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Richmond mayoral candidate Tracey McLean answers your questions

Posted at 8:46 AM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 21:44:01-04

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

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
Election Day is fast approaching and it's time to meet the candidates. Tonight you'll meet the first of five people running for the Richmond Mayor's Office and then after the show at 7:30, we'll continue the conversation on our CBS 6 Facebook page live. But right now give a warm welcome to Tracy McLean joining me now to talk about her plans for the River City. Miss McLean, thank you for coming in. Well so tell us what is this election about?

Tracy McLean
Oh my, it's so much going on in the City of Richmond that I would, I want it to be about, a lot of the questions are not being asked but it should be about COVID and actually reclaiming our city working back to a nice, calm place to live and safe place to live, and also working to change the social unrest.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, so tell me, as far as COVID, has the city handled the pandemic well, say from a medical perspective?

Tracy McLean
I think so. I think especially not having a plan beforehand. I think they did a good job of trying to make things a little better for the citizens.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so, but obviously, the economic fallout that continues today. So even if we have a handle on, say, the rising cases, if the numbers look fairly stable, what would you do to bring back, say small business or minority-owned businesses? How do you bring back sort of the lifeblood of the city?

Tracy McLean
Okay, well, we really have to focus on what the next step is. We hear often that there will be a second wave and so we have to be proactive, not reactive. There's no one talking about that and so we have to plan now and make sure that we have proper PPE and we have proper time and helpers to work these businesses to continue getting revenue. Unfortunately, there's no one putting that plan forth and so I'm here today to make sure that, you know, that's what I plan to do. I plan to offer what we call "barter services" where small businesses help each other so that way we're not adding any cost to the small businesses. Also having like, what is it? Minimal paperwork grants. And that's the difference. So you can get money quicker.

Bill Fitzgerald
So barter service. I could finish my job here and go help somebody else over there in return for what they've done.

Tracy McLean
And we become a cohesive community doing this. We get to know one another. We get to grow with one another. And we get to actually help our city be the best Richmond city we can be.

Bill Fitzgerald
You mentioned the unrest. Obviously, we saw protests and marches throughout the summer in the wake of the depth of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Does Richmond have a policing problem?

Tracy McLean
We do. We have a policing problem and had a policing problem for a long time. It's time, that we used to have community policing and that was a good thing, because the community was a part of the whole police department. The police department would come out and work with the kids and everyone knew each other. So you felt comfortable, it was, they were trustworthy. Now, it's about a power struggle. Unfortunately, police have to understand that they do work for the community. So it's about knowing the community, knowing who you police, and knowing that we do not want racial injustice here. We want to be a nice, cohesive community.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so in a sense, the trust between the community and the police department has eroded the people that live in the city don't necessarily believe that the police have their interests at heart. Well so then I'm going to try to get as many topics in here as we can in this time. Development projects. So a big project like Navy Hill is big, probably bad in that sense because if you're trying to build affordable housing, can that happen in a big project?

Tracy McLean
It absolutely can happen. It can actually happen at the Diamond. The Diamond area is a perfect area to actually build affordable housing, retail, restaurants, everything because you have access to both highways right there and so us developing that would be great revenue. Great for jobs, grace rate for housing,

Bill Fitzgerald
Because that was one of the criticisms about Navy Hill was that well, the affordable units weren't really necessary, you know, written in stone, it seemed like that could be fudged a little bit. So it's not necessarily the size of it. It's like who's putting it together and what is it going to look like.

Tracy McLean
And being transparent to the community is very important.

Bill Fitzgerald
Okay and very briefly, we only have a little bit of time left. I apologize for that. But schools, what will we do to make schools in Richmond a little better?

Tracy McLean
Okay, well, what I was speaking about with the COVID-19 in the second wave, I just want to make sure that everyone understands. The new mayor will have to be in an office for a couple of years trying to make sure that we revive from the COVID-19. So the schools, we're going to be doing virtual, I feel, we're going to be doing virtual all the way till next September. I really do. So it's very important that we get the internet working well for the students, that we get screen protectors so that the students' eyes won't go bad, and so on and so forth. It's a lot, but you can check my website.

Bill Fitzgerald
Alright well, Tracy McLean, thank you for coming in. And we're going to continue this conversation at the bottom of the hour at 7:30 on the CBS 6 Facebook page. Please join us and you can put your questions out there to Tracy McLean as well. Thank you so much for coming in.

Tracy McLean
Thank you for having me.

Bill Fitzgerald
Welcome to our CBS6 Facebook feed. This will be the first of five sessions with the candidates for Richmond Mayor's Office. Tonight I am joined by Tracey McLean. She is one of the five. We just spoke on CBS 6 News at 7 and now we are resuming that conversation. But also taking your questions on Facebook to find out a little bit more about what her plans are for the River City. So, Miss McLean, thank you so much for coming back.

Tracy McLean
Thank you for having me back.

Bill Fitzgerald
We were talking a little bit earlier about some of the policing issues. I wanted to get a little more in-depth if we could. You said there is a policing problem, that the trust is broken down between the community and the police department. That community policing is so critical at this time. How would that or a better version of that fix what ails the Richmond Police Department, because presumably, it's similar to what affects police departments across the country?

Tracy McLean
Well, the biggest thing is we have the police doing a whole lot of jobs that they're not qualified to do. So I propose to economize and rebuild the police. How we start that is putting in mental health unit, also a social working unit, so that when the calls come in for domestic violence or mental issues, we will also have them assist the police. But it won't have to be as many police. They will be deemed as second responders. Also, I would like for the police to take assessments and evaluations.

Bill Fitzgerald
Almost like a renewal of a license type?

Tracy McLean
Yes, but when renewal of yourself. Police are people too and because of that, they go through and carry a lot of emotions, a lot of things they bring from home, or whatever. And it's very important that we have them when they're on the job, that they're thinking of exactly what's happening on the job. Not having to worry about what's going on in their life. Whether, you know, it's been a bad experience, and so on so forth. We want them to have people to talk to. We want to make sure that they don't have racial issues or they don't have violent issues, power struggle, which we also all know that police have this power thing and you know, against the the community. And that's the issue, like understanding that you definitely work for the community and you're helping the community so you need to be a part of the community.

Bill Fitzgerald
So do you mean that the police have certain powers but you're saying in a sense they almost lord that power over the community in some places?

Tracy McLean
Yes, definitely.

Bill Fitzgerald
And that's something that you say has afflicted the Richmond Police Department. Do you have, right now, hopes for change? We have a new chief has been on the job about three months now.

Tracy McLean
Well, that's one of our problems. We always fire a chief. A new mayor gets in office, they'll fire another chief. I've seen a few chiefs, chiefs of police, that have lowered crime down to 40%. I've seen them, you know, made the community, policing community, and then they fire them. That's not how we should do business. We shouldn't have a police chief that has to worry about their job. We just want a police chief that's gonna do the job. And if you do your job and you care about the community, we want you to stay here. It's just like, if you had a football team, you keep changing the players, you're never gonna win. It's time for Richmond to win.

Bill Fitzgerald
And speaking to some of that, issues of social unrest, not just the policing element, but also the inequities that we've heard so much about really amplified in the wake of the killing of George Floyd back on Memorial Day. You've talked a lot about some of the inequities that you try to solve, education, housing, jobs. Where would you start? What's the most critical piece that you think is the glaring inequity that we saw manifest and all those thousands of marchers throughout the summer?

Tracy McLean
Well, the biggest thing is in Richmond, we have something that hovered over us and that hovers over us in Richmond is racial injustice. And so first, I would like to offer the African American community apology, because it's been a long time coming.

Bill Fitzgerald
This was the Capital of the Confederacy,

Tracy McLean
Correct, correct. And then I would like to offer local reparation for the community to have true equity so that we can be truly equal just to give a fair chance. Some people, all they want is a fair chance. It's not about giving anyone a free ride. It's just giving a fair chance. And so when you start 401 years behind, you got a long way to go so that you can get an opportunity just to say, "Okay, I can get a house like you can get a house."

Bill Fitzgerald
So it's local reparations? We've heard a lot about it at the federal level, or at least some about it at the federal level. So how would that work? Is it a pool of money that would come from a budget? Is the money that was raised? Is it something on a ballot box or referendum?

Tracy McLean
Well, I basically, definitely want to speak with the council about that to make sure that where we're getting it from, but we need it so bad that I would take part of my salary to start it off. It's that important because we need to offer funds. We need to offer a tax credit for health. We need to offer tax credit for life insurance. We need to offer education so that each each resident would understand how to pick the right life insurance, how to pick the right health insurance, how to have skill-building, training. You know, just to live.

For so many years, African American people have just been surviving and it's time for them to live.

Bill Fitzgerald
And so the reparations are one element as well, and then we talked a little bit about schools and where to start. So for example, and you mentioned that we're likely to be in virtual learning for quite some time, especially if there's a second wave of COVID-19. And it seems as if the have-nots are likely slipping further behind when things go virtual, even if they have an internet connection, even if they have a computer screen to sit next to because so many elements of the support that they count on, are simply not there. They can't exist in a world of social distancing. And that's virtual, basically. So where do you start there in terms of equalizing the playing field? It's almost as if we have one hand tied behind our back because we're not able to intervene the way we might have.

Tracy McLean
Well, the first thing is, we have to make sure that we offer the equal, equal property. So in other words, everybody has a laptop. Okay, everybody has an opportunity to have one. Maybe we set up one in one-on-one sessions for those who have fallen behind. With the schooling you have special education, the children with IEPs. It's a lot that we're behind the eight ball. And so me being a mother of 10, I know that it's very important for some students, they have to be in class. We have beautiful parks, if we can do social distancing, and have some classes on the outside. Small, but just a few days a week. Not many. In front of the computer, too much, will mess with the kids' eyes. We want them to be healthy. We want them to understand that this is not forever. This is just temporary, but we want to make sure that we're teaching you so that you could gear the future. And so if we can't get them past this, our future doesn't look too good.

Bill Fitzgerald
Let's check in with Jake and see what might be happening over there in your corner of the room, give you a chance to weigh in as well.

Jake Burns
Yeah. Still looking here at the CBS 6 Facebook page. If you're watching on Facebook, please send us your direct questions for Miss McLean. We'd like to hear from those. One person did say that they are actually supporting one of your opponents in this race, the incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney. [He] said [he] liked his leadership. And I wonder, then, what might your critique of the mayor's first term be and why do you think you could improve upon that?

Tracy McLean
Well, the biggest thing for Mayor Stoney, I respect the man. He's a numbers man. He's not a people's person. He's not a community drawn person. He won't go out to the community. I do not understand how can you govern a community that you're not a part of, and it's very important that you go out to the community, you talk to the residents and you become part of the community.

Bill Fitzgerald
So there's a sense out there you and others feel that Mayor Stoney is not doing events out in the community.

Tracy McLean
He's not reachable. Um, that's a lot of the complaints I've had. He's not reachable. He's a numbers guy. He doesn't cut the fat off budgets because he's a numbers guy and that means he's gonna get it done with no matter what the cost. Well, the cost should not be the community by no means. We have homeless people. We have people who were getting put out with evictions and then he removed statues of $1.8 million. I couldn't really, you know, cut the fat out that. Maybe for $600,000 and we can, you know, put some people in some homes.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well I want to get back to evictions and housing in just a moment but you mentioned taking down the statues. Where do you stand on that? The mayor invoked emergency powers to do that, saying that once, and it was after the city council actually had the opportunity to weigh in. They demurred on the first day July 1, the mayor that invoked emergency power, saying there are a health risk or a safety risk.

Someone had already been injured in [the] Virginia Beach [area], I think, at that point. And how do you feel about that? The way he went about doing that, apart from whatever the contract was. And that's another issue where some said, "Oh, you know, basically a one-bid contract" and the mayor's office pointed out that nobody else was really willing to bid because it's a contentious issue. Sure. And he was unaware of who actually controlled that company, a donor. So do you have a critique of the way that happened, or just the cost or just that it wasn't necessarily time to take them down when there are other issues that the city is facing?

Tracy McLean
Well for me, it was more of the cost. I saw the safety issue. I was out in the community. I was out when the protesters were out there. I was out walking and marching. I was out there. So yes, it was a safety issue. He was correct about that. He had the choice to make that he want his city to be safe or sued. So that's the decision he made. That was a good decision. I do not, you know, go against that. I only go against them now. I just know that we could use it, we could have used it for more.

Bill Fitzgerald
And what do you see in their places? The Robert E. Lee statue controlled by the state is still there. It hangs in the balance for the moment, but the others are gone. What do you envision on Monument Avenue?

Tracy McLean
Well I think that the community should have a say-so on what goes on Monument Avenue. We should definitely have input. For the Robert E. Lee statue, though, if it does come down, I see a gigantic waterfall. And in the waterfall, you have gold coins. And on the faces of the gold coins is the people who lost their lives, whether it's soldiers in Virginia, but it has to mean something towards Virginia. So that I think would be awesome and it would be a park around that, but the waterfall will be illuminated.

Bill Fitzgerald
I see. And the others?

Tracy McLean
Well, that would be decisions to be made with the community. I don't know what the decision are, if they're going to remove AP Hill statue or not, because his body is under there. I think that actually having a museum for all the statues would be good, because then whoever wants to visit the museum, they can and will get revenue for them from that museum for this back for the city, and his body should go to Hollywood Cemetery.

Bill Fitzgerald
All right. Well, good. Let's talk now about evictions. The moratorium has ended. What needs to be done to keep people from losing their homes? Because obviously, a lot of people have lost work. A lot of businesses are not going to open again. What do you say to the landlord who says "Hey, you know, I've got to pay my mortgage on this building, just like everybody else that owns the building?"

Tracy McLean
Well I know that as far as with the landlord, I wanted the landlord and tenants to have a great, awesome relationship because the relationship actually saves a lot of things. Some, some landlords are not trying to hear it. I think that we have should have had a system set up because landlords actually received money from PPP. And because we don't know which landlords did, we don't know if someone is double dipping, and so that was, it's very important that we know that.

Bill Fitzgerald
Double dipping, in that case, would mean taking the payroll protection money, right? And then what? Evicting tenants and not cutting a break?

Tracy McLean
Right. Evicting the tenant from the payroll protection money. Evicting the tenants and not, receiving the tenant's money, excuse me, the money that's coming from the city that is actually trying to help the tenant. So making, right now everybody has a hard time. Virginia has not paid the rest of the money for a lot of our tenants' unemployment so they're hanging in a balance. Something needs to be done. For the city, I know the state did not grant the governor but the mayor can do something right now. And he needs to do it right now.

Bill Fitzgerald
Alright, let's check-in again with Jake and see what's happening on Facebook.

Jake Burns
Yeah, Bill. So the question from Cassandra McCray, and it's a simple question, but it's got a lot of layers to this answer I would think. She asked, "How are you going to make the housing projects in Richmond safer?" Obviously, that's an issue that has a lot of different layers to it, as I mentioned, but what would your plan be in order to make that happen in the city?

Tracy McLean
Well, it's something that I know about and I understand. The first thing is, the projects in the city of Richmond, they do need to come down but because we have residents in them, we have to do a transition. It's very important to do a transition so that they're okay when we move them. We're just gonna relocate them for a little bit but they'll have the first choice, first pick. I would like to build homes for homeownership on the property. Then, when that property is developed, they'll have a place they're back where they're at. Now as far as the crime being in the neighborhood, I can tell you that I know reparation will definitely help with lowering the crime rate simply because it has been a battle between the haves and the have-nots for a long time and so some things you worry about, it's frustrating. You have layers of anger, and anger in issues that you go through and so what we're seeing is actually minimal. If we don't get the right person in, in the city and Richmond, it's not going to be good. If we don't get anyone in the city, as the mayor that cares about the people, then it's not going to be good for the city of Richmond.

Bill Fitzgerald
How do you convince people who live in areas that don't have affordable housing, whether you call it low-income housing, Section 8, federal subsidized housing. How do you convince people to say "You know what, we need to have multiple levels here in every neighborhood, or at least most neighborhoods." How do you convince somebody in the near West End to say "Hey put this apartment, well it's not an apartment complex, like a high rise, but it used to be a multifamily unit of some sort."

Tracy McLean
It's a stigma with low income and people who are on low income are people too. The biggest thing that I keep saying is a cohesive community and I keep saying that because once you get to meet someone, you actually get to know that they're good people, you actually get to know that I don't mind living next door to you, you know. That's the biggest thing. You just got to give a chance that we can get together as a cohesive community and make this happen. We have to do this. It's definitely for a better Richmond.

Bill Fitzgerald
Yeah because when you have these isolated islands that become islands of poverty, and all the issues that are endemic in that, whether it's crime, drugs, whatever.

Tracy McLean
And it'll spill over so no matter if you try to push something into one area, it's gonna always spill over and come out.

Bill Fitzgerald
And there's obviously a price tag to all of this and you'd have to present a balanced budget to the City Council. Are there areas that you see where you could cut to come up with some of those funds? Is there bloat in the budget that are shifting of resources that you see is kind of obvious?

Tracy McLean
I think that if we could actually get a higher tax payment from the state and more money from VCU, well get money from VCU like a tax in lieu payment, then that's some money towards, you know, making Richmond a better place. I'm sure that they would love to be a part of that. Also, some of the blighted properties that we have, I think that if we can put them back on the books and start collecting some taxes with that, or even developing them for units, you know, for units that we could use to sell or to house some of the people that are coming from the projects.

Bill Fitzgerald
Alright, let's check in again with Jake and see who else has posted a question here on Facebook.

Jake Burns
We've gotten a couple of really good questions here Bill. A lot of them really focused on maybe policy issues but also just on you Miss McLean and your style of leadership, wanting to get to know you a little bit better. CJ Richardson wrote on Facebook a little while ago, a pretty simple question. I think one that is really telling. He asks "What is your first day must-do if you are elected mayor of the city of Richmond?"

Tracy McLean
Oh my goodness. Okay. So, Mr. Richardson, the first thing I'm going to do if I'm elected is I'm going to go to my office and say "Thank you, God." And then the second thing that I'm going to do, well, I would have done this before I've even stepped into the office. Knowing who should still be at the City Hall, who should still have their job. If it's a situation that they don't know how to do their job, then I would definitely go down there, meet with them, talk to them, and trying to make everything work.

Bill Fitzgerald
Mayor Stoney said that as well when he first took office. That he'd audit every department and almost, you know, standard delivery of kind of who's doing what and how efficient is it. Could it possibly have gotten less efficient over these four years? Is that as low hanging fruit that's something that needs to be done?

Tracy McLean
It definitely needs to be done. I think the situation is that they're dealing with technology that is so old like dinosaurs. So I want to make sure that when I would go into each department and do my auditing, that I would actually go there to ask questions and to listen to their concerns because it might not just be them. They might can't do their work the way they should because they don't have the proper supplies or the proper computers.

Bill Fitzgerald
Yeah, technology. Jake, we'll get back to you again.

Jake Burns
Yeah, Andrea Brooks actually just wrote into us on Facebook. Pretty interesting and I know you guys had this conversation a little bit just a few minutes ago but Miss McLean, my understanding is you are an RPS student formerly and that your family lives here, obviously. She asks, "Education is critical for all of our children. What measures would you take to ensure the future of the city schools?" I know you guys have a plan on your website about that, and specifically with the COVID situation, but I wonder what big picture ticket item, what big picture items do you think needs to happen in RPS to make sure there is an equitable education throughout the city?

Tracy McLean
Okay, so definitely the technology at each school. I feel that every school that we have that's not new, we need to build a new school. We need to make sure that the kids have everything that they could possibly need to actually learn. Beyond that, they need to have teachers that are qualified and willing to give a part of themselves to each student. Counselors, English and Spanish speaking, a principal that really cares about their student. It actually takes a village to teach one kid so that's the thought that I would have in the schools. We actually, over and over again, I'll say this over and over again, but a cohesive community, a family, and those are the things where when you have that you won't go wrong, you'll make sure that everybody will be taken care of, and nobody will fall through the cracks.

Bill Fitzgerald
And Jason Kamras, do you care to read his superintendency? I think that's the word. The job he's done as superintendent of Richmond Public Schools?

Tracy McLean
Well, this is a thing. A lot of people have jobs but they're not given the proper supplies or the proper platform when they come in so for him, he has a little work to do but I don't feel like, like I said about the police chief, if we keep firing people, they'll never get it right. So what we're trying to do is make sure that they understand exactly what we need and get it done.

Bill Fitzgerald
Pretty straightforward. Anything else Jake that's salient right now?

Jake Burns
Yeah, you know, I think we're getting close to the end of our time here and Michael Ross, our Facebook friend, had a pretty good question. A simple one again, but I kind of like the simple questions to be candid with you. You know you, obviously one of several candidates in this race, and for all those undecided voters out there who have not cast their ballots just yet in the city of Richmond, he wonders what qualities you have that you feel separates you from the field?

Tracy McLean
Well, the main quality that I have is that I am a people's mayor. I will go out to the community and I will listen to the community. I walk the community. I will meet the people. I will understand the people. I am the people. I am you and you are me. The reason why I'm running is because we always put people in office that don't understand nothing we go through. I'm the person that'll understand. I'm the person who understands. And I understand and I have the solution because I might have been through it. I might know someone who's been through it and they made it through. That's my quality.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, that is an excellent way to end this session. Tracy McLean, we wish you the best of luck. Thank you for spending time with us and taking the time to answer those questions so thoroughly and in-depth. Very rewarding and thanks to our Facebook friends, fans for your contributions too, and of course, the illustrious Jake Burns, who definitely managed that. Thank goodness you have such good eyes. Thank you. We'll be back again tomorrow night for another edition but in the meantime, have a great night.

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🗳️Complete Local Coverage: Election 2020

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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
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