by James A. Bacon
Town of Windsor police officers won’t face state criminal charges for pepper-spraying a Black Army lieutenant during a traffic stop, but they aren’t off the hook yet. Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell, named as special prosecutor in the Isle of Wight case, has asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to open a civil rights investigation.
Joe Gutierrez (no longer on the force) and Daniel Crocker pulled over 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario on U.S. Route 460 at night on suspicion of driving without a license plate. Nazario had a temporary New York plate in the rear window but the officers said they didn’t see it. Nazario drove a mile before finally pulling over in a BP gas station. When ordered repeatedly to get out of the car, Nazario refused. Gutierrez pepper-sprayed Nazario and then forced him to the ground. Much of the encounter was caught on police cameras.
Bell, an African-American, conducted what he described as an “exhaustive review” of Virginia state law, according to The Smithfield Times. “The traffic stop alone was not a violation of law,” he wrote. Gutierrez’s use of force “did not violate state law as he had given multiple commands for Nazario to exit the vehicle.” Continue reading
Photo Credit: Thomas Park on Unsplash by way of the Sun Gazette.
by James A. Bacon
An internal audit of Arlington Public Schools’ calamitous virtual-learning program during the 2021-22 school year cut school leaders no slack.
“There was insufficient or minimal ownership, leadership . . . stakeholder input, planning, risk assessment, pilot study and progress reports,” John Mickevice told School Board members, as reported by the Sun Gazette. Among the key findings:
- The school system “lacked a formal project plan” to implement the program;
- Those leading the program provided “no timely feedback” to upper-level school leaders when things began to go south;
- There was not sufficient time given for staffing the program and training that staff.
by Kerry Dougherty
While hurricane season technically began two months ago, it isn’t until August — or even September — that most of us pay attention to those pesky tropical depressions off the coast of Africa.
My favorite parlor game is the annual will-we-evacuate-if-a-hurricane-is-headed-our-way debate. My family’s answer, so far, has always been no.
There’s a reason many of us just smile weakly when emergency management types talk cheerfully about “orderly evacuations” of Tidewater.
We’ve seen tunnel traffic on summer weekends. We’ve spent hours stewing in it. We also know that the only thing worse than being stuck in a flimsy house for a Category 4 ‘cane would be to be spend it in a colossal traffic jam on the bridge by Willoughby Spit.
Now imagine being stuck on the spit in an electric vehicle that’s run out of juice. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dozens of current and former Fairfax County police officers belonging to the Fairfax County Police Association gathered in a town hall last week with Attorney General Jason Miyares. Their message: recent Virginia legislation combined with a change in prosecutorial policies by the county’s Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano, are making it harder for them to do their job.
As NBC-Channel 4 summed up the meeting, “They claim they’re having a tougher time bringing charges in some cases because magistrates are interpreting cases more liberally. They’ve also expressed concerns about inexperience on the part of some assistant commonwealth’s attorneys and say some cases are being dropped.”
“I think you’ve had a serious problem of criminal-first, victim-last mindset,” Miyares told the group.
Descano’s response to the TV station: crime in Fairfax County is down. “Over the last two years, crime in Fairfax County is down almost 10%, and we are the safest jurisdiction in the entire country with a population of over 1 million people.” Continue reading
Utility-scale batteries adjacent to solar panels at Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
by James A. Bacon
A utility-scale battery storage system has gone online at Dominion Energy’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan County, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During the day when solar output is peaking, excess energy is rerouted to the batteries. When the sun goes down and output falls, batteries release electricity back into the grid. The 12-megawatt battery complex can power 3,000 homes for up to four hours.
The purpose of the Scott Solar project is to give Dominion real-world experience in understanding how batteries can integrate into the larger electric grid. Dominion officials contend that battery storage can be a more cost-effective way to meet high-demand periods than, in the RTD’s words, building “an entirely new generation facility.”
The “levelized cost” of electricity, which includes up-front capital costs, operating costs, and fuel costs (which are zero for solar) over the lifetime of the project, is lower for solar than any other energy source available on a large scale in Virginia. However, solar farms are part of a larger system that must meet the demand for electricity 24/7. Solar facilities, while highly cost-efficient on a stand-alone basis, are highly variable. Output cannot be dialed up and down as needed. Therefore, they require significant backup. Batteries are one means of providing that backup. And batteries have a cost. Continue reading
by Jon Baliles
This week, Jeremy Lazarus of the Richmond Free Press attended the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee and found that “more than 6,300 homes and businesses in Richmond — 10% of the customer base — are facing disconnection of their utilities for nonpayment of water, sewer and gas bills.”
Yikes. That is essentially double the rate from five years go, and there is more than $35 million that is 90 days or more in arrears.
When the pandemic hit, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) did what most cities across America did, suspending disconnections and ending late fees, etc. and announced they would eat the losses until November 2021, when those normal practices continued. By summer 2021, uncollected bills more than 90 days behind had climbed from about $9 million to $28 million. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
With newspaper reporting being as poor as it is these days, it can be dangerous to weigh in on stories gleaned from dailies.
But what the heck, let’s give it a go today.
Over the weekend the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on the case of a 24-year-old Chesterfield woman convicted of manslaughter and DUI.
She was sentenced three weeks ago to 20 years in prison, with 13 years suspended.
Why did it take the paper so long to report the story? Who knows. Timeliness is not important these days.
Here’s what we know: Kaylin Stine was driving with a blood alcohol level of .215 on January 30, 2021. That’s more than twice the legal limit. She’d been drinking all day and was headed home after friends begged her to spend the night at their house and when she refused, offered to drive her home. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
When we began this website in December of 2017 we promised that there would be no days off. That didn’t mean we’d never leave town. It meant that when we did we’d take you with us.
So, get out your bug spray and boots and join us for the annual Chincoteague Pony Penning, held every year on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July.
It’s a bucket list thing. Every woman I know who read “Misty of Chincoteague” as a girl wants to see the pony swim before she dies.
This is the power of literature on annual display in rural Virginia. A celebration of literacy with wild ponies!
So here we are in Chincoteague, Virginia. Famous for its herd of wild ponies and mosquitoes the size of silver dollars. Continue reading
Scene from “The Great Escape”
by James A. Bacon
Fletcher Norwood has made his great escape. It feels, he says, as if he’s broken out of a German stalag and been elevated to Winston Churchill’s aide de camp. When he resumes teaching in August, he’ll no longer be consigned to the high-poverty Title I high school where he has been teaching the past several years. He’ll join a school in a neighboring county where he expects most students will be motivated to learn, classroom behavior will be manageable, and administrators will have his back.
Norwood, whose experiences I have chronicled in previous columns, has a lot of company. Teachers have staged what can best be described as a mass breakout from Virginia’s failing schools: retiring, transferring to other schools and districts, or just quitting the profession altogether in unprecedented numbers.
Based on extensive word-of-mouth, Norwood (not his real name) estimates that one quarter to one third of all the teachers have resigned from his old school this year. The school he’s going to is close to fully staffed. “I got a job in a better county that is reaping the benefit of poorly run counties that are losing teachers,” he says. Continue reading
UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.
by Shaun Kenney
WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”
One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!”
I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure.
Of course, I was instantly identified by more than one professor as having a Jesuit background. For those unfamiliar with the accolade, a Jesuit education is considered to have a certain approach to the world. Continue reading
by Neely Young
In the summer of 2020, following the Board announcement to consider changing the name of Washington and Lee University, the faculty voted by about 80% to 20% to change the name. The Law School vote was unanimous for a change. The faculty are certainly entitled to their point of view on this or any other issue, but their vote is an indication of the increasingly left-wing perspective of the W&L faculty.
Let us contrast this with the views of the students at the university. Recently, the website, MyPlan.com, did a ranking of over 500 colleges and universities based on political affiliation from most to least liberal. Washington and Lee students ranked 498 in this list. Perhaps more important, the website Unigo recently conducted a survey of W&L students and asked them to describe their fellow students. There were 85 student responses, and they overwhelmingly described the students as moderate to conservative in their political and cultural views. The same is true for a significant percentage of parents and alumni. It is clear that there is a gap in perspective between the faculty, on the one hand, and the students, parents, and alumni on the other on political and cultural issues.
Washington and Lee had adopted the University of Chicago Principles of Free Speech and Expression, and President Dudley has stated that these principles represent a “gold standard.” However, there can be no real freedom of speech and expression unless more than one point of view is allowed to exist. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Governor Glenn Youngkin’s popularity in Virginia was the top-line story from a new Virginia Commonwealth University poll. The survey, published yesterday, found that 49% of Virginians polled approve of his job as governor compared to 38% who disapprove. It’s not surprising to see his popularity holding up so well. Virginians tend to be favorably disposed toward governors not caught up in scandal, and Youngkin is no exception.
The more interesting data from the poll was buried in the VCU press release. Two points stand out: attitudes of Blacks toward taxes, and attitudes of Whites toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Leaving the plantation on taxes. Youngkin’s tax cut on gas is more popular among African-Americans than the electorate as a whole. The three-month elimination of the motor vehicles fuel tax garnered a 58% approval rating from all Virginians but 76% from Blacks. (Elimination of the state portion of the grocery tax was broadly popular across the partisan divide, with seven out of ten Virginians in favor. VCU did not break out the results for Blacks on that question.) Continue reading