RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News went one-on-one with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, asking him to reflect on the year 2020, in addition to his top priorities for 2021.
Stoney told 8News his focus will be equity, justice and making sure City Hall is more resident-centric.
“The onus is on us as a city to close the gaps, the divides, the disparities of Richmonders of color and white Richmonders as well,” Stoney said.
Stoney sees the new year as a chance to move forward and tackle widespread inequities. He believes that starts with early education.
While three new schools have been built under the mayor’s watch, he says he wants to take it to the next level. To achieve this, he’s called on Governor Ralph Northam, who supports the legalization of marijuana, to use the potential revenue to fund universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds.
Stoney’s to-do-list also includes transforming public housing and taking steps to generate more Black and Brown homeowners.
“I know that generational wealth is an issue here in the city as well,” he said. “I think the only way you get there is through housing.”
Stoney didn’t lay out any concrete proposals for how he plans to achieve his goals with housing but says he plans to call on City Council for support next year.
8News also pressed the mayor on policing. His response: the city will continue with police reforms even though some residents have raised concerns about safety, vandalism, low officer morale and a rising murder rate.
Asked if some of those police reforms have come at the cost of public safety, Stoney responded, “I wouldn’t say that we sacrificed public safety or community safety for reform. The great police departments in this nation are those departments that are reform-minded, changed-minded and those that are transparent and I think you can deliver on both.”
As for the mayor’s first term promise for City Hall to step up, residents still complain to 8News about customer service. Stoney admits more can be done.
“The biggest room in City Hall is the room for improvement,” he said. “I have already directed my team and they understand where I stand on this is that know we must not do what is easiest or most convenient to the city employee but we must do what is easiest and convenient for our residents.”
The mayor is proud of City Hall’s work to pave more streets and fill more potholes than other administrations, however. He says there’s been a 38% decrease in pothole requests.
But what about the pandemic?
Mayor Stoney said the crisis continues to deliver economic challenges, with more and more city restaurants closing. Among the most recent restaurants to shutter was Dutch and Company in Church Hill and Nota Bene. The mayor warns that projections show the city will have to be conservative with its budget. He adds that he finds it astounding that it’s December and that Americans have only received one relief package.
“To me, it is a true failure of government at the federal level,” Stoney says he continues to press Washington for aid. “We’re asking, we’re requesting, we’re begging that the federal government step up.”
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