Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mayor Jones speaks to 6th District Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mayor Dwight C. Jones addressed citizens of the 6th district at Ellen Robertson's monthly town hall meeting held on Saturday, March 14, 2009 at the Bank of America building in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

With introductory comments Vice President Ellen Robertson explained her new meeting schedule for the 6th District. In addition to her regular monthly meeting at the Bank of America Building (Second Saturday of each month), since January she has been holding additional district meetings, that alternate monthly between the North and South Sides. The focus of the Southside meetings is improving education for children. The Northside meetings will emphasize the issues of housing, abandoned property, blight and illegal rooming houses.

At 6:00 minutes, Mayor Jones took the podium and opened with a prayer. Mayor Jones referred to Mrs. Robertson as "an energizer bunny" that "is handling the business." Mayor Jones said "City Council meetings are not fun. They take a lot of time." Mayor Jones recalled Mrs. Robertson's early support for him as a mayoral candidate, "When things were not going so well during the last four years, she was one of the first ones who came and said, We gotta do something and you oughta be the one to do it."

Mayor Jones repeated the mantra of his administration, "Collaboration, communication, and cooperation." The mayor said a vast majority of the city's 4,000 employees are "good, competent people who want to do a good job." Mayor Jones said he wanted employees, as well as City Council and the School Board, to know that they are valued.

At 9:00 minutes, Mayor Jones spoke about the Dove Court development and cited goals of decentralizing poverty and acknowledging "our need and responsibility to those who need affordable housing." At 10:00 minutes, Mayor Jones discussed his decision to drop the appeals filed by former Mayor Douglas Wilder which had cost the city $1.2 million dollars over the last couple of years. Mayor Jones expressed his hope that the Charter Review Commission would iron out any ambiguities that currently exist in the charter.

Then Mayor Jones repeated his goal of establishing a Tripe A bond rating for the City of Richmond to dispel "the perception of being inept and improperly managed."

At 14:00 minutes, Mayor Jones said that he had "inherited the need for a new city jail." The current city jail has a designed capacity for 800 but it currently holds 1500 prisoners. Mayor Jones said, "I'm not going to accept the projections of a jail that's so huge, that what we'll do is just keep on filling up the beds... I refuse to build a jail that is so huge." "We're going to find a way to handle the mentally ill by not sending them to jail, that's not where they belong." Mayor Jones also mentioned alternatives for non-violent offenders (ie. non-payment of child support, traffic violations) such as ankle bracelets as a means of saving money.

At 17:15, Mayor Jones spoke again about the need for regional cooperation. Mayor Jones told us he had been participating in regional meetings and working with county managers and supervisors. Working with Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Hopewell, and Petersburg.

[18:30] Mayor Jones discussed working with the City Auditor to implement suggestions made by the auditor, and his support for implementing the recommendations of the City Master Plan.

At 20:00, Mayor Jones got a question about affordable housing. Mayor Jones responded, "We don't [want to] replace these depositories or concentrations of poverty with other concentrations of poverty." "The plan is to spread affordable housing out," mixing affordable housing with market rate housing. "Our goal is to make sure that we have affordable housing but that you don't know where it is."

The mayor's comments wrap up around 24:00 minutes, followed by four more minutes of Vice President Ellen Robertson. Mrs. Robertson said we would be seeing more in the way of regional cooperation because of Mayor Jones' initiative in working with other local governments. She also talked about the mayor appointing her to the Regional Workforce Commission and the previous way workforce development had been handled in the past with Richmond receiving just over a million dollars a year and the 8 surrounding counties collectively receiving about half a million dollars.