Goldman aims to put Coliseum opposition question on ballot

Updated: Jul. 18, 2019 at 6:47 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A longtime opponent of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is pushing to get a Coliseum referendum on the November ballot.

Paul Goldman was successful in getting a referendum question about fully funding schools on the ballot in 2017, and it ultimately passed.

Now, Goldman is focusing on Stoney’s push to redevelop the Coliseum and the area around it.

If the question makes it on the ballot, voters would choose whether they have more say on how future tax money is generated and where it would go, specifically tax money tied to the Coliseum redevelopment project and other projects like it.

It’s been more than a year since Stoney unveiled a $1.4 billion plan to redevelop the Coliseum and the area nearby, including a new hotel, apartments with affordable housing, GRTC bus station, rehabbed Blues Armory and street improvements.

Stoney said investors would put up the majority of the money. The new property taxes generated from the project would pay back construction costs and go to fund rebuilding Richmond’s schools.

Goldman says he doesn’t buy it.

“It was a bait and switch from the beginning," Goldman said. “They never could make their original proposal work.”

The Coliseum deal has been stuck in negotiation and widely kept under wraps until it is formally introduced to City Council, and Goldman believes it has changed from its original parameters.

He says new plans suggested would allow for more tax dollars to go back to the investors by expanding the area in which taxes will be collected, known as a tax incremental financing district.

"It started as 10 blocks, and now it’s more blocks,” Goldman said. He claimed an 80-block tax incremental financing district was reportedly in discussion at one point.

Goldman said he has collected enough signatures, approximately 14,400, to put a referendum question on the ballot over the issue. The question would also push for 51 percent off the top of the taxes to go to schools.

The referendum question would also allow residents to vote on any future meals tax increases rather that the City Council.

Stoney’s office opposes the ballot question.

Spokesperson Jim Nolan said in a statement, “The mayor is opposed to this ballot initiative. It doesn’t accomplish anything new, and would only impede the city’s ability to work directly with our communities to make this a deal that works for all Richmonders."

“As you know, the Mayor has already pledged 50 percent of the project surplus to education, in addition to the historic education investments we have made, including fully funding RPS capital and maintenance budget requests, the construction of three new schools, and a 20-year plan to modernize our school facilities, which was unanimously adopted by city council,” the statement said. "The administration is working hard to negotiate a deal that protects Richmond taxpayers while creating thousands of jobs, hundreds of units of affordable housing, and generating millions in additional revenues for city priorities, education being chief among them.”

Before anything happens with this Coliseum development, a formal proposal will have to be submitted to City Council for review and a public hearing. The City Council would ultimately vote.

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