Here's the plan: We drive 16 hours from Richmond to Kansas City from 5:30 p.m. on Thursday to about 10:30 a.m. the next day. My mom and dad weren't too wild about the idea and both told me that not going was a completely legitimate alternative. Maybe we should have reevaluated the whole idea, but somehow by the grace of God three news junkies made it to the Associated Collegiate Press National College Media Convention alive.
After driving 1,070 miles clear across six states, the three of us arrived in what I came to find is a city with very American problems and very relevant solutions. Walking down the streets, I noticed that there was rarely a bicycle lane and sometimes no sidewalk. Also, I was informed that Kansas City endured much of the racism we have seen in Richmond and as a result there is an extreme North/South divide. Finally there is currently a movement to begin the construction of a light rail system throughout the city to provide reliable public transportation to the people who live there. In effect, by leaving Richmond, I gained a great perspective on the city we call home.
As some of you might know, Obama is not the only leader our city voted for last Tuesday. In addition to a new president, the city of Richmond has a new mayor, Dwight Jones. Before the mayoral election, Jones wrote out an extensive plan for the City of Richmond including the following categories: World class education, fiscal responsibility, health care, economic development, initiating a safety net for marginalized residents and creating safe and secure neighborhoods. Each one of these goals are absolutely necessary for the people of Richmond and there is no easy way to accomplish them. I have a charge for Mayor-elect Jones as he begins to plan for the days ahead.
First, play the song from Mulan titled "Let's Get Down To Business" and get in the mood to commit your life to Richmond for the next few years. Realize that there is a ton of work to be done and no way you can do all of it. To this end, start working toward alliances between the counties and the city. The distinction between cities and counties is more than just antiquated; it's holding the whole area down. I don't know how, but you have to force the counties to the table and make them realize that they exist because of the City of Richmond and not the other way around. As such, there should be a regional commitment to improving the city and creating an even more inviting atmosphere.
Second, follow in the footsteps of Kansas City and begin plans for a fixed transportation system. Your strongest opponent, Bill Pantele, had the dream of building a trolley loop all the way from Main Street Station to Carytown - this idea is brilliant. The way I see it is people have lived here for hundreds of years and I think we should commit to the area with permanent, dependable forms of transportation. While you're at it, extend the trolley down to the University of Richmond and not only will you secure more donations for such a project, but you'll invite the 3,000 students to spend more time and money in the city.
Finally, work closely with the Medical College of Virginia to become proactive in the medical treatment of Richmond's residents. I don't want the medical care at MCV to be reactive, but rather preventative and committed to the residents of this city. The city of Richmond has relatively high AIDS infection rates and this should be a top priority in the coming years. The infection rates can be reduced through several avenues, but first and foremost: Get a local news spotlight and show yourself and the city council getting tested for AIDS. Remove the stigma and publicly announce that the city is committed to giving residents the opportunity to get proper medication and protection.
There is a lot to love about the city of Richmond and a new leader makes me excited for the future. Priorities for the city leadership should be to invest in the future of the city by creating cooperation within the entire region. As students of the University of Richmond, we are all involved in the politics of this city and the university is committed to the city as a whole. A toast to the future of our fair city is in order.
To another few hundred years of progress.
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