by Ned Oliver
A proposed City Council resolution has turned into a test of allegiances in the ballpark debate, and it looks less certain that a majority of council members still oppose the development.
Five of nine council members said in May they would vote against the mayor's development plan: Jon Baliles, Charles Samuels, Reva Trammell, Parker Agelasto and Chris Hilbert.
Only four of those council members have signed a resolution asking Mayor Dwight Jones to reallocate $10.6 million that City Council set aside for the ballpark in the current year’s budget.
The resolution follows an agreement between Jones and City Council made during budget deliberations: Jones would reallocate the funds in consultation with City Council members if his ballpark proposal was unsuccessful.
Councilman Samuels said Thursday at a meeting of council’s Finance Committee that it’s apparent that the proposal indeed is unsuccessful and that it’s time for Jones to reallocate the funds. He suggested putting them toward the city’s struggling school system.
Council members Trammell, Baliles and Agelasto agreed, signing on as co-patrons of the resolution.
Hilbert did not, saying he opposes the measure. “It seems to me that it just stirs a pot that doesn’t need to be stirred,” Hilbert told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The statement further cements his position as a swing vote.
Hilbert had already softened his opposition, saying in September that he was open to a proposal that brings “honest economic development” to the city.
Hilbert since has assumed the position of council vice president, while Councilwoman Michelle Mosby, a strong ally of Jones, was elected as council president.
The resolution comes at a time Jones’ staff members have hinted they plan to bring the ballpark proposal back. Richmond Flying Squirrels officials confirmed a meeting with Jones administration officials Thursday.
Tammy Hawley, the mayor's press secretary, offered no details: “I'm sure some folks were in touch. But I don't have anything to report on.”