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Friday, November 20, 2015

Finance Committee Tables Mayor’s Plan to Study Boulevard Development

Plan is one of two proposals that could guide site's future.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 7:50 AM

City Council is weighing two plans that could shape the future of the 61-acre property around The Diamond.

Both resolutions -- one led by Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the other by councilmen John Baliles and Charles Samuels -- lay out the process for accepting development proposals for the city-owned parcel.

The city's finance committee, on which Samuels sits as an alternate member, tabled consideration of the mayor’s proposal Thursday afternoon. The committee is scheduled to reconsider the Jones resolution during its Dec. 17 meeting. The Baliles and Samuels proposal has been continued 18 times since the Nov. 9 City Council meeting.

A key difference is that the proposal from Baliles and Samuels doesn’t rule out the future of baseball for the area, and says that plans “may or not include a Minor League baseball stadium.” The mayor’s plan makes no mention of baseball.

Jones’ plan also calls for a study and community meetings to help determine the best use for the area before soliciting developer proposals. Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn says the city will present the public with analysis that considers the tax revenue that can be generated under a number of development plans, including a stadium.

Under Jones’ resolution, the land also could be turned over to the economic development authority, which operates under different procurement processes, and sometimes is used to skirt red tape and public input to get projects done.

Baliles and Samuels say that one of their biggest hesitations with the mayor's plan is that the proposed timeline to solicit public opinion for the site is too short.

“I think extending the public comments section and getting good public feedback from not just one or two meetings is going to be important to ensure that whatever happens on that site is going to have good community buy-in,” Samuels says.

But the timeline is appropriate, says Cuffee-Glen and Councilwoman Cathy Graziano, who serves as patron of the mayor's proposal with fellow council members Michelle Mosby, Ellen Robertson, Cynthia Newbille and Chris Hilbert.

The proposal states that by February and March, the city plans to review the results of the study to determine the best use of the area and public feedback. By May, the mayor aims to begin soliciting proposals from development firms.

Samuels also says that he's concerned about the potential for the area to be turned over to the economic development authority because of transparency. In November 2014, the EDA raised eyebrows when Hourigan Construction was awarded the contract for Stone Brewing when it filed work-permit applications the same day that the Stone plan was announced.

When the vote was taken, Samuels stood in for Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, who is one of three members that typically make up the committee. In the end, councilmembers Parker Agelasto and Samuels voted against Graziano to table the motion.

Baliles isn’t on the committee but attended the session.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Glen Sturtevant Hits Up Supporters for More Money After State Senate Win

Sturtevant says he was forced to keep up with spending by opponent Dan Gecker in the District 10 race.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 12:31 PM

Just over two weeks after the elections, Republican state Senate elect Glen Sturtevant, is asking his supporters to fork over more cash to make up for campaign spending. A mass email issued by his campaign says that he would have taken on less debt if his opponent Democrat Dan Gecker, didn’t outspend him by $1 million during the District 10 race.

The email also indirectly refers to the $700,000 ad buy on Gecker’s behalf, by the Michael Bloomberg backed Every Town for Gun Safety – which brought gun safety issues to the forefront for both candidates. In the ad, the parents of slain Roanoke journalist Alison Parker propelled their status as gun control advocates when they called for tougher gun control measures.

Sturtevant’s email reads: “As you know, we were outspent by $1 million during the campaign. Because of the unprecedented amounts of outside money spent against us, we had to take on debt to finish the race strong.”

The email asks potential contributors to give “a small contribution of $100, $75, $50 or even $25 [to] help us retire our debt and finish the year in a strong position.”

In total, Sturtevant spent $1.3 million to Gecker’s $2.3, as indicated by the Virginia Public Access Project. Independent candidate Marleen Durfee spent just over $10,000 and Libertarian candidate Carl Loser spent $5,324.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Boulevard Redevelopment Plan May Be Revealed Thursday

Councilman Baliles says details could come at city finance meeting.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 8:42 PM

Closely held details of a new development plan for the Boulevard may be revealed to City Council on Thursday at a finance committee meeting.

Councilman Jon Baliles told an audience at Albert Hill Middle School this evening that he knew no details of the plan or whether they included keeping the Flying Squirrels Minor League Baseball team at the location.

The 62-acre site suddenly was back in play last week when plans for its possible use as a independent children's hospital were suspended. But the mayor said baseball wouldn't be the priority in the area's redevelopment.

The Squirrels reacted angrily, saying that they are being squeezed out of Richmond after being promised a new place to play for several years by the city.

Baliles told the audience, in response to a question, that he thought it was unlikely that a plan to put a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom would move forward.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Inside the Brat Philosophy

The local professor who beat Eric Cantor is getting national attention.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 7:48 PM

Dave Brat, the former Randolph-Macon College economics professor and philosopher, is getting a lot of attention these days.

The staunchly conservative Republican congressman who beat local wunderkind Eric Cantor in a GOP primary in 2014 has been assuming a leadership role in the Freedom Caucus, a populist party group that helped dump House Speaker John Boehner.

Brat and his cadre also served as a sudden and unusually powerful vetting committee, which eventually resulted in Paul Ryan becoming the new speaker -- although Brat withheld his personal support for him.

About six weeks ago, Brat drew national kudos among tea party types for trashing moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) on "Meet the Press." 
And Sunday he merited a Q&A with The New York Times Magazine.

In it, he agrees that he is a “Calvinist,” which may sound grim. But as Brat says, “Even with my dim few of human nature, I am commanded every day to love every single child of God from morning to night.”

Brat is noted for taking an “ethical” view on capitalism, saying that following Judeo-Christian principles brings out the best and does the most social good in small-government, low-tax, free-market economics.

At the same time, he’s a devotee of Ayn Rand, a radical-right thinker and novelist who believed that when it comes to business and life, the best way to go is shameless self-interest. Brat told the Times that he's not a scholar of Rand but “a scholar of economics.”

He professes to oppose Washington-as-usual practices, and to that end he goes with Plato’s assertion that people shouldn’t start politics until they are 50 years old “because you are near death and the appetites are – whatever. You’re past the wine, women and song.”

He says that besides Plato, his favorite philosophers are St. Augustine, Adam Smith, Reinhold Niebuhr and Alasdair MacIntyre.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

6 Takeaways from Sturtevant's Senate Victory

Forget big outside money and try to understand the voters.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Republican Glen Sturtevant’s win over Democrat Dan Gecker Tuesday for a seat in the state Senate's 10th District is still reverberating locally and across the state. What does it mean?

Here are some takeaways about what happened, why and what’s next:

1. Big money, especially from outside the state, doesn’t mean squat in influencing Virginia voters. Gecker spent $2.3 million to Sturtevant’s $1.3 million, making the 10th District race the most expensive ever. But Sturtevant’s win shows that Virginia voters don’t care about spending. They won’t be treated like little cogs in a giant machine managed somewhere else.

2. Michael Bloomberg, stay home. The progressive former New York mayor and media mogul had one of his groups spend $734,000 on pro gun-control ads for Gecker. It backfired. Voters in the more rural and gun-loving parts of the 10th n-- amely Powhatan County and parts of Chesterfield County -- aren’t going to cotton with an outsider with a Nanny State mentality telling them what to do. The GOP concentrated on them, boosted their take and got 5,000 votes that were able to turn the tide against bluer parts of Richmond that went to Gecker. Without Bloomberg’s “help,” Gecker might have won.

3. The results mean status quo, not a quantum leap in any direction. Democrats failed to get the Senate, but the power balance remains exactly where it was the day before the election. Republicans held, but didn’t gain, foretelling roadblock city on legislation.

4. McAuliffe must face up to reality. His plan to push for tighter gun control isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to have to drop Medicaid expansion too. No choice. He has also shown how little he understands voters, which is unfortunate -- especially, perhaps, for Hillary Clinton.

5. Sturtevant is only 33. Does he represent the new kind of Republican in Virginia? Maybe. But let’s hope he doesn’t morph into the usual old conservative mossback who takes money from Dominion or Altria and muddles along in a business-as-usual fashion or turn into a right-wing nutbar.

6. Dems need to learn from the right. As Anna Scholl, executive director of Virginia’s ProgressVA puts it, committed conservatives “are voting all the time, they are making their voices heard, and they are a loud minority.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Empty Richmond School Could Turn Into Housing

Conversion of 1930s Baker Elementary into apartments could be part of plan.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 1:33 PM

The vacant Baker Elementary School may get new life as part of a plan to replace the aging 200-unit Fredric A. Fay Towers in Gilpin Court.

City Council is expected to vote Monday to turn the deed for the school over to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which plans to place 52 units in the building.

The conversion is an element of a three-part redevelopment plan to replace the towers, in partnership with the nonprofit Community Preservation and Development Inc.

Last month, the same nonprofit broke ground on an $11 million restoration of 77 apartments in another former school last month. Located in Highland Park at 1221 E. Brookland Park Blvd., the school held its first class in 1909 and was closed in 1978. The now-shuttered property became the site of 77 units for seniors in 1995.

Baker Elementary, at 100 W. Baker St., was built in 1939 and closed in 2013.

A third phase of the redevelopment plan is the construction of a 175-unit, mixed-income apartment complex, with retail and commercial space, in Jackson Ward. It’s expected to cost more than $20 million and would span the block within Jackson, Duval, First and Second streets.

The block once was home to the demolished St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and an affiliated school. A former convent in the area would be a feature of the development.

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