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GOLDMAN: Bourne NOT seeking re-election as Richmond School Board chair

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. – You read it first here, Richmond School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne is telling people he is NOT seeking re-election as the Chair of the Richmond School Board.

The former top aide to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones won election last year in a close 5-4 vote against Kim Gray.

Last week, this column suggested this would be a smart political move by Bourne. He currently works in a high paying government job essentially given to him by forces aligned with Mayor Jones.

Critics have called it a no-show position.

This isn’t fair in my view. But critics do have a point. Like too many high-paying patronage jobs connected with the current city political power structure, it is long on pay and perks but short on evidence it is necessary, much less brings evidence of why it is necessary.

I get it.

When working for Mayor Wilder, I tried to eliminate or at least cut back on these kinds of legal jobs. We had some success, but the truth is no one helped us really.

Jeff isn’t doing anything new for Richmond and certainly nothing new under the current regime. Until Richmond City Council or civic groups show me they actually will back reforms in this area, then their mere moral outrage doesn’t impress me.

At the top levels of politics in this town, we have an “entitlement culture,” people feeling they are owed a cushy government job. The State Auditor says we waste $10 million a year at least on this stuff.

I could build five new elementary schools on that money as I showed years ago in my City of the Future plan.

Does anyone care? If they do, they have yet to contact me. So I don’t blame Jeff.

Having a School Board Chair in a position beholden to the Mayor is an inherent conflict of interest.

Like it or not, the Mayor and City Council have been short-changing the school kids, as myself and others have documented.

This puts Jeff in a no-win position over time, in my view. It has led to some of the Board’s problems this year.

As I wrote last week, Jeff should follow the example of board member Derik Jones, the Mayor’s son. He is sitting back, letting others have the titles and leadership. He doesn’t need it. Like Jeff, I believe Derik wants to run for higher office. They both are surely competent in that regard.

But image is key.

The School Board Chair needs to be seen as an “honest broker,” someone who is fair all around and not beholden to any powerful force. Fair or not, Jeff doesn’t have that image with the Board or many in the community.

It might be unfair, but it is what is as John F. Kennedy said.

Cynics will say Jeff isn’t seeking the job because he lacks the five necessary votes. That may be. My vote count shows Don Coleman to be the favorite right now. But he is playing his cards close to the vest.

If Jeff plays his cards right – and 3rd district councilman Chris Hilbert runs for Mayor as expected – then Jeff is the favorite to win that spot.

I think he wants it. Why drag the School Board Chair’s job into that politics too since that game is also starting to heat up? I don’t see how Jeff or the School Board benefits.

But in politics, it ain’t over until the votes are counted.

The School Board meets this coming Monday to select a Chair and Vice-Chair. So it could be a weekend full of intrigue.

If Jeff isn’t running, then this also scrambles the Vice-Chair’s election. That race is a total toss-up, with a surprise choice very possible.

But as of this morning, Jeff Bourne says he is seeking a new identity. Matt Damon didn’t do the last sequel either.

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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