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12/9/13 City Council Meeting and Ordinances Related to Minor League Baseball Stadiums

The City Council Meeting for Monday December 9th, 2013 originally had 4 resolutions related to minor league baseball on the regular agenda. The text for all 4 ordinances is at the bottom of this article.

At printing time of the agenda, around 3pm, all 4 resolutions were either withdrawn or continued to the City Council Meeting on Monday January 27th, 2014 (Ordinances 2013-222 and 2013-R255). However, at the meeting, Ordinances 2013-221 and 2013-223 were brought up to be voted on. These ordinances are not directly connected to Mayor Jones’ Shockoe Bottom Baseball Plan, but it is pretty transparent that they are related.  In fact, Mayor Jones was the patron of all four ordinances.

Byron Marshall the Chief Administrative Officer for the City presented the two ordinances.  Marshall used careful language to paint a picture of necessity, and inevitability of the end of baseball on the Boulevard. The gist of the ordinances is that the City of Richmond wants to reclaim the properties associated with the baseball Diamond on the Boulevard from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority (RMA).

Marshall suggested that the content of these ordinances was such that the City of Richmond would only have the properties reverted into their ownership if or when (he used the word when, I use the word if) baseball was no longer being played on that property. However, the text of the ordinances as presented in the agenda does not contain information about timing or conditions of the property changing hands. It seemed that members of Council had not been presented with all of the legal documents surrounding these ordinances, and several members, including 3rd District Representative Chris Hilbert voiced concerns about not having all the information.

A public comment period was held, where around 15 folks spoke in opposition of these ordinances and in opposition of the City Council voting on the ordinances during that meeting. It was brought up that a series of public meetings were being held to gain public input about Mayor Jones’ baseball stadium development plan, and since these ordinances are connected to that plan, the Council ought not vote on them without input from their constituents. People also brought up that there is no urgency to these ordinances, and that the pushiness of the administration to get them passed was suspicious and irresponsible.

The people who spoke and held signs  in opposition represented a diverse group of Richmonders, residents of potentially affected neighborhoods, and included members of many organization including the NAACP, RePHRAME, Collective X, Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality, Wingnut Anarchist Collective, Alliance for Progressive Values, and more.

The push to pass these two ordinances fell in line with the rest of Mayor Jones’ strategy around the Shockoe Bottom development. That strategy being to push for the development as if it were a done deal that had already been consented on. The fact of the matter is that the people of Richmond when polled are against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. The development and decisions are not finalized, and there is still plenty of opportunity to prevent a stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

There was only 1 person who spoke in favor of City Council voting on the two ordinances at the meeting.

City Council President Charles Samuels (2nd District) explained that some Council members had wanted to push for these ordinances to be voted on at the December meeting, out of fear that during the General Assembly starting in January, some law would be passed which might hurt the City of Richmond’s ability to regain control over the RMA managed Boulevard properties. Samuels stated that he personally had no problems with the ordinances, but had wanted to have them continued to give the public better participation. Chris Hilbert made a motion to continue the ordinances until January 13th (other Shockoe Development ordinances have been continued to January 27th). Reva Trammell ( 8th District) seconded Hilbert’s motion. Parker Agelasto (5th District) suggested that the language in 2013-223 be altered to include the timing and conditions mentioned by CAO Marshall. Council then voted unanimously to continue the two ordinances until January 13th.

http://shockoebottom.blogspot.com/

In no particular order, the ordinances, with the dates to which they have been continued in bold after them:

2013-223 To declare a public necessity for and to authorize the acquisition of the parcel of real property owned by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority and known as 3003 N. Boulevard for the purpose of owning, maintaining or operating a stadium, arena, or sport facility. {Planning Commission – October 21, 2013} Continued to January 13th, 2014

2013-222 To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer, for and on behalf of the City of Richmond, to execute an agreement between the City of Richmond as lessor and the Richmond Metropolitan Authority as lessee to lease certain real property located at 3003 North Boulevard and real property adjacent thereto for the management, maintenance, and operation of the stadium commonly known as the Diamond and the provision of parking ancillary thereto by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – October 22, 2013} Continued to January 27th, 2014

2013-221  To accept from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority a release of easement for the purpose of parking located in the vicinity of North Boulevard, Robin Hood Road and Hermitage Road. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – October 22, 2013}  Continued to January 13th, 2014

2013-R255  To express the City Council’s support for an economic revitalization and cultural heritage development project in the Shockoe Bottom area of the city at a cost to the City and the Economic Development Authority not to exceed $79,625,000, including a new baseball stadium; a Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site; private mixed use, commercial, retail, and residential development; and related public infrastructure improvements. {Land Use, Housing and Transportation – November 19, 2013 & Finance and Economic Development – November 21, 2013} Continued to January 27th, 2014 

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons A Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons a Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

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Dwight Jones is a scumbag. A scumbag with a plan to develop Shockoe Bottom, and undoubtedly gain some personal reward down the line. The idea of moving Richmond’s baseball stadium from the Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom has been brought up repeatedly, but the public doesn’t enthusiastically support such a change. In fact, the drive for this change of venue seems to be coming out of nowhere – or mostly from some local developers/land owners who would profit by the move.

Momentum against Mayor Jones’ stadium proposal has been ongoing. This week it was revealed that the Mayor’s plan has added bells and whistles. These additions to the stadium plans are a transparent attempt to trick citizens of Richmond and City Council members into feeling like they must support his proposal despite the multitude of reasons baseball doesn’t belong in Shockoe. This new, larger, plan will not stop the campaign against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In fact, his newest attempt should create more momentum against this proposal and Jones’ shitty politics.

Here’s my top nine reasons why (it was going to be ten but I got hungry):

1) Food – The Mayor has added to his proposal the development of a grocery store in Shockoe Bottom. This should not sway you towards his plan, for a couple reasons. Shockoe Bottom already has one grocery store. Although, not my personal favorite, it exists and is available to the local population. Outside of that area, Richmond has many Food Deserts (one ‘s’ not 2, NBC 12, cause with dessert you want more, with desert you do not. p.s. hire me as a copy editor please). A food desert is an area where the local population does not have access to healthy, affordable food. Mayor Jones isn’t really helping Richmond’s population by adding a grocery store to a non-food desert zone. Neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Manchester pop into mind as places in need of a grocery store.

2) Utilities –  Mayor Jones has added to his plan the repair of the water/sewer utilities in Shockoe Bottom to try to entice people’s support. Here is why this is a problem- the City has an obligation to maintain and repair public utilities and that has NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL. Richmond already has the world’s highest known water utility minimum rate. We already pay too much for our water utility – and we shouldn’t have to support the bad public investment of a baseball field in order to have our utilities repaired.

3) Housing – Jones’ plan calls for 750 apartments to be developed in Shockoe Bottom along with the baseball stadium. Richmond does NOT have a housing shortage. What we do have is a shortage of low income and affordable housing. If public money and support is to go towards any development of new housing it should be housing for the folks who need it the most – low income, elderly, single caregiver, etc. Sorry out of town yuppies and future gentrifiers, we have to take care of our own first. We need to prioritize the people who currently live in Richmond, and make a Richmond for us, not for folks some developers wish lived here.

4) Parking and Public Transit – The proposal includes the creation of 1,700 parking spots. In Richmond, we have our priorities wrong. We are putting effort towards creating more parking spots, which studies show will just create more demand. Instead, we should and NEED to be focusing on drastic improvements to our public transit systems and options. Why do I say need? Well, because in 2015 there is going to be a giant bike racing event here, which will draw crowds of over 450,000 . The UCI Road World Championships is a bike event, which no doubt will mean some roads are shut down for the races. Richmond roads, parking and public transit all lack the capacity to take on that many people for 9 or more days.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a flip about the bike event itself, but it’s a great jumping point to push for better public transportation.

5) Salomonsky is a crook – Developer H. Louis Salomonsky is a crook, convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion by trying to bribe a City Council member in 2004.  More recently he tried to manipulate reality to score historic tax abatement that he didn’t qualify more. I dunno yall, sounds like a bad person to be involved in a development partnership with. Who knows the types of behind the scenes deals that have been going on with this guy involved in the planning. Not the type of thing public money should be invested in, certainly.

6) This investment perpetuates patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia – I wrote a much longer op-ed on this issue which I will link at the bottom. But basically, professional sports like baseball, are cis-men only sports, and putting public money to support baseball or football unequally ends up supporting men and a patriarchical culture. Women, trans folks and non gender conforming folks, never have a chance to play on the Flying Squirrels and are disproportionally involved in these endeavors.

7) Racism and Sacred Ground – This point seems painstakingly obvious, but a Flying Squirrel doesn’t suit an area historically known for being a site of slave trade and the African Burial Ground. Richmond would do well to remember our historic racism in order to better confront our modern racism, and we need to give space, respect, and dignity to those historical sites in Shockoe Bottom. I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again – No one ever suggests putting parking or a baseball stadium on Hollywood Cemetery. Think about why that is and why these two sites look so different today. We have a legacy of racism, and we have to begin unwinding it somewhere.

8) If this was really such a great financial investment, don’t you think private investors would just do it? – It is a well understood fact that sports complexes like this proposed one, do not economically benefit the surrounding area enough to make up for the public investment. If a new stadium was economically sound, I think the Flying Squirrels would fund it themselves, or get private investors. There is a reason they are trying to blackmail Jones and Richmond Citizens for a new stadium- cause it won’t make enough money. We already built one bad investment sports stadium this year (see Redskins Training Camp is Racist and A Bad Investment), Richmonders can not afford a second bad investment in sports.

9) The people do not want it – Residents of Richmond are not clamoring for this plan. Mayor Jones is not responding to a cry for help or a dream emerging from the people. Mayor Jones is responding to that funny smell money gives off. Mayor Jones is trying, really, really hard to create a demand that just isn’t there. He is using all kinds of tricks to make it appear that people want this stadium, and that this stadium is a done deal. Neither are true. Below are linked several polls as well as an online petition showing this to be true.

Basically, ballparks are bad public investments, this particular location is particularly bad, and the bells and whistles Jones has attached to the baseball plan are ill informed, ill executed ideas which show a basic lack of understanding of both the needs of Richmond and the effective ways to meet those needs.

To Dwight Jones, I say, we all die one day, and I’m thinking your grave sounds like a super place for a game of catch.

– Mo Karnage

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If you don’t feel sufficiently informed by the above points, please educate yourself around this issue. Some resources that can help explain it to you:

To hear about the 2015 bike event- (more…)

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