David Benjamin Larter 
Member since Nov 13, 2013

Recent Comments

Re: “A Case of the Kinks

Eh I think you are overstating how bad the service in Richmond is. There are places that do it right, this "service is terrible" thing hasn't been my experience at The Magpie, Heritage or Dutch & Co.

That said, I've been to Graffiato in DC and the service was terrible. Could be that Mike Isabella could use a little more finesse in that area.

4 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by David Benjamin Larter on 12/30/2014 at 8:43 AM

Re: “For the Fences

Thought I would take some time and respond to Mo Karnage's well thought-out but -- I think -- fundamentally flawed reasons for not supporting the Shockoe Bottom development.

Mo's reasons are numbered, mine are lettered.

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, for a couple reasons. Shockoe Bottom already has one grocery store. Although, 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 2, 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.

A: The main issue with this argument (and it’s not a bad one) is that the city is not in the private grocery business. The city has been focused on the food desert issue in the other parts of the city but it will ultimately be up to Kroger, Food Lion and Martins as to where they locate their stores. They are the ones who have to take the business risk. If they look at a Manchester for the location and the demographics aren’t right, then they will not locate a store there. The way to attract businesses such as Kroger or Martin’s is by adding housing. The increased number of residents in downtown was doubtless the main attraction that netted the Kroger deal.

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.

A: I’m just not sure why you are arguing with a goal that you support. If the mayor is fixing utilities why are you upset?

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 – 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.

A: The only way the city will have more money to spend on affordable housing programs is if it grows the tax base. And that means attracting yuppies who make lots of money to live and get taxed in the City of Richmond. This development is about making a smart investment in Richmond. The city has an extremely strained tax base.

Think of it as a 401K. If you spend all your money and don’t invest you will end up 65, needing to retire but flat broke because you didn’t save and invest to grow your money over time. Same goes for city planning. Yes the city is taking a risk here but if the result is that it attracts more upwardly mobile professionals and high net-worth tax payers to the city, then we will ultimately have more money to spend on the very things you say you support. And, to be fair, the mayor has put a lot of money into affordable housing and he also supports those developments. See: Dove Court.

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.

A: I agree that we need better transportation. But that costs lots of money and right now we don’t have it because of poverty and our strained tax base. See previous answer.

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 yall, 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.

A: Louis has paid his debt to society. He is investing millions into the redevelopment of downtown Richmond and has done more than anyone else for transforming Shockoe Bottom into a livable community. Let’s give the guy a break.

6) This investment perpetuates patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia – I wrote a much longer op-ed on this issue which I will link at the bottom. 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.

A: Then work to change it. Sports aren’t going anywhere but you can work to change it. That still doesn’t make this a bad deal for the city.

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.

A: What is more disgraceful, a heritage site that educates and acknowledges the history that impacted Shockoe Bottom and the nation so profoundly, or the surface parking lots, industrial buildings and highway that currently covers up that history?

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 (see Redskins Training Camp is Racist and A Bad Investment), Richmonders can not afford a second bad investment in sports.

A: Private investors are doing this. Salomonsky and Historic Housing, Kroger, Highwoods, The Flying Squirrels: They all have skin in the game here. This isn’t a handout, they are taking risks.

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 are true. Below are linked several polls as well as an online petition showing this to be true.

A: We elect leaders to lead and make tough decisions. Yes, it is the mayor’s responsibility to sell this to the public, but at the end of the day, we have been talking about this for more than a decade. This is a chance to do something really big for the city. There will always be a thousand reasons not to take a risk, but if it pays off, it would be another step towards getting the city we all dream about with great transportation, jobs, affordable housing and plenty of entertainment.

23 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by David Benjamin Larter on 11/13/2013 at 11:21 AM

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