On Friday, Oct. 7, I was a guest host, filling in for John Reid, during “Governor’s Week” for Richmond’s Morning News on WRVA radio. I interviewed multiple guests to discuss vital issues of top importance to the people of Virginia. 

Susan Gooden, dean of the Wilder School 

Dean Gooden has made great strides in a brief amount of time to improve the Wilder School’s rankings. In addition to improving state and national rankings (the Wilder School ranks #1 for public affairs in Virginia and #35 in the nation), she established the Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) to serve as a vehicle for recognizing inequities within local, state and national governments. We discussed how equity is woven into an essential thread of the legal foundations of our nation. 

We also reviewed our concern for addressing systemic racism and demanding accountability starting with Virginia Commonwealth University. As a service institution, VCU has chosen to ignore its past and not recognize its current responsibilities for student and faculty communities. The leadership of VCU’s Black Education Association (BEA) has been ignored by the University’s president and provost in addressing the 150% turnover in Black faculty and low recruitment of Black students. VCU belongs to the people and until it can address systemic issues, it fails to advance equity, and improve upon progress.

Dean Gooden shared the efforts the Wilder School has made during the pandemic. The school developed a COVID vaccine equity plan that helped distribute vaccines in minority and underserved communities. To promote safety for vulnerable populations, Wilder School students also have flexibility in selecting in-person and online courses.

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Bob Holsworth, managing partner for DecideSmart consulting firm

Bob Holsworth, a political strategist, is the Founding Director of the Center for Public Policy and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also served as Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. Holsworth shared his forecast for the midterm elections in Virginia and across the nation. He said Virginia’s second and seventh districts will be highly competitive. If Democrats lose these seats, Holsworth believes that they will have a very difficult time holding on to a majority in the House. Issues of top importance to Virginians include crime, inflation and the economy, and abortion rights, Holsworth said. 

We further discussed the recent Wilder School Symposium: Race, Health and Accountability and the lack of compensation and accountability from the VCU Board of Visitors for the organ harvesting of Bruce Tucker, a Black man, by the Medical College of Virginia in 1968. The Board of Visitors offered a weak acknowledgment of the event just days before the symposium. This “fake remorse” is insulting and nothing more than a memorial plaque placed on the medical campus with no commitment to rectifying the wrongs of the past and present. 

Holsworth, a former Board of Visitors member, shared that the move highlights differential racial treatment when it comes to the messaging and timing of the acknowledgment of the human rights violations against Tucker. On the same day the Tucker family was issued an “apology”, the family of the young man who died at the hands of his future fraternity brothers was awarded close to $1 million. Holsworth questioned whether or not VCU would have issued an apology if the book based on the events, “The Organ Thieves” weren’t the focus of the Wilder School Symposium, jointly with the University College. 

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John Reid, Richmond’s Morning News

John Reid, regular host of Richmond’s Morning News, took a break from his vacation in Lake Como, Italy to join me for a discussion about his perspectives on Italian politics. He shared that for many of the folks he spoke with, they are looking forward to new prime minister Giorgia Meloni. Though her opponents proclaim Meloni’s far-right politics are a divergence from many decades of left-learning Italian policymaking, she’d won support as a populist politician with an ideology-based agenda. In western media, Meloni has been compared to Mussolini.

Reid shared that he’s always been interested in rubbing shoulders and getting a direct pulse for citizens’ perceptions, even when abroad. He suggested that Meloni will strengthen Italy’s growing nationalism and interest in independence. But at the same time, the folks he spoke with indicated their enthusiasm for the stability and security of closer relations with NATO, especially considering the recent destabilization of Russia’s war against Ukraine. 

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Justin Fairfax, former Lt. Governor of Virginia 

Justin Fairfax and I spoke about former Governor Ralph Northam, who caused public outcry when a photo of him in blackface was published. At the time, it seemed Northam would resign and Fairfax would become governor. However, allegations of sexual assault were brought against Fairfax, part of what he called an elaborate smear campaign that prevented him from becoming Governor of Virginia. 

I asked where were the political groups that support Black elected officials? They were totally absent, Fairfax replied. We discussed what it means to be able to stand up and fight for the truth, especially when abandoned by members of his own political party. Fairfax also discussed his current representation of the Donovan Lynch family. Lynch was killed by police in Virginia Beach. 

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Reva Trammell, Richmond City councilwoman

Reva Trammell represents the 8th District for the City of Richmond. She’s done amazing work and I’m proud of the representation she brings to the people. We discussed the so-called thwarted mass shooting at Dogwood Dell purported by the Richmond Police Chief and Mayor. The evidence reveals that this is a hyped-up political stunt that has backfired. Trammell said it looked like a cover-up and something for which the mayor neglected to take accountability. 

I’ve never seen a case where there was no evidence, as the prosecutor admitted to the judge, when asked in court. When the chief of police refuses to speak and answer to the community, something is terribly wrong. Trammell said ignoring full disclosure of this event has amplified Mayor Levar Stoney’s mistakes and has further stained the reputation and morale of Richmond police officers. Richmond currently has a force shortage of 150 officers and this scandal is hurting recruitment numbers and further destroying police credibility in the community. Trammell, council of public safety committee chair, shared she no longer has faith in the current police chief and public safety is in dire need in Richmond. 

Listen to the interview

I appreciate each of these guests taking the time to share their perspectives with our listeners. As always, I look forward to participating with WRVA again in the future. 

Stay tuned. 

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