Candidates set the tone for election season at Hilltop Forum

blogimage.jpgEach of Richmond's candidates for office has a very different vision for the city's future. This became apparent on Saturday when 14 candidates for office in Richmond gathered in the conference room at the Hilltop Mall for an open forum. Before an audience of nearly 70 Richmond residents, topics ranged from issues around transportation for the city's elderly population, to whether or not to put an LED sign on the highway to attract customers to the mall.

The candidates gave their views on each item presented, and they often clashed with one another. By the end of the forum it was clear that while each candidate is looking to create a different future for the city, there are some things that everyone wants to improve upon.

The forum was organized by the Hilltop District Homeowners & Stakeholders association, and it was facilitated by Robert Rogers of the Contra Costa Times. Rogers started out by asking questions that affect the local Hilltop Neighborhood, and while the candidates' answers varied, they fell under two main categories: moving forward and continuing recent progress, or returning to the Richmond of a more affluent time.

The three mayoral candidates established this theme with their introductions. Nat Bates recalled his history on City Council and in the mayoral seat, and promised to bring his experience to the seat again if elected. Tom Butt recounted his 19 years on City Council, and he vowed to invest in the city's infrastructure. Uche Uwahemu, in contrast, presented himself as a fresh candidate and said that the city needs new faces in its government. While other candidates didn't call for the overhaul in government that Uwahemu proposed, many did demand a shift in how the city is run.

One main area of agreement among all of the candidates is that the dysfunction in City Council is damaging the city. City Council. Incumbent City Council candidate Jim Rogers cited the theatre of City Council as a main reason that businesses aren't coming to Richmond, which has resulted in the economic hardship of the Hilltop District. Pastor Henry Washington called for more communication across the Chamber, and mentioned that its absence has left the city government in shambles. Mayoral candidate Nat Bates blamed the city's troubled City Council on a lack of representation from all parts of the city. While some parts have many voices speaking for them, Bates explained, others have hardly any. Throughout the forum, candidate after candidate weighed in on the many problems facing the city government and how they propose to fix them.

Calls for returning Richmond to a city that is truly a place of pride and purpose were also echoed throughout the forum. How each candidate envisioned going about this endeavor varied widely and presented conflicting views of the past few years and what is needed in the years to come. Donna Powers called for a more engaged leadership in the Hilltop neighborhood to track down mishandled funds that were allocated to projects there. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who is running for City Council, proposed renovating the city's parks, and Henry Washington laid out a plan for economic prosperity for downtown Richmond that would return the city to its glory days of the past.

While it was clear that many of these candidates have very different visions of what the future holds for Richmond and how to get there, their shared interest in bettering the city and strengthening the community was apparent in all of their answers. As election season marches on, there will be more opportunities for these candidates to share their visions for the city's future, and from now until Election Day on November 4th, Radio Free Richmond will continue to provide community-focused coverage of these events.

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