Monday, April 6, 2020
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As Cantor Moves to Kill Jobs, Is McDonnell Even Paying Attention?

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Moody's says the Republican Continuing Resolution plan would cost the jobs of 700,000 Americans. Considering how many federal workers live in Virginia, such a move would be sure to hit Virginia families especially hard. That staggering figure would go on top of the already mind-blowing jobless numbers:

  • There are 7.7 million fewer payroll jobs now than before the recession started in December 2007.
  • Almost 14 million Americans are unemployed.
  • Of those unemployed, 6.2 million have been unemployed for six months or more.
  • Another 8.4 million are working part time for economic reasons,
  • About 4 million more have left the labor force since the start of the recession (we can see this in the dramatic drop in the labor force participation rate),
  • of those who have left the labor force, about 1 million are available for work, but are discouraged and have given up.
It's the second independent economic analysis in recent days showing the Republican budget stopgap would be an economic disaster. Meanwhile, from his lazily misinformed comments on the massive cut in Metro funding in the House Continuing Resolution, it's not clear Gov. Bob McDonnell is even fully engaged on the issue. Too busy trying to manage women's bodies to govern Virginia's economy?

How Much Time & Money Does the DC Area’s Metro Save?

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Metro BlurWe spend plenty of time talking about how much the DC area Metro system costs. But how much does it save in time, money & imported oil? A new report from the Texas Transportation Institute puts some numbers on transit savings:
Washington ranks 6th in the nation for "operational treatment savings" -- services like management of road incidents, street signal coordination and access to HOV lanes that help mitigate traffic. These save D.C. commuters 14,315 hours of delay, the report says.

Even better, D.C. is 3rd overall for preventing delays through public transportation alternatives. Local residents save more than 34 million hours of delay at a cost of $766.6 million, and 24 million gallons of gas, according to the report.

Those numbers are actually higher than Metro itself has estimated. Its FY2012 budget (PDF) estimates annual savings of $520 million & 26 million hours of travel time.

When you add the cost of the gas (about $75 million) to the $766 million savings figure ... and think about how much money & land it would cost to accommodate the 500,000 cars Metro takes off the road ... and events like inaugurations that would be impossible without Metro's ability to move people quickly ... and all the pollution Metro keeps out of our air & water ... suddenly Metro's $1.5 billion annual budget seems like a bargain.

Frank Wolf: Fraud Peacock

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Dancing PeacockRep. Frank Wolf wants you to think he's taking a bold stand against fraud, loudly squawking for an independent auditor on the 2nd phase of the Metro to Dulles project, estimated to cost as much as $4 billion:
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose district encompasses much of the route for the new Metrorail extension into Loudoun County, is requesting that the agency overseeing construction of the line bring in an outside auditor to monitor design and construction of the second phase of the project.
The project, of course, hasn't even begun taking bids yet. But reality has never stopped Rep. Wolf from trying to get attention! Why wait until the project has actually begun to issue ominous warnings about waste, fraud & abuse to divert attention from the fact that you're holding up tax cuts for everyone to get even bigger tax cuts for your wealthiest donors? Caw!

Strangely, I haven't heard the fraud peacock squawk about this billion-dollar transportation expenditure:

By the end of the December, the Virginia Department of Transportation will have advertised $1.1 billion in construction and maintenance projects since the fiscal year began on July 1, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) told the Dulles Area Transportation Association at a luncheon Monday. About $500 million of that figure will be advertised just this month.
Why no dire warnings from Rep. Wolf about waste, fraud & abuse on this project? Oh, right. Because this project is supported by Virginia's Republican governor. And Frank the fraud peacock is partisan above all else, only getting his feathers up about Democrats - never members of his own party.  

Sen. Jim Webb at Rosslyn Metro Station Groundbreaking

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Good stuff, now let's keep investing in Metro, high-speed rail, streetcars, and other things that make sense from a "smart growth"/high-density-development point of view. Other than that...meh, not so much.

So, What Does Remy Think of the Metro to Dulles Debacle?

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Funny video by Remy, as always, I wonder if he has any thoughts on the Metro to Dulles boondoggle. How do you rhyme "no bid contract," "Big Dig Bechtel" and "massive cost overruns?" Heh.

McDonnell Folds on Metro Funding

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In the end, that didn't take too long.
Metro's board of directors signed off Thursday on an agreement with Virginia to provide $300 million to match federal funding for safety improvements, ending a month-long battle over the state's push to be represented on the board.

[...]

The administration of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) had threatened to withhold Virginia's share of the money unless the state gets two members on the Metro board. Four seats are held by elected officials from Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria, and McDonnell wants to appoint two of them. Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said Virginia wants more accountability from Metro in the aftermath of last year's fatal Red Line crash. Including its contribution to the matching funds, the state will contribute more to Metro than the Northern Virginia local governments, Connaughton said.

But the state decided last week to pay without an agreement on the seats.

Late Thursday, Virginia officials signed the deal.

As a daily Metro rider, I thank Bob McDonnell, even if it took some arm-twisting to get him to stop playing games with this absolutely crucial piece of Northern Virginia's transportation system. I guess McDonnell's theory of governing is, "try all the wrong things until we eventually are forced to do the right thing!"

Will McDonnell Kill Metro to Dulles?

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It sure looks like he could:
Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles on Thursday warned Virginia that if it does not act within 24 hours to renew its pledge to provide $500 million to match federal funding for Metro over the next 10 years, that it will jeopardize the contract to purchase new Metro rail cars.

"We have to know now that the commonwealth of Virginia ... is committed to the local match," said Sarles, raising his voice at a Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. "If we don't get it we will delay the...cars," he said. "They won't be ready for the Dulles extension."

Unless, of course, McDonnell thinks that Virginia commuters can walk along the Silver Line out to Tysons, Dulles Airport, etc. Hey Bob? You first!

UPDATE: McDonnell backs down? If so that would be the pattern with this administration -- do something crazy, out-of-the-mainstream, etc., then back down when they're told by everyone how crazy and out-of-the-mainstream they are.  Except for Cooch, of course, who revels in being called crazy!  lol

Washington Post: “Metro is not a political trophy to be squabbled...

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The Washington Post makes an excellent point about the brouhaha in Virginia right now over who gets to be on Metro's board of directors.
...Metro is not a political trophy to be squabbled over; it's one of the busiest and most critical transportation systems in the nation. Northern Virginia needs to recognize the state's legitimate interest and contribution, back down and allow Richmond a vote on the Metro board. Richmond should negotiate without holding the system hostage. This internecine skirmish must not be allowed to jeopardize funding for transit in the nation's capital.
I think this makes a good deal of sense. In the end, it's perfectly reasonable for Virginia to want a "seat at the table," but it's also true that the McDonnell Administration's "threat to withhold funding is not [justified]; it's blackmail."  And it's "blackmail" over a transit system that is absolutely indispensable to the life and economy of Northern Virginia, the "economic engine" of Virginia as a whole. The bottom line is that none of us can afford for this dispute to escalate and harm Metro. The question is, are there are any adults around Richmond (and NOVA) these days who realize this and can resolve this situation? We'll find out soon enough, one way or the other.

McDonnell Plays Politics With Crucial Metro Funding, Risks Trashing System

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For anyone who still thinks Bob McDonnell is a "moderate" or a reasonable guy in any way, I present to you, "Virginia threatens to withhold funds from Metro".
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's administration threatened Wednesday to unravel a $1.5 billion federal funding plan for Metro unless the state gets two members on the agency's board of directors.

[...]

If Virginia reneges on the pledge to match the $150 million from the federal government, the repercussions would be immediate, Metro officials said: An $886 million contract for 428 rail cars that the federal program will fund will be in jeopardy.

The first $12.5 million of Virginia's share is due July 1. "I personally don't plan [on paying it] until we have an agreement," said William Pittard, chief financial officer of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

That's right, Bob McDonnell is willing to risk trashing Metro unless he gets to stock it with his political allies. In short, McDonnell wants to put Republicans (most likely ones who love cars and hate public transportation) on the Metro board, instead of Democrats like Cathy Hudgins, Jeff McKay, Chris Zimmerman, and Bill Euille. And, if he doesn't get his way, apparently he's going to take Virginia's pledged contribution and go home.

Other than risking the deterioration and/or collapse of Metro, Bob McDonnell also risks - as noted by D.C. Council member Jim Graham - "a serious breakdown of regional cooperation, which has been the essential element of Metro."

In short, Bob McDonnell's decision to play politics with the future of Metro is about as wildly irresponsible as he can get.  It's almost like staking the future of Virginia's transportation system on hypothetical offshore oil drilling revenues that were almost certainly never going to materialize.  It's also like putting a guy who ripped off another state's pension funds in the position of "reforming" our own state government.  Or, how about allowing his Commerce and Trade Secretary to remain on the boards of the same large corporations he'd be overseeing?  Etc., etc.

More to the point, I'll leave you with the following words used in the Post article to describe what McDonnell's doing here: "startling," "arbitrary," "shuffling the deck chairs while the Titanic is sinking," "criminal."  Just keep that in mind as you get on an overcrowded Metro train this morning, or as you sit stuck in traffic. If Bob McDonnell gets his way and Metro completely collapses, just imagine how much worse it will be.