How state leaders plan to rejuvenate and revitalize Petersburg

Posted at 11:35 AM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 21:43:57-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Governor Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) and other state and city leaders detailed a plan Monday to rejuvenate and revitalize the city of Petersburg.

The “Partnership for Petersburg” is a multifaceted plan to improve education, public safety, health, and transportation issues, among others, that have plagued the city for decades.

“Let’s go to work,” Gov. Youngkin said at the end of a two-hour-long presentation at the city’s public library.

Youngkin spent Monday morning laying out a plan of action aimed at multiple facets of the city to tackle issues that have plagued Petersburg for decades.

"Six pillars, 42 initiatives, 61 organizations participating. This is a big day," Youngkin said. "To in fact make Petersburg children's lives better and to make all the citizens of Petersburg's lives and livelihood better."

“It’s going to be a turning point in our city’s history,” Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham said while introducing the governor.

The education plan calls for the city to partner with Virginia State University (VSU) and Richard Bland College to launch lab schools, which feature smaller student-to-teacher ratios and innovative learning methods, according to Aimee Guderua, Virginia’s secretary of education.

"This commitment is about setting up at least one or two lab schools that will bring innovative choices for Petersburg families."

The focus on education will not only touch on classroom teaching but before and after school activities as well.

"We are just so excited because the city council stepped up and funded the before and after school programs with the Y. So we're putting that back in place and then the state also stepped in and they're funding our early childhood center for before and after school care so it's a safe place for our students, keeps our kids off the streets."

To combat health-related issues in Petersburg, where people have a lower life expectancy than in other parts of the state, office hours will be expanded at Crater Health District offices.

"Life expectancy is almost 13 years lower here than it is for the rest of the Commonwealth. We will expand the Crater Health District office hours and services so we ensure we are responsive to the community needs. This involves hiring additional nurses and staff to do that and to reinstate the After Hours Men's Health Clinic."

Crime was also a topic of discussion, with violent crime in Petersburg being 344% higher than the state average.

The issue is considered a top priority, starting with having two members of the state attorney general's office team up with federal agents in the U.S. attorney's office.

"They're going to be focused like a laser in Petersburg and Richmond, going after repeat, violent offenders, going after those using guns in the commission of crimes and getting them off the streets," Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said.

Repeat violent offenders are responsible for an outsized number of those incidents, according to Attorney General Jason Miyares (R - Virginia), who announced that his office will assign two special prosecutors to work with the U.S. Attorney to prosecute repeat offenders.

Another target is fighting crime in the streets.

"We will create and maintain a relationship that will increase training as well as the number of law enforcement officers in Petersburg."

Since April, a partnership with the Virginia State Police to patrol the streets of Petersburg has seen a reduction in crime.

Those in attendance also promised to focus on fixing transportation issues, including limiting the number of ambulances having to give rides for non-emergency services.

They also vowed to quickly bring down the Ramada Inn, which has been abandoned and graffiti-covered for years and is the first thing many travelers see in Petersburg when approaching the city from the south on Interstate 95.

“We are taking a sledgehammer to it this afternoon,” Youngkin said.

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