Thad Williamson is a professor, writer and civic activist teaching at the University of Richmond. His work focuses on the connection between theories of democracy and social justice and the practice of public policy and public administration.

Statement on Proposed Navy Hill Development

Statement on Proposed Navy Hill Development

August 1, 2019

Earlier this afternoon Mayor Stoney announced plans to introduce ordinances related to the proposed Navy Hill development at a special City Council meeting this Monday.

This project has been touted as the largest economic development deal in the City’s history, and I applaud City Council for having the foresight to establish a commission to carefully vet and assess the proposal.

Several weeks ago I released a detailed statement of progressive economic development principles that will guide my assessment of this proposal. Those principles are based on over 20 years of research and practice on community economic development, as well as my understanding of Richmond’s needs as a community with a 25% poverty rate and a tax base inadequate to meet our needs.

My priorities as a candidate continue to be improving schools, reducing poverty, and improving city government. A new entertainment venue is not one of my priorities. But I understand that inclusive economic development has the potential to employ residents and grow the tax base, making it easier to support schools. Hence if someone claims they have a plan to do that, I am prepared to listen.

To date I have not taken a position on the proposed Navy Hill deal because no concrete proposal had been released. Now that the proposal will be released on Monday, I look forward to reading the documents for myself, listening to the analyses and opinions of others, and most importantly talking to voters. I also look forward to attending as many meetings as possible of the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission.

Given the timing of this announcement, it is entirely possible that the newly elected City Council member in the 5th District will in fact cast a vote on this proposal after the special election. I know it’s important to voters to know where I stand.

By this statement, I pledge that by no later than September 20, I will release a public statement sharing in detail my assessment of the proposal, its pros and cons, and the questions I still have.

By no later than October 21, I will clearly indicate whether I believe the project is viable (in either its current or amended form), and the reasons why. Put another way, if I’m against the proposal I will say so and if I’m for it, I will say so.

I have been in the public arena here in Richmond for the past decade and seen numerous tough debates. I am not afraid to take a stand on a tough issue, no matter where the chips may fall and no matter who may be disappointed.

I am going to continue to talk about my core priorities:  education, poverty, improving city government, and addressing the needs of the 5th District. But yes, I am also going to make it abundantly clear to voters where I stand on the Navy Hill proposal, and why. Voters in the 5th District deserve no less.

Authorized by Thad Williamson for Richmond City Council

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