Candidates for mayor and city council in Richmond gathered at Miracle Temple Church on Saturday for a town hall-style debate. Each candidate presented their campaign platform and spoke on issues that they care about. There was also a section for community questions where the public had the opportunity to raise their voices and ask the candidates about matters that affect their community on a daily basis. During the debate, audience members gave questions to the moderators who presented them to the candidates. Depending on the question, typically only three candidates were allowed to reply to each prompt. To help keep readers informed, Radio Free Richmond is providing a summary of the community questions and responses below.
The first question was about DMC: what would candidates do to ensure that Richmond has a hospital? Jovanka Beckles, Coorky Boozé, and Pastor Washington answered this question, with Beckles and Washington answering in the same vein. To these two, it is going to take an empowered community that doesn't fall to pessimism to guarantee that Richmond has a hospital. They said they believe the best hope is the bill currently awaiting the Governor's approval. In contrast, Boozé criticized City Council candidate Jael Myrick's track record on DMC.
Next came a concern about Richmond's reentry population: what are the candidates going to do to help formerly incarcerated people transition back into society? City Council candidates Dameion King, Anthony Creer, and Al Martinez answered this question. Each called for stronger community support systems, programs to assist individuals, and trust among the reentry population.
The next two questions focused on the city's youth. The first called for the mayoral candidates to address minimum wage in Richmond and how to improve it. Uche Uwahemu proposed the opening of a technical school in the city and Tom Butt cited his vote in favor of a minimum wage ordinance. Nat Bates, the third mayoral candidate, had to leave the debate early and was not available to respond in the community questions segment of the debate.
The second question about Richmond youth focused on crime rates and was open to all candidates: what can be done to improve crime rates among the city's young population? As each candidate stood to answer the question, many described stronger community bonds as the best solution. Anthony Creer, Jim Rogers, and Dameion King spoke along these lines, and Jael Myrick spoke of Richmond Promise, a program he spearheaded and funded by Chevron to guarantee college tuition to Richmond graduates.
In a moment that spoke directly to the relationship between elected officials and members of the public, one question asked the candidates to explain how they plan to hear the voices of their constituents. Tom Butt and Jovanka Beckles expressed the many ways in which they believe they currently communicate to the public on a regular basis, while Coorky Boozé mentioned that people can call his office or find him at Casper's Hot Dogs. Pastor Washington said that he would like to serve as a bridge between communities and city government.
As the answer to this final question demonstrates, there will be many ways to connect with all of Richmond's candidates in the coming weeks. Another opportunity will come this Wednesday night with the Marina Neighborhood Council Candidate Night at the Marina Harbour Master's Office, 1340 Marina Way South, at 7:30 pm.