RVAGOV didn’t begin as a website. Peter CampoBasso, ’14, was enrolled in Dr. Thad Williamson’s Contemporary Richmond Politics course when he attended a Richmond City Council meeting.
"I left with far more questions than answers," CampoBasso said. "At the same time, guest speakers such as Mayor Jones, Councilman Charles Samuels, and so many others who were involved with local government were visiting our class. I remember feeling really motivated and encouraged by what they had to say about citizen engagement."
As the politics and voting student coordinator in the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), CampoBasso was able to channel his energy into a new project.
With encouragement from CCE program manager Adrienne Piazza, CampoBasso set out to create a guide for other students attending City Council meetings.
"Before I knew it, this guide that was intended to talk about meeting structure and general powers of the council was a 28-page document that went far beyond just that," CampoBasso said. "There was a wealth of knowledgeable people right in the office every day, and we were always encouraged and challenged to take something to the next level."
During the summer, CampoBasso teamed up with Bonner Scholar and UR Downtown Student Coordinator Andrew Talbot, ’15, to translate the guide into a website.
"We worked the whole summer on RVAGOV," Talbot said. "My role mostly pertained to designing the site and its functionality, because the whole point of this project is to make information accessible through simple language and a user-friendly website."
CampoBasso and Talbot both saw the need to engage their fellow students in Richmond politics.
"I’m excited about bringing some more attention to local government, especially on college campuses," Talbot said. "I don’t think we can be fully and responsibly engaged in this city without paying attention to what is going on at the legislative and administrative level."
This fall, Ben Panko, ’15, joined the RVAGOV team as co-editor and will work with Talbot and correspondents Eunice Brumskine, ’15, Brenden Carol, ’17, and Kelsey Ensign, ’15 to maintain the site, post previews and recaps before every Richmond City Council meeting, and highlight local news.
Their mission is to "to provide a platform to educate and empower full participants in Richmond city government," and they hope to see RVAGOV evolve in the years to come.
"College students are full of potential and creativity, so after I leave, I know a group of students will add to this site in ways I would not have even thought," Talbot said. "Some of the planned features include videos, photography, a historic timeline of Richmond city government, and much more."