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The No-Newseum page 2
Doug Wilder and The 'Burg: Can't we start over?

Date published: 6/18/2008


Until the last 48 hours, when museum honchos released a donors list, the posture of Mr. Wilder and museum magnificos toward city residents has been one of imperial hauteur. As Councilman Matt Kelly details on his blog (questeverything.blogspot.com), any "partnership" Fredericksburg has imagined with Mr. Wilder & Co. has been of the decidedly silent variety.

During the seven years since the former governor announced plans to open the museum in Celebrate Virginia, museum officials have told City Council almost nothing about how the project fares; they have largely boycotted the primary news medium for the city; they have even "gone dark" with the Silver Cos., a major museum contributor on whose property the facility is planned. This relationship isn't partner-to-partner. It's more like patrón-to-peon.

Mr. Wilder now seeks tax boons from the city worth $128,235 and may need a re-issued special-use height permit before construction can begin. Assuming that the tax exemption is legal, City Council should grant it, and take other favorable actions, only if Mr. Wilder and his associates agree to fully disclose the museum's progress (or lack thereof) both on a set schedule and when queried. A breach-of-contract suit should be drawn up and bee-lined to the courthouse if they again dummy up.

Cooperation would be to Mr. Wilder's benefit. Practicing it, he soon would find that enemies of the museum--whom he so far has defined as anyone who asks an inconvenient question--exist mostly in his own imagination. The people, politicians, and press of Fredericksburg can help him in his mission to tell American slavery's story--if he wins their goodwill.

As a strategy, conflict utterly failed Mr. Wilder in Richmond; with a chance at one last legacy, he should try something different here.

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