Tuesday night’s mayoral forum turns from debate on education and transportation, to targeting Mayor Jones

by | Jun 10, 2016 | POLITICS

Eleven mayoral candidates met at Richmond Community High School Tuesday night to discuss their visions for the Northside and the city as a whole. The forum, organized by the Brookland Park Area Association, featured all the presumptive front-runners as well as lesser-known candidates trying to introduce themselves to voters.

Eleven mayoral candidates met at Richmond Community High School Tuesday night to discuss their visions for the Northside and the city as a whole. The forum, organized by the Brookland Park Area Association, featured all the presumptive front-runners as well as lesser-known candidates trying to introduce themselves to voters.

The mayoral forum, which followed a similar forum of city council and school board candidates for the third and sixth districts, was billed as a discussion on the future of the city’s Northside, but quickly turned to the race’s biggest themes; schools, transportation and Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

The candidates targeted Jones all night for his budget priorities and the perceived cronyism at City Hall.

“Our priority is misplaced,” said former State Delegate Joe Morrissey. “We considered spending $50 million on a ballpark in The Bottom. We spent $33 million on a brewery, $50 million on a bike race, $400,000 to bring the second richest team in the NFL down here. … first, fix the schools.”

Former Venture Richmond President Jack Berry went after Jones on the investigation into the ties between the Mayor’s office and First Baptist Church, where Jones is senior pastor.

“It starts with leadership and no cronyism in City Hall,” Berry Said. “That everybody that’s in City Hall is there because of their ability and not because of who they know or what church they go to.”

The forum was also the first chance for some voters to see former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, who has quickly taken front-runner status since announcing his bid in April.

The youngest of the leading candidates, Stoney promised a fresh vision for the changing city. And coming not from City Hall but the Governor’s staff, he’s positioned himself as an outsider but with important experience.

“I believe Richmond is on the rise, but we find ourselves at a crossroad,” he said. “Do we select more of the same, or do we select something new?”

City Council President Michelle Mosby, though, didn’t shy away from her time on Council, which has also become a target of this campaign.

“I was elected unanimously by all eight other council members, one that’s up here,” she said, referring to First District Councilman Jon Baliles. “We have balanced the budget as a council, making sure that not one piece of Richmond is left out.”

Later in the evening she painted her time on Council as representative of her actually doing the heavy lifting the city needs rather than just commenting from the outside.

“I’m putting in the work today,” she said. “I’m putting in the plans to work today and I hope that you all will support me so that I can continue the plans tomorrow.”

In keeping with the Northside theme, architect Lawrence Williams talked about his time spent working on development in the neighborhood and his desire to devote development resources to minority businesses.

“I am a product of Richmond Public Schools,” he said. “There are only three minority architects in this region and I care about minority business development.”

When the discussion turned to regional cooperation having to do with transportation — an issue of growing importance with construction on the GRTC Pulse set to begin in the fall — Baliles said more lines of communication with the counties need to be opened.

“The way you build regional cooperation is to start by picking up the phone and you talk to each other. Henrico is pretty close to talking about expending transit, Chesterfield is probably another story, but you start with hitting singles first.”

Some of the lesser-known candidates provided the night’s fireworks.

Former Councilman Chuck Richardson, who’s been out of politics since 1995 because of a drug conviction, said that nobody wanted to discuss the real problem with regional cooperation.

“Let’s face it …, people here aren’t talking about annexation,” Richardson said, referring to the General Assembly’s 1971 moratorium on annexation by cities of over 125,000 residents.

“You know the problem, Jack. … We should be taking the state to court to sue for that.”

And Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold said that the counties should contribute more to the city’s schools if they want to keep enjoying the city’s entertainment offerings.

“I would love to open our city to people coming in to enjoy our First Fridays, our culture, our baseball,” Ingold said. “But what I won’t have is the children of Richmond being held hostage by a squirrel so people can come in and watch baseball and then go home to their schools in the county.”

Carpenter and community activist Alan Schintzius, went after Stoney and Berry for the recently announced fundraising hauls.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, is $330,000 a new way of doing things? Is $100,000 in campaign money new ways of doing things? I’ve been in the streets working for people since 1970.”

In reality, Stoney brought in a record-breaking $303,641 over the first reporting period, while Berry raised $159,433.

Councilman Bruce Tyler talked about how city services were efficiently budgeted when he was at City Hall.

“I can tell you one thing, we had leaf collection, we had snow removal, we had a lot of other things in that budget,” he said. “I believe we have to bring a business approach, which means we’re going to have to treat you as customers.”

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for RVAMag.com from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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