Building a Better Richmond
- Being a good steward of the people’s money is one of the most sacred duties of any elected official. Tavarris will not support any increase of taxes until we can show that the revenue collected now is being used wisely.
- Support open and transparent processes for large projects, with public involvement. The voices and priorities of residents must come before special interests.
- Review departmental and agency budgets with an eye towards savings and efficiency.
- Make the budget process even more transparent by limiting the number of closed working sessions and requiring an open-source spreadsheet format be made available to the public.
- Streamline and expedite city services for businesses and individuals especially for permitting, tax collection, and reporting issues to Public Works and Public Utilities.
- Build coalitions with other City Council members and collaborate with civic organizations, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders to ensure that decisions are made based on the needs of residents instead of special interests.
- Demand a transparent evaluation of city spending. Review and reevaluate budgets to ensure departments are well-managed and responsive to the needs of residents.
Providing access to high quality education is the duty of every local government and Tavarris believes that our schools should be the pride of our community. That’s why he is committed to fighting against cuts to the RPS budget and working with the School Board to ensure all students, teachers, and families are supported effectively.
City Council is tasked with approving the RPS budget and Tavarris will work closely with the School Board, The Superintendent, and advocates to ensure funding is allocated effectively.
- In addition to working with the School Board Tavarris will partner with the Richmond Delegation to the General Assembly to explore additional funding mechanisms from the State like the diversion of revenue from certain state sales taxes to bolster existing funding for RPS.
- Work with the Council and advocates to partner with the Richmond Delegation to the General Assembly to lobby for a modification of the formula by which funding is determined.
- Tavarris believes in identifying and addressing inefficiencies throughout the City Government and that is particularly important with RPS. Tavarris will push for a transparent review of the RPS budget to evaluate expenditures so funds are effectively allocated and areas of need are clearly identified.
- Ensure that funding is distributed to areas of highest need first (school buildings, classrooms, teachers, counselors, and support staff)
- Meet the teacher retention goals outlined in the RPS strategic plan
Experts have been sounding the alarm about climate change for decades and unprecedented impacts on our environment are becoming increasingly devastating. In order 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 to accomplish three key objectives:
- Preserve our natural environment
- Protect the health and wellbeing of our community
- Create robust economic opportunities through expanding partnerships with Virginia’s bustling green energy sector
In addition, Tavarris is committed to ensuring our efforts to combat climate change are centered around green equity. He believes initiatives must start with mechanisms that empower low-income families and communities of color.
Urban Heat Island Effect
With an average heat wave temperature of 96.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the Second District is the city’s hottest Council District. But 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 properly 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 opportunities for robust and equitable workforce development 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 the process of 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 thereby eliminating
- 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 also 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.
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/or the expansion of existing parks into relevant Community Benefit Agreements.
- While Tavarris opposes the privatization of our city’s parks, 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.
James River Master Plan
I strongly support the overarching mission of the James River Master Plan and he 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 expiration of collecting moderate impact fees from developers and applying those fees to park improvements when appropriate.
- While maintaining full public ownership of The James River Park System 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 the establishment of a dedicated historian and naturalist to lead the efforts for grants and philanthropic investment based on historic and natural preservation.
- Looking into the ways that 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 projects.
I spent twelve years working as a bankruptcy specialist and consumer protection advocate and from that standpoint, the Department of Public Utilities is not acting in good faith when it comes to an absolutely essential human need. Richmonders are being overcharged while being undeserved.
To address issues within the Department:
- Call for a thorough and transparent audit of all operations with the objective of identifying 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
To reduce 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.
Building a better city means building new and enhanced infrastructure. It means making it safer and easier to get around. Pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and those using public transportation are united in the need for road and sidewalk improvements.
- Over the last few years, the Greater Richmond Transit Company has reshaped the bus system in Richmond, leading to many areas of high need seeing a reduction in service times and stops.
- Support the restoration of the cuts to the GRTC budget — after we conduct a thorough and transparent review to reduce inefficiencies and provide more equitable access.
In February 2020, the Administration proposed adopting Vision Zero, a multidisciplinary global strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. (Vision Zero Network).
- Tavarris supports the city’s commitment to Vision Zero. However, despite initiatives to improve visibility and slow traffic, there are still major issues that need to be addressed. Here in the Second District and adjacent wards, we have had several pedestrians killed by motor vehicles because of disruptions to safe sidewalks.
- Construction projects should be required to either limit their impact to sidewalks or provide a safe, continuous, and ADA compliant path through the construction area.
- Ensure proper protections for pedestrians are considered at the beginning of projects instead of as an afterthought.
- Biking should be a safe alternative for commuters in and around the city. Bike lanes should be protected from motor vehicle traffic as much as possible.
- Work with the administration to reevaluate the tax abatement program that has allowed developers to pay little or no taxes for up to ten years.
- Fight to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city and keep communities of interest together.
- Advocate for the construction of new single and multifamily units to help stabilize housing prices in part by demanding concessions of developers: in order to receive tax abatements developers must agree to build a certain amount of affordable housing
- One-to-one replacement of any demolished public housing and keep communities of interest together.
- Support and expand the community land trust homeownership model.
- Increase housing rehab, home accessibility and critical home repair assistance programs.
- Support, monitor and evaluate Richmond’s eviction diversion pilot program.
The lack of affordable housing is one of the most urgent issues facing our city and it has an especially devastating impact on low-income communities. I will work with our robust network of Community Development Organizations, advocates, and residents to take bold steps in addressing Richmond’s housing crisis both in the Second District and the city at large.
Tavarris supports reforms that would focus the scope of law enforcement to core policing functions and help address racial bias. Central to his plan is the formation of a strong civilian review board with both subpoena power and the power to review and audit policy.
Tavarris also supports the public disclosure of police disciplinary records as well as compelling the Richmond Police Department to provide a clearer definition of use of force along with publishing demographic data for police interactions. He also supports the prohibition of the acquisition and use of military equipment by local law enforcement as well as removing law enforcement officers from Richmond City Public Schools.
Streets and Public Property
The recent removal of Confederate statues and monuments from public spaces was the direct result of the years of the diligent, sustained work of Richmond’s robust and dedicated advocacy community.
I will support the formation of a commission that is representative of that community to direct the effort of renaming streets, public facilities, and city-owned property currently bearing names that glorify white supremacy.
Statues and Monuments
The statues that have been taken down as well as those that remain standing are shrines to white supremacy that have been a source of tremendous anguish for so many residents, myself included.
Any decision about how to replace these statutes must emerge from a thoughtful, solemn process that honors the painful legacy that they represent.
This process will not be easy, but we are so fortunate to live in a city that abounds with powerful Black history and I look forward to seeing that history rightfully celebrated on Monument Avenue and throughout the former Capital of the Confederacy.