RICHMOND, Va. Last week, the Mayor finally admitted to having changed the financing scheme for his Shockoe Bottom Stadium. Readers of this column weren’t surprised.
The Mayor’s Shockoe Bottom stadium will now cost $30 MILLION MORE than he had been claiming for weeks.
Moreover, this extra $30,000,000 refers only to the new true stadium financing costs. It doesn’t include expected cost overruns likely to add millions more.
Let me thank John Gerner and Councilman Baliles for helping smoke out the truth.
I know what many readers are thinking, “Come on Paul, what would possess Mayor Jones to switch to a scheme costing $30,000,000 MORE, much less believe City Council might support it?”
Let me explain by a series of question and answers.
Why is it $30 MILLION MORE?
Answer: The Mayor’s original plan relied on General Obligation bonds. Now he proposes using Economic Development Authority revenue bonds. Thirty-year EDA bonds likely cost $30 MILLION MORE in interest.
Answer: The City Charter allows fiscally responsible citizens to petition for a public referendum before GO bonds can be issued. This prevents wasteful spending. The Mayor’s side fears Richmonders will vote not to issue the GO bonds. The Charter doesn’t apply to EDA bonds.
Surely City Council will object to wasting $30 MILLION?
Answer: The Mayor believes he has a hardball strategy to get them to give-in.
What could it possibly be?
Answer: As this column predicted last Friday, the Mayor is going to use what political analysts call the “race card.”
What’s the “race card”?
Answer: A “race card” strategy defines an issue in on racial terms in order to threaten your opponents with an ugly stigma should they vote against you.
Surely that can’t be?
Answer: Read the story entitled “Mayor slams council” in Thursday’s Richmond Free Press. They understood the Mayor’s strategy, reporting how he told a Fifth Street Baptist Church audience that the only reason his stadium proposal might not pass is that Richmond has a City Council “that doesn’t look like us” among other racial remarks.
Surely the Mayor misspoke, right?
Answer: On Saturday, the Richmond Times Dispatch gave the Mayor a chance to apologize or at least “walk back” the comments in a story titled “Mayor’s comment on racial makeup of council raises concern.” He refused, indeed his spokeswoman attempted to justify the race card strategy.
The RTD understood the implied threat. Four council members – Jon Baliles, Charles Samuels, Chris Hilbert, and Kathy Graziano – were sufficiently upset to publicly challenge the Mayor’s comments. The RTD also asked me to reply, since I am known nationally as having successfully fought this type of politics.
Surely such intimidation can’t work?
Answer: Take Mr. Samuels for instance. The political grapevine says he wants to be a judge or run for a citywide position. Without help from the Jones/Marsh Machine, he can’t likely get either. I could go on.
Why would the Mayor poison the stadium debate this way?
Answer: The Shockoe Stadium, by the Mayor’s own admission, is key to his getting huge leverage over hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable contracts. Many people and companies want a piece of this action. Do I need to spell it out for you?
By bringing racial prejudice into the equation, Mayor Jones apparently believes he has set-out an excuse that actually strengthens him in his political base should he lose. He sees it as win-win.
The Mayor says his Stadium plan is really about fighting poverty. Then why give $30 MILLION MORE to bond holders? Not too many people in poverty own EDA bonds.
I envisioned the Elected Mayor as a force for unity, not division. I thought the business, media, education and other community leaders had the same vision.
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.