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Mayor Stoney in review

1/5/2018, 6:30 p.m.

We have been intrigued by the energy and chutzpah of Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, who has just completed his first year in office.

While he is still getting his city governance chops in order, we give him high marks for coming into the job with a balanced resolve to both listen to the needs of the people and to get things done.

During this first year, he presided over the unveiling of the Maggie L. Walker statue and plaza — an uplifting addition to the city — and started in earnest the arduous journey of upgrading Richmond’s decrepit public schools. By putting together the Educational Compact, a task as chaotic as herding cats, Mayor Stoney has the major players now — the city School Board, City Council and the city administration — all in the same room and hopefully on the same page in remedying this deplorable situation that has gone on for way too long to the detriment of Richmond’s children. 

The next critical step is for Mayor Stoney, the City Council and School Board to find the money to renovate those school buildings worth saving or to plan for new, state-of-the-art facilities. The people of Richmond should not let Mayor Stoney, or any of the other elected or appointed officials, off the hook until they deliver on that promise.

To his credit, Mayor Stoney has led — or prodded — city staff to get Richmond’s latest comprehensive annual financial report in on time, something that the past administration hadn’t been able to do and which left the city unable to tell exactly how much money was available for priorities such as public schools and other health and safety programs.

The new mayor also instituted a tax amnesty program that will help the City of Richmond to collect millions in delinquent taxes that can boost city coffers.

His vigorous efforts to make government more responsive to the people have filled potholes, repaired alleys and started to streamline the permitting process for construction and other projects.

While there still is deadwood to be cleaned out of City Hall, Mayor Stoney has gone in with an even hand and a listening ear during his first 12 months. And we expect to see bigger changes during the next year.

Overall, while we believe Mayor Stoney has gotten off to a good start, we give him a “B-minus” on the first year of his four-year term in office. 

Why?

Chiefly because two of his major projects or proposals left us wondering, “What is he thinking?!”

In November, Mayor Stoney announced a plan to replace the Richmond Coliseum and to redevelop a wide swath around it for mixed-income housing and shops. 

On its face, the plan may sound good. But in the end, Richmond would be giving away its Coliseum to private developers and later would be stuck with a multimillion-dollar bill to replace other city office buildings that would be razed for the transformation. And how much would the city really get in return?