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Richmond’s 5th District candidates discuss key issues at forum

Residents in Richmond’s 5th District had their first opportunity to hear from the eight candidates vying for a City Council seat open in a special election. The winner will serve the remainder of Parker Agelasto’s term when he resigns November 30th.

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By Emma North

Residents in Richmond’s 5th District had their first opportunity to hear from the eight candidates vying for a City Council seat open in a special election. The winner will serve the remainder of Parker Agelasto’s term when he resigns Nov. 30.

With Richmond’s growth rate hitting double digits in the last decade many of the candidates centered the discussion around the needs of a growing city. They spoke painstakingly about improving Richmond Public Schools, transportation access and the need for more affordable housing.

“The important issues came out through how the candidates answered their questions,” said Zeke Brody, a 5th District constituent who attended the second forum.

Beyond the daily workings of the district, the council member could be responsible for a hefty vote that would impact the city for decades. The proposed Navy Hill project, centered around a new Coliseum, is a major downtown development plan that could be put to a vote during the new council member’s term.

The 5th District is one of two districts to have voters on both sides of the James River. The district includes Oregon Hill, Randolph, Carytown and parts of Southside. A broad swath of district constituents were represented between the two forums, which focused on different topics each night.

Candidates at the first forum at Fifth Baptist Church, north of the river, concentrated on poverty, evictions, gentrification and quality of life. Candidates fielded questions at the second forum hosted at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, south of the river, concerning parking, pedestrian and cyclist safety and protecting the district’s parks.

All candidates attended both forums, with the exception of Graham Sturm who was absent from the first.

Below are responses to key issues from both forums, edited for length and clarity.


QUESTION: If you were on City Council today and the vote for the Navy Hill project was introduced, what would be your vote?

Jer’Mykeal McCoy, a business development manager: McCoy would vote no but is not against future redevelopment negotiations. He wants to ensure that locals are hired for projects.

Robin Mines, an associate minister: Mines would vote no. However, she believes there are ways to make the plan work and wants to see more information about the project.

Stephanie Lynch,  director of government affairs, strategy and development for Good Neighbor: Lynch currently is against the project. She’s gathering more information before choosing her stance. “We have a history in building in the shadows and not in the sunlight,” Lynch said.

Mamie Taylor, a former Richmond School Board member: Taylor would vote no because it isn’t clear who will own the land slated for development. “This is our land,” she said.

Nicholas Da Silva, a recent Virginia Commonwealth University graduate: Da Silva said he spoke to hundreds of constituents in the 5th District.  A majority of the people he’s met are against the project. “No, unequivocally and not for lack of information,” Da Silva said.

Thad Williamson, a professor and former adviser to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney: Williamson would consider voting for the development. However, he said there’s not enough information about the numbers behind the project. “We need to take the time to be absolutely sure who owns things at the end of this,” Williamson said.

Chuck Richardson, former Richmond City councilman: Richardson said that any vote right now would be unwise and irresponsible. He said whoever is elected will have to hit the ground running and know how to vote on this issue, otherwise it could be bad for the city’s bond rate.

QUESTION: What will you do to prevent the unfair increase in taxes due to gentrification?

Da Silva: He plans to push for progressive taxation — tax rates that increase with income level — to help keep the city’s cost of living affordable for vulnerable communities.

Williamson: Williamson said Richmond needs a comprehensive housing plan. He would like to see more housing offered for all incomes and tax credits and rebates for vulnerable populations.

“VCU could be doing more to create workforce pipelines through social enterprises, minority contracts to make it a true powerhouse for economic equity that it potentially could be.”

McCoy: McCoy’s family lived in public housing for four generations. He is concerned about the low rate of African American homeownership. One of the solutions he proposed was to ensure homes stayed with their families after their older family members passed away. “Folks, don’t sell grandma’s house, we need you in these communities, we need to make sure y’all are not being pushed out,” McCoy said.

Lynch: Lynch said that raising property taxes should not be the go-to answer. She also wants to offer seniors information about rebate programs.

QUESTION: Bicycling and walking are prevalent forms of transportation and recreation for residents. What will you do to ensure the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists is prioritized as highly as moving cars through our roads?

Taylor: She has seen some positive changes in the transportation infrastructure but wants to see more bike lanes, roundabouts and speed bumps.

Graham Sturm, a high school teacher: Sturm wants better bike lanes because he knows two teachers who have been hit by cars while riding bikes. “A bike lane should not end into a parked car,” he said.

Mines: Mines wants lower speed limits in pedestrian-heavy areas. She said that raised sidewalks would be another effective tool in increasing pedestrian safety.

The deadline to register to vote in the special and general election on Nov. 5 is Tuesday, Oct. 15.

The newly elected council member will serve through December 2020 and will have to run again in the general election to secure a four-year term. All candidates except for Richardson committed to running for election next year.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Real ID deadline extended until 2021 amid coronavirus outbreak

The deadline for Real IDs has been extended until October 2021. The move was prompted by widespread Department of Motor Vehicle customer service center closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

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By Hannah Eason

The deadline for Real IDs has been extended until October 2021. The move was prompted by widespread Department of Motor Vehicle customer service center closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

The deadline for the IDs was Oct. 1. After the deadline, the licenses will be required to access federal facilities, board domestic flights and enter nuclear power plants.

The application process must be completed in person, but Virginia has closed DMV customer service centers until April 2 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. DMV closures and restricted access nationwide will prevent people from receiving Real IDs. Gov. Ralph Northam added a 60-day extension to any license or registration expiring before May 15.

“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a news release. “Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts.”

A regular driver’s license can still be used for driving, voting and verifying identity. Real IDs are marked by a black or gold star symbol in the top-right corner of the license.

The Real ID application process requires multiple forms of identity, such as:

  • U.S. passport or birth certificate

  • Social security card or W-2 form displaying social security number

  • Two of the following: valid Virginia driver’s license, recent utility bills, mortgage statements or leasing agreements

  • Proof of name changes if applicable

Non-U.S. citizens must show proof of identification and legal presence, such as an unexpired passport and visa, permanent resident card or employment authorization document. Virginians who do not have a Real ID must have federally accepted identification, such as a passport, to board a domestic flight or enter a secured federal facility.

Farmville resident Ethan Bowman, who was left unemployed by the coronavirus outbreak when he was unable to start a new political marketing job, has not received a Real ID but said an extension will help him.

“I don’t have a copy of my birth certificate,” Bowman said. “So I would have to get that somehow before the deadline.”

Right now, there are other things on Bowman’s mind. He said his two roommates are out of work due to the pandemic, and the two grocery stores in the town of 8,000 were low on food Wednesday.

“We sent my cousin out for food and he just sent a bunch of pictures back to our little group chat, and it was just empty shelves, everywhere,” Bowman said of the Walmart Supercenter in Farmville.

Casey Tharpe, a respiratory therapy major at Radford University Carilion, received a Real ID in January after an eight-hour day of computer issues at the DMV in South Boston.

“You just had to check this box for Real ID, but honestly I really have no use whatsoever for Real ID,” Tharpe said. “I’ve been on a plane once in my life.”

Wolf stated that extending the deadline would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to work with Congress and implement the “needed changes to expedite the issuance of Real IDs.”

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Live Updates: Ongoing list and information on Richmond area institution and event closures, postponements

With new information and cancellations coming in by the hour, the below is our attempt to keep you up to date on the latest Richmond area closures, cancellations, and community information, with links to relevant resources for more. We’ll continue to update this article as we learn more. Feel free to leave your own in the comments or email to [email protected]

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Note: We’re attempting to keep this list up to date as often as possible. Please submit any changes, additions, or corrections to [email protected] Want to support our efforts? Please consider making a donation to RVAHub at the link below.




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Please note that this list is rapidly changing and we’re doing our best to keep it updated but we will at time have some outdated information. Please let us know if there has been a change.

In the interest of public health and safety, the administration of Mayor Levar Stoney recommends that all restaurants, bars, and other establishments that serve food and drink within city limits eliminate bar seating, move tables at least six feet apart and limit their on-site service to 50 percent of their normal capacity. If 50 percent of capacity exceeds the CDC-recommended limit of 50 people gathered, establishments should limit their service to 50 or fewer patrons. The recommendation does not affect any restaurant’s capacity to offer carryout and delivery. In order to support the residents and businesses of Richmond, the administration will introduce on March 23 an ordinance outlining a city amnesty program for all penalties and interest on most local taxes due between March 13 and June 30, 2020. This proposed program will exclude personal property taxes on vehicles, motor vehicle license taxes, and vehicle license fees, as required by ordinance. The city is also exploring options for a program to issue small, no-interest loans to support small businesses. More information on this will be provided at a later date.

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Barker Field, Chimborazo, and Northside Dog Parks will Close to the Public

Effective Saturday, March 28, 2020, PRCF will close Barker Field, Chimborazo, and the Northside Dog Parks to the public until further notice.

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Statement from Parks and Recreation:

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (PRCF) continues to take the safety and health of our patrons as a top priority. Previously, PRCF cancelled all permitted use of the athletic fields, picnic shelters, park houses, all department sponsored programs and activities, and all community centers and offices to the general public.

Effective Saturday, March 28, 2020, PRCF will close Barker Field, Chimborazo, and the Northside Dog Parks to the public until further notice. Also, traffic gates located within Byrd Park on Strollers Lane, Westover Road, and Trafford Road will be closed on both Saturday and Sunday until further notice. This closure is aimed to reduce vehicle traffic within the park and allow patrons more space to move around.

All other PRCF parks and trails remain open. Be advised that our outdoor amenities are not sanitized, so use with caution and follow the CDC health and safety guidelines. We reiterate the importance of social distancing and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and group activities.

We understand the importance of the park system to our residents and will re-evaluate the need for closures and cancellations as this unprecedented situation evolves.

Staff at PRCF’s Administrative Office will be available to assist residents via phone at 804-646-5733 or email at [email protected]

For more information about how the City of Richmond is responding to COVID-19, please visit www.richmondgov.com/covid19.

For more information about the department, follow PRCF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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