The James River Park Master Plan is the result of a thorough public comment period with guidance pulled directly from over 2,000 surveys and 10 public meetings held at every voting district in the City of Richmond which began in January.
Last Wednesday the plan was released. The plan is an 80-page document created by land development group VHB and landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates through funding from Friends of the James River Park.
James River Park covers over 600 acres and as you’d expect the needs for various areas are quite varied.
Though the plan has more than 50 recommendations, it will be constrained by budgetary availability. Therefore, the plan recommends six focus areas where funding can be immediately directed and will be asking survey respondents to choose their priorities.
Kirt Rieder of Hargreaves presented those focus areas — expanding transportation access, creating greenways at Pump House and Reedy Creek, creating a Pony Pasture Education Center, refurbishing the Reedy Creek Welcome Center and rehabilitating Pump House Park.
As you’d expect from an 80 page document there is a lot of information to take in. The document is well laid out and you can easily find the parts that most important to you. The Master Plan is not set in stone and changes are expected as projects are implemented. Those changes are dependant on input from the users of the park which is collected from a survey.
Find the Master Plan AND the Survey here: https://jamesriverpark.org/draftmasterplan/
ReRunner Clothing Drive at Quirk
A chance to help others and declutter your closet all this week at Quirk.
The good folks at Quirk Hotel (201 W Broad Street) are hosting a clothing drive this week.
From Jan. 20-26, people can drop off their gently used clothing and shoes to the Quirk hotel lobby, and they will get 10% discount at Maple & Pine and ReRunner. As an added bonus tonight Wednesday, January 22nd, from 4-6 pm there will be a Happy Hour at Quirk for people to drop off clothes, mingle and a portion of drinks will go to benefit Goodwill.
Bill to strike Lee-Jackson Day, make Election Day state holiday advances in General Assembly
Virginia lawmakers have advanced Senate bills that make voting easier, including not requiring an excuse to vote absentee and recognizing Election Day as a state holiday.
By Zach Armstrong
Virginia lawmakers have advanced Senate bills that make voting easier, including not requiring an excuse to vote absentee and recognizing Election Day as a state holiday. Other legislation that would extend citizen access to voting — part of the 11-point “Virginia 2020 plan” put forward by Gov. Northam — has yet to clear committees.
Senate Bill 601 designates Election Day as a state holiday to give more citizens the chance to cast their ballot. The bill also would strike from current law Lee-Jackson Day, which celebrates the birthdays of Confederate generals. The legislation, introduced by Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, passed the Senate Tuesday.
“Even on Election Day, people have to go to work, people have to handle childcare, people have to go to class and often it can be hard to make it to the polls,” said Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Herndon. “It just makes sense that those folks should be given the opportunity to come out and vote in a time window that works for them.”
A bill that removes the need for an excuse to cast an absentee ballot passed the Senate Monday. SB 111, introduced by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, permits any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he is qualified to vote.
Several other bills that facilitate ease of absentee voting are SB 46, removing the requirement that a person applying for an absentee ballot provide a reason to receive the ballot; SB 455, extending the deadline when military and overseas absentee ballots can be received; SB 617, authorizing localities to create voter satellite offices to support absentee voting; and SB 859, making absentee voting easier for people who have been hospitalized.
Legislation in the House includes a bill that would also allow for no excuse absentee voting, automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration. In the Senate, a bill would pre-register teens 16 years old and older to vote and one bill in the House would reduce the period of time registration records must be closed before an election. All House bills are in an Elections subcommittee.
“Restrictive voting provisions almost always disproportionately affects people of color and low-income individuals because those are the groups that move more frequently, work multiple jobs and have less spare time,” said Jenny Glass, director of advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
The House and Senate also introduced bills that would remove requirements that voters present a photo ID when voting. Under the legislation, voters can show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows the name and address of the voter. Neither bill has made it past committee.
Virginians currently must present a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a U.S. passport, to vote in person. According to a 2012 study by Project Vote, an organization that works to ensure all Americans can vote, approximately 7% of the U.S. population lacks photo ID. This is especially true of lower-income individuals, those under the age of 20 and ethnic minorities.
Voters can provide their social security number and other information to get a free Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card, but some legislators said that service is unknown to many.
“Before the photo ID requirement voters had to sign the affidavit to say they are who they say they are, and I think that was enough,” said House Majority Leader Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “I feel the photo ID was a way to suppress the vote because not everyone has one.”
Former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed SB 1256 into law mandating voters have a form of ID with a photograph. Virginia is one of the 18 states with such voting requirements, according to the National Conference of Legislature.
In 2016, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ID requirement after attorneys for the state Democratic Party challenged the law, arguing it had a disproportionate impact on low income and minority voters.
“People are fed up with our overly restrictive and racist voting policies, and the legislature is finally getting rid of some of the biggest roadblocks to progressive reform,” said Glass. “This has been a long time coming.”
Republican-backed gun bills fizzle on heels of massive rally
Democrats halted a slew of Republican-backed gun legislation — including bills that would not require concealed carry permits, allow firearms in places of worship, and allow state employees to bring concealed guns to work — during a firearms subcommittee meeting held Tuesday.
By Hannah Eason
Democrats halted a slew of Republican-backed gun legislation Tuesday, including bills that would not require concealed carry permits, allow firearms in places of worship, and enable state employees to bring concealed guns to work.
One day after 22,000 gun rights advocates flooded the State Capitol in support of Second Amendment rights, 11 gun bills failed to advance out of a Democratic-majority legislative subcommittee.
House Bill 162 would have allowed those injured in established gun free zones to file a civil claim for damages. The bill states that if a locality or the commonwealth creates a gun free zone, it also waives its sovereign immunity in relation to injuries in that zone. Sovereign immunity protects government entities and employees against certain lawsuits.
Jason Nixon addressed the panel of delegates in support of the bill while wearing a Virginia Beach Strong T-shirt. His wife, Katherine Nixon, was killed in the May mass shooting in a Virginia Beach municipal building that left 12 dead and four injured.
“If you tell my wife that she has to go into gun free zones under city policies or state policies, and you can’t protect her, and you harbor her right of protecting herself, is that fair?” Nixon said.
Nixon said his wife expressed safety concerns the night before the shooting — and contemplated bringing a gun in her purse — but decided against it to comply with the law.
“This bill probably should be called the ‘put your money where your mouth is,’” Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, said. “If you are in a gun free zone, you should be able to hold the local government accountable for preventing you from doing anything in self defense.”
HB 161, sponsored by McGuire, would have changed the law to not require a permit for a concealed handgun.
Louisa county resident Myria Rolan supported the bill, saying she had to obtain a concealed carry permits because winter clothing often covers her firearm.
“But the reason I needed it isn’t because I was going to do anything crazy. It’s because I wear a coat or sweatshirt,” Rolan said. “Do you know how easy it is for current clothing to cover your firearm, and now you’re committing a crime just because you are being fashionable or warm?”
Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, sponsored HB 596, which would repeal the law banning dangerous weapons in a place of worship. It was tabled in a 5-3 vote.
Steve Birnbaum, the head of a volunteer security team at his local synagogue, said he supports the bill.
Birnbaum said it took law enforcement 10 minutes to respond during the mass attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He said churches should have the option to protect themselves before officers arrive.
“There are some synagogues that don’t even want paid security, because they don’t like firearms, they don’t always want off-duty officers, they don’t want to pay for security, and that’s their choice,” Birnbaum said. “But there are synagogues that understand that law enforcement are not coming, and that they’re on their own for 10 minutes, if not longer, especially in rural parts of the state.”
One attendee said that church and state were separate, and legislators shouldn’t control whether people bring guns in churches. Current law allows armed security guards in places of worship.
HB 669, patroned by Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, would have allowed state employees with a valid concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun to their workplace.
Other bills tabled Tuesday include :
HB 1470 would have allowed a landowner with property in multiple localities to extend the firearm ordinance of the country where the largest parcel was located to anyone hunting on site.
HB 1471 would have given property owners the ability to use HB 1470 in their legal defense.
HB 1175 would have increased the penalty for use or display of a firearm while committing certain felonies. It would raise the mandatory minimum sentence for first offenses from three years to five years, and second and subsequent offenses from five years to 10 years.
HB 1485 said that no locality shall adopt or enforce any workplace rule preventing an employee from carrying a concealed handgun if the employee has a valid concealed handgun permit.
HB 976, patroned by Del. Matthew Fariss, R-Campbell, was not heard today and will be consulted by the subcommittee at a later date.