Thursday, May 25, 2017

City Performance Review Released by VCU's Wilder School


Mayor Levar M. Stoney this morning announced the release of a comprehensive performance review of City Hall.

Making good on his campaign promise, the Mayor commissioned the review shortly after taking office to provide him with an idea of what works and doesn’t work in the Richmond city government he inherited when he was sworn in Jan. 1, 2017.

The review, conducted over 100 days by the Performance Management Group (PMG) of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, examines the internal and external challenges facing City agencies, departments and their employees in the performance of their duties.  A copy of the review can be found here.

The review underscores the commitment of “many employees who are actively engaged in ways to make the city a superior place,” and “a workforce ready to step up and help the city move forward in a positive direction.” But it also paints a sobering picture of the state of city government in recent years -- a legacy of underperformance enabled by gaps in technology and training, poor communication, cumbersome processes, inconsistent policies, chronic understaffing and low morale.

“Excessive bureaucracy, micromanagement, unnecessary delays and sometimes poor leadership have led to a system that is often not as agile, responsive internally and externally, or as skillful as it should be for Richmond to become the City it could be,” the report states.

The findings support the results of public surveys conducted by the City Auditor of Richmond residents in 2008 and 2016, which revealed a stark decline in citizen satisfaction with City government, from 81% to 34%.

Specifically, the review revealed “a need for improved financial controls and reporting (Finance), better hiring processes and career development (Human Resources), streamlined procurement practices (Procurement) and upgraded and integrated technology (Information Technology).

“While all departments’ shortcoming must be improved upon, these four touch each department in major ways and are essential if all departments are to effectively deliver services and make city government as a whole healthy,” the review states.

“I am grateful to PMG’s Jim Burke and Linda Pierce and everyone involved in producing this important report,” said Mayor Stoney. “And I also want to thank the dedicated employees of our city government for their frank and honest assessments of how our government works, and in many cases, doesn’t work.

“We have some substantial challenges ahead of us to make City Hall deliver the government the citizens of Richmond deserve, and this report is an important first step in that journey,” the Mayor continued. “Moving forward, our goal with this report is not to re-litigate the past and point fingers. It’s about the fix. With the support of our employees, our City Council and our community, I am confident we will get there.”

Mayor Stoney will immediately implement the report’s recommendation to “create a cross-functional team” to prioritize the performance review report recommendations.

"The mission of the Wilder School is to serve the public interest through scholarship, teaching and direct public service. This includes service to state and local government, through which we provide expert assistance to policymakers and to public administrators," said John Accordino, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School. "We are delighted to have had the opportunity, through this performance review, to assist the City of Richmond in its efforts to improve the quality of administration."

"It has been a pleasure working on this project to support improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of City Hall," said James M. Burke, Ph.D., director of the Wilder School's Performance Management Group, which led the review. "We know the mayor and his team will consider our recommendations as he prioritizes new initiatives alongside current ones. We are confident the improvements he and employees will bring to City Hall will be evident to the residents of Richmond in the coming years."

For more information on the performance review, please contact Brian McNeill, Public Relations Specialist University Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University (804) -827-0889, (804) 938-7558 (cell) or bwmcneill@vcu.edu.

###

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s Statement on City of Richmond FY 2018 Budget


The following are the remarks as prepared for Mayor Levar M. Stoney regarding the City of Richmond FY 2018 Budget:

Thank you all for being here.

First, I want to thank everyone involved in organizing and supporting my budget this year.

I proposed the largest ever single year funding increase for education, and now $170 million will be allocated for Richmond Public Schools — providing needed cost of living increases for school personnel and long overdue increases in teacher salaries.

My budget increased funding for the Richmond Police and Fire Departments, and an additional $5.5 million is finally being invested in our public safety personnel.

My budget made needed improvements to core services, including our enhanced bulk and brush pickup and we reformed leaf collection.

And my budget invested an additional $500,000 for the Office of Community Wealth Building, to help move more people into the workforce and lift more families out of poverty. 

All four of my major budget priorities: public education, public safety, core services and community wealth building were all adopted and funded by City Council, and I would be remiss if I did not thank the members of City Council for recognizing these needs, and sharing in these priorities. This is a significant achievement for us all.

Somebody once told me that policy is budget and budget is policy. And on that account, I think we got it right this year and have laid the foundation for the city, for the “One Richmond” we all want to become.

But we still have a lot of work to do. And how we go about doing it is important.

There are big questions we need to answer.

Do we work together, or apart?

Do we fear that agreement makes us look weak, or fear that we will lose power if we fail to lead?

Do we have the ability to compromise even when we disagree?

Do we trust each other?

As you know I have expressed serious concerns over Council’s budget amendment, which would require Council approval, by ordinance, on many transfers of funds within departments of city government.

My concern has centered around the belief that adding this potentially weeks-long layer of bureaucracy, with the potential for 50 to 100 plus ordinances during the course of a year, would make City Hall operate even less efficiently than it does already, and leave us less responsive to the real-time needs of our residents.

I’m also concerned over the lack of transparency in how the amendment was introduced by Council without consultation with the administration – and that no other municipality in the commonwealth has chosen to follow this practice.

Let me say that I understand that in previous administrations there have been serious concerns expressed by Council over transparency and accountability of finances in City government. I appreciate Council’s concern and it is also a concern of mine. In fact, it is one of the reasons I ran for office.

But I want to make two things clear:

1.    This is not the last administration, and I do not believe it serves us to relitigate the mistakes of the past. We should be focused on the future.

2.    Going forward, our city is not served by this level of discord and distrust. It’s time for all of us to step up, and commit to working with each other, not against each other.

It is what I want. 


It is what the people want.

And that is why, after careful consideration, I have decided that I will not veto Council’s amendment.

We need to move forward with the business of the people.

The Citizens of Richmond do not want to see us fight – that is the old way. They want us to govern. They want Council to legislate and they want me to lead.

They want the City to work.

So we need to do so in a way that is responsible, follows best practices and helps us be as efficient and responsive as possible.

That is why I hope Council will work in the coming weeks to modify, and perfect this most imperfect legislation. And that, in the future, we will work together to find the path to the efficient and transparent government our residents deserve.

To do so will require trust, transparency and a willingness to compromise.

That is my pledge today, by NOT issuing this veto. I hope Council will join me and help move our city forward.

Thank you.

-->

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

City's Finance Department and Auditor Reach Agreement


~ Audit Scope Includes Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Terms to Protect Business and Taxpayer Records ~

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the city’s auditor and finance department have agreed to terms providing for an audit of the Assessments Unit within the Department of Finance, which will be initiated immediately. This establishes a cooperative effort to ensure the city has the proper process in place to collect outstanding tax revenues due to the city, while ensuring any special access to proprietary information relating to city businesses or taxpayers will be kept confidential.

“I commend our Director of Finance, John Wack, and our Auditor, Umesh Dalal, for their work in reaching this agreement,” said Mayor Stoney. “Working together to collect revenues owed to the city will benefit every city department and every city taxpayer.”

“I appreciate Mayor Stoney facilitating the performance of an audit with the Finance Department that will ensure accountability and transparency over city resources,” said City Auditor Dalal.

The scope of the Assessments Unit audit will include calendar years 2015 and 2016, encompassing the 24 months ending December 31, 2016. Messrs. Wack and Umesh are now finalizing an agreement for two additional audits of the city’s Revenue Administration, for the Delinquent Tax Unit and the Audit and Enforcement Unit.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Richmond Ranked Among 20 Most Vibrant Arts Communities


Richmond now ranks within the twenty most vibrant arts communities among large cities in the United States. The ranking comes from Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research and the publication of their third annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which studies and calculates the measure of arts vibrancy for over 900 communities throughout the nation.

The index measures the number of arts providers and artists, economic impact, government support and other cultural indicators. More information and the full report can be found here.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney, a strong supporter of Richmond’s arts community and advocate for the city’s cultural assets, said he is thrilled to see Richmond once again affirmed as a major creative hub in the United States. “Our arts and cultural assets define Richmond,” said Mayor Stoney, “They enrich not only our lives, but also the city’s pocketbook — all while helping to attract new employers, visitors and interest in Richmond.“



Monday, April 17, 2017

Mayor Kicks off Earth Week With New Sustainability Plan Announcement


Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced RVAgreen 2050, a new comprehensive sustainability planning initiative. It is the next step in the evolution of the city’s sustainability agenda, which builds upon the solid foundation formed by the existing RVAgreen sustainability plan adopted by City Council in 2012. Great progress has been made to date, with 10 out of 13 sustainability indicators tracking positively. The city’s renewable energy capacity has increased by over 44,000% since 2008, community-wide energy use has decreased 1.5% and community recycling rates have increased 26%. The City has achieved 20 out of 55 sustainability initiatives and is on track to complete another 14 by the end of 2017.

RVAgreen2050 will begin with a summit this summer to start the planning process to develop our Community Energy Plan, the first step in a four-part plan. This comprehensive plan will be broken down into four major areas that will help Richmond create a healthier, more vibrant, economically competitive and resilient community:
  • Community Energy Plan
  • Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan
  • Climate Action Plan
  • Placemaking Strategy
The City is undertaking this new sustainability planning effort to reach the goal of reducing city government and community greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. As of Dec. 31, 2015, city government greenhouse gas emissions are down 11% and community greenhouse gas emissions are down 15%.

Please click here to visit the City's Sustainability page.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

City to Receive $1.3 Million Interest-Free Loan From the Virginia Resources Authority


The Virginia Resources Authority announced Thurs., March 30 the State Water Control Board has authorized funding from the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Fund to the City of Richmond. The funding consists of an interest-free loan in an amount up to approximately $1.3 million.

The loan will be used to finance a pilot program to identify the benefits and cost-effectiveness of alternatives to permeable pavement surfaces in city alleyways, and the impact of these alternatives on storm water runoff reduction.

“We sincerely appreciate this Virginia Resources Authority loan,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “The pilot program this loan will fund will allow us to better understand what we can do to manage storm water runoff and control water pollution affecting our city.”

“This loan will greatly benefit DPU’s ongoing commitment to utilize green infrastructure BMPs (Best Management Practices) within the storm water utility,” s­­aid DPU Director Bob Steidel. “Ratepayers will also see a benefit as a result of the interest-free funding.”

Background:

Since 1987, the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund has been providing low interest loan funding for water quality improvement projects throughout the Commonwealth. Funds are currently provided to local governments, public service authorities, agricultural producers, partnerships and corporations for a variety of project types. Loan repayments are circulated back into the fund to create a dedicated source of revenue available for future clean water projects.

The purpose of the Virginia Land Conservation Loan Program is to provide a long-term source of low interest financing for the conservation of land in Virginia in order to improve and/or protect the water resources of the Commonwealth. Additional benefits of the program include the protection of open space or natural values of the properties and/or the assurance of the availability of the land for agricultural, forestal, recreation or open space use. Although these other benefits are of value, the principle focus and utilization of the fund is on beneficial impacts to water quality.

 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mayor Stoney Marks Successful First 100 Days


Watch the “Mayor’s Minute – First 100 Days” here.
 

Today, April 10, 2017, marks Mayor Stoney’s 100th day in office after being sworn in and pledging to work every day to build One Richmond – a city that works for everyone.

The Mayor has hit the ground running, making good on his promise to be engaged in the community and initiate much needed reform focused on the core priorities of improving public education, promoting public safety, creating economic opportunity and fixing City Hall.

Mayor Stoney has visited fire stations, police precincts and a third of city schools already, in addition to more than 100 public appearances in his first months in office. He has also joined council members in district walk-throughs or held community meetings in nearly every district.

In just the first few months into his administration, the Mayor has won consensus with the School Board and City Council on an Education Compact to address the needs of the whole child, helped attract hundreds of new jobs to the city and introduced a GRTC transit plan that will reduce commutes and waiting times without increasing fares.

He launched an independent and comprehensive performance review of every city department to make City Hall work again, and introduced a balanced budget that makes record investments in city schools while also increasing funding for public safety and community wealth building.

“It’s been a great 100 days,” said Mayor Stoney. “I want to thank the community for all of its support. The best is yet to come.”

Below is a list of some of the administration’s accomplishments over the first 100 days.
###

HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST 100 DAYS:

Fix City Hall / Departmental performance:
Initiated a 100-Day performance review by the Performance Management Group to find out what works and what needs improvement in City Hall. Took swift action to change leadership of several departments.

Education Compact:
Unanimous adoption by School Board and Council to work toward multi-agency, intergovernmental compact to address needs of the whole child.

Community Engagement:

More than 100 public appearances, including schools, police and fire stations, community walks and meetings in every district.

Public Safety:
Police Department is establishing a public housing unit. Trained more than 450 residents in use of force training. Three new fire engines were commissioned.

Public Works:
Prioritized residential streets in addition to primary roads during January snow storm and plowed 80% of streets within 24 hours. More than 4,500 potholes filled since January.

Welcoming City:
Issued Mayoral Directive reaffirming policies of inclusion. Among them: police will not inquire about immigration status and will not enter into 287(g) agreements with federal Immigrations Customs Enforcement. Joined Welcoming America and list of Welcoming Cities. Signed Mayor’s Against LGBT Discrimination national pledge.

Economic Development:
Nearly 700 new jobs brought to Richmond, including fortune 500 company Owens & Minor, Inc. to downtown Richmond, and the expansion of TemperPack in South Richmond.

Regional Leadership:
The Mayor accepted the role as co-chairman of the Capital Region Collaborative and has met multiple times with leaders in Hanover, Henrico and Chesterfield.

GRTC-Transit:
Took important steps to remaking our Transit network to connect city workers to where jobs are located - and to get residents to their jobs faster - without any fare or tax increase.

Budget:
A balanced $681 million budget that does not raise taxes, including a record $6.1 million increased investment for schools, plus $1.3 million for police, $1 million for fire and $500,000 for community wealth building. One-time surplus money dedicated to finishing emergency communications system, repairing an estimated 1,300 alleys and getting a head start on grass cutting.

Finance and Administration:
The 2016 CAFR to be completed by the end of April. City is on schedule to complete the 2017 CAFR on time. Successful visit to New York bond rating agencies to preserve current rating, which produced a positive report from Fitch Ratings to affirm City is on track for AAA rating.

Richmond Animal Care & Control:
Achieved an 89% save rate in 2016 and since January has already taken in and cared for 698 animals with a 92% save rate in 2017.