RICHMOND, Va. – Former Virginia Governor and Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder did something he did not have to do.
“Wilder calls for advisory group on preserving history in Shockoe Bottom” reads the headline on the story in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch.
Let me cut to the chase, given the way Mayor Jones, City Council and the pro-stadium posse have treated Wilder’s push to save the most historic African Church in Richmond, if not the Commonwealth, he could have easily sat back and let them sink deeper into their own self-developed quagmire.
But instead, he reached for what might be called his “inner Tim Kaine” since the Senator and former Mayor earned a reputation for knowing that once you get into political quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper you sink.
If the Tim Kaine rule ever applied to an issue in Richmond, Mayor Jones’ proposal, backed by his pro-Shockoe Stadium posse in the business community and on Council, surely qualifies.
There is a reason Mr. Kaine didn’t push for a Shockoe Stadium as Mayor, but instead pioneered the use of the Goldman Law that Senators Warner and Webb introduced into the Congress to modernize the nation’s increasingly obsolete K-12 facilities using private dollars to save localities in Virginia upwards of 40 percent!
I have even tried to give Kaine the credit, but he insists on giving it to me. Even Eric Cantor agrees with us.
You don’t need to be as savvy a politician as Doug and Tim to know when Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi recently said that he could not allow state money to go and help directly or indirectly such a no-bid, squirrelly financed, legally flawed, Shockoe Stadium proposal, the Mayor needed to take notice.
When Democratic Senator Donald McEachin said he opposed building a stadium in Shockoe Bottom, the Mayor needed to take notice.
When Democratic Delegate Joe Morrissey said the Shockoe proposal violated the Virginia Constitution, the Mayor needed to take notice.
These are not isolated events. There is a growing public majority against the Mayor’s plan on both the right and left and down the middle.
I have talked to more citizens on the matter than anyone else in Virginia. I have written more columns for the Washington Post and WTVR than anyone in the city or state. Mayor Jones is in a lose-lose position.
If he continues to push and somehow manages to arm-twist a majority into backing a Shockoe Stadium, his backers face a revolt at the polls in 2016 and when he runs, assuming the rumors are true, for Lt. Governor in 2017. If he continues to push and lose, then he loses all the way around, hardly a good talking point for Jones-backers in 2016 or himself in 2017.
Wilder has therefore given Jones a big political gift, the City Council too since they have proven incapable of forcefully and reliably defending the public’s
interest all these months.
They have enabled Jones to continue pushing his no-bid, squirrely financed, illegal proposal all these months, as Loupassi, McEachin and Morrissey have shown.
Jones now has a way out to snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat. The Council too. Everyone in the City will support putting Shockoe on hold for this reason.
You can’t know how to tell the history right, until you know the right history to tell.
I bet if the Council, using its powers under the City Charter, creates such a group, call it a Commission if they want, and asks all the living former Mayors to serve, along with other prominent Richmonders from business, education, history and the like, they will find surprising support for the effort.
Wilder’s proposal will now test the old adage: You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
If Mayor Jones or City Council want a way out of their Shockoe Bottom quagmire, they now have it.
It’s their choice.
But given the last six months, there is no reason to assume they will take the lead in making the right one.
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.