David Gammino is taking it to the incumbent in the contest for the 5th District City Council seat.
Marty Jewell has held the office since 2005, and won re-election in 2008 with a plurality of the vote in a 3-way race. Gammino, a former lawyer and currently the owner of the award-winning City & Guilds development company, is the only officially-announced challenger as of yet, although Lee Shewmake has told Hills and Heights that she intends to run again.
A 1991 graduate of the TC Williams School of Law, Gammino first worked as legislative aid on Capitol Hill for two years for Democratic Congressman Mike Kopetski (Oregon). He later move back to Richmond and worked in the Richmond Public Defender’s office for 3 years before going into private practice.
Gammino moved to Oregon Hill in early 1990s, and began to volunteer with the Oregon Hill Home Improvement Council (OHHIC) towards creating affordable housing. He got his start in contracting working to rehab houses in the Oregon Hill neighborhood, and founded City & Guilds in 2005.
The candidate will be appearing next Sunday, February 26 at a scheduledWoodland Heights Meet and Greet, as well as a Thursday, March 8 Oregon Hill Meet and Greet.
WOTBN met with Mr.Gammino at Lamplighter for a Feb.6 interview:
Why the move to civic service?
“I believe in public service. My professional career has had a fair share of service related vocations, professionally or volunteering. I’d like to think that the sum of my professional career gives me experience and perspective to address a lot of the challenges that we have in governing in the city of Richmond. I think I’m unique in the sense that, in a professional capacity, I’ve worked in a way that has addressed issues across the entire economic spectrum.”
Like what kind of issues?
“I’d submit that working as a public defender, and working as a criminal defense lawyer, has given me an intimacy with issues relating to urban poverty that is pretty profound and real. And on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve worked as a developer to create, to take blighted abandoned and vacant properties and return them to the rent rolls, to create new spaces, to help neighborhoods in various parts of the city. And as a general contractor, I’ve built a business during difficult economic times and I’ve grown this business and created jobs. I’ve worked on Capitol Hill formulating legislation and negotiating legislation.
I think it’s a fairly extensive set of experiences that will help me recognize the validity of differences that people have in Richmond as it pertains to policy. Richmond has a very wide economic spectrum among its constituents and the effect that the disparity has on policy can either be positive or negative. If you’re comfortable and willing to have conversations with people that are coming from different perspectives and try to bring them together, hopefully we can broker effective solutions.”
From that – how do you see there being a need for a change in the 5th District?
“I think the incumbent engages in a form of demagoguery when it comes to income disparity which divides people rather than bringing people together. Any time that you accentuate the differences in people’s economic status it’s going to create obstacles to resolving problems in implementing effective solutions.”
What do you see for the future of City Stadium and the GRTC bus barns?
“I would like there to be a substantive, positive conversation about those sites and what, if anything, should be done with them, rather than the knee-jerk reaction that we’ve seen from the incumbent. You can’t preserve decay – and City Stadium is in a state of decay – and that decay has happened on the watch of the incumbent, so for him to suggest that the city is to blame for the state of City Stadium is totally disingenuous.”
Southside specific issues?
“Two issues that are very relevant are the maintenance and care of James River Park System and the success of the Patrick Henry School.
The incumbent suggested cutting $400,000 last spring from the park system budget.
And by way of example, if you have a representative who is an effective advocate and is effective at building coalitions and bringing people together, then he stands a chance of delivering critical needs to his district. If, however, you have an incumbent is constantly disparaging others then he’s completely ineffectual when it comes to building coalitions that are necessary to deliver services. An example I give you is last year when the incumbent proposed additional funding for the Patrick Henry School – which on the face of it was a good idea – but while he was doing that he was simultaneously attempting to get the Council President to resign and calling into question the integrity of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. And that’s the disconnect that I see in the way that the district is being represented right now.
I can’t overstate how critical it is for [Patrick Henry School] to succeed in the city, I just can’t overstate it. There will be no one that will advocate more for the success of that charter school than me. Much greater issue in the city is a lack of educational choices for middle-class families, and it’s denuding the city of middle-class families who have feel that they have to move out because of the lack of quality options in public education.”