Beach Leaders Secretly Promised Light Rail To Amazon
Thank goodness for the Virginia Mercury, an online Richmond news outlet, which is handily beating newspapers all around the commonwealth.
Because of the Mercury we now know that Virginia Beach power brokers in 2017 secretly promised billionaire Jeff Bezos a light rail system if he brought his second Amazon headquarters to the Beach.
The city didn’t bother to mention that voters had already vetoed the project. Fundamentally deceitful.
“Notably, Virginia Beach’s proposal said there are plans to extend light rail into the city, even though voters overwhelmingly rejected it in a 2016 referendum. Virginia Beach still owns an old Norfolk-Southern railroad right-of-way that was going to become the light rail route,” reported the Mercury.
“ ‘The corridor is currently programmed for creation of a multi-purpose … shared-use path,’ the proposal reads. ‘In addition, plans have already been developed for extension of The Tide light rail from its current eastern terminus; Phase One would extend the line to Town Center, adjacent to the proposed Amazon HQ2 location. Ultimately, the system would extend east to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.”
This level of arrogance is stunning. Breathtaking. Audacious.
What part of NO didn’t these city leaders understand? Last time I checked 58 percent of voters gave a thumbs down to light rail. There was no caveat attached to the vote that said “unless a rich capitalist appears and wants to extort this from the city.”
Light rail was a $100 million-a-mile developers’ boondoggle that was projected to do nothing to alleviate traffic congestion. Voters smartly rejected it. Delusional city leaders had no right to promise something that the people had killed.
As happened when the Sacramento Kings feigned interest in the city - and the former mayor and his cronies were itching to build an arena - the same foolish leaders got played by Bezos.
The Kings were never coming to the Beach and neither was Amazon.
That didn’t stop these honchos from blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the fruitless quest. They weren’t the only ones who were duped, of course. Mayors from Calgary to San Antonio wasted time and money competing with giveaways for the billionaire.
No word on whether they, too, courted Amazon with deceptive presentations.
Ultimately, Bezos chose Northern Virginia and New York. Places he no doubt had in mind before the international bidding war began.
It’s been more than a year since the Beach tossed promises to Bezos that would have caused a civil uprising if they’d been made public at the time.
Last night on Facebook Councilman John Moss said this pledge of light rail, “was never disclosed to City Council or authorized by City Council…Once again the unethical inner circle of City Government acted contrary to the express will of the people.”
Unethical is right.
Thank goodness for a new mayor who’s promised transparency. And for outlets like The Mercury, doing the important work once done by newspapers.