I’m noticing a fair amount of trackbacks on the earlier postings regarding the battle between Dave Ruttenberg and the City of Manassas Park, and it’s definitely worth a trip or two across a few of the national blogs who are picking up on this story. Many of them have devoted a lot of time and effort to this story, and are presenting a wealth of information that citizens in the area need to know.
First up is Radley Balko of The Agitator who has been following this for several years and has done a huge amount of digging:
OTB hit the ballot in Manassas Park in 1996. It lost, but by just 74 votes. Colonial Downs and the OTB proponents would be back for another shot, in eight years. But let’s stick with 1996 for just a moment. At the time, Rack n’ Roll owner David Ruttenberg started to wrap his brain around just how lucrative an OTB facility might be. Knowing the layout of the city, he figured his bar was sitting on land that would make an ideal location for a betting parlor.
Ruttenberg was right. The small, hour-glass shaped town of Manassas Park had been completely zoned out to new development on one side, and was filled with upper-income plots on the other — the type of homeowners who wouldn’t tolerate a gambling operation in the neighborhood. That left little else but Ruttenberg’s own shopping center. What’s more, the main highway into town ran right by the center. It wasn’t just an ideal location. It was really was the only location.
So Ruttenberg got together with the other major tenant of the shopping center and drew up an offer, which they sent to Colonial Downs. If the OTB resolution passed, the memo said, Ruttenberg and the other tenant would sell their businesses, their cooperation on their leases, and their consult to Colonial Downs for $5.25 million. I’ve seen a copy of the offer. This is important to keep in mind. Because it shows that Colonial Downs — and presumably by extension, the city of Manassas Park — knew that Mr. Ruttenberg was savvy, and that it was going to take a lot of money to get him to hand over his business and his lease. If they wanted that space in 2004, the 1996 offer proved they’d either have to pay him a lot of money, or find a way to throw him out.
Radley lays most of the story out in exacting detail, and fills in a lot of the missing pieces which have eluded many regular readers and which I have been working to substantiate. This post is a ‘must read’ for anyone trying to figure out how this whole improbable story started.
For the attorneys out there, FourthAmendment.com (see this update also) talks about the civil case that David Ruttenberg filed and has some discussion regarding how legally defensible it was to dismiss Ruttenberg’s case. My impression is that there’s a solid basis for appeal of the dismissal, and that there’s a good chance this will eventually go forward.
Finally, The Liberty Papers has a short post and has taken interest. They’ll be watching also.
As this starts to get national exposure, it ought to start getting pretty interesting for several folks in Manassas Park, and perhaps a for a few others beyond as well. Of particular note is that Balko is mentioning the name of Paul Ebert, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County and a major player in the Northern Virginia political scene and someone who has shown a remarkable disinterest in looking into this matter. Although there seems to be no evidence that Paul Ebert was involved in this in any way, his inexplicable failure to look into a case of official harassment, perjury and obstuction of justice where there is substantial evidence to support the allegations of impropriety is extremely troubling. It may indicate that this is a wider issue than just the somewhat obscure little locality of Manassas Park, and if so make this one of the bigger political stories for Northern Virginia this year.
When I return from vacation, we’re going to go to the videos, and see exactly what it looks like when corrupt officials take aim at the citizenry. It’s going to be interesting…
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