Mayor Levar M. Stoney delivered his 2019 State of the City address Thursday evening, unveiling bold and ambitious, first of their kind initiatives to further Richmond’s progress as an inclusive and competitive city serving the needs of all Richmonders.
Speaking before a packed auditorium at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, and streaming online via Facebook, Mayor Stoney announced the creation of a new, first of its kind Eviction Diversion Program, and inclusion in his 2019-20 budget of a 20-year capital improvement plan to make needed investments in city streets, sidewalks, community centers and city transportation fleet, among other priorities.
The pilot Eviction Diversion Program is a new partnership between the city and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Housing Opportunities Made Equal and city courts system. Mayor Stoney said the program incorporates pro-bono attorney representation and financial assistance to support eligible tenants, mediation between landlords and tenants and payment plans to ensure landlords receive tenants’ rent due in a timely fashion.
Mayor Stoney announced a new city lactation policy for nursing mothers, the first of its kind among any city in the South. He made a commitment of support to renaming the Boulevard to Arthur Ashe Boulevard as well.
“This is what it means to be inclusive,” said Mayor Stoney. “This is what makes us more competitive; that’s what building ‘One Richmond’ is all about.”
In reviewing his administration’s significant accomplishments of 2018, Mayor Stoney proclaimed, “I can say without equivocation – and with pride and gratitude – the state of our city is strong!” Adding, “Richmond is competing, and it is competing at a higher level than it has in a long time.”
Examples of these 2018 successes included new investments in education and the groundbreaking of three new public schools, a new Department of Citizen Service and Response, achievements in multimodal transportation and affordable housing, establishment of the Shockoe Alliance to advance the future of the Shockoe area and raising Richmond’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) score to 94.
The MEI is the Human Rights Campaign’s measure of a locality’s responsiveness to the LGBTQIA+ community, and Richmond achieved the greatest score increase of any locality in the United States in 2018, and highest score in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Mayor Stoney cautioned the city would not rest on the laurels of success or progress made, but let the audience and viewers know he is still excited about Richmond’s future and achievements made to date, “I am so excited about the possibilities for our city. I am so confident we will be successful because all of you are here with me on this journey. Together, this city is working. This city is moving forward. And we are not turning back.”