Mark Brandon

District 5 candidate

Overall participation: 71%

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


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

I was sent this question by my friend Mark Brandon. It inspired me to write the following:

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

I thought I might hijack your space as a person who knows Mark Brandon well.(5th district City Council candidate).

Here’s what you need to know about Mark Brandon. He picks up trash. Everywhere he goes in the city (and he never leaves the city, except for vacations and under duress). Cigarette butts, fast-food wrappers, and some things barely mentionable. Girls, Mark is single and if he invites you out on a date, you would be well advised to pack trash bags in your purse, rather than, say, lipstick. He’ll appreciate it. Number two on his list of pet peeves? Weeds.

Here’s where I’m going with this. He doesn’t just want Richmond to be better or cleaner or number three on any number of “best of” lists. He wants it to be perfect – number one – the top of the heap. And he has a long list of projects and task forces and ad hoc committees and God-knows-what-else to prove that he puts his time and talents where his mouth is. He’s gotten things done for Richmond in the past. He’ll do it again.

So this leads me to quality number 2 – he knows everyone. The guy in the suit he just talked to? A state legislator. The guy in the T-shirt? A former waiter/bartender/dishwasher. (He owned a restaurant that was so trendy that I only ate there once because I didn’t want to bring the kids) Not only did everyone else in town eat there at least once—everybody in town seems to have worked there. And Mark remembers all of them very fondly. Not only does he know a lot of people – he seems to really like all of them. He knows their problems and their issues and he wants to help them. And they trust him to help them and to understand what they need. What else does a city councilman need to know how to do? Just find out what the problems are and fix them.

When he is elected, I trust him to do it.

-From Cindy, friend of Mark Brandon

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.

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.

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?

I have been involved in this master plan process from the beginning. As a civic association president in the West Main/ Cary/ Parkwood Ave area we lead the rezoning’s in the area using many of the same principals now at play in the Downtown Master Plan. Working closely with VCU dept of Urban Studies and Planning we passed at city council the West Main Street Corridor Plan in 1998. In 1996 I took a lead role with the West Cary Street Revitalization Plan, which has changed the face of Cary Street, from Meadow toward VCU. Still using those same urban design principals, I was a founding member of this local chapter of the Sierra Club’s Restore The Core Committee. My nine years in New York City as a business operator and mass transit patron I understand “the new urbanism” principals that should shape master plans in all areas of our city.
The downtown plan needs no more changing and needs to be passed NOW ! Richmond no longer needs to accommodate the needs of a few would be developers. Our Downtown is hot and on the move; let’s pass this plan and get back to work on the rest of our town.

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

Assets : Its location on the James, it’s diverse neighborhoods and its history.
Liability : Its history

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?

Developing the habit of using public transportation is indeed something that people develop over a course of time. It’s going to be a necessary habit for Richmonders as we move forward, and there are many pieces to the puzzle. As a New Yorker for 8 years, I used public transportation exclusively. I have the fond memory of riding the bus downtown to shop with my Mom even as a young child in Alexandria VA. Here in Richmond, GRTC has been actively promoting ridership and I believe the campaign has been somewhat successful. However, I am concerned that, to a great extent, ridership closely follows the cost of gasoline. Getting people in the bus transit habit is probably a matter of getting people to try transit and see how well it can work in getting them to and from their jobs.

Efficiencies are being sought at GRTC. The number of routes, the number of stops per route, and coordination with our sister counties can go a long way towards making bus travel more effective. Also in the mix we need to begin planning now to see how the addition of light rail might impact and work to improve the current GRTC system. As a supporter of the Downtown Master Plan, the recommended circulator route may be a good place to start. I have some concerns that the interim step of Capital BRT (bus rapid transit) may unnecessarily postpone the move to a real light rail system. A light rail system is, at some point, inevitable and would be less expensive to create the sooner it is begun. Also, as a civic leader in the Uptown Main/Cary area, I believe that a straight line rail link connecting Carytown and Main Street Station would be an easier, less expensive way to begin. This would also allow us to use a portion of the GRTC property at West Cary and Robinson as a terminus and perhaps a parking hub. At any rate, we all need to understand our responsibility towards our future and encourage development of improved public transit. Our neighbors in the counties need to sit with us as we discuss our public transit future and as we consider a regional transportation authority. The time to get to work on this issue is now.

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.