GOLDMAN: Exclusive look at citizen referendum on Shockoe Stadium

Posted at 9:54 AM, Mar 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-12 11:53:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Here it is, just for you, an exclusive look at the first draft of the citizen referendum being prepared by a group formed from across the city by ordinary folks – not the big politicians or big special interests – to make sure YOU have your right to be appropriately heard on fundamental matters affecting your city.

The Mayor’s Shockoe Stadium plan has been constantly revised with the result – supposedly just mere coincidence – of eliminating the right of the people to have a direct vote on the ordinances regarding stadium construction and finances, along with requiring an open, honest, public bid process.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “Some things are too coincidental to be a coincidence.”

Accordingly, the draft is all POSITIVE improvements to the administration of government here in Richmond as required for such referendums by the City Charter. The draft proposes the most historic reforms to finances and public participation since the Powell Commission in the 1940s.

In that regard, the draft below should be considered a WORK IN PROGRESS and certain to undergo further improvement. All public comment is welcome at

For background, the “Moral Authority Bond” concept was developed by disgraced Watergate conspirator John Mitchell, the only Attorney General of the United States ever sentenced to prison for such crimes. He created this concept in the 1960s to allow New York State politicians and their cronies to bypass legal protections in the law preventing this ultimately a corrupting and expensive financing scheme.

By pledging the “moral authority” of the city to back some other entity’s bond, it technically isn’t a legal requirement, thus it gets around state and local laws and the public’s right to demand a referendum.

But it amounts to a defacto pledge – because Wall Street will punish the city with higher rates on its bonds – if the de facto pledge to pay off the bond WITH CITY MONEY should the bond issuer fail to do it isn’t kept!

It is among the reasons New York City almost went bankrupt in the 1970s.

Because Mayor Jones and his posse have basically MAXED OUT THE CITY’S CREDIT CARD, they have floated the idea of using it. But to be fair, they are only doing what others have done in the past have done with the Economic Development Authority.

Using the EDA has other advantages since they can give out “sweetheart” construction contracts worth HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars without the otherwise required public bid process! USING THIS CONCEPT HAS ALREADY COST RICHMOND TAXPAYERS MANY TENS OF MILLIONS IN THE PAST.

Guess who gets those contracts?

It is time to end this charade ONCE AND FOR ALL including a new wrinkle apparently under consideration, which is setting the city’s alleged “lease payment” to the EDA for the stadium equal conveniently to the bond payment. This is really a super-clever way to pledge the city’s “moral authority” in an trickier concept.

Nice try guys! But you got busted.



The following amendments to the City Charter of Richmond shall be submitted to the people of Richmond for their approval:

“Sec.3.06.2 Submission of proposition on a sports stadium or sports arena“

(a) Pursuant to the power granted City Council by Sec. 3.06.1, and unless otherwise deemed not necessary by seven affirmative votes, the City Council shall order, by resolution directed to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, the submission to the qualified voters of the City for an advisory referendum thereon, any proposed ordinance to acquire, construct, own, maintain, operate, lease, or otherwise necessary to facilitate any sports stadium, or sports arena within or without the City. The other requirements for advisory resolutions pursuant to Sec. 306.1 shall be applicable.

Sec. 7B.07 Public’s Right to Protect the Fiscal Integrity of the Administration of Government

(a) The City Council is prohibited from pledging the city’s “moral authority” to create so-called “Moral Authority Bonds” for any public or private entity for any purpose whatsoever. These-so-called “Moral Authority Bonds” were created to bypass the public’s right to protect the integrity of the city’s finances.

(b) Whenever the City Council by ordinance provides funds through lease payments, loans, direct appropriation, special fees, or a special tax district, or otherwise, intended to help pay debt service on any bond to be issued by another public or private entity, said ordinance shall be subject to the procedures detailed in Sec. 7B.04 (b) and Sec. 7B.05.

(c) Whenever the City Council passes a resolution required by Code of Virginia Section 15.2-4906 in connection with for Industrial Development Authority or Economic Development Authority bonds, said resolution shall be considered an ordinance for purposes of Sec. 7B.04 (b) [notice provisions] and Section 7B.05 [option referendum provisions.]

(d) The Industrial Development Authority or the Economic Develop Authority must follow the requirements of Virginia Code Section 2.2-4305 or successor statute as a prerequisite to receiving city funds in excess of $50,000 through lease payments, loans, direct appropriation, special fees, or special tax district or otherwise in connection with said contract or project covered therein.

CHAPTER 22.01- Gift Limitation and additional rules necessary to Protect Ethical Administration of Government

(a) Pursuant to Code of Virginia Section 2.2.3104.2, the City Council shall adopt an ordinance limiting any gift received by an officer, appointee or employee of city government to a value not to exceed $50. The term “gift” is used as defined by Code of Virginia Section 2.2-3101.

(b) An “advisory agency” as defined in Section 2.2-3100, to be called the Richmond Ethics Advisory Board, shall be created by the City Council to develop appropriate procedures to insure proper public disclosure of any gift as permitted by Section 2.2-3104.2 and to recommend whatever additional ethical rules may be necessary to protect the Administration of the Government as regards conflicts as permitted by Section 2.2-3100 et. seq.

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.