Empty Bases 

With all the excitement of opening week at The Diamond, why can’t the region get its act together?

I’ve had enough, and so too has Chesterfield County. Why Lou and Chuck and Parney haven’t had enough is beyond me. It must be because the owners and operators of the Richmond Flying Squirrels -- Lou DiBella, Chuck Domino and Todd “Parney” Parnell -- are taking patience supplements. Five years ago and four years before that, they, we, were asking political leaders, “When will a new baseball stadium be built?” We’re still asking, and waiting.

Do our government leaders not realize that this makes us look ridiculous to those who would potentially bring businesses and jobs to our area? Do they not see the dysfunction that swirls around them (and that they create)? Do they not see and hear their constituents saying, “Enough already?”

A recent article in The Richmond Times-Dispatch by Michael Martz pinpoints the plethora of problems that have been created by Richmond’s lack of willingness to stop seeing itself as the leader of the region. Richmond should not consider itself the leader, nor should Henrico, nor Chesterfield, consider themselves leaders. A region is, by definition a shared territory, and although the Dillon Rule creates this “mine, all mine” mentality, our leaders need to give up on the idea of proving who’s boss and get in a car and eat a club sandwich at a locally owned eatery together. Lunch is the solution, not structured meetings or prearranged press events. Just lunch.

So Chesterfield says they want nothing to do with The Diamond now. Chesterfield County Administrator Jay Stegmaier says that his county’s position is based in its desire to allow the city to control the property beneath the Diamond and thereby allow for development to proceed. Chesterfield also wants to be relieved of all financial obligations regarding The Diamond, according to recent news reports, and have the facility given over to the city. Why? Well to those of us who live and breathe this inside baseball stuff, it is obvious that that Chesterfield has chosen to pay back Richmond for its heavy-handed manner in dealing with the legislation that made it’s way through the General Assembly this year attempting to give Henrico and Chesterfield counties more seats on the board of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, which operates The Diamond.

Stegmaier is tired of being jerked around and I don’t blame him. The history of RMA board membership is well known, but it’s just that, history. For our region and all parts of it to succeed, we need to put history behind us and work toward a future that promotes balance and thereby success in all corners of the region. The politicians need to get in their cars, meet for a club sandwich, say enough of this is enough, create a balanced board and help one another in achieving success.

Charles Richard White, one of Chesterfield’s representatives on the RMA board, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The RMA would be out of the stadium and baseball business -- the city can have it.” We city dwellers should be sad reading that statement. Translated, his statement in the vernacular would read, “You people can go to hell, we’ve had it.”

Is that what the people want from their leaders? No. We want leaders who seek consensus, not draw lines in the sand. We want leaders who create rather than deconstruct agreements that benefit us. And yes, the Squirrels benefit us. Any area our size must have a minor league team. But to treat this group the way our regional leaders have, like the child of a broken home, is not helpful to anyone. Plenty of county dwellers come to the Boulevard for a few games a year. Businesses looking to relocate want amenities for their employees and the Squirrels are one of the great amenities this region offers. But like that child of a broken home, they keep proving themselves with their resilience and ability to get along with the parents who can’t get along with themselves.

So what is next in this ongoing saga? First, our elected leaders need to get over the past: the past that includes annexation and the vestiges of white power structure. Next, they need to take action that benefits all the residents of the region. If a City Council member or county supervisor votes on a paper, or reads and votes for a budget, that person needs to ask himself or herself, “How will this affect a citizen paying taxes in Richmond, Henrico or Chesterfield?”

And finally, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, Chesterfield Administrator Stegmaier and Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas need to arrange a quiet lunch, without the fanfare of an announcement to the media, sit down and build personal relationships borne of trust. I would also suggest the same happen with City Council President Charles Samuels, Henrico Board of Supervisors Chairman David Kaechele and Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dorothy Jaeckle. Club sandwiches could solve a lot of problems.

Charlie Diradour is the president of Lion’s Paw Development Company. He can reached at Charlie@lionspawdevelopment.com.


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