Party on the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge!

The T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge will officially open this Friday, December 2nd.

Photo by: sandy’s dad

I’ve officially decided that the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge (aka the T-Pot Bridge) is the first piece in a next-level Richmond that we’re about to see unfold before us over the next couple of years. A seemingly undoable task—to build a new bridge over the James River, one that’s specifically not for cars!—has now been proven totally doable, and this Friday it opens to the public.

Join Mayor Jones (what’s the over/under for a Mayor-Elect sighting?) at 5:45 PM down on Brown’s Island for official ribbon cutting business, followed by an on-river view of the Grand Illumination at 6:00 PM. Unless you are a drone, this will be the first time folks have watched the City turn its lights on from this particular point in Richmond.

More than just a sweet spot to hang out, hold hands, and gaze at our city, the T-Pot bridge provides a much-needed bike and pedestrian connection from the Southside to downtown. It’s a project we can check off of our Riverfront plan. It’s a major piece of infrastructure that almost everyone is stoked about.

The T-Pot Bridge is some next-level urbanism! And it’s just the beginning.

Go Do This: RVA Tonight Christmas Spectacular

Feeling like the past month or so has crushed your soul? Fear not, RVA Tonight is here to reinflate, featuring Levar Stoney, Natalie Prass, Eric Slick, and more.

What it is

It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of year when radio stations start playing Christmas music 24/7, shopping malls turn into what we can only imagine the North Pole looks like, and Starbucks…uh, explodes. This is also the time of year that every country-wide late night talk shows throw in some sort of holiday twist, and our own Richmond talk show is no exception.

Wait, Richmond has a late night talk show?

Um, yes. RVA Tonight is a two-and-a-half year running show, formatted like any other great late night talk show with one-liners, special guests, and live music. They’ve hosted local celebrities like Todd “Parney” Parnell from the Richmond Squirrels, Doug Orleski creator of RVA Coffee Stain cartoons, Mike Henry (voice of Cleveland Brown? Anyone?!), and even Governor Terry McAuliffe.

And what’s a great late night talk show without a great late night talk show host? Enter: Beau Cribbs. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s interesting, and he’s personable. Plus, he looks darn adorable in a Santa hat.

The RVA Tonight Christmas Spectacular will feature local musician and global phenomenon Natalie Prass, her boo/accomplished musician and composer/songwriter Eric Slick, and our favorite future mayor, Levar Stoney. Plus, some surprise special guests! (I have no idea what that means.)

This Christmas special might not bring the warm innocence of A Charlie Brown Christmas, or fill you with the holiday glow of It’s a Wonderful Life, or spring eternal hope like any Hallmark Christmas movie ever. But it’s witty, entertaining, and will probably make you laugh hard enough to make your round little belly shake like a bowl full of jelly.

It’s been a rough month, folks. Get some comedy back into your life.

Who’s behind it

Who else but those crazed, holiday-obsessed comedians at the Coalition Theater.

Where it is

The Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary Street

When it is

Friday, December 2nd at 8:00 PM

How much it costs


Other things to note

Hey, it’s one night only, and unlike any other late night talk show, you can’t DVR it. Or find it on Hulu. So get your dang tickets already!

Someone We Respect: Why Rachel Burgess Backs Berry

We asked people whose opinions we respect to tell us why they’re voting for whom they’re voting.

With only hours until the election, the race has narrowed. Many have picked their candidate, but there are many who have still yet to decide.

And it makes sense, we have two good choices in Berry and Stoney. I made up my mind on who I am voting for by thinking about what it will take to effectively address the biggest challenges facing our city, successfully attract young professionals and new businesses, run City Hall, and, in the end, unite all of us together. The answers to these questions lead this 33-year-old Millennial to see the advantages in a 62-year-old Boomer.

1. Effectively address the biggest challenges facing our city

A recent scientific survey conducted by the Chamber confirmed what everyone already knows—the biggest challenges facing our city are poverty, education, reducing crime, economic development, transportation, etc. However, this survey also uncovered something about these challenges that surprised many of us. Across all nine districts, City of Richmond residents want the next Mayor to address all of these major challenges on a regional basis. Across the board nearly 4 in 5 of us said we should be addressing transportation systems, public transit, economic development, poverty, and workforce development as a region. Why? We have all come to realize that these issues now effect all our jurisdictions and that they are just too big to effectively address alone. To be effective, we must act as a region the way we did when we built the convention center, ballpark, RMA, etc.

Berry or Stoney? One of the reasons we don’t effectively work well as a region is that our leaders don’t really know and trust one another like they did two decades ago. Berry knows and has the trust of our regional leaders. As Deputy City Manager and Chief of Staff in Richmond and as the County Manager of Hanover, Berry has spent decades building working and trusted relationships with county leaders. In fact, he mentored many of them. No surprise, Henrico has already offered their support to him in helping fix the Rapids billing system. When Berry calls everyone to the table to work on these most pressing issues, everyone will come.

Stoney’s 15 or so professional years have not been focused on Richmond and on understanding the challenges and building the key trusting relationships needed to address our challenges with regional partners. We don’t have time to wait as trusting, get-it-done relationships take time to build…like decades!

2. Help turn around Richmond Public Schools

In the Chamber study we learned that three quarters of respondents give the school system a grade of C or lower, citing the poor equipment and facilities. It is no question improving schools is one of the number one issues the new mayor needs to address.

The survey said our priorities, when it comes to turning around Richmond public schools, are to 1) work with City Council and the School Board to set clear expectations of funding based on results, 2) create a 5-year predictable source of funding (currently, the budget is created on an annual basis) and 3) identify areas where the School System can save money.

Collaborating with City Council and the School Board will be key in establishing clear funding expectations and developing predictable sources of funding.

Berry or Stoney? Berry already has great experience bringing people together and making things happen. Whether it’s a festival or his work while in Hanover where one of the many things he did was negotiate a long-term water deal with the City. More importantly, while Berry was in Hanover he helped them win approval for the largest school bond referendum in the County’s history. This bond allowed Hanover to build new schools, improve existing schools, and maintain its place as one of the best school systems in the state.

Jack has the experience and ability to bring people together to effectively address this top priority. And as he has the experience to tackle #1 (above) and #4 (below) it will allow for a clear path to focus time and money on improving schools.

3. Successfully attract young professionals and attract new businesses

I study demography for a living. The future will bring us relatively fewer younger people and relatively more older people. Cities are already starting to compete to become hot spots for young professionals. In economic development jargon, they call this new focus “placemaking.”

The new economic development model is to attract the people and the businesses will come—not the other way around.

Berry or Stoney? Berry was among the country’s first economic development leaders who invented placemaking—the festivals, the parks, the events, and even the RVA logo. Stoney has not had the opportunity to work in this placemaking space—to study what and how to attract young people and businesses.

4. Run City Hall Like a business

The City of Richmond municipal government is a big business—a $1 billion business. That’s B, as in Billions of dollars. Running this kind of sizable enterprise requires experience, wisdom, and grit. Grit doesn’t mean cleaning house, but it does mean ensuring that the best people are in a role for which they are qualified and accountable to goals and standards.

Berry or Stoney? Berry was the Deputy City Manager of Richmond. He knows the city’s budget and business of the city better than all of the candidates combined. He ran Hanover County, a $400 million business with 1,000+ employees. How could we possibly expect a 35-year-old with little business experience to run a $1 billion business? I couldn’t do it. None of my friends could.

5. In the end, unite all of us

On November 9, the unprecedented divisiveness of Election 2016 will be behind us. The road ahead will require a leader who can quickly unite disenfranchised communities.

Berry or Stoney? Berry will represent all of us equally. He grew up in Lynchburg where his mom was a civil rights activist and the first white teacher in an all black school and his father worked in city government. It was a regular occurrence for them to have African American families over for dinner—in the 60s in Lynchburg this was a big deal. Berry was the first white board member of the Metropolitan Business league. Berry is someone who knows how to collaborate, who can reach across lines and bring people and even our region together.

Stoney’s youth simply has not given him these kinds of life experiences and relationships to do the same. They will come, but we don’t have time to wait.

6. Berry has the best chance to win

The biggest threat to this election is Joe Morrissey, who as the Times-Dispatch recently detailed, is “a skilled politician who has smothered his own potential under decades of personal and professional misconduct.” He is not the leader we want, need, or deserve.

Berry or Stoney? Unfortunately, we have a system that does not rely on a popular vote to decide who becomes Mayor, the candidate must win 5 of 9 districts. If not, then it goes a runoff between the two candidates with the most votes citywide. A special election will be held December 22, and the candidate who again wins 5 of 9 will become mayor.

In the Chamber poll we see that Jack clearly has the lead in Districts 1, 2 and 4, and a recent survey shows Jack with large margins in the 3rd—with a significant decrease in Joe’s numbers. No polls show Levar winning any districts. The best Levar can do is get us to a runoff. If the large number of undecideds and the former Baliles supporters rally around Berry, especially in the 5th district, then he can win this outright—no runoff necessary.

All of this leads me to Berry. Please know that I have respect for Stoney, but at 35, he is not the man for this hour. There is too much at stake and too much that requires an experienced manager and leader. Someone with a proven track record who we know can make the tough decisions.

Once Berry is elected, he should find a key role for Stoney—to groom him for our future. If Stoney really loves RVA, he’d jump on it and become our Mayor-in-waiting. From what I have heard about Berry, it won’t be a long wait as Berry just wants to get us pointed in the right direction and not make a career (or second career) out of being a career politician.

Someone We Respect: Why Theresa Kennedy Backs Stoney

We asked people whose opinions we respect to tell us why they’re voting for whom they’re voting.

First, let me say that I love this city. I moved to Richmond in 2003, just after turning 24, and immediately felt like it was my home. I became an adult here (as, upon reflection, I was decidedly not an adult at 24), met and married my husband here, made many of my best friendships here, and had my children here. I am committed to the city of Richmond, to raising my family here, and to being a part of its vibrant community.

And that’s why this year’s mayoral election is so important to me. Because I am entrenched in this city, I want the best leader possible for it. I want a leader who cares about things like schools—about integrating them (for REAL this time) and making sure every kid at least gets an opportunity at a fair shot.

And I want a leader who wants to actually take on City Hall and make it a vibrant, forward-leaning, agile organization, because right now it’s at least 20 years behind in both technology and process, which makes execution poor (or unreliable at best). Getting personal property tax bills marked as “past due” after never receiving a “pay by” bill gets really frustrating year after year. And it’s absolutely ridiculous that a city that wants to attract businesses takes an inordinate amount of time to issue business permits.

I want a leader who won’t just invest in making Richmond a great place to visit (because festivals! Races! Restaurants! Events!) but will invest in ensuring that Richmond is a great place to LIVE and raise families—for every resident, not just for the wealthiest ones.

And I believe the leader that can deliver on all of these goals is Levar Stoney. Hs vision for the city is lockstep with my hopes for it. And I get it—he’s young. He’s two years younger than me, a fact that cut me deep when I first learned it (my late thirties are hitting me hard). And he’s arguably less experienced than someone with 40 years of work experience. But he’s smart, forward-thinking, has lots of support, and is driven.

Yes, he’s going places; yes, he has a long career ahead of him—this does not mean he’s not right for Richmond right now. It means that, because he has the longterm health of this city in mind, he’s perfect for Richmond right now. He doesn’t just want to make the city better for the next few years of his administration—he wants to set the foundation to take this city into the future. He wants to do what I wish leaders had been able to do 30 or 40 years ago.

You’re right. I’ve gulped down the Levar Stoney Kool-Aid. I am totally on the Levar Stoney bus. I am riding this train to Election Day.

But here’s reality: none of this matters. Who you want to win most of all is meaningless. Because there is a huge wrench in this plan—Joe Morrissey is, by all accounts, leading in a scary number of districts.

Yes, that Joe Morrissey—the one who was disgraced in 2013 and forced to resign from state office for having sex with a 17 year old (he was 57 at the time).

Joe Morrissey, who moved to the city not because he loves it but because he wants to resuscitate his political career and reputation by becoming its mayor. Joe Morrissey the liar, who sent out a “Democratic Ballot” mailer to 30,000 city residents earlier this week, implying that he’s the Democratic Nominee for mayor (he’s not).

We cannot have this man leading our city. He’s not only disgusting, but he will set Richmond back in all of the growth it has experienced over the last two decades.

But here’s the rub: Richmond’s mayor isn’t elected by popular vote. Richmond’s mayor is elected by district—whomever can win five of Richmond’s nine voting districts wins, regardless of popular vote. If no one candidate achieves plurality in five districts, there is a run-off between the top two vote-getters.

What does this mean for Stoney? Well, based on the only recent scientific poll (released by the Richmond Chamber on October 15—results available here (PDF)), the city is thoroughly divided. Jack Berry leads in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th. Joe Morrissey leads in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th. Stoney, however, is in second place in every district (with 38% of participants in the solidly undecided category and Stoney and Morrissey leading those who are undecided but leaning towards a candidate). This data points to Stoney being the only candidate who is attractive in all districts. The only candidate who can truly unite the city and the only candidate who can defeat Morrissey.

Berry is a well-respected, highly qualified, and committed public servant. I would not be upset to see him as mayor of our city—he clearly loves this city and has invested a great deal into it. He has lots of experience and a great business mind. This doesn’t, however, make him marketable to the city as a whole. It makes him relatable to businessmen and citizens with socio-economic advantages, but how can those who already feel like the city government has failed them trust someone who has never been in their shoes?

Stoney grew up without advantage. He understands what it’s like to want more for yourself and for your family. He can relate to those in the city who have limited faith in their city government’s ability to meet their needs. Yet, he’s also gained the trust of many powerful people—Terry McAuliffe tapped Stoney to be Secretary of the Commonwealth, despite being the youngest person to ever fill that position.

Joe Morrissey is vile and ill-suited for our city. However, he seems to be marketable to a large portion of our city. He’s well-known and his slogan is that he will fight for you—a very attractive proposition for a large portion of the city that feels (often rightly) to have been forgotten or ignored by City Hall.

In order to defeat Morrissey, we need a candidate who can relate to the residents who back Morrissey as well as a candidate who appeals to Berry backers. Stoney is a well-respected, highly qualified, and committed public servant who is relatable across the board. This makes him the smart choice—especially for anyone in a currently contentious district (FYI, districts 3, 5, and 7 are the battlegrounds).

Your vote is more than just who you want to win. Your vote is ensuring that the worst candidate doesn’t win by default. Choose wisely, my friend.

Racism sucks: Where does RVA go after blackface?

In the wake of Bopst-gate, what are our next steps? Tiffany Jana assures us that there ARE next steps, and it’s up to us to take them.

If you’re at all involved in Richmond’s social media, you’ve probably heard about Bopst-gate and the unfortunate blackface costume choice that a local music booker wore to work. The incident sparked much debate about the implications of blackface in 2016, the wearer’s intentions, his moral character, and whether or not the community should accept his multiple apologies.

I’ve seen everything being thrown around, from white privilege to reverse racism. Social media has been the vehicle of much distress for the offender, and I can’t even say people are hiding behind screens as they are lashing out under their real profile names and letting Bopst and everyone else know exactly where they think he and his supporters should go.

Some are mad at the perpetrator. Others are mad at people of color and the sympathizers who are calling Bopst out and choosing not to forgive him…yet.

But racism is nothing new in Richmond. Racism is in the bones of this city, but a great many people—myself among them—work diligently to purge this great city of its present and historical ills.

So the damage is done. Blackface was donned, yet again, in 2016. (Incidentally, we warn people about this every Halloween and for the life of us cannot understand why anyone still has not received the memo.)

In my opinion, the most heinous crimes included Balliceaux’s failure to hold an employee accountable for a brand-scourging, customer-alienating choice (they should have sent him home immediately) as well as people standing up and making light of Bopst’s reprehensible behavior.

Why do I name these as the biggest offenders and not the original sin?

Because people do racist shit all the time. Ask any person of color whether they have witnessed or heard anything racist lately, then sit down for awhile as they laugh at you and spill a laundry list of offenses. Don’t get me wrong, what Bopst did was a hot freaking mess. He resurrected a stereotype that was invented to mock, demean, and humiliate African Americans. Blackface helped cement the notion that black people are less than human, and this dehumanization helped non-black people feel OK about doing horrible things to my people without remorse. So yeah, what Chris Bopst did was really bad.

But here’s where 2016 comes in. We are supposed to know better, and therefore do better. Gone are the days where laughing at your racist uncle’s jokes is OK. If you let your friends say racist, sexist crap and you laugh or remain silent–YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Yes, I just yelled at the likes of Balliceaux and anyone else who still thinks it’s OK to remain willfully complicit in the degradation of others. If you saw Bopst that night and you laughed or said nothing, shame on you.

So really, where do we go from here?

We have to talk about this stuff openly. I know it’s hard—conversations like those are probably among the most challenging discussions you will ever have. But if you ever want to see a day where Richmond isn’t divided by class and race (and yes, it still is–concentrated poverty, segregated schools, and neighborhoods), then you must get over your fear of being uncomfortable and find some folks you trust to have safe conversations with.

Oh, you don’t know anyone different from you with whom you trust enough to share your deepest bias and questions? There’s the problem. If we continue to surround ourselves with people just like us, we will always be part of the problem. That’s why I just wrote a book on this very topic.

Think of a book like mine as a practical guide for all the well-meaning people who actually want to identify their biases and do something about them. And I suggest you look into doing just that. I offered this same advice to an RVA entrepreneur who stuck his nose into Bopst-gate and ended up causing irreparable damage to his brand. The name of the company sounds a lot like Swirly Turd Biscuit Symphony (STBS), and the owner feels like total crap for his misstep. He spoke out of turn, by most accounts seems genuinely remorseful, and will hopefully seek out some brutally honest discussions (and read my book).

However, like Bopst, STBS must apologize to RVA and the people he offended. Then the words of atonement must be followed with sincere and meaningful action. That’s where my opinion diverges from many of the people on social media in the Bopst debacle. Interestingly, it’s mostly white people who insist that everyone, including blacks, need to instantly forgive Bopst.

I was pleased to see the number of people (black, white, and others) who recognized that it’s not their place to force people to forgive. And while we appreciate the votes of confidence regarding Bopst’s character and past choices, that does not absolve his racist behavior. That said, everyone deserves forgiveness, but Bopst needs to show up in RVA and use his privilege and influence to further the conversation and action against racism and bias. That’s what true atonement looks like. If he does that, my forgiveness will be earned.

Imagine if every hate crime could be amended with a simple apology? Wouldn’t that be nice and easy? Sure. But is that really a meaningful display of contrition? I think not.

We all need to get out of our own way if we are going to live together as allies and work together to improve the state of our city. Old racist and sexist patterns do not have to play out generation after generation. You can break the cycle now. If each of us commits to owning our part in supporting or undermining systemic racism, we will one day be able to tell our kids that racism was a thing we obliterated back in the old days, and that the idea of favoring one skin color over another was absurd as the idea that the world is flat.

Will you do your part? Will you identify your bias and work to address it? Will you use your personal or professional power and privilege to destroy systemic bias wherever you see it? (No disruption of bias is too small.) Will you stop being complicit when you hear racist, sexist, homophobic banter? These are your responsibilities to yourself, your neighbors, the next generations, and your city.

Tiffany Jana co-owns TMI Consulting, is a really dang pleasant person to know, and just published a book on all this stuff. It’s called Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships across Differences. You can get it via that link or head over to Chop Suey! OR, listen to Tiffany read it via Whichever medium you choose, we suggest you look there for guidance on how to eliminate your socio-cultural blindspots. We’re getting our copies like, right now.

8 practical consequences of Joe Morrisssey getting elected

Ignoring recent allegations, scandals, and controversies…

Editor’s note: This morning, Thad Williamson posted a series of practical consequences to Joe Morrissey getting elected. They’re reposted below with his permission. Below that you’ll find his intro post that gives things some context.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #1

Many competent administrators and employees who are assets to the City of Richmond will seek alternate employment as soon as possible.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #2

The new administration will find few talented applicants to fill the positions of those rushing to depart, or existing key vacancies. Quality professionals committed to public service do not want to work for a boss with a terrible track record of staying out of trouble.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #3

Consequently city government will be staffed not by improving but by declining talent and competence. Services will suffer hurting residents including many of Joe’s voters.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #4

Nonprofit, philanthropic, university, and business leaders who now are more interested in and willing to work with the City of Richmond, on not only shared projects but collective impact goals such as poverty reduction, will revert to the historic pattern of shunning the City.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #5

That lack of collaboration in turn will severely damage the City’s hopes of obtaining additional funding via competitive grants from the federal government, as well as grants from the state government and national philanthropic community. These investors have plenty of choices and will not invest in actual or perceived chaos.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #6

The City of Richmond will face even greater hostility in making requests from the General Assembly—whether the topic is education funding, transportation, or legislative changes to improve how city government works.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #7

Without internal collaboration and support from external funding as well as political support from the state, the City has no hope of addressing its fundamental challenges in affordable housing, transportation, educational facilities, and, in general, poverty.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #8

Finally, Richmond will garner the wrong kind of media attention, attention that will severely harm the city’s reputation and put a damper on recent positive population growth. Residents who have choices are willing to come to a great city that has problems but also a lot of civic energy to solve those problems. They are much less willing to choose to live in a city in which public business gets subsumed to the drama and problems of a single person.

Richmonders need a functional government staffed by outstanding people, not a circus of constant political turmoil. Electing Joe Morrissey will take Richmond straight back to the chaotic days of the 1990s—to no one’s benefit except his own.

[Above are] a series of observations on the practical consequences for the functioning of city government of Joe Morrissey becoming Mayor of the City of Richmond. These are intended to be widely shared. But I wanted to take a moment first to clarify the intent:

  1. I have little interest in discussing the specifics of recent allegations, or the many prior controversies involving Joe. The overall pattern, however, is clearly relevant to fitness to serve and likely consequences for Richmond residents of his being elected.
  2. I have even less interest in or tolerance for criticizing Morrissey’s supporters or making crude generalizations about why he is a formidable candidate. I live in the 5th District. Supporters of Joe are literally our friends and neighbors. My assumption (and experience) is many have a clear reason for supporting his candidacy, two prominent ones being the belief and experience that Richmond politics has not worked to their benefit for a long, long time and unlike many political leaders, Joe has made a concerted effort to develop relationships with people in the community.
  3. Local politics at its best is an honest conversation among friends and neighbors about how to move forward on difficult issues. I am in general not comfortable talking with others about someone else’s scandals or personal issues. I am comfortable talking about practical civic consequences in the spirit of “Hey, did you think about this?” That’s the spirit this series of observations is offered in.
  4. The purpose of these observations is not to make the case for a particular candidate, though I will come back to that question at the end (practically everyone reading this already knows my view). But I do think that if you are in the position of A) you don’t think Joe should be mayor, and B) you respect the needs and interests of people supporting him equally with the needs of all City residents, you should look for the remaining viable candidate with the greatest demonstrated commitment to the empowerment of the community and to rectifying the deep structural injustices that characterize life in central Virginia.