Tag Archives: Dick Hall-Sizemore

You Want to Teach? Wait in Line.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Last September, Governor Youngkin issued an executive directive addressing teacher shortages in Virginia. That directive laid out numerous actions to be taken by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and other  agency heads with regard to reducing the teacher shortage. In his remarks upon releasing the directive, he called the actions “transformational.”

It turns out there was a basic action that the Governor forgot about: processing licensure applications from would-be teachers in a timely manner. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that it is taking at least six months for the Department of Education to process licensure applications. In some cases, it takes much longer. The article tells of an applicant with seven years of service in the Army, a master’s degree, and three years’ teaching experience still waiting after a year for his application for a provisional license to be processed. (He teaches at Benedictine Prep School in Goochland County, and the school does not require its teachers to have Virginia teaching certificates.) Continue reading

Too Much Sulfur Dioxide? Ah, Don’t Worry, It’s Just a Little Fine

AdvanSix chemical plant, Hopewell. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch has a story that illustrates the importance and need for vigorous local journalism, while also illustrating the limitations of local journalism due to the lack of seasoned reporters and editors.

The story deals with the violation of environmental regulations by a chemical plant in Hopewell. The plant, a cornerstone of manufacturing in Hopewell, has been there a long time, under at least three owners. It is huge, covering about 200 acres. It is the facility responsible for dumping Kepone into the James River between 1966 and 1975, when it came under court order for the practice. The current owner is AdvanSix, headquartered in Parsippany, N.J.

As reported by the RTD, the plant has been cited 66 times over the past eight years for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the company has violated the Clean Air Act “every month over the past two years.” Continue reading

Planes, Planes, Planes, and Some Space Ships

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Friday afternoon I visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport, officially known as National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  It has been on my list of places to visit for a long time.  If you haven’t been, I heartily recommend it.

As with anything the Smithsonian does, the number of objects on display is astounding. There are cavernous halls with planes and other aviation-related displays laid out all over the place—big planes, little planes, planes from the early 1900’s, modern planes, Nazi war planes, a Soviet MIG, satellites, a space shuttle.  In addition, there are almost as many planes suspended from the very high ceiling.  All of this can be viewed from three levels.

For someone who is not an aviation aficionado, all these items tend to blend together fairly quickly.  It is almost impossible to take it all in in one day.  It is best to take small bites, which is what I plan to do.  I come to Northern Virginia frequently to visit my daughter and her family, so I can do that.  (Admission is free, but there is a $15 parking fee.)  If one can’t go back easily, but can devote most of one day to the facility, I recommend choosing a sunny day and take some lunch.  After spending a couple of hours or so in the facility, go outside, eat your lunch, and then go back in, with your mind somewhat rested from all the stimulation. Continue reading

All Rise for the Judge

Bernard Goodwyn, Chief Justice, Virginia Supreme Court. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Commonwealth is unique in the nation in how it selects its judges.

States use a wide variety of methods to select judges. Furthermore, many states use different methods to select judges at different levels. The National Center for State Courts, located in Williamsburg, by the way, has created a nice report showing how judges are selected in each state.

Virginia is simple and consistent: all judges are selected by the legislature. It is the only state in which the legislature selects judges.

For the sake of simplicity, I am limiting this discussion to state supreme courts. In many states, the judges of the highest court are elected. Some elections are partisan; others are nonpartisan. The other method commonly used is appointment by the governor from a list recommended by a judicial nomination commission with approval of the legislature required in some states. Judges so appointed usually have to run for retention when their terms are up. Continue reading

Personal Use of Campaign Funds–Some Clarifications

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

James Sherlock has posted an article accusing the General Assembly of being “the only state that allows candidates to raise unlimited funds and spend that money on personal expenses.” He bases that accusation on the defeat of two bills:  HB 1952 in 2021 and SB 1471 in 2023.

The accusation is misleading and the issue is more complex than he acknowledges.

Currently, Sec. 24.2-948.4 of the Code of Virginia has this language: “It shall be unlawful for any person to convert any contributed moneys, securities, or like intangible personal property to his personal use or to the use of a member of the candidate’s ‘immediate family’ as that term is defined in § 30-101.” If that language seems familiar, it is because it is the same language quoted by Jim as being in the 2021 and 2023 bills. Continue reading

Alternative Energy Picking Up Steam

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

No matter how much some on this blog protest, the move to alternative energy sources is picking up momentum across the country.

I was in South Carolina last week visiting my brother. Pictured is a large array of solar panels adjacent to a huge Walmart distribution center. An electrical co-op also had solar panels outside one of its administration buildings. These were in rural, western South Carolina, near the Georgia border. No one can accuse those folks of being woke, progressive Democrats. Continue reading

Virginia’s S.O.B

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia’s state flag is a S.O.B.

This is the derogatory term used by vexillologists, people who study flags (who knew there were such people?), to designate state flags that are “Seals On a Blanket.”

According to the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), such flags are “objectively terrible.” The Commonwealth is in good company, however.  NAVA reports that the flags of 24 states consist of the seal on a bed of blue, while the flags of 11 other states vary only in the background color.

NAVA sets out five principles for good flag design:

  • Be simple (a child should be able to draw it from memory);
  • Have meaningful symbols;
  • Be limited to two or three colors;
  • Have no lettering (it can’t be read at a distance);
  • Be distinctive.

Continue reading

Correction on Departure of Balow

Jillian Balow, ex-Superintendent of Public Instruction

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In comments to the post about the resignation of Jillian Balow as Superintendent of Public Instruction and her severance pay, I asserted that her appointment was subject to the pleasure of the Governor.  I was wrong.

The heads of almost all agencies, by law, serve at the pleasure of the Governor.  (There is one exception, but more on that later.) However, the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction is established in the Virginia Constitution, which provides that the appointment shall be “for a term coincident with that of the Governor making the appointment.”  The constitution does authorize the General Assembly to modify the term of office.  However, the Virginia Code section mirrors the language in the constitution.  Accordingly, as The Washington Post noted, Balow may have had grounds to sue if she had been fired.

The agency head who is not appointed by the Governor and does not serve at his pleasure is the Director of the Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Game and Inland Fisheries).  That person is appointed by the Board of Wildlife Resources.  The story on that goes back into the mists of time (early 1970s).  Suffice it to say that hunters and fishermen in Virginia were a strong lobby.

You’re Fired!

Jillian Balow, ex-Superintendent of Public Instruction

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

So, what almost everyone suspected is now confirmed: Governor Youngkin fired his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow.

However, to avoid embarrassment over having to fire his own hand-picked state leader of public education, the governor asked her to resign, instead. She agreed to do so in exchange for a payout of almost $300,000, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

So, state government is acting more and more like a business, as many conservatives say it should. Top executives screw up and, instead of being sacked, they are given a golden parachute.

Another Virginia National Champion

Because I have been highlighting Virginia collegiate teams that have been in the national spotlight lately, here is another one to add to the list:

The UVa women’s swimming and diving team won its third consecutive national Division I championship over the weekend.

Senior Kate Douglass won three individual events in NCAA, American, and U.S. Open record times.  She can add those medals to the bronze she won at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

I am aware of how much time in practice and daily workouts college swimmers have to put in, which is true for all sports.  Anyone who has the discipline and perseverance to do that, while carrying a full class load, and graduate from a college or university, has a lot going for her.

CNU Wins National Championship!

The Christopher Newport University basketball team is the national Division III champion!

It was an exciting finish.  With the game tied and 4.3 seconds left, Trey Barber of CNU drove about 60 feet into the lane and put up a shot.  The game-ending buzzer sounded just after the ball left his hand on its way to banking into the net.  The winning shot can be seen here.

Not to be outdone, the CNU women’s basketball team won its semi-final game and will be in the championship game to be held April 1.

A Virginia Team in the Championship Game

CNU guard Jahn Hines.  Photo credit: CNU Athletics

by  Dick Hall-Sizemore

During this time of year, the sports world is fixated on the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. Richmond fans give the VCU Rams a big sendoff.  Hokie fans cheer their top-seeded women’s team. UVa. alumni die a little bit inside when the Cavaliers lose to Furman in the last seconds. Despite being assured in 2019 by the administration that, upon the firing of long-time basketball coach Tony Shaver, it was time for a “new chapter” in  Tribe basketball to include participation in the NCAA tournament; William and Mary alumni and fans are still waiting.

However, there is another basketball venue in which two Virginia schools are powerhouses: Division III. Last year, Randolph-Macon College in Ashland won the national championship. Before its defeat in the Sweet Sixteen earlier this month, it had compiled a record 64-home-game winning streak. Talk about giving the fan base some excitement!

The other Virginia college in top of the Division III tournament is Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made the Final Four. This was the fourth time in the programs’ history that the men’s and women’s team have made the Final Four (although not in the same year until now). The men’s team made it to the Elite Eight last year. The women’s team was undefeated this year. Yesterday, the men’s team won its semi-final game to make it to the championship game for the first time. Continue reading

On to Richmond!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For all those Northern Virginia critics of Richmond on this blog, e.g. Don Rippert, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that the Richmond metro area has grown faster than Northern Virginia for two years in a row.  In fact, the growth rate of the Richmond metropolitan area is at least triple that of each of the rest of Virginia’s five largest metro areas.

Furthermore, a lot of that growth is coming from Northern Virginians moving to Richmond, drawn by the lower cost of living and aided by the growth of remote working.

Personally, I would not mind the area not growing so much, but it is nice to know that not all Virginians view the Richmond area as a provincial outpost.

Election Musical Chairs

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Redistricting and the death of U.S. Representative Donald McEachin have voters in the Richmond area feeling as if they are in a combination of musical chairs and “Who’s on first?” We need a program to keep track of who is running for what.

For those readers of Bacon’s Rebellion who don’t read the Richmond Times-Dispatch regularly or who have not bothered to keep up, but who enjoy political shenanigans and maneuvering, what follows is a summary of the events so far.

There is one factor that simplifies this narrative somewhat. The election districts involved are heavily Democratic; therefore, whatever the Republicans do does not matter much. Consequently, I will restrict the narration to the Democrats.

McEachin’s unexpected death a few weeks after the November general election in which he had been elected to his fourth term in Congress led to a cascade of special elections. Quickly declaring themselves candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Congressional seat were Sen. Jennifer McClellan (Richmond) and Del. Lamont Bagby (Henrico). Both were strong candidates. McClellan had represented the area, first in the House and then in the Senate, for many years, had been a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, and was well respected. Bagby had been in the General Assembly for several terms and had a large public profile as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Continue reading

A New 800-Pound Gorilla in Virginia Politics

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Ivy Main, in a recent commentary in the Virginia Mercury, identified a change in the power dynamic of Virginia politics that is taking place: “Amazon is the new Dominion.”

Amazon’s presence in the Commonwealth has grown significantly over the past decade. It has taken place in three areas— distribution facilities, the second headquarters, and data centers.

When most Virginians think of Amazon, they think of the boxes or white plastic bags with the swoosh that get left on their front porch. Many, however, also think of Amazon as the source of their pay check. Surprisingly, there does not seem to be a definitive list of Amazon facilities in the state. From press releases and other material, I have pieced together the following list of localities in which Amazon has built a facility. The list includes sortation centers, distribution centers, delivery stations, and fulfillment centers. They serve different purposes, but it is not necessary to go into more detail here. Continue reading