Wading Through the Smoke

Richmond Forward’s current goal is to remove the barrier of failing school facilities, holding back at-opportunity students in Richmond. This edition of The Latest includes an update on a cigarette tax for school facility maintenance proposal.

Cigarette tax to fund school facilities maintenance

The Basics

ORD2018-031 would start an $0.80/per pack tax on cigarettes on July 1, 2018, with the expected generation of $5M annually to spend on school facilities maintenance.

February 15th Council Finance Committee

Councilman Agelasto’s proposal (ORD2018-031) received its first vetting and was met with mixed reviews. The RTD’s Mark Robinson and RVA Dirt’s thorough list of comments recap public comments and Council discussion. Starting at the 13:00 minute mark, you can listen and relive the entire experience.

Summary of concerns:

  • Transparency and language of ordinance
  • Mistrust of what School Board will do with money
  • Support for Southside Richmond
  • Impact to small businesses
  • Impact to Altria
  • Regressive nature
  • Use for bonding
  • Need additional feedback from district

Post-meeting thoughts were provided by Ross Catrow in Good Morning, RVA, and RVA Dirt provided an in-depth interview with Councilman Agelasto followed by discussion on their Municipal Mania WRIR show!

March 6th Richmond Forward Policy Action Team

In building upon past research and analysis (2017 and a few weeks ago), we meet to discuss timeline, concerns, and next steps. Seven people attended a meeting at Black Hand Coffee and we covered the following information:  

  • Due to changes brought upon by a conflict with state code and added language to specify use of funds, ORD2018-031 will be continued at the upcoming March 15th Finance meeting.
  • Messaging should highlight how this will help address a civil rights need (backlog of school maintenance needs), is quality community health policy (reduces smoking), and a best practice in government (used in all other Virginia cities).
  • Additional research is needed to address concerns and raise highlights. This includes number crunching and academic research, but also outreach to small business owners and smokers.
  • Coalition building is needed communicate and coordinate outreach to Council members.

The action team is a subset mailing list of around 70 people that receive policy calls to action. If you’re interested in joining this team, email us today!

March 9th vote count

YES: Agelasto, Larson, and Hilbert

MAYBE: Addison, Newbille, Robertson, Jones, and Gray

NO: Trammell

Mayor Stoney's a YES, if not used for bonding.

March 15th Finance Committee (5pm City Hall, Council Chambers)

Proposal will be continued, but public comment may still be taken. We could use a few people to speak. Before April 19th, people need to contact their Council representatives.

April 19th Finance Committee (5pm City Hall, Council Chambers)

Make or break time. If it doesn’t make it out of committee with a recommendation (approve or deny), then it won’t be passed this year because the budget needs to be finalized by early May. People should show up for comment.   

April 23rd City Council (6pm City Hall, Council Chambers)

The big time.  As many people need to show us as possible. If proposal makes it out of committee with approval, it most likely has the votes to pass Council. But, anything can happen when it hits the 2nd floor of City Hall.

Garet’s take

Improving the function of government within our current budget, similar to this example of streamlining development review, is 110% needed. We desperately need a more efficient system. Mayor Stoney has begun this work, and more action is needed by the School Board and City Council to tighten the belt.

With that said, its a real balance. My hope in supporting new revenues like the cigarette and meals is that we can get these in place AND fight for efficient use of dollars. The need is so monumental that we can tie down/direct new dollars ($150M new facilities and $5M maintenance) to clear emergency needs. I hope you’ll join me in this effort.