Thursday, June 04, 2015

Public Schools Come Before Spectator Sports

Next year, to win my vote a mayoral candidate will have to be on record as being unconditionally opposed to building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. The same will go on my vote for a Second District representative on City Council. 

While my endorsement may not seem important to the people who are considering running for those offices, in working to oppose baseball in The Bottom I've talked with a lot of voters who will likely need the same sort of guarantee. And I know a few anti-Shockoe Stadium/Save The Diamond people whose endorsement could actually mean a lot to a candidate. 

My prediction is that the winner of the mayoral race in 2016 will be a candidate who says something like this -- "public schools come before spectator sports."

And, although I like baseball and I understand some of why the Richmond Flying Squirrels aren't happy with City Hall, it's easy for me to shrug off the threat they might leave town. First of all, I don't believe they will. Furthermore, I predict the owners of the team will be delighted if a new deal to refurbish The Diamond falls into place over the next couple of years.   

The Squirrels made a business decision to believe Mayor Dwight Jones could deliver on a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In choosing to believe the Jones team, the Squirrels decided to blow off the potential of the staunch opposition to baseball in The Bottom to organize and scuttle the mayor's plan. It has turned out to have been a bad choice. 

But if the Squirrels didn't understand the currents and undercurrents of the politics in Richmond, if they guessed wrong and bet on the wrong team, well, whose fault is that? 

Today, when it comes to the baseball stadium issue, Mayor Jones lacks the power to resolve the controversy. His credibility is in tatters. After a full year of stalling, it looks like Jones would rather run out the clock with double-talk than admit his Shockoe Stadium scheme is kaput. So, like it or not -- just like the rest of us -- the frustrated Squirrels are going to have to wait for next year's elections to bring in a new mayor, plus some new members on city council. 

A fresh start is the best any of us can hope for. Meanwhile, whether the Squirrels choose to stay in Richmond, or to hit the road, their spokespersons ought to stop blaming others for their own errors in judgment.

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