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2020 Richmond mayoral election: A Q&A with Justin Griffin

2020 Richmond mayoral election: A Q&A with Justin Griffin

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Dozens of RTD Opinions readers have shared their views about the future of Monument Avenue. What have you heard from residents that you would be willing to incorporate as mayor?

For years I have had a comprehensive plan for Monument Avenue, which is laid out in more detail on my website. The plan is to turn Monument Avenue into what essentially is an open-air museum by expanding it to include a timeline of Richmond’s history. In the grass medians down the avenue would be individual stone plaques in the ground that mark and explain important moments in Richmond history.

We would start with the native people of this area and work our way to modern day. We would build life-size statues along the way so people can come from all over the world to stand next to prominent Richmond figures. It would end with a large monument to Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. Monument Avenue would be the story of who we were and how we developed to be the people who elected the grandson of slaves as the first Black elected governor in the country.

That is a story that only we can tell, and it deserves to be told. It is a story that can serve as inspiration that no matter how bad things seem to be, anything is possible, and it is possible in a short amount of time. That is a story that can show that we don’t have to hate each other. That is a story that can make Richmond a beacon of hope for all mankind.

Residents already have shared with me great ideas for what could be included along the timeline and the process of deciding what to incorporate could be great for us as a city.

Readers also were very engaged about the future of Navy Hill and the plan to revitalize our city’s downtown core. What components do you see as essential pieces of a better downtown Richmond?

We need to take advantage of what we naturally have that other cities don’t because that has been the blueprint for successful mid-sized cities across the country. The things that make Richmond special and unique are an abundance of history, the James River having the only Class IV rapids in an urban setting in the country, and our strong marketing and creative community.

However, we must approach this path forward from a smart financial perspective. The problem with Navy Hill is that it was a bad deal for Richmond from a financial perspective, and I am the only one in this race who had the skill and knowledge to review the financial projections and successfully point out their flaws through my analysis on NoColiseum.com.

Going forward, we must reprioritize our budget to take care of basic city services and maintenance first. Then after those are taken care of, we must make sure any investment of tax dollars produces a real return on investment instead of our current strategy of having a revolving door of get-rich-quick schemes that always fall flat. As a business attorney with an accounting and economics background, I will make sure the city stops wasting our tax dollars.

A mayor’s successes are aided by working with nine City Council members who represent districts with diverse needs and interests. How do you create an effective working relationship with Council?

The lack of a productive working relationship between the mayor and City Council is a direct byproduct of the fact that we keep electing career politicians who view the office as a steppingstone. Instead of focusing on fixing the waste and mismanagement in City Hall, they focus on political pet projects.

When your leaders always are focused on their own political careers, everything devolves into political fighting. Since politics is not my career, I can bring a unique style of leadership and focus to our city that values solution-oriented problem solving over meaningless studies and photo-ops.

I will work with City Council members to actually address the needs of their constituents such as making sure trash cans are delivered (it took six months for me to get one personally), roads are paved, medians and parks are maintained, trees are trimmed, broken water meters are repaired, and all other basic city services are completed in an effective and efficient manner.

The city’s future also is affected by the General Assembly. Recently, state lawmakers have passed bills promoting more local control. What issues, if any, should Richmond have more control over?

The problems in our city government stem from the fact that we cannot effectively manage what we already have control over. I generally believe local government to be by far the most important government, but just having more local control will not fix what ails us. With that being said, if there is one area I would like the city to have more flexibility, it is with schools.

There is too great a focus on Standards of Learning testing and not enough focus on real-world education. I would work with the state and school board to focus more on a holistic education that meets the needs of Richmond children through initiatives that provide career building knowledge, job training, general life skills, financial and wealth building education, robust mentorship opportunities and internship opportunities with local small businesses.

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