Charles Samuels

District 2 candidate

Overall particpiation: 100%

Question 1:
List five initiatives that you believe are more important than finding a new baseball team for the City of Richmond.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. I believe the following five initiatives are more important than finding a new baseball team for the City of Richmond:

1. Redevelopment of public housing within the city and housing opportunities for those displaced by redevelopment;

2. Improvement of Richmond Public Schools – both in scores and in the perception of the schools;

3. While violent crime has dropped, we need a similar reduction of non-violent crime. I recommend we use the success of sector policing to work to reduce non-violent crime as well;

4. Ensuring services from city meet the investment citizens make in the city – residents of the city pay taxes, spend time working within their neighborhoods and communities to improve them, and donate their time to attend city meetings to ensure the will of the people is known. The residents should expect quality services from the city for all they do for the city; and

5. Cooperation between city council and mayor, and city and counties is essential to ensure the city remains an attractive place to live, work and play.

While I will personally miss the Braves as my wife and I enjoyed walking to the Diamond to see them play, I believe the Boulevard corridor can still become an incredible asset to the city. Soon we will have a new movie theater on the Boulevard and more development is on the way. We should use common sense to enhance what we have in this area to make it a destination spot for residents of the greater Richmond area.

Question 2:
What are two qualities that people who know you well might say make you suited for the office you seek?

I could go on and on about why I think I’m the man for the job, however, while I was making the decision to run for this position, I asked people who know me if they thought I’d do a good job. They were very supportive and many of them focused on the following reasons why I would be a responsible council person:

1. I am willing to take the time to listen to what people have to say and educate myself on the issues before making a decision; and

2. I took the time to gain valuable experience essential to a good council person by being active for my community in many roles where I displayed an even-temper and conducted myself professionally and respectfully.

Question 3:
What are your thoughts on the relationship between the current mayor and city council? Outline a model for how you’d like to see the mayor and city council work together in the future.

The current Mayor and City Council have been finding their way in what is a totally new system for Richmond. It is understandable that there have been some difficulties in sorting out the boundaries of powers and responsibilities. There is nothing wrong with fighting for what one believes. That being said, not every issue needs to go to court. I believe there is a necessity in providing quality services to the citizens of Richmond and I do not believe those can occur as they should when there is this level of infighting between the Legislative and Executive branches of government.

The model for the Mayor and City Council working together exists in many cities throughout the U.S. and in the Federal Government. The Mayor is the Executive Branch and City Council is the Legislative Branch. In a smoothly functioning city government, this division of powers provides needed checks and balances that benefit all concerned. There must be communication between the two branches. Parties on both sides have much to gain by working for the residents and not against each other.

Question 4:
If you support the proposed Downtown Master Plan and if you are elected, what specifically will you do to ensure the plan is implemented? If you oppose the proposed Downtown Master Plan and if you are elected, what steps will you take to correct, change, or modify the plan?

Like any master plan, there is nothing in this master plan that is required, nor are its suggestions carved in stone. It is an instructive instrument and one that must be reviewed regularly to ensure its goals are those of the citizens and organizations. One of my desires as a candidate, and, if successful, as a city council person is to be both open and accessible to the public. By including the citizens of the city in the drafting of the downtown master plan to such a large degree, I believe that the current plan gives voice to the citizens’ desires for their city. While no document as encompassing as this master plan will be met with unanimous support, I have found few who vocally dislike it in my time knocking on doors and speaking with people in the 2nd District.

After review, I believe the current draft is a good guide which developers, residents and city agencies should use when weighing solutions to a particular issue within its boundaries.

While I personally think the plan is a solid start to preparing the downtown area for the future, it is not my personal opinion that matters. As city council person, I believe it is my job to represent the will of the citizens of the 2nd District and the City of Richmond as a whole. If for any reason this plan is not adopted prior to my term on city council, I will look for input of those in the city and specifically the 2nd District for how they wish for me to proceed.

Question 5:
What do you consider to be Richmond’s greatest asset? What do you consider to be its greatest liability?

Richmond’s greatest asset is its history. It is a draw to tourists, corporations and families moving to our area. A big factor that differentiates Richmond from surrounding counties is the historic neighborhoods within the City’s boundaries, including Jackson Ward – once known as the Harlem of the South. I believe Richmond’s history is what differentiates it from any other U.S. destination.

Richmond’s greatest liability is its inability to move past its history to build its future. The Crupi report clearly illustrates the problem and the potential for a bright future if we can overcome the problem. The City, and arguably the region, needs an agreed upon set of strategic goals and the strength to move forward to achieve them.

Question 6:
If elected, how will you promote the use of public transportation by Richmond residents? What improvements would you make to the current system in order to do so?

For 5 years I rode the bus almost every single workday. When I went to a recent public hearing on route eliminations, I was glad to see that others also adamantly believe mass transit in Richmond must continue. Your question is not only timely, but is of the utmost importance to those who rely on the bus every day to go to work, doctor’s appointments, etc.

We need to actively market Richmond’s transit system, characterizing it as fast, convenient, clean, green, inexpensive, and easy to use. However, we can’t do that until we know that each of these things is true.

We must examine the system to learn what improvements are needed. My campaign is based on me being open and accessible to the public, therefore, I believe the opinions of the riding and non-riding public must be sought. We can also benefit from learning what cities with successful systems do to make themselves successful.

Another good resource is the GRTC’s March 3, 2008 Comprehensive Operations Analysis Final Report (

Between the opinions of the public at large, those in the mass transit field and other interested parties, I think we as a group can begin to understand what we will need to do to promote the use of public transportation – not only of Richmond residents – but of the greater Richmond area.

Identifying needed improvements is useless unless we implement changes. Some things will be quick and easy to fix. Others will require budgeting, and some may have to be phased in over several years because of cost. A good example is the time and money required to get a new bus out on the road. According to GRTC CEO John Lewis, it can take up to 16 months from ordering to delivery. (6/11/2008 – An Open Letter from GRTC Transit System CEO).

The key to success will be making an implementation plan and sticking to it until all needed improvements are made.

In the meantime, we need to put mechanisms in place for ongoing assessment of the transit system’s effectiveness, and continuously update and improve it. This will be easy to accomplish if we do the right job of changing the system so that both ridership and revenues increase.

This is a timely subject because of the recent gasoline crunch and other current economic issues. We will never have a better time to promote the transit system as the best transportation alternative. I want to focus attention on the transit system early in my term on City Council and continue to emphasize it throughout the next four years.

Question 7:
The city, state, and nation are facing a severe economic crisis, and yet during elections we typically hear candidates promoting projects and ideas that will require additional financial support. What are some initiatives you think Richmond is going to have to put on the back burner as we weather these challenging times? Please explain why.

I have run my campaign on the platform of being open and accessible and look forward to working with the residents of the 2nd District and the City to ensure the people’s voices are heard before any action is taken.

There is no question that the economic crisis will cause cutbacks in governmental spending. The City may have to reorder priorities, cut some planned projects and reduce budgets of others. It is also likely that the number of new projects to gain approval will be greatly reduced. Until I am on City Council and privy to the discussions and history surrounding the budget line items, it is almost impossible to second-guess how individual projects should be prioritized and funded under the economic constraints.

I do believe, however, that the belt tightening that will result from the current economic problems can have a good side. Of necessity, we will be taking a harder look at spending and the results we are getting for our money. Our audit process will need to be stronger than ever, and we will have to be prepared to make some difficult decisions. Although this can be painful, it can also lead to more efficient, less wasteful government. It will sharpen our sense of priorities and make us better stewards of the taxpayer dollars entrusted to us.