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City Council unanimously passes ordinance prohibiting use of handheld communications devices while driving

At the December 9th meeting of Richmond City Council, the body unanimously passed a ban on driving while using a handheld communications device, proposed by Mayor Stoney’s administration.

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At the December 9th meeting of Richmond City Council, the body unanimously passed a ban on driving while using a handheld communications device, proposed by Mayor Stoney’s administration.

Under the ordinance, using a handheld communications device, such as a cellphone, while driving in the City of Richmond is punishable by a $125 fine on the first offense and a $250 fine for each subsequent offense.

“A holistic Vision Zero plan requires engineering, education, and enforcement,” said Mayor Stoney. “Prohibiting the use of a cellphone while driving is necessary to change both ingrained attitudes and dangerous habits.”

The ordinance, which was introduced at the October 14 council meeting and was recently amended, is an attempt to curb traffic fatalities and promote pedestrian safety. Distracted drivers have killed or injured 218 people in the City of Richmond so far this year, according to the Richmond Police Department.

“As we continue to experience population and density growth, improving the travelling safety of Richmond through creative techniques, legislation and education becomes more and more important,” said Police Chief William Smith. “We are thankful for the Mayor’s leadership in supporting Vision Zero legislative proposals.”

“Keeping drivers’ hands on the wheel, and not handling their phones, means their attention is where it should be – on driving safely,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, Director of Bike Walk RVA. “We are excited to see the city pass a commonsense policy that will help save the lives of people using our streets, especially our most vulnerable people walking and biking.”

The ordinance will go into effect six months after passage to allow for an education period, ensuring drivers are aware of the change in traffic law. The language allows for exceptions for public safety personnel and drivers experiencing emergencies.

With the passage of this ordinance, the City of Richmond joins the City of Hampton and Spotsylvania County as the only localities in Virginia to enact laws targeting driving while using a handheld communications device. A proposed statewide ban failed earlier this year in the General Assembly. The legality of the city ordinance is not contingent on the passage of a statewide ban.

“It’s just not acceptable to use a cellphone while driving when we know the dire consequences,” said Mayor Stoney. “With this ban, Richmond sends a clear message: whether you’re texting or not, put down the phone, or there will be consequences. I hope the General Assembly will send the same message this year.”

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General Assembly

Lobby Day 2021 Road Closures and Preparations

It’s a lobby day like no other. Here are the announced road closures.

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From RPD:

The Richmond Police Department is dedicated and committed to ensuring public safety before, during, and after Lobby Day 2021.

The Department is continuing to monitor activity in and around Richmond, as well as working with other law enforcement agencies. Operations and personnel are in place to address public safety needs.

In anticipation of events, signs prohibiting firearms will be placed throughout the city to inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.

Some signs are already up as of Wednesday afternoon.

We encourage the community to stay vigilant. If you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity immediately by calling the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100 or 911 for emergencies.

If you live or work in the area surrounding Capitol Square and downtown, you should expect disruptions to your usual routines. Traffic will be impacted starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday, January 17 until 6 p.m. Monday, January 18.

The following roads will be closed during that time period:

  • 9th Street between E. Main Street and E. Broad Street
  • 10th Street between E. Cary Street and Bank Street
  • East Main Street between 14th Street and 9th Street
  • Bank Street between 14th Street and Governor Street
  • Franklin Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • Franklin Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • 12th Street between Cary Street and Bank Street
  • Monument Avenue between Meadow Street and Lombardy Street
  • Allen Avenue between W. Grace Street and Park Avenue

    *Additional roads may be closed temporarily as needed

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Government

Richmond health districts enter Phase B1 of COVID vaccinations, which includes first responders, teachers, other essential workers

First responders, corrections and homeless shelter workers, and teachers and school staff are among the essential workers eligible for the vaccination under phase 1B.

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The local health districts of the Richmond Metropolitan Area, which includes Chesterfield, Chickahominy, Henrico, and Richmond, will begin expanding their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to include some Phase 1b frontline essential workers on Monday, January 18th.

Specifically, workers in the first three categories of ​Phase 1b​, will now be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines will be administered through a combination of regional mass vaccination events, as well as partnerships with various providers. Vaccination of ​Phase 1a populations​ will continue as the region opens up to Phase 1b.

“We know that the burden of this disease and the underlying social vulnerabilities that put these essential workers at risk do not end at the boundaries of our city and counties,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “It makes the most sense to coordinate our vaccination efforts and make sure all of our communities have access to the best tool we have to end the pandemic.”

The first three categories of Phase 1b frontline essential workers include:

  1. Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff

Individuals in these categories will start to have the opportunity to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at one of three large-scale regional vaccination clinics beginning next week.

“Many school teachers and staff in our jurisdictions have courageously shown up for in-person instruction throughout this pandemic in order to serve their students’ needs and to provide the best education possible. This vaccine offers a shield of protection and a beacon of hope for this group of essential workers,” says Dr. Tom Franck, Director of Chickahominy Health District.

Next week’s COVID-19 vaccination events are taking place in addition to each local health districts’ ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts for qualified individuals. Metro area districts are exploring ways to move deeper into the 1b vaccine eligible group as additional resources become available to distribute vaccine more broadly.

“VDH is continuing to work with pharmacies, hospital systems, and medical practices to establish the infrastructure to more quickly and effectively distribute available resources and vaccinate others who are part of 1b and beyond,” says Dr. Alex Samuel, Director of Chesterfield Health District.

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Crime

City of Richmond declares State of Emergency due to “credible threats” related to planned protests

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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The City of Richmond and Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration has declared a State of Emergency for the city due to what officials call “credible threats” of violence related to planned protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.

The declaration follows Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a statewide State of Emergency, which allowed the administration to send National Guard troops and State Troopers to Washington, D.C. to help with security, logistics, and other immediate needs following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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