‘RVA Snapshot:’ A shared vision for the Richmond region

deleteI attended the recent community update from the Capital Region Collaborative entitled “RVA Snapshot: A shared vision for the region.” It left me even more committed to helping make Richmond a better place for us all to live.

The report was as well-presented as the event was well-attended — the meeting room at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Workforce Development and Conference Center on East Parham Road was packed. It was also filled with hundreds of the Richmond region’s most influential and forward-thinking business leaders, politicians, planners, nonprofit organizations and community leaders.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Robert Zullo wrote an article that detailed the unveiling of the RVA Snapshot data and some of the proceedings from the community update, which took place Feb. 26:

For comparison purposes, the project uses the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area to define the region, including the counties of Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, King William, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George and Sussex; the cities of Richmond, Hopewell, Petersburg and Colonial Heights; and the towns of Ashland and Bowling Green.

An editorial from Jerry Fox and Steve Elswick, co-chairs of the Collaborative, was published the following Sunday in the Times-Dispatch:

Ultimately, the indicators are about much more than numbers. They tell the story of our community, from children growing up in challenged neighborhoods, to friends rafting down the James River, to parents struggling with mental health issues, to young people choosing where to start their career. This is our collective story — we must each be part of telling it. You are why data matters.

One of my favorite anecdotes from the meeting was something Kim Sheeler, the CEO of the Greater Richmond Chamber, said, recalling a story from when he was working on a pilot’s license.

“I told the instructor that I have all these great places I want to go. He said that I first would need to know where I was,” he said. You can’t just go to your destination, you have to know what it takes to get there.  “Winds can change and you have to make adjustments.”

“In society, we celebrate those who make things happen,” he said. It takes courage. It takes showing up and being there to get the work done.

“It takes leaders who aren’t afraid to take a chance,” he said.

No matter what, regional leaders need to get credit for taking a chance on the UCI World Road Championships in cycling. Richmond 2015 was a bold attempt and the region pulled it off. Leaders in the city of Richmond, the counties of Henrico and Hanover and state government showed they weren’t  afraid to take a chance.

At least the bike races helped to bring a focus to some of Richmond’s paving problems, but the city’s old infrastructure issues will not go away, so don’t be surprised when many of those pristinely paved roads are soon again carved up for more pipe repairs.

In my opinion, no matter what obstacles our individual localities face, we need to collaborate better as a region. So much time and effort is wasted bickering and competing with each other. It confuses the citizens and drives divides between potential county and city partnerships.

Big projects like baseball stadiums and grand events like international bike races might bring lots of attention to our region, but they won’t help solve long-term issues like poverty and failings in our educational systems.

Martha Schickle, the executive director of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, said of the packed room of more than 300 attendees from the region”this is a big group, but there are many people who are not represented here. We need to get them involved.”

As I prepare to transition from journalism to planning, I hope to be put in a position to help those underserved citizens.

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