Category Archives: Politics

The Trojan Horse Amendment

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I need some help sorting out a dilemma I find myself in.

I am strongly in favor of the concept of authorizing an independent commission to draw legislative district lines. On the other hand, I really do not like the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would create such a commission.

During the debate last session, two objections were the most prominent. The members of the Legislative Black Caucus objected strenuously that the proposed amendment did not guarantee that minorities would be represented on the commission. I am not swayed by that argument. There is ample opportunity to have minorities appointed as citizen members. Furthermore, the voting rights of minorities are protected by the Voting Rights Act. If any redistricting plan produced by the commission unfairly violated the voting rights of minorities, it would be struck down by the federal courts. The Republicans found this out a couple of years ago. Continue reading

I Miss The GOP That Welcomed Bob Calhoun

The late Senator Bob Calhoun, R-Alexandria, with the very much still alive and kicking former Governor Douglas Wilder, in the Senate Chamber. Wilder might have been lieutenant governor at the time. Calhoun family photo attached to the obituary linked below.

Former State Senator Bob Calhoun’s death on August 6 at age 83 is apparently only Alexandria local news so far, but he was such a colorful and useful member of the Senate that his passing needs more notice. The family is delaying any formal memorial services.

Calhoun was funny, one very smart lawyer and an experienced government mandarin from the federal realm.  His expertise included transportation. He had a strong political base in Alexandria as councilman and then vice mayor, and when former Senator Wiley Mitchell told us he was stepping down, he strongly pointed to Bob as the next candidate. In his usual fashion I think he called me at the GOP Caucus office and said, “Bob or else.”  Continue reading

Stoney Didn’t Comply with State Procurement Rules Either

No Department of General Services records that the City of Richmond filed documentation of the statue-removal contract with the state.

by James A. Bacon

The defense of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million statue-removal contract to a campaign supporter — that he followed state emergency procurement law, even if he didn’t abide by the City of Richmond’s law — has no basis in fact.

Stoney’s defenders have argued that the public health and safety were at stake when protesters were trying to tear down the statues, and the Mayor had to act decisively. Stoney executed the contract in compliance with state law that permits the local director of emergency management to forgo “time-consuming procedures or formalities” when awarding contracts during an emergency, Betty Burrell, the city’s director of procurement, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch two days ago.

“Were it possible to pursue a traditional procurement, the mayor would have done so, but circumstances required him to pursue a different legal avenue,” said the mayor’s spokesman Jim Nolan. “This decision was fully within his authority, and he stands by it.”

There’s just one problem with this line of argument: Stoney did not comply with state procurement law. The law does not give local officials a blank check; it requires them to leave a public record of their actions. Continue reading

Virginia’s Special Session: Political Theater

by Kerry Dougherty

Gov. Ralph Northam’s “special session” of the General Assembly that begins today in Richmond is quickly turning into political farce.

What began as an emergency convocation of lawmakers to address the budget catastrophe brought on by Northam’s shutdown of the commonwealth and was expanded to include law enforcement reforms, now threatens to become a legislative free-for-all.

Members are merrily introducing bills that do everything from honor notable Virginians — those couldn’t wait until January? — to bills that prevent police officers from stopping cars when they detect the smell of marijuana.

(Odd, I couldn’t find a companion bill that prevents cops from detaining drivers who reek of alcohol.)

On the eve of the session, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, was charged with not one, but two felonies in connection with the June protests that culminated in the toppling of a Confederate monument that nearly killed a man. Continue reading

Double Standards and the COVID Crisis

OK

by Kerry Dougherty

You want to know why some of us are so cynical about the Covid crisis?

It’s the double standards. The lack of consistency. The shifting goalposts. Officials saying one thing and doing another.

We saw a glaring example of the latter it here in Virginia in May, when the Governor — who’d been quick to order shutdowns, and who was nagging us about social distancing and wearing masks — was seen prancing down the Boardwalk and leaning in for selfies. Maskless. Clueless.

Then there’s been the thorny issue of funerals.

Not OK

Ever since crowd limits were imposed, thousands of Americans buried their dead without proper funerals. Yet those same grieving families could turn on the news to see hundreds turning out for the funerals of George Floyd in Houston and Rep. John Lewis in Atlanta. Continue reading

Brace Yourselves: Another Northam Presser Today

by Kerry Dougherty

Get ready, Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam, the man who can’t stop the rioting in Richmond but thinks he can stop the spread of COVID-19, is holding a press conference.

No, he won’t be announcing strong measures to end the violence and lawlessness roiling the streets of the Capitol. Like most Democrats, the governor appears indifferent to anarchy.

Instead, he’s laser-focused on Tidewater, saying we’re a COVID-19 hot spot.

One thing you can count on: By this afternoon the Ruler of the Commonwealth will issue another decree restricting the rights of Virginians.

He’s been making little threats on Twitter about what’s coming:

He’s been making little threats on Twitter about what’s coming:

Continue reading

Virginia’s Special Session: Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure

by Kerry Dougherty

Get ready, Virginia. Bad things are brewing in Richmond.

On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was bringing the General Assembly back for a special session on August 18.

Lucky us.

The mischief that the far-left majority — bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg — could get into should alarm every moderate Virginian.

There are only two topics that should be on the table for this extraordinary session:

1) How to plug the massive hole in the budget that occurred when Northam’s shutdowns wrecked the economy and 2) How to rein in a governor who used his emergency powers to take almost total control of the commonwealth in March and who seems determined to govern indefinitely by edict without legislative oversight. Continue reading

Gerald Smith: Richmond’s New Top Cop

By Peter Galuszka

FYI, here’s a piece I did for Style Weekly about Richmond’s new p0lice chief, the third in about a month, and his interpretation on the problems of law enforcement in this period of defunding.

Uncertain Times, Uncertain Leadership

by Shaun Kenney

You have to give Governor Ralph Northam the tiniest bit of credit. Not only did he survive wearing blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood (we still don’t know which) but he has done just about everything possible to present himself as the only governor who is also a doctor of medicine.

Richmond will point towards Virginia’s rather decent numbers fighting COVID-19 in comparison to the rest of the South. Geographers will point at the great American megalopolis that stretches from Boston to Hampton Roads. Nothing novel has come from Virginia since William Faulkner — and cancel culture will come for him in due course, I’m sure.

So points for self-preservation.

What we should be talking about is that Virginia — unique among her neighbors — seems to have the worst of both worlds.

Despite our current flirtation with Phase 3 restrictions, businesses are in limbo as to whether or not Northam will continue to allow retail and restaurants to function even at half-mast. Continue reading

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

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

Who Rules America in 2020?

by James A. Bacon

One of my college textbooks back in the early 1970s was a book by G. William Domhoff, “Who Rules America?” He argued, as best I can remember, that a corporate elite wielded power through its influence over government as well its control of cultural institutions such as think tanks, foundations, academic departments. Apparently, Domhoff has updated his book several times over the years, but his fundamental thesis hasn’t changed.

It’s time for a fresh look at the question of who rules America. I would argue that America’s elites have fractured. A post-WWII corporate elite, based on wealth, still exists, but it has schismed. Some plutocrats remain relatively conservative on cultural issues, while others have embraced leftist nostrums. Moreover, there has arisen a cultural elite that is highly resentful of the power and privileges of the corporate elite. Members of the cultural elite aren’t mega-wealthy, but they are privileged and well-to-do, and they exercise enormous authority. They have captured the mainstream media, the universities, the foundations, the nonprofits, the museums and other cultural institutions, and through them, they frame the dominant narratives of our time.

The old corporate elite was motivated primarily by a desire to perpetuate its wealth. The new cultural elite is envious and would like to reappropriate much of that wealth for redistribution as it sees fit. Even more alarmingly, the cultural elite has a totalitarian instinct. Convinced of its righteousness, it is bent upon imposing its values and priorities upon the rest of the population. Continue reading

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

Harsh But Fair? You Decide.

 RPV Chairman Jack Wilson issued a statement today blasting Governor Ralph Northam for allowing COVID-19 to fester in Virginia nursing homes. In a missive headed, “Northam Creates Nursing Home Death Camps,” he said: 

There is a massive problem taking place in Virginia nursing homes and Governor Northam is sweeping it under the rug. When will he take action? When will he take responsibility? Every moment spent parading around with Pharrell Williams and dangling the statue issue in front of Virginians like a set of keys is a moment lost in the fight against COVID-19. He frees criminals from jail because of COVID-19, but delivers a death sentence to our seniors. Virginia is desperate for leadership, and Northam refuses to provide it.

The statement certainly is no worse than a recent fund-raising letter from Attorney General Mark Herring’s gubernatorial campaign, signed ‘Team Herring,” that accuses President Trump of using the COVID-19 crisis to “fan the flames of racism and xenophobic hate.” Referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuflu” or “Chinese flu,” you see, encourages “acts of harassment, aggression, and violence toward Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.”

Surely we’re better than this.

On second thought, maybe we’re not.

— JAB

From Moon Walking to Slow Walking

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m tired of writing about Gov. Ralph Northam. I wish he’d stop doing dumb things so we could all go back to ignoring him.

But here we go again. This time it’s another Northam bait-and-switch.

What is it with this governor? He claims to worship at the altar of science and numbers but becomes an apostate when the facts don’t suit his agenda.

Yesterday, for instance.

Shortly before his Tuesday press conference Northam excitedly Tweeted: “Tune in now – I’m giving an update on #Covid-19 in Virginia and making an important announcement.”

I knew the big announcement wouldn’t be that Northam was looking at our collapsing COVID numbers and was ready to loosen his stranglehold on the commonwealth. That’s not his style. Gullible Virginians may have been tricked into watching, however.

Northam spent about THREE minutes at his presser discussing the biggest issue facing the state: The drawn-out Covid shutdowns that are crushing our economy, forcing businesses into bankruptcy and causing hundreds of thousands of Virginians to lose their jobs. Continue reading

The ACP Wins One But The War Drags On

By Peter Galuszka

The $8.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline has won a significant legal victory but the war is far from over.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, has ruled in favor of project operated by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy saying that its 42-inch pipeline can cross under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest.

The Court ruled that the pipeline can pass 600 feet underneath the trail and that the U.S. Forest Service has the right to allow a right of way. The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the Forest Service had no such authority.

Dissenting, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote that the U.S. Minerals Leasing Act does give the federal government the right to regulate federal land, including trails. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority ruling, said that plans to bury the pipeline under the Appalachian Trail represent an easement which is not the same as “land.”

The project still faces eight other permitting issues involving the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Continue reading