Category Archives: Governance

Virginia Preschool Initiative Pilot – Political Conclusions Belied by the Data

by James C. Sherlock. Updated Oct 18 at 5:38 PM

Those who have followed my reporting know that I am passionate on the subject of helping poor children do better in Virginia’s schools. They also know of my disdain for Virginia’s hyper-political education establishment.  

Well, the Northam administration has turned the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus pilot into a full fledged program.

In doing so, it has finessed the needs of the children by ignoring the results of that pilot to satisfy the political desires of the progressive education establishment. Continue reading

McAuliffe Lets the Cat out of the Bag

by James C. Sherlock

Current Virginia law and Terry McAuliffe cannot coexist.

“A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

Code of Virginia § 1-240.1. Rights of parents.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Terry McAuliffe, Sept 28, 2021

Let’s walk that forward. Progressives all over Virginia and the nation were horrified. They consider McAuliffe’s words to be dogma. But they wish he hadn’t exposed it so publicly. 

During an election bid.

So, now that the cat’s out of the bag, let’s experiment with changes to  § 1-240.1. Rights of parents and see what it takes to make it comport with progressive thinking. Continue reading

How Does Virginia Budget Early-Childhood-Education Money Wind Up in a Park in Detroit?

by James C. Sherlock – updated Oct 15

I’d like to report an organized crime. It’s just not illegal in Virginia.

The political Left, fully in control of Virginia government, sends taxpayer money to leftist non-profits, who take their cuts and then send it on to local government entities and yet more nonprofits.

It is unethical, but that does not matter to Virginia’s elected Democrats.

But they have set themselves up for a fall. They may not know enough about nonprofit reporting laws to understand it opens the tax money transfers up to public examination.

Federally required independent accountants of nonprofits won’t play along. When non-profits touch the money, they have to report it to the IRS on their annual Form 990’s, where we mere taxpayers can see it.

In this case we will trace early childhood education money from the Virginia budget to a park in Detroit. Continue reading

Nursing Home Ads Pose As Official State Advice

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia state government has a Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. 

Who wouldn’t want one of those?  

But in the case of recommending nursing homes, it would be better if it would either stop or fix its broken system. Which it pays a nonprofit, VirginiaNavigator, to run.

It is offering nothing more than free, self-written advertisements for good and bad nursing homes alike under the guise of a state recommendation to seniors. Continue reading

More Proof Virginia Disclosure Laws are Crap

Former Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan

by Steve Haner

In 2020, according to documents filed with the State Corporation Commission, Dominion Energy Virginia paid former state Senator John Watkins $92,297 for lobbying services. At the end of the reporting period, it officially claimed spending only $1,641 for him to influence the legislative process.

In a similar manner, former Fairfax Delegate John Rust was retained over four years for a combined $265,000. But for his services in 2020, the year of the massive Virginia Clean Economy Act, Dominion’s lobbying expense disclosure listed his fee at $7,679.

The full payments to both former Republican legislators, all perfectly legal, are the subject of an online article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website, probably awaiting print publication. It also focuses on large payments made to a Hampton Roads journalist and former Democratic gubernatorial aide, which Dominion never had to disclose on any state report since buying friendly editorials isn’t covered by disclosure laws.

Add up the reported payments to all the other outside law and lobbying firms Dominion hired, compare them to the official disclosures, and a similar pattern of under reporting will be evident. The reporter missed the best part of this story — that information gap.

What do we learn here?  Anything we didn’t know? Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Inflicted Nursing Home Crisis – Part 3 – McAuliffe & Herring

by James C. Sherlock

In the first two parts of this series, I wrote about the shortage of state inspectors for nursing homes in the Virginia Department of Health Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC)  and the continuing danger it poses to Virginia patients.

The problem, unfortunately, is much wider than just nursing homes.  So is the scandal.

That same office inspects every type of medical facility including home care agencies as well as managed care plans. Except it cannot meet the statutory requirements because it does not have sufficient personnel or money. And it have been telling the world about it for years.

Terence Richard McAuliffe was the 72nd governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Mark Herring has been Attorney General since 2014.

We will trace below that they can reasonably be called the founding fathers of overdue inspections of medical facilities in Virginia.

VDH has been short of health inspectors since McAuliffe and Herring took office and still is .

Both of them know it. And they know that lack of inspections demonstrably causes unnecessary suffering and death.

Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Inflicted Nursing Home Crisis — Part 2, the Business

by James C. Sherlock

Nursing homes are businesses.

Seventy percent of those in Virginia are for profit. They are run not by doctors but registered nurses with physicians on call. 

Nursing facilities very widely in size in Virginia, from the 300-bed Mulberry Creek Nursing and Rehab center in Martinsville to facilities of less than 30 beds, especially the long-term care units of a few mostly rural hospitals.

They include facilities designated as skilled nursing facilities (SNF), often post-op care and rehabilitation, and others designated as long-term-care nursing facilities (NF). Most nursing homes in Virginia have facilities and certified beds for each.

Insurer mix and staffing costs are keys to profitability.

Many of these businesses are worth what they get paid, but many are not. Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Inflicted Nursing Home Crisis – Part 1

by James C. Sherlock

None of us ever knows when we will need a nursing home for ourselves, our parents or our kids. Yes, kids.

While long-term nursing care is mostly for older patients, skilled nursing facilities are needed for patients of all ages, including children, for shorter term post-op treatment and recovery.

The patients in many of Virginia’s nursing homes suffer greatly from a combination of known bad facilities and a lack of government inspections. The health and safety of patients in those facilities are very poorly protected by the state.  

In this series of reports I am going to point out some nursing homes (and chains) whose records will anger you. Government data show some have been horrible for a very long time in virtually every region in the state.

Those same records show that Virginia is years behind on important, federally mandated health and safety inspections.

VDH’s Office of Licensure and Certification doesn’t have enough inspectors — not even close. And the government of Virginia — officially based on budget data — not only does not care but is directly and consciously responsible.

When I am done reporting on my research I suspect you will demand more inspectors.

You will also  reasonably ask why the worst of them are still in business when the Health Commissioner has the authority to shut them down.

Good question. Continue reading

Richmond Wants to Kill Its Gas Utility, Also Ending Service in Henrico, Chesterfield

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.

Translation:  The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.   Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.”  The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) will need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas.  Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.  Continue reading

Louisiana Shows How Flood Control Can Work at Massive Scale

by James C. Sherlock

Louisiana has half the population of Virginia. Virginia is ranked the 18th richest state in per capita income, Louisiana 48th.

So, why has Louisiana been so phenomenally successful in flood control efforts since Katrina while Virginia writes its own framework for action that it is too expensive here?

Primarily because Louisiana figured out after Katrina that:

  1. the feds simultaneously have all the flood control resources — money, expertise, experience, scale — that states do not have, and both write the regulations and regulate flood control.
  2. the state had to organize both the state and local governments to deal with the federal government with a single voice.

The new agency charged with that monumental and immediate task, while quickly and iteratively creating itself, was the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) of Louisiana.

There is much for Virginians to know about and learn from Louisiana’s success. You will see that the Bayou State has way bigger flooding problems to solve than does Virginia.

Their success must be a model for us.

Yet the Commonwealth seems hell bent on ignoring the methods that enabled that success. Our leaders also deny that engineered defenses, “castles,” are even affordable as part of the solution set in Virginia. Each idea is both ill considered and dangerous.

I will describe briefly how Louisiana has done its part in this. Continue reading

Flood Control — Fatal flaws in Virginia’s Approach

Hampton Roads Federal Installations

by James C. Sherlock

It is hurricane season, if you had not noticed.

This is the first of a multi-part series of articles on flood control in Virginia.

This first one will provide a brief overview of where we stand in flood control planning and construction in the Commonwealth with an emphasis on Hampton Roads.

The next three will discuss the federal role, the Commonwealth role and the regional/local roles in more depth.

The development of a Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan is the responsibility of the Commonwealth’s Chief Resilience Officer, the Secretary of Natural Resources. So far, it looks like it.

The current path the Commonwealth has chosen has fatal flaws.  A discussion of those flaws follows.

First some background. Continue reading

Campaign Finance Reform in Virginia – the New Governor Must Lead

by James C. Sherlock

I consider campaign finance reform the foremost issue facing representative government in Virginia.

We are one of only a few states with no campaign donations limits at all. We pay for that in legislation enacted and not enacted because of the preferences of huge donors. And in the stink of legal public corruption.

It also drives way up the cost of running and keeps good people from participating.

The new governor will have to lead. Continue reading

Maybe the Redistricting Commission is Working Out After All

These maps compare the existing state Senate districts in Northern Virginia with one of two draft maps submitted to the Virginia Redistricting Commission. Source: The Virginia Mercury

In two recent articles in Bacon’s Rebellion, Dick Hall-Sizemore has thoroughly documented the sausage-making that has gone into the Virginia Redistricting Commission. It’s ugly, and it’s discouraging, and makes you wonder if there is any hope for humanity. But the release of two draft maps shows what the new districts could look like. The maps above, taken from The Virginia Mercury, show a proposed re-write of state senatorial districts in Northern Virginia that was submitted to the Commission.

It is a thing of beauty.

Without knowing the partisan implications — do the new boundaries throw incumbent legislators in the same district, do Republicans or Democrats gain ground or lose it? — who wouldn’t prefer the redrawn districts? Who wouldn’t prefer a system where the citizens pick their representatives over one where the politicians pick their citizens?

— JAB

Update: The Virginia Public Access Project reproduces the Republican and Democratic drafts for both Senate and House districts here.

The President Had Somewhere Important to Be

Credit: Getty Images

by James C. Sherlock

The caption of the photo:

“US President Joe Biden looks down alongside First Lady Jill Biden as they attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021, one of the 13 members of the US military killed in Afghanistan last week.”

I watched.  I am sure I had lots of company.

  • Virginia Veterans — nearly 730,215 — one out of 10 adults.
  • Virginia active duty (89,303) and reserve military (25,977) = 115,280
  • Virginia Army National Guard 7,500 soldiers and 46 armories
  • Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB Hampton – approximately 200.

In an unblinking story for The Washington Post, Matt Viser exposed a failure of leadership and understanding of the moment that was a direct insult to all Americans.

The President was there to representing us all. He shamed us. Continue reading

What Does Northam’s Masking Order Mean for 70,000 School Kids with Disabilities? Does Northam Even Know?

Governor Ralph Northam…. Oh, our bad, that’s a weasel.

by James C. Sherlock

My own preferred policy for schools is mandatory vaccination for school staff, recommended vaccinations for the kids and voluntary masks for everyone.

One of the advantages of that is that it is executable.

One of the disadvantages is that I have no influence whatever over the governor or health commissioner. Pretty big disadvantage.

But Virginia’s current order for schools is purposely garbled when addressing accommodations for disabled children, and the health commissioner understood that when he signed it for the governor.

The authors of that document had no idea how to handle the mask issue for the over 70,000 kids in Virginia public schools were labeled as “disabled” last year.

So they punted. Continue reading