Conversation around Shockoe Bottom ballpark hits fever pitch

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–The polarity surrounding Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium plan has become more visible as it moves closer to a vote by City Council next week.

City Council President Charles Samuels and City Council Member Jon Baliles held a joint town hall meeting Wednesday night.

It was one of the last opportunities for their voters to tell them what to do –after tonight there are two more town halls left on the topic.

If the meeting were a microcosm for the city as a whole, let it be noted that opinions remain very mixed.

“I think it is fairly evenly split at least in terms of applause,” Ellen Chapman, who lives in Shockoe Bottom and attended the meeting, said.

Traffic, Shockoe Bottom’s slave trade history, and a preference for baseball on the Boulevard continue to push some Richmond residents to oppose the plan.

“They will play ball on the very land where humans bred for sale were held in pens,” Farid Alan Schintzius, the founder of Shockoe Resistance, said.

“I think sports are very limited,” Chapman said.  You show up there during the season, and it’s very hard to get people to come back.”

On the other side is plenty of support, much of it from younger people who say it is time for change.

“We can’t drive without our rearview mirror, but we can’t drive looking just in our rearview mirror,” Justin Ayars, who considers himself a millennial, said.

Tavarris Spinks, a young professional living in Richmond, wasn’t sure what he supported going into Wednesday night’s meeting, but he’s supporting it now after the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall answered an important question for him at the meeting.

“Tonight, having my main question that I didn’t feel was answered in the plan answered…it looks good, it does look good,” Spinks said.

Despite their enthusiasm, Councilman Baliles said he still has questions he needs answered before he makes a decision.

“Everybody has an opinion, and I have not made up my mind,” Baliles said.

How much will his vote be worth when the proposal goes before council?

On Tuesday the Land Use, Housing and Transportation Standing Committee voted to forward the proposal to council with no recommendations. The plan will now need fewer votes than the original seven of nine that were needed if the plan involved sale of city land.

The revised resolution added language that instead introduces the option of leasing the city land. With such a revision, only five yes votes would be needed, councilman Jon Baliles told CBS 6.

If this revision is passed, then after 40 years the city would take control of the property or renegotiate the lease, he said.

The plan goes before City Council members on Monday for further discussion.

“This is the biggest boondoggle in the city’s history,” Paul Goldman, government watchdog, said. Goldman did the research to squash the first ballpark proposal in 2004 while working as Policy Advisor to former Mayor Doug Wilder.  He says the revised resolution is a clever tactic by the mayor.

“He’s trying to get as many people on record for this resolution, so it will be harder for them to say no.” Goldman said. “He’s out foxing the anti-stadium people.”

Strategic planners worry that the downtown location can’t handle the planned development.

“We can’t handle this infrastructure,” Rick Tatnall, with Replenish Richmond said.  He questioned the city’s plan to deal with increased traffic and parking issues this $200 million dollar project will bring. A recent study commissioned to examine Shockoe traffic has come under fire after critics noted that peak traffic times weren’t included.

“They disregarded a number of details like 1,135 apartments and condominiums that have brought on line since they did their numbers.  They didn’t consider the first two hotels and the main street station build out,” Tatnall said.

Much of the business community, along with the Chamber of Commerce and the non-profit entity Venture Richmond favor the mayor’s plan and have helped invest thousands into pro-stadium campaigns like Revitalize RVA.

That’s the tagline for several billboards that have gone up around the city, which equate development with more jobs and money for schools. In response opponents created their own media campaign and have leased multiple billboards around the city. The signs warn council members that voters are watching.

It was one of the last opportunities for their voters to tell them what to do.

Which Baliles brought back around Wednesday night. “Can’t make any decision without talking to your constituents, and that’s what tonight is all about,” Baliles said.

Despite people’s enthusiasm, Baliles said he still has questions he needs answered before he makes a decision.

 

24 comments

  • Jonesd.

    This IS Democratic GIFTGATE x 100!
    Ah, but Democratic corruption, collusion, extortion, fraud, and waste
    fraud and abuse, of power and offices IS perfectly PC.
    It is heralded as Correct “Government Ethics” by their rich, corporates, and party members, holding hands and acting as One; against We The People.
    NO Investigations? NO Media Outrage.

      • Becky

        Pete, this coming from someone that cannot man up or stand up to defend his position of welfaring the rich, elite, corporates withtaxes other than by using “talking points”?
        Wasn’t there a heralded Democratic Political Campaign, long running, with a Nationwide Occupation, against the rich and corporate?
        Come to find out they RUN Richmond, state and federal.
        Contradictions Government, Inc.

      • athynz

        Can you actually offer a different perspective than what Becky said or are you simply going to troll? I suspect you’ll simply troll.

    • athynz

      I would not have a problem with this stadium if there were not so many shady back room deals associated with the project, the use of extremely outdated data (such as not factoring in the Main St expansion and the newly converted townhouses), blatant attempts to bribe those who originally wanted to bring this to a public vote (*cough* Mayor Jones offering Council President Samuels a spot on the bench *cough*), and the mayor’s refusal to allow this to be voted on by the citizens of Richmond. The fact is Jones wants to shove this through as his legacy and is not letting anything stand in his way. But jack prove me wrong – tell me how this will help Richmond. Tell me why this would be good for business. I await your response.

  • Jonesd.

    These meetings are just appeasement and placating showboating.
    Another Jones “Done Deal”.
    The Mayor, Council, and the Positively Richmond Rich Who’s Who
    have had 10 years to orchestrated their down and dirty, back room,
    closed door Take Over. Everyone knows it. These Lobbyists have bought, own, operate, manage, run and ramrod Our Government over and above The People, Our Taxes, Our Say..
    It was decisively and deliberately set up that way.
    “WE” want what we want when we want it and by hook or crook
    or corruption, collusion, Buy Ins for Pay Offs, and Friends with
    Benefits, WE will get it.

  • Becky

    Ceremoniously, Party will ATTACK anyone that doesn’t kowtow
    to its way, its will, its Agendas Over ALL.
    It comes from their love, caring, kindness and heralded benevolence
    strictly of, by, and for Party ONLY.
    Our Corruption is PC.

  • Becky

    Our Corruption, Collusion, Fraud, Extortion, Friends with Benefits,
    and Buy Ins for Pay Offs IS “Our Government Ethics”, because as
    a Party, we cannot stand up under the scrutiny with which we
    Character Assassinate a Republican.
    We run, hide, escape, refuse, excuse, abuse, and cover it all up
    as “Look How Good We Are”.

  • Kathryn Leighton

    I’m excited!! Baseball downtown will cleanup the dump people have made this “slavery site”. Seems no one really cared about it until progress decided to move in. Stop living in the past and bring baseball to the Bottom!!

  • Real American

    Can’t wait for the new stadium. Thank Mayor Jones for cleaning up the city and getting around the gridlock during the Wilder years.

  • Jesse

    Wow! I was going to give my two cents on the development project(s), but after reading this article I’m not sure I want to. “Bread for sale” really? I know everyone has an oops typo-day, but not everyone works for a media outlet. Not to mention I was at the meeting and you have misquoted and twisted some of the participants comments. On such an important issue as this, it is very important everyone who is quoted is quoted correctly no matter what side of the issue they stand on.

  • Farid Alan Schintzius

    I honor this person’s choice to speak up anonymously. Many, many folks have invested themselves, some for decades, in raising the vibrancy of RVA through a variety of social ventures, and artistic endeavors. Much of their valuable community investment would be catastrophically jeopardized by speaking in public against the Shockoe Stadium plan Others I know have kids to feed, and families to raise. They have no choice but to silence themselves to survive and thrive.

    Speaking out in this anonymous fashion does us all a big favor. Believe me when I report that reprisals in this matter are VERY REAL.

    Note: This is an anonymous letter which is circulating, and has been sent it to several Council members and news outlets.

    Note: This is an anonymous submission which is circulating. Please SHARE it
    The anonymous author sent it to several Council members and news outlets. We heard that at least one local magazine would not publish for fear of financial retribution.

    Dear Honorable Members of Richmond City Council,

    I am writing you this afternoon because we are at a major crossroads in the great city of Richmond. In the next couple of weeks you will be asked to vote on a variety of issues that will weigh very heavily on the future of this city and the people within it for many decades to come. While there are a variety of different development projects including the Revitalize RVA proposal, the Brown’s Island Amphitheater plan, and the ongoing management of Monroe Park on the table for you to soon vote on, there is a much more serious civic situation that you have the heavy burden of addressing. The yay or nay ballot that each of you will cast in regards to Mayor Jones’s Shockoe stadium proposal will be a vote on much more than whether or not to build on a historic site in Shockoe Bottom: It has now become a yay or nay vote to validate a model of how business is to be conducted by both non-profit organizations and well-funded commercial enterprises in the City of Richmond.

    Over the past 4 months since Mayor Jones’s initial announcement of the Revitalize RVA plan, his conduct, as well as that of Venture Richmond and Loving RVA, have been questionable at best (and spinelessly manipulative at worst) to both the democratic process and the non-profit model that has been at the heart of much of RVA’s lifestyle and cultural expansion over the past 3-5 years. On the surface it may appear that there is a large amount of support in the form of Facebook “likes” and signatures from both the commercial and non-profit sectors of the city for this plan, the reality is that many of RVA’s small businesses are being kept in a silent, financial stranglehold around raising any questions or concerns around the Revitalize RVA plan. Because many of our city’s non-profit organizations receive funding from major corporations such as Capital One, Bon Secours, and Altria there has been a passive aggressive mandate issued that if you want to keep receiving funds for your organization that you most “go along” with the stadium plan or risk losing some level of funding for your organization. This has been echoed by a number of different employees across many sectors under the cover of anonymity for fear of fiscal retribution.

    Many of these organizations know that building another recreational facility is not in the best interest of the city. Regardless of the mayor’s blind eye to the educational issues in RVA’s currently rock-bottom education system, most RVA taxpayers overwhelmingly agree that our schools and infrastructure across the entire city are the immediate priority, not recreational sports and an illogical design that puts a hotel (typically consider a place for rest and relaxation, no?) right next to 7,000 screaming fans and fireworks going off at 9:00 at night. It doesn’t take a civil engineer to understand the problems around that and the many other shoddy details around financial liability and infrastructure assessments for this project. But alas, nothing can be said by many local organizations about that for fear of losing much needed funding dollars and threats of being “white-listed” from certain opportunities regardless of if this deal is successfully railroaded through or not. That is a detrimental and n unfavorable situation for businesses, their employees, the city, our culture, and the democratic process as a whole.

    So, this is where you, our elected city officials come into play.
    You have the authority and power to end this. You and only you have the ability to let these people and organizations within our city know that this is not the model that is appropriate for how business is to be conducted in RVA now or in the future. Because if you validate their actions, empower these cultural bullys holding many of our most beloved organizations hostage, and allow the Revitalize RVA plan to proceed, you will undoubtedly and irreversibly de-base the culture of the business of politics in this city forever. We are teetering on the brink of an unprecedented land and resources grab by Venture Richmond and a small group of people who wish to cash in on a tax-payer funded structure that will undoubtedly damage the beautifully emerging, independent culture by continuing to shut out local businesses and vendors the same way the Skins training camp has. It is well known and echoed in many halls that in 2014 and beyond the future of economic development is in small business NOT real estate. Good, fair wage jobs (not minor league sports or part-time jobs with rotating, unpredictable schedules like at most grocery stores) and spending at homegrown establishments are the foundation to growing an effective, long-term tax base that will allow RVA to continue to grow and improve the city-wide services everyone agrees are in dire need of attention.

    It is very obvious that the Richmond Public School system is moving backwards under Mayor Jones’s watch. To say his priorities are misplaced is a graphic understatement, and you have the opportunity to make a statement that your priorities are in the right place. It is extremely necessary to let your constituents know that you support increased immediate and responsible funding to fix some of our school’s problems, not dumping dollars into a hole in Shockoe Bottom and hoping a money tree sprouts up in 5 years.

    After Mayor Jones’s recent unsuccessful attempt to get one of his church cronies elected to RPS Superintendent, the School Board made an excellent decision in hiring a complete RVA-outsider to come in and take some bold steps to get our struggling schools (middle and high in particular) back on track. Superintendent Bedden’s talk of raising teacher and employee wages to a more respectable level, diversifying and specializing educational tracts for our students, and changing the culture around our school system from the top down are just a few of the bold initiatives he has brought forth as a starting point to help resolve some of the issues within our school system.

    In our city, poverty is rampant and is really at the heart of many of the municipal issues that we face. With that in mind, Mayor Jones’s “race-baiting” white council members with his Revitalize RVA proposal as a magic pill to “answer” the city’s poverty rate is shoddy and desperate, but something that resonates within many, primarily brown communities on a variety of different levels. However, while Mayor Jones assumes the support of the African-American members of council, I would challenge those ladies to demand more for their communities from the mayor’s office and not be satisfied with the same old Richmond “bone” being thrown to the brown folks hungry for opportunity in the corner communities of the city.

    I would also tell Councilpersons Newbille, Mosby, and Robertson that while political opponents may try and use that against you in the future as you “voting against jobs”, using your authority to demand a more substantive and benefit inclusive proposal for job training and opportunities for the former students and youth that have been left behind during Mayor Jones’s watch is a much more respectable position with more long-term benefits for the most effected neighborhoods. Those children are still owed an education, not just a menial dead-end job with no realistic future of advancement or self-fulfillment. That is their role in the mayor’s long-term plans. You can change that and demand he and his team go back to the drawing board to develop a real plan that benefits all the city’s neighborhoods not just his friends that stand with mouths open, hungry for a municipal welfare handout.

    As a last note, I would ask all of Richmond’s City Council members to think very hard about what they want their legacy on the City of Richmond to be. With Councilperson Graziano making it known that she will not seek re-election, her legacy will be the most effected. It will be up to her to decide if she wants her legacy to be as a small business advocate that votes for the people (we’re giving her a one-time pass for that Skins training camp vote) or as the councilperson who cashed in and sold out the city in one fell swoop. A fiscal coup de grace to the Richmond Public School System if you will, because that is what it will be. We should all make sure that she is held accountable and/or praised now and well into the future for how she responds to this crisis matter.

    Any council member voting in favor of this proposal will also inevitably be a part of any pending audits or investigations into the potential abuses of Venture Richmond’s non-profit status. As that and similar items are currently being looked into by various independent entities, it may be a good idea for any and everyone to step away from this deal as it has undeniably violated the spirit of non-profit governance and community cohesion in RVA. If those investigations yield more substantive violations then that investigation will inevitably spill over into the life and activities of any City Council member aligned with them. Everyone knows much money has changed hands in many back rooms to garner support for the Revitalize RVA project and I think we should all be wary of proceeding forward with this project for this and all the other reasons listed above. Much in that regard can be avoided by voting against the Revitalize RVA plan and demanding that Mayor Jones and Venture Richmond be held accountable for their arrogant and flagrant disregard for sound and good faith business practices in RVA. From there we can move onto developing a real plan that benefits every corner of the city and uplifts RVA into the beacon of innovative, educational, and professional excellence that we can be.

    Respectfully,

    – A Concerned Citizen-

    • Glen Allen

      Poll after poll result in the same consensus that the tax payers do NOT want baseball in the Bottom. Wake up City Council. You were elected to deliver the voice of your constituents, please do so now. Stop requesting additional information on a plan that is not wanted by the majority of those who will have to pay for it. Make the Mayor go back to the drawing board and come up with an acceptable Plan-B. Tell the Mayor a Lease Option is not acceptable, and any plan must be approved by the voters.

  • DemoGIFTGATE

    The Tax Payers/Residents don’t stand a chance.
    Their requested referendum, voice, will, say and VOTE have been taken away by the very “elected representatives” elected to SERVE them.
    Instead these public representatives elect to SERVE their Money Brokers, campaign Donors, financiers, enablers, and who’s who Rich Friends.
    This is a very well organized Consortium of lawyers, bankers, real
    estate businesses, developers, and construction companies greasing
    the hands of the elected officials, that SERVE the Consortium as President & Board Members in the Transparent Conflict of Interest.
    For 10 years they have worked in their back rooms and closed doors
    on their Plans/Deals.
    What the public has been “allowed” to see is a deliberately deceptive. inept, incomplete, inefficient, and blatant, fraudulent, attempt to extort taxes without Any responsibility of the accountability, using the highest echelons of Richmond Government known for deception and I Know Nothing about Nothing, all the time.
    It is solely RAMROD the Special Interest LOBBYISTS WILL Over
    the “ALL of Richmond”.
    They have the MONEY to Propagandize, organize and activate their lobbyist groups, for their campaigns, their soliciting, their promotions. Each public meeting each public forum, each website is laced with their Consortium’s Lobbyists.
    Then their Free Public Media offers it’s own Propagandizing as their
    Advertising Partners.
    Anyone not agreeing with the Consortium’s WILL is ceremoniously
    labeled and attacked as is the method, means, overused, standard SOP/MO of the “inclusive” Democratic Party Machine.
    The Party that REFUSES, always, to live up to the standards they
    set for Republicans in their Character Assassination of a Republican.
    Richmond City Government, all Echelons, has been bought, owned
    operated, managed, controlled, and RUN by the Rich, the Elite,
    the Corporations that FINANCE their Democratic Machine.
    It is 99/100 Pure Corruption, Collusion, Extortion of Taxes to Pay Off
    the Big Buy Ins of Big Money for Big Money, Friends with Benefits, Party
    Incest, and Public Graft.
    Remember that big TO DO Campaign, Occupation, from the Highest
    to the lowest echelon of Democratic Propaganda Machine AGAINST
    the RICH, the Corporates?
    THEY BOUGHT YOUR GOVERNMENT out from under WE THE
    PEOPLE.
    100% DEMOCRATIC GIFT GATE!!!!! by the Promise/LIARS
    of “Government Ethics”!!!
    Smell It. The Stench permeates the Party. “Feel” it,

    • Manalishi

      Very well put. Don’t spend too much time looking at the parasitic genetics of democrats as they will consume you.

      • DemoGIFTGATE

        Just would like to SEE one Democrat, ever, that can stand up, man up,
        own up, and fess up or grow up to FACE to Blatant Transparency of
        Democratic Governance at local, state, and federal levels. NONE can,
        will, do. Perfectly Correct to run, hide, escape, evade, excuse, REFUSE,
        and demolish Government from Within.

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