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In Quest for Mayor, a Skate Park Platform


At a corner table in the cafAc area of Ellwood Thompson's, would-be mayor Paul Goldman huddles with two advisers to discuss what may become an issue in his campaign: city skate parks.

His consultants are his son, Thomas, a 12-year-old skateboarding enthusiast wearing an oversized black cap and a slouchy gray sweatshirt, and Miles Quillen, a 22-year-old Ellwood manager sporting a red flannel shirt and a nose stud. The Goldmans spend so much time at Ellwood's, Quillen is practically a family friend.

"My dad's a health freak," Thomas Goldman says. "I think the food's good, though." The store has been ground zero for past father-and-son political efforts, such as when they collected signatures four years ago for the referendum that changed Richmond's mayor from an appointed to an elected position.

But the city has more catching up to do, Quillen says: "Every city on the East Coast, not even mentioning the West Coast where it all started, has a small, city-run skate park."

"You want to attract younger professionals, you want to put out that hip vibe," the elder Goldman says.

"But no skate park," Quillen laments.

"Bee-bop boo boo," Goldman's son adds, mimicking the sound from the Donkey Kong video game when a player loses a level.

Some of the best city skating right now is at Mary Munford Elementary School, Goldman says. If he wins the mayoral election, he'd like Thomas to switch to a city school, like Munford, and out of the county school he attends. (Thomas' mother lives in Henrico.)

But Mary Munford wasn't built for skating. Skate parks feature concrete paving with bowls and ramps for skateboards to thrash around in.

As Goldman mulls over the idea, it gains symbolic weight. Approving a skate park -- even if you're more football- or basketball-oriented — he says, signifies a live-and-let-live philosophy important to a mayor or any leader, really.

The wheels seem to be turning: Without the Braves, Goldman posits, a park could be a new monument to regional cooperation where county and city skaters could glide side by side. The perfect complement to Richmond's rich preservation tradition, it would demonstrate how cool the city is. In fact, Goldman reasons, if Richmond had only sculpted a downtown skate park before the dot-com bubble, the city wouldn't have lost tens of thousands of jobs to places like Raleigh, N.C.

"It could almost be a spot that acts as sculpture for kids to roll around in," Quillen says. Thomas Goldman likes the idea.

"Dad, can we make part of it out of marble?" he asks. Goldman tries to remind his son of that there's no budget for the project.

"Can you just put that down as optional?" he asks. "You said there was no budget."

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