Eyes on Richmond Begins Thirteenth Season
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church kicked off the 13th Season of the Eyes on Richmond speaker series on Friday with City Council President Kathy Graziano, who delivered a speech titled “Learning from Our Past, Hope for the Future.” Craig Carper reports.
President Graziano said many residents of Richmond and surrounding localities ask frequently about the problems in Richmond, without focusing on the city’s many success stories.
Graziano said Richmond’s redevelopment efforts have been very successful in the last decade.
Graziano: We have added more than a billion dollars in new residential construction, largely through the use of the rehabilitation tax credits. Conversions along the river, downtown and in Manchester are creating some of the most innovative, attractive and desirable places to live in the city. If we include the proposed development along the Canal Walk, we have approved or have in the pipeline more than 600 new apartments downtown. After years of population decline, Richmond is on the way back up again. I expect the census will show that our population is about 204,000 people. The moving vans are coming back into town, not headed out.
She highlighted achievements in education, including a 100-percent full accredidation rate, a 10-percent improvement in the four-year graduation rate, and the beginning of construction on four new public schools, the first in over a decade. While addressing unemployment, Graziano said the city lacks a cohesive economic development program.
Speaking after her prepared remarks, she said Richmond has lagged behind other areas of the state in major economic development projects for a couple of reasons.
Graziano: The successes that the state is having have been mostly focused on rural areas, because they’re using tobacco money, tobacco settlement money, as incentives to get companies to go there. It would certainly benefit this region if we could have a regional pot of money that was incentive money to get companies to come here. But right now we are at a disadvantage because whatever locality can give you the best incentives, you’re gonna go there.
We need jobs in this city; every restaurant that opens on Broad Street, employs 20, 25, 30 people. Although we love these big companies that come in, it’s the small businesses that provide the majority of the employment and that’s where, to me, we really need to kick in and get those small businesses up and running and expanding.
Graziano said better planning could help de-concentrate poverty and boost Richmond’s unemployment numbers, which are lower than the national average, but higher than the state average.
Graziano: There is a part of the unemployment rate, to me, that is driven by years of concentrated poverty. When we de-concentrate the poverty, people begin to have examples around their vicinity of people who are going to work, who are employed, staying in school. We need, people need role models. We need to find better ways to spend the monies that we have. We need to get our community more involved in activities that will benefit those most in need.
Kathy Graziano has been a Richmond resident for 41 years and has served on City Council since 2005. She became City Council President in 2009.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Richmond