Jewell proposes cuts to James River Park budget

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond City Council member is calling for $100,000 dollars to be cut from the James River Park's maintenance budget.

Councilman Marty Jewell is making the push as council comes down to the wire, sorting out the 2012 budget.

Marty Jewell wants to cut 33 percent of the James River Park's budget.  He says it's time to make the tough choices and "parks can wait a year for more money, people can not."

It's been called the jewel of the city and tonight another Jewel -- Marty -- is asking city council to cut the budget for the 550-acre James River Park System.

"Because we got a tight budget and because there are people programs. in my mind that take precedence over parks," Jewell said.

Jewell says the economy is still recovering and many Richmonders still struggling.

"Let's do some trickle up budgeting where you keep those at the bottom of the economic ladder from falling even deeper," he said.

The parks budget is $300,000 a year.  According to the Department of Parks and Recreation and Community Facilities, a 33 percent cut would mean the agency has to layoff six seasonal workers, people who help clear the trails, pick up trash and keep the park's clean.

We caught up with the president of the James River Outdoor Coalition by phone.

Chris Hull argued the park has historically been under funded. He said "Given the number of people visiting each year and its central role to the city, cutting that budget is short-sighted."

But councilman Jewell says cuts to funding are a necessary sign of the times.

"If we're going to put in amendments that add onto the budget. We've got to find areas to cut from the budget," Jewell said.

The debate over what should be added and taken out of the city's budget is getting heated and contentious.

In the middle of NBC12's interview with Jewell, he called for the resignation of Kathy Graziano as city council president.

Jewell cited concerns over the handling of the sexual harassment allegations involving her aide, David Hathcock.

And he also said Graziano's recent budget amendment to add $100,000 to the Commonwealth's Attorney's budget raises eyebrows.

"When she's got a liaison being prosecuted by the Commonwealth's Attorney, who just walked out of court Tuesday with a slap on the wrist. That's not important? I think more important than parks. There's some dog in the cat," he said.

Graziano declined to comment on the advise of her attorney. But Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring had plenty to say. He's furious and calls the allegations ridiculous.

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