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Richmond mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers answers your questions

Posted at 8:40 PM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-25 21:33:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers joined CBS 6 News at 7 p.m. for an interview and then answered questions from voters on Facebook live.

The civic leader is one of five candidates who are challenging Mayor Levar Stoney, who is seeking a second term.

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
We're 11 days away from the elections and it's time to meet the fifth and final candidate running to be mayor of Richmond. Alexsis Rodgers joins me now to talk about what she would do in office. Ms. Rogers, thanks for coming in.

Alexsis Rodgers
Thank you for having me, Bill.

Bill Fitzgerald
It's a pleasure. So tell us what is this election about?

Alexsis Rodgers
This election is about making sure that we have a leader here in the city of Richmond, that's going to be fighting for working people. And that's what my career has been about whether it's fighting for healthcare access, or access to our democracy, and I'm really excited about the leadership that we'll be able to bring the city hall

Bill Fitzgerald
Wel so tell us, for example, the pandemic, obviously a huge issue for the last six months across the country across the world. How do you judge how Richmond and the administration has handled, say, the medical side that the testing the availability of PPP?

Alexsis Rodgers
You know, we have to look at our most vulnerable populations. And we know, unfortunately, because of the state of our federal administration, a lot of our immigrant communities are very fearful of reaching out to public safety officials or government overall. So I've been really concerned that we've not done enough to reach out to immigrant populations and culturally competent ways and in languages that they speak, to make sure that they have the testing and the PP that they need to be safe.

Bill Fitzgerald
And how about economically do as far as the way businesses have been supportive, because obviously, the hospitality industry has been decimated? There have been federal funds, but now they're still dithering in Washington about what to do. How do you feel about the way the city has handled the recovery, such as it is, for, say, small businesses?

Alexsis Rodgers
We have to be really clear in our communication with small businesses. And that's what I've heard the most feedback or criticism of the current administration that it's been difficult to know what to expect the phase and phase out process wasn't necessarily very clear for business owners that made it hard to know whether you keep somebody on payroll or not. And that certainly impacts working people's, you know, chances as well.

Bill Fitzgerald
And still, it's still a tough time still ongoing. let's shift gears. We'll try to get as much in as we can here. protests over police brutality, obviously, Richmond hit pretty hard in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Do you feel like Richmond has a policing problem, particularly an issue with police brutality, or at least in their interface with certain communities in Richmond?

Alexsis Rodgers
We do. And you know what i would elevate is Marcus David Peters was killed two years ago. Before that we've had our own instances of unarmed Black men, and folks in general being killed or harassed by our police department. So to me, I was really frustrated that after years of the NAACP and other community leaders calling out for real reform, better oversight, that our mayor and members of council haven't taken that issue seriously. And that's what ultimately motivated me to get into the race.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so the mayor's plan to reimagine public safety, you don't feel it goes far enough, or it's just too little too late?

Alexsis Rodgers
Too little too late. It's not authentic. If the mayor truly cared about reforming our police department, he wouldn't have waited until weeks before the election to announce a task force that would prepare report before election day. That's just not sincere leadership, in my opinion.

Bill Fitzgerald
What's the first thing that you would like to see done, for example, in reforming the police department?

Alexsis Rodgers
I think that we need to make sure that we're only sending police officers into situations they're prepared for. So we need to reduce the scope of their responsibilities, instead of sending them out to mental health crises or checking on whether a cookout is permitted, let's make sure that they're actually focused on public safety, solving crimes, making sure that Richmond is safe.

Bill Fitzgerald
Alright, and we're shifting gears yet again, I apologize for the speed with which we're doing this, but monument Avenue, what is your vision for what monument should look like?

Alexsis Rodgers
I'm really excited that a lot of our receiving community has already started to reclaim that land. And that space to make it welcoming for all responders, because we know that those monuments were erected to send a message that certain people weren't welcome. So I want to make sure that we continue that down that path and make sure that we've got an art community and historians and community members reclaiming that space for all Richmond.

Bill Fitzgerald
So what would you would you put art pieces there? Would you put any statuary there at all?

Alexsis Rodgers
I think that public art could certainly be in Monument Avenue. I don't know that we need to continue to put up monuments for specific people. We know that all of us as humans are flawed. I'm really inspired by the rumors of war monument, for example, that speaks to an idea or a theme that I think invokes a strong emotion from all of us. And I think that Richmond's creative community can come up with something great for Monument Avenue.

Bill Fitzgerald
And how about the your website talks about housing and to remove the vestiges of redlining for example, which we see in the heat map, for example, who's getting sick and sick especially with COVID? In the little time, we have left just a few seconds, can you outline what your plans would be for housing, affordable housing.

Alexsis Rodgers
A couple things, we have to make sure we're opening up more inventory for affordable housing. That means rezoning parts of our city working with City Council to do that. We also need to fully Fun the eviction diversion program so that if and when it comes to that point, our community has a safety net to rely on. And then finally, we need to make sure that we are re envisioning public housing overall. So that folks who have been in those communities aren't left out and left behind and left isolated.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, Alexsis Rodgers, we thank you so much for your time here on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m. But we're going to continue this conversation on Facebook at 7:30 on the CBS 6 Facebook page. We hope you join us there and bring us your questions, just put them in the comment section there and we will get Alexsis Rodgers to answer your questions.

CBS 6 Facebook LIVE interview transcript:

Bill Fitzgerald
And thank you for joining us on the CBS x Facebook page to bring your questions to the Richmond mayoral candidate Alexis Rogers, who's come back after our interview on the news at seven, Candace is standing by to convey those questions, because otherwise, it'll just be me talking again. And I've been talking all day. So people say stop talking bill. So in just a minute, we'll get a couple of questions or so from Canada. So please send your questions in. And we'll try to ask the candidate immediately. So welcome back. Thanks for coming back. We were talking a little earlier about bringing Richmond back in the pandemic. And we talked about the economic fallout and some of the medical necessities in terms of testing, how would you bring businesses back And by that, I mean, there are a number of businesses who in the wake of the the the parallel disruption from the unrest and some of the chaos after some of the protests, that there's some businesses that are still closed that are saying, you know, I'm leery of moving back onto Broad Street, because of the damage that was sustained by some vandalism. So what would you do to instill confidence in the business community, either starting with COVID relief or but more importantly, just to read, just to bring back the confidence of that you can do business and do it? Well, in Richmond?

Alexsis Rodgers
Well, even before the summer's, you know, crises, we've had a difficulty working with City Hall, if you're a small business, whether you are a restaurant owner, or just trying to build a home or expand your business in the city of Richmond, getting a permit has been really difficult. paying your taxes has been difficult. And so to me, not only do we need to make sure that we are protecting public safety and making sure that, you know, we're getting our hands around the virus so that people can gather safely. But we have to make sure that essential services at City Hall are working efficiently as well, so that businesses aren't having a nightmare every time they're trying to pay their taxes or get apartment.

Bill Fitzgerald
And and do you feel that the businesses are being short sighted those that would say, Hey, you know, I'm leery or you're just saying that things need to change at City Hall before. Businesses might be confident right now and coming back. And we've we have to your point about the permits, we've heard from contractors, and I personally could tell you about a neighbor who said it took three months, almost three months to get just a modest renovation permit done. The mayor yesterday sat where you are and said that he recognizes that there are delays in that department, but that he's got no plans to expedite things and speed things up there. What would you tell a business right now? Who's an existing business? Who's leery of reopening?

Alexsis Rodgers
Yeah, well, I mean, let's be honest, it's tough running a small business any day of the week, I remember when I was at VCU, I was helping manage a coffee shop and looking at that p&l every day and saying, oh, if we don't get a lunch rush tomorrow, from VCU, it can be tough. So any day of the week, it's hard in these crises. It's harder. I think what we've had, unfortunately, at City Hall is not a leader that's focused on supporting small businesses. You know, the mayor says he's been working on the permitting issue. I don't think it takes four years to solve whatever's happening in room 110. So to me, that's got to be a priority from day one to fix the perverting office, it impacts so many of richmonders lives, including our small businesses. So you know, I don't blame restaurant owners or small businesses who are thinking it's tough, should I reopen, it cost me a little bit less to stay close, maybe I can wait this crises out. But I want to make sure that they know that they have full confidence in in support for me as mayor to help them get back up and running.

Bill Fitzgerald
Do you have confidence in the new police chief?

Alexsis Rodgers
You know, I don't. And the reason why is because there wasn't a public and transparent process in the search. So none of us had the opportunity to vet the police chief as a part of his selection, like we did for you know, the first chief Smith. And you know, that was really disappointing, I think a bad position that Mayor Stoney has put chief Smith in, because now all of us are thinking, can we trust you? Can we not we've not had an opportunity to really get to know your perspectives as a part of the selection process.

Bill Fitzgerald
So do you see a large or a significant segment of the Richmond population that is currently alienated from the police department that either mistrust police or just doesn't feel that police will be there for them when they need them?

Alexsis Rodgers
Absolutely. I mean, we know looking at our history, and today that there are so many people in our community that have not only been left out of our government, but had been targeted and attacked and harassed, and that the justice system has not been fair for those communities, specifically black and brown people, queer folks in our community, people who are in poverty, working class people. So you know, to me, we've got to make sure that we are intentionally finding ways to build that trust and not having a transparent search process is not a way to do it. Not being bold and saying, you know, what, we need to ban tear gassing, as medical providers have told us it's not a good practice for our community. Rich was not a warzone. So we need to make sure that we are investing in the strategies that keep us safe as a community and not over policing. folks that are already marginalized.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right, let's check in with Candace and see, see what we have so far? Well,

Candace Burns
Well, while you're on the topic of policing, we do want to know, what is your How do you visualize policing in the city of Richmond if you were to be elected mayor.

Alexsis Rodgers
So I think that we need to be reducing the scale and scope of policing. So you know, we're only sending law enforcement officers into situations they prepare for. And in conversations I've had with law enforcement officers, they came to the city to solve crimes, to solve murders, to stop burglaries and and, you know, hard crime in the city, they didn't come here to deal with issues of mental health crisis, because frankly, that's not what Academy taught them to do. So we need to be creative, and also innovative and investing in the social services and systems that do keep our community safe. And, you know, there are models across the country that are clear examples for Richmond to follow. But the thing is, this administration has not even made it a priority until Election Year. And I think Richmond is smarter to know that this is politics, this is not an a, a real effort from the mayor's administration to tackle this issue in a meaningful way.

Bill Fitzgerald
And would numbers not help, for example, right now, we seem to be having a spasm of violence in Richmond. I've sat here night after night in the last couple of months, and I think we've had 23 shootings in 28 days. Is that something else? Is that the pandemic? Is it not? What's going on there? And how would what you've proposed handle that?

Alexsis Rodgers
Well, I think what is really sad about some of these instances is that we know that we need the community to speak up and share information in these instances to help solve the crimes. And if folks don't have trust in the police department, we're not going to be able to solve these crimes. So you know, when we're talking about the public health emergency, which is gun violence in our communities, we need to be bringing together social workers, pastors, neighbors, community leaders, to figure out how we can actually create a plan that keeps us safe in the city of Richmond, I don't think it always means sending more police into neighborhoods, I think that there are other ways that we can, you know, keep each other safe, neighbors checking on neighbors, and I think, you know, we have to be investing in those kind of Community Solutions. We also have a question from Patricia Baldwin, she asked us earlier today, what is your plan to help the homeless and low income families in Richmond? You know, in my career, I've always been focused on lifting up marginalized folks, including unhoused populations that, you know, maybe didn't have access to health care or a good a good living environment. So to me, we need to be investing in and coordinating care from our social services department with nonprofit community leaders that are going to help us make sure that people not only get rehoused but also into whatever other services or skills that they might need to be successful, whether that's substance abuse or mental health services, or jobs and skills, credentialing skills for for Workforce Development. So to me, we've got to make sure that we are number one, treating every person in our city as a dignified human being, and making sure that we are not criminalizing poverty, which often if you are, you know, walking down the street, you see someone on a park bench, you might call the police, that person might get picked up for a crime that was not necessary. So let's make sure that we are investing in the social services to get people rehouse safe.

Bill Fitzgerald
And that sounds like a lot of personnel, a lot of staff a lot of cost. Surely, it's been thought of before that if we could just divert people into where they need the help the most, whether it's mental health, whether it's, you know, like a specific housing crisis, or being picked up for something that lead to sort of a chain of events? Is are the resources there? I mean, could you take a budgetary look and say, yes, this is how I would, you know, maybe reshuffle this a little bit. Because it sounds like you need a lot of people a lot of trained personnel to get that done.

Alexsis Rodgers
Well, there's a great model in Oregon, Bill, called the CAHOOTS program where if someone calls into the 911, they actually dispatch a working with their Crisis Center, a proper response to trauma informed response. And so you know, sometimes I think there are creative solutions working with community partners. But at the end of the day, city budget is a set of priorities and a set of values. And so to me, you know, making sure that everyone has access to a safe place to lay their head at night, making sure that people have access to health care. Those got to be those have to be priorities for our community, and they will be reflected in my budget. So we have a lot of people watching right now, but they're not asking me any questions. So I'll use this as an opportunity. If you're watching and you hear Alexis talking and you have some questions that come up, feel free to drop In the comments I'm watching, and I'll make sure I she addresses those questions. This is your opportunity to have them answered in the meantime, Alexis, what's your plan to address Richmond's public housing issues and concerns here at CBS six, we get lots of calls all the time from people who have issues with our Hoa or, you know, and they need help. And that's just a big concern we know in the city of Richmond. So, you know, just this past weekend, I was in Whitcomb, you know, introducing myself to some neighbors out there. And they were very excited to hear me to see me in the community and to share some of their concerns. Candace, I appreciate you sharing that, you know, we have to make sure that whether you are living in public housing, on monument Avenue on Southside, or anywhere in the city, that you are treated with dignity and respect, and unfortunately, a lot of our tenants in RLJ housing have not been given that courtesy. For me, we want to make sure that in our administration, that we have resident driven plans for how we redevelop our Hoa, and how we, you know, I think, create the next few the future for public housing. residents have made it very clear, they want a brick and mortar replacement for public housing. That's one to one, because unfortunately, and years administration's past, they've been told one thing and then seen something else happen. And you know, for your home, your safety net to be disrupted in that way, is not something that anyone would want in our community.

Bill Fitzgerald
So when you say disrupted, you mean like, say, let's just tear these building buildings down. And then what were the input --- all these families in these various units from these units where we put them.

Alexsis Rodgers
So you know, I think that we have to create a resident-driven plan for that. So make sure that when these 80 year old public housing units are torn down, that someone actually has a place to go, because vouchers don't necessarily work for everyone. And, you know, story experience that someone shared with me the other day was, you know, say you do get a voucher, you're in another neighborhood, and you're supposed to be feeling safer. But you don't actually know your neighbors or your community anymore. That you know, friend that used to check on your kid when you had to leave early to get on the bus. Or maybe you're a little bit late coming back from work, that security has all been disrupted. So when we think about how we re envision and create the new model for public housing, we have to do it with residents experiences at the forefront. Or else we'll be doing the most well intentioned thing and still end up under serving our community, which

Bill Fitzgerald
is what was done 80 years ago, and also, hey, let's put them all off in this put these units all on this island by itself a cut off really from the lifeblood of the city. And it also sounds like there are a lot of moving parts. Obviously the the federal authorities are involved section eight housing. And it's a devilishly tough problem because of all these different agencies that are involved. How many years would it take to say end up like a Charleston? I mean, Charleston, has been credited the mayor was there for 40 years. Joe Riley. I mean, it takes some time to be around, you have to be around for a long time to get stuff done, apparently. But I mean, what kind of vision would it take? And how long should we expect to say goodbye to the courts, per se, as they stand now.

Alexsis Rodgers
You know, I don't know that I'll have 40 years ever, in any role. But for the four years of my administration, I'll certainly be working every day to make sure that we are making progress on this issue. And what I've definitely seen is that, you know, the federal administration, our local oversight, all of that can not necessarily work all together. I do believe that the Office of Community wealth building has been a good resource for a lot of RJ tenants and residents, connecting them to good employment opportunities, getting them the education or credentialing, they might need to get into a better career field. And, you know, those services, I think, are vital for the city to continue to support and create a little more funding for I think the community wealth building offices doing a lot with only a little bit, we could throw a couple more million towards that re, you know, assess our budget, like we were discussing earlier, I think we'd see a lot of good come out of that investment.

Candace Burns
Yes, we have a question from Princess Blanding. She's asking what you would do to build strong trust and relationship with people who live relationships with people who live in the community, to address their needs, and also to stay connected after you're elected mayor.

Alexsis Rodgers
You know, I think the number one issue that elected officials faces, they get elected and they expect the community to just trust that they're going to do what they said they would do. You know, as an organizer, as a policy leader, I've never had that luxury of running away from the community and just asking them to trust me that I'm doing my job. I've got to stay present. And so as mayor, I'm going to take that same mindset to the role where I'll still be present. I'll still be popping up at the neighborhood association meetings or at different events or downtown to have a pulse of what's actually going on in the community. You know, it's not enough for me to just say, Hey, I invite you to come meet with me at City Hall, I want to be seen in all of our neighborhoods, really listening to residents, and building that trust that princess is asking about, because to me, that's how you really are able to have the foundation that you need to be successful in governing, and putting forward a policy that is going to have buy in from the community. When we're talking about economic development, or new housing initiatives. You know, you name it public education, you've got to have the community support in that. And if you've been sitting at night, you know, at night, the main and just waiting for the opportunity to roll out your good policy idea with no public input and no community relationships, you're not going to be successful. I understand that the people are where we are going to have political power and the ability to govern. And that's why I'll always continue to invest in those relationships.

Bill Fitzgerald
On your website, you talk about eliminating the inequities in the education system and public public education. How do you do that? Mayor Stoney has talked about three fully renovated practically brand new schools on his watch these last four, four years and forth in the offing. What What is the what's the key to eliminating these inequities that you're, you're in a school that's basically cut off or a set set off in a community? And it doesn't seem to be performing as well as the school on the other side of town? Or that seems to have more funding? Or more what there's something that's making a big difference? How do you how do you Where do you start to chip away at those inequities.

Alexsis Rodgers
So you know, I'm a product of public education as well. And to this day, teachers are investing in me and giving back to me, you know, long since I've been in any of their classrooms, right. And so as mayor, I want to make sure that I'm having the backs of the teachers that are going that extra mile for students and families every single day, checking on their students, even though it's after after hours or, you know, not in their normal responsibilities. And in order to have that support for teachers, we've got to be looking at retention metrics. Unfortunately, we know we're losing teachers to other school systems to other career fields, because it's gotten too hard or too difficult. But I don't think that Richmond public school system and the mayor's office have worked together enough to actually look at those numbers and see, you know, demographic data, you know, why are we losing teachers? How can we keep those quality educators in the classroom, because we know, especially having teachers of color, to educate our young people, and in the city of Richmond is the most effective way that we're actually having culturally competent education, and supporting our young people's growth and development, you know, and also, we've got to tackle the school to prison pipeline. And that's why I think it's really important that as we are investing in our schools, we're also investing counselors and nurses and trauma informed practitioners in our classrooms, because teachers can't be mom, teacher, and social worker, and all of these other roles and keep order in the classroom. So, you know, I don't think that we necessarily need to have resource officers, police officers, in all of our classrooms, but we do need trained adults that can help deescalate situations and keep order in the classroom. And we can't put all of that burden on our teachers. So part of the addressing those inequities also is having more adults in the building that can help keep order in the classroom.

Bill Fitzgerald
And that's not just a funding issue, we can talk about retention, obviously, the first thing would be like a bonus, or at least higher pay rate. Because that, obviously, we always hear about how teachers are paid a certain level in the city and the county seem to be able to manage a little bit more. So again, it comes back to this sort of budgetary issue. And, of course, that's the school issue, but the city gives the money to the schools. Do you think Jason Kamras is doing a good job?

Alexsis Rodgers
You know, I think that the culture of advocacy that we've seen from students and teachers and families has pushed the administration and certainly superintendent to new heights. And and that is, I think those are the heroes in our community. The fact that, you know, moms are showing up to the school board meetings and saying, This is what my young man young person needs to be successful. You know, I think that, unfortunately, we've seen in city of Richmond, sometimes the kind of backlash on election years and the mandate, or, you know, the referendum on the superintendent, I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep some consistency and leadership with RPS while we're going through this challenging times. But we also have to have more accountability and transparency. And I don't think that the administration has always been very clear with the school board about their direction. They're, they're intense, and I don't think that they've been as collaborative as one should be if you really want to serve the interests of our young people. So, you know, I look forward to partnering with Mr. Kamras on making sure that we are fully investing in RPS doing as much as we can as administration to support the school board and our teachers and that effort

Candace Burns
Following the death of George Floyd, there were a number of protests in the city of Richmond protesters asking for a number of things that were in, it led to the Confederate monuments being removed, some of them being removed from Monument Avenue. So a question that we've asked all the candidates is what would they like to see happen with that stretch of area? monument Avenue? What do you visualize?

Alexsis Rodgers
yeah, so I think that Richmond is incredibly creative city, we have so many artists who have been investing in Richmond for a long time, you know, I'd want to bring together the artist community, our historians, you know, neighbors to say, what should monument Avenue look like? What is the story that we want to tell in 2020, about who we are as Richmond, and I don't think that the Confederate monuments and you know, we still got one left to take down. I don't think that they speak to who we are as a community. So, you know, I'd want to make sure that we're leveraging philanthropic efforts are, you know, ways that we can actually fund I think, what could be an incredible tourism and economic development driver for the city of Richmond? You know, because to me, people are going to come to see what is the New Richmond? What is the new ideas that we elevate in our community? So I would look forward to working with artists and our neighbors to achieve that.

Candace Burns
Final question from over here. Why are you the person for this job?

Alexsis Rodgers
I grew up in Hanover County. I've lived in Richmond ever since going to school at VCU. I was the first to graduate from my college, from college from my family. And I love this city. I've worked in progressive policymaking and organizing roles to advance you know, health care access and worker rights, making sure that people have access to our democracy with stronger voting rights. I've always been fighting to advance the lives of working people. And right now we don't have that kind of leadership. in City Hall. We have an administration that's been cozy with corporate interests, putting their ideas and their development proposals ahead of our interests. That's not the kind of leadership we need. We need someone like me that's going to build teams and Coalition's to make progress for our communities. That's always gonna put people first in our community in our policymaking. And when times get tough, still hold true to your values, but be honest about what you can do to move the city forward. That's the mayor that I'll be look forward to earning folk support by November 3.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right, thank you so much, Alexsis Rodgers, candidate for mayor. Candace, thank you for fielding all the Facebook questions... And that will conclude our mayoral candidates for Richmond -- all five now on Facebook Live. So you can search Facebook for all the other versions.

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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"

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