Candidate Bobby Junes gaffes LGBTQ question at Diversity Richmond mayoral forum
A Richmond mayoral forum held at Diversity Richmond earlier this week exposed a lack of knowledge about LGBTQ issues with one candidate who’s already lagging behind the pack.
When real estate developer Bobby Junes (top image, center), who has little name recognition and has shown little success in recent polls, got a question from LGBTQ equality group Mothers and Others of Virginia.
When asked whether he’d support the establishment of an LGBTQ liaison in City Hall, Junes had no idea what the acronym stood for. The crowd, equal parts exasperated and humored, awkwardly laughed, groaned or stopped listening. After moderator Clovia Lawrence spelled things out (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer), Junes replied, “Okay, anything else?”
With exactly five weeks to go before election day, the other five mayoral candidates also took questions from Lawrence over the course 90 minutes.
With a focus on substance and specifics, the candidates were asked to confront issues important to the groups represented at the event.
The A. Philip Randolph Institute, a Black trade union, kicked things off with a question about one-to-one housing replacement in the instance of public housing redevelopment.
The candidates agreed that replacement housing was important but turned it to the central messages of their campaigns. Jack Berry presented his vision of competent compassion, discussing the need to revitalize areas in phases to not be too disruptive to the community.
Lawrence Williams highlighted his understanding of planning and housing from his experience as an architect. First district councilman Jon Baliles – who’s tried to build a groundswell of support fashioning himself the mayor that will listen — talked about accounting for what the specific public housing communities want and need.
The always-indignant Joe Morrissey called the construction of housing projects “one of the greatest disasters in urban planning.” And Levar Stoney, who’s emphasized his personal story of growing up in poverty, talked about the high concentrations of impoverished children living in Richmond’s public housing.
The fireworks started when the discussion turned to education funding. Baliles used the question to draw a contrast to Berry and Stoney.
“Sometimes it’s a big shiny project that’s gonna provide for schools and sometimes it’s picking up the phone and calling the President,” he said. “And that would be great, it’s like finding $20 in your pocket … But the Mayor’s job is to figure out ways to fund schools to adequate and acceptable levels with what we’ve got.”
Berry, who came in a strong second in the last poll to be released, has been dogged by his past support for “big shiny projects,” namely the Shockoe Bottom stadium and the Redskins facility, both of which have come under fire for costing the city millions and yeilding little return.
Meanwhile Stoney has promised to use his relationship with state and (given a Hillary Clinton win) national leaders to get funding for schools.
After talking about his lobbying for federal legislation allowing historic tax credits to be used for school renovation, Morrissey turned his ire on Berry.
“Well, Jack, there’s no money out there if you put $80 million into a ballpark like you wanted to do. Or $14 million into a Redskins stadium,” Morrisey said. “Shake your head all you want Jack, but that’s what you wanted to do. And then you compounded it by saying… ‘Let me just ghostwrite quotes from Black people, attribute them to the Black people, and we’ll fool ‘em.’ … You might not like it, Jack, but the truth hurts.”
Morrisey was referring to a recent Times-Dispatch story where emails exchanged between the Jones administration and Berry as head of Venture Richmond showed the mayoral candidate offering to fudge testimonials in support of a Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium.
Stoney rounded things off by pointing out that Morrissey’s historic tax credit plan has been has been stalled at the federal level for years.
“We’ve been talking about that since 2009,” Stoney said. “However, the paralysis in D.C. has not allowed for such monies to come here in Richmond. So, what else do you got? … I think we should start collecting the taxes that we’re owed. The 96% overall tax collection rate here in the city, we should raise that to 98% so we can compete with the other localities.”
The format then shifted to giving each candidate a specific question. Berry fielded a question about regional cooperation and highlighted his experience as County Administrator in Hanover and the relationships he formed around the region.
Specifically, he talked about the need for regional cooperation on the issue of transportation.
“Increasingly we have that problem in the counties, where a suburban jurisdiction and suburban patterns of development have made everyone dependent on a car,” he said, proposing to extend the coming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line further west and extending GRTC service in Chesterfield. “Many seniors don’t have access to a car.”
Williams, who’s on his third run for the office but gotten much traction thus far, talked about the women he’s worked with and in his family in response to a question about the public policy challenges facing women from Women Matter.
“I’m a product of the 60’s, and what that means is I understand the early years of what women and men had to go through in terms of civil rights,” he said. “All my life I have empowered women, it was just natural in our community to do that.”
Stoney got big applause when he took his question on teacher and police pay raises and went back to address Williams’.
“The biggest challenges I think facing women are, one, equal pay for equal work,” he said to cheers in the crowd. “We’re gonna … ensure that every woman who works in City Hall gets paid similar pay to what a man makes in City Hall. But also the fact that we tax feminine products every single day. Men don’t get the same tax on any of their products.”
Roland Winston, an LGBTQ and progressive advocate who organized the event at Diversity, spoke to the importance of having the various organizations and candidates come to the space in Scott’s Addition.
“I started these events about six years ago … and I decided that I wanted to get people on gay ground,” Winston said. “This is not like the Red Cross a lot of these organizations are two or three people that run it … and part of my mission was for us to collaborate but also for each one of us to get our message to the public and to the candidates.”
He also applauded most of the candidates performances for the night saying they did a “pretty good job” of answering the questions they were asked. But Junes comment did leave a noticeable mark on the event.
“It’s one thing to have a candidate who doesn’t know what the letters of the LGBTQ spectrum mean,” he said. “But to have the moderator qualify it and then talk about something else entirely was unbelievable.”
This is the third in a series of forum events at Diversity the next of which invites school board members to the space next Tuesday, 10/11.
Calling all thirsty craft beer drinkers, next week you will have the chance to raise a glass for a good cause. Strangeways Brewing is hosting its monthly Cheers 4 Charity event, and this time, proceeds will benefit Diversity Richmond. The brewery will donate 10 percent of all sales to the local non-profit organization, which provides programs and [...]January 17, 2017
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