In our final round of questions the candidates let us know what they think we *shouldn’t* be spending money on
This week marks the end of our nearly two-month long process of helping you get a better understanding of where the city council and mayoral candidates stand on issues important to our city.
Before we get to the final question, I’d like to thank you, the readers, as well as the candidates for taking part in this. We’ve enjoyed it and hope you have, too.
And now, on to this week’s question:
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.
Be warned that responses were sparse this week – probably because the candidates are out doing some hardcore campaigning. At least I hope it’s because of that and not that they’re cooped up inside watching Dancing With the Stars or something. Anyway, as more answers come in I will add them to the post, so make sure you keep checking back.
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.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments here or in the districts’ corresponding community blogs. Links to the community blog posts will show up as pingbacks within the comments, so be sure to check those out.
Withdrawn from the race
In times of economic scarcity, our city doesn’t have to be held back from making progress. Everyone in our community should work together to share in both the challenges and the opportunities to achieve prosperity. There will always be times when politicians are scared to act, but by setting priorities that will help our economy in the long run and by bringing people together; we can make progress in challenging times. The business and non-profit communities want our city to flourish because they know their success in part is tied to the success of the city – and we want them to thrive because that means good jobs for our citizens and greater volunteer support for our community. Working together is a win-win situation for our city and for our citizens. By working with the community with public private partnerships, Richmond can fare better than most cities in tough economic times.
Furthermore, by making Richmond city government more transparent and accountable we can give our citizens more and better services for less. As Mayor, I will require that all departments submit data and analysis to make us more efficient and to cut waste and fraud. Richmond is the capital of one of the founding states of our nation – but we haven’t been able to come up with an efficient way of providing better services to our citizens.
Last month, David Ress reported in the Richmond Times Dispatch that based on a study by the city auditor, Richmond residents do not think they get their money’s worth from City government. David explained that Richmond’s per-capita spending on operations and maintenance is 25 percent above comparable localities; yet when questioned about provision of services, Richmonders responded that customer service in city agencies is poor, city services costs are too high and city conditions could be better. The study noted that RichmondWorks hasn’t yet tracked key departments such as police and fire and its data for other agencies is not well-enough organized to track their performances.
CitiStat is a data driven management system used to monitor and improve the performance of city departments in real time and it has received national attention. CitiStat was first implemented in Baltimore in 2000 by then Mayor (now Governor) Martin O’Malley. Between 2000 and 2007, Baltimore saved $350 million by using CitiStat, which is why 11 U.S. cities and 2 states are now using CitiStat to hold those departments providing citizen services accountable and move their cities and states toward progress.
Based on this data-driven approach to management, CitiStat applied basic principles of accountability to government, measuring both inputs and outputs to produce real, measurable goals and outcomes for the people of Baltimore. Applying those same principles in Richmond can make our city more efficient, saving people time and money.
Richmond can benefit from this system that the New York Times reported in 2001 was “hailed by government specialists as a pioneering innovation in across-the-board, eye-on-the-sparrow management.” RichmondWorks, implemented in fall of 2007 is based on a CitiStat model. RichmondWorks was a first step for the future of our City, and we can and should build upon RichmondWorks to make it more like CitiStat.
As Mayor, I will build upon the data-driven governance that RichmondWorks began and will take it to the next level by adopting the CitiStat model in its entirety. This will entail:
* Including EVERY city department, starting with the departments that have the most critical impact on the lives of our citizens – including police and fire and rescue. RichmondWorks collects data only from some city departments, but I will see to it that every city department is gathering performance data. Every department will collect data every day so that we can better analyze and evaluate how responsive our city government is so that we can find efficiencies and cut waste.
* Under RichmondWorks the participating departments only submit data for analysis once a month. But under CitiStat, every department will submit data every 2 weeks to the CitiStat team of analysts. The analysts will be trained in statistics and geographic information systems. The team will be able to identify relationships and geographical patterns across agencies which they will present at the CitiStat meetings. By understanding how issues in the city impact each other, agencies can work better together.
* The CitiStat meetings will be held every 2 weeks, instead of every three months which is the model RichmondWorks currently follows. As Mayor, I will preside over these meetings with other senior staff members, similar to the RichmondWorks plan. One difference though is that EVERY city department head will attend the CitiStat bi-weekly meetings and will be held accountable to the Mayor’s Office for an explanation of their data, and action plans. The discussions at these meetings, where everyone is brought together, will shape the office’s creation of city policy and allocation of resources.
* Like RichmondWorks, I will continue to gather data from the 311 call in line to report complaints and request city services. A Grey Administration will also continue the publication of information, via the city website, for the people of Richmond. But under a CitiStat model the actual data reports will be published and citizen input on solutions based on this data will be welcome. I will change the manner of collecting this data so that it is better organized to spot trends and will continue the procedure of following up with each department every time its data is the subject of discussion at the CitiStat meeting.
Part of good leadership is giving credit where credit is due. RichmondWorks was a start. Now it is time to take it to the next level. I’m the only candidate with the plan to bring more accountability, transparency and efficiency to City government. I’m committed to implementing CitiStat because I agrees with the Boston Globe’s reporting in 2006 that CitiStat is “an example of just how good – inspiring even – local government can be.
The state has a $2.5 billion deficit that will surely trickle down to Richmond. Our budget requires cuts that need to be made with a scalpel and not a hatchet. We will have to implement the $30 million recommendations made by the auditor to cut inefficiencies in our government. We may also have to freeze discretionary spending and leave positions vacant. And any new projects or initiatives will depend on available financing. Furthermore, we need to cut out the waste in the Mayor’s office including the security detail and excessive administrative staff.
(Not sure what’s with the shouting here but, you know, whatev.)
On October 2, I announced a seven point plan to address a potential fiscal crisis:
FIRST: IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AUDIT FINDINGS IN THE FLEET AND PROCUREMENT AUDIT…THIS REPRESENTS A SAVINGS OF 1 MILLION DOLLARS PER MONTH TO THE TAXPAYERS.
SECOND: ACT TO SECURE ANY SURPLUS FROM LAST YEAR’S BUDGET TO BE USED AS A DOWN PAYMENT FOR HEATING ASSISTANCE FOR OUR MOST VULNERABLE CITIZENS.
THIRD: NO NEW PROGRAM AMENDMENTS FOR NEW SPENDING…THIS REPRESENTS A SAVINGS OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND ($500k) DOLLARS A MONTH TO THE TAXPAYERS.
FOURTH: ACT TO IMPLEMENT AN IMMEDIATE OVERALL HIRING FREEZE.
FiIFTH: ELIMINATE THE MAYOR’S NINE-MAN SECURITY DETAIL, CUT THE PUBLIC RELATIONS BUDGET BY 50%, AND UNDERTAKE AN IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF ALL CAR ALLOWANCES. THIS WILL SAVE CITY TAXPAYERS OVER 1 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.
SIXTH: COORDINATE WITH THE STATE GOVERNMENT FOR BETTER AND MORE EFFICIENT ENERGY PURCHASING ON A COOPERATIVE BASIS.
SEVENTH: SUSPENSION OF CITY CONSULTANT CONTRACTS UNLESS THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER AND THE MAYOR CERTIFY, IN WRITING, THAT THE SERVICE PROVIDED IS OF HIGH IMPORTANCE, AND WHY.
Bruce Tyler (incumbent):
Patrick J. Kjellberg:
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.
Chris Hilbert (incumbent):
Kathy Graziano (incumbent):
Marty Jewell (incumbent):
A brand new mass transit system, such as light rail, will have to go on the back burner as will a new athletic stadium. Both of these will require significant contributions from the city and from the surrounding localities at a time when all are facing severe economic deficits. Infrastructure improvements and programs can continue or be expanded if waste and fraud are eliminated and better productivity is achieved within city departments. It is critical to elect representatives with a strong finance background to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and yield the highest level and quality of services.
Ellen Robertson (incumbent):
Delores McQuinn (incumbent):
C. Allen Barrett:
Eric W. Hunter, Sr.:
Reva Trammell (incumbent):
Doug Conner (incumbent):
Eugene Mason, Jr.:
This Friday (provided there aren’t any surprise arrivals of certain babies) we will be running a recap of all seven questions and the candidates’ responses, so you’re sure to be nice and informed come next Tuesday.