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Posted by Jessee Perry

Mayoral Candidate Jack Berry and former City Manager Robert Bobb.

Mayoral Candidate Jack Berry and former City Manager Robert Bobb.

Background links:

What About Bobb? - Style Weekly 2012

Robert Bobb -Alchetron

Read this from the Richmond Times Dispatch in 1987: 

Chuck Epes- News leader and staff writer
Published: January 14, 1987

If money talks, City Manager Robert C. Bobb's proposed capital improvement budget says "no" to Richmond schools.

The Richmond School Board asked the city for $6.9 million in 1987-88 to renovate and improve school buildings.

The $74.4 million capital plan Bobb unveiled to the Richmond Planning Commission yesterday gives schools only $1.4 million. That dissapoints and frustrates school officials, especially Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones, who said today she resents the "paternalistic attitude" she feels the city manager has taken toward schools.

Dr. Harrison-Jones acknowledged that Bobb must deal with the entire city, and said she has no argument with his priority on economic development.

But "you can't make a city economically viable without a strong education program," she said today. "The low priority of education seems to be inconsistent with the direction he is taking. . . . I see (the capital budget) as a serious deterrent to his achieving his goal."

In announcing the plan, Bobb said that to finance the schools' entire request would have taken fully a third of the total capital money available from the city's general fund.

He placed the emphasis elsewhere -- a $4 million floodwall, a $2.5 million electric street car line for downtown, and a $3.2 million "gateway" visitors center between Third and Fifth streets.

Such projects are keys to Bobb's top priority: economic development to increase the city's tax base. Yesterday, for example, he called the floodwall "our cash register for the future."

Bobb admitted such projects, especially the floodwall, forced him "to scale back the entire five-year capital improvement program for every other project category. I believe the sacrifice is worth it, however, given the potential gain . . .."

And he noted that over the next five years, schools are budgeted to receive $16.5 million for buildings and renovations. Still, that is nowhere near the $51.4 million the school board had sought through 1992.

Bobb and city Budget Director Jack Berry said they gave priority to school projects already started, those ready to go and those with the smallest price tag.

Included for next year is $735,000 for completing renovations at John B. Cary Elementary School, $280,500 for renovations at Henderson Middle School, and nearly $161,000 to eliminate various safety and mechanical deficiencies.

Bobb also included $100,000 to improve high school athletic facilities. The school board had asked for $1.3 million next year, but the city manager said that amount must be phased in over three years. Gone completely was another $3.9 million schools wanted by 1992 for high schools.

Also eliminated from the school request were two air conditioning projects that would have cost $1.1 million next year and $14.8 million over the next five years.

The school system has been trying for years to get more buildings air conditioned so growing summer school remedial classes can be held more comfortably. "Many of our buildings are nearly uninhabitable in the summer," Dr. Harrison-Jones said.

Bobb's budget also postponed for later years $522,000 in plans for energy conservation, a $775,000 plan to renovate Broad Rock Elementary and $1.8 million in renovations at Albert Hill Middle School where Richmond Mayor Roy A. West is principal.

"Only we can re-order our priorities" properly, Dr. Harrison-Jones said about projects that were postponed or cut. She said she is distressed about the process and the lack of communication with the manager's office. She would have liked to have had the opportunity to help in the decisions ultimately made, she said.

"I want us to work together. This could have been avoided if we had communicated. Now that's behind us."

"We had maximum communication leading up to this," the superintendent said later at an 11 a.m. news conference today.

"I guess you could say it was one-way communication. We provided information to make sure there was full understanding of our needs," she said.

The school board's capital request also included an $8.4 million plan for two new elementary schools by 1991.

However, Bobb proposed spending $50,000 next year in a joint city-school study of the needs and possible sites for new schools. He said joint planning would eliminate any possible conflicts between city development plans and school needs. His five-year plan included no new construction money.

Dr. Harrison-Jones called a new-school study "offensive." Her staff already has documented the need for new schools and given that information to the manager. Another study is a waste of money, she said.

"This is like the age-old way of dealing with school issues, a delaying tactic," she said.

And she sees ominous signs for her proposed $152 million operating budget. "Is this a preview of what's coming?" she asked of Bobb's treatment of school requests.

The planning commission will begin reviewing Bobb's capital budget proposal in the next few weeks, then send it to City Council in March for consideration and final adoption