Statement:

Since the integration of Richmond Public Schools a little over 60 years ago, each Mayor and City Council that has taken over the reins of our city has failed to properly fund our schools, perpetuating systemic racism that harms our students as they strive to build meaningful futures for themselves. With each decade that our schools have gone underfunded, the problem has compounded. Today, we find our public school system in dire straits. Our current Mayor and City Council failed to provide any increase to the operating budget of RPS this year, falling millions of dollars short of what the schools needed. They have also failed to provide the $30 million dollars desperately needed for even modest repairs. The one effort made to provide funding for new school construction falls far short of what we need, and despite promises, no additional ideas for where the rest of the money will come from have been offered.

This means educators teaching in such extreme temperatures that kids are wearing coats, gloves, and hats while trying to learn. It means teachers checking rat traps as part of their morning routines. It means a School Board that had to retract a promised pay raise for teachers that make 18% less than the national average. It means school staff working three jobs to make ends meet. It means brilliant children going without access to accelerated classes. It means black mold in our walls, lead in our water, and overcrowding in our classrooms. It means no nurse in the clinic for an emergency, no translator in the front office when you desperately need to communicate, and no counselor to help your child through a mental health crisis. Our district is buckling under the weight of this desperate need, and it often feels like nobody is listening.

The defunding of public services is also not limited to schools. RPS students who live in public housing face the same crumbling infrastructure at home. Children come to school hungry because their families cannot access SNAP benefits. City-wide displacement and school closures push children into buildings farther and farther from home. Bus lines disappear. Children navigate broken sidewalks and busy intersections with inadequate crosswalks on foot.

We are in crisis. Our spending reflects our values, and today Richmond’s spending priorities show unconscionable apathy to people most reliant on even basic services.

When our residents campaign for schools, for housing, and for transportation, we are told that public coffers are empty. When wealthy donors propose the redistribution of public funds for high-cost and low-return development however, suddenly funds are not only available, but abundant.

These misplaced priorities are not new for our city; they are bordering on tradition. In the midst of a crisis in education, transportation, housing, and food security, we continue to fund ‘economic development’ projects that funnel money to those who already have disproportionate wealth only to meet predictably dismal returns: the redevelopment of Centerstage, the financing of Stone Brewing, and the construction of a football training camp. Each of these ventures came at tremendous public cost. They promised high rates of return, but they failed to produce even a fraction of their promised benefits. These trends are predictable not only because the pattern is clear in our city, but because they are echoed nationally. Independent research bears out: public subsidies for private ventures empty public coffers, often forcing austerity measures that further hurt public services.

Like its predecessors, the coliseum development project makes promises it can’t keep, at high cost to all of us. This project promises affordable housing, but it fails to set meaningful standards for affordability, and its placement threatens existing public housing at a moment when our city leads the nation in eviction rates. This project promises high rates of revenue over time, but to meet those predictions would place a tremendous recreational spending burden on an already strained populous. This project promises jobs, but third party analysis estimates city job predictions have been inflated to over ten times their actual number.

Here is what we do know: This coliseum project diverts the tax revenue from some of our city’s highest value properties to private development, ensuring the short term defunding of public services and increasing the likelihood of further defunding over time. After the announcement of this plan was met with a clear public cry for ‘schools over coliseums’, an attempt was made to peddle this as a plan that would help schools. After so much experience, Richmond knows better. Why would we settle for uncertain money decades down the road when our schools are crumbling now?

This is not a plan for schools. It is not a plan for the citizens of Richmond.

We wholeheartedly reject this plan and we recognize that the prioritization of corporate interests—particularly those of Dominion Energy, its CEO Tom Farrell, and all his endeavors including this proposed redevelopment—over community interests negatively impacts many aspects of our lives. We stand in solidarity with the community of Union Hill as it resists the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed fracked-gas Compressor Station, with the struggle for environmental justice in greater Richmond, as well as across the state. We affirm the inherent right for every person to have clean air, clean water, clean energy, and a safe and healthy environment including where we live, work, and play.

We call upon City Council and Mayor Stoney to invest in real communities, not speculative ventures. We demand a city that prioritizes the needs of its residents over corporate interests. Let’s make Richmond a city that has the political courage to remove the barriers for residents to make it out of poverty rather than pushing them out of sight and out of the city altogether. Let’s have the courage to face the years of neglect that have preceded us, and let’s set a better path for our future.

Issued December 7th 2018, Signed:

 

Richmond Teachers for Social Justice Justice & Reformation Coalition
Virginia Defenders Community Unity In Action
Leaders Of the New South Leaders Of the New South – Community Council
Richmond Food Justice Alliance Virginia Student Environmental Coalition
Divest RVA Virginia Interfaith Power & Light
No ACP Virginia River Healers
VCU Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay Richmond DSA
Virginia Pipeline Resisters YDSA at VCU
Rockingham Alliance for the Protection and
Transformation of Our Resources & Society
Readjust Richmond
Virginia Pipeline Resisters YDSA at VCU
RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations Richmond Food Not Bombs
Richmond Business Alliance

Add your name:

Emma Clark 
Teacher, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Richmond City, 5th District

Kristin Reed
Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond City, 7th District

Omari Al-Qadaffi
Community Organizer / Strategic Planner

Kenya Gibson
RPS Parent
3rd District School Board Representative

Antonio Redd
Associate Minister, Second Baptist Church West End

Ralph Hodge
2nd Baptist Church South Richmond

Ali Bey
Director, RISE Up RVA

Brionna Nomi
Community Organizer / Public Education Advocate
Richmond Teachers for Social Justice
Richmond City, 2nd District

Gary Broderick
Community Organizer / Public Education Advocate
Richmond City 7th District

Courtnie Wolfgang
Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond City 7th District

Stephanie Rizzi
Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University
Randolph Neighborhood Association
Richmond City 5th District

Lillie A. Estes
Richmond City, 3rd District

Carol Wolf
Richmond City, 3rd District

Chelsea Higgs Wise
Wise Innovation, LLC
Richmond City, 6th District

Thomas Burkett
Richmond City, 2nd District

Erin White
Richmond City, 7th District

Trey Hartt
Performing Statistics
Richmond City, 6th District

Debbie Rowe
Richmond City, 3rd District

Yanina Angelini
Southerners on New Ground
Richmond City, 8th District

Genie Gonzalez del Solar
Richmond City, 2nd District

Stephanie Malady
Chester, VA

Marvin Gilliam
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Henrico, VA

Suzanne Keller
Richmond City, 4th District

Stacy Lovelace
Virginia Pipeline Resisters
Midlothian, VA

Wendy Boynton
Richmond City, 5th District

Nicholas Da Silva
Chair, YDSA at VCU
Richmond City, 5th District

Kathy Glass
Richmond City, 2nd District

K Carter
Henrico, VA

David Copper
Staunton, VA

Sharon Ponton
Nelson County, VA

Amanda Reisner
Henrico, VA

Jessica Sims
Virginia Pipeline Resisters
Henrico, VA

Aisha Shabazz
Richmond City, 5th District

Kaylee Pickinpaugh
Richmond City, 4th District

Branch Feagans
Richmond City, 2nd District

Jasmine Leeward
Richmond City, 4th District

Josh Bearman
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond City, 4th District

Joshua Vana
Rockingham Alliance for the Protection & Transformation of Our Resources & Society
Keezletown, VA

Mickael Broth
Richmond City, 2nd District

Deanna Fierro
Founder, Unitive Educators
Richmond City, 4th District

Victoria Carll
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond City, 5th District

Amber Hendrix
Richmond City, 7th District

Kathleen Ryan
Richmond City, 5th District

Luis Luna
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond Mayor’s Teacher Advisory Council
P.O.W.E.R
Trauma-Informed Community Network
Richmond City, 4th District

Cheryl Lage
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 4th District

Rebecca Field
Richmond City, 3rd District

Andrew Venable
Richmond City, 1st District

August Butler
Richmond CASA
Richmond City, 7th District

Carletta Wilson
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 7th District

Bizhan Khodabandeh
Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond City, 4th District

Katie Marsh
Richmond City, 1st District

Phil Shepard
Richmond DSA
Richmond City, 2nd District

Erin Crettier
Richmond City

Celeste Canady
Richmond City

Taylor Flagg
Henrico, VA

Monica Kristin Blair
Henrico, VA

Hunter Mass
Richmond City, 3rd District

Mary Gresham
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 9th District

Cian Ghataora
Henrico, VA

Arianna Trickey
Richmond City, 2nd District

Alicia Smith
Henrico, VA

Charles Armstrong Jr.
RISE Up RVA
Richmond City

Ryan Musselman
Richmond City, 2nd District

Megan Shockley
Richmond City, 4th District

Whitney Whiting
Richmond City, 6th District

Sara Haq
Glen Allen, VA

Cynthia Mashburn
Richmond City, 4th District

Leslie Protzman Lytle
Richmond City, 2nd District

Sarah Pedersen
Richmond City, 7th District

Connie Fitzsimmons
Blacksburg, VA

Scott Burger
Richmond Green Party
Sierra Club Falls of the James
Richmond City, 5th District

Mary Finley-Brook
Chesterfield, VA

Eryn Cobb
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 7th District

Quinn Rentz
Richmond City, 2nd District

Tyler Curtis
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond City, 5th District

Kenda Hanuman
Buckingham, VA

Jonathan Marcus
RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations
Richmond City, 2nd District

Laura McCann
Richmond City, 3rd District

Nicholas Buffin
Richmond City, 5th District

Sarah Fought
Richmond City, 4th District

Maria Ramos
Richmond City, 2nd District

Steve Fischbach
Richmond City, 6th District

Ashley Heyden
Richmond City

Kimberly R. Nario
Richmond City, 4th District

Elizabeth K Williams
Charlottesville, VA

Ryan James
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Milken Educator 2017

Laura Goren
Richmond City, 6th District

Casey Smith
Richmond City

Heather Price
Richmond City

Nathanael Rudney
Richmond City, 2nd District

Matthew Conover
Richmond City, 5th District

LaTisha Dawkins
Chesapeake, VA

Jen Lawhorne
Richmond City, 7th District

Stacy Luks
Richmond City, 2nd District

Tom Boynton
Richmond City, 5th District

Rachel Loughlin
Richmond City, 3rd District

Stephanie Suwak Mallory
Richmond City, 1st District

Leslie Saul
Richmond Cit, 3rd District

Cara Frye
Richmond City

Ryan Stimmler
Richmond City, 2nd District

Kara Stup
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 3rd District

Pete Stup
RPS Parent
Richmond City, 3rd District

Rob Forrest
Henrico, VA

Molly McPhillips
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond City, 7th District

Victoria Pierson
Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
Richmond City, 2nd District

Andrew H. Owen
Richmond City, 7th District

Rebecca Keel
Richmond City, 7th District

Allison Byrne
Richmond City, 7th District

Johannah Willsey
Henrico, VA

Teri Brown
Henrico, VA

Stephanie Culbertson
Richmond City, 3rd District

Maria Ramos
Richmond City, 2nd District

Hayden Cran
Radford, VA

Roger Hunt
The L.E.A.D. Initiative
Richmond City, 3rd District

Lisa Nelson
Richmond City, 3rd District

Kaitlin Westbrook
Richmond City

Nicole Nielsen
Richmond City, 6th District

Sarah Ochs
Richmond City, 3rd District

Bob Lytle
President, West Grace Street Association
Richmond City, 2nd District

John Carroll
Richmond City, 2nd District

Ladonna Winnegan
Richmond City

Liz Pettit
Richmond City, 3rd District

Gray O’Dwyer
Richmond City, 7th District

Christina Crabtree
Richmond City, 7th District

Alexander Verno
Richmond City, 3rd District

Mark Mumford
Richmond City, 4th District

Thomas Alleman
Richmond Food Not Bombs
Richmond City, 3rd District

Ayana Obika
Interim President, Richmond Business Alliance
Richmond City

John Moser
Richmond City, 3rd District

Melanie Carter
Richmond City, 5th District

Emily Williams
Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond City, 5th District