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Richmond Times-Dispatch endorses Jack Berry for mayor

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RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond’s local paper continued its tradition of political endorsements and backed mayoral candidate Jack Berry in an editorial piece published Sunday.

The publication believes that the former Venture Richmond executive — who served as the County Administrator of Hanover County for six years prior to his role at Richmond Renaissance — is the candidate who can manage and lead Richmond’s “the two cities.”

It’s a theme mentioned by several candidates during this year’s mayoral race – two cities within one, which both require a leader who can meet the needs of all citizens.

The RTD writes:

There is a palpable sense of two cities here: One bustles with young professionals, trendy restaurants and breweries, a city of hope and progress. Sometimes only a few blocks away, public housing, unemployment, disappointing schools, business deserts and dangerous streets are the rule. There are no easy or obvious solutions.

We want a city that excels in services, that plans with the community on future improvements, that upgrades its schools so they will elevate students and attract new residents and businesses. And Richmond should expand on Mayor Dwight Jones’ laudable efforts to find new methods for attacking poverty.

So how can a city government that cannot keep track of the money it taxes and spends, cannot meet the most basic requirements of financial management, cannot fill the potholes, cannot send out bills, cannot issue timely permits — how can a locality marked by such regular and predictable ineptitude ever hope to address its deepest failings or lend a helping hand to its neediest citizens? It cannot, of course.

Despite the complexity of the problems, the test for choosing our next mayor is actually quite simple: Who possesses the skills and experience to transform the city into a competent, functioning municipality that can meet the basic needs of its citizens and respect the integrity of the money it collects from them? Who has the strength and will to reform the city’s bureaucracy into one that works?

The answer is clear: Jack Berry.

The publication acknowledged that Berry “isn’t a great speechmaker” but complimented his intensity and sincerity.

Regarding Berry’s backing of the unpopular Shockoe baseball stadium plan, put forward by the current Mayor Dwight Jones, the publication justified Berry’s support s as a ”lesson about the value of listening closely to the public, one that he will remember as mayor.

The endorsement concluded:

We believe that Berry is the only candidate with the hard-earned experience and tough-minded competence to turn around Richmond’s poor performance. We endorse him for mayor because we believe he is uniquely qualified to cure the many fundamental ills that infect city government. And our community will never be able to overcome its most difficult problems until our leaders are able to build a structure that can manage the basics. Now is the time to begin.

In 2008 the publication endorsed Bill Pantele for mayor, another candidate backed at large by the business community.  Pantele  was also the former president of Richmond City Council. He trailed Jones by just over 10,000 votes.

Berry can add the RTD endorsement to others from the business community. He was recently endorsed by former VCU President Eugene Trani, former city manager turned consultant Robert Bobb, and the Richmond Association of Realtors.

Viola Baskerville, a long-time leader and Richmond native who served as Secretary of Administration under then-Governor Tim Kaine called Berry a “true public servant” in her endorsement of him.

Though polls have a majority of Richmond voters undecided, Berry held second place in a recent Chamber RVA poll. The same poll showed he had a lead in three districts – while candidate Joe Morrissey led in the other six.

According to that poll, candidate Levar Stoney – who has fundraised a historic amount of money – is right behind Berry, though again, a majority of voters remain undecided.

Extensive interviews and stories about the Richmond mayoral candidates and the issues they face can be found here.