, if we get another spike from – I don’t know – gatherings of people protesting gatherings and business closures will stretch on even longer.
  4. “ALL jobs are essential. The costs of the Governor’s economic shutdown far outweigh the short-term Coronavirus benefits, in the Commonwealth.” – Yes, all jobs are essential. But having your customer base or employees continually getting sick or dying will not be beneficial for anyone’s bottom line.

As of this morning, 300 people have died in the state of Virginia as a result of COVID-19. People are dying at an unprecedented rate. As of this morning 41,114 deaths in the United States and 165,939 worldwide. The United States is leading the world in deaths by this disease.

The good news is that today was the third day in a row the number of people testing positive has declined, but even that comes with a caveat. The number of those tested reached 56,735. Without more extensive testing we have no way of knowing how many asymptomatic folks are in the community. This is not the time to relax our guard. This fight isn’t over and we certainly haven’t won. Federal and Commonwealth officials are recommending at least a 14 day period of declines in positive tests before baby steps are taken to re-open businesses. It’s the height of selfishness not to follow this basic benchmark. One person’s desire for a haircut shouldn’t cost someone else’s life.

There is no denying the economic and psychological cost is immense, but we can and will get through this if rational minds prevail.

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