RICHMOND, Va. – Has City Hall’s arm-twisting and Shockoe Stadium backroom deal making already gotten one of the five assumed Council NO votes to switch to YES?
While gathering signatures for the Shockoe Stadium referendum at the Broad Appetit Sunday, I politely approached a distinguished looking gentleman with stylish sunglasses. He stood back by the curb along Broad Street, letting the swirling crowd push by. I can’t remember precisely what I said, but it was likely some variant of the following:
“Since you got to pay, shouldn’t you have a say” is my usual conversation starter to discuss getting you your right to vote on the issue.
As I studied the face, it hit me, behind those sunglasses peered the gaze of none other than Mayor Dwight Jones’ top Shockoe Stadium deal maker, Byron “I never hid it was No-Bid” Marshall. The City’s chief administrative officer grinned like the cat who had caught the canary.
“Mr. Marshall,” I said politely.
“Hello Paul,” the CAO replied, taking off the sunglasses. “I’m not going to sign your petition,” he said with that grin.
To be honest, I felt a little disappointed. I mean, I wrote the law creating his job, indeed first suggested the title to the Wilder-Bliley Commission.
So giving me his John Hancock seemed only fair at some level.
But I understood. In this day and age, you always got to figure someone is taking your picture with some device. It could wind-up anywhere.
“Marshall Caught Signing Goldman’s Petition” could be the caption. The Mayor would demand an explanation. So I understood the CAO’S refusal.
“I want you to meet my wife,” he said, introducing me to his very attractive better half.
“Mr. Goldman,” she said. “I have heard so much about you.”
“Only believe the bad stuff,” I advised with a smile.
Mr. Marshall and I chatted briefly before taking my leave to seek petition signers.
Walking away, I suddenly realized why he appeared so calm and confident. A source with intimate knowledge of how the Mayor’s inner circle is thinking had previously called this weekend with the following message:
“The Mayor’s people are confident they turned the fifth vote.”
The Jones posse only had four votes last week, it takes five to get it passed City Council.
Could it be true, could they have switched one of the supposed “no” votes to “yes” votes so quickly?
My source has never been wrong before. The fact the Mayor’s posse believed they now had a fifth vote didn’t mean they were. This now “yes” vote might also turn back to being a “no” vote again also.
Most City Hall observers don’t believe the Mayor can get that fifth vote when all is said and done. But there is one fact everyone must concede:
Baliles, Samuels and Hilbert have never denounced the No-Bid, sweetheart, manipulate the EDA, and all the rest of the backroom Jones shenanigans. They have never laid down a marker and said they can not support this way of doing business.
They have never said this smacks of the “culture of corruption” from years back.
Their self-evident refusal to draw this ethical line in the sand concerns me. Why?
The Jones Shockoe Stadium deal falls into the definition of “institutional corruption” as defined by the leading experts. It uses public assets through a No-Bid, law manipulating process to provide financial gain for private interests including a public body’s okaying secretive side deals.
Until Baliles, Samuels and Hilbert say NO to this type of activity, it is fair to say they are in effect leaving open the door to supporting the Jones Shockoe Stadium deal.
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.