RICHMOND, Va. – What is happening in Richmond today? Not once yesterday but TWICE the Mayor’s top pro-Shockoe Stadium group brought out its “enforcers” and tried to intimidate me at the Easter parade. Eleven years ago, I led the petition drive to get the Elected Mayor Law referendum on the ballot to give people the right to vote.
The Mayor at the time, the City Council and many on the board of the top pro-Stadium group – Venture Richmond – either opposed my efforts or refused to support the plan. They didn’t believe the people should have the right to vote.
But at no time 11 years ago did I ever encounter what I encountered Sunday.
My son and I, along with several others, were out gathering signatures to put on the November election ballot two referendums to give Richmonders the right to express their opinion on issues that have arisen relative to the Mayor’s proposal to bypass rights given to the citizens by using the Economic Development Authority to fund with public money his Shockoe Stadium.
You would have thought we were John Dillinger and “Pretty Boy” Floyd. I expected to see J. Edgar Hoover at any moment. Just kidding of course.
The first time didn’t really bother me. But the second time, to be honest, ticked-me off. Especially when one of the people said something like “we know who you are Mr. Goldman”.
And pray tell, who might that be in the minds of the Mayor, City Council and their pro-Shockoe Stadium enforcers from Venture Richmond?
The second time, the lead official with the badge didn’t much like my way of responding to her after she demanded I stop petitioning. First, I used an old campaign tactic from President John F. Kennedy, I jabbed my finger through the air to make a point – the books say he liked to do that.
She wasn’t impressed. She told me not to do that. Second, she thought my voice was too loud in response. It could have been, I had to speak loud all day given the noise level to make myself heard to the petition signers. I also had my iPhone ear plug plugged in.
In retrospect, I am wondering whether she was trying to imply I was drunk. I sure hope not.
Look, I know she and the other guy with the badge were following orders. Later, a friend indicated to me a couple of uniformed city police were lingering somewhere behind me at some point for a bit. I surely didn’t see it and surely didn’t feel anything of the sort.
Unlike 2003, I sense a feeling the Jones Administration, the City Council, Venture Richmond and others have ZERO APPRECIATION for the very tenets of our democracy. The two petitions being circulated are fair, they are needed, and they are in the best traditions of our democracy.
But this seems to bother all these folks involved with the pro-Shockoe Stadium posse. In recent weeks, I have had pro-stadium backers call me a racist, a has-been, an obstructionist, a troublemaker, uninformed, yada, yada, yada.
I don’t mind, they can say what they want, AS LONG AS THEY RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS TO DISAGREE.
But their failing to appreciate the right to petition and the right of the public to vote as envisioned by the City Charter in order to stop their city from making a huge mistake indicates a lack of said respect.
I don’t much care what they think about me. But I will insist they give respect to the right of Richmonders to vote.
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.