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GOLDMAN: Regardless of color, Richmond politicians are green on the inside

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. (WTVR) – Mayor Jones didn’t want to give the people the right to elect their Mayor, neither did Richmond City Council.

But faced with growing corruption – government elites and influence peddlers helping themselves to millions of dollars in city money due to their positions and costly insider perks, the public backed my idea of going over the heads of the politicians by putting an elected mayor referendum on the ballot.

It had never been done before.

I put up the money for the referendum, and led the “Vote Yes” campaign.

Dwight Jones, a state delegate at the time, and the city council fought my effort to get the petitions necessary to give the people a referendum on the matter. They fought the “Vote Yes” campaign.

But the people backed the 2003 referendum and rejected the “City Hall Knows Best” attitude. We got 80 percent support.

Once again, the mayor and Richmond City Council are afraid to let the people vote. This tells me something.

But it is not a surprise to me, although 10 years later, one would think they wouldn’t be so brazen about kicking the public to curb once again — but they are.

Putting a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom would be the most potentially transforming decision in terms of a government action since the elected mayor law changed the form of city government.

According to City Hall insiders, the mayor wants a downtown baseball stadium and the powerful special interests who will benefit from the decision are willing to put up what it takes to get five votes on the council to pass such a plan.

It will be his legacy as these kinds of sports monuments tend to be. They define a mayor, a term and a city.

Does the mayor have the votes?

Does he really want a stadium in Shockoe? There is no way to know for sure. But we know this, having a referendum, the first in 10 years, on a matter of this importance is hardly surprising.

Sure members of city council make up reasons not to do it,  but don’t be fooled, we are back in 2003 again.

The politicians see you, the resident, as lucky to live on their plantation. As I have written many times, the color of a politician on the outside means nothing. In Richmond, they are again all green on the inside.

Previously, in this space, I predicted that [Richmond Council President] Mr. [Charles] Samuels’ referendum was flawed, that it would likely fail, and that it raised the question of whether he was just proposing it so he could tell you that he had tried. A political tactic if you will.

Some have told me this was perhaps too harsh.

I have talked to Mr. Samuels, but it was a private chat on the matter so it will be up to him to reveal the contents, he has my permission. I made all the points privately that I have made to you publicly, at least the relevant ones to the referendum and ball park issue.

Let’s cut to the chase.

The public deserves the right to vote on a downtown stadium.

Richmond needs to get rid of the plantation mentality.

I told Mr. Samuels what I have told you, namely there is a way to get around the plantation mentality, to go over the head of the green politicians and give you, the people, your right to vote on this matter.

I trust the people to make a fair decision.

I fear the level of money corruption at City Hall is back to 2003 levels, in some respects, making a fair decision impossible.

There is a way to get a referendum on the ballot that the green politicians can not stop if Mr. Samuels and others are willing to back such an effort. I was successful at doing it the one time it worked in Richmond: it can be done again.

But it will take more than one person of conviction, that is the practical reality.

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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