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Virginia

Virginia School Board Members Weigh Tax Authority

by: Dan Sullivan

Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 08:11:29 AM EDT

Waynesboro High School photo 130203WaynesboroHighSchool_zpsb2f61365.gifIt isn't a formal proposal just yet, but it could move that direction at the September Legislative Advocacy Conference of the Virginia School Board Association (VBSA). Under the radar, school board members are questioning whether the Virginia Constitution allows the legislature to grant tax authority to school districts.

In a number of conversations that began during the McDonnell administration's efforts to strangle the budget in order to boast fiscal austerity and have intensified as the effects have manifest, school board members across the Virginia have floated concepts of revenue generation to meet shortfalls that are starving maintenance and operational funding. Because there is no standard for engineering studies and no requirement to maintain a maintenance reserve, there is no practical measure of unfunded liabilities. In the short run, that masks the accumulating real deficit.  

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Remote Area Medical Treats America's Other World

by: Dan Sullivan

Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:14:43 AM EDT

 photo 140720WiseRAM_2_zpse6420519.jpgIt is been called a field hospital, but really isn't. There is some minor surgery, mostly dental, but most care falls into more clinical than surgical. An impressive endeavor in any case and outclasses any medical or dental activity the U.S. military routinely provides overseas. That was striking.

Odd what catches one's attention. The nice tents and orderly processes were expected. What caught my eye was the condition of the Wise County Fairgrounds as the Remote Area Medical (RAM) effort came to an end. The clients left the grounds far tidier than I would have ever expected. In fact, quite clean. A sign of respect? Or just the nature of people in this part of Virginia. Everywhere you go people are friendlier and more open to strangers than in more urban areas.

At the close of this RAM I was told that the last count at mid-morning had been 2,700 and that the total was likely near last year's 3,000 treated. The numbers are misleading. At every RAM, people are turned away and there is no accurate count of those. If the capacity supported more, the numbers would have some meaning. What is clear is that demand is growing either from awareness or economic conditions.

What I didn't know is that Wise is just one of three clinics that RAM has organized in far Southwest Virginia this year. Next: Jonesville, Virginia; 13 - 14 September. Then: Grundy, Virginia; 4 - 5 October. What I didn't expect was the efficiency of the breakdown of the camp. I now want to take part in and watch the arrival and assembly. For those who want to volunteer, information is available at the RAM website. Note that you should register early as registration can close; it closed a month before the clinic in Wise.

Another thing I didn't realize: the State Fairgrounds at the center of Oklahoma City, The Seattle Center in, of course, Seattle, and the Manhattan Convention Center in New York City now qualify as "remote." New York City! Clinics will be held at those locations in August, October, and November respectively. What does this say about health care in the United States? I am not really sure other than something is amiss.  

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Video: Verona, Virginia Protest Against Housing Migrant Children

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 14:10:47 PM EDT

If today's demonstration in Verona is any indication, the movement to ban migrant children from communities across the nation does not enjoy broad support. A report that such children were being administered at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center brought an immediate effort to organize a local protest for today.

But one story in Verona was that the counter-demonstration brought out just as many people who support following the laws regarding the processing of migrant children. Another story is that both groups got along without incident mostly by ignoring each other. They marched to the protest site, the highway 612 I-81 overpass, on opposite sides of the west bound lane. At the bridge, they kept their integrity, left and right of center.

Local tea party leader Dr. Edward Long claimed no role in organizing today's protest when contacted by the local newspaper. However, if t-shirt slogans and bumper stickers are any indication, the protesters share most of the tea party attitudes and political perceptions. Virginia Organizing member Barbara Lee indicated that group was involved in the counter-demonstration.

The press was there. The interviews were the normal shallow questions about the questions of the day. One interview with a woman who said she legally immigrated from Canada demonstrated a typical personal anecdotal depth of knowledge that is so lazily generalized. Her chief complaint seemed to stem from the requirement for her to have gone through a laborious and costly process to immigrate that migrants were managing to avoid. How quickly she has adapted the conservative attitude Lowell mentioned at the end of his piece about Senator Warren just yesterday. But the fact is that migrants who enter without application stand to face a much more laborious and costly experience with far less chance of success.

The other subject in which the protesters seem completely steeped is the human trafficking aspect of the issue. However, it seemed they were mixing and matching trafficking and transportation together so that it made more sense to them. Scratching the surface of any aspect of the current migrant situation does neither side of the debate any favors.

What should be apparent to all sides of this issue is that our current immigration system is antiquated and ineffective. They should be at their Congressional Representative's office demanding immigration reform, not grandstanding on a bridge shouting into the wind. And there won't be any progress at all if both sides continue to ignore each other.

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Spoons and Small Brushes Not Bulldozers and Backhoes

by: Dan Sullivan

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 09:40:24 AM EDT

First African Baptist Church photo 140718FirstAfricanBaptistChurch_1_zps887db9c9.jpgUnfortunately for the preservation of Virginia's African American history, Richmond's Mayor, a man of color and the book, is either morally corrupt or benignly ignorant. Doesn't matter which, the result may be the same. It is not surprising that a typical American does not value the history of a place.

But failure to grasp his own heritage is a mortal flaw. There are a few stories here. The ground under Shockoe Bottom is one. The legacy of what went on there and in Jackson Ward and throughout Richmond is another. That legacy screams for every effort to remedy the high unemployment among blacks in Richmond and the accompanying fratricide. A properly funded and directed school system and full-time employment opportunities should be job one. Instead, places for games that feather already well-healed nests and half million dollar studies of half-cocked ideas consume Richmond City revenues. Great photo ops, though.

"...we are totally opposed to a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. Agreeing to this demand by Mayor Jones and the developers he represents would clearly state the following position: Yes, the history is important, but not so much that we can't play games on top of it. And that would be a continuation of the same disrespect that formed the basis for the acceptance of slavery and the slave trade in the first place." - statement by Phil Wilayto and Anna Edwards of the Sacred Ground Project

Compound this with the arrogant, aloof stance that Richmond is immune from federal Section 106 regulations which is even more insulting than any tea party nullification rant. If Jones were Mayor of Jerusalem, he'd solve that whole Temple Mount thing by razing both al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock then build condos and concessions surrounding a miniaturized, motorized laser show of popular myths: Abraham and alternating sons; Moses (I know, I know, but authenticity is not important) delivering an Ark of the Covenant emanating lightning bolts; Jesus in a fit turning over tables; Mohammad gliding in on his horse; you get it, something for everyone.

Maybe the race to succeed Virginia state Senator Henry Marsh (D-16th) whose former district includes much of Richmond's East End will provide a vehicle for Delegates McQuinn (D-70th), whose current district encompasses less and Dance (D-63rd) whose current district covers none to help crystalize the debate. McQuinn seems to be able to straddle both sides of the issue, which hasn't been helpful and could make it quite a tango for Dance. Both probably believe Jones' endorsement would be to their advantage in the contest. In reality, electoral influence is likely the only reason any politician patronizes Jones. Developers seem to believe there are other purposes.

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Burned Once, Chesapeake Shouldn't Trust Dominion Virginia Power

by: Dan Sullivan

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 17:33:42 PM EDT

Kingston Fossil Plant retention overflow photo 140714CUAandSMagazine_zpsbe6e7335.jpgChesapeake is concerned. The City Manager indicates that this issue rises from the Dan River spill last February and the city's action to protect the Elizabeth River is not directed at Dominion. But there's history there and Dominion has provided no reason to trust its motives.

This isn't just Chesapeake's concern. The Elizabeth is really only a tidal estuary that runs to the mouth of the James River on the way to the Chesapeake Bay through Portsmouth and Norfolk. It is about six miles long. The Dan River spill created a 70 mile coating of toxic sludge. So this should have the attention of Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore too. But Chesapeake is center stage because it already knows how difficult it is to force Dominion Power to take responsibility for its mess.

Battlefield Golf Club was built using fly ash. Something the coal power industry has been advertising as a "good thing" in an attempt to rid itself of this pesky poisonous residue of energy production. Maybe if they can just spread all of it thin enough over hill and dale, insert it into concrete, and sweep it into wastewater systems no one will notice the damage. The proper cost of disposal has never been calculated into the cost of energy produced from coal. War on coal? How about coal's war on the planet?

Now almost five years into litigation over the damage caused during the Battlefield Golf Club construction, only one thing is clear: once any area is contaminated, you have to wait for a proper class to fall victim to the damage before anything can be recovered. That is essentially what is going on with the lawsuits over the golf course. For now the damage has been "limited" to the ground water under the golf course. And since the local residents have been connected to city water on Dominion's dime, the judge has basically said that they have not been damaged. The Environmental Protection Agency's findings of that limited damage have actually helped the defendants' case(s). Residents will have to wait for cancer, birth defects, or however this eventually manifests to demonstrate they have been harmed.  

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Do Anti-Obamacare Ads Increase Enrollment?

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM EDT

Anti-ACA Ad Spending photo 140712anti-ACAadspending_zps2ac991b7.pngThough intended to serve at least two purposes, the $450 million spent on anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) ads have failed their purpose(s) and may have unintentionally informed the uninsured that they have a path to healthcare coverage. The other intent, to support Republican candidates by inference, may also backfire.

The correlation of negative ad spending to enrollment is not direct and is affected by demographics, but research prepared by Brookings Institution fellow Niam Yaraghi provides some very interesting data. The chart for the television markets that encompass Virginia shows raw spending data from 2013 (national TV market map and data). This is not per capita data, so cannot be used for an accurate correlation, but it is informative. And Yaraghi does point out that the market where the highest per capita spending occurred, Washington, D.C., had the highest Obamacare enrollment rate, 11%.

In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future. People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.

What is also clear from the spending data is that this advertising is aimed at assisting Republicans in states with the most competitive mid-term Senate races: Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. The aim is probably as much voter suppression as it is support for the Republican candidates. In Virginia, these ads may influence the outcome of two Congressional races (7th and 10th) more than the U.S. Senate race not only because Senator Warner has a nuanced position on the ACA but also because his opponent is a cold fish.  

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How To Deal With the Voter Photo ID Requirement

by: Dan Sullivan

Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 12:09:57 PM EDT

Virginia Department of Elections photo 140709VADE_zps64613748.jpgI have warned that implementation of the new Virginia photo Voter ID requirement is mercurial. If it is not in black and white in the statute, then Mark Obenshain's position is that only he, as the sponsor, can interpret the law's intent. This promises further obfuscation and confusion through November.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) is twiddling its thumbs and whistling Dixie as it walks down a treacherous path to voter suppression. That is NOT the way to deal with this. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is certain at the Virginia Department of Elections (VADE), nee State Board of Elections. There will be an opportunity through a comment period on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall for the voter ID regulations beginning on or about the 14th of July. I don't see anything posted yet.

"The Code of Virginia requires that a voter shows a valid Virginia identification card. The state board, by regulation, now defines expired IDs - regardless of how much time has transpired since their expiration - as being expressly 'valid,' which, to my thinking, violates the plain meaning of the statute." - state Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)

This is the tip of the iceberg. The Registrars, as best I can tell, all have the equipment and software required to issue the new, otherwise useless, photo IDs. No voter, as far as I can tell, has obtained a new voter ID. The DPVA plan to facilitate obtaining IDs is completely dependent upon the rules remaining in stasis. That is pure folly. There are so many assumptions about implementation and no branch plans to compensate for failures of those assumptions. I have the solution, but first a bit of discussion.

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Responses to the Surge of Unaccompanied Children

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 09:38:26 AM EDT

Bob Goodlatte photo BobGoodlatte_zps8cbda6f5.jpg So now that Bob Goodlatte has visited the border and determined that all blame for the immigration crisis du jour rests squarely on President Obama's shoulders, maybe we can get to some substantive discussion. Dismissing Goodlatte's and Darrell Issa's grandstanding on its face, a well-considered, rational strategy is essential.

"Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama's lax immigration enforcement policies, and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally, many of whom are children from Central America." - Bob Goodlatte, R-VA 6th

This is a ridiculous and simple-minded assertion designed to play on prejudice and fear. The law that codified current policy toward unaccompanied minors, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was enacted in 2008 and signed by President Bush. Reagan administration policies in and subsequent neglect of countries in the Central American Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have directly led to the highest homicide rate per capita in the world. These governments cannot contend with rising levels of violence. Internally displaced persons constitute the bulk of those displaced but increasing numbers of people are crossing state boundaries in search of safety. However, criminal gangs are transnational, meaning there is no sanctuary obtained by crossing an adjacent border.

The TVPRA requires the establishment of standards for custody, creation of more child-friendly asylum procedures, and relaxation of eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ) visa status. These are simple internationally recognized expectations of humanitarian treatment. Do the critics believe that inhumane treatment of children for their first 72 hours or so in America will somehow discourage migration?  

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The Lies We Tell Ourselves About Migrants

by: Dan Sullivan

Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 07:17:44 AM EDT

July 4 at Monticello photo 140704July4atMonticello_zps2a5cb517.jpgImmigration status neither confers nor denies basic human rights. How anyone arrives in America does not affect their status as humans. We do not have a spotless record and to pretend we do is shameful. Fortunately not ubiquitous, our inexcusable cases of exploitation are a close kept family secret.

Happy Independence Day. This week none other than Rush Limbaugh began framing the right wing excuses for the behavior of Americans in Lawrenceville and, now, Murrieta, north of San Diego. The purpose of Ellis Island, he bloviated, was to halt the spread of disease; poking at a spot that sparks fervor aimed at the children who've crossed our border. He sarcastically mocked the words on the Statue of Liberty. And, he seemed to argue that we are not a nation of immigrants. Tell that to the 11% of Virginians who are.

Recently, while waiting for a connection after a cancelled flight in Budapest, I struck up a conversation with a woman who I'd heard speaking English. Turned out that she is in the process of establishing residency in Germany. A naturalized American citizen, her family immigrated to the United States from Estonia after World War II. It had been a struggle to gain that status and it only occurred by happenstance. Sitting in a park in devastated Tallinn, her father struck up a conversation about his dream with a nun who coincidentally was with a Catholic organization working with sponsors for immigrants to the United States.

The family was eventually granted entry status and guided to settle in a small northwest Pennsylvania town where there was a job for her father. It was a company town, essentially owned by his employer. To "help" them settle, they were given credit at the company stores, payment for which was automatically deducted from his wages. It did not take her mother long to come to the realization that they were gradually falling further and further into debt with small hope of escaping a spiral into tacit servitude.  

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Requiring Migrants to Drive Unlicensed and Uninsured

by: Dan Sullivan

Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 06:27:13 AM EDT

In the heyday of terrorism paranoia, the Virginia General Assembly changed the requirements for obtaining a driver's license. All House and Senate patrons were Republicans. They made proof of legal presence a requirement. Many Democrats were cowed into supporting this. The unintended consequences are apparent now; change the law!

While the grander issues of separating families through deportation, comprehensive immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and in-state tuition are terribly important, the day-to-day practical issue of transportation that allows migrants to support themselves and their families is most immediate for laborers. In many cases, persons whose status allows them to legally remain in the United States are prohibited from obtaining licenses under Virginia law.

"How, if you are allowed to work, are you not able to drive to work?" - Joseph Montano, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia

The consequences on a personal level are devastating. Virginians still in high school, working to support their families, end up taking court docket time, missing school, and paying fines that are doubly punitive. Teachers who take an interest in the welfare of their students often accompany them on their own time in an effort to provide at least support and some counsel. Out of necessity, many end up repeat offenders. Further, being responsible, they make an effort to follow the law by acquiring insurance. But as anyone who has experience in the shadows knows, there is only street justice there. Who knows if these often more expensive policies are even in force?

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The Quest for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by: Dan Sullivan

Tue Jul 01, 2014 at 09:58:38 AM EDT

What a difference a year makes. This time last year there was a sense that comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level may happen in some form. It would be sweeping and, like any compromise, not exactly what everyone wanted. Now we have something worse: only the noise of recrimination.

The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) met last year to map out the values and principles held by Virginians and provide a voice to Congress. But now what since reform appears dead in the water? Well, during the Obama administration, more than 2 million mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children have been deported; more deportations than in any previous administration. That number is hard to wrap your head around and does not convey the individual personal tragedies involved. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports 72,410 of those deported said that they had one or more U.S. born children. Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, then, have had their parents deported. So the VACIR has changed its tact and directed its energy toward pressuring the Obama administration to act since the House of Representatives has failed in its responsibilities. They are also looking at ways state legislators can address the issues.

11% of Virginians were born outside the United States. They, like all Virginians, need the tools and opportunities necessary to build strong families, healthy communities, and a culturally and economically thriving Virginia. For now VACIR is focused on four key areas:

Where do we even begin with Federal reform? The well is poisoned. I will disclose that my bias on this matter begins and ends with the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, Simpson-Mazzoli, and close personal experiences with immigration and naturalization. Some 3 million immigrants were granted amnesty in 1986. That is the precedent that those who are angry should focus on when crying about today's "failed policies." And the fact is that the reason for the current flood is not anything President Obama has done but a more pedestrian cause: it's the economy stupid; the economy in Honduras, El Salvador and the rest of Central and South America. Places where we meddled, then abandoned; the spawn of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy abetted by Ollie North and "company."

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DACA's Two Year Anniversary

by: Dan Sullivan

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 06:57:06 AM EDT

Two years ago following Congress's failure to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama issued an executive order providing some residents who arrived as children the ability to openly participate in and contribute to the economy. This is no free pass and not a path to citizenship. It deals with reality.

This anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) marks the beginning of a new cycle for its beneficiaries. This is a discretionary grant of relief from the threat of removal for a term of two years. The significance of that term today is that the first set of applicants are now in the window for renewal. Because it is not a permanent status, renewal applicants receive the same scrutiny as they did when first applying. Renewal is neither automatic nor certain in the long term. In the short term it assures the simple dignity of acknowledged existence.

For Virginians who achieve this status, there are three significant benefits that confer beyond blocking removal for a term. First, they can legally work. They receive a social security number. Next it provides the status required to obtain a driver's license even with the punitive Virginia statute establishing absurd presence requirements. And, almost two years after the status was established, thanks to an opinion by Attorney General Mark Herring, they may attend college as in-state residents.  

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ICE Detention Orders - Undermining Public Safety

by: Dan Sullivan

Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 10:53:01 AM EDT

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is an unreliable partner that crafted an unauthorized and unfunded detention mandate woven from the whole cloth of anti-immigrant bias to the detriment of local communities. It is time to focus on what local communities do well and wash local hands of this mess.

Joseph Montano attempted to clear up the confusion about responsibilities of state and local jurisdictions and the liabilities associated with ICE detainers yesterday, addressing the Central Virginia Regional Meeting of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights in Charlottesville. Cooperation with ICE has the unintended consequence of eroding public safety while redirecting funding from other public functions.

ICE detainers are requests to local law enforcement to hold the person in the request for up to 48 hours. Discretion to enforce those requests rests with local law enforcement. There is no legal requirement to comply with them. But there has been a complete disconnect between federal and local officials.

This morning I was looking up local websites and on the Arlington County website I was looking at their frequently asked questions with detainers. ... on their website there's a question "Can Arlington elect not to honor and immigration detainer issued by ICE?" And the answer to that said "No. All state and local officials are required by federal law to honor ICE detainers." - Joe Montano; Virginia ACLU

ICE detention requests do not provide a basis for retention on their own. They are often issued by a lone ICE officer without due process, without review, and without a judicial warrant. Their sole purpose is to investigate whether a person has committed a civil immigration offense. Detaining a person after they're eligible for release without probable cause is a violation of the 4th Amendment. Further, responding to these requests is fairly expansive. By responding to these requests, local law enforcement is acting as a proxy for federal enforcement without reimbursement for the period until ICE assumes actual custody. Not only does the local jurisdiction assume the burden of that cost, it also assumes liability for potential damages from lawsuits over wrongful imprisonment.

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Spending Our Political Contributions Wisely

by: Dan Sullivan

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 06:42:26 AM EDT

Lt Gov Northam presiding photo 140626VirginiaSenate_zpsd365b995.jpgMany of you have been bombarded with pleas for money to help Democrats regain the Virginia Senate majority; a noble cause. Well, you should ask three questions before you contribute a dime: Is there a strategy for success? Where is your money going to end up? Will you suffer remorse?

On this or another of Lowell's blogs, I asked at the end of one particularly disappointing campaign where I go to get a refund of my contributions. After that campaign I decided that I wouldn't contribute to any campaign whose candidate doesn't share my core values and doesn't have a chance in hell of being victorious. In the special election for Phil Puckett's abandoned seat, the Democratic candidate fails quite possibly both criteria. I say quite possibly because we may never know what the insiders now know from polling in the district. Frankly, if I were to venture a guess, I'd bet he is at the general starting point for the generic Democratic candidate in the region: 37%. And, we already know he is joined at the hip with coal. That's a pragmatic position; I understand that. But he is unabashedly supportive; his position is not nuanced in any way. I can tell you I won't regret not contributing on both counts.

I have also learned not to contribute to any committee that claims to support my candidate(s). There are simply too many ways my contribution won't end up in my candidates' coffers. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus funneled $410,168 to Phil Puckett in 2011; the 3rd highest individual beneficiary. That would mean that of each dollar from that group that went to an actual candidate, 13.9% went to Puckett. Oh, and in any case only about 49% of all Caucus expenditures went directly to Virginia Senate candidates even when including a big chunk, $224,500, which went to an independent candidate in the 19th. But it's a broader issue. Your direct contributions to other candidates also ended up in Russell County: $15,000 from Chap Peterson; $5,000 from Dick Saslaw; $2,500 from Janet Howell; $1,000 from Don McEachin. I have contributed to at least one of them; I never will again. I don't need them deciding my money should go somewhere I didn't send it. Note that it is not only the Senate Caucus and not just at the state level where this is a common betrayal.

However, it is the strategy for regaining control of the Senate that concerns me most. The focus right now looks extremely tactical: fight the good fight in the 38th. But I believe Sun Tzu would advise differently. You don't reinforce failure; that is complete folly. I have met some great Democrats in the 38th, but even with the power of incumbency, Phil Puckett won that district with 53% of the vote after spending $1,365,143. He outspent his opponent by about a quarter million dollars. We Democrats are in no position to raise the amount of money that it will take to pretend we might win the 38th. And when that cash we don't have is gone, where does that position us for the races in 2015?

On election night 2015, we shouldn't be wondering if the money we wasted in 2014 could have turned a red tide in the Virginia Senate. In 2015 if we choose wisely we might even gain a seat or two for the high price of none in 2014.

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10,000 Strong Against Sexual Assault at JMU

by: Dan Sullivan

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 06:39:43 AM EDT

 photo 14062610000strongJMU_zpsce9a944e.jpg The online petition for justice in the James Madison University sexual assault case reached its goal of 10,000 signatures yesterday and is now headed toward 15,000. So while the school's administration did not comprehend her complaint and the McAuliffe administration has remained silent, the case is drawing ignominious attention.

The Student Government Association (SGA) President, Taylor Vollman, posted a letter to fellow students on the SGA blog two days after the news about the case was made public on WHSV. From the content of the letter the inference is that the JMU administration, fumbling with the Sarah Butters case, never made the effort to involve students in an effort to curb sexual volence on campus during the year and a half that it stalled a decision. Vollman says "we are trying to gather as much information as possible on this complex issue in order to have a holistic view of where we are and where we need to go."

Really. A "holistic" view isn't something which the JMU administration has shown itself capable of grasping. But good luck with that.

The petition for justice remains active at change.org.

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Jack Trammell Is a Candidate of Substance

by: Dan Sullivan

Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:26:03 AM EDT

The crowd was unexpectedly large last evening at the home of Clark and Kelly Mercer in Ashland, Virginia. Expecting 50, more like 150 swarmed the unassuming Democratic candidate for Virginia's 7th Congressional District. The excitement was evident. Jack Trammell, has been thrust into a high profile race for Congress.

"I'm going to be a candidate of "yes." I'm going to be about the positive. I want to be able to reach across the aisle; I want to work with people. My career in academia ... I have friends here in the crowd who work at Randolph-Macon ... in academia we learn that research and social science functions within a peer review process where you work together collaboratively to solve problems."

Trammell's open and engaging personality is matched by his genuine sincerity and optimism. These qualities will more than make up for his freshman political status as he campaigns for soon to be former Congressman Eric Cantor's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is reflected in his supporters who are motivated by what is right about America rather than by bitterness and anger toward their own shadows.

"I like to say "yes" rather than "no." I say yes to change; I say yes to diversity; I say yes to ownership of your own body and mind; I say yes to possibilities; I say yes to equity; I say yes to opportunity; I say yes to responsibility to our collective good, we're too wealthy and too successful to stand by to watch that just happen without us; I say yes to a clean environment; I say yes to rules for fair play; I say yes to care before punishment; I say yes to access to healthcare; I say yes to love who you want to love; I say yes to access to education; I say yes to a fair wage."

There is much more to Jack Trammell as we will all discover going forward. My connection with him was immediate and personal as I learned his son attended Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro and later served in the Marine Corps. Mine served in Iraq; his Afghanistan. Mine returned whole; his was wounded by an IED (sadly, I don't have to spell out the acronym). There's just a whole lot more that I look forward to watching unfold.

Yes, Virginia, Trammell is positively a serious force to be reckoned with.

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Charlottesville Immigrant Rights Meeting Saturday

by: Dan Sullivan

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 11:05:58 AM EDT

Virginia State Capitol photo 140624VirginiaCapitol_zps048c3af0.jpg The newly formed Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) is a coalition of organizations working to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. This Saturday it is inviting local leaders and organizations from the Central Virginia area, including Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, to a regional meeting in Charlottesville.

At the organizational meeting a range of immigrant advocacy issues of importance to Virginia's immigrant communities will be discussed:

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform on the Federal Level
  • Access to Driver's Licenses
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and In-State Tuition
  • ICE Detainers and Local Immigrant Detention Policy
  • Other issues of concern

Advanced registration is required. To attend the event held from 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM at the Church of the Incarnation Parish Activity Center, 1465 Incarnation Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22901, REGISTER HERE.

The Steering Committee of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) includes the following organizations:

  • Legal Aid Justice Center;
  • Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy;
  • Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations;
  • Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia;
  • Virginia New Majority;
  • League of United Latin American Citizens;
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia;
  • Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Policy;
  • Shirlington Employment and Education Center;
  • National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.

VACIR is organizing advocates and activities throughout Virginia as it works towards its goals. A flyer for the event is available here.

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Paul Reagan Drops in on the DPVA Central Committee

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 12:58:45 PM EDT

 photo ce6a1e75-1ac1-477d-91b4-c3488b79e540_zps52a09d9c.jpgTaking a break from a long weekend of supervising the writing of vetoes in the Governor's office, Paul Reagan stopped by the quarterly Central Committee meeting this morning. He shared some thoughts, getting an enthusiastic standing ovation from the committee members.
  • We vetoed the MIRC becaise it is a sham. It is nothing but an obstacle to Medicaid expansion.
  • We vetoed the Stanley amendment because it purports to restrict an appropriation the doesn't exist.
  • We vetoed $18 million worth of judges because they said that the Governor could not make those appointments if they are not in session. We're for those judgships. We can get the money restored, but they are not going to restrict the Governor's power to appoint.
  • We don't have money for a lavish new General Assemebly building when we don't have money for homeless people.
That said, Reagan bade farewell to a cheering audience of Democrats proud of a Governor who can deal with bush league Republicans. They may have just met the man we elected and they grossly underestimated.
"I think what we saw yesterday was a continuation of what the Governor has done from the very first moment that he got into office. And that is do exactly what he said he would do in his campaign; which was to restore integrity to government, fight for health care, and bring trust back into the state government."
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James Madison University's and Virginia's Shame

by: Dan Sullivan

Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 22:15:20 PM EDT

140619 JMUTonight was WHSV's third installment in a series indicting the James Madison University Administration for failing to take sexual assault seriously. Apparently the McAuliffe Administration fails to recognize the malfeasance that is evident or suffers the same hope that this will simply be forgotten. Suspend and investigate the administrators now!

There is actually much more to be concerned about. Apparently Alger and his crew are completely unfamiliar with the characteristics and behaviors of sexual predators. Generally predators are serial violators. And when allowed to escape appropriate punishment are emboldened to continue, armed with more knowledge of the processes that might result in their apprehension. Predators are stalkers and sociopaths. If the JMU administrators believe that this was just a misunderstanding among friends who had too much to drink, then they are unqualified to protect the students in their charge. In fact, the behavior of those three men typifies that of a stalker who lays in wait for such an opportunity to present itself. It is very unlikely that this was their first or last such behavior. Every indication is that these men should be registered sex-offenders for the good of any community in which they reside. But JMU decided it is fine that they remain on campus despite the threat they present.

...with this verdict, myself, along with all the other females in the student body are torn down enormously. As a senior about to graduate in a few short weeks, I feel as though my last year has been tainted. I do not want to share a diploma with these three boys. I do not want to tell people I graduated from a school that thinks sexual assault and sexual harassment are acceptable. - excerpt from a letter to President Alger from a party to the school's investigation

Below the fold is the full letter to JMU President Alger from a friend of the victim that expresses frustration that the sexual assault of a student was taken so casually and dealt with so lightly. Like JMU advertises, "It's all about relationships."

There is an online petition demanding justice for the victim at change.org.

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Permaculture Comes to the Valley

by: Dan Sullivan

Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 07:02:39 AM EDT

Ryan Blosser photo 140522RyanBlosser_zpsff333360.jpgRyan Blosser was raised in Waynesboro and a stand-out basketball player at Fishburne Military School who earned an athletic scholarship to play for a Division I college. That foray lasted a year, after which he began a circuitous journey to a farm in Churchville and Project GROWS in Verona.

People often ask me "What happened to you?" I don't look like the short-haired Fishburne basketball player that I was. - Ryan Blosser

Growing up, Blosser says, local food was Domino's pizza and a gallon of orange juice. He spent all his time at the YMCA indoors. He didn't know he was missing anything. When he went off to college he just did not like the experience. He quit. But basketball had been his entire identity. He met his future wife, Joy, and decided to move to Hawaii. It was on Oahu that his obsession with local food started.

Blosser sees his life as three woven tracks. First there is his need to engage his body somehow physically; an intellectual need, which being a college basketball player did not fulfill; and finally an emotional need. In Hawaii, the guy who had never been outside started to surf. Then he happened on a local farmer's market and he bought and fell in love with a basil plant. Finally while taking a college course on poetry he discovered the haptic poets. The basil plant became his fetishized object.

This is going to really sound really, really "woo woo," but I started to actually connect to the rhythm of the planet, not in that hippie kind of way, but in a real way where you are outside in the water and you actually feel it.

These experiences motivated him. He could grow his plant and eat it too. He could smell it, put it in his food and eat it, all without going to the store to buy it. To that point he had been living off of rice and beer; that was what the money they had bought. Then about 12 years ago, in a corner of his yard, he started an herb garden.  

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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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