Friday, January 18, 2013

Mayor Receives Final Report from Anti-Poverty Commission


~Staff to develop timeline in response to recommendations~

The Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission today presented its final report to the City of Richmond after close to two years of research, public input sessions, and committee work. The Commission offered what it termed “top-tier” and “second-tier” recommendations to begin to address a poverty rate (25%) in the city of Richmond that is over twice that of the metro area as a whole.

“The report rightly acknowledges that City government has limited resources and capacity to tackle this problem,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “That’s why the work of this Commission has been so important in that this report can provide a roadmap for us to create a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy involving all stakeholders. I believe we can make a meaningful difference over time if we all work together.”

The Anti-Poverty Commission is comprised of community advocates, academics, community leaders, members of the business sector and other stakeholders. The report focuses on topics such as job creation, education and workforce development, legislation and policy, and transportation needs.

Mayor Jones has indicated that he now wants staff to develop a timeline showing what can be done for the upcoming fiscal year, what recommendations are currently underway and what recommendations will take longer to implement. Commission Chairman Ellen Robertson plans to have the report presented to City Council on January 28 during their informal session. Throughout the budget process, the Mayor will also determine what things should be included in future budgets. The City Administration will be working closely with City Council on implementing recommendations of the report.

Click here to view the report.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

City’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor Initiative Seeks Volunteers For National Day of Service


Monday, January 21, 2013 marks the 27th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday which is celebrated as a National Day of Service. Dr. King once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" To celebrate the Federal Holiday locally, the City’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative is encouraging all city residents to take a “Day On, Not A Day Off” by committing to serve each other and the various communities of the city on this very special day.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones stated, “Volunteering and helping others through service is a perfect way to honor the life, teachings and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is my hope that city residents will participate in the National Day of Service through our Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative or on there on, as volunteering has a positive impact on our city.”

The City’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative is promoting the following volunteer opportunities that are led by its collaborative partnership agency HandsOn Greater Richmond:

Bellevue Elementary School - “100 Year Celebration”
January 19 from noon to 4 p.m.

Virginia Supportive Housing - “Visions and Dreams Party”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Feedmore – Central Virginia Foodbank – “Warehouse Warriors”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Feedmore – Central Virginia Foodbank – “Community Kitchen Assistants”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

YWCA – “Create a Counseling Room”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

William Byrd Community House - “New Year Clean Start”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

REAP (Richmond Entrepreneurs’ Assistance Programs) – “New 2 U Sports Equipment Drive & Sorting”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Maymont Foundation – “Easter is in the Bag”
January 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Residents looking to get involved in a MLK Day project should go to www.richmondgov.com/NeighborToNeighbor/VolunteerLocally.aspx.

The City’s Neighbor-To-Neighbor initiative will also be participating in a MLK Celebration event jointly sponsored by Richmond Preparatory Christian Academy and the New Jubilee Educational and Family Life Center, and supported by the city’s AmeriCorps ACES programs. Richmond Prep “Dreamworks Program” and New Jubilee’s “Heroes and Dreams Academy” will host a Breakfast commemorating the heroic legacy of Dr. King with direct linkage to community. This is an all day (closed) event for children ages 5-18 and will include various organizations in the community sharing with the youth what they do in the community, providing on-site service learning opportunities.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Neighbor-to-Neighbor office at (804) 646-6528 or at Neighbor2Neighbor@richmondgov.com.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

City Advises Residents to Prepare for Winter Weather


The National Weather Service in Wakefield, VA, has issued a Winter Storm Watch for Central Virginia that will remain in effect from Thursday afternoon through late Thursday night. As a result, the city of Richmond encourages residents to take precautions now in preparation for any winter precipitation impact.

Residents are encouraged to make an emergency supply kit to include essential supplies that will last at least three days. Supply kits should include a hand-cranked or battery-powered radio and extra batteries, non-perishable food and water, toiletries, flashlights, a first aid kit and medications. Also, include items needed for infants, seniors, and pets. You may want to keep a second kit in your car in the event you must travel during inclement weather.

The City asks that residents remain home or indoors during this weather event and offers the following safety recommendations:
If you do have to drive, drive cautiously;
If driving, decrease speed;
Have a full tank of gas;
Have a cell phone with a full charge with you;
Stay inside if possible. If you need to go out, dress in several layers of lightweight clothing. Wear mittens or gloves and a hat, preferably one that covers your ears;
Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite;
Avoid overloading electrical outlets;
Do not connect your generator directly to your home's wiring or house your generator inside your home. Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly to you and others. A generator that is directly connected to your home's wiring may 'back feed' onto the power lines connected to your home;
If space heaters are being used, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Make sure your space heater is three feet from any flammable material. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater;
Stoves or ovens should not be used as an alternate source to heat your home;
Bring your pets indoors. If you are unable to bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

Businesses have a critical role in emergency preparedness. Putting a disaster plan in motion now will improve the likelihood that your business or company will survive and recover. Visit www.ready.gov/business for more information.

Although mass evacuations do not appear to be necessary with this weather event, City officials may decide some area evacuations are necessary. Residents should prepare to be self sustaining by having food that doesn’t need refrigeration and one gallon of water per person per day.

The city’s Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be open tonight, January 16, and tomorrow, January 17, as overnight temperatures are forecasted to remain at or below 40 degrees. The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter is located at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, 14 West Duval Street. The shelter will open each day at 7 p.m. and close the following morning at 6 a.m. Food will not be provided and pets are not allowed.

Residents in need of overnight shelter are asked to report to Commonwealth Catholic Charities Central Intake by 5 p.m. each day for a comprehensive intake and referral to the appropriate shelter. Commonwealth Catholic Charities Central Intake is located at the Freedom House Conrad Center, 1400 Oliver Hill Way, next to Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and Richmond City Jail. A referral to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be provided to individuals who are not eligible for an existing shelter or if all available beds have been filled.

The city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) will accept Crisis Assistance applications now through March 15 at 900 East Marshall Street, Monday through Friday; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents can also call the Fuel Line at (804) 646-7046. DSS also provides emergency assistance with gas and electric disconnection notices for residents who qualify.

Elderly or disabled residents can also contact Senior Connections for assistance at (804) 343-3000, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For up-to-date information and additional instructions from the city of Richmond during this weather event, please visit www.Richmondgov.com, follow the City on Twitter @CityRichmondVA, and stay tuned to local radio and television stations.

Final Day to Apply for Summer Employment Opportunities with Mayor’s Youth Academy and Kings Dominion


The deadline for submitting applications for summer employment opportunities with the Mayor’s Youth Academy (MYA) and Kings Dominion is today at 5 p.m.

MYA and Kings Dominion have partnered this year to provide up to 100 city youth, ages 16-19, the opportunity to work at the amusement park this summer. Selected MYA participants will begin working at the park in April 2013 during their spring break and on weekends until summer vacation. Once schools close in June, selected MYA youth will work varying schedules throughout the summer months. Applications are available at all Richmond Public High Schools and on the MYA website. Applicants for this program are required to participate in four pre-employment training sessions prior to being referred to Kings Dominion staff for interviews and placements.

GRTC has confirmed that it will again operate its Kings Dominion shuttle services which will offer MYA youth a reliable source of transportation to and from the park. Transportation is essential to the success of this summer employment partnership as it enables selected youth access to employment opportunities at Kings Dominion.

MYA will accept applications until 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 16. For additional information regarding this summer employment opportunity, please contact the MYA office at 646-7480.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mayor Issues Update on Removal of Trees from Redskins Summer Training Camp Development Site


Mayor Dwight C. Jones issued the following statement about the removal of trees from the development site of the Redskins summer training camp:

“Since taking office, I’ve been focused on improving the tree canopy in our city, having supported the planting of more than 5,000 trees since taking office and making a commitment to pursue the planting of 2,000 trees a year for the next several years. Our city has been named as a Tree City USA 21 years and counting by the Arbor Day Foundation. This is something we are very proud of and we have the second longest streak in Virginia for holding this honor.

“I remain very concerned about the loss of the trees at the development site for the Redskins training camp. We now have a better understanding of how we got to this point and where the communications were not clear about this matter.

“In October a shift was made in the plans for the site. That shift, which moved our project roughly 100 feet west on the site, came about to protect the visibility of a future special events center behind the Science Museum. The trees were removed in accordance with those revamped plans. Those plans were submitted to the Urban Design Committee and the Planning Commission.

“While our original intent was to preserve as many trees as possible and while it was our belief that plans drawn up supported that intent, the shift of the 100 feet to the west essentially caused the removal of most of the trees we had intended to preserve.

“Everyone knows we cannot put the trees back and this is not reversible. What we must work toward now is ensuring that we impact the site in a positive way and that we are keeping our commitment to provide a public park at the west end of the site.

“The first thing I am moving to do is to strengthen communication between my office and the development group that has been moving this project forward. Clearly what was missing was clarity on the commitments and sensitivities related to this project that my office has been managing. Communication needs to be seamless and it has not been. My chief of staff, Suzette Denslow, will now be tasked with attending the weekly project meetings. I’ve also asked the development group to begin providing a weekly briefing report on all aspects of the project. That report will be shared with City Council on a weekly basis. 

“With respect to the new landscaping plan I have requested, I’ve asked the development group to see if we can achieve an even better than one-for-one replacement rate of trees. At this time, we believe we can exceed one-for-one. I expect to have a new supplemental landscaping plan by mid-February. We have about two acres to work with on the site to develop the park area. I think we should engage stakeholders about the development of that area and I’m requesting the development group to include stakeholders like the Urban Forestry Commission, the Capital Trees partnership, and our own City arborist in discussions about the site. I’m grateful that the city has so many valuable resources that we can call on to be part of the solution in this matter.

“I want to close by saying that I don’t want this problem to deter us from completing this project. This project has been and still is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Richmond and we are grateful for all those that have entered into partnership with us to make this happen. This project remains a top priority project and one that we need to move expeditiously on. I appreciate the very hard work that has already gone into this from the entire design and construction team.

“I will make sure that the public is fully aware of the new landscaping plans when they are presented next month.”

Richmond Social Services Review Moving Forward


Interim DCAO Lays Out Expectations

Mayor Dwight Jones announced plans in December to engage a national agency to conduct an in-depth review of policies and procedures of the Richmond Department of Social Services (RDSS) Child Welfare Division. That decision followed an expedited case review, undertaken at the City’s request, by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) as a result of a number of allegations the City received about RDSS policies, procedures and management. VDSS has since agreed to conduct a broader assessment. The City has also engaged the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) to examine the agency’s overall practices. Steve Harms, the interim deputy chief administrative officer (DCAO) for Human Services, will oversee the studies and implementation by RDSS. 

Interim DCAO Steve Harms today offered an update on the progress of the reviews.

“In the few weeks that I’ve been on board as the interim DCAO for Human Services, my focus has been on coordinating the reviews of the City of Richmond’s Child Welfare Practices by VDSS and the Child Welfare League of America,” said Harms. “In general, the expanded VDSS review will be more detailed and compliance oriented. CWLA will work concurrently with VDSS and issue a separate report to follow.  Between the two reviews, we expect to have a good blueprint for not only fixing any problems that may exist, but elevating our city system to the highest levels.”

VDSS will review about 200 cases representing all types of matters in foster care and adoption, child protective services, and family resources. A review of the automated records is already underway.  On January 28, 2013, VDSS will begin on-site reviews of case files and staff interviews related to these cases. A range of participants in the child welfare system who are outside of RDSS also will need to be interviewed including city officials, city council members, judges, city attorneys, city law enforcement, guardian ad litems, physicians and other child services providers. The VDSS review is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Steve Harms indicated that he was very pleased the studies were beginning in earnest so quickly. “This is a delicate matter that we must address thoroughly and I’m encouraged by the tremendous commitment of resources and expertise that VDSS and CWLA are dedicating to assist us.  RDSS intends to fully cooperate with the review teams.”

“These studies will highlight not only weaknesses but also strengths in RDSS,” said Harms. “We don’t anticipate waiting for the reviews to be completed before we act on any forthcoming recommendations; rather we are positioned to correct as we go along if corrections are warranted.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mayor Comments on Trees Removed from Development Site for Redskins Summer Training Camp


Mayor Dwight C. Jones today released the following statement about the removal of trees from the development site of the Redskins summer training camp:

 “I was taken aback to learn that more trees were removed from the site than originally anticipated. This is counter to our commitment to protect the older hardwood trees at the west end of the property. We are reviewing the matter to determine what mistakes were made so that we can prevent further problems from occurring.

“I have always committed to replacing trees one-for-one, and I reiterate that commitment today. I have also directed that a new landscaping plan be developed and larger, more mature trees be used for the western area. I know that everyone is moving forward quickly with construction to meet our June 2013 deadline, but we need to be mindful of commitments. A mistake was made, and we need it to be rectified, and we need to prevent further problems.”