RICHMOND, Va. – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” is the now iconic line from the 1976 movie “Network.”
“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” Frenchman Alphonse Karr said.
In 2014, Hollywood on the West Coast meets France on the Left Bank right here in the River City.
In 2003, the people had to rise up and rid the city of what was considered to be a “cesspool of corruption and inefficiency.” The Jones/Marsh machine, the City Council, and Richmond legislators all outwardly opposed/or refused to publicly support the effort to get the Elected Mayor referendum on the ballot.
It took the first-ever use of the citizen referendum provision found in Section 3.06.1 of the City Charter to give the people their right to vote.
Here in 2014, there is a growing, eerie similarity. It may not have reached Stephen King or Albert Hitchcock artistic levels, but as the saying goes, it is close enough for government work.
Look at the eerie parallels.
FIRST: The make-up of the citizens group circulating the petitions is questioned for not meeting certain “politically correct” criteria.
SECOND: The referendums are disparaged as being too mainstream, not “radical” enough. I confess, I wrote measured, modulated, sensible reforms to meet the law’s requirements, to move things forward, and to try and bring people together so we can heal the divisions being created in our city.
THREE: Back in 2003, they doubted anyone could draft referendum language able to meet the requirements of federal, state and local law. They said the same thing in 2014. But once again, they have been stunned to find the two referendums have been approved for circulation by the Circuit Court through the same process.
FOUR: In 2003, the Jones/Marsh machine played the race card against those supporting the Elected Mayor reforms calling us anti-black. Here in 2014, Mayor Jones has played the race card as even the RTD – a big Jones backer – had to admit.
FIVE: In 2003, the Elected Mayor referendum embodied an idea previously supported by many who had now switched positions due to political or financial reasons. Here in 2014, the Stadium referendum embodies a concept championed previously by then Delegate Dwight Jones, Senator Henry Marsh and others! Why have they changed?!
SIX: Now, once again, they are saying there is no way we can get the record number of signatures [it is going to take the most ever in probably national history for any jurisdiction the size of Richmond, at least 50 percent harder than 2003 in purely statistical terms, 8000 percent harder than getting a candidate on the ballot for President in 2016].
As the weather gets warmer, we shall see who is right here on whether the signatures can be gathered in time. These referendums are geared TO GIVE RICHMONDERS THEIR VOTING RIGHTS, that’s right, RIGHTS BEING TAKEN AWAY BY HOW THE JONES/CITY COUNCIL PROPOSAL IS SET TO WORK.
Finally, despite provocations, the effort to get the public their right to Vote on Matters Related to the Jones Stadium proposal is going to stay on the high ground.
I am used to the abuse, believe me, if you think people say things today, think back to what I was called in certain circles for being the only white person willing to be Doug Wilder’s campaign manager? Need I repeat some of them?
The Goldmans were at D-Day: so this ain’t nothing believe me.
People ask me all the time about the Mayor, City Council, their aides, the GA, Venture Richmond, the Governor, Mr. Ukrop, Jack Berry and others supporting the Jones Stadium proposal. They ask me about why their GA representatives – Betsy, Delores, Don, Henry, Jen, John and Loop – have not taken a position on the referendums.
I say the same thing, on this issue, everyone has an opinion, and a fair, open, transparent debate this fall on the two referendums will be good for the city.
This idea that opposing their Stadium proposal – assuming they back the Jones proposal – is somehow opposing them is simply not true.
In talking to the people signing the petitions, I believe they get it: they want their right to vote on the matter, to express their opinion in an advisory referendum.
State lawmakers put an advisory referendum on the ballot to seek out the public’s opinion before passing the Lottery, a very popular law.
That was 1987. 27 years later, what therefore could possibly be wrong about using an advisory referendum power to ask Richmonder’s about putting a Stadium in Shockoe Bottom and about making sure the people’s right to vote isn’t trampled again in future years?
The people get it: and it is now dawning on the Mayor, the City Council and GA members that trying to bypass the people’s right to vote is beginning to backfire.
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.