Andreas Addison - 1st District City Council Candidate

https://addisonforcouncil.com

 

1. The City of Richmond has a 25% poverty rate, citizens and neighborhoods with enormous unmet needs, as well as public infrastructure such as roads and school buildings that are aging or sub-standard. The City also has the highest local property tax rate in the region. What strategies should Richmond employ to generate the resources needed to better meet the City's needs? If these strategies don't suffice to generate the revenue needed to meet community needs, would you be willing to consider revenue increases, and if so, in what areas? Be as comprehensive as possible in your answer. 

 

I am focused on growing Richmond's tax base to minimize future tax increases while still funding our priorities. We are pursuing growth through a variety of means. We are rezoning parts of the city to allow developments that combine storefronts, apartments, condos, and office space, particularly along public transit corridors like the Pulse. We are also working to require affordable housing carve-outs in these developments. We are investing in Richmond Public Schools.

 

As you know, we raised RPS's budget by 15% over the past four years and built three new schools. We are improving core services like road quality and trash pick up. We are also working to improve the city's permitting process for business and developments so that bureaucratic delays don't prevent businesses from coming to Richmond. We plan on moving as much of the permitting process as possible to an online portal to make it easier for companies to file claims and more manageable for city employees to process those requests. These steps improve Richmond as a place to live and a place to invest, which will grow our tax base. Our city revenues are still climbing less quickly than Henrico and Chesterfield, so we still have work to do in this area.

 

During my first term, I lobbied the General Assembly to create a regional funding stream and cooperative governance structure for our transportation network. The creation of the Central Virginia Transit Authority has given our region, for the first time, a regional transportation strategy with specific revenue streams for sustainable funding. This allowed us to increase the paving budget and GRTC's budget without diverting money from other programs in our budget. We will continue to have to be creative and bold in our future growth to fulfill the significantneeds within our city.

 

In the most recent Spring General Assembly session, I worked with Sen. McClellan to grant the City of Richmond land-value taxation authority. This authority allows us to decouple land and improvement value so we can tax it at different rates. By raising the land value rate and lowering the rate on improvement value, we can increase revenues, incentivize the best and highest land use, while generally reducing the burden on individual homeowners. This new tax policy, coupled with a bolder implementation of the Richmond 300 master plan, presents a tremendous opportunity to grow our revenues more sustainably while building a more inclusive city. 

 

2. Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building, which helped 600 residents obtainedemployment in 2018-19, has established a goal of cutting child poverty (now at nearly 40% citywide) in half over the next ten years. It has set a further goal of moving 1,000 additional households a year above the poverty line through living-wage, full-time employment. Do you support these goals? What steps should the City take to encourage employers to train and hire under-employed residents into pathways leading to living wage employment and successful careers? What other specific actions will you support to achieve the goals of fighting poverty and building community wealth? 

 

During my career in City Hall, I was instrumental in creating the Office of Community Wealth Building. I fully support the OCWB's goals. The journey from poverty and resiliency requires a coordinated and comprehensive effort that includes partnerships between Richmond's anchor institutions of nonprofit organizations, foundations, philanthropic businesses, and government. During my first term, I have been committed to fostering collaboration and passing policies geared toward supporting the individual holistically. This includes high-quality education, robust partnerships with trade schools and unions, access to inclusive housing options, and equitable transit options that remove barriers to jobs, housing, and recreation.

3. Should aging public housing communities be re-developed in the next ten years? If so, how can this be done with genuine community input and support? How can such a process assure the availability of affordable housing does not shrink and that all current public housing residents obtain replacement housing? What funding sources should Richmond seek? 

 

I believe we must adopt a resident-driven redevelopment process that focuses on the 1-to-1 brick and mortar replacement of public housing. Creating a resident board with voting and veto power over proposed plans establishes a level of transparency, partnership, and democratizing of their neighborhoods' future. City Council must step up and exercise its authority over RRHA and the board to prioritize the future of public housing and affordable housing in Richmond. Quarterly updates by RRHA leadership and the board to City Council on the status of repairs, development projects, and other relevant priorities will keep progress front and center, transparent, and public. Securing enough funding is critical, and we can't do it alone. We will need to advocate on the Federal level for more funding. HUD funding for public housing communities has been consistently decreasing for decades, even though we need increased investment more than ever.

 

4. In the past decade, two major efforts brought forth by mayors to promote downtown area development have been rejected by City Council and most of the public. Yet the city remains in need of economic development, a stronger tax base, and more quality employment opportunities for residents. What processes do you believe the city should adopt to promote community-supported economic development? How would you define successful economic development, in Richmond's context? 

 

The city needs a Community Benefits Agreement to engage residents and ensure that current residents benefit from new developments. That includes requiring affordable housing carve-outs (at least 15% per development) and local hiring. I also support passing a Responsible Bidder Ordinance that would require Richmond to take apprenticeship programs, safety records, and compliance with state and federal law into consideration when determining non-responsibility. We should also require the city to pay prevailing wages for city public works projects. We should facilitate meetings between trades unions and private developers and encourage private developers to sign project labor agreements or implement responsible contractor policies.

 

Successful economic development makes Richmond a more vibrant and attractive place to live and work without leaving anyone behind. We need to minimize the displacement of current residents as we build developments. We have to make sure that our developments are built by workers who are paid fair, living wages, and have labor protections. As Richmond develops, we should ensure that these projects can help Richmonders out of poverty by creating good jobs. We also want developments to take advantage of our transit options whenever possible. We should enact tenant rights laws that hold landlords accountable.

 

Richmond's government still owns significant land parcels that could be better used as developments to create and contribute to vibrant neighborhoods. Given our experience, it is up to our city's elected officials and civil servants to build trust between our government, our citizens, and developers who will partner with us in building a better Richmond. Without trust, we will not be able to develop as effectively as a city.

 

5. What is the role of the Mayor and City Council in supporting Richmond Public Schools and RPS students and families? How can funding needs for the RPS Strategic Plan be met while also assuring accountability for use of funds and for outcomes? What does the City need to do further to meet the needs of children outside of the RPS school day?

 

City Council holds the power to allocate money in the budget. Therefore, we have the responsibility to adequately fund RPS so that our students, teachers, and staff have the support they need and deserve to be successful. RPS and the School Board may be responsible for identifying our school system's most pressing needs. Still, Councilmembers should be ready to collaborate with their counterparts on the School Board and with the Superintendent to ensure that our students have the best and most tailored resources at their disposal. I am proud of the work 1st District School Board Representative Liz Doerr, and I have done together to support 1st District RPS families and students citywide. We have made a point to host monthly 1st District meetings jointly to show 1st District residents that they have a team fighting for their children and teachers every day in City Hall.

 

I believe that constructive after-school options must be a part of a child's education for that education to be considered acceptable. I recently had the pleasure of celebrating the establishment of NextUp after school programming at Albert Hill Middle School. I have been watching and learning for years about the benefits of educational after school activities in schools across Richmond. I was proud to work with the Albert Hill MS administration, Liz Doerr, and our partners at NextUp allow our students to benefit from their programs. The city, RPS, and nonprofits should continue to work together to expand after school options for Richmond students who currently lack them. 

 

6. How can Richmond better leverage its status as the capital of the Commonwealth of 

Virginia, to gain further support from state government? What priorities for funding and policy would you set? 

 

We have to work more closely with our General Assembly delegation in Richmond and across the region. As I mentioned before, I have been working with my General Assembly colleagues for the past three years to establish the CVTA, grant Richmond land-value taxation authority, among other policy changes. For instance, this past year, I used my platform as a member of Virginia First Cities to raise the issue of rising school construction costs. Every locality has to build schools, and we all struggle to fund them. So, I partnered with the Richmond delegation tointroduce and pass SB 888, which established the Commission on School Construction and Modernization to provide guidance and resources to local school divisions related to school construction and modernization and make funding recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor. I am now Vice-Chair of Virginia First Cities, and I look forward to forming even stronger partnerships with my colleagues across the Commonwealth to support Richmond and all our independent cities' needs

 

7. Do you believe the City of Richmond's internal functioning has improved over the last 4 years? Why or why not? Do you believe the delivery of basic services in the City has improved over the last 4 years? Why or why not? What steps would you promote or support to improve the City's internal operations and improve citizen confidence in City Hall? Be as specific as possible in your answer. 

 

I believe that internal functioning has improved in City Hall in recent years, but we still have plenty of work ahead. Before my first term on City Council, I served as City Hall's Civic Innovator, bringing best practices and new ways of thinking to the operations of City Hall. I sought to improve public engagement and enhance government accountability, collaboration, and transparency in this role. Two of my key accomplishments were leading Richmond's Open Data Portal and establishing the Office of Community Wealth Building. The open data portal is an easy-to-use web page with current data that is openly accessible. This gives Richmond residents the tools they need to hold our City accountable for its work. We have also expanded RVA311 so that residents and City Council can better track core services' progress. In 2017, we could only account for seven service request types to City Hall; now with RVA311, we can submit more than 60 service request types. In 2019 alone, 1st District residents submitted more than 4,900 service requests through the platform.

 

I am now working to transform Richmond's budget by implementing a participatory budgeting process and creating OpenBudgetRVA.com. Both of these reforms will make the city's budget easier for Richmonders to understand, hold City Hall accountable, see where our dollars are spent and empower us to fund the projects we want to see done. OpenBudgetRVA.com would be modeled after OpenBudgetOakland, which creates user-friendly data visualizations so that every resident can understand where city revenues come from and how they are spent.

 

8. What tangible steps do you envision Richmond as having taken by 2024 to promote racial and economic equity and to tackle systemic racism? How will you use your office to advance these steps, and how will you act to build the public support needed for sustained action? 

 

As previously mentioned, I support increasing labor protections and, where possible, increasing pay for Richmonders who build our city. These policies help reduce economic exploitation of Richmonders, including Richmonders of color. I plan on continuing my support of the Office of Community Wealth Building as that organization successfully lifts Richmonders out of poverty.

 

I also support partnering with our local unions to grow apprenticeship programs that help Richmonders build skills for good jobs, especially for Richmonders whose best career choices may not be a 4-year university degree.

 

Housing is a top concern when addressing economic equity. In the short-term, we should look to expand the funding and capacity of our Eviction Diversion Program. We should work with the General Assembly to establish a right to counsel for all tenants subject to unlawful detainer suits, mirroring the policy adopted in New York City and other cities in recent years.

 

To stem the tide of evictions in Richmond and address our burgeoning affordability crisis, we must, at the very least, adopt and work with our regional partners to fully implement the Partnership for Housing Affordability's Regional Housing Framework. This framework was developed after years of research and community engagement and provides a portfolio of policy solutions to mitigate our burgeoning housing affordability crisis in our region. I have supported this process from the beginning.

 

I look forward to collaborating with the City Administration and the Partnership for Housing Affordability towards achieving the goals outlined in this framework. A brief description of Richmond's specific decisions are below and on PHA's website. https://pharva.com/framework/

 

To address systemic racism, we need to reimagine policing to better recruit, train, and retain police officers; build trust between law enforcement and Richmond communities, and ensure equal justice under the law. We can accomplish these goals by thinking creatively about how to best use our police resources, institute police oversight measures, and make RPD more transparent.

 

There are too many situations where we ask the police to respond to concerns they were neither trained to do nor provide the needed services. The tragic death of Marcus-David Peters is a lesson we should not have had to have. We must meet non-life-threatening crises with trained professionals and the resources to provide the best solution. By reducing the response to non-life-threatening situations, we can improve police recruitment, training, and community relations. We can then provide police with the resources they need to protect Richmonders best, rather than by asking them to fill our social services roles. We need police focused on keeping our city safe and fighting crime.

 

Other reforms are necessary to ensure that Richmonders trust the police and that all Richmonders are treated equally by law enforcement. I supported creating an independent Civilian Review Board with subpoena power to oversee police operations and ensure accountability. The Richmond Police Department should also release its "Use of Force" policy to the public, publicly release explanations for each use of non-lethal force used against protestors, and release how RPD determines a protest becomes "unlawful."

 

I am committed to these changes and will sustain them as best I can. Each of these reforms have constituencies who are dedicated to seeing them through, and I can help fuel these movements by showing up, entering a dialogue, and taking action with these groups as partners.

 

9. What more should the City of Richmond be doing to reduce gun violence in ourcommunities? What does Richmond need to do to better address the root causes of violentcrime? 

 

Addressing economic equity and systemic racism will help lower gun violence in our communities. When Richmonders have hope for themselves and for the future, they will be less likely to turn to criminal activities and accompanying violence to either make ends meet or to express deep frustration in a physical manner. 

 

I supported the Mayor's action to ban firearms from the protests and riots we have seen in our city. I have learned a lot about gun violence from visiting grieving families at vigils for their loved ones who died from gun violence. Those families have communicated to me that they need police to keep them safe. Additionally, criminology research suggests that a strong police presence reduces violent crime. If we can better use our police resources, we can fight gun violence and systemic racism at the same time.

 

A key aspect of the root cause of crime stems from the generational cycle of poverty present in many of our low-income communities as well as the school to prison pipeline in the East End. For too long we have let this concentrated center of poverty be the focus of our public safety resources due to our lack of providing access to opportunity, building inclusive and diverse housing options in our upcoming new neighborhoods, and attracting jobs and providing skill development for accessible careers that provide living wage pay with benefits. Our public housing neighborhoods are filled with amazing people that we must include as we build our future city. If more people see a positive way to achieve the American Dream that is accessible and attainable, there is more of an incentive to succeed in school, strive for that new opportunity, and build confidence in their abilities. 

 

10. What changes in policing, criminal justice, and public safety are needed in Richmond,and what is the role of the Mayor and City Council in bringing them about? What more needs to be done to support successful re-entry of returning citizens? 

 

The events of the last several months have highlighted issues from the past several decades and more importantly, systemic racism present through generations. We have created a racial divide that can be seen visibly in our city. I believe that in order to improve policing, we must do many things, however primarily, we must focus on getting officers out of their vehicles and on the streets in the community. Community policing is built on trust and relationships and we currently do not have that trust. I also believe that officers need to have training to identify mental and behavioral health crises, which is why I was one of the first council representatives to publicly support the implementation of the Marcus Alert. We must go further than that and focus on the types of interactions and calls police respond to. I believe that police officers are most effective if they are focused on enforcing the law through their relationships and presence in the community. We must limit interactions between police and residents that can escalate from a routine stop to an arrest. I believe that someone's bad day should never become their last day at the hands of an officer of the law. Our residents that need mental, behavioral, social, and public health assistance need to be received by a trained professional, not an armed officer. We must focus on responding in-kind to calls that are non-emergency and non-life threatening with trained professionals. I am also advocating for the State of Virginia to allow for radar supported speed cameras for speed enforcement. Routinely, traffic stops have been a way for police officers to escalate a situation and search a vehicle to find something else to charge an individual. 

 

Our built environment has created a racial and socio-economic divide in our city as well. The intentional creation of the public housing neighborhoods across the Shockoe Valley when the 95/64 highway was constructed intentionally created a racial separation in our city. Many police resources are deployed in these same areas today. That is why I will continue to fight to create a vision for an inclusive, diverse, and equitable future of our city. One that builds a variety of affordable housing units in new developments, converts vacant and blighted properties into affordable homes for families to buy, and to create an opportunity for new small businesses to thrive. I support a one-to-one replacement of public housing units in our city, but we need to make sure they are accessible to public transit, job centers, healthy food options, quality schools, and other basic amenities. I believe that if we are able to integrate as a city and intentionally create a diverse and inclusive community, that includes community policing officers and crisis response units, we will be able to change our current challenges. 

 

I have already been in contact with the Mayor, the Sheriff's Office, as well as the Commonwealth Attorney around creating a "Welcome Home" program for residents that are reentering the community after serving their time. I believe in second chances and want to make sure we prepare everyone for success once they have served their time. We need stronger programs in our public schools that expose every student to trades and skills that can become a career at any point in their life. If someone is incarcerated, we can leverage this previous experience to develop stronger skills with certificates, mentors, and apprenticeships that prepare them to be hired at a living wage rate once released. Then we can truly embrace them back into the community as everyone else. 

 

11. What should city government do to assure that economic recovery from the pandemic- induced recession takes place on an equitable basis that includes residents hit hardest by job loss during the spring 2020 downturn? What specific steps can be taken to support Black and Latinx-owned local businesses? 

 

I have been focused on outlining what an equitable recovery looks like for Richmond since the beginning. I chair a committee I created in January 2019 called the Economic Vitality Advisory Committee. Members include Jay Stegmaier former County Manager of Chesterfield County, Jeff Lacker former Federal Reserve Bank chairman, John Layman Director of the Virginia Department of Taxation, and many others. We meet quarterly to review the City's Finance and Budget reports about our revenue forecast projections and actuals. In April, I coordinated a group of minority entrepreneurs, small business owners, and developers to learn more about their concerns with a recovery for our minorities. These two groups have now been combined into one through the beauty of Zoom hosted virtual meetings as the membership is now close to 30 individuals. Here is what they all agree are the necessary steps for an equitable recovery:

 

● Skill Development - we have always had a skills gap in our region and with the push to virtual and remote working during the pandemic, we must make sure these new skills are available to all residents across our city. 

 

● Bridge the Digital Divide & Digital Literacy - as RPS moved to virtual learning, the digital divide became a huge challenge as many families do not have home internet and the Google Chromebook with a hotspot were sometimes the only internet access in the home. We must prioritize supporting the whole environment of education for our children and families in the 21st century. That is why I am focusing on bridging the digital divide through a public-private partnership with 5G as the focus. More to share on this later. This project is currently ongoing,and I am excited to see it come together soon.

 

 

● Streamline Permitting - we must develop a customer-focused portal that simplifies the multiple steps needed to open a business. Small businesses will be how our city recovers, hire local residents, and reignites our economy. We must make reopening, starting new, or expanding your business easy in the city. This must be focused on bringing the resources to help bring investment into communities that have needed it for decades. 

 

● Modernize Business Services - we must transition away from depending on people to come to City Hall to conduct business, apply for business licenses, pay taxes, or perform other relevant business. We must move to virtual and create access in multiple languages and locations around the city. I believe we need to have the presence of these services in Southside Plaza and available in Spanish. We need to make City Hall services accessible to everyone regardless of where they live or what language they speak. 

 

 

● Community Benefit Agreement - our recovery will be found in our future built environment, capitalizing on our many city-owned and under-performing assets, we have a bright future in what we build in the Diamond location, downtown, Monroe Ward, Southside, and around the Port of Richmond. These areas must focus on developing affordable housing options, creating new jobs, hiring and training local residents, and building inclusive communities. 

 

12. What have been the strong and weak points of the City of Richmond's response to the COVID-19 crisis, from a public health perspective? What has the crisis revealed about long-term disparities in health outcomes that should inform future public health strategies? What specifically will you do to support stronger public health (including mental and behavioral health) during your term in office? 

 

Over the last six months since the global pandemic shutdown our city, we have been grappling with the response in protecting our residents from this virus. I believe that delaying Richmond'sreopening of Phase One businesses was the smart decision. While unpopular at the time, I believe that we were not fully prepared to reopen businesses and soften restrictions. As a city, weorganized and coordinated efforts to provide access to PPE and testing in an equitable manner that reached many around our city. The critical challenge facing our response to COVID-19 is the ability to keep our residents safe, allow our businesses to open safely and equitably. There were several challenges, such as the racial divide in confirmed cases and deaths. I believe this revealed a more profound and darker side to our cities socio-economic imbalance.  Many jobs labeled as 'essential' and were put in hazardous situations where contracting the virus were more likely to be a person of color

 

We must address these and other issues head-on with the resources and support to meet public health needs. I am committed to developing a Crisis Intervention Response Unit, modeled after the Denver program. This is a collaboration between 911 Call Center, Richmond City Health District, Social Services, Richmond Behavioral Health, VCU Health, and others to deliver and respond to non-emergency calls for service. This will be a focused approach to respond to public health concerns, homelessness, mental and behavioral health events, and other non-life-threatening crises. This will need to be a coordinated effort between the city level partners as well as with the General Assembly and State departments and agencies to deliver. I have already been collaborating with several of these partners on this topic and look forward to addressing this further with the completion of the Reimagining Public Safety Commission recommendations.