Tag Archives: James Sherlock

Public Featherbedding at the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority?

The Young Terrace public housing community is along St. Paul’s Boulevard, just north of downtown. (Bill Tiernan) Credit Virginian Pilot

by James C. Sherlock

Daniel Berti published an excellent investigative report this morning in The Virginian-Pilot.

“Norfolk’s housing authority is in ‘dire’ financial condition, bloated after years of failing to downsize” details what may prove to be waste and abuse at that agency to preserve jobs as the administrative requirements and funding of the mission have diminished.

In other words, the report details what some may construe as government agency featherbedding. If it is true, it has been a big mistake, because federal dollars are involved.

I congratulate both the author and the paper on this exclusive. Please read it.

The article, as revealing as it is, does not mention the annual independent audits the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) is required by federal regulation to undergo.

It has been my experience over the years that local agencies spending federal funds often get into financial trouble that is traceable to audits.

Most often to good audits that are ignored. Continue reading

Want to Retain Teachers? Give Them Choices within the Public School System

James C. Sherlock

We can’t stay with the current public school model in Virginia. Both teachers and kids are leaving in droves. It is broken.

The politics of the standards of learning are fierce. The politics of discipline standards are even worse.

I am going to write about potential solutions to teacher shortages.

I recommend at least four types of public schools. To make that work, we need to do each type right. We currently have three types and are doing none of them right.

Giving teachers choices will, not coincidentally, give parents and their kids the same options, optimized for success.

Everybody wins. Even the teachers unions. Continue reading

Charlottesville’s Dysfunctional City Government and the Left’s Four-Card Monty

by James C. Sherlock

In Canada, three-card monte is illegal. It is banned by name in Canadian law because the mark has no chance of winning. In fact, anyone who wins can be presumed to be a shill.

Four-card monte dominates public debate in America. Like its street game counterpart, only shills win.

For the left, the cards are race, gender, climate and guns.

They have made accusations of systemic and individual racism the cornerstones of their strategy. They have made misogyny more complicated than it used to be, yielding yet more potential victims and oppressors. Climate is dogma — everyone will die soon unless we destroy the economy. Or maybe die anyway. But time is of the essence. The Second Amendment is objectively evil.

Victims are everywhere. They are necessary not just to election victories, but as objects of oppression to shut down debate. Progressives are destroying America with the outcomes of their policies, so discussions of those outcomes and those who discuss them are banished from the public square.

Policy prescriptions are what count. Adverse outcomes of those policies are never raised, except, of course, by racists, misogynists, climate deniers and gun nuts. Continue reading

Hospitals Continue to Cut Labor and Delivery and NICU Services

Credit Kylie Johnson Photography

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia and the nation continue to see the results of the baby bust.

I wrote yesterday of the baby cliff, the 15% decline in live births that started in the great recession of 2007-09. It continues. And it continues to drive change, much of it not good.

I have written here about such important hospital changes as:

  • the closing of labor and delivery services at Virginia Beach General Hospital and elsewhere in the state; and
  • the consolidation of Neo-natal ICU (NICU) services with the integration of two hospital systems into Ballad Health in Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.

That too is a continuing national trend.

Today’s young people of child-bearing age will find not only fewer places to deliver a child than their parents did, but also to provide specialized care if the baby needs it. Continue reading

Gender Dysphoria Treatment for Children Needs Some Rules in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia needs, for the protection of children, parents, and physicians, a law to specify minimum age requirements and require court orders for voluntary medical intervention in child sexual development.

When there are physical abnormalities involved, the court can order those treatments as well.

On the other hand, I propose a ban on voluntary sex reassignment surgery in minors.

A court order is already required in Virginia for non-therapeutic sterilization of children. Virginia law makes no reference to the treatment of gender dysphoria in children.

Some will try to parse the differences, but it seems almost axiomatic that consent to puberty blocking and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for minors should be treated the same as consent to sterilization. Continue reading

Regulations and the Costs of Doing Business in Virginia

Courtesy of Mercatus Center George Mason University

by James C. Sherlock

About the only category I found interesting in the “Top States for Business” rankings by CNBC, other than the progressive metrics that are featured in many of the categories, is “Cost of Doing Business.”

Virginia’s worst score among the six categories of metrics is that one. The methodology used for costs of doing business is defined, but vaguely:

As inflation ravages company balance sheets, we measure the strength of each state’s business tax climate. We also measure wage and utility costs, as well as the cost of office and industrial space. And we consider incentives and tax breaks that states offer to reduce business costs, with special emphasis on incentives targeted toward development in disadvantaged communities.

So, in this category, CNBC is grading government-imposed taxes and incentives as well as market-driven costs.

On the government side, the rating favors lower taxes and higher incentives. The “special emphasis” item may skew the results, but we do not know how much.

Lower taxes are conservative priorities. Government incentives which skew market forces and reward both politically trendy operations and big donors are not. Continue reading

The Crisis of Reducing Costs and Maintaining Standards at Virginia’s State Colleges and Universities

Courtesy Virginia Tech

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s state-funded colleges and universities are too expensive.

Tuitions are the headline numbers.

But student fees and food and housing costs are as important to the budgets of families and individual students as tuition.

Costs within the college system have gone up because of a general lack of management systems and data to support oversight. They are going up further because of inflation in the economy.

Demand is going to plummet starting in 2025 as the “demographic cliff” of a 15 % drop in freshman prospects approaches due to the decline in birth rate in the 2008 recession that lasted for years thereafter.

The missing babies from 2008 would have begun entering college in 2025. Not a rosy scenario for the colleges. They all talk about it a great deal internally.

Some will have to get smaller to maintain student quality admissions standards or, alternately, lower those standards along with those of the programs of instruction.

Maintaining the same staff with smaller numbers of students will not work without massive price increases that they will not be able effectively to pass on without exacerbating the demand crisis.

Action is demanded, or parts of the Virginia higher education system, generally the smaller ones, are going to price themselves out of existence. The ones that do not act will be in a continuing crisis of their own making.

In the realm of enterprise disruptions, declining demand and increased costs are the big leagues. Continue reading

The Costs of Avoidable Hospital Visits in Virginia and a Proven Solution

by James C. Sherlock

I have written often of the costs of (1) avoidable emergency care and (2) avoidable hospital admissions for chronic diseases.

Each type of excess costs could be prevented by timely visits to primary care practitioners and following their prescriptions for treatment.

The avoidable costs are largely paid by Virginia’s Medicaid program run by Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS). DMAS pays Managed Care contractors to diminish these costs and improve the health of the communities in which its clients live. That program has not worked as well as it should.

There is a proven better way: Maryland’s Health Enterprise Zones (HEZ) program.

Virginia needs better financial data to support budget impact assessments for legislation to go down that path. The VDH data contractor has proven with its calculation of avoidable emergency department visits that both the data and the methodology are available to accomplish that same approach to avoidable hospital admissions.

We did not have those calculated figures when then-Delegate Jason Miyares and I tried and failed to establish a HEZ pilot program in Virginia a few years ago. Then, we had just rough estimates. The bill was passed overwhelmingly in the subject matter committees but buried in the House Appropriations Committee.

VDH should direct its contractor to make the calculations soon that are required to support 2023 legislation. Continue reading

The Governor’s Tuition Freeze Request and the Board at UVa – It’s Complicated

Signatures from the first meeting recorded in the Minute Book of the UVa board of visitors, May 5, 1817 – ALBERT AND SHIRLEY SMALL SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

by James C. Sherlock

Much has been made of a recent request by Governor Glenn Youngkin to eliminate a tuition increase at the University of Virginia and the Board’s decision not to honor it.

The tensions between means and ends that have to be resolved in producing a budget at any large and complex university are enormous.

UVa has implemented a Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model.

An RCM budget model decentralizes decision-making, provides incentives for innovation, and improves overall financial results and stewardship. It couples distributed program responsibility with meaningful authority over resources.

A central RCM budget product is thus fragile, in that changes have far reaching effects unpredictable at the board level. The later the changes, the bigger the disruptions.

The Governor’s request, while appropriate to his goal to help parents deal with inflation, arrived just before the start of the fiscal year. The board judged it to be too late to be accommodated.

This is the story of the budgeting process that drove that decision and why the endowment could not be used to fund the difference.  I think elements of this may prove be informative to all who send their kids off to college. Continue reading

Portsmouth: Chaos + Casino = Chaos

Louise Lucas

by James C. Sherlock

Portsmouth has a lot of problems. Look for them to get worse in February when its new casino is scheduled to open.

A key thing you need to know about the casino is that it is the realization of Louise Lucas’ vision. Senator Lucas has spent 22 years promoting a casino in Portsmouth. As if that was just the thing Portsmouth needed to become a successful city.

Her vision was clarified by nearly $50,000 in campaign donations from casino interests.

Introduced in January 2019 by Lucas, Virginia Senate Bill 1126 earmarked commercial casinos for the towns of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The legislation also permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build Native American casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in February, just across the water or through the tunnels here in South Hampton Roads from the new casino in Norfolk that will open in 2024.

Both were teed up by a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) study required by that legislation prior to the votes of the citizens of those five locations.

The site-specific study done for JLARC by the Innovation Group projects the casino in Norfolk will generate only slightly more revenue than the one in Portsmouth. It forecasts that in 2025, the Norfolk casino would produce about $150 million in total revenue and the Portsmouth site $130 million. Continue reading

Marcus Alerts in Virginia and Risks to Unarmed Responders

by James C. Sherlock

The Marcus Alert is named after Marcus-David Peters, a teacher killed by Richmond police in 2018 amid a mental health crisis.

The Marcus Alert system requires coordination between 911 and regional crisis call centers and establishes a specialized behavioral health response from a combination of behavioral health professionals and law enforcement when responding to a behavioral health situation.

It sounds right, but is dangerous to unarmed responders. We will have to work through that to see if the program is sustainable over time. And where. Continue reading

School Security and Public Recreation

Courtesy of ESPN

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond Free Press (RFP) has editorialized about an issue of importance to all Virginians.

The editorial “Indoor basketball courts or outdoor courts? Why not both?” discusses the fact that the City of Richmond has late-stage plans for the construction of the new George Wythe High School that have secure entrances to indoor facilities and no plans for outdoor basketball courts.

RFP in its editorial makes a plea to the mayor and city council to let the adults and kids in the neighborhood use the high school as a community asset for recreational activities when the kids are not in school.

The RFP editorial board is spot-on.

It is or should be an issue all across the state. Continue reading

Homicides in Richmond Soar – Cleared Homicides Decline

Summary of homicide totals and homicides cleared reported by Richmond police to the FBI 2010 to 2020. Number of 2021 Homicides = 90

by James C. Sherlock

We have seen considerable reporting on violent crime in Richmond, homicides in particular. There is reason for that.

The statistics are appalling and getting worse.

Data from 2010-2020 show that

  • homicides have soared since 2015;
  • clearance rates have plummeted since 2016;
  • 91% of the offenders and 89% of the victims are Black;
  • 85% of them are committed on the streets or sidewalks, residences and parking garages or lots;
  • 8% were committed with automatic weapons;
  • long guns (rifles and shotguns) were almost never identified as involved — 1 rifle, 3 shotguns in 478 homicides. Knives were involved in 25 homicides;
  • Richmond police  report linkages of homicides to another offense less that a quarter of the time, and most of those are linked to aggravated assault and destruction of property. Only nine are linked to robbery. Very few are reported as linked to drugs. Whether that is the fact or a reporting issue is impossible to determine.

There are lots of conclusions that can be drawn from all of the data. Different people will make different interpretations.

My personal biggest concern is the vast gulf starting after 2016 between the numbers of homicides and the numbers cleared. The more that criminals think they can get away with homicides, the more there will be.

So what about 2021? Ninety homicides.

First let’s look at the Commonwealth’s Attorneys in office during the murder spike. Then the police. Continue reading

A Promising Richmond Healthcare Program with Statewide Implications

by James C. Sherlock

Reporter George Copeland Jr. of the Richmond Free Press (RFP) has alerted its readers, of which it claims 135,000, and Virginians as a whole, to a very promising Richmond healthcare initiative.

Richmond’s new Health Equity Fund (HEF) is managed by Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD), a local agency of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Funding decisions will be made in partnership with a Community Advisory Committee for which the HEF is accepting nominations.

So far RHHD appears to have shown excellent judgment.

The Health Equity Fund is a City of Richmond program to spend $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money, so it relates funding to COVID, but that is a bureaucratic necessity. So, while RHHD serves all of Richmond and Henrico, the HEF will consider and fund only projects taking place within the City of Richmond.

But they are doing the right thing regardless of the regulations that come with the money. The programs are community focused and community executed.

I congratulate the RHHD, the mayor and the Richmond City Council for this initiative.

I suggest RHHD, together with the VDH and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), collect metrics that can justify expenditures by the state through the Medicaid program to provide continued support to the recipient programs proven to work. Continue reading

New Fed Policy Would Hide CMS Data on Patient Safety Records of Hospitals

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most disturbing commentaries I have read in a long time relating to federal efforts to improve hospital patient safety reports a major step backwards in that program.

I have written here many times of the power of the hospitals over Virginia’s politics. A proposed new federal rule shows that power at the federal level. It would negatively affect your ability to understand and compare the patient safety records of hospitals.

The Biden administration Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes to hide from the public a CMS rating that helps consumers view relative patient safety grades of hospitals. As important to the hospitals, perhaps, no one would be able to report on that information.

It also proposes to waive $350 million in fines for hospitals that violated existing regulations.

CMS for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is, with this rule, exercising the extraordinary powers the Secretary gives himself by constantly extending the Declaration of Public Emergency for COVID.  And yes, that is legal.

Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) submitted a 17-page letter of comment. It of course supported the waiver of fines.  On the issue of suppressing patient safety data, the VHHA wrote, unsurprisingly:

“VHHA and its members are supportive of the proposed suppression (of data) in the HVBP program.”

The letter also encouraged CMS to also suppress pneumonia mortality measure because of the potential overlap with COVID- related pneumonia.

The only way that could happen since CMS is already suppressing data with a primary or secondary COVID diagnosis is if there was no reported COVID indication in pneumonia cases.

The proposal itself represents a major scandal.  A total of 1,533 comments, now closed, were submitted on the proposed rule.

They comments from doctors and patient safety groups were unsupportive.  Hospitals were very supportive.  The Virginia Department of Health sent a short letter on the larger rule, but did not comment on data suppression.

The result: political healthcare rules courtesy of the Biden administration and the hospital lobby.

The following article is reprinted by permission of Kaiser Health News. Continue reading