Tired of the gentlemen's agreement that keeps debate civil and public discourse milquetoast around this town? Well, go get tired about something else, because next Wednesday the largely invisible Coalition for a Greater Richmond is sponsoring a no-holds barred verbal sparring match about the recent survey about the political leadership in the City of Richmond.
"A Conversation about the State of Leadership in the City of Richmond" will be a three-person throw-down. While Christopher Newport University Professor Quentin Kidd will get the plush seat with armrests, the Coalition has decided to bring out the street-savvy experts from the local media to keep the discussion real. Columnist Michael Paul Williams of the Times-Dispatch and Scott bass (Style Weekly's political reporter) will be on hand to ask the hard questions -- and answer them if Dr. Kidd gets squeamish.
It all takes place in two short weeks -- Wednesday, April 9. Drinks and eats will be available at 5:30 with the presentation/discussion happening between 6:00 and 7:00 at that bastion of swank downtown dining, Bank, which resides at 1005 East Main Street.
Because there will be hors d'œuvre and drinks, the Coalition is looking for my more socially polite readers to RSVP if they intend to show up for the big event. You can email the Coalition at email@example.com or call 804.675.8177 by Friday, April 4 if you want to score points with Miss Manners.
So, who is this Dr. Quentin Kidd and why is he prying into our family business? Good question.
Kidd is the director of Christopher Newport University's Center for Public Policy, and recently released a poll of 350 registered voters about the state of leadership in Richmond. The results were tepid. But with the proper spin, they're something else altogether!
Richmond voters are mixed on L. Douglas Wilders’ leadership of the city and the way he has tried to implement the new strong mayor form of government. Slight majorities think that compared to the past Richmond under Wilder offers positive hope for a better life to Richmond citizens (58% to 34%), think that Wilder is building an economic foundation for the future (55% to 32%), and think the city is better run (52% to 39%). However, voters are uncertain whether Richmond has made progress on improving relations with surrounding counties (41% to 40%). These mixed views are reflected in voter assessment about whether the city is headed in the right direction or wrong direction, with half (50%) saying more in the right direction and just over a third (38%) saying either mixed or the wrong direction.
Half of Richmond voters think the city is headed in the right direction, but when it comes to evaluating the overall political leadership of Richmond city government, voters by a wide margin want change. Just over 70% of voters say they want change and a new direction, while 20% say things are going well and should continue as is. This desire for change is reflected in mostly negative views of the working relationships between city institutions and the way issues have been dealt with. Nearly 3 in 4 voters say they are dissatisfied with the working relationship between the city council and the mayor, the working relationship between the school board and the city, and the handling of the Braves baseball stadium issue. Around 6 in 10 voters are dissatisfied with the management of city finances and with efforts to improve the quality of schools. A small majority are dissatisfied with taxes. Voters have no clear views on planning for a public mass transit system or on the working relationship between the city and surrounding counties in the region.
Now there are some issues worthy of debate. Let's get it on with the Coalition and their guests...