Mayor Dwight. Jones' 2015 State of the City Address

Mayor Dwight C. Jones
State of the City Address
Thursday, January 29, 2015

Click here to view the 2015 State of the City Address.

Click here to view the 2015 State of the City Address Accomplishments video.

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Hello Richmond…I'm so excited that you are here tonight so we can talk about our city.

The World Championships of cycling, back in the US for the first time in 30 years.

This beautiful high school--the first new one in 40 years.

The country's coolest craft brewery, coming to Richmond and bringing people and jobs to Fulton.

We're finally building an expanded public transportation system, with Bus Rapid Transit, and not just dreaming and hoping.

Look around, and you know the list goes on and on. You don't need me to say it, but I will anyway…

My friends, the state of this city is Resurgent…
and for the first time in my lifetime, we all know that Richmond's best days are ahead of us!

That wasn't clear to me when I came to Richmond to study at Virginia Union just a few short years after the marches in Selma, Alabama. The problems were easy to see. It's a tough history to remember. But to keep moving forward, we have to acknowledge it.

Back then, Richmond was shrinking. Middle-class families were fleeing, both black and white. 

Poor people had few choices, trapped in massive housing projects where hope had little chance. Educational inequality, violence, and alienation were allowed to subvert neighborhoods that once thrived. Crime began to tick up slowly, until it strangled our city. And we had an election system that left most of Richmond unrepresented.

I didn't want to stay in a city like that, and neither would you.

And yet something magical touched my heart. I couldn't identify it back then, and I can't explain it now. Despite everything, I chose to make Richmond my home during some tough days.

I think it was during those tough days, that the old Richmond attitude was born. An attitude we've all seen and some know too well. It's the self-defeating attitude that says if something's hard, it must be wrong, so let's do nothing. It says, unless 100% of people agree on a tough issue, then we have to stop and wait. Put it off for later.

That old mentality says, if something's new, then something must be wrong. That mentality still lives in Richmond, in some ways and in some places.

I recently heard someone say, Richmond is a place where good ideas go to die.

There's only one right answer to people who say that: You're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem.

But let's be real. As Richmonders, that's our history, and we have to own it. That's just one reason why important projects can take time here.

And so while I know many of you want to hear an update on baseball tonight, I won't have an update until the time is right.

But I want everyone to know this. I strongly believe that the next steps on this and every other major project in Richmond need to be viewed through one lens:

How does it help develop under-utilized land, so we can generate new money, and then reduce our 26% poverty rate that leaves thousands of poor people shoved off into a handful of concentrated neighborhoods?

I know we all share that goal, so let's be clear. This year, as we prepare for 300 million people to watch us on television, the City Council, the School Board and I aim to shape the solution together. I know we all share a commitment not only to cooperation, but to action.

And while I can't speak for them, I can say that my goal is not to win unanimous votes, but to get things done and move this city forward quickly.

We need to build on the resurgence that's moving Richmond forward like never before.

In six years, we've begun to build new schools like this one, with technology-rich learning spaces and community-centered design.

Our School Board is focusing on academic improvement and student achievement like never before. Together, we are setting the bar high for change, and we are working for the successful futures of Richmond youth.

We've brought new jobs, are changing the downtown skyline, advanced the Riverfront Plan, and we are becoming a greener city. We've begun renovating Main Street Station, and our resurgence is evident here too, when November saw the highest ridership at Main Street Station since the station opened in 2003.

Richmond is showing up in ways that no one would have expected before. We've been named a top travel destination and one of the happiest cities. We've been named one of the top ten cities you should explore on two wheels.

We have one of the best neighborhoods for young people in Shockoe Bottom and our Fan District was named one of the country's Ten Great Neighborhoods for 2014. We've been dubbed a "millennial magnet" – because we have more people in their 20's than in their teens.

We're a great city for food lovers, a runner friendly community, an affordable city to buy a home, and a lot more.

As the Huffington Post wrote last fall, "It seems like everyone's moving to Richmond." Richmond resurgence!

A generation ago, people were moving out of Richmond. Today they're moving in.

Back then, the past held us back. Today, the future is propelling us forward.

This resurgence is empowering us to take on very tough challenges that were impossible before. Together, we're delivering results.

We have been able to deliver where others have not.

We tore down an old jail, and built a new justice center in its place. We are holding people accountable for breaking the law, but also helpin them to re-join a peaceful society that believes in second chances.

We want to change lives, and we've developed meaningful alternatives to jail, like our Day Reporting Center and training programs to help prepare people for job readiness and other life skills training.

Earlier this month, the first class of the Day Reporting Center graduated, and when I heard the stories and the testimonies of the 22 program graduates, it confirmed for me that the change we are seeking is real.

There's a lot to be proud of. But we have no time to waste patting ourselves on the back. Because our resurgence is speeding up.

Think about this:

Two of the biggest things happening in Richmond today we didn't even envision them a year ago.

When we met just one short year ago across town at MLK Middle School, no one could foresee Stone Brewing Company coming to Richmond. But next week, workers will begin constructing a $74 million operation that will bring hundreds of new jobs and millions of new tax dollars to Richmond.  And our resurgence is evident in that we won this opportunity over 300 other cities!

When we met a year ago, bus rapid transit was a lofty dream in a few well-meaning, committed hearts. But today, twenty-five million dollars is in place to make it a reality. Now designs are underway, and an expanded, modern public transportation system is coming to life in RVA, uniting Richmond and Henrico after years of fretting, and worrying, and delaying.

And let's not forget that when we met a year ago, we hoped that NFL players in Richmond might get a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Well, that's happening on Sunday!

It might not be our hometown team, but we've now shown that training camp in Richmond can lead to a Super Bowl appearance and whether it's the Patriots who practiced here this summer, or the Seahawks whose Russell Wilson grew up here, Richmond's in the Super Bowl!

Thanks to lots of exciting projects like this, people around the world have taken notice of Richmond. Wall Street has rewarded us with five bond rating increases. We're now one step away from Triple-A. This matters because good credit makes everything easier and cheaper. 

So does a low crime rate. The numbers speak for themselves.

We've had our 5th straight year of Violent Crime Reduction, the lowest rate we've seen since I've lived in Richmond.

That's due in large part to the commitment to community policing that Chief Ray Tarasovic has advanced, and to the heart he brings to the job. The Precinct Workshops, Command Walks through neighborhoods, public meetings, Faith Leaders Group, Young Adult Police Commissioners, the Police Athletic name it and our officers are involved, and it's effective.

Earlier this month, we were reminded of the risks that our first responders face. Officer William Turner – a 30-year veteran of the force – was shot. He's still on the mend, but he is going to fully recover. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Officer Turner and to all of our police and fire officials who keep us safe.

That's why as Chief Tarasovic retires, I'm committed to maintaining the steady leadership that he's brought to the force, and I intend to name the next Police chief early next week. I look forward to sharing that information with you.

The Richmond Resurgence has created a civic pride unimaginable two decades ago. You can feel it in the creativity of our entrepreneurs. You can see it in the faces of students at our four colleges and universities. You know it when you talk to people around town. And you hear it when you travel out of town.

But know this, we'll reach our full potential only when we move beyond the tale of two cities.

Right now, one part of town is vibrant, prosperous, and forward-looking. And then when you cross the Martin Luther King Bridge, you find another Richmond. One that has largely been ignored, over-looked, and shunned.

It's a story that is all too familiar across our country.

The old Richmond approach allowed a generation of Richmonders to believe that they don't have a chance to succeed, because they'd never seen anyone who had. That's the reality we've faced in Richmond throughout my lifetime and yours. It's true today because in the past, leaders made a decision to create public housing projects and push thousands of poor people into them.

History has shown that experiment didn't work.

Here's what's different today: We now have a moment to do things differently. For the first time, we can bring the Richmond resurgence to every corner of our hometown.

It's new for all of us. It's never happened in my lifetime, or yours. But I know this: If we unite together and look forward, and invite our neighbors to join us, then we'll continue to shape the city and the region we all want to call home.

We have two more years to continue this work, and then we'll be judged on what we've done. I believe we'll be judged by the answers to four questions.

The first question we'll be judged on is this: Do we fight, because we can or do we demonstrate the maturity to collaborate. The answer to that determines everything else. And friends let's be clear, we must collaborate.

The second question we'll be judged on is this: Do we know who our partners are?

This is a big town, and I know who my partners are. It's a long, diverse list. Let me tell you who some of our partners are:

City Council. School Board. Henrico. Chesterfield. The Business Community. Activist. Protestor. Police.

Democrat. Republican. State government. Governor McAuliffe. Federal government. President Obama.

These are all our partners.

Senator Warner. Senator Kaine. Congressman Scott. Congressman Brat. These are all our partners.

VCU. Virginia Union. University of Richmond. J Sargeant Reynolds.

These are just a few names, because the list goes on and on.

Our resurgence is enhanced by great partnerships.

The third question we'll be judged on: Do we know who our competitors are?

This is a hard one, especially for those who want to fight inside City Hall. Let's be clear. Our competitors are mostly in places far away. They include employment centers in North Carolina and Maryland. They're emerging cities in places many of us have never been before, like Brazil and Colombia, Seoul and Singapore. We have serious competitors. And we have got to think globally and not just locally.

And the fourth question that we will be judged on is this: Do we know what's important and what's not?

These are the things that I know to be important:
  •  Public schools
  • Developing neighborhoods and reducing concentrated poverty
  • Attracting and retaining employers
  • Investing in infrastructure and our local employees.
I believe that all of our local officials are committed to a new era of cooperation and collaboration in Richmond.

That's the way we'll transform neighborhoods in Richmond's East End, and that’s the way we will transform neighborhoods in South Side – neighborhoods that have been left behind for too long.

Together, we're going to deliver the best, most exciting Cycling Championships the world has ever seen.

We'll drive bus rapid transit forward dramatically, to transform public transit and bring new investment and jobs for our people.

We're going to do our best to hold on to local favorites like the Richmond Flying Squirrels. And we're going to seize new opportunities that we can't even imagine today.

We are confident that the year ahead will bring many opportunities.

To everyone who believes that our best days are ahead of us, I ask you to join me in this resurgence.

I ask you to join me in driving the Richmond resurgence forward.

I know we can all build a city and a region that everyone can be proud of.

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