RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras visited George Wythe High School in Richmond Thursday to mark National School Breakfast Week. While the mayor thanked the school's staff for helping keep the students fed, he also spoke about the mixed reaction his proposed budget has received.
Mayor Stoney asked Richmond City Council to approve a budget that included $18.5 million to fully fund the Richmond Public Schools strategic plan and $16.2 million to pay for street and sidewalk repair.
"It's necessary," Mayor Stoney said Thursday. "We can continue with the status quo, but a status quo will not do anything in closing the achievement gap and will not do anything to fix those potholes in your streets."
To pay for those school and road improvements, the mayor proposed raising the city's real estate tax and creating a new 50-cent per pack cigarette tax.
"The budget that is before us offers us an opportunity to provide more money, but it also provides and opportunity for us to have a clear, very clear, well-defined method of how we are going to go about making changes," Richmond City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson (6th District).
After Wednesday's budget presentation, Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell (8th District) attempted to question the mayor about raising taxes.
"Mayor, you said you were not going to raise taxes when you ran for mayor. How can you stand up here before all of us and do this to the people?" she said. "You're going to sit there and have everyone clap for you, because you're talking about the schools, the children, and everything else. You can laugh all you want, but I'll tell you right now, you won't be laughing much longer, because this is not funny what you're doing to the people. You talk about the poor people, why don't you come over and see them struggling to try and pay these real estate taxes, to try and pay these utilities. Also, you're the one who helped say the people don't have to live in the city. How much money did that take away from the city? How many dollars did that take away?"
Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones (9th District) took exception to Tramell's line of questioning.
"The exchange that took place in Council Chambers is rooted in a type of privilege that is divisive and destructive," Jones wrote on Twitter. "To bring up someones age and renter vs owner status when 60% of our residents rent is troubling. Especially when he is a young African American Male," Jones tweeted. "We get to be upset - outraged - whatever else you are free to feel. But we are called to lead and leaders should set the example not be made the example."
"This is not the time for grandstanding," Stoney said Thursday. "It's a time for leadership. And that’s what we’ve done with this budget."
Richmond City Council will consider the mayor's budget proposal at a Monday meeting.