Saturday, September 22, 2007

Illegal Eviction by Landlord Wilder?

The Richmond City School Board was evicted from City Hall by Mayor Wilder tonight in a "bloodless coup" that represents the further dismantlling of our local democracy. My feeling, in a word, embarrassment.

When the 11 o'clock news broadcast the after-hours abuse of power by our autocratic despot, my first reaction was to feel outraged by the arrogance and audacity of this misguided and possibly illegal action. This maneuver, however repugnant, falls in line with Wilder's other recent power-plays: A witch-hunt via Big Brother style snooping into City computer usage, parlaying the corporate well-fare program that is the CenterStage performing arts center into a corporate vote of no confidence for the elected School Board. These unfortunate distractions are only an escalation of Wilder's steady stream of ego-centric bullying of our local political process since he was elected. Which brings me to my second reaction to tonight's events: The chickens have simply come home to roost. This is what 80% of Richmond's voters asked for when they abdicated their power to an all-powerful Mayor whose charge was to serve as a check on the management of our city. Or was it?

Nonetheless, cynicism aside, Richmond citizens still have the right to vote and they/we should demand that we retain every opportunity to exercise our oversight of City government. When our elected Mayor misconstrues his job as that of a landlord who can arbitrarily evict elected official tenants from City Hall, we need to put him (and Council) in check. Regardless of how you voted in the at-large mayor referendum, I don't believe that this nonsense has anything to do with the job that Wilder was hired to do.

After watching the news coverage and noting Mark Holmberg's open indignation at being kicked out of City Hall, I decided to hop on my bike and pedal down to 9th and Broad and see the spectacle for myself. In Richmond's sleepy downtown, I found roped off streets around City Hall and no one but scads of police standling idle around the building and bunch of busy movers. Among the officers, I spotted Chief of Staff, Major Bukavich, whom I'd met years ago while negotiating a permit for a rally. After some cordial remarks, I told that man that I felt that I was witnessing my democracy being dismantled under cover of darkness, and I asked the him if he thought that perhaps this action was illegal. He shrugged and said that was a matter for the courts to decide. As he walked away, I added, "Well, I guess you just gotta do what the Mayor tells you, huh?" No comment, but he did roll his eyes a bit.

Riding around City Hall a couple more times for posterity, it occurred to me that our police department should know better than to carry out orders that are contrary to the public interest. They should know that they are supposed to "protect and serve" and that they were wasting many tax-payer sponsored man-hours evicting elected officials when there are so many more pressing duties for them to carry out around the city.

So, I'd like to lay some of the blame for this act of political aggression on the armed men and women who carried it out on Wilder's whim. The political power of our elected officials is dependent on the cooperation of other public servants, and that cooperation is NOT mandatory. It is obviously out of fear that so many continually lay down for Wilder (because it's not our Mayor's charm or reason that appeals to Richmond's public employees). It is so frustrating to see our city's political officials and public servants' inability to exercise critical thinking in the interest of the public (as opposed to the general tendency to act out of self-interest). Come to think of it, Richmond's voting public probably resembles that remark as well.

People, feel free to continue this discussion via comments.


  1. I was up there last night. It was surreal. Friday was like a coup attempt, he discredited and displaced elected officials and then took over the military.

    Friday night in Richmond. I'm sure someone needed a cop who was playing doorman for King Douglas.

  2. To quote James Branch Cabell, it all would be side-splitting were it not so heart-breaking.

  3. This mayor is a megalomaniac.

    My question is this: Did anyone protect the confidential files of our city's children while this mini Napoleon embarked on his illegal midnight move?


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