Category Archives: Governance

A Letter to an Old Friend

by James C. Sherlock

This article is rendered as a letter responding to an old friend and mentor, the University of Virginia, my alma mater.

I can imagine the University’s response to my last article on its culture:

The changes we have experienced in the culture of the University, its pervasive progressivism, which some may see as toxic to a public university, are not unique to the University of Virginia, have been decades in the making and will be very difficult to change from within.

I note the pessimism, but do not share the conclusion. Change it must, and we must not shelter in place and hope it blows over.

I firmly believe that the University will not survive as a public institution, and will not deserve to survive, with a leadership structure monitored by a political Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commissariat that tolerates no dissent from progressive orthodoxy.

I don’t believe it will survive hiring practices that render the faculty politically single-minded.

I don’t believe it will survive a student experience that has driven large majorities of students to respond to surveys that they feel afraid to engage in debate on topics related to progressive dogma.

How can we honestly say we promote diversity, but not diversity of thought?
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Virginia Strategic Imperatives: Train and Retain More Teachers and Nurses

A Major Opportunity

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to make a lasting difference in Virginia. He wants to leave it better than he found it.

In the years I have been writing about healthcare and education in Virginia, there is a recurring theme in both fields: not enough practitioners; specifically, registered nurses and teachers.

I will not in this article try to dissect the specifics of each shortfall, other than to say each is growing and reaching crisis proportions simultaneously in both professions.

This is, rather, a plea to the Youngkin administration and the General Assembly to turn their focus to dealing with those shortfalls. If they do not, a lot of the things  they are doing will be lost in the carnage of the failures of the healthcare and education systems.

Without education, there is no economic future. Without competent healthcare, there will be no future at all for many.

In both cases, the approaches must raise incentives and reduce disincentives. Continue reading

Continuity in the State Finance Agencies

Stephen Cummings, Secretary of Finance

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The lead story in Tuesday’s  Richmond Times-Dispatch was a curious one. Its headline promised great drama, which was not delivered, and it missed the real story.

The headline, “Retirements Transform State Finance Agencies,” promises great drama. The primary agencies in the Finance Secretariat are the Department of Accounts (DOA), Department of the Treasury (Treasury), Department of Taxation (Tax), and Department of Planning and Budget (DPB). Since January, the directors of three of those agencies (DPB, DOA, and Treasury) have retired. At Tax, the long-time assistant commissioner for tax policy and the chief economist and director of revenue forecasting have retired.

One could speculate over the recent announcement of Manju Ganeriwala (Treasury), after 13 years as agency head and the earlier retirement of David Von Moll (DOA), since they had both been reappointed to their jobs by Youngkin. Why would one retire from a good position after being reappointed? On another level, Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch hinted that John Layman, the revenue forecaster at Tax, had been forced, or at least nudged, into retirement. Continue reading

Sen. McClellan Charges Racism as Va. Health Commissioner works to Improve Health of Black Mothers and Babies

By James C. Sherlock

The left will not be swayed from invoking racism in every situation, everywhere.

They deploy that charge especially disgracefully when conservatives attempt to help poor people be healthier, better educated, safer and more successful.

Because those actually are not the objectives of the left.  They simply don’t care about such things.  They offer public policies that have the opposite effects.

They want poor people radicalized. Period.  Full stop.  When some die or have their lives ruined in the process they are considered collateral damage in a higher cause.

The Washington Post has published “Black lawmakers ‘outraged’ over Va. health commissioner demand action”, an utterly predictable screed.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) is quoted there as saying:

(Health Commissioner Dr. Colin) Greene’s views made her (McClellan) question work done to try to reverse the disparities, including the state’s April 2021 Maternal Health Strategic Plan, which says ‘structural racism is at the root of maternal health disparities just as it is for many other health disparities.’ (emphasis added)

As if that perfect embodiment of progressive virtue signaling will somehow improve the health outcomes of poor Black women and their babies.  For progressives, words are actions.  The tactic is called “truth by repeated assertion” used to frighten political opponents into silence.

Sen. McClellan and the entire General Assembly Black Caucus are complete hypocrites in this matter.

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America’s Petroleum Refining Capacity in the News – What is Going On?

By James C. Sherlock

This is a note about perhaps the highest profile national inflation issue, the price of gasoline and diesel.

The President is demanding more supply from U.S. refineries.  Headlines like this one blare at us today:

Biden threatens oil companies with ’emergency powers’ if they don’t boost supply amid inflation spike.

The letter behind such headlines, which is exactly what it seems to be, was sent to the largest refiners in the country.  Among other things, the President wrote:

My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.

I looked up the data on oil refining that Mr. Biden’s Energy Information Administration has published.

From the numbers on American refinery input and capacity, Mr. Biden will need more than “emergency powers” to increase refining output.

He will need a a genie.

Continue reading

Democracy Dies in Sophistry

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

by James C. Sherlock

All should note the article, “Average U.S. gas prices top $5 a gallon, as surging energy costs squeeze economy,” in The Washington Post.

The same Washington Post that is the only newspaper for most Northern Virginians who get one.

That article shows again the depths to which the progressive press will descend to deny the effects of the conscious policies of the left on domestic energy production.

It displays end-to-end such a thorough misunderstanding of economics that it is hard to critique the details.

It is hard to miss, however, that this lengthy report consciously avoids the point that the Biden administration came into office declaring a war on domestic energy that continues to this day. Continue reading

Youngkin Signs Bill to Limit His Own Power

by Kerry Dougherty

I was at dinner earlier this week with a cousin from out-of-state. We passed a pleasant night without talking politics, but he did want to know what I liked about Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Where to start?

I pointed out that the new governor of Virginia is serious about getting the commonwealth’s public schools back on track to excellence after his predecessor’s prolonged school closures left many kids hopelessly behind.

I added that Virginians no longer have to dread their governor’s Thursday press conferences, wondering which civil liberties would be yanked away at the whim of a little potentate in Richmond.

(Anyone else remember when Gov. Ralph Northam ordered everyone in their houses by 12 because his parents believed that “nothing good happen after midnight”? Bizarre as it seems, 8.5 million Virginians were forced for a time to live under Northam family rules like naughty teenagers.)

Now Youngkin’s done something Northam never would have done: He signed a bill limiting his own executive powers. Continue reading

Home Price Volatility and Virginia Property Taxes

Case-Schiller Home Price Index – National

by James C. Sherlock

Housing prices have more than doubled since 2012, reflecting shortages of supply and the resulting speculation. The increasing slope of those curves above is not comforting.

Prices have soared over 20% in a year. Mortgage rates are up. What could possibly happen next? Most can figure that out.

But this article is about the effects on local government property taxes of what most predict will be extreme volatility in the housing market going forward.

How are Virginia real property taxes adjusted to mitigate the effects on both property owner tax bills and government receipts in this boom and very likely bust cycle?

We’ll look at the law. Continue reading

How are Virginians Preparing for the Coming Food Price Shocks?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians have only begun to experience price inflation at the grocery store.

Price increases are in the food pipeline that will be a much bigger problem starting this summer.

Farmers and ranchers invest up front. They borrow money to do it. They are incredibly efficient at what they do, but are at the mercy of input prices. They must wait until their crops and animals are sold to recoup their investments.

Everything farmers and ranchers do with their farm machinery requires diesel. So do the trucks that move crops to those who prepare them for our use and then to market. Diesel prices are expected to reach more than $6 per gallon this summer, a 35% increase from current prices. Inventories are low.

Most fertilizer is an oil derivative and has skyrocketed up to 300% since early 2021. On average, fertilizer in March of this year was 35% more expensive than it was in the fall of 2021, with Roundup up nearly 90%. In six months.

Of course, the feed ranchers buy for their animals comes from the produce of America’s farmers.

Producer prices that reflect what they have paid for diesel and fertilizer and the trucking costs of moving those crops are predicted to reach grocery stores in the summer and fall. That hardly suggests that the 9% inflation recently seen in retail food prices is the end of it.

It is important to ask what our governments and our best charities are doing to prepare. Continue reading

A Gun Owner’s Suggestion for Virginia Gun Laws

By James C. Sherlock

I was a career military man.

I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.

I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection.  I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.

With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.

I have four criteria for firearms legislation:

  • changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
  • changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
  • changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
  • changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.

Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously.  They should be.

This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.

Continue reading

Fix One Thing — School Physical and Electronic Security

by James C. Sherlock

I offer an apolitical suggestion. We know how to begin to fix school security.

Do it.

Step 1. Every school division has a security instruction. How many of them monitor whether that guidance is being followed? I will let them answer that.

Step 2. The more complete solution is deployment of integrated combinations of physical and electronic security systems. System integrators who specialize in school security can help with requirements definition for any facility and tailor expandable solutions to budgets. That is their business and they are good at it.

As an example of what is possible, see ADT’s integrated intrusion security and fire detection and alarm system offerings for K-12 schools.

When people say “do something”, this is the kind of solution on which all of us can agree. Do it. Continue reading

Governor Youngkin’s Private-Sector Experience Appears to be Working in Government

Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks during a news conference announcing the latest report of the Department of Education

by James C. Sherlock

This article is about Governor Youngkin’s executive leadership and management, not his policies.

The reviews so far are generally good.

We normally elect Governors with little experience as operating executives. It is a rare gubernatorial resume that does not include experience as either a politician or a lawyer or both.

That changed with Glenn Youngkin. He is an engineer and a former chief executive of a complex and very successful private corporation. His experience in private industry honed the leadership and management skills and methods he has brought to government.

It is important to understand how well that is working in his job as chief executive of Virginia’s sprawling bureaucracies. Bureaucracies are notoriously passive-aggressive. They despise change, and often refuse to support it.

In this case, the uniformly positive reports reaching me from the senior levels of government are pleasantly unexpected and bode well. Continue reading

Personnel Shortages that Plague Virginia’s Health Facilities Inspection Staff in the Hands of Budget Negotiators

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most important responsibilities of Virginia state government is to inspect medical facilities and home care providers to ensure we are safe when we enter their care.

It continues to fail in that responsibility thanks to years of Virginia budgets that have consciously ignored the need for increased inspector staff and increased salaries with which to competitively hire that staff.

I have reported for a long time that the staffing of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Licensing and Certification (OLC) is scandalously deficient. Based upon an update today from OLC, it remains so.

That organization has only half of the inspectors it needs to carry out its defined responsibilities.

Those highly skilled and very dedicated people, largely registered nurses, are asked to do every day for Virginians what we cannot do for ourselves and what our elected representatives have refused for decades to properly fund them to do.

Think of that next time you use the facilities and home providers they are required for your safety to inspect.

We hope the current General Assembly budget negotiators keep it in mind for themselves and their families.

Or the Governor sends the budget back until they do. Continue reading

Progressive Dogma Untethered to Results – Voter Laws Edition

by James C. Sherlock

The armies of the progressive left are what the great political scientist George Edwards called “Prisoners of Their Premises.” Many persons and institutions are captives, to a greater or lesser degree.

Lesser is better in this case. Mistakes flow from the best of intentions. You can learn from them or repeat them.

The United States military late in the Vietnam war mandated and then made a science out of analyzing its mistakes in order to learn from them.

At the unit level, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines debrief after every training and combat mission. At higher levels the reviews are periodic, but also professionally honest. Combat training schools capture, but do not enshrine those lessons. Because there is always a next time, newer equipment, newer force compositions, newer enemies and newer lessons.

It is the only way to improve systematically.

Many progressives, in solitary confinement with their dogma, are often wrong but always certain. When their policy prescriptions fail to provide the predicted results, which is most of the time, outcomes are ignored or blamed on outside factors beyond their control. Core beliefs, unchallenged, are undisturbed.

Consider for illustration recent voting law changes. Continue reading

Inflation and the Budget

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In addition to conventional budget requests, the Youngkin administration is likely to receive requests from agencies in the fall budget development exercise for additional funding to enable them to cover additional costs resulting from higher inflation. (Yes, I realize that the 2022-2024 biennial budget has not even been agreed upon yet, but, once one round is out of the way, budget folks are always getting ready for the next round.)

With some exceptions, inflation is not normally built into budget bills. Budget development for a biennial budget starts with a base budget, which is the appropriation for the second year of the most recent biennium. Adjustments are made to the base, but rarely are those adjustments for inflation. As for the mid-biennium budget, agencies normally are not provided additional appropriations to cover inflationary costs. Continue reading