The Union Hill Civic Association met this evening at Cedar Street Baptist Church. The 7th district candidates for school board and city council took questions.
UHCA President Lora Toothman presided over the meeting of about 30 people. First up where the 2 city council candidates, Delores McQuinn and Reggie Malone. The UHCA had prepared 3 questions for the candidates.
The candidates were asked to describe the performance of city council under the strong mayor system, rate the efficiency of the city government on a scale of 1-10, and speak to the demolition of vacant houses in Union Hill.
Delores McQuinn spoke directly to the questions. She said, paraphrased, that the council has worked diligently and cohesively. She said that there are some glitches in system to address, like the fact that the council serves 2-year terms and that the mayor serves a 4-year term. She said that she feels that the council has held their own in an unbalanced environment. She described the budget as a big issue, described the system over-all as “a work in progress”.
McQuinn rated the efficiency of th government “a 7, maybe 7.5”. She acknowledged that there are areas that can be improved, saying that more attention needs to be paid to neighborhoods to address neighborhood concerns. She specified the need to find ways to reduce real estate taxes, to provide tax relief. She said that we must not stray from funding schools.
Speaking to the demolition of houses in Union Hill, McQuinn said that she is working to put into place a ‘demolition resolution’. She said that we “need to be sure that we are protecting the integrity of the community”.
Reggie Malone, animated, followed with more of a politicking response. Speaking on the role of the council under the strong mayor system, he said that the council has not understood their role, have not understood they are not mini-mayors, and that the “arrogance… is phenomenal”. He went on to say that “there are very few people on city council who are computer literate, and this is terrible in this day and time”. He then went on to state that a leader needs “vision and force”, while the community has been telling him that “we have no representation”.
Mr.Malone says that the city efficiency is at a 5. He cites the park service in the area as having been dismal. He went on to say that the parks weren’t just messed up when the storms hit, that they’ve been this way for years. Mallone predicts that the 7th District is ripe for a disaster like in Battery Park — “you can’t build a new city on old infrastructure”.
Speaking to the demolition of vacant houses in Union Hill, Malone says that a resolution is “fluff”, that “we need ordinances”.
The four candidates for school board — Ronald Bond, Delores Murray, Keith West, and Donald Coleman — then took the stage to answer the 2 questions put them as a group. This section will be more ragged because I was tired by then and am more tired now…
Question one was something like “Neighborhood schools have long been an unrealized public asset. The city is considering a move to consolidation. Respond.” The 2nd question was something like “What can we do to attract and keep middle class families in the public school system?”.
In response to the first question:
Ronald Bond: no research, but improvement is long overdue, location something something, people like nice schools in a nice location.
Delores Murray: cited her experience as a paraprofessional, cited research in favor.
Keith West: Noted that many of the elementary schools in the district are very close to each other, said the the district is small enough to have fewer schools and still have them be neighborhood schools.
Don Coleman: k-8 schools connect the students that much more with the school and teachers. Cited research that middle schools are the issue in urban areas all over the country — Baltimore, New Orleans, others. Concistency helps the students.
In response to the 2nd question:
Ronald Bond: Nobody wants to send their children to inefficient schools, unsafe schools.
Delores Murray: We have great teachers. various programs that are good: foreign languages, fine arts, preschool. Richmond has so much to offer to offer already.
Keith West: This is crucial. There is no gimmick. We have to make these quality schools — no 50% drop-out rate, no graduates with average of 8th grade reading level. Fix this and we’ll attract more families. Gave props to the teachers and funding. Cited nned to give principles more control, the need to remove discipline problems.
Don Coleman: Sees this as an issue. Cites families moving kids out of district for *nursery school*. Says that the economic future of the city is attached to the success of our schools. “We need to be able to market ourselves as a city with good schools.”