to moving city forward
Reporter Sean Gorman's June 24 news story about Richmond businesses dealing with the pandemic-induced economic downturn and vandalism that occurred during recent violent protests took me back 20 years when I was involved in the redevelopment of the downtown Richmond area. In those days, inner-city residents would have to travel miles to visit moderately stocked grocery stores, restaurants and other retail shops, and there were fewer accessible jobs. As so often happens, the less fortunate were the most negatively impacted as public transportation was their only choice of transportation to get around.
Today, after years of thoughtful planning and significant capital investment, there are many more businesses that provide both services and job opportunities to area residents. In Gorman's article, downtown business owners shared their stories of facing overwhelming obstacles involving the virus, lockdowns, protests, rioting and looting. On Page A4 of the same edition, Gov. Ralph Northam stated, "Clearly, Richmond needs a different path forward." Northam's further statement, "These nightly conflicts cannot continue indefinitely," shocked me. "Indefinitely" would be a long time. Many of these retailers, businesses and restaurants that serve the downtown and surrounding communities don't have the luxury of time. In the long run, the irony could be that the fear factor of instability and uncertainty will keep customers and tourists away, and drive businesses to relocate — or worse, to bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, the losers in the end could be the people whom the protesters are trying to help. I always have been a proponent for accountability, and city officials and employees should not be excluded, nor should our police officers. I hope state and city officials — including Mayor Levar Stoney and the Richmond Police Department — can work together to provide a workable solution that will bring stability to Richmond.