Friday, February 22, 2008

Doug’s Replacement

For those of you weren’t reading yesterday, I must inform you that I have fired Doug Wilder as our city’s mayor. Of course, in our republican form of government, my decision to terminate Doug has to be confirmed by the voters of Richmond in an election in November. And, although Doug has not declared himself a candidate for reelection, this maven is sure that he won’t take my personnel action lying down. So, we citizens of Richmond must act to ensure that he actually vacates City Hall next January.

First, and most important, we must agree on Doug’s replacement. I am convinced that unless a single candidate emerges that we citizens can agree on, Doug’s contract will end up being extended. Already, blogger (and Doug’s former “Sancho Panza”) Paul Goldman has declared his candidacy. I am sure that other citizens will soon offer themselves as the “change” candidate to replace Doug. Unfortunately, a field of candidates as big as Doug faced in 2004 will guarantee his reelection. Those who truly care about the future of this city must be willing to suppress their own ambition and step aside for the one candidate that can actually be elected. But who is that candidate?

I am going to break a Richmond taboo and talk about race. Since I have been in Richmond, I have been repeatedly told that there is no racial “issue” in Richmond. Lots of people have told me that what I perceive as a racial divide in the city is really a split on economic lines. Being forever in the category of Richmond newcomer because I spent more than thirty five years of my life in Fairfax County, I am willing to defer to the views of those who are Richmond natives. However, I still must talk about race because Doug Wilder is a politician of race.

In his 1985 campaign to become the Commonwealth’s Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Wilder frequently used race to deflect criticism leveled against him. No matter what issue his opponent raised against him, Mr. Wilder’s standard response was that he was being singled out for criticism only because he was black. By the end of the campaign he had convinced many voters that if they voted for his opponent they would be perceived as racists.

In speaking before the Richmond Crusade for Voters in December, Mr. Wilder demonstrated that he is still able and willing to use race as an issue to unify and inspire his core supporters. At that meeting, Doug criticized the City Council, a majority of whose members are white, of “turning back the clock” by only having one black man with a vote on a council committee. (

This city does not need a political campaign in which race becomes a divisive issue. Yet, I fear that if the candidate against him this fall is white, Doug Wilder will make race a major issue. We have too many critical issues facing Richmond to allow ourselves to get bogged down in such a campaign. Therefore, I reluctantly conclude that the candidate to oppose Doug in the fall should be an African American. I say “reluctantly” because we as a community must relegate race to merely a historic issue. We must become a city in which Dr. King’s dream of a color-blind society becomes reality. I would love to see a campaign for mayor in which a candidate’s skin color is not even mentioned. But, I don’t think this is that year.

So, what do we need in the way of a successor to Doug? Most important, we need a uniter. Most of the damage that Doug Wilder has done in this city is a result of his “divide and conquer” style of politics. So Doug’s replacement must be someone with an ability to bring people together. S/he must be a person who sees fixing Richmond as requiring the cooperation of all the citizens of our fair city. S/he must have the word “compromise” in his/her vocabulary.

We need a person who has proven that s/he is a leader either in the public or private sector. A person’s success in managing a public or private entity would be evidence of such ability. The next mayor must be able to choose the right people to manage the city’s various agencies and must be able to step aside and let that person do his/her job. Doug’s replacement must be able to conduct the city orchestra but should not try to be a virtuoso on every instrument.

The next mayor must have a vision of where this city should be going. S/he must be able to distinguish between what our community needs and what would be nice if we had unlimited resources. Doug’s successor must understand that our number one need is a great school system and that resources applied to Richmond Public Schools are not expenditures but investments in our future. S/he needs to know that the perceived “inadequacy” of Richmond Public Schools is the number one cause of the city’s continuous hemorrhaging of its middle class to the suburbs.

We need a mayor that is not only honest, but can instill a sense of accountability in all city employees. Public servants must be taught that their job is essential to the public good. They need to realize that the money they spend (including their salaries) belongs to the taxpayers and they must be committed to using it properly.

Our mayor must be committed to the rule of law. S/he must not be a person who ignores the law when s/he finds it inconvenient or standing in the way of something s/he wants to do. Publicly displaying the attitude that s/he is above the law is likely to produce contempt for the law among our citizens.

So now, you’re probably asking, “Maven, who is the person that satisfies all your criteria?”

Well, dear reader, here is where I need a little help. I have only been in Richmond for a short time. I only know what I read in the TD and I just don’t know the names of all the players in our fair city. I am asking that you and other readers come forward with the names of people you think would make a good mayor. I urge you to think both within and outside the box. I have come up with a few names. I don’t know if any of them are available or even would want to be mayor of Richmond. But the time is drawing short and we must choose Doug’s successor before it is too late.

My short and long list (in no particular order):

Former Commonwealth’s Attorney David Hicks
Sheriff C.T. Woody
Police Chief Rodney Monroe
City Council Vice President Delores McQuinn
City Council Member Ellen Robertson
School Board Chair George Braxton
PTA President Tichi Pinckney-Epps
Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring


RVA Foodie said...

Here is a list of names that I'm putting forward to help you inspire some reaction and debate.

-Michelle Mitchel, former sherriff
-David Baugh, ACLU attorney
-L. Shirley Harvey, former city council member
-Eugene Trani, VCU prez
-Elliott Yamin from American Idol
-Alicia Rasin, Citizens Against Crime
-Ray Boone, Free Press editor
-Deborah Jewell Sherman, Superintendent of Schools
-Ross MacKenzie, RTD
-Ambivalent Richmonder, Urban Richmond~ blogger

And Maven, do talk about race (and class). It's time that this pot got stirred.

Bookstore Piet said...

If we really want to have fun we should add my former councilman to the list who said he wouldn't come back to Richmond 'till Douggie left office...

Sa'id El'Amin....

Ok, discuss.

Scott said...

I am all for open discussions about candidates, race, class, etc., but it seems to me that Richmond has yet to determine an order of priorities.

Ok, education is important. What about education?

I would argue that renovating, updating, and building new school BUILDINGS (especially for ADA and energy conservation and basic use) should be the priority.

Unfortunately it looks like Wilder, Pantele are hoping to use RPS as just another political football. Meanwhile, the corporates get more money for their downtown white elephant art and convention centers. So much for 'City of the Future'...

I am looking forward to candidates that can present a good list of ordered priorities. So far, only Goldman seems willing to do this. And its too early for me to say he is the one I am voting for.