Public infrastructure is a broad category that encompasses the items that contribute to quality of life. From roads and trees to libraries and businesses, all such items spent many decades being neglected by the government charged with its care. While much has been accomplished to refurbish the public infrastructure, there are many items left on the to-do list. The following is not a comprehensive list, but rather addresses the concerns I have heard repeatedly in my travels around the district.
Parks: Our public green space is a treasure and few cities can compete with the natural beauty abundant in Richmond. As Council representative, I would build on the relationships created in my position as President of Friends of Forest Hill Park to work with the Department of Parks and Recreation in addressing the needs relating to the care of these properties and on ways to expand the programs and use of public space. I am also interested in exploring conservation easements or other measures that would protect the existing green space for future generations. As the population in the city grows, public green space will become more precious and the preservation of such space more critical.
Trees: I support expanding the tree planting program in the city. Trees are more than a beautification project. They clean the air, which offers substantial improvements to an urban landscape dealing with high smog levels. Aside from the health benefits, the environment improves with the addition of trees by assisting with erosion and providing shade in summer that can reduce utility usage. We are fortunate to have a substantial tree inventory in Richmond, but many areas of our city remain bare. We also need to ensure a proper level of staff arborists to care for these assets. Dollar for dollar, trees represent one of the best investments in improving our city.
Riverfront development: I support the careful development of a portion of the riverfront to produce new access points, recreational outlets and business development. Such plans should be carefully evaluated, include citizen input and provide a detailed plan that offers a wide variety of amenities, while addressing concerns like traffic and parking issues. Done wisely, such a development would become a huge asset to the city as a whole.
Services: Service complaints are common among 5th district constituents. These issues are about quality of life and involve the small but vastly annoying problems that cause irritation for residents. While there has been an improvement in small cost services, larger cost issues like sidewalk repairs/installations continue to reside on the back burner. Proper funding is often the culprit and my experience in budget construction and public-private partnerships will be used to make certain these issues receive the appropriate attention.
Business Development: Richmond is a city with fixed borders and a shortage of huge tracts of vacant land awaiting development. What we do have is a wealth of commercial space suitable for small – medium sized business, yet virtually nothing is being done to actively attract or create such businesses and the jobs they create. Every community I visit has vacant commercial space and a resident’s wish list of desired community business. As your Representative, I would work to bring the goods and services you desire to our community and work to structure incentives that make selecting the city a smart choice for business.
Minority Business Development: I would work with the Mayor to further streamline the bidding process and to make certain that payments were structured in a way that is workable. The majority of minority businesses are small to mid size companies with neither the staff nor the credit lines to effectively bid and carry out the existing governmental bid projects. Tweaking the existing system could dramatically increase the number of minority businesses winning city contracts.
Meals Tax: Eliminate it or at the least, reduce it and give our local restaurants a fighting chance against their competition in the counties. This increase was put in place to pay for the Arts Center. That task has been accomplished. It is time to do the right thing and drop the meals tax rate.
Property Tax: If we want to compete with the counties in attracting more residents and increasing our population, we must get the property tax rate down to a more competitive level. With the counties only a few minutes away in any direction, higher living costs contribute significantly to prospective residents choosing another locality to call home. We need people on Council capable of structuring a budget free of waste. My experience in business makes me an ideal candidate to make our city the best buy for those looking to relocate to the area.