Great scoop by Julian Walker of the Virginian Pilot, from a radio interview on the John Fredericks Show earlier this week. In response to a question about failing schools in Norfolk, this is what Coleman had to say: "I'm old enough to have lived during the desegregation of the schools here locally. And busing children, in my opinion, around the different districts, getting them out of their local neighborhoods, really was the beginning of the decline in some of the school districts."
WTF? Seriously? So, so stupid by Republican State Senate candidate Wayne Coleman, who was probably going to lose to Democratic nominee Lynwood Lewis anyway, but now is almost certain to do so. As Republican JR Hoeft writes:
Coleman was already facing an uphill battle in the 6th District, which has only been held by a Republican for a handful of years over the past several decades. He needed to run a gaffe-free, perfect campaign in order to win. He hasn't. And all the explanations, retractions, and clarifications won't help him now.
Among the many other absurd claims made by Bob McDonnell and his supporters to try and burnish his supposed "accomplishments" as governor of Virginia the past 4 years, perhaps the most absurd is how great he was on "fixing" transportation in Virginia. That's wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just review this history a bit, before the revisionism gets etched in stone.
1. See my 9/26/09 blog post, which summarizes a Washington Post editorial (entitled "Drunk Driving"), blasting then-candidate Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" as "yield[ing] only disappointment." Why is that? Well, perhaps because it "relies on wildly optimistic assumptions, brazen exaggerations, gauzy projections and far-off scenarios: budget surpluses and revenue growth that may not materialize; interstate tolls that the federal government may not approve; royalties from offshore oil and gas wells that may not be drilled; borrowing that the state may not be able to afford anytime soon." As if that's not bad enough, the Post adds that the $500 million McDonnell promises he'd raise from selling off Virginia's liquor stores is nothing but an "invented" number or, "worse, an intentional distortion." The bottom line, in the Post's (and my) view, is that McDonnell's 2009 transportation "plan" - using the word very loosely - "crumbles under close scrutiny." #FAIL
2. After being elected governor, McDonnell didn't do much about transportation. In January 2010, for instance, McDonnell said "he will not propose a fix during this year's legislative session." As Sen. Chap Petersen put it at the time, "McDonnell campaigned on the idea that he had a plan -- that he beat up Creigh for not having a plan -- so I'm very surprised not to see legislation to enact that plan during this session." Yep.
Hey, if Time Magazine can have a Person of the Year (excellent choice, by the way, in Pope Francis!), then I'd say Virginia can have one too. :) I'm basing the following list of nominees on who I think had impact on the state in 2013, for better or worse, not whether I like them or not. Please vote in the poll, and we'll see what people think. I'll make my final call in a few days...
Here are a few Virginia and national news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, December 12. Also, check out the video in which billionaire Tom Steyer, who just spent millions of dollars helping to defeat Ken Kookinelli, talk about how the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline flunks President Obama's climate test.
How much stranger can the race for the seat of retiring Roanoke Del. Onzlee Ware get? First, the establishment candidate, David Trinkle, loses to Sam Rasoul, who cobbled together a diverse coalition of various groups who have felt left out of city politics. Then today, the news breaks that there will be a third candidate in the race, Kimble Reynolds, Jr., a lawyer who filed petitions to run as an independent and has been certified by the Roanoke City registrar. Reynolds is a lawyer with the Martinsville law firm of Kimble Reynolds and Associates, but he and his wife only recently bought a house in Roanoke. Until a year ago, Reynolds served on the Martinsville City Council.
Evidently, Reynolds' petitions for candidacy were circulated on Sunday and notarized also on Sunday, the day after the firehouse primary that chose Sam Rasoul as the Democratic candidate. Reynolds has always been a Democrat in the past, but this time he is facing a duly chosen Democratic nominee as an independent. He ran against Robert Hurt for House of Delegates in 2003 and lost decisively. He also served as a aide to Tom Perriello when Perriello was in Congress.
All of this happens as the Democrats in the city have rallied behind Sam Rasoul, including the man who lost to him by 44 votes, David Trinkle. Trinkle hosted a unity rally at one of the restaurants he owns in Roanoke. Onzlee Ware, State Sen. John Edwards, the other candidates for the nomination all joined to support the nominee chosen by the people.
This development is certainly a stumbling block in the election for the only seat in the House of Delegates from Southwest Virginia still held by a Democrat. If Mr. Reynolds indeed is a strong Democrat, this is a srange way to show it. At worst, Reynolds will bleed off votes and elect Octavia Johnson, who is ill prepared to serve in the office. At best, he will just be a diversion for Sam Rasoul in his quest for the office. I can think of conspiracy theories to explain this whole thing, but I can't think of any logical explanation. Can you?
I was on a conference call this afternoon with the Herring campaign, updating reporters on the status of the "recount." First, here's an update from Mark Herring for AG campaign manager Kevin O'Holleran:
*Attorney General-elect Herring has been meeting with former Attorneys General and attorneys from around Virginia about issue areas he will confront when he becomes Attorney General in early January 2014.
*Plans for inaugural events are in the works, more details coming soon.
Now, here's an update from Herring Legal Counsel Marc Elias:
*As a result of the canvass, which was very thorough, Mark Herring came out with a lead of 164 votes. Then, the State Board of Elections certified that Mark Herring won the election by 165 votes. So "we have now been through two counts...and both of them have confirmed the same thing, which is that Mark Herring won this election, and simply received more votes than Mr. Obenshain."
*We are now in the "recount, the last and final piece of the counting process."
*"We have spent the last week or two trying to work collaboratively where we could with the other side and then ultimately with the court to...conduct an orderly recount."
*"We remain completely confident that at the end of that process, it will reconfirm what we already know, which is that Mark Herring won the election and will be the Attorney General."
*The Herring campaign has done its "own version of a canvass," by gathering all the voting records available from around the state, and "we remain completely confident in the integrity of the process to date, and we see nothing that would cast any doubt on the election returns that...we are likely to see confirmed next week."
While Black said he's worked with Ebbin on other issues, he likened same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.
"I don't think it can really be redefined," said Black about marriage. "I think you can enact legislation that there's marriage that's not based on a normal physical union of two people but you can have people who very much desire to marry a first cousin and government says you can't do that."
Speaking about exclusively supporting marriage between one man and one woman, he later added that "I don't have to justify my position because my position is justified by the entire scope of human history since the beginning of time."
Although Black opposes both same-sex marriage and polygamy, he cast polygamy in a more favorable light than homosexuality.
"When you talk about polygamy, at least it functions biologically. I think you can make a stronger argument for that and certainly there have already been initiatives for there to say that polygamist marriages should be authorized also."
Continuing on polygamy, Black said, "It's just more natural" than homosexuality.
"You actually have cultures over history that have permitted it," said Black. "You really don't have cultures that have permitted same-sex marriage. So this is an extension and I think it would be very difficult over the long run to deny polygamist marriages if you're saying love is the foundation" of same-sex marriages.
Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly and Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress sum up the budget deal reached by Paul "Lyin'" Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. In sum, it's not ALL bad, but there's a bunch of really bad stuff in it. Here are the parts I find particularly objectionable.
1. "Most importantly, the deal left out an extension of unemployment (UI) benefits for the million or so people who will run out of benefits-and out of luck-at year's end. Individual pain aside, that will greatly undermine if not completely cancel the stimulative effect of the deal. It will also represent something of an official surrender by the federal government on unemployment..." Horrible, unconscionable, heartless and stupid, all wrapped up into one - the prototypical Teapublican combination. Ugh.
2. "[T]he total of $85 billion in 'savings' in the deal comes mainly from significantly higher pension contributions by new federal employees and new fees on commercial air travel." In other words, make those evil bureaucrats (aka, dedicated civil servants) pay more yet again out of their pockets, while not, let's say, cutting corporate welfare for fossil fuel companies, or putting a cap on deductions for people making over $500k or whatever, etc. Over the past few years, it seems to me that federal employees have been repeatedly whacked, and for what purpose? In no way, shape, or form are federal salaries what's driving our deficits (that would be health care costs, for the most part). No, this is all about Republicans wanting to screw a bunch of people they dislike, for no good reason other than vitriol. Pathetic.
3. "[T]he deal doesn't appear to address the cuts that ravaged many programs this year." For instance: "Meals on Wheels, Section 8 housing voucher assistance, and homelessness assistance. Some schools had to close and some scientists had to halt their research projects or fire staff."
Great work by Del. Lopez; it's long past time for Virginia to pass this!
(Arlington, VA ) Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) has launched an online petition at www.alfonsolopez.org/dreamactnow for supporters of the Virginia DREAM Act.
The Tuition Equity Act – also known as the Virginia DREAM Act – would allow undocumented immigrant students who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to apply for in-state tuition at Virginia Colleges and Universities.
“This is the right thing to do, not just from a moral perspective, but also from an economic development perspective” said Lopez. “We invest in these students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, but put up a barrier after graduation that only serves to drive away top talent from Virginia.”
Yesterday, we heard that Mark Obenshain's high-priced, overeager attorneys raised, for the first time publicly, the prospect of contesting Virginia's Attorney General election, "if the tally does not sway the result in the Republican's favor." Of course, first we have to see the results of the (inaptly-named) "recount," because for all we know it could widen Democrat Mark Herring's lead by thousands of votes, or it could theoretically vault Mark Obenshain into the lead. Still, the fact that Obenshain's lawyers are even raising the prospect of contesting the election is outrageous, and makes it clear that changing Virginia's code regarding contested elections should be a top priority of the 2014 Virginia General Assembly.
Currently, the Code of Virginia (e.g., the statutory law of our Commonwealth) has the following to say (in § 24.2-804) about contesting elections for Governor, LG or AG.
In any election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, notice of the intent to contest the election shall be filed with the Clerk of the House of Delegates as prescribed in § 24.2-803. The provisions of § 24.2-803 shall govern standing, notice of intent to contest, answers, service of process, evidence, the petition, procedures, relief, and assessed costs except (i) that in a contest of an election held at the November general election the petition shall be filed within two days following the commencement of a special session of the General Assembly called for the purpose of hearing the contest or of the next regular session of the General Assembly, whichever first occurs, and (ii) that the final determination shall be made by the General Assembly, both houses sitting in joint session in the hall of the House of Delegates, with the Speaker of the House of Delegates presiding.
As for the criteria and procedures to be followed in a contested election, § 24.2-803 spells out vague "objections to the conduct or results of the election accompanied by specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election." Lame.
There are two major problems here that need to be rectified, ASAP. First off, the LAST body a contested election should be determined by is the partisan (whether Democratic or Republican-controlled) General Assembly. Instead, there should be a bipartisan or (preferably) nonpartisan committee or other body, possibly comprised of retired legislators and/or judges, that determines contested elections. That would take the decision largely out of the political realm and give the public confidence that there's legitimacy in our electoral process. Right now, the way contested elections are decided, there would be very little confidence or legitimacy if, let's say, an overwhelmingly Republican legislature decided an election contested in favor of a Republican (in this case, Mark Obenshain), even if the Republican trails by 165, 200, 300 votes...whatever. Same thing if it were the other way around, and an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature reversed SBE-certified election results to put a Democrat in office. Not acceptable.
Second, we need to make the criteria and procedures for contested elections a LOT more specific and rigorous than the loosy-goosy verbiage in the code right now ("objections to the conduct or results of the election accompanied by specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election"). That's so vague, high-priced lawyers could drive a Mack truck through it. Instead, the code should spell out the exact "allegations" that would qualify, the magnitude and degree of such "allegations," etc. Then, those "allegations" would be submitted to the (preferably) nonpartisan body noted above for analysis and ultimately a decision. No, it will never be perfect, but it would be a huge improvement over the unacceptable situation we've got right now.
Here are a few Virginia and national news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, December 11. Also watch Jon Stewart on how "no act is too petty for America's news media to blow completely out of proportion." (On my god, President Obama shook hands with the President of Cuba. What next, an American president shaking hands with Vladimir Putin?!? We can't have things like this going on!!! And BenGHAZEEEEEE!!!!! LOL)
Right now, a coalition of watchdog groups (like the ACLU) and Internet Companies are pushing reform of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act. The current version of the law is outdated, written before the days of cloud computing, so it allows the government to obtain YOUR old emails without a warrant:
The federal law on Internet privacy - the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA - was enacted in 1986 and has gone virtually unchanged since. It says that government agencies can access email and other content stored online without a warrant. Digital 4th has joined with dozens of organizations, technology companies and startups to petition the White House to support pending legislation that would update ECPA to make it clear that government agents cannot read citizens' email without a warrant.
Let's call on the White House and Congress to protect our 4th Amendment rights! One simple action by you, right now, will speak volumes ...
The writer, an attorney and private transportation consultant, is a member of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit. From 1994 to 1998, he served in the U.S. Transportation Department, including as director of the Office of Policy and Program Support in the Research and Special Programs Administration.
Sounds good, right? Well...wrong. In fact, the Post flunked Journalistic Ethics 101 by completely failing (intentionally or accidentally?) to identify the parts of Mr. Vincent's bio that are most relevant to his anti-streetcar stance. Namely, that Mr. Vincent works worked for the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center (UPDATE: Mr. Vincent called me to say that he has not worked for the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center for over a year, even though his bio remains on their website; Vincent also said that the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center's job is not to "advocate" for BRT, an argument which doesn't really make sense to me) whose "mission is to educate policymakers and the public about the benefits of BRT," and to "place BRT on a level playing field with other transportation investments, such as roads and rail."
Which is all perfectly fine, of course - personally, I'm all for BRT as one public transit option in a wide mix of options - but the Post should have stated that right up front. Because when it comes to the debate over Arlington's Columbia Pike streetcar project, the other option most often raised by critics is...yep, BRT, which Mr. Vincent was paid to advocate for. Again, there's nothing whatsoever wrong with Mr. Vincent having been paid to advocate for BRT, but in an op-ed on why he opposes the Columbia Pike streetcar, it seems obvious that this would be relevant information the Post would want to provide to readers, so they could make up their own minds accordingly. But noooo.
It also might have been relevant, by the way, for the Post to mention that the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center, which employs used to employ Mr. Vincent, is operated by the "Breakthrough Technologies Institute" (where Vincent is listed as a "staff" member), a group that focuses heavily on promoting fuel cell technology for transportation through the affiliated Fuel Cells 2000, whose "mission is to promote the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen" (which can be used for buses, of course, but not electric-powered vehicles like streetcars). I find it particularly fascinating, in the context of this debate over streetcar vs. BRT, that Mr. Vincent's (former) organization recently published a paper entitled "Bus Rapid Transit: A New Opportunity for Fuel Cells". Again, wouldn't this be important information for Washington Post readers to know, whatever the merits of the arguments?
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