BRUCE TYLER

Bruce Tyler suspended his mayoral campaign Sept. 27, 2016.

Bruce TylerCandidates for Richmond mayor received questionnaires from local nonprofit organizations James River Association, Richmond Forward, RVA Rapid Transit, Sports Backers, and Storefront for Community Design. Their responses — regarding public education, transportation, urban planning and the riverfront — will guide the Mayorathon, a candidate forum scheduled for Sept. 29.

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Candidate Bruce Tyler’s responses to the questionnaires appear below.


Responses have been published as received; no content has been edited beyond being formatted for the web.

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EDUCATIONNEIGHBORHOODS | RIVER | TRANSIT

Biking / Walking

QUESTION 1 - TRANSPORTATION EQUITY

Biking and walking not only improves public health, but it is a prevalent form of transportation for people who can’t afford a car and/or gas, are too young to drive, or are not mentally or physically able to drive. According to Census data, nearly 22 percent of Richmond households do not own or otherwise have access to a car. The challenge for Richmond is to increase access to safe biking and walking for opportunities for all citizens. 

What measures can we expect your administration to take to expand access to safe walking and biking infrastructure for all Richmond residents?

BRUCE TYLER: First we must start with repairing and replacing sidewalks throughout our city.  The current allocation is $300,000 for sidewalks; we need at least five times that amount. I plan to increase this allocation to $1.75 million.

Second, more importantly, I will work with Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator to implement the recommendations from the Richmond Bicycle Master Plan.  We must continue to increase bicycle lane miles.

QUESTION 2 - COMPLETE STREETS

In October of 2014, Richmond City Council passed a Complete Streets Resolution (No. 2014-R172-170) that states the City will – within one year – modify street design and construction manuals, codes, ordinances, and standards to reflect that “all transportation improvement projects in the city be planned for, designed, and constructed to provide appropriate accommodation for persons of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit passengers, and motorists, while promoting safe operations for all users.” Nearly two years later, these changes have not been adopted.

If elected Mayor, how would you work to implement the City’s Complete Streets Policy?

TYLER: It is the Mayor’s responsibility through the CAO to implement adopted papers, even though resolutions are non-binding.  I would suggest we take another look at the resolution and codify sections that we can implement via adopting an ordinance which is binding.  

QUESTION 3 - VISION ZERO

Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. On March 7, 2016, Richmond City Council passed a Vision Zero Resolution (No. 2016-R011) that “supports the development of a Vision Zero program for the City of Richmond with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries in road traffic to zero by the year 2030.”

As Mayor, what policy steps would you take to improve education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency response with the purpose of achieving zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030?

TYLER: As Mayor, I will ask the Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator and the grant writers look for funding sources to implement safety programs to educate our citizens. I will continue to propose funding in our capital budgets to implement more of the recommendations in the Richmond Bicycle Master Plan.  I will ask law enforcement to step up traffic patrol to ensure our citizens operate vehicles properly.  As for emergency response time, we have one of the best emergency response teams in the world.  I will work with them to help with any recommendations they would make. 

QUESTION 4 - INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

In May of 2015, the City of Richmond finished work on the city’s first Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for implementation of 135 miles of new bikeways by 2025. By the end of 2016, the city will have 25 miles of bikeways on the ground, all of which have been “low hanging fruit”. However, few if any of our new bikeways connect to each other or major destinations.

As Mayor, how would you grow the mileage of bikeways in Richmond to fill in the gaps and form a connected network?

TYLER: As Mayor, I will ask our Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator and the grant writers to look for funding sources to help us implement Richmond Bicycle Master Plan.  I believe we will see more transportation dollars allocated to alternative transportation models.  Also, I propose funding in our capital and operating budget to increase our transportation funding from the current $3.5 million to $20 million dollars.  Our proposed budget will set aside 5% to 10% of this funding to increase bikeways.  

QUESTION 5 - FUNDING

Establishing safe and accessible places for people to bike and walk for transportation will require additional funding for capital projects, either in the form of Federal grants, State revenue-sharing, or the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). In May of 2016, Mayor Jones proposed $500,000 in the FY2017 CIP budget for bicycle infrastructure – more than any previous fiscal year – in addition to funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic calming. Furthermore, City Council added $300,000 to fully fund the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a walking and biking bridge from Brown’s Island to Manchester.

Do you support pursuing additional funding (in the CIP or other sources) for biking and walking infrastructure? If yes, how much?

TYLER: I anticipate increasing transportation funding from $3.5 million to $20 million dollars a year. I will set aside 5% to 10% of the funds for bicycle infrastructure, crosswalks, and traffic calming measures.  We must work together to create Richmond as one of the most friendly alternative transportation cities in Virginia.  

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Education

QUESTION 1 - INTER-GOVERNMENT REFORMS/INTENTIONALITY

Richmonders are long tired of stories of inter-government dysfunction and miscommunication between the Mayor, City Council, and School Board when it comes to education. Prime examples include the annual contentious budget season and the discoordination in school construction and operation that led to the failed opportunity with a new MLK Middle School.

What will you do to ensure that your office bolsters inter-governmental efforts to support a world-class education system?

TYLER: The first week in my administration I reach out to the School Board Chairman and the President of City Council to discuss developing a strategic plan for RPS.  I’d like to see the School Board take the lead in drafting a new plan or ratifying the current plan with input from City Council and my administration, meeting on a regular basis to provide input into the development of the plan.  Once the School Board approves it, I will forward to City Council a resolution to adopt the comprehensive and collaborative strategic plan for RPS.  Upon City Council approval, I will sign the resolution to put the plan into action.  This will be the first time since the new mayoral form of government where all three elected bodies will agree to a single strategic plan for our schools, which will serve as the basis for all of our decisions regarding Richmond Public Schools.  This plan will include academic improvement, community engagement, maintenance, and capital building along with estimated funding for each of these components.     

QUESTION 2 - SUSTAINABLE FUNDING

An increased and sustainable stream of education funding will be needed overcome the backlog of facilities needs caused by systemic disinvestment, and to meet the needs of educating students from highly-concentrated poverty. With Richmond’s limited bond capacity, revenue streams, and disadvantage from state funding policies, this will not be an effort that Richmond’s residents can bear alone.

What is your plan to identify the necessary combination of state, private, and local revenues to provide sustainable funding for an education overhaul?

TYLER: Since the FY2014 Actual Expenditures  of$645M and the FY 2017 Adopted Budget of $709M, the general operating budget  increased by $64M. During this time, 13 of the 36 departments increased expenses by 10% or more, excluding RPS.  The Auditor of Public Accounts for local government report for FY2014 shows how inefficiently we operate our city in comparison to other cities in the Commonwealth.   Our RPS funding issues are not because of declining revenues but instead they are due in part to governmental mismanagement.  Combine greater fiscal responsibility with increased revenue projections and we will have the income to properly fund RPS.  With the aforementioned comprehensive and collaborative strategic school plan in place, funding allocations will be set for four years out to meet the objectives defined in the strategic plan.

QUESTION 3 - TRANSFORMATIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Recent events have shown the immense goodwill of our community for city schools: citizens came out in droves to support funding for Richmond Public Schools. Likewise, Richmond's business community contributes amply to education initiatives every year. With all this good intention, we still lack transformational partnerships between the schools and business, neighborhood, or philanthropic service providers.

What will you do to maximize community support for public education by establishing transformative partnerships which empower individuals towards sustainable change?

TYLER: The transformation we need to create in our school system is one that moves to a strong K-8 model with magnet middle schools. We have great elementary schools (Mary Munford and Bellevue) and great high schools (Open and Community).  The middle school years remain the issue.  For us to make our schools a system of first choice and not last resort, I would propose we look at a K-8 educational system as an alternative to our current system. The benefits include students staying in neighborhood schools, continuity between 5th and 6th grade as teachers communicate about students,   opportunities for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to mentor elementary students, and a more supportive teaching environment.  Also, I would propose we continue with the current magnet middle schools: the IB program at Lucile Brown and the arts program at Binford.  These programs have been well received by our students and parents. By initiating this approach to our school system we will be able to increase the number of students attending RPS.  

Once this plan is in place, I will work with parents, citizens, non-profit organizations, and businesses to support the proposed plan.  I will actively seek support of the non-profit organizations and the business community by hosting open houses at our schools.  The purpose of the meetings will be to connect these groups and have these organizations become a school sponsor.

QUESTION 4 - STRATEGIC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

A combination of tax abatements and incentives used to attract businesses, develop historic properties, and boost tourism have nonetheless diminished the taxable property base in Richmond. Private market trends have shifted considerably in recent years, but our tax policies and economic understanding continue to leave Richmond Public Schools’ funding – which many voters claim is a top investment priority – short.

What is your economic development strategy to provide incentives or negotiate benefits, which recognizes education as a priority?

TYLER: The short term strategy will be to improve the management of our government operations by instituting greater fiscal accountability. By doing so, we will be able to direct $20 to $30 million to our schools immediately. Also, I will look at rehabilitation tax credit programs to renovate our historic public schools.  Corporations will be formed to sell the tax credits and lease back these buildings for a specified period of time with RPS ultimately owning the building.  

The long term strategy will be to grow our city.  We will do this by developing a comprehensive master plan with zoning ordinances that foster responsible development in our community. We should continue with tax abatements on new construction in economically depressed areas and renovation projects that preserve our building heritage.  These programs ultimately bring more taxable income to our city.  

Also, we must develop one of the most underutilized areas in the city, The Diamond site.  This tract of land has the largest potential for economic development in our city.  If properly developed, we should see more than $25 million annually in revenue to our city.   

Tax abatements and incentives have allowed our city to grow and become the vibrant city we see today.  As tax abatements expire, our taxable income increases, in turn allowing us to invest in our schools. 

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Neighborhoods

QUESTION 1

The City of Richmond has undertaken some successful planning processes in the past decade like the Downtown Master Plan and the Richmond Riverfront Plan. Each of these processes valued civic engagement and put forth results that have been embraced by the public.

As the City’s Master Plan is updated in the coming years, how will you as Mayor ensure that the city has a robust and inclusive civic engagement process?

TYLER: The city of Richmond is past due for a citywide master plan update.  I am excited to see the process is starting.  I look forward to having a comprehensive plan so we can have responsible responsive development that enhances our city.   I look forward to having the professional consulting firm with extensive master planning experience guide us through a participatory process.  

As we go through the process citizen input will be the cornerstone for the master plan.  We will rely on community meetings to obtain input, report on findings, and review recommendations. This master plan will look at each of our neighborhoods to recommend improvements that will preserve our stable neighborhoods, allow for responsible development in emerging areas like Scott’s Addition, all to create a vibrant future for our city.

QUESTION 2

As the population continues to increase in the City of Richmond, conversations about displacement, housing affordability, and neighborhood change are top of mind for Richmonders. One effort to tackle these challenges was seen through the establishment of the first Office of Community Wealth Building in the nation.

Building on this framework, what tools do you think the City could use to promote more equitable development?

TYLER: We must work with our nonprofit partners to continue to create affordable housing throughout our city with initiatives like Choice Neighborhood in the east end of our city.  This program has the ability to transform our most disadvantaged neighborhoods into affordable mixed income housing with wrap around services for our most disadvantaged citizens.

As Mayor, I will work with community leaders and the Office of Community Wealth Building to put together a private/public partnership to transform concentrated areas of poverty into mixed-income housing.  This will be in addition to the Choice Neighborhood program.

QUESTION 3

The great neighborhoods that make up the City of Richmond each have different stories, legacies, histories, and tomorrows. People, your constituents, continue to work for a better quality of life for themselves, their families, and their friends.

How will you engage with Richmond neighborhoods to keep your finger on the pulse of our city? What will you ask of the community to help you with your job?

TYLER: As Mayor, I will hold town hall meetings in each of the nine districts.  Joining me at that meeting will be the Council and School Board Member to meet with citizens.  Together we will listen to our citizens so that together we can address the issues of each district.  Strong neighborhoods create a strong city.

QUESTION 4

You’ve read the many superlatives given to Richmond over the past few years, for our great food and dining communities, our hospitality industry, our river, and our entrepreneurial culture just to name a few. These come from specific neighborhoods and cover the community at large.

What superlative would you like to see for our as a headline? What role did the community play in its own transformation?

TYLER: Community involvement is the cornerstone of our city.  A Mayor, I know the importance of community input and will continually seek and create opportunities for citizens to weigh in on important matters.   I am inventing a descriptor called “OneCommunity ”, that is my superlative

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River

QUESTION 1

The James River Park System saw more than 1.3 million visitors in 2015, making it the most-visited attraction in the region. Many believe the park system is underfunded and understaffed.

What is your plan for supporting the James River Park System?

TYLER: The James River Park System is the crown jewel of our city.  As a member of Council I voted for the ordinance to protect the James River Park System by designating it a conservation easement.   I look forward to supporting park superintendent Nathan Burrell. 

QUESTION 2

Richmond's riverfront is experiencing a transformation catalyzed by public and private investment. The City's ability to fund capital projects may be limited in the coming years.

How will you continue implementation the Richmond Riverfront Plan? Which projects are priorities?

TYLER: We should continue to concentrate on the Priority 1 projects as outlined in the Richmond Riverfront Plan.  Projects that increase access to river would be my first choice such as the Missing Link and the Chapel Island Access Trail. 

QUESTION 3

Water quality in the James River is improving thanks to the City's Long Term Control Plan and the Stormwater Utility.

How will you address the City's Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system and ensure water quality improvement continues?

TYLER: I will pursue every alternative to improve water quality on the James River.  Like all older cities, Richmond’s CSO system is a scourge on water quality.  I will continue to seek funding from the state and federal government to reduce the amount of discharge in our CSO area during rain events. 

QUESTION 4

Tributaries of the James River (Reedy Creek, Upham Brook, Gillies Creek) are experiencing water quality improvement thanks to the efforts of City staff in recent years, but these projects do not come without controversy.

How will you ensure neighborhood-scale water quality improvements continue and address community concerns?

TYLER: Neighborhood-scale water quality improvements are essential to cleaning up the James River.  At the same time we must be respectful of our neighborhoods and ensure that water quality improvement projects can meet the objective without undue harm to homeowners.   Since these projects can be controversial I would try to make this option  one of the last options the city explores in trying to meet its obligation for water quality. 

QUESTION 5

The James River Association is a part of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, working to increase every child's access to environmental education and meaningful outdoor experiences.

What is the Mayor's role in ensuring every child has access to outdoor education experiences?

TYLER: As Mayor, I would promote our James River Park System to our community as the James River is an asset to our city.   I would establish a James River educational day where we invite our families with children to participate in a day of experiential learning.  Also, I would encourage Richmond Public Schools to look for ways to implement more educational programs that would allow for our students to have a day of education on the river.

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Transit

QUESTION 1

State and federal plans are in the works to make Richmond a stop on a proposed higher speed rail route along the eastern seaboard.

Do you support a higher speed rail connection between Richmond and the Northeast Corridor?

TYLER: I support high-speed rail connection between Richmond and the Northeast Corridor. 

QUESTION 2

The station options being proposed for a higher speed rail connection in Richmond are Main Street Station, a Broad Street Station, and a Boulevard Station.

Which Richmond station option do you think offers the greatest opportunity for economic development and connectivity?

TYLER: At this point I believe there are two options that should be considered the Main Street Station and the Boulevard Station location.  

Main Street Station’s close proximity to the Central Business District provides easy access to businesses, VCU Health, and the courts.  The station is also convenient for residents in the multifamily housing located in Shockoe Bottom.  With the addition of high speed rail, development could continue at a rapid pace.  The two biggest issues with this location is getting rail service to the station without compromising Hell’s half acre and access to the station from Interstate 95.  

The Boulevard Station offers the advantage of connecting to the existing north line, which stops at the Staples Mill Station for regular train services.  This location could eliminate the two station concept that we currently have in Richmond.  By locating the station next to the existing bus depot it will facilitate intermodal transportation options.  Also, ease of access to Interstate 95 is a major consideration.  Based on current businesses in the area, hundreds of thousands people a year visit the Boulevard area (The Diamond and Bow Tie Movie Theatre).  The biggest issue with this location will be assembling the land to actually develop the station site and the associated new loop track.

QUESTION 3

The Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan will be complete in the fall of 2016. This project, which is being undertaken by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in partnership with the jurisdictions of Metro Richmond, will offer the layout of a regional public transit network, but one premised on regional cooperation.

What are the barriers to regional cooperation from your perspective, and how do you intend to foster more collaboration in order to bring this much-needed plan to fruition?

TYLER: The main barrier is funding.  On average for every dollar spent on transportation, twenty cents comes from the fare box and eighty cents comes from city, state and federal funding.  Elected officials representing adjacent local jurisdictions do not want to raise taxes to provide for a service they believe their constituents will not use.  

The only way to fund expansion of our transit system will be to look to the regional planning district for transportation funding.  We need for this body to create a dedicated source of funding.

QUESTION 4

The Broad Street BRT route will be a first of its kind in our region.

What do you think is the next key corridor to focus on expanding our BRT system? Why?

TYLER: The next key corridor for the BRT would be the north south corridor.  By creating this next line we will be able to service the four major quadrants of our city.  

QUESTION 5

The most successful transit networks in the country have a dedicated revenue stream, and our lack of dedicated funding for public transportation has been cited as the number one challenge to providing transit for the region.

Do you support a dedicated source of funding for transit? If so, what funding source would you prefer? If not, why not?

TYLER: As I indicated earlier I believe a dedicated funding source must come from the regional transportation funds.  I will work with our General Assembly representatives to create this funding source for transportation.  This is the most appropriate way to expand transportation into Chesterfield County and augment service in Henrico County.

QUESTION 6

The Richmond Transit Network Plan (RTNP), which will be complete in January 2017 and is being undertaken by the City in consultation with Jarrett Walker + Associates, is an incredibly unique opportunity to enhance the bus lines for which the City pays, particularly in coordination with the BRT.

How will you personally play a role in the creation and implementation of this plan, regardless of the outcome of this election?

TYLER: Public transportation for our city is critical and this study is working to improve our public transportation.  

On July 27, I attended a public meeting to listen to the presentation and the citizens asking questions and making suggestions.  I did this to let folks know that I will be an active participant in this process.  As this plan comes forward, I will review the report and work with the consultants to create the best possible outcome for delivering bus services to our citizens.

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