Fantasy Camp 

Can basketball really make Richmond a first-tier city?

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The poverty rate for African-Americans in Richmond is twice that of the state of Mississippi. But Mayor Dwight Jones and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have the worst job creation record of any city studied by the administration of former Gov. Tim Kaine. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

Our high schools have been labeled dropout factories by a leading independent university study. But the mayor and City Council and the School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

The Pentagon suggests at least 75 percent of Richmond high school graduates are incapable of reading or writing at a ninth-grade level, or are so weak in life skills the Army is afraid to let them join. But the mayor and City Council and School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have the most expensive city administration in history, with a pension gap that will take huge property-tax increases to close. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have a bustling downtown arts district being stunted by building code inspectors and fire marshals. The city's tone-deaf response to calls for easing restrictions is to promise more code enforcement. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have, by my calculations, the highest turnover rate among top government officials of any place in the state. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have the highest number people afflicted by asthma of any Virginia city in a recent study, affecting poor children in particular. But our mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have the oldest school facilities in the state, leading to many of the problems that burden pupils from low-income households, according to some experts. But our mayor and City Council and School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

Every study of city schools claimed by the mayor, City Council and School Board to show success demonstrates a calculated manipulation aimed at projecting success despite independent studies that debunk the claims. But our mayor, City Council and the School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have more roads at substandard level than any other comparable city in the state. But our mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

According to the leading experts on education, the Richmond school system is running a hoax on parents and children in terms of the true level of education students achieve by graduating on time. But our mayor and City Council and School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

The number of Richmond graduating seniors meeting the qualifications to go to Virginia Commonwealth University or the University of Richmond without special consideration is said to be the lowest in recent history. But our mayor, City Council and School Board say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

Despite spending millions of dollars on more studies and commissions, the city has no workable plan, in terms of a real-time document officials could produce if subpoenaed into court, for creating jobs and improving education, transportation, housing and health care. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have no economic development plan for Shockoe Bottom, the Boulevard, downtown or any place in the city that would pass muster in any of Richmond's many successful businesses' planning offices. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

We have been promised high-speed trains that even the federal government can't afford, sports arenas that no private investor would dare consider. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

In years past, there were groups of black and white Richmonders who weren't afraid to challenge a failed status quo. I dare you find them now. But the mayor and City Council say not to worry — Richmond basketball makes us a first-tier city.

Richmond, it is said, is just the same plantation it always has been, only with different owners. But the mayor and City Council and School Board say not to worry, you can't do anything about it. So be thankful you have Richmond basketball, so you can tell everyone you live in a first-tier city. S

Paul Goldman is a longtime Democratic strategist and former senior policy adviser for former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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