Quoth the Bacon: “Nevermore.”

Once upon a Monday dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore … the April 21, 2008 edition of the Bacon’s Rebellion e-zine popped into my inbox. Suddenly, the clouds parted, the sun started shining, and life was good. And here’s what the e-zine contained:

The Tribune of the People

In two high-profile lawsuits, Patrick McSweeney has defended the interests of the common citizen against power grabs by the political class. Virginians owe him a bigger debt than they’ll ever know.

by James A. Bacon

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

It’s called road maintenance, and it’s draining the Transportation Trust Fund of revenue for new construction.

by Doug Koelemay

The End of Flight as We Know It

Between fuel prices, terrorism and the environment, air travel is losing altitude fast. In the not-too-distant future, plane rides will be a luxury for those at the top of the economic pyramid.

by EM Risse

Fund Reading First

Congressional politicking could eviscerate one of the few federal programs proven to help at-risk children in Virginia learn to read.

by Chris Braunlich

And Now, a Kind Word about Tolls

The public prefers tolls to taxes as a method to fund transportation improvements — as long as the public sees a clear benefit and politicians do not divert revenues to other projects.

by Norm Leahy

The Kaine Mutiny

Is Dominion’s coal-fired plant destroying the Governor’s political future?

by Peter Galuszka

A Response to Norman Leahy

Our call for an alternative transportation policy is indeed “conservative” — organized around free markets, an aversion to subsidies and devolution of government power to the local level.

by Pat McSweeney

The New American Revolution

Virginia citizens achieved a momentous victory with the defeat of regional transportation authorities. Now is the time to press their advantage and hold politicians truly accountable.

by Ron Utt

The Thrill of No-Till

Adopting the tried-and-tested agricultural practice of no-till farming could be Virginia’s simplest, most cost-effective strategy for restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

by David Schnare

Nice & Curious Questions

Beyond Bluegrass: Virginia’s Rock ‘n’ Rollers

by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

Don’t ever miss an issue — for a free subscription, click here.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Not-till farming has many advantages however:

    Cultivation is the way in which conventional agriculture controls weeds, both before and after planting. In no-till farming, at least as it’s practiced today; herbicides take the place of the plow.

    Herbicides supersede the three preplant passes that the practitioner of tillage must make over the field. Chemicals, instead of plows and disks, wipe out the existing weeds and may be used to either kill or suppress growth of the sod cover crop that seeds will be planted into. They may be used again to control weeds before the plants come up, in the form of a preemergence chemical that’s either applied at planting, sprayed from land-based equipment, or dropped from the air. Later, after the residual effect of the preemergence herbicide has disappeared, postemergence chemicals may be applied to control weeds between the rows. Then too, a herbicide may be used to wipe out inter-row interlopers before a second cropping.

    With conservation tillage, farmers leave the stubble or plant residue on the soil’s surface, rather than plowing or disking it into the soil. The new crop is planted directly into this stubble, and genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant plants make it possible and practical for growers to control weeds in the crop by applying an herbicide rather than plowing.

    Everything has a trade off.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Bacon,

    Concerning Mr. McSweeney’s response to the response to his and his friends’ original proposal….

    First, city-initiated annexation has been barred since 1987, so I do not know why he lays claim to that being part of the problem. If it is the lack of city annexations, then he may want to propose the elimination of independent cities and counties.

    Second, most would be all for counties taking over secondary roads except for one thing – the state is an unreliable partner. See, for example the level or underfunding of HB 599; the elimination of ABC profits revenue sharing with local governments, the every two year the dragging of the General Assembly kicking and screaming into their CONSTITUTIONALLY mandated funding of the standards of quality, etc. Counties would get the shaft, but not the gold as soon as the state runs short of money and then never replace the dollars since counties did very well, thank you, with reduced funding.

    Third, if secondary road responsibility was given to counties today, the transportation funding crisis would still remain. The maintenance of secondary roads consumes a tiny amount of VDOT’s budget.

    Finally, some of Mr. McSweeny’s partners are of the crowd that wants to constitutionally cap local assessments and/or property tax rates. So, they want to handicap county governments while at the same time placing one more underfunded mandate on localities. NO THANKS!

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “unreliable partner”

    For Henrico County and all independent cities – the “partnership” with the state if for them to get the gas tax revenues that are paid by the folks in their jurisdictions .. and to make their own decisions about how to spend their own tax money.

    What is this arrangement “unreliable”?

    What MORE would you want than the ability to capture your own revenues and then make your own decisions about priorities and allocation for the citizens who paid and whom are represented?

    Why is collecting the money directly an “unfunded” mandate and why should any local jurisdiction expect any more in transportation money than their own citizens would generate through the gas tax?

    Why should any locality expect MORE from the State than what their own citizens actually pay in taxes?

    What the state is saying is that you must spend some of these taxes in a certain way.

    And here’s a good example.

    Localities collect taxes for automobiles.. decals, etc but what do they spend that money on?

    Most of them do NOT spend it on transportation… why is that?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Gross,

    I appreciate your theoretical response, but LOOK AT THE RECORD!!!

    The state is a notoriously unreliable partner to local governments. The record is replete with examples.

    Yes, in a downturn, cuttng back on all state expenses is appropriate; no question there. But over the past 20 years, when ever those funds are cut and then the economy recovers, the lower amounts become the BASE for future appropriations to local government even thought the state spends more on its services.

    So, if local governments have received $100, then it is cut to $75 in bad times. When times become good, the state does not go back to the $100 but rather uses the $75.

    Yes, it may be nice and appropriate for counties to maintain subdivision streets, but after an initial funding level, it would be decreased and counties would be stuck with more of the bill from property taxes. And again, Mr. McSweeney’s friends are the ones pushing to have local property taxes and/or assessments capped.

    You and others fail to mention that Henrico and Arlington each are treated separately when it comes to VDOT funding. Which is why Henrico comes back every so often to try to get their funding treated the same way as Arlington.

    Talk about the connection of land use and transportation, I am not so sure that I would brag about the mess taking place in Short Pump. Is that the poster child that you want to use?

    Do you really think that the maintenance of subdivison road by counties will REALLY solve the transportation funding crisis? It took VDOT 20 years to repave my holy street. How many lane miles of highway do you think was constructed or repaired by what they saved those 20 years?

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “When times become good, the state does not go back to the $100 but rather uses the $75.”

    Here’s the thing.

    How would you get back to the $100?

    You’d have to raise taxes at the state level – right?

    If taxes have to be raised – why not raise them at the local level and let the locality have hands-on with respect to the expenditures?

    What are the legitimate taxation and funding issues at the State Level?

    In my mind – there needs to be a State Purpose….

    and local roads are not… and worse than that.. when they are..all the localities get into the mindset that the State picks up the tab no matter what.. and the reality is that the State can truly only afford to spend… for a given locality .. just about what that locality generates in revenues…

    .. unless there is a belief that some localities will get MORE than they actually generated in taxes…

    .. how can you justify that approach to government?

    .. it only leads to bloated VDOT “wish lists”.. virtual IOUs – not worth the paper they are written on… but VDOT is put in the position of writing down every project the locality wants – no matter if the ultimate list costs 10 times more than they’ll ever generate in local gas taxes…

    this all goes back to the concept of the State “cutting” money…

    as opposed to the idea that the State chooses NOT to raise taxes.

    What are the legitimate costs of local government and which ones should the “state” be funding?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Gross,

    No, the state does not raise taxes to get back to $100. Taxes remain the same, revenues just return to ‘normal’ but the state keeps the difference between $75 and $100 since, hey, the locals got by when less then so they can do with less now and into the future. History is replete with examples; the state is a VERY unreliable partner.

    And again, you overlook Mr. McSweeney’s friends, the so-called American for [My-Not-Your] Prosperity who don’t want ANYONE – federal, state or local – to raise any taxes.

    So here is what happens: The state gives local roads back to counties and starts out giving counties the equivalent to what cities get for maintenance. Time get tough, so the state cuts everyone back. Times return to normal, but the state, saying that local governments got by with less during hard times, surely could do the same in good times. You know, efficiencies [a.k.a., deferred maintenance], etc. So when locals go to raise their taxes to pay for road maintenance, the Americans For My-Not-Your Prosperity and their allies howl and demand local taxes be capped.

    And again, why don’t you call VDOT and find out how much of the state’s road maintenance budget goes to maintaining subdivision streets in counties? Surely elimination that large amount will solve the the transportation funding crisis.

    Right now, counties can request to assume maintenance of local streets and receive funding from VDOT to do so. There is even a nice how-to handbook that you can download from the internet. If it is such a good deal, why have no counties done so?

    Also, five counties can create Urban Transportation Service Districts, agree to maintain the local roads in the districts, receive the equivalent to urban maintenance payments and impose a broad impact fee outside the district on residential development that occurs on agriculturally zoned land. Why have none of those five counties chosen that option if it is such a good deal?

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the reason why Counties don’t choose the deal is twofold:

    1. – they KNOW that roads are very expensive and they believe that the money should come from the “state”.

    The fact that the “State” gets that money from their own constituents matters not – because that way – citizens can’t blame them for spending local tax on expensive roads.

    2. – Localities like to do rezones and tell their citizens not to worry about the transportation impacts because the “State” and VDOT are “responsible”.

    So the localities evade accountability and responsibility for land-use decisions that result in very expensive transportation consequences.

    The mindset is that “we cannot help this and we cannot afford this so the State MUST be responsible”.

    It’s an irresponsible and disingenuous approach.

    and .. just for the record – ALL cities in Va do business the way that is being offered to the Counties.

    .. why is that?

    are the cities getting a bad deal because they don’t get the same deal as the counties?

    Sending gas tax money to Richmond to reallocate makes no more sense than sending fed gas tax to Washington to reallocate.

    The ONLY thing that should go to Richmond is the money for Primary Roads and Interstates.

    The rest should stay with the counties and they need to live to learn within their means and that includes being responsible for the transportation consequences of their land-use decisions – just like Virginia’s cities are and just like a majority of other States do it.

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