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Why is a Richmond City Councilman playing Donald Trump?

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. – Will “The Donald” be replaced by “The Jonathan” – as in Richmond City Councilman Jonathan Baliles?

According to Monday’s Richmond Times Dispatch, the son of former Virginia Governor  Gerald Baliles wants to give Mayor Jones or some future Mayor control over the property necessary to build a Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium.

That’s right, Mr. Baliles intends to introduce a resolution tonight before City Council directing the Economic Development Authority to buy about dozen acres of land in the Bottom, according to the RTD story. The exact cost for this real-time version of Monopoly isn’t clear, but it would presumably be in the tens of millions of your money.

Mr. Baliles said those opposed to a Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium should not worry, his proposal will forbid it to be used for such a boondoggle. How can he make such a guarantee?

Presumably because he thinks the Mayor’s Shockoe stadium proposal is dead and no future Mayor will try to revive it. But even if that is true, what is to stop Mayor Jones or some future Mayor from trying to build another boondoggle on this land?

Nothing, if they can get sufficient Council support. There are no guarantees.

So I ask, why do Mr. Baliles and Mr. Jones and others believe it is the job of city government to buy land and then sell it to private enterprise in a sweetheart deal?

But you say, “Mr. Baliles said he will insist on competitive bidding in the sale of any such land.”

Mr. Baliles did not insist on any such competitive bidding for the Mayor’s Shockoe Deal, just read his comments. He isn’t insisting on competitive bidding as a condition for his support of the Rebkee proposal to build a new stadium on the Boulevard.

Mr. Baliles and Mr. Samuels are thus not opposed to the no-bid sweetheart deal Rebkee proposes, building a baseball stadium in exchange for hugely lucrative development rights and cheap prices for city-owned land on the Boulevard.

The plain facts prove my being skeptical about yet another political promise.

Hello! Private enterprise creates the jobs and creates the private commerce under our system looking out for the private interests. City government’s job is to protect the public interest.

City-owned land is thus to be used for public purposes, such as parks, museums, public works and that can include a sports arena.

If the Baliles proposal had been in place today, there is a good chance Mayor Jones would already be building his Shockoe Stadium, as Mr. Baliles implicitly admits.

Given the state of our schools, streets, city services and bloated government budgets, why aren’t City Council and City Hall focused on fixing these problems instead of playing Donald Trump?

To be fair, Baliles has not been one of those “no” to anything representatives, he isn’t like Donald Trump the GOP politician. He is a good guy. But call me old-fashioned, the time is long overdue for City Council and City Hall to start focusing on the problems they were elected to help solve.

Buying up property in the Bottom so it can be assembled for sale to a private developer in what history suggests has a good chance of being another sweetheart deal in the future isn’t one of them.

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.

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