Virginia First Cities Coalition (VFC) was founded 20 years ago to bolster state funding for the Commonwealth’s older, core cities. While initially formed to ensure our member’s were not disadvantaged by the moratorium on annexation and resultant sprawl of job creation and housing to Virginia’s suburban and suburbanizing localities, VFC’s mission became clear. We have expanded our effectiveness in proactively protecting and bolstering our member cities in the Virginia state budget, especially with funding and programs for community wealth building, early childhood, Pre-K-12 education, blight abatement, transportation, housing, urban infrastructure, and public safety.
The Virginia First Cities Board of Directors is comprised of the City Manager and an appointed City Council Member or Mayor from each of our member cities.
VFC has 2 formal board meeting annually — Annual Board Meeting and the Fall Legislative Board Meeting. Both meetings rotate around the state.
Why Do We Need a City-Only Advocacy Organization?
VFC sprang from a desire for specialized attention to the unique needs of older cities. Our cities must maintain complex infrastructure and provide attractive public amenities, necessitating high levels of expenditures beyond the specific needs of our residents. Our core cities are also used as the primary places where often mandated housing, health and welfare services, and public transportation are brought together to meet the needs of lower income families and the disadvantaged. A large number of people needing these services live in cities, resulting in higher levels of poverty and a weaker tax base than surrounding counties.
State Aid Still Encourages Growth Away From Cities
While the issue of blight was the first item our coalition addressed, it was symptomatic of a broader malaise affecting our cities. Despite some real gains, there remains cause for concern. State programs put in place to ameliorate the effects of having to maintain complex infrastructure, public amenities, mandated/public housing, health and welfare services and public transportation, have, in many cases, languished due to lack of state support. This makes VFC’s proactive mission to increase advocacy and state budget dollars in these policy areas even more important today.
VFC Members Receive Disproportionately More Funding for Discretionary State Programs
We celebrate the successes of our member cities, but know that there are underlying issues that remain. Virginia’s historic central cities must rely on higher tax rates than surrounding jurisdictions because they serve more people in poverty and have smaller tax bases. For these reasons, Virginia First Cities focuses on programs that break the cycle of poverty and improve economic opportunity for all. From holistic economic development, like the Community Wealth Building grant program and the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund; “economic gardening” initiatives like the Industrial Revitalization Fund; policy and funding changes to help solve Virginia’s unacceptably high rates of eviction; advocacy for state support to close the achievement gap in our public schools; public safety funding to support healthy cities, like Aid to Local Police Departments and diversion programming, Virginia First Cities team has accomplished much. Yet much more needs our attention.
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