by Jessee Perry
It is the day after the election and the last 24 hours have been a wild ride. In Richmond we went from fear of a Mayor Morrissey to seeing the hope of a run off between Levar and Jack to a Levar out-right win. On a national level, Donald Trump pulled out a win, California voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and three states voted to legalize medical marijuana. Now it is November 9th (10th by the time I post this) and while some people are celebrating, others are processing. My mind is already spinning with thoughts of what to do next.
Conversations in Gilpin Court
On election day, I was at Calhoun Center and a group of kids came up to talk. Three were in 6th grade, one was in 5th grade and one was in 2nd grade. One of the 6th graders was asking all of the questions in the world about the mayoral election, different signs, and candidates. Then he asked me if Hillary was going to win. He said that he was afraid of Donald Trump because he saw the things Trump had said about women and minorities. He said that we need to respect women and everyone. Then he went on to tell me that he didn't like Hillary because she had lied and people shouldn't lie. I asked him how he knew all of this about the candidates and he told me that he watches the news every morning and afternoon. He told me he wanted to move to Henrico and didn't want to move to Gilpin Court because of the things that happen there. I asked him what other problems he thought needed to be fixed and he told me that we need better police because he sees on television that police are killing black men. I asked them what they wanted to be when they were older. He said an NBA player and his friend said he wanted to be an NFL player. The future running back said if that didn't work out he wanted to be a doctor. The NBA player told me that he wanted to keep studying just in case it didn't work out so he could become a doctor and help people.
We have failed these kids. They saw the vitriol of this election. They saw the flaws of both front runners. They see it all. Regardless of which national candidate won, there were going to be people who were scared or felt unsafe in America. But in addition to the fear, these two kids aspire to be professional athletes or doctors. In Richmond City do we have the athletics programs to give them the opportunity to make it in the NFL or NBA? Do we have the quality of education to give them the opportunity to become doctors?
Now is the time to organize and figure out what our roles are going forward. On January 1st we have a new mayor, city council, and school board who we need to hold accountable as our representatives to make change happen.
Joe Morrissey's candidacy
Joe Morrissey stepped into a role where he represented people in the city who have been systemically disenfranchised and oppressed. They felt that Joe was their only voice in the city and believed in him wholeheartedly. Occasionally discussed during the campaign and illustrated in this map of who won in the precincts is the racial divide that exists in Richmond and among supporters of each candidate. The city went into an uproar over Joe leading the election and the #NeverMorrissey mantra was born. Joe went from leading the race to fishing in 3rd place. As someone who is vocal about inclusion and was all about the #NeverMorrissey campaign, I am torn. I do not think Joe was the candidate who would bring real change in Richmond. But Joe's supporters have legitimate problems with the city and our efforts to shut Joe down effectively silenced their voice yet again. Until we address and fix the underlying issues, we will stay on the track of a divided city and having candidates in the future who split the city along our divides. The only way for #NeverMorrissey to work in the long-term is by fixing the problem instead of continuing to ignore it.
A city divided against itself can not stand
Facts and figures
2008: 202,867 population, 87,767 votes cast, 109,482 active registered voters, 80.17% voter turnout
2012: 210,857 population, 91,649 votes cast, 1118,346 active registered voters, 77.44% turn out
2016: 220,289 (based on 2015 estimate), 99,688 votes cast, 130,566 active registered voters, 76.35% turn out. Based on 2010 census bureau data, 78.2% of the Richmond population is over 18 meaning there are ~172,266 people over 18 in the city and 75.79% of them are registered to vote.
Thoughts on unity
Levar won with 35.64% (35,525 votes) of the vote. Going a step further, he won with 27.2% of active registered voters or 20.62% of City residents over 18. Depending on if you are looking at those who cast votes, active registered voters or adult residents, between 64.36-79.38% of the people did not vote for Levar. With the overwhelming anti-Morrissey sentiment and variety of candidates, it is hard to translate these numbers to an opinion on his mandate; however, it points to a need for unity in the city. We have just finished a contentious national and local election cycle that pit neighbors against each other and we need to find a way to move forward together. A hot topic of this mayoral election cycle was the need for an administration who listened to Richmond residents. There are a lot of residents who believed in another candidate, are disenfranchised, or were just trying to stop Joe. Whatever their reason, they did not support Levar in the election and we need to bring everyone back together.
Now on November 9th (November 10th by the time I post this) we need to think about how to unify the city. What does the community need to do? What is Levar's role in the unification?
Richmond, now is the time to organize. Now is the time to lay the foundation for the next four years and beyond. Education, equality and unity are on my mind. What is on your mind?