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Friday News: Trump Administration Trashing America; Charlottesville Mayor – “I couldn’t order a ‘stand down’ if I wanted to”

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by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, August 25.

  • From Cville Mayor Mike Signer:

    Statement on Closed Session Regarding Personnel Matters on 8/24/17

    Our traumatized community is mourning, grieving, and grappling for a way forward after the terrorist attack on August 12. Councilors are no exception. When I temporarily left the City Council meeting on August 21, I needed to talk and meet with and reassure my very worried wife, which I felt I had no option but to do. Those difficult and necessary conversations are happening all over the city, each in their own way.

    While there is a huge amount of emotion in our town—as evident during our meeting on August 21—healing is also beginning. This catharsis is part of that process. We were invaded by evil, and how we respond to evil is a great test of our character. My fear is that this evil will pull us down with it. My hope is that as that horrible day begins to recede in our memory, the evil that came here will be met with the best of our collective character. That rage will subside in favor of redemption. That love will conquer fear.

    Part of progress will be truth, and accountability. On Monday, we saw a public crying out for answers. In our City Manager form of government—a system that goes back to the Progressive era, and which every city and county in Virginia other than Richmond has—the Mayor and Council unfortunately cannot provide many of those answers. The Police Chief reports to the City Manager, who has total operational authority over operations like the ones on August 12. The Mayor and Council have no operational role.

    In this form of government, Council is responsible for hiring and firing the City manager, for making policy (such as resolutions and ordinances), for passing the City’s budget, for being a conduit to public concerns, for service on various committees, councils, and commissions, for their own ad hoc or special projects, and for being ambassadors for the City.

    In many senses, we are a combination of the legislative and judicial branches of government. What we are not, however, is the executive branch of government.
    A few facts regarding the role of elected officials in a city manager form of government during an event like August 12 would probably surprise anyone learning for the first time about this form of government.

    For instance, we were not given the security plan for August 12. During a briefing on the Thursday before August 12 with the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, and the City Manager, when I asked the Police Chief what I could do to be helpful during that day as Mayor, he answered, “Stay out of my way.” Despite repeated requests, I was not allowed into the City’s Command Center (run by City staff) and was instead asked to be in the Emergency Operations Center (where fire, rescue, and other stakeholders were monitoring the situation).

    This is more reason why the conspiracy theory circulating among the fake news and alt-right networks that I somehow ordered a “stand down” among the police is even more crazy than it seems. I simply don’t have that legal authority. I couldn’t order a “stand down” if I wanted to.

    Given those constraints, I spent the bulk of my time leading up to August 12 on the hard work of trying to move the event to a different location.

    Understanding from our staff and other experts that the state of our law regarding these events meant that any attempt to cancel the rally would certainly have been shut down in court, I spent dozens of hours conferring with lawyers, law professors, staff, other mayors, security professionals, and other experts to develop another option.
    That option was to move the event to a more spacious location where there could have been substantial “green field” between the protesters and counter protesters. After reviewing all locations in the City with the City Manager, the best option was McIntire Park. In the weeks leading up to August 12, I advocated for McIntire Park, including extensive discussions with my colleagues and staff. I successfully led the drive to hire an outside law firm to advise the City Manager and Police Chief on how such a plan could be developed on the strongest legal grounds.

    Despite these efforts, the state of First Amendment law regarding these events is badly antiquated. We saw what happened. After the City Manager and Police Chief announced their decision that the rally would be relocated to a safer location—relying principally on the advice from our attorneys that the size of the event was the most “content-neutral” grounds for moving it—Jason Kessler immediately stated he would not respect the decision: that he would still head with his people to Emancipation Park. We were then sued by the Virginia ACLU and the Rutherford Institute. And a federal judge ruled against our decision on Friday night, just as we had feared.

    During that week, City Council was under firm instructions not to speak about the rally at all, except to refer to its size.

    For a public looking for condemnation of groups like the KKK and Nazis, this was very frustrating. It was frustrating for me, too. But if we had spoken out against the content of the speech that was coming to Charlottesville—against its bigotry and hatred—it would have made it even more likely that a judge would have found the removal decision to be “content-based.”

    So we were muzzled. And it didn’t even make a difference, because in the tragic decision issued at 9:30 on Friday night, the federal judge still cited prior statements I had made about the bigotry and hate coming to our loving town. Our public statements of our feelings about this evil were held against us.

    I hope this has explained some of what City Council can and cannot do. Where City Council does have a role, though, is in accountability. The City Manager works at our pleasure, and he is responsible for the staff under his command, in our form of government.

    That is why we have called for an independent review of all decisions related not only to August 12, but the July 8 KKK rally and the prior torch-lit rally at Emancipation Park. This review will also include recommendations of reforms and new policies going forward. This process will require care and diligence, and will take skilled professionals 2-3 months. I expect the review to be announced shortly.

    It is also why we have retained the skilled professionals of the federal government’s Community Relations Service, which works with communities dealing with racial and ethnic strife and civil disorder. Under their guidance, the City Manager has appointed a community task force who will begin the process of a vision and plan for our community going forward. And their skilled mediators will run the town hall now scheduled for 3-5 p.m. this coming Sunday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Arts Center at Charlottesville High School.

    And this is why City Council deemed it necessary to hold an emergency closed session today with the City Manager to discuss personnel matters. The events on August 12 have raised serious questions about the City’s handling of security, communications, and governance. These are questions Council can and should ask as the ultimate authority over the City Manager in our form of government, and we are starting that process today.

    I understand the public is impatient. But we must undertake this process with utmost care, and we must do it in accordance with our procedures. We will get this right, we will do it together as a governing body—and we will move forward as a City.

    Thank you.

  • True Blue

    We have so many pressing issues and even crises looming yet the Secret Service, which no longer can afford to pay overtime for its employees and will run out of funding this month, spent funds for luxury toilets and golf cart rentals for vacation-goers and extended family at Bedminster?
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/08/24/secret-service-spent-7-100-renting-luxury-portable-toilets-trumps-bedminster-trip/598649001/

  • Video: Rally at Virginia Beach Confederate Monument

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTzAxI2Viuw

  • Video: Far-right wingnut Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) claims Mexico will end up partly paying for wall

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmUUuURy-bo

  • Video: Donald Trump Phoenix Rally Cold Open – SNL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioB2Vs_G45U

  • From Danica Roem, Democratic candidate for Virginia House of Delegates (HD-13), who is herself transgender:

    In lieu of being capable of passing major legislation, Donald Trump has taken his toddler-like temper-tantrum of the week out on our military and those who wish to ably, capably contribute to its leadership and readiness by signing a ban on transgender people enlisting in the military.

    I understand that the president is upset at the fact that his own party in Washington, D.C. keeps killing his legislative agenda just like Del. Bob Marshall’s (R-13) does to him annually here in Virginia and that he’s desperate to show that he’s not completely powerless while supposedly being the most powerful elected official in the world.

    The ban comes even though 15,500 active duty and reserve members of military who are transgender have proven themselves as able to contribute to the readiness and leadership of our military.

    That includes at the United States Marine Corps Base – Quantico here in Prince William County. I know this because I talked to a transgender Marine Corps veteran who served at Quantico in leadership and now works at the Pentagon.

    As I said last month, it is the height of hypocrisy for Donald Trump, who has demonstrated himself to be unfit for the presidect temperamentally and through blatant lying, to use her perch as commander-in-chief to tell transgender people that they’re unfit for the military, especially when he opted not to serve himself.

    Transgender military members have done more to serve this country than Donald Trump ever will.

    2020 cannot come soon enough.

    In the mean time, let’s defeat in 2017 politicians like Del. Marshall who endorse discrimination.

    It’s time we had elected officials who care about creating jobs and respecting our citizens who are willing to serve ably and die for us instead of discriminating against them.