Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Stay Put, Young Man, Stay Put

Source: Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis has published a useful reminder of how job and wage growth has bifurcated in Virginia — jobs and wages have increased smartly in Virginia’s major metro areas since the recession but have lagged markedly in non-metro Virginia.

The trends, which reflect the larger urban-rural divide nationally cannot be reversed, notes CI, but they can be ameliorated. “State lawmakers have some specific options on the table that could offer an economic development boost to rural Virginia.”

What do all of those options entail? Tax breaks and rural subsidies targeted to helping lower- and middle-income households. Expanding Medicaid. Eliminating the work requirement for receiving Medicaid. A bigger state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). State investment in roads, bridges, and broadband. CI doesn’t advocate showing infrastructure money indiscriminately on localities — investments should be “placed based” reflecting the needs of local communities — but the approach is all about subsidies and wealth transfers.

Virginia already has an entity — the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission — that has been helicoptering money all over Southside and Southwestern Virginia for a couple of decades now with little discernible effect. The Institute doesn’t articulate what criteria should be applied for dispensing the cash any differently. 

What CI does says forthrightly is that “asking rural Virginians to move to jobs isn’t a solution.” 

Why not?

Americans throughout their history have been moving to areas of greater opportunity. As Horace Greeley famously proclaimed in the 19th century, “Go west, young man.” In the early 20th century thousands of farmers and immigrants migrated to the Central Appalachian coalfields, and when the coal industry withered, they moved on. African-American sharecroppers migrated from Southern rural areas to greater opportunity in the urbanizing North. In the 1930s, Okies choking on the Dust Bowl moved to California. And so it has gone. But for some reason, CI has ruled out moving from rural areas whose mill-town manufacturing economies have been devastated by globalism and automation.”

I have penned innumerable posts on this blog suggesting strategies on how rural Virginia communities can revitalize themselves by selling access to mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, and investing in the kind of amenities that will attract retirees, nature lovers, resort-goers and small entrepreneurs. Are the Virginia mountains any less picturesque than North Carolina’s? Is Virginia’s portion of the Bay any less beautiful than Maryland’s? Why can’t we replicate the economic  success of western N.C. and Maryland’s Eastern Shore?

But even if Abingdon could become another Blowing Rock and Deltaville another St. Michael’s, there is a limit to how many jobs a tourism/resort/retiree economy can support. If our goal is helping people rather than helping regions, then we should encourage people to move to where the jobs are. The single biggest barrier to moving isn’t the lack of Medicaid or insufficient EITC, it’s the lack of affordable housing in Virginia’s major metros.

If we want to build a society around redistribution and the amelioration of poverty, fine, go with the Commonwealth Institute plan. If we want to build a society around jobs, opportunity, and upward mobility then our focus should be on mobility and affordable housing.

Richmond Squats on Scooters

Shared bicycle services OK in Richmond. (Photo credit Style Weekly).

Bird Rides, Inc., a California startup, tried introducing electric scooters to Richmond’s transportation mix, scattering the two-wheelers around Virginia Commonwealth University and the downtown area. Anyone downloading an app could ride them at a cost of $1 to unlock and 20 cents per minute to ride. Workers with the city’s Department of Public Works began rounding up the scooters Thursday, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Shared scooter services, not OK in Richmond. (Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

The reason? Bird Rides didn’t ask for permission first.

“The City of Richmond was not engaged in any way, as required, with respect to deployment of the scooters,” said city spokesman Tom Byrnes. “As such, Bird is being advised we will be removing them, effective immediately.”

Richmond isn’t the only city to butt heads with Bird Rides, which has pursued an act-first-ask-for-permission-later approach. San Francisco and Denver have shut down the scooter service for not having a permit.

It’s not clear from the Times-Dispatch article, however, that Bird Rides needs a permit in Richmond. Byrnes did not say precisely how the company was “required” to engage with the city. I find the vagueness of his comment troubling. Does the city code require scooters — which have never seen widespread use in the city before — to be registered or licensed? How are the electric-powered, two-wheeled scooters different from bicycles in that regard? Are electric-powered bicycles subject to the same restrictions?

Here is one city policy regarding bicycling that I could find online: “The City of Richmond does not have a local ordinance prohibiting bicycling on sidewalks. BUT, if riding on a sidewalk you must yield to pedestrians, and should ride slowly. Colliding with motorists at intersections is a leading cause of crashes because motorists aren’t expecting a bike entering the crosswalk at high speed, especially when travelling against traffic.”

If it’s legal to ride a bicycle on city sidewalks, surely it would be legal to ride a scooter on sidewalks.

Which raises another question: Is it illegal to ride scooters on city streets? Of course it isn’t. City policy promotes bicycle riding. If bicycles are legal on streets, why wouldn’t scooters be, too?

Yet another question: Do bicycle ride-sharing companies require city licenses to operate? If so, I suppose a case could be made by analogy that a scooter-sharing service would, too. Needless to say, Bird Rides attorneys will be reviewing the code to see if the shutdown is legally supported.

From a pure public policy perspective, the city’s impoundment of the scooters looks unjustified — a bureaucratic assertion of power. The city should be encouraging a wide range of transportation alternatives — not just bicycles, but electric bikes, Segways, scooters, and whatever else human ingenuity can deny. True, there may be public safety issues involved with the use of scooters on streets and sidewalks, so some kind of public oversight may be justified. But I’d like to see evidence of a problem and a full and open hearing of the issues before city officials arbitrarily shut down a promising transportation alternative.

The Social Cost of Domestic Violence

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) accounts for more than one in seven violent crimes in the United States. Between 16% and 23% of American women experience IPV while pregnant. Social science researchers have suggested that domestic abuse affects not only the mother-to-be but her unborn children, but the social cost of the problem has been difficult to measure.

A new study by three women, two economists and a health policy researcher, have found a way to compare the outcomes of women subjected to assault while pregnant versus those suffering violence up to 10 months after the estimated due date. They estimate the social cost per assault during pregnancy of nearly $42,000, implying a total annual cost to society of more than $4.25 billion.

“We find that prenatal exposure to assault is associated with an increased likelihood of induced labor, which is likely a response of the healthcare system to injuries sustained by pregnant victims of abuse,” write the authors of “Violence While in Utero: The Impact of Assaults During Pregnancy on Birth Outcomes,” a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

There’s something in this study for everyone. For law-and-order types, the study shifts the prevalent preoccupation with the injustices of mass incarceration to the victims to crime. In addition to the obvious victims, the women subjected to assault, there are invisible victims: the lower birth-rate babies. Oh, and let’s not forget the general public, which winds up paying the medical bills to treat those  babies.

For social justice warriors, the authors remind us that “violence in utero is an important potential channel for intergenerational transmission of poverty.” Indirect costs come from increased childhood disability, decreased in adult income, increased medical costs associated with adult disability, and reductions in life expectancy. “Our results imply that interventions that can reduce violence against pregnant women can have meaningful consequences not just for the women (and their children), but also for the next generation and society as a whole.”

The authors don’t address the oft-noted observation that the American medical system has higher infant mortality rates than other developed countries. But their research sheds light on that phenomenon. The implication is that the higher incidence of infant mortality represents a failure of the U.S. health care system. But perhaps it really represents a higher rate of domestic violence than in other countries.

Bacon Bits: Thursday Morning Edition

Mistakes were made. The University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, has offered an apology for the previous administration’s failure to deal adequately with the intrusion of Unite the Right demonstrators onto university grounds last year. “We must acknowledge mistakes, including those made last year, understanding and trusting that mistakes in times of crisis are inevitable,” Mr. Ryan said. “We do nothing more than to recognize our common humanity to say to those who were attacked around the statue last year, I am sorry. We are sorry.”

What mistakes, precisely, were made? And who made them? That’s not clear. But Reed Fawell has answers. Stay tuned to his upcoming posts dissecting last year’s path to violence in Charlottesville.

Loser. Speaking of United the Right… It turns out that Charlottesville’s Alt-Right provocateur Jason Kessler, 34, lives in his parents’ house. While Kessler was doing a livestream with a white supremacist, Patrick Little, his father was overheard yelling at him, “I want this to stop in my room, Jason. This is my room!” Kessler confessed on the livestream that his father was responsible for the disruption. (Read more on HotAir.)

I wonder how many Antifa warriors live at home with their parents, t00.

Mosque expansion approved. The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors has approved a rezoning that allows a local mosque to expand its current site. No one spoke in opposition. The approval followed anti-Islamic outbursts in 2015 against the Islamic Center’s plans to build a new mosque. The trustees changed their plans to sell the property to a residential developer and use the proceeds to purchase land to expand the existing mosque.

Good. I’m glad they worked it out.

The wimp factor. Virginia high schools in Charles City County, Manassas Park, and Sterling are canceling their football programs this season. The reason cited: Not enough players were showing up for practice. Enrollment in high school football programs have declined 4.5% nationally between 2006 and 2016.

This strikes me as another milestone in the ongoing wimp-ification of America. I speak from first-hand experience. Forty-some years ago, I attended a prep school with 65 kids in the graduating class, and we managed to field a football team. I wasn’t on the team. I ran cross country instead. I was a wimp. If more people make the same choice I did, I fear for our national character.

Who Are These Guys, and Where Do They Get All Their Money?

Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

The report issued by the Northam administration investigating charges of abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center has come under withering criticism by nonprofit groups that filed a lawsuit last year bringing attention to the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children held there. The Virginia Mercury has the story here.

While I used the Department of Juvenile Justice report as the basis for a blog post yesterday arguing that people were making much ado about a non-scandal, I have to concede that the criticisms of the report are substantive. By substantive, I don’t presume them to be valid. But they are are not frivolous. If I were reporting the story, I would deem them worth probing to see if they were valid.

An interesting sidebar to the controversy is the revelation of the existence of two nonprofit groups that revealed (or, depending upon your viewpoint, concocted) the abuses the first place. One is the Washington, D.C.-based Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The other is the Henrico County-based disAbility Law Center of Virginia. Both pursue social-justice work. One hews to high standards of transparency; the other does not. 

The Washington Lawyer’s Committee (WLC) is forthright about its commitment to social justice — or at least a leftist perspective on social justice. States the organization’s Guidestar profile: “While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.”

The organization reported more than $5 million in revenue in its 2016 990 form, makes the forms accessible on its website, and lists 27 employees on its website. Unlike many nonprofits, the WLC is open about where its money comes from. in 2016 about $3 million came from “contributions and grants,” $830,000 from fund-raising events, and $1.8 million from “legal fees and court awards.”

Most impressively (from a transparency perspective), WLC lists many of its major donors, which include Wiley, Rein & Fielding, a K Street law firm ($414,000); Dentons US LLP, also a K Street Law firm ($173,000), and the Morrison & Foerster Foundation, a San Francisco-based foundation ($215,000); the D.C. Bar Association ($80,000); and Kirkland and Ellis, a Chicago law firm ($153,000), among others. WLC reported another $1.7 million in contributions from unnamed individuals who contributed less than 2% of total revenue.

What emerges is a picture of a well-funded activist group funded mainly by wealthy lawyers, which supplements its income by collecting legal fees and awards from the lawsuits its files. This is not a grassroots organization. It reflects the views of the nation’s liberal legal elite.

In describing what it does, WLC notes a special concern for “people of color, women, children and persons with disabilities [who] are disproportionately forced to live in poverty” (my italics). That may explain the connection with the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. which provides advocacy services across Virginia for people with disabilities.

The disAbilities Law Center is not nearly as transparent. Its 2015 990 form reported $2.9 million in revenue, and its website lists 34 employees. But the nonprofit did not reveal who its major contributors are. More than $2.6 million was classified as “Government grants (contributions),” another $109,000 was described as “National Disability Rights,” $61,000 came from “other attorneys fees,” and $4,000 from settlement fees. The nonprofit reported no revenue from membership dues or fundraising events. As with the WLC, it is safe to say that the disAbilities Law Center is not a grassroots organization, but rather relies upon generous benefactors. I would conjecture that the group’s priorities reflect the preoccupations of liberal elites, but further research is required to document the suspicion.

How does a nonprofit focused on disabilities get mixed up with a center holding illegal unaccompanied-minor immigrants? In its own description, the disAbilities Law Center is part of a “nationwide network of organizations known as ‘Protection and Advocacy systems,’ designed to offer an array of education and legal representation services to people with disabilities and to combat abuse and neglect in both governmentally operated and privately operated facilities.”

The federal government officially recognized the disAbilities Law Center in July 2018 as a group with “authority to monitor conditions and treatment in immigration facilities if those facilities have residents with disabilities.”

So, what does all this mean? The Virginia Mercury was the only media outlet to report today on the follow-up criticism to the report. Reporter Ned Oliver describes the groups as “advocates for the immigrant teens,” never mentioning their social-justice mission or the fact that they are part of a larger constellation of organizations seeking to influence public policy.

Now, this network may be totally benign and above-board. Or it may be part of a larger coalition of nonprofit and advocacy groups intent upon undermining the Trump administration immigration policy by filing lawsuits and generating publicity. I don’t know the truth of the matter. My point here is not to criticize either group, for I have no tangible basis for doing so, but to raise the kind of questions that the media should be asking when they report on the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center controversy. If a right-wing legal advocacy group were filing a lawsuit, the ideological orientation of the group surely would be noted in any story. The same rule should apply to liberal-progressive groups and their causes.

Virginia’s Child-Immigrant Non-Scandal

The Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

In the fall of 2017, three migrant children detained by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center filed a class action lawsuit alleging abuse by guards. This June, amidst national media coverage of the separation of children from parents on the U.S. border, news media discovered the lawsuit and reported on the allegations.

As I summarized the charges in a blog post: “Allegedly, teenagers were restrained, handcuffed, and made to sit with bags over their heads. Some were stripped of their clothes. Some were locked in solitary confinement, some beaten, left with bruises and broken bones and kept shivering in concrete cells.” I added: “The claims, if true, are shocking and must be addressed immediately.”

Well, the Northam administration promptly looked into the issue and has published its report. The findings? As I should have surmised from the hysterical, almost apocalyptic nature of the immigrant-children coverage by the national media, the state Department of Juvenile Justice “found that there was no evidence of abuse or neglect.”

DJJ staff interviewed all of the federal residents of SVJC. The team was unable to substantiate the conditions described in the lawsuit concerning the operations of SVJC or the mistreatment of residents. After obtaining permission from ORR, the team returned on June 25 and reviewed case files, medical files, room confinement forms, and other documentation to assess compliance with regulations relating to the quality of care.

The immigrant children held at SVJC aren’t toddlers separated from their parents. They are unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 with no parent or legal guardian in the U.S. Many have suffered trauma; some belong to gangs such as the infamous MS-13. Many display behavioral issues presenting disciplinary challenges.

One technique used by SVJC is “room confinement” to “ensure the safety and security of residents, staff, and the facility.” The DJJ found no incidents where residents were confined longer than 24 hours. With the exception of one 23-hour incident, confinements typically lasted four hours.

SVJC staff also used, though rarely, a “restraint chair” for out-of-control residents “who cannot be safely restrained by less intrusive methods. While in the chair, a mesh spit guard can be placed on the resident’s head to prevent spitting or biting.”

In sum, the center faced difficult conditions. “Young people who have been frequently exposed to high levels of trauma, who are separated from their families, and who confront numerous language and cultural barriers” comprise a “uniquely challenging group,” the DJJ report says. The center should provide staff with professional development “in the areas of positive youth development, cognitive behavioral interventions and trauma informed care” and should increase “understanding and sensitivity toward the unique cultural backgrounds of the youth in the federal program.” DJJ also recommended more training in the use of physical and mechanical restraints, and in the effective use of de-escalation techniques.

Bacon’s bottom line: In other words, while the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center could benefit from some tweaks, investigators found no real problem there. What this story highlights — although you’ll never see a mainstream media outlet framing the issue this way — is an endemic feature of illegal immigration. Many children are unaccompanied by parents or relatives. Many suffered trauma — not at the hands of Americans but of their fellow countrymen (or perhaps Mexicans, which many had to pass through to get to the U.S.). And many pose special behavioral problems requiring their confinement and costing U.S. taxpayers.

The national media is largely uninterested in such issues, of course, so I anticipate zero follow-up. If U.S. immigration policy cannot be blamed, there’s nothing worth writing about.

Here’s what I would like to know. Who were the children who made the allegations and had a suit filed in their name? More importantly, who were the attorneys filing the suit on their behalf? How did those attorneys gain access to the children? Are they just random lawyers off the streets of Staunton, or are they part of a nonprofit organization? If they were part of a nonprofit, what is that organization’s aims and who is funding it? Could there have been political motivations behind the lawsuits? None of that information, as I recall, was reported by the media. What a surprise.

Update: The state report has come under heavy criticism by the people who filed the original lawsuit, including  the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, as well as the Henrico-based disAbility Law Center of Virginia. The Virginia Mercury has the story here. Unlike state investigators, the disAbility Law Center says it had unaccompanied access to the residents.

Bacon Bits, Your Tasty Morning Info Treat

More hidden deficit spending. Virginia devoted 33% less to capital spending on K-12 schools (inflation-adjusted) in 2016 than in 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That compared to a 26% reduction nationally. The cuts, say CBPP, “mean less money to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies, further diminishing the environment in which teachers educate and children learn.”

The CBPP made no effort to correlate the capital spending with K-12 enrollment, which has increased only modestly nationally since 2008 after years of strong growth. Presumably, stable enrollment limits the need to build new schools. However, it should surprise no one if school systems were engaging in hidden deficit spending by deferring maintenance and repairs.

Best colleges for the money. From Money magazine, which considered graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points to rate educational value: University of Virginia, 10th best in the country; Washington & Lee University, 24th; Virginia Tech, 29th; James Madison University, 39th. Four Virginia colleges in the top 50. Not bad.

What if there aren’t any fascists to fight? When there weren’t any fascists to be found at weekend rallies in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Antifa, the so-called anti-fascists, found someone else to fight. Yesterday, I noted how they turned on the police. Today, the Washington Post’s Avi Selk details how they turned on the media. “Videos show Antifa members accosting reporters specifically because they’re reporters.” Antifa uses the cause of anti-racism to shield the fact that they are enemies of a free society.

Coal mines and methane. Three hundred active and 200 inactive coal mines identified by Climate Home News account for one-tenth of all U.S. methane emissions into the atmosphere. Methane has 34 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have criticized natural gas as an electric power source. Although natural gas combustion produces less CO2 than coal combustion, the argument goes, when methane leakage from gas pipes and wells is taken into account, the natural gas supply chain is just as bad for global warming. I responded that the argument failed to take into account the massive outpouring of gas from coal mines, but I had no hard data. Now I do. Thanks Climate Home News!

Solar, Location-Variable Costs, and the 21st-Century Grid

California is pushing solar energy more aggressively than any other state in the union, and the debates unfolding there may presage controversies likely to occur in Virginia. One of those debates is the relative value of utility-scale versus community versus individual rooftop solar, which is intimately tied to the issue of location-variable costs.

Building so-called utility-scale solar — essentially vast solar farms — allows economies of scale in installation and generates electricity at the lowest cost per kilowatt. Power companies like them because they typically own the utility-scale production and get to generate a profit off them. One drawback is that utility-scale production consumes vast swaths of land. Another is that solar farms rely upon high-capacity transmission lines to move their electricity to distant locations, while local generation can feed into local distribution grids.

Utility-scale solar is going gangbusters in Virginia, but opportunities for communal and rooftop generation are limited by state law. A huge sticking point here, as it is in California, is how much utilities should reimburse small-scale producers for the electricity they generate. To what degree should small-scale producers share in the cost of maintaining the larger distribution and transmission grid they rely upon when the sun isn’t shining?

Steven Sexton, an associate professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, is skeptical of the numbers that California officials are using to justify a mandate requiring all new houses built in the state to be equipped with solar panels. In a Wall Street Journal column today, he introduces an element into the debate that I haven’t heard discussed here in the Old Dominion: grid congestion. He writes:

Regulators should tailor policy to reflect routine variation in the value of solar generation across the state’s congested electricity grid. Solar panels are most effective when installed where transmission constraints make supply relatively scarce — not on every roof in California.

In other words, the value of rooftop/community solar generation varies depending upon its location on the electric grid. The value is greater where grid congestion is worse and the alternative is spending tens of millions of dollars upgrading the transmission system — often adding to visual blight in the process. The value of rooftop/community solar is less where grid congestion is not an issue.

I would add a corollary to that observation: Rooftop/community solar generation has greater value in remote, hard-to-serve areas where new development would require the installation of additional sub-stations and distribution lines. Back in the days when I wrote about land use, I advocated the principle that all property owners should pay the location-variable costs of their decisions about where to build. The biggest of those location-variable costs is transportation infrastructure, but a not-insignificant one is the supply of electricity. Why should city dwellers, who require less electric infrastructure per-capita, pay extra to subsidize rural dwellers? Conversely, why shouldn’t rural dwellers who generate some or all of their own electricity, receive some benefit when they avoid some of the cost of building rural electric infrastructure?

The root of the problem is that electric utilities charge a flat rate for all customers within the same class (residential, commercial and industrial) regardless of the variations in cost of serving those customers. I haven’t heard anyone in Virginia challenge that premise, but charging location-variable rates may be a necessary step for building an electric grid for the 21st century.

Fizzle

Jason Kessler defiled the American flag yesterday by associating it with racism. With his latest rally a pathetic bust, Virginians can only hope we have seen the last of him.

So much for the Alt-Right.

Denied a permit to hold a really in Charlottesville, Alt-Right agitator and provocateur Jason Kessler organized a rally in Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of last year’s Unite the Right rally that resulted in widespread violence and the death of a counter-protester. Thousands came — but they were almost all counter-protesters. The Washington Post reports that Kessler attracted only 40 to his “white civil rights rally.”

Other than Kessler and the media, which still hews to the philosophy that if it bleeds, it leads, the group most disappointed by the pathetic Alt-Right showing likely was the radical left.

Antifa members vented their frustration at not being able to confront the rallygoers by lighting smoke bombs and firecrackers and throwing eggs in the direction of police. By then, a steady rain was falling, however, and the protest was fizzling. Most began heading home, but police kept a watchful eye as the black-clad group carrying umbrellas wandered about knocking over trash cans, chanting “Bust a window!” and yelling at police to get out of their cars and “meet us in the streets.”

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, counter-protesters gathered despite the absence of any white supremacists at all. Last year, lefties criticized the police for letting the situation spiral out of control. This year, they criticized the police for their excessive presence. Reports the Washington Post:

Protesters screamed at police officers, whom some demonstrators had all weekend tried to associate with racism and fascism.

The night before, protesters had gathered at the steps of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, before a giant banner that said, “Last year they came with torches; this year they come with badges,” and then marched through the streets for hours. On Sunday, the protesters, who had come out to combat absent white supremacists, were trying to combat the police, too. They cursed them. Insulted their looks. “Blue lives don’t matter,” the crowd chanted. And: “We don’t need cops.”

The radical left desperately needs a radical right to give itself meaning and legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public. Take the radical right out of the equation, and the radical left has to find new enemies — and it looks like the police are the most likely candidates. Unlike the Alt-Right, which appears to be imploding, the radical left isn’t going away.

Is Charlottesville Governable?

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Good luck, you’re going to need it.

The city of Charlottesville arguably has the most left-wing city council of any local government in Virginia. Some of the local left’s fixations are harmless. Advancing the goals of energy efficiency and renewable power in the cause of combating climate change may or may not represent a good return on investment of public dollars, but at least the results — incremental improvements to the environment — are benign. However, the implementation of progressive doctrine can have pernicious effects in such areas as K-12 schools and public safety.

Public safety has become a polarizing flash point in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally a year ago. Local leftists declared the racist rhetoric of assorted Nazis and Klansmen so heinous that they forfeited the freedom of speech and assembly. Ned Oliver with the Virginia Mercury describes how the debate rages still:

Anti-racist activists in Charlottesville say they’re fed up with calls for civility as groups peddling violent hate speech cloak their rallies in the constitutional rhetoric of free speech, often framing their gatherings literally as “free speech rallies” rather than letting the speech itself — support for the KKK for instance — serve as the headliner.

And a year later, Charlottesville residents remain outraged that the city granted white supremacist groups a permit to hold their infamous Aug. 12 rally in the city.

It’s not surprising in such an environment that law enforcement has become highly politicized. Former Police Chief Alfred S. Thomas Jr. lost his job after a July rally last year in which the police tear gassed rioting leftists and then the August rally in which Charlottesville police allowed leftist and rightest demonstrators to clash violently. After an interim chief served briefly, RaShall M. Brackney, a black woman, has been appointed to run the department.

I know nothing about Ms. Brackney’s professional background or philosophy of law enforcement, but she will not have an easy job. She will be contending with a leftist movement, emboldened and radicalized by the United the Right rally, that deems much of what Charlottesville police officers do as illegitimate. The city has created a Police Civilian Review Board. One sign of things to come: According to this Daily Progress article, progressives are targeting what one defense attorney describes as the department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The broader Black Lives Matter agenda likely will receive full consideration.

Ms. Brackney speaks optimistically of how the police will forge bonds with the community. “In Charlottesville, we have the opportunity to implement best practices and shape the narrative for police-community relations,” she said. “In order to do so, we must collectively define what does a healthy relationship look like between law enforcement professionals and the communities we serve. We then need to identify pathways moving forward to achieve those goals and finally build on successful outcomes.”

My question: Is the left interested in civility and better police-community relations, or will it work to inflame minorities’ sense of grievance and injustice as a way to advance their radical agenda? Without a sense of continual outrage, the left has nothing to offer. I worry that the leftists will continually “move the goalposts” until the police are so bound and handcuffed that the city becomes ungovernable. Moderate liberals (there are virtually no conservatives to speak of in the city) will have to push back. If they don’t, Charlottesville will become synonymous not  only with racial confrontation but anarchy.