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Prayer for the Mayor

An open letter from King Salim Khalfani

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This really needs no setup. Straight from the desk of King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the State Chapter of the NAACP:

February 15, 2012

The Honorable Dwight Clinton Jones, Mayor

City of Richmond

900 East Broad St.

Richmond, Va. 23219

Re: Our Prayer for You, Mr. Mayor

Dear Mayor Jones:

During your State of the City address you had the unmitigated gall to use the “bolo punch” (boxing sucker punch) against Richmond Public Schools. You said, “We are too quick to celebrate mediocrity. And I must admit that I myself have participated in these celebrations of mediocrity. But we’ve got to stop. We have got to let go of the mediocrity and embrace excellence…Our children are crying out for help.” You were referring to the state of education in our City, I think? Of all of the issues we have in Robert E. Lee City, you chose to throw a blow at those who cannot come out swinging back, the hard working administrators, educators, maintenance staff and students (72-76% of whom live below the poverty demarcation) of RPS. That is typical fare for a Mayor who presides over a Cesspool of Corruption, Incompetence and Mediocrity.

Here is a brief list of issues that are of paramount importance that face the Administration:

  • The Leaning Tower of Babel Jail Contract Debacle, whereby the Procurement process was violated, vetting did not take place of financials, the Unsolicited PPEA Proposal was unscrupulously copied by the awardee, a $25-million Pass Through is being allowed, contract renewals for huge sums of taxpayer dollars are allowed until discovered, the misleading of Council and citizens is carried out by your staff. I could go on ad infinitum but for the sake of brevity, I will stop there.
  • The Procurement Process for the building of new schools and the lack of inclusion on MLK, Oak Grove and Huguenot High School exist, unabated.
  • The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is being administered incompetently.
  • Your Justice Center’s Minority participants are primarily from other states.
  • The Pipefitters of the DPU who are awaiting the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision on whether to litigate, along with the Gary Law Firm of Stuart, Florida are being retaliated against and treated disparately even though the City has a 0-tolerance policy against discrimination.
  • The Richmond Juvenile Detention Center that was brought to the City in late September of 2011. Of the 55-Juvenile facilities in the Commonwealth, Richmond’s is the only one on probation and could be decertified and closed. There is also a pending investigation by the Commonwealth’s Attorney concerning forgery.
  • When one white business owner got upset over the awarding of a $100,000-marketing/branding contract, you were led to write an op ed to the white daily newspaper. African (Black) contractors have been upset over the lack of inclusion during your entire term and you give flippant responses to inquiries.
  • The Redistricting Commission which focused on poverty produced multiple recommendations that would be good for the City and explained the planned poverty that exists yet there has been very little to no effort to implement strategies that would help the 99% of us who are always left holding the proverbial bag.
  • The Occupy Richmond movement that has the public engaged in a conversation about the viciousness of capitalism, that we can now have without fear of being labeled communists were handled without care by the City (after a national Mayor’s conference call where the decision was made on how to handle the movement). Occupy Richmond aptly pointed out that convenience for corporate Richmond is the modes operandi of your Administration instead of the attainment of a fair share for the 99%.

During a National Roundtable last June held at Richmond Community High School, our National Blue Ribbon school, an event you attended along with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the following facts were revealed:

  • Most of Richmond’s schools were built between 1925 and 1932.
  • Richmond Community did not have functioning air conditioning. We were hot and sweating profusely.
  • Those scholars did not have textbooks that they could take home. While conducting a group study session the moderator’s textbook fell apart.
  • Richmond Community does not have a lab.
  • Richmond Community did not have the technological tools that suburban schools have.
  • Those scholars are taking 2-3 courses at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College because they do not have enough instructors.
  • Over the last decade 72-76% of RPS students live below the poverty level which creates its own set of issues.
  • The population of students and their parent’s present challenges for administrators, educators, maintenance workers and volunteers that counties, suburbs and other cities in the Commonwealth do not have to deal with. If you had to spend a day in their shoes maybe you’re thinking would be different.
  • RPS have been historically disparately treated when it comes to state funding. This creates hardships that others do not have to deal with.

If these are the issues that our National Blue Ribbon School suffers from, one can only imagine what the other schools face daily. Mr. Mayor, I have never attended an event related to RPS where mediocrity was celebrated. To the contrary, excellence is always celebrated and there has been a concerted effort to make the impossible, possible for all of our children. (By the way, children are human beings. Kids are baby goats.) I applaud the administrators, educators, maintenance persons and volunteers who deserve our gratitude and respect. The mediocrity that smells to the high heavens is coming from the failure of the current Administration to perform its duties with integrity, professionalism and competence. Our prayer Mr. Mayor is that you get the beam out of your own eye before casting aspersions upon those who don’t deserve it. Pick on someone your own size!

Honestly Speaking,

King Salim Khalfani

King Salim Khalfani

Executive Director

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