YEAR IN REVIEW: Richmond mayor pressed on rising crime, education and economic development

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Ending the first year of his second term, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney faces no shortage of issues left to tackle.

Public safety, job growth, housing, wealth-building, police and community relations are all areas the 40-year-old hopes to address in the new year and throughout his second term.

At the forefront, rising homicides and increasing violent crime. The toll comes as many of the city’s police officers are calling on Chief Gerald Smith to resign. However, Stoney expressed continued confidence in Smith to lead.

In a wide-ranging interview on Thursday, 8News Reporter Ben Dennis asked, “how can you have confidence in the police chief when the homicide rate is at a 15-year high?”

Stoney responded, “Well, you know, as you all reported the other night, we are seeing an increase in a spike in crime all over Central Virginia…,” adding that his approach involves millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan, and state funding. Also, he said combating gun violence includes early intervention in schools, though specifics have not been shared.

Stoney’s plan to distribute the federal aid also targets better street lighting, more cameras, and increased hazard pay for first-responders

On the city’s newest incoming resident–governor-elect Glen Youngkin, Stoney said he will attend the Republican’s inauguration next month and offered to set up a meeting. 8News asked Stoney what he hopes Youngkin will know about the special relationship between the capital city, and the governorship.

“This is where he [Youngkin] will lay his head most nights in his four year term. But also, I think he has to recognize that he has an opportunity to actually hear and see what it’s like living in an urban area, and also the ills that come with urban centers like Richmond,” Stoney said, who was also one of two campaign chairpersons for Terry McAuliffe’s now-failed second gubernatorial bid.

Economic development remains in focus for the mayor’s administration; all the more so after the Navy Hill downtown redevelopment project was defeated by city council and the Urban ONE casino proposal in the southside was voted out by Richmond voters.

“We are trying our best to reemerge after the pandemic…” “I’m an old school high school quarterback, and so if you’re a quarterback, all you know how to do is throw. I’m going to continue to throw and we’re going to get the ball in the end zone in the future,” he said.

Notably, Stoney eyes redeveloping the Diamond district where minor league baseball team the Richmond Flying Squirrels play, and Virginia Commonwealth University Athletics call home.

The university has expressed interest to turn the area into a destination for more athletic fields. Stoney said a request for interest will go-out by the end of this year to accept developer proposals in the Diamond.

When pressed on the contentious and ongoing battle to build a new George Wythe High School in the southside, Stoney alleges the school board’s desire to take over the project has delayed the build.

The current debate is over the size of the school, which Stoney thinks should be larger than last proposed. 

Despite declining enrollment, Stoney believes an influx of new families moving to the southside backs his argument.

“Our Latino population is growing down there. I believe that combined with the black population, those kids deserve an environment that is not overcrowded.“

How to achieve a resolution? Stoney said it will take sacrifice from the school board, and his administration’s goals. 

Our full interview with Mayor Stoney can be found here:

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