Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mayor Stoney announces 2020 State of the City address



The annual State of the City address will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28 at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

In his third State of the City address, Mayor Stoney will both reflect on the city’s many accomplishments and outline his plans for an even brighter 2020. The speech is open to the public.

“Over the last three years, we’ve made significant progress in building One Richmond and becoming a welcoming, inclusive and equitable city through change and investments that benefit all our residents,” said Mayor Stoney. “In 2020, it’s time to acknowledge that Richmond can meet its challenges and create opportunities to lift up and empower everyone in our city.”

For those unable to attend, the State of the City will be broadcast live on the city’s Facebook page, and a complete video will be uploaded to the city’s website and YouTube channels.

Spanish interpretation and American Sign Language interpretation will both be available on site.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Mayor Stoney announces enhancements to Navy Hill project agreement, including promise of NASDAQ 100 tenant to bring 2,000 well-paying jobs to Richmond

In a press conference today, Mayor Stoney announced a series of enhancements made to the Navy Hill project agreement, including the intention of CoStar to bring 2,000 well-paying jobs to the neighborhood. 

“This interest from a NASDAQ 100 company that already has a strong presence in our city shows that with Navy Hill, Richmond can increase our tax base and bring new jobs downtown,” said Mayor Stoney. “Richmond can be competitive.”

CoStar announced in 2016 that it would headquarter its primary operations center in Richmond. The compact has infused more than $250 million into the local economy from its riverfront location at 501 South 5th Street. The company employs approximately 4,000 people worldwide.

“The Navy Hill development delivers everything a company like CoStar is looking for – access to transit, entertainment, conferencing, and new multi-family residential housing, all in a walkable and vibrant neighborhood,” said Andrew Florance, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CoStar Group. “Without the Navy Hill development as a complete-package option – we would not be talking about significantly expanding our commitment to the city of Richmond, a place where we already employ nearly 1,000 people. Richmond has so much to offer, which is why we would like to keep growing with it, providing competitive careers and compensation for residents in the process.

“Our employees have investigative, insightful minds and they think long-term. We do too. With Navy Hill, we’re able to plan not only for the growth that the company will experience in the near term – but also what the company can do 10 years from now. We’re eager to see this proposal move forward, and even more excited to potentially deepen our commitment to Richmond.”

“CoStar’s exciting announcement that Navy Hill could be home to 2,000 new employees and a 400,000 square foot office building is exactly what Navy Hill was designed to do,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman of The NH Foundation Board of Directors. “With City Council approval, we can revitalize our downtown, improve economic opportunity, and make Richmond the place for innovative companies and their employees to grow, thrive and live.

“Additionally, we have been listening to residents and are working hard to address their concerns by shrinking the size of the increment financing area, building more affordable housing units in the project area, and providing the City with more revenue, more quickly. We look forward to continuing our work with Council to deliver the best project for the City, taxpayers and residents.”

“I’ve always spoken about the transformational opportunity that the Navy Hill project embodies,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “This is further proof that our downtown redevelopment isn’t just about buildings. It’s about the economic empowerment of thousands of Richmonders.”

In addition to CoStar’s promise to bring 2,000 jobs as a tenant of the proposed project, the Mayor’s also announced developments in the size of the increment finance area, the proposed transit center and affordable housing. 

House Bill 1345, introduced by Delegate Jeff Bourne, would allow Richmond to use a portion of the state sales tax revenues in the project area to pay down the debt on the new arena. If it passes, the bill will allow the administration to reduce the size of the increment finance area by more than half.

Working with the Better Housing Coalition, the Navy Hill Development Corporation has identified two opportunities within the project area to build units for residents between 40 and 60 percent annual median income. With the addition of those two sites, the proposal meets the 15% affordable housing threshold that Councilwoman Ellen Robertson and Richmond City Council requested in 2018.

The Mayor also announced that NHDC and GRTC are studying two options for the location of the proposed GRTC transit center – the original 9th street location and an additional site on Broad Street. “We want GRTC to have the opportunity to kick the tires on these options and advise us on what works best for GRTC and our residents,” said Mayor Stoney.

For more information on the Navy Hill project, contact Jeff Kelley at 804-397-9700 or jeff@kelleyus.com

Photo: CoStar/Navy Hill Preliminary Concept Design, courtesy of Capital City Partners, LLC
View the January 13, 2020 press conference here.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mayor Stoney opens renovated Child Protective Services room at the Department of Social Services


This morning, Mayor Levar Stoney opened the newly renovated Child Protective Services Room at Richmond’s Department of Social Services. Thanks to leaders from the faith, nonprofit and business community, the room will now serve as a comforting space for young people while they await foster care placement.

The principal partners in this effort were the Virginia office of ENV Architecture and Design, local nonprofit organizations RVA Comfort Cases and Worthdays and churches in the For Richmond network. Together, the organizations’ donors and volunteers transformed the city’s multi-purpose room into four calming and age-appropriate zones for children in the custody of Richmond Social Services.

The new space is both practical and welcoming, thanks to the collaboration of the city’s partners. Second Baptist Church member Ralph Costen, owner of Costen Floors, donated and installed a new floor. Home Inspections of Virginia installed sound-proofing panels. The Soho Center donated books, and Build-A-Bear donated teddy bears.

There are currently 255 children in foster care in the City of Richmond, the highest number in the Richmond Metro Area. Each month, approximately 13 young people enter foster care in the city.

“We rallied the groups around one shared vision: supporting the most vulnerable children in our community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These partners immediately embraced that vision, and I’m grateful for their dedication.”

“Coordination allowed these valued community partners to do so much more for young people coming into care than any one organization could do on its own,” said Director of Social Services Shunda Giles. “This space will help mitigate the trauma that young people experience when they have to be separated from their family. It also doubles as a break room for our hard-working social workers, who are on the front lines caring for so many of our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

Caroline Neal, founder of Worthdays, conducted surveys of social workers and youth who have aged out of the foster care system to determine how the space could best benefit the community. “It was important to us that the renovations to this room were reflective of the people who use it on a daily basis: the hard-working staff of the agency and kids experiencing the trauma of a removal from their home. The vision that agency staff had for this room along with the wisdom of youth who have experienced a room such as this really shaped the renovations.”

Second Baptist Church, Area 10 Faith Community, Movement Church and LUX Church played key roles in the project. “We now have 10 churches that are partnering with Richmond City DSS throughout the year to support social workers and birth families, recruit and retain foster parents and mentor youth who are aging out of foster care,” said For Richmond Co-Director Anna Shenk. “The need is great, and we invite others to join us in this important work.”

Area 10 Faith Community Connections Pastor Topher Lytle said, “Our church has been committed to addressing the foster care crisis for years, but we’ve never done anything on this scale with the Department of Social Services. We are grateful to be part of this team effort and look forward to doing even more in the future.”

“We are so grateful to be able to supply our signature Comfort Cases, which include age specific items like blankets, books, plush toys and new pajamas,” said Lauren Cash, the leadership coordinator for RVA Comfort Cases. The organization will also be stocking and organizing key supplies like diapers, clothing and blankets.

Architect Whitney Campbell of ENV Virginia, a Richmond City foster parent, shared how significant it was for her to be able to marry her passion for fostering with her architecture and design business. “When I learned about the project through my church’s involvement in For Richmond, I knew immediately that I wanted to help. I’m passionate about caring for kids in foster care and I’m passionate about good design, so it was only natural that that my firm, ENV, would be involved in this important effort.”

Mayor Stoney highlighted that there are opportunities to care for children in foster care throughout the year. “Not everyone is called to foster, but we are all called to care. All of these organizations present an opportunity to get involved and give back,” said Mayor Stoney. “This collaboration gets back to what it’s all about: ensuring every child in our city knows they’re heard, seen and loved.”

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Monday, December 9, 2019

City Council unanimously passes Mayor Stoney’s ordinance prohibiting the use of handheld communications devices while driving

At the December 9 meeting of Richmond City Council, the body unanimously passed a ban on driving while using a handheld communications device, proposed by Mayor Stoney's administration.

Under the ordinance, using a handheld communications device, such as a cellphone, while driving in the City of Richmond is punishable by a $125 fine on the first offense and a $250 fine for each subsequent offense.

“A holistic Vision Zero plan requires engineering, education, and enforcement,” said Mayor Stoney. “Prohibiting the use of a cellphone while driving is necessary to change both ingrained attitudes and dangerous habits.”

The ordinance, which was introduced at the October 14 council meeting and was recently amended, is an attempt to curb traffic fatalities and promote pedestrian safety. Distracted drivers have killed or injured 218 people in the City of Richmond so far this year, according to the Richmond Police Department.

“As we continue to experience population and density growth, improving the travelling safety of Richmond through creative techniques, legislation and education becomes more and more important,” said Police Chief William Smith. “We are thankful for the Mayor’s leadership in supporting Vision Zero legislative proposals.”

“Keeping drivers’ hands on the wheel, and not handling their phones, means their attention is where it should be – on driving safely,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, Director of Bike Walk RVA. “We are excited to see the city pass a commonsense policy that will help save the lives of people using our streets, especially our most vulnerable people walking and biking.”

“We commend Mayor Stoney and the City for their commitment to safer roadways,” said Executive Director of Drive Smart VA Janet Brooking. “Manipulating a handheld phone while driving is by far the most egregious of all distracted driving behaviors as it involves all three kinds of distraction – manual, visual and cognitive. This ban is an important step towards saving lives and reducing injuries, and we look forward to working with the City to educate citizens on the importance of hands-free driving.”

The ordinance will go into effect six months after passage to allow for an education period, ensuring drivers are aware of the change in traffic law. The language allows for exceptions for public safety personnel and drivers experiencing emergencies.

With the passage of this ordinance, the City of Richmond joins the City of Hampton and Spotsylvania County as the only localities in Virginia to enact laws targeting driving while using a handheld communications device. A proposed statewide ban failed earlier this year in the General Assembly. The legality of the city ordinance is not contingent on the passage of a statewide ban.

“It’s just not acceptable to use a cellphone while driving when we know the dire consequences,” said Mayor Stoney. “With this ban, Richmond sends a clear message: whether you’re texting or not, put down the phone, or there will be consequences. I hope the General Assembly will send the same message this year.”

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Department of Public Works Fills More Than 31,000 Potholes, Exceeds Annual Goal

The Public Works Roadway Maintenance Division has repaired more than 31,000 potholes so far this year. This marks the third year running that DPW has far exceeded the usual 18,000 annual repairs. In 2018, about 26,900 potholes were fixed, compared to just under 25,000 the year before.

In 2017, Mayor Levar M. Stoney asked city employees to elevate the level of service provided to city residents. The DPW Pothole Crew redefined some of its internal procedures and set a goal to fill 20,000 potholes. It surpassed that target by nearly 5,000 repairs, achieving a department milestone.

“When we invest in our infrastructure, we invest in our future,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m proud our Public Works team rose to our high expectations this year. Now, after a banner year filling thousands of potholes, we’re providing a long-term solution: a historic investment in paving.”

DPW attributes the increase in pothole repairs to its acquisition of two pothole trucks that are revolutionizing the way the city fills potholes. Each truck requires only one operator, instead of a crew. The truck’s mechanical arm expels air to remove water from a hole, then layers in the materials needed to make the repair. This 10 minute per pothole process accounted for 3,000 repairs this year.

In addition, Mayor Stoney’s most recent budget included a $15 million further investment in paving in FY2020, allowing DPW to address potholes as paving takes place. The paving plan prioritizes streets with the highest need, enabling crews to address potholes not yet in the system and focus on areas that may receive less attention than main thoroughfares.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mayor Stoney announces the City of Richmond again earns the highest Municipal Equality Index score in Virginia

Today, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond again received the highest Municipal Equality Index score in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Out of the 11 municipalities that the Human Rights Campaign scored in Virginia, Richmond scored the highest, earning a 97.

“My mission is to build a city where everyone, no matter their skin color, country of origin, how they worship or who they love, is free to live out their God-given potential,” said Mayor Stoney. “Supporting the members of Richmond’s LGBTQ community is imperative to that task, and this score shows that inclusivity is one of our top priorities.”

Each year the Human Rights Campaign rates cities across the United States based on their initiatives to support LGBTQ communities. The findings are compiled on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) scorecard, where cities are given points for inclusive programs and policies, such as non-discrimination laws, transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees, inclusive workplaces and LGBTQ liaisons in the city’s executive office, to name a few.

The city’s performance on the MEI scorecard has vastly improved in the past two years. In 2017, Richmond received a 42 out of 100. The city was able to increase its score by 52 points in a year, scoring a 94 in 2018. In that year, the city improved its score through working with City Council to establish a Human Rights Commission and pass non-discrimination laws, designating a policy advisor to serve as the Mayor’s LGBTQ liaison and offering transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees.

Richmond’s success story is highlighted twice in the 2019 MEI report, demonstrating how the scorecard serves as a crucial policy guide and advocacy tool. Richmond’s 2019 MEI score is 97 because of Mayor Stoney’s efforts to advocate at the state level for non-discrimination laws and against the use of conversion therapy. Earlier this year, Mayor Stoney introduced, and Richmond City Council approved, a resolution supporting the prohibition of conversion therapy in the city and across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The mayor is hopeful that the new Democrat-controlled General Assembly will address both of these issues during its 2020 session.

“Richmond’s pro-equality leaders continue to send a strong message across Virginia about the importance of ensuring our gay and transgender neighbors can live, work and play free from discrimination,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “We celebrate Mayor Stoney and the Richmond City Council for their work to make the city a more inclusive and welcoming place.”

“Mayor Stoney has been committed to making Richmond safer and more welcoming for our community,” said Adam Trimmer, Virginia Ambassador for Born Perfect, a campaign to end conversion therapy. “I could not be prouder of Richmond.”

“The increase in Richmond’s MEI score is a testament to Mayor Stoney’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusivity,” said James Millner, President of Virginia Pride. “Once again, we have the highest score of any municipality in Virginia, which sends a powerful message to businesses, tourists and residents: LGBTQ people aren’t just welcome in Richmond, but we are embraced and recognized as a vital, positive force in this city. This is something of which every Richmonder can be proud.”

Local organizations have also played a key role in advocating for the policies that increased Richmond’s MEI scorecard value.

“As a native Richmonder who identifies as transgender, I am pleased to see the city's MEI score increase,” said Zakia McKensey, Executive Director of Nationz Foundation. “It is important to my community that the city be more diverse, inclusive and affirming of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Thank you, Mayor Stoney and the city, for your work to make Richmond more inclusive!”

“This standing reinforces Richmond’s identity as a welcoming destination for all,” said Jack Berry, President and CEO, Richmond Region Tourism. “Congratulations on making our city compassionate and safe for all.”

Many Fortune 500 companies rely on the Human Rights Campaign report as a guide for relocation and expansion, as inclusion of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, reflects a municipality’s shared values.

Mayor Stoney said that the high score does not mean the work will stop.

“For the second year in a row, we’re leading the way for all municipalities in Virginia,” the mayor said. I’m proud of this achievement and excited to see how else we can ensure Richmond’s city policies, services and code reflect the inclusive community we are.”

To learn more about the Municipal Equality Index and Richmond’s performance, read the 2019 Municipal Equality Index report here.

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Mayor Stoney announces creation of City of Richmond Eviction Task Force

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the creation of the City of Richmond Eviction Task Force, an advisory body charged with addressing the causes of evictions in Richmond and prescribing preventative solutions.

The task force will work alongside the city’s Eviction Diversion Program, a first-of-its-kind within the Commonwealth of Virginia mediation program providing rental assistance, pro bono legal support, financial counseling, and supportive service referrals to residents already in the court system for rent-due cases and facing housing insecurity.

The Eviction Diversion Program, launched in October 2019 in partnership with Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Firms in Service and the court system, is poised to thwart hundreds of potential evictions in its first year.

“The Eviction Diversion Program will make a real impact in the lives of some of our most vulnerable community members currently facing eviction proceedings in court,” said Mayor Stoney. “However, we recognize that we also have the responsibility to address the root causes of evictions and work to prevent the threat of eviction from occurring in the first place. I am counting on this group to explore steps the city can take to better understand, mitigate and prevent the conditions that make our most vulnerable residents, including our children, susceptible to housing insecurity.”

The task force will include housing and human services stakeholders, affordable housing and social justice advocates, youth and family homelessness specialists, public housing residents and property management professionals, including leadership of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), which recently agreed to freeze eviction proceedings and partner with Mayor Stoney’s Eviction Diversion Program to mediate rent-due cases between RRHA and its tenants, educate RRHA residents through financial literacy workshops and prevent evictions from public housing units.

“Housing is a matter of equity and justice, and it touches every other aspect of a person’s life,” said Mayor Stoney. “Evictions in Richmond disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income, single-family households with children, creating a traumatic downward spiral for people already suffering from economic challenges and other hardships. That is why it is critical for us to innovate bold, collaborative and compassionate methods to better meet the needs of all Richmonders.”

The task force will meet regularly to provide the mayor with recommendations and guidance on how the city can holistically address the eviction crisis and ensure housing stability for all of Richmond’s residents, especially for its most historically vulnerable communities. 

City of Richmond Eviction Task Force Members:

Omari Al-Qadaffi – Housing organizer/Legal Aid Justice Center
Jovan Burton – Partnership for Housing Affordability
Janae Craddock/Marty Wegbreit – Central Virginia Legal Aid Society
Damon Duncan – Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority
Douglas Dunlap – City of Richmond Department of Housing and Community Development
Reggie Gordon – City of Richmond Office of Human Services
Tracey Hardney Scott – Housing Chair, NAACP
Kelly King Horne – Homeward
Kathryn Howell/Ben Theresa – VCU/RVA Eviction Lab
Christie Marra– Virginia Poverty Law Center
Heather Mullins Crislip/Monica Jefferson – Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia
LaFonda Page – RRHA Resident/Legal Aid Justice Center
William Poarch - ACTS
Erika Schmale – Richmond Public Schools’ McKinney Vento Homeless Education Specialist
Patrice Shelton – Hillside Court Tenant Council
Alice Tousignant – HD Advisors
Lisa Williamson – Real estate broker, Richmond Property Owners Association, National Association of Residential Property Managers

The first meeting of the Eviction Task Force will take place December 2, 2019, 4 – 5:30 p.m. in the large conference room on the 2nd floor of City Hall, 900 E. Broad Street. Future Eviction Task Force meeting dates, times and locations will be publicized by the City Clerk’s Office and the Mayor’s Office. 

For more information on the Eviction Task Force or the Eviction Diversion Program, contact Osita Iroegbu, the Mayor’s Senior Policy Advisor for Community Engagement, Inclusion and Equity, at Osita.Iroegbu@richmondgov.com.

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