Why is Richmond not participating in local government?

Posted at 12:09 AM, May 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-31 00:09:46-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -- Former Richmond City Councilman, Marty Jewell now sits on the other side of the table, after losing his bid for re-election last year.

However, the former leader isn’t keeping quiet, still finding time to voice his concerns to the city’s new leadership. “We've got a mayor who is aloof. We've got a council that's discombobulated,” says Jewell.

Jewell tells CBS 6’s Lorenzo Hall that in addition, he’s concerned because the public is not active or informed, even though a lot of people gripe about the city.

We spoke with many people who say they don’t have time, calling the decision-making process at City Hall, too complex.

“To adopt personnel rules for the classified service for the classified employees of the city as amended. Do you know what that means? I don't know what that means,” says Richmond resident, Chris Dorsey.

Dorsey is one of two people who voiced opposition to the city's final budget before it was passed, which included controversial items like the mayor's $400,000 security detail, an increased rate at parking meters and less money for schools.

The lack of attendance by city residents prompted this response from councilwoman Reva Trammell, “Don’t come to our district meetings screaming and hollering, how did you all do this? Where are you all tonight? That's what I’d like to know.“

Government watchdog Paul Goldman says the problem with little public engagement is politicians forget who they're serving, making their job one that's based on their own self-interests.

“One of the difficulties when you give politicians a lot of perks and privileges is, they get used to it and become separated from the average person,” says Goldman.

He says Richmond’s leadership is nearing a point where they can pass almost anything without resistance from the public because few people are watching, but Jewell says, his new role is to make sure that doesn't happen.

“Unless society is part of the equation and not pushed away, then we can't fix it. So, stay tuned. We'll have to bully our way through,” says Jewell.