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Parker Field was an old wooden baseball stadium in Richmond. We were the # 1 farm team for the Yankees and then the Braves. The place had character. When I was 16, my brother Brick and Andy Anderson left the game early. I was walking about 20 paces behind them when a foul ball dislodged a 16’ 3 x 8 which missed their heads by about 2 feet as it crashed onto the pavement. (They had smoked so much pot, they didn’t even notice). Dodging huge pieces of lumber and defying death added to the charm of the place.

One of the beer vendors was lovingly given the moniker the “Fat Man.” The Fat Man had the loudest voice in baseball history.  He would bellow “Ice…Cold…. Chilly BEEEEER…..!”   You would wave him down and yell “hey Fat Man” and he’d bring you an arctic cold beer and a sunny disposition.  Everyone loved the Fat Man. When I was 22, I was working in Nantucket for the summer. This was pre-cell phone days. My friends Hobie Andrews and Trent Kerns had written me telling me they were coming to visit. I didn’t know when. One night I was hanging out with some Carolina girls at 80 Orange Street in the middle of town, I’m guessing a couple of miles from where the ferry docked. Hobie and Trent had no idea where I was. Towards 9 o’clock, I hear a very faint sound from far away. There was a ring of familiarity, but really faint. Perhaps it was just my imagination? Then I hear it again. Then a few more times until the message was clear. Hobie and Trent were screaming “Ice…Cold….Chilly Beer!”  I yelled back “Ice Cold Chilly Beer!” This went on for about an hour and led them directly to 80 Orange Street. I miss the Fat Man and Parker Field.

Fast forward to today. Parker Field was sadly torn down in 1984 to make way for a new, more modern and much more sterile ballpark. Now city leaders want to tear down that ballpark which is only at half capacity to build a new ballpark, and they of course want to do it with taxpayer money. If you have been following my articles, perhaps you know of Rob’s Rules? Rob Rule # 1 is the government fu#ks up everything it touches. This ballpark idea is no exception. You may not have any interest in Richmond, Virginia, but I can guarantee you that any such public-private initiative going on in your town is nothing more than a money laundering scheme to benefit the political elite and those sucking on its teat at the expense of all the folks in your city who actually produce goods and services that others willingly buy.

Despite having an idiot race-hustling mayor, Richmond is a bustling place. It has some of the best museums, performing arts and restaurants in the country. Perhaps the country’s most historic city, it has beautiful neighborhoods. Everyone is moving to Richmond. It is a job magnet. Like all great Southern cities, the metro area is great because of generations of prudent fiscal management and common sense. However, great Southern cities attract refugees leaving the hell hole of blue cities. Once here, they place “Climate Change Now” signs in their front yard and vote for the same types of vacuous idiots who ruined the city they left. I’ve long advocated RE-EDUCATION CAMPS for anyone crossing the Potomac to live in Virginia.

The amount of new industry and development going on here is staggering, all funded privately. Baseball is a private industry. If a new stadium is such a great idea, then certainly private industry can pay for it?  If it is fiscally unviable, then clearly it is not such a great idea. It’s that simple. The revenue generated off minor league baseball is puny, probably less than just one local supermarket, but yet the City is proposing that taxpayers go on the hook for a $170 million bond issue for an approximate 9,000 seat stadium.

In addition to the ballpark, the City has assembled 67 acres, and a 2.4 billion project with a hotel and a vast array of residential units is proposed. This area of town, Scott’s Addition is an old industrial area which is already exploding in billions of dollars of new developments and historic renovations.

None of this makes any sense when the City can just sell the 67 acres of land it has acquired  to private developers and a brand new vibrant urban center (built upon market demands) will pop up almost immediately.  But the City won’t. Why?  Because it is just another top down, corrupt money laundering scheme. Commercial banks, investments banks, law firms, consultants, etc. make a pile of money off these deals,  and they in return support the politicians’ cockamamie schemes.  The politicians load the “development plan” up with sketchy and illegal giveaways to themselves and their buddies. The banner cry amongst them all is “we need a new stadium, we need to keep baseball in Richmond.” This narrative is a false assumption, promoting the idea that only the government can “save baseball” in Richmond. Of course, the exact opposite is true. If the City had not been talking about building a new stadium for the past 15 years (otherwise known as pulling its pud), private enterprise would have built one by now (provided it made economic sense).  When local governments announce these huge public initiatives, it crowds out private capital which could do the same thing with no public expenditure.

All of this prompted me to write this letter to City “so called” leaders.  DEAR CITY OFFICIALS. Once one gets past the fluffy feel-good-ism of these types of initiatives and digs into the details, the corruption oozes off the pages. Virginia is a right to work state, yet 40% of the costs are mandated to go to union labor. Another 40% is to go to minority contracting firms which is blatantly unconstitutional. The initiative has rent control mandates for up to 20% of the housing. This is just the corruption on the surface. History is our guide. The project will be massively over budget. Contractors will rip the City off and won’t be held accountable. Family members of the political class will get high paying make work jobs.  The union labor will find a way to kick back support to the crooked politicians and of course the City will be sued.   Moreover, the project will not work as planned, will likely be a dud, and this very valuable land which could be booming if in private hands will become an eye sore. People have short memories, but this is the way it always works in Richmond, and I bet the same is true in your city too.

Over the weekend the United States Congress passed a bill giving $61 billion to Ukraine. Another money laundering scheme that benefits the political class. Before Putin’s invasion, Ukraine was more corrupt than Russia and American political elites greatly benefited from the corruption. Hogs at the trough. Ukraine is not a democracy. It is little more than an oligarchical police state. Russia is not the Soviet Union and does anyone think that the average Ukrainian will be better off if this war continues? $9 billion of the $61 billion is going to pay Ukrainian officials’ pensions! We’ve already given Ukraine no less than $170 billion, yet over half of it cannot be accounted for. The crooks in Congress do not want you to know where the money went because a very healthy portion of it comes back under the table to the political class, its donors and its sycophants.

“We must save baseball!” “We must save democracy in Ukraine!”

Whether it is a baseball diamond or a foreign war, beware the clarion call of politicians to spend money on the newest cause celebre because such spending always benefits them and seldom benefits you.

Robert C. Smith is Managing Partner of Chartwell Capital Advisors and likes to opine on the Rob Is Right Podcast and Webpage.

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