World’s Fastest Flip Flop

Yesterday, I declared that Tim Kaine had lost my vote. I totally disapproved of his proposal for giving local governments power to block real estate development projects on the grounds that they would overwhelm local transportation networks. (See reasons here.) I should have known not to be so melodramatic.

Today, my vote is back in play. Why? Because I’ve been digging into Jerry Kilgore’s endorsement of the proposed $3 billion Coalfield Expressway. I’ve always maintained that the project was a colossally bad idea. Now comes the revelation — it’s a revelation to me, if not to anyone else — that Kilgore has helped engineering/construction firm Kellogg Brown and Root win more than $60 million in engineering and design fees for the project…. while KBR has contributed $25,000 to Kilgore’s campaign.

I’m not saying that KBR has “bought” Jerry Kilgore. I don’t think he can be “bought.” But Kilgore’s lobbying relationship and continued associations with KBR appear to have colored his objectivity and led him to pursue a really bad idea against the best interests of Virginia and even Southwest Virginia. Sorry, but that’s no way to devise transportation policy. For details, see my blog entry over on The Road to Ruin.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, Jim, there’s always Russ Potts!

    Check out his homepage ( for the planned, “Virtual Debate” with CBS 6 in Richmond.

  2. Jim Hoeft Avatar

    Jim, you’re killing me with this flip-flop. Of course, if you do vote for Kaine, perhaps he’ll give you clemency!

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    It is never pretty watching idealism and naivete die like a poisoned dog. Sorry it had to happen to you Mr. Bacon, but it had to someday. Welcome to reality.

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’m telling you guys, if there was ever a case for “None of the Above” on the ballot, this is it.

  5. This Just In!!

    EMR agrees with Mr. Hyde.

    Details in a column on Progressive Regionalism soon.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The Coalfields Expressway is a big deal for the economy of Southwest Virginia. The people there overwhelmingly want it, and it will be a vital link for this region that has fallen behind the economic growth in the rest of Virginia.

    That’s why Jerry Kilgore supports the highway–because he knows the priorities and the needs of this region.

  7. Not Guy Incognito Avatar
    Not Guy Incognito

    Anon 9:27:

    Just because people want it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good project.

    The people in far SWVA enjoy any sort of political pork they can get (attention: Rick Boucher).

    Can you tell me exactly what sort of “commerce” this expressway will actually attract in an area with a very small skilled workforce, very little population, and precious little flat land to develop?

    Jim’s right. Access is not the answer here. There are so many more issues that could be addressed, and far better places for $3 billion to be spent.

    There’s a good reason this project is popularly known as the “Road to Nowhere.”

  8. criticallythinking Avatar

    I don’t support the expressway, but that’s because I won’t drive on it.

    But it is absurd to think that Kilgore signed onto a 3 billion dollar road project because he got a $25,000 campaign donation.

    I’m sure it has a lot more to do with how many votes he can get supporting the project, and how little real control he would have to cancel the project and how few votes that would win him.

    Fact is, saving 3 billion for not funding a road won’t get you nearly as many votes from all the people that didn’t care about the road, as spending it will from the people who DO care.

    Rule of politics: Those who care, while a much smaller population than those who don’t, care with much more enthusiasm than those who don’t.

    Fortunately for me, my decision on who to vote for doesn’t depend on a stupid plan to turn over property rights to government inaction, OR which candidate is more willing to spend too much money on a road I don’t care about.

    But I guess somebody is still on that fence.

  9. If SW VA would like to try something to spur progress in their neck of the woods, they might want to become acquainted with this nifty new concept called THE INTERNET.

    Oh, sure a few folks are on the web (like Chad Dotson over at CC), but for the most part, the local govt’s and business people are hopelessly mired in the 1950s.

    Want to visit the area? Good luck. Thinking of moving to the area? Good luck. Local governments aren’t online. School districts aren’t online. Realtors aren’t online. The region doesn’t participate in Apartments aren’t online. Local crafters – a very large business segment in the area – aren’t online – this I know firsthand from trying to locate producers of Virginia made products for a business venture. Only the most basic of travel “data” is online. It’s like an information wasteland there.

    If they’d like to be taken seriously as vital participants in Virginia’s economy and attract new residents and new businesses, then a move into the 21st century would do a heck of a lot more to secure their future than a road.

  10. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I would suggest that Olivia is on to something.

    Support for the Coalfields Expressway is a reflection of an approach to economic development that is mired in the past. No one is around to seriously challenge it because SWVA is insulated–few new people enter the area and leadership in the area has very little “churn.”

    Check out the key people in economic development in SWVA. Check how long they have been in their jobs. Compare that to economic developers in other regions of Virginia.

    Someday, someone will dare to tell SWVA things that don’t want to hear. Until then, it pays out in votes to endorse the same old same old.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Flip-flopping is a good thing.

    It shows that you are open to new ideas on both sides of a question, which has it all over blind idealism on one side or another.

  12. Allen from the Union Avatar
    Allen from the Union

    It’s interesting that the Kilgore campaign also received $28,607 from the GEO Group, parent corporation of Atlantic Shores Healthcare, aka GEO Care and $1,000 from Jorge Dominicis, chief spokesperson for the mental health section of the above. You know they’re interested in privitizing Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg?

  13. Terry M. Avatar

    All these comments are fascinating. Southside complains that its economic woes can only be solved with a new public university, or a new interstate, or a full-service airport. Preferably all three.

    Southwest has the public university…has had for over 50 years. It is 60% larger than what the New College of Va wants to be in Martinsville, but it still wants/needs its own major highway.

    So, what will it take to really change the economics of an area?

  14. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    There is a pretty good connection between this issue and your previous one about the energy severance taxes collected in Southwest Virginia. If this mega project is built, it is mainly to serve that industry, and there is a pretty good argument that the severance taxes or some other funding source related to the extraction of energy could be part of the funding solution. It is certainly worth a look.

    Kilgore is facing the problems faced by any candidate who has also worked extensively as a lobbyist, which is why you don’t often see it. But I think you are being a bit hard on him, Jim — he is from SWVA (as is my family) and I would expect him to be an advocate for the energy industry vital to its economy. You won’t see Kaine attacking that proposed road.

  15. Jerry Gray Avatar
    Jerry Gray

    Steve Haner: What is the basis for this statement?

    “If this mega project is built, it is mainly to serve that [energy]industry”

    Coal is transported by rail down here, not on 4-lane highways.

    The rationale offerred for the CFX is that it will allow us to attract
    industry that relies on 4-lane highways to move goods in and out.

  16. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    You don’t have to tell someone with Bluefield roots about coal trains. I’ll admit I am no expert on that project, and defer to those who are. But I suspect many of those potential new industries are likely to have some relationship to the energy field. I do know I’ve heard discussion about using energy-related revenue sources to help with the road, which may not be a universally popular suggestion.

  17. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Also, Mr. Gray, if you want to reduce confusion about the purpose of that highway down here in the flatlands, you might call it something other than the Coalfields Expressway. Mountain Empire or Appalachian Expressway?

Leave a Reply