Monday, October 10, 2016

Bijou Salon: Jack Berry

Bijou Salon No. 1 Report

In the Chair: Jack Berry, mayoral candidate

Panelists: Lillie Estes, Sasha Waters Freyer, Betty Garrett, Michael Garrett, Enjoli Moon, James Parrish, Billy Rice, Markus Schmidt, Nicki Stein, Charles Williams, Matt Zoller.

Host: Terry Rea 

During a fairly typical Facebook discussion about Richmond's nettlesome baseball stadium issue something interesting occurred. An offer emerged. After some messaging back and forth a sit-down meeting with mayoral candidate Jack Berry took place on Mon., Oct. 3, in the Bijou Film Center's downtown screening room space. So a week ago Berry met with a savvy group of invited citizens (see list above), to answer questions and discuss various local political issues. 
No political beat reporters were invited. No television journalists were invited. No recordings of the confab were allowed. The conversation went on from 7:30 p.m until 9 p.m.

To break the ice, Berry was asked about his high-visibility advocacy for building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. Why did he support the Shockoe Stadium concept so vigorously? And, what had he learned from its failure to gather sufficient support?

When it was announced to the public in December of 2013, Berry explained, he thought the plan for Shockoe Bottom put forth by Mayor Dwight Jones was a good proposal. It seems Berry may still think it was the right thing to do, but what has changed in his mind is that he now better understands what the nature of the opposition was ... and remains. 
Thus, Berry admitted to the group sitting around a table that he misjudged what the size of the opposition truly was. It seems that early on he gathered the opposition was mostly a collection of activists, akin to an Occupy/99 percent crowd. Conveniently, Berry thought the majority of Richmonders either supported Jones' plan or were indifferent. He allowed that now he knows better. 
Yes, having faced what proved to have been widespread disapproval, coming from different angles, Berry now seems to accept that it was not smart to have stuck with defending Mayor Jones' plan as long as he did. 
For my part, I must say I was impressed with Berry's ability to answer questions without playing games. While I may have disagreed with him on several issues, I appreciated his forthrightness. Truth be told, I still disagree with him on plenty, but I have new hope that as mayor, he would be prone to listening to people other than the country club set. 
Moreover, Berry seemed fairly relaxed and showed a sense of humor. Not that he made many jokes, but he laughed spontaneously at the laugh-worthy cracks others made.

So, I left the meeting with fresh respect for Jack Berry. He seemed to understand the duties and requirements of the job he is seeking. If he wins, I don't doubt he can handle it. Which would be a big improvement over our current situation at City Hall. Sure, that can probably be said about some number of his opponents, as well. Perhaps one of those opponents will agree to sit in the chair for a Bijou Salon soon.
Nonetheless and fortunately, for the sake of the next Bijou Salon, I remain undecided about which mayoral candidate will get my vote on November 8. A more detailed account of the first Bijou Salon will eventually be published.

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