Q: What are your top 3 issues? Why?
Community food enterprise centers and tools for small farmers. We can help make small farming a little less risky by encouraging communities to invest in tools such as mobile slaughterhouses, pasteurization salons, and community commercial kitchens that can lower the barrier of entry into the market for aspiring food entrepreneurs. The Carver Agricultural Research Center here in our district is a model project of this kind and was jumpstarted by a simple $63K grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development. I want to make sure it succeeds and that it inspires other similar projects around Virginia.
Vocational training. Not everyone needs a 4-year degree. We need plumbers, carpenters, electricians. That’s why I support more opportunities and more dedicated funding for high school and post-secondary vocational training and apprenticeship programs, where no new high school graduate is turned away for inability to pay, and a P-14 public education track that culminates in apprenticeships, vocational certification, job training and placement, and/or an associate’s degree.
Criminal justice reform. We over-criminalize, over-punish, and enforce our laws unfairly. I believe we need sweeping reforms to our criminal justice system, ranging from legalizing marijuana, to ending incarceration for minors for all nonviolent offenses, to raising the public defender and larceny limits, to reforming pretrial release and bringing back parole.
To learn more about Ben, be sure to visit his website https://benhixon.com/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/benhixonVA for more details.
What are your top 3 issues? Why?
Education, social justice, and the environment.
I have been on the school board for the past 7 years. As a school board member, I know the importance of early childhood education, and I fully support universal Pre-K and expansion of broadband. That is because I know that when kids come to school behind, it is that much harder for them to be successful.
I am passionate about social justice because I want to build the world we want for our children and ourselves. The hate and bigotry we saw in Charlottesville cannot be the story of our Commonwealth or our nation. We need to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and end the policies of mass incarceration that are preventing many of our community members from succeeding and preventing many people from voting.
We need to build a better world for the next generation by protecting the environment. The current intentional ignorance around climate change is unacceptable, and our children will pay the costs of our current disposable culture. Clean energy can grow our economy through high-paying jobs and lessen our dependence on utility companies.
To learn more about Amy, be sure to visit her website https://www.lauferforvirginia.com and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LauferForVA/ for more details.
The flogging will continue until morale improves.
What used to be a great office joke repeated when deadlines were tight, and bosses were demanding, has now become Republican policy all across America, including right here in Culpeper.
During the campaign, Donald Trump challenged African-Americans and other minorities to vote Republican—”What have you got to lose?” he said, ignoring that some Republican-dominated state legislatures are restricting the vote for those very minorities. This is the essence of the gerrymandering case in Virginia. Even the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected that state’s voter ID requirements as discriminating against African-Americans with “surgical precision.”
And the flogging has not stopped on voter restrictions, like the repeal of portions of the 1965 Civil Rights act dealing with voter protections. Candace Owens, African-American conservative apologist recently claimed in Congressional testimony on hate crimes that the GOP never had a “Southern strategy” for employing racism as a tool to appeal to white voters. This is patently false, as any cursory examination of history will reveal.
In foreign policy, President Trump has threatened to cut off all American assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, until the flow of asylum seekers stops. People faced with murder, crime and domestic terrorism are running away from those countries because their governments are unable to provide the personal security and economic stability that American assistance might support.
Separating and caging children at the border was designed to make America more frightening than their home countries for asylum seekers. Just this past week, Trump intimated that more force will be needed: “I’m going to have to call up more military. Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like they would normally act because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy.”
Economic sanctions under this administration are designed to intimidate, not facilitate. So, to get a deal on intellectual property with China, this administration imposes steel and aluminum tariffs, raising the prices of anything America needs for manufacturing. China retaliates by not buying American farm products, the biggest commodity in US-China trade. Culpeper County came in third statewide in 2018 for soybean production while Orange and Madison counties came in fourth and fifth, respectively, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau.
“China purchased about one-third of the soybeans we produced in 2017 and we know that soybean exports are down significantly. This marketing year, “Soybean exports to China are down 96 percent through the end of January,” Dr. John Newton, chief economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, told Virginia growers Feb. 20 at the Virginia Grain & Soybean Annual Conference. He said additional tariffs would further erode competitiveness in key agricultural markets and would weigh on farm income as in 2018. Months later there is still no grand deal on intellectual property.
The “flogging” t-shirts and posters are supposed to be funny, but our floggers willfully ignore cause and effect. It is the flogging that causes not only low morale but also desensitizes the powers-that-be about using violence, to say nothing of the condescending attitude the flogger has toward those who are flogged. You don’t deny the vote, or humanitarian protection, or economic prosperity, or education to people you respect. The flogging will continue until Republicans are voted out of office.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed first appeared in the April 14th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Last week the Virginia General Assembly returned to Richmond for a special session to finish up matters left unfinished in the regular session.
One very special piece of legislation was brought up this year. The goal was to eliminate suspension of driver’s licenses for people who could not afford to pay their court costs.
Just to be clear, this is not about people with moving violations. No, this legislation was intended to stop the harsh practice of suspending a license for money owed and affects over 600,000 Virginians.
Why was this practice instituted in the first place? It is illogical. Logical consequences are what make people change their behavior. Any parent knows this. If a young child is playing with something they shouldn’t, you take it away and give them something they can have. If a child is spending too much time playing video games, you unplug it or take the controller away for a short time.
If parents do not pay child support, their wages are garnished and, or, their tax returns taken. Why can’t we do the same with court costs? If you cannot pay your fees in one lump sum, how does it make sense to take your driver’s license away? If that happens, most people will make the desperate choice to continue to drive to work to earn a living to feed their children. If they get caught, there are more fines and possible jail time. Why are we penalizing people for being poor?
The men representing Louisa in the general assembly were in the minority when they voted against this legislation. Are Sen. Bryce Reeves and Del. John McGuire so personally wealthy that they cannot conceive of not being able to come up with a $145 reinstatement fee? A third legislator, Sen. Mark Peake, didn’t even bother to show up.
I remember those days when one unexpected car repair meant we had to decide which bill not to pay. Are these men so out of touch with living in a rural area that they do not understand that personal transportation is essential to employment? This is not a hard concept to understand.
People being able to drive increases employment, boosts local economies, increases school attendance and improves civic involvement. There is no logical reason to continue this dated practice, only hatefulness.
The legislation enjoyed popular support in both the Senate and the House of Delegates, but not with our backward-thinking public servants. It is time to stop punishing the poor.
This fall, every single seat in the Virginia General Assembly is up for grabs. Thankfully, we have options. Delegate McGuire is being opposed by Juanita Jo Matkins, who is a strong supporter of reforming our justice system so that it both protects and rehabilitates. Senator Bryce Reeves is being opposed by both Amy Laufer and Ben Hixon, who are energized to make positive and helpful changes. Louisa, please look into these candidates, volunteer and vote the mean men out of office on Nov. 5.
Editor's Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the April 11th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author's permission.
The first question I asked myself was why is Louisa County hiring Timmons Group to perform services at taxpayer expense? Then, what substantial benefit could Timmons provide to the county? Lastly, I asked what potential harm could Timmons do because County officials inadequately selected and inappropriately offered them a contract?
A good place to start would be at the beginning. Specifically, how the County procures services, which is supposed to be based on Virginia Code –and supplemented by Good Business Practices (GBP) from the commercial sector of the economy. Admittedly, this requires a certain level of sophistication, but it doesn’t require tremendous effort to get to that level.
Louisa County’s “Request For Proposal” (RFP# ED-18-01) and Timmons’ response offer a good point of reference. After reviewing these documents, a short, incomplete list of nine pages was created to document some of the inconsistencies in the procurement life cycle.
Just to make it easy, some of the highlights from the review of that RFP and the proposal are listed below.
· The County required the “consultant” to have performed at all levels of work. There may have been a quasi-review of this but there were no indications about how that review would be conducted.
· The Offeror (Timmons) was required to provide evidence of capabilities, professional expertise, and experience. The review of this RFP requirement seemed to indicate little evidence of this.
o One example is an employee identified as having Quality Assurance responsibilities. This position is typically supposed to be independent from all other organizational activities. In fact, in government procurements, this independence from all other organizational activities, which are performed as part of product or services is explicitly documented to avoid conflict of interest.
Yet, in the proposal, the individual with the Quality Assurance responsibilities also held another position, which usually brings about questions for resolution during the screening process. Literature from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) consistently discusses this issue. In addition, there are no indications that anyone from Timmons is a member of ASQ with certifications.
o The RFP required Project Management expertise but there was no one listed at Timmons with a certification form the Project Management Institute (PMI) – a notable discrepancy.
o The RFP specified that a description for the Project Management Approach and Philosophy be documented. In keeping with the missing PMI credentials, “Approach and Methodology” for Project Management was also missing. Given the seriousness of “Approach and Methodology,” for taxpayer funded activities, there should have been more attention by Timmons to including that information; and the County should have been more attentive to the requirements being imposed on a contractor providing services to County taxpayers. Consultants aren’t cheap.
o The RFP contained a specific statement, that any attempts by the Offeror to make changes to the Master Contract General Conditions Agreement is reason to declare the proposal non-responsive and it would be rejected. The cover letter to Timmons from the County indicates otherwise.
· The RFP contained no instructions relating to reviews of proposals, although there was mention of it. After reading Timmons proposal, I wondered, not so much why that comment was included, but what are the qualifications of the reviewers.
The Timmons proposal struck me as lacking substance and competitiveness in the way the proposal was written and presented. Timmons just seemed … disinterested. That was a strange sensation for proposals intended to show that one company is better than another, and deserving a contract. And yet, Timmons was awarded the contract.
Louisa Country citizens – should seriously consider the real possibility that their tax dollars could be misspent. Here’s the statement in the RFP that we all should pay attention to:
“All reports, drawings, specifications, computer files, field data, notes and other documents and instruments prepared by the Architect or Engineer as instruments of service shall remain the property of the Architect or Engineer.” Meaning, Louisa taxpayers pay for all the work products created but don’t get to keep them. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like to pay for something I can’t have.
Moving forward, it would be good for everyone to question how many other contracts are being written and processed in this same inadequate manner. There should be questions about how tax dollars are funding uncertain ventures because of poor organizational and administrative practices. And, to question the wisdom of the county promoting these ventures in the name of progress and development.
In conclusion, my thoughts keep going back to how the County received the initial Due Diligence Report for the Industrial Park at Shannon Hill, hurriedly presented it for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to vote on continuing it. A continuance, which was eventually stopped by the Board of Supervisors.
I wonder if the BOS voted that way because a Louisa County citizen pointed out a statement that should have been caught, but was apparently missed. That statement essentially indicated that no decisions should be made based on the content of that report.
Such a simple statement, and so easily overlooked. It makes you wonder if the County and the BOS have the best interest of the citizens in mind when RFPs are issued. It makes you wonder about the qualifications of the individuals involved in the creation, administration, and decision process. It makes you wonder what your tax dollars are being misspent on even now.
What is the County doing now? With Timmons?
We need citizens to actively participate by asking relevant questions of the County, of Timmons, and of any other taxpayer funded provider, especially when the impact is in the millions of dollars.
We need access to, and answers from, Timmons, the County, and any other taxpayer funded provider.
We need Louisa County citizens to show them the way.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed has been posted with the author’s permission, and is in response to an April 4th article in the Central Virginian, along with a relevant quote from the CV’s article; "The board made the funding (of Timmons) contingent on a grant from GO Virginia, the state economic development initiative. The county is expected to compete for a state grant of at least $200,000 when the Go Virginia board meets in June."
Readers of the Louisa Democratic Committee’s and Indivisible Louisa’s Facebook pages may recall a recent article by Thom Hartman. To put some historical context to his observations, around the time the Reagan Revolution was building up steam, Frank Herbert a science fiction author wrote in his 1976 book, Children of Dune that:
“Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class - whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy. - Politics as Repeat Phenomenon: Bene Gesserit Training Manual”
In many respects, what we are seeing unfold today is the product of 40+ years of this dynamic Herbert described in his book, politicians acting solely for the ruling classes benefit.
Nor is it any coincidence that the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated during the Reagan Administration, or that the Telecommunications Industry was deregulated in the 90’s under Clinton’s, deeds that have contributed to a dramatic increase in voter’s political polarization.
Or that the pronounced shift in ideological polarization we’ve seen in the House of Representatives, dates back to the RayGun administration.
These demographic swings have enabled the Republican Party in particular to continue fooling some of the people all of the time, and has radicalized their base of supporters to cult like levels today. And it’s a shift, which allows the Democrats to continue peddling a bi-partisan charade for more than two decades regardless of whether they are actually are winning elections and can control legislative agendas.
This entrenched political duopoly is one the primary reasons why for the past twenty five years we seen increasingly radical legislation passed in Republican controlled states, and when they control Congress, and why when the two parties split power so little gets done.
Even with the Democratic Blue Wave of 2017-18, Congress remains split, the Replican’ts still control both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly, a trend that will continue unabated until voters wake up. The 2019 Virginia State election and the 2020 presidential election remain our best opportunities make this a reality.
That being said, until the Democratic Party figures out how to resolve it’s own contradictions and internal divisions, it’s quite likely that polarized stupidity will become a permanent feature of American life.
For 25 years, students at Jouett Elementary School have been using trailers instead of regular classrooms. Trailers with no restrooms! Students have to brave the snowy, cold, and rainy weather to walk from the trailers to restrooms inside the school—and then back to the trailers.
It is shameful to have this condition exist for 25 years. Beginning with the 1994-1995 school year, the trailers first arrived as a temporary solution to classroom overcrowding. There are presently five trailers in use at Jouett Elementary School.
While the current members of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors are not entirely to blame for this situation, they do have a golden opportunity to fix this problem by approving the proposed $3.8 million capital budget that will fully fund the Jouett Elementary School expansion and eliminate the use of classroom trailers.
Our children deserve better! Our parents deserve better! Our community deserves better! If you agree, please inform the Board of Supervisors of your opinion.
Editor’s Note: This has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 28th edition of the Central Virginian. And Bernie is running as an independent candidate for the Jackson district supervisor seat.
It is inconceivable that the Louisa County Board of Supervisors plans to spend more than $18 million for water and sewer for the Shannon Hill Industrial Park while Jouett Elementary trailer classrooms have no toilets.
My son will be attending fifth grade at Jouett Elementary next year in substandard trailers with no restrooms while the supervisors waste our tax money on sewerage for prospective companies at Shannon Hill Industrial Park.
Monies planned for our public schools seem to never make it to the final budget approved by the board of supervisors. They always have some ill-conceived projects that divert money from our public schools and our children’s education.
When will parents and grandparents in the county regain control over the way our local tax money is being spent? The answer depends upon YOU and me!
Editor’s Note: This has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 28th edition of the Central Virginian.
We use the term “free market” as if it were a system that functioned like a jungle, in which the fittest survive or the most meritorious rise to the top. But on looking more closely, it becomes obvious that the market consists of rules. There are rules for writing contracts. There are rules for settling disagreements. There are rules for bankruptcy. There are rules for property ownership. There are rules for buying and selling. These rules give it structure that it could not exist without.
Government makes and enforces these rules. Ideally, they provide a level playing field so that two individuals willing to work equally hard and follow the rules will have similar success. That is the premise our country is built on.
Clearly, that is not what has come to pass. Back in the 50s and 60s, it was the norm for a one-income family to be able to buy a house, have two cars and raise children in comfort and dignity. No more. Now, a family breadwinner often needs to have two or more jobs to make it. Chief executive officers of large corporations back then earned an average of 20 times the pay of their typical worker. Now it’s more than 200 times.
Over the past 30 years, that inequality has increased. The more money you make, the more power you have to influence the making of the rules so that they benefit you.
Why are our drug prices so high? Why does the pharmaceutical industry spend so much money on lobbying? Because they want rules that will make them winners.
Some say we have too many regulations. They say government is too big. But you only hear that when the regulations they are talking about are not in their financial interest.
Tyler Adams, in a letter to the editor (The CV, March 21, 2019), says the government should not interfere in picking winners and losers. But the government is already doing that.
I support the Louisa County Board of Supervisors using my tax money to help local businesses get a start; a small leg up in their attempt to compete with the big corporations, who have had so much help from the government.
I want to live in a county where our children have as good a shot to having a successful business in Louisa County as the owner of Dollar General; as good a chance of having a restaurant as the owners of Sheetz and McDonalds.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the March 28th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
There is a specter haunting the Western Alliance structure. Is America going rogue?
As the rise of the “Communist monolith,” under the Soviet Union’s aggression in eastern Europe threatened the devastated and struggling Western European countries, America joined Britain and France in establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide collective security against Stalin’s Warsaw Pact. The United States, with its undamaged industry and vast economy, became the core of this new alliance.
As expressed by the New York Times editorial board, “born after World War II, NATO linked America and Europe not just in a mutual defense pledge but in advancing democratic governance, the rule of law, civil and human rights, and an increasingly open international economy. The alliance was the core of an American-led liberal world order that extended to Asia and relied on a web of international institutions, including the United Nations and the World Bank.” Under American leadership, NATO won the Cold War that led to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Today, however, the stability of the Western Alliance structure is on shaky ground. Under the current administration, America is no longer acting like the respected leader of a strong and vibrant NATO. America is reintroducing the chaos of the interwar years with its every-country-for-itself attitude—America over all. President Trump has unilaterally abandoned multinational agreements on which previous administrations and allies have spent years finding consensus, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Agreement, and, most importantly, the Iran nuclear deal. These irresponsible, unilateral abrogations were foisted on our partners without any attempt at normal diplomatic interaction.
The Iranian nuclear deal is emblematic: The Trump administration argued that a massive renegotiation with Iran was needed, encompassing a broad set of issues. The deal had previously succeeded because none of the six partners believed that an all-encompassing agreement on every issue was possible. In the meantime, the United States has reimposed its sanctions while its partners continue to fulfill their responsibilities. The strains on NATO are public. For example, the United States’ ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, openly criticizes German businesses for fulfilling Germany’s obligations under the agreement. Just last week, a top politician in one of Germany’s opposition parties called for Grenell to be expelled from the country.
NATO is an alliance of nations which share similar expectations and goals across a wide breadth of human affairs, not just military, or economic. One of the fundamental strengths of this alliance consists of America sharing the intelligence gleaned from its vast, worldwide collection and analysis efforts involving human, signals, imagery, measurements and signatures, and open-source information. Currently, however, our alliance partners are placed in a difficult position because Trump continues to denigrate the conclusions of his own intelligence community. The continuing reports that the President doesn’t read his daily briefs, forms unfounded opinions without regard to facts, and then issues tweets that mock the congressional testimony of American intelligence agency chiefs, must be intensely troubling to the leaders of our partner nations.
In foreign policy, the key questions are: Does a policy enhance predictability and stability? Does it prevent conflict? Does it pursue common goals and objectives? A catch phrase these days is “I have your back.” It means a partner will be there. That is not what Trump is currently telling the world. He treats our allies like expendable employees, not partners. Our NATO partners must be scratching their heads as Trump abandons alliance leadership and goes his own way.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the March 24th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
Our state senator, Bryce Reeves, embarrassed himself last week when speaking to the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors to oppose a solar farm project. He pressed to get more time to speak than is legally allowed and was condescending in addressing the board regarding the “perils of unchecked utility solar development.”
Does he think that nuclear, coal, or natural gas sources of power are actually safer than solar power? Mr. Reeves’ opposition to this project has nothing to do with safety. Rather, his talking points sounded as though they were dictated by Dominion Energy, which opposes alternative forms of power.
Dominion would lose money if citizens were able to purchase their power from another source. Dominion is getting a good return on their investment as they donated $18,000 to Sen. Reeves. Since Louisa is part of the 17th district, we should wonder if Mr. Reeves will also object to solar projects in our county.
The Spotsylvania project is in his subdivision, so he and his neighbors are part of the NIMBY group: Not In My Back Yard. Maybe he would not object to a Louisa project since he does not live in the county.
So far, three candidates have declared their intentions to run against Sen. Reeves. I encourage all Louisa voters to look closely at their choices and support a candidate who is not beholden to corporate lobbyists and not inclined to use their elected position to interfere in local matters.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the March 7th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
In recent years, the massive growth of income inequality in the United States has served up some startling statistics. The richest 1 percent of Americans have now amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Since the Wall Street crash in 2008, nearly half of all new income has gone to the top 1 percent, while more than 40 percent of American households cannot afford basic necessities without going into debt. In 2017, CEOs for the top 350 companies in the U.S. averaged $18.9 million each in compensation. Meanwhile, the share of national income for the bottom 90 percent continues to decline.
The Virginia Republican Party Creed states that “the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice.” But the question is, justice for whom? If we’re talking about wealthy CEOs and Wall Street bankers, the answer is clearly yes. If we’re talking about the rest of America, not so much.
Is the free enterprise system currently providing economic justice when it comes to the supply of pharmaceuticals in the U.S.? If you’re one of the 30 million Americans struggling with the 300 percent rise in the cost of insulin in recent years, you probably don’t think so. Profit margins for pharmaceutical companies and salaries for CEOs continue to soar while many Americans struggle to afford critical medications.
Is the free enterprise system providing economic justice for teachers, social workers, and other dedicated professionals who serve the public in demanding roles that require a costly education? In 2017, the compensation for the top 25 Wall Street hedge fund managers totaled more than $15 billion, which is nearly double what all 140,000 kindergarten teachers in the U.S. earned last year combined.
Perhaps we should ask the millions of minimum wage workers who work long hours and two or even three jobs to make ends meet. Some Walmart employees may not think they are receiving economic justice. In 2017, Walmart’s CEO made $22.8 million—nearly 1,200 times more than the average store employee. An estimate by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce surmised that Walmart’s low entry level wages in past years may have cost American taxpayers more than $6 billion a year in programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing.
The same may be said of other top companies. For the past two years, Amazon has paid no federal taxes. This year, the company will receive a $129 million tax refund. Amazon made $11.2 billion in 2018—up from $5.6 billion in 2017—but will benefit from tax credits and huge tax breaks for executive stock options that eliminate the company’s federal tax burden. How does your tax refund match up?
This country was built on a robust system of capitalism driven by market transactions. Most would agree—Republicans and Democrats alike—that a system that rewards innovation and resourcefulness is a vital underpinning of the American dream. The question then becomes, what level of government intervention, market regulation, and taxation for our wealthiest citizens and corporations is appropriate to maintain economic justice?
The Democratic ideal strives for the greater good—for individuals, our communities, and our nation as a whole. The vast inequities we are seeing in wealth accumulation are not economic justice, but point to the need for sensible measures to enable hard-working Americans to share in at least a portion of the fruits of their labors. In their enthusiasm for free enterprise Republicans have forgotten the American family. Debt-inducing tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy and corporations at the expense of average Americans is not economic justice. Economic inequality is killing the American dream and we should not fool ourselves otherwise.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
Listen up ladies.
Isn’t it time that we demand official recognition in the Constitution of the United States? That is the document that the US Supreme Court uses to decide ultimately what is legal and just, and what is not.
As recently as 2011, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does NOT protect against discrimination on the basis of gender. His statement was “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.”
Say Scalia’s words out loud and absorb the meaning. The Constitution does NOT prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. So women can legally be discriminated against unless there is a specific law passed that bars it. That is pay discrimination, housing discrimination, employment discrimination. These are not unimportant things. We care how much we get paid, what houses and mortgages we are eligible for, whether we can be fired or laid off based on gender (for instance, if you are pregnant). This is important. We need these protections to be in the Constitution, the ultimate law of the land.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. The ERA is not a radical idea. But the Constitution must be amended to legally guarantee these equal protections for women. In order to add an amendment to the US Constitution, 2/3 of the states or 38 states need to ratify it. Presently, 37 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Our Virginia General Assembly had the opportunity last week to ratify it. In fact, the ERA passed the VA Senate on a floor vote of 26-14. (Our State Senator Bryce Reeves (17th SD) was a NO vote.)
The VA House of Delegates did not allow a full House vote because it was voted down in a subcommittee. One of those men voting it down in subcommittee and denying a fair vote on the floor was our House Delegate John McGuire (56th HD). The amendment would have passed the House as it did the VA Senate if it had been given a vote of the full House. The votes were there to pass it. But it was not allowed a fair vote of the full house.
Passage would have moved the amendment to the US Congress for final processing. There is much support in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, for finalizing the constitutional process on the ERA.
While I appreciate that some representatives ride in the Independence Day Parade and show up for football games and have their staff send us birthday greetings and honor roll notes, it is for the business of representing us that we send them to Richmond. If they can’t improve our lives, protect our rights and make our daily existence better, then they are not doing their job.
I ask you, ladies, did our two state representatives (Bryce Reeves and John McGuire) do us a good turn when they kept women out of the Constitution? I say NO. It’s about time to get this business for women done and over with. We need to send folks to Richmond this November who will do that business for us.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the February 28th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
February 14, 2019
CULPEPER, VA – Ben Hixon, Democratic Party candidate for the 17th Senate, welcomes Amy Laufer to the race and pledges to support her should she be the nominee. He released the following statement:
I’d like to congratulate Amy Laufer for officially joining the campaign to defeat Bryce Reeves, and I pledge to support her should she be our nominee.
A competitive primary will increase the likelihood that we defeat Bryce Reeves in November, which is why we’re fortunate that Amy is also running and that the 17th Senate District nominating committee has voted for a state-run primary instead of a caucus. I have long been a fierce advocate for the benefits of state-run primaries. When I ran for the Democratic nomination to the House of Delegates in the 30th district against Nick Freitas in 2017, we used a caucus instead of a state-run primary. Even though I won the caucus, I believed it was a major missed opportunity to generate attention to the race, to sharpen myself as a candidate, and to allow more voters to participate in the nomination process.
In 2018 under my chairmanship, the Culpeper County Democratic Committee played a pivotal role in securing a primary in the 7th Congressional District to choose our nominee against Dave Brat. We were the only county committee to pass a resolution in favor of a primary. I authored the resolution and presented it in person to the 7th Congressional District Democratic Committee. The district committee was deadlocked between a primary and a caucus, and its first round of voting resulted in a tied vote.
District Chairwoman Abbi Easter graciously allowed me to remain during the closed door session and continue to speak on behalf of a primary, and eventually the committee voted in favor of a primary instead of a caucus. Abigail Spanberger’s primary victory against a formidable opponent, Dan Ward, gave her campaign an adrenaline shot of momentum that never faded and carried Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger to victory over Congressman Dave Brat. Competitive primaries are not only more Democratic; they also create better candidates for the general election.
Senator Reeves does not represent the values of tolerance and neighborliness held by our district, and he has used his position as our State Senator as a political stepping stone to run for higher office. I’m looking forward to a friendly campaign with Amy Laufer over the next four months, and then to the Democratic Party nominee defeating Bryce Reeves in November and flipping the Virginia Senate.
Ben is a computer scientist and researcher with multiple publications in the field of artificial intelligence. He is the immediate past Chairman of the Democratic Party of Culpeper County and in 2017 was the Democratic Party nominee against Delegate Nick Freitas for the 30th district of the House of Delegates. The 17th Senate district is considered a toss-up and comprises Orange County, Fredericksburg City, and parts of Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Albermarle, and Louisa Counties. Ben lives in Culpeper with his partner of 15 years, Christopher, a librarian.
Hixon for Senate
wITH PASSING COMMENTS ON LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL POLITICS
Readers of the Star Exponent have known me for some years now. Since August of 2014 one hundred and ten columns have appeared in these pages without ever missing a deadline. I have been assisted in this effort by able friends, most notably David Reuther, but also Thom Faircloth and George DeSerres, all of Culpeper. This has been a demanding experience, but a very fulfilling one. I am pleased to announce that I am passing the baton to David, and I am sure you will continue to enjoy this column under his leadership. Many thanks to Editor Emily Jennings for facilitating this transition.
I am far from alone in thinking the State of the Union address was not a unifying message. It wasn’t one that would make Democrats want to work with him. President Donald Trump mildly suggested bipartisanship while still throwing red meat to his base. He tangled with Democratic women who cheered and congratulated each other when he pointed out their gains in the House of Representatives. His response? “You weren’t supposed to do that.” He did not acknowledge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She did, however, give him that pointed handclap that has now famously gone viral.
There was no mention of Robert Mueller as Trump proclaimed to Congress: “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States—and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.” That line fell incredibly flat, as even Republicans balked at applause. Inexplicably, there was no mention of the meaningless government shutdown that cost billions of dollars, and inflicted suffering and financial pain not only on federal employees and contractors but also on the communities where they work and live throughout the nation. There was no mention of continuing gun violence, and no mention of climate change.
Now, after attempting to control all three branches of government for the past two years, Trump cries “presidential harassment” as the legislative branch begins to once again practice its legitimate oversight as part of our Constitutional checks and balances.
Meanwhile, Virginia is experiencing its own political dumpster fire as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General continue to be embroiled in their own individual scandals. Ralph Northam’s yearbook photos and the allegations against Justin Fairfax were sprung on unsuspecting citizens by “Big League Politics,” a far-right media website founded by a former reporter for the Daily Caller and Breitbart News, also known for their extremism and conspiracy theories. Mark Herring, at least, confessed to and begged forgiveness for his blackface antics before being exposed.
There is good news, believe it or not.
Locally, Amy Laufer, who has served on the Charlottesville school board, will be formally kicking off her campaign for the Democratic state senate nomination against Culpeper’s incumbent Republican Senator Bryce Reeves (SD17) on Saturday, February 16th. She will be visiting constituents all over the district, which is made up of Fredericksburg, Orange County and parts of Louisa, Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Albemarle counties. She will be at the Raven’s Nest on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 4 to 4:45 p.m. She will face Ben Hixon in the June Democratic primary election.
While the Virginia GOP appears to prefer relegating Virginia women and girls to the 19th century by voting against the 2019 Equal Rights Amendment Act, we Democrats must keep our chins up, and never give up or give in. We might think about forgiveness. We have elections to win in November.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the February 9th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
The decision to commit to the option to proceed with the prospect of the Shannon Hill industrial site was controversial to some. However, every member of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors has sworn to uphold what they believe to be right, serving in the best interests of all residents of our county. Decisions are supposed to be devoid of politics and personal interests, even when unpopular to some.
During my career, there have been many moments of truth. To meet the challenge one must conduct heavy research and analysis and then test results with learned individuals. The conclusion is further evaluated by the cost of doing it or not.
In this case, there was no risk involved because the cost of the land with the option was so low, it provides us with the fail-safe of future resale should we not proceed. The risk of not doing this, however, is paramount.
The opportunity of having a successful, modest industrial site located in a designated growth area that would derive substantial income to offset escalating expenses deserves our support. Every board member should always be considering valid alternatives to the much easier solution to offset rising expenses and raising taxes.
I have a history of being more conservative with other people’s money than my own. Being on the board of supervisors carries considerable responsibility which must be met through “the courage of one’s convictions.”
Green Springs District Supervisor
To simply state there is a loss of trust in our elected officials, is such a gross understatement as to be almost laughable with the current state of affairs.
From D.C.with the lies,misinformation and blame-slinging during the 35-day federal government shutdown, to the growing turmoil in the General Assembly in Richmond, to our secret megasite, with its hidden agendas, grossly over exaggerated numbers and false claims, regional partners, and stunning reversal by our local board of supervisors, I think I speak for most people when I say, “we don’t trust you.”
And, there is little hope that we will trust you again as long as you remain in office. Don’t try to rationalize or explain, we don’t believe you.
Calling this a good business decision, as Supervisors Tommy Barlow and Willie Gentry did before reversing their previous votes, is a joke. If it was a good business decision, taxpayers would support it and someone would have already developed it. It’s only a “good” business decision if the county spends another $30 million to $40 million in tax dollars to provide water, sewage treatment and a gas line to the property, and a “good” industry moves here to accept our handout.
This land purchase just gives supervisors a chance to throw more good money after bad, our tax money, to expand on their already bad mistake, the James River water line, still not providing one drop of water to Louisa County. And, the board will only allow the water for industry, none to single family housing? We know we can’t trust you to keep that promise either.
In a sad, ironic twist, last Sunday’s Richmond Times Dispatch contained an article with the headline, “Industrial megasites sit empty in Virginia despite hefty spending.” Speakers have been mentioning that unfortunate little fact to the board since this secret plan was outed. Megasites sit empty all over Virginia. To megasite proponents it’s because Virginia hasn’t spent enough tax money, $100 million in Virginia so far, to get sites ready or made incentives, tax breaks and other giveaways, large enough to the biggest, richest corporations in the world.
In reality, megasites aren’t coming because industry isn’t building them. Times have changed. Our planners, in secret, have been looking backwards into the past for solutions for our future.
Want confirmation we can’t trust them, check the numbers their consultants came up with for this megasite. In four years, unknown industries will be spending $200 million a year in Louisa and will spend that much every year for the next 15 years. And, that $200 million a year is the low estimate Mangum Consultants came up with, but admit, often, they could be wrong. Could be wrong, that we believe.
One thing the board can trust, the whole county is still watching, closely, unlike Supervisor Bob Babyok’s lie that only a handful of site locals are opposed. Trust that, because we know we can’t trust you.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 31st edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
I was very disappointed to see the misleading cartoon on your Jan. 17 editorial page. The cartoon falsely implies that Congresswoman Pelosi ignored government workers while on vacation in Hawaii.
What the cartoon does not say is that Pelosi’s trip occurred before she was Speaker of the House. It ignores the fact that, at that time, she had no authority to bring legislation before the House for a vote. There is no mention of the multiple bills she did pass in the House after she became Speaker that would have reopened the government, but that these bills were never brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote by Senator McConnell.
At the same time, it also ignores the role of President Trump in causing the shutdown with no mention of how he flip-flopped and suddenly rejected a compromise he had previously said he would accept.
In short, the cartoon completely misrepresents the cause of the disastrous government shutdown that just ended.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 31st edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
At the last Louisa County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, before the vote to buy the land for the Regional Business Park, there was discussion about how to maintain the rural character of Louisa County. One member of the board referred to Zion Crossroads as a “lost cause,” meaning it was already ruined. It had to be ruined to preserve the rest of the county.
How much of the county do we have to resign to having “lost” in order to preserve the rest? Are Shannon Hill and Gum Spring to become “lost causes” as well?
The prevailing wisdom among our county staff and leadership appears to be that we do indeed have to follow this model in which part of the county has to be sacrificed to keep other (ever decreasing) parts rural.
There’s something wrong with this thinking.
We need to find another way. We need to think outside of the prevailing development models.
We need to find a way to make rural areas self-supporting rather than rely on despoiling one area for the benefit of another.
Raising taxes is one way. We need to find other ways. We know farming alone isn’t going to pay the bills.
Family-owned businesses making products that add value to agricultural products is another way. We have successful wineries and cider-makers. We have blacksmiths and compostmakers. We have cabinet-makers. I would be happy to live next door to any of these.
Let’s determine how many more such businesses it will take to support our schools and libraries and fire departments. Forty million dollars could go a long way to help our own Louisa citizens who dream of having their own businesses get the training and start-up capital they would need.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 31st edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
Last week, we remembered the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 90 years old this month. Now, more than ever, we must continue to drive out hate and work together to make this country and state a better place than we found it.
Our elected officials in the state legislature must advance economic and social justice through priorities including housing rights, voting rights and putting an end to the discriminatory and hate-based acts that have gripped our state.
As Bryan Stevenson writes, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” We must let this sentiment and Dr. King’s legacy be our guiding compass for the difficult days ahead.
I will keep fighting to ensure that the voices of the depressed do not stay silent and instead address the inequalities that affect the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 31st edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
The hostage situation is over; the president has lifted the government shutdown. If this is a teachable moment, what have we learned? Probably one of the surprises is how vital public services are to the general health and welfare of the modern American society. Public safety systems were under significant stress and were beginning to break down, such as air traffic control. Even paperwork agencies need to run smoothly in the modern world. An example is the processing of tax returns—many people rely on that annual refund check. We thought we were talking about border security, only to find that the lack of people at their desks was stalling justice in the court system.
The shutdown exposed a new wrinkle in American governing practice. To make it look like the number of government employees is low, many offices depend on contractors. While government workers will receive their duly authorized pay, contractors apparently may not.
That realization was why Jon Russell’s Jan. 13 column, “How to survive the government shutdown,” left me cold. Not only did he dismiss federal government services, Jon felt it necessary to demonstrate a condescending attitude toward federal employees. He writes, “...most people see Washington, D.C. as a place where the well-protected, beautiful people live on our dime.” Does he not know that the vast majority of federal employees and contractors are distributed in local communities all across America? There was no acknowledgement that air traffic controllers and TSA agents live right here in Culpeper.
We are talking about public servants who have mortgages, car payments, school expenses and health treatments that have to be postponed because a month’s pay has been delayed. Beautiful people? Who had to go to a food bank? Are public servants so disposable in Russell’s eyes that we should joke about a predicament from which American citizens have no means to protect themselves? I agree with Jon’s suggestion, however—next shutdown go to a local restaurant, but take a furloughed neighbor with you.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.