Mayor delivers 2021 State of the City address
Equity Agenda will center economic and social justice to help city recover “the right way”
Mayor sets ambitious goals for affordable housing and renewable energy; improvements to public safety, transit, public engagement
Watch the full speech here. Read it here.
Mayor Levar M. Stoney today delivered the first “State of the City” address of his second term, sharing a message of hope for the dawn of a new era of healing and unity in the city as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and pursues social and economic justice through action.
The mayor discussed components of an “Equity Agenda” as part of his plan to help the city recover from the pandemic “the right way,” outlining ambitious goals to address climate change, actions to improve transit accessibility and safety, an enhanced approach to public engagement, a means to measure equitable economic development and additional steps to improve public safety and the relationship between police and the communities they serve.
First and foremost, the mayor committed to working with health officials to continue Richmond’s fight against the global pandemic and promote vaccination, especially in communities of color.
“This struggle has tested our patience, our compassion and our strength to carry on,” the mayor said. “My fellow Richmonders, the test is not over. It’s the hard truth. Until we ensure that every Richmonder has access to the vaccine, the test will not be over… Until we get Richmonders back to work. Until we get kids back in schools. That’s what I want to see before anything else here in 2021.”
To that end, the mayor laid out the following goals for 2021 and beyond as part of his Equity Agenda:
The mayor said the city will promote economic justice through economic recovery and noted that upcoming redevelopment in areas like Greater Scott’s Addition, downtown and the development of a resort casino would prioritize living wage jobs and growing city revenue to fund investments in public education, affordable housing and infrastructure.
To increase transparency in evaluating economic development projects and promote greater equity for Black and Brown businesses and families, Mayor Stoney said the city will develop an Equitable Economic Development Scorecard that will reflect standardized expectations of all the city’s economic development projects based on community input and industry best practices.
Building on the successful resident input models of the Richmond 300 Master Plan, the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety, and the Community Ambassadors Program, the mayor said the city will launch an Office of Public Engagement -- a first of its kind team dedicated to designing and executing 21st century community engagement and communications strategies that enable all Richmonders, regardless of zip code, preferred language or internet access, to get involved.
“This office will work across all departments to ensure that the city is implementing creative engagement techniques, both virtual and in-person, communicating effectively on city programs and policies, and sharing the city’s story for others to celebrate,” Mayor Stoney said. “You want to get engaged, and I’m dedicated to building a reliable yet flexible vehicle for you to do just that.”
In Mayor Stoney’s first term, the city exceeded its goal to build 1,500 units of affordable housing by 2023 three years early. In his speech, the mayor said the city will take on the challenge to meet the city’s growing affordable housing needs to build 10,000 new affordable housing units by 2030.
Last year’s Richmond City Council passage of the administration ordinance will provide a secure annual allocation to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which have tripled since 2016. By 2025, the revenue to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will be an unprecedented 10 million dollars.
Transportation Access and Safety:
Building on the work of the Office of Equitable Transit and Mobility and the city’s leadership role in the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, the mayor announced three exciting developments to improve public transit safety and accessibility.
Thanks to a grant secured from the Department of Rail and Public Transit, later this year the city will paint the Pulse Bus Rapid Transit lanes red -- a practice many cities have used to keep riders safe from vehicular traffic and keep the buses running on time.
Working with the Governor’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the city will explore improving accessibility measures and develop actionable steps toward removing barriers to transit use.
The city will also create a low-cost, alternative transportation option for residents and visitors alike in the new Bike Share Program focused on equitable access. The program will be piloted with stations near the most populous public housing communities after robust community engagement.
“Regular transit users, who are overwhelmingly people of color, are some of our most hardworking residents,” said Mayor Stoney. “They shouldn’t have to suffer longer commutes or less flexible transportation options…These opportunities will allow us to explore what it really means to build a multimodal city.”
Mayor Stoney said the city has a responsibility to pursue environmental justice, noting the disproportionate impact climate change has on communities of color in our city that have historically been redlined or subject to disinvestment.
The mayor also announced ambitious goals in renewable energy as part of its RVAGreen 2050 initiative.
By 2023, the city will complete purchases for 50 percent of its electricity usage to be in off-site renewable electricity. By 2025, the city will complete purchases for its electricity usage to be entirely renewable.
Finally, the mayor said everyone in our city has a role to play in reimagining a safer city.
“Our goal is to help build up and strengthen our communities so that every single person can live their life to the fullest,” the mayor said, calling gun violence “a public health crisis deeply rooted in systemic racism and inequity.”
The mayor cited the annual show of armed intimidation by demonstrators coming to Richmond for Lobby Day, noting that state law allows visitors to openly carry rifles through the streets of the city.
“Each year, Richmonders are threatened, and it’s unacceptable to me. That’s why I’m calling for the General Assembly and Governor Northam to ban the open carry of firearms in public spaces.”
Mayor Stoney also highlighted the work of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety in recommending improvements in policing, including the “Marcus Alert.” He said the Richmond Police Department’s newly formed Office of Professional Accountability will also work with officers to address accountability concerns raised by the community independent of its Internal Affairs Division.
Police will now carry and distribute business cards with their names, precinct information, space for filling in the report number, and contact information for filing complaints or offering compliments.
The mayor also encouraged city council to complete its work on establishing a Civilian Review Board this year, calling it a “vital element of our re-imagination of community safety. Public safety means something different for everyone, but I guarantee you, we are listening and learning to make Richmond a safer city for all,” he said.
In conclusion, Mayor Stoney said that every city employee is committed to the helping city and its residents emerge from the dark year that was 2020, so we can recover “the right way,” and “welcome the dawn of a city newly dedicated to justice for all.”