There Will Be No Casino: The Lessons of November 7th, 2023

by | Nov 9, 2023 | LETTER TO THE EDITOR, OPINION, RICHMOND POLITICS, VIRGINIA POLITICS

It’s over. Again. Richmond beat back the ghouls of predatory greed and political prostitution. After a battle, all seems eerily quiet. The quiet unsettles if not followed by the housekeeping of the battlefield – damage reports need filing, and new plans need unveiling. As we’re priming the land for rebirth, let us stop in reflection for a moment to process what we’ve done, and what we still have to do. 

For those that have lost hope in the face of Citizens United (the American engine for legalized bribery), understand us. There is no bribe, when faced with the overwhelming will of the populace, that can pay off. Our votes stack higher than greed. Our voices scream louder than money. We proved that.

By an overwhelming majority, Richmond denied the political class in this city, and their would be oligarch masters, the right to play dice with the lives and livelihoods of our most vulnerable. The powers that be poured millions of dollars into this effort. The countering forces in town could muster but a fraction of that war chest, instead collecting the minds and hearts those dollars were meant to buy. 

This is the first lesson. When all the campaigning is done, the ONLY thing that matters is who shows up to vote.

Once we’re done patting ourselves on the back, turn our attention to the stunned and downcast. Many, including the majority of the people in the direct shadow of the proposed casino, saw this project as a way up, a way out, and a way past the suspicious neglect our politicians have shown this community. Many of these people understood the risk involved in handing economic development to a wolf in sheep’s clothing but wanted it anyway. When drowning in the ocean, you get on the boat offering you a lifeline – even if the crew intends to rob you. 

For decades, they’ve been promised relief, a hand up from their Representatives, a seat at the planning table. They’ve been lied to, over and over again. Punked, derided, laughed at, and taken for rubes with no hope of agency over their own lives. “Just vote for the liberal, they’re compassionate and want the best for the downtrodden!” Right? “Vote conservative, and keep our investments low-risk!” Right? Every promise from either side, every single one, has been broken. Whichever side of the aisle you land on, this has to infuriate you. 

This is the second lesson. There is no politician or political party that deserves the benefit of the doubt on this issue. None. The time for putting up or shutting up is here. Now. 

Hold our leaders accountable. Throw them out when they lie to our faces. Hold the replacements to their word and throw them out too if they repeat the offense. When our representatives understand they are expendable, that their responsibilities are not negotiable, that our wills are impermeable, that we are watching them for malfeasance, we will get a new brand of representative. 

For the potential politician out there looking to lead – just follow through. That’s all we ask. As that is the basic bottom rung of the position, nothing short of that will be tolerated. 

This is the last lesson. Turning the adrenaline after a fight into the energy needed to build is essential. 

Let’s use this opportunity now to collect ideas for growth along the Richmond Highway corridor. Prioritize these more-than-patient people. Give them a reason to believe that their community cares for them. Start making those exploratory committees now. Start earmarking initiatives now. Start engaging with the locals on what they feel keeps them from thriving. Find out where they are thriving and highlight these elements. Send in the engineers. Send in the artists. Send the teachers. Build the farmers’ markets. Want to subsidize a corporation? Subsidize a grocery store. Extend bus lines to commercial areas with jobs. Give tax relief to the homeowners in the neighborhood. These are off the top of my head. 

Imagine what we could do if we actually cared. Oh, wait, we do care don’t we? IT’S TIME TO PROVE IT. 

Christian Detres

Christian Detres

Christian Detres has spent his career bouncing back and forth between Richmond VA and his hometown Brooklyn, NY. He came up making punk ‘zines in high school and soon parlayed that into writing music reviews for alt weeklies. He moved on to comedic commentary and fast lifestyle pieces for Chew on This and RVA magazines. He hit the gas when becoming VICE magazine’s travel Publisher and kept up his globetrotting at Nowhere magazine, Bushwick Notebook, BUST magazine and Gungho Guides. He’s been published in Teen Vogue, Harpers, and New York magazine to name drop casually - no biggie. He maintains a prime directive of making an audience laugh at high-concept hijinks while pondering our silly existence. He can be reached at christianaarondetres@gmail.com




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