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The cost of protecting Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones

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Flanked by two police officers, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones leads cyclists on a ride to City Hall marking National Bike to Work Day. (PHOTO: Ned Oliver- Style Weekly)

RICHMOND, Va. (Style Weekly) – Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is eating lunch at M Bistro and Wine Bar for the third day in a row. And like the days before, the black, tinted SUV that his full-time security detail uses to drive him across the city is idling in front of the restaurant in a fire lane.

When Jones exits the restaurant with his dining companion on this sunny day in August, the police officer reading in the vehicle hops out and opens the passenger door for the mayor’s guest before taking off.

Jones’ three-person, two-car security detail has been a recurring topic of discussion — usually around City Council’s budget season — since he took office in 2009. While council members were finalizing the fiscal year’s budget in May, the $400,000 expense narrowly avoided being reduced by 25 percent.

The cut was averted after Byron Marshall, the city’s chief administrative officer, proposed shifting $100,000 from a reserve fund used to pay temporary staffers at the city’s 3-1-1 call center.

As City Council begins preparing for the next budget, it’s uncertain what role the detail will play in the debate. Some council members have made it clear that if Jones wants to keep a security team, the police department must do more to justify the expense.

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