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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.

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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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Government

VDH announces new QR codes to verify COVID-19 vaccination status

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

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The Virginia Department of Health today announced the addition of QR codes – a type of barcode that can be scanned with smartphones – to Virginia COVID-19 vaccination records.

QR codes – short for “quick response” – are commonly used in retail, logistics, and other sectors. The technology allows anyone to show proof of vaccination with a digital or printed QR code instead of a paper card, and without the need for an app. As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Biden and Governor Northam to require that employees and customers be vaccinated, QR codes will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

QR codes contain the same information as paper records, but in a format that offers greater security and efficiency. Because the QR code is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, it cannot be altered or forged. Information from QR codes is only available if and when the individual chooses to share it. Businesses and employers that choose to verify an individual’s vaccination status can scan QR codes with the free SMART Health Verifier App. Individuals do not need to download an app to use QR codes.

Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes, empowering individuals with trustworthy and verifiable copies of their vaccination records in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards. The framework and standards were developed by VCI, a coalition of more than 800 public and private organizations – including The Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, MITRE, and The Commons Project Foundation.

QR codes are available to anyone whose vaccination record includes a working phone number and is in the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS). Nearly all doses administered in Virginia are reported to VIIS, including pharmacies, physician offices, health department clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community vaccination centers. Some doses administered outside Virginia to Virginia residents may be in VIIS. Doses administered directly by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs are not reported to VIIS. A person whose record cannot be retrieved automatically may call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) for assistance.

With more than 10.2 million doses of vaccine administered so far in Virginia, more than 58% of the population is fully vaccinated. Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated now. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

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Government

Va. Supreme Court clears way for removal of Lee monument in Richmond

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

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By Ned Oliver

The Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way Thursday for Gov. Ralph Northam to remove the Lee Monument in Richmond, one of the largest Confederate memorials in the state.

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

Northam announced he planned to take down the state-owned memorial in June 2020.

This is a breaking news update and will be updated as the situation develops.

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Community

Community Vaccination Hubs to Open in September

“These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.” – Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD

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From the Richmond Health District:

Starting in September, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will open four COVID-19 vaccination hubs that will each operate weekly in the coming months. These four small hubs will supplement RHHD’s ongoing pop up events in partnership with large employers, faith communities, community organizations, and more.

The opening of the four hubs follows the closing of RHHD’s last mass vaccination site at George Wythe High School earlier this month. Hubs are located in Richmond’s downtown and southside and in eastern and western Henrico to provide access to multiple communities.

“What we learned throughout our vaccination efforts so far is that a combination of clinics at stable locations and pop up events with community outreach is helpful in creating vaccine access,” explains Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD. “These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.”

The clinic locations and times are as follows:

  • Tuesdays, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm (first clinic on September 7th): Second Baptist Church (3300 Broad Rock Blvd)
  • Wednesdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: Henrico Recreation Center (1440 N Laburnum Ave)
  • Thursdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: RHHD Downtown Location (400 E Cary St)
  • Fridays, 9:00 am-12:00 pm: RHHD Henrico West Location (8600 Dixon Powers Dr)

To learn more about all available COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, visit vax.rchd.com.

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