According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Saturday, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones faced some trying questions Thursday night during the first of a number of public forums being held on the proposed ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.
Mayor Jones opened the meeting by again stressing the importance of the ballpark to the community, saying the project would have "major implications" to both the Bottom and the Boulevard, calling it a "defining moment" that could "permanently transform the city.”
The lightly attended meeting, hosted by 7th District Councilwoman, Cynthia I. Newbille, was held at George C. Mason Elementary School, in Church Hill. Several of the 30 or so attendees commented on the light turnout, especially with the significance of the meeting.
But one thing was obvious, those who had come to the meeting were opposed to the ballpark and particularly how the project was shoved down the residents of the city's throats.
University of Richmond economics professor Jonathan Wight, one of the audience attending the meeting said,
“Mr. Mayor, you said that you were going to consult with the community before you made your decision, but as far as I know that never happened,”
Mayor Jones shot back, saying, “We’re asking for your input now.”
Jean Wight, also an opponent of the ballpark being moved to the Bottom, said, "I’m really frustrated with this all-or-nothing baloney," referring to the Mayor's contention the ballpark would be undeniably tied to the other developments in the plan, such as the black-history site, a hotel, a grocery store, 750 new apartments and all the floodplain infrastructure improvements.
Only one supporter of the city's proposal had anything to say, and it was more like a repetition of what the mayor has been saying all along. What was interesting was the answers the mayor gave to a question put to him by a news reporter after the meeting.
As part of his opening statements, Mayor Jones characterized his plan as a way to fight Richmond's 26 percent poverty rate by bringing money into the city and expanding the tax base.
But in the interview after the meeting, the mayor pointed out there were many ways to fight poverty, but in the end, it would cost money to change the quality of life. Jones went on, saying,
“For a city like Richmond that does not have the opportunity to annex … we have to really be very guarded and good stewards over the very few opportunities that we have for development."
The comment does lead one to wonder just how much emphasis the mayor is really putting on fighting poverty in our city, and how much he really cares about the quality of our residents lives.