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Richmond mayoral candidate Kim Gray answers your questions

Posted at 8:59 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 11:32:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond mayoral candidate Kim Gray joined CBS 6 News at 7 p.m. to answer questions from Bill Fitzgerald and voters via Facebook live.

The 2nd District City Councilwoman 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
With the Election Day just 18 days away, it's time to meet the candidates running for mayor of Richmond. I'm joined tonight by Richmond City Council member Kim Gray. She'll answer my questions here and then she'll join Candace and me to answer your questions on CBS 6's Facebook LIVE at 7:30. Council member Gray, thank you for coming in and joining us. Thanks

Kim Gray
Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity or pleasure

Bill Fitzgerald
Tell us, what is this election about?

Kim Gray
I think this election is about whether or not we have a city leader who serves the citizens or city leader who's self serving. So I think that in a nutshell, that's what it's about.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, let's start peeling that apart, then. Tell us, for example, the pandemic, how do you feel the city has responded, either medically or economically to the pandemic, as far as the citizens of Richmond are concerned?

Kim Gray
So there are lots of people who are still out of jobs, because there are so many boarded buildings still downtown and in the heart of our city. We have restaurants that are shutting down, I think that we were slow in responding and getting the needed dollars... We got federal CARES Act dollars, to be able to infuse into our small and local businesses. And I think that getting those dollars more quickly in their hands could have saved more of them...

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, national and global pandemics such as we've seen, there was perhaps not a blueprint ready to jump into action. So are you holding the administration accountable? Or are you just saying it's unfortunate that, you know, we've learned the lessons as we've gone.

Kim Gray
So I am holding the administration accountable, because there was no blueprint for any of the surrounding localities, but they were able to quickly get those dollars out into those businesses where needed. Again, with our students and Richmond Public Schools, we were short on technology and distributions of tablets and Chromebooks. So I think that, no, there's no blueprint, but there is a right way to do things. And we shouldn't be falling behind our counterparts in our surrounding localities.

Bill Fitzgerald
And of course, at the same time, the unrest, the social unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. From Memorial Day, all summer long the protests in Richmond, just like in other cities, they're protesting police brutality. Does Richmond have a police problem in that regard? And what are the reforms that you might support?

Kim Gray
I think that we always have room for improvement and any operation of the city. I think that we got, we got labeled with a broad brush on the murder of George Floyd, but there's always room for improvement.

Bill Fitzgerald
You say we got labeled? You mean police in general got labeled or Richmond?

Kim Gray
Richmond as a city, I think we we do a better job than many of the cities that we hear about with serious police brutality issues. I think there's always room for improvement and getting back to our community policing model. And actually having input from our community and our citizens is really key to making sure that we keep everybody honest.

Bill Fitzgerald
So a citizen review roard, where do you stand on that?

Kim Gray
I've been working on that for quite a while. I've served as the vice chair of the Public Safety Committee on City Council. So I've been working with RTAP, the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project for over 12 months on moving forward with a review board.

Bill Fitzgerald
And what about qualified immunity? Do you believe it should be easier for citizens to just sue an officer?

Kim Gray
I think that there should be processes in place that assist citizens and their due process in getting justice. But I do think that if police officers don't have certain protections in place, that even as even as an elected official, I've been sued multiple times just in the firings of folks on the school board and things. So I think that you you end up getting less quality people if you remove certain protections in their workplace.

Bill Fitzgerald
What about Monument Avenue? Much of the discussion has gone on what to do with the monuments. Do you agree with the way that Mayor Stoney went about taking them down, invoking emergency powers, safety, security issues? And if so, what should Monument Avenue ultimately look like?

Kim Gray
So I think that the General Assembly... laid out the guidelines and the process by which we would remove monuments. The mayor jumped ahead of city council. We voted to remove all the monuments that are under city control. Under the guise of emergency procurement actions, I do think that there were other other motivations behind that with that $1.8 million contract.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, we can talk about that at length. We have run out of time here on CBS 6 on air, but we are going to continue on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. Please go to CBS 6's Facebook page and put out some questions for council member Kim Grey to answer about how she will handle Richmond as a mayor.

CBS 6 Facebook LIVE interview transcript:

Bill Fitzgerald
Tonight we're talking with council member Kim gray. She is the third of the five Richmond mayoral candidates to come here. Candace is Joining me in the studio and Candace and I are going to try to work together get all of your Facebook questions. We'll be going to Candace frequently to get your questions answered by council member Kim Gray. Thank you for coming back to join us after our interview with me.

Kim Gray
It's a pleasure.

Bill Fitzgerald
So we were talking earlier about Monument Avenue. And you had felt that the mayor while he invoked the emergency powers, the safety issues to take them down. You had said that the council had already voted to take them down. There was a process to go through there was not.

Kim Gray
There was a legal process to follow. He circumvented that process we had not already voted. We didn't have authority until July 1.

Bill Fitzgerald
And it got tabled that day. I thought it was sort of on the...

Kim Gray
We had a special meeting... that was before July 1, so we didn't have the legal authority during that meeting to take any actions. So he decided that he would invoke those emergency powers and take them down without any real process. And he said it was an emergency, but they took the holiday weekend off. So that's not really what you do in an emergency.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so with the monuments now taken down, you said you'd voted the council vote would have voted anyway to take down through the normal process, right? What should Monument Avenue look like to you? What do you want to put? What would you put in that space if you could be the designer?

Kim Gray
So I think it's less about what it should look like to me and more about what it should look like to all of us in the city and with a robust process to envision it. And there are grants available. There's a Mellon Foundation grant that I think the city should pursue. I brought that up at our last council meeting. And I'm just hopeful that we can have a really thorough process that is all inclusive and all voices can weigh in on what our city monuments or Monument Avenue looks like moving forward

Bill Fitzgerald
And you you grew up here, right?

Kim Gray
Born and raised.

Bill Fitzgerald
So there's nothing in particular that you would want to see there? You know, Arthur Ashe, obviously a local hero, a humanitarian, just an icon in every way. And obviously, he would belong in that pantheon.

Kim Gray
What and that's why that's why I thought it was so important to push for authoress Boulevard. Not just an honorary renaming, I like the idea that everyone coming up 95 and 64, passing through Richmond, see that we have embraced our native son, Arthur Ashe. But, again, we had a process. monument Avenue commission served on that commission, there was a recommendation to build a monument to the Forgotten 14 Medal of Honor winners who fought valiantly in the Civil War. They were us Colored Troops who really changed the direction of the war and and turned it around. So I think that's a story as a rich mentor. I never knew, I think it's a story that our young African American students should learn. And I think that, obviously, since I put that legislation forward, and it was passed unanimously, that's a monument I'd like to see somewhere in our city.

Bill Fitzgerald
And before we want to take a Facebook question. I wanted to ask one last quick question of my own since I've got the microphone. Development. You obviously were opposed to the Navy Hill project. What about developing areas of the city where there might be derelict buildings or communities that need some kind of a boost? To say nothing of the public housing conundrum, which is, obviously involves multi agencies, federal, etc. You know, long term problem or solution there. What do you What's the ideal kind of development for you? Obviously, this was a big sprawling one that had sort of groups that suddenly appeared that wasn't sort of the normal vetting process.

Kim Gray
Right. And so I wasn't necessarily opposed to the totality of the project. I was opposed to the backroom deal that went on for two and a half years. As a council person, we weren't even allowed to know what was being discussed. And as a matter of fact, the mayor had the developer sign agreements, non disclosure agreements that they wouldn't discuss anything with us as council members. So as opaque a process as possible. There were aspects that I think were great in that proposal and there were aspects that I didn't think were so great, like the affordable housing piece that really isn't truly affordable for Richmonders.

Bill Fitzgerald
It did seem somewhat vague. And then as it got closer to either a vote suddenly seemed as if, well, it's not going to be 300 units here or whatever the number was, it could actually be fewer. But it's awful hard to pull all those pieces together for something of that magnitude where somebody is getting involved might not want to stick their neck out right away and say, Hey, I'm buying this or doing this or asking for that. And might just be like, Well, you know what, forget it. So there has to be, in a sense, some confidentiality, but you're saying it just was?

Kim Gray
Well, it started off as a 10 block tax and criminal finance district that grew to 80 blocks. And then it was an 1100 page proposal that we were told we had to vote on pretty quickly and turn around. Many of us don't have the the level of expertise to dive into that document and find out and vet the information. So I proposed a commission to review it. A majority of council was behind Navy hell, but once we appointed those citizens and experts to review this, this proposal, they came back with us to get in the process. They they did not recommend that we approve it as as and I asked for more time, there was a date certain that they said they needed it to be voted on or they were going to walk. I didn't think that was sufficient time to fix the things that were not not correct in this. On the face of it, there was a list of all the parcels that were to be included in this 80 block district. But there were parcels that went outside of that district to the tune of 400 and $50 million. So that's a glaring mistake that needed to be corrected. They were many others that I asked for time to fix and to take the proposal to the people and to seek their input and their approval.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, thank you for the answer. And thank you Facebook for allowing me to ask you this code again, is because I know you got a ton of things to ask

Candace Burns
Just a couple questions. Right now. Mike Carroll was wondering how you envision Richmond as a city in terms of development, and then how you would plan on funding your vision.

Bill Fitzgerald
You know, where would you go from there? So we

Kim Gray
are development? Yeah. So I think it has to be in all all inclusive process. Again, it has to be transparent, we have the Richmond 300 plan that's moving forward, we have the pulse corridor plan that was an easy to bring people along. And most of that was was districts and neighborhoods that I represent Carver and the fan district and other areas of the city. We work through a process and we adopted the postcard or plan. But now that the zoning has come forward, it's different than what we were told the that it would look like. So I think that it's really important to to be transparent and every aspect of what we do with the public.

Bill Fitzgerald
A lot of those businesses on broad lost parking, and then the pandemic hit. Yeah, there are a number of unhappy, small business owners in that area. And then of course, the unrest sort of added added to that effect. Are you seeing businesses leaving? Are you seeing, you know, just people struggling in general businesses? what's what's your take on the various, you know, catastrophes that have struck all

Kim Gray
There's there's quite a bit of uncertainty and confidence that their businesses will be protected from broken windows and and people are in high alert with the elections looming? So I think that what I'm hearing and I have a lot of restaurants, obviously, and other small businesses along the Broad Street corridor that I represent. They are many of them are at the tail end of PPP funds from the US the cares Act and the assistance that they were getting from the federal government. They're making hard decisions now on how they can keep employees on, businesses haven't picked up to where they were pre COVID. And, you know, we, we struggle through and I think that as much as we can do as a city to make it easier for our businesses to survive this. It benefits us long term. So I would like to see us do more. And at someone sent me an article today about Fredericksburg, providing grants for heaters because we're we're moving outdoors and it's about to get cold 55 degrees today. So things that we can be innovative and

Bill Fitzgerald
especially to expand that out or if we need to be outdoors we do inside if you're a restaurant owner, and you have to be at half capacity or whatever the percentage is. I mean, that's gonna be tough.

Kim Gray
It's very tough and a lot of a lot of the restaurants without the bars. That's a big generator for revenue generator for the restaurant industry. Those alcohol sales. So if you can't open the bar, they're not even at 50%. They're not going to make their 50% of profits that they were making pre COVID.

Bill Fitzgerald
Let's go back to Candace.

Candace Burns
OK, not many questions that we have a lot of Kim Gray for Richmond that should make you happy.

Kim Gray
Oh, really? Thank you, Facebook.

Candace Burns
You guys ask questions. That's what I'm here for. I'm watching to see what you're asking. And I want to present those questions to Kim. We do have one from earlier today from Joyce Moore. She didn't provide any details, but she asks about corruption in City Hall. And you've been serving on city council since 2016. Maybe you can offer more insight into this. Do you see corruption at city hall? And if so, how would you address that problem as mayor?

Kim Gray
So I see it, I get a lot of the phone calls. I've been trusted elected official for 12 years now in the city. So I got an email today about an incident and things that go on in City Hall and follow up. Some things get referred to the Inspector General.

Bill Fitzgerald
Either on microphone, you could just tell us all these?

Kim Gray
We'll talk after, right. But, you know, it's it's really we as a city have to demand better from our elected officials from our leadership and from our public employees. And we have many, many really hard working people in City Hall and it's discouraging when they see things like this go on it really hurts morale and and it kills the atmosphere and the culture of being about service to our citizens. So I'm I'm in the trenches every day, fighting corruption and cronyism and the things that I've witnessed. And in the past, I would take those things to the mayor, and they wouldn't get addressed. And I felt like I needed to be vocal about it. And I was compelled, because people who come to me with issues or problems are looking for solutions. And when they don't see the results, they start to lose their faith and trust in me. So I have to, I have to push forward.

Bill Fitzgerald
The former auditor to seem to do a very good job of investigating and bringing out a lot of that. I guess you could call it corruption or at least mistakes that were being made. Yes. So you would appreciate having someone like that.

Kim Gray
Umesh Dalal allowed did a great job. I worked with him on the school board. And I worked with him for the time that he was here when I was served. Since I've been on City Council. I've been on the audit committee the entire time. I've served on Council and I was the liaison to the audit committee on school boards. So quite a bit of information that flows through those committee meetings. So if you want to know what's going on in City Hall, check out that auditor's website, we still have a great auditor, Lou Lasseter, and he's not as out front and vocal with the audits, but they are posted publicly on that auditor's page. And there's a lot of meat there.

Bill Fitzgerald
Yeah, we we seem to hear a lot from Moo mash back in the days. Yeah, mess was last year. We want to hear from you.

Kim Gray
Mash was out there. You know, he was very vocal about the things he was saying. And I think sometimes you have to be because if you're not, it just continues on. I've seen things go on that. The consequences, I didn't think were sufficient enough to meet the actions of the employees or the individuals.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right, Candace, anything else?

I have a question. You have insight that the other candidates that we interview don't have because of the position you hold in the city right now. What do you think about the city's response to COVID-19? And would you have done anything differently if you had been in a position of mayor?

Kim Gray
I'm very biased with respect to our schools, and as RPS parent, I was doing the math. I've been an RPS parent for 25 consistent years now. But I have two younger children who are in school right now. And I worked early to get their access to their Chromebooks. And we have adequate internet and it's gone down quite a bit with everybody in the house sold online. But we have so many children who don't have parents who can drive to the locations to pick up the technology, technology. We've had many failures with Chromebooks and, and tablets. I would love to see cases. I mean, just the basic simple things as a mom, I would never hand a five year old, a tablet without a case on it. And we're handing out thousands of computers and tablets that don't have cases. The cracked screens I'm seeing everywhere of working with families throughout the city and trying to make sure they stay connected. knocking at doors when they don't show up. for school, I'm staying in contact with their educators and following up. So I do think we could do a better job. So is

Bill Fitzgerald
That a city administration thing? Or is it does it fall on the superintendent?

Kim Gray
It's the superintendent, administration. There, but as the mayor, and having funded the schools at at the historic levels, I think there's a level of accountability that should be demanded of the school administration and our children are the greatest asset that we have. And if we're not getting them adequate education and information to be prosperous them were failing at every level.

Bill Fitzgerald
Do you think since the the impact of COVID-19, at least, the symptoms and the severity of the disease is significantly less for children, you know, up to 10 years old, 12 years old, that they should be back in person or again? Is it that it's a tough one? Because then you have to have the teachers and the teachers have different levels of, of needs in terms of protection?

Kim Gray
Yeah, I think that's a tough question. For me, it's about making sure every individual child's needs are met. There are many children who require more than just a Chromebook in front of them to learn. We have children who come to school for physical therapy, speech therapy, other other needs that are not being met. So I think that we need to assess every child and there are several children that I've worked to get into other programs throughout the city so that they can be supported in their learning environments and that they have adequate broadband access.

Bill Fitzgerald
There's a question I wanted to ask about, I guess it's related to development, which we talked about before. But when you run or cycle on the Capitol trail, which ends near ship lock under the red elevated rail line there. It's a pretty spectacular part of the rich Richmond waterfront. And rockets landing has a couple of places. But you have these vast stretches. And I know the the stone brewing was a huge deal. There. Were there were going to put that restaurant at intermediate terminal. Yes, three or five. I forget, I ride by it every day. But because of the the outdated, antiquated, and probably dangerous, non code conforming standards in that building stone, obviously Mr. Cove, walked away from that restaurant in that patio, that would have been a spectacular addition. That's a long way to ask the question of why are there not like 25 different restaurants and shops and things along that stretch?

Kim Gray
That's a good question. There is a Riverfront development plan. There have been movements,

Bill Fitzgerald
like we hear about it every two every Oh, yeah, the updated the development.

Kim Gray
It has been updated, spectacular plan. If you've seen it on paper, I'd love to see it in action. If you go down to the river at any hour, I was telling there late one night and it was hopping. I mean, this is post COVID. I was really excited to see the activity and the number of people out after dark at the riverfront. I think that with those developments, we would see a really vibrant area and community down there. And we do have bus service that goes to the area now. So I think I think there's awesome opportunities that that await there was a an easement put on one of the properties so that tall developments won't happen.

Bill Fitzgerald
High development that can get problematic. Yeah. Because everything up the hill there,

Kim Gray
the view is so beautiful. And I had the opportunity and I've had so many wonderful opportunities as a council person, but I got to travel to Richmond upon Thames last year... and the view there that Richmond was named for. Just I think it's important to protect that and make sure that tourism and the connectedness to our histories.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right, so it's November, almost November of 2020. Kim Gray becomes mayor, when might we see part of this spectacular still on paper design on the riverfront come to fruition?

Kim Gray
So I think sooner rather than later. We've got to we've got to take the lead out of City Hall. I've spent half my day tracking down permits that are delayed, so many complaints.

Bill Fitzgerald
I get those all day friends and builders who have just said It's just insane how long it takes it as you get a permit,

Kim Gray
I won't, I won't spill the beans. But I have a restaurant, a popular restaurant owner who's opening another restaurant and they in the brink of the worst time to restaurants he's trying to open up. But permits are delaying that. So I think we've got to get into action and make things a lot easier for developers and homeowners and business owners to get things moving and working, because that's going to grow our tax base. And that's going to afford us the ability to pay for all of the things that we need. Yes, I do have some questions. Cecilia, when bradby wants to know what can be done to help the homeless people in Richmond, and maybe you can address public housing to when you do do that. Sure. So we have we have poured money in recently with the cares Act funds $7.2 million, and cares act and community development block grants or CDBG, funds have gone into homelessness services. But still, I get calls after hours, sometimes 2am people sleeping outside in the pouring rain. I recently worked with a mom who had her five children, two infants, all living in a van. She had never been in those circumstances before and needed some help. Our hotline, I think needs to be 24 hours, it's now eight to six Monday through Friday. We know that crisis don't just happen during business hours during the week. So I'd like to see an expansion of our hotline number I'd like to see more being put into the services that we're providing so that people can can move towards permanent housing. I think also in our public housing. Again, many of the calls I've gotten have been sewer backups and leaks from old radiators. We've got aging housing in our in our public housing stock. And I think the way that we get there is through public and public private partnerships, only going to support developments that have one to one replacement that assure that people in public housing are not just pushed down into the streets. Yes. But I don't think that the housing that people are in right now, in many cases is adequate. And I think that it's sad. I think that if anybody who has an opportunity to visit our public housing and to see the units and to see how people are actually forced to live should do that.

Bill Fitzgerald
Every city is different, but and it helps if you're going to be mayor that you'd be mayor for 40 years. But Joseph Reilly in Charleston, was and he is quite a quite a figure quite a personality and just listen to him and you could listen to him for hours, but ultimately extremely successful in integrating the public sector of the housing with the rest of the incredible architecture of Charleston. And you know, so mixed neighborhoods in the sense of, you know, you're not just putting the low income folks on one side of town, you're actually having mixed, not mixed use. Mixed income...

Kim Gray
We need mixed use mixed income. I think mixed juice stabilizes and helps monetize those projects, mixed mixed income. I would like to change our abatement program to allow for more affordable housing units. And we can incentivize that through our abatement program. I also think home retention is is one of the Forgotten things of our leadership. And I've been pushing for a tax deferral program. We don't have the authority in the Commonwealth to do to do tax exemptions on real estate, but we can defer taxes for people under certain circumstances. And I think that being able to defer taxes what I'm hearing from folks and knock doors and Blackwell and and one of the people got it a tax assessment that was 135% increase. And such a blow to a person on a fixed income can push them out of their housing.

Bill Fitzgerald
Was that a mistake?

Kim Gray
No, some of these assessments are increasing that rapidly when their developments happening around housing, it throws the land values up -- and it's it's not uncommon to see huge increases in assessments.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, that's something I would not have thought about when you talk about you know, pulling up a neighborhood even if it is mixed income, but what happens to the value underlying all of those properties?

Kim Gray
So it happened in Jackson Ward. I live in Jackson ward. I've lived there about 30 years. I've got four neighbors left and Many of the others have been pushed out. A lot of it is due to, especially my elderly neighbors, they get very fearful when code enforcement shows up. And we have predatory folks wanting to buy their properties and they'll start calling in and any anywhere in the city, I could go and find something that code enforcement might be able to cite. And it's, in many cases, a complaint driven system. So they'll start calling and calling and, and they wear people down until they're they're intimidated enough to sell.

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

Kim Gray
Well, I'm, I'm from Richmond, but more so than being from Richmond, I'm for Richmond, and I'm for Richmonders. I love our city. I love the people on the ground. I'm not just looking at things from a textbook angle on the ground and seeing whether or not the policies that we're pushing forward and the money that we're spending is being wisely spent and for with with homelessness, homelessness services. I'm out a few nights a week feeding and, and finding people and making sure they have dry clothes and blankets, and helping families. So I think it's important to have a balance and actually make sure that the money we're spending, the policies we're implementing are actually putting our words into into action.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right, I think that's a great way to end the session on Facebook. Thank you to the viewers for sending in those questions... some great questions there.

Candace Burns
Thank you, Kim, for joining us a pleasure to have you in studio. It's been great.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right. Well, so until the next time, I'm Bill Fitzgerald and Candace is here. Thank you. And remember, you've met the candidates, so we got two more to go. Stay 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
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