Author Archives: Groveton

The Suburbs Strike Back!

New Apple Campus

Apple’s planned 2.8M sq ft suburban corporate campus

Not the Apple of Jim’s eye. Jim Bacon and his ilk have made a cottage industry of championing the new urbanism. In a recent column on this blog Bacon waved Bye Bye to the suburbs starting with a picture of a presumably suburban building with a footer that read, “Out: Nerdistans.”  The crux of the column’s thesis was summed up by this quote:

“The showcase headquarters of the past, the beautiful suburban campuses — that’s a very obsolete model now,” Patrick Phillips, CEO of the Urban Land Institute, told the Journal.

Obsolete? Let’s turn our gaze westward rather than inward. Let’s see how technology companies like Apple are dealing with this obvious obsolescence of the suburban campus.

Battlestar Suburbia. On Oct. 15, 2013 the city council of Cupertino, CA unanimously approved Apple’s plans to build a 2.8 million square foot corporate campus in their city. Let’s look at Cupertino.  Cupertino is a small city (population 58,000, density 5,200 per sq mi) in Santa Clara County, CA. Santa Clara County is the heart of Silicon Valley. The county has a substantial population (1.7M) and a very suburban population density (1,400 per sq mi). The largest city in Santa Clara County is San Jose. San Jose has a population of just under one million and a population density of 5,500 per sq mi. Cupertino is 10.3 miles from the center of San Jose.  A photograph of Apple’s new campus accompanies this article. Meanwhile, one of Apple’s arch competitors (Samsung), has broken ground on a new 385,000 sq ft corporate campus just up the road in Mountain View, CA.  So much for the “obsolescence” of corporate campuses. Facebook has also announced plans to expand its corporate campus in the very suburban Menlo Park, CA.

Life outside “The Valley.”  The corporate campus craze is alive and well in the oil and gas industry, especially in Houston. Some will say, “Ah ha, Houston is a city.” Well, Houston is a city, but a very large city.  Covering an area of 627 sq mi the city of Houston is about the same size as “core” Northern Virginia.  And with a population density of 3,600 per square mile the City of Houston has a similar population density to “core” NoVa. Are the oil and gas companies building relatively small, compact, headquarters that blend in with the “core urban environment”? Not in the case of Exxon. Exxon is building a 385-acre corporate campus inside the city/county of Houston with seemingly palatial perks such as their new workout facility. Sorry, “wellness center.”

Clearing the Amazon. Amazon, the retail and high tech giant, is also building a huge new corporate campus. However, this campus will be inside the city limits of Seattle. Seattle is a “real city” by my definition (at least 300,000 people with a population density of at least 5,000 per sq mi). Seattle has a population of just under 700,000 and a density of 7,200 per square mile. And, in a move sure to warm the cockles of Jim Bacon’s heart, Amazon did not ask for a single tax break.

Rippert’s Readout. The news of the death of corporate campuses is greatly exaggerated. Major corporate campus construction is occurring in both suburban and urban locales. However, when discussing these trends, one must always remember the “Virginia rule.” The “Virginia rule” states that rules which govern the rest of the United States do not apply to the bizarre-O land we have created here in Virginia. For example, we have no real cities (population of at least 300,000 with a population density of at least 5,000 per square mile). We have no urban cores.  The closest urban core to Virginia is Washington, D.C. So, trends which call for people, companies or pet rocks to move to urban cores don’t really apply to Virginia. In fact, they are trends which indicate that the people, companies or pet rocks will probably leave Virginia.

-D.J. Rippert

An open letter to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling

Dear Lieutenant Governor Bolling:

I read your Op-Ed piece in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch with great interest.  In that article you outlined five points:

  1. 2013 was a disaster for the RPV.  Moreover, it was only the latest disaster for a party that has been in decline for decades.
  2. The population center of Virginia has shifted and the RPV’s rural-centric philosophy will no longer win elections.
  3. The demographics of Virginia are changing and the RPV is not.
  4. Closed conventions suck.
  5. No single philosophy or ideology can dominate Republican thinking to the exclusion of other Republican ideologies.

It is well written, insightful, cooly logical and …. doomed to fall on deaf ears.

Sir, the Republican Party of Virginia is broken beyond repair.  Or, at least, it is broken beyond any hope of repair during what’s left of your political life.  The Tea Party exerts sufficient control to keep the closed convention lunacy in place for years to come.  That closed convention philosophy, in turn, will guarantee extremist candidates from the Republican Party of Virginia.

There is another way. America in general and Virginia in particular are ready for a viable third party. Previous attempts at third party politics in the Commonwealth have been well intentioned but ill conceived.  Here’s the plan:

  • Pick our fights.  There are House of Delegates and State Senate seats that are ready for a viable third party candidate. We only run in those districts. Robert Sarvis tried to go from “zero to governor.”  That will not work. We need to start by focusing on specific House and Senate seats. We can do this
  • Conserve our cash. It costs about $200,000 to run a successful House of Delegates campaign. It costs about $1,200,000 to run a successful State Senate campaign. Roughly speaking, we raise enough money to attack 10 House districts and 2 Senate districts.  That’s $4.4M. With some funding for the party infrastructure we need about $5M. We can do this.
  • Lead with leaders. Nominating unknown people with no political experience will fail. We need to draw from the large body of moderate Republicans disaffected by the Tea Party and the equally large body of moderate Democrats disaffected by the Obama regime. Obviously, you would be a perfect leader for this new party. We can do this.
  • No bizarre policies. The Libertarians have made inroads against the tyranny of the two parties. Yet they have failed. In some ways their failure has been due to extreme policies. We will not seek to “end the Fed.” We do not want to legalize heroin. We will build a fiscally conservative, socially moderate platform with reasonable boundaries. We can do this.

This will not be easy. This will not happen quickly. This will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But it will work. From a foothold in the House and Senate we will work in future election cycles to raise more money and elect more politicians. We will get to a point where no legislation will pass without concurrence of at least two of the three parties in Virginia. We will be the moderating influence on both the left and right. Eventually we will be in a position to campaign credibly for state-wide offices, including offices in the federal government.

Someday in the distant future our descendants will peer into whatever electronic devices they use to learn American history. There will be a chapter devoted to the death of the two party tyranny in America. Let it be your picture that accompanies that lesson.

Very truly yours,

– DJ Rippert

More bad news for Virginia’s economy

uncle samThe Sage of Short Pump?  Jim Bacon (and others) have been questioning whether Virginia’s economy will continue to perform well for quite some time.  Beyond his epic tome Boomergeddon Bacon recently penned an article on this blog entitled “Sub Par Economic Growth for Virginia in 2012.”  Bacon’s missive came just over a month after my own foray into Virginia’s new economic reality – “Is Virginia’s Economy Tanking?”  These articles generated some lively discussion both here at Bacon’s Rebellion and over at The Tysons Corner with this well considered rebuttal from Frank Muraca.  Unfortunately, it now seems that Governor McDonnell and Governor-elect McAuliffe have checked in as pessimists on this debate.

Pre-budget prenuptials.  Gov. Bob McDonnell recently convened his annual meeting of the Virginia Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates.  In the interests of bi-partisanship Governor McDonnell invited Governor-elect McAuliffe to this year’s meeting.  One suspects that neither man was very happy with what was said.  The Roanoke Times is reporting that McDonnell came out of the meeting saying that the Virginia forecast “reflects a slightly more pessimistic scenario” than for the rest of the country.  Uh oh. There are a number of articles in the mainstream media like this one questioning the strength of the national economy in 2014.  And Virginia will be worse? Governor-elect McAuliffe may want to see if his old job at GreenTech is still available, if that’s the case.

Sequestration aberration.  The Roanoke Times article places a lot of the blame for the predicted sub-par performance on Washington, D.C., saying:

“The deal requires $19 billion in defense cuts that are set to drop, meat-cleaver style, in mid-January. The Pentagon warns this will devastate important military functions. It surely will hurt Virginia’s defense-heavy economy.”

Live by the sword …  Personally, I am far less willing to simply blame the federal government for not spending enough money in Virginia. Not only has federal spending been increasing for decades, federal spending as a percentage of the GDP has been going up, up up.  Is it really fair to claim that Virginia’s economic growth concerns are due to a lack of sufficient federal largesse?  I think not.  The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond has made no effective progress in reducing Virginia’s addiction to the federal teat.  In fact, we are more addicted than ever.

Looking back.  A succession of Virginia governors and General Assemblies have tried one half-baked economic development idea after another.  From Mark Warner’s unrequited love affair with wireless carriers and dot com commandos to Tim Kaine’s dusting of tobacco money over the countryside like sprinkles on a summer cone, the Democrats have come up short.  McDonnell’s Energy Capital of the East Coast fared no better.  One can only hope that super-salesman Terry McAuliffe has the right stuff to start separating Virginia’s lips from Uncle Sam’s butt.

– D.J. Rippert

Creigh Deeds in critical condition after being stabbed

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting that Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Hot Springs, has been stabbed at home and is in critical condition. He has been transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center for treatment. Deeds’ son Gus is apparently dead of a gunshot wound.

See the article here.

I know I speak for everybody at Bacon’s Rebellion in saying that the hopes and prayers of everybody here go out to Creigh Deeds and the Deeds family at the time of this horror.

-D.J. Rippert

A video primer on American healthcare

Whirling dervish.  This hyper-kinetic fellow churns out more facts and good common sense in 7:53 than Nancy Pelosi has managed in her lifetime.

-D.J. Rippert

Is it “game over” for the RPV?

game overBy DJ Rippert

Spin cycle.  The election is less than a week past, the Democratic Party seems to be on the verge of winning all three state-wide races and the Tea Party faithful are in full denial.  Here’s a smattering of the rampant excuse making going on in some RPV circles:

We beat the spread.  Some Republicans are throwing their shoulders out of joint trying to pat themselves on the back for only losing by two and a half percentage points rather than the 8 – 12% that some polls predicted.  Wow.  The RPV ran a multi-term state senator, sitting Attorney General and darling of the national Tea Party.  The Democratic Party ran a candidate who lost his party’s primary badly in 2009, has never held elected office and seems to be perpetually mired in some scandal or another.  And many Republicans are celebrating the “closer than expected” election.  Let me get that little “L” hand signal up to my forehead.

Poor, poor pitiful me.  Many RPV types are decrying the lack of financial support from the national Republican Party.  The RNC, in turn, says it didn’t see a lot of fundraising success from the RPV.  Since when did the Republicans become the impoverished party?  The wealthiest congressional district in America is Virginia’s 10th district.  That district has re-elected Republican Frank Wolf every two years since 1980.  Since 1984 Wolf has averaged 67% of the vote in his 15 consecutive victories.  The RPV lacks competence, not potential donors.

McAuliffe’s gain is Warner’s loss.  I am not making this up – there is a vein of RPV diehards who claim that Cuccinelli’s loss to McAuliffe last week sets him up to defeat Mark Warner for US Senate in 2014.  If Obamacare spontaneously turns into fissile material, reaches critical mass and explodes in a national nuclear explosion – Warner would still win.  RPV reality check – if you can’t beat McAuliffe, you can’t beat Warner.

The butler Lt Governor did it.  Under this theory Cuccinelli would have won if only the guy he screwed in the primary / convention fiasco went out and campaigned for him.  Maybe the RPV can hire Richie Incognito as its director of political strategy.

Back to reality.  The Republican Party of Virginia got its ass kicked because it is a broken down disaster of a political party.  Here’s some reality:

Wrong candidates.  The RPV decided to reenact the Cantina Scene from the original Star Wars rather than hold a primary.  By the time the critical last ballots were cast two thirds of the delegates had gone home.  What a different election it would have been if Bill Bolling and Pete Snyder had been at the top of the RPV ticket.

Horrible campaigns.  Candidates need to raise money.  The Republicans failed.  Cuccinelli’s sole strategy of painting McAuliffe as corrupt disintegrated as each and every new Star Scientific and CONSOL misdeed came to light.  Yet the Cuccinelli campaign never changed course.  Cuccinelli stood up and called McAuliffe a crony capitalist while Star Scientific money figuratively dropped out of his pockets.  EW Jackson never had a clue what he needed to do.

Civil war.  The Republicans in Virginia never stopped fighting each other.  They showed their true colors – petty, angry, adolescents who were only too happy to throw each under the bus.  Another reality check for the RPV – do you really think the Democratic Party of Virginia was fully and squarely behind Terry McAuliffe’s candidacy?  The RPV civil war started with Cucinelli trying to throw McDonnell under the bus for the transportation funding and never let up.  I see no reason to expect a change in behavior from the Republican politicians or activists in Virginia.

Maryland, my Maryland.  Virginia will look a lot like Maryland (politically speaking) within 10 years.  The Republicans have no cohesion, no leadership and no bench.  They have no chance of unseating Mark Warner and they may well lose Wolf’s seat when he retires (he’s 74).  The RPV will continue to lose a few HOD seats here and a few state senate seats there until Richmond becomes Annapolis South.

Final note: As an independent voter I have no interest in seeing Virginia become a “one party” state like Maryland.  However, the gross incompetence and culpable negligence of the Republican Party of Virginia is well on the way to making Virginia a Democratic Party stronghold for years to come.

 

Do you oppose Obamacare now, Senator Warner?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear.  “Let me make clear, I’m not going to support a health care reform plan that’s going to take away health care that you’ve got right now or a health plan that you like.”

What now, Marky Mark?  Sen. Warner clearly stated that he would not support a health care plan that that takes away what you’ve got right now. Obamacare clearly takes away what people have right now in millions of cases. Will Sen. Warner now oppose Obamacare or were his prior statements just so much hogwash?

– D.J. Rippert

This election may be far from over

Terry McAuliffe, Ken CuccinelliFor whom the poll tolls.  The conventional wisdom among Virginia political pundits has coalesced around the idea that Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson are going to lose to Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam.  The conventional wisdom goes on to declare that the attorney general’s race is a statistical dead heat.  Focusing on the top of the ticket, poll after poll showed Terry McAuliffe opening en ever widening lead over Ken Cuccinelli.  The high water mark of this punditry came in the form of a Washington Post poll showing McAuliffe +14 over Cuccinelli.  Even the hyper-conservative Bearing Drift blog revised their internal predictions to show the race all but over.  This had progressive enclaves throughout the Old Dominion popping champagne corks over the impending McAuliffe win.  Until yesterday.  Yesterday, a poll from the respected pollsters at Quinnipiac University had McAuliffe leading by only 4 points.  This prior Quinnipiac University poll from Oct 23 had McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by 8 points.  Uh oh!

Big guns show.  McAuliffe is bringing out the “big guns” as the campaign goes into the final week.  He’s been campaigning with former President Bill Clinton  and will also bring current President Barack Obama out to campaign over the weekend.  That’s a lot of firepower for a guy who is supposedly running away with the election.  The national Democratic Party has recently proven that it can’t build a web site to save its life (or your life if you’re one of the unfortunates who must use it).  However, that doesn’t mean that the Democrats lack a super sophisticated capability for reading voter sentiment.  They do possess such a capability and it seems to be telling them to “hit the gas” in Virginia.

Three’s a crowd.  One big wild card is the candidacy of Libertarian Party nominee Robert Sarvis.  He has held relatively steady across the last four Quinnipiac University polls with 9%, 10%, 8% and 7% of the vote (from most recent to least recent).  Historically, third party candidates poll better ahead of the election than they perform at the ballot box.  Most of Sarvis’ polling strength comes from Republicans.  Next Tuesday, Sarvis’ loss could be Cuccinelli’s gain.

But why?  Several things have happened to help Cuccinelli of late.  The governor’s chef pleaded no contest and took that embarrassment out of the limelight.  Bob McDonnell’s fate with federal prosecutors will not be decided before the election eliminating the possibility of an October surprise. Meanwhile, McAuliffe has chalked up another questionable business deal involving his investment in a life insurance scheme designed to make money from terminally ill people.  But the biggest news is Obamacare.

Was Ted Cruz right?  Cuccinelli took a drubbing for the closure of the federal government.  His bromance with Ted Cruz as well as other Tea Partiers made him the target of much anti-shutdown ire.  After all, what was wrong with these Republicans who would shut down the federal government just to delay Obamacare?  How bad could Obamacare possibly be?  Then, Obamacare launched.  The web site was a catastrophe.  It obviously had not been tested in any competent way.  Then, millions of individual insurance plans were canceled in direct contradiction to what President Obama and his followers said would happen.  Finally, it appears that the Obama administration knew full well that the individual plans would be canceled but continued to lie about those plans in order to curry public support.  Today, the federal shutdown is fading from memory while the failures of Obamacare are front and center.  In politics, timing is everything. 

Buckle your seat belts boys and girls – this election might be a lot more exciting than most people would have thought just a couple of weeks ago.

– D.J. Rippert

Fixing Virginia: Honesty + Efficiency = Prosperity, Part 1

prosperityIf you can’t say something nice … Don’t say anything at all.  That’s the advice my mom used to hand out to us kids.  My corollary in politics is – If you don’t like the positions of any of the candidates then put forth your own positions.  OK, let’s roll.

Staying on message.  My message for the reformation of Virginia can be summed up with a simple equation: Honesty (of state government) + Efficiency (of Virginia’s economy) = Prosperity (for Virginia).  In this article I will focus on the honesty issue plaguing our state government.  Subsequent articles will complete the explanation of the Honesty + Efficiency = Prosperity equation.

Honesty is the best policy.  Virginia has a stunning lack of honesty in its state government.  This dishonesty manifests itself in everything from a lack of effective checks and balances to the absurd pretense that gifts don’t come with strings attached to the State Corporation Commission’s exemption from the Freedom of Information Act to woefully uncompetitive elections.  What to do?

Checks and balances.

  1. Governor allowed to seek one second term which may be consecutive
  2. Term limits for State Senate (3 terms) and House of Delegates (6 terms)
  3. Nonpartisan nomination of judges (merit system), appointed by governor

Outside money.

  1. No gifts to elected officials beyond $100 per year except for immediate family
  2. No campaign contributions allowed from companies or industries that enjoy legislated competitive advantage (e.g. Dominion Virginia)
  3. All donations to individual politicians to be used by that politician or returned to donor
  4. Implement absolute limits on campaign contributions from individuals and corporations
  5. Elected or appointed officials may not lobby the state government for a period of two years after leaving office

Transparency.

  1. All government agencies subject to broad Freedom of Information Act requests
  2. All road construction projects of more than $50M to have detailed Return on Investment (ROI) analysis in the public domain for at least 180 days before any work begins
  3. Establish an independent ethics commission with subpoena power

More competitive elections.

  1. Move state elections to be concurrent with national elections including governor elected same year as president
  2. Dramatically reduce requirements for third parties to get on the ballot
  3. Re-districting to be performed by independent commission guided by mathematical district shaping models

Coming soon.  The next article in this series will lay out ideas on how the state government can make Virginia’s economy more efficient.  The final article will summarize why increased honesty in state government along with an increased efficiency in Virginia’s economy will bring enhanced prosperity to Virginians.

– D.J. Rippert

Cuccinelli unveils transportation plan

cooch road planBetter late than never.  Last June Ken Cuccinelli claimed that he would present his transportation plan “in the coming weeks”.  Four months later he delivered on that promise.  You can read his transportation plan here.

Fun with numbers.  On the surface, Cuccinelli’s plan seems to be substantial.  He wants to create a database of congestion metrics to throw some light on road building decisions.  He wants to devolve secondary roads to localities.  He wants to eliminate redundant transportation authorities.  It all sounds so good until you read the fine print.  He only wants to devolve roads to counties with 100,000 or more people.  There are nine such counties in Virginia – Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Chesterfield, Henrico, Arlington, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Hanover.  Of these nine counties two already maintain their own secondary roads (Arlington and Henrico).  So, Cuccinelli’s revolutionary transportation plan only applies to seven counties.  Or, maybe not.  Cuccinelli’s plan says, “Counties at the top of the list would be Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, and Chesterfield.”.  It’s unclear why Stafford, Spotsylvania and Hanover counties weren’t included on Ken’s short list.  It’s equally unclear why low population cities in Virginia can maintain their own roads but counties with fewer than 100,000 people cannot.

Republicans shouldn’t do the moonwalk.  Cuccinelli might appear to be going forward with this plan but is he really moving in reverse?  His plan states, “The Commonwealth will send counties funds equal to those currently used for secondary roads through block grants and allow those counties to raise additional funds if needed on their own.”  Is that the amount of money under the McDonnell transportation plan or under the old Imperial Clown Show in Richmond’s “frozen gas tax plan”?  One assumes the latter.  Yet, Cuccinelli isn’t done with his trickery.  “My administration will replace the current city-county formula with a new formula based on the results of the matrix system identified above that would take into account road usage and economic development.”  The “matrix system” is Cuccinelli’s congestion database.  Or is it a congestion database?  When he first described the database in his plan it was all about congestion.  Now, several paragraphs later, it also includes the fuzzy math of economic development.  So, the seven (or is it four?) counties to which this plan applies might (or might not) get the same amount they have been getting.  We’ll all have to wait until Cuccinelli is elected and the new city-county funding formula is determined to find out.

The good, the bad and the ugly.  It’s mostly bad and ugly.  First, the good. A public database of congestion would be a useful transparency tool.  Reducing the bewildering number of transportation authorities would also be helpful. Now, the bad and ugly.  Cuccinelli’s plan seems to roll back the McDonnell transportation funding plan.  Yet it was the frozen gas tax (in cents per gallon) that caused the funding problem in the first place.  Cooch’s plan also still funnels the tax money for secondary roads through Richmond.  Given what we’ve seen of Star Scientific, CONSOL Energy, the tobacco indemnification fund and Orion Air – that’s not a good idea.  If the counties are to manage the secondary roads then the taxes should go straight to the counties.  What’s raised in the county for transportation stays in the county for transportation.  Why should the proven crooks in Richmond handle the money?  Why are the vast majority of Virginia counties exempt from this plan?  The plan should apply to all counties or no counties.  If certain counties don’t want to raise money for secondary roads they should stop building secondary roads.

Barack Hussein Cuccinelli.  Cuccinelli’s transportation plan smells like another wealth redistribution scheme.  You know, the kind of scheme that Obama likes so much.  I suspect that Cuccinelli wants to short change a few large counties in order to subsidize a lot of small counties.  Why?  Because the people in the small rural counties will vote for Cuccinelli while the people in the large urban counties won’t.  And buying votes with other people’s money is how The Cooch and Obama roll.  The difference, of course, is that Obama is basically honest about his goals while Cuccinelli pretends to be a small government conservative.

Making it work.  If Cuccinelli wants to devolve management of secondary roads to the counties, fine.  The state should cut its budget by 5 – 10% and all state taxes should be reduced by 5 – 10%.  Each county should determine how it’s going to pay for its secondary roads.  Then, each county ought to impose whatever tax approach they find appropriate to fund those secondary roads. Richmond should butt out of the matter altogether.  Of course, gift-taking career politicians like Ken Cuccinelli hate to butt out of anything.  After all, misdirecting the state’s finances is a great way to say “thank you” to all those gift giving businessmen.

Correction: The Cuccinelli plan describes a two-tiered system whereby counties with over 250,000 people would be the first to be converted followed by counties with 100,000 – 250,000 people.  The article has been updated to reflect this.

– D.J. Rippert