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Dwight Jones looks back on his eight years in office

December 19, 2016 10:26 am by

Mayor Jones dropped a 4,200 word, 2 part look back over his eight years on office over the weekend:

I’ve pulled a few pieces out that caught my eye…

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I became mayor when this country was facing the worst recession any of us had ever known since the Great Depression. On top of the Great Recession, I was troubled by what I saw as a “Tale of Two Cities” (a turn of phrase I noticed many of the candidates embrace this year). In 2008, we had resurgent historic neighborhoods on one hand — and then we had a 26 percent poverty rate on the other. The most concentrated parts of that poverty rest across the MLK Bridge from downtown and north of Interstate 95. This is what you likely know as the East End, and includes three public housing communities (Mosby, Fairfield, and Creighton along with a fourth, Gilpin, to the northeast). If you don’t live over there, you can experience all the good things Richmond has to offer without ever having to see people living in the crisis of extreme poverty.

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On Education, despite the nay-sayers, my administration has put its shoulder into helping children and schools. Richmond Public Schools has always been the largest part of my budget. If you read the newspaper, you would believe that the key to solving educational issues in Richmond is as simple as building new buildings or fixing old ones. Four new schools have been built in my term, and that means we are the first administration since Senator Tim Kaine was RVA’s mayor to build any schools at all in this city. As part of that, we got a new high school for the first time in 40 years.

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And we must keep working on transforming public housing. To be clear: Public housing must be torn down, and all hands — both in the public sector and in philanthropy — must be on deck to help the residents who live there now, and are living in perpetual crisis, to instead achieve dignity and the ability to sustain themselves and their families.

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Things are moving fast in the East End towards building a stable, safe place to live, with secure, healthy food options enjoyed by folks we’ve helped move out of public housing. We have approved a new urban model of grocery store designed to target food deserts — it’s located directly beside three of the East Coast’s most densely populated public housing developments. People who live here haven’t been able to access a full-service grocery store for years, instead relying on convenience stores and the limited options they carry.

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Boulevard development will continue into the future, but we’ve laid the groundwork for profound positive growth there for years to come. My exploration of Shockoe Bottom baseball was always about how we unlock the economic and revenue potential of the 60-acre Boulevard property in order to support our city’s schools, police, and infrastructure. The ballpark will clearly end up in a different place than Shockoe, but the guiding principle must endure that proper development of the City’s 60 acres along North Boulevard is our best opportunity to support ourselves in the future.

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The T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge is now complete, the only public place where someone doesn’t have to be an experienced rapids kayaker to safely and closely enjoy the center of our river.

The Leigh High Cement silos on the east riverfront have been demolished and will become a park terraced to the river, another place citizens will soon be able to safely and closely engage.

The Low Line — along the canal from 21st Street to Great Shiplock Park — is a public private partnership among the City (we gave $200,000), CSX, and Capital Trees.

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As part of telling the stories that need to be told, we have also announced that a world-class development team will help Richmond properly honor Lumpkin’s Jail and the Slave Trail. For those who don’t already know the story, Lumpkin’s Jail was the epicenter of what was once the second-largest slave trading market in the U.S. It’s a profoundly important site, and the strong development team we’ve assembled will lead to a caliber of physical interpretation at the Lumpkin’s Jail that the site deserves and that expresses the gravity of the story that must be told.

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Similarly, there is much more to the Redskins Training Camp story than you may have read. Did you know that that Richmond gets $40 million of direct investment because of the Redskins Training Camp partnership with Bon Secours? That number includes a Bon Secours medical development coming to the West End, and a major medical office building coming to the East End, where it is so critically needed. Those developments are real dollars with direct financial and public health impacts contractually resulting from the Redskins deal.

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Stone Brewing has opened in Fulton, bringing jobs and building prosperity in a profoundly historic neighborhood that had long been left behind.
Nearby, many years of working with the Commonwealth and the Federal Transportation Administration will culminate in the opening of the beautiful Main Street Station train shed as our premier regional gathering place in spring 2017. The adjacent Farmer’s Market renovation will break ground, too, after a long and successful neighborhood engagement process.

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On crime: Last year, Richmond saw its lowest rate of violent crime in 45 years — down 30 percent since 2009. I’m deeply concerned about this year’s increase in homicide numbers, and I’ve laid out a roadmap for the next administration through my police funding papers so there are enough police personnel next year to turn this years’ crime numbers around.


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