“…Council’s most important responsibility [is] to look at the Mayor’s proposed budget and make adjustments to help move the City forward.”
Richmond City Councilman Jon Baliles is an outspoken supporter of Richmond Public Schools, and in this month’s 1st District newsletter, he shares some thoughts on school safety following a recent fatal accident, as well as school funding in the city’s budget, currently under development.
From Councilman Baliles:
Grove Avenue Tragedy
As many of you know by now, the fatal traffic accident that occurred on Grove Avenue in front of Mary Munford Elementary School on April 13 left many people saddened and shocked by the circumstances and fearful and worried about the speeds and safety of children, pedestrians, and drivers.
The “Safe Routes to Schools” improvements in the area that were approved last year are awaiting final approval from VDOT and hopefully will be installed this summer. Those improvements include better marked crosswalks, extending the school flashers and 25 MPH zone further east and west on Cary Street and Grove Avenue, as well as adding two traffic circles on Commonwealth Avenue to slow traffic.
In the wake of the tragedy, we received many emails with constructive suggestions and ideas to help improve safety in the entire surrounding area and not just around the school. The City’s new Traffic Engineer came aboard just last week and I will be meeting with him on Friday, May 1 to discuss these suggestions and how we can improve safety and slow speeds in and around the area.
While the circumstances of what happened play out in court, we can all use this horrible event as a reminder to slow down, share the road, and be vigilant in setting an example for drivers and pedestrians and bicyclists around us going forward in all of our neighborhoods.
Adopting the Budget
City Council is in the middle of analyzing and prioritizing the City budget for fiscal year 2016 which begins on July 1. This is Council’s most important responsibility to look at the Mayor’s proposed budget and make adjustments to help move the City forward.
As I wrote in my Op-Ed that I wrote for the Times-Dispatch in March, a focus on the core needs of the City are paramount for me, and the first priority is schools. We have heard from many concerned parents and people that Schools’ funding is vital to continuing the positive direction of the school district under the leadership of Dr. Bedden and his team.
“Dr. Bedden said recently that we can, “make Richmond schools the district o f choice, not last choice.” That will only happen if we make it a priority over the next decade. It worked for public safety and it can work for public schools.”
Speaking of public safety, I am also working with my colleagues to re-institute the STEP increases and Career Development funds for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us each day even while these programs for advancement have been suspended in 5 of the last 6 years.
Some of the other amendments I have proposed focus on the basics: adding a significant amount to schools to meet their numerous maintenance needs, restoring the Mayor’s proposed cuts to urban forestry and public works (with a focus on alleys), as well as funding the James River Park System and renovations in other parks, urban agriculture projects, adding money specifically for improving pedestrian crossings across the City, and continuing to fund the implementation of the Riverfront Plan.
While the delay in receiving the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report with verified numbers from the Administration is a cause of great concern, Council will remain deliberative through the process and hopefully work to make the priorities we hear about each day from our constituents the priorities of the budget.