From the Raising Kaine archives (7/27/05), this certainly brings back memories! Note that Kaine invited both Democratic and Republican bloggers on this call. Also note that there were a lot more Virginia political blogs back then, including progressive ones, then there are today. Finally, note that I’m posting this – and probably others as well – in anticipation of the (strong) possibility that Kaine will be selected as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. For those of us who have been at this Virginia politics thang a while, we can all say “we knew him when.”
I just got off a lively and informative “blogger conference call” with Lt. Governor Kaine and half a dozen or so Virginia bloggers of various political persuasions. Questions ranged from transportation, to the environment, to education, and even to what Tim Kaine thinks about Jerry Kilgore. Here is a summary.
Waldo Jaquith led off with a question about transportation and sprawl, an important issue facing our state. Waldo specfically mentioned the potential for expanision of VRE service between Charlottesville and Washington, DC actually encouraging sprawl. Lt. Governor Kaine responsed that he had experience as mayor dealing with regional road issues and that he definitely believed rail to be part of the solution. Kaine also stressed the importance of balancing growth (preferably “smart growth”), land use planning, and transportation, the key word being “balance.” Showing his command of details, Kaine pointed out that one railroad freight container carries the equivalent of 12 trucks’ worth of material.
Yours truly followed with a question about environmental issues, specifically protection of our coasts, the possibility of offshore drilling for gas and oil, and the terrible condition of the Chesapeake Bay. Kaine responded that he had four major planks in his campaign, and that environmental protection was implicit in at least three of them. Kaine stressed that he is an outdoorsman who loves canoeing on the Rappahannock River, for example. He is also keenly aware that tourism depends on preserving our environment. Kaine pointed out that the budget reform that Mark Warner and he achieved led to surplus moneys that can be put towards important goals like saving the Bay and preserving open space. Kaine emphasized the 2002 bond package for Virginia state parks and conservation easement programs, including Virginia’s “aggressive” conservation income tax credit.
Kenton Ngo, the 14-year-old wunderkind of “750 Volts,” then jumped in to ask Kaine a pointed question: “would you or would you not have vetoed the bill on offshore drilling” that Mark Warner vetoed back in March? Kaine responded that he “would have vetoed the bill,” in part because of “separation of powers concerns.”
Will Vehrs of Bacon’s Rebellion then asked about the “urban legend” of the “Yellow Pages rule” — namely, that if you can find it in the Yellow Pages, maybe the government shouldn’t be doing it. Kaine responded that he was “very open” to allowing the private sector do what it does best. He specifically mentioned former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith of Indianapolis, who apparently coined the “Yellow Pages rule” expression. Kaine also spoke about his privatization of the Richmond city’s vehicle fleet maintenance when he was mayor.
Norm Leahy of the “feisty” blog, “One Man’s Trash,” then asked Kaine about the Richmond public school system, adding that Mayor Wilder has stated that the city should do better with what it has. Lt. Governor Kaine responded that he wished he had had Mayor Wilder’s powers when HE was mayor. He stressed that he had three kids in the Richmond public school system, and not just in the “best performing ones” either. He related how, as Mayor, he used to visit a school each Tuesday, and how he saw “a lot of good and…a lot that needed to be better.” And, although two-thirds of Richmond’s schools are now accredited, Kaine emphasized that “we’ve got a l ong way to go” and that “mere accreditation isn’t good enough.” Kaine specifically mentioned “meaningful teacher evaluations” and addressing the problem of truancy as two things he’d implement as governor.
This discussion led Kaine to talk about the state budget, and specifically how the budget surplus created by Governor Warner, himself, and the state legislature has allowed the state to fully fund Virginia’s public schools. He noted that this was in stark contrast to the time when he served as mayor, at which point Virginia “was underfunding the Richmond public schools by a huge margin,” forcing him to make very difficult decisions and tradeoffs with other programs. Fortunately, Mayor Wilder now has “a huge amount of cushion” compared to when Kaine was mayor.
The irrepressible Kenton Ngo then jumped in again, asking about the relationship of powers between state and local governments. Unfortunately, I think I missed part of Kaine’s answer on this one, but I definitely caught him talking about his plan to “give local government a tool they don’t have now” – the “homestead exemption” on property taxes for homeowners.
With time running out, Waldo Jaquith asked Kaine if he had anything good to say about Jerry Kilgore. In response, Kaine did something in stark contrast to Kilgore at the Greenbrier debate, when he was asked almost the identical question: he answered the question, and he said a bunch of nice things about his opponent! Specifically, Kaine talked about how he got along “civilly” with Kilgore, how he admired the fact that Kilgore was a “dedicated husband and father” and a “hard worker.” Kaine emphasized that the differences between Jerry Kilgore and himself were not personal, but philosophical on the role of government. However, he added that “I honor Jerry Kilgore’s commitment to public service,” and that “I don’t bear him any will.” Classy.
Heading into overtime, per Tim Kaine’s instructions, Will Vehrs asked about economic development. This gave Kaine a chance to talk about small business, his “unique experience” in this area compared to his opponents, Jerry Kilgore and Russ Potts, and his elimination of business license taxes on small businesses when he was mayor of Richmond. More broadly, Kaine emphasized the importance of being fiscally responsible, keeping taxes and regulations “on the low side” and “business friendly.” He mentioned his proposal for a $500 per employee tax credit to help small businesses afford health insurance for their employees. He added that this would help reduce the state’s Medicaid costs, as an added bonus.
Finally, Kaine talked about bloggers, calling them “a bunch of jerks.” OK, that’s a joke!! Seriously, Kaine said that bloggers are “an important part of the dialogue,” and mentioned that he reads the Virginia political blogs when he has a chance. Of course, he noted, sometimes what he reads “makes him happy and sometimes it makes him sad.” I’m sure most of us can relate to that! Kaine then spoke of bloggers in expansive terms, as “a Jeffersonian expression of free speech” and as the “21st century spin on what the First Amendment is all about.” Kaine promised that “this will not be the last” bloggers’ conference call he does. I sure hope not, because this was very helpful and interesting. Thanks to Tim Kaine for spending 35 minutes of his time speaking to us today. Now, how about Russ Potts and Jerry Kilgore?