At the close of the mayoral debate last night they thanked the 350 who showed up… Pardon? Must be new math. There was a good turn out (not 350) and a number of interesting people to meet. While Ross, Buttermilk & Mollassas and Tobacco Avenue live blogged nearby there was also Don (Save Richmond), Jon Baliles, FT Rea (Slant.blog) and possibly a few others I didn’t meet. There were also five guys running (ok, standing and talking) to be our next leader. They were:
Paul Goldman – Somewhere between Woody Allen and Marty Feldman with a good bit of David Kucinich. While I tended to agree with most of his statements I’m not sure if we would be seeing the rebirth of the downtown area if he had been mayor for the past four years. His is a needed voice to help remind people of the less glamourous spending and projects but I’m not convinced he would be an effective leader.
Robert Grey – Thurston Howell III. I’m still trying to remember the last time I saw someone wearing a blue blazer with brass buttons – it was either a yacht or country club. He. Did. Enunciate. Very. Well. Hard. To. Follow. Speech. That. Is. That. Clipped. Didn’t find him very inspiring nor very off-putting.
Dwight Jones – Probably the best speaker of the bunch. Did seem to say a lot without actually saying anything other than buzz words. Struck me as the person most able to take all sides into account and work as a consensus builder. Did manage, unlike others, not to roll his eyes and make faces when things were said that he didn’t agree with. He did promise me that he would do a drive by on Home Street to assess the situation in my neighbourhood. I’ll be interested to see if he does and if anything comes of it.
Bill Pantele – George Costanza. Showed a lot of disrespect to the other candidates by loudly drumming his fingers on the podium and sighing loudly when someone said something he didn’t like. His microphone really should have been turned off when it wasn’t his turn. Made some really big promises that would happen starting January 2nd. I liked some of the ideas but we just had a mayor who rules imperially, do we want to go there again. He just didn’t sound or act like someone who plays well with others.
Lawrence Williams – I guess there was another guy up there… He kept getting drowned out by Pantele’s drumming.
On some issues they agreed, on others they differed wildly. The problem, as I see it, is that with all the different competing jurisdictions (county, city, state) and the divergent interests and needs of the different council districts we need someone who can build consensus and move things forward. Another four years of gridlock and money wasted on infighting could undo the progress made in this city. We need the fiscal responsibility Goldman espouses and the big ideas of Pantele but I think Dwight Jones is going to get my vote.
Random thoughts on some of the issues…
Abandoned Housing – Seems there are about 1700 of them. One idea (Goldman) that was floated concerned seizing them, rehabbing and then making available to city police. Good thought, my neighbourhood’s rebirth was kick-started when a group rehabbed about a dozen homes, but who is going to pay for that? I’d like to hear more.
Gilpin Court – Accross the tracks from my ‘hood so of great concern. Lot’s of ideas but this one looks like it could get ugly. On track to be demolished but where do you put all the people. Concentrating poverty in one spot seems, to me, to lead to despair and crime. Spread them out all over the city and give the kids a chance to break the cycle.
Mass Transit – Pantele kept promising a trolley system for downtown the moment he takes office. Sounds cute but not sure how much that will accomplish. I looked into taking the bus from North Avenue to my store near Broad & Libbie when gas prices started spiking. Best case scenario looked to be an hour and a half trip each way. Ugh. My wish would be for light rail. A East/West Line from CapOne West Creek or Short Pump taking Broad to Downtown or Churchill and a North/South Line from VA Center down Brook or Chamberlayne to the Southside. Add bus lines for each neighbourhood station and you’ve got a system. Doubt it will happen but as one candidate said – ‘we can’t keep laying asphalt’ (sorry, forgot which one…). I feel the growth of Richmond will be constrained if we don’t have effective mass transit and this may be a huge issue as the world runs out of oil. Also curious as to why GRTC serves RVA and Chesterfield but Chesterfield doesn’t contribute…
VCU Expansion – They all seem to think it has moved far enough into the downtown area and it sounds like that it might be the end of expansion in that direction. Isn’t Virginia Union on shaky ground? Maybe a merger is in order. Doesn’t VCU need a football team?
Baseball – While the other candidates argued about location (the Bottom or Boulevard) Lawrence Williams stepped out of the shadows to remind everyone we have more pressing issues. Baseball is a ‘nice to have’ and would generate revenue (supposedly) but the city will not wither and die without it. Which brings us to…
The Budget – Personally, I was not aware that we may be close to circling the fiscal drain. I didn’t think we were flush, but the potential shortfalls the candidates were talking about were large enough to give pause. You look around the city and see the number of projects that are at various stages of completion (or simply holes in the city scape) and wonder what will happen if the money starts running out. Goldman is right about one thing, we need to finish what we’ve started before starting on too many new things.