Mayor Dwight C. Jones highlighted Richmond’s economic growth and resurgence over the previous year in his final State of the City Address on Jan. 28 at the Sara Belle Neil November Theatre.
The speech comes amid controversy surrounding the mayor’s involvement in the renovation of a church which he is a pastor of. In the nearly 40-minute speech, the mayor discussed his plans to raise community wealth, upgrade the city’s transit and raise funding for Richmond’s public schools.
“I want to focus more on the direction we are going in,” Jones told the at capacity Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre. “Seven years ago, we came into a time of economic distress. I said we would not tax our way out, we would not cut our way out, but implement pro-growth strategies.”
According to a report by Chmura Economics and Analytics, a local economics research firm, Richmond was hit harder by the 2007 recession due to its reliance on the banking and finance industries. However, the report says Richmond’s economy recovered at a rate higher than the state and the country during the Jones administration.
“Economic development is what it’s all about,” Jones said. “We have one of the hottest housing markets for 2016.”
Mayor Jones claimed that the city’s economic growth would be permanent due to a series of regulations, reforms and investments which he introduced. However, in Feb. 2015, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Julious Smith, the chairman of the city’s economic development authority, had called Richmond’s growth “unsustainable.”
In the speech, the 67-year old mayor highlighted the resurgence of Richmond’s housing market which he claimed is due to the city’s violent crime rate hitting at 45 year low.
Jones boasted the creation of the country’s first Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building.
“The cities success depends on everyone’s success,” Mayor Jones said while speaking on the cities inequality.
According to the American Community Survey, in 2012 the City had a poverty rate of 26 percent, a rate equal to that of Detroit.
Jones also said he saw the 2015 UCI Road World Cycling Championship as a success despite a report by Chumra which indicated that while the tournament had more spectators than initially predicted, the economic impact fell short of UCI’s predictions by nearly $60 million.
“The numbers tell the story though 650,000 spectators, 170 million dollars of economic impact,” Jones said, “If you missed it, you’ve missed the best party we’ve ever thrown.”
In September, October, December and January, The Commonwealth Times reported that small businesses around VCU had felt a negative impact during the race.
Jones also discussed his education plan for the city. According to this year’s adopted biennial fiscal plan the school board has asked for a 60 percent increase in funding. Jones stated in the speech that he planned to give the school board a 37 percent increase. The mayor said the increase in funding would require as much as a 15 cent increase on residential taxes, along with other various tax increases.
Jones, who originally proposed to pay for increased school funding last year without tax increases, said that Richmond needed to look at new taxes as an option. Mayor Jones announced that he would be in favor of a referendum on the issue in the upcoming November election.
“These are serious decisions that should not be made by me in my office, or the council alone,” Jones said. “Such an increase is a major decision and one that the public should be deeply involved in.”
The Times-Dispatch reports that on Jan. 14, Jones directed the Virginia state police to investigate the allegations that city public works director Emmanuel Adediran had violated the separation of church and state by using his city email to correspond with Church leaders.
“My legacy will not be determined by news articles, editorials or interviews. My legacy is the voice of the citizenry,” Jones said.
Staff Writer, Andrew Crider
Andrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook