Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Vision for Shockoe Valley


A statement from Mayor Levar M. Stoney on his vision for Shockoe Valley:

We have made great progress this year toward building a welcoming, inclusive and high-functioning city that celebrates diversity and strives for equality of opportunity to improve the quality of life for all of our residents.

As Richmond’s success story unfolds toward a bright future, we have a responsibility to address the shameful chapters of our city’s complex history leading up to, and following, the Civil War.

We have made strides in this effort just this year by convening a civil, civic conversation focused on the future of our Confederate statuary on Monument Avenue. We are also continuing to take the steps necessary to acknowledge, commemorate and preserve Richmond’s notorious role in perpetuating the evil of slavery.

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission, under the leadership of Del. Delores McQuinn, began this process nearly 20 years ago with the support of many other concerned residents, officials and stakeholders. The importance of these efforts was further underscored in 2006 by the archeological assessment of what was known as Lumpkin’s Jail, the installation of the Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue in 2007, the archeological excavation of the Lumpkin's site in 2008, the unveiling of Richmond Slave Trail Markers located along the Slave Trail in 2011 and the transfer of the African Burial Ground site to the City of Richmond from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2011. The African Burial Ground Site was where enslaved and free blacks were buried between 1750 and 1816, and where Gabriel Prosser was hanged in 1800.


The city, through community engagement, is currently developing a plan for the development of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail archeological site and a future slavery museum. The “Devil’s Half Acre,” as Lumpkin’s Jail was known, was one of at least five “slave jails” in Shockoe Valley in Richmond, which was the second largest slave trading sites in the nation behind New Orleans. More than 300,000 human beings were held, tortured and auctioned like cattle from 1830 until April 3, 1865, when Union troops marched into Richmond to liberate the city.

As the mayor of a city that was once the former capital of the Confederacy, I feel not only a civic but a personal responsibility to ensure Richmond realizes its potential to become a place where we tell the complete and heartbreaking story of the people in bondage who helped build this city, and our nation, with their sweat, blood and very lives.

The sacred grounds contained within Shockoe Bottom, in particular, the Shockoe Valley footprint, is a nationally significant historical area we will protect and honor. In doing so, we have an opportunity to create a cultural and international destination that will not only educate, but also promote contemplation, dialogue, reconciliation, and ultimately, healing.

Earlier this fall, I was fortunate enough to be one of four mayors selected by the National League of Cities and Urban Land Institute to be a 2018 Daniel Rose Land Use Fellow. This program provides leaders the opportunity to present a design and land use issue to a world-renowned team of urban planners, who provide expert guidance and technical support to cities to assist them in addressing their challenges.

I have decided the land covered by the Shockoe Valley footprint will be the focus of our participation. This week, the other mayors and I are in Toronto with our respective delegations of city officials to learn about the resources and tools available to us through the program, and to discuss how they can be applied to the challenges and opportunities in our respective cities.

In February, a team of experts and Rose fellowship faculty advisors will come to Richmond to review our project. They too will engage the community through additional interviews with stakeholders and make additional recommendations on how we are moving forward to enact our vision for the area.

My vision is to develop an area plan that will enable us to better protect and honor the untold and painful history of this sacred ground. This plan will not be limited to the jail and burial grounds, but will also include the broader footprint of Shockoe Valley.

Furthermore, I believe the development of this plan will support the significant public and private investments that are underway and that have already been made in Shockoe Valley, such as the renovated Main Street Station and 17th Street Farmers Market. It will also strengthen the connections to other historic resources throughout Shockoe Bottom, like the Slave Trail and Reconciliation Statue.

Linking these resources will be critical to the area’s long-term success as an environmentally and economically sustainable community. This plan will help ensure these assets, and others which may develop, will exist in concert, not conflict, with our plans to protect and honor our history.

Charting the future of this area of our city presents challenges, but also incredible opportunities. Our participation in the Rose Fellowship program underscores my commitment to recognizing our complex history. Working together, I truly believe we can find a path that not only honors and protects our past, but also helps to define our city’s future.
 



 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mayor Stoney Begins Series of Teacher Recruitment Visits for Richmond Public Schools


Mayor Levar M. Stoney has begun a series of recruitment visits to Virginia’s colleges and universities as part of an effort to encourage students and prospective graduates to begin their careers by teaching in Richmond Public Schools.

On Tuesday, the mayor visited Virginia State University, where he spoke with more than 200 students on the benefits of a teaching career and living in Richmond. 
The Mayor’s outreach is a joint effort in collaboration with RPS to help close the teacher vacancy gap in RPS by tapping the talent of the state’s higher education system. 
“Good students are the product of good teachers, and we want the very best for our schools,” said Mayor Stoney. “Our students deserve nothing less, and our top-rated colleges and universities have the talent that can make a difference in the lives of our children and take our city to the next level.”
Over the next five months, the mayor will make recruiting visits to college campuses throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. His next scheduled visit will be this Friday, Dec. 1 to the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. RPS will also hold an internal teacher job fair in February 2018 and will visit a series of colleges for teacher job fairs between January and April.
“Teacher recruitment remains a high priority for us, so it is encouraging to have this level of support from Mayor Stoney,” said School Board Chair Dawn Page. “Recruiting and retaining highly, qualified teachers is a major benefit to the school district as well as the progression of the city. Richmond is a great city to live, work, and play which makes it the ideal place to start or continue an impactful career in public education.”

The starting salary for a Richmond Public Schools teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is $44,525, plus benefits. RPS annually hires approximately 360 teachers for a new school year.
For more information on RPS teaching opportunities, please visit: www.rvaschools.net/domain/822.

 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Mayor Stoney Releases Update on Recommendations of the VCU Performance Review


Mayor Levar Stoney today released a detailed update on steps his Administration has taken to address the findings and recommendations of the VCU Performance Review, conducted in May 2017. 

The update is contained in the 25-page report found 
here
. The report provides a summary of the Administration’s efforts both to reform and improve the functioning of government and to build One Richmond. The report also contains summary recommendations developed by an interagency Cross Functional Team, consisting of employees from numerous different departments who examined issues concerning improving communications and processes within the organization. Finally, the report summarizes progress on key priorities of the Stoney Administration and identifies an action plan for the next three months leading into presentation of the FY 2019 and FY 2020 budget in March 2018. 

As part of that action plan, Mayor Stoney today announced his intention to create a Performance Management and Change unit based within the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. This unit will work with the CAO to implement organizational change and to monitor timely execution of policy priorities throughout City government. The unit will also provide analytical and technical assistance to all City agencies as needed.

Mayor Stoney has assigned Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Thad Williamson to work directly with Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn to incubate and launch the Performance Management and Change unit. 

“I am committed to building a culture of success and service in City Hall, and to making this an organization in which employees are proud to serve,” said Mayor Stoney. “That means doing the little things well, but it also means improving policies and reforming outdated practices. This report provides that road map.”

Since May the Mayor has personally visited agencies and listened to employees; and he has asked directors to respond to the performance review findings while continuing to implement the first a year transition plan. He convened a Cross Functional Team that has produced detailed plans on how to improve communication and processes.

“The next step now is institutionalizing change. Our new Performance Management and Change unit will help make sure that good ideas get translated into concrete action,” added Mayor Stoney. 

“The Performance Review and the follow-up steps that have taken place in the last few months have been a fruitful and productive exercise for the organization,” stated Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn. “I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Stoney to strengthen the organization and help build One Richmond.”


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Monument Avenue Commission Announces Expanded Engagement

The Monument Avenue Commission announced a wide-ranging plan for community engagement at its organizational work session meeting on Tuesday.

From January through April of 2018, the Commission will conduct outreach with stakeholders, community and other interested groups designed to facilitate constructive dialogue that will allow more direct contact with residents through varying meeting formats.

Starting in December, interested groups will be able to submit a request for a delegation of Commission members to attend a meeting to discuss the monuments. The commission will endeavor to meet all reasonable requests to engage on the issue during this time period.  
  
“The next phase of the Commission’s work will focus on productive working sessions with engaged groups and residents and facilitated though different categories such as artistic and creative design, historic preservation and social justice,” said Commission Co-Chair Christy Coleman. 

“We feel the new format and focus will help best cover the myriad issues of this very complex and important discussion,” said Commission Co-Chair Gregg Kimball. “We look forward to the outreach sessions with the community.”

Commission members also discussed incorporating a general public hearing on its progress in the spring of 2018.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Commission presented an overview of the more than 1,100 public submissions received to date and announced that all submissions will be published on the Commission’s website in early December. 

Richmond City Attorney Allen Jackson outlined his recent binding legal opinion that, for the time-being, the City must obtain legislative approval from the General Assembly to remove the statues but left open the possibility of interpretation through other methods. (Opinion can be viewed here).  

The Commission also detailed and demonstrated the vast and growing historical resources available from the American Civil War Museum, with support from the Library of Virginia, The Valentine Museum and the Virginia Historical Society that are online at onmonumentave.com for the public to learn more.   

The Commission’s web site (monumentavenuecommission.org) continues to be available for accepting public comment. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Richmond Completes 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Nearly Three Weeks Early


Mayor Levar M. Stoney this evening announced Richmond has completed the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which is due to the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts November 30.

This is the first time in four years the city has filed the report on time or before the state-imposed deadline. The 2015 and 2016 CAFRs were filed nearly a year and five months late respectively, causing consternation among members of City Council and the public. Mayor Stoney made a campaign promise and inaugural commitment that the 2017 CAFR would be completed on time, and the city’s Finance Department delivered.  

“Your government is now working better and more efficiently,” said Mayor Stoney. “We made this a top priority this year, and the Finance Department did a tremendous job. I am pleased to provide the state’s Auditor of Public Accounts and our City Council with timely audited financial statements that show Richmond is moving in the right direction.”

The CAFR consists of financial audit statements completed in compliance with the accounting and financial reporting standards established by the US Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

“The 2017 CAFR shows Richmond now stands squarely on solid financial ground,” said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Lenora Reid. The 2017 CAFR will be posted on the Finance page of the City’s website, under the Financial Reports section.
 
 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mayor Levar M. Stoney Announces Land Purchase Agreement in Larus Park Water Project with Chesterfield

 
Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the City of Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities has entered into a contract to purchase 18.2 acres of forested land adjoining Larus Park, where 1.2 acres will be used to locate a pump station and ground storage tank as part of an agreement to provide an additional 5 million gallons of drinking water a day to Chesterfield County.
Pending the approval of City Council, the acquisition from the Redford Land Trust will enlarge the footprint of the existing park by 25 percent, and dramatically increase the forested canopy that will be lost as part of the public works project.
“This is a better outcome and a win-win for our residents,” said Mayor Stoney. “Residents will get acres of additional, undisturbed, undeveloped park land which can be used for hiking trails and other passive uses. Our successful water utility will upgrade its infrastructure and return an additional $4.1 million in additional revenue over the next five years to help offset operations and maintenance costs to Richmond ratepayers. And we will be doing the right thing by helping our neighbor in Chesterfield.”
An Ordinance to allow the City to amend its Water Contract with Chesterfield County was submitted to Council in April 2017. After residents expressed concerns about the impact the public works project would have on Larus Park, Mayor Stoney directed the project team to reevaluate options. The result is a modified solution that will not only provide water to Chesterfield County, but also improve water supply reliability and resiliency to City residents while preserving and increasing the size of Larus Park.     
As part of the public works project, the City will purchase the land for $420,000 from the Redford Land Trust, which signed an agreement of sale last week. In addition, the County of Chesterfield will pay $91,136 to compensate the City of Richmond for trees removed as part of the project, and the City will apply the funds to the purchase price of the additional park land.  The additional land will be managed by the City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.
Chesterfield County will continue to pay its fair share of costs for ongoing operations and maintenance of city facilities as well as their percentage of joint and direct capital costs each year.  The County will pay an additional 3.8% share each year for all capital projects completed at the water treatment plant (the County’s total share of water plant capital projects will be 24.24% verse its current 20.45% share). Without the sale of this additional capacity to Chesterfield, City residents would be allocated these costs.  
“This project is part of the ongoing regional effort for a safe and resilient drinking water supply for all, now and into the future,” said Robert C. Steidel, the city’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Operations. 
BACKGROUND: This project builds on decades of cooperative regional water supply planning for Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond. As a wholesale water customer of the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County has requested an additional five million gallons per day of water capacity for Chesterfield County water customers. The City’s treated water supply is sufficient to allow this increase purchase. The additional water will be delivered to a pump station and ground storage tank located adjacent to the City’s existing Huguenot Road pump station on approximately 1.2 acres of land that the City will lease to Chesterfield. This project will provide Chesterfield county residents with up to an additional five million gallons per day of drinking water, an increase from 27 million gallons to 32 million gallons. The project will also provide City residents with more resilient and reliable water service to this portion of the City and fire protection for residents not currently in range of City fire hydrants.  
For more information, please contact Rhonda Johnson, City Department of Public Utilities: (804) 646-5463 or Rhonda.Johnson@Richmondgov.com.
 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

City Issues Request for Proposals for Major Downtown Redevelopment Project


Mayor Levar M. Stoney today formally announced that the city has posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) to spur redevelopment of a significant portion of real estate located in the neighborhood north of Broad Street in downtown Richmond.


The RFP addresses a project area that is generally bounded on the west by North 5th Street, on the north by East Leigh Street, on the east by North 10th Street and on the south by East Marshall Street. The project area consists of properties that have been identified as an economic opportunity area in the Pulse Corridor Plan, which was recently adopted by City Council as part of the City’s Master Plan. 
The North of Broad/Downtown Neighborhood Redevelopment Project will include a number of economic development components aimed at revitalizing underutilized city assets and improving the quality of life for Richmond residents in the areas of employment, housing and transportation.
Components to be addressed by potential respondents include:
* A replacement for the Richmond Coliseum
* Mixed income and affordable housing
* Local job creation and local hiring with Minority Business Enterprise and ESB participation goals
* A replacement of the GRTC transfer station
* A Convention Center hotel
* Historic preservation and adaptive reuse of the Blues Armory
“The goals of this RFP are bold,” said Mayor Stoney, but provide an opportunity to achieve a number of strategic objectives for the City. “To expand economic development and affordable housing opportunities; to generate revenue while achieving poverty mitigation through jobs and training; to provide historic preservation and community revitalization, to promote and support tourism, and to ensure sustainable development and investments in infrastructure.”
But Mayor Stoney made it clear that the City will not entertain any proposals that require the city to use its existing tax revenue or debt capacity to fund the project.  The City will not incur any moral or general obligation bonds to fund any private component of a proposal, but is willing to consider proposals that incorporate tax increment financing or the creation of special service districts. 
“We have too much to do for schools, housing, roads and other city priorities to leverage our limited borrowing capacity for this redevelopment,” Mayor Stoney said.
Prospective developers will have 90 days to submit proposals. City officials expect this to be a highly competitive process. A copy of the RFP can be found here.
“We are setting a high bar for our respondents,” said Mayor Stoney. “But that’s what we have to do if we want true neighborhood revitalization. This is a great opportunity for our city, and we want all of Richmond to benefit. By leveraging City-owned land, we can achieve transformational change. We look forward to receiving proposals that will continue our growth and serve the best interests of Richmond.”