From the candidates: week 3

Last week we got to learn a bit about what the candidates think makes them ready to take office. This week we’re jumping into a bit more heated topic: the mayor and city council. Our question this week: What are your thoughts on the relationship between the current mayor and city council? Outline a model […]

Last week we got to learn a bit about what the candidates think makes them ready to take office. This week we’re jumping into a bit more heated topic: the mayor and city council.

Our question this week:
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.

(Check out our previous questions: 1, 2)

See below for how the mayoral and city council candidates responded. As usual, if they didn’t get back to us, you’ll see “NO RESPONSE” underneath their names.

City council candidate responses will be posted by district on their corresponding community blogs. I’ll add links to those posts as they go up throughout the day. Any input you have for the mayoral candidates can happen in the comments here.

Mayoral candidates

Paul Goldman:

Unfortunately, both the Wilder-led Administration and the Pantele-led City Council have failed to understand the basic structure of the Elected Mayor form of government, contained in the highly praised law that I originally drafted, which the people endorsed by an unprecedented 80% vote, and then was formally enacted, with improvements, by overwhelming bi-partisan majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and the State Senate, such legislation then signed by Governor Mark Warner at the urging of Lt. Governor Tim Kaine. In 2005 and 2006, further improvements were made to the law, likewise by overwhelming majorities in the General Assembly.

Sadly, all of my opponents in this year’s Mayor’s race were content with continuing the old form of government, leaving it to me to put in the time and energy to lead the change effort that put the new form of government on the 2003 referendum ballot to get Richmonders their right to elect their Mayor. To be fair, they say they have changed their mind and now support the law and it’s changes signed by Warner and Kaine.

Still, it is fair to ask: Given my positive role in making change, and their refusal to take the initiative, who is better equipped, and indeed most truly interested, in making the effort to make sure the new form government works as best it can?

To make it work as best intended, we need a wholesale revision of the city’s bloated bureaucratic structure, the most expensive such government bureaucracy, and City Council in the state.

No wonder the City Auditor has already found 30 million in waste in last year’s budget, the sum likely to perhaps double when he is finished. The leaders of City Council voted for this wasteful budget.

Mayor Wilder ran on a platform to change this. But he didn’t. So as I say, Mayor Wilder and City Council President Pantele can make political points by blaming each other; the City Auditor’s findings speak for themselves.

Now, more than ever, we need leadership with my proven record of making historic changes.

That’s why at the outset of this campaign, I proposed to create what I call the “Richmond Unity Council”, an 18 person advisory group patterned after the Council on Virginia’s Future at the state level.

We need to stop the blame game: and get on the same page.

It has to be a “we” thing, not this constant “me” thing.

Such a cooperative group is unprecedented in any locality. But I am committed to changing the culture of city government, and creating a new cooperative culture.

The Richmond Unity Council will meet every three weeks, same time, same place, and be open to the public and the press. It will have 10 citizens from across our great city, all with proven records in their area of expertise and from neighborhoods across Richmond. There will also be 7 of the top elected and appointed officials in the group in addition to the Mayor, such as the President and Vice-President of the City Council, the Chair of the School Board and the School Superintendent, the Police Chief, a member of the city’s delegation to the General Assembly, and Commonwealth Attorney.

We will meet in public view, answer questions from the public, and be seen discussing our plans to work together to solve long-standing problems.

Every three weeks, we will be back, and thus have to show what we have done working together in the proceeding three weeks to do what we have promised.

No such meetings have ever taken place before in the history of Richmond: indeed, no such meeting between such elected officials was ever proposed, much less held, during the last few years.

Within a few months, I am confident the need for our top officials to present a regular public accounting of their cooperative efforts to make positive change will change the culture in city government, and lead to an era of mutual respect that produces positive results in so many areas. It will require daily contact between those at all levels of city government, between key elected leaders, between citizens and their government officials, between all those who need to be interested in making our schools work better: and if they have to go to these meetings and show nothing has been done, those public meetings of the Richmond Unity Council will prove quite embarrassing to the 18 members.

They are not going to let that happen, believe me.

Indeed, we such cooperation now more than ever for another reason: in my judgment, the Wilder Administration and the Pantele-led City Council have created a fiscal mess that goes way beyond the $6,000,000 deficit the Mayor says currently exists in the city budget, the first such deficit in history at this stage of the budget year from what I can tell of modern Richmond.

Fortunately, I have had the experience of being a key fiscal advisor to two Virginia Governors who took over facing big budget deficits during tough economic times, the very situation that experts say is likely to face Richmond’s next Mayor.

That being the case, if elected, I will start during the Mayor-elect transition process to bring the change we need to our City. I want the new Richmond Unity Council to be up and moving by the time the Goldman Administration is sworn into office.

Robert Grey:

Richmonders are tired of the bickering and in-fighting at city hall. As Mayor, I will unite people around the common goals that allow our city to realize its potential.

Those in elected office need to unite around common goals to get good things done for our citizens, rather than allowing gamesmanship and petty politics to interfere with progress. To move our city forward in the future it will take a leader in the Mayor’s office who has the experience working with all the communities in the region that have Richmond’s best interest in mind, as well as someone who will bring professionalism to City Hall. By giving respect you get respect, and our citizens want us to succeed and deliver on the promise of public service. As Mayor I’d first start the tone of collaboration by asking the City Council, the Police Chief, the School Superintendent, citizens, and the business community to bring recommendations forward for the position of Chief Administrative Officer. By working together to fill this key position, a good working relationship would be in place on day one, as all the stakeholders would be part of the decision-making and hiring process. Secondly, within the first 90 days of taking office I’d join with each of the members of city council and the school board in their own district to have a Mayor’s Night Out. Together we’d meet with citizens in each of our city’s nine districts to h ear the concerns of citizens and get their input of how to best assist them with the needs of their community.

My opponents have plans that include the creation of more bureaucracy. To move our city forward I believe we should cut bureaucracy and red tape, and not create more I’m the only candidate for Mayor who has proven successes bringing diverse groups of people together to get a job done. As a businessman and the former President of the Crusade for Voters, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Chairman of the ABC Board under Governor Robb, President of the American Bar Association, and the Urban League, I have the experience and depth of knowledge to work move this city on the right track.

Dwight Jones:

For too long City Hall has been devoid of the leadership needed to bring people together and move Richmond forward. It is saddening to see our city government act in a way in which personal conflicts and political maneuvering come before the good of the citizens. As Mayor, I will end the bickering and acrimony in City Hall and make sure city government focuses on doing what’s right for the citizens of Richmond.

As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus I have worked with Governors, both Democrats and Republicans, and members of both parties in the General Assembly to get things done. As Mayor I will put the interests of Richmonders ahead of all else.

I have always believed that when you want respect you have to give respect. In order for the Mayor to be respected they need to respect every other elected official, whether they are City Council or School Board members.

I will hire and recruit the most qualified people available to serve in my administration and will focus on creating a work atmosphere in which city workers are respected and thanked for the work they do for their city. Only when we have a consistent, qualified and encouraged city government staff will City Council, the School Board and our surrounding counties, want to work with us to get things done.

Bill Pantele:

The relationship between the Mayor and the City Council needs to be one of mutual respect and an understanding of the delineation of authority between the two branches of government. As I campaign door to door throughout the city, I find that Richmond’s citizens are turned off by the grandstanding, political gamesmanship, and empty public relations initiatives that are hallmarks of the current city administration. Rather, they tell me that they want results and consensus on the important issues that they care about—improving education, enhancing public safety, cutting government waste, holding the line on taxes, revitalizing our neighborhoods, and improving roads and infrastructure.

As Mayor, I will build on the relationships that I have already formed with the members of City Council to forge a truly collaborative partnership that will work together to move the city forward. It is important to communicate frequently with Council members and to seek their advice and input regularly, and I will do just that. We also need to continue to improve relations with the School Board and with members of the city’s appointed boards and commissions. I believe that I have the vision and the leadership skills necessary to utilize fully the talents of all of our elected and appointed officials.

Lawrence Williams:

City council candidates

District 1

Bruce Tyler (incumbent):

District 2

Tyron Bey:

Patrick J. Kjellberg:

Charles Samuels:

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.

District 3

Jonathan Davis:

I am disappointed and dismayed at the relationship between City Council and the mayor. The citizens of the Third District have suffered because of the bickering and quarreling and my opponent, the incumbent, has been among the worst offenders. The priority must be on solving problems for the citizens of Richmond, sitting down, working together and building consensus, rather than grandstanding for the media. There will be reasonable disagreements and they must be handled in a constructive manner. The citizens of my district have been the losers because of the incumbent’s tunnel vision and his needing to win an argument in front of the cameras rather than address real problems.

The mayor and the council must have a cooperative, working relationship for the benefit of the citizens. My opponent has wasted valuable time bickering with the administration. It takes two to fight and my opponent prefers to grandstand his disagreements with City Hall rather than address neighborhood problems. As a City Councilman, I intend to focus on solving problems and creating a cooperative, working relationship with the mayor’s administration rather than expending time and energy bickering to prove a point. The city will never reach its full potential until the council and Mayor work together.

Chris Hilbert (incumbent):
UPDATED: See response in comments.

District 4

Kathy Graziano (incumbent):

District 5

Mark Brandon:

What is so hard in this day and age about groups communicating. As a natural talking, and ‘phoner’ and e-mailer I don’t understand the current climate between council and the mayor’s office. Here is a thought; It needs to be assumed by ALL of the players at the table that ALL are there for the right reasons, that is to move the city forward. That is a basic premise necessary for good communicating, good policy, and good relations. Sounds basic but doesn’t seem to be happening. “Need to learn to play nice”. The Charter Commission, may help to sort out the rules, which may help.

Marty Jewell (incumbent):

Lee Shewmake:
UPDATED: See response in comments.

District 6

Ellen Robertson (incumbent):

District 7

Clarence Kenney:
(Please note that the email address supplied by the State Board of Elections website bounced back. Mr. Kenney, get in touch with us if you have something to add!)

Delores McQuinn (incumbent):

District 8

C. Allen Barrett:

The relationship between the Mayor and City council should conform to the age-old principle of bicameralism advanced by Montesquieu and enshrined in the Constitution of the United States and in supporting legal and philosophical documents, mostly The Federalist Papers. The relationship should be unequivocally clear:

-The Mayor should perform as the Chief Executive Officer, handling the business of administering the city and its constituents agencies and departments.

-The City Council should be the legislative entity, providing advice and consent to designated mayoral actions, passing ordinances and policy guidelines, as well as serving the needs of the constituents of respective districts and the city as a whole.

-The Mayor has veto rights over the enactments of council. The council, by a specified majority, can override vetoes by the Mayor.

The peculiar rub in the current charter is what actions by the mayor are reviewable by the council and what are the joint responsibilities of the council and mayor with respect to fiscal matters and the supervision and oversight of ancillary entities, such as the school board and interrelations with constitutional offices, such as the Sherif and Commonwealth’s Attorney. What aspects of conflicts of interpretation of either party are subject to judicial review are not exactly clear in the current charter.

The charter should be revisited to make clear distinctions in roles and responsibilities of council and mayor. In addition to covering the concerns highlighted above, this review should clearly delineate the parameters and gravity of “executive privilige” and council oversight, in areas that are in addition to appointments.

The current council should not be arbitrary and presumptive in designating a Charter Review Commission before the election. Similarly the Mayor should not be involved in appointing major administrative officers, such as the Police Chief and Superintendent of Schools when there is less than six months remaining the extant term. These provisions should be spelled out neatly and clearly in the Charter and enabling documents.

I have not publicly endorsed a candidate for mayor, but will need to soon determine the venue and audience for such endorsement.

Eric W. Hunter, Sr.:

Reva Trammell (incumbent):

District 9

Doug C. Conner (incumbent):

I think it is regrettable that the relationship between the Mayor and much of City Council has been characterized by bickering, political posturing, and lawsuits. This situation has been unfortunate and does nothing to further the interests of our citizens.

I hope the next city council and the next Mayor operate in a mutually respectful and cooperative manner that put the interests of citizens of Richmond first.

As stated in the previous question, the relationship between the next Mayor and City Council must be based on mutual respect and cooperation. Additionally, continuous communication and openness between these two entities is critical if we expect to get the results citizens throughout our city deserve.

I believe that immediately after the elections, the new Mayor and City Council should meet to, among other issues, establish both formal and informal lines of communication between one another. I also believe we should employ only one set of lobbyists for the city in the General Assembly, as opposed to individual lobbyists for both the Mayor and City Council as has been the case in the past few years, so that our City speaks with a unified voice at the state Capital.

Eugene Mason, Jr.:
(Still no email address Mr. Mason. Mr. Mason, you should get in touch with us, too.)

Adrian Preston:

As usual, leave your thoughts in the comments. And let us know if you have any questions you’d like us to toss the candidates’ way.

Be sure to tune in next week, too – it’s all about the Downtown Master Plan, guys.

(A note to the candidates: All questions are being sent to the email addresses listed on the Virginia State Board of Elections website. If you would prefer we communicate with you through a different email address, please let us know.)

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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