MEET YOUR CANDIDATES!
Richmond NAACP Candidate Forum for School Board & City Council Candidates Districts 1-5 August 23, 2016 at 3rd St. Bethel AME Church
The following are answers given by the candidates running for City Council in the City of Richmond, VA in response to the question “Who are you and why are you running?”
The moderator, Mr. Art Lewis Burton, reminds the councilfolk to state their names in case they are not #RichmondFamous
Andreas Addison: Gob Bluth is running for Council, you guys! CA-CAW! because he wants to make local government work for the people in a 21st Century way. He worked in City Hall for 8 years making SeeClickFix and Nextdoor happen. He has seen that innovation is the way to make the city work for us because it makes transparency and accountability easier. Basically, City Hall is currently backwards and not up on all the latest technologies.
Jonathan (not Tom) Cruise: What a nice young man! He thanks the NAACP for hosting the event. So respectful! He is running because he is passionate about 3 things: 1. He understands the value that a strong public school system can “embed in a child's lifetime.” It also helps a child build on the things they've learned in the future (What is this? Time traveling students? I think this may have been a Miss South Carolina moment). 2. Not Tom would like a “certain level” of transparency applied to city agencies. 3. Allow citizens to engage in the decision making process. And 4. Wait. I thought he said 3. Whatever. He'd like improvements in city services. Cruise goes to gripe about his leaves not getting picked up and the moderator was like TIME!
Harry Warner: He's running for council in the 1st and, “Like you've heard, I've got a great passion for the city of Richmond.” We have heard? Have we? Do I know you? Are you so Richmond famous that your passion for the city transcends speech and is able to enter minds and implant your passion directly into the brain? AMAZING, SIR! (Later he says he was behind one of the pushes to keep the Diamond on the Boulevard) He is also a native son of the city, acknowledging Johnny Walker who spoke before him. I am sure their experiences growing up in Richmond were very similar. Warner has gotten tired over the last 12 years of seeing waste and the inability for council and school board and the mayor to work together. We have to work together as a “collabratation” to get things solved. His kids have gone to city schools and he is a strong proponent of keeping the schools. “It is a marketplace.” Our population's grown by 20k in the last 6 years. We gotta keep the kids living in the trendy places here because they're gonna get married and have kids and we gotta reel 'em in NOW. His bro is an 18 year vet of the RPD and he's all about the cops.
Charlie Diradour: Developer. Also #RichmondFamous, but tells us his name, most likely because he likes to hear it. He thanks everyone for coming out, as he shares our interest in the city. He is running for 3 reasons: Firstly, education in the city is broken due to finances that we can fix with people who understand finance. Secondly, POT HOLES AND SIDEWALKS! FIX EM! Thirdly, public safety is super important to him and always has been. He believes that cops and firefighters aren't paid enough. The only way to fix the problems is with cooperative leadership and financial stewardship, he says as he points and smiles like, “Heeeey, guy. How's it hangin'?” at the moderator.
Kim Gray: Current School Board member for 8 years. “I think the best indicator of what one will do is what they've done.” Time for list of accomplishments. She has brought about a greater level of accountability and transparency to School Board (O RLY?). She also worked for Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as governors on policy issues from transportation to schools. She has knowledge and experience talking about policies. We have a mandate to make public education a priority and that's what she intends to do on Council. K.
Rebecca K.W. Keel: Ms. Keel is passionate first and foremost about social justice. She has a background in social work, psychology, human behavior, and gender and sexuality studies. She loves people! and is running for council because the process that we have for community engagement right now is flawed. “It is difficult and can be better.” Transparency and community engagement at all levels is of the utmost importance. The backdoor, sweetheart development deals have got to go and the citizens have to have a say in everything that effects their communities. You feel kinda like she's taking you to church when she speaks. Handy, then, that we were already in one.
Milondra Coleman: 4 major reasons for running: service provision, crime issues, under and unemployemt, education is a major issue. She is an educator in the RPS system. She believes key to dealing with these issues successfully is building relationships. Win or lose, she will continue to work towards building better relationships in RVA. YASSSSSS, QUEEN! That is so appreciated and gets good applause.
Chris Hilbert: Incumbent. He is the first candidate to thank the NAACP for hosting the event. The issues that he is most passionate about are education and public safety. When Mr Hilbert was 15, his father was a homicide victim. He can appreciate that there is a face and a name behind every murder victim in this city. He acknowledges the recent spike in crime and realizes that we must be vigilant every year. You can't just say, oh we've tackled this problem and move on. He has voted for every increase in public schools $21mil over what the mayor has proposed. He would like to, this new term, focus on infrastructure and 3 redevelopment areas : The Boulevard, BPB, and Virginia Union Area. Chris is voice of reason kind of dude, very even keel. The voters in every district are fired up this year, though. Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, is looking for a shakeup. Challengers are campaigning more intensely than I've seen in previous years. Incumbents like Chris will have to work extra hard right up until November to get the votes of a clearly disgruntled electorate.
Dorian Daniels: He is running to bring leadership that represents the entire district. “Wherever you live, the representation should be the same.” He says a lot of people claim they advocate for police and schools but actions speak louder than words. Current office holders have been in their positions for long enough and not been able to make changes. This is why he runs. Dorian started his campaign with a little touch of controversy, but seems to have chilled out. I very much enjoy a bow tie, by the way.
*Hassan Fountain did not attend this forum.
Tim Grimes: He has worked as 4th District Council liason for many years so he understands how to get things done and what needs to be fixed. Schools, crime, poverty. He was told he could basically get along with people, so he wants to try cooperation with RVACouncil, RPSBoard, the city adminstration and the community. I am not convinced that he is not Tim Gunn and is mainly here for the suits.
Kristen Larsen: Current School Board member. She's been in public service since 2009 when she helped open Patrick Henry Public Charter school. She had to work with school board on the project and experienced some "challenges" so she decided to run. She counts as pluses during her time on School Board: putting check registers online, bringing in new leadership (Bedden), implementing a new academic program, and co-chairing the facilities task force to bring the schools up to 21st century standards. I'm wondering if she really thinks RPS is up to 21st century standards? She says she's running for council because we have a plan, but it's not moving forward. What is this plan of which you speak?
Johnny Walker: Richmond's native son! He and all of his family, kids included, have attended RPS. He has 35 years experience lobbying for telegraphs (!!!) and negotiating contracts. RPS can be great again by putting funding and accountability back into the schools. 4 things on his platform 1. We pay way too many taxes for the services we get. We need a cost benefit analysis. He has gone on so long with his superb storytelling, he gets cut off and we are left hanging as to what the other 3 platform issues were. The suspense is killing me. I mean it. I want to know!
*Larry Olanrewaju and Jeff Thomas, Jr. did not attend.*
Parker Agelasto: Incumbent. IT'S THE PDF CHAMPION!!! He points out that he and Chris are the only 2 incumbents at this forum. Which means, in the immortal words of RuPaul, "YOU BETTER WORK." He wants to serve and enjoys helping people. He goes out and interacts with the people of his district to find ways to work together. It is very important for him that he represents his constituents' views and is transparent. He points to specific projects that he has discussed with his district residents and represented their interests -- “Store front community design, city stadium, and down on Cowardin and Semmes with some warehouses over there.” Parker will continue to have perfectly coiffed hair and advocate for his district if reelected.
Montague Magruder, 5th: Mr. Magruder is a community advocate. He is on GRTC transit study task force and is part of the Fight for 15 movement. He has seen Council and School Board make “tragic” decisions for the city that have “led them to take a more dangerous path.” Like the one to Mordor?! He is running to be the voice of the least of us, which have been ignored by city government for the last 4-8 years.
Garrett Sawyer, 5th: Mr. Sawyer wants to get back to basics. No matter where you live in the city, finances are your basis and city finances are not in order. That is unacceptable. I actually almost yelled out, "NO SHIT!" right here, but then I remembered I was in a church and that my mama had instilled manners in me. I swear, it's true! Garrett grew up in his district. He manages employees at a big ol' law firm, it seems. He envisions a land where government communications with residents are effective and on time. If we know how our money is being utilized we can move forward as a city.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Can you imagine a Richmond that talks to you honestly and respectfully, arrives on time, has a good job and a handle on its finances? Ooo, child, you better marry it! But until that day, I guess we'll just keep chugging along with our project.