Tag Archives: Guest contributors

How to Empower Low-Income Communities in Virginia

Public housing project in Richmond.

by Stephen Jordan

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to describing poverty in Virginia. Portsmouth, aka “Pistol City”, population 93,000, is six hours away from Galax, population 6,000. The housing projects of east and south Richmond are very different from the hollowed out small towns that dot Southside and coal country. Both urban and rural decay are powder kegs waiting to blow, but no one has seriously tackled them in Virginia politics for decades because the issues are so complex.

Conservatives are complicit in this problem because for too long they have allowed liberals to frame the debate and set policy. The result is that since 1964, more than 1,500 “low income apartment communities” have sprung up around the Commonwealth. They are hotbeds of drug abuse and violent crime. Rural Virginia has some of the largest concentrations of people over the age of 65, in part because young people can’t find enough good paying jobs. Democratic mayors, Democratic governors, and Democratic federal policy have predominantly shaped the current state of Virginia’s communities. It is a disgrace.

To start to develop solutions, we have to evaluate the roots of the problem. One of the things that you will notice walking around many housing projects is how isolated and in some cases, empty of outdoor life they are. They are badly designed, set away from services, and with no mixed-use opportunities for jobs close to home. If you can interview some of the residents and get to the point that they trust you, they’ll tell you there is nothing to do but sell some weed, play ball, and wait for something to change. Continue reading

Justice For All

Color blindness is good.

by Michael D. Purzycki

I commend Dick Hall-Sizemore for his column of April 10. I agree with his outrage at the behavior of police in Windsor. There is no reason for an officer to point a gun at a person, or pepper-spray them, for anything to do with a license plate. And I agree that Army lieutenant Caron Nazario being black was a major factor in the officers behaving so egregiously.

To deeply reduce the risk of such terrible behavior happening again, we must take race out of the equation.

Diversity is not something to resist. While it can be difficult to navigate, it brings many benefits. But if a diverse society is going to be a free and democratic society whose members respect each other, emphasizing similarities helps. Atlantic journalist Peter Beinart explored this when writing about immigration; citing studies showing greater diversity makes people less charitable – not only toward people different from them, but people similar as well – he suggested that advocates of liberal immigration policies celebrate “America’s diversity less, and its unity more.” In an age when millions of Americans hate each other’s guts, highlighting difference (whatever the dividing line) is an incentive for dislike. Continue reading

Keydets Too Busy to Be Racist

Mark Reed

by Mark Reed

My wife and I, Lexington residents since 2016, adopt” VMI “Rats” through a local church. We’ve had the pleasure of serving these fine young people in our home every Sunday during the school year, and we’ve been fortunate to continue our relationship with them and their families as they pursue their degrees at the finest military school in America.

The VMI controversy — conceived, birthed, and raised up from a tiny sample size of anonymous “allegations” — has toppled the academic and personal lives of these young men and women during a time when America reels from a pandemic. I submit that I, a military veteran, accomplished investigator, and retired child welfare professional, have far more insight into the institution that is VMI than do Richmond politicians or The Washington Post.

I have spoken face-to-face with far more Keydets than had the Washington Post when it first alleged that VMI is a systemically racist institution. I have hosted Rats every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. from October to April. They studied (and some dozed off, wouldn’t you if you were them?) in my office and my guest room.  They ate at my dinner table (often in huge quantities), and they bared their souls to my wife and me during one of the most chaotic periods of their young lives. And at 20:00 I escorted them back to Post. Continue reading

Richmond’s Rage of the Woke

The bronze equestrian statue (1890) of Robert E. Lee covered in graffiti, September 2020 (Photo courtesy of author)

by Catesby Leigh

Beautifully landscaped with ample medians and harmoniously lined with gracious houses in various historic styles, Richmond, Virginia’s block-paved Monument Avenue and its several statuary tributes to Confederate leaders were once recognized as a triumph of American urban design. The residential frontages served admirably as a variegated frame for the monuments, creating a superb urban tableau that it made no sense to eradicate—especially as the monuments lost ideological currency with the passage of time, as monuments often do.

But after the mayhem triggered by George Floyd’s fatal arrest in Minneapolis in May 2020, the 14 blocks of the avenue comprising a National Historic Landmark District present a sorry spectacle. Bare pedestals, with the vandals’ graffiti not entirely washed away, stand on the avenue’s median. Statues of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, the cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and the world-renowned oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, who played an inconspicuous role in the Confederate war effort, are gone—victims of fanaticism fueled by Twitter slogans drawing, in turn, on national-guilt and systemic-racism narratives in which Americans have been increasingly indoctrinated. Continue reading

Halt 5G in Virginia Now!

Virginians for Safe Technology has launched a petition to halt the deployment of 5G wireless technology. Bacon’s Rebellion does not endorse the petition but does believe that the issues it raises are worth discussing. Next-generation wireless is critical infrastructure. The sooner the concerns are addressed, the better. — JAB

To our elected and appointed officials and the big business Non-Governmental Organizations tasked with making decisions regarding technology across the beautiful State of Virginia on our behalf:

We, the people of Virginia, do not consent to this involuntary exposure of 5G blanketed wireless radiation and we believe current and future generations of Virginians deserve to be protected.

Thousands of peer reviewed research studies show the negative health effects of radiation from wireless technologies. As such, 5G Next Generation and beyond (5G+) wireless technology poses significant risks to humans — especially young children — animals and the environment. (www.BioInitiative.org) Yet, 5G+ has never been required to be safety tested for mmWave phased array health effects by you or the industries implementing this technology, and thus constitutes a human experiment without consent.

Continue reading

Flag Fight

by Deborah Hommer

On March 3, 2021, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended
against adopting proposed regulations governing the number, size and
setbacks of flags and flagpoles.

“This was a solution, looking for a problem,” said Planning Commission
Vice Chairman John Ulfelder. “I suspect, based on a lot of comments we’ve
received, a lot of other people perceived it the same way. If it ain’t
broken, don’t fix it.”

On March 9, 2021, the Board of Supervisors held approximately five hours of testimony, in which the decision was made to defer the decision for two weeks until 4:30 p.m. March 23. It’s not clear the board will see things the same way as Ulfelder.

“This proposal didn’t come from nowhere,” said Board Chair Jeffrey C.
McKay. “If you had only watched some of the media conversations about
this, you would think Fairfax is the only jurisdiction that has enacted
rules like this before. The public discussion about the zoning change got
off the rails in a way that’s unfortunate.” Continue reading

TJ High School Lawsuit Could Set Important Precedents

Students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

by Ilya Somin

Last week, a group of primarily Asian-American parents filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new admissions policies at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Fairfax County. The case could end up setting an important precedent:

Fairfax County Public Schools is facing a second lawsuit over changes officials made last year to the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, its flagship STEM magnet school.

The suit, filed in federal court Wednesday, alleges the changes are discriminatory against Asian Americans and therefore violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some of the plaintiffs are also part of the initial lawsuit. Continue reading

The Honor Code Is the Heart of the VMI Experience

by Carmen Villani

Honor does not see color of skin. Honor does not see gender. Honor does not see socioeconomic status. What it does see is the “dream” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — judging a person based upon content of his or her character.

Honor is not a casual word that is tossed around and then largely ignored at the Virginia Military Institute. It is the essence and foundation of the VMI Experience. This system is predicated upon character and starts with the Honor Code — a cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those that do. That code is not “suspended,” waived by granting “amnesty,” or compromised by circumstance. It is the moral compass for those who currently wear the VMI uniform and those who have. It is fiercely guarded by the Corps of Cadets and alumni alike. Violation of the Honor Code is not an option if a cadet expects to graduate from VMI. Continue reading

Critical Race Theory Is Taking Over Virginia Beach Schools

by Victoria Manning

A Virginia Beach High School government teacher and finalist for teacher of the year recently posted on social media that “capitalism is racist.” An assistant principal in a different Virginia Beach high school advocated teaching critical race theory, sharing an article about the 1619 project. A Virginia Beach high
school history teacher at a different school commented that he teaches critical race theory every year. A downtown instructional specialist in the social studies department promoted on Twitter that we should re-write all social studies curricula to be “social justice oriented,” referencing the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center’s document on the topic. He also stated that all schools should celebrate Black Lives Matter Week (not Black History Month).

Are these views common and accepted practices in Virginia Beach Schools?

In September 2020, the Virginia Beach School Board adopted a controversial equity policy. Dozens of people showed up to the meeting on both sides to speak on the topic. Some called me a racist for not supporting the policy. I had a lot of questions about this five-page document that would mandate staff training and teach students about “culturally responsive practices.” It also set no dollar limit on the superintendent’s spending to implement the policy.

When I asked for details about who would be conducting the training and what curriculum would be used, I was told that it had not yet been decided. I was being asked as an elected official to mandate training that had not yet been created, and I was not provided a cost. Continue reading

Equity in Virginia School Funding

by Matt Hurt

Virginia Public School Region VII has demonstrated that large per-student budgets are not a prerequisite to ensure success on Virginia’s Standards of Learning assessments. High pass rates indicate that the schools and divisions in the Southwest are meeting the needs of their students for basic skill attainment. However, to achieve Virginia’s 5 C’s — Critical Thinking Skills, Collaboration Skills, Communication Skills, Creative Thinking Skills, and Citizenship Skills — students need access to more educational opportunities than the current state funding formula provides. Affluent localities have provided these opportunities for their students, whereas others have not found the means.

School funding is very complicated as there are so many variables at play. Public school budgets can be broken into four funding sources — federal, state, state sales tax, and local dollars. There are differing criteria for each, which impact the overall budget for a given school division. The degree to which school division budgets vary by funding source can be seen in the table below, drawn from the 2019 Superintendent’s Annual Report. Also included is the range of per pupil funding that year.

Continue reading

How Electricity “Capacity” Markets Work

There has been a lively discussion in the comments threads of recent Bacon’s Rebellion posts about what lessons Virginia can learn from the near-collapse of Texas’ electric grid. A key difference between the two states is that Texas maintains its own reliability council, ERCOT, while Virginia belongs to an interstate compact, PJM. Both organizations administer auctions to sell electricity in near-real time. Unlike Texas, PJM maintains a market for future electricity “capacity.” The role of capacity markets is hard for most people (including me) to wrap their heads around. But reader Allen Barringer (Acbar), a retired utility regulatory lawyer, gives it a shot. — JAB

The concept of reliability in electricity grids is probabilistic. There is no such thing as absolute certainty of reliability. In general, the acceptable risk of an outage is defined by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a standards-setting organization regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which sits atop around a dozen regional reliability councils whose members are the utilities and Independent System Operators (ISOs) that run the electric grid. The reliability criterion is that consumers should not lose electric service as the result of problems on the “bulk power” electric grid more often than one day in 10 years.

State regulatory authorities such as Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) don’t regulate the bulk power grid; they focus on local reliability issues like distribution line outages. But the states also regulate retail electric rates and, in Virginia, the SCC reviews the “integrated resource plans” (IRPs) of the retail electric companies.   Continue reading

Shredding Virginia Employment Law One Bad Bill at a Time

Face palm

by Liam Bissainthe

The Virginia state senate has blocked a bill that could potentially change the definition of “sexual harassment.” It would hold even small employers liable for comments defined as either “workplace harassment” or “sexual harassment.” Employers would held liable even for conduct that occurs “outside of the workplace,” and even for conduct committed by “nonemployees” such as customers.

But the very same provisions are found in another bill passed by the Virginia House of Delegates, that is still sitting in a committee of the state senate. So the legislation could still conceivably become law.

In a 20-to-18 vote, the state senate voted on February 5 to send the first harassment bill (SB 1360) back to the Judiciary Committee, where it died on February 6. But the exact same provisions appear to be found in the second harassment bill, HB 2155, which is still alive and sitting in the General Laws committee. Continue reading

Hey, APCo, Let Schools Build Rooftop Solar

Photo courtesy Secure Futures LLC

by Aaron Sutch

In another life, I was a middle school teacher. I taught for four years at a public school. It’s a hard age group. But I found the antics of my 7th and 8th grade students more amusing than frustrating. Perhaps I was well-prepared, having worked at a zoo before entering the classroom.

As a teacher, I enjoyed working with students, but was constantly frustrated as we faced shrinking budgets. Administrators were forced to decide between paying for rising energy costs or investing in resources for my students.

It broke my heart to see tight funds diverted from students to cover rising electricity bills. It happened all the time.

So it’s exciting that Virginia schools are installing solar power to generate electricity and save on energy costs. The Commonwealth now ranks among the top 10 states for solar on K-12 schools with more than 34,000 KW of installed solar capacity. This is enough to power 3,700 Virginia homes. Continue reading

Teaching in the Time of COVID

by Matt Hurt

Since March 13 when Virginia schools were initially closed due to COVID-19, I have  participated in discussions with hundreds (maybe thousands) of public school teachers and administrators from across Virginia. Most conversations centered on the educational difficulties imposed by the pandemic. A common thread through those conversation was the frustration that schools were not meeting the needs of at-risk students. Educators felt like they were between a rock and a hard place.

Most of these educators work in school divisions that offer some degree of in-person instruction to every student, and have done so through most of this school year. These folks are concerned that educational outcomes, even for students who opted for in-person instruction, will not be consistent with the progress expected prior to the pandemic.

Few divisions offered in-person instruction for students five days a week. Some offered four days per week, and many offered two days per week (one group coming two days a week, and another group coming another two days a week to accommodate spacing needs for social distancing). In almost all divisions, the school day was slightly shortened. In most instances teachers had significantly less time with their students than in previous years.  Continue reading

Advanced Recycling: A Win-Win for Virginia

by Chris Braunlich

Candidates love to be on the side of the gods – and supporting reduced pollution and greater economic growth is a “win-win.” After all, if Virginia can use new technologies to reduce not only greenhouse gases but also what we send to landfills … while simultaneously creating new, well-paying jobs, who could oppose it?

Technological advances like those invested in by Elon Musk or Google have simultaneously lowered costs and reduced environmental threats for years. But some seem determined to have ideology stand in the way of common sense.

In 2018, more than 35 million tons of plastic municipal waste was produced: only three million tons were recycled; another five million were used for energy production. By far, the greatest amount of plastic waste was simply dumped — American landfills received 27 million tons of plastics because one of the greatest current drawbacks of recycling plastic is … it can’t all be recycled easily or efficiently. Continue reading