Monday, November 12, 2012

Redskins Bandwagon, Not So Fast

On March 8, writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Michael Martz and John O‘Connor reported that the Washington Redskins and the City of Richmond had been talking about the pro football team conducting some of its preseason practices in Richmond in years to come.

Although I was somewhat puzzled with why the team’s front office would want to leave Northern Virginia, to hold three weeks of preseason football practices in Richmond, in July! it was delightful news. Naturally, I hoped for the best. After all, I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan longer than I can remember. It goes back to when I was a little boy watching games with my grandfather, who was a Redskins fan.

He was also a WWI veteran, so I’m thinking about him today.

On June 6, the RT-D’s Olympia Meola  reported bigger news about the Redskins, this time from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office.
The Washington Redskins will move their summer training camp to the city of Richmond in 2013, at a site not yet identified. 
Although "a site not yet identified" seemed strange, at first that didn't worry me. Hail to the Redskins!

On June 30, Robert Zullo wrote in the RT-D about a search committee devoted to finding the best site for the Redskins to conduct their practices next summer. The article said the committee would report its finding in mid-September.
A panel appointed by Mayor Dwight C. Jones will consider at least 10 city sites for the Washington Redskins summer training camp that is planned to arrive in Richmond next year. The 18-member committee is composed chiefly of representatives from local business, banking and higher education and is tasked with advising the mayor's office on locations and financing related to hosting the three-week training camp.
The process that followed did begin to raise worries. At first I thought they were doing it backwards. Why conduct a study that should have been done before the Redskins and Richmond announced they had come to an agreement for a deal?

On Aug. 31 Michael Martz reported on the site-choosing process.
Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones says he has two "very good" sites for the Washington Redskins to bring their training camp next summer — City Stadium or behind the Science Museum of Virginia. Now, the city has to find $9 million to $10 million to build the facilities the NFL franchise expects at one of the sites by July.

"Now we are in a position to put our (funding and sponsorship subcommittee) to work and figure out how we're going to bring in the money to get the job done," Jones said at a news conference Thursday at the McGuireWoods law firm in downtown Richmond.
By this time it looked to me like the decision had been made behind closed doors to use the behind the Science Museum option, but for some reason the mystery was being perpetuated. Why the dog and pony show?

It reminded me of when the Richmond Flying Squirrels pretended they were letting the fans pick the nickname for the team. But for a baseball franchise to use an old radio station type of phony contest, to drum up interest, was fine. And, it worked like a charm.

However, for a city to indulge in such a bogus promotion didn't make much sense to me. So, I wondered, what else could it be?

Then, on Oct. 23, came the devilish details: The Redskins/Richmond deal involves Bon Secours Health System, the old Westhampton school building and the grounds surrounding it. It also involves another development in the East End by Bon Secours. It's very complicated. Ordinarily, it would take months for a Richmond City Council to properly study such a far-flung agreement.  

And, this piece by STYLE Weekly's Scott Bass followed on Oct. 30.
"We don't think a 'rush job' is fair to the public nor in the best interests of the city," Loupassi and Goldman write.

Indeed, the mayor gleefully tells reporters at the Leigh Street Redskins site Oct. 22 that construction could start as soon as that afternoon. "The Redskins want to be ready to use this in 2013 so you might see something happening before you leave here today," Jones says to hearty chuckles. "It's got to happen very fast."
Today’s RT-D story, “Richmond council set to vote on Redskins deal tonight,” by Robert Zullo, adds more to my sense that timing had a lot to do with the way this has played out. Now City Council is under the gun to act swiftly. Members don’t have much time to ask questions about all the facets of this deal.

It looks to me like the mayor is trying to steamroll this thing through. That doesn’t mean anything illegal has been done. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal for tax payers in Richmond. What it does mean is that the mayor needs to be taught a lesson about what can happen to guy who is too pushy and too slick.

Vote on Redskins deal tonight?

Please, not so fast. And, didn't we just have an election? What do new members of council think?

City Hall needs to sell us this deal. City Council members, new and old, need to ask lots of questions of the salesmen who are in such a hurry.

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