by Kerry Dougherty
It’s not much. But it’s something. An anemic attempt to rein in some of the unfettered emergency powers that are being exercised by Virginia officials.
I’m referring to the unanimous vote to pass SB5025 late last week by the Virginia Senate. This is one of the very few measures before the General Assembly that legitimately deserves debate during this special session. It deals with Virginia’s ongoing and seemingly endless state of emergency.
The bill would curb the power of Virginia’s Health commissioner, Dr. Norman D. Oliver.
You know, the unelected official who refused to release details about Virginia’s nursing home carnage, by invoking a bizarre claim of privacy rights to conceal that information.
You know, the man who scared the bejaysus out of all of us in April when he speculated that the oppressive Phase One of Virginia’s reopening would last “at least two years.”
You know, the health chief who recently said that when a Covid-19 vaccine became available he’d make it mandatory. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Virginia Beach boasts the fourth largest school district in the state with 87 schools and 69,000 students. Those kids, their teachers and their parents deserve better than what happened last night.
Horror and embarrassment were the most common reactions of the public to last night’s televised meeting of the Virginia Beach School Board (the board). The subject of those concerns was a public, very prolonged and clearly very personal squabble among board members before the agenda was ever considered.
For viewers who tuned in to see the discussions of public policy, not to mention those cooling their heels in the lobby waiting to be called in to speak on the highly controversial school system Equity Policy, it was a spectacle they will never forget. Continue reading
by Emilio Jaksetic
Citing the public health danger of COVID-19, the House of Representatives on May 15 passed H. Res. 965, a rule allowing Members of the House to vote by proxy. Passage of that rule was a blow to representative government in the United States and an affront to the right of Americans to be represented in Congress by the people they elected.
Six of the seven Virginia Democratic Members of the House voted for this historic betrayal of the American people: Don Beyer (VA-8), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Donald McEachin (VA-4), Bobby Scott (VA-3), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Jennifer Wexton (VA-10). (The only exception was Rep. Elaine Luria, VA-2.)
Congressional Democrats embraced an inappropriate analogy by voting for H. Res 965. Stockholders own and control their voting rights because they own the stock. Members of a homeowners association own and control their voting rights because they own their homes. By contrast, the right to vote in Congress is not property that can be transferred to another by proxy; votes are held in trust by Members of Congress as the agents of the people of their congressional district. Proxy voting based on personal property rights cannot justify proxy voting by elected officials. Continue reading
by DJ Rippert
In the long run… Over the past eight months COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the world, the United States and Virginia. One hundred and twenty thousand cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Virginia Over 2,500 people have died from COVID-19 . The cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to grow in the Old Dominion. One year ago unemployment in Virginia hovered at 3%. Today it is 8%. Protests and rioting, possibly catalyzed by the COVID-19 lockdowns, have occurred regularly in several Virginia cities as well as Washington, D.C. Schools in Virginia moved to virtual teaching last Spring and many schools will open this Fall with either fully or partially virtual teaching. Nobody doubts the short- and mid-term effects of COVID-19. But what of the long-term effects? What impacts of COVID-19 will be felt after this version of the Coronavirus is gone?
The Spanish Flu (1918), Polio (1916 – 1955), H2N2 (1957), HIV/AIDS (1980s -), Swine flu (2009), COVID-19 (2020 -). Epidemics have broken out in the United States since the colonial days. Smallpox, yellow fever and cholera outbreaks plagued the country for centuries. The Spanish Flu pandemic was far worse than COVID-19 (to date). That flu struck in four waves and is estimated to have killed up to 50 million people worldwide. However, most Americans today would say that the Spanish Flu didn’t create major long-term changes in the United States. Some would disagree. Academics like Andrew Price-Smith believe that flu tipped the balance toward the allies in World War I. The growth of predominantly female-led nursing in the US may have been a consequence. In utero exposure to the pandemic may have negatively affected the health and prosperity of those exposed. Some survivors of the Spanish Flu never fully recovered. Despite all that, the Spanish Flu was called “the forgotten pandemic” until COVID resurrected interest. Economically speaking, the end of the Spanish Flu coincided with the start of the Roaring Twenties, making it hard to find long -term negative economic impacts from that pandemic. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Collette McEachin said Friday she will not investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million contract to businessman Devon Henry, a Stoney campaign contributor, on the grounds that Henry also donated money in 2011 to her husband’s 2011 state Senate campaign.
“Although the amount of money donated over nine years ago may not be significant and my husband is no longer in that elective position, it is incumbent upon me to maintain the public trust in this office and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety because of any actions taken by my office,” McEachin wrote to Councilwoman Kim Gray. An opponent of Stoney in the mayor’s race, Gray had called for an investigation into the circumstances of the contract award.
Collette McEachin, who is married to U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, also said that the state code allows only the governor, attorney general or a grand jury to order a criminal investigation of a local elected official, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Gray said she will continue speaking out. “I think that the people have a right to have full understanding of how this contract went out,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything this egregious.” Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Incredible and statistically unlikely as it sounds, the Commonwealth of Virginia has not a single member on either of the Congressional House or Senate Committees that decide what infrastructure projects are authorized, or on either Appropriations Committee that decides what is spent on such projects and on everything else.
Those projects include the water resources projects such as hurricane and flood mitigation that we have been discussing this week.
The Committees in question are:
- Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (11 R, 10 D),
- House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (37D, 30R) and
- Appropriations Committees of the House (23 R and 30 D) and Senate (16 R 15 D).
That is a total of 120 House members and 52 senators. And we got swept. Virginia may be unique among the states with zero representation on any of those committees. Continue reading
Roanoke flooding in 1985
by James C. Sherlock
There were lots of comments in my last post about government programs to mitigate flooding damage in flood plains, specifically about buying and tearing down houses that repeatedly flood.
One of the carrots to do so is Community Rating System (CRS) discounts to flood insurance in communities that take an active role in flood plain risk mitigation.
CRS is a part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is an incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum program requirements.
When that happens, not only is the risk of flooding diminished, but flood insurance premium rates for all citizens of a community that accomplishes the goals are appropriately discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk.
To quote the program web page,
“For National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System participating communities, flood insurance premium rates are discounted in increments of 5 percent.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., and wife Becki
By Peter Galuszka
The resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr. amid a series of scandals may have a strong impact in Virginia where his late father built an extraordinary, ultra-conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg that later became highly politicized lightning rod supporting President Donald Trump.
Falwell has been caught up in a number of controversies including limiting speech on campus, going after The New York Times for trespassing when it reported he insisted that student ignore wearing anti-viral pandemic masks and so on.
What happened with Falwell Jr is as an American story as apple pie topped with a Cross. It might have some straight out of the pages of Elmer Gantry.
After touting strict school policies that forbid students from drinking alcohol, watching “R”-rated movies or engaging in pre-marital sex, Falwell was pictured aboard a NASCAR mogul’s yacht half dressed with a semi-clad, pregnant woman who was said to be his wife Becki’s assistant. Falwell was holding a wine glass with a liquid in it but Falwell said it wasn’t wine.
Shortly afterwards, he gave an interview to the right-leaning Washington Examiner stating that his wife had been involved with a multi-year sexual affair with Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami Beach pool boy whom Falwell funded to set up a hostel business. Continue reading
Posted in Children and families, Commentary, Consumer protection, Culture wars, Economic development, Education (higher ed), Governance, Individual rights, Media, Money in politics, Property rights, Public corruption, Scandals
by James C. Sherlock
I am an optimist by nature. Optimism wins elections, and optimism can bring about democratic change.
Governments at their most basic level are created by people to protect themselves from outsiders and to minimize conflicts within their own ranks. From a condo association to Congress, that is a core role.
I believe that representative government is the only form of democracy that scales and the form most likely to protect the weak. I believe in the rule of law and in traditions and institutions as stabilizing forces. I defend the individual rights embedded in our constitution.
I believe our republic needs to help Americans ensure they and theirs are secure in the basic necessities of life and their are children educated. Call me a class theorist. People of good character can and do get in fierce arguments about what constitute the basic necessities of life and whether assistance should be couched as a helping hand or a new bill of rights.
I believe that self reliance is a core value of America. So is compassion. I support a policy of writing checks to help the disadvantaged in a crisis, but long-term policies that help them pull themselves up. There is dignity in that. People need dignity.
I oppose a distorted rationalism that seeks to put every responsibility on government and a rationalist government that inevitably settles on picking favorites and attacking religion.
I regret the cascading failure of the regional newspapers as perhaps the biggest internal threat to representative government in my lifetime.
On June 17, 2020 in Areo magazine , Gabriel Scorgie wrote: Continue reading
by Shaun Kenney
Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, was greeted with this notification as he attempted to log in for virtual voting:
Garren Shipley with the House Republican Caucus was more direct:
Former Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) raised the flag the highest and longest about what could only be described as a minor revolution in the House of Delegates, one that completely undermines the idea of representative government: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Stoney administration did not answer Bacon’s Rebellion requests for information when we were researching Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million contract outside of Richmond’s procurement laws, but it did respond to the Richmond Times-Dispatch when the newspaper followed up on the revelations posted on this blog.
Here’s how Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan justified the awarding of the contract to NAH LLC, owned by Devon Henry, a Stoney donor, to take down several of the city’s Confederate statues last month.
Were it possible to pursue a traditional procurement, the mayor would have done so, but circumstances required him to pursue a different legal avenue and he chose to prioritize protecting lives and property over process. … This decision was fully within his authority, and he stands by it.
Devon Henry, principal of NAH LLC, which was awarded the $1.8 million contract to take down Richmond’s Confederate statues.
by James A. Bacon
When Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney needed help taking down the city’s Confederate statues, he turned to Devon Henry, a prominent local construction contractor who had donated $4,000 to his 2016 mayoral campaign and political action committee. No local crane & rigging company in Virginia was willing to undertake the controversial project, but Henry lined up a Connecticut firm willing to do the work.
Bypassing City of Richmond procurement procedures and city administrators on the grounds that the city was facing an “emergency” in the form of civil unrest, Stoney awarded the contract directly to Henry himself. Under the $1.8 million agreement, the city reimbursed NAH $180,000 per day for equipment, crew, and consultants.
That sum struck some observers as exorbitant. Bacon’s Rebellion could not find a Virginia rigging company willing to comment upon the contract on the record, but an individual with one firm said the job would have cost no more than $10,000 a day had it been handled by a local contractor, or $20,000 a day for an out-of-state contractor who had to pay for transportation, food and lodging for its crew. He was astonished that anyone could get away with charging $180,000 per day for the job.
Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan declined to respond to Bacon’s Rebellion questions asking how Stoney selected Henry for the lucrative contract. Likewise, Henry declined to respond to questions posed by Bacon’s Rebellion. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
The Virginia Constitution (Article V, Section 5) assigns the Governor legislative duties. He is the only member of the Executive Department assigned such duties. The Attorney General has, well … none.
Of the duties of the Attorney General (Article V, Section 15), the Virginia Constitutions says only: “He shall perform such duties … as may be prescribed by law.”
The Attorney General heads the Office of the Attorney General, also referred to as the Department of Law. Under the laws of Virginia, primary duties of the Attorney General include:
- Provide legal advice and representation in court for the Governor and the state in general and to members of the Virginia General Assembly and local government officials;
- Defend the state in cases or criminal appeals and suits filed against the state;
- Prosecute significant crimes; and
- Defend the constitutionality of state laws.
Those duties illustrate why the Attorney General was not given legislative responsibilities in the Constitution.
It is impossible for him to both advocate for or against laws and be seen to be faithfully executing his duties. Virginians will always wonder whether such an advocate will fairly execute the laws or fairly advise the Governor and General Assembly. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
As a consequence of the successful teacher revolt in Fairfax County, there are major legal questions which must be answered concerning the initiation of public employee collective bargaining in Virginia next spring.
In accordance with Virginia Code § 2.2-505, members of the General Assembly can request official opinions of the Attorney General. Private citizens cannot. I urge General Assembly members of both parties to submit the questions posed below.
Teachers associations in Fairfax County Virginia successfully employed threats not to return to work that resulted in a change to Fairfax County Schools policy.
From the Washington Post, “Teachers in Fairfax revolt against fall plans, refusing to teach in-person,” June 26, 2020:
“A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the (previously announced by the school board) plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.”
Those actions force Virginians to confront the consequences under Virginia law of collective bargaining with public employees that will be legal starting in May of 2021. Some but not all of the possible issues are addressed here.
by DJ Rippert
Stepping back. Over the past five months there has been an unending flood of information, guesses, misinformation and politicized ramblings about COVID-19. Various factions put forth their experts and cherry picked data to support their agendas. It’s time to step back and synthesize all that has been written into a set of common sense observations and preliminary conclusions about COVID-19.
The virus isn’t going anywhere. Even the most aggressive attempts to contain the Coronavirus will not eradicate the virus. The spread can be slowed and the curve can be flattened but the infections continue and the outbreaks resurge. After a catastrophic bout with Coronavirus in the spring Spain thought it had the contagion under control. The country reopened in what the Spanish thought was a sober and controlled way. Today, cases are spiking – particularly in the Catalan region. In the San Francisco Bay area of California strict lockdown protocols were implemented. The tide seemed to have turned. Reopening commenced. Now, many bay area counties are seeing a spike in Coronavirus. Continue reading