GOLDMAN: Will Samuels’ ego cost Richmond big time?

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

By Paul Goldman

RICHMOND, Va. – As readers of this column know, I pointed out last month that City Council President Charles Samuels is a rookie at matters of fighting the political establishment. Accordingly he was in danger of being “rolled” on the downtown stadium issue, thus hurting the public’s chances of stopping a project they don’t want in overwhelming numbers.

Those of us who have beaten the Mayor and his City Council allies on referendum issues know how to win this one.

Mayor Jones and his City Council allies play hardball.

Mr. Samuels was boasting last week about how his referendum idea would pass and give the people what they deserved. As I wrote, his approach had flaws: meaning he gave the pro-stadium forces an opening to rally the Council to kill it. They are using it, even he admits that now.

Sure enough, in today’s paper, we read where Samuels is already seeming to throw in the towel, only a few days after he introduced his referendum idea.

If I were a cynic, I might think Samuels proposed his referendum knowing it would lose, but it would give him “cover” in his district which is strongly against a downtown baseball stadium. This way, he could say “I tried,” but when it came to running for mayor in 2016, he would not have alienated the big money donors behind the stadium.

But I will give Charles the benefit of the doubt. He is basically a decent guy who like everyone else on Council, thinks they are qualified to be Mayor.

But the job of Mayor is to be a leader on big things. What big things has Charles or any member of Council been the leader?

Like I say, he is a rookie. We all have been at one point on the political learning curve. If he loses on the referendum idea – something the people support – then it will be due strictly to his ego.

Why?

Because there is a strategy to get the people what they deserve. The downtown baseball stadium decision is arguably the most important single action that will be taken to determine the future of Shockoe Bottom in their lifetimes. I got a kick out of Councilman Jonathan Baliles saying we shouldn’t use referendums in Virginia. His father used a referendum to pass the state lottery, vital to education now thanks to Governor Wilder’s actions in the 1990’s.

Why was a referendum good for his father but not for anyone else?

The reason: Jonathan supports the downtown stadium. So he doesn’t want a referendum, he wants to have one of only nine votes on this huge decision for the city of Richmond.

That’s right.

The Mayor knows it is a legacy maker, which is why he is behind it, which is why all his allies on Council along with Baliles and others were all against the referendum.

I feel for Charles’ situation. The Mayor is a pro: Charles is new to the game.

Those of us who have beaten the Mayor at the referendum game know how to call his bluff. He is tough, but he can be beaten.

But we can’t do anything unless Mr. Samuels feels he needs to reach out for help. Mr. Samuels will have no one to blame but himself if he loses and just throws in the towel.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.

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