For Kaine, Richmond Record Cuts Both Ways
Friday, October 28, 2005
RICHMOND -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine had a passionate rebuttal for his Republican opponent's statements about his "mediocre" service as a council member for and mayor of Richmond during the 1990s.
"I can see my fingerprints all over this city," Kaine said during an August news conference as he discussed the future of Richmond with its mayor, L. Douglas Wilder. "I can drive by schools that wouldn't have been built had I not been in office and look at homicide rates that would have been a lot different had I not been in office."
Pressed about whether he could take credit for specific achievements even though he was either one among nine council members or a mayor whose duties were largely ceremonial, Kaine gave a less definitive answer.
"I haven't said I'm solely responsible" for the city's achievements, he said after being asked whether he should be held "solely" responsible for city problems, such as higher unemployment rates, during his tenure. "I mean, what I'm saying is that I played a key leadership role."
The contrasting comments about his record in city government illustrate the complex role that Kaine played as a local official of a troubled but improving city during his seven years of service.
The city of 200,000, where 1 person in 5 lives in poverty, has increased its bond rating, cut its violent crime rate and improved its education system over the past 10 years.
On one hand, Kaine has taken credit for many of the city's improvements. On the other, he and his supporters say he was part of a diverse governing body and should not be held responsible for some of the city's stumbles.
Kaine was first elected to the council in 1994, then selected mayor by his fellow council members in 1998. He stepped down to make his successful run for lieutenant governor in 2001.
Although he was one of nine members on the council, and as mayor lacked broad authority to hire and fire and set the city budget, many who were in city government at the time say he can be credited with substantial achievements that he either spearheaded or supported.
As a council member, he helped redevelop a historic black school and turn it into a magnet school for students from the Richmond region, according to interviews, press reports and city records.
In spring 1995, Kaine began a crusade to refurbish the old Maggie Walker High School, which had been vacant for years, in the city's historic black neighborhood of Jackson Ward. City activists and school board members said it was Kaine who found the financing -- including historic preservation tax credits -- to reopen the school and persuade surrounding jurisdictions to move a regional magnet school into the building.
"He really took that on himself," said Raymond H. Boone, publisher of the Richmond Free Press, the city's black-owned newspaper.