While the press for a botanical takeover of McIntire Park has gone full court, an important underlying component of the process has gone unreported in Charlottesville’s mainstream media: coercive Democrat politics.
Charlottesville Democrats in 2004 attempted to oust golf from the park through a series of meetings, plans, and maneuverings led by then-mayor Maurice Cox, as head of the McIntire Park Master Plan Committee. Although Cox’s design scheme—which included opulent cafés, majestic gardens and expensive water features—was not approved, his concept of commandeering control of the park for professional and political profit lives on in the hearts and minds of the Charlottesville Democrat establishment.
The politics of today’s plan has its genesis in early discussions between McIntire Botanical Garden President, Helen Flamini, and former Charlottesville Mayor (and current City Councilor), Dave Norris, from which Norris emerged to publicly support Flamini’s concept of a golf-less botanical empire in McIntire.
Flamini’s political quid pro quo for Norris’ backing of her $50 million “green dream” at Mcintire, was her direct public support for the mayor’s reelection efforts in a contested Democrat primary. In an April 29, 2009 letter to the Daily Progress, Flamini gushed over Norris’s “exemplary leadership” and his progressive accomplishments. She also shamelessly noted his support for her botanical garden concept:
Working with Charlottesville Parks and Recreation, he has improved city parks, and he has supported the concept and vision to create a botanical garden at McIntire Park, which will enhance residents’ enjoyment and appreciation of nature, promote environmental educational programs, support economic development, increase tourism and guarantee that future generations have an outstanding park system for all to enjoy.
Dedicated leaders like Dave Norris deserve continued support.
While then-Mayor Norris continued to praise the Botanical Garden at every suitable opportunity, Flamini persisted in her conspicuous ennoblement of the mayor. In an October 25, 2009 letter to the Daily Progress, Flamini implored the Charlottesville electorate to return Norris to office:
City Council elections will be here on Nov. 3. There are many issues confronting the citizens of Charlottesville in the days ahead, and it will take dedicated and informed leaders to meet those challenges.
With so many important issues facing the City Council candidates, this would be the wrong time to elect a candidate whose entire focus is on a single polarizing matter. What is needed is a candidate who is focused on all the important issues affecting the city: affordable housing, transportation, education, recreation, environmental sustainability, revitalization of public housing, fiscal responsibility and McIntire Park.
Dave Norris has worked toward addressing those issues as well as continuing to promote and support the goals from City Council’s Vision Statement-2025 that will continue to make Charlottesville a great place to live for all its citizens.
Innovative, thoughtful ideas to improve community representation are but one example of the leadership role exemplified by Dave Norris. City voters should re-elect Dave Norris and elect Kristin Szakos to City Council, as they work to ensure continued progress in making Charlottesville the great city it already is.
Herself, a resident of Albemarle County (and not of Charlottesville City), Helen Flamini’s audacious public support for Dave Norris must have been perplexing to the casual onlooker—unless viewed through botanical lenses. Two public endorsements of Norris’s candidacy, which she could not personally advance by ballot, were well rewarded by Norris’s continuing advocacy of Flamini’s “pet” garden project.
But, as the Central Party Democrats’ political steamrolling of McIntire Golf did not begin with Dave Norris, nor does it end with him.
Several high-profile Charlottesville Democrats hold high-profile positions with the McIntire Botanical Garden organization:
- Peter MacIntosh, 2011 Democrat candidate for Charlottesville City Council, is Vice President
- Paul Beyer, 2011 Democrat candidate for Charlottesville City Council, is a Board Member
- Linda Seaman, 2012 co-chair of the Charlottesville Democrat Party, and former Democrat candidate for Charlottesville City Council, is a board member
- Karen Firehock, a former Democrat appointee to the Charlottesville Planning Commission, is on the Advisory Committee
Not content with behind-scenes kneecapping of McIntire golf through strategic political partnerships and placements, Charlottesville Democrat operatives now have begun an overt takeover of the McIntire Park “public” planning process. To wit, Democrat City Councilor Kathy Galvin, a Seaman protégé, commandeered the Monday, January 23 McIntire master planning meeting, imprudently and unexpectedly championing a new concept which would completely exclude golf from McIntire Park, as described in coverage by Charlottesville Tomorrow:
“In the three concepts that you have presented to us, you have a very logical, rational illustration of how you cannot make these two big programs [golf and botanical garden] co-exist,” Galvin said. “What you’ve demonstrated is how the golf course can work, and what happens is you have demonstrated that the botanical garden and some of the other uses really don’t work.” Galvin encouraged another design effort showing what a park dominated by the botanical garden would look like. [emphasis added]
The plans advertised for consideration up to the point of Galvin’s indecorous self-interjection all had included some golf component in the future use of McIntire Park—and all had been discussed in great detail previously at the meeting.
Galvin’s brazen advancement of an unsolicited plan so late into the process—on behalf of the Charlottesville Democrat establishment—rightfully was decried as inappropriate by fair-minded meeting attendees. Yet, subsequent conversations on McIntire’s future have incorporated Galvin’s golf-less vision—which now appears to be the favored future for McIntire Park among Charlottesville’s all-Democrat City Council.
A feeble administrative attempt by city staff to blunt Galvin’s procedural incursion—through the belated introduction of a “golf-only” plan—does nothing to level the course or to even the score. Sadly, once again, naïve participants of Charlottesville’s self-vaunted public planning process not only have wasted time playing in a rigged game, but they have been clubbed by an unscrupulous opponent: the Charlottesville Democrat Machine.
(Photograph of McIntire flip-board courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow.)
About the Author: Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.