Case and Materials

Many Ways to Get There: Securing Public Investments in Richmond, Virginia

  • Authors Hung Vo, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian S. Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, Guhan Subramanian

Last Updated

Strategic Leadership and Management

North America, South Region, United States


When the mayor’s administration walked out of a city council budget meeting, the city council voted to pursue legal action against the mayor. Whether these were theatrics or negotiating tactics, the city was still awaiting an operating budget.

Learn the difference between positional bargaining and an interest-based approach in this case about how a city budget dispute in Richmond, Virginia “went off the rails”—and how it eventually came to a resolution.

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The City of Richmond elected Levar Stoney as its youngest mayor in 2016. Mayor Stoney campaigned for better-funded public schools, government accountability, and crime prevention. One of the mayor’s main responsibilities was to propose biannual budgets to a nine-member city council, which could approve the budget as proposed or pass it with amendments. This case illustrates Stoney’s efforts to increase Richmond’s real estate tax from $1.20 to $1.29 per $100 of assessed value. This tax increase was quickly rejected by a majority of city council members. Disagreements climaxed when the mayor’s administration walked out of a city council budget hearing, prompting council members to respond by voting to pursue legal action against Stoney.

This case focuses on how positional bargaining prevents creative deal-making when negotiators fail to understand the interests of other parties. By exploring Stoney’s relationship with city council, the case emphasizes the downsides of positional bargaining and the opportunities for better outcomes with an interest-based approach to negotiation. This case also introduces the four negotiation concepts of interests, options, criteria, and alternatives, and examines their relevance to city-level negotiations.

Learning Objectives

Recognize the difference between positions and interests and how to probe the interests of relevant parties.

Identify the risks of positional bargaining and analyze how negotiators become stuck in positional bargaining.

Analyze additional options available to the protagonist using an interest-based bargaining framework.

This case can be used on its own or as part of a set. For more information on the rest of the materials in the set, click here.

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