Richmond Mayor pleads with council to reconsider; City Council member asks for citywide stadium vote

Posted at 9:54 PM, May 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-27 06:18:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond City Council is set to vote Tuesday on Mayor Dwight Jones' plan to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

The vote is not expected to go well for the Mayor.

Five of the nine Council members have expressed disappointment with the plans they have been presented with. Charles Samuels, Jon Baliles, Reva Trammell, Chris Hilbert and Parker Agelasto have said they intend to vote "no."

"The citizens have asked me to vote no -- they elected me to be their voice," Trammell told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George Monday night.

Trammell however is not asking for the issue to go away completely. She said she wanted the entire to city to vote on the issue of where to put a ballpark. Trammell would like to see the vote on the November ballot.

"Come out with me Mr. Mayor and with the citizens -- let them have the right to vote on this in November," Trammell said.

Late Monday - Mayor Dwight Jones said he was "disappointed" with the Council's apparent decision.

Jones said "trust has been damaged" with Council over the issue and that he asks members to reconsider this "hasty decision."

Below is Jones' full statement - followed by Reva Trammell's full statement.

Richmond, VA – Mayor Jones issued the following statement concerning the anticipated vote on the Shockoe Bottom Development Ordinance:
“I was disappointed to read in the news media that certain Council members plan to vote against new jobs, tax revenue, and a Slavery Heritage site in Richmond. Doing that would hurt Richmond by leaving money on the table.
“That’s because keeping the ballpark on the Boulevard would restrict the revenue-producing potential of our most valuable piece of under-utilized land. That’s a bad business decision, and it demonstrates a failure to consider the needs of the city as a whole.
“This decision is surprising since they’ve chosen to vote against something without learning about it first. At no point have all City Council members been briefed on the most up-to-date information about all aspects of the plan. Council members are receiving the detailed information they requested, but most briefings have taken place in committee meetings or in lightly-attended informal sessions.

Nevertheless, they now want to kill the project before hearing the information that staff, the developers and the baseball team have invested a great deal of time and expense to gather. This is the second time in less than a month that two members have tried to kill the plan without first understanding all the details.
“They fret that this process has taken a while, and I wish it could have moved more quickly too. But it’s important to remember that since we introduced the concept last November, we’ve presented Revitalize RVA to more than 50 community meetings attended by thousands of Richmonders. We’ve continually refined it along the way, in response to concerns raised by the community and City Council members. Moreover, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a transformational economic development plan has taken time to complete properly. Anyone who’s ever bought a house knows that getting to closing can take a while, and this plan is like closing on 200 houses at once. It’s no suburban frozen yogurt shop or used car lot. Big cities do big things, and big things take time. Richmond’s still learning about that.

“For months, I’ve worked to build trust with City Council members under the leadership of Charles Samuels. That trust has been damaged.
“I intend to move forward on generating upwards of $10 million a year in new revenue for the City of Richmond. Here are the facts:
A Kroger, a Hyatt hotel, and new apartment buildings will help create more than 400 new jobs in a blighted area of Richmond.

That’s a powerful business opportunity in a city with a 26% overall poverty rate, where some Council districts thrive and others are wracked by generations of joblessness.

Unleashing the untapped potential of the Boulevard's 60 acres will produce at least as many jobs as Shockoe will produce, if not more.

The Shockoe development plan will benefit the community through an agreement to include at least a 40% minority business participation rate and at least a 20% minority ownership stake. Richmond has never seen community wealth-building commitments like these on a project this big.

After 400 years, this is Virginia’s first serious opportunity to build a Slavery Heritage site at the place where Virginia Union was born. There’s a reason this hasn’t happened before. It’s possible today because it’s part of a comprehensive economic development plan. If we pass up this opportunity now, it may never come again.

A new downtown ballpark—like Charlotte opened last month—will help keep the Flying Squirrels in Richmond, as certain Council members have pledged.

“The reaction of some Council members reminds me of some initial reactions to the Redskins Training Camp and other economic development initiatives with Bon Secours.

Many people did not recognize the benefit these projects would bring to our economy, but they have proven to be big successes. That’s why Richmond will have two NFL teams playing here this summer. It takes vision to get things done.

“There’s still time for Council members to change this hasty decision. I’ll present exhaustive details of this plan on Thursday.

“I encourage Council members to make informed decisions after Thursday, unless they simply don’t want to hear the facts.”


“Public Vote Only Way To End Shockoe Stadium Debate” says Trammell

(Richmond) -

“Mayor Jones and supporters say the people back his Stadium proposal. Based on my discussions with Richmond residents, I respectfully disagree” said 8th district Councilwoman Reva Trammell in a statement today. It continues as follows:

“Under Section 3.06.1, the Mayor has the right to ask City Council to put an advisory referendum on the ballot to finally settle the Shockoe Stadium debate once and for all.

Based on her discussions with Richmond residents, Ms. Trammell said she believed citizens would welcome the opportunity.

“It takes 5 votes to put an advisory referendum on the November ballot. If Mayor and his backers truly believe the Jones Shockoe Stadium proposal has the people’s backing, then I am confident an appropriate measure satisfying the legal requirements of Section 3.06.1 would pass City Council.”

Trammell said Paul Goldman, who wrote the 2003 Elected Mayor referendum, had agreed to help the Mayor draft the language.

“If the Mayor and his backers are confident the public wants their proposal, then why deny them the opportunity to prove it as permitted by law? For example, Councilman Baliles’ father used a statewide advisory referendum to gauge public support before formally creating the Virginia Lottery. Advisory referendums, when used appropriately, have long been useful governing tools.”


Statement from Charles Samuels and Jon Baliles

We are disappointed that the Administration has decided in favor of yet another delay in providing details of their Shockoe ballpark plan. They introduced the latest version of their plan on May 12 with a requested public hearing date of May 27 and, to date, have not asked for a continuance. A special four hour mid-day meeting was requested only after 5:00pm on Friday, without consulting Council members' schedules.

Council has followed regular procedure and bent over backwards to get more information through all of the hearings over the last six months. The plan has been vetted by multiple Finance and Land Use committee meetings and the Council as a whole has been continuously patient in allowing the Administration to miss deadlines that they themselves presented to Council.

Only after they were aware the vote might not go in their favor did they appeal for a special meeting. Council has never set a deadline for this plan and is simply following the Administration's date which to have the public hearing per their request on Tuesday evening.

"Mr. Baliles and I have kept open minds with everything this Administration proposes. However, after six months with a proposal that has far more questions than answers, site control still in doubt and is already over budget, this plan is not ready. After all, we are talking about $80 million of public debt. In the meantime, we have schools, roads and other issues which require our local government's attention. We extend the olive branch to the Mayor to work and find solutions to the issues that face our City."