School advocate Paul Goldman fumes over mayor’s school funding resolution that he claims does not meet City Charter requirement

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/18/2019, 6 a.m.
Mayor Levar M. Stoney appears to be backpedaling on his pledge to meet a new City Charter requirement to provide ...
Mayor Stoney

Paul Goldman

Paul Goldman

Mayor Levar M. Stoney appears to be backpedaling on his pledge to meet a new City Charter requirement to provide “a fully funded plan to modernize” Richmond’s decaying school buildings.

He did not “formally present” his full-blown plan to City Council Monday night as the charter provision requires, nor has he met another requirement to “provide an opportunity for public participation” in the development of the plan.

Instead, Mayor Stoney quietly submitted to City Council a three-paragraph resolution that calls on the council to endorse his idea of using the city’s borrowing capacity over 20 years to fully pay for $800 million in school renovation and construction projects by 2048.

The mayor was not available for comment. But his chief of staff, Lincoln Saunders, and press spokesman, Jim Nolan, separately told the Free Press the mayor had not considered speaking to the council and that he regarded the resolution drafted by the City Attorney’s Office as meeting his obligation for a financing plan.

While members of City Council have remained mum on the resolution, advocates for modernizing the city’s schools disagree.

“Pathetic,” said Paul Goldman, leader of the Put Schools First campaign and the creator of the charter provision that won 85 percent voter support in 2017 and overwhelming approval from the General Assembly last year.

Mr. Goldman has spent 13 years championing the idea that Richmond students need and deserve modern schools as a matter of justice and fairness. He is dismayed that the mayor believes he has met the charter requirements by “presenting a piece of paper that, if passed, would not be binding on him, future mayors or future councils. This is not a plan — just another empty promise,” Mr. Goldman fumed.

“No one who reads the charter provision would believe that this kind of flimsy resolution would meet his obligation to offer a fully funded plan.”

Mr. Goldman, a former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, helped create Richmond’s at-large mayor position first won by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder in the November 2004 election. He also helped the former governor become the first African-American to win statewide office in Virginia as lieutenant governor in 1985.

Mr. Goldman called it “unconscionable” that the mayor, who campaigned on modernizing schools and criticized his predecessor for failing to get the job done, would present a resolution that Mr. Goldman said “would essentially guarantee that in 10 years, the majority of kids will be attending schools that are even more decrepit than they are now. This is not what the people voted for.

“This shows his real priority,” Mr. Goldman continued. “When it comes to the Coliseum, the mayor is trying to put together a binding, 30-year commitment. But when it comes to schools, he says that kind of commitment is not needed.

“Would he say that to Tom Farrell (leader of the effort to replace the Coliseum)? Of course not. But when it comes to poor, mostly African-American kids whom Virginia Tech studies show are being deprived of a quality education due to the condition of the city’s school buildings, he’s more than willing.”