Q&A with the 8th District Richmond City Council candidates: Ford, Trammell and Wentz

2020 Election

Amy Wentz, Reva Trammell and Regie Ford (from left to right)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Voters in Richmond’s 8th District will decide between three candidates seeking to represent them on the city council.

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.

The candidates for the Southside District 8 seat include Reva Trammell, the incumbent, Regie Ford and Amy Wentz.

Ford and Wentz are both looking to unseat Trammell, who has been on the council since 1998. Ford is a housing specialist running on a campaign focused on education, development and sustainability. Wentz is a Richmond native who founded Black RVA, a platform highlighting the Black cultural experience in the city.

8News asked the candidates six questions — each with a 300-word limit — about pressing issues in the district, including their 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.

Why should your district vote for you? 

Trammell: I am confident that the majority of residents within the 8th district will vote to return me to representing them on City Council because they know that I listen to their concerns, that I am accessible 24/7, and return their phone calls and that I will fight for them and can be counted on to act in their best interest.

Wentz: My run for City Council represents change and progress for the 8th District. The residents in the 8th District should vote for me because I have the vision and plan to improve Education, Infrastructure, Growth, Housing, Transportation, Health and Safety. I am also committed to a communication strategy that will keep all residents informed of the resources, programs and services provided by the City that have been created with our tax dollars. From my perspective, the 8th District has been neglected for far too long and I know that it takes thoughtful and intentional leadership for the total enhancement to our quality of life, undervalued for decades.

What do you see as the top priority in your district? How would you address it? 

Ford: Community engagement. How would you address it? Through community asset-based management. If we change the environment, we change the community. Change the look aesthetically through community engagement.

Trammell: Addressing issues related to poverty from job opportunities, job training and better educational opportunities for our children.  I have worked with developers, the City Administration and the School Board/RPS to bring economic development, affordable housing, PreK (Summer Hill) to the 8th district and 3 new schools in the southside.  We also have 3 new parks coming to OUR 8th district.

Wentz: Lives lost is our top priority. The health disparities and outcomes of the 8th are the worst in the City. The insights report shows that life expectancy between our district and others varies by 20 years! Did you read that? So based on zip code, residents in the 8th District have a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years less than residents in the 1st and 2nd District. 

Violent crime is rising, especially among our youth. Drug abuse and addictions are leading to overdoses on our streets. I would address this priority by improving our neighborhoods so they are walkable and bikeable and residents can move safely by foot and get active. I’d also increase our access to healthy food and primary healthcare by creating an incentive for practices and grocers. Regarding violent crime and addiction, I’d focus on root causes and anti-poverty programs instead of being reactionary and arresting our way through our challenges. 

What solutions do you have to offer to help improve Richmond Public Schools? Would you consider supporting a tax hike? 

Ford: Disavow the talks of vouchers and be extremely careful about school choice. This is a community problem. If we fix the community, we fix the schools. 

Would you consider supporting a tax hike? I would not.

Trammell: I have supported the meal tax to build new schools in South Richmond and provide salary increases and better benefits for our teachers.  I will work with RPS and the School Board during the preparation of the next budget to provide adequate funding for Richmond Public Schools.  I will not support any additional tax hikes, until all unnecessary spending and nonessential spending is eliminated.

Wentz: As the body that holds the purse strings, City Council bares great responsibility in ensuring that RPS has the resources necessary to provide a quality education to our students. It is also important that Council Representatives share their communication strategy and engagement resources to our School Board so that the community at large can take a more active role in supporting our schools and students.

I truly be that strengthening the adults in households will improve outcomes for our students. Currently, most opportunities for adult and continuing education are housed north of the River. I’d advocate for equitable access to our adult learning, vocational and technical learning centers so we can expand the minds and opportunities for our 8th District parents and caretakers.

I’d also push that Title 1 resources be allocated to one on one “Family Success Meetings” or family compacts. In these meetings before school begins, RPS would be able to outline expectations for the student, family and teacher as well as identify any resources the family needs to ensure their student is successful and minimize adverse childhood experiences.

Residents are trying to stay afloat due to the Pandemic and corresponding economic downfall. A tax increase would further burden families and would not be the answer I would look for at this time.

How do you think Mayor Stoney handled the process to remove the city’s Confederate statues? 

Ford: The statues are down and that is a great thing, however, I wish he would have acted swifter, years swifter. I give him a B+.

Trammell: He should have followed the process that City Council and the Virginia Legislature had put in place that addressed public discussion of this issue.  He did not do this and as a result the citizens who lived in the vicinity of the monuments suffered, citizens lost confidence in their government and the police to protect them, and our police officers lost confidence in the City’s leaders, both Mayor and City Council Members, to support them in the performance of their duty to protect lives and property.  Also, many businesses in the City of Richmond lost confidence in the City’s duty to protect their property from destruction, arson and vandalism.

Wentz: I think the Mayor’s decision and process to remove the City’s confederate monuments was long overdue and put the safety of Richmond residents first. It’s time to move forward. The confederacy is behind us and those that want to reflect and study that period in time can do so in history books and museums. 

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? 

Ford: Rent relief, and small business loans with low-interest rates, with the possibility of loan forgiveness. Has enough been done? You can always do more. If not, what would you propose doing to help? The mayor can be more visible along with the city council, in times of despair leadership is paramount to a quick recovery. 

Trammell: Not turning off water or utilities for nonpayment during the pandemic.  Look into providing incentives to small businesses that will help them stay in business.

Wentz: The city programs that I thought were helpful to residents and business have been the Eviction Diversion Program and Housing stability assistance, partnerships for Grant Funding with the Office of Community Wealth Building and Office of Minority and Business Development, Tax Amnesty and Relief extensions, and more recently the opening of virtual learning centers for parents and business owners/workers that need socially distanced options for student care as they learn. Areas where I see we can improve in the 8th District are ensuring programs and services meet residents. Communication from our current representative during this pandemic has been slim to none. If residents and business owners in the 8th aren’t aware of programs and information isn’t being deiminated, they can’t take advantage. I’d like to improve that with a communications strategy built for all residents. 

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? 

Ford: Not very well in engaging citizens, however, I do believe there may be an outlier or two who are in opposition to everything presented before the city council. 

What concerns you moving forward? How the southside, in particular, the 8th district has been underserved for decades so much so abject poverty seems to be the norm. 

What gives you hope for the future? The people of the 8th district. They are great people, just looking for new and bold leadership and their piece of the pie, no handouts just an even playing field. Together we will make the 8th district what it should be.

Trammell: My colleagues and I on Council work very hard to serve the citizens of Richmond and our Districts.  While we always do not agree on how to do this, we do respect each other and all want the same thing in the end, a better Richmond where we can raise our families and live our lives in safety and have a better future for our children.  What gives me hope for the future: the belief that we are all family, and that we treat one another the way we would want to be treated.

Wentz: As Richmond works to become a City where all residents can thrive, several Council members have been effective at partnerships and collaboration to support all residents. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for all. I am significantly  concerned that 8th District residents will be further displaced if government policies and approaches are not centering our very real and relevant lived experiences in south Richmond. I view my opportunity to create change at the City Council level as an opportunity to create systemic change for communities and neighborhoods that need it most. 


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