It’s come to this. In the heated debate over Mayor Dwight Jones’ stadium proposal, not even City Council members’ mothers are off limits.
Councilman Jon Baliles, who represents the West End and Museum District, held a public meeting on the Shockoe Bottom development plan at Albert Hill Middle School last week. While attendees filed out of the auditorium, Baliles’ mother — and former first lady of Virginia — Jeannie Baliles found herself in a tense conversation with Bruce Tyler. He lost to her son by 20 votes in the last election, the results of which Tyler contested. (The campaign was one of the more acrimonious in the city.)
Tyler was heated, says Peggy Baggett, a neighbor of Jeannie Baliles who attended the meeting with her and witnessed the encounter. “He was demanding that she get Jon to stand up and vote for the proposal,” she says. “He finally stomped off.”
Tyler, who came out in strong support of the mayor’s proposal at the meeting, doesn’t dispute that the conversation occurred. But he suggests the tenor of the exchange wasn’t out of line with his past interactions with Jeannie Baliles.
“Some people may have seen it as heated,” Tyler says. “But knowing Mrs. Baliles, I consider it a normal conversation.”
Jeannie Baliles declined to comment. Her son, Baliles, says he hasn’t made up his mind on whether he’ll support the stadium — which was up for a vote at Monday night’s City Council meeting, after Style Weekly went to press.
But Baliles says he hopes that going forward, constituents will bring their concerns directly to him: “If Mr. Tyler wants to tell me what he thinks then he should come to me rather than attack my mother.”