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Enough of this style of government



I don't know about you, but I think we've all had enough.

We've had enough of this "my way or the highway" style of government. We've had enough of the bullying and insults, the firings and finger-pointing; enough non-stop negativity about our schools, our students, our teachers and our city. We've had enough excuses, explanations, accusations and counter-accusations about why things aren't better.

And we have certainly had more than enough of "can't, won't and don't-you-even-dare-dream" that the mayor and the school superintendent, the mayor and the School Board, the mayor and City Council will ever listen to one another, much less figure out that this senseless feud is wearing us all out.

We have had enough blue-ribbon task forces comprised of people who don't even live in the City of Richmond - telling those of us who do - that everything is wrong and nothing is right. AndBu we have definitely had enough high-priced "studies" and "consultant reports" telling us precisely what the last study or consultant said.

We know what we need to do - summon the political courage necessary and dare to do our duty. Our city is blessed to have faith, business, community and political leaders, friends and neighbors, good people willing to step up and do something other than bemoan the crime and poverty rate in Richmond, good people who care about our schools and who willingly devote resources and money to help.

We know our children need both education and employment in order to be successful. Common sense tells us that the best cure for crime and poverty is a decent job that pays a living wage. Common sense also tells us that in order to keep the best teachers and employees, we must pay professional salaries commensurate with their abilities and our expectations.

We desperately need to fix all our schools, especially our middle schools. Imagine what could happen were we to come together and create middle school equivalents of The Governor's School, Franklin Military Academy, Richmond Community High School and Open High School. We need more than one middle school that offers the academic rigor of the International Baccalaureate program.

But instead of fixing what is wrong in this city, instead of working together to find solutions, our mayor engages in expensive turf battles with anyone who dares to disagree with him. As our children and teachers begin a new school year and the next round of SOL tests, the mayor, members of City Council and School Board face an even higher-stakes test.

Can we provide the leadership necessary to come together as a community - black and white, rich and poor - and create a city and a school system that values all children, all citizens?

This madness will stop only when the citizens of this city demand that the mayor and City Council, the superintendent and School Board go beyond "test scores" and find ways to work cooperatively to create a school system that not only will attract families, businesses and teachers - but will keep them from leaving. Richmond needs to be not only "easy to love," but "hard to leave."

We have all had more than enough "Politics of Meanness." It is now time to discover the "Politics of Meaning." We can begin by making our schools compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), not simply because it is the law and a federal judge has ordered that we do so, but because it is the moral thing to do.

If we don't, Richmond will not only be known as the former Capital of the Confederacy and birthplace of Massive Resistance, but also the city that fought to keep children and adults with disabilities out of our public schools. And now we are the town where the mayor forcibly attempted to evict the School Board and had to be stopped by a judge!

How much shame can one city endure?

Can we provide the leadership necessary to come together as a community - black and white, rich and poor - and create a city and a school system that values all children, all citizens?

Will those of us who are comfortable, work with those who are not, in order to create a city where no child goes to bed hungry, a city where senior citizens and children are not murdered in broad daylight? A city where children and adults with disabilities are included - and not excluded - from our school buildings?

We have seen what a "can't-do" attitude has brought us: fear, failure and frustration. Fixing this city cannot be a "me" thing - it must be a "we" thing. We must move from "hand-to-hand" political combat of the last two years to "hand-in-hand" cooperation. We must do this for the sake of the children and our city. This is our challenge.

Success is the only legacy worth having.


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