Wednesday, October 31, 2007

John Flannery Calls for Investigation

Leesburg Today has the story.
John Flannery, who launched a write-in campaign against Commonwealth's Attorney James Plowman last week, announced Tuesday, Oct. 30, that he is asking Attorney General Robert McDonnell to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the grand jury investigation of former state Senate candidate Mark D. Tate.

"We tried to give the Commonwealth's Attorney the chance to explain himself," Flannery said. "And he hasn't." - Leesburg Today
It will be very interesting to see whether McDonnell appoints someone to investigate. McDonnell is running for Governor in 2009, and will need Loudoun's Republicans to win against the Democratic nominee (probably Brian Moran or Creigh Deeds), and our local Republican committee may look askance at a candidate who investigated their Commonwealth's Attorney in 2007. It's a wonderful bind, and I commend John Flannery for it. Not only is investigating Jim Plowman with an independent party the right thing to do, it is a shrewd tactical proposition as well.

Remember to write-in John P. Flannery on November 6th. That means fill in the bubble next to the blank line under Plowman's name on the ballot, and write "John P. Flannery" on the line next to the bubble.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Joe May's Friends

The local election for Delegate here in made the front page of MyDD today. And a very interesting affiliation of Joe May's was brought to light.
"Black Katrina victims are "pestilent vermin." "These leeches will go on to pollute the communities [where] they're relocated" - statement made in 2004 by a Sons of Confederate Veterans President.

"We seek a return to ... a majority European-derived society." Statement made in 2000 by a Sons of Confederate Veterans Executive Council Member - MyDD
And the connection to our delegate, Joe May?
So why does Virginia, the state that decided to reject George "Macaca" Allen as a Senator, have Joe T. May, self-proclaimed treasurer of his Sons of the Confederate Veterans chapter, representing their 33rd District in the State Assembly? - MyDD
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a heritage organization that has been dominated by white supremacists since 2002.

For the past five years, we have been represented in the House of Delegates by the Treasurer of an organization with overt, racist policies and leadership. (And just in case Joe May's Assembly biography linked above is "updated" in the next few days, a copy of the page has been preserved.)

Those are not Loudoun values. Joe May must be defeated next Tuesday. Go give Marty Martinez some support.

Yet Another Mixed-Use Development - Kincora

Following-up on the discussion of rushed development comes a great analysis of one of those appplications: Kincora. Quite frankly, there isn't much to add beyond what Lansdowne...And Out in the Open has already written.
Kincora is a project by NA Dulles real Estate Investor LLC of Great Falls, VA. The site of this project is located at the southwestern section of the area where Route 28 meets Route 7 (in layman’s terms, if you’re headed towards Dulles Town Center from Lansdowne, it’s just before you get to Route 28 on the right). The parcel is 424 acres, currently zoned as PD-IP (Planned Devlopment – Industrial Park), planned for Keynote Employment use. The property owner wishes to have the parcels rezoned to an office park/town center hybrid. This rezoning would propose almost 5 million square feet of office, hotel, and commercial, and build 1,376 residential multi-family units.

There are numerous problems with this rezoning, starting with the fact that the applicant is proposing 25 zoning ordinance amendments in order to develop the property as proposed. This seems like an inordinate amount of amendments necessary for a project; in fact, zoning administration noted this in the Planning Commission's staff report prepared for this project; a project that PC staff recommended the county reject.
...
The Planning Commission approved this project in September, and as part of the Board of Supervisors accelerated hearing process, Kincora will be up for approval on November 14, which just happens to coincide with the night of Lansdowne’s annual HOA meeting. If this project is outrageous to you, please contact Supervisor Lori Waters (mailto:lori.waters@loudoun.gov) and make your opinions known. - Rabble Rouser, Lansdowne...and Out in the Open
Luckily, we will also have an opportunity express our opinions definitively next Tuesday. It will be very interesting to discover whether Lori Waters supports this development while considering opposition to the Good Shepherd Alliance facility in Ashburn.

Progress in Virginia - The Democratic Platform

One of the recurring questions asked in our national political discourse is "what do Democrats stand for?" It is with great pleasure that a link can be provided, detailing exactly what Virginia's Democrats stand for.
We exist as a party to elect Democratic leaders of character, integrity, ability and vision at all levels of government in Virginia. The Democratic Party of Virginia is committed to the goals of practicing fiscal responsibility, ensuring excellence in education, making adequate infrastructure investments, preserving the social safety network, creating economic opportunity for all, and protecting our environment. We are dedicated to defending our constitutionally established rights and freedoms. We work to organize all of our citizens through a democratic government to achieve together those beneficial ends that we cannot achieve individually. We believe, as did our party's founder, Thomas Jefferson, "That government is the strongest of which every man feels a part." - From the Party Platform
In a nutshell, Democrats in Virginia support:
  • Keeping Virginia Business-Friendly and Creating Economic Opportunity for All of Virginia's Families

  • Improving Virginia's World-Class Public Education System

  • Preserving Sound Fiscal Management of Virginia's Government and Homeowner Tax Relief and Continuing Tax Reform

  • Ensuring Affordable, Quality Health Care for All Virginians

  • Finding Solutions to Critical Transportation Problems

  • Preserving Virginia's Natural Resources

  • Keeping Virginia's Citizens Safe And Secure

  • Celebrating Values of Diversity and Community

These are the principles and policies you can expect to see enacted by a Democratic Assembly in 2008. Electing neighbors like Marty Martinez, Karen Schultz, Mark Herring and Dave Poisson (not to mention Chap Peterson and Ralph Northam!) to the Assembly is the best way to ensure we keep Moving Virginia Forward. Support your local candidates, and vote next Tuesday, November 6th!

(With a tip-o-the-hat to The Richmond Democrat)

An Interlude: Loudoun Photos

Dave Levinson knows how to take photos of Loudoun County.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(From Dave Levinson's blog, Pastoral, with a tip-o-the-hat to LinkedUp In Loudoun. I pray Dave forgives me for borrowing the photo, and I hope folks will explore his site!)

Commuter Buses and Kelly Burk

This morning, Kelly Burk was up at the crack of dawn, talking to commuters at the commuter bus stop off of Catoctin Circle. Loudoun County operates commuter buses from Loudoun to DC every morning, and Kelly wanted to talk to them about the service, the new park and ride lot planned for Sycolin Road (with a tip-o-the-hat to Sally Kurtz for her efforts on that development), and see if there were any specific things the Board or County could do to improve the service.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Many of us may not realize just how many of our neighbors use commuter buses from Loudoun County to get to work in the morning. In Leesburg alone, there are thousands of commuters who get up before dawn, stand outside in the dark, and forgo using their cars to get to work. In doing so they reduce traffic and pollution for the rest of us.

In conversations with commuters this morning Council member Burk heard a lot of praise for the Loudoun County bus system, though there were some critiques of buses who departed Leesburg late, and other critiques of buses which were standing-room-only for the hour-plus ride into the District. Other commuters mentioned how the park-and-ride lot and buses have become a lot more popular with the rise in gas prices.

The next Board of Supervisors is going to have to deal with the issue of commuting from Loudoun County, as it is a manifestation of the mixture of development, growth, traffic and financial issues currently at hand in Loudoun. It is good to know that Kelly Burk is willing to get up early to work on these problems for Leesburg.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ashburn Facility Helps Our Neighbors

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." - Matthew 25:40

Living in LoCo reports on many excellent details of the Good Shepherd Alliance facility (note: it is not a shelter) opening in Ashburn for our neighbors in need of some help.
Rumor: Homeless people will be living in this facility. Fact: This is not an overnight shelter that will house people. It is a business office with services that include providing food, showers and business equipment to people in need.

Rumor: People will bused in for services. Fact: There will be a public bus stop in front of the center as part of a county-wide transportation system. According to Werner, there is currently a stop about a block away.

Rumor: Details of this project were not disclosed to nearby homeowner associations, the Board of Supervisors or the general public. Fact: There is on-record information for the county that the GSA met with the Board of Supervisors. There are also numerous emails from Broad Run Supervisor Lori Waters from earlier this year explaining the specific functions of the facility to constituents. Waters now appears to oppose it. - Living in LoCo
You can support the Good Shepherd Alliance's efforts to open and operate this needed facility by signing their online petition.
For these reasons and more, we are taking a stand to allow faith and healing, hope and compassion, into our community through the simple presence of a Thrift Store and badly needed administrative office space for a worthy cause and a wonderful non-profit organization serving the needy. Remember, homelessness touches all of our lives. - The GSA Petition
But something said in the article above deserves closer scrutiny: Waters now appears to oppose it..

Lori Waters is in a tough race. But sacrificing neighbors who are in need should never be advocated to win a few extra votes. This is doubly true for candidates of faith who opine on the Christianity of a vote while in office. Politicians who try to climb into office on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised neither deserve our support, nor our vote.

Contrast that with Phyllis Randall. Phyllis Randall has been a strong advocate for her whole community, people of all backgrounds and income levels, throughout her career. She has the support and endorsement of Loudoun's teachers and police. She has proven ability to unite her community and raise it up, together.

Vote for Phyllis Randall in Broad Run next Tuesday.

Say No To Retroactive Immunity

Please take a moment out of your day and go sign the petition asking Sen. Harry Reid to reject retroactive immunity for telecom companies that spied on U.S. citizens after government threats.
The Senate is considering a bill that would grant immunity to any telecom company that assisted in the administration's illegal wiretapping. Chris Dodd promised to put a hold on any such bill, and Joe Biden and Barack Obama pledged to uphold it. We believe that any bill coming before the Senate that includes provisions for so-called 'amnesty' for large companies involved in illegally spying on Americans should be opposed, and have authored a letter to this effect addressed to Majority Leader Reid. - The Lefty Blogosphere
It is completely inappropriate for both the government, and the telecom companies to have gambled away our 4th Amendment rights in a secret deal with The Executive.

We are slowly holding the government perpetrators to account, but the only mechanism for holding the corporate perpetrators to account is through the courts. Don't take my word for it, take the word of Robert Kennedy.
But the very concept of retroactive amnesty -- the idea that corporations could break the law and then have Congress pass a special law legalizing their lawbreaking conduct -- was so profoundly offensive to Sen. Robert Kennedy (who had been the Attorney General when the banks broke the law with their mergers), as well as then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, that they engaged in extraordinary efforts to try to put a stop to this Congressional travesty. - Glenn Greenwald
An important guarantor of our rights is the consequences of violating them, and yet the same people who advocate the death penalty as a deterrent, are advocating the removal of a deterring consequence for corporate domestic spying.

Yet another manifestation of the modern GOP mantra: it's not illegal if we do it.

Credulous Email Forwards

If you are like many other folks who work on computers much of the day, friends and relatives may send you some interesting emails, with anecdotes and observations about certain candidates or events. In the vast majority of cases, these tales are misleading, if not utterly false. The Nation has done a great story on this new method of misinformation.
"A lot of the chain letters that were accusing Al Gore of things in 2000 were recycled in 2004 and changed to Kerry," says John Ratliff, who runs a site called BreakTheChain.org, which, like Snopes, devotes itself to debunking chain e-mails. One e-mail falsely described a Senate committee hearing in the 1980s where Oliver North offered an impassioned Cassandra-like warning about the threat of Osama bin Laden, only to be dismissed by a condescending Democratic senator. Originally it was Al Gore who played the role of the senator, but by 2004 it had changed to John Kerry. "You just plug in your political front-runner du jour," Ratliff says. - The Nation
So just a heads up, if you get an email claiming that Hillary Clinton snubbed Gold Star Mothers, it's not true.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to DailyKos)

Greg Ahlemann Helps Identity Thieves

One side of the political race that culminates on November 6th seems to have an inherent problem with revealing private information to intimidate political opponents. The playbook seems to be "when in trouble, leak the home address and phone number of your opponent, and let your unsavory allies hound them into tears." This is what one side has done all year, from Graeme Frost to Chap Peterson to Milari Madison to a western Loudoun citizen, this practice has become de rigeur for the Grand Old Party this year.

This should come as no surprise from a party who has such a plethora of lawbreakers among its ranks. And lest one think the problems of the national party are not the problems of the local party, please recall that the FBI is investigating the links between developers and Supervisors, and our own Commonwealth's Attorney, Jim Plowman, leaked grand jury testimony, which any fan of Law & Order knows is illegal. (Remember, write in John P. Flannery for Commonwealth's Attorney!)

And this brings us all the way back to Greg Ahlemann. Distribution of private information such as Social Security Numbers may be a violation of the Privacy Act. But that did not stop Candidate Ahlemann from disregarding Federal law earlier this year.
Ahlemann distributed copies of the complaint against the motorist to about 100 people at a Republican Party meeting. The complaint contained personal information about the man, a prominent farmer, including his address, birth date and Social Security number. - The Washington Post
With developer corruption, grand jury leaks from the Commonwealth's Attorney, fixed tickets and Privacy Act violations from the Republican candidate for Sheriff, the FBI may need to open a Loudoun County extension office before this is all done.

Loudoun can do better. Vote for honesty, accountability and responsibility on November 6th. Vote Democratic.

(With a tip-o-the hat to Runo who pointed out that the discussion of Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis signs and its reference back to Candidate Ahlemann was a bit disjointed.)

Greg Ahlemann's Fixed Tickets

In the discussion of whether some candidates for office in Loudoun County respect the laws they purport to uphold, enter candidate Greg Ahlemann, Republican for Sheriff.
Ahlemann, a pastor's son and former Loudoun deputy who promises to "restore integrity" to the sheriff's office, said he also asked fellow deputies to tear up traffic tickets issued to his friends, but never for offenses more serious than speeding. - The Washington Post
Candidate Ahlemann, who thinks more law enforcement resources and taxpayer money should go towards finding and persecuting the 3-5% of Loudoun Residents who are here but undocumented, sees no problem selectively enforcing traffic laws (misdemeanors) for the benefit of his friends and family. This is the classic manifestation of the "it's not illegal if I do it" mentality, and the polar opposite of the respect for the rule of law required from a Sheriff.

Contrast that with a man who has spent his life enforcing laws and improving law enforcement:
Michael E. George, 54, the Democratic candidate and a former narcotics and gang-unit supervisor in the Fairfax County Police Department, said he never fixed a ticket during 22 years in law enforcement. "It's done, but it's not a sound practice," he said. - The Washington Post
Selective enforcement of the law is at the root of many problems with law enforcement in large cities and beyond. Loudoun County does not need a Sheriff whose own actions contribute to wider national problems. We do not need the debate over racial profiling to come home because our Sheriff fixed tickets for his friends.

Vote Mike George for Sheriff on November 6th.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Republican Illegal Immigration

Apparently, not all laws are created equal. In Loudoun County's 2007 elections, it must be perfectly acceptable to break the law in some ways in order to have the opportunity to uphold the law in other ways. For some candidates, it's okay to have a double standard, as long as it's applied against an underrepresented minority, and ignored for those already in power.

In Loudoun County, it is illegal to place campaign signs in the median of roads and in public rights of way. It is also illegal to let your work or visitation visa expire if you are not an American citizen. Both are violations of the law, but for some reason, some candidates feel it is okay to violate one law themselves as they decry the violation of another.

It's illegal for campaign signs to immigrate to public rights-of-way, they cross a border without proper authorization, and ruin the quality of our median strips. They make them ugly, and steal resources like sunlight and soil which would otherwise go to the natives of the region, grasses. Sure, they are only there because their circumstances force them to go there. If they stayed at home, they would do no good for their friends and family. They don't really have much choice in the manner, and while they are illegaly in median strips and rights-of-way, they do a lot of good for the people who sent them there. But come on,

What part of "illegal" do these signs not understand?

If the scenario above seems a little contrived, consider that the largest employer of undocumented migrants in the commonwealth, Smithfield Foods, is also one of the largest Republican donor companies in the commonwealth. Consider that the ordinance against political signs in public rights-of-way is well known. That's why there is such a stark transition in signage when you cross the border from Fairfax into Loudoun on Rt 7. Consider that the people who are busy claiming that we need to do something to deal with illegal immigration are the same people who have been in charge of Loudoun's government for four years, but have only now decided this is an important issue.

If some candidates are going to run on a strict definition of following-the-law, they cannot pick and choose which misdemeanors to avoid.

Candidates who choose to break the law in campaigning for office do not deserve the trust of the public for that office.

Devolites-Davis Sign SNAFU

Not Larry Sabato is reporting something irregulari someone is putting out Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis fliers that misreport election day. Historically some campaigns have misreported election day to some citizens in an effort to supress turnout on the real Election Day (For the record, election day is Tuesday, November 6th).

Of course, this is illegal. In fact, it's a class 1 misdemeanor.

If anyone receives any election information which reports election day as anything other than November 6th, please let us know in the comments! If it can happen in Fairfax, it can happen here. It's not a long jump to intentional voter confusion if you start from handing out private information like candy.
In late summer, after defeating Simpson for the Republican nomination, Ahlemann distributed copies of the complaint against the motorist to about 100 people at a Republican Party meeting. The complaint contained personal information about the man, a prominent farmer, including his address, birth date and Social Security number.

"That blew my mind," Simpson said. "We give an hour-long program at senior centers and homeowner association meetings about identity theft, and one of the biggest things we talk about is securing your Social Security number."

Ahlemann said he shared a document that was available to the general public. "Anybody could pay 50 cents to the court clerk and get the same document," he said. - The Washington Post (with a tip-o-the-hat to RaisingKaine)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We Are All Working Families

On Friday afternoon a group of progressive bloggers in Virginia joined a conversation with the AFL-CIO about the state of working families in Virginia, and the importance of the 2007 and 2008 elections here. Virginia may not be thought of as a union state, but we do have a number of union companies (Phillip Morris, Wesvaco), and the modern labor movement has aligned its goals closely to the needs and concerns of all workers, not just those traditionally thought of as union workers.

At the core, all people who have a boss have very similar concerns when it comes to work. Healthcare, retirement, job security, workplace safety, time off for those things that are more important than work, every employee, everywhere would agree that these things are important and worth preserving. But these things were only granted to the working population of America at the demand of organized labor. And it is unions who are leading the way in preserving the guarantees that allow a 40 hour a week job to pay for a reasonable way of life.

Unions have a mixed image among some voters. In my own life, the two truly formative experiences with unions happend in New York City. First, when moving into an apartment, we did without running hot water for a weekend because I was told that the union wouldn't allow anyone but the union engineer to turn on the hot water, and he had gone home for the weekend. Second, the Transit Strike of 2005. Needless to say, neither were experiences which initially inclined me to favor unions.

But I later discovered a few things. First, do not trust a landlord when he blames the local union for something, because it usually turns out to be the landlord's fault. In this case, it led to my first experience with activism as I helped lead a rent strike, and wound up trying to organize an entire building. Needless to say, my perspective on the value of collective action and bargaining changed.

Second, my issue is not with unions and labor activism, per se, but with specific union actions from time to time. For example, the Transit Strike of 2005 was illegal. Regardless of the legitimate labor/management issues at point during the contract negotiations, and regardless of whether the union should have the right to strike, that strike was illegal, which puts it outside the realm of standard practice for unions.

Today's unions are much more concerned with the well being of working Americans than any other major issue. Unions stand for healthcare, well-paying jobs, retirement security (which means Social Security), and education.

Yes, education.

The biggest single budget item the next Board of Supervisors will face in the coming years; the largest Richmond funding disparity next to transportation; education in Virginia is one of the core issues that the AFL-CIO is working on for 2007.
We are literally walking the walk and talking the talk to support working families on issues that matter. This is about us laying the foundation to elect people that support SCHIP [State Children’s Health Insurance Program], who will fund our children’s schools, and who will fight for workers’ right to organize unions. - Eileen Toback, AFL-CIO political organizer/Voice@Work campaign
The AFL-CIO represents union members, but what is in the best interests of union members is is also in the best interests of non-members. Raising the quality of life for workers helps everyone.

The AFL-CIO wants to elect an Assembly that supports working families. That means working for the election of Democrats in Virginia, and towards that effort the AFL-CIO has made thousands of calls and knocked on thousands of doors. They are doing their part to Turn Virginia Blue. And in the next ten days, we all have the opportunity to do the same.

----

If you're interesting in doing more, Working America is a way for individuals to get involved in labor advocacy, without needing to join a workplace union.
Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate, is now involved in Northern Virginia, signing up non-union members. They're targeted to talk to 15,000 non-union members by the 2007 election. Working America is based on door-to-door canvassing around issues like health care, jobs, and retirement security. Having this organization allows us to communicate with working people who don't have a union at their job. - The AFL-CIO
Incidentally, for a wonderful example of Republican doublespeak (for example, "Clear Skies" means less corporate oversight and more pollution), check out the "Campaign for Working Families," a Gary Bauer/James Dobson vehicle that seems to think that being anti-choice and pro-business is the same thing as supporting working families. Perhaps the most interesting element is their "Compare the Parties" link, which references officials like "Speaker Dennis Hastert." Apparently the "Campaign for Working Families" thinks that it is still October, 2006.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reforming the SCC - Marty Martinez Has A Plan

When discussing reforming the SCC a few days ago, an important data point was missing from the analysis. Former Sen. Charles Waddell has endorsed Marty Martinez's plan to reform the SCC when Marty is elected to the House of Delegates in November.
Marty Martinez has a plan to reform and reorganize the State Corporation Commission, one of the most powerful bodies in Virginia today. The SCC has a history of giving corporations such as Dominion Power about anything they ask for, all at the expense of the Virginia consumer and worker.

At issue now is Dominion Power’s refusal to put power lines underground. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike agree on this environmental need, but Dominion Power stubbornly refuses, to the extent that even Republican Congressman Frank Wolf calls the company “arrogant.”

Marty Martinez, in his candidacy for the House of Delegates from the 33rd District, has pledged he will work for legislation to change the SCC and make it responsible to the people of Virginia and of Loudoun and Clarke Counties. This is a change long overdue. Even the name needs to be changed -- many states call their regulatory bodies Public Service Commissions. The Virginia SCC’s very title says it’s concerned with corporations, not people.
...
Marty Martinez will fight for these changes and for our best interests. He will oppose abuse by powerful corporations such as Dominion Power. That is one of the reasons I support and endorse Marty Martinez to be my delegate. His opponent has never taken the lead and worked seriously to change the SCC. That alone is reason not to reelect Joe May, who likes to call the SCC members “judge,” an honorific title awarded only by admirers, instead of the legal title of commissioner.

It's time for change. We need to change the SCC. We need to change our delegate.
- Charles Waddell, in The Loudoun Times-Mirror
Marty Martinez will represent us in Richmond, vote for Marty on November 6th.

Marty Martinez: Brief Blog Interview

Marty Martinez, candidate for the House of Delegates in the 33rd District running against Joe May, took a few minutes out of his very busy schedule to answer four questions from Leesburg Tomorrow. Many thanks to Council member Martinez for doing so.

What is the most important issue facing Loudoun that our Delegate should address?
Transportation.

How should we deal with the issues of traffic and transportation in Loudoun?

We cannot pave our way to a solution. In a fragment of the amount of time it would take to invest in rail, we can have a real bus network up and running throughout the 33rd district with discounts for senior citizens and veterans. Pouring more dollars into our road infrastructure is only step one. We also need to encourage reverse commuting to undo the massive area bottlenecks and offer telecommuting as a solution.

How can our Delegate help the County deal with the rising costs of schools and education?
Ensure that funding education is a priority. Work to change the funding formula to direct more Northern Virginia dollars are direct to Northern Virginia.

There has been a lot of discussion about Dominion and power lines, what can our Delegate actually do about this if the SCC and Federal Government have pre-empted so much action on this issue?
We can petition our state and federal elected officials, as well as the governor, both to reverse this decision, force the undergrounding of power lines if they must be built, and, alternatively, have the area in question declared a federal heritage area. We are not without recourse and I will be the principle advocate of the needs of our community.
(Technorati Tag: )

Developers Rushing Loudoun Applications

There is a story in LoudounExtra about developers pushing a large and varied number of applications through the County planning process in the hopes of getting them approved before a new Board takes office.
Developers and other companies are rushing to have their projects approved by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors before the end of the year, fearing a shift to a slow-growth board after the Nov. 6 election could hamper their plans.

In the six weeks between the election and the end of the term, the board is expected to consider more than 50 items, so many that at least one extra public hearing has been scheduled to get through them. Not all the items involve development, but the meeting agendas include six controversial cellphone towers and three large developments that could add thousands of homes to the county.

Plowing through 50 items in that period is unprecedented, and the timing of some of the more contentious projects is suspicious, said board Chairman Scott K. York (I).

“I think that some of this stuff — not all of it — has been put on hold by the applicant for the pure purpose to end up after the election but to be voted on before the end of this board’s term,” he said. - LoudounExtra
(With a tip-o-the-hat to Lansdowne...and Out in the Open.)

The question is whether the Board will side with the residents, who have shown a clear desire for controlled, smart growth, or the developers who fund them. There are surely some good developments among the 50 pending review, as observed by Sally Kurtz, "Good projects are going to be good projects even though they have public scrutiny. When they are controversial and appear to be rushed through, you’ve got to wonder." (quoted in the LoudounExtra article)

Some of these projects will directly impact our lives here in Leesburg, as the traffic to the East of town may be widely affected.
And not to be outdone, Thursday’s Washington Post also informed us that McLean Bible Church, the mega-congregation located just outside of Tyson’s Corner on Route 7, is planning to lease space for Sunday morning services at the Prison Fellowship Building on Woodridge Parkway (just down the street from the Lansdowne Resort). Granted, it is only Sunday traffic, but if anyone has tried to negotiate traffic in Tyson’s when the church is letting out, the snarls there can rival the worst rush-hour gridlock. - Lansdowne...and Out in the Open
Will the Board be able to truly consider the merits of all of these applications in the time remaining in its term? Will they be able to solicit and internalize the public comments which are so vital to our system of local government? Or will they adhere merely to the letter of the law, and leave the next Board with four dozen approved developments to manage?

Will the Republicans once again leave a giant mess for the Democrats to clean up?

It is important to note that the Democrats running for Board of Supervisors are not against any development, they are against rushed development, bad development, and developers who seek to make deals and solicit promises in the back rooms of Loudoun. There is no question that we are a growing county, with growing needs, and that means investment in our physical infrastructure: buildings, roads, facilities, schools and the like. Those investments are going to be built by private companies - developers - and done correctly, will benefit Loudoun residents for generations to come.

The issue is doing development well. The Democratic party is the party of responsible, accountable government, and our candidates for Board of Supervisors stand for responsible, accountable development.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Colbert Outpolls the Republicans

We have reason to have faith in the future of America. We have reason to believe we might yet recover from the nadir in our Republic that is the Bush Administration.

Colbert Pulls in Double-Digits -- But Not Necessarily from Dems
Over at Open Left Chris Bowers picks out an interesting tidbit from the poll: Republicans actually run third behind Clinton and Colbert among younger voters, a truly remarkable development.
The remarkable thing is not that Colbert beats the Republicans among young voters, it is that Democrats beat Colbert among young voters.

On issues like gay marriage, we will win, thanks to time. In the words of President Bartlett "Demographics are destiny, and the kids don't care." Young people are Democratic, their population is growing, and their (our?) values of tolerance and self-directed help for others are closely aligned with the principles for which the Democratic Party stands.

Grippy indeed.

An Interlude: The Orange Vest

In honor of one of my favorite new corners of the Internet, The Scofflaw's Den, I offer my own contribution to the land of libations.

The Orange Vest
0.5 oz Peach Schnapps
0.5 oz Amaretto
0.5 oz Bourbon (note: not Jack Daniels, please!)

This drink was conceived in honor of UVa's trip to the Peach Bowl in 1995. It is quite sweet, and can be balanced into a full drink with the addition of Coca Cola.

Come To Leesburg For Halloween

The Loudoun County Democrats are excited and enthusiastic about our candidates for election on November 6th. The last big political event of the year is coming up, and it isn't what you expect.

The Leesburg Halloween Parade is the longest running Halloween parade in the Commonwealth, and always yields a big turn out in local officials. Last year, Democrats (such as myself) had the distinct pleasure of being able to shout "Go Jim Webb!" as then-Senator Allen walked by, with a sheepish look on his face. This year, a remarkable slate of Democrats will be marching together in the parade (starting at 6pm on North King Street in Leesburg, by the entrance to Ida Lee), marching to take back Loudoun from the corrupt and arrogant Board majority currently in control. Together with the candidates, teams of volunteers will also be marching and handing out candy to the children who line the parade route.


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This parade is a big deal in Loudoun. Last year, the lack of enthusiasm for George Allen could be felt along the route a week before the election, and Jim Webb went on to win his Senate seat in part because of his victory in Loudoun County. This year, Loudoun votes will help make the difference in returning the Assembly to the Democrats, as Jay Donahue, Bruce Roemmelt, and Marty Martinez, along with Karen Schultz in Senate district 27 turn four seats from Red to Blue.

Part of the key to the parade, and driving enthusiasm and turnout on election day in Loudoun, is crowd support. While many of us will be marching in the parade, we also need people in the crowds cheering for our candidates as they walk by. Enthusiasm is contagious, as is voting Democratic. So if you live within driving distance of Leesburg, come to the parade and cheer us on!

Besides, you never know who might show up.

Scott York's Endorsements

Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York has endorsed five challengers in this year's elections: Kelly Burk, Jeanne West, Andrea McGimsey, Stevens Miller, Susan Buckley.



There is a practical majority looking for change in County Government, change for the better.

Loudoun County Democratic Endorsements

Here are your Democratic Party endorsed candidates for the November 6th elections!

State Senate - Mark R. Herring, Karen K. Schultz
State Delegate - Jay P. Donahue, David E. Poisson, Bruce E. Roemmelt, Marty Martinez

Commonwealth's Attorney - John P. Flannery (write-in)
Sheriff - Mike George
Treasurer - Charles A. "Chuck" Harris
Water and Soil Conservation - Peter C. Rush
School Board at-large - Herbert L. Bryan
Sterling Supervisor - Jeanne R. West

Sugarland Run Supervisor - Susan Klimek Buckley
Sugarland Run School Board - Ryan A. Myers

Potomac Supervisor - Andrea C. McGimsey
Potomac School Board - John B. Stevens Jr.

Broad Run Supervisor - Phyllis J. Randall

Dulles Supervisor - Stevens R. Miller
Dulles School Board - Kevin J. Turner

Leesburg Supervisor - C. Kelly Burk
Leesburg School Board - Tom Marshall

Catoctin Supervisor - Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz

Blue Ridge School Board - Priscilla B. Godfrey

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Subsidizing County Recreation

Even as Supervisors debate moving the county government from Leesburg, the Town continues to basically subsidize the county recreation budget. The Town of Leesburg is responsible for the management and operation of Ida Lee Recreation Center, but County residents are offered full privileges at the center for the same price as Town residents. This arrangement was put in place when Ida Lee was built, and the agreement between the Town and the County is set to expire on January 1, 2009.
Town Agreement with Loudoun County for Use of Ida Lee Recreation Center
The Town and Loudoun County have both named a group who will sit down to discuss the relationship going forward allowing County residents to use Ida Lee Rec Center at the same price schedule as Town residents. The agreement establishing that relationship was made in 1998 for a period of 20 years, which will end January 1, 2009. At that point, County residents may be required to pay a different price scale to use the facility. The driver on this issue is a long range plan to potentially expand Ida Lee Rec Center to the tune of $15 million. If County residents are able to continue to use Ida Lee, there will be a need for expansion of the facility. If County resident usage declines (due to higher prices for County residents and a potential drop-off in County usage) or is no longer allowed, the need to expand Ida Lee will not be an issue and therefore not an expense (or as great an expense) for the Town to incur. - Vice Mayor Susan Horne, in an update to her constiutents in Woodlea Manor
Parks and Recreation is a major issue for County residents west of Leesburg. At the LWV debate lat month, residents of Western Loudoun asked the candidates about the stalled status of parks, fields and recreation facilities in Western Loudoun. To date, the primary, full-service, public recreation center available for western Loudoun is Ida Lee, in Leesburg.

The good news is that the Town and the County are talking, and talking early, about what it will take to insure the needs of the Town, and western Loudoun residents, are both met in a new, fair deail.
Members of the Leesburg Parks & Recreation Commission met with representatives from the county parks and recreation department Saturday to discuss the pending expiration of the 1990 town/county agreement that prevents Leesburg from charging higher user rates for out-of-town customers at Ida Lee Park. Citing the need to not catch Ida Lee users off guard, the town and county have already begun talks about whether that type of deal would continue. - Leesburg Today
The bad news is the Town and the County have differing ideas about how to accommodate those needs.
Dentler said that, if the town and county make a new agreement, an expansion to the recreation center would be necessary to keep up with the growing population of the county.

"Within two years of the 2002 expansion the recreation center was built out," Dentler said. "We thought it would take 10 years. We would need to expand the building another 50,000 square feet," to continue to accommodate county and town residents.

Dentler said that another potential expansion could cost around $20 million. The 2002 expansion, which totaled $9 million, was paid for exclusively by the town.

But county representatives cited financial concerns, and say that they have not allotted money for a recreation center comparable to Ida Lee in their 10-year plan. County parks and recreation department director Diane Ryburn said that the Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling and two others set to open in the coming years could give county residents more options. - Leesburg Today
In order for Ida Lee to continue serving the (growing) resident population of western Loudoun, the facilities would need to expand. In order to do this, money must be made available. If the County would be willing and able to fund an expansion, the rates for County residents at Ida Lee could remain the same as Leesburg residents. If the County is unwilling to fund an expansion, then rates for non-Town residents using Ida Lee would have to increase. Considering the fact that the Town funded the last expansion entirely on its own, and did not increase the fees to non-Town residents to do so, County residents received, in effect, a "free ride" on town Taxpayer expense.

In this manner has Leesburg effectively subsidized County recreation for the past few years. Some of the cost of parks and recreation which would otherwise have been borne by the County, have been borne by Leesburg.

(Incidentally, this is another area in which the Leesburg Supervisor, Jim Clem, has shown neither leadership, nor care for the Town's taxpayers.)

The Town has shown leadership in stating, up front, that the Council's preference is for the rates to remain the same for County residents, and by starting the negotiations for a new agreement fourteen months in advance of the expiration of the current agreement. If the County has no budget for western recreation, and no budget to fund an expansion of Ida Lee, then it is the County's responsibility if rates must increase for County residents at Ida Lee.

It will be interesting to hear if Jim Clem and Frank Holtz have anything to say on this issue.

The beginning of a solution to the Town/County divide is available to Leesburg's residents: elect Kelly Burk to the Board of Supervisors. On the Board, Kelly will use her experience from the Town Council to bridge the gap between the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County. She as already proven her ability to do so in the creation of a joint committee with Town and County residents to review water rates for non-Town residents served by Town water. This kinda of collaborative, practical problem-solving is what we need to bring to the Board of Supervisors.

Loudoun Traffic Complaints

I want to provide a link to a great piece on Loudoun County Traffic. There, it is explained where to complain about traffic and lights here in Loudoun.
Well Jim M., according to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, you can send non-emergency traffic information to their online "traffic complaint form" where you can submit info about traffic lights, speeding, stop signs or other traffic complaints. You even get to submit the location and a detailed description. - Loudoun County Traffic
Loudoun Traffic also provides a link to the complaint form.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flannery for Commonwealth's Attorney

Write-in campaigns invariably face remarkable obstacles and rarely succeed, but sometimes an incumbent is so in need of replacement, a write-in campaign catches fire and succeeds. It is possible Jim Plowman is just such an incumbent.
John P. Flannery, a Leesburg attorney and former chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, announced today his write-in candidacy to become the county’s top prosecutor. Until now, Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman has been unopposed for reelection.

Flannery said he decided to challenge Plowman last week after a judge dismissed charges against a former state Senate candidate accused of falsifying his campaign finance statements. Mark D. Tate was indicted by a grand jury three weeks before the June Republican primary. - LoudounExtra
John P. Flannery is a superior candidate for Commonwealth's attorney. His experience as a Federal Prosecutor will serve Loudoun well. His dedication to making sure the right people are caught and prosecuted, is an asset of critical importance in these times when politcians seek to demonize the undefended to gain political points.

For example, this is from a letter he wrote to the Washington Post in 2005.
When I was sworn in as a federal prosecutor, I was instructed, in the words of former Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland, that the prosecuting attorney "may prosecute with earnestness and vigor -- indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one."

Sadly, Virginia is not unique in disregarding those sage words. But the remedy is clear. Virginia should put an end to ambush prosecutions and to the prosecutorial practice of withholding evidence, especially evidence exclusively within the government's control. Defendants deserve to know about witnesses who have deals with the government and anything else that sheds light on their guilt or innocence. Defendants should also have a right to depose witnesses before trial, to avoid surprise at trial. Finally, evidence of a crime should never be destroyed while the person is awaiting execution or is incarcerated. These are matters of simple justice -- but it is justice that so far has been elusive in Virginia. - John P. Flannery
This man deserves to beat the odds and be our next Commonwealth's Attorney in Loudoun County.

If nothing else, I bet he fixes the link to the Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney site on the Loudoun Government website.

If you need more evidence of why we need people like John Flannery in our Justice system, just read this.

[update] RaisingKaine has the detailed story. It includes John's FOIA request for Jim Plowman's records on the case.

Frank Holtz Running for Town Council

Leesburg Today reports that Frank Holtz, who is currently the campaign manager for Jim Clem, will be running for Leesburg Town Council next year.
Although voters working to sort through the campaign rhetoric for next month's local election, one Leesburg resident already is looking ahead to May's municipal balloting.

Frank Holtz, a 12-year Leesburg [sic, Leesburg Today probably meant "Leesburg Resident" -P13], today became the first candidate to announce his candidacy for a town council seat. - Leesburg Today
This begs two questions.

1. Why is Frank Holtz announcing his own campaign before the campaign he's working on is even over? And what does that say about his priorities?

2. Will Frank Holtz run his own campaign against the Town the way he has run Jim Clem's campaign against the Town?

Reform the State Corporation Commission

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is the latest government entity to be raised as a scapegoat for problems that the current Assembly leadership brought upon themselves. This time, the SCC was excoriated for its oversight of the company that operates the Dulles Greenway. Today, the SCC hit back.
The chairman of Virginia's State Corporation Commission has rebuffed a request by a state House candidate to suspend toll increases approved for the Dulles Greenway. ... Morrison said the SCC only has jurisdiction over the local operator — Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) — not over its investors.

"This is exactly the same way our regulation of all public service corporations is accomplished," he wrote. "For example, we regulate the rates and service of Virginia Electric and Power Company, but we cannot and do not analyze or consider the finances of its beneficial owner, Dominion Resources Inc., in fulfilling our regulatory responsibilities." - LoudounExtra
Under existing legislation, the SCC limits its oversight to the entity operating the public asset, and usually ignores the ownership behind that entity. Thus, the entity operating the Greenway, TRIPP II, can be operating at a loss, leading to the approval of higher tolls, even if the Australian parent company is itself profitable. The SCC has in fact done its duty in acting within the law and avoiding an expensive lawsuit against the state, which would have been a likely outcome if the toll increases had been denied.

The SCC only exercises as much authority as the Assembly grants it. For the past eight years, the Republicans have been in control of both houses of the Assembly, and have had numerous opportunities to give the SCC direction and authority to look more deeply into the companies that own the enities that provide Virginia public goods such as insurance, power and roads. The Republican Assembly, in their wisdom, has chosen to keep the SCC limited in its oversight powers, and not incidentally, the Republican Attorney General, Bob McDonnell is able to use his independent authority to investigate the Australian parent company.

In fact the Republican Assembly has previously sought to eviscerate the important oversight function that the SCC provides, and was only prevented from doing so by a veto from Governor Kaine earlier this year.
The Governor vetoed House Bill 1755, which would eliminate the requirement that the State Corporation Commission approve the acquisition or disposal of the assets or control of a telephone company.

“Such a change would represent a significant deviation from established practice and remove an important layer of oversight that the SCC has long exercised to protect Virginia customers,” said Governor Kaine. “Access to telephone service continues to be vital for residents across the Commonwealth, and it is imperative that we act reasonably to ensure that this access is not diminished. - Governor Kaine Announces Action on General Assembly Legislation
The SCC should be given the flexibility and authority to broaden its oversight and investigation of the companies that deliver public goods and services to Virginians. Health insurance, electrical power and transportation are critical issues facing Virginia, and the state needs more, not less, information about the companies that drive so much of the action in these areas. This is not a call for more regulation, merely more transparancy and more information on which rational and effective public policy an be based. Transparency and disclosure only comes from active legal tools and entities dedicated to informing the public.

In order to reform the SCC, we need to change the Assembly. That means electing new leaders in the Assembly, by electing Democratic candidates to the Assembly.

Electrical Regulation - Clarification

These limits on the SCC have a wide impact. For example, Leesburg Tomorrow discussed the regulation of electricity in Virginia in the Greenway posting on October 17th. Since then, the SCC has graciously clarified the state of electrical regulation in Virginia. My thanks to the hardworking state employees who do their best to make sure the facts are accurate in discussions of public policy.

And so, a clarification of the state of electrical regulation in Virginia.

In the latest legislative session, The General Assembly ended the availability of electrical competition, due to the lack of competitive rates and vendors entering the market after it was deregulated. The Assembly chose to pass a bill providing a modified form of re-regulation of the electrical market in Virginia. This new monitoring and regulation by the SCC creates incentives for conservation and diversity, instead of mandating rate-of-return profitability. However, the structure and nature of these incentives were suggested by the utilities themselves (read: Dominion Power), and were accepted by the Assembly.

During the debate over this bill, the SCC told the Assembly that the new model would be likely to mean higher electrical rates than traditional rate-of-return regulation. The Assembly chose to approve the new model. After amending the bill to increase incentives for conservation and clean generation, Governor Kaine signed it into law.

[update] Living in LoCo has some additional commentary on the SCC discussion.

Clem - Holtzman, Birds Of A Feather

The end of the 2007 campaign is nearly upon us (only two weeks remain until November 6th), and the true colors of our candidates are starting to show.

For example, Supervisor Jim Clem, recently received a $1000 donation from William B. Holzman, the owner of an oil company and father of erstwhile state senate candidate Jill Holtzman-Vogel.

Holtzman-Vogel's candidacy has been a series of controversies, legal battles and, skipped debates. Jim Clem is taking money from her father, in an effort to withstand the strong challenge from teacher and Leesburg Town Coucil member Kelly Burk.

It is simply remarkable that the Supervisor who appeared so incensed when he failed to get his majority colleagues on the Board to vote against push-polling would associate himself with Jill Holtzman-Vogel, a candidate who was involved in electoral dirty tricks in Pennsylvania. It is remarkable that a Supervisor who claims to be in favor of public debates between opponents is associating with a candidate who has failed to debate so regularly. It is remarkable that Jim Clem would choose to take money from the same people as a candidate who sought to restrict free speech as the chief counsel for the RNC in 2004.

It is the end of the campaign, and the true colors of Jim Clem are beginning to show. Follow the money to Jim Clem's real friends.

York Quits Service Star

Exactly three weeks from an election that will determine the future of development in Loudoun County, County Chairman Scott York has stepped down from his position with the developer Service Star. Leesburg Today has the story:
County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) confirmed today that he is leaving his position as executive vice president with Service Star Development Company.

York said that he is wrapping up work this week on pending projects. The firm is based in Colorado and York was responsible for projects in the Mid-Atlantic region.

York's employment with the company, which developed two retail centers in Loudoun, has given rise to allegations that his elected position helped the company clear regulatory hurdles in connection with one Ashburn project, a charge he called "absurd." - Leesburg Today
Scott York has grown in office as Chairman, and withstood adversity when his powers were stripped by Bruce Tulloch, Jim Clem, Eugene Delgaudio, Stephen Snow and Mick Staton. From a backround in real estate, he has come to stand against the excesses in development in Loudoun to the point where he is strongly endorsed by Voters for Loudoun's Future. Today, he took a remarkable step away from the developers and towards the citizens by giving up his job with a company that has been involved in two relatively minor shopping center developments in Loudoun.

Given the appearance of conflict which could be interpreted by York's employment by Service Star, he should be commended for resigning from that company. It is remarkable to note that when questioned on the ethics of his employment, Chairman York quit his full-time job, even after repeatedly recusing himself from votes and discussions which may impinge on his employer, rather than let such a potential conflict stand. Meanwhile, the Gang of Five continues to take money from developers, and vote on issues that impact those developers' business.

In American democracy, the voters are asked to select the better of two options. The system is based on the idea of balancing interests. Given the choice between Mike Firetti and Scott York, the choice is clear. York for Chairman.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Loudoun's Dead Links

We are three weeks from a critical election in Loudoun County, and the County launches a new website today?
County Website Has New Look

The Loudoun County Website has a new look!

The new design is intended to make it easier for users to find the information they want, and to give the website a fresher, more attractive look.

As part of the redesign process, the county website has converted to a content management system that will enable the county to add new information to the website more efficiently, and will allow for more interactivity with users.

We are making every effort to make the transition to the new design occur as smoothly as possible. But if you need to report broken links or any other functions that are not working properly, please e-mail the Loudoun County Webmaster. - Loudoun County website
Leesburg Tomorrow would like to report that almost all of our links have been broken by this change. These links provided crucial primary source evidence for so many of the issues and positions discussed here.

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At a minimum, old links should still route to some kind of "sorry, search here" page on the Loudoun County website, instead of returning a "404 not found" error, which is what they do now.

An Interlude: Resident Poll

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This utterly unscientific and therefore nearly worthless poll does illustrate an interesting point. Though the actual percentage of undocumented migrants in Loudoun County is somewhere between 3% and 5%, a large plurality of poll respondents believe the number to be much higher than that (5% or above).

Thus, people are grouping the documented migrant population with the undocumented migrant population, and in doing so judging people by group and not by individual.

We are better than that.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fish and SCHIPs

There is an almost throwaway story in the news this morning about The Executive's promotion of recreational fishing and Executive Order limiting commercial fishing of two popular types of sport fish. It was the subject of his weekly radio address, and today he is taking a recreational fishing trip on the Chesapeake.

After the bruising political battles over SCHIP of the past few weeks, it may seem odd that the President is taking such a sharp turn from that issue towards one as mundane as recreational fishing. And such a turn from such a calculating adminstration is enough to make us wonder whether something fishy is going on. (The jokes only get worse folks.)

With Bush's approval rating continuting to crater through historic lows, the narrowness of Bush's success at scuttling an override of his SCHIP veto must have served as a wake-up call to this, the most politically tone-deaf administration in years. Only 13 votes stand between President Bush and relative political irrelevance. At times like these it is critical for a President to shore up his base. Without the support of a fixed minority, the President will be unable to sustain the 1/3 + 1 support in the House of Representative he needs to obstruct progress on national priorities like Iraq, health insurance and civil liberties.

And that brings the discussion back to fish. During the 2004 election, when every news outlet in America was looking to get an interview with President Bush, (and he was turning them down) one relatively obscure network got a 1 hour exclusive with the President: The Outdoor Life Network (which has since becom Versus).
Bush goes fishing for votes on OLN

Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Aug 10, 2004 by David Bauder Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Roland Martin reeled in a big one for his weekly fishing show on the Outdoor Life Network.

Baiting a hook beside him on a dock in Crawford, Texas, was President Bush, whose leisurely afternoon casting for bass was chronicled for "Fishing With Roland Martin" in an episode that first aired on Friday. (It re-airs Wednesday and Thursday at 4:30 p.m. MDT.) - Deseret News
For The Executive, the relationship between fishing and the SCHIP veto is immediate and obvious. All President Bush needs to do is retain enough support from voters in a handful of critical Congressional districts to allow those Republicans in Congress to keep sustaining his vetoes. But there is a floor below which his approval ratings cannot be allowed to fall, for fear of losing even those handful of Republicans necessary to sustain his vetoes.

And so the President issues an extremely targeted, extremely political Executive Order, and goes fishing on the Chesapeake for a day. The President's objective is not conservation of a natural resource, nor drawing attention to an issue, but rather the objective of goosing up his approval rating a few percentage points in a few key Congressional districts so that those Republicans will continute to sustain his vetoes and stand in the way of progress.

The Executive knows that it will not take much for someone to swing from 49% "like" to 51% "like," and that is all it takes to swing a disapprove to approve in some polls. And The Executive also knows that a mind can be nudged by a reminder of why so many of his voters liked him in the first place. Perhaps a few thousand recreational fisherman will think differently about the President on Monday, and perhaps that is all it will take.

We are lucky, however, that for all the President's targeted politics with this effort, we are rewarded with the ability to counter. The President is going fishing this weekend, fishing for approval, and fishing for support.

Let's all remember what happened the last time he went fishing.

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Anchor of Bush's fishing boat gets stuck
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — President Bush's presidency is stuck in low gear. On Sunday, his fishing boat was stuck on stop.

Fellow Republicans may not be rushing to rescue his legislative agenda, but the Secret Service bailed Bush out of a jam when his boat anchor got wedged in rocks along the Atlantic Coast. - USA Today
With his approval sinking ever lower after his veto, the image of The Executive ship wedged and sinking is only more apt.

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Interlude: Daily Show Archives

Hell yeah.

Daily Show Archives Appear Online

And a link to the Archive:

Watch Daily Show Video Clips Online

Ah memories, like when a full 33% of Americans approved of the President.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dick Black for Congress?

There's news from LoudounExtra that Dick Black (of "BlackOut" fame) is seriously considering a run for the 1st District Congressional seat held until recently by Jo Ann Davis.
Richard H. Black, a conservative Republican from Loudoun County who served four terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, said today that he has rented a house in Fredericksburg and is considering a run for U.S. Congress.

Black said he expects to announce soon his bid to fill the 1st Congressional District seat that was held by Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R), who died Oct. 7 of breast cancer. Her successor will be selected in a special election that has not yet been scheduled. - LoudounExtra
Dick Black was defeated in 2005 by Delegate Dave Poisson, thus replacing a conservative ideologue, who made opposition to a woman's right to choose the cornerstone of his political philosophy, with a Democrat dedicated to such issues as the well-being of our troops.

This means a likely primary between Rep. Davis's widower husband and one of the most aggressive, arrogant Delegates ever to serve in Richmond. It is further evidence of the Republican Party of Virginia tearing itself apart between its radical and its reasonable wings. And the radicals are winning.

Here's an exceprt of what the 1st District has to expect from this candidate.
Delegate Black also spends time in the interview repeating the discredited claims of one of his star witnesses, pseudo-sociologist Paul Cameron. Black said, "The fact [sic] is, in children that have a homosexual parent, approximately 29% of children are molested by that parent. That contrasts with .6 percent of normal parents....a 50 to 1 increase in risk for molestation." No reputable scientific study backs up these claims. Black continues by saying, "No structure is more unstable than a homosexual relationship." - Democracy for Virginia
The 1st District can do a lot better than a man who makes things up to support his ideology.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Not Larry Sabato's Not Eve Marie Barner. And here's a link to the VA-01 Race Tracker.)

The 11% Narrative

It has been widely reported that Congress is only viewed favorably by 11% of Americans today. That is a shameful, horrible figure. What is worse is the fact that it is at least partially the result of the narrative about Congress that has been constructed in the past five years. It is impossible for Congress to get a fair shake, no matter what they do, because the narrative constructed about Congressional "inaction" does not account for the fact that "inaction" is the essence of our system of government. Until a majority of Americans are reminded that there are limits on Congressional action, just as there are (or should be) limits on Presidential action, Congressional approval will always lag Presidential approval, and horribly so.

The news media is inherently biased towards action and conflict. Action and conflict sell papers and retain eyeballs, and typically precedes accuracy in reporting. This is the reason that political reporting is so focused on horse races. Policies and facts are merely important, not interesting. Congress, as an institution is fundamentally a place where action and conflict are diluted and restrained. It runs on deliberation and incrementalism.

Thus, in the interest of selling papers and ads on television, media coverage of our government will always have an inherent bias towards the Executive branch, due to the fact that that branch has far more freedom of action and capability for conflict than the legislative branch.

The "slow, obstructionist Congress" narrative operates regardless of the reality of circumstances. For example, did you know that our Democratic Congress is on pace to call over 1000 roll call votes this year? The House of Representatives has already broken the 1978 record for votes (942).
Democrats say they're living up to promises made during the 2006 campaign, when they said they would worker harder, remain in session more days and hold more votes on American priorities.

“Not only did we finish the work the previous Congress left undone, we advanced our new direction agenda, with nearly 70 percent of our key measures receiving significant bipartisan support," said Kristie Greco, spokesman for House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). - Politico.com
By the standards set during the Republican Congress of the Bush Administration, the present Congress has been remarkably active in doing the people's business. But this fact lies buried in a corner blog of a political website.

Furthermore, Congress has been doing more because that is what Americans say they want.

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(Pew Survey, "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007")


The voters support more programs and help for people who cannot help themselves. And that is what the Democratic Congress has been doing.
Recent successes include passage of the Student Loan Bill, implementing all the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, returning the proper role of the Senate to the appointment of U.S. Attorneys, raising the minimum wage, funding quality treatment of our wounded soldiers and funding water projects that have gone unfunded throughout the Bush administration. - Leesburg Tomorrow, September 13, 2007
Instead of reports about the bills which have passed, become law, and are on their way to making the lives of Americans a little bit easier, the narrative is focused on those two or three areas which retain the drama of action and conflict: Iraq and now SCHIP.

It is undeniable that Congress should be acting to mitigate the evils to which our excursion into Iraq trend. On this, the most critical issue before our country, Congress has been too timid. (We can only be grateful that Senator Jim Webb is speaking for the Virginians serving abroad with force and authority.)

But to say Congress should be acting is not the same as saying the Democratic Leadership has done nothing. On the contrary, the Democratic Leadership in Congress has led on the issues critical to Iraq. In fact, a majority in Congress has voted, many times, to reduce our role in Iraq, scale back the mission, or at a minimum, allow our soldiers as much time at home as they spend abroad. In each case, the Republicans blocked progress. In fact, the Republicans have blocked progress more frequently than any Congressional minority in history. (Including one Senator with more than 100 holds.) The Democratic Leadership has been able to lead on important issues and pass important bills, in spite of the monolithic obstruction of the Republican minority.

If there is a narrative which is in concert with the facts it is that of overcoming remarkable opposition and adversity to do the business of the American people.

But that narrative does not sell advertising.

And so, even as the news is dominated for the next day by the failure to override President Bush's SCHIP veto, please take notice of how many times the override is explained in terms of the missing Republican votes in the House of Representatives. Please listen closely to hear if the story explains that an overwhelming majority in Congress voted in favor of this bill, multiple times, but a handful of obstructionist Republicans stood in the way of childrens' health insurance. And as you do that, please listen for any indication that the media makes note of the fact that this bill could have easily become law, insuring the children, if only President Bush had been willing to compromise.

Rather, the coverage will read like this:
House Democrats were unable Thursday to override President Bush's veto of their pre-election year effort to expand a popular government health insurance program to cover 10 million children.

The bill had bipartisan support but the 273-156 roll call was 13 votes short of the two-thirds that majority supporters needed to enact the bill into law over Bush's objections. The bill had passed the Senate with a veto-proof margin. - The Associated Press, via NPR
Nevermind that there was a strong bipartisan majority and the Democrats were able to muster unity in their caucus to override the veto. Nevermind that it was actually the failure of the Republicans to muster enough votes for a veto. This is a failure of "House Democrats." Nevermind that Congress has voted dozens of times, through committees and hearings and procedural motions, to move this program forward, to fund it, and to make it the law of the land. This is a failure of "House Democrats." Because the 11% narrative must be maintained.

But at the end of the day, the override failed because the system worked the way it is supposed to work. The rights of the minority were retained, the passions of the moment were diluted and Congress forced into more deliberation. And that is the narrative which is missing from our national media discourse.

Glenn Smith gets the last word.
Of course, it would be as damaging to idealize the legislative branch as it is to hero-worship a president. Congress is not a team, it is a meeting place for competing teams, and so its actions are, by design, contentious and argumentative. In this context, it is supposed to produce "good enough" laws and inhibit tyrannies of either majorities or minorities. It should be responsive enough that all of us can consent to its decisions even as we might work passionately to overturn them. - The Rockridge Institute