The Compact: An RVA Joint

Call to Action

Before July 12th, contact the School Board, City Council, and Mayor, with your thoughts on the Compact (one-click email on RF homepage). If you need further background on the Compact, check out our past updates (one, two, and three).

For myself, I’ll be advocating for following changes need to be included with the Compact:

  1. Timeline for deliverables on the education facilities plan, multi-year operational funding, and community schools.
  2. Composition of the Education Compact to include more “have-not” representatives (see Arnstein article).
  3. Assurances from City Administration that proper staffing and resources will be provided to support the Education Compact in their efforts of analysis and community engagement.

Finally, mark your calendars for Compact public hearings on July 17th (School Board) and July 24th (City Council). Each of these meetings start at 6pm in City Hall. Richmond Forward’s homepage has basic information on what to expect.

Joint Meeting

A joint meeting with Mayor Stoney, City Council, and School Board was held on Monday, June 26th. Opening remarks from Mayor Stoney can be found on the City blog, and coverage was provided by Style, RTD, and #RVAMayor on Twitter.

The draft resolution to establish the Compact was released the Friday before, along with a long-form read FAQs document that provides further information.

As was noticed by Ned Oliver and RTD Editorial, the draft resolution is a much more pared down version than the previously released Compact document.  

Richmond Forward’s Take

The cooperative nature and basic fact that almost every party attended was drastically different than previous joint meetings before the education compact effort. A quick look back to Mark Robinson article titles “Much Talk, Little Action” and “Disjointed” capture the quality of these past attempts. For a visual representation, look no further than this side-by-side photo of an almost vacant room compared to the Compact meeting start. We’re not at the quarterly joint meeting shangri la described by Roanoke’s City Manager Chris Morrill, but this was a substantial step in the right direction.  

Photo credit: Mark Robinson and Garet Prior

That said, this positive start should not be taken with naivete. Hard decisions to close and rezone schools, defunding current projects, choosing who/what gets funded, cutting public services or adding taxes, and determining metrics for success will all be contentious debates.

What’s highly important is that we establish a healthy paradigm of governance and advocacy.

In the last Update Central post, we dove into how the public sector should establish a process for citizen power and transparency. This time, I’ll write about the responsibility of advocates.

Advocacy Responsibility

Advocacy needs to recognize the established roles of the public decision making process. The Constitution moved us away from Direct democracy by establishing a Republic where elected representatives make decisions.

Lengthy lists of questions and criticisms are healthy to any democratic process, but we must recognize that unending public debate will only achieve stagnation.  We as advocates must understand the process to educate others on when we can best enact change. Without this knowledge, advocacy can too easily fall into conspiracy theory or lazy propagation of stereotypes that public officials are corrupt or incompetent.

A quick test of whether advocacy efforts are genuine, it whether plausible solutions are presented. For some, the never ending list of criticisms is a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps that individual in power (albeit perceived), whose actions only delay or stall efforts for much needed solutions to long-standing problems.

We as advocates must also be transparent. If we call on better inclusion and transparency in government, we must do this ourselves. For Richmond Forward, we’ve been working the past few months to dive introspectively. Later this month we’re rolling out a whole mess of information that explains our purpose, philosophy, and actions. In Update Central, we’ve made a concerted effort to identify when I, Garet Prior, am writing to support an action versus an endorsement by Richmond Forward.

We need to raise the quality of dialogue in Richmond, and strengthen our civic discourse. We should know the decision-making process for endorsement for groups like Support Our Schools, for example. We need the RTD Editorial to sign names to their work so it can be part of the ongoing, accountable public discussion.

The Compact

The process for the Compact resolution is legally required to be introduced to City Council (July 17th) for a public hearing at their July 24th meeting. For School Board, a public hearing will be held on July 17th, meaning the resolution will be in their agenda packet by Friday, July 14th.

If you’re hoping for changing the resolution language, you need to have this accomplished by July 12th. For now, the resolution language is with Thad Williamson. You can contact him directly (email or call 804-646-6265), or get your City Council or School Board representatives to contact him before Wednesday, July 12th.

As for a major overhaul of resolution text, I wouldn’t expect it now. It seemed like a high majority of the elected officials were supportive of the quarterly meetings and Children’s Cabinet, with the Education Compact receiving the largest critiques.

These concerns will be addressed through the resolution or a publicly communicated document (such as the FAQs). The latter approach is what I expect because of (1) the complexity of getting 19 elected officials to agree, (2) past practice, and (3) this is a resolution, not an ordinance.

Quick explanatory example

In looking back at the establishment of the Maggie Walker Initiative Citizens Advisory Board, on July 31, 2013, Mayor Jones established a Citizens Advisory Board and set the policy that one-half would consist of persons living in/near poverty or working in a high-poverty neighborhood. Almost a year later, on December 8, 2014, City Council adopted ordinance 2014-234-215 that defined the committee composition, duties, and administration. In 2015 and 2016, additional ordinances were passed to address lessons learned with the committee's actions.

In this example we see a statement of position or policy (e.g. resolution) followed by formation of the committee that eventually lead to codified laws (e.g. ordinance) on its operation.

Call to Action

Before July 12th, contact the School Board, City Council, and Mayor, with your thoughts on the Compact (one-click email on RF homepage). If you need further background on the Compact, check out our past updates (one, two, and three).

For myself, I’ll be advocating for following changes need to be included with the Compact:

  1. Timeline for deliverables on the education facilities plan, multi-year operational funding, and community schools.
  2. Composition of the Education Compact to include more “have-not” representatives (see Arnstein article).
  3. Assurances from City Administration that proper staffing and resources will be provided to support the Education Compact in their efforts of analysis and community engagement.

Finally, mark your calendars for Compact public hearings on July 17th (School Board) and July 24th (City Council). Each of these meetings start at 6pm in City Hall. Richmond Forward’s homepage has basic information on what to expect.

Good luck and stay engaged!