by Chris Dovi

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)

January 4, 2002

Ladies and gentlemen, please hold your applause.

Richmond, along with neighboring Henrico County, has been awarded a “Dirty Dozen” award by Noise Free America, a California-based political action group, “for tolerating and encouraging extreme levels of noise.”

The award celebrates Richmond’s “epidemic of boom cars, loud exhaust systems, and loud pipes,” said Ted Rueter, the organization’s executive director. Richmond, he said, is “the headquarters of Circuit City. NASCAR races are everywhere. It’s a miracle that anyone in Richmond gets any sleep.”

City leaders said they hadn’t heard about the award until they were contacted by The Times-Dispatch.

Michele Quander-Collins, public information manager for the city, said the noise award was greeted by something of a silence in City Manager Calvin Jamison’s office.

“He’s less concerned with lists from people like this and more concerned with the quality of life of people in the community,” Quander-Collins said of Jamison. She said that despite the accusations to the contrary made in Noise Free’s news release, Richmond does care about noise complaints.

In fact, she said, the city recently amended its noise ordinance to include noise from car stereos. Infractions carry a maximum $50 fine – about the cost of a used subwoofer.

Noise Free was founded last summer by Rueter, a former political science professor at University of California Los Angeles. The organization began handing out the dubious “Dirty Dozen” distinction in November.

Each month a new offender is highlighted, Rueter said, noting plans to branch out to corporations beginning next month.

“In February it will be Burger King and in April [Richmond-based] Circuit City is up for the award,” he said. “You’re a three-time winner!”

A three-time winner because Burger King’s winning performance occurred right here in River City.

Steven Schrass, whose family lives on Sunnybrook Road at its intersection with Broad Street, has been asking his neighbor – Burger King – to please turn down its drive-through loudspeaker for about the last 10 years. The restaurant, as previously reported by The Times-Dispatch, has so far turned a deaf ear.

So have Henrico County officials to whom Schrass has turned. Acting on the advice of Commonwealth’s Attorney Wade Kizer, Schrass attempted to swear out a warrant against the restaurant.

Kizer, in a letter, said the complaint could very well be valid and assured Schrass that “if the business you refer to in your letter is in violation of [the county’s] ordinance, we will certainly prosecute the case diligently.”

But when Schrass pursued the matter, “[the magistrate] was just kind of irritated that I bothered to bring up something unimportant to him,” Schrass said.

“Noise is a silent killer,” Rueter said. He cited strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure and hearing loss all as having among their potential causes loud, nuisance noises.

Despite the evidence, Rueter said, “Richmond officials have turned a deaf ear to the hazards of noise pollution.”