RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Kristen Nye Larson has represented Richmond’s 4th District since 2017 and is running unopposed in November.
The City Council, made up of nine members who are elected to part-time, four-year terms, creates and amends local laws, sets policies for the city, appoints members to boards and commissions in the city and approves the annual budget.
Larson won a highly-contested five-way race for the Southwest District 4 seat and sits on the council’s finance committee and chairs its education and health committee.
8News asked Larson six questions — each with a 300-word limit — about pressing issues in her district, including her solutions to critical problems in Richmond schools, Mayor Stoney’s plan to remove the city’s Confederate statues, whether the mayor and current city council have done enough to help residents and businesses struggling amid the pandemic and what she would do differently.
Why should your district vote for you?
Over the past four years as Council Member for the 4th District, I’ve sought to increase transparency in city government, reject cronyism and no-bid contracting, and sought to refocus the government on core services. I am running for re-election to continue these efforts and to continue to listen to 4th District residents.
What do you see as the top priority in your district? How would you address it?
My top priority is working to rebalance our city budget thoughtfully, ensure core services are delivered, and help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
What solutions do you have to offer to help improve Richmond Public Schools? Would you consider supporting a tax hike?
As a parent of two RPS students, I know that success in school depends on commitment from parents, students, and teachers. We all need to stay engaged and committed, especially in our current remote-learning environment. Obviously, I support adequate school funding levels, but anyone who has served on the School Board (I served as 4th District’s School Board member), or has children in the system knows we cannot spend our way out of RPS’ problems. I did not support the mayor’s proposed real estate tax increase in 2019 and I don’t plan to support it moving forward.
How do you think Mayor Stoney handled the process to remove the city’s Confederate statues?
I have concerns about the expedited procurement process for the statue removal and the amount of money that was expended on that removal.
In July, I voted to remove the statues and I hope they can be relocated to a museum or historical society that will display them with context. I also think we need to engage the public in the future of the public space on Monument Avenue and how we can recreate an inclusive space for all in our city.
Which proposals from the city council or mayor do you feel have helped residents and businesses struggling during the pandemic? Has enough been done? If not, what would you propose doing to help?
We have not done enough to help our essential restaurant and entertainment industries in Richmond. Small businesses are the heart of our city and a lot are really struggling right now. The civil unrest, combined with the impact of pandemic has hurt many of our businesses. Dozens of restaurants have already closed, putting hundreds of people out of work. Just driving around you can see how many have closed. We need to work with restaurants to ease their tax burden while they are struggling, including deferred payments, payment plans, and other options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is your assessment on how the council has served city residents in recent years? What concerns you moving forward? What gives you hope for the future?
I can only address my own work on City Council. I was proud to have worked to reject the flawed Navy Hill development plan. Imagine if that tax burden was going on in the middle of our current fiscal crisis. I look forward to continuing my work to increase access to our James River Park system, increase interconnectedness in our transit, sidewalks, and bike systems, and make sure that RPS has a real plan as we transition back from the COVID-19 crisis.
I hope that the next four years will bring people together. If there’s one thing we can all learn from the past year is that we’re all in this together. I want to hear from you. Send me an email or give me a call. My campaign website is www.electkristenlarson.com. Let me know what you are looking forward to in the next four years.