by James C. Sherlock
At the age of 75 with a life of experience in and with government, I will offer here my assessment of the current structural problems in our state government that make that government significantly less efficient and effective than it should be.
You will note that these comments generally do not point fingers at either party, but rather at the sum of their efforts or lack of same.
I grew up the son of a federal worker. Most of the men in our Falls Church neighborhood were WW II veterans and after the war most of them were civilian employees of the federal government. I spent nearly 30 years in the Navy and ten more as a government contractor. I dealt with Congress a lot.
In retirement, I took up causes for improving my state. I have spent a lot of time over 15 years dealing with the General Assembly, the Governor and the state administration.
So those are the bases for my perspectives. You will note that my experience dealing with the federal government informs my critique of the government of Virginia. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
I have competed a study of Virginia’s worst-performing schools in the education of black children. The results presented in this essay represent a scandal of the first order and demand explanations, both from the school boards and the Virginia Department of Education.
In my next post I will review two books by prominent black academics with polar opposite views on what to do about it. But this is about the abject failure of many of Virginia’s schools to educate black students.
by James C. Sherlock
Before voters go to the polls on Tuesday, I think it a useful exercise to consider the future of the Bill of Rights with a Supreme Court “expanded,” as promised by Democrats if they control the Presidency and the Senate, to provide a leftist majority.
To enable that reflection, it is useful to remember that the current Bill of Rights is composed of 10 amendments offered as constraints on the national government and, by extension of most of them, to state governments.
As a general observation, the left wing of the Democratic party opposes any restraints on federal power.
We will examine the controlling Supreme Court decisions that affect the enforcement of these freedoms and would be put in jeopardy by a court that embraced critical theory.
What follows are the musings of a citizen who is not an attorney, albeit a citizen who can and does read and recounts the common understandings of the Court decisions below.
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
Well, investigative journalism is still alive. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has teamed up with the national journalist investigative organization, ProPublica, to report on the political influence of Dominion Energy in Virginia.
The first result of this effort is a major, long article in today’s edition of the RTD. By long, I mean a big front-page display and three full pages on the inside, plus another full page on utility influence in other states. For those BR readers who are stopped by the newspaper’s paywall, I would recommend that you try to read it. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Virginia’s House of Delegates is both doctrinaire and ineffective. Oh, and scared witless of Covid-19. They’re working in their bathrobes, while members of the Senate actually show up every day.
If you’re wondering why these lawmakers turned what was supposed to be a short summer special session to deal with a hole in the budget into a marathon soft-on-crime-screw-the-cops festival, blame Michael Bloomberg.
The meddling billionaire from New York poured millions into Virginia state races in 2019 through two of his PACs. His money helped flip both houses of the General Assembly blue. The Democrats, who were beneficiaries of Bloomberg’s largesse, slurped up his loot and are now busy pushing the former New York mayor’s far-left agenda in Richmond.
You can’t say they aren’t grateful.
It’s all legal. Completely repugnant. Continue reading
MONEY IN POLITICS
By Steve Haner
Welcome to the current state of politics, where an incumbent preens as being free from special interest funding and their sworn enemy, all while the special interests spend millions seeking to tear down the challenger.
House Bill 827, approved by the 2020 General Assembly, did not really provide additional employment protection for Virginia’s pregnant women. It created a new state-level bureaucratic shillelagh to use if they felt aggrieved, backed up by the threat of state lawsuits and punitive damages. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.
Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.
The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.
Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.
According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading
Smedley Crane & Construction remove the Commodore Maury statue.
by James A. Bacon
Three years ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article headlined thusly: “Baltimore paid less than $20,000 to remove four Confederate monuments last month. So what does that mean for Richmond?”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe had estimated that it would cost more than $5 million to remove five Confederate statues from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. They argued that such a large sum would be more productively spent on city schools.
After conducting a Freedom of Information Act request, the RTD discovered that the City of Baltimore had paid a contractor $19,364 for “monument removal and storage” of four Confederate statues. The contractor put the statues in a city storage lot and covered them with tarps. To address security concerns, the city had the statues removed overnight with no advance notice.
The RTD article seems especially relevant today as Stoney, running for re-election, defends his decision to pay a campaign contributor $1.8 million to remove four statues: of Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Mathew Fontaine Maury. The circumstances in Baltimore and Richmond were not identical. The Richmond statues were larger than the Baltimore statues. Stoney was acting during a public emergency punctuated by violent protests. No Richmond contractor was willing to undertake the job, and the mayor had to look out-of-state for someone to do the work.
But when the cost differs by a factor of almost 100, Stoney has some explaining to do. Especially when he ignored Richmond and state procurement policies to award the contract to a dummy corporation set up by Devon Henry, a campaign contributor. Continue reading
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 Peter Galuszka
For six long years, Dominion Energy and its partners in the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline have waged war against Virginians as they have pushed their way forward with the 600-mile-long natural gas project.
Their strong-armed methods have created untold misery and expense for land-owners, members of lower income minority communities, nature lovers, bird watchers, fishermen, and many others.
When some declined to let the ACP to trespass on their property for survey work, they ended up in lengthy and expensive lawsuits. Others spent hundreds of hours on their own time and dime fighting Virginia regulatory agencies who all but seemed to be in the pocket of the ACP.
And so it goes. For what? So Dominion and its partners could make billions of dollars, some of it paid for by electricity ratepayers, for a project whose public need was always in doubt. On July 5, the ACP threw in the towel.
I put together this commentary in The Washington Post suggesting what might be done to prevent this from happening again: Continue reading
Screen Grab from the contractor’s invoice filed by NAH, LLC, for $1.8 million in work performed in removing Confederate statues and cannons.
by James A. Bacon
Most of the Confederate statues and memorials in the City of Richmond are gone. Only the statue of Robert E. Lee, the subject of ongoing litigation, remains. The statues and cannons are not coming back. The broken egg cannot be reassembled. But there are legitimate issues relating to Mayor Levar Stoney’s use or abuse of power. It’s one thing to remove the statues in accordance with state law and local ordinance. It’s another to take them down in violation of the same laws and ordinances under pressure from protesters and mobs.
One big question is by what authority Stoney spent $1.8 million to pay the contractor that removed the memorials. City Council never appropriated the funds. An employee of a state agency familiar with state procurement policy, who asks to remain anonymous, thought Stoney’s procurement of statue-removal services seemed “irregular,” so she filed a Freedom of Information Request for more information. She shared the resulting documents with Bacon’s Rebellion.
Among her more interesting findings was the fact that Stoney contracted on July 1, 2020, with a Henrico County entity, NAH, LLC, to do the work. The paperwork for creating the partnership had been filed with the State Corporation Commission June 22 — only days previously. The timing suggests that NAH was not an ongoing business enterprise but was formed for the express purpose of removing the statues.
That raises several questions. Who are the principals behind NAH? How was the plan conceived? Do the principals have any connection to Stoney beyond the signing and execution of the contract itself? Continue reading
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
by James A. Bacon
Before it sold off its national newspaper division to Lee Enterprises for a measly $140 million in March, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Roanoke Times, the Daily Progress (in Charlottesville), and the News Virginian (in Waynesboro). Reporting by these newspapers dominated news coverage of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and shaped the pro-environmental narrative that ultimately defeated it.
Earlier this month Dominion Energy, the pipeline’s managing partner, announced that it was abandoning the project and, indeed, was selling its multibillion-dollar gas distribution business to…. Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Upon consummation of the $4 billion transaction, Berkshire Hathaway’s energy subsidiary will carry 18% of all interstate natural gas transmission in the United States.
Charles Munger Jr., son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger.
Arthur Bloom, managing editor of the American Conservative website, doesn’t come right out and say that Berkshire Hathaway used its power of the press to force Dominion into abandoning the pipeline and unloading its gas distribution, but he does suggest that such a thing might be possible. In “The Great Virginia Pipeline Swindle,” he writes:
What is beyond dispute is the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has now resulted in a substantial acquisition for Berkshire Hathaway, after various people connected to the company have worked to kill it.
By Peter Galuszka
Back in the winter of 2015, Craig Vanderhoef, a former Navy captain, got a disturbing surprise in his mailbox at his retirement home near Afton in Nelson County. A letter from Dominion Resources noted that it wanted to survey his land for a new 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline.
On two occasions, he wrote the utility telling them no. Then he got another surprise. A sheriff’s deputy knocked on his door to serve him with papers notifying him that Dominion was suing him to get access to his property.
In short order, about 240 Virginia landowners were on notice that they too might be sued for Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The county sheriff was notified that he, too, was being sued, although it was an error.
Thus, the stage was set for one of the nastiest environmental and property rights battles in Old Dominion history.
It centered around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run from Harrison County, W.Va. across the rugged Appalachians, down through some of the most peacefully bucolic land in the Virginia., to Union Hill, a mostly African-American community in Buckingham county and on into North Carolina, running through the Tar Heel state’s mostly African-American concentration along its northeastern border with Virginia. Continue reading
Posted in Agriculture & forestry, Energy, Environment, Federal, Government Oversight, Housing, Individual rights, Infrastructure, Land use & development, Money in politics, Politics, Poverty & income gap, Property rights, Public corruption
Breaking news: Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have announced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty. The cost of the project had escalated from $5 billion to $8 billion, and, despite winning a victory in the United States Supreme Court, the power companies still have no certainty of gaining all the needed regulatory approvals.
Said Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell, II, and Duke CEO Lynn J. Good in a joint statement:
We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities. Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. … This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger
By Peter Galuszka
U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th District, continues to draw international attention as a “New Look” Democrat from Virginia who is savvy about the intelligence community and global affairs.
The former CIA case officer was featured on CNN criticizing the administration of Donald Trump for ignoring reports that Russian military intelligence had paid bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops and members of the pro-U.S. coalition there.
Her comments were picked up by the British newspaper, the Guardian. This may be the first time that a woman Member of Congress has gotten so much exposure beyond borders of the Old Dominion.
Neither Dave Brat nor Eric Cantor, her Republican predecessors in the 7th district that includes parts of the once reliably Red Richmond suburbs of Chesterfield and Henrico, has gotten such exposure. The only other woman who has come close is U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat and former Navy officer who represents the 2nd District that includes Virginia Beach, another area that was once reliably Red. Continue reading