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Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar.
Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia is a scumbag. A scumbag with a plan to develop Shockoe Bottom, and undoubtedly gain some personal reward down the line. The idea of moving Richmond’s baseball stadium from the Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom has been brought up repeatedly, but the public doesn’t enthusiastically support such a change. In fact, the drive for this change of venue seems to be coming out of nowhere—or mostly from some local developers/land owners who would profit by the move.
Momentum against Mayor Jones’ stadium proposal has been ongoing. This week it was revealed that the Mayor’s plan has added bells and whistles. These additions to the stadium plans are a transparent attempt to trick citizens of Richmond and City Council members into feeling like they must support his proposal despite the multitude of reasons baseball doesn’t belong in Shockoe. This new, larger plan will not stop the campaign against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In fact, his newest attempt should create more momentum against this proposal and Jones’ shitty politics.
Here’s my top nine reasons why (it was going to be ten but I got hungry):
1. Food: The Mayor has added to his proposal the development of a grocery store in Shockoe Bottom. This should not sway you towards his plan, and for a couple reasons. Shockoe Bottom already has one grocery store. Although it's not my personal favorite, it exists and is available to the local population. Outside of that area, Richmond has many food deserts (one ‘s’ not two, NBC 12, 'cause with dessert you want more, with desert you do not. P.S. Hire me as a copy editor, please). A food desert is an area where the local population does not have access to healthy, affordable food. Mayor Jones isn’t really helping Richmond’s population by adding a grocery store to a non-food desert zone. Neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Manchester pop into mind as places in need of a grocery store.
2. Utilities: Mayor Jones has added to his plan the repair of the water/sewer utilities in Shockoe Bottom to try to entice people’s support. Here is why this is a problem: The City has an obligation to maintain and repair public utilities and that has NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL. Richmond already has the world’s highest known water utility minimum rate. We already pay too much for our water utility—and we shouldn’t have to support the bad public investment of a baseball field in order to have our utilities repaired.
3. Housing: Jones’ plan calls for 750 apartments to be developed in Shockoe Bottom along with the baseball stadium. Richmond does NOT have a housing shortage. What we do have is a shortage of low income and affordable housing. If public money and support is to go towards any development of new housing, it should be housing for the folks who need it the most (e.g., low income, elderly, single caregiver, etc.) Sorry out of town yuppies and future gentrifiers, we have to take care of our own first. We need to prioritize the people who currently live in Richmond, and make a Richmond for us, not for folks some developers wish lived here.
4. Parking and Public Transit: The proposal includes the creation of 1,700 parking spots. In Richmond, we have our priorities wrong. We are putting effort towards creating more parking spots, which studies show will just create more demand. Instead, we should and NEED to be focusing on drastic improvements to our public transit systems and options. Why do I say need? Well, because in 2015 there is going to be a giant bike racing event here, which will draw crowds of over 450,000. The UCI Road World Championships is a bike event, which no doubt will mean some roads are shut down for the races. Richmond roads, parking and public transit all lack the capacity to take on that many people for 9 or more days. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t give a flip about the bike event itself, but it’s a great jumping point to push for better public transportation.
5. Salomonsky is a crook: Developer H. Louis Salomonsky is a crook, convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion by trying to bribe a City Council member in 2004. More recently he tried to manipulate reality to score historic tax abatement that he didn’t qualify more. I dunno, y'all, sounds like a bad person to be involved in a development partnership with. Who knows the types of behind the scenes deals that have been going on with this guy involved in the planning. Not the type of thing public money should be invested in, certainly.
6. This investment perpetuates patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia: I wrote a much longer op-ed already, but, basically, professional sports like baseball, are cis-men only sports, and putting public money to support baseball or football unequally ends up supporting men and a patriarchical culture. Women, trans folks and non gender conforming folks never have a chance to play on the Flying Squirrels and are disproportionally involved in these endeavors.
7. Racism and Sacred Ground: This point seems painstakingly obvious, but a Flying Squirrel doesn’t suit an area historically known for being a site of slave trade and the African burial ground. Richmond would do well to remember our historic racism in order to better confront our modern racism, and we need to give space, respect, and dignity to those historical sites in Shockoe Bottom. I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again: No one ever suggests putting parking or a baseball stadium on Hollywood Cemetery. Think about why that is and why these two sites look so different today. We have a legacy of racism, and we have to begin unwinding it somewhere.
8. If this was really such a great financial investment, don’t you think private investors would just do it? It is a well understood fact that sports complexes like this proposed one do not economically benefit the surrounding area enough to make up for the public investment. If a new stadium was economically sound, I think the Flying Squirrels would fund it themselves, or get private investors. There is a reason they are trying to blackmail Jones and Richmond Citizens for a new stadium...'cause it won’t make enough money. We already built one bad investment sports stadium this year. Richmonders cannot afford a second bad investment in sports.
9. The people do not want it: Residents of Richmond are not clamoring for this plan. Mayor Jones is not responding to a cry for help or a dream emerging from the people. Mayor Jones is responding to that funny smell money gives off. Mayor Jones is trying really, really hard to create a demand that just isn’t there. He is using all kinds of tricks to make it appear that people want this stadium, and that this stadium is a done deal. Neither is true.
Basically, ballparks are bad public investments, this particular location is particularly bad, and the bells and whistles Jones has attached to the baseball plan are ill-informed, ill-executed ideas that show a basic lack of understanding of both the needs of Richmond and the effective ways to meet those needs.
To Dwight Jones, I say, we all die one day, and I’m thinking your grave sounds like a super place for a game of catch.