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Stephanie Lynch

Name: Stephanie Lynch

Bio: Stephanie Lynch is currently and mental health access advocate with Good Neighbor, a Community Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities service provider. She sits on the Governor’s Task Force for Behavioral Health Workforce Development, The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet for Trauma Informed Care and The Governor’s Task Force for School Based Health. At her core, Lynch is a social worker and advocate for the underserved. She is passionate about not only talking about change, but making it happen. Lynch wants to ensure Richmond nails the basic functions of city government, rights the wrongs of systemic social injustice, and grows together.

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 the 5th District is also the biggest issue facing Richmond City at large, and that is a lack of funding for the most critical functions our City offers to our residents. Whether it’s our schools, our transit system and aging infrastructure, or the inability for City Hall to effectively respond to citizen service requests, additional dollars are needed to be able to thoughtfully and comprehensively address the basics. We need to be willing to think outside of the box on this issue. Instead of continuing to rely solely on increasing the tax burden of Richmond residents, we need to fight for Richmond to get its fair share out of the Virginia state budget. I have years of experience advocating for funding at the General Assembly, and have successfully brought millions of dollars in funding for Medicaid expansion, At-Risk Add On dollars for schools, and more, home to Richmond. On my first day in office, I would begin the work of collaborating with the City Council and the Administration to ensure that we have a seat at the table in state level budget negotiations to leverage revenue sources such as the “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” paid by tax exempt entities like VCU and State Agency buildings.

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

I will never, ever, vote for a Coliseum redevelopment plan that puts Richmond taxpayers on the hook. The devil is very much in the details when it comes to the proposed finance plan for the Navy Hill Development. I have engaged actively with the Advisory Commission and experts on all sides of the issue, but remain skeptical about the use of both an eighty-square block “Tax Increment Finance District”, and the use of “non-recourse” revenue bonds, as is currently proposed. We need to go about a full accounting of our options, including the possibility of simply selling off the existing underdeveloped land to competitive bidders. If, and only if, we can ensure that the non-recourse revenue bond funding scheme truly bears no liability for Richmond or its credit rating, and that we can fully leverage future revenues generated by the project for Richmond Public Schools, will I consider voting yes on Navy Hill. 

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?

This will be one of my top priorities on day one. We can’t create a more inclusive and equitable 5th District if residents can’t get around safely and affordably. I will advocate for pedestrians with all of the tools afforded to me on Council, and this starts by fighting for more money in the budgeting process to invest in crosswalks, bike lanes, high visibility signage, and traffic calming measures such as curb bump outs and speed bumps. This will also take long term structural changes such as the city wide lowering of speed limits in residential areas as proposed by Councilman Jones, consideration of multi-modality in future development and expansion, and education, particularly in our behind the wheel courses in RPS, centered around drivers’ relationship with pedestrians. We have a beautiful and vibrant 5th District, but unfortunately right now, a lot of people don’t have meaningful access to all it offers because of how difficult we make it to get around without a car. We have to change that.

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?

It is a testament to how incredible our vibrant and historical neighborhoods are that we have an influx of people moving in and buying homes in neighborhoods such as Randolph and Swansboro. However, that influx comes with a serious set of challenges. We need to ensure that as we grow, we are helping families that have called these neighborhoods home for generations keep up with rising property values, assessments, and taxes. This will take a multi-faceted approach. First, we need to ensure that existing resources such as the elderly tax relief program are being fully utilized by our elderly friends and neighbors so that they are able to age in place and in their communities. Second, we need to work through RRHA to heavily invest in mixed income, small scale development that is integrated into neighborhoods in a way that is sensitive to transportation needs and area employment opportunities. Lastly, I will advocate along with our Council and Administration at the state level to invest in programs such as the recently adopted Pilot Eviction Diversion Program, and continue to push for increased funding for initiatives such as the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.

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

Symbols are important, period. These statues, erected during a very painful time in our city’s history, are a physical manifestation of institutional racism and oppression that still plague our city, our state, and our nation today. As we saw from the report issued by the Monument Commission, there are a number of options that we can pursue to contextualize the statues, but quite frankly the simplest answer is they belong in a museum -- not as towering beacons that give any reverence and credence to the historical figures they are modeled after. That being said, there has been a demonstrative dollar figure attached with taking them down and there are greater budget priorities plaguing our city’s welfare that must be addressed first before I would vote to allocate a significant portion of funding towards removing them.

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?

Richmond’s Parks and Recreations is 30% underfunded relative to other localities across Virginia. I plan to fully fund our parks, and support the priorities as laid out in the James River Master Plan. We have a fantastic Friends of the James River Park System Association who have a proven track record of engaging the community and planning and fundraising for James River Park System’s top priorities, but they are often handcuffed by some of the dysfunctional mechanics in city government such as procurement and contract management. A recommendation that was made for year 5 in the James River Master Plan is to reconfigure the Friends of the James River Association as an Authority so that they could 1) have greater flexibility and shorter timelines on the execution of projects that would help improve the park; 2) raise more dollars and ultimately purchase more land for public park use and access; 3) adopt and expedite the downtown river development plan.

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.)?

I have a “Back to Basics” approach. Leverage technology to automate and bring efficiencies to city government departments in the areas of permitting, contract management and finance. Overhaul and reexamine our City’s procurement process and implement steps to follow best practices from other localities. Implement a permitting “Strike Force” to address outstanding permits for businesses and residents over a certain elapsed time. Implement a penalty and accountability system for departments that fail to pay vendors and contractors by the obligated deadline-- this includes RPS vendors. Throughout the years, I have built relationships with local elected officials, administration staff and business leaders in localities around the Commonwealth. I firmly believe we should be competitive and on par, as a city government, with our surrounding neighbors and municipalities. City Council members can and should encourage the Administration through collaboration, legislation and budget action to make these strides. I do not believe in reinventing the wheel. On day one in office, I plan to initiate a shared best-practice project to collaborate with fellow Council members and leverage relationships with friends and colleagues across the Commonwealth, to understand what technology, business processes and levers they have employed to create a more effective and efficient city government to help meet the goals mentioned above. 

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?

Richmond Public Schools absolutely need additional funding support. But, we can not continue to make increasing taxes on our residents a go-to solution for improving things at RPS-- particularly when you compare numbers to our sister cities, such as Norfolk, where we are spending 22% more on average per-pupil, share the same poverty rate, and are taxed at a 26.5% higher rate for property taxes. The reality is that nearly 35% of Richmond is not currently taxed, and there are a number of entities that we need to have pay their fair share before reaching back into residents’ pockets. I would push for 1) an increase in the “payment in lieu of taxes” from tax exempt property on our state agency buildings and VCU, who pay next to nothing but take up a combined $782 million of taxable property; 2) increase the At-Risk Add On at the state level to leverage more dollars for schools and teachers so that we reallocate more funding for buildings; 3) demand that the Virginia Lottery funds are dissected so that we can right the wrongs in our lack of transparency and funding there; 4) overhaul the way that RPS does procurement of developers and contractors.
 

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