Aug 8, 2023 - Politics

Review panel makes recommendations to reimagine Richmond's government

Illustration of Richmond City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A city commission has released a four-part plan to exorcize acrimony from city government.

What's happening: The City Council's Charter Review Commission ended its work last week, unveiling a mix of short-term and longer-term recommendations they hope will make the mayor, council and administration function more like a partnership.

Why it matters: Wouldn't that be lovely?

The big picture: The 150-page report suggests an array of changes could be made before the next mayor takes office in 2025, including:

💵 Bigger salaries for the mayor and council members, who currently make $125,000 and $26,000 respectively. The commission says higher pay would make the positions more competitive and draw more qualified candidates.

💪 An expansion of mayoral power to hire and fire more employees. Currently the mayor only hires the chief administrative officer, but the commission thinks expanding that to include department heads would give the next mayor more opportunity to shape city government.

ğŸ”Ž More of an oversight role for City Council, including a more direct role in hiring (and firing) the chief administrative officer and more direct input in the city budget, with the goal of making the city administration more responsive to the council's initiatives and concerns, which often get blown off.

Of note: The proposal also calls for forced monthly face time between the council and mayor, who would be required to attend one council meeting a month and take questions.

Zoom out: The commission recommended the city continue to discuss even bigger changes in the longer term, including an eventual shift to a new form of government in which the City Council is reduced to six members, with the mayor serving as a seventh at-large member.

  • But the commission wrote that it viewed the change as so significant that it needs more discussion, public buy-in and, ultimately, should be approved by voters in a city-wide referendum.

🦗 What they're saying: Crickets so far. Neither the mayor's office nor City Council President Mike Jones responded to a request for comment.

What's next: It's ultimately up to the General Assembly whether to make the changes to the city charter.

  • Whether that happens will in large part come down to how much support the proposals get from current elected officials.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the commission did not outrightly recommend a shift to a new form of government, only that the city continue to discuss such a shift.

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