City Council preview

Richmond Civic Center (photo by Ian Stewart)

Richmond Civic Center (photo by Ian Stewart)

At tonight’s meeting the Richmond City Council will consider adding a new fee for the city’s liquor stores, discuss proposing a new tax to help pay for police and fire, and look at ways to collect money from code-violating residents.

When the council was scheduled to consider a new license for cigarette vendors Oct. 19, concerned shop-owners crowded the chambers to speak against the proposal. But the fireworks never happened because the council rescheduled the conversation to a later meeting.

Many of those same faces may resurface tonight, as many liquor stores also sell tobacco products. Council member Jim Rogers introduced the proposal to help finance programs designed to deal with crime and nuisance problems associated with the city.

“The blight on Richmond neighborhoods due to crime, homicides, nuisances and drunkenness near liquor stores has been a hardy perennial for decades,” Rogers said in a council report filed for tonight’s meeting. “The affected neighborhoods, and the city’s general fund, should not have to bear the brunt of problems around liquor stores.”

Rogers said the city has no money to deal with these problems but the council can impose new fees on the liquor stores to pay for these efforts. He said a similar fee in Oakland survived a legal challenge.

Rogers said his proposal will “develop new or increased programs to finally excise this dangerous cancer from our neighborhoods,” regarding the alleged crime surrounding liquor stores.

The fee amount has not been set at this point, but whatever charges are proposed must be equitable to the cost of the as-yet undefined crime-reduction programs under state law.

Council members Maria T. Viramontes and Ludmyrna Lopez are proposing a new tax to help pay operating costs for paramedics, the fire department, and the police. If the council approves the proposal, which would likely be a new property tax, it would still need to be approved by two-thirds of the city’s voters to become law.

The new tax is expected to add between $45 and $50 to a homeowner’s annual property tax bill and will raise between $3.8 and $4.2 million each year, according to the report.

In another attempt to retain more money for the city during this cash-strapped period, Police Chief Chris Magnus will introduce a resolution that will help the city recover outstanding code enforcement fines. The city has created a list of more than 250 violators that would fall under the proposed policy. If the city is able to recoup all the outstanding debt, it would add up to almost $900,000.

But tonight’s meeting isn’t just about finding new way to increase revenue. The council is scheduled to approve spending more than $25,000 on treadmills for the fire department. The proposed purchase will be considered on the council’s consent calendar, which is ordinarily approved without debate or discussion.

The city intends to purchase eight treadmills. The city plans to put one in each fire station and an additional machine in the department’s training center, for around $3,100 each.

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