Category Archives: Political Influence

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Hubs for Government and Not-for-Profit Services in Inner Cities – Part 1 – the Current Framework

by James C. Sherlock

I believe a major approach to address both education and health care in Virginia’s inner cities is available if we will define it right and use it right.

Community schools.

One issue. Virginia’s official version of community schools, the Virginia Community School Framework, (the Framework) is fatally flawed.

The approach successful elsewhere brings government professional healthcare and social services and not-for-profit healthcare assets simultaneously to the schools and to the surrounding communities at a location centered around existing schools.

That model is a government and private not-for-profit services hub centered around schools in communities that need a lot of both. Lots of other goals fall into place and efficiencies are realized for both the community and the service providers if that is the approach.

That is not what Virginia has done in its 2019 Framework.

The rest of government and the not-for-profit sector are ignored and Virginia public schools are designed there to be increasingly responsible for things that they are not competent to do.

To see why, we only need to review the lists of persons who made up both the Advisory Committee and the Additional Contributors. Full of Ed.Ds and Ph.D’s in education, there was not a single person on either list with a job or career outside the field of education. Continue reading

RVA 5×5: Redefining 100 Percent Compliance

by Jon Baliles

The recent stories from the City Jail have been anything but good — inmates dying far too often, staffing shortages leading to dangerous work conditions,  deputies quitting, and the lack of leadership that can’t fill the vacancies while conducting lie detector tests on some of the staff that remain.

Tyler Layne at CBS6 reports: “In December 2022, Richmond Councilperson Reva Trammell sent a formal letter to the Board of Local and Regional Jails requesting an investigation into the facility for compliance with state regulations. Several of Trammell’s colleagues on Richmond City Council said they supported her efforts.”

Few people beyond Trammell sounded much of an alarm about the jail until recently, when it became far too obvious that something needs to be done. Families, advocates, and elected officials have finally started raising the volume in recent weeks.

Layne went to the meeting of The Board of Local and Regional Jails (a state board charged to oversee, regulate, and investigate facilities across Virginia) to try and get some answers as to what, if anything, the state is doing. At the meeting, the board discussed ten different cases but found no violations (each case’s location were not revealed), but Layne was told after the meeting that Richmond was not one of the ten cases discussed.

Board Chairman Vernie Francis, Jr. told Layne “We’ll handle all the investigations of any facility the same way, through the process, treat every facility the exact same way.”

Francis told Layne that once an investigation is concluded and reported back to the Board, the facility must develop a corrective action plan if violations are discovered; the action plan can be approved or rejected by the Board.

CBS6 submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the board’s recent email communications related to Richmond’s jail. Ryan McCord, the Board of Local and Regional Jails executive director wrote Layne that “the board withheld 50 records, citing a FOIA exemption that applies to information about imprisoned people. The board withheld an additional 75 records, citing an exemption that applies to working papers of the Governor’s Office.”
Continue reading

Leave Arlington’s Confederate Memorial Intact

Cherry trees bloom in Jackson Circle around the Confederate Monument in Section 16 of Arlington National Cemetery, April 7, 2015, in Arlington, Va. The Confederate Monument was unveiled June 4, 1914, according to the ANC website. (Arlington National Cemetery photo by Rachel Larue)

by Phil Leigh

Arlington National Cemetery’s Confederate Memorial should remain intact. Although four of the first seven cotton states arguably seceded from the union over slavery, they did not cause the Civil War. They had no purpose to overthrow the federal government. After forming the seven state Confederacy in February 1861, they promptly sent commissioners to Washington to “preserve the most friendly relations” with the truncated Union. Instead of letting the cotton states depart in peace, the North’s resolve to force them back into the Union caused the war.

With half of the military-aged white men of the eventual 11-state Confederacy, the four states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas only joined the original seven after President Lincoln called upon them to provide volunteers to force the first seven back into the Union. In response to a telegram from Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton directing that Virginia provide her quota of such volunteers, Governor John Letcher replied that his state would not comply and concluded: “You have chosen to inaugurate Civil War….”

On the eve of the war, Northerners and Southerners differed on their relative loyalties to the federal and state governments. According to historians Edward Channing and Eva Moore, Northerners had

the general opinion that the Union was sovereign, and the states were part of it…. The idea that the people of the United States formed one nation had been reinforced by the coming of immigrants from abroad. These people had no conception of a ‘state’ or a sentimental attachment to a ‘state.’ They had come to America to better their condition….

By mostly settling in the North, they reinforced the Northerners’ belief that they owed their loyalty to the Union first and only secondarily to the state. Continue reading

The Naming Commission’s Diktats

by Donald Smith

The Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) was authorized as part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Its eight commissioners included two retired Army generals, a retired Navy admiral and a retired Marine Corps general. It also had academics with imposing credentials. One commissioner is a professor emeritus at United States Military Academy West Point and another is a senior official at the American Enterprise Institute. The commission’s chief historian, Connor Williams, took a leave of absence from his faculty position at Yale to serve on the CNC. The CNC even had an elected federal official — Austin Scott, a Republican congressman from Georgia.

The CNC recommended — among many, many other things — that all active U.S. Army bases named for Confederate generals be renamed. And, in the Preface to Part 1 of its report, it appears to pick a fight.

This is how the CNC report’s Preface characterizes monuments erected to Confederates and the Confederacy in the years following the Civil War:

Most importantly, during the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, the South and much of the nation came to live under a mistaken understanding of the Civil War known as the “Lost Cause.” As part of the “Lost Cause,” across the nation, champions of that memory built monuments to Confederate leaders and to the Confederacy, including on many Department of Defense assets. In every instance and every aspect, these names and memorials have far more to do with the culture under which they were named than they have with any historical acts actually committed by their namesakes. (Preface, page 3).

The obvious implication of this statement goes well beyond changing some base names. The commissioners presume to pass judgment on (a) what these names and memorials meant to everyone and (b) what the “real” motivations for those statues were. Think about that. Continue reading

Suggestions to Ease Virginia’s Housing Crisis without Additional State Money

Courtesy californiahumandevelopment.org

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, on cue, wrote in an editorial the other day that more state money was needed to fund local housing.

Maybe.

But that is not the first place to look.

The governor wants to condition development aid to local communities on their reforming land-use policies to permit more construction.

I have a few ideas along that line.

Proffers, also known as conditional zoning, are a recognition that real estate developments have impacts on other properties and on services provided by the local jurisdiction. Fair enough.

The money for roads, sewers and schools has to come from somewhere. Proffers make the developers and their customers pay for a share of capital improvements deemed necessary by city/county planners.

Wielded unpredictably, and sometimes unethically, they are also part of the problem. See the excellent article Politics and Proffers by Matt Ahern for the games played with proffers and their cost to the housing economy.

Then there is low-cost housing.

The Commonwealth by law permits but does not require localities to waive fees for low-cost housing. That law, originally and curiously restricted to only non-profit developers, was updated in 2019 to permit the same waivers to for-profit builders.

Send state housing funds only to jurisdictions that do so. Require in law a limit to the costs of proffers for low-cost housing.

Finally, tax Virginia’s astonishingly profitable non-profit hospitals to help them with their mission of caring for the disadvantaged — in this case in low-cost housing. Continue reading

More on Virginia Sheriffs

Governor Youngkin and incoming officers of Virginia Sheriffs Association  Photo Credit:  Virginia Sheriffs Association

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

This article is a follow-up to Jim McCarthy’s article on sheriffs.  My main purpose is to provide some details and more context to the discussion of the position of sheriff in Virginia.

The sheriff is a “constitutional officer.” Article VII, Section 4 of the state constitution directs that in each county and city there shall be elected, among other positions, a sheriff. The provision goes on to say, “The duties and compensation of such officers shall be prescribed by general law or special act.”

The general powers of a sheriff include law enforcement, jail operation, court security, and service of process. However, state law authorizes cities and towns to establish any departments set out in their charters. As a result, all cities and most towns have charter provisions allowing them to establish a police department. Therefore, sheriffs in cities are limited to administering the jail, providing security in the courts, and serving process papers. Continue reading

$8 Million a Year for Higher-Ed’s Non-Lobbyist Lobbyists

by James A. Bacon

When Donald J. Finley retired from the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) earlier this year, Virginia’s higher-ed industry lost one of its most effective advocates in Richmond. As Charles Kelley with McGuire Woods Consulting tweeted at the time: “Don is the best example of a true public servant, and he’s undoubtedly the single-most important factor in silently but masterfully making Virginia’s #highered system the powerhouse it has grown into over the last half century.”

The goal of the Council is to support “higher ed investment” in Virginia toward the goal of building a world-class workforce. Last month the organization issued a press release applauding the General Assembly for its “historic vote” that would provide “more than $1 billion in new state funding focused on college affordability and talent development.”

The higher-ed lobby is one of the most powerful in Richmond. Not only can universities mobilize the support of business organizations such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and call upon powerful alumni for assistance, they field a small army of government relations (GR) employees. By one count, Virginia’s public universities alone account for 50 state employees who are compensated (not counting benefits) $8.6 million a year — not counting paid lobbyists. Continue reading

New Fed Policy Would Hide CMS Data on Patient Safety Records of Hospitals

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most disturbing commentaries I have read in a long time relating to federal efforts to improve hospital patient safety reports a major step backwards in that program.

I have written here many times of the power of the hospitals over Virginia’s politics. A proposed new federal rule shows that power at the federal level. It would negatively affect your ability to understand and compare the patient safety records of hospitals.

The Biden administration Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes to hide from the public a CMS rating that helps consumers view relative patient safety grades of hospitals. As important to the hospitals, perhaps, no one would be able to report on that information.

It also proposes to waive $350 million in fines for hospitals that violated existing regulations.

CMS for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is, with this rule, exercising the extraordinary powers the Secretary gives himself by constantly extending the Declaration of Public Emergency for COVID.  And yes, that is legal.

Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) submitted a 17-page letter of comment. It of course supported the waiver of fines.  On the issue of suppressing patient safety data, the VHHA wrote, unsurprisingly:

“VHHA and its members are supportive of the proposed suppression (of data) in the HVBP program.”

The letter also encouraged CMS to also suppress pneumonia mortality measure because of the potential overlap with COVID- related pneumonia.

The only way that could happen since CMS is already suppressing data with a primary or secondary COVID diagnosis is if there was no reported COVID indication in pneumonia cases.

The proposal itself represents a major scandal.  A total of 1,533 comments, now closed, were submitted on the proposed rule.

They comments from doctors and patient safety groups were unsupportive.  Hospitals were very supportive.  The Virginia Department of Health sent a short letter on the larger rule, but did not comment on data suppression.

The result: political healthcare rules courtesy of the Biden administration and the hospital lobby.

The following article is reprinted by permission of Kaiser Health News. Continue reading

Virtual Education in K-12 Public Schools – A False and Corrupt Narrative in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Public employee interests with personal stakes in the outcome are lying by omission in public discussions of virtual schooling in Virginia.

Their message was published in Suzanne Munson’s column in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Jun 25th.

The VDOE has made a commendable start with online learning through its Virtual Virginia classes. But these are available in only a handful of school districts, serving less than 2% of the commonwealth’s students. This system could become a major player, with serious funding from the General Assembly. (emphasis added)

A free, accredited online curriculum, featuring the finest instructors in every subject, would level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds. Rich and poor students alike across the commonwealth could receive the same good instruction, addressing uneven education in affluent, low-income and rural areas. Students confined at home due to illnesses or physical disabilities would be able to keep up with their studies and not fall behind.

Additionally, for those choosing remote learning individually or in small-group settings, this need not be an isolated experience. There could be opportunities for discussion, exercise, social interaction and creative expression, with adult supervision.

Ms. Munson failed to mention that exactly the public school educations she describes have been offered successfully for more than a decade free to parents by VDOE-certified private providers offering SOL-compliant instruction here in the Commonwealth.  Ms. Munson may even be ignorant of the existence of the privately run program.  

Somehow they have been doing it for those years to the great satisfaction of parents without “serious funding from the General Assembly.” They exist on the state share of school funding for each pupil that attends. The state money follows the child. No special state appropriations. Parents pay nothing. The local school districts pay nothing.

The problem the state employees have with that program is that the participating organizations are privately run. VDOE under the previous administration made a coordinated attempt to drive the MOP (Multi-division Online Provider) program out of business.

Now the state employees, using communications like Ms. Munson’s column, are lobbying for vast increases in dedicated state appropriations for their own virtual program. Promotions undoubtedly to follow for everyone currently in the program.

That constitutes public corruption. Continue reading

The Defense Production Act as a Political Tool to Boost Solar Farms

Courtesy Dominion Energy

by James C. Sherlock

We have had multiple discussions, good ones, on the issues surrounding solar farms in Virginia.

Jim Bacon wrote an excellent column about it in February of 2021 titled “The Political Economy of Solar Farms.” It was good then and prescient as of yesterday.

He wrote another one two days earlier.  From that piece:

With the enactment of the (Virginia Clean Economy Act) VCEA, Freitas wrote in the press release, Virginia is experiencing extensive land leasing and acquisition by solar developers. More than 180 solar projects accounting for 140 million solar panels are in various stages of approval or construction. Full implementation of the ACT would consume 490 square miles of Virginia’s forests and farmland, an area twenty times the size of Manhattan.

Thanks to President Biden’s new political/industrial policy, those solar farms just got cheaper. And Chinese solar stocks just got more expensive.

Both of which were made to happen because the President removed the tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Readers rationally can be for that action or against it. But the left has settled on the Defense Production Act as a favored service animal.

So, the President, in addition to removing the tariffs, invoked that act as a national emergency response to mandate additional domestic production of solar panels.

Let’s try to pin down the nature of the emergency and the unintended consequences. Continue reading

Unionize Virginia’s Worst Nursing Home Chains

by James C. Sherlock

If you go back to the series of articles I published here in October of 2021, you can refresh your memory on the dangers represented by Virginia’s worst nursing home chains.

If you look at the complete spreadsheet of every Virginia nursing home from that data sorted by ownership, the bad actors jump off the page. Their business models treat understaffing as a feature, not a problem. The fact that it endangers their employees and kills their patients seems not to matter.

The Commonwealth’s executive and legislative branches have for a very long time absolutely ignored their responsibilities as the state legislature and as the state executive regulator, federal and state inspector and state licensor of nursing homes, respectively. There is as yet no sign that will improve. I have hopes the new administration will step up to those responsibilities, but we’ll have to wait and see.

For now, the only fix that appears viable is unionization of the work forces of the bad actors. I encourage their employees to do it for themselves and their patients. Continue reading

Not the Normal Governor Means Not the Normal Ethics

Matt Moran, Deputy Chief of Staff, aka Special Advisor
Photo credit: Creative Direct

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Glenn Youngkin recently declared, “I guess I’m maybe not the normal governor. I think one of the differences is that I am an outsider and I come in with ideas on how we communicate.”

We are beginning to find out how true that is. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that one of the Governor’s top policy aides is not a state employee, but a lobbyist on the payroll of a lobbying company. Matt Moran is on a paid leave of absence from Creative Direct, a political consulting firm, and LINK Public Affairs, an offshoot from Creative Direct. When Youngkin first announced his appointment, he listed Moran’s title as “deputy chief of staff and director of policy and legislative affairs.” A sign on his door in the Patrick Henry Building bore the title, “deputy chief of staff.” The statement of economic interest he filed upon taking office listed his position as “deputy chief of staff.”   In appearances before legislative committees, he identified himself as “deputy chief of staff.” He is now labeled “special advisor” and the January 21 news release announcing his appointment has been “corrected.” Continue reading

Know the Terms of Surrender in Negotiating With Teachers Unions

Courtesy of Show Me Institute

by James C. Sherlock

Franklin Roosevelt thought collective bargaining agreements incompatible with public sector work.

Today’s left, unburdened by the public interest, finds FDR’s principles at best quaint.

Since May of last year collective bargaining is legal in Virginia for local government employees by local option, but for not state employees.

The issues most people think of being negotiated by unions are pay and benefits and, in blue collar unions, on-the-job safety. For teachers unions, we need to be sure negotiations are limited to pay and benefits, or they will take over the running of the schools.

Such a takeover is now policy in Richmond Public Schools. Continue reading

A Time for Conservatives to Speak Out

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes in life we come to a major fork in deciding who we are and who we are going to be going forward.

Donald Trump was quoted in the New York Times as having on Tuesday

“praised Mr. Putin’s aggression as “genius” and called the Russian leader “very savvy” for describing the troops aligned on the Ukrainian border as peacekeepers.”

Watch the video. No one can hurt him as badly as his own words and sneering presentation. Mr. Trump has lost what little self control he ever had. He can’t tell the difference between feigning intimacy by being casually offhanded about something as important as war and instead seeming utterly unanchored in reality.

Mr. Trump’s rant made it all about himself. He praised Mr. Putin as a throw away line. The whole presentation was disgraceful.  No a word about the freedom of Ukraine’s 41 million people.

He clearly has no sense at all of history and he can’t tell the difference between savvy and madness in Mr. Putin — and perhaps in himself.

Some Virginia politicians have tied themselves to Mr. Trump. Those who from this point forward do so without calling him out for this will have made a public choice. Continue reading

Hands Off My Donations!

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia Senators wasted little time killing off an attempt to limit campaign contributions. On its first day of meetings, the Privileges and Elections Committee took up Senator Chap Petersen’s bill to place a $2o,000 cap on campaign contributions (SB 44). Voting to report the bill were five Democrats: Deeds (Bath), Ebbin (Alexandria), Mason (Williamsburg), McClellan (Richmond), and Boysko (Fairfax). The ten Senators voting to kill the bill included all seven Republicans on the committee: Vogel (Fauquier), Reeves (Spotsylvania), Ruff (Mecklenburg), Peake (Lynchburg), McDougle (Hanover), Bell (Loudoun), and Hackworth (Tazewell). Joining them were three Democrats: Howell (Fairfax), Spruill (Chesapeake), and Surovell (Fairfax).

This does not bode well for Petersen’s headliner campaign bill that would ban campaign contributions from public utilities (SB 45). The legislation is obviously aimed at Dominion Energy. Petersen has called on the Governor to support the bill. It will be instructive to see if (1) Youngkin comes out publicly in support of the bill and (2) if he does, whether that will be enough to sway enough senators, Democrats and Republicans, to vote for the bill.