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.)

Previous articleGuest editorial: Rules are replacing responsibility in government
Next articleHost turns guest: Schilling analyzes GOP Primary results for national radio audience
Rob Schilling is founder of the multi-award-winning Schilling Show Blog and News, proprietor of Schilling Show Media; host of both the Schilling Show Unleashed Podcast and WINA's The Schilling Show heard weekdays at noon; husband; father; worship leader, Christian recording artist and Community Watchdog.


  1. I don’t really care who’s for the park and who’s against it: let’s look at the issue rather than the people. Years ago the wonderful trail system at Pen Park was ruined when the golf course expanded; we went from a multitude of trails used by people of all ages and levels of fitness, to one steep trail down to the river. The city has a contract to accommodate First Tee at Meadowbrook Creek Golf Course; I hate to see us lose one of the last remaining green spaces to such a limited group when all of us could enjoy a park. A vast majority of those surveyed in the city favored having green space and trails to having more golf facilities. I hope the golfers will be creative enough to explore other options to add to those at Meadowbrook Creek Golf Course, but I hope they will leave the walkers and runners and frisbee throwers and picnicers and nature lovers a park to enjoy… one that need not cost anything near the extravagent price you quoted.

  2. If I didn’t know any better this would made a case for
    quid por quo — but I am no legal mind.

  3. @Tim Hulsey, Not lost at all. Is English your native language or do you need to take and ESL class?

    It became clear with Kathy Galvin suggested reversion and refused to look into the Ragged Mountain dam fiasco that she has an agenda and she has her handlers. Obviously her handlers also want the botanical garden in the park. Maybe they really think it will be paid for by Flamini’s financial backers. There was a competing local group that included Lonnie Murray but I believe Norris insisted they join in wi Flamini’s group and present one plan for the garden. Of course, as shown by Norris’ support for the Y in the park and any development project that includes money for affordable housing, he’s supporting what he and a bunch of other people who do not know the value of a dollar calls leveraging the tax dollar: take the “free” money whether you really want it or not and spend it on something that will not have a huge initial public outlay but will require monies down the road. Galvin obviously has not learned how Council make it appear that it is conducting a truly public process. First you get the people who support what you really want and put them on the advisory committee where they are clearly the majority. Then you add the people who may be in opposition but not in enough numbers that can out vote the others. The more the appointees can not be identified as allies of Council the more “transparent” it will seem. Then you announce the formation of a citizen’s advisory committee with members “representing” organizations that are “stakeholders’ and say that this is a public process representing a broad spectrum of society with a wide range of viewpoints. You instruct this committee to do everything by consensus so that there is no record of who voted for what. Council’s lackeys will be instructed to go over the final report to make sure that it has the original intent of Council with the highest recommendation. During the process, it will be the lackeys’ job to also make the dissenters’ voices unheard as much as possible. Remember people it was the YMCA that opened the door for the softballers not City Hall. Softballers (the largest group of users) were not even informed of the City’s park design meetings. All of you people who now feel shut out – tough. You didn’t mind other people being shut out when you were getting what you wanted.

  4. The story is a bit lost in all the outrage.

    The outrage, the finger pointing, and the separation of people into well-intentioned and “unscrupulous” usually seems half the point, at least, for many on both Left and Right. It’s a drug. And you can’t think straight on drugs.

  5. Prediction:
    City Council will approve a Botanical-Garden-Only plan regardless of opinions from the public, Parks & Rec Advisory Committee, and the Planning Commission. The plan will sit idle for five years while low-cost golf continues, 1st Tee flounders for lack of a suitable facility and the BG tries to raise their first thousand dollars (we don’t know much about them because in four years they’ve yet to file an IRS 990 form).

    Then Council will instigate a new master planning project.

  6. Thank you CvilleEye.
    For some strange reasoning there is alot of people in city and county think there allot of money to be spend. Especially when the city hghas a 20% povety rate in some neeghborhood. The money would be put to better use in these areas instead of a botanical – garden plan. But odd are the decision has been made and this odd are is waste of time….

  7. Dear Jim, Has the Botanical Garden group released a true business plan? Or will it become a city-operated
    and subsidized operation?

  8. Per inside source within city government will become a behind the secene city-operated and line item hided somewhere within the budget.
    Remember as what Adolf Hitler used to say:
    “How fortunate for leaders,” Hitler said to his inner circle, “that men do not think. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying, and eventually they will believe it.
    In his book he wrote, “the greater masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.”

  9. votes, the Big Lie you and Rob and your fellow partisans on the Left and Right have been seduced and lovingly cling to is that the other side’s motives are always bad and the other side’s actions are always corrupt, but yours, yours, are always pure. Hell, you people on the Religious Right are so doggone righteous, what do you even bother with Christianity for? You don’t need a savior. You don’t need anyone to die for your sins. When was the last time you even sinned?

    “…. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

    …. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    – Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn

  10. Mr. Ken, Sir:
    Shame on me for my failure or lack of insight to admit I am sinner.
    Shame on me for daring to comparing city government to Adolf Hilter.
    Shame on mr for my fialure or lack of insight to admit that I need city counsel approval and guidence on a daily bases for who I am.
    I mistakely thought that a land lock city of 43,000 didn’t need a botancial garden. I couldn’t find a city of our size with a city own botancial garden. I found a couple that were owned by a foundation.
    I mistakely thought that it was a good idea to have a program available to teach childern how to play golf…
    But in long run Ken, I wake up each and everyday and pray that God will help me with my sinful nature. However as far as rest, no government needs to take a back seat to us the citizen and yes the city council does have excellent system in place to spread misimformation……

  11. votes, can you or anyone else here explain what’s actually wrong with a botanical garden in McIntire Park? And let’s get real basic here – can you please tell us why in the world you think it’s unethical for somebody proposing a plan to back a politician who supports the plan? By the same token, tell us why it’s unethical for a politician to accept support from someone whose plan they are supporting? Don’t all politicians operate that way? Doesn’t all of politics? What’s wrong with that and how could it be otherwise? Should no one with a civic or business interest be allowed to advance that interest politically? Should people not be allowed to band together to advance their interests? Make sense.

    It’s a tautological game you all play on the Schilling Show: Democrats are by definition corrupt, so whenever they act their actions are corrupt. So what’s corrupt about any particular action? It’s that it’s taken by a Democrat.

  12. The question that has been asked and not answer —
    Why does a city of 43,000 need a botanical Garden?
    The question that has been asked and not answer —
    Why does Ms. Flamini who live in county feel a city of 43,000 need a botanical Garden?
    Who is going to pay for it. the tax payers. I know of 3 elders couples who were forced out of city due to increasing property taxes on their houses that have been paided for over 20 yrs ago. it was so stressful on one individual they are no longer here.
    today, city council is going to vote to take 1/2 acre from Fry Spring. I don’t care who band together for what? As long as I and other property owner don’t have to pay for it.I don’t give if it the Democrats, the Republican or whoever party is in control. When that group of individuals forget that they are for the all the people, not just for the chosen few…… For all people in city, not in county. The money used for a botanical garden could be used to fix the city aging water system, storm water system,the list is very long. Government is for all the people, not just for the chosen few.
    Check out the following books — The Righteous Mind, How do you kill 11 million people?, God’s Politics, Indivisible, Libery Defined.If you do, please someone standing by with AED, your ticker might not be able to hand the shock.
    Charlottesville is a land lock city with x nunbers of property owners, x numbers of business owner which = a limited tax bases = limited about of money in the city general fund.

  13. I’ll answer your question even though you can’t answer mine. No one says we need a botanical garden. It would obviously improve the city to put one in. Many residents of all income levels would use it.

  14. Well, as I was sitting in doctor office this afternoon, I pickup a copy of Virginia Sportsman — Virginia and Beyond — A State of Mind — A Way of Life.
    April / May 2012 issue
    There is an article Planting for the Generation Next — Trends in Landscape Design and Managment by Elizabeth H. Sutton. On page 42 is a pitcure of The master pan for the proposed McIntire Botanical Garden in Charlottesville, Virginia, as designed by Kennon Williams Landscape Studio. ( Photo coutresy of Kennon Williams Landscape Studio). What is sad about this photo the golf course has been completely removed. it never seem to end does it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here