Category Archives: Leadership

Roanoke’s Murder Crisis

Mayor Sherman Lea Sr. (D). During his administration from 2017-2023, Roanoke City has had an unprecedented 123 murders.

by Scott Dreyer

Roanoke City, with about 97,000 residents, suffered a record-breaking 31 murders in 2023,causing some to question the city’s leadership and direction.

Based on public announcements and appearances, how concerned are Roanoke’s leaders about the Star City’s murder pandemic?

In Mayor Sherman Lea Sr.’s (D) announcement that he will not run for re-election in 2024, he made no-mention of the gun violence / murder crisis or work that needs to be done to address it. His only reference to “guns” was touting the “Formation of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission.” He also boasted the “Removal of Robert E. Lee Memorial,” even though Lee died in 1870.

Lea ignored these bloody Roanoke benchmarks since he won election as Mayor in 2016:

  • 2017, record-breaking 17 murders (up 41.6% from 2016);
  • 2022, record-breaking 18 murders (up 5.8% from 2021);
  • 2023, record-breaking 31 murders (up 72.2% from 2022);
  • Not counting 2016, 123 murders 2017-2023;
  • First Mayor in Roanoke history where every year in office had double-digit murder rate.

When Mayor Lea was asked about this situation, a staff member emailed: “Mayor Lea is unable to offer comments and would like to direct you to the City Manager’s office.” Continue reading

Still Acting Like a Rookie

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Glenn Youngkin does not seem to be a fast learner. He seems to think he is still at the Carlyle Group where the top brass announced deals and the rest of the organization fell in line. That’s not how it works with a bicameral legislature, especially when your party is in the minority in both houses.

About a month ago, the governor announced, with much fanfare, a plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. It would be a $1.5 billion deal involving the construction of a sports arena and supporting facilities. A new sport and entertainment authority would oversee the project, including issuing bonds to fund it. The General Assembly would need to approve the legislation creating the authority.

The General Assembly has convened and the members have questions about this deal. However, as reported by the Washington Post, the administration has few answers. It does not have the bill language ready for the members to review. Even more basic, at the end of last week, it did not have a patron for the legislation lined up. Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said that the administration had asked him to carry the bill in the House, but he was still waiting to see the bill. “I hope to have an opportunity to see it over the course of the weekend,” he said. Continue reading

Miyares Moves to Support Israel

Jason Miyares

from The Republican Standard

In the wake of the attack on Israel carried out by terrorist organization Hamas last week, Attorney General Jason Miyares is calling upon Virginia law enforcement agencies to help Israelis fight for their lives in a new way.

Fox News obtained copies of a letter distributed to over 100 sheriffs’ offices by the AG’s office, urging them to donate “surplus body armor, protective gear and other tactical equipment” to be collected by his office and sent to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Continue reading

Youngkin’s “Bromance” with Petersburg’s Mayor

by Kerry Dougherty

They tried. Lord knows they did their best to find fault.

But even the leftie Washington Post was forced to hold its nose and admit that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s commitment to his signature program — “Partnership for Petersburg” — is genuine and getting results.

For more than a year, Youngkin has been working with local and state officials, the private and public sectors and especially with Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham to turn that city’s fortunes around.

Petersburg is a city in distress. It’s riddled with crime, grinding poverty and the worst-performing schools in the commonwealth.

A hopeless example of urban decay, some would say, and on the decline.

In a lengthy story this week, The Post wrote about the friendship that has blossomed between Youngkin and the African-American mayor of that troubled city. Continue reading

Questions and Doubts (About the Nature of Some Politicians)

Logo of the Harrisonburg City Public Schools

by Joe Fitzgerald

When I had a meeting set up with (JMU President) Ron Carrier soon after I was elected to (Harrisonburg) City Council in 2000, someone warned me that he would change the time at the last minute just to show he was more important than me. He did, and maybe he was. But it was good to be warned.

Some years later, those of us who had to use a new software for our jobs found that a prerequisite for the technical training was an orientation session with a JMU communication official. Not only did he change the time at the last minute, disrupting the schedules of a few dozen people, but he began the unnecessary meeting when it eventually happened by talking about how many Grateful Dead concerts he’d been to.

The session was about the philosophy and vision of the new software. The JMU official fulfilled the academic administrative definition of a visionary as someone who knows exactly how things should be done if he knew how to do them. (Using “he” in this instance is not a generic pronoun, but a bow to the statistics of who fits this description.)

I was reminded of those earlier occasions recently while watching Councilman Chris Jones interrupt and disrupt his way through a liaison meeting between City Council and School Board members. I had to wonder if his attempts to dominate the meeting with irrelevant or borderline false information were obvious to the casual observer. Not that a casual observer is going to be watching a governmental liaison meeting on a Wednesday afternoon. I may be a nerd.

Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in Harrisonburg

by Joe Fitzgerald

Fifteen months ago, I wrote the following about last year’s Harrisonburg City Council elections:

We need people, independent or party, who value pragmatism over ideology. And we need people who know the difference between pragmatism and cynicism, and the difference between opportunity and opportunism. This would be the year for people who are concerned, in the words of an ancient Greek poet, about what is right and good for their city, and are willing to sacrifice the time, treasure, and energy to work for those concerns.

The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee reacted by kicking me off a database I’d been using to help candidates for 20 years, and continued a nomination process marked by two deeply flawed caucuses. The year ended with a council dominated by ideological opportunists. (The reference to the database is thrown in to highlight absurdity; you get it or you don’t.)

Next year three out of five City Council members will be on the ballot. Mayor Reed, elected eight years ago as “Everywoman,” has since grown to become the moral center of the council. The other two are a man with the personal behavior of a person half his age and a woman who, in the immortal words of Jed Bartlett, has turned being un-engaged into a Zen-like thing.

In that same West Wing scene, Bartlett says, “We should have a great debate. We owe it to everyone.” Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

There is a class of people in the city, from the serious to the absurdist, who have managed to keep up with or remain engaged in local politics even with the diminution of local journalism. Many would probably like to see that great debate about the city’s future. Right now they’re asking questions like “What are the Democrats going to do?” and “Will the Republicans run anybody?” Continue reading

Voyeurism Isn’t Good for the Soul (or Politics)

Susanna Gibson, Democratic nominee for the 57th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

by Shaun Kenney

The scandal of the week involving Susanna Gibson is an indictment of our politics. Shame on us all for participating in it.

HAMLET Get thee ⟨to⟩ a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be
a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest,
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am
very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses
at my beck than I have thoughts to put them
in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act
them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves
⟨all;⟩ believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.

— William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” Act 3, Scene 1 (1601)

Ophelia has given herself to Hamlet. Yet having placed her trust totally in men — her father, her brother, her lover — she is told by her beloved to remove herself to a nunnery. Or in the context of the Elizabethan age? A brothel — thus exchanging the ideas of nobility and love for pure utility and momentary pleasure.

Realizing the world for what it is — or at least, the world of Hamlet, Laertes, and Polonius — drives Ophelia insane. Having relied upon a branch made of willow, she drowns in a shallow pool, able yet unwilling to save herself and face such a world. Continue reading

Fairfax School Board Ignores the Rule of Law

by Emilio Jaksetic

On July 18, 2023, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” (Revised Model Policy).  A copy of that policy is accessible at  https://www.doe.virginia.gov/Home/Components/News/News/308/

On August 15, 2023, Michelle Reid, Ed.D, Superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) issued a Superintendent’s Message entitled “Model Policy Update.”  According to the Superintendent’s Message, “We have concluded our detailed legal review and determined that our current Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) policies [on transgender and gender-expansive students] are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies.”  A copy of the Superintendent’s Message is accessible at https://www.fcps.edu/news/model-policy-update. 

On August 23, 2023, Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares issued an advisory opinion affirming the legal validity of the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy and advising Virginia Governor Youngkin that Virginia school boards are required by Virginia Code Section 22.1-23.3 to adopt policies that are consistent with the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy.  A copy of the Attorney General’s Advisory Opinion is accessible at https://www.oag.state.va.us/citizen-resources/opinions/official-opinions?view=article&id=2523&catid=30.

Attorney General Miyares is correct that Virginia Code, Section 22.1-23.3 imposes a duty on Virginia school boards.  Section 22.1-23.3.B. requires “Each school board shall adopt policies [on transgender students] that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Department of Education pursuant to subsection A.”  The word “shall” means Virginia school boards have a mandatory duty to adopt policies that are consistent with the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy.  Under Section 22.1.-23.3.B., Virginia school boards have no authority or discretion to adopt or retain policies that are inconsistent with the Revised Model Policy.  However, the Superintendent’s Message is a declaration that FCPS will not carry out the mandatory action required by Section 22.1-23.3.B. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Governors

by Kerry Dougherty

Why is anyone surprised that the governor of New Mexico has decided that a spike in crime constitutes a public health emergency that warrants suspension of 2nd Amendment rights of the people to carry a firearm?

When Americans merrily surrendered their civil rights three years ago during a health emergency, could they not foresee a perpetual state of emergencies, with tyrannical despots infringing on constitutional rights using the flimsiest of excuses?

I hate to say “I told you so,” but some of us tried to sound the alarm in the winter of 2020, but too many Americans were hiding under their beds to listen to us.

Now this:

On Friday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, declared a public health emergency in Albuquerque and nearby Bernalillo County citing high crime rates and issued a 30-day ban on the carrying of firearms. She said she was likely to extend the order.

“I have emergency powers,” Grisham crowed. “Gun violence is an epidemic. Therefore, it’s an emergency!”

Never mind that of the five shooting incidents Grisham cited when suspending the Second Amendment, only two were in the Albuquerque area and chances are neither would have been thwarted by her unconstitutional ban. Continue reading

Short Term Rentals — Long Term Impact

by Jon Balilies 

The City of Richmond has been discussing altering and revising regulations about short-term rentals (STR’s) and the next action will take place at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon (September 5th). It is an important decision because it is entirely possible the decision by the Commission and ultimately City Council could have a tremendous impact on housing availability, high sale prices, and neighborhood character.

For the last few years, the city has done a good job of holding public meetings and soliciting feedback through various methods and gathering information about short-term rental properties (like AirBnB and VRBO, etc.). Until 2020, they were technically illegal and unregulated but they did exist (they rose to a more visible status when the UCI 2015 Bike Championships came to town).

In gathering information and developing the first ordinance, the city said it wanted to find the right balance to allow property owners to take part, but also make sure it was done right to protect neighborhoods. Some other cities dove in head-first with few, if any, regulations, which led to adverse, if somewhat predictable, effects. Richmond smartly agreed to revisit the ordinance after having some time to evaluate the initial regulations. Currently, in residentially zoned areas, the city requires that owners must claim primary residence at least 185 days (just over half the year) to rent out as a STR. If the property owner has a converted garage, etc., then they may rent that out all year. In commercially- zoned areas, there is no residency requirement being proposed in the new legislation. Continue reading

The Enduring Value of Arlington’s Endangered Monument to Reconciliation

The Confederate Memorial in Arlington.
(Arlington National Cemetery; photo by Rachel Larue)

by Donald Smith

Jim Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia, former Navy Secretary, and certified badass (Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts from his service as a Marine officer in Vietnam) grabbed quite a bit of attention last week.  On August 18 he called for the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery to be spared.  You can read his commentary here, if you have a Wall Street Journal subscription (or have some free articles left.)  Here’s a link to a no-paywall article on Webb’s piece.  Here’s a link to the most prominent criticism I’ve seen of Webb’s piece, from Civil War historian Kevin Levin. 

Webb’s commentary points out an important and, until now, mostly ignored repercussion of Congress’ blanket approval of the Naming Commission’s recommendations:  it diminishes our nation’s soft power.  That makes it harder for our military and diplomats to achieve our nation’s goals overseas without having to resort to coercion or violence.  Continue reading

Webb’s Last Ditch Attempt to Save the Confederate Memorial at Arlington

The Confederate Memorial in Arlington.
(Arlington National Cemetery photo by Rachel Larue)

by Shaun Kenney

Former Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Jim Webb is begging federal officials to save the last remaining Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in a forceful op-ed to The Wall Street Journal. Webb writes:

[President William] McKinley understood the Civil War as one who had lived it, having served four years in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, enlisting as a private and discharged in 1865 as a brevet major. He knew the steps to take to bring the country fully together again. As an initial signal, he selected three Civil War veterans to command the Cuba campaign. Two, William Rufus Shafter, given overall command of the Cuban operation, and H.W. Lawton, who led the Second Infantry Division, the first soldiers to land in the war, had received the Medal of Honor fighting for the Union. The other, “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, the legendary Confederate cavalry general, led the cavalry units in Cuba, after being elected to Congress in 1880 from Alabama and working hard to bring national reconciliation.

Four days after the Spanish-American war ended, McKinley proclaimed in Atlanta: “In the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers.” In that call for national unity the Confederate Memorial was born. It was designed by internationally respected sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and the first Jewish graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, who asked to be buried at the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. On one face of the memorial is the finest explanation of wartime service perhaps ever written, by a Confederate veteran who later became a Christian minister: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank; not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity; but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it; these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.” Continue reading

Virginia Beach’s Bad Habit: Reckless Spending on Wasteful Projects

by Kerry Dougherty

Feckless leadership, wasteful spending and escalating taxes have plagued Virginia Beach for decades.

Despite new faces on city council, the game of spending tax dollars on insane projects that “will pay for themselves” continues.

But let’s back up.

Here’s one prescient story from The Virginian-Pilot in 2007. The headline: “Virginia Beach Sportsplex Misses Its Goal” soft pedaled what was going on. It was yet another pricey project, dreamed up by developers and approved by their political puppets.

And it was failing. Continue reading

Roanoke County Quietly Extends Contract For $109,000 Year Registrar But Questions Persist

by Scott Dreyer

For many historical and cultural reasons, America has traditionally been what sociologists call a “high-trust” society. As reported in this report from the Pew Research Center, cultures with high trust (such as Canada and Sweden) usually have low crime and corruption while the reverse (such as South Africa and Peru) is also true.

Unfortunately, polls show Americans’ trust in major institutions has been on a downward slope for the past 15 years or so. Gallup first measured confidence in institutions in 1973 and has done so annually since 1993. A Gallup poll from June 2022 showed significant declines for 11 of the 16 institutions tested and no improvements for any.

Those who expressed “a great deal” of confidence in the three branches of the federal government, newspapers, TV news, big tech, and the criminal justice system were all at 26% or below.

On the issue of voting, most Americans have generally trusted the system, although documented cases of stolen elections exist. One example is the 1948 Democrat primary Senate runoff in Texas. Then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson (D) was initially behind until some mysteriously “uncounted ballots” were found in a ballot box called Box 13. Johnson then won with an 87-vote margin, earning him the nickname “Landslide Lyndon.” Johnson went on to defeat the Republican candidate in November and from the Senate later became John F. Kennedy’s vice president and then president after JFK’s assassination. Continue reading

Past Time for Serious Sanctions for the Commonwealth’s Worst Nursing Homes

by James C. Sherlock

Effective May 1 of this year, Karen Shelton M.D. became Virginia’s Health Commissioner. Dr. Shelton is now the licensor and regulator of Virginia’s nursing homes.

By law, state-licensed nursing homes must comply with federal and state laws and standards. By regulation, the Health Commissioner “may impose such administrative sanctions or take such actions as are appropriate for violation of any of the standards or statutes or for abuse or neglect of persons in care.”

It is time.

I hope that she will pose a challenge to her Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC), of which I am a public admirer, that goes something like this.

Too many Virginia nursing homes are measured objectively by CMS (the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) to be dangerous to the health and welfare of their patients through a combination of:

  • inspections that we ourselves conduct;
  • staffing measures linked to payroll data; and
  • medical quality measures from federal records.

Many have been that way for a very long time.

Current staffing far below CMS requirements seems to indicate that too many have no apparent path to improvement.

Come and see me in a couple of weeks with a list of the absolute worst of them.

And tell me why I should not shut them down to let the rest know that there are minimum standards beneath which they will not be permitted to operate in Virginia.

And one more thing.

Please let me know if there are organizations or individuals, current or recent, whose facilities have appeared regularly enough with the lowest staffing rating to indicate that understaffing may constitute a business model rather than a local exigency.

That too will not be tolerated.

We will take on those challenges here as if they are our own.

This article will identify the absolute worst of the facilities, using government records. The next will look at understaffing trends among owners. Continue reading