Richmond for All Releases Report Card for 5th District City Council Race

Read the report card prepared below by Richmond for All in regards to the candidates in the special election this November for the 5th district city council seat.

Richmond for All’s 2019 Candidate Questionnaire asked 5th district city council hopefuls to make commitments to transparency in governance, community-led public schools, open and accountable policing practices, and truly accessible housing. We don’t live single-issue lives, we can’t rely on single-issue fights, and we can’t vote without a comprehensive knowledge of our candidates’ platforms across the issues. Richmond for All believes none of us can thrive until all of us have equitable access to the resources we need for our daily lives. We demand candidates that will govern our city from the bottom up. 

This document gives you our overall ratings for candidates in relation to one another. Ratings were drawn exclusively from candidate questionnaire responses. We also provide you a one-page summary of each candidate, their policies, their fundraising, and other relevant information. Complete candidate responses are included here in pages 12-17. Do you find this guide helpful? You can support our electoral work by getting involved or donating!

2019 Candidate Report Card 5th District City Council

A – Candidates show real alignment with people-first policies in education, housing and policing. Candidates have committed to democratic campaign financing and governance.

B – Candidates show some alignment with people-first policies and democratic governance, but have policy gaps in key areas or unclear commitments relative to tax-increment financing.

C – Candidates are likely to reflect status-quo governance. Under their leadership we cannot expect real changes that meet the needs of Richmonders.

D & F – Candidates show preference for policies that lead to displacement, austerity, and real losses for Richmonders. 

Campaign finance profile 5th district—Donations received through Aug 31st

*Robin Mines, Chuck Richardson, and Mamie Taylor have received no donations as of their August 31st state elections campaign filing.

Read more about each individual candidate below:

Nicholas Da Silva

Stephanie Lynch

Robin Mines

Jer’Mykeal McCoy

Chuck Richardson

Graham Sturm

Mamie Taylor

Thad Williamson

Our Methodology:

Richmond For All promotes transparency in elections, more holistically democratic governance for our city, and more comprehensive, evidence-based quality of life outcomes for the working class, the working poor, and communities of color. 

In service of this vision, we asked Fifth District candidates five questions aligning with current core areas of concern for our members. Each question was worth 20% of a candidate’s final score. In each case we graded a candidate on a combination of their identified campaign commitments and their additional comments on key issues. Our evaluation relied exclusively on the answers candidates provided. We encourage you to look at their full statements below.

Our campaign finance visualizations are drawn from updated data on These visualizations were created using the data from the August 31st campaign filing. While VPAP is incredibly helpful with election funding, it also lacks detail for small donations and fails to disaggregate donations from businesses. Our visualizations represent a good faith attempt to visualize funding streams for each campaign, but are no substitute for a full financial report, which can be accessed on the State Board of Elections website,

Full Candidate Responses: 

Graham Sturm

“On principle I cannot accept a donation from Dominion Energy. My husband complains too much every month when we go to pay our electric bill to know that top paid executives have enough money to spare to make political donations.”

“As a high school teacher in Richmond Public Schools, I cannot support the diversion of revenue away from our aging infrastructure. Moreover, the coliseum we have was built in the 1970s. The school I work at and the schools in the 5th district are all older than that. This seems antithetical to the current needs of Richmond.”

“61% of the public housing in Richmond currently sits inside the attendance zone for the school I work at. This kind of extreme, inter-generational and concentrated poverty is not healthy for Richmond. These are children I work for and I cannot in good faith support any effort that would either find them in more situations of homelessness nor being forced into a failed system. We must forge a new path forward for these families. I can support one-to-one replacement the extent to which we can find and secure funding and conditioned that such replacement does not further concentrate poverty in Richmond.”

Nicholas Da Silva

“Our campaign is dedicated to reducing the influence of undemocratic and corporate influences in government. Unlike other candidates and campaigns who have publicly denied corporate influences but hold stocks and interest in companies like Dominion and Altria, we are built from the bottom up to only accept the small dollar donations. Our average donation is $33.35 and we have not taken and will not take a single dollar from corporations and individuals who seek to influence government to the detriment of working people.”

“Our campaign has knocked on over 4000 doors and has talked to hundreds of people since the beginning of our efforts. After explaining the funding model being used (TIF district funding) in the Coliseum Project, an overwhelming majority of people we’ve talked to are opposed to the project. We are against the coliseum redevelopment plan for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we do not support the use of public tax funds for the enrichment of corporations or individuals, which would be the outcome of the project regardless of any actual benefit to the community. Secondly, the project has been pushed on the Richmond community without transparency or public input from the beginning. The administration, the NH District, Upper administrators from VCU (including Michael Rao), and corporate investors have been stacking public meetings regarding coordinating resources for the project. These meetings are scheduled without giving reasonable notice for citizens to be able to attend. This is done intentionally to keep the public in the dark in order to promote and progress the project. Finally, the project could take real estate tax funds away from schools, roads, public housing, and a number of other projects and agencies which have a much greater need for funding than an entertainment venue or un-affordable housing.”

“I support public housing and the expansion and increased funding of public housing. I am the only candidate in the race who spoke up against the demolition of the public housing from the beginning, spoke at an RRHA board meeting in support of preserving public housing, and will continue to fight for the rights of public housing residents being targeted by the gentrifying and corporate forces of Richmond.”

“Our campaign is dedicated to pushing back and eliminating undemocratic corporate and business influences in governance. We uphold, just like the Movement for Black Lives, that the local governance by democratic election of school districts by the school board is of the utmost importance. We will fight against changes that attempt to allow greater control of school districts by businesses and other un-elected bodies.”

“Over a year ago, Black school teacher Marcus-David Peters was murdered by a Richmond Police officer while unarmed and having a mental health crisis. After I began to organize alongside the family of Marcus and the Justice and Reformation coalition, I saw as the mayor, all 9 city council representatives, and the chief of police all tried to sweep it under the rug. No one made a stand, no one demanded changes, and no one would say we need more police accountability. This is one of the main reasons I decided to run, and why police accountability is one of our primary policy focuses, with the goal of a Civilian Oversight Board being one of our main objectives within that policy area.”

Robin D. Mines

“More research and clarification required.”

“Mixed income communities should be the focus.”

Mamie Taylor

“I have grave concerns about the process and outcomes of the project. It is doubtful that Richmond residents will see any revenue from this project before the corporate developers do. The bidding process seemingly was not transparent and potentially out of compliance.  And, per the referendum that includes many of my constituents, Richmonders have not consented in mass to its construction; especially when compared to continual calls for more funding for our public schools.”

“Everyone deserves a home. I will help constituents gain access to affordable housing opportunities, renters resources, and home ownership opportunities. I will prioritize special housing needs of seniors, fixed income families, people with disabilities, city employees, individuals with low incomes, public housing residents, and the formerly homeless and incarcerated.”

Thad Williamson

“We have not been offered support or assistance from any of the above.”

“Our campaign is not opposed to the use of TIF districts per se to support economic development. My read of the relevant urban economics and community development research (including the Scholars Strategy Network study referred to in the question) is that proposed TIF districts must be assessed, rigorously, on a case-by-case basis. I am not going to categorically refuse to use a significant policy tool that has been part of a multitude of projects nationwide. 

Certainly there are numerous instances (such as Chicago) in which the TIF concept has been abused, to the detriment of the public interest. I will oppose any development deal that (whether it involves a TIF or not) that is not in the public interest.

Whether in the context of the Coliseum proposal or another proposal, I will evaluate developments proposals according to these five criteria: impact on employment, impact on affordable housing supply, minority contracting and social enterprise development opportunities, transparency to the taxpayer, and whether there is broad community buy-in. For large scale projects, it is also important that they be structured so as to deliberately broaden the ownership of wealth (i.e. business ownership).  

It is not clear at this time that the Coliseum proposal meets any of the criteria, let alone all of them. I have numerous questions about the deal, including the methodological basis of the projected financials (in particular, total estimated revenue, and estimated revenue in the proposed TIF that would take place even without the deal).  I also do not think the deal in its present form does enough to build wealth more broadly, either on the employment end or in considering who will own the envisioned restaurants and businesses in the area. I also recognize the public has numerous legitimate concerns about the process by which this proposal has moved forward.

I intend to indicate whether I think the deal is viable, viable with major changes, or not viable, at least three weeks prior to the election, based on the best available information at that time. If it is the case that crucial information or questions to assessing the viability of the deal have not yet been answered or made available to the public, I will make the clear as well in as much specificity as possible.”

“I stand in almost complete agreement with these statements, with one difference as explained below.

Public housing residents are among the most vulnerable members of our community, and public housing communities have long been neglected and isolated, to devastating effect. Our priority as a community should be to work together to improve living conditions and to improve options (including housing options) for residents in public housing.

I have stood in support of public housing resident opposing mass eviction in Richmond for over ten years dating back to my public opposition to previous plans to redevelop Gilpin Court in 2009, by assuring that the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission Report and subsequent policy making committed to one-to-one replacement of housing units.

I support the following four principles: one-to-one replacement of public housing units; guaranteeing every current resident a subsidized, quality unit at end of process; strong support via case management and related supports to all residents impacted by a redevelopment process as early in the process as possible; and strong resident participation in the change process. Each of those principles correspond to the requirements of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative program. In my previous role as Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building, I worked to support these principles.

Current HUD policy allows for some one-for-one replacement in a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative project to consist of privately owned project-based vouchers. These are hard physical units set aside for low-income housing, but are privately owned. Unless or until there is a massive national policy shift to reinvest in public housing, I believe project-based vouchers are be an acceptable way to meet the one-for-one requirement in Richmond (just as federal policy allows). I reject, however, the idea of using tenant-based vouchers (which do not correspond to a new hard housing unit) as part of meeting any one-for-one requirement in Richmond. 

Regarding board governance, I support public housing resident participation on the RRHA board and previously advocated (successfully) alongside the organization REPHRAME to expand tenant representation on the RRHA board from one seat to two seats. I would be willing to support expanding such representation even further.

Finally, the RRHA must do everything within its power to improve service delivery, maintenance, and support for the existing public housing stock. This is its duty, and as a Council representative when 5th District RRHA residents are not receiving due services or are having needs neglected, I will stand with them and demand accountability and action.”

“I support the rights of our democratically elected school board to set school-specific policy as laid out by Virginia law, subject to policies established by the State Board of Education. 

I take issue with the characterization of the Education Compact was or is an attack on the rights of the School Board or local democratic governance. The Compact is a cooperation agreement between the School Board, City Council and Mayor that preserves the rights and responsibilities of each body. The intent was and is to improve communication between these branches of local government and to promote cross-agency collaboration. That’s why it was unanimously adopted by the School Board in 2017 and has been embraced by Superintendent Kamras. It also has led to sharp growth in RPS’s operating budget, school construction funds, and support for out-of-school time activities in the past three years. The net effect of the Compact on Richmond Public Schools has been extremely positive in a short period of time, but with much opportunity for continued progress ahead of us.”

“I support establishment of a Civilian Oversight Board in Richmond with the power to independently review and issue advisory judgments concerning alleged incidents of racial bias in policing and other alleged abuses of power by police. I believe such a Board will enhance public trust in Richmond Police Department and contribute both to racial equity and to public safety.”

Jer’Mykeal McCoy

“Our campaign will not be accepting any donations from parties that can be reasonably expected to have business before council in the foreseeable future.”

“I would vote “no” on the current proposal. My economic priorities are: on-site paid job training/certification, realistic affordable housing, and guarantees for minority-owned and Richmond-based businesses. I am always willing to discuss changes to the proposal, but this plan needs to sufficiently address these key priorities of Richmonders.The current plan does not.”

“In addition to tenant oversight and 1:1 replacement for any demolished public housing units, we must implement policies that drive an overall increase in the city’s housing stock and slow the growth of housing costs for all Richmond residents.”

“In addition to committing to preserve our democratically elected School Board, I have also committed to fully fund RPS each budget year I am on City Council.”

“Law enforcement officials cannot protect and serve the public without public oversight. I am confident that a Civilian Oversight Board would be a strong partner for RPD as they seek to improve policing practices and strengthen community engagement.”

Chuck Richardson

“My campaign is a low budget campaign. I cannot afford to refuse campaign contributions. But I want to make this clear, there is not one contributor that I have been, nor will I ever be, committed to, nor restrained by, nor bound by. I am an independent representative of the residents of the 5th district and there is no contribution that will bind me.”

“I am not in favor of what they are presenting. It is very vague. It has not been presented in an accurate or transparent fashion. There is too much undisclosed information, too much secrecy. It is a suspect project and I am not inclined to give it my support at this time. There are too many outside factors involved and it’s not being handled, in my opinion,  with the kind of disclosure that it should be. I am inclined to urge the administration to either abandon it or handle it with much more information being disclosed to the public than so far has been.”

“I think it should be more than one-to-one replacement. We need 2 units replaced to every one lost. There is a shortfall in low income housing. Also, not only should tenants have oversight, they should have authority.”

“Bottom line — It’s just not going to happen without interference from City Council and the Mayor’s office. That’s just one of the painful realities of democracy.”

“Absolutely. One of the first things I did as a member of council on 1977 was try to create an oversight commission and everybody was against it. The chief of police, the public safety director. And we still have, after 42 years, an administration, a CAO, a mayor, and a council that does not want any involvement in a police action. Police officers will never tell on themselves.  And until we get an independent citizens review board to watch over the workings in the machinations of the police department we’re never going to have a fair hearing. Police officers are just like other human beings. They make mistakes, some of them are morally reprehensible. When we are unwilling to put citizens over top of police to judge them and placing them in a position of hierarchy where they are above reproach, we do ourselves a disservice.  We should have a citizen review board made up of doctors and lawyers and regular poor folk to sit in judgment of people who like anybody else make mistakes.”

Stephanie Lynch

“This is a pivotal moment for Richmond. The Navy Hill Plan would be a nearly $1.5 billion dollar undertaking with massive implications for future generations. No doubt, this could be an economic boon that not only creates jobs, but creates the potential for future revenues tied to additional tax revenue from a new and improved coliseum, hotel, restaurants, and other elements of the plan. Not to mention that Richmond would finally have the opportunity to be competitive relative to our neighboring cities in terms of attracting the kind of big acts that currently pass us by for Charlotesville, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach. That being said, I have major concerns with the deal that would make me a “no” vote were it to come to council today. 

Are Richmond taxpayers truly not at risk should revenue come in below forecasts? Are we deferring funds away from other needs, and has there been a serious analysis of the impact of this project on existing Richmond businesses? Are we making a long term commitment to truly affordable housing? Will future revenues be dedicated to priorities like schools, roads, and infrastructure, without requiring follow up action on the part of Council?

I’m interested in engaging in an honest dialogue with the community and experts on those questions before being able to support this project, but I’m keeping an open mind. Richmond has an opportunity here, but our communities have also suffered greatly from the exploits of former Mayor’s vanity projects. I’ve personally experienced the ramifications of these seemingly admirable but mismanaged undertakings. Under Mayor Dwight Jones, $1.8 million dollars was diverted away from a child care voucher local match that supported twenty of my students at [insert info]  in favor of funding the renovation of Altria Theatre.

We know this is not going to be the last controversial development project that is going to be considered in Richmond. If we are to expect public buy-in going forward, we have to make an enduring commitment to no longer build in the shadows. I’m interested in making that a reality on day one, and I’m similarly committed to this project in my campaign. I’m the only candidate to offer a public survey on the Navy Hill Project– a survey that also clearly lays out my concerns, and provides relevant information and facts for context. 

Once in office, I would put forward legislation to create a permanent community development advisory commission – made up of citizens from across the City – to provide citizen input on all future projects above a certain dollar threshold. In the interest of transparency, effective communication, and genuinely representing the interests of residents, this is a necessity.”