Shining Sunlight on the Accomack Solar Project

Shining Sunlight on the Accomack Solar Project

Amazon's giant solar power plant will lighten the environmental footprint of the company's growing cluster of Northern Virginia data centers. It won't do much to lighten the tax burden of Accomack County.

Read More

Grid Pro Quo

Grid Pro Quo

The EPA wants to restructure Virginia’s electric grid. Skeptics argue that slashing CO2 emissions will drive electric bills higher. Environmentalists disagree. Who’s right?

Read More

Does Dominion Win or Lose from the New Law?

Does Dominion Win or Lose from the New Law?

Virginia's biggest power company could benefit from the freeze in electric rates but it also could take a big hit to earnings from power-plant shutdowns.

Read More

Was Bob McDonnell Convicted with Tainted Testimony?

Was Bob McDonnell Convicted with Tainted Testimony?

Jonnie Williams' trial testimony about a critical meeting with the former governor was contradictory, implausible and sometimes incoherent. But the jury bought it anyway

Read More

Building Connectivity in Suburbia

Building Connectivity in Suburbia

Sunnyvale, Calif., wants to reinvent a 60's-era industrial office park as an innovation district. It's making progress but suburban sprawl is not an easy habit to break.

Read More

A New Book On Recent Virginia History

Without trying to upset anyone, I can report that the dreaded left-leaning NYT has a book review that may interest some readers of this site. “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County” is reviewed in Sunday’s book review. The book,by Richmond resident Kristen Green is the story of how and why Prince Edward closed its public schools rather than integrate them in the wake of the Brown decision.

— Les Schreiber

The Boston Globe Visits Richmond

Slavery? What slavery>

Slavery? What slavery?

 By Peter Galuszka

An outside view is always welcome, especially in these incredible days when a lot of Southern mythology is being turned on its head.

Richmond is a great locus for the examination given its tortured history. The former Capital of the Confederacy (more by accident than anything else) is a true crucible.

The Boston Globe is running a series of articles from cities across the country examining how Americans citizens view their identities and how they are reacting to the fast-moving examination of slavery, the Civil War and the debates over its twisted symbols, especially the Confederate flag.

Globe reporter Michael Karnish starts with Ana Edwards, an African-American Richmonder, as she stands near the Jefferson Davis Monument on the city’s famed Monument Avenue packed with Confederate generals, Arthur Ashe and an aviator.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who led the insurrection against the United States, is praised as backing “Constitutional Principles” and “Defender of States Rights” (strangely similar to the conservative reaction to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage).

Nowhere is it inscribed about what the war was all about – slavery.

You might go down to Shockoe Bottom for that. It was once the second busiest slave trading market in the country. There’s a site for an old gallows, a “Burial Ground for Negroes.” Lumpkin’s Jail. Ghosts of about 350,000 slaves “sent downriver from Richmond over a 35-year period before the Civil War.

One of them was Anthony Burns, 19, who escaped to Boston in 1853 but was arrested under a fugitive law and after lots of public demonstrations, was returned to Richmond with federal troops at the ready. He ended up in Lumpkin’s Jail.

There’s not a lot in Richmond to remind about slavery. In fact, when one drives north across the James River on Interstate 95, the Virginia Holocaust Museum makes a bigger impression even though Virginia had nothing to do with the Nazi Final Solution.

The Globe reporter does a fair job of contrasting Carytown, the chic and artsy shopping district (that goes hand to mouth with the city’s annoying fetish for fancy food and craft beer) with other parts of the city that are chock full of impoverished people. One out of every four Richmonders is officially poor.

Mayor Dwight Jones, an African-American, discusses his plans to eliminate public housing and fill it with mixed-use and mixed-income developments.

The next page to turn will be the UCL World Cycling Championship where 1,000 international cyclists will converge on Richmond for nine days in September. It is expected to draw 450,000 spectators (as the promoters insist they be called). Jones is a big promoter.

But plans are to have the cyclists zip past the 1907-era Confederate generals and Jefferson Davis on the city’s most famous avenue about 16 times before video cameras that will be broadcast globally. What kind of impression will that make? Given Richmond’s enormous and unresolved image problems and insecurity, can it simply and politely avoid facing the past as it has for 150 years and expect everyone else to go along with it?

I wouldn’t expect Mayor Jones to come up with an answer since he has failed to do much to put a slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom, the most appropriate spot for it. Instead, he was pushing some kind of museum along with an expensive project including a minor league baseball stadium and bars and restaurants.

To be sure, I am not completely sure people or newspapers from Boston have a lock on any moral compass. I went to college there for four years in the early 1970s and heard so much self-righteous nonsense that I began to think of myself as a Southerner.

After all, in the fall of 1974, just after I graduated and went back to North Carolina, Boston erupted into racial violence over court-ordered busing to integrate its de facto segregated schools.

In this case, however, the Globe has a good perspective on Richmond. It is a valuable addition to the debate.

Virginia Bleeds Red, White and Blue

Source: WalletHub

You’ve got to take these WalletHub listicles with a grain of salt, but the recent ranking of 2015’s most and least patriotic states was just too good to pass up for the 4th of July. Yes, friends, if WalletHub is to be believed, Virginia is the most patriotic of the 50 states!

WalletHub bases its ranking not on what people say they feel but on what they do. Half the patriotism rating consists of “military engagement”: what percentage of residents enlist in the military, consists of veterans and is comprised of active-duty personnel?

The other half consists of “civic engagement”: What percentage votes, volunteers, joins the Peace Corps? And what is the frequency of Google searches for American flags?

fireworksRed states are somewhat more patriotic than the blue states, according to WalletHub. That’s no surprise considering that progressives and liberals are more likely to pride themselves as being cosmopolitan citizens of the world and are less likely to believe “my country, right or wrong.”

The methodology is pretty arbitrary. There are many ways for people to demonstrate their patriotism not included in this methodology. Regardless, as one who holds patriotism to be a great virtue, I’m pleased to see that Virginia tops the list.



Dominion’s Curious Power Plan

The North Anna nuclear plant

The North Anna nuclear plant

Peter Galuszka

Dominion Virginia Power is taking a tepid approach towards planning its future generating units, as evidenced by its submission this week of its 2015 integrated resource plan to the State Corporation Commission.

As such, it claims it is in a “transitory” phase that will rely on natural gas as a “stop gap” measures as it waits to see what will happen with proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

To that end, it plans on building a new $1.3 billion natural gas plant in the Greensville County area and rely on shifting coal units at Chesterfield Power Station (the state’s largest single air polluter) to gas and also at a few other spots. The new gas plant will generate 1,600 megawatts.

The other news in the submission is that wind is out as far as Dominion is concerned. It has dumped a small prototype project off of Virginia Beach claiming that cost estimates came in at double the original $230 million or so for 12 megawatts of power.

Solar gets more respect – such as adding up to 4,000 of solar-based megawatts for about $4.3 billion.

What’s truly puzzling is that Dominion apparently says that a third nuclear unit at North Anna would run $7.2 billion. It is the first time, I’ve ever seen any figure from them and it seems very much low-balled. The Sierras Club puts its price as higher than $10 billion.

A case in point is Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Georgia, which is adding two nukes to two existing ones. It has had cost overruns of about $4billion. The early estimates were about $7 billion each for the two reactor units. So, what will North Anna Three really cost?

And, by the way, for all penny-pinching conservatives out there who believe that government handouts are totally wrong, they only give you a fraction of the story. The federal government is putting up $6.5 billion on loan guarantees for the project. This would be on top of the billions over billions of dollars the feds have put into nuke power since the days of the Manhattan Project. One hears much whining on this blog about how it is utterly foolish to subsidize renewables in any way.

A couple of last points.

Dominion is hot-to-trot to build its controversial $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Yet the new Greensville gas plant can easily be served by the existing Transco pipeline. If that’s true, why is it so urgent for an entirely new pipeline that will run past in the general area? Dominion insists this is not the case, but I can’t get the idea out of my head that ACP gas is for exports. If so, why are we mucking up bucolic Nelson County so some multi-nationals can scarf up some bucks or Euros or yuan or yen so Mumbai had have more power?

Also, I haven’t gone through the Dominion report line by line, but it seems that it is devoid of any emotional hysteria that one often sees from opponents of renewable power.

If so, then why was it so absolutely urgent in the last General Assembly for Dominion to ram through a bill that relieves them from SCC audits for five years? I still cannot figure what that was all about.

Industrial groups, supported by Dominion, made a boogy man of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which, in truth, is just a draft. We should know later this year what the real rules will be.

Where’s the hysteria now? And remember, folks, when you read this, remember that I am free of any monetary sponsorship by Dominion.

Beware the Cultural Totalitarians

Brad Avakian, closet totalitarian

Brad Avakian, Oregon’s closet totalitarian

by James A. Bacon

Among my less useful accomplishments in life, I earned a Masters degree in African history at the Johns Hopkins University, an interdisciplinary program merging history and anthropology. Among the few useful perspectives I gained was an appreciation of the extraordinary plasticity of family forms throughout history and across the world. There are patrilineal societies (which are organized around the father’s kinship group) and matrilineal societies (organized around the mother’s). There are patrilocal societies (in which the wife moves in with the husband’s family), matrilocal societies (the husband moves in with the wife’s family), avunculocal societies (newlyweds move into the residence of the wife’s uncle) and neolocal societies (in which the newly married set up their own abode).

Don’t even get me started about polygamy (marriage between a man and multiple women) and polyandry (one wife, more than one husband). You get the idea. The traditional American family in which couples trace descent through the parents of both spouses and form their own residence is far from universal, and it is hardly the only form of marriage that is capable of raising children to become productive members of society. That’s why, as much as I revere my cultural heritage of marriage between a man and a woman, I don’t see gay marriage as leading to social disintegration. If you fear social disintegration, a far bigger threat is the American welfare state, which has substituted the nexus of government entitlements for the bonds uniting man and woman.

Unlike my conservative peers, I don’t get exercised about gay marriage, at least if it evolves organically from changes in social norms as played out in the legislative process. I do have a problem with gay marriage being imposed nationally by judicial decree by five Supreme Court justices. And I have a huge problem in which the proponents of gay marriage harness the power of government to squelch those who fail to truckle to the new orthodoxy. The political Left has a totalitarian instinct that is a far greater threat to the American way of life than gay marriage ever will be.

Emboldened by their success in legalizing gay marriage, the American Left has moved way beyond the proposition of equal rights for gays. Progressives are moving to impose their views on dissenters, including those who, for reasons of religious conviction, decline to provide floral, catering or other services to gay weddings.

The latest case in point comes from Oregon. According to the Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to a gay couple. Their crime: refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake. His justification: “This case … is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.” Moreover:

In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs. …

“The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation,” Avakian wrote.

Lawyers for plaintiffs, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, argued that in making this statement, the Kleins violated an Oregon law banning people from acting on behalf of a place of public accommodation (in this case, the place would be the Kleins’ former bakery) to communicate anything to the effect that the place of public accommodation would discriminate.

Thus, gay rights trump freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Avakian’s action is a national outlier now. But I fear it will become the norm. Many progressives, like Avakian, are closet totalitarians. They will not be satisfied simply to allow gays to marry — they will not rest until dissenting views are driven underground.

Could such a thing happen in Virginia? I hope not. But I can tell you this: While I support gay marriage, I will oppose with every fiber of my being any effort to extinguish the freedoms of religion and speech of Americans who oppose it.

More Gas in Dominion’s Electric Power Future

The combined cycle process

The combined cycle process. Image credit: Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems

by James A. Bacon

Dominion Virginia Power asked the State Corporate Commission yesterday for regulatory approval to build a $1.3 billion natural gas-fired power station in Greensville County. The station will generate about 1,600 megawatts, a substantial addition to the power company’s existing 17,600 megawatt fleet.

Combined-cycle technology represents an advance over older gas-fired facilities by running waste heat through a second generator to create additional electricity. The process extracts more heat from a cubic foot of gas and emits less carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated. The station also will have lower water usage and wastewater discharge, Dominion says.

“Our analysis shows that over the life of this station our customers should save more than $2 billion versus the projected cost for purchasing the same amount of power for customers off the regional power grid,” said David Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation in a press statement. “It will be highly efficient, low cost and very reliable. It will also have excellent environmental attributes and an extremely favorable location for fuel and transmission service.”

In a statement released yesterday, a coalition of four environmental groups addressed Dominion’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 15-year outlook of the company’s fuel and facility mix. The statement did not mention the Brunswick facility directly but listed three principles for achieving the objectives of the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft Clean Power Plan, which sets a preliminary target of 38% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The statement called for full disclosure of the company’s carbon emissions, greater attention to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s goal of reducing energy consumption 10% by 2020, and greater emphasis on renewable energy.

At least one of the environmental groups, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, is on record opposing an earlier gas-fired plant proposed by Dominion in Brunswick County. “Relying more heavily on natural gas is not how we want to power our state. Energy efficiency is cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than gas-fired power plants and provides 21st century jobs.”

Both the Brunswick and Greensville plants are included in all scenarios of Dominion’s 2015 IRP. That plan laid out a low-cost scenario, which would not meet EPA goals, as the basis for cost comparison, and proposed four alternate scenarios emphasizing different fuels, including solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas co-fire to supplement existing coal-fired plants. The following elements are common to all four scenarios:

  • The natural gas-fired, combined-cycle Brunswick Power Station, with a generating capacity of nearly 1.7 MW, to be completed in 2016.
  • A second combined-cycle plant in Greensville County, with a generating capacity of nearly 1.6 MW, to be completed in 2019.
  • Retrofit of the 790 MW oil-fired unit 5 at Possum Point Power Station with pollution controls to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
  • Retirement of Yorktown Power Station’s two coal-fired units with a combined generating capacity of 320 MW by 2016.

Dominion also envisions integrating more solar, wind and energy efficiency into its long-range plans. These initiatives include:

  • 400 MW (nominal capacity) of company-owned solar capacity, including the announced 20 MW Remington Solar facility by 2020.
  • 400 MW (nominal capacity) of solar capacity owned by non-utility generators (NUGs) by 2017.
  • 16 MW (nominal capacity) installed on customers’ property through the Solar Partnership Program.
  • 12 MW (nominal capacity) Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project by 2019.
  • 611 MW reduction in peak demand through implementation of demand-side management programs by 2030.

The most cost-effective green energy alternative on a risk-adjusted basis is solar power, Dominion concluded in its IRP. (See “Here Comes the Sun.”) However, the report emphasized that assessment does not take into account the expense associated with upgrading the power grid to handle rapid fluctuations in supply caused by clouds. The IRP also concluded that wind power was the most expensive of the four alternatives.

Closing the Books on the U.S. 460 Fiasco

us460The state will recover $46 million from US 460 Mobility Partners for work never performed on a 55-mile highway between Petersburg and Suffolk, reports the Virginian-Pilot. Under the settlement negotiated with the McAuliffe administration, US 460 will keep about $210 million of the payments it received under former Governor Bob McDonnell but waive an additional $103 million it could have been owed under the contract.

The settlement allows both sides to avoid a lengthy court fight.  The payments were made under a $1.4 billion contract to build an Interstate-quality highway on U.S. 460 to improve transportation access to Hampton Roads. Construction never commenced because the state could not obtain necessary wetlands permits from the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers. The McAuliffe administration does not dispute that US 460 billed and received the money legally, but argues that the company did not spend all money it received while waiting for the permitting issues to be resolved.

The final tally: US 460 keeps $210 million, and the state eats about $43 million spent on its own work developing the project. The total cost for a road never built: $253 million. Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne had guesstimated that the bungled project could cost the state $300 million to $400 million.

The settlement closes the books on one of biggest contracting fiascoes in recent Virginia history. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Transportation has developed a scaled-down plan to build a 12-mile highway between Suffolk and Windsor and make other improvements to U.S. 460. That plan is expected to cost in the realm of $400 million.


Taking The Statues Down

stalin By Peter Galuszka

In 1993, I was stumbling along the rough concrete sidewalks of Alma Ata, then the  capital of the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. I was late for an interview with an official of what was now an independent nation rich in oil, natural gas and uranium.

The street map I had was old. I stopped a Kazakh woman in a kerchief and asked, “Is this Lenin Street?”

“Not anymore,” she replied. “It is Apple Street.”

Therein lies a small history lesson. Every human society, it doesn’t matter, where undergoes a major reassessment of how its humanity squares with its history.

The former Soviet Union is an excellent example. Its architect, V.I. Lenin, was a brilliant organizer but a killer. Josef Stalin murdered at least 20 million (who’s counting?) during the Great Purge and later in the war against Hitler.

Time and again, the old USSR and now the Russian Federation would undergo a change in leadership and the statutes would come down. They did when Stalin died in 1953 in Eastern Europe. Russians were shocked when new chieftain Nikita Khrushchev gave his liberal-minded “Secret Speech” in 1956 denounced Stalin. When another liberal, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, came to power in 1985, he pushed the national conversation even further.

By that time, I was reporting there for an international magazine. I visited a tractor factory in the town of Vladimir in 1987. Its very bright deputy director who would go on the Harvard Graduate School of Business, smirked uneasily when he said the factory was still named after Andrei Zhdanov.

He didn’t need to mention that Zhdanov was a Stalin thug who oppressed artists like Anna Akhmatova and Dmitri Shostakovich. He also was instrumental in starting the great purge of the 1930s during which 1.5 million people were imprisoned and more than 680,000 were shot.

The old statues really started to come down after the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. The Zhdanov plant got a new name (although the way things are going under Vladimir Putin, the statues are starting to go back up).

So, what’s may point? That all societies need to air their history and their myths – including the ones that white Southerners have clung to for yours. Are some so arrogant as to claim they are above what other nations undergo?

Mother Jones, one of my favorite magazines, has story listing just how many streets, schools and public buildings are named after dubious characters. In Jacksonville, Fla., they renamed a high school named after Nathan. Bedford Forrest, a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and founder of the Ku Klux Klan. North Carolina has renamed school facilities named after former Gov. Charles Aycock, a white supremacist.

And for the truly strange, look no farther than Richmond. The Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School is on a street named after John Singleton Mosby, a famous Confederate cavalry raider.

Here Comes the Sun

Solar panel harness energy of the sun

by James A. Bacon

By some measures, solar energy looks like the most cost-effective path for Virginia’s electric utilities to achieving Environmental Protection Agency targets for reduction in CO2 emissions. A solar-intensive scenario has the lowest average levelized cost of four alternative scenarios explored in the 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) published by Dominion Virginia Power today. But the power company still has major concerns about how the inherently variable power source could be safely integrated into the power grid.

Dominion submits an annual IRP to the State Corporation Commission providing a 15-year outlook on what facilities and fuels will best meet customers’ electricity needs at the lowest cost in an efficient and reliable manner. Despite reservations, the 2015 plan views solar more favorably than did the 2013 plan.

Dominion had to grapple with big uncertainties in the 2015 study because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet set final targets for Virginia to reduce its CO2 emissions. The targets in the draft EPA guidelines call for Virginia utilities to make 38% reductions by 2030. But the McAuliffe administration and the State Corporation Commission pleaded for relief on the grounds that the draft targets were so stringent. The EPA is expected to issue final rules next month.

Dominion explored four broad strategies for attaining the draft EPA goal: a solar plan with a high concentration of solar resources; a co-fire plan, using natural gas to reduce the carbon intensity of eight coal-powered units; a nuclear plan, which would construct a third nuclear unit at North Anna Three; and a wind plan, with significant on-shore and off-shore wind development.

Dominion did not recommend any one plan over the others. A letter accompanying the submission of the IRP said that other plans, or even hybrids of the plans, might be considered.

A portfolio risk assessment of the four plans factoring in such variables as natural gas prices, coal prices, electricity demand, CO2 emission prices and capital costs over a 25-year period showed that the levelized average cost for solar exceeded that of the “least cost” plan (which would not achieve EPA compliance), but it was the least expensive of the four alternatives. Wind was the most expensive.


According to the cover letter, the cost of compliance above the least-cost scenario range from $4.3 billion for Plan A: Solar to $15.3 billion for Plan D: Wind. However, the IRP stressed the hazards of integrating a large amount of solar power into the electric grid. The problem stems from the intermittent nature of solar — it generates electricity only when the sun is shining. States the IRP:

The intermittent availability of solar energy due to cloud passage causes sporadic injections of energy into the grid, impacting key network parameters, including frequency and voltage. While the grid may not be adversely impacted by the small degree of variability resulting from a few distributed PV (photovoltaic) systems, larger levels of penetration across the network or high concentrations of PV in a small geographic area will make it difficult to maintain frequency and voltage within specified limits. Addressing grid integration issues is a necessary prerequisite for the long-term viability of PV generation as an alternative energy resource.

Significant resources would have to be dedicated to maintaining grid reliability in the face of the wide variability in solar output. Development of a technology to store solar power, which would help level out power flows, is “paramount,” Dominion says.

The anticipated growth of solar PV energy generation will result in significant challenges to the Company’s grid as well as the interregional grid as a whole. … The industry needs an understanding of the critical threshold levels of solar PV where significant system changes could occur. The nature and estimated cost of those changes are still unknown at this stage, but these costs, particularly at the higher penetration levels, could be substantial.

In a statement released before Dominion’s IRP went public, a coalition of environmental groups said that Dominion and Appalachian Power Co., which also submitted its 2015 IRP today, need to make “utility-scale investments” in offshore wind and solar energy, while also making it easier for customers to generate their own solar-generating resources on their own property.

“Dominion has stated that building solar is beneficial for customers because it is cheaper than market purchases of of a grid that consists primarily of coal and natural gas,” says the press release under the name of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Yet all renewable resources in Dominion’s territory amount to just 2% of the company’s energy mix. Dominion’s latest proposal for a new 20-megawatt solar farm in Remington, Virginia, equates to just one-tenth of 1% of Dominion’s 17,500-megawatt generation fleet.”

The statement did not address the impact of large-scale solar development upon the reliability of the electric grid.


Richmond City Hall

Richmond City Hall

by James A. Bacon

Fiscal Year 2015 in Virginia came to a close yesterday but the City of Richmond still had not filed its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for FY 2014, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The report provides an audited overview of revenues, spending, assets and debts critical to appraising a locality’s financial condition.

The City of Richmond is one of only three localities still to have failed to issue the report, the filing deadline for which was seven months ago. With a population of 218,000, Richmond is by far the most populous of the three, which includes poverty-stricken Wise County (pop. 40,000) and the town of Dumfries (pop. 5,100).

“A ten-month delay for something that should be a basic function of government is unconscionable,” said City Councilman Jonathan T. Baliles. “This is what happens when you ignore the fundamentals of government.”

City officials, reports the TD, have cited employee turnover, a lack of training and challenges in implementing a new financial system as reasons for this year’s delay. In other words, city officials blame dysfunctional management.

The problems did not materialize overnight, however. The city issued emergency procurement documents for outside help from an independent consultant to ensure timely completion of the 2013 CAFR. Payments to that consultant have risen from an anticipated $95,000 to $295,000 under  March contract extension.

Shortly thereafter, the city’s auditing firm, Cherry Bekaert, fired the city as a client. According to the TD, partner Eddie Burke cited “a high-risk, dysfunctional working environment that ‘has continually gotten worse every year.'” Ask yourself: How bad did the situation have to be for a midsize CPA firm to turn down a $320,000 annual contract?

Bacon’s bottom line: As Baliles says, balancing the books is fundamental. Add this failure to a string of other spending and administrative scandals over the past few years, and it seems pretty clear that government in Virginia’s capital city is a mess. It wasn’t always this way. Long-time residents remember when Robert C. Bobb ran the city in the 1980s as one of the most effective city managers in the country.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of one person — the mayor — to ensure that the city functions properly. While Mayor Dwight C. Jones is good at striking the right rhetorical chords on a variety of issues, he has proven ineffectual as an executive.

I admire Jones’ response to the controversy over the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy, including the statues along Monument Avenue. “Rather than tearing down,” he said recently, “we should be building up in ways that establish a proper sense of balance and fairness by recognizing heroes from all eras to tell a richer and more accurate story of Virginia’s history.” Those are the words of a uniter and a healer, not a divider.

But I’m concerned that Jones doesn’t have much interest in the nuts and bolts of government. Perhaps that is understandable considering that he has divided his time between his responsibilities as mayor, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church and for a year, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. But when he does focus on his mayoral duties, instead of making sure the trains run on time, Jones has promoted high-profile projects like the Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium, the Washington Redskins training park and the World Road Cycling Championship.

Private investors are pouring money into the city. What most of them want to see, however, isn’t wheeling and dealing that rewards a privileged few. They want to see a city that does the things that cities are supposed to do. Like close out the books on time.