Source: Legal Aid Justice Center
Each day I wake up and tell myself, “I’m not going to write about race today. I’m tired about writing about race. I want to write about something else.” But each day I read the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Washington Post, and each day there are articles and op-ed columns about race, almost all of which perpetuate the narrative of endemic racism in America today. Of course racism still exists, and of course people of good will need to stand against it. But America is not a endemically racist society, and Virginia is not an endemically racist commonwealth. I have no choice but to counter a pernicious and destructive falsehood.
The latest offense comes from Kristen Amundson, a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and, scarily, a former chair of the Fairfax County School Board. Virginia has a lot to learn about race, she writes in the Times-Dispatch, and schools are a good place to start. She makes numerous assertions that warrant response, but I will focus on the most egregious and show how it harms the very kids she purports to care about. Continue reading
463 days. November 17, 2017 was the date that U.S. Park Police gunned down / assassinated Bijan Ghaisar on a street in Fairfax County. That was 463 days ago. n all that time there has been no comment from the U.S. Park Police or the FBI (assigned to investigate the case) regarding this killing.
477 days. That was the total amount of time that elapsed between the discovery of the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson / Ronald Goldman and the verdict in the OJ Simpson case. Continue reading
VCU students protest tuition hikes and adjunct pay last year. Photo credit; WCVE.
Before voting on tuition increases, board members of Virginia universities will have to listen to public input from students and families, if Governor Ralph Northam signs a bill passed by the General Assembly.
SB 1118 sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, with a companion bill sponsored by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, would “require governing board[s] of each public institution of higher education, prior to a vote on an increase in undergraduate tuition or mandatory fees, to permit public comment on the proposed increase at a meeting of the governing board.”
The prevailing practice is for tuition proposals to work their way through financial committees and then get voted on by the full board of trustees with relatively little discussion. Board of visitors members are wined and dined by university presidents, and they rarely rock the boat. Administrators spoon-feed them information, and conflicting views are rarely heard. Unlike corporate board members who own stock in the company they govern, university board members have no financial skin in the game. Many are alumni whose main concern is enhancing the prestige of the alma mater they love. Continue reading
Senator Frank Ruff of Clarksville. Taking some of the pain out of eminent domain.
Four successful bills heading for Governor Ralph Northam’s desk may combine into a measurable shift in Virginia’s condemnation laws in favor of the targeted landowners. They may also spark a race to the courthouse between now and when some go into effect July 1.
The biggest financial impact may come from Senator Frank Ruff’s Senate Bill 1256, which eliminates state tax on any capital gain resulting from the forced sale. The subtraction for any capital gain applies to both individual and corporate landowners and applies to any transaction after January 1 of this year. Too bad if you took that check in December.
The fiscal impact statement on the bill merely notes “unknown negative General Fund revenue impact.” In the short run the impact may depend on whether two contested natural gas pipelines crossing the state complete construction and take all the needed private property. Ruff confirmed in an interview that a constituent in the path of the pipeline suggested the bill, saying if the General Assembly couldn’t stop it, it could at least improve the financial outcome of the takings.
However, the bill applies to all condemnations under state or federal law by any authorized agency for any reason from that day forward. If the property has been held for a long time, a large portion of the price could be a capital gain, taxed at about 6 percent at the state level. Continue reading
Sen. Mark Warner in Salem yesterday.
According to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, more than 1 million Virginians live in food deserts. To deal with the problem, he has sponsored legislation in Congress to incentivize businesses and nonprofits to provide healthy food in those areas. And he was in Salem yesterday visiting Feeding America Southwest Virginia to talk about food insecurity.
Reports the Roanoke Times:
His legislation would provide tax credits to companies that build new grocery stores or retrofit an existing store’s healthy food sections. It also would provide grants to food banks that build permanent structures or to temporary access merchants like mobile markets and farmers markets.
What is wrong with this picture? It assumes that the problem is a supply-side problem, not a demand-side problem. Continue reading
Michelle Renay Sutherland, a New Yorker who traveled to Richmond to demonstrate in support of Virginia’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, is an annoying individual. Frankly, I find her sanctimonious posturing to be a pain in the ass. Maybe she violated the law for baring her breast when posing as the goddess Virtue in a reenactment of the Virginia state seal, maybe not. But her actions are hardly grounds for holding her in jail without bail for a month.
A magistrate set a bail of $700 for Sutherland, a Brooklyn artist with no criminal record. But General District Court Judge Lawrence B. Cann III ordered her held without bond until her trial, scheduled for March 21.
An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch does not quote Cann as providing any justification for refusing to release Sutherland. Continue reading
If you thought the tax conformity debate took too long at the General Assembly, check out the fight at the State Corporation Commission over Dominion Energy Virginia’s corporate income tax bill. The SCC still hasn’t decided how much to cut Dominion’s base rates to reflect its lower income tax payments, but a decision is close.
There are three reasons why this case is worth exploring.
First, a battle over how to account for a small amount, $67 million, is a wonderful demonstration of how obscure phrases buried in legislation written by the utility come back to bite its customers in their wallets.
Second, the tax cut is going to produce something Virginians haven’t seen in a very long time, an actual reduction in Dominion’s sacred, never-to-be-touched base rates. Preventing that has been its legislative obsession for decades.
Third, Dominion does pay significant federal and state corporate income taxes. There is this common misconception that big companies don’t, and most really do, Dominion included. Dominion isn’t the only company that just passes its tax costs to customers. Had the General Assembly cut the state corporate income tax rate as part of its conformity response (as some proposed) your electric rates would be been reduced by that, too. Continue reading
Tertium Quids, a conservative advocacy organization, has been pushing three bills in the General Assembly designed to bring more “choice and accessibility” to Virginia’s healthcare system.
The goal of the “Virginia Healthcare Basket” Initiative, the group explains, is “to support the growth of innovative business models, insurance options, and technology with an eye toward creating an exciting new healthcare track which runs parallel to the overburdened and cost-prohibitive traditional health and insurance model.”
Conceptually, Democrats don’t have much to offer healthcare than more government involvement and more redistribution of wealth. Virginia Republicans have criticized the march to government-controlled medicine but they have not provided much of an alternative. The proposals touted by Tertium Quids won’t transform Virginia healthcare markets, but they would nudge the state in the direction of more innovative, entrepreneurial, market-driven healthcare. Continue reading
Danny Cendejas, an organizer with La ColectiVa, addresses concerns about HQ2. Photo credit: Washington Business Journal
Amazon’s decision to scrap a $2.5 billion investment in New York City has emboldened far-left progressives in Northern Virginia to oppose the e-commerce giant’s plans for plans to build an East Coast headquarters in Arlington. Critics of HQ2 are targeting $23 million that Arlington County will contribute to the pot of incentives, reports the Washington Business Journal.
Bill impact table included in SCC staff testimony on demand management programs case, showing impact of all pending Dominion requests. Click for larger view.
The State Corporation Commission staff has provided an updated version of a table tracking the possible rate impact of various Dominion Energy Virginia cases pending before the commission, most creating or adjusting rate adjustment clauses (RACs). It starts with a baseline of $117.64 for the February monthly cost to that famous 1000-kilowatt hour typical customer, who of course does not exist.
The largest cost increases visible on the horizon are not included.
Some of the cases which are tracked have been decided and some are pending. The table was included in the staff testimony about the proposed demand management programs paid for with Riders C1A and C2A and includes the $0.61 per month increase in them Dominion is requesting. Continue reading
William J. Barber II
It is fascinating to see how the demand that “Governor Ralph Northam must resign” mantra is morphing into “Northam must pay penance by adopting Leftist causes.” Specifically, he needs to shut down the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed compressor station in Buckingham County.
Civil rights activist Rev. William J. Barber II, who is accompanying former Vice President Al Gore to the Union Hill community in Buckingham today, said Monday that Northam’s challenge is more about overcoming the blackface/Ku Klux Klan photo he displayed on his medical school yearbook page 35 years ago and more about changing public policy, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“The governor has turned his back on this community,” said Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP. “If he wants to do a reconciliation tour, he should first go to Union Hill.” Continue reading
Outsiders. mostly of the leftist persuasion, seem to be taking an intense interest in Virginia these days. Some examples from today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch:
- Michelle Renay Sutherland, a New York activist, was arrested for indecent exposure yesterday after she exposed her breast when recreating the state seal on the capitol grounds. Sutherland, who goes by “Sister Leona,” belongs to a group called Radical Matriarchy. She was demonstrating in support of Virginia’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
- A California man was charged with misdemeanor vandalism and littering Monday after police say he threw red dye into a fountain on the state Capitol grounds. Patrick E. Talamantes, of Sacramento, had joined activists marching to demand the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam.
- Internet inventor and polar-bear advocate Al Gore and the Rev. William J. Barber II, a North Carolina civil rights leader, visited the Union Hill community in Buckingham County to protest Dominion Energy’s proposed compression station. (I’ll have more about them in a follow-up post.)
California’s giant Pacific Gas and Electric has a major program providing energy audits for its customers, and recently retained an outside firm to study the results. While quite a few customers did reduce their energy usage after the audits, it turned out a larger number increased demand.
The report, dated December 2018, noted 19 percent of PG&E electricity customers reduced usage but 27 percent of them increased it following the audit. On the natural gas side, 25 percent reduced usage and 31 percent increased.
Dominion Energy Virginia is proposing a very similar program for its customers, as one of eleven new demand management programs pending before the State Corporation Commission. The $226 million Dominion proposes to charge its customers over five years to pay for them is just a down payment on the $870 million in such spending over ten years which the General Assembly ordered in last year’s Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act. Continue reading
In a Sunday op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond city school Superintendent Jason Kamras opined on “institutional racism” in Virginia schools. In building his case for the existence of such injustice, he cited the supposed disparity in funding, writing:
According to the National Center on Education Statistics, Virginia’s highest poverty school divisions — which serve large percentages of children of color — receive 8.3 percent less in per pupil funding than the state’s wealthiest districts. Put plainly: the students who should be getting more are actually getting less. If all the children in our poorest school divisions were white, I am certain the commonwealth would have found a way to fix its convoluted and unjust funding policies so that our lower-income communities received more.
Really? Let’s look at the numbers. The following data come from the Superintendent’s Annual Report for Virginia based on FY 2016 budgets:
Per pupil spending
City of Richmond — $13,843
Hanover County — $9,772
Henrico County — $9,644
Chesterfield County — $9,592 Continue reading
I know the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a lot to live down as inheritor of the Richmond News Leader, the infamous cheer leader of Massive Resistance in the 1960s, but I can’t help but wonder if it has gone overboard in making amends. The newspaper, it seems, has gone full Social Justice Warrior. Here are articles an op-eds in Sunday’s newspaper:
- Front page: a tragic story of a 51-year-old African-American woman with diabetes who requires dialysis and is losing her eyesight. An accompanying sidebar makes the point that diabetes disproportionately affects African-Americans.
- Front page: an article about the history of race and racism in Governor Ralph Northam’s hometown, Onancock, on the Eastern Shore.
- Inside A section: a Virginia Commonwealth University arts museum exhibit reimagining Monument Avenue without its Civil War statues.
- Inside A section: a reprint of a Washington Post story profiling Front Royal residents recounting de-segregation.
- Op-ed section: a profile of Jonathan M. Daniels, a white Virginia Military Institute graduate who became a freedom rider during the Civil Rights struggle.
- Op-ed section: a column by Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras decrying institutional racism in Richmond schools.
- Op-ed section: a column by journalist Margaret Edds speculating how Virginia Civil Rights icon Oliver Hill would have responded to the Northam blackface scandal.
- Op-ed section: a column by the Rev. Peter J. McCourt describing the new Cristo Rey private school as an educational alternative for black, inner-city Richmond children.