Saturday, March 23, 2019
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Could Your City Meet the “Smarter Cities Challenge?”

I agree with ArlNow, Arlington should definitely apply - if it hasn't already - to the Smarter Cities Challenge. Already, Arlington is one of the smartest "cities" - actually, it's a county, but close enough! - in America. As the EPA "National Award for Smart Growth Achievement" stated:
Arlington's planning approach places dense, mixed-use, infill development at five Metro stations and tapers it down to residential neighborhoods. The result? Over 21 million square feet of office/retail/commercial space, 3,000+ hotel rooms, and 22,500 residential units creating vibrant "urban villages" where people live, shop,work and play using transit, pedestrian walkways, bicycles or cars.

Arlington County uses smart growth principles to generate residential, retail and recreational development around the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor of Metro stations. The corridor includes five stations: Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Square, and Ballston. Arlington adopted a General Land Use Plan (GLUP) to concentrate dense, mixed-use development at the stations and developed sector plans to ensure that each station maintained a distinct sense of community. Incentive zoning is used to attract private sector transit-oriented development.

This is exactly the type of model that should be replicated as widely as possible, including in Virginia's cities and urban areas. That is, it should be replicated if we want to break our addiction on foreign oil, deal with environmental problems like global warming and sprawl, and save ourselves a great deal of money on energy costs. But then again, why would we want to do any of those things when our current massive trade deficits and national security problems related to oil are so much fun! Not.

Among other things, the "Smarter Cities Challenge" involves creating a "smart grid".

Photo: Cooch at the Cancun Climate Summit!

Ken Cuccinelli looking great on the beach in Cancun, where he's attending the climate summit and fighting to protect "god's creation."  Oh wait, you mean that's not actually Ken Cuccinelli? You mean the real Ken Cuccinelli's here in Virginia, fighting to deny anthropogenic climate change, to launch witchhunts against climate scientists, and to do everything he can to stall or stop action aimed at protecting "god's creation" - aka, planet Earth?  Well, then, I guess this photo's actually all the more appropriate. :)

P.S. Click here if you want to help the Virginia Sierra Club fight back against Ken Kookinelli's anti-environmental extremism. Thanks.

Eugene Robinson: “Power without purpose…doesn’t get you anywhere”

As I watch the White House and Congressional Democrats flounder in the post-election-wipeout period generally, and specifically on the issue of extending the Bush tax cuts - adding $4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade in the process - I become more and more disappointed, disenchanted, and ultimately disgusted with the spinelessness and cluelessness of (many of) my party's so-called "leaders." Here's a case of classic Republican craziness -- wildly irresponsible public policy, the main purpose of which is to satisfy the Republicans' wealthy donors who put them in power. Oh yeah, and let's not forget the Republicans' continuing longer-term purposes: 1) to "defund" government, except for corporate welfare, the military, and rich people; 2) to make government unworkable so it fails, which they can then point to and say "see, government fails!"; and 3) "break Obama" so they can return to power and never let go of it again.

Given all this, of course the White House and leading Congressional Democrats are fighting back with everything they have, particularly since they still control many of the levers of power in Washington, not to mention the "Bully Pulpit?"  Oh wait, they're not fighting back at all? Huh? They're actually negotiating with Republicans on blowing up the deficit/debt by extending the Bush tax cuts, even as the "deficit commission" issues its report, clearly stating that extension of said tax cuts is completely unaffordable?  Argh.

With that sound of utter exasperation and pounding of head on desk, I strongly recommend Eugene Robinson's superb op-ed in today's Washington Kaplan Post, entitled, "Tax cut fight highlights Democrats' missing convictions."  The conclusion is that nobody knows where, if it exists at all, the Democratic Party's "bottom line" happens to be. Also, the Republicans remain monomaniacally disciplined - on their agenda for the wealthiest Americans, for their corporate overlords, and for their goal of making Obama "fail" - while the Democrats completely flounder. Then, we've got President Obama failing to "fight for the principles that got him elected."  

In the end, what does this all add up to?  Nothing good, either in terms of public policy or in terms of political calculus for the Democrats. So why are they acting this way?  Are they stupid? Spineless? Delusional? Naive? Also serving their wealthy and corporate overlords? All of the above?I'm not completely sure, but one thing I am 100% certain of is that, as Eugene Robinson writes at the end of his op-ed, "Power without purpose, in fact, doesn't get you anywhere."  The question is, does anyone in the White House or top levels of Congressional Democratic "leadership" understand that?

P.S. Let me just point out that I say all this as a committed progressive and as a committed Democrat - at least to the Democratic Party that fights for working people and the middle class, that stands up to the corporations and certainly doesn't do their bidding, that fights for the environment and minority rights, etc, etc.  Key word in all this? Fights! Fights for what? Democratic principles! (if there are any left at this point, after "triangulation" during the 1990s and whatever the hell we're calling the cluster**** we're seeing now)

That’s Wonderful Governor, Now How Are You Going to Pay For It?

It's great that Bob McDonnell's commission on this subject is coming out today with a call for "'landmark higher education legislation' to put Virginia on a path toward increasing degree attainment, providing stable funding for public institutions and making college more affordable and accessible to state students." The question, as always, is how Virginia's going to pay for this, particularly given Gov. McDonnell et al's near-theological aversion to raising revenues, aka "taxes." Also, I love how the commission's interim report "won't assign costs to its recommendations," and also how the long-term funding model "won't be ready when the General Assembly convenes in January."

In other words, this sounds like the education version of the liquor privatization fiasco, the offshore oil drilling fiasco, etc., etc. I hope I'm wrong about this, but frankly, until Republican'ts start getting a lot more pragmatic about the core function of government, which is to raise revenues and spend money, I can't see anything productive happening in any area.  Until then, it's all magical thinking, smoke and mirrors, and nothing more.

Video: “Libertarian vs. Tea Party”

This pretty much sums it all up. Brilliant!

Video: DPVA’s First Weekly Update

I'm glad to see this type of communication from the Democratic Party of Virginia, and hope there's a lot more of it moving forward. By the way, I loved the train whistle noise in the part about Hank Davis; does that mean Davis is going to do a "whistle-stop campaign" around the 19th district? :)

Jim Moran: “I could not in good conscience” vote for Bush tax cuts extension

From Rep. Moran's office, here's his statement on why he voted today against extending the Bush tax cuts to those making less than $250,000.  The bill passed the House by a 234-188 vote, with 3 Republicans voting "aye" and 20 Democrats - including Virginians Bobby Scott and  Jim Moran - voting "nay." Fascinating. My own opinion: we can't afford any of the Bush tax cuts permanently (they add $4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years), and they were a horrible idea from the git-go. However, I believe we should extend them for the next year or two for the working and middle class (under $75,000 or so?) as we work our way out of the Republican Great Recession. With that, here's Jim Moran's statement.
Today, the House voted to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts on incomes under $250,000. At a cost of three trillion dollars, I could not in good conscience vote for the permanent extension of a tax structure so fiscally unsustainable.

I opposed the Bush tax plan when it originally came before Congress in 2001 because I feared that it would help turn the budget surplus he inherited from President Clinton into large budget deficits. It did. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were designed with a sunset provision because even anti-tax zealots realized that if made permanent, they would have a ruinous long-term effect on the federal budget.  

We should allow the Bush tax cuts to expire as designed, both those for people making under $250,000 and those earning up to one million and beyond. Failing to do so would add $3.7 trillion to our current $13 trillion in national debt. With their expiration, we would return our nation to the tax structure that existed during the budget surpluses and economic growth of the Clinton years.

McDonnell/Malek Commission a Debacle, As Predicted

As I pointed out several weeks ago, when the McDonnell/Malek faux-"reform" commission "interim report" came out, this whole thing turned out to be a complete debacle.  As I wrote at the time:
First off, even Malek himself only claims savings of $100 million - apparently total, not annual - from his commission's recommendations. That's $100 million total out of a Commonwealth biennial budget of about $75 billion. To put it another way, that's about one-thousandth of the biennial budget that this great "reform" commission has come up with in "savings," ostensibly leaving the other 999-thousandths of government spending intact. Wow, that's quite an accomplishment there by our intrepid crusader against "government waste", Bob McDonnell!

But wait, it gets even less impressive. That supposed $100 million in savings (no details or evidence offered, of course - just take them at their words on that one!) needs to offset the losses from McDonnell's biggest boondoggle, his DOA ABC privatization proposal. If the latter were ever passed, and thank goodness it probably won't be, it would put Virginia about $47 million a year into the hole every year. That's $94 million lost from the biennial budget, so even if you assume that the $100 million "savings" Malek and McDonnell claim are biennial - and there's absolutely no evidence to back that up - it barely covers the revenue lost from the liquor plan.

Other than that, what does this supposed "reform" commission offer us?  Basically, that state government employees should work 4 days a week, 10 hours a day. Wow, that will accomplish a lot. Oh, and they also managed to sneak in some stealth anti-government crap in there, like item #97 (buried deep in the report), which calls for "set[ting] t a statutory limit on government spending expressed as a percentage of Gross State Product (GSP) ora similar benchmark." Also, item #97 (buried deep in the report as well), which calls for "reduc[ing] all budget baselines by 2% as a compulsory productivity dividend each financial year."

Now, the final report is out, and it continues to be a really bad joke on the people of Virginia. But what else would you expect from a commission headed by a corrupt slimeball who used to count Jews for Richard Nixon when he wasn't barbecuing a dog for dinner?

So, that's bad enough. But what the heck were any Democrats doing on Malek's sham commission? As NLS correctly points out, all this accomplished - predictably - was to give the Republicans "cover for a sham commission." Just like when several Democrats voted for Bob Marshall's "health care freedom act" and gave "bipartisan" cover to Ken Kookinelli for his anti-"Obamacare" jihad.  Will this idiocy ever end? Are Democrats destined to be perpetual patsies for the Republicans' latest maneuver? Unfortunately, these days it sure looks that way. With "friends" like these, who needs enemies?

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