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VIDEO: Three contenders vie for 5th District City Council seat

Richmonders will decide Tuesday among three candidates for the 5th District City Council seat.

Capital News Service

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By Libby Dozier

Tuesday marks the last day for Richmonders to cast their vote in the upcoming election, including the 5th District City Council seat.

The candidates include incumbent Stephanie Lynch, who was elected in last year’s special election; Jer’Mykeal McCoy, a business development manager; and Mamie Taylor, a former School Board member. Taylor Maloney, VCU’s student body president, announced plans to run as a write-in candidate at the end of September. Nicholas Da Silva, a fourth candidate who also ran for the seat last year, dropped out of the race in September though he remains on the ballot.

Each candidate has priorities they wish to address should they win the election.

Lynch and McCoy want to improve city schools. Lynch said she’s pushing to modernize schools and have adequate pay for teachers. McCoy also wants to create a summer jobs program to partner young people with local businesses and provide them with increased opportunities.

McCoy said he intends to address Richmond’s high eviction numbers. The city had the second-highest eviction rates in the country in 2016, according to an analysis by Princeton University.

“This crisis is bigger than our city, but it’s disproportionately going to hurt our city,” McCoy said. “So we have to make sure we have the resources in place to help folks weather this economic storm.”

Lynch said years of systemic racism in zoning and education policies have contributed to Richmond’s nearly 25% poverty rate.

“It is up to us to try and fix the years’ worth of systemic and institutional oppression that was intentionally placed on certain community members,” Lynch said.

Lynch and McCoy also intend to prioritize affordable housing development in Richmond. Both have endorsed Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed $10 million commitment to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Lynch co-patroned a resolution approved recently by council that calls on the mayor to find a dedicated source of funding for the fund.

Lynch and McCoy agreed with the need to decentralize where new affordable housing developments are placed.

“I think historically, we have seen that when you pack portions of our city with low income, black and brown communities,” McCoy said. “The economic disparities are exacerbated in terms of access to jobs, housing and transportation. And, so I think we have to right the wrongs of the past and get it right.”

Lynch and McCoy have different approaches to handling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lynch wants to create an emergency relief fund for citizens struggling with the financial challenges of the pandemic. She proposed earlier this year to use $5 million of surplus funds in the city budget to create such a relief fund. Richmond City Council ultimately voted to allocate the money elsewhere.

“When there’s extra food on the table, let everybody eat is how I feel and that $5 million belongs to the people,” Lynch said. “We could give it right back directly to people that are struggling the most. Instead, my colleagues chose to put it into a retirement fund to fund police pensions.”

McCoy said he would focus on increasing citizen and small business access to resources. McCoy said he would also ensure that the public is properly informed about Centers for Disease Control safety guidelines and encourage cooperation with surrounding counties.

“I think that was one of the major challenges early on is that the guidance was at a place Richmond would have it’s own set of guidelines, Henrico would have theirs, Chesterfield has theirs,” McCoy said. “But we only share like a border.”

When asked about police reform Lynch and McCoy had similar sentiments. Both support the creation of a civilian review board to oversee cases of police misconduct and the creation of additional emergency response services. Lynch supports an emergency response system staffed by qualified mental health professionals. City Council approved a resolution to create a plan for such a system that pairs police with mental health professionals to deescalate situations involving individuals facing a mental health crisis.

Lynch has raised a little more than $77,000 since January and McCoy raised almost $40,000 since late April, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Da Silva raised just under $3,000 this year and no totals were listed for Taylor.

Taylor and Maloney did not respond to requests for an interview.

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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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General Assembly

Lobby Day 2021 Road Closures and Preparations

It’s a lobby day like no other. Here are the announced road closures.

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From RPD:

The Richmond Police Department is dedicated and committed to ensuring public safety before, during, and after Lobby Day 2021.

The Department is continuing to monitor activity in and around Richmond, as well as working with other law enforcement agencies. Operations and personnel are in place to address public safety needs.

In anticipation of events, signs prohibiting firearms will be placed throughout the city to inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.

Some signs are already up as of Wednesday afternoon.

We encourage the community to stay vigilant. If you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity immediately by calling the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100 or 911 for emergencies.

If you live or work in the area surrounding Capitol Square and downtown, you should expect disruptions to your usual routines. Traffic will be impacted starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday, January 17 until 6 p.m. Monday, January 18.

The following roads will be closed during that time period:

  • 9th Street between E. Main Street and E. Broad Street
  • 10th Street between E. Cary Street and Bank Street
  • East Main Street between 14th Street and 9th Street
  • Bank Street between 14th Street and Governor Street
  • Franklin Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • Franklin Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • 12th Street between Cary Street and Bank Street
  • Monument Avenue between Meadow Street and Lombardy Street
  • Allen Avenue between W. Grace Street and Park Avenue

    *Additional roads may be closed temporarily as needed

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Government

Richmond health districts enter Phase B1 of COVID vaccinations, which includes first responders, teachers, other essential workers

First responders, corrections and homeless shelter workers, and teachers and school staff are among the essential workers eligible for the vaccination under phase 1B.

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The local health districts of the Richmond Metropolitan Area, which includes Chesterfield, Chickahominy, Henrico, and Richmond, will begin expanding their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to include some Phase 1b frontline essential workers on Monday, January 18th.

Specifically, workers in the first three categories of ​Phase 1b​, will now be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines will be administered through a combination of regional mass vaccination events, as well as partnerships with various providers. Vaccination of ​Phase 1a populations​ will continue as the region opens up to Phase 1b.

“We know that the burden of this disease and the underlying social vulnerabilities that put these essential workers at risk do not end at the boundaries of our city and counties,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “It makes the most sense to coordinate our vaccination efforts and make sure all of our communities have access to the best tool we have to end the pandemic.”

The first three categories of Phase 1b frontline essential workers include:

  1. Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff

Individuals in these categories will start to have the opportunity to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at one of three large-scale regional vaccination clinics beginning next week.

“Many school teachers and staff in our jurisdictions have courageously shown up for in-person instruction throughout this pandemic in order to serve their students’ needs and to provide the best education possible. This vaccine offers a shield of protection and a beacon of hope for this group of essential workers,” says Dr. Tom Franck, Director of Chickahominy Health District.

Next week’s COVID-19 vaccination events are taking place in addition to each local health districts’ ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts for qualified individuals. Metro area districts are exploring ways to move deeper into the 1b vaccine eligible group as additional resources become available to distribute vaccine more broadly.

“VDH is continuing to work with pharmacies, hospital systems, and medical practices to establish the infrastructure to more quickly and effectively distribute available resources and vaccinate others who are part of 1b and beyond,” says Dr. Alex Samuel, Director of Chesterfield Health District.

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Crime

City of Richmond declares State of Emergency due to “credible threats” related to planned protests

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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The City of Richmond and Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration has declared a State of Emergency for the city due to what officials call “credible threats” of violence related to planned protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.

The declaration follows Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a statewide State of Emergency, which allowed the administration to send National Guard troops and State Troopers to Washington, D.C. to help with security, logistics, and other immediate needs following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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