Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Windsor Traffic Cops Broke No State Laws

Joe Gutierrez

by James A. Bacon

Town of Windsor police officers won’t face state criminal charges for pepper-spraying a Black Army lieutenant during a traffic stop, but they aren’t off the hook yet. Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell, named as special prosecutor in the Isle of Wight case, has asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to open a civil rights investigation.

Joe Gutierrez (no longer on the force) and Daniel Crocker pulled over 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario on U.S. Route 460 at night on suspicion of driving without a license plate. Nazario had a temporary New York plate in the rear window but the officers said they didn’t see it. Nazario drove a mile before finally pulling over in a BP gas station. When ordered repeatedly to get out of the car, Nazario refused. Gutierrez pepper-sprayed Nazario and then forced him to the ground. Much of the encounter was caught on police cameras.

Bell, an African-American, conducted what he described as an “exhaustive review” of Virginia state law, according to The Smithfield Times. “The traffic stop alone was not a violation of law,” he wrote. Gutierrez’s use of force “did not violate state law as he had given multiple commands for Nazario to exit the vehicle.” Continue reading

Audit Skewers Arlington’s Virtual Learning Fiasco

Photo Credit: Thomas Park on Unsplash by way of the Sun Gazette.

by James A. Bacon

An internal audit of Arlington Public Schools’ calamitous virtual-learning program during the 2021-22 school year cut school leaders no slack.

“There was insufficient or minimal ownership, leadership . . . stakeholder input, planning, risk assessment, pilot study and progress reports,” John Mickevice told School Board members, as reported by the Sun Gazette. Among the key findings:

  • The school system “lacked a formal project plan” to implement the program;
  • Those leading the program provided “no timely feedback” to upper-level school leaders when things began to go south;
  • There was not sufficient time given for staffing the program and training that staff.

Continue reading

Does Fairfax Have a Criminal-First, Victim-Last Mindset?

by James A. Bacon

Dozens of current and former Fairfax County police officers belonging to the Fairfax County Police Association gathered in a town hall last week with Attorney General Jason Miyares. Their message: recent Virginia legislation combined with a change in prosecutorial policies by the county’s Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano, are making it harder for them to do their job.

As NBC-Channel 4 summed up the meeting, “They claim they’re having a tougher time bringing charges in some cases because magistrates are interpreting cases more liberally. They’ve also expressed concerns about inexperience on the part of some assistant commonwealth’s attorneys and say some cases are being dropped.”

“I think you’ve had a serious problem of criminal-first, victim-last mindset,” Miyares told the group.

Descano’s response to the TV station: crime in Fairfax County is down. “Over the last two years, crime in Fairfax County is down almost 10%, and we are the safest jurisdiction in the entire country with a population of over 1 million people.” Continue reading

Dominion Kicks off Battery-Storage Pilot Project

Utility-scale batteries adjacent to solar panels at Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A utility-scale battery storage system has gone online at Dominion Energy’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan County, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During the day when solar output is peaking, excess energy is rerouted to the batteries. When the sun goes down and output falls, batteries release electricity back into the grid. The 12-megawatt battery complex can power 3,000 homes for up to four hours.

The purpose of the Scott Solar project is to give Dominion real-world experience in understanding how batteries can integrate into the larger electric grid. Dominion officials contend that battery storage can be a more cost-effective way to meet high-demand periods than, in the RTD’s words, building “an entirely new generation facility.”

The “levelized cost” of electricity, which includes up-front capital costs, operating costs, and fuel costs (which are zero for solar) over the lifetime of the project, is lower for solar than any other energy source available on a large scale in Virginia. However, solar farms are part of a larger system that must meet the demand for electricity 24/7. Solar facilities, while highly cost-efficient on a stand-alone basis, are highly variable. Output cannot be dialed up and down as needed. Therefore, they require significant backup. Batteries are one means of providing that backup. And batteries have a cost. Continue reading

The Great Escape

Scene from “The Great Escape”

by James A. Bacon

Fletcher Norwood has made his great escape. It feels, he says, as if he’s broken out of a German stalag and been elevated to Winston Churchill’s aide de camp. When he resumes teaching in August, he’ll no longer be consigned to the high-poverty Title I high school where he has been teaching the past several years. He’ll join a school in a neighboring county where he expects most students will be motivated to learn, classroom behavior will be manageable, and administrators will have his back.

Norwood, whose experiences I have chronicled in previous columns, has a lot of company. Teachers have staged what can best be described as a mass breakout from Virginia’s failing schools: retiring, transferring to other schools and districts, or just quitting the profession altogether in unprecedented numbers.

Based on extensive word-of-mouth, Norwood (not his real name) estimates that one quarter to one third of all the teachers have resigned from his old school this year. The school he’s going to is close to fully staffed. “I got a job in a better county that is reaping the benefit of poorly run counties that are losing teachers,” he says. Continue reading

Blacks Don’t Always Think the Way White Cultural Elites Think They Do

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s popularity in Virginia was the top-line story from a new Virginia Commonwealth University poll. The survey, published yesterday, found that 49% of Virginians polled approve of his job as governor compared to 38% who disapprove. It’s not surprising to see his popularity holding up so well. Virginians tend to be favorably disposed toward governors not caught up in scandal, and Youngkin is no exception.

The more interesting data from the poll was buried in the VCU press release. Two points stand out: attitudes of Blacks toward taxes, and attitudes of Whites toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Leaving the plantation on taxes. Youngkin’s tax cut on gas is more popular among African-Americans than the electorate as a whole. The three-month elimination of the motor vehicles fuel tax garnered a 58% approval rating from all Virginians but 76% from Blacks. (Elimination of the state portion of the grocery tax was broadly popular across the partisan divide, with seven out of ten Virginians in favor. VCU did not break out the results for Blacks on that question.) Continue reading

A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.” Continue reading

Violent Crime Now the Top Public Health Concern

Community violence and crime constitute the No. 1 “public health issue” that concerns registered voters in Virginia, finds the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) in a poll released today. Fifty-one percent of the 800 Virginians polled selected the issue.

The No. 2 concern was healthcare work shortages, which logged the top vote from 25% of respondents. (The VHHA press release did not indicate which other concerns, such as COVID-19, that people could select from.)

The poll also found that: Continue reading

Richmond Police Unveil Anti-Violence Strategy

Major Ronnie Armstead

by James A. Bacon

Shootings and homicides are surging in Richmond this year, and city police have a new strategy to bring the situation under control. They’re compiling a list of “shooters” and potential shooters. In a Monday press conference, Major Ronnie Armstead, who is leading the initiative, said the list includes “violent people that are known to be shooters, even if they didn’t have a record.”

The police have compiled the list, which now has about 100 names, by identifying individuals who have shot people in the past, by talking to members of the community, and by tracking social media, among other means, reports Virginia Public Media. “One thing about these individuals is they love their guns, they love to post [online],” Armstead said. “We look at things like that as part of an investigative tool to track these individuals and apprehend them.”

“We’re going after those trigger pullers throughout the city, and especially in the Big Six,” Armstead said last week. (The Big Six refers to the city’s six housing projects.) So far, police have arrested at least 45 public housing residents and charged them with 188 felony counts and 138 misdemeanors.

That seems like a positive, proactive approach. Take lawbreakers off the streets for legitimate crimes and misdemeanors, and focus scarce resources on those posing the highest risk of violence.  Continue reading

Debunking Another Junk Study from the Left

Source: The Prison Policy Initiative

by James A. Bacon

The Prison Policy Initiative, a group dedicated to exposing “the broader harm of mass criminalization,” has published data detailing the incarceration rate of communities across Virginia. Among Virginia’s 95 counties and 38 cities, 26 are missing at least 1% of their population to incarceration, finds “The geography of mass incarceration in Virginia.

Among the more notable findings: while the cities of Norfolk and Richmond send the largest numbers of people to prison, less populous localities — Martinsville, Petersburg, Franklin, Buchanan, Lee, Dickenson and Brunswick — are missing a larger share of their populations. Moreover, within localities incarceration rates differ widely by neighborhood.

The data is interesting and potentially useful, but the analysis that accompanies it is atrocious. If the numbers prove anything, it’s that “mass incarceration” knows no racial boundaries. The poverty-ridden Appalachian counties of Lee, Buchanan and Dickenson are overwhelmingly White. But the authors slight that obvious fact in favor of linking incarceration with “systemic racism.”

This passage is typical: “Decades of systematic oppression and divestment from these poorer communities of color — which we know are overpoliced — have left these historically redlined communities particularly vulnerable to Virginia’s modern-day reliance on mass incarceration.”

Where do I begin? Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) call the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly, accurately, and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief, and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro-forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

Why Teachers Are Resigning: Student Behavior

Source: Chalkboard Review

by James A. Bacon

Why are so many teachers resigning from Virginia’s public schools? Based on widespread anecdotal evidence, I have suggested that the breakdown in classroom discipline is a major contributing factor, especially in high-poverty schools. But anecdotes are just that — anecdotal — and others blame low pay, COVID, or meddling right-wing parents. Now comes a survey of teachers in six Midwestern states who have resigned or will resign before the start of the 2022-23 school year. Among the 615 respondents, students’ “classroom behavior” is hands-down the biggest issue.

Key findings: “319 of the 615 responders listed student behavior as their biggest reason to leave the classroom, followed by 138 for ‘progressive political activity’ and 134 for ‘salary is insufficient.’”

The survey was conducted by the Chalkboard Review, which was founded in 2020 to provide a “heterodox outlet” for news and commentary from educators. By emphasizing diversity of opinion, it is safe to assume, “heterodox” is roughly synonymous with “non-Woke.” So, one must take into account the possible biases of those conducting the survey. (See the description of the methodology here.) Continue reading

Fairfax County NAACP Gets to the Point on Literacy Instruction

Courtesy Success Academy

by James C. Sherlock

I spend a lot of ink here writing about improving the education of poor kids.  I am not alone.

In April of 2021, the Fairfax County NAACP wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools asking that FCPS switch from Balanced Literacy to Structured Literacy in reading instruction in grades K-3.

In light of the specific learning losses of this last year and the urgency to move quickly and decisively to correct the course, the Fairfax County NAACP demands that FCPS switch to an evidence-based structured literacy methodology. This must be implemented with fidelity, division wide, in the general education classroom starting in Kindergarten and continuing through 3rd grade.

Their point is well taken.

My search of the science-based reports on reading instruction overwhelmingly favor structured literacy, to the point that supporters of balanced literacy are hard to find in print in recent years with the exception of those who defensively point out that balanced literacy has a structured literacy component. Continue reading

$8 Million a Year for Higher-Ed’s Non-Lobbyist Lobbyists

by James A. Bacon

When Donald J. Finley retired from the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) earlier this year, Virginia’s higher-ed industry lost one of its most effective advocates in Richmond. As Charles Kelley with McGuire Woods Consulting tweeted at the time: “Don is the best example of a true public servant, and he’s undoubtedly the single-most important factor in silently but masterfully making Virginia’s #highered system the powerhouse it has grown into over the last half century.”

The goal of the Council is to support “higher ed investment” in Virginia toward the goal of building a world-class workforce. Last month the organization issued a press release applauding the General Assembly for its “historic vote” that would provide “more than $1 billion in new state funding focused on college affordability and talent development.”

The higher-ed lobby is one of the most powerful in Richmond. Not only can universities mobilize the support of business organizations such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and call upon powerful alumni for assistance, they field a small army of government relations (GR) employees. By one count, Virginia’s public universities alone account for 50 state employees who are compensated (not counting benefits) $8.6 million a year — not counting paid lobbyists. Continue reading

K-12 Debacle Update: Richmond Teacher Shortage

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras in happier days. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Public School System is facing a teacher shortage after 25% of the system’s teaching staff resigned at the end of the 2021-22 school year. RPS is trying to fill 176 positions before the school year starts in August, reports WRIC television.

RPS has formed a teacher retention task force and is partnering with teacher residency programs at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University, Superintendent Jason Kamras told the School Board Monday.

Kamras proposed offering incentives worth up to $10,000 for new teachers, including $6,000 for relocation expenses and another $4,000 for teachers filling critical shortage fields. The money for incentives and recruiting would come from the federal stimulus fund. If the shortage is not resolved when the school year starts in August, said WRIC, the school will hire substitutes, deploy staff not currently assigned classrooms and adjust class sizes.

“We need to create incentives to keep and track experienced teachers,” Kamras said Monday night. “We are in a moment that requires extraordinary steps to meet extraordinary circumstances. That’s why I am moving forward with these incentives to help close the gaps over these next few weeks.” Continue reading