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GOLDMAN: Councilman Samuels shines, exposes Mayor’s real stadium strategy

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. – The Shockoe Stadium scorecard from last night’s revealing debate lists City Council President Charles Samuels as going 0 for 4. But the truth is quite different. He shined in losing and we praise him here just as we have criticized him in the past.

We call it like we see it.

The second district representative proposed four responsible amendments to the non-binding, legally unnecessary resolution on Shockoe Stadium demanded by the Mayor last night.

Give Jones credit, he can play the game.

For example, Samuels wanted the Jones Administration to do what every business person in the city knows is fiscally responsible and eminently reasonable, complete a competent traffic study before voting to spend over $100 million in public dollars.

But the Council voted it down 5-4.

Mr. Samuels’ other proposed amendments aimed at making sure all the public money and public power being used to override public opinion on the stadium is exercised in a transparent, accountable manner. But they all lost 5-4.

Indeed, Mr. Samuels proposed a sensible measure in line what with the Mayor’s allies on Council had supposedly wanted, to make sure the stadium construction didn’t interfere with any of the historical evidence Mr. Jones said he wants to protect.

How could they oppose that? But it too got voted down 5-4.

They were all offered as a package. So perhaps this is the mistake Mr. Samuels made, not putting each amendment to a separate vote.

Still, why did five members of City Council not see sufficient merit in the Samuels’ package to pass it?

Again, take the traffic study, this seems a no-brainer.

So I ask again, why did the traffic study and the other sensible amendments lose?

Simple, the Mayor knows he can’t sell the Shockoe Stadium on the merits.

But give Mr. Jones credit, he has known this for some time.

That is why he played the race card and attacked whites as being “racist” – that’s the Richmond Times Dispatch’s word, and they are backing the Mayor on the Stadium – if they opposed the Shockoe Stadium

You don’t make a bigoted argument unless you have nothing else.

The Mayor’s new strategy is far shrewder: Tie the Shockoe Stadium to an African-American heritage site, show you have the money for the site if you get the stadium, and then present it has a total package, take-it or leave it.

That is to say, if you vote down the stadium, you vote down protecting African-American history.

Last night, he had his ally Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille reveal this new strategy.

Why do we know the Mayor was behind it?

Because his four sure pro-stadium votes on the Council all voted as a block for it, as they did on every amendment and the final resolution.

They had their marching orders.

He gave the green light to Councilwoman Newbille’s amendment telling big-buck Shockoe Stadium backers to put up the dough for the Heritage Site, or no stadium.

Newbille left her amendment vague enough so she can claim to be satisfied without actually seeing the millions in cash, she needs only to be assured the big bucks are going to be there.

The 7th District Councilwoman proved to be a shrewd player. She moves up on the list of folks to watch in city politics.

Bottom line

The Mayor is no longer going to pretend he can answer all the financial, traffic, development and other reasonable questions.

His strategy is simple, if you oppose my Shockoe Stadium, it is because you disrespect African-American history.

It is a hard-ball, phony strategy.

Under the guise of “saving” African-American history, they are going to bulldoze over it to build a Shockoe Stadium with $120 million – and more – in public money when all is said.

It’s a rather clever political strategy I must admit.

The pro-stadium forces will come up with whatever it takes to satisfy Newbille and thus the Mayor. The anti-Shockoe Stadium forces were totally outplayed last night.

It is totally unfair to call whites opposing the stadium anti-black or insensitive to African-American history. The Newbille amendment passed 9-0 for this very reason, everyone supports the Heritage Site.

Do you need a baseball stadium to build it? NO, everyone knows that too.

But the Mayor knows how to use this card politically.

Like John F. Kennedy said, life isn’t fair.

Why did Baliles vote against Samuels’ amendments while Hilbert supported them?

I think I know the answer, but that is for another column.

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.