Category Archives: Uncategorized

Food Trucks Can Create Oases in Food Deserts

Food desert theory.  Food deserts in cities can be defined as urban areas where it is difficult to buy high quality fresh foods at an affordable price.  This lack of access to healthy food causes problems for people living within these food deserts.  Instead of eating healthily people living in food deserts buy the “junk food” that is available. This, in turn, causes a variety of predictable health problems such as heart disease, malnutrition and diabetes.

Food desert solutions. Over the years, many well meaning people have proposed a series of solutions designed to solve the food desert problem. One example, described on Bacon’s Rebellion, involves the sale of collard greens in the small grocery and convenience stores in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond. Another involves not only selling healthy foods in Richmond but growing those vegetables in Richmond too. There have even been efforts by local health care organizations to provide “the Class-A-Roll” … a truck with a teaching kitchen inside to provide healthy food cooking lessons. Given that Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, was conducting a town hall yesterday in Richmond to address food insecurity, one can only assume that these well intended ideas didn’t work. Of course they didn’t work. They miss the real point. Continue reading

Time to Stop Kicking the Can

The hypocrisy of General Assembly members is astounding sometimes.  They complain about vexing problems, but create obstacles to fixing those problems.

Governor Northam included funding in his proposed budget to begin detailed architectural and engineering planning for replacing Central State Hospital in Petersburg, one of the state’s major mental health hospitals.  There is a consensus that the facility is badly outmoded and needs replacing.

The General Assembly cut the planning money, but said that it was open to a different  approach if the Governor were to propose one  for the reconvened session.  The Governor has announced that he will be proposing a slightly different project.

The main reason given by the General Assembly for cutting the planning money was that the proposed project was going to take too long (seven years to plan and complete construction).  That complaint is worth examining: Continue reading

The Marijuana Legalization Debate in Virginia: Lessons from Colorado

It’s a long way from Colorado to Virginia!

Elevated thinking.  I recently had the opportunity to do some skiing in Colorado. I hadn’t been to Colorado since the state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014. I expected to see a Cheech and Chong movie played out on a vast scale high in the Rocky Mountains. That expectation went unmet.  Instead, I saw an American town where legal marijuana use has been incorporated into everyday life in a barely noticeable manner. Colorado has more pot shops than Starbucks outlets but you wouldn’t know that from a cursory visit. All of which got me thinking – what has been the marijuana legalization experience in Colorado and what lessons are there for Virginia?

Nil sine numine. “Nothing without providence.”  Residents of The Centennial State believe Colorado is guided by a “divine will.” After five years of “divine will” has legal pot turned into Rastafarian revelry or Puritanical perfidy? My unscientific poll of Coloradans riding various chairlifts and gondolas with me established a consensus of … “more good than bad”. Continue reading

Next Up: Carbon Tax, Cap and Trade On Your SUV

They are coming next for your SUV.

While the Air Pollution Control Board still has steps to take, it is safe to consider Virginia’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative a done deal.  That will quickly hit you in your electric bill, as Virginia’s two major electricity generators will have to pay a tax on their carbon emissions and alter their generation fleets to steadily reduce their CO2 output.

Here is what’s next:  The counterpart to RGGI for another major sector of the economy is the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which Virginia announced it would join in September.   In addition to Virginia, the current TCI member jurisdictions are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, with policy support from Georgetown University.   Continue reading

Let Your Light Shine

I have been reluctant to weigh in on the recent discussions dealing with electricity demand and related topics because such topics are way beyond my experience.   However, a recent New York Times article highlighted one topic that has come up in our discussions—energy conservation—that I found fascinating.  The article points out that the residential demand for electricity per household in the U.S. rose steadily from 1970 to about 2010, but then began to decline.

A primary reason given for the decline, cited in both the NYT article and in more detail by an energy economist from UC Berkley?   The large-scale switch to more efficient light bulbs.

The catalyst for the switch was 2007 Congressional legislation mandating efficiency standards for bulbs.  When the second phase of that legislation takes effect next year, only compact fluorescent and LED bulbs will meet the standards.  LED bulbs use up to 85 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs and can last up to 25 years.  And, as with most new technology, the price has come down as it has been more widely accepted.

This is a good example of government-set standards that have spurred a new industry, reduced costs for consumers, and conserved energy, with only minor disruptions.

Proffers: They’re Baaaaack!

Gentlemen may prefer blondes but localities prefer proffers.  A proffer is an arrangement between a locality and a land developer whereby the developer offers something of value in order to get a rezoning request approved.  Why do developers want land rezoned?  For residential development they want to build more homes on the land than the land’s current zoning allows.  Why would localities object to these rezoning requests?  Theoretically, the locality’s strategic and financial plans are based on providing services at an overall population density dictated by the current zoning.  Adding more density increases the locality’s costs for services like public schools.  Localities are understandably worried about the unfunded mandates that up-zoning can cause.  How do proffers help?  Items of value (money, land, astroturf, etc) are given to the locality by the developer in order to fully or partly cover the additional costs to the locality of development at higher density than was planned.  These proffers reduce the developer’s profit margin on the project at hand so they are not popular with the development community. Continue reading

Amazon in Northern Virginia: 5 Positives

The road to the Silicon Swamp is paved with gold.

1-The Future. In 2011 Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Software is Eating the World.” The eight years since Andreessen’s essay was published have served to vindicate, validate and verify the accuracy of his thesis. Yet while software eats the world, it doesn’t necessarily dine in the same old restaurants.  Car making used to be centered in Detroit. Now Silicon Valley is the new Detroit. Not only are upstarts like Tesla centered in The Valley but traditional car manufacturers are heading west too. As Andreessen noted, traditional non-technology companies all need to become software companies in order to survive. Metropolitan areas with strong software skills will attract not only technology companies but non-technology companies as well. Embrace software or be eaten by it. The future belongs to those who code.

2-Ecosystem. Silicon Valley isn’t Bentonville, Arkansas. No one company dominates Silicon valley and therein lies its enduring strength. The Valley is an economic growth machine fueled by start-ups, spin-outs, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and oceans of venture capital. The idea that NoVa’s benefits from the Amazon deal start and stop with Amazon is myopic. Talented employees will come to National Landing, work for Amazon, and then leave to start new ventures. The 25,000 Amazon jobs should be seen as a starting point rather than a final outcome. In fact, startups founded by Amazon veterans like Fugue are already operating in the area. Continue reading

Hanoi’s Most Hallowed Ground

Source: Washington Times

I hope he doesn’t profane this hallowed place with his presence.  Apparently, the Vietnamese are using it for their own propaganda purposes, but it remains a memorial to great American heroes, whatever your views on that war.  Surely a man who passed on a trip to Belleau Wood will also stay away from the Hanoi Hilton.  Only those who understand that McCain and his comrades demonstrated years of daily heroism may enter.

Racial Suspension Gap Not Due to Racism

Hans Bader

Black students are suspended from school at a higher rate than white students. To many people, this might seem unremarkable, given the higher black crime rate, and the fact that black kids are more likely to come from struggling single-parent households that fail to instill discipline. As even the liberal Brookings Institution has noted, “Black students are also more likely to come from family backgrounds associated with school behavior problems; for example, children ages 12–17 that come from single-parent families are at least twice as likely to be suspended as children from two-parent families.”(See Note 1)

The homicide rate is 10 times higher among black teens than white teens. And the Supreme Court rejected the “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, as being “contradicted by” reality, in its decision in U.S. v. Armstrong.

But in February 17 column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond school superintendent Jason Kamras argued that the higher black suspension rate in Virginia is due to “institutional racism.” He cited the fact that in Virginia in 2015, “African-American students received 60 percent of all long-term suspensions but they made up only 23 percent of the commonwealth’s schools.” Continue reading

How the SJW Race Obsession Hurts Black Students

Source: Legal Aid Justice Center

Each day I wake up and tell myself, “I’m not going to write about race today. I’m tired about writing about race. I want to write about something else.” But each day I read the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Washington Post, and each day there are articles and op-ed columns about race, almost all of which perpetuate the narrative of endemic racism in America today. Of course racism still exists, and of course people of good will need to stand against it. But America is not a endemically racist society, and Virginia is not an endemically racist commonwealth. I have no choice but to counter a pernicious and destructive falsehood.

The latest offense comes from Kristen Amundson, a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and, scarily, a former chair of the Fairfax County School Board. Virginia has a lot to learn about race, she writes in the Times-Dispatch, and schools are a good place to start. She makes numerous assertions that warrant response, but I will focus on the most egregious and show how it harms the very kids she purports to care about. Continue reading

Let a Hundred Food Trucks Blossom, a Hundred Schools of Cuisine Contend

A Bite of Maine, rated a Top 3 food truck of Virginia Beach.

Food trucks are an increasingly vital part of the urban scene across the United States, yet many suffer from excessive local regulation. In Virginia Beach, food trucks are prohibited from operating on public or even private property unless there is a permitted event.

But Virginia Beach City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow food truck operators to set up in certain areas like side streets and corporate business parks, according to WVEC TV. The ordinance still would restrict trucks from operating on Pacific and Atlantic Avenues in the beach-front resort district, but it would represent a significant step forward. Continue reading

Virginia’s Two-Faced Democrats

A very bad week. One can only assume that Virginia’s Democratic Party is very happy to see this week draw to a close. The Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are facing deep scrutiny over revelations that came to light this week. While the specifics of each scandal remain hazy the sudden evaporation of moral outrage from fellow Democrats is crystal clear.

Northam: the expendable man. Govenor Ralph Northam was the first to fall under a thick cloud of disrepute as pictures from his personal page in his med school yearbook surfaced with people dressed in blackface and Klan outfits.  Democrats moved quickly to condemn Northam and call for his resignation.  Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner were joined by the Virginia Black Caucus, former Governor McAuliffe, national Democrats and (most interestingly) Attorney General Mark Herring in calling for Northam’s resignation. Appearing in blackface is intolerable they all wailed in unison. Blue Virginia touted the calls for Northam’s resignation as proof of the ” … VAST moral difference between Virginia Democrats and Republicans …” Continue reading

The Case of the Plaid Pants: Solved

Plaid Pants Guy: Terry Smoot

Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. In the case of Governor Ralph Northam’s notorious 1984 yearbook photo, a young man in blackface wearing plaid pants is not the same guy wearing seemingly identical plaid pants in an older photo of Northam’s high school classmates (a similarity I explored here). The blond guy in the high school picture of Hi-Y YMCA program participants turns out to be Terry Smoot, a resident of Chesterfield County.

Ali Rockett with the Richmond Times-Dispatch tracked down Smoot, who says he is not the same person as the man in blackface. “The whole notion is so absurd,” he said. “They are not the same pair of pants. People are really reaching.”

Smooth and Northam were friends in high school but followed divergent paths after school. Northam went to Virginia Military Institute and the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). The article is less than clear about Smoot’s career development but does say that by 1984, he was working — not attending EVMS. He now works for the federal government.

Smoot says he wishes his old friend well in his time of trial and tribulation: “If I could talk to him, I would say, ‘Hang in there. I support you.'”

Bacon’s bottom line: Northam is still on the hook to explain who is in the photo, and how the photo came to be inserted in his yearbook.

Miami’s Most Iconic Hotel

A shout-out to our Richmond friend Roben Farzad, author of “Hotel Scarface,” a book about the Mutiny Hotel during the wild-and-woolly days when Miami was the cocaine capital of the world. Here we are, dude, we made the pilgrimage!

The hotel has been renovated since its “glory” days. No sign of Marielitos dripping with bling or long-legged waitresses in tight-fitting blouses — just some skinny Asian tourists, overweight American guests, and some very polite staff. The infamous nightclub is gone. No sign of cocaine anywhere (not that I’d know what to look for). But we did stop and have a nice bloody mary and cup of coffee by the pool.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Racial Insensitivity?

This is just too rich. Ralph Northam in blackface… or is he the one in the KKK hood? Now, let’s sit back and watch how long the PC statute of limitations is for Democrats compared to that for Republicans.

Entirely predictably, Republicans have called for Northam’s resignation: “Racism has no place in Virginia,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”

Northam issued what is surely a sincere apology:

I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to make clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.

Continue reading