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Mayor Levar Stoney Pledges To Make Richmond 'Inclusive And Competitive' In 2019

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney delivered his 2019 State of the City address at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture on Thursday.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney delivered his 2019 State of the City address at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture on Thursday. Roberto Roldan/WCVE News

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney laid out his goals for his third year in office at his annual State of the City address Thursday night.

Speaking at the Museum of History and Culture, Stoney took the stage following a pre-produced video that highlighted his accomplishments in 2018: breaking ground on three new schools and the launch of RVA331 and the Pulse bus line. The theme of Stoney’s speech was “inclusive and competitive” and he set out a series of new initiatives in line with that vision of Richmond.

The biggest announcement was the creation of an eviction diversion program, the first of its kind in Virginia. Stoney said the program will provide court mediation, financial assistance and a pro-bono attorney for the city's most vulnerable.

“These residents have become victims of a punitive and discriminatory state regulatory system that traps people into a cycle of debt and housing insecurity," Stoney said. "This cycle often ends in an eviction."

Stoney also announced the city would establish the "Shockoe Alliance." The partnership of community groups and city officials will be charged with creating recommendations and designs for the future developments of Shockoe Bottom.

He said the new plans for a neighborhood that once housed one of the largest slave trades in the county was fitting, given the state has named 2019 the Year of Reconciliation and Civility.

“Telling the true story of the tragic history that occurred in Shockoe Bottom can be the most inclusive history that can be told anywhere in America,” Stoney said. “Telling an inclusive story of our history will attract visitors from around the globe.”

Hanging over Stoney’s speech was the Navy Hill redevelopment project. Details of the plan remain sparse more than three months after Stoney announced a $1.4 billion deal with Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell II’s NH District Corp.

He provided no new information on the redevelopment plan in his speech on Thursday, but said he wanted to make sure any potential deal would be in the best interest of the city before moving forward.

“We need to approach the redevelopment, specifically of our downtown, with careful deliberation no matter how long it takes, acting only when the i's are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” Stoney said.

With many City Council members sitting in the audience, Stoney reiterated his support for renaming Boulevard after Arthur Ashe. He urged council to approve that proposal at its next meeting on Feb. 11.

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