by James A. Bacon
Anyone notice how we don’t hear about school shootings anymore? Ever since the nation became fixated on the COVID-19 epidemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, school shootings have dropped out of the headlines.
According to an ongoing list compiled by Wikipedia, there have been eight school shootings (four in Texas, two in California, and one each in Florida and Illinois) so far this year. Six occurred before Feb. 4. Since then, only two school or college shootings been reported. In 2019, there had been 40 shootings by this time of year. What’s going on?
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
The Senate Judiciary Committee reported many of the Democrats’ criminal justice reform bills at its meeting last week. I will discuss the most important ones, in some depth, in installments, rather than all at once. This first installment is on the interaction between police and mentally ill folks.
For many years, police officials and sheriffs have warned of the problems posed by mentally ill persons committing crimes, often petty ones, as well as by those having a crisis and acting more violently. This problem has been increasing over the years. (The reasons for this increase are beyond the scope of this post as well as beyond the scope of the knowledge and expertise of the author.) Law-enforcement officials have said publicly, repeatedly and correctly, that their officers have not been trained to deal appropriately with these folks. Continue reading
Camp Mount Shenandoah: less screen time, more time outdoors
by James A. Bacon
A philosophical question to ponder: If the Commonwealth of Virginia shuts down an entire industry by executive order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, what moral obligation does it have to help the businesses survive the epidemic?
Literally no industry in Virginia has been more impacted by the emergency shutdown than overnight summer camps. Summer camps do not comprise a particularly big industry — one guesstimate is that 75 establishments generate in the realm of $100 million a year — so they cannot be said be be economically “essential.” But they are essential, camp advocates say, for the mental health of thousands of Virginia kids, who need physical activity and social interaction.
Many industries have been slammed by the emergency shutdown. However, none but the summer camps have been entirely shuttered for all three phases. Camps generate 90% or more of total revenue from seven to 12 weeks during the summer, and if they are forced to close during that period, there is no way to make up for lost revenue. Continue reading
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
I have been thinking a lot about a Washington Post article and accompanying police body camera footage.
In that footage, a black man is pacing around and around in the middle of a street talking loudly, mostly incoherently. He is not being confrontational, but he is not cooperating, either. Several white Fairfax County police officers and at least one EMT are trying to find out what help he needs and trying to coax him into the back of an ambulance. Finally, one officer, just arriving on the scene, tases the man and brings him down. After some struggling and yelling, plus a couple of more tasings, the man is handcuffed and lying on his side in the street. The upshot: The man is taken to a hospital, treated, and released; the county police chief expresses outrage at the way the situation was handled; and the officer is charged with three counts of assault and battery. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
In 2014, the Sheriff’s Department of York County and Poquoson got their very own tank-like vehicle, called a “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).”
Fully armored and tan in color with steep sides, it looks like something out television footage of the war in Iraq where U.S. troops needed to get through mine-infested streets and terrain safely.
But why do such generally sleepy communities such as these need a high-powered armored car? Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Digs told The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press that it isn’t meant to “intimidate people” but can be useful during adverse weather when trees are down. Really? Wouldn’t a pickup truck work?
The newspaper story is important since it combs through what Virginia law enforcement got after the “1033”Defense Department program started to sell surplus military gear to local law enforcement in 1997.
It notes that military surplus sales in Virginia went from $216,000 in 1999 to $853,824 in 2019, according to Defense Logistics Agency statistics. The latter number included the cost of another MRAP so Virginia Beach could get its very own armored truck. Over time, the City of Portsmouth got 87 M-16 assault rifles. Other goodies include night vision glasses. Continue reading
Posted in Budgets, Business and Economy, Commentary, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Defense, Disaster planning, Federal, Gun rights, Individual rights, Mental illness, Poverty & income gap, Property rights, Public corruption, Public safety & health, Race and race relations
by James A. Bacon
Virginia tax revenue fell $700 million in April compared to the same month a year ago, a 26.2% drop. That decline, of course, reflects the nose dive in the economy that generates tax revenues. In response to this news, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Ralph Northam made a telling comment yesterday that sums up his approach to the COVID-19 epidemic:
As anticipated, this is the first monthly revenue report to reflect the significant negative impacts of COVID-19 on the health of our commonwealth’s finances. We are facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and we must combat this virus before we can begin to repair our economy. My top priorities continue to be protecting the health and safety of all Virginians.
Northam is hardly alone in holding these sentiments. They are shared by most Democratic elected officials, a few Republicans, almost the entirely of the news media, and much of the public. The belief that “we must combat this virus before we can begin to repair our economy” is driving public policy in Virginia and many other states.
Thank you, Governor, for stating the philosophical principle at stake so plainly.
There are so many flaws in this reasoning, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I shall address the most obvious. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
As you know, people like me have been described by a B.R. commenter as those who submit “scorch and burn, mock and smear writings encased in scornful, supercilious, opinionated, and shallow rhetoric.”
I freely admit this and am damned proud of it.
But instead of dishing out the usual sarcastic bile, I have another idea today. I don’t know about you, but with me self-quaranting as much as possible, I am running out of things to read or watch. I still have for-pay work but who knows how much that might last? So, why don’t we exchange ideas of new stuff to occupy our minds with. Here’s a list of recommended movies, TV series and books:
- On Netflix, I am a huge fan of the German TV series “Bablyon Berlin,” which imagines a very dark, brooding German capital after the Great War and before Hitler. The chief characters are Georeon Rath, a shattered war veteran and police detective who gets into the seamy side of life. His heart throb is Charlotte Ritter, an office worker and part-time prostitute. The series has everything, shady characters, mysterious train shipments from the Soviet Union, fascists, communists, early porn studios. The acting, story line and photography are excellent. It’s like a grown up version of “Cabaret.”
Posted in Blogs and blog administration, Commentary, Culture wars, Defense, Energy, Environment, Immigration, Media, Mental illness, Money in politics, News, Politics, Public safety & health
The capital projects section of the budget bill is often overlooked by the media. That has been especially the case this year, with all the major initiatives brought forth by the Democrats.
I am working on one or more submissions dealing with capital development, but, in the meantime, there is one item that deserves a post of its own. Deep in the back of budget bill (HB 30), in Item C-72, there lurks a proposal of dubious constitutionality involving a lot of money.
The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) is a well-regarded, private nonprofit, free-standing children’s hospital in Norfolk. The budget bill directs that $33.4 million in tax-supported bond proceeds be provided for the construction of a 60-bed mental health hospital at CHKD. Continue reading
The Commonwealth is experiencing a crisis in its mental health system. The situation is the result of some positive initiatives of the General Assembly, coupled with the legislature’s reluctance to provide the funding needed to deal with the results of those initiatives.
The crisis is an acute shortage of mental health treatment beds. Around the first of this month, the Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) warned “there will be times over the July 4th holiday weekend when there will not be any open staffed beds at any of the state hospitals.” And the July 4 weekend was not an aberration. The state’s adult mental health hospitals operated at 98 to 100 percent capacity in May and June. One day this month, the two hospitals that treat elderly patients had more patients than beds.
The state has reduced its mental health bed capacity in recent years, going from 1,571 beds in June 2010 to 1,491 beds in FY 2020, a reduction of five percent.
During that period of decreasing bed capacity, the General Assembly took two actions that have resulted in a significant increase in mental health admissions. Continue reading
Cranky strikes again. John Butcher does another deep dive into Richmond Public School statistics, comparing the capital city’s school system with the schools in peer cities of Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News. Richmond spends $2,887 more per student than the state average, and it spends $1,659 more on instructional expenses. Yet somehow, the district supports fewer instructional positions per 100 students and pays teachers and principals less. And, as Butcher has amply demonstrated before, disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students in Richmond under-perform their disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged peers in other urban-core localities by wide margins.
How about the indignity of attending lousy schools? But never fear, Richmond school administrators are au current with the latest in politically correct virtue signaling. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond schools started requiring graduating students to wear gender-neutral gaps and gowns this year, ending a decades-long practice of having separate colors for men and women. Explained Superintendent Jason Kamras: “We want to make sure out transgender and nonbinary students don’t have to suffer the indignity of being forced to express their gender in a manner contrary to their identity.”
Big subsidies for big data. Virginia is home to 159 data centers that benefited from $417.5 million in sales-and-use tax exemptions from mid-2010 through mid-2017, according to estimates from a new Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission report. JLARC deems the state subsidies to have been “relatively effective” and generate “moderate economic benefits.” It is reasonable for the state to continue the exemption, concluded JLARC. However, the tax break does not appear to have stimulated growth in distressed areas. Continue reading
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a front-page article today that raises many questions. It reports that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) has entered into a two-year, $7 million contract with a private company to transport persons, who have been temporarily detained, to hospitals or mental health facilities for evaluation of being involuntarily committed.
Traditionally, sheriffs’ deputies or police officers transported these individuals, usually in marked police cars and sometimes in handcuffs. The rationale for contracting out this service is that it will be less traumatic for the involuntarily committed person and it will free up law enforcement officers, who spend thousands of hours on these transportation runs, for other public safety functions.
I sympathize with the motives for the change. Putting mentally ill people in police cars, sometimes in handcuffs, undoubtedly increases their trauma and reinforces the stigma accompanying mental illness. Law enforcement officers often have to drive many miles, sometimes across the state, to transport these patients, wait until the mental health facility accepts them as patients, and turn around and drive back to their home locality. That is a lot of time that the officers could have been on patrol duty, enforcing traffic laws or responding to calls for law enforcement support.
Nevertheless, contracting out this function to a private company is not necessarily a good idea. Continue reading