Hold on casino?

5/4/2023, 6 p.m.
Will there be a second Richmond vote on having a gambling casino?

Will there be a second Richmond vote on having a gambling casino?


City Hall has become silent on the issue.

At a meeting this week, 8th District Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell said she’s been told to keep quiet rather than publicly campaign.

Apparently, city officials as well as the city’s choice for casino developer – Urban One-Churchill Downs – have also made that strategy choice.

The reason is the budget negotiations now going on at the state level. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled state Senate are at loggerheads over whether to amend the current state budget to allocate more money to tax cuts or to increase spending on public education and mental health services.

The goal for Richmond is to keep the small group of legislators involved in the budget talks from including language that would bar a second referendum this year. The city has decided the best way is not to rock the boat. After all, there might not be a deal, and the current budget, approved in 2022, would stay in force. That budget does not include any restriction on a second referendum.

Veteran political strategist Paul Goldman calls silence the wrong way to go, and we find his view highly persuasive.

He supports the people’s right to vote and is backing the second referendum for that reason, even though he led the opposition to the casino the first time.

That’s why he has enlisted the Richmond Crusade for Voters, the state’s oldest and largest Black political group, to sound off in defense of the right to vote, particularly after the key House negotiator, Virginia Beach Republican Delegate Barry D. Knight, publicly stated that he hopes to stop a Richmond referendum.

In Mr. Goldman’s view, this is not about whether the casino would be good or bad for Richmond. For him, this is about the public’s right to vote, and he firmly believes that elected officials should be out front demanding that right. He notes that in a Democratic city with a huge Black presence, there is no excuse for being quiet on voting rights, ever.

Well known for his successful campaign management that helped L. Douglas Wilder become the state and nation’s first Black elected lieutenant governor and governor, Mr. Goldman believes Delegate Knight has made this a partisan issue.

In his view, Mayor Levar M. Stoney, by his silence, is booting a clear opportunity to benefit the city and make a name for himself as a defender of voting rights, if he is, indeed, preparing to run for governor in 2025.

That makes sense. In our view, silence is not always golden.