The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Cesspool of Corruption and Inefficiency"

...City of Richmond.

So says former Governor and current Mayor L. Douglas Wilder of Capitol City.

Sometimes controversial Mayor right on target on issues of restoring integrity in city hall!

I really don’t like to cover the political scene in Richmond. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, there are a lot of really good blogs out there that do a great job in giving the people of the region an unvarnished perspective on the ways of Richmond City government and the Richmond area politics.

Secondly, and most importantly, it is almost too easy to criticize and to make fun of the bad behavior of public officials in the Richmond area.

There are just too many cases of official goofiness, misbehavior, dumb ideas, bad ethics and out-right criminal activity.

To cover all this nonsense properly, I would have to quit my day job and probably hire some extra staff do the leg work, research and writing.

What is the fun in that?

So, I will leave it mostly in the hands of those many capable bloggers out there who do such a wonderful job.

Be that as it may, I was struck by a feature article in the Saturday edition of The Richmond Times Dispatch entitled “2 charged in theft of funds from city.”

At first glance, one would think that these front page headlines are likely to cause little stir in the Richmond City Hall. After years and years of one incredibly embarrassing scandal after another, what possibly could the indictment of two more City of Richmond officials ((one former and one current) do to raise the collective consciousness of the general public in demanding better oversight of city governmental functions?

Remember former Councilman Chuck Richardson, convicted for the distribution of heroin, contempt, and refusal to identify his suppliers, and sent to prison?

Remember, former Mayor Leonidas Young, convicted of fraud, obstruction and tax evasion, and sent to prison in 1999?

Remember, former Councilwoman Gwen Hedgepeth who was convicted for bribery. After she secretly recorded taking cash from a real estate developer and landlord for her vote in selecting a new mayor?

Councilwoman Hedgepeth was also implicated in the case of Robert Evans who ripped off the City and its taxpayers for an estimated $800,000, by cooking the books on council payment requests under the so called “Paygo” system.

It is perhaps interesting that both former Mayor Young and Councilwoman Hedgepeth were practicing members of the clergy.

There are other examples in recent years. I just can not remember them all.

The most recent indictments would no doubt pass with little notice given the history of corruption in the City of Richmond.

However, one thing makes this recent announcement of indictments noteworthy, in my view.

That one thing is Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

When contacted about these indictments of city employees, Mayor Wilder stated: “Our administration has pledged to seek out and eliminate the cesspool of corruption and inefficiency that has characterized the Richmond government for too long.” He continued by saying “This examination of local government will be ongoing.”

No, excuses… No “weasel words”… No evasive “no comment”… dodge. No passing the buck to somebody else.

The man sounds like he is seriously disgusted with the situation and is going to do something about it!

Say what you will about the man, but you have got to respect Mayor Wilder’s colorful, direct and decisive words on this problem.

He may not be perfect. He certainly has his critics. And a few words alone will not make all well overnight.

But on this matter, he made an immediate decision to directly engage the issue and to give the citizens a sense of confidence that somebody cares and may actually do something.

Time will tell.

This is what citizens, taxpayers and voters want to see in political leadership when confronted with real problems.

Unfortunately, this is all too rare. Too often, this is not what the citizens get in their political leadership.

Too often political leadership, when confronted with problems of misconduct or ethical digressions within their administrations, react in “knee-jerk” fashion and leap to defensive positions, digging in, hiding and evading any effort to address the real problems.

Why would any political leader do this? Assuming that they have nothing to hide themselves, why would they want to duck and run?

All this accomplishes is to undermine public trust even further.

Inefficiency and corruption is not limited to only the City of Richmond as readers of the Iconoclast may have noticed over just the past year. There is no local government in Virginia that can say unequivocally that there is no room for improvement in efficiency and accountability. Just go back and look at the Iconoclast archives if you don't believe it.

Some local governments have a long way to go before the political leadership can say with a straight face that their administrations are efficient and accountable to the citizens.

Many current and aspiring local government political leaders can learn something from the Honorable Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

It is called leadership.

Real leadership does not run and hide from problems.

Real leadership is always trying to make things better.

There is no shame for those who try and fail. Only time will tell if Mayor Wilder is successful in cleaning up the "cesspool of corruption and inefficiency" in Richmond city government.

On the other hand, there is nothing but shame for those who see the problems and choose to do nothing about them.


  • At 7/19/2006 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The alleged charges againts the two Richmond City officials seem to be politically motivated. Nonsense I tell you!


    The Reverend Joe Chambers
    Chairman Buckingham County Board of Supervisors

  • At 7/19/2006 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't always agree with the Mayor, but on this it is good that he is sending the right message that unethical behavior is no longer tolerated in City Hall. Lets hope that these forceful words are followed by agressive enforcement. Otherwise, they are just more words that mean nothing.

  • At 7/27/2006 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For too long, Richmond has operated under an unspoken code of "see no evil" and "turn a blind eye" to bad conduct. See what we got for it? Wilder is not going to make many friends but he is going to have to crack a few heads to make any progress.


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