by Melissa Vaughn and Jessee Perry
In light of Jon Baliles withdrawing from the mayoral race, we decided to make four endorsements that outline our "dream team" in City Hall: Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer, Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building and Director of the Department of Economic and Community Development. We are aware three of these roles are not elected by the people; however, we want to submit for consideration of the residents of Richmond, and the next Mayor, our thoughts on how the city could leverage the talent of some mayoral candidates after November 8th to improve our local government.
To be clear; Jon Baliles is our guy. We like Jon because he stands up for Richmonders, he presented a dedicated school funding plan, he is a competent adult, he listens to all stakeholders no matter how big or small, and he genuinely cares about Richmond. On Wednesday, Jon made a huge personal sacrifice by withdrawing from the race to give Richmond an opportunity to elect a mayor that is not Joe Morrissey. As much as we want to protest vote for Jon, we adamantly believe we can not squander this gift he has given us. We endorse Levar Stoney for #RVAMayor.
We have a litany of concerns with Joe Morrissey and Jack Berry being mayor but the focus of this post is to identify the strengths and address the weaknesses of Levar Stoney.
- Education- Levar was the first mayoral candidate to publish a comprehensive plan for the schools that clearly identified the Mayor's role in RPS.
- Performance Reviews- Levar's platform indicates he will order a comprehensive performance review of city employees during his first 100 days in office. With the question marks surrounding Mayor Jones's appointees, we need a mayor who will address inefficiencies and incompetencies.
- Poverty is Personal- Levar doesn't just say he understands poverty, he has lived it. When we talk about "the Two Richmonds," having first-hand experience with poverty is meaningful. We feel confident that he will focus on policies and decisions that improve the lives of Richmond residents living in poverty.
- Democratic Party Connects- Levar has connections with people that he may be able to leverage to get intel on what other cities are implementing and how it's happening. This just screams opportunity for regional and state cooperation (*cough* regional transportation *cough*).
- Approachable- Levar is very approachable and willing to talk (he is the "Grand Convener" after all) which is a stark contrast from the aloof nature of Mayor Jones.
- Tire Slashing - He had his friend's backs, we are banking on him having Richmond's back.
- Democratic Party Connects- He is a rising star in the Democratic Party and Richmond is a stepping stone to higher office. The negative side is the fear that he will make decisions that help advance his career at the cost of Richmond. But this could also mean he wants to build a positive record for the long-term, so he will not sell us short.
- He is Young- We are only putting this here to address that we do not believe age implicitly means having a plethora of experience. It's quality over quantity. So while some see this as a weakness, we see age, young or old, as a non-issue.
- Donors- People do not donate time and money for their own good health. Levar has raked in a substantial amount of donations (financial, time, effort, endorsements) from people who have no association to Richmond. That is a lot of outstanding political debt. While this does not sit well with us, we feel that we have to take a chance and give Levar the opportunity to prove our instincts wrong.
We never thought Levar was a bad choice, we just believe Jon is the right choice. We have our reservations about Levar but we firmly believe he is the best candidate still in the field. We see the potential upside and recognize his strengths while staying cautious of his weaknesses. We fully endorse Levar Stoney for mayor.
Chief Administrative Officer:
While this is a position appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council, we would like to endorse a candidate as a submission of consideration for the next Mayor and City Council. The CAO is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city and reports to the Mayor. A good CAO needs to have solid managerial skills, the ability to bring people together, delegate work, and move projects/policies forward. We think Jack Berry has the experience and skills to make a superior CAO. Jack's experience in city government and ability to bring folks together to execute on projects makes him extremely qualified for CAO. In addition, we think his love for downtown and connections throughout the city will compliment Levar's strengths. We fully endorse Jack Berry for Chief Administrative Officer.
Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building
The Office of Community Wealth Building's mission is to focus on policies and projects that decrease poverty in Richmond City. In addition to experience, the Director needs to be someone who understands the needs of citizens, has a passion for improving the city, and a heart for the city's residents. Michelle Mosby fits that bill. Michelle has experience on City Council and has been a leader to pass initiatives that help the historically disenfranchised such as Ban the Box. In addition, Michelle is a small business owner and understands the needs and challenges of small business owners. For as much as people give her flack for filing bankruptcy, she has a degree of personal experience that gives her a different perspective and makes her relatable to people who have been in similar situations. Michelle is the full package for Director of OCWB with her experience combined with her passion. We fully endorse Michelle Mosby for Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building.
Director of the Department of Economic and Community Development
The Department of Economic and Community Development is responsible for growing the business community and jobs while improving our communities. We have a history of crucial boondoggles in Richmond so it is necessary for the Director of DECD to understand Richmond and put Richmond's interests first in addition to having experience. We believe Jon Baliles has the Richmond experience and government experience. Jon stood against Shockoe Stadium and said no when a lot of people were telling him to say yes. Jon has also presented innovative ideas such as the Roanoke 40 which, while related to schools, shows that he is willing to listen to new ideas and promote them when they make sense. In addition, he has the experience of City Council and previous roles in City Hall. We fully endorse Jon Baliles for Director of the Department of Economic and Community Development.
So there it is folks. Stoney for Mayor, Berry for CAO, Mosby in OCWB and Baliles in DECD. That is the RVA Dirt dream team 2017-2020.