In Its Ignorance, the Post Shows Much Certainty

On Friday, I noted that it was only a matter of time before the editorial writers of Virginia’s major newspapers would blame House Republicans for the legislative breakdown in the special transportation session. The Daily Press was quick to oblige. But not the Washington Post. One day went by, then another… and another… Now, finally, the pontificators on the Potomac have made up for lost time with a classic case of invective crowding out thought:

Led by a band of Republican obstructionists in Richmond — ideologues and anti-tax fundamentalists — the General Assembly has decided to let Northern Virginia commuters stew in their own juices for a couple of years. (My italics.)

So many insults in such a short space! Let the spittle fly!

I can respect those who take the trouble to understand the issues, weigh the pros and cons and then, considering the balance of the arguments, stake out a position opposite from mine. But the Post pundits have not even bothered to ascertain what arguments the House Republican Caucus might offer, much less to actually rebut them. There is no nuance — a characteristic held in great esteem when the issue was the presidential aspirations of John Kerry — to the Post’s rants whatsoever: It’s all black and white, good and evil. Why, if I didn’t no better, I’d think that the Post editorial writers were the ideologues!

As I explained Friday (“General Assembly Car Wreck — Who’s to Blame?) it takes two to compromise, and there is no evidence that the Axis of Taxes or any of its “acolytes” (to borrow another demeaning Post label) budged one iota.

Fortunately, a world of new ideas is fermenting beyond the mental horizons of the Washington Post. There is tremendous creativity flowing from both the low-tax, free-enterprise wing of the Republican Party and the conservationist/smart growth wing of the Democratic Party. Loads of new ideas are circulating. Lawmakers are transforming those ideas into legislation. Even some editorial writers — I would cite the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and the Winchester Star — are taking the discussion of transportation issues beyond the traditional confines of tax-spend-build.

By remaining ignorant of these ideas, the Post is marginalizing itself. Its editorials really have nothing to offer.

Update: It’s nice to see that I’m not entirely alone. Washington’s Examiner offers much the same take on the WaPo editorial and the special session as a whole.

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19 responses to “In Its Ignorance, the Post Shows Much Certainty”

  1. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    The author of this editorial is the same guy who wrote Sunday’s trashing of Corey Stewart.

    I suspect Chairman Sean is moonlighting from his job as Maritime Administrator. Either that, or his speechwriter has found a new job.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Not all papers. Take a look at this mornings Roanoke Times that advocates Impact Fees for Roads.

    I would think that if one were going to run against an incumbent in Va.. advocating impact fees would be safer than advocating higher taxes – just from a numbers point of view.

    Given this.. I wonder if the onus in the next election will actually be on the Senate incumbents and not the House incumbents.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    There is a much bigger issue here. It is not just a money issue or a taxing issue.

    The subhead on the editorial reads: “Starving Northern Virginia of basic infrastructure.”

    WaPo management and the editorial staff have a vested interest in not admiting that building more roads or rails in the wrong place — that is, following any existing Virginia protion of the National Calital Subregion “plan” or list of priorities — will make mobility and access worse, not better.

    No existing proposed improvement is designed to result in more functional human settlement pattern. Thus access and mobility will continue to grow worse as it is in every large New Urban Region in the United States.


  4. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Find a Washington Post editorial about Virginia that does not include a rant for higher taxes. I’ve heard that the editors have actually set down with some big Virginia developers and landowners and agreed to push each’s other goals, higher taxes for the Post and more roads for the developers. The Post only hammers against sprawl or other types of development in Loudoun County and then only because the Loudoun County Board is led by Republicans.

    Incidentally, a Post reporter once told me that she/he wrote some stories critical of Tim Kaine for abandoning his campaign promise to restrict growth where roads were inadequate that also explored the relationship of Kaine to certain developers and landowners. The reporter told me that the stories were either spiked or toned down.

    The Post will do anything in its power to see taxes raised in Virginia. What a shame because there are creative ideas beging floated by both Republicans and Democrats in Virginia. But those ideas simply won’t be discussed in the Post.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    WaPo exerpt: “There will be no …funding for new roads, intersections and other improvements for at least the next two years”

    Here’s the current financial Plan for transportation in the Wash Metro Area:

    $17.7 Billion for 2006 through 2011
    $109.8 Billion for 2007 through 2030

    This is the same pablum that is foisted on taxpayers when the claim is made that VDOT is “broke”.

    WaPo apparently does not think that 3 Billion a year is “enough”.

    I’d like to know.. how much is “enough” in terms of dollars, what exactly that would mean in terms of projects AND how much each taxpayer in the Wash Metro area would have to pay as their share.

    WaPo .. instead of laying down some relevant data and observations AND advocating specifics shamelessly bails with the same lame rhetoric of those who want “more” but won’t say how much.

    WaPo – put a NUMBER on it. If it’s not 17.7 Billion over the next 5 years then tell us what it should be.

    Either that .. or stop blathering …

  6. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I do not know why WaPo would want higher taxes for higher taxes sake.

    It would appear to be a bigger issue.

    WaPo and all MSM are on the ropes. The only thing that will save their share value is a very robust economy. Nothing drives their bottom line like home building, “economic developent” and “growth.”

    They are smart enough to know they are on the back of a tiger but see that they have no choice. They hope to have found a way out before the big bubble breaks and the over-consumption takes its toll.

    As long as Business As Usual is afloat, they are too.


  7. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Ed, The Post’s editorials addressing issues in Maryland and the District of Columbia are not so simple-minded as they are for Virginia issues. Editorials for the other areas often examine the complexities of issues and don’t propose higher taxes as the solution to all problems, as the editorial writers do for Virginia. Schools, parks, transportation, etc. in Virginia all have the same solution — a tax increase. Yet, while the Post favors high taxes generally in the District and Maryland, it does not offer more taxes as the sole solution to all problems.

    The Post regularly raises environmental issues as they relate to development in Maryland, but not in Virginia (with the sole exception of the GOP-controlled Loudoun County BoS). So it’s not just a “we need development” issue. I think it’s a case of the developers in Virginia will support higher taxes in the Old Dominion, so the Post will tend to support the developers — except when Republican BOS are involved.

    Moreover, I sense that the business management side of the Post is quite good (as is most of their non-political reporting). The Post has branched out to Internet advertising and other new media. While its general circulation is down like most other newspapers, I think that the Post as a company has done better than many others in moving to new media. It’s net earnings are higher than they were a few years ago. It’s a pretty well operated company.

    I don’t understand it, but I still submit that the Post’s editors are obsessed with higher taxes for Virginians for any, all and no purposes.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The Post, like writing from any other source, should be taken with a grain of salt.

    They recently ran an article about how property rights activists we using Kelo as a bait and switch tactic to promote their own agenda. I don’t see anyone here complaining about that article being one-sided.

    If I’m not mistaken, some of the senior editors are also major landholders in rural Virginia.

    Larry, good call. You provide real data that shows the Post was obviously wrong on one point. Blogging at its best.

  9. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Today, the Post has an article on the effect of immigration reform on farms. I have previously written about my experience with dealing with Immigration in order to get one mexican here to work on the farm on a temporary basis.

    Based on that experience, I can say that the Post’s article in this case is 100% accurate so far as i can tell. Maybe it is even understated.

    The last time I saw Jesus, he had re-entered the U.S illegally. He went home because I told him he needed to be there in order toget his papers processed leagally. Also, he had not been home for four years. He missed his wife and sons, and his wife was suffering from cancer.

    I asked him how he got back. Hesaid he and his son walked three days across the Sonoran desert.

    As much as I hated to do it, I told him I had no work for him. I cannot see my way clear to offering such modest wages as I can pay for such a risk on his part. I think he is working construction now, which he hates. He says the construction crews are vulgar low-lifes who do not read the bible.

    Jesus is a fine fellow and a great help to me when he was here. I cried after he left, knowing I will never see him again, most likely. I did the best I could for him, but I got no help from my government. I am seriously PO’d.

    Even alowing for the Post’s obvious biases, I found the following quote interesting:

    “So many of the farmers here are conservative, but they’re finding themselves kind of at odds, not so much with Republicans in this area but with Republicans on the East Coast who have no idea what’s going on in the San Joaquin Valley and California”

    So long as what I experienced with Jesus continues, the Republican Party is no friend of mine.

    So long as people like Judy Feder rail against the big bad developers and promote reducing property rights, the Democratic party is no friend of mine.

    Except for my friends here on the blog,I’m starting to think I have no friends. Maybe it is time for FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE!


  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In comparing Maryland with Virginia on development issues – I think it’s relevant to keep in mind that Maryland is a HOme Rule state and Virginia is a Dillion Rule state.

    For instance, in a Home Rule state – a locality COULD implement an urban boundary or some semblence of it as Montgomery County has done with their Agricultural Reserve.

    I’d be interested in hearing from EMR as to the efficacy of Maryland’s approach to land use.

    To wit – does Maryland’s approach “work” and the reason that Va has problems specifically because of not having Home Rule?

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I question whether it’s possible to explain the philosophies of the WaPo newspaper editorial writers on the basis of their employer’s institutional self interest. In my experience, editorial writers at large newspapers are largely, if not totally, insulated from the business side of the newspaper. While the business side of the WaPo may take delight in new development and the attendant advertising sales, the editorial writers have only the vaguest idea that their employer benefits from such development. If anything, being good liberals, WaPo editorial writers, I would conjecture, probably share the stereotype of most developers as greedy, unprincipled businessmen.

    No, I think you have to look at the worldview of the mainstream liberal to understand WaPo editorials. In that world view, conservative Republicans are the bad guys. And tax increases are justified whenever they’re for the “public good.”

    I’m not defending conservative Republicans here — they have their own blind spots. But that’s my take on WaPo editorial writers.

  12. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Dear All:

    Before this thread goes to the archive I need to get down several points:

    First due to a parameter imposed by my ISP or that I cannot change, there is a repeat posting I cannot delete. 10:59 and 11:08. Disreguard 10:59. I asked Jim to kill it but he has not had time.

    Second, for the record as we have noted in the past, there are no significant differences in human settlement patterns between VA and MD. There are lots of superficial ones that both sides like to point to but no significant ones.

    Home Rule and Dillon Rule is, as noted by a recent Brookings report is a Red Herring.

    Finally, there are lots of good thoughts about why WaPo would treat VA differently than MD, PA and WVA in this thread.

    The most important one is the economy. As the Fed Chair noted in today’s WaPo when housing catches cold, the economy goes to the hospital.

    The problem with this is the same one we keep pointed out vis a vis the problems at Fanny Mae, et. al.

    We are building the wrong size house in the worng location and so when the economic pump is primed with houses and autos we dig ourselves deeper in the hole.

    Now back to WaPo. The one idea that surfaced in this thread that is not valid is that there exists the mythical firewall between editorial and the business side of WaPO.

    I have lived in this New Urban Region and read WaPo for 34 years. I have known dozens of reporters and editors at WaPo dealing with human settlement pattern issues. I have maintained contact with many of them long after they have moved on to other jobs.

    From my personal contact with the publisher and with the current editor of the editorial page I know there is no firewall.

    I will give Jim B. a rundown of the evidence when he next has time to stop by Greater Warrenton Fauquier.


  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ed, You got my attention! I deleted the duplicate comment.

    You may be right about the lack of a firewall between the editorial writers and the publisher. I have no personal knowledge of the inner workings of the Post. I simply take at face value the WaPo’s continual profession of core journalistic values.

    If you are right, that’s quite shocking. Indeed, if you could document that the WaPo publisher influences editorial commentary in order to keep the home building industry stoked (presumably to generate more advertising revenue), that would be quite a scandal. I’d say we should write an article for the American Journalism Review! (I’m quite serious. Such behavior, if it could be documented, would be scandalous.)

  14. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    But why treat Maryland different from Virginia? Houses can and are built in Maryland as well. There’s considerable sprawl there are well.

  15. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    My guess is that there are several factors:

    The myth is that Maryland is doing a better job of “growth management” so WaPo pressure would be less effective and anger more advertisers and readers.

    The building industry, municipalities and legislators in Maryland have worked our less confrontational old boy relationships that do not invite editorial intrusion.

    Most of the new jobs are in VA and that is where one can argue housing should be scattered across the Countryside with the straightest face.

    Organizations like GMU give cover for Business As Usual as a sound economic policy — see their analysis of the impact of the 800 jobs in Manassas.

    There is more vacant land along radials in places down the I-95 and out the I-66 and GreenWay / VA Route 7 Corridors.

    There is absolutely no recognition of the importance of a regional or subregional approach so the conflit within municipal jurisdictions and between municipal jurisdictions can be exploited.

    The Publisher has large holdings in the Piedmont of Vriginia and does not understand that A = Pi R 2 or the Five Realities that Shape the Future.

    I am sure there are other factors that do not come to mind but that is a starter.

    I suspect when carefully reivewed of the WaPo position would show is has little to do with party affiliation — both major parties have acted to achieve the current bad result when in power — and it has little to do with left / right or liberal / conservative idology.

    These issues are simplistic window dressing to cover raw economic and over-consumption goals. The tiger no one knows how to get off without wiping out share value.


  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ll admit to not being adequately schooled in human settlement patterns especially as they relate to the Wash Metro Area.

    The statement that we build the wrong size houses in the wrong locations needs more meat on it.. at least for me to understand why this is not affected by economic factors.. more than policy.

    But – be that as it may – my understanding was that Home Rule States essentially allocate powers (not explicitly reserved) to localities whereas Dillion Rule States allocate ONLY explicitly defined powers to localities and reserve all other powers even those not stated.

    So.. in theory.. some localities in Home Rule states would have much better opportunities to actually implement New Urbanist/Smart Growth development it would seem to me … just the simple mechanics of having fewer decision-makers and less involvement of a state-level development lobby.

    I know I am probably wrong.. but I’m not clear on where..

    .. further.. I’m a little skeptical that there are apparently NO examples of Home Rule localities having at least some success at New Urbanist/Smart Growth policies?

    If Home Rule/Dillion Rule end up with absolutely no difference in how development is done.. then please move the dialogue in that direction as I suspect that I’m not the only one suffering some ignorance on this.


    P.S. – if the “message” is not clear in this BLOG – please consider that wider audiences.. to include legislators and even average Joe’s are even more clueless on the paths we should be going down to address the transportation/land-use condumrum.

  17. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    There are shortcomings to the use of Blogs on complex topics.

    Understanding human settlement patterns is not rocket science, it is much more complex.

    However, unlike rocket science every citize’s economic, social and physical welbeing is impacted by human settlement patterns.

    Further, the cumulative impact of well-intended but unfounded individual location decisions made by individuals results in dysfunctional settlement patterns.

    To answer good questions (yours on Dillon, et. al.) requires repeating much of what has been said in other Blog postings and prior columns.

    Here are some guideposts on the questions you raise:

    Re Dillon Rule and Home Rule: “Google Dillon Rule Brookings Puentes.” ( Rob P. is a former grad student of ours who is doing very good work.)

    I just checked and Google will take you to a short paper Rob and others did that should answer your questions. There is much more to discuss on Dillon and Home Rule but the bottom line is that excuses or claims based on having or not having Dillon or Home Rule are largely irrelevant to the forces that cause dysfunctional settlement patterns to evolve.

    On “the wrong size house in the wrong location.” Go to and search for “affordable and accessible housing” and / or “wrong size house in wrong location.”

    In preparing Trilogy we find that when you encounter a phrase you do not understand in our writing just google it or serarch for it among the 80 plus columns we have written at Bacon’s Rebellion.

    It will also help to carefully read the Backgrounder “Five Critical Realities the Shape the Future” at

    Hope that helps.


  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – Homework assignment – accepted.


    But I’ll stick with my comment about the average Joe… if public support is a critical aspect to overall change and acceptance… there is a LONG, long row to hoe.

    Also – I assume folks have seen this:

    “Kaine task force to review urban policy”

    Richmond Times-Dispatch Oct 7, 2006
    Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has created an urban policy task force that will review economic, social and fiscal conditions in Virginia’s urban areas.

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR -thanks for the Brookings link:

    I knew much of it but was interesting to see the ranked list of states and what I felt were some editorial discretions – for instance, describing “Strict Construction” of State Laws and Constitutions with regard to the delgation of powers which … seemed to tilt in a direction different from the same concept employed at the Federal level.

    Brookings seems to favor Regional approaches – and I would agree that if each locality takes a different approach to land-use, planning, transportation… it ignores the simple realities behind why economists and demographers and market professionals look at greater metro areas in how they approach issues.

    The one concept I did not see mentioned in the slides was “cross validation” which, I’m sure you know is a methodolgy for multiple jurisdictions to collaborate a Regional Context for planning.

    That approach would satisfy folks like JAB that are leery.. (hostile?) to the concept of Regional Governments.

    comments? thoughts?

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