City Council candidates have different visions for Richmond’s 2nd District

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — You may know the candidates hoping to represent your district in Richmond City Council, but do you know about them?

What do they think is the biggest issue in your district? What’s their plan to fix city schools and improve efficiency within city government? 8News asked these questions to every candidate on this year’s ballot in an effort to help you — the voter — decide which one shares in your vision for a better Richmond.

In Richmond’s 1st District, three candidates will be vying for the seat: Vice President of the Fan District Association Charlie Diradour, former school board member Kim Gray and a 24-year-old social worker and recent VCU grad Rebecca Keel.

diradourA.S. “Charlie” Diradour

A.S. “Charlie” Diradour grew up working in The Fan and has been in business in and around The Fan for 25 years after graduating from VCU. Diradour and his wife are currently raising their three daughters in The Fan. He is a local real estate developer and longtime political advisor, mostly working on local campaigns. Currently he serves as vice president of the Fan District Association. 

What do you feel is the biggest problem in your district and how to you plan to solve it?

The biggest issue we have in our district is how we budget. The budgeting process has not allowed us to upgrade our school facilities, fix our streets and sidewalks, light our sidewalks properly, and finally pay our police and fire fighters on a level commensurate with our county neighbors. The residents and businesses, artisans, and artists are succeeding despite city hall, not because of it.

Specifically, what will you do to improve city schools?

Proper budgeting will fix what is wrong with our schools. The annual protests at city hall will stop when we create real communication between the School Board and the City Council. Finding the waste in city government and returning those dollars to the general fund will allow us to not only satisfy the very real needs of students and teachers, it will also allow members of both bodies, as well as the Mayor, to target those dollars into the classrooms, where they belong.

How do you plan to improve efficiency within city government?

I will work with all council members and our mayor to hold open hearings, asking the twenty-six department heads to bring reports to us that show clearly where the ten percent of waste in their department can be found. We have a 700 million dollar general fund budget. Ten percent would yield approximately seventy million dollars. Many of our immediate needs could be met with that seventy million. I will also work to place leaf collection and snow removal line items in the budget.

kim-grayKimberly B. Gray

Kim Gray is a native Richmonder and longtime resident of Jackson Ward. She was appointed by Governor Mark Warner in 2003 to implement his innovative Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools (PASS) initiative. Her work on behalf of Virginia’s communities continued with a four-year appointment under Governor Tim Kaine. She is a graduate of the prestigious Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, and is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond. Other civic services includes membership in The Junior League of Richmond and the Historic Jackson Ward Association. In 2008 she was elected to the Richmond School Board, where she has served as the 2nd District Representative for two terms.

What do you feel is the biggest problem in your district and how to you plan to solve it?

Redevelopment of The Boulevard will be the 2nd District’s biggest challenge. I’m committed to ensuring that the City makes its decisions based on what’s best for the surrounding communities, as well as the City as a whole. I will call for a public planning process and increased transparency.

Specifically, what will you do to improve city schools?

Establishing a dedicated funding stream for City schools is critical. I will work to make the case to my Council colleagues that full funding is necessary for our School System. Given the understanding I have of the Schools process, I can also provide assurances that tax-payer money is being well-spent.

How do you plan to improve efficiency within city government?

I will call for the same level of accountability and transparency that I’ve brought to the School System which in turn leads to greater efficiency.

45455Rebecca “K.W.” Keel

Rebecca “K.W.” Keel is a 24-year-old Richmond native who is a 2016 graduate of VCU’s Social Work Maters program. She is albino/African American and a member of the LGBTQ community. She currently works in various Richmond public schools and community organizations, teaching conflict resolution skills to young people and adults. Her main mode of transportation is biking around the city.

What do you feel is the biggest problem in your district and how to you plan to solve it?

The 2nd District is widespread and faces a multitude of issues. VCU is not properly integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods, streets need to be repaired/repaved accompanied with better signage, and the baseball stadium/Boulevard development conversation has begun again.

Specifically, what will you do to improve city schools?

I will identify and implement a dedicated funding stream to our public schools and work collaboratively with the School Board (that means actually going to School Board meetings) to ensure funds are being distributed sensibly.

How do you plan to improve efficiency within city government?

This will come in steps. First, identifying through intentional research, our largest areas of wasteful spending, and then making cuts. Then we must better utilize technology alongside developing more human capital. Further, city leaders must all be more transparent about our decisions making processes, so constituents are aware of the inner-workings and struggles of the city. There are many talented individuals and skilled organizations in Richmond, that if, trusted the city more, could potentially help get our local government back on track and working efficiently for and by the people.

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