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GOLDMAN: The Magic Number behind Mayor’s Shockoe Stadium plan

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.

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The “magic number” behind Mr. Jones’ magical plan for his Shockoe stadium has finally been revealed.

2016.

Yesterday, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Mayor’s top banana peeled away the cover story and exposed the magical truth hidden behind a blizzard of swirling statistics coming from City Hall.

These numbers try to tell a story without revealing the truth.

On a historic basis, the term “magic number” in baseball parlance initially referred to the pennant race status in the two leagues. Each winner then moved directly to the World Series. But times have changed as baseball owners try to maximize their TV revenue. Baseball purists are not yet comfortable with the new arrangement, feeling it may have compromised historical statistics.

Baseball is the most statically minded professional sport on the planet. This is the mathematical basis to “Moneyball,” a sensational baseball movie brilliantly acted by Brad Pitt and cast.

“Trouble with the Curve” is the last terrific baseball movie featuring Clint Eastwood as an old-school ace scout with Amy Adams, an amazingly talented actress, playing his extraordinary daughter.

The brilliant ending makes the otherwise slow-moving tale worth the wait. If you haven’t seen it, don’t despair: box office data suggests no one else in your neighborhood did either.

That’s too bad since it is far more than a baseball story. Eastwood tells Amy to be on the lookout for the “pure sound,” the moment of truth, when you know the person swinging the bat, or pitching the ball, is the real deal.

He paraphrases Justice Potter Stewart famous line about pornography: You will know the real deal when you hear it, the father tells the daughter.

Yesterday, while reading Mr. Moomaw’s Sunday story, I heard it: the pure sound, the Moneyball, the Magic number, popped off in my head. POW!

“2Q16.”

I had always figured the Mayor, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Hicks or someone at City Hall would eventually have trouble with the curve ball of statistics they were flinging at the press and the public. At some point, the pure sound of “I GET IT NOW!” would be provable.

There it was, Mr. Marshall had finally uttered the MAGIC NUMBER.

Ever since first reading the supposed financial justification for the Mayor’s Shockoe Shocker last month, I instinctively knew the truth, having been a “spin doctor” for things political over the years. But I couldn’t prove it: until yesterday.

Last Friday, I wrote another piece for WTVR.com, briefly published before being taken down for re-publication today.

On Friday, Councilman Jon Baliles had a like mind-set, sending the Mayor a terrific letter asking similar types of financial questions, showing holes in City Hall’s numbers and comparisons.

Delegate Loupassi has also asked good questions in letter to the Mayor.

But, we all had not been able to penetrate the smoke and mirrors coming from City Hall.

It took Mr. Moomaw’s story to do that. If we take “ the latter [non Shockoe] option” he wrote about his interview with the Mr. Marshall last week, the CAO says, “the city’s goal of having a new stadium built by 2016 would likely be pushed out of reach.”

It is a paraphrase of what Marshall told Moomaw, later on in the RTD piece, Mr. Marshall is finally quoted uttering the magic number: 2016. Whoops There It Is! Why?

The year 2016 is the last year of Mr. Jones’ last term.

In writing the Elected Mayor law, I made it impossible for anyone to serve three successive terms. This is similar to the 22th Amendment in America’s Constitution. I feared anyone being “Mayor for Life,” believing competition useful for any community.

A Shockoe Bottom Stadium is the legacy builder: like it or not, this has been how leaders tend to want to be judged since the days of Pharaoh.

FACT: If the Shockoe Stadium opens in 2016, then Mayor Jones is “Da Man” as they say, the guy with the biggest legacy in Richmond, in the whole area, bigger than the Governor living just a few blocks from City Hall.

As Mayor, he gets to call the shots, however he wants, he gets to make the news, however he wants. It is an incumbent’s dream. As any Pharaoh would have said, it has to be built in my lifetime. That’s been the rule since eons before Jesus, as far back as Moses.

BUT: If the Stadium opens in 2017, there is a new Mayor in charge. That Mayor gets to be the one in the center of the opening ceremonies, the one who gets to lead the press conference announcing the Stadium’s completion. Even a 2016 stadium on the Boulevard means nothing legacy wise. The Great Pyramid at Giza is one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

Where does the second biggest Pyramid rate, since it ain’t exactly “chop liver” as they say in New York City? No one cares, it makes no list, not even in Egypt.

Mr. Jones headed the School Board in 1985 when The Diamond opened. Can he even remember the name of the Mayor back then?

Building another stadium on the Boulevard makes you only the second Mayor to do it. Big whoop.

Besides, it will be an RMA project most likely.

2016.

I ask you: What is so magical about opening a Shockoe Stadium in 2016? It is clear the Mayor timed his announcement in order to make it as hard as possible for the City Council to properly review the statistics in time to meet the required construction start/finish deadlines. EVEN if baseball in the Bottom is the best choice for the City, it is clear a “best practices” type of financial analysis – indeed the apples to apples comparison between the Bottom v. Boulevard promised by the Mayor – requires more time than is possible to meet the 2016 target.

This isn’t coincidence.

I ask you, what is wrong, what is bad for Richmond, if you do stuff the right way and a stadium doesn’t open in 2017 in the Bottom assuming it is the best choice? Nothing.

Why the “rush to judgment”, why is 2016 such a magical number? The Diamond isn’t going to collapse. It may be the second oldest Class AA stadium currently in use, originally opened for the 1985 season. But fans are still enjoying baseball at The Diamond. The Squirrels have solid attendance, the cost of going to a game is considered very reasonable compared to other parks around the country, and the team is making money.

Are they going to leave if they don’t have a new stadium by 2016? They are an AA team in an AAA market. There isn’t a better open baseball area in the whole country. They ain’t going anywhere.

The original construction date for the average school building in Richmond is 1955! This means the average child goes to an obsolete school. The Republican Governor of Virginia is shocked by the statistic and has proposed a solution. Republican Congressman Eric Cantor gets it. Warner, Kaine, McAuliffe get it, they are all ready to lead a fight to pass a law that will save Richmond hundreds of millions of dollars and enable us to modernize our schools.

The law is actually great for Uncle Sam, saving the Treasury tens of billions of dollars over time!

What’s not to like?

I don’t see the Mayor worried about getting a plan in place by 2016 to fix this educational issue, surely more pressing than a Shockoe Baseball Stadium. Indeed, if you took all the public money he wants to spend on the stadium and related stuff, added it to other city monies I have identified, and combined the total with the school building plan backed by the state’s top leaders, we could MODERNIZE EVERY SINGLE ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE CITY!

That’s right.

Instead of having one of the oldest and deteriorated K-12 buildings in the country, we could have the NEWEST AND MOST MODERN in the country.

What’s wrong with that legacy?

CONCLUSION: THE MAYOR’S MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

True, The Beatles’ yellow submarine can’t dock at the Port of Richmond. But the song makes a point for the Mayor to consider.

He wants to cut the ribbon when a baseball stadium in the bottom opens in 2016.

I get it. I even admire the focus.

BUT HIS TOP BANANA just peeled back the skin. Instead of being a decision driven by finances, it is being driven by political considerations.

YOU will hear and read about so many other numbers from so many other sources. The debate will be confusing for even the smartest financial person.

BUT DON’T WORRY: As long as you remember 2016, the stadium debate will be easy to understand.

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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