RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Alexsis Rodgers, the Virginia director for Care in Action, is one of four Richmond mayoral candidates in this year’s election hoping to deny incumbent Levar Stoney a second term in office.
Rodgers, a grassroots organizer who served as Gov. Ralph Northam’s policy director when he was lieutenant governor, has pushed a progressive platform during her campaign. She has called for “reducing the scale and scope of policing” in the city and supports investing in green infrastructure.
The Hanover County native and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate has highlighted her grassroots campaign’s fundraising record after claiming she received the most individual contributions ever in a race for Richmond mayor.
While she won’t reach Stoney’s fundraising total, Rodgers did raise more than the other challengers in the race.
8News asked each Richmond mayoral candidate the same set of questions ahead of the election, including whether they would consider asking for the reintroduction of coronavirus restrictions if cases spike in the city, about their vision to help improve Richmond Public Schools, how they think the city’s police department handled protests this summer and why residents should vote for them.
Rodgers’ answers, each with a 300-word limit, can be found below.
Why should voters choose you over your opponents?
Richmond needs a mayor who will fight for working people. For the past eight years, I’ve worked inside and outside of government to advocate for economic security, voting rights, and quality healthcare. This year as State Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, I paved the way to make Virginia the first Southern state to pass labor protections for domestic workers, who are mostly women of color. I am the only candidate with a consistent record and experience bringing people together to advance policies for our most vulnerable community members. As mayor, I will make sure our city government is accountable to the people, not corporations or special interests.
What do you consider to be Richmond’s top priority and how do you propose the city should address it?
We have deep divides across race and class lines in the city that leave many families behind. Decades of redlining has shaped the economic, environmental and social landscape of neighborhoods, leading to decline, crime, underperforming schools, inadequate infrastructure, displacement and divestment. Your race, income and zip code determine your life expectancy in Richmond. These are systemic issues that need progressive policies that address poverty and build community wealth.
I am committed to an equitable, sustainable city that works for every Richmonder with: fully funded schools, inclusive and affordable housing, police reform, environmental justice, a robust transit system and an accountable government that centers the voices of community stakeholders.
How would you evaluate Richmond’s response to the coronavirus pandemic? With a possible second wave on the horizon, if elected, would you consider asking Gov. Northam to impose restrictions if cases increase in the city?
I am grateful that Richmond started prioritizing widespread testing sooner than other areas. We need to make sure that we’re doing outreach to more diverse communities, especially as most city services are inaccessible to anyone who cannot speak or read English. That is a major disservice to Richmond’s diverse community in the midst of a global health crisis. In addition, the city needs to do intentional outreach to the Latino community by partnering with organizations to deliver important health information and social services.
An individual’s health is impacted by a variety of external factors and this is more evident in Richmond because we are a city built by redlining. We rank eighth for emergency room visits and certain communities have a much higher rate of asthma than others. And, of course, physical health impacts mental and behavioral health as well. Richmonders deserve better. As mayor, I will fight for more tree canopy coverage and access to green spaces for all, regardless of zip code. This is just a start in what the city can do to help improve the health of its residents.
Yes, if I am elected I will ask Gov. Northam to impose more restrictions in the city and state — our government must take the lead in protecting all of its residents.
How would you further reform policing in the city? What’s your assessment on how the Richmond Police Department handled protests in the city during the summer?
Currently, we call on police officers to do too much. I support reducing the scale and scope of policing in Richmond to ensure we’re only sending police officers into situations they are trained and prepared to handle. Some police training curriculum has not been updated in 20 years, and currently not all forms of training are mandatory. Richmond deserves public oversight of the Richmond Police Department through an independent civilian review board with subpoena power.
We also need greater transparency within the police department. I will advocate for collecting and reporting demographic data on all stops, arrests, charges, and use of force incidents. I’ll work collaboratively to meaningfully address these challenges instead of making political decisions to create the appearance of action.
Every Richmond resident deserves to live without fear of facing deportation or being separated from their family. As mayor, I will call to end all collaboration with ICE and proactively work to build trust with all immigrant communities.
The city’s school system has seen some of the lowest graduation rates in the country. If elected, what will be your approach to help improve Richmond Public Schools?
Every student deserves a quality education. I graduated from the public school system and understand first-hand the value schools have in a person’s life. Teachers, administrators, counselors, staff and coaches played a major role in my success, even after I left the classroom. Student success is contingent on what we – leaders, educators, parents, caregivers and neighbors – contribute to our public education system.
As mayor I will lead the fight to fully fund Richmond Public Schools, by advocating at the General Assembly and coordinating innovative community-driven philanthropic investment.
As a proud union member myself, I will support collective bargaining rights for educators and all school staff. Students benefit from smaller class sizes, more robust staffing, and teachers who make long term careers at one school; these are all facilitated with collective bargaining rights. Additionally, many RPS employees are also RPS parents and Richmond residents; what’s good for them is good for our schools and for our city.
Because of years of advocacy, we now have clearer evidence that suspensions and expulsions disproportionately impact Black and brown students. We need more adults in our schools who can work with disruptive students so that our teachers can focus on maintaining a conducive learning environment. I would work with the School Board and RPS to replace school resource officers with social workers, more nurses, and other qualified mental health professionals who can support our students’ health and wellbeing. I support expanding programs between the schools, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, and City Hall to meet students’ needs.