City Council spars over voter advisory referendum on $1.5B Coliseum plan

George Copeland | 8/16/2019, 6 a.m.
Richmond residents were lining up Wednesday to speak their minds on Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s $1.5 billion Coliseum replacement and ...

Mr. Hilbert saw Ms. Trammell’s resolution as a more “narrowly focused” alternative to the “poisonous referendum” advocated by Paul Goldman of Put Schools First that would require 51 percent of the tax revenue from the TIF district to go toward improving and modernizing the city’s public schools.

However, Mr. Goldman said Tuesday afternoon that his petition drive to get his referendum on the fall ballot failed to get the required 10,000 signatures from registered voters.

He expressed doubts that Richmond Voter Registrar Kirk Showalter “applied the law correctly” when counting the signatures, adding that he remains “100 percent confident that I got the signatures based on the law to put it on the ballot.” A hearing on his referendum petition is set for 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Richmond Circuit Court.

Ms. Showalter’s office said Tuesday she would be available for comment at the hearing.

As for Ms. Trammell’s referendum resolution, Councilman Andreas D. Addison questioned the language used, saying the wording assumed “a lot of knowledge on behalf of the constituents.” Ms. Gray countered that the language was directly borrowed from that of the ordinances introduced by Mayor Stoney’s administration with the project.

Councilman Michael J. Jones, 9th District, who also voted against the expedited consideration, expressed concern that he was “being asked to punt something that I haven’t gone completely through.” He also questioned the need for an advisory referendum in the face of the council con- vening a Navy Hill Commission to study and advise the council on the project.

“We are confusing the daylights out of the public,” Dr. Jones said.

Following the vote, NH District Corp. spokesperson Jeff Kelley issued a statement calling the resolution “disappointing.”

“The council is trying to circumvent the very process that they, themselves, created because a few Richmond outsiders are telling them what to do,” Mr. Kelley stated. “We’ll keep listening to the people of Richmond as this project moves forward and urge the council to do their job and their own due diligence.”

Ms. Gray, speaking at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, said that is exactly what the council intends to do.

“We’re working to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and we’re going to move forward making the best decisions with the best information that we can garner,” she said.