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.