News Briefs

Local and VCU

Richmond plans upgrades for faster snow removal

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said Tuesday that the city would respond to future snowstorms by mobilizing sooner and dispatching more equipment and workers.

After criticism of the cleanup from last weekend’s storm, and with the possibility of more winter weather this weekend, Jones said the city’s efforts have been hampered by on-street parking, as well as the previous administration’s decision to sell 36 dump and pickup trucks. As a result, officials said, the time to finish a snow route has doubled, from 45 minutes to at least 90 minutes.

In 2007, then-Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s administration touted its sale of 500 vehicles from its fleet of about 2,700 as a way to save substantial amounts on maintenance and fuel.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Velvet club owner charged with threatening officer

Samuel J.T. Moore III is in more legal trouble as he awaits the fate of a state panel’s ruling that could determine the future of his Richmond strip club.

Moore was arrested and arraigned last week on a charge of threatening a law-enforcement officer. A Richmond General District Court judge released Moore on bail and set a March 11 trial date for the Class I misdemeanor.

Defense attorney Michael Morchower confirmed that Moore appeared in court last week on a charge related to a telephone conversation with a police officer. The conversation was about a dispute involving employees at Velvet, Moore’s Shockoe Bottom strip club.

Richmond police would not confirm the arrest or comment on the incident, which occurred Jan. 12, according to court records.

If convicted of the threatening charge, Moore faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Proposed cut to Spanish immersion program draws comments

A proposed cut to a Spanish immersion program drew a number of comments from concerned parents Tuesday night during the Richmond School Board’s budget public hearing.

School officials say cutting the program would save the division $203,000 and help close a funding deficit of $17.8 million heading into the 2010-11 school year.

The current budget is $259 million. The proposed budget for 2010-11 is $245 million and reflects a loss of $14 million in state and local revenue, plus nearly $3.8 million in higher costs for insurance and retirement plans.

The board is scheduled to approve the proposed budget Feb. 16.

The immersion program is offered in kindergarten and first grade at William Fox and Southampton elementary schools. It teaches core subjects in Spanish rather than English.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

National and International

University fundraising falls 12 percent in 2009

Charitable contributions to colleges and universities plummeted an average 11.9 percent nationwide in 2009, the steepest drop in at least three decades, according to a new report.

Individual giving dropped in both dollars and participation numbers. Gifts for endowments and new buildings saw the biggest decreases, according to the Council for Aid to Education, which released its 2009 fiscal report on Wednesday.

Donation declines piled on top of endowment drops averaging 22 percent, plus state budget cuts for public colleges.

“We knew that this was going to be a bad year,” said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, who noted that 2009 was a bad year for both the institutions and the donors who support them. “Nothing that came out of the numbers surprised me very much.”

One area of giving that did not decline as much was gifts from organizations, including corporations, foundations, religious organizations and other nonprofits.

Brief by The Associated Press

Politicians cool on public campaign financing

Backers of public financing for congressional elections are making a new push, triggered by a Supreme Court decision that lets corporations spend unlimited money on politics. Two top Democrats in Congress back the idea but members of Congress prefer the current system because it favors incumbents.

Public-financing proposals have been kicking around Washington for years.

When the Supreme Court ruled Jan. 21 that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of their treasury money on election ads, public financing advocates saw an opportunity.

Without public financing, they say, members of Congress will look to lobbyists and special interests for money to counter corporate attack ads. They might also be inclined to cave in to corporations’ legislative wishes rather than risk a barrage of negative election ads.

Brief by The Associated Press

Frustration growing at Haiti aid bottlenecks

The aid flooding into Haiti by plane and boat is not reaching earthquake victims quickly enough to stem growing unrest because of transportation bottlenecks and isolated violence.

Many foreign aid workers and Haitians say donations are arriving, but express frustration at the slow pace of distribution of food and medicine.

U.S. air traffic controllers have lined up an astonishing 2,550 incoming flights through March 1, but some 25 flights a day aren’t taking their slots. Communication breakdowns between Haitians and their foreign counterparts are endemic.

Haitians complain that corrupt officials have started to manipulate some of the aid that does reach the streets.

Brief by The Associated Press

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