Monday, November 16, 2015

RVA Reads - Committed to Improving Childhood Literacy

The Richmond Public Library, the Office of Community Wealth Building and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) have partnered to create RVA Reads to improve literacy in the city by improving access to books in low income homes of preschool children. RVA Reads is designed to expand or create home libraries for three and four year olds, increase the time parents and children read together and engage children and families in library services.

The program provides one book a month to hundreds of pre-k children participating in the Virginia Preschool Initiative. To introduce the books each month, community volunteers visit pre-k classrooms to lead fun, interactive readings with the students. These readings take place at the RPS preschool centers at Blackwell, Maymont and Mary Scott schools as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Preschool Learning Center. Members of the City Administration and parent volunteers will lead the next reading event at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Preschool Learning Center on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m.

RVA Reads began as a pilot program in 2015. As a result of the program’s success, Mayor Dwight C. Jones designated funding in the FY16 budget to continue the program. The first books included in the program were The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, and Pete the Rocking Cat in my School Shoes by Erik Litwin. The December selection is a bilingual book by Alice and Martin Provensen entitled El Libro de las Estaciones / Book of Seasons.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mayor Jones Issues Thank You to Veterans

Mayor Dwight C. Jones issues the following statement today in honor of Veterans Day:

“As we celebrate Veteran's Day, it is important that we reflect upon what these brave men and women have selflessly done. We thank all of our veterans and active duty military personnel for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make to help keep our country safe. I would also like to recognize all the City employees and their families who have served, both past and present.

“Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have given so much to ensure that we are able to continue to enjoy our rights and freedoms. Today, be sure to properly honor the debt we owe to them all.

“Thank you again to all our service men and women.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

2015 Road World Championships Reports

Five years ago, the City and its partners embarked on a journey to secure the rights to host the 2015 Union Cycliste Internationale Road World Championships, bringing this prestigious international event back to the United States for the first time in a generation. As we all experienced in September, this event was a tremendous success for our city and the region. Attached are two reports laying out the expenditures and the sustainability efforts that helped make the event so memorable.

Click here to view the expenditures report.

Click here to view the sustainability report.

Floyd Avenue Bike Boulevard Construction to Begin November 16

Construction of the City’s first “Bike Boulevard” will begin on November 16. The Bike Boulevard is being installed along a 2-mile stretch of Floyd Avenue from North Thompson Street to North Laurel Street. This capital improvement project represents an estimated investment of $900,000, with the majority of funding coming from Federal funding sources.

“Forward movement with this Bike Boulevard project helps tremendously with our effort to develop a city-wide network of bike infrastructure,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “Through this project, we are further diversifying mobility in the city and enhancing both transportation options and recreation. It’s very exciting to see us reach the point of starting construction.”

The targeted section of Floyd Avenue will receive engineering treatments to make it an efficient, safe bicycle route with low traffic speeds and volumes, while also incorporating improvements for pedestrians. The project includes the following safety measures:

    •    Landscaped residential traffic circles and bump outs
    •    Raised crosswalks
    •    Pedestrian crosswalk markings and signs
    •    Wheelchair accessible ramps
    •    Green sharrow markings

Final plans for the Floyd Avenue bike boulevard followed extensive community meetings and input. The enhancements will improve vehicular and pedestrian interaction through slower operating speeds for motorists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians.

To minimize the impact on businesses and residents during construction there will be no complete street closures. On occasion, there will be single lane closures. As the project advances, residents and motorists are encouraged to adhere to signage in the work zones.

The City’s Bike Master Plan, released in May of this year, has identified several other corridors which would benefit from bike boulevards - such as North 29th Street in Church Hill and Allen Street in the Fan and Randolph communities. Funds are being sought to pursue these projects in the future.

Friday, November 6, 2015

City Announces Sustainability Success of Worlds

The 2015 UCI Road World Championships Sustainability Report to be released next week by Mayor Dwight C. Jones shows that the event achieved or exceeded all of its sustainability goals. A goal was set to divert a minimum of 60% of event waste from going to the landfill, and the efforts undertaken surpassed that goal, achieving a 76% waste diversion rate.

Waste diversion was achieved by composting food wastes; requiring caterers and vendors to use compostable serve ware; operating a robust recycling effort that included cardboard, pallets, and plastic bags, reusing event signage, recovering and donating unused food, collecting cooking grease to turn into bio-fuel, using water filling stations and reusable beer cups in lieu of plastic.

An additional goal of offsetting 100% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced from event operations was met. Sources of emissions included electricity use in the Greater Richmond Convention Center, fuel use for generators and equipment; propane and cooking fuel for vendors and caterers; and fuel use for official event vehicles, shuttle buses, refuse, recycling and compost haulers. The 100% offset was attained via Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) provided by the City of Richmond Sustainability Office through its participation in the Dominion Green Power Program. Dominion Green Power RECs come from wind, solar and biomass facilities in the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions.

“I want to recognize Alicia Zatcoff, the City of Richmond Sustainability Manager; Tom Griffin, Executive Director of Virginia Green Travel Alliance, and everyone who worked to make the 2015 UCI Road World Championships a sustainable event,” said Mayor Jones. “Sustainability was a significant factor in the success of the event and in providing athletes and spectators with an overwhelmingly positive experience. This effort also showed how sustainability can enhance tourism and economic development in our community.”

The 2015 UCI Road World Championships was the first Road World Championships ever to receive the official UCI reCycling eco-label. The eco-label recognizes environmentally responsible cycling events that submit an Environmental Management Plan documenting intended actions to address transportation, energy and water conservation, recycling and waste management, accommodations, catering and supplies.

The event was certified as a Virginia Green Travel Event. The Virginia Green Program is Virginia’s self-certifying program to encourage green practices in all aspects of its tourism industry including festivals and sporting events. The program is run through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association.

The Worlds is in the process of obtaining the Council for Responsible Sport event certification which is based on the event’s actual performance in key areas of equity, access, community impact, and legacy.

“We strategically aligned the focus of our sustainability activities for the Worlds in four key areas that were designed to move the city’s broader RVAgreen sustainability initiatives forward: reduce waste, reduce emissions, be healthy and leave a positive legacy,” said Alicia Zatcoff, City of Richmond Sustainability Manager. “As a result, we not only succeeded in our sustainability efforts for the event but we also made progress on big picture initiatives that will benefit our community for many years to come.”

As a result of the sustainability achievements for the Worlds, the City of Richmond and the Virginia Green Travel Alliance are developing a Green Event Toolkit to share lessons learned and provide free resources to enhance the sustainability of future events.

“The Worlds was an opportunity for the Virginia Green Travel Alliance to help showcase how green an event can actually be when the proper planning takes place and adequate resources are made available,” said Tom Griffin, Executive Director of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. “The Sustainability accomplishments of the Worlds have set a new standard for events and festivals in the community and the Green Event Toolkit will help organizers meet this new standard.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

All 3 Wall Street Agencies Re-Affirm Richmond Bond Ratings, Citing "Stable" Financial Outlook

All three Wall Street bond rating agencies have re-affirmed their rating of general obligation bonds to be issued by the City of Richmond. The re-affirmations follow six bond rating increases the city has received since Mayor Dwight C. Jones took office in 2009.

“We’re gratified to earn this re-affirmation of Richmond’s fundamental financial strength,” said Mayor Jones. “Wall Street looks only at the facts when they review a city’s finances. It’s clear that investors are confident in Richmond’s progress and our future outlook.”

Here are the key points from each agency:

Moody’s: Aa2 rating, Outlook is Stable
“The Aa2 rating incorporates the city’s prominent role in the regional economy and as the state capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a tax base that is expected to exhibit long-term stability, satisfactory financial operations characterized by conservative budgeting and an elevated but manageable debt position.”
“The stable outlook reflects the expectation of long-term moderate economic growth and a continued conservative fiscal approach that is expected to support the city’s healthy financial position.”
“Richmond’s financial position is expected to continue to remain healthy over the medium term, bolstered by strengthened fund balance policy and implementation of more conservative budgeting assumptions.”
“Richmond’s satisfactory financial position is supported by a history of conservative budgeting, which we expect to continue in the near term.”

Fitch: AA+ rating, Outlook is Stable 
“City management has implemented prudent financial practices and policies largely yielding positive operating results relative to budget.”
“City finances are well-managed, adhering to conservative policy guidelines.”
“The city’s employment base has increased annually between 2011 and 2014, with growth notably outpacing the state and national rates…The city’s historical trend of population declines appears to have reversed, with population increasing 7% since 2010.”

S&P: AA+ rating, Outlook is Stable
“Very strong management, with ‘strong’ financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment methodology.
“Very strong liquidity, with total government available cash of 33.1% of total governmental fund expenditures and 3.7x governmental debt services, and access to external liquidity we consider exceptional.
“Strong budgetary performance, with balanced operating results in the general fund and a slight operating surplus at the total governmental fund level.”
“The stable outlook…reflects the city’s now strong budgetary performance, very strong fiscal flexibility, and liquidity. The city is guided by very strong management that has implemented, strengthened, and continues to implement strong fiscal policies and practices.”

Mayor Jones, city administrators, and the city’s financial advisors hosted the three bond rating agencies in Richmond in mid-October, in preparation for a scheduled issuance of bonds through competitive sale on November 12. The bonds will be used for school projects, general capital improvement projects throughout the city, and costs related to Stone Brewing’s investment in the Fulton neighborhood. The costs of the Stone project will be covered by the firm’s rent payments for the factory under construction in Richmond’s East End.

David Rose, senior vice president and manager of Public Finance for Davenport & Company, LLC, commented, “These ratings re-affirm Mayor Jones’s approach to managing the City’s finances in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner. These strong ratings will make it easier and cheaper for Richmond to borrow money to invest in the City’s future growth and development.”

In addition to the re-affirmations, the agencies also noted the city’s need to continue funding annual required pension contributions, the need to continue addressing Richmond’s poverty rate, and the need to return to timely financial reporting. The agencies also noted that the possibility of using budget reserves could lead to a lowered bond rating in the future.

Click here to view the letters from all three rating agencies.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Public Art Master Plan

Richmond’s Public Art Master Plan will be developed with the input of the community, key stakeholders and other arts groups so that the plan will reflect Richmond’s vision for public art. The City will embark on a series of public meetings and focus groups as well as providing methods for the public to give input and feedback on the types of public art projects funded by the City. Currently all public art projects receive funding through a 1% allocation for art, earmarked from the City’s Capital Budget, of all new or renovation construction projects having budgets over $250,000. It is envisioned that the Master Plan will also identify ways to fund the preservation and long term maintenance of the current public art sites in Richmond.

“We want this roadmap to help ensure that our public art program is reflective of Richmond’s diverse communities,” said Mayor Jones. “This effort will help to refine policies and procedures that ensure equal opportunities for local and regional artists, as well as strengthen the collaborations between neighborhood groups, local arts agencies and City departments.”

The City has hired its first full-time public art coordinator in the Department of Planning and Development Review. While serving as public art coordinator, Ellyn Parker will also serve as secretary to the Public Art Commission. The City has also awarded a contract to Gail M. Goldman Associates in partnership with Gretchen Freeman and Co. , a nationally-recognized public art consultant team. They have extensive public art master planning and policy experience across the country. The consultant team will lead the effort to identify best practices for the Public Art Commission and create a custom-tailored public art master plan for Richmond that will help elevate the arts programs, stimulate tourism and economic opportunity, provide community collaborations, and showcase the unique character of Richmond’s already thriving art scene.

“We are excited about this effort to establish a Master Plan for Public Art in Richmond,” said Mark Olinger, director of Planning and Development Review. “It is important to ensure that our resources are yielding the best results to support our thriving arts culture along with our tourism goals, and economic needs.”

The consultant team and the City are excited to announce the first kick-off meeting date of November 17, 2015, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Science Museum of Virginia. There will also be a series of smaller public focus groups conducted in October. Input, ideas and feedback can also be sent directly to the public art coordinator at

More information on outreach efforts and public meetings will be posted on the City’s Public Art Commission webpage at

**Originally posted on August 19, 2015