Please Oppose Venture Richmond Subsidy

Posted: April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

From our friend Charles Pool:

Dear Honorable Members of City Council,

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”   A corollary may be, “The unexamined grant is not worth giving.”

When the City grants a no-bid contract, it is a cause for serious concern.  When the City grants a no-bid contract for a GENERATION, it is shameful.  Please do not approve the Venture Richmond’s continued subsidy before City Council on April 28th, presented as a  downtown “Work Plan Budget” ordinance.

Is Venture Richmond “too big to fail”?  Yes, the Mayor serves as Venture Richmond’s President, and yes, the City Council president and vice-president serve on the Venture Richmond board.  Yes, Venture Richmond’s board includes some of Richmond’s most prominent corporate leaders and donors.  Yes, Venture Richmond’s work plan is written so broadly that it allows it to take on whatever lobbying the Mayor needs, such lobbying for the Mayor’s Shockoe stadium proposal.  Yes, Venture Richmond’s salaries add an unneeded layer of expense to the upkeep of city property at Brown’s Island and Tredegar Green– the Venture Richmond director’s annual salary of $242,000 is greater than that of all Council members combined, and the top four Venture Richmond salaries total over $640,000.

A no-bid contract for a GENERATION is not only an extremely poor financial deal for the city tax payers, but it results in lax performance and service.  Venture Richmond no longer needs to show regard for the public. Consider the repeated promises given for a Section 106 historic review of Venture Richmond’s amphitheater on Tredegar Green; the day after receiving Planning Commission approval for the amphitheater Venture Richmond withdrew from the Section 106 review.  Consider the illegal demolition of the historic Tredegar wall on city property while leased to Venture Richmond.  Consider the assault on the performer on Brown’s Island during an event staged by Venture Richmond.   Consider the fact that Venture Richmond no longer bothers to put canal boats in the water beside Brown’s Island; the ticket booth sits vacant because Venture Richmond receives its subsidy regardless. 

After a generation of public investment, Brown’s Island and the canal boat concession should be generating financial gain for the city.  But this is not the case.  Venture Richmond is paid $50,000 annually by the City in a no-bid grant to put on the Friday Cheers concerts, and then Venture Richmond keeps the $10/head ticket receipts (from as many as 10,000 spectators per event).  Venture Richmond is paid $700,000 annually in a no-bid grant by the city to administer the Clean and Safe program, and then Venture Richmond subs out the program.  Venture Richmond is paid by the city in a no-bid grant to run the canal boats, and then Venture Richmond keeps the $6/head ticket excursion fares of the 20,000 riders annually.  Why aren’t these programs put up for bids?

Please do not rubber stamp an extension of the Venture Richmond subsidy.  One GENERATION is long enough to receive the same unexamined grant.

Sincerely,

Charles Poole

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