By Josh Stanfield of Activate Virginia
By now, you may have heard about the proposed $1.4 billion Coliseum redevelopment project in downtown Richmond (or: “Tom Farrell’s $1 Billion Idea”). Although City Council has established a commission to review the project, council members and the public are still waiting to see the details. One Richmond citizen even sued for the plans – and lost.
Tom Farrell – Chairman, President, and CEO of Dominion Energy – is leading the development group NH Foundation. NH Foundation is the sole member of NH District Corporation, a 501(c)(3) which submitted the lone bid to the city for the project. So even though Mayor Levar Stoney has owned the vision and continually hypes the megaproject, it’s impossible to detach the deal from Farrell.
The lack of transparency is disconcerting, as is the possibility that the city could be on the hook for the financing. But then comes the mayor’s response to Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Mark Robinson when asked whether he will accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy:
“I have no plans not to accept any contributions. Here’s the only entity that I do not accept contributions from: I don’t accept contributions from payday lenders.”
With that comment, Mayor Stoney broke with AG Mark Herring, LG Justin Fairfax, and over 120 candidates on this question. So I wondered, given Richmond City Council’s responsibilities vis-a-vis the Coliseum project, would council members refuse to accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy and Tom Farrell?
Here are their responses:
Chris Hilbert (Third District): “I have never solicited contributions from either party [Dominion/Farrell]. Especially in light of the pending issue before us, I wouldn’t accept any contributions as well now or in the future. I sponsored legislation a number of years ago protesting the building of a coal burning Dominion power plant in SW Virginia. Finally, I am particularly disturbed about this coal ash issue with Dominion as well. I trust this makes my position clear.”
Kimberly Gray (Second District): “I would refuse any contribution from Dominion and/or Tom Farrell.”
Kristen Larson (Fourth District): “I have no intention of accepting Dominion or Tom Farrell contributions during this time of negotiation re: the coliseum. I don’t know if it’s technically a conflict but there would definitely be bad optics and public perception to accepting any donations from either at this time. I would like to ensure that the process is as clear and transparent as possible.”
Parker Agelasto (Fifth District): Councilman Agelasto called me and expressed his concern about the nefarious influence of money in politics. He made it clear that he won’t accept Dominion or Farrell money, as he’s not running for re-election.
Michael Jones (Ninth District), via staffer, Summer Morris: “Councilman Jones says that he does not plan to receive any money from them.”