Late Spring 2015 - In This Issue:

Mayor Dwight C. Jones
Check out our  website to take a closer look at what we have been working on and to stay abreast of what we have in the pipeline!

Michael Paul Williams column: Life expectancy in Gilpin Court 20 years shorter than Westover Hills


Style Weekly Cover Story - Flash Forward


Op/Ed Harriet Coalter, Director Richmond Public Library "Ensuring our children's secure future"


RTD Public Square explores segregation in Richmond


Join us for a Community Wealth Building Summit on June 25. Mayor Jones will kick off the My Brother's Keeper Campaign and in collaboration with the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation and Richmond Public Schools will announce the official rollout of RVA Future.


As part of RVA Reads, Richmond Public Library staff and volunteers will read and distribute copies of Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin to preschool students on the following dates in June. For more information or to volunteer to be a reader, contact Barbara Crump.


June 2  Maymont Preschool

June 3  Blackwell Preschool

June 10  Mary Scott Preschool

The Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation is hiring a Full-Time Program Manager for RVA Future a joint initiative of the Mayor's Office of Community Wealth Building, Richmond Public Schools and the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation. Click here for more information and how to apply.

Would you or your or organization like to host a Chat n Chew with the staff of the Office of Community Wealth Building? 

Chat n Chews are informal discussions around issues related to Community Wealth Building in the city of Richmond. Staff from the Office of Community Wealth Building will present information about the work we are doing and engage in a dialogue with attendees about ways to catalyze that work going forward.  If interested send an email to Christina Mastroianni


The High Price of Concentrated Poverty

Richmond, Virginia is one of the toughest places in the United States to grow up if you are poor.

That's not hyperbole, but documented fact.

In May, economists at Harvard published a massive study demonstrating the estimated impact of where you lived as a child on your wages as an adult, based on data from over 5 million American families. The analysis allowed researchers to calculate the predicted impact of growing up in a given county on one's adult earnings.


The results for Richmond are not just disturbing, they are shocking. Authors Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard estimate that of 2,478 counties, Richmond is the 48th worst in fostering upward mobility for poor kids-in other words, worse than 98% of other counties in the U.S. (In Virginia, independent cities are treated as equivalent to counties.)


In practical terms, this means that a child growing up in the 25th percentile of the income distribution (relatively poor) from birth to age 20 is predicted to have average annual earnings 15% lower as an adult than a child at the 25th percentile of income who grows up in an "average" community. This translates to $3,860 a year less in earnings, or put another way, the difference between getting by on just over $26,000 to having $30,000. That $320 a month can make a huge practical impact in the life of a working family.


How do these numbers compare to our immediate neighbors? Low-income children growing up in Henrico County have earnings  as adults comparable to the national average for all low-income children, and low-income children growing up in Chesterfield County are actually expected to earn significantly more as adults than the national average. This is the uncomfortable truth: many residents leave the City to put their children in county schools because they think their kids are more likely to be better off. As this data shows, on average they are not mistaken.


The Richmond situation, while not literally unique, is among the worst in the nation. But a closer look at the data shows an even more challenging story. It's not only low-income Richmond residents who are less likely to earn as much as adults as their peers--it's also middle-income and even affluent children who grow up in the City.


Put another way, highly concentrated poverty negatively impacts nearly all City residents. School outcomes that are among the worst in Virginia are one important pathway for this negative impact. The gaps in availability of services and in quality of services across multiple other areas (compared to affluent suburban jurisdictions) are additional pathways. Finally, lack of access to remunerative employment for residents, especially those who do not have access to a motor vehicle, is a major barrier.


Understanding the depth of these structural challenges must be the starting point for an integrated response. We also must be realistic about the policy and political obstacles involved in implementing an integrated response.

 The program of the Office of Community Wealth Building rests on several key propositions:

  • We must tackle the multiple barriers to prosperity simultaneously. No single area--education, employment, housing--offers a standalone magic bullet. Consequently, our method for getting things done must be intensively collaborative.
  • Given limited resources, we should focus investments on those areas likely to have the most positive impact, and wherever possible assure that City investments leverage funding and support from other sources.
  • We need to think about both the micro-level and the macro-level pictures simultaneously. For instance, at the micro-level we need to understand what it takes to support individual households from our most challenged neighborhoods in moving from poverty to economic stability. We then need to build the capacity over time to support households at sufficient scale to begin moving the macro-level picture.
  • We have no choice but to think big and aim high. Ranking in the bottom 2% of the nation's counties in terms of upward mobility for poor children is not something that can be meaningfully changed by a few additional programs. It requires more fundamental changes in the systemic processes that are producing that outcome.

What does fundamental change look like? In Richmond's case there are three approaches that must be taken, all at the same time. First, bringing more resources, investment and opportunities to places where our low-income residents live. Second, tearing down barriers that isolate our highest-poverty neighborhoods from the rest of the city and region. Third, transforming our densest concentrations of poverty into vibrant, mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods, in a way that empowers rather than displaces people.


Just as we cannot focus on housing, education, and employment separately, we cannot focus on only one change strategy to the exclusion of the others and hope to make significant progress.

As the authors of the Harvard study note, "The broader lesson of our analysis is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level."


That's exactly what the Office of Community Wealth Building is trying to do--with the help of as many fellow "tacklers" as possible. 


-Dr. Thaddeus Williamson

Director, Mayor's Office of Community Wealth Building

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Social Enterprise Specialist
On Monday May 4 the Office of Community Wealth Building welcomed Ms. Evette Roots to the team. 

While her position is funded through the Department of Economic and Community Development via the Maggie L. Walker Initiative, she is assigned to work with the Mayor's Office of Community Wealth Building and Minority Business Development on social enterprise development. She will be an integral part of our team! 


Ms. Roots earned her Bachelor's Degree in political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked most recently as Program Manager for Government & Community Affairs for the Greater Richmond Chamber, and prior to that as Employment and Education Placement Coordinator for Pathways, a Petersburg-based organization connecting youth and under-employed adults to quality employment opportunities.  She has also worked as a field organizer for Equality Virginia, and has been a real estate broker in the Richmond area for many years.  We feel very fortunate in having someone with Evette's unique background and combination of experiences on board to help the City develop and implement the social enterprise initiative, whose aim is to create more quality employment opportunities accessible to our residents in poverty.


Please join us in welcoming Evette Roots to the City of Richmond and to the Office of Community Wealth Building.

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April marked the launch of the Richmond Early Childhood Cabinet, a key initiative catalyzed by the Office of Community Wealth Building in conjunction with Richmond Public Schools. 

Consisting of key program providers and decision makers within the City and RPS, the Cabinet is the outgrowth of a recommendation by the Early Childhood Task force to develop a formalized structure of collaboration between the City of Richmond and Richmond Public Schools to promote the development of a strategic vision for ensuring that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn.  


The Early Childhood Cabinet will meet monthly to develop a shared framework for meeting program needs and identifying common indicators and metrics to track progress. The work of the Cabinet will build on existing early childhood momentum at the regional and state levels (i.e., Smart Beginnings, Commonwealth Council for Childhood Success, VPI Plus Grant), and is envisioned as a permanent, ongoing entity that embeds constant communication and facilitates cooperation between the two structures.


Stay tuned for more exciting news pertaining to Early Childhood in our next newsletter!

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Early literacy skills are an important component of school readiness. A US Department of Education National Adult Literacy survey found that "children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out in later years."

To combat this, Richmond Public Library, in collaboration with our office and the office of Early Childhood Development launched the RVA Reads pilot project to provide one book a month (four books in total) to hundreds of Pre-K children and their families participating in the Virginia Preschool Initiative.

The goal of RVA Reads is to improve access to books in low income homes of preschool children to improve literacy outcomes. This will be achieved by:
  • Expanding or creating home libraries for 3 and 4 year olds in Richmond
  • Increasing the time parents and children read together
  • Enrolling children/families with library services(library cards)
The pilot project runs from March - June of 2015 and will provide 4 book distributions at the RPS preschool centers at Blackwell, Maymont and Mary Scott schools. The first two events in March and April were hugely successful with volunteers reading to individual preschool classes and distributing a book to each student. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss were the books selected for March and April respectively. Earlier in May, volunteers read Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina and the school year will close out with Pete the Rocking Cat in my School Shoes by Erik Litwin. 


As a complement to RVA Reads, Richmond Public Library developed programming to specific populations within the 3-4 year-old demographic. The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum was designed for Southside Latino parents and the Sacred Heart Center has been contracted to conduct a 10-week class series. For the second time this spring an ABC's of Parenting Class was offered at select local branches. This class is targeted for parents of children entering Kindergarten. 


The Mayor has designated funding in the FY 16 budget to continue this important work.

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For more information about the Office of Community Wealth Building, click here. To speak to someone from our staff, please call 804-646-1300. To find out how you can get involved, email us or call us at 804-646-1300.