Who’s paying people to drum up support for Shockoe stadium plan?

Posted at 1:23 PM, Feb 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-06 21:25:32-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- There is no shortage of controversy over the future of baseball in the City of Richmond.

Mayor Dwight Jones has been clear about his plan and wants baseball in Shockoe Bottom. However, Richmond City Council has yet to commit to that idea.

For residents it remains a quandary.

"I think it's going to be boom for the neighborhood,"  Max Daves, a Shockoe Bottom resident in favor of the plan, told CBS 6.

"It's just going to congest the city, people don't want to get into that," Joe Hardy, a Mechanicsville resident, who is in opposition to the plan, said.

Adding to the controversy is concern by city council that mystery groups are circulating petitions saying city council is in favor of the Shockoe Bottom plan.

City Council emphatically denied that in a statement Thursday:

"The Members of Richmond City Council have become aware of individuals being paid to go door to door in Richmond neighborhoods to solicit signatures of support for the Mayor’s proposed Revitalize RVA baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

"Richmond City Council has received reports that there is some confusion and that some residents may have been told that Council requested and/or endorsed the petition drive. Richmond City Council is not behind this petition drive solicitation and will not take a lobbyist role in this matter in any way. Instead, the members of Richmond City Council will continue to review the proposal and continue listening to Richmond residents in their individual districts in considering this important issue."

Tammy Hawley, a spokesman with Mayor Jones, told CBS 6 she had "no information" on the lobbying efforts.

Loving RVA, a group in favor of Shockoe Bottom baseball, sent a statement by Rob Jones that it wasn't their organization late Thursday:

"The Loving RVA effort was launched to educate residents in Richmond on the benefits of the Revitalize RVA Plan, which include new jobs and increased tax revenue for the City.  At no time has anyone involved in this effort  been told to suggest that they are representing members of Richmond City Council or collecting petition signatures on behalf of City Council.  There are a number of individuals and groups in RVA who are very excited about this plan and its many benefits, and we welcome their participation and enthusiasm in talking to their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues about the Revitalize RVA Plan."

The petition controversy is not the only controversy involving the baseball debate.

Critics have argued that an advertisement for Loving RVA should not have appeared in a tax funded publication.

Tammy Hawley defended the decision in a statement to CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George.

" has been promoted as the site to go to for more information about the Mayor's plan since we presented the Mayor's plan back in November. The site is solely dedicated to providing information about the Mayor's plan and as we said from the beginning, we welcome the support in our efforts to educate the public about this plan. We have worked in partnership with Venture Richmond on this matter and their role has consistently been to promote downtown, which they are doing."

Mark Kroenthal, a supporter of the proposal, told the organization that he is apart of has experienced controversy too, with a number of pro-Shockoe Bottom Baseball Signs stolen.

"A few of my neighbors have had support signs stolen," Kroenthal told CBS 6.

No word yet on when City Council will vote on the Jones proposal.

City Council member Kathy Graziano said it could be "months" before a vote is taken and that the reason City Council members have not released their positions publicly is because they want to make sure moving baseball from the Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom makes economic sense.

"One thing I need to be more comfortable with is the financing," Graziano said.