News Briefs

Local and VCU

VCU to build parking decks on W. Grace St.

VCU plans to build two parking decks on West Grace Street just east of Belvidere Street.

The five-level decks with a total of 750 parking spaces are expected to be completed by the summer of 2011 at a cost of $15 million, said Brian J. Ohlinger, associate vice president for facilities management.

Next week, the board of visitors will be asked to approve a contract for the design and construction of the first deck, which will have 400 spaces and be built on property VCU owns in the 400 block of West Grace, he said.

VCU recently purchased the property at 514 and 516 W. Grace St. for $644,500 from the Daily Planet Inc. for the second deck. Property acquisition continues for that deck, Ohlinger said.

The decks will extend to the alley that runs between Grace and Broad streets and be constructed on property now used for surface parking, he said.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Program for at-risk students earns accreditation

Communities In Schools of Richmond is the first affiliate among 3,200 nationwide to receive accreditation for its data-management system for student performance.

Communities In Schools is a dropout-prevention program that provides resources to public schools for at-risk students.

Wendy Hosick, the director of external affairs for Communities In Schools of Virginia, said that includes everything from mentoring and counseling to helping students find alternative housing.

The accreditation means that Richmond’s organization is not only providing the interventions within the schools but also monitoring what they’ve done to make sure it’s having a positive impact on students’ lives, said the Richmond affiliate’s executive director, Harold Fitrer. The organization tracks students’ grades, attendance and discipline records. It is currently working in 26 Richmond schools.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

5 street evangelists sue Richmond over free-speech rights

Five street evangelists have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Richmond, claiming their civil rights were violated by police officers enforcing the city’s noise and trespassing ordinances.

The suit, filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, says the plaintiffs were confronted by police six times since 2008, including twice when they were preaching and distributing religious literature at the Christmas parade on Broad Street.

The suit comes as the Richmond City Council is scheduled to adopt a new noise ordinance Monday.

Councilman Charles R. Samuels, a patron of the proposed ordinance, said last week that the current law must be replaced because it uses subjective and vague language that was declared unconstitutional through a lawsuit out of Virginia Beach. He said he doesn’t foresee problems with the new language.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

National and International

Toyota plans response to brake problem

Toyota said Sunday that it will soon announce plans to deal with braking problems in its prized Prius hybrid amid reports it has decided to issue a recall for the latest model in Japan.

Toyota Motor Corp. has already had to recall more than 7 million other cars in the U.S., Europe and China over a sticky accelerator and floor mats that can get caught in the gas pedal.

The company has told dealers in the United States it is preparing to repair the brakes on thousands of Prius vehicles there, according to an e-mail sent by a company executive. It was unclear whether Toyota planned a formal U.S. recall.

Brief by The Associated Press

Haitian lawyer for US missionaries fired over alleged bribe plan

The Haitian lawyer for 10 U.S. Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries’ way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said Saturday night.

The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans’ families was his fee.

Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighboring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 American missionaries after their arrest last week, told The Associated Press that he fired Coq on Friday night. He had hired Coq to represent the detainees at Haitian legal proceedings.

Coq denied the requested $60,000 payment amounted to a bribe.

Brief by The Associated Press

G-7 finance officials stress unity to repair global economy

Top international finance officials renewed their commitments to keep spending to support a global rebound while playing down differences over new U.S. approaches on bank reform.

Finance ministers and central bank presidents of the Group of Seven major industrial economies normally seek to strike a united front at their meetings to avoid upsetting financial markets.

But that imperative seemed even more urgent at their two days of talks Friday and Saturday given the bad week experienced by global markets, which were thrown into a tailspin by new worries over rising debt levels in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The G-7 officials struck a united front at their closing news conference, announcing an agreement to push the international lending agencies to grant new debt relief for earthquake-ravaged Haiti and expressing broad consensus on the need to continue spending to support a tentative economic rebound.

Brief by The Associated Press

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