Good Government

Jack is running for mayor to make Richmond a high performing city that is a magnet of opportunity for young people, families, and those who have been left behind. That starts with making City Hall work for all residents.

1. Get the politics out of City Hall

Jack will end the infighting in the mayor’s office, and between various functions of the city whether it’s between the school board and mayor’s office or city council and the mayor. Jack will bring Richmond leaders together to tackle the tough issues the city faces. All hiring under the mayor will be merit based – no more giving out jobs to family and friends.

2. Provide basic services well

There is no excuse that leaves can’t be picked up before the first snow and that bulk trash sits in alleys for weeks. As mayor, Jack will immediately implement an efficient and regular schedule for cutting the trash, leaf pick up, and snow removal, among other services. He will prioritize repairing streets and filling pot holes, and will produce a public schedule on the city’s website so residents to see exactly when different parts of the city will see repairs. Complaints and tips from residents will be responded to within 48 hours.

3. Increase transparency

Jack will be a transparent mayor. He will regularly be available for citizens to visit the mayor’s office. He will hold regular public meetings to discuss issues with citizens. And he will end backroom meetings and hidden agendas. Richmond citizens will be fully informed about the ongoing at City Hall. The city’s budget will be posted online and updated throughout the approval process. Audits will be performed regularly, with the results shared online.


Education

Jack’s top five priorities focus on uniting the community around Richmond schools, creating a five-year financial plan for RPS, supporting the city’s teachers, fixing neglected buildings, and implementing school improvement programs.

1. Unite the community in support of Richmond Public Schools

As Mayor, Berry will convene a Mayor’s Education Advisory Council with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, School Board and Superintendent, City Council, nonprofits serving Richmond schools, the business community, parents and teachers to create a united effort to support and to stimulate change for Richmond Public Schools. With Berry as Mayor, City Hall and the school system will no longer work against each other, but instead, will work in tandem with the community to improve Richmond schools. There will be regular meetings of elected and appointed officials, a designated liaison from the Mayor’s Office to RPS, and a coordinated strategy. Just like he did in Hanover, Berry will make City Hall a credible and capable partner so that community resources are drawn to the effort, not repelled by dysfunction. Berry does not just talk about unifying efforts to support kids he has done it.

2. Create a Five-Year Financial Plan for Richmond Public Schools

Berry believes that funding for RPS should be predictable and reliable. Berry will create a Five-year Financial Plan with a funding stream for the baseline budget that is tied to a percentage of the city’s real estate tax revenues. In the future, budget debates will focus on enhancements not core services. Five-Year budget planning was a hallmark of his tenure as the Hanover County Administrator. It forced a constant dialog about issues, opportunities and constraints, which made everyone aware of the challenges faced by each other, and promoted teamwork toward the common goal. Berry does not just talk about results-oriented budget planning he has done it.

3. Value teachers and reward performance and experience

We cannot weaken the organization by having good teachers leave after a few years. Currently, almost half of RPS teachers have stayed five years or less. Many teachers face burnout and are discouraged when merit increases are withheld year after year. Through the budget plan, Berry will ensure that adequate funding is in place to reward experienced teachers, provide classroom support and implement recruitment efforts to attract the best teachers to Richmond’s schools. In the past, Berry has helped lead recruiting missions to teacher job fairs in other cities (borrowing corporate aircraft for the trips) and has annually hosted teacher recognition events to thank new teachers for their commitment to our children. Berry does not just talk about valuing teachers he has done it.

4. Fix neglected buildings and build for the future

Every child in the city deserves to be learning in clean, safe, high-quality classrooms fit for 21st century learning, not buildings with ceilings falling down and mold issues. Every building does not have to be new, but every building should be functional. Much work has already been done to chart a course for renovations, consolidations, expansions and new schools, but plans are meaningless without an implementation strategy. The City’s debt capacity is limited, but there are creative financing strategies to get the first phase of improvements underway quickly. In the first 60 days as mayor, Berry will propose a plan of finance that breaks the log jam, honors the City’s financial and debt policies, and preserves the City’s credit rating. He will redirect savings from the City budget to schools, re-order some of the priorities in the City’s 5- Year Capital Improvement Program, and pursue interim financing strategies that overcome short term constraints. He will work with the Superintendent to fix RPS school buildings that are falling apart and improve learning environments at neglected RPS schools.

5. Support school improvement programs targeted to schools facing biggest challenges

Too many children are attending underperforming schools because of where they live, and because other opportunities are not within reach. Schools are not immune from society’s ills and are often a reflection of the communities they serve. Berry will work in tandem with RPS to target resources to the greatest needs within struggling schools. He will support school turn-around programs that may include lower class sizes, more reading and math specialists, more teacher aides, and incentives for teachers to take on the toughest assignments. He will also support community efforts such as existing faith-based mentoring initiatives and the Communities in Schools program. His school strategy will go hand in hand with his strategy to reduce poverty and build healthy, mixed income neighborhoods.


Public Safety

After seeing years of decline, Richmond’s 2016 homicide rate reached last year’s total number in September, making 2016 the deadliest year in a decade. All but seven homicides this year were a result of gun violence. At the same time, Richmond has one of the highest crime rates in the country for a city of its size. Our approach to improving public safety in the city must be multifaceted.

Jack will work to fully fund the Richmond Police Department to ensure there are no vacancies in our police force and that policy officers and support staff are seeing regular pay increases. Currently, Richmond police officers are paid less than surrounding counties, leading to difficulty retaining officers and strain on our police force.

Jack will also continue to support the efforts of Richmond’s police chief, Alfred Durham, on his efforts to build safe neighborhoods. His approach will be community driven, supporting community engagement efforts and other programs led by Durham and his department.

In partnership with the police department and school district, Jack will work to end the school to prison pipeline. He will support the Law Enforcement Intervention Focused on Education program started by Durham to keep students in the classroom and out of jail. Jack’s approach will work hand in hand with his education priorities to strengthen our schools and increase performance of all Richmond students.

Reducing crime and improving public safety must start in Richmond communities. Jack will strengthen the mayor’s Community Wealth Building Office, working to attack poverty on a multitude of fronts including housing, transportation, job training and health.


Environment

One of the best things about living in Richmond is the James River. The James River and its Class V rapids run right through the city. It’s a major economic driver for the city, hosting concerts, events, and festivals year-round. Jack will work to protect this great natural resource.

One priority will be Reedy Creek. After touring the Reedy Creek relocation project area with neighbors and environmental scientists, and joining the League of Conservation Voters in a volunteer work day removing invasive plants from park, Jack announced that as mayor he will halt the Reedy Creek relocation project pending a comprehensive analysis of alternatives for improving water quality in the watershed.

“The Reedy Creek restoration project is a misnomer. It is not about restoration, it is about relocation of natural streams into engineered channels,” said Berry. “Just because the City project is relatively easy to construct does not mean that it is good for the park, the natural environment, the watershed or the Chesapeake Bay.”

This project is being pursued by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in order to obtain “credits” for work done to improve the Chesapeake Bay. This particular project was selected in part because the City owns the property and would not need to obtain easements from private property owners.

Stream restorations are a popular way for localities to obtain credits for removing nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. Some projects have much more environmental benefit than others.

“The relocation project will do nothing to change the underlying problem, which is the volume and velocity of the water coming down the channel from the large upstream drainage area,” said Berry. “There may be much better alternatives than clear-cutting a large section of the park, removing over 400 trees, and relocating and backfilling portions of several natural stream beds. More attention should be focused on the upstream source of the problem.”

The project includes Reedy Creek and Crooked Branch, a tributary within the Crooked Branch Ravine Park. The project is downstream from a concrete channel that concentrates storm water.


Economic Development

For the first time in a long time, more moving vans are bringing new residents into the city than moving them out. Jack will work to continue this trend.

Jack will prioritize quality of life initiatives to attract young professionals and new businesses to the city. He will support a cycling infrastructure that focuses on equity as well as recreation. He will implement a riverfront plan to protect the James River while also garnering the opportunities that lie along it. And, he will work hand in hand with associated city agencies to promote small businesses, the growing restaurant scene, and HUB zone tax credit opportunities for new businesses.

Economic development goes hand in hand with education. A strong public education system will encourage families to stay in the city and bring new business to the city. Through his five education priorities, Jack will strengthen Richmond Public Schools so that every child in the city has access to a top-quality education regardless of their zip code.