I’M BIG ON NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS. I absolutely love them. The idea that we can start over with a clean slate actually inspires me. I know that in reality the slate is never completely clean but there is definitely a renewed hope and sense of optimism for a better year each and every January 1.

I spend much of my December (maybe more) thinking, praying, planning and plotting on how I can make the next year the best year for myself, my family, The Cheats Movement, the Cheats Movement Family, etc. (the list goes on). I also spend a lot of time thinking about Richmond and how we can continue to make the Richmond community better each and every year.

There is no doubt that the last month in Richmond has been tough. The wrath and weight of  senseless violence has really dampened a portion of my holiday spirit. As a father of a 1-year-old son, my heart goes out to those families that instead of celebrating a new year they are celebrating the lives of their loved ones that were taking far too early. Though I don’t personally know those families – that’s truly painful and impacts us all as a community.

Too many days in 2015,  when I reviewed local media outlets I was perplexed by the way Richmond leadership* handled difficult and high-profile topics. Between the Mayor’s office, Richmond City Council, and the Richmond School Board our local leadership, which in my opinion are made of mostly well intention people* had several public set-backs that could have been avoided if there was more focus placed on collaboration and transparency. That sounds simple enough but it was a clear problem for Richmond leadership in 2015*.

Since I’ve never held public office outside of class president at J.R. Tucker High School*, I will not pretend to understand the inner-workings of Richmond leadership. I can only present the sentiment that is on the ground, in the areas where I have conversations and the Cheats Movement operates. That sentiment is that there is a lack of working together on the issues that matter the most and instead of open communication among each other in leadership and the community, there is a feeling that important items are being held from the community. That overall atmosphere of distrust makes it very difficult for leadership to do anything meaningful, no matter if it’s the right thing to do or not.

My message to Richmond leadership in 2016 is simple: Focus on intentional collaboration with your peers in leadership and with the community-at-large – be open, honest, and transparent in your communication with each other (which is critical) and with the community in order to gain trust and deliver on the promise that Richmond is one of the best places in the world to be.

While the words are simple, words are clearly the easy part; especially for someone on the outside like me. It takes intentional action to change an atmosphere and forge a collaborative spirit. That’s why elections matter, right? New people give the allure of a new culture. While I’m convinced that Richmond leadership can work together to accomplish major improvements and have in the past. I know that today’s challenges: Education, Economic Development, Education, the increase in drug addiction and violent crime, Education, food access, Education, poverty and access to housing, and did I mention Education, all will be better served if the Mayor’s Office, Council, School Board, and community worked in a more collaborative and transparent way.

If you noticed, I’ve highlighted intentional twice in this post. I’ve done that because meaningful collaboration is indeed intentional. Leaders has to seek out each other to work together, they have to seek out community members and be intentional in their goal of working together to address a problem. While I hope that collaboration among the current Richmond leadership does take place more than I know – it can be done on a more elevated scale in 2016. It should be a continued goal among local leadership for the betterment of our city and to deliver on the promise that Richmond is as great as all the publication say.

Last month, I was a part of really eye-opening conversation for a leadership class I’m taking* and in the discussion it was brought to our attention that while it is truly amazing that Richmond is being mentioned in multiple major publications and a wonderful place to visit and spend time, the question was raised are “WE” as a city delivering on the promise that these publications are claiming? Just think about that for a minute. Are we living up to what is being advertised? I’m not sure that we are right now – but I’m so confident that we can – and I’m optimistic that we will. However, in order to do so our leaders need to be intentional in their collaborations and transparent in their communication. #WESEEIT

The words on this post are mind. And as I mentioned before I only speak for myself and Puff Daddy*. If you need to contact me or Puff Daddy – email me at: TheCheatsMovement@gmail.com

*For this post Richmond leadership is the Mayor’s Office, City Council, and School Board.

* Emphasis on the mostly because I can’t speak for the members I don’t know. The members that I do know are well-intention people.

*This problem is not limited to Richmond leadership but I will keep my focus local.

*I was class president all 4 years. In my speeches I used any slogan I could find that rhymed with Cheatham and I used a baby picture as my campaign photo. I was ahead of my time.

*Leadership Metro Richmond is the leadership class I’m taking — S/O.

*I really don’t know Puff Daddy. Good luck trying to email him.


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