Solutions: Education, workforce, tourism, Jim Holland

An announcement last week was the apex of regional cooperation. Pocahontas State Park will be one of the regional venues for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships.

Trails are being prepared, as well as, a new entrance to allow better access to the park.

The local impact of this off-road bicycle race will be north of $2.5 million for the region.

Dale District Supervisor, Jim Holland, said regional cooperation is the key to a successful city like Richmond and the surrounding jurisdictions. Not only will Pocahontas be a venue for the race but numerous Richmond trails are will also be included. Mr. Holland’s District adjoins Pocahontas Park on two sides and runs to the James River and the Richmond City border. His interest in collaboration makes sense to him.

“The overriding theme is collaboration but not at the level we need,” said Holland, taking note of the Intercity conference in Denver held in May and sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. “We listened, but I’m not sure we got it about collaboration.”

 “A classic example is RMA (Richmond Metro Authority). It shows that we’re not there yet – we need parity,” Holland said. “We are the largest jurisdiction in the region and we are actually a major player. We should lead the region, and we don’t, and need to, and that’s what leadership does – it leads.”

Working primarily on workforce development, Holland believes that education is the place to start. “Now whether we have the capacity to do it… my big things are workforce development education and transportation.”

County Administrator James J.L. “Jay” Stegmaier said he has attended numerous Intercity conferences and agrees that collaboration and workforce development are important, but accomplishing it is a another matter.

“In Denver we heard a lot about how nine jurisdictions came together to accomplish a baseball stadium, a performing arts center, a downtown pedestrian street environment and a rapid transit system. And in each case a hand would go up and say how did you get this done?” Mr. Stegmaier said. “And the answer would be: a referendum and sales tax.”

Sales taxes or any raise in taxes is something that is not taken well in Chesterfield. Holland said that during the Denver trip he heard a lot about money and taxes.

“They were able to raise taxes for all kinds of things: transportation, education, the arts, because as they see it, they see the benefit in it and because they had a pact with their constituency for the last 10 years,” Holland said. “They will reap the product of their investment as they went to the voters for referendums and all of them passed... they were transparent, they were accountable and they were inclusive. I use those words because I heard it. And that resonated. It’s not just about cutting, it’s about doing what’s right for your community.”

Holland continued, “This is a good time for the meals tax.” The meals tax is being touted by Holland, but Stegmaier said he undersands.

While some say the meals tax, which will be an advantage for school and public safety operating expenses, it targets an individual business group, but sports tourism targets the same group (restaurants), adding more customers as well.

Stegmaier said that he learned during the Denver trip, referendums were somewhat common. Evidently they do have numerous referendums, especially on prize issues. “This is what was so interesting to me. I can imagine a regional sales tax passing in Richmond. But I would take it at face value at first and then I’d think about what’s going on here?”

Taxes are something everyone must deal with; from real estate taxes and vehicle taxes to income taxes. Holland’s solution is one some parents didn’t like when a mandated personal finance class was handed down to local schools by the state. Teaching students about how to handle their money isn’t a bad idea, Holland said.

“That’s possible and I’m working on that right now. The schools in Denver did it at schools where you have a high propensity of minority students like Meadowbrook, which is 63 percent minority.”

“That’s where I’m going to start with one of my goals and I know it’s possible. I’d like to create a credit union in Meadowbrook High School; it’s a better way to teach finance.”

“Another one of my goals includes a better way to teach finance in person, which would help with workforce development and jobs; economic development and entrepreneurship and those are the tracks I think we should be on,” Holland said.

“We have all the ingredients,” he said. “But we have to get to that point and it takes leadership to get there. If I get to be chair, my leadership will be transportation, workforce development and financial education, not just SOLs, but rather get kids ready to go into the work force like entrepreneurs or have them college ready; it all meshes together.”

Holland’s district borders Richmond for about three-and-a-half miles and includes major thoroughfares such as Iron Bridge Road, Chippenham Parkway, Hopkins Road and part of Hull Street Road. Transportation is another one of Holland’s issues in Dale, but he thinks it is still too early to tackle.

“I think transportation is one of our big issues,” Holland said. “It would help us match with Richmond. We need it [public transportation] but GRTC cannot do it right now; it’s not cost effective as a regional transportation unit. I think we have to have all kinds of multi-modal transportation, biking is good, but we have more spread-out areas and I think it’s more appropriate for downtown. But you’ll see us expanding to that point.”

Holland said he is especially excited about the 2015 UCI Road World Championships and attended the dedication last week. He sees it as a boon for Chesterfield County.

Holland and his wife, Judith, a teacher for Chesterfield County Public Schools, have two children, both of whom graduated from Chesterfield County Public Schools and are college graduates.

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