Twenty years ago, I described the political situation in Richmond as a “cesspool of corruption and inefficiency.” Until 2004, the Richmond City Council had selected the mayor from among its nine members, which was viewed as extremely autocratic and removed from the people.

Observing no discernible evidence of change after repeated scandals by those so-called leaders responsible for governance, I decided to work for the adoption of a referendum for the people to directly elect Richmond’s mayor by a voter majority — to create a stronger local democracy and promote transparency and accountability. 

The people positively responded, and with this change enacted, I was encouraged to run for mayor. I was overwhelmingly elected, receiving almost four fifths of all votes and becoming the city’s first directly-elected mayor in decades. I then set out to fulfill my obligations and campaign promises.

Under my administration, we reduced crime, improved delivery of services to citizens, curtailed wasteful spending, and greatly improved the people’s role in decision making. 

I established a board to recommend those to serve in executive offices. One highlight of those recommendations was put forth by the police chief. He recommended, and I acceded, that we establish a Community Policing program. We did and it was extremely successful and significantly improved community relationships with our public safety officers. 

Unfortunately, that program was abandoned. A lack of attention has further damaged these complex relationships in recent years. Under the current leadership, the situation has deteriorated to a rotating door of changes, culminating in the appointment of three different chiefs of police in one week.  

A prime example of the failure of leadership by police and city leaders took place just two years ago during the Independence Day weekend. The Mayor’s Office and Richmond Police Department called a police conference, both claiming that they had thwarted a planned mass shooting at Dogwood Dell. 

Despite all accusations, they have, to this day, been unable to produce any evidence that demonstrated in any way that a credible plot was underway. It has been confirmed by many media inquiries that no evidence ever existed. When brought to trial, the city prosecutors were forced to finally admit to the judge that there was NO evidence. 

Presently, there is recurring evidence of financial irregularities, abuse, fraud, and mismanagement. Yet, no action has or is being taken by those in charge to resolve, prevent or prosecute those responsible therefor. 

Jon Baliles, former Richmond councilman, is quoted in “Bacon’s Rebellion” as saying “Mayor Stoney doesn’t seem too be concerned about cleaning any of the mess up (just like those in charge twenty years ago, who also didn’t even acknowledge it), and he will just leave the cesspool for the next Mayor to drain after the election in November.”

Those seeking office this year, and those already elected in city government, need to show, by example, how this cesspool will be cleaned up.

Stay tuned.

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