GOLDMAN: Seven ‘yes’ votes needed, or just five? Potential Shockoe Stadium shocker

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. – Are activists for continuing baseball-on-the-Boulevard, along with community organizers dedicated to protecting African-American historical sites, about to get hit with a big legal surprise?

They are assuming Mayor Jones needs seven of the nine Richmond City Council members to support his Shockoe Stadium proposal. But is their legal math correct?

Today’s Richmond Times Dispatch highlights this seven-of-nine Gospel.

There is an article repeating the Mayor’s continuing unfounded charge – he resembles Mitt Romney attacking President Obama – against those opposed to his Shockoe Stadium as “anti-growth and lacking “vision” [at least he stopped for now calling them anti-black.]

But more importantly, the news story contains this important question and answer:

“When asked how confident he is that he’ll secure the seven council votes needed to move the plan forward, Jones answered: “I can’t say that I’m confident.”

He might not be confident about seven, but what about five? The Mayor could be playing possum here.

Or put another way, why isn’t the typical five-of-nine majority enough? The reporter didn’t ask due to the seven-of-nine Gospel.

The assumption is based on Article VII, Section 9 of the Virginia Constitution.

This provision admittedly contains a “seven-of-nine” provision. This constitutional clause did apply to the details provided by the Mayor and his pro-Shockoe Stadium allies in their original proposal.

Here is the pertinent part to this provision:

“No rights…streets…or other public places…shall be sold except by an ordinance or resolution passed by a recorded affirmative vote of three-fourths of all members elected to the governing body.”

The original proposal discussed with the public and council did include selling city land covered by Article VII, Section 9. But the Mayor and his pro-Stadium posse have never actually submitted any final proposal details to City Council.

That’s right. There is NO actual detailed plan that meets the legal requirements for action before the city’s governing body.

WHO SAYS THE MAYOR’S ACTUAL PROPOSAL WILL NOT BE BASED ON LEASES?

AFTER I wrote my pieces explaining why his original proposal failed simple financial math, Mayor Jones wrote a letter to Council Jon Baliles admitting he had changed the proposal’s financing structure.

Baliles deserves credit for helping to smoke it out. But again, the Mayor didn’t tell Baliles the actual details to his final proposal.

MY SOURCES TELL ME behind the scenes, the Mayor and his pro-Shockoe Stadium posse are making the rounds outlining a new financial plan based on leases not yet revealed to the general public.

My sources have been right to date.

So I ask, if he is changing to leases [in order to bypass a public referendum and hide the project's bloated cost] in order to hook the city to putting up over $100 million in public for his “free stadium,” then why not go use leases to convey all the required land rights?

This avoids the “seven-of-nine” requirement in Article VII, Section 9. It does trigger a constitutional provision likewise found there requiring a public bid process. But City lawyers can effectively Jerry-Rig the process to dictate the ultimate winner.

As the Richmond Free Press pointed out, Mayor Jones’ use of the race card locked-in pro-Shockoe Stadium votes from three council members:

  • Ellen Robertson [6th district]
  • Cynthia Newbille [7th district]
  • Michelle Mosby [9th district]

Fourth District councilwoman Kathy Graziano is considered by pro-Stadium forces to be a “sure” YES vote according to my sources.

This gives Mayor Jones four solid YES votes. He only needs one more to reach five.

Before the Mayor gives his State-of-the-City address this evening, the media should determine whether he needs seven or only five “yes” votes to win.

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.