Tis the season for miraculous financial initiatives. The man who didn’t clearly outline Richmond’s obligations for his NFL football summer training facility or find backing for burying hallowed historical ground under a minor league stadium is now preparing to make the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) homeless.
All the get rich land development schemes that characterize Richmond City high finance remind one of the common flights of fancy on The Honeymooners. One difference, though: Mayor Jones is banking with other people’s money and trust. After making an effort to gain clarity on the DPVA’s financial health, there is nothing to show but despair. Appropriate since Jones and his recent predecessors as Chair have all left the political party borrowing against time while concealing the bottom line. Requests for financial statements have been ignored, so the depth of the hole remains closely held. Miraculously, during six years with a Democrat in the White House and in a state with two Democratic United States Senators plus the election of Democrats to all three statewide executive offices in the past year, time has run out on the Party’s mortgage.
A big portion of the DPVA party leadership’s responsibility is to provide the hired staff with sufficient resources to run a statewide political party. But Jones, who fought through charges that he doesn’t represent the party’s principles of equality and equal rights to gain the position of Chair, has been an absentee landlord. The infrastructure, physical and fiscal, has continued to decay since his ascension to the post. He has consistently missed meetings and party conference calls. E-mails go unanswered. The excuse is always that his responsibilities as a pastor and Mayor consume his time. Those responsibilities did not preclude him from interfering in an intra-party state Senate primary race (his influence proved ineffective). Now he’s on the verge of missing the payment on the DPVA’s “digs” on Franklin Street in Richmond.
His answer? Accept his responsibility and initiate a fundraising campaign? Find well-heeled donors to right the ship? Call the Governor who has some fundraising experience? No. Hat in hand he is participating in the liquidation of what is essentially the family silver; as tarnished as it is. Are we supposed to trust that the model our Republican friends use to govern (no reinvestment while drawing down on languishing assets) is the answer to the party’s financial woes? And that building has languished. The DPVA is upside down in the investment and is its own slumlord. Fortunately there’s a white knight out there…well maybe the devil in disguise: a real estate developer.
The deal, like the one for that training facility over on West Leigh, is very special. It really is a unique offer, promising less than the party paid for the property but at a premium well over any other current offer. And it is with developers who have a long history of working with the Richmond City Council. Okay, influencing the Richmond City Council. Well, buying off at least one Councilperson.
Now what might one want in return for such a deal? Shhhh…it’s The Virginia Way, don’t you know? Trust isn’t engendered when you deal with the devil and a man of the cloth should appreciate that. Maybe it is unfair to blame Jones because it does appear he is in way over his head. When he agreed to be a marionette he probably figured his handlers would know what they were doing and make him look competent. On the other hand, maybe his benefactors didn’t know how difficult that task might be.
Time for him to do the honorable and, heaven forbid, ethical thing: step down as DPVA Chair.