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Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney answers your questions

Posted at 8:08 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 14:02:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney joined CBS 6 News at 7 for an interview and then answered questions from voters on Facebook live.

Stoney, who is seeking a second term, has four candidates vying for his seat including Councilwoman Kim Gray, Justin Griffin, Alexsis Rodgers, and Tracey McLean.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The transcripts below were created by a computer program and reviewed by a human prior to publishing. Spelling, grammar, and content errors will be corrected when they are discovered.

CBS 6 News at 7 interview transcript:

Bill Fitzgerald
The 2020 elections are 12 days away and it's time to meet the candidates running for mayor of Richmond. Four years ago, Levar Stoney was elected mayor of Richmond and he joins us tonight to talk about why he deserves re-election. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Thank you for having me.

Bill Fitzgerald
So tell us why do you deserve re election?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Well, you know, the last four years of in the, it's been the greatest honor of my life, I've got an opportunity to serve my community. And if you would have told me some 20 years ago that I would be, I have an opportunity to serve as the mayor of the capital city of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I probably laugh. You know, as a son to a couple of teenagers. Raised by my grandmother and my father, one that was a custodian, the other domestic labor. I've been able to do some work to make a difference in people's lives. And that began with public education, building three new schools here in the city of Richmond, very, very proud of that, and black and brown neighborhoods. Very proud of the fact that we've been able to expand after school programs and elementary school and the middle school area, and also the creation, the Eviction Diversion Program. We've now saved roughly 430 people from from being evicted from their homes. But moving forward, I want to be known for a lot more from just removing Confederate monuments. I want be known as the mayor who transformed public education, chance for public housing, close the gaps between the Black Richmonders and white Richmonders and also the haves and have nots.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, what about the pandemic though? It took a lot of localities, a lot of states and certainly the federal government quite a while to ramp up the protections that we needed, including PPE, including eventually money out to the to the various localities that were impacted. Are you responsible for how long it took Richmond to ramp up basically, it took a while before we saw testing that was widespread, and certainly the availability of PPE. Now was that all the problems coming out of Washington? Or how do you say, how do you judge yourself as, as respondent?

Mayor Levar Stoney
One of the biggest failures I've ever seen our country ever have is just how we've handled this pandemic.
President Trump not having a national plan has put a lot of burden on localities and states to tackle this pandemic. Local governments aren't equipped to handle 100 years sort of pandemics. But I'm proud of the fact that we were the first locality to suspend mass gatherings in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We're the first locality to request the governor to install a mask mandate as well. We were the first localities to actually stand up a targeted testing operation towards those black and brown communities, the most vulnerable communities in our city.
Lagged other areas when the phases started. Relaxing some of those restrictions.
Yes, we did. We were slower than other localities, because the data that I was receiving back as the mayor from the health department said that we had a high positivity rate at the time, and those positivity rates were found in black and brown communities. Those are the communities that would be on the frontline as we reopen the economy. And guess what, as we slow down, if you follow the same pathway as Northern Virginia, did, we slow down we had 35 straight days of low positivity rates, and also lower case counts as well. We probably would not have gotten there, we would have rushed right back in. So you know what, I'm always going to be data driven. I'm going to listen to the experts. I'm going to listen to the scientists and all the all the doctors out there who say to take our time.

Bill Fitzgerald
How about getting funds and relief out to small businesses. How do you judge your performance there? Because the number of businesses obviously have not been able to reopen just yet the restaurant industry hospitality, getting pounded by the pandemic, really all across the country. But how do you how do you judge your performance there?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yeah, this is not just only been a challenge for our people, but also challenges for their employers as well. I pride myself that on my administration, that we've been focused on only helping our people while helping our businesses too. We put roughly $3 million out into the marketplace, to those small businesses, restaurants and other businesses. Whether it's small business disaster loan programs, which we reverted back into grants. And we've also just started the Richmond Recovery Grant Program to which take 130 recipients of we're just doled out some dollars recently to keep people on the payroll and help them during this tough time. I think right now more than ever, the keyword during 2020. is Help. Help. That's what the local governments here for.
Bill Fitzgerald

We saw a lot of unrest in the wake of the killing of the police killing of George Floyd, especially here in Richmond, that unrest. Does Richmond have a police problem? A police brutality problem? Obviously, a lot of protesters said that there was a problem. Some of those protests degenerated into looting and vandalism. Some businesses say they're not coming back because they're fearful. What do you say to that?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Well, first, we would never condone any sort of vandalism damage the property that's that's first right off the bat. This has been a challenging time here in 2020. The murder of George Floyd has actually I think woke up the consciousness of a number of people people took to the streets Here in the city of Richmond, we respect the first amendment right, you know, for folks to exercise their first been right. But we do not condone or condone damaging property, vandalism or any sort of violence. Now, do I believe that we have a good police department? I think we've a police department's been accredited by national organizations, third party organizations, but the accreditation that matters the most, the accreditation from the community. And so moving forward, I think we have to re-imagine reforming the way we deliver public safety, and my task force has begun that work. And I think our new chief Gerald Smith is the change agent and performer we need.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, I apologize because we've run out of time. I told you. We are going to rejoin the mayor at 7:30 on the CBS 6 Facebook page. Candace will join me and we'll be taking questions from you. We hope you go to Facebook and tell us the questions you'd like us to ask Richmond Mayor Levar Stony, thank you for coming in. We'll see you in just a few minutes.

CBS 6 Facebook LIVE interview transcript:

Bill Fitzgerald
Thanks for joining us here on Facebook as we meet the candidates in this case the candidates running for mayor of Richmond. I'm joined tonight by Mayor Levar Stoney who is running for re-election. Candace is standing by with, hopefully with your questions. So please start sending your questions and the questions you have for the mayor. And that way we can keep this conversation going. And it's not just me sitting up here asking questions, because I already had a chance on the CBS 6 News at 7 p.m. But I did want to Mr. Mayor, since we didn't have time earlier to talk about development, for example, Navy Hill project was criticized it was rejected by the Council. Many said it was too opaque and all the details and that the numbers didn't add up, for example, the predictions on non-tenants who would come to that area, that the numbers seem to be higher than comparable areas in Raleigh and Charlotte or even Charlottesville. What did you take away from the failure of that project?

Mayor Levar Stoney
You know, what I've taken away is that, despite the rejection of Navy Hill, we still have a downtown that's been under invested in a downtown has been on a Brink for decades now. And we still need to invest in downtown. And I believe, whether it's Nate, whether that whether it's downtown or greater Scott's addition, or the Fulton gasworks that we need to use city owned land, city owned real estate as an economic stimulus during these most difficult times. And that's exactly was the reasoning behind the abl, we knew that the long recovery from the recession back in 2008 was going to end at some point, and we want to insulate ourselves from a downturn, we would have 10,000 jobs $300 million focused on black and brown small businesses. And now you know, we're not there anymore. But that doesn't mean that we still don't have a problem in a city. That problem is a decaying downtown that needs our help in our investment. At the same time, affordable housing is a huge issue. And some of the council members said that the actual numbers of units that were to be built seemed a little squishy seemed like 300 were promised but then maybe it wouldn't be 300. Or maybe more were promised at first, because affordable housing is kind of the devil in the details, because everybody would like to build a sparkling high rise. But you've also got to make it a city for everybody. Yeah. And fordable housing was a main tenant of the Nevil project. And it was one that I actually negotiated and got more than I think that the developers even wanted to add into the project, but nonetheless doesn't change the fact without Nevil, we still have a housing crisis here in the city where roughly 45% of our residents who live inside the city limits are spending more than 30% of their household income on housing. And that's why i a couple weeks ago, proposed a dedicated funding stream for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I'm proud that we've tripled the Affordable Housing Trust Fund during my time as mayor. But we got to do more, we need 10,000 affordable housing units, all levels of affordability. 10,000 by 2030. That means we need 1000 a year now I made a goal back in 2018, that we built 1500 units by 2023. I'm glad I'm proud of the fact that we've got 1900 there constructed or into queue by the end of 2020. We have to create a place where everyone could live. If you live in Gilpin quarter live in Creighton, you should be able to live and work in our city. And right now that is not the possibility for a lot of those who live in our city. That's what we have to create over the course of the net just the next four years for the next decade.

Bill Fitzgerald
And doing something about the courts obviously involves different agencies and involves different governments, a lot of federal section eight money. What is do you have a long term vision for what should happen to the courts? Because obviously you can't move people out without a place to go.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yes, I do have a long term vision. And here's the thing. elected leaders, politicians have to stop talking about the need to transform public housing. And we have to get to work collaborating with the Rh a rich government housing authority and make it work and make it happen. Here's the thing. Gilpin court will be 80 years old come 2022 and it shows it right. Creighton court will be 70 years old come 2022. We owe those who live in those units today, a roadmap to where they're going to be in the future. So if you live in public housing today, you deserve a home in the city of Richmond tomorrow, and that is what we're going to focus on working with the private sector.

Bill Fitzgerald
I'll do a little smaller bore here. We've heard from a lot of contractors about the permitting process in the city of Richmond, they say it is just insanely long. I have a neighbor who said it took her almost three months to get the permits for her renovation, which I'm not an expert, but it didn't strike me as anything extravagant. What do you say to those folks who say you know what, it's much faster to get a permit in Henrico or Chesterfield than it is in Richmond. What or what have you not done To speed up that process, because I remember four years ago, you said you're going to audit every department, we're going to go right through and sort of streamline the energy. But why is permitting just that word itself such a hazard for for contractors, for builders and for homeowners?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Well, the one thing we've learned over the last four years is the biggest room in City Hall is the room for improvement, and permits and inspections right on that list. But let me give you just a couple of numbers right here from March 2019 to march 2020. We've had 1900 permits have been permits for multifamily housing in the city of Richmond, that's a plus 900 on top of the previous year, as a 46% increase. Since 2013, we've had 46 46% of the multifamily apartments built in the region have happened in the city of Richmond. So what we've seen from permits and inspections that they've been inundated with the growth, we've had a lot of attrition as well. And we have not been able to keep up. Now I'm proud of those numbers. But we have to keep up with this growth because the dollars of those of that growth go into our coffers moving forward. So what we have focused on is new leadership. Sharon Ebert at economic development, Jason Carla Angelo at our building Commissioner, people I've brought in while I was here, and also start to use technology to make the process more efficient. Now you are if you own if you own a single family home, you can get your residential permits online, you can now file online as well. How quickly will that will that be enough? In other words, if I'm saying, Well, you know what, I think I might just want to renovate my house. When would I expect either I or my contractor to be able to say you know what I can get that contract turned around in days and weeks? Well, obviously, our goal is to get it turned out or turned around in weeks. So we will we're going to be focused on is more hiring more people, but paying them decent wages, reason we've had this problem is that this is this is a public sector organization. This is government, we hire people, we don't pay them enough. And we develop them here in Richmond, and guess where they end up, they end up in ryko end up in Chesterfield. So we're going to hire good people, talented people, and keep them by paying them proper wage. And beyond that, when we actually have times where attrition is a problem, or when we are being inundated. We're gonna bring a third party vendor in basically to handle the hold us through those tough and difficult times...

Bill Fitzgerald
I know it must be tough, you're constantly compared to the way things are run in the counties. And as you said, sometimes happens in the police department training officer here. And that officer might say, you know what, it's better pay.

Mayor Levar Stoney
And that's exactly what I want. And I think that, you know, what I've done with my budgeting in the past couple years is that there's a cost of doing business as a local government. And that cost is investing in your human capital. And what we did after the recession back in 2008, we we had to cut back on government, and we also cut back on the wages and salaries of those who work for local government. Now, this is the pathway for the middle class. And so what I've done is I've invested back in our, in our employees, we've given them those pay increases, I've given them those step increases because we have to compete with the localities Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, they're all paying their employees better wages than we get paid here in Richmond. We're doing our best to keep up.

Bill Fitzgerald
Then Qantas has been standing by very patiently. And so what are you hearing from from our Facebook friends?

Candace Burns
monitoring Facebook, we have a few questions and we also had questions from earlier today when we first posted that you were going to be here in our studio. Patrick O'Grady is asking. He says Chesterfield and Henrico have lower taxes than Richmond. And he says, In his opinion, they have better roads and schools. How do you explain this and what do you plan to do to fix it?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Well, you know, Henrico Chesterfield are also newer than Richmond By the way, Richmond is a 17 years we'll be 300 years old. What doesn't Henrico have that 400 year thing logo on there and all their placards were older locality, right? So when you when you when you build a something out there in Henrico, your building normally in new land has never been touched before. This is one of the older localities oldest cities, one of the oldest cities here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So otter mains, yeah, this is all that means. I mean, there's another world underneath the roads in the city of Richmond, so totally different. Okay. But also, we have a different population of people as well, different demographics as well. We our population has a lot more needs and those in Henrico and Chester fill, but if you talk to him, Rocco and Chesterfield, they'll tell you they're urbanizing as well. Another thing we are the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. That means a lot of our land here in the city is tax exempt. That means areas that the Commonwealth of Virginia owns, they don't pay any taxes. And so we define those taxes those revenues in other ways, and that's why you see a difference. It's comparing apples and oranges to Henrico and Chesterfield know everything. Capital City in United States of America has the same problem that Richmond has. There's never enough revenue because a lot of the land is occupied by the state.

Bill Fitzgerald
And of course, a consent decree on the sewer sewage system means that the sewer rates, the water rates in the city are abnormally high and infinite, significantly higher than than the counties. That's rates for similar service.

Mayor Levar Stoney
That's why we have to, obviously have an older infrastructure when it comes to our roads, but also into our sewer system as well. We have a CSL a combined sewer overflow, that we've made some great gains over the course of the last 30 years. The James River is a whole lot cleaner. It is what it is today than it was in the 70s. Okay, people still blanch

Bill Fitzgerald
What happens in a big rainstorm, though?

Mayor Levar Stoney
That's right, they do. And that's why we've been focused on investing and Poconos keeping up with our commitments to the EPA and also to D EQ as well. And that's an investment that we will continue to make. But we also need partners at the table as well. I'm not going to sit here and tell you today that the city can carry the burden loaned to fixing our combined sewer overflow. This is needs to be invested from the state. And that's exactly what we fought for this passionate assembly session. There was a bill that was proposed by Senator Joe Morrissey that stated that we would have to carry that burden. The ratepayers who pay the water pay the water rates here in the city would have to carry that burden here in the city. And we said Heck no, the state has to do their part. And so the state the bill that Governor Northam sign will put the state also on the hook as well.

Candace Burns
Earlier today, we got a lot of questions posted about the removal of the statues on monument Avenue many people questioning the funding that was used. Can you address their questions and and also tell us what your plans would be for monument Avenue moving forward?

Bill Fitzgerald
$1.8 million was the contract and you invoked emergency protocols. Sort of bypassing I believe that very day the council got the right to debate or decide the fate of jurisdictions within their within their boundaries. And yet you invoke the emergency powers, not giving the council time to debate that issue. And first of all, why the urgency there, and then we'll talk about the contract.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Well, the urgency went back to June. Right. I had already committed old standing alongside governor Northam stating that we would commit to removing the monuments and all nine members of city council agreed that we would remove those monuments through the process that would begin on July one. However, what changed was what happened in Portsmouth when there were folks from the community who removing our trying to remove that monument by themselves and downtown. The square in Portsmouth a a monument statue fell on on a man with a key flatlined, I think two or three times and we'd already seen that happened already in Richmond where people were removing violence on their own. And so we said, you know, this could continue all the way through. And you know that the monuments here in Richmond are a whole lot different in the monument than anywhere else in the United States of America. These are the granddaddy monuments of the mall. And so I didn't want what happened in Portsmouth that happened in my city. And so I did evoke those emergency powers on July one. And we began the removal of those monuments. And here's the thing. My team starting sometime in June, after I said saw what happened in Portsmouth scoured Central Virginia. We scoured the Commonwealth we scoured the Mid Atlantic to find someone willing to actually do the job. And many people rejected us and said no. Now one person did step up one firm to step up a firm owned by a black man. Am I surprised I'm not surprised at all. He put himself on the line. He put his family on the line. And he put his business on the line as well. But you know what, what we did on July one was appropriate. It was legal. And it was right.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so $1.8 million. And that business owner also happened to be a donor supporter of yours.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Some years ago, all cumulative as well. Never in one lump sum all cumulative. And here's the thing, I went to a procurement process where I was not involved in selection. I don't get involved in the selection of firms for for any job whether it's a DPW public department, a public workshop, or a Parks and Recreation job, I don't get involved in that. But did I sign off on it at the end? Yes, I did. But I did not know this was the gentleman at the time, I signed off on it. Because we needed to get them removed. This was the only person would be one to remove.

Bill Fitzgerald
Your Chief of Staff sent us all voluminous emails about inquiries out to all the various firms who were not interested. So what is to canvases question, what is your vision then for Monument Avenue?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Here's the thing. What I've heard from those who are from other parts of our community, is that they wanted to inclusive and welcoming Milliman Avenue and what folks have stated to me before folks who even were protesters who said that we just thought that my mat mat monument Avenue was not open to us. And so moving forward, I want a robust community engagement process that not only The neighbors, the residents who live along that great quarter right there have treelined streets, but also, we need the community voices involved in this process to and whether it's fountains or whether it's inclusive green space or monuments to other heroes and she rose in Richmond, it needs to be built and created by the voices of our community collectively. All right, Candace

Candace Burns
singing along those lines, because this had to do with monuments, the protests that were happening. Another question from Facebook, you've been very vocal about police reform and even created a civilian review team a task force to reimagine public safety moving forward if he were to be reelected. How do you visualize policing in Richmond?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yes, I'm committed to those reforms. I think. Like I said earlier, I want a police department is accredited by the community. We have been a community, a police department is always worked on Building Community Trust, building that Community Trust allows us to solve crimes, what I hear from my community, what I hear from, particularly from the black and brown communities, those in Easton and those in South Side, they say to me, Mr. Mayor, we want the police department, and we need the police department. But what we want is we want the same police department that shows up in the West in the shows on the east in the police department we can trust and gives us respect. So what we've been focused on is reimagining public safety. We believe that you can bring a human services lens, to how we actually keep our community safe, and not keep on piling everything that we do in terms of safety on to our police department. If your child doesn't get up in the morning, there's a cat in a tree, who do you call you call 911? You asked for a police officer to show up. So what we're going to do is actually, but we believe that an arm officer doesn't have to show up at every non criminal offense, we can build out a community care team of social workers mental health, where

Bill Fitzgerald
We're heard a lot about the mental health world, Marcus Peters, who was killed, who's seemingly having an episode off the highway there. Is that part of it part of the mental health? Yes, a unit or someone a personnel that could somehow intervene before somebody with a gun needs to resolve

Mayor Levar Stoney
exactly right, that that sort of community care team that is there to hopefully resolve the the incident without any sort of law enforcement involvement. We need to fund the Marcus alert, I support that as well. And also going to transparency and accountability. I believe in the civilian review board that is independent, the police department with subpoena power as well, those good police departments around this country are the ones that have no problem being accountable. I have no problem being transparent. And that's exactly what I want for the Richmond Police Department.

Bill Fitzgerald
We've heard all summer long complaints about why we're there. Was there any pressure from the top on police to slow down, say the policing of vandalism, along monument Avenue or indeed all the way over to Broad Street had complaints from business owners who said mobs were basically allowed or even it just individuals allowed to sort of recklessly do some damage and move on. What do you say about that? And to that some businesses say Well, I'm not going to reopen again on that part abroad. I mean, because well, obviously, all the focus is on monument Avenue. But when you look at the desecration of all the monuments on monument Avenue, why, you know, cleanup, why is there no effort to sort of change or repair? what's been done?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yeah. First, I know there are there are opponents out there of mine in this race, who have continued to mislead voters. And I don't want to mislead the voters here. And I have to say this one more time, like I'm a broken record. That is there was never a command from the top from this office, asking anyone ever to stand down. I've always asked the permission police department to do their job. And that's exactly what they did. They did their job. Now, here's the thing. Over the course of the last few months, I've had folks on one side, those who are the police officers, or those who support the police department say that we didn't allow them to show up and have other folks who said the police department was too aggressive in their approach as well. And they've asked me to choose aside in that process, as well. And I've always said, I'm going to choose the side of Richmond and do my job using the data and information I get at that time to make real time decisions.

Candace Burns
Out of questions coming in right now about your plan for the homeless in the city. How will they be protected and taken care of if you are to hold office?

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yeah, you know, the over the last year, we've been working on a strategic plan for the homelessness here in our city. And what we've normally done in the past is we've had a cold weather overflow show or hypothermia shelter, it was at the end Job Center. And part of that strategic plan says that we should not use congregate congregate gatherings like that moving forward. And that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to execute that plan particularly during COVID-19 has the last thing you want is to put people in those sort of congregate situations. So what we have done over the course of the last few months, particularly since co COVID-19 hit was we've housed 700 people who were experiencing homelessness. And we've put, we've been able to put 30 of them into permanent housing, as well over the course of time. And that's, that's a great thing. So moving forward, we're going to continue to use our hotel housing plan in which we were one of the models in the common in the country on this, we also are going to extend the hours of the homeless crisis mine is well, we want the individual who shows up and they are experiencing housing insecurity, during a pandemic to show up to a room with air conditioner or heat with covers a bed soap, water, things you don't get when you're sleeping on the floor and congregate housing at a cold weather overflow shelter.

Bill Fitzgerald
Is there a reliable census of how many homeless there are or how many children among among the homeless?

Mayor Levar Stoney
You know, there's a count that's done. I can't call the number right now, Bill, but also I will say this, the one issue as well with the cold weather overflow shelter was that you're not allowed to bring your children, you're not allowed to bring your pet, you're not allowed to bring your, your partner as well. And so I think what we have to do is we have to create a compassionate system working with the greater continued care a number of nonprofits in our community to meet those who are experiencing homelessness where they are, and they just like us are it's not a monolith. It's a diversity of of different needs. We should meet them at that. meet them where they are on their needs.

Candace Burns
You mentioned COVID-19. So I just want to bring up this question that Nick brought up. He's asking where your mask is? And I just want to say that Bill and Mayer Stoney are six feet apart on the desk. And he did walk in with a mask. I

Mayor Levar Stoney
I love masks. Without a therapy or without a vaccine, this is the only the biggest tool that we have the greatest tool that we have.

Bill Fitzgerald
Yes, our masks are on as well. The minute we're off the set, and we do stay six feet apart.

Candace Burns
OK, now that we've addressed that on your website, you say education is your top priority. Can you share with us since you've been in office for four years, the specifics of what you've done to help Richmond Public Schools? How are they better since you've been serving as mayor?

Bill Fitzgerald
You have the three new schools off the top.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yes, you know, what I'm proud of is what I said, you know, you have to judge politicians on the promises they make during the run their campaigns and whether or not they've kept our promises. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And I said I would want to be that I wanted to be the education mayor. And I feel like I fulfilled that promise. I said that I will put more dollars in the rich and public schools that we can actually start investing in our children inside the classroom. Giving teacher raises more guidance counselor's more nurses, and also fixing these, the roofing issues the leaky roofs and remediating mold. And we've done that we've done it all 100% No, but we put more dollars in the Richmond public schools than any administration and a generation $30 million in new money. We built three new schools, two in Southside one in the east end, we expanded after school programs now every elementary school or every middle schooler has access to our after school program here in the city of Richmond now moving forward what I want to do for Richmond public schools, my job is to fund the knees dreams for RPS plan that been approved by the school board, approved by the community, I need to continue to fund that that's my commitment 57 cents on every real estate tax dollar now goes to rich in public schools. That means as we grow our community, as we grow as a community, the the tax base, their budget grows as well. And so that's gonna be my commitment. But also, it's time for us to live up to the claim that public education is the great equalizer. Right? How can public education be the great equalizer? If 59% of Richmond kindergartners show up on day one, I'm prepared to learn, we have to start earlier. And that's why in the course of the next four years, my commitment is that we're going to create free universal pre-k for each three year old and these four year old in the city of Richmond, because we know that that gap right there. That's 59% of those folks who do have those kids who start start on day one unprepared. That deficit can persist through their time from K through 12. They get to third grade and they they can't read well, and then they get to 12th grade and they either may have dropped out or may they may not graduate with the skills necessary to compete in 21st century economy.

Bill Fitzgerald
The graduation rate, though remains troublingly low for Richmond Public Schools compared to the counterparts in the counties.

Mayor Levar Stoney
Yes, it's it's low. And I've obviously talk to the leaders at RPS about this. But here's the change of what Mr. cameras in the school board are doing now compared to what they were doing. Prior. When my opponent sat on the school board. Miss gray said on the school board, we were simply just rubber stamping, graduations, rubber stamping diplomas, so they were graduating with something of value to compete in this 21st century economy. We're not doing that anymore. And when you're not rubber stamping, stamping diplomas, you're not going to get that high number of graduation rates as well. What I think You should judge our children on our students are just like I judge teaching cameras is on the growth that we make. Right? If we get a fifth grader who's reading at a second grade level, and the teacher is able to get that second grader up to fifth grade reading level, that is a success. And we should recognize that sex, the success of the teacher and of the students. And that's the same thing, how I treat Mr. cameras in his work. I gave him a B plus, because he's doing a heck of a job right now. He took a system that was obviously on the brink. And he's we've seen growth, we should judge RPS on the growth and the progress now on just some simple letter grades at all times. Last question from over here, why are you still the man for this job? I'm still the man for the job. Because of my experience. You know, I did take this job when I was 35 years old, and I've been through it. It's sometimes it's been stormy, but I got to bring a big umbrella. I've, the experience has been able to allow me to grow into this role. And I think right now more than ever, you need a mayor who can lead during the most difficult times I've seen the city's history, just the most critical time. You know, I compare the next decade to what happened after reconstruction what happened after the Civil Rights Movement. So you need someone who can actually navigate these most difficult times for the city, and I believe the proof will be in the pudding, we will be judged on whether or not this is a true reckoning for Richmond is on 2030 dealt with the real test whether or not we close the gap between Black Richmonders and white Richmonders. Are we close the gap between the haves or have nots? That to me will be whether that's a true reckoning of the city. And guess what? I don't want my city to miss her moment. That's why I'm running for another four years because I don't want us to miss our moment. I don't do everything I can to make sure we meet the moment.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right. We thank you for your time. mr. mayor, Mayor levar Stoney explained why he is the man for the job. Candace Of course handling all those questions.

Candace Burns
Thank you all for writing them so we could ask Mayor Stoney.

Bill Fitzgerald
And we have been bringing you the candidates for mayor of Richmond the final of the five candidates that we've been interviewing will be Alexsis Rodgers tomorrow night at 730 on your CBS 6 Facebook page. We want to thank you for spending some time with us.

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🗳️Complete Local Coverage: Election 2020

Richmond Mayoral Race
Mayoral candidate Kim Gray
Mayoral candidate Justin Griffin
Mayoral candidate Tracey McLean
Mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

U.S. House - 7th District
Rep. Abigail Spanberger
Del. Nick Freitas

U.S. Senate
Sen. Mark Warner (D) and challenger Daniel Gade (R) take part in "The People's Debate"

To learn more about key local elections, from Congressional seats to mayoral races to school board seats, click here for the CBS 6 voter's guide.

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