Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Levar Stoney column in the RTD: Let's count everyone


To read the article in Spanish, click here


The city of Richmond is proud to be the home of a growing immigrant population. Immigrants contribute to the vibrancy of our community by raising families, attending schools, and opening businesses. Immigrants are a vital part of the inclusive and diverse fabric of our city, and that’s why I am concerned about the proposed citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 Census.

The Trump administration wants to require all respondents to the 2020 Census to report their citizenship status. This is an unnecessary tactic designed to discourage people from participating in the census, which will result in an inaccurate count of people and decreased funding for our city. Every person living in the city of Richmond deserves to be counted .

A fair and accurate count of everyone who lives in the United States is critical in determining how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and votes in the Electoral College, and how much money each state receives for essential needs, such as transportation and public education. That’s why the U.S. Census Bureau counts every person in every community in every state once every 10 years. Approximately 14,080 Richmond residents are foreign-born, which is a sizable chunk of the city’s population that is at risk of being undercounted.

The consequences from a Census undercount would be severe for Richmond. We received $61.8 million in federal funding for our schools in 2017 and $116 million for other projects. As someone who works to ensure that Richmond residents get the best services, I understand how critical federal funds are to keep our schools open, our roads maintained, and our residents healthy. If fewer people are counted because they do not want to answer a citizenship question, Richmond will receive less federal funding than it needs to deliver the services our residents deserve.

We still have time to protect the accuracy and fairness of the Census. The U.S. Department of Commerce is accepting public comment on the proposed citizenship question until Tuesday, Aug. 7, at midnight. We should also urge our representatives and senators in Congress to act to remove the harmful addition of the citizenship question to the Census.

My vision for One Richmond is a city that works and provides opportunity for everyone — regardless of where you’re from, what you look like, how you worship, or who you love. Immigrant communities play a huge part in making our city a wonderful place to live. When it is time for the 2020 Census, it should be done in a way that is inclusive of all our neighbors’ participation. Let’s make sure it is the most accurate count possible.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mayor to Participate in Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative


Mayor Levar M. Stoney has been invited to join mayors from large and midsize cities across the Americas and Europe to participate in the yearlong Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

Following the initial three-day program in New York, beginning next Monday, July 23, Harvard Business and Kennedy Schools faculty will collaborate virtually with the 40 participating mayors for two hours every six weeks. Collectively, Harvard University and Bloomberg Philanthropies will help mayors and their leadership teams manage the complexities of running a city, and to have opportunities to learn from one another.

“I am honored to be included in such a progressive initiative,” said Mayor Stoney. “This will be another opportunity for innovation and to learn best practices we can institute here in Richmond.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies is providing all the funding for participants, including all accommodations, meals and transportation. To learn more about the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, please click here.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Mayor Stoney Announces Release of Monument Avenue Commission Report




The Monument Avenue Commission has completed a yearlong review and public engagement process examining the Confederate statuary of Monument Avenue and submitted its report to Mayor Levar M. Stoney. As promised, the full report submitted to the mayor is available to the public and can be found on the website, monumentavenuecommission.org

The 117-page report, prepared by the 10-member Commission appointed in June 2017, is a thorough review of history, recent events, public engagement and research on the Confederate monuments that, as the Commission report states, has “been a source of pride and shame for the City’s residents since the time of their installations.” The report concludes with series of options recommended for consideration by city officials that suggest ways given the current legal climate in Virginia, “to determine how best to reconcile a particular landscape viewed as both sacred and profane.”

“Given all we have heard, read and learned, the Commission strongly endorses a comprehensive approach that creates an environment (and City) that celebrates the contributions of many diverse groups and acknowledges the darker chapters of the City’s past,” states the report, which was compiled by Commission co-chairs Christy S. Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, and Dr. Gregg D. Kimball, Director of Education and Outreach for the Library of Virginia.

“In the course of the work, it became abundantly clear the majority of the public acknowledges Monument Avenue cannot and should not remain exactly as it is. Change is needed and desired. The public offered many fascinating ideas, and the majority seemed to favor a multi-faceted approach.”

The Monument Avenue Commission does not have legal authority and its report is not binding on city government. But the commissioners recommend a number of options and opportunities for the administration and city officials to explore for Monument Avenue. Among them:

  • Adding permanent signage that reflects the historic, biographical, artistic and changing meaning over time for each monument, to be drafted by prominent academic historians subject to approval by the Public Art or Planning Commissions.
  • Creating a permanent exhibit that takes a deeper historical look into the history of the monuments, creating a mobile app and new film and video features that ensure the narrative about Monument Avenue is “consistent and historically accurate.”
  • Engage Richmond’s arts community to create “new contemporary artistic works that bring new and expanded meaning” to Monument Avenue.
  • Commission a monument that commemorates the resilience of the formerly enslaved, such as a work dedicated to soldiers of the United States Colored Troops.
  • Pending the outcome of current litigation or changes in state law, remove the Jefferson Davis monument and repurpose the site for a new monument. “Of all the statues, this one is most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment,” the commissioners wrote.
“A holistic narrative acknowledges the emotional realities the Monument Avenue statues represent as well as other assets within the City,” the report states. “The options presented will require coordination between various groups within City government (Planning Commission and the Public Arts Commission) and – equally important – groups outside of it to implement the recommendations. The Commission also acknowledges one of the options will require a closer examination of existing law, outcomes of pending litigation and legislative action.”

In addition to research on the history of Virginia’s Monument Avenue, prevailing law and recent events, the report also includes data gathered through public engagement.
“We’d like to thank Mayor Stoney for convening this commission and for his faith in its members, and thank the residents of the City of Richmond for engaging with us throughout this important process,” Coleman and Kimball said in a joint statement. “It’s been an honor to serve.”

The convening of the commission, public engagement process and extensive research to produce the report marked the first time in more than 50 years that the City of Richmond has conducted a comprehensive review of Monument Avenue’s Confederate statues. During this process, the Commission received more than 1,800 letters and emails and solicited feedback from more than 1,200 people in public forums. Commission members, all volunteers, were not compensated and spent their own time and money to participate in the work of the Commission.

“On behalf of the City of Richmond, I want thank the members of the Monument Avenue Commission their service, and for taking on this responsibility at an important time in the life of our city and our nation,” said Mayor Stoney. “We are deeply grateful for their dedication, hard work and steadfastness to meeting the challenges of completing this task, which I consider to be a necessary step toward moving the city forward on this difficult issue and down a continued path of reconciliation and healing. I am especially thankful to Commission co-chairs Christy Coleman and Dr. Gregg Kimball for their countless hours and expertise in leading this distinguished group of scholars, historians and local public officials to promote a civil, civic conversation and expand our collective understanding of our history -- past, present and future.”

Mayor Stoney said he will take time to further study the report and urged others to do the same. 

 “Richmond has a long, complex and conflicted history, and the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue represents a shameful part of our past,” Mayor Stoney said. “As I have said before, the statues on this beautiful street are Lost Cause myth and deception masquerading as history. They are monuments to Jim Crow that do not reflect the qualities of inclusivity, tolerance and equality we celebrate as values in our city today. The Commission’s report is unequivocal in its affirmation that there is an overwhelming desire and belief they should not remain as they currently are. Something needs to change, and I could not agree more.”

A public presentation of the report to City Council by co-chairs Coleman and Kimball will be scheduled later this summer.

“This conversation will undoubtedly continue and I look forward in the coming weeks to reviewing this report in depth and exploring its recommendations with our administration, city council and various boards and commissions to see how we can translate the good work that has been done into concrete steps that move our city forward,” the Mayor said.

Key Narrative Excerpts from the Report:
“The statues on Monument Avenue have been a source of pride and shame for the City’s residents from the time of their installations. As the city has become more ethnically, politically and socioeconomically diverse, tolerance for the monuments’ artistic and cultural meaning has shifted over time. In essence it is a question of whether or not Monument Avenue reflects the citizenry and its values. It is for these reasons the commission was formed and tasked to determine how best to reconcile a particular landscape viewed as both sacred and profane.”

*

“In the course of the work, it became abundantly clear the majority of the public acknowledges Monument Avenue cannot and should not remain exactly as it is. Change is needed and desired. The public offered many fascinating ideas, and the majority seemed to favor a multi-faceted approach.”

*

“The sanitizing of textbooks in Virginia persisted well into the late twentieth century. It should be no surprise, then that the Commission heard such opinions in our listening sessions, despite several generations of academic scholarship that have largely corrected the historical record.”

*

“During the course of the meetings, it became abundantly clear that there were a number of historical inaccuracies being repeated by the public throughout the public meeting process about a number of topics related to the monuments. The Commission drew on the collective historical knowledge and collections of the Commonwealth’s preeminent state historical institutions, resulting in the website “On Monument Avenue” (onmonumentave.com). Likewise, the Commission drew on the collective research and publications of the scholarly community and other documented studies of Confederate memorialization.”

*

“We hope that the history presented here and on the Commission’s Website “On Monument Avenue” provides citizens with a common base of knowledge for discussing Monument Avenue and other examples of Confederate memorialization in the City of Richmond. The history also supports telling the story of the avenue in a variety of styles of interpretation and creating a robust dialog with the monuments. What the history cannot do is provide a definitive answer to the question of whether the monuments are appropriate as a representation of the city and its residents.”

The report also contains an Appendix that includes a number of source documents that may be helpful, including:

  • The Mayor’s initial remarks establishing the commission (Appendix A)
  • State laws governing Confederate Memorials (Appendix B)
  • City of Richmond Attorney Legal Opinion on the Monuments (Appendix C)
  • Data on Public Engagement
Key Dates:

June 22, 2017 – Mayor forms Monument Avenue Commission. Appoints 10 members to engage the public, explore ways to add context to existing Confederate statuary and suggest ideas for new monuments.

August 9, 2018 – First public meeting, attended by more than 500 people.

August, 16, 2017 – After tragedy in Charlottesville, Mayor expands scope of Commission to consider removal and/or relocation of monuments. Expresses his personal belief that the Monuments should be removed and/or relocated.

September 16, 2017 – Pro-Confederate Rally held in Richmond – Fewer than a half-dozen members of the Tennessee-based group New Confederate States of America (CSA II) show up at the Lee statue and are met by hundreds of counter protestors. Event results in no injuries and a handful of arrests.

November 14, 2017 – Monument Avenue Commission work session held.

January – May, 2018 – Delegations of commissioners attend small group meetings requested by community organizations.

May 10, May 19, 2018 – Final two public meetings held by the MAC and evening public work session to review findings from public engagement process and discuss elements of Commission report.

July 2 – Commission submits report to Mayor, following one-month extension to prepare and write the report
For more information, please visit monumentavenuecommission.org.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Mayor, City Officials Complete Successful Visits with Credit Rating Agencies


Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, city finance officials and representatives of Davenport & Company, the city’s financial advisors, completed successful visits with Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s last week in New York.
The delegation presented the city’s improved financial position and extensive growth in economic development, with the mayor highlighting accomplishments in a number of key focus areas in advance of a new debt issuance planned for this summer to support capital project spending and economic development initiatives.
Some key initiatives that were well received by the rating agency analysts included:
  • Early completion of the FY2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which allowed the city to save over $13 million in a debt refunding
  • The successful 2017 tax amnesty program
  • Investment of $150 million in new school facilities
  • Poverty reduction efforts such as increased state grant funds for community wealth building
  • Expansion of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and creation of a separate department dedicated to housing
  • Implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
The mayor also highlighted the city’s strengthened debt management, fund balance and reserve policies consistent with best practices of highly rated local governments.
The city’s presentation also cited positive demographic trends, such as Richmond’s population growth, reduction in the unemployment rate to 3.7% for April 2018 and expansion of the city’s tax base. The mayor highlighted the breadth of economic growth across the city and in all industrial sectors, with over $1.3 billion in investment announced or underway since January 2017.
Above and beyond these recent successes, city officials discussed the continued potential for neighborhood transformation and significant investment in the city’s downtown, as official negotiations commence with the North of Broad Redevelopment respondent to the city’s issued request for proposals (RFP).
“Thanks to sound fiscal management, disciplined and targeted funding priorities addressing our needs and increased investment, our financial position is strong,” said Mayor Stoney. “We look forward to building on this success in the coming fiscal year and leveraging this strength into opportunities to grow our city for the benefit of all of its residents.”

Monday, June 4, 2018

Mayor Stoney Appoints Senior Policy Advisor for Youth Initiatives


Mayor Levar M. Stoney is pleased to announce Eva Colen is joining the administration as a Senior Policy Advisor for Youth Initiatives.

A Norfolk native who currently lives in east Richmond, Colen will be responsible for advancing the mayor’s policies and priorities to benefit the “whole” child by collaborating with Richmond Public Schools through the Education Compact and overseeing the Mayor’s focus on out-of-school time opportunities.

“Eva is a difference maker and a great fit for our team,” said Mayor Stoney. “Her can-do work ethic, experience and innovative thinking on the challenges we face will make things happen for the young people in our city.”

A former school teacher and education equity advocate, Colen said that she is looking forward to leveraging her experience in education to align City services with Richmond Public Schools and external partners around shared goals for Richmond’s youth.

“We will pursue all available opportunities to secure the resources to offer our kids what they deserve,” Colen said. “I’m especially thrilled for the opportunity to work with Mayor Stoney, who has shown a clear commitment to working collaboratively to expand opportunity and improve outcomes for our City’s kids.”

Colen’s position is being funded as part of an 18-month pilot program with The Community Foundation, which has served the Greater Richmond region for nearly 50 years.

“The Foundation is grateful that Eva Colen has accepted the position and will be the first to serve in this role and will be a pace-setter for results,” said Scott Blackwell, Chief Community Engagement Officer for the Foundation. “Eva’s experience with policy and advocacy work, as well as her ability to make things happen on the ground will serve the city well.”

Eva has called Richmond home since 2010. Her first job out of college was as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia through Teach For America, an experience which cemented her conviction that all children, no matter their background, possess extraordinary potential. 


After the classroom, Eva spent time recruiting teachers to high-poverty public school districts, advocating for education policy in the General Assembly and engaging her community in conversations about educational equity. Most recently, Eva founded and led Virginia Excels, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to advancing policies and programs that are good for kids, families and their communities.

Eva lives in Church Hill with her husband, Derek Salerno, their nine-week-old son, Abram, a RACC rescue pup and three cats. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She is an alumna of ChamberRVA’s RVA Leadership Lab, 50CAN’s Education Advocacy Fellowship, Leadership for Educational Equity’s Public Leaders Fellowship and New Venture Fellowship, YWCA Richmond’s Young Women’s Leadership Alliance and Leadership Metro Richmond’s Leadership Quest Class of 2017.

Mayor to Host Community Office Hours in All Nine City Districts


Mayor Levar M. Stoney will be hosting community office hours in June and July, continuing his commitment to meet with citizens in each of the city’s nine districts, in their districts, and face-to-face. The Community Office Hours provide an opportunity for hundreds of Richmond residents to meet with the mayor, make suggestions and share their ideas and concerns.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

City’s Biennial Budget Passes


Lean, fiscally responsible spending plan includes significant investments in the whole child, core priorities.


Mayor Levar M. Stoney this evening applauded passage of the FY2019 and FY2020 biennial budget by Richmond City Council.

“This is a values-based, fiscally responsible plan that invests in and improves upon our targeted priorities: core services, public safety, poverty mitigation and education,” said Mayor Stoney.

“I am particularly proud of the roughly $40 million we have dedicated in this spending plan toward meeting the needs of the whole child through investments in our Office of Community Wealth Building, Human Resources, Social Services, Parks and Recreation and the Richmond Public Library System.
  
“I thank Richmond City Council for their hard work and due diligence in meeting our shared responsibility to provide our residents with the strong financial management they expect and deserve, and for approving a plan that sets us on a sound fiscal path for continued growth and future success,” the mayor added.

Mayor Stoney further expressed gratitude to council members for not making a single cut to his budget priorities. “We proposed a thoughtful but lean budget – many of our departments will have to do more with less, but I am confident they will be up to the task,” said the mayor.

“I now look forward to working with our public, private and non-profit communities to leverage these investments for the benefit of all our residents.”

The FY2019 budget takes effect July 1 this year. The following are a few of the highlights from the adopted budget:

  • $150 million for Richmond Public Schools construction
  • More than $1.2 million for after school programs and student support services at Richmond elementary and middle schools
  • 1 million to pave an additional 20 lane miles of neighborhood streets
  • More than $630,000 to extend hours of operation at six Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facility sites throughout the city
  • Free bus passes for every Richmond public high school student
  • More than a $250,000 increase in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
  • A reduction in the water rate for single family residential customers
  • A $733,000 increase for the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority
  • Four weeks of paid maternity leave for birth mothers and four weeks of paid parental bonding leave for the birth/adoption of a child (City of Richmond employees) and 2 weeks of leave to care for a sick parent
  • A one percent salary increase for non-sworn, non-constitutional officer employees effective January of 2019
  • Reinvestment of $12.5 million in Richmond Public Schools
  • $3.4 million to further the FY2018 step based, pay raises for both sworn police and firefighters
  • New Richmond Police Department positions to serve public housing communities