RICHMOND, Va. – “Richmond has never had momentum like this before,” declared Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones in his State of the City speech Thursday night.
It is a revealing speech.
There is much praise for himself and even more taking credit for everything but the Jones River. Excuse me, the James River… for now.
I have likely written more speeches for more chief executives than anyone reading this column.
To me, the Mayor’s speech is therefore uniquely revealing by what he intentionally left out.
It is devoid of any sentence directly thanking the people, not the politicians, for making Richmond all it can be. It is devoid of any sentence directly thanking even one City Council member.
This is extraordinary in my view.
But it sadly fits a developing pattern.
In recent weeks, the Mayor has escalated his attacks on those opposed to his Shockoe Stadium proposal. They are racists, anti-jobs, anti-poor, and lack vision.
I ask you, why does the Mayor constantly need to beat-up and belittle everyone who does not automatically follow him in lock-step?
LET’S GO THROUGH HIS SPEECH IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
(1) While saying “Richmond is cool,” the Mayor never thanked the people for making it cool.
This Freudian slip at the speech’s start tipped-off the tone to follow.
(2) The Mayor attacks those who dared question his original Redskins deal
The Mayor calls them “doubters” and chastises them even now, a year later.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Mayor is right in claiming the final Redskins deal is the best thing since sliced bread. He still forgets this fact, Richmond City Council rejected his original “sweetheart deal” as Delegate Loupassi called it.
Councilman Chris Hilbert, former Councilman Marty Jewel, Councilwoman Reva Trammell and former Councilman Bruce Tyler forced City Hall to forge a better final agreement.
He failed to give any of them any credit.
(3) Jones takes full credit for the work of Mayor Wilder
Jones took full credit for “four new schools…six renovated libraries.” But Wilder got City Council to dedicate funds for these projects. Jones failed to credit Wilder or former Council President Bill Pantele.
(4) Jones insists his Shockoe Stadium is key to fighting poverty
Mr. Jones claims his $120 million (debt costs included) Shockoe Stadium the key to fighting poverty. But his ANTI-POVERTY COMMISSION doesn’t mention it in their 140 page report.
(5) Mr. Jones says for “too long…we’ve accepted mediocrity” in Richmond schools
Mr. Jones served as Richmond School Board Chair in the 1980’s and remained a chief defender for the status quo. [See #10 below].
(6) “Our responsibility [in terms of the RPS] is to provide the best physical environment that we can to generate positive outcomes.”
Richmond’s K-12 facilities are the oldest in Virginia, the average one obsolete nearly two decades ago.
Bipartisan federal legislation backed by the state’s top leaders would save Richmond at least 33 percent on school modernization. Mr. Jones twists arms to replace a 1985 Baseball Stadium he said his obsolete. But he has not lifted a finger to pass legislation saving $600 million on modernizing K-12 facilities built on average in 1955.
(7) Mayor Jones promises a plan to address “school maintenance” needs.
The School Board criticized the current budget appropriation as very inadequate in this area. A change of heart by the Mayor is long overdue.
(8) “Our finances are growing stronger, not weaker.”
The Mayor deserves credit for boosting our bond ratings. But his Administration has borrowed to the hilt. The State Auditor ranks Jones’ City Hall the most wasteful in Virginia.
(9) Jones claims his Shockoe Stadium plan only hope for the flood plain area.
This mantra claiming a Shockoe Stadium is the only way to “mitigate the flooding problem” goes back to 2003 without any more proof today than before.
He said it is also necessary to “create the right conditions for the Slavery and Freedom Heritage” site he wants to build. This connection has never been true.
(10) “A real vision…considers the state of our schools and the needs of our children.”
Since Mr. Jones became Mayor, the percentage of the city’s budget going to operate the schools plummeted to the lowest levels since segregation.
I get the fact all mayors praise themselves in these annual speeches. Mayor Jones has achievements. But he also helped lead the fight to block the Elected Mayor reforms.
So maybe a little humility about his being a visionary might be in order.
To paraphrase the Mayor, it isn’t cool to take all the credit for Richmond’s progress.
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.