After weeks of buildup, the battle over Richmond's most famous ship is set for Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
The SS Red Oak Victory, a World War II cargo ship built in Richmond in 1944, is a beloved floating museum and among the popular sites of the city's Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
And the Richmond Museum of History, which owns the ship, has never paid the city rent since docking the Red Oak at the Port of Richmond in the late 1990s, thanks to a deal struck between the then-council and the museum. Museum leaders say the Red Oak draws tourist dollars and other economic and social benefits to the city.
But now, with the city facing a $2.9 million budget shortfall, Councilman Corky Booze wants the ship to cough up some cash. His proposal has mobilized fierce opposition.
"What a slap in the face to these citizens that a man elected to represent them and stand for what is good and best for all would propose such a consideration," reads a call-to-action letter on the museum website. "Please attend the City Council meeting on July 10th, make your voices heard -- stand up for justice and integrity ..."
Internet chatter has been heating up on the issue for weeks, with other neighborhood groups distributing their own denunciations of Booze's proposal.
But Booze is undeterred. He says the spot at the port is worth $10,000 per month, and estimates the city has lost out on more than
"How can we give away free rent when we are looking at cutting back jobs and basic services to our communities?" Booze said.
Opponents of Booze's proposal have also noted that the port has significant unused docking space, suggesting that if the Red Oak were not there, another rent-paying vessel would not replace it.
There appears to be little support among the rest of the council for Booze's agenda item, but a lengthy debate in the council chamber Tuesday is likely.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.
WHAT: Richmond City Council meeting
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Community Services Building, 440 Civic Center Plaza