Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Dickie Bell, GOP candidate for the House of Delegates District 20, told WSVA that he's been informed by the Augusta County School Board that he will lose his teaching job if he is elected. Superintendent Gary McQuain did not comment publically. Bell indicated he will appeal the decision if necessary.
CCC does not support Mr. Bell for delegate. Known and "No and No Show" during his time on Staunton City Council, Mr. Bell will be ultra-partisan and not prone to building pragmatic and bipartisan consensus. He is dodging debates with his opponent sending the signal that he doesn't want to discuss issues and that he cares little for what is on voters' minds.
But for the school system to threaten to fire him is absurd and short-sighted. True, educators have a profession that requires they be on the job and if they aren't, it confers a real cost on the school system and may affect the educational program. But teachers, like other citizens, should have the ability to run for public office without this kind of intimidation. After all, school board members are elected and those who are employed must miss work for some school board commitments.
There is an easy solution to this dilemma: elect Erik Curren. He is more thoughtful, committed, willing to listen to voters, and will make a much better representative for the people of Staunton and the counties of Augusta, Rockingham, and Highland.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The News Leader and TV3 were working on an early October debate between Dr. Greg Marrow and Del. Steve Landes. According to good sources, Landes has now bailed out of that commitment. Hard to have a good debate when one chair is empty.
Multiple choice quiz. Pick your favorite reason Del. Landes doesn't want to debate:
(a) feared another shellacking(b) no good answer on the jobs issue(c) doesn't have a new folder to hand Dr. Marrow(d) he is still "POed"(e) all of the above
Seems to be the Republican strategy in the 20th and 25th House districts - dodge debates and discussion of issues and hope voters in the Valley don't notice.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
At the end of July, Dickie Bell was anointed to run for House of Delegates District 20 to replace Del. Chris Saxman who suddenly and surprisingly exited stage right. Within a few days, the Democratic candidate Erik Curren wrote to Bell suggesting four debates across the district - one each in Staunton, Augusta County, Highland County, and Rockingham County. After Bell's tantrum about a reporter finding out about the proposal before he did, the GOP candidate eventually agreed in principle to Curren's proposal.
A series of debates seems like a good idea. After all, both men are little known outside of Staunton and even there voters weren't aware of their views on state issues like transportation, the state budget, and job creation. Debates could help candidates dispel whispers such as Bell being known as "NO! and NO SHOW" by some who've watched his time on City Council.
After the Marrow/Landes debate earlier this week (hopefully there will be more in the 25th) I wondered about the status of the proposed debates for the 20th District. It seems that although Bell agreed to the debates, he (or his negotiator Chris Saxman) is having trouble finding open dates, a suitable format, and raising all sorts of other objections. Nearly a month and a half has passed and, to my knowledge, the campaigns aren't much closer to agreeing to a debate schedule or even a solitary debate.
All this raises troubling questions. Why is Dickie Bell resisting debates and what is he hiding from voters? Is Mr. Bell his own man or is somebody pulling his strings? If he won't talk to voters and address issues now, would he do so if elected? How can a candidate in our "government by the people" hide from those very people?
Several things are becoming increasingly apparent: the local Republican powers that be are a bit afraid of how their candidate will perform if put on the same stage as his opponent. Perhaps they worry about his ability to articulate their stands on issues? Or maybe they wonder about his well-known short fuse? Could they fear dirty laundry flapping in the sunlight of a debate?
With just five weeks until Election Day, it appears the GOP/Bell strategy is to run the clock out on debates, put up a bunch of signs in the typical GOP lawns, and bank on party zombies in the red 20th pushing the Bell button even though they are clueless about the man, his background, and his views. Sad to say, with a complacent local media and dozy voters, that game plan just might work. If so, our democracy is diminished and our next delegate will be a man we hardly know. And who hardly knows us!
Yesterday the ACLU of Virginia reminded hundred of organizations at 33 college campuses of the new Virginia Board of Elections guidelines that clarify students' right to register where they go to school. Registrations cannot be denied because they list a dorm address or because the student does not intend to stay in that locality after graduation. In brief, the regulations provide:
- A dorm or apartment may be used as a permanent address.
- A student may be domiciled in the college town even though he/she does not intend to remain after graduation.
- A registration application may be delayed if the student lists voting and mailing addresses in different localities.
- A student who wishes to vote in his/her hometown may file the registration application in the locality of the college.
For all the details, see the ACLU's Notice to Virginia College Students.
Election Day is November 3. The last day to register to vote in Virginia is October 5. More information is at the State Board of Elections.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Steve Landes and Greg Marrow, candidates for the 25th House of Delegates, squared off in their first "debate" of the fall campaign at Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro at 6:00 PM on Thursday night. Given that it was during the dinner hour and it didn't get an abundance of publicity except perhaps in The News Virginian, turnout was fairly good but not great. It was a fairly typical debate format with questions posed by a moderator and none allowed from the audience. Nevertheless, at least those in attendance, and the rest of us through local media (NBC29, TV3, The News Virginian, The Daily News-Record, and The News Leader), got to see the two men side-by-side and compare their answers, their demeanor, and take the measure of each.
I won't dig into specific questions and answers, but like many, I left there with some impressions that may be instructive as voters make up their minds.
First, both campaigns were well represented by signs, and greeters, and by approximately the same number of folks sporting stickers (well, Marrow may have narrowly won this straw poll). I bet the campaigns, more than the news media, are responsible for getting people there. Usually incumbents have organizational advantages, except perhaps Del. Landes has lost the touch since he's frequently had little serious opposition. Apparently the campaigns have about an equal amount of energy and organization, which could keep this brawl competitive through Election Day.
Second, Dr. Greg Marrow more than held his own on knowledge about the issues against Del. Steve Landes, who has been in the House 13 years. Such is often not the case as incumbents have experiences and resources from which to draw. I imagine this comes across as Dr. Marrow goes door-to-door and meets voters.
Third, Del. Landes is usually a mild mannered person... some might even say nice, but kind of boring. At the debate's end, in response to jabs about jobs from Dr. Marrow, Del. Landes proclaimed he was "POed" about the jobs issue which Dr. Marrow has been pressing for several months. Flashing "anger," Landes blasted Marrow for not knowing his record and made a show of handing Marrow a binder with the Landes record and biography. Whew! Two things came to mind as I watched and listened: (a) Landes feels a bit uneasy on the jobs issue and is going to great pains to justify his past actions (inactions?); he's even moved ever so slightly to talking about green jobs, and (b) his angry response appeared canned and artificial - was he coached to show he has a little fire in his belly?
So, no knockout in this one (as in most debates). Many in the audience probably thought their guy was better on the specifics of the issues. But from my roost looking behind the campaign's facades, the Marrow folks have good reason to cheer. They have a smart candidate who is up to speed on the issues with an energetic organization to deliver his message. And they can take heart in the feeling that's been expressed by some neutral observers: Del. Landes' heart is not 100% in the campaign. Or in serving? Landes seemed to verify that he came to the debate angling to dispel that perception, telling the DNR afterwards, "I think I made it clear that I have a passion to serve...." Hum, if ya gotta say it...?
Links to media coverage are below. Always interesting to compare them!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Bob McDonnell and other Repugs are all for off-shore oil - drill here, drill now and all that feel good (to right wing nuts) BS. The reserves are unproven, the environmental and economic risks are very high, and even if it all works perfectly, oil/gas off the Virginia coast is a short term pipe dream having minimal impact on gas and oil prices in the Commonwealth. After all, petroleum prices are set on a global market and there is no guarantee any of it would find its way to a Henrico gas station. A drop in the bucket?
Fortunately the Commonwealth, under the leadership of Democrats like Governor Tim Kaine, is looking forward to a greener future that meets long term energy needs with clean and everlasting wind power. As the Governor said in his press release proclaiming the potential of off-shore wind in Virginia:
Wind power holds the potential to create new jobs and provide cheaper and cleaner energy to our citizens without having an adverse effect on the environment. I am looking forward to working with federal, state and local officials to begin the process of making Virginia a regional leader in clean energy.
Among the groups advocating for off-shore wind power is the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. In the video, Ivy Main, the club's renewable energy chair, explains how offshore wind turbines can help replace dirty fossil fuels as the major electric power source for the Atlantic coast states.
Bob McDonnell, Republicans, and all the drill here, drill now crowd are looking backwards and consigning Virginians to a future rooted in the past. A future of more global warming. A future of dependence on oil - most of which comes from foreign sources, many with terrorist ties. Only under the forward thinking leadership of Tim Kaine, Creigh Deeds, and other Democrats (with a strong assist from groups like the Sierra Club) is Virginia going to move forward. We either begin fixing our energy/environmental future now, or we'll leave a mess to our children's children.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Women for Deeds will rally at Clementine Cafe at 153 South Main Street in Harrisonburg on Sunday, September 27 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. This rally joins dozens of others across Virginia to highlight Creigh Deeds' commitment to issues of importance to women and their families.
Bob McDonnell's well-documented beliefs (and actions) that women are not full equals in the American Dream has brought together working women, moms, and the men who love and respect them together to make sure Virginia moves forward rather than backwards. The rally will feature a viewing of the documentary Shut-Up and Sing about the Bush administration's attempts to silence the Dixie Chicks.
Free. Open to the public. RSVP isn't required - just show up and show support for Creigh Deeds for Governor.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The more Virginian's learn about Bob McDonnell, the more questions they have. It isn't about "character" as McDonnell says in an ad - nobody was questioning that (but now that you mention it...!). The questions Virginians have raised concern McDonnell's beliefs and his agenda if elected. It isn't just about McDonnell's thesis, it is also about his right wing record while in public office. His beliefs and years of actions actions give us guidance about the scary priorities Taliban Bob would pursue as Governor. We cannot believe the slick TV spots that whitewash the man and his record. We have to look at what he has said and done.
No wonder Creigh Deeds has been gaining ground fast in recent polls. He's rock solid, common sense, straight talking, with a long record of service seeking pragmatic solutions rather than policies driven by conservative religious dogma. Creigh gained 11 percentage points in the most recent WaPo poll closing the gap to the margin of error. Poll analysis indicates McDonnell's controversial thesis and his ultra conservative record are key reasons for his collapse in voter support - despite the fact that 54% of respondents knew nothing or little about the thesis written for Pat Robertson's university.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Creigh Deeds is 12 points behind Bob McDonnell. Oh, that's really old news.
Creigh Deeds is 9% behind Bob McDonnell. Well, that's a couple months ago.
Creigh Deeds is 5% behind Bob McDonnell. Last week.
Creigh Deeds is 2% behind (well within the ±4.5% MoE of the Rasmussen poll). Today.
Slick Bob McD must be crapping in his britches as his past, his right wing views, and his questionable friends catch up with him. How fast can Bob run from who he is?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The national GOP is desperate for a win in Virginia and is dumping $7 million into Bob Mc's campaign... mostly to fund negative ads. I'm using the word "dumping" for a reason. While I'm sure they think this is money well spent, I predict a pro-Deeds backlash. Virginians don't like outsiders telling us what to do.
The desperation to win at all costs has apparently hit the Repugs in the central Valley, too. One big "Deeds Country" field sign was vandalized with (family values) obscenities. Another was totally stolen (hope they at least recycled it!). Both were placed on private property at the landowners' requests. Guess the Valley GOP has something against free speech?
The tougher and nastier the wingnuts get, the better it is for Creigh Deeds.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I'm a proud and unabashed Green Bay fan living in the heart of Redskins turf. Perhaps that makes me a socialist... after all, the Packers are the only community-owed, nonprofit professional sports major league sports team. Around Green Bay, by far the smallest city that is home to a professional team, you don't have some fat cat owner pulling the strings. While all professional teams (and many players) sponsor charitable activities, community involvement and charity is at the heart of the Packers - their original articles of incorporation (1923) even stipulate that if the Packers are sold or move the proceeds will go to Sullivan Post of the American Legion in order to build "a proper soldier's memorial." In 1997 the board of directors changed to beneficiary to the Green Bay Packers Foundation which makes donations to charities across the state of Wisconsin. Still the notion of community, helping one another, and the common good runs through everything from Lambeau concessions to players' unique relationship with their Green Bay fans.
In spite of playing all their games in a city with a population of just over 100,000, the Packers are one of the most popular teams with a national following and one of the longest waiting lists for tickets in professional sports. With apologies to the "boys," the Packers are truly "America's Team."
Last night the Packers beat their arch rivals, the Chicago Bears, 21-15, in the season opener at Lambeau Field. It was a comeback and a defining moment for QB Aaron Rodgers:
Aaron Rodgers finally has his signature game-winning drive, throwing a 50-yard rainbow to Greg Jennings with 1:11 remaining to give the Green Bay Packers a come-from-behind 21-15 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears in Sunday night's opener.
If any Redskin fans are still reading this, they are probably wondering why is CCC, which typically talks of things in the Shenandoah Valley, posting about a sports team from Green Bay, Wisconsin? What's the connection?
Well, here in the Commonwealth we have our own comeback kid by the name of Creigh Deeds. Creigh who is also a Packers fan, was written off by many pundits after big talking Terry McAuliffe entered the Democratic Primary contest last winter. Then a strange thing happened making pundits eat their words. In a three-way contest, Deeds garnered 50% of the vote easily beating McAuliffe and Brian Moran, who had been full time campaigning for months. Comeback kid, part 1.
With the Republican field to himself and Deeds battling in the primary, Bob McDonnell had time to "redefine" himself. It was smoke and mirrors and falsehoods as Backwards Bob ran away from his own right wing past and tried to look and sound almost like a centrist Democrat. The polls reflected this rebranding as Bob Mc opened a gap in most polls.
Like a football game, the gubernatorial race is entering the fourth quarter where hard work and sticking to an honest game plan will pay off for Creigh Deeds. For three quarters Bob Mc ran a misdirection game appearing to be one thing while beneath the veneer he was something quite different. Then the WaPo disclosed his '89 thesis for Pat Robertson's university where he discussed his right wing game plan for the Virginia GOP. The truth is out about Bob McDonnell - he's slick, he's dishonest, he's got a far right agenda, and he's been exposed.
Creigh Deeds' fourth quarter game plan is the same plan that has guided him through service in the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate: hard work, community values, teamwork, and straight talk with the people. Like the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, Creigh Deeds is a comeback kid - he's done it before. Stay tuned for an exciting fourth quarter where he'll do it again.
Friday, September 11, 2009
President Barack Obama and Governor Tim Kaine called on us to honor the memories of the precious lives lost on September 11 by participating in service to our communities. There were many great opportunities to volunteer and to make a positive difference for our neighbors, the environment, school kids, and the entire community.
I joined a group of about 50 folks working to clean up South River from Waynesboro to Port Republic. Organized by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries the cleanup included participants from the Department of Environmental Quality, Trout Unlimited, JMU, Riverfest, and others who enjoy fishing and canoeing on Shenandoah Valley rivers.
It all got started in Waynesboro about 9:00 AM with coffee, juice, ham rolls, donuts, and fruit. Teams had been preassigned, maps were distributed, safety was discussed, and groups set out to clean up their own stretch of the river. Some worked on foot, walking the banks in the city. Others headed out to unload canoes, set up shuttles, and get their paddles wet.
Late summer water levels are low and we all knew we'd have to do a good bit of walking. Still, there were some riffles that added a little fun to the experience and, after a cool wet week, the weather fully cooperated with sunny skies and temps in the low 70s - couldn't have been better.
My group worked a three mile section of the river with a couple canoes, a nice size inflatable, and a kayak. Good thing we had all the flotation because, as you can see in the pictures, we hauled out a lot of stuff that has absolutely no business in any river. In addition to several huge trash bags of bottles, cans, and other consumer items carelessly tossed out by *#@^%&! idiots, we retrieved about a half dozen tires, lawn furniture, barrels, tanks, pipes, and other debris.
Larger items that will be recycled or reused.
Our team looks over bags of trash, tires, and several heavy items that made it necessary to pull canoes through shallow sections.
Thanks to everyone who organized the South River cleanup, thanks to the Riverfest folks who provided nourishment as we embarked, and thanks to the trash haulers who picked up the mountains of junk at designated points and took it to the Augusta County landfill (which forgave tipping fees for the event).
So, South River is much cleaner than it was just 24 hours ago. On to North River, Middle River, the South Fork of the Shenandoah - how many miles of rivers flow through the Shenandoah Valley? Next time you are floating along a river, fishing from a bank, or even walking along a road, take a small trash bag with you and pick up the evidence of some careless and uncaring person who passed by before you. If everyone picked up just a little....
UPDATE: The dump truck tipped the landfill scales a 1.75 tons not counting 117 tires that were pulled from the river!!! Also retrieved were 15 shopping carts, four car batteries, a computer monitor, and a toilet. The good news is that South River is so much cleaner. The bad news is there are people out there who are still trashing our beautiful valley.
Erik Curren, candidate for House of Delegates District 20, won the endorsement of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. In an email to members, chapter director Glen Besa wrote:
The Sierra Club is pleased to endorse Erik Curren for Delegate in District 20-(Staunton, Highland, part of Augusta and Rockingham). Erik has been an active member of the local Shenandoah Group of Sierra Club and he reflects our shared environmental values that protect our quality of life, the natural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and our planet.
Join Sierra Club members, including VA political chair Tyla Matteson and director Glen Besa, in a neighborhood canvass with Erik this Saturday, September 12 from 2:00pm - 5:00pm. Meet at the Darjeeling Café, 219 West Beverley, Staunton, VA 24401.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Governor Tim Kaine announced a series of steps to meet the 2010 budget shortfall of $1.35 billion. Some savings were found in various efficiencies and reducing spending in state agencies based on those agencies' own recommendations. Many of those will not be immediately felt by the public although over time services will be impacted.
Several of the governor's actions, required by the magnitude of the shortfall, will directly impact families, programs, core services, and state employees. Among them:
- Some 929 state jobs will be eliminated requiring 593 layoffs.
- Higher education will be hit to the tune of 13-15% reductions. For UVA that is about $19 million - which has to hit everything from buildings and grounds to instruction. It will be especially difficult for community colleges which cannot turn students away. Expect bulging classes, the elimination of some classes/programs, more snow-covered parking lots and sidewalks.
- A one-day furlough for most state employees - in short, a four-day Memorial Day weekend, with one day unpaid. The loss of a day's pay will be tough on some families, but not as tough as more layoffs that would occur absent the furlough. A little shared pain seems the better of bad options. Public safety and some other areas will be exempted.
- A reduction of $104 million in payments to the Virginia Retirement System. VRS has a reputation of being well managed, but like every other investor has been hammered by the stock market (which is thankfully rebounding). VRS is a sacred trust to state employees and while the state can't raid the funds directly, this backdoor reduction in funding will weaken the system. The Commonwealth must do, as the governor promises, readjust the contribution rates to assure the long term viability of the system.
Kudos to the governor for not taking the boning knife to K-12 education. Along with public safety, K-12 is the most vital of government services. So far, because of the efforts of Governor Kaine and federal stimulus funds, education has been largely spared. Education is the key to our future, our economy, the very fabric of our society and every effort must be made to protect public schools.
Which brings us to a crucial point - it does make a difference who is in the Executive Mansion setting priorities. Bob McDonnell says he'll pay for roads by shifting over $5 billion from education. That's BILLION. McDonnell promises to raise teacher salaries - but it is a shortsighted smoke and mirrors (shift and shaft) scheme that cuts school services such as nurses, counselors, speech pathologists, and other support personnel.
The more we see and hear of Bob McDonnell, the clearer it becomes that the man will say and promise about anything in his desperation to wield power. Talking out of both sides of his mouth... he's ultra-conservative to one audience and a reasonable moderate to another group in the very same day! A vote for Bob McDonnell is like buying a pig-in-a-poke - you never know who, or what, is the real Bob McDonnell.
Monday, September 7, 2009
It is past time for a change in Virginia laws concerning restoration of civic rights of felons. Most states automatically restore the rights of felons after they have served their time, finished probation, and paid fines and court costs. It is a civilized view - once a person has paid for their crime and become a productive member of society, he/she should be a full member of the community and government.
Virginia joins Kentucky as one of the two most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to restoring rights of felons. Both states prohibit felons from serving on juries, running for public office, or voting - for life - unless the governor restores the rights following a complicated petition process. Governor Mark Warner streamlined the process, but the final decision rests on the discretion of one person - the governor - and can vary widely depending on who is in office.
Governor Tim Kaine, believing felons who remain crime-free after conditions of their sentence have been completed, has restored civic rights to 3,598 felons. That's the most since at least the 1930s when records were first kept. Of course, right wing conspiracy nuts think this was done only to help Barack Obama carry the Old Dominion - the first Democrat do win the state's electoral votes since 1964.
Virginia's laws go back to the days of Jim Crow when it was seen as a way to disenfranchise blacks. During the debate on the 1902 Virginia Constitution, Delegate Carter Glass exclaimed:
This plan will eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this state in less than five years, so that in no single county... will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.
The Commonwealth's restrictive laws treat all felons as if they had committed treason - which should be the only crime for which a person should be permanently barred from civic participation.
Since 1998, nineteen states have reformed their laws on restoration of felons' rights. It is time for the Commonwealth of Virginia to join them. After completing all the terms of the sentence felons should automatically be eligible to register and vote, to serve on juries, and to hold public office. That decision should not be a burden on, or left to the whims of, the person in the Executive Mansion. Virginia's archaic laws on the rights of former felons are degrading, dehumanizing, and counterproductive. This issue should be addressed by the 2010 General Assembly.
For more information visit The Sentencing Project.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Was this just over-the-top talk at a hyper-partisan picnic or does Del. Steve Landes really believe his own fear mongering words that help spread distrust and hate among neighbors?
"They're afraid because they're afraid their neighbors are going to tell on them. When you've got a White House that's keeping names of people that don't agree with them, that reminds me of what went on the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany."
Politics and politicians can be better than this trash talk. Landes is being challenged by Greg Marrow for the 25th House of Delegates seat. It is time for positive leadership in the 25th - for a change.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
We like to look for salted sea glass while walking along the ocean - you know, the clear, brown, green, and rarely blue pieces of broken glass etched "soft" by years of salt water, sand, and wave action. Over the years we've found lots of it, mostly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina or at Long Beach Island along the Jersey shore. This year, and the past several, the search has been tougher and the pickings slimmer. Finds are getting so rare that there is hardly enough positive feedback to keep looking. That's the bad news.
But, this is good news for the environment. Most salted sea glass was produced when barge after barge of trash was hauled out to sea, mostly from coastal cities such as New York, and dumped. Along with the bottles and jars of various colors, was all sorts of other trash that didn't create pretty things to find at the high tide line. Who really knows what poisons and environmental hazards were in that witches' brew? Along with less salted sea glass, we're also seeing less trash and other crap than we used to see as a kids - one of us walking the Jersey shore and the other in the surf at Kill Devil Hills.
We'll keep walking along the ocean and celebrating our increasingly rare finds of salted sea glass. Yesterday we found three, but two were quite large in the world of salted sea glass - well-worn green piece almost the size of a matchbook cover and an even bigger piece of clear glass whose former life, judging by partial letters still visible, was probably as a mason jar. It wasn't quite as soft or salted as we'd like, but hey, it was good enough for us when finds are so rare.
So, we'll keep walking the sand, looking for glass, watching the birds and people, rejoicing in our occasional find, and giving thanks for a somewhat cleaner environment.