The mayor’s history and current actions, however, raise questions.
RICHMOND- While 2020 is long gone, the problems that happened have bled into 2021, including racial injustice. In fact, Richmond had the second highest amount of police brutality cases last year, coming in right after Portland. As he was sworn in Monday for his second term, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney promised to address those issues. Stoney said racial equity will be his main priority for the next four years.
“We must continue to fill the potholes, pave the street, pick up the trash and issue permits on time, but my priority will always be serving as a champion for Richmonders burdened by generational poverty, who have been subject to the stifling nature of systemic racism,” Stoney said during his speech.
Despite winning with almost 38% of the vote, Stoney really butted heads with several groups in his first term. That included racial justice advocates over the summer. But, according to the mayor, he’s ready to bridge that divide, saying that he’s willing to compromise, if they are.
“I’m willing to compromise to get something done for the greater good of this community. But also that means everyone has to at least consider compromise,” said Stoney. And while a compromise is fine and good, Stoney’s track record with protesters isn’t that great.
Stoney’s History with Protesters
During the end of his first term, racial justice advocates heavily criticized the way Stoney handled relations between protestors and police. After the death of George Floyd, protests against racial injustice and police brutality broke out across the city. In response to the demonstrations, he put in place an 8 p.m. curfew.
On the first night of the curfew, police teargassed protesters at Marcus-David Peters Circle an entire 30 minutes before 8 p.m. While Stoney did apologize the next day and even marched with protesters that night, the city still upheld the curfew for the rest of the week. But while the curfew eventually ended, the violence against protesters did not.
In fact, Richmond had more than 83 incidents of police brutality between May and Dec. Despite this, Richmond’s city council has tossed more money towards the city’s police budget. Most recently, Stoney teamed up with Councilwoman Kim Gray to create a bill that could make it harder for protesters to demonstrate at the Circle.
Introduced in Sept, the bill would make all the surrounding medians around MDP Circle parks, creating a sundown curfew. This is a move that many advocates say has been levied directly at protestors, who often protest at this spot. The city council will vote on the bill Jan. 11.
But, Stoney swears that racial equity will be his main concern this year.
“The next term, the next decade will be about justice,” said Stoney. “Because while we can’t guarantee success for all 230,000 Richmonders, we can work to break down the barriers that stand in the way of them fulfilling their God-given potential.”
More Community Involvement
Alongside racial equity, Stoney also promised that he’ll incorporate more community input in governmental decisions. After months of demonstrators voicing their concerns, Stoney that he will take more opportunities to listen and actively involve Richmonders in decisions for their own city.
Ironically, many criticized Stoney for not involving the community enough in his 2017 plan to build a colosseum in downtown Richmond. Critics argued that the project would not provide affordable housing to low income people in the area. According to a Style Weekly article, the project originally included 600 housing units, then dropped to 200.
Last Feb., the City Council shut down the $1.5 billion proposal in 2020, sending Stoney back to the drawing board. Now, the mayor has vowed to do a better job of listening to his constituents.
“I’ve learned that residents want to be brought to the table as we build a more equitable city,” said Stoney. “They want to be a part of the solution.” While the mayor has not announced any concrete plans yet, he did say that he might have to restructure Richmond’s government to make this work.
“Richmond, we must meet our moment,” the mayor’s statement continued. “It won’t come easy. It will require a Herculean effort from each and every one of us. But I know we will get there. Yes, 2020 may have been a dark year, but dawn is on the horizon.”
In terms of Navy Hill, Stoney has not spoken about a new plan just yet. However, during his speech, he did talk about improving his relationship with the City Council and has plans on hearing a proposal to build a casino in Richmond.
Arianna Coghill is a content producer with Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected].