Experts have been sounding the alarm about climate change for decades, and unprecedented impacts on our environment are becoming increasingly devastating. To tackle this crisis effectively, leadership on every level must commit to bold, innovative solutions.
Tavarris believes Richmond can and should become a pioneer of sustainability in order to:
- Preserve our natural environment
- Protect the health and wellbeing of residents
- Uplift and empower marginalized and disadvantaged communities who are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change
Tavarris is committed to centering innovation and investment around green equity by prioritizing marginalized and historically disadvantaged communities. He believes initiatives must be driven by mechanisms that empower low-income families and communities of color.
Urban Heat Island Effect
With an average heatwave temperature of 96.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the Second District is the city’s hottest Council District. Nevertheless, rising temperatures and related public health impacts are city-wide.
Tavarris enthusiastically supports the proposal in the Richmond 300 Plan to increase the city’s tree canopy to 60%, and he will approach this undertaking with thoughtful consideration and oversight:
- Support the establishment of an Urban Forestry Commission to oversee the implementation and maintenance of the project
- Draft a timeline and mandate that progress be tracked and regularly reviewed
- Prioritize city-owned land and utilize existing heat maps to identify and prioritize areas with the most critical need
- The Department of Public Works is not equipped nor adequately trained to care for trees but maintaining the canopy (especially in the first 2-3 years) will require constant work. Tavarris will work with the Council and the Administration to create robust and equitable workforce development opportunities to sustain and grow the tree canopy.
According to a 2018 study from Consumer Reports, 6 in 10 prospective car buyers in Virginia have some interest in electric cars, trucks, and SUVs, including 32% who say they would consider buying one within the next two years.
With growing public support combined with the significant long term cost savings, Tavarris believes Richmond should begin converting the city’s vehicle fleet to EVs.
Tavarris will work with his colleagues on Council, the Administration, and the Office of Sustainability to adopt a model based on the successful program Roanoke has been using since 2018:
- Support the appointment of a dedicated coordinator to oversee the city’s transition to renewable energy.
- Conduct an audit of the city’s fleet and make recommendations for replacement
- Support the implementation of a pool system as opposed to assigning specific vehicles to city personnel
- Purchase gently used EVs from local dealerships if possible: Roanoke chose Nissan Leafs because they have been on the market long enough to have a demonstrated reliability and are currently available gently used at very reasonable prices.
Expanding Public and Private Renewable Energy Usage
- Increase Richmond’s SolSmart rating through proactive partnerships with local nonprofits, renewable energy advocates, and the Department of Energy
- Take advantage of our newly granted ability to expand the number of Solar Power Purchase Agreements in the city (a component of The Virginia Clean Economy Act)
- Expedite permit applications and waive associated permitting fees for renewable energy installation
- Leverage the capital and expertise of Richmond’s burgeoning solar energy sector to accelerate the usage of renewable energy on city owned property
- Richmond recently completed the installation of solar panels on a handful of public schools through a similar partnership however, a few of the buildings were deemed structurally unfit to support the panels.
- By adding solar readiness to structural improvement plans, the city can utilize grant funding while providing new locations for more solar technology.
The James River Park System & Community Parks
Parks and green spaces improve our physical and psychological health, strengthen our community, and make our city and neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work. Numerous studies have shown the social, environmental, economic, and health benefits parks bring to a city and its people. Tavarris supports increasing the amount of land for city parks, and he will work to ensure areas of the highest need are prioritized.
Increasing the amount of land for city parks
Using Existing City Land:
- Work with the Administration and the Department of Public Works to look at small lots that are public right of ways that can be turned into parklets
- Incorporate new park developments and the expansion of existing parks into relevant Community Benefits Agreements.
- While Tavarris opposes our city’s parks’ privatization, he will work to build and expand partnerships with nonprofits and businesses to collaborate on park expansion and funding while maintaining full public ownership and oversight.
Another option to increase the number of parks is, of course, to purchase land at market rate. Research and recommendations from advocacy groups emphasize the positive impact parks have on all neighborhoods, and Tavarris believes it is critical that the city prioritize low-income areas and marginalized communities when deciding where new land should be purchased.
- Initiate coordination with the Offices of Sustainability and Community Wealth Building and community advocacy groups and determine where new parks would most effectively promote green equity.
- Mandate that universal design principles apply to new park space and conduct a review of current parks to determine where universal design is inadequate and implement those principles so all Richmonders can enjoy city parks.
Implementing The James River Master Plan
Tavarris strongly supports the James River Master Plan’s overarching mission and looks forward to working with advocates and stakeholders to implement these initiatives.
However, Richmond will likely be facing a serious financial shortfall that will have reverberating effects across the budget, so it is imperative now more than ever that we identify sustainable funding strategies.
- It is undisputed that Richmond is attracting droves of real estate development, and the James River Park System is one of the most attractive amenities for prospective residents. Therefore Tavarris will support the exploration of collecting reasonable impact fees from developers and applying those fees to park improvements when appropriate.
- While maintaining the James River Park System’s full public ownership, Tavarris will proactively build and expand partnerships with businesses and nonprofits to garner private funding.
- The James River Park System is an ecological and natural wonder as well as a historically significant site. This unique situation opens up broad opportunities for philanthropic and federal grants. Tavarris will support establishing a dedicated historian and naturalist to lead the efforts for grants and philanthropic investment based on historic and natural preservation.
- Identifying areas where historical resources overlap with transportation infrastructure that has been or is being overhauled and apply for Federal Transportation Grants, which fund things including interpretive projects to enhance transportation.
Tavarris spent twelve years working as a bankruptcy specialist and consumer protection advocate. From that standpoint, the Department of Public Utilities is not acting in good faith when it comes to an essential human need. Richmonders are being overcharged while being underserved.
Addressing issues within the Department:
- Call for a thorough and transparent audit of all operations to identify areas for cost savings and make the findings available to the public
- The Department should source as many services as possible internally that are currently outsourced to reduce expenditures
Reducing the burden on customers:
- Actively support a feasibility study of switching to a tiered usage-based billing model (similar to the square footage model used to calculate stormwater rates), so residents are only charged for the water they use.
- Support a reevaluation of the Department’s contracts with neighboring counties to more evenly distribute the cost burden of maintenance and operations, which account for an overwhelming amount of the Departments overhead.