Joe Morrissey isn't ready to say that he's running for mayor -- yet. But the former state delegate and commonwealth's attorney is more than happy to sound off on what he sees as the defining issue of the city's 2016 election cycle: overhauling Richmond Public Schools' decrepit school buildings.
Morrissey last week sent a letter to Mayor Dwight C. Jones and City Council President Michelle Mosby drawing a contrast between the time city leaders have spent debating what will become of its minor league baseball stadium versus a long-term plan to repair school facilities.
“When one realizes that the Diamond finished construction in 1985 and the average K-12 school was constructed in 1955, the priorities of City Hall and City Council become shameful,” Morrissey wrote.
Morrissey elaborated on why he wrote the letter in a short phone interview on Monday.
“I’ve served -- past tense -- on the (House of Delegates) education committee for the better part of eight years. I think I’ve got some insight into what I think is going to be the main issue in this 2016 race – the deplorable condition of our city schools.”
The Richmond Time-Dispatch first reported on the letter. Morrissey insisted that Mosby received the letter because she is council president, not because she is a candidate for the office of mayor.
Morrissey also dismissed the notion that with the letter he is positioning himself for a mayoral run, something he has not discounted.
"I am not saying that I am running, but I feel very confident that I can comment on different issues. ... I have not entered the race, and when I do, I will let everyone know at the same time. If I were to run, the announcement would be after Super Tuesday."
Paul Goldman, Morrissey’s law partner and a longtime city political operative, said the 2016 election is likely to be the first citywide election since the charter change in 2004 that is more about issues than the candidates’ respective personalities.
“I don’t think Joe will be the only candidate who’s talking about schools. He’s the first one,” Goldman said. “But you have other people. You have members of council and other folks who will have to explain what they have done and what they haven’t done.”