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Graham Sturm*

Graham Sturm

*Note: Graham Sturm dropped out of the race on October 11. He has endorsed Stephanie Lynch. 

Name: Graham Sturm

Bio: Graham is a teacher in Richmond Public Schools. He is starting his eighth year teaching History at Armstrong High School. He and his husband live in the Mulberry South neighborhood of the 5th District. They were engaged before marriage equality was legal in Virginia and got married before marriage equality was legal in the United States. Graham grew up in Chesterfield, attend college at Virginia Tech and has a Master’s degree from VCU. 

What do you see as the biggest issue facing residents of the 5th District and how do you plan to address it, if elected?

The biggest issue facing city government is how we set priorities. We must focus on our needs first. Simple needs like garbage can delivery, pothole repairs, and rebuilding our aging schools should be top priorities. These are not things we want but things we need. It's sexy to spend money on our wants but that does not fit with how one should set priorities. The same ideas that allow me and my husband to run a financially stable household are simple approaches that city government seems to lack.

Where do you stand on the public financing of a new downtown arena/coliseum and related developments?

Folks may want a coliseum but it is not a need. We have folks who have been paying for trash service and Richmond has a backlog on garbage cans. A government that cannot address something this simple does not need to be involved in such a complex and complicated scheme. I would imagine we would be better off if we had more focus on our needs rather than these kind of distractions.

In 2017, the City of Richmond published its Vision Zero Action Plan with the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities. Despite those efforts, there’s been more than 100 crashes involving pedestrians in the first seven months of 2019. That resulted in three fatalities and 113 injuries. What will you do, if anything, to work toward the goals of Vision Zero and create safe streets for pedestrians?

Two things immediately come to mind. First, I know of two colleagues (teachers in RPS) who have been hit while on bikes. Our bike lanes often dead-end into parked cars and that should not be the case. Second, if we listen to our citizens we know how to identify problem areas. For example, a four-way stop should be placed at McCloy St. and Maplewood Ave. Do you know how I know? One of our City Stadium neighbors explained this challenge to me personally. That's called responsive leadership.

Property values in the 5th District are increasing rapidly: recent assessments showed a 25% year-over-year increase in Swansboro and about a 10% increase in Randolph. Rents in Richmond have also increased by about 25% since 2012, according to the RTD. How do you plan to address the need for affordable housing, both for moderate and low-income residents?

This is a good problem to have. It hits me and my husband on taxes a bit harder, but knowing your home, your single-largest investment, is increasing in value is a good thing. City real estate taxes are far higher than in surrounding localities, and those and other costs always get passed along to renters. This last budget process saw an attempt to raise these taxes. That's not good. And it's even worse when you see that revenue streams getting spent on coliseum deals, NFL training facilities, or international bike tours.

Where do you stand on efforts to remove or relocate Confederate monuments in Richmond?

I would have expected to have heard more about this out knocking on doors. No one has mentioned it yet (though when there are potholes in your road and you don't have a trashcan I can see why it's on the back-burner). If they stay put, I would want to see the city use the rest of Monument Ave to tell the fuller history of Richmond.

The 5th District encompasses much of Richmond’s green space including Maymont and Byrd Parks, as well as parts of the James River Park System. What will you do to ensure future access and protection of Richmond’s natural resources?

Not just these parks, we have several community gardens in the 5th District too. I am an avid gardener during the summer months in my backyard (for most of my life my parents owned a farm west of Richmond). I think it is wonderful that city residents and my students have access to these areas. Keeping these public spaces fully funded and well-promoted is important.

A common complaint among Richmond residents is the perceived inefficiency of city services. How will you hold the city administration accountable to getting the basics right (i.e. filling potholes, promptly responding to service requests, permitting, etc.)?

The budget more than any other aspect of local government sets the city's priorities. When City Council and the mayor's office are not distracted by projects like Navy Hill, or Redskins training facilities, or the Pulse, or international bike tours..or... you see where I'm headed? This forces local government to focus on the basics. Also, it’s not just perceived inefficiency--there's inefficiency.

Richmond Public Schools has hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and construction needs. Would you support raising taxes to fund facilities? If so, which taxes? If not, how would you address those needs?

I am a teacher in Richmond Public Schools. This is my top priority. The struggle comes in that when taxes were raised, it was on the promise of building 5 new schools and Richmond is only building 3 new schools with that money. No wonder we are in a spot where we need more funding! On top of this, RPS operates too many buildings. When we build one new elementary school it should be with the thought of how we can consolidate two aging schools. That is both efficient and fiscally responsible. The current coliseum was built in the early 1970s, most all of our schools are older than this. Don't be fooled that we can secure funding for a huge redevelopment deal but always fall short on our schools.

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