Blue Louisa: A blog Covering Central Virginia & national politics from a progressive perspective
What a difference Amy Laufer would make in the Virginia Senate. Drawing upon her personal experiences and demonstrated commitment to a better tomorrow, she would be a welcome change working on behalf of the 17th District.
Amy recognizes that all Virginians need access to affordable healthcare—not simply cheap insurance that leaves the poor and the sick without access to the care they need.
As part of this access, Amy is committed to fighting to expand rural broadband, which is so critical to expanding business opportunities and student achievement.
A former math and science teacher, Amy knows first-hand how critical investing in teachers and schools is to creating a viable future for all students in our community.
Let’s put Amy to work putting an end to gerrymandering through fair third-party redistricting, reforming our criminal justice system, and decreasing mass incarceration, while providing avenues to help former prisoners become full participants in our society.
Women, Amy will fight for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment as well as a woman’s individual right to choose the course of her life—rather than letting others choose for her.
I could go on, but limited space pushes me to the bottom line: Amy will fight for a level playing field, equal opportunity, increased investment in Virginia, and the enjoyment of Virginia’s promise and prosperity by all its citizens. Vote Amy Laufer on November 5.
Editor’s note: this letter originally appeared in the October 15th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Louisa County has some excellent teachers and administrators who give their all for our students. They work overtime, not only to fulfill requirements, but also figuring out what each student needs to succeed. Plus, they spend their personal money on supplies that are not adequately provided by our schools. These dedicated superheroes need our support.
One reason I plan to vote for Juanita Jo Matkins for Virginia House of Delegates is that she will prioritize public education. She taught in Louisa County schools for over 20 years and understands the needs well. She went on to teach future science teachers at William and Mary. She understands both what it takes to educate students and the need for a curriculum that will give Louisa’s students access to success in this century.
Some say that you can’t solve problems by throwing money at them. Well, actually, we can solve a lot of them with money. We can pay teachers well enough to attract the best. We can hire more teachers so we can have smaller classroom sizes. As a retired Louisa County educator, I have seen many teachers leave for better pay and better benefits.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is 32nd among the states in teacher pay rates. Virginia is not a poor state, although we have counties that are not so well off (Compare Louisa to Northern Virginia). Funding schools to make them more nationally competitive, as well as more equal among counties, is a state-level concern.
Let’s send Juanita Jo to Richmond where she can tackle this issue. She will not only fight to better fund public education from preschool through college, but will also work to expand career and technical training and to raise teacher pay. Our children and their parents and our teachers need her in the state House of Delegates.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the October 17th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Dennis Wallingford and Pam Dawling (Letters, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10) are clearly of the same opinion when it comes to treating the environment with respect and doing so in an intelligent way (to paraphrase Wallingford’s words.)
I would like to respond to Mr. Wallingford’s request for references for the statistics showing public opinion on human-caused climate change in the 56th district. The statistics Ms. Dawling cites are from the following source: “Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2018.” Yale Climate Communications Center, July 20, 2018.
As to the 31,000 people who reportedly signed the petition cited by Mr. Wallingford, I rely on snopes.com to research such a claim, and they rate the claim Mostly False.
This is because most of the signatures are (1) not verifiable as to names or truth of their science connections, (2) the number of supposed signatures with background in earth, environmental or atmospheric science is not 31,000, but only about 3,700, and (3) the organization that circulated the petition is clearly a political, not a scientific, organization, with political, not scientific, interests. The petition has been around since 1998, and its wording refers to the Kyoto agreement of 1997. Go to snopes. com/fact-check/30000-scientists-reject-climate-change.
Another source of information about the denial of climate change by those who stand to benefit from business as usual is the 2014 film Merchants of Doubt, which explores the way tobacco companies were able to deny cancer connections for so long, and the use of the same tactics by the oil and gas industries.
One reason I plan to vote for Juanita Jo Matkins for delegate from the 56th district is that she is a scientist who has done the research. Matkins is a former Louisa County teacher and professor at The College of William & Mary, not a employee of the oil and gas industry. She will vote for sensible legislation that will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the October 17th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Wouldn’t it be nice have one of our own in the General Assembly? It’s been a long time since that happened, but it is possible on Nov. 5 if you vote.
We are fortunate to have Juanita Jo Matkins running for the House of Delegates. She has lived in Louisa County for more than 40 years and knows our rural way of life.
Matkins grew up, worked and still lives on a small farm. She reared her family here in Louisa, worked here and goes to church here. She knows what rural life is like and what the needs of rural people are.
She is an educator by profession who taught school in Louisa County for 20 years and then at the College of William and Mary. She will fight for all of our children to get a quality education, beginning with early childhood education and expanding career and technical education programs.
Matkins will fight to get access and quality broadband for Louisa. The lack of access to reliable broadband has made it difficult for some schoolchildren to do their homework, for employees to work from home and for some farmers and some businesses to get things done. Louisa County loses out on economic development opportunities that would increase county revenues, so broadband is critical to us.
Matkins believes every citizen should be able to access affordable, quality health care and she will stand up to big pharmaceutical companies to stop skyrocketing prices for insulin and other prescription drugs.
She is smart as a whip, energetic as the energizer bunny, and when she goes to the House of Delegates from the 56th district we will have one of our own. She who knows the needs of rural people will be accessible to the citizens of Louisa and there is no doubt she will fight for us.
That is why I am voting for Juanita Jo Matkins on Nov. 5.
B. Stewart Kienast
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the October 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
I have been trying to stay out of the fray regarding the 30th District House of Delegates race. The half million dollar donation from an out-of-state billionaire has pushed me to speak out. Do we really want our delegate to have his seat purchased for him by out-of state special interests, or used to fund other state races?
Contributions by Frietas campaign to other state Republican campaigns (July quarterly report)
Let's look at the facts.
Nick Freitas failed to do his due diligence and check to see if his campaign paperwork was filed completely and on time. There are literally 21 other candidates on the November ballot in my precinct who all managed to properly file.
Mr. Freitas' failure to follow through reflects his lack of commitment to his position as our Delegate. Furthermore, Mr. Freitas has never accepted responsibility for his mistake. He blames Richmond and the Democrats when all he needed to do was pick up the phone and check on things. I want a representative who takes responsibility for his actions even when they don't cast him in the best light.
I support Ann Ridgeway for the House of Delegates 30th District seat.
She has a proven record of accomplishment in the 30th District as a teacher, a Juvenile Justice Probation Officer, and a change maker.
Did you know she started the Office on Youth in Orange County? She also initiated the work needed to establish a Recreation Department there. Ann already has a track record of community activism. She is truly an advocate for families here in-our district.
Ann will listen to her constituents and Ann will fight for us in Richmond. She will do the hard work to get improved funding for rural school districts. She will fight for broadband infrastructure. She will work to make sure everyone, including the poorest among us, has access to affordable health care.
Send someone to Richmond who isn't building a financial war chest to run for national office. Vote for Ann Ridgeway on Nov. 5th!
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission, and has been edited to include a relevant graphic.
Many thanks for publishing the Women in Business supplement in The Central Virginian last week. Now that we are in the paper, it is time that we were added to the United States Constitution.
Women were not left out by accident. During the Continental Congress of 1776 Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, “I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors… Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, John did not heed his wife. Any one of the dozens of men who worked on this document (George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and others) could have saved the day and included women, but they neglected to do so.
Currently 94 percent of Americans support adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution and ending gender discrimination. The ERA was written in 1923. Equality should never be a partisan issue. The Republican national platform proudly supported the amendment from 1940 to 1980. U.S. Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg have all acknowledged that the Constitution does not protect women from discrimination.
It is time to vote out the men who so casually dismiss equality for their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and daughters. This November it is time that we finally correct this omission and Remember the Ladies.
Juanita Jo Matkins for Delegate and Amy Laufer for Senate are strong proponents of the ERA and will help Virginia to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify it to the US Constitution. Vote for the ladies and vote for equality for all 160 million American women!
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the October 3rd edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
I’m planning to vote for Juanita Jo Matkins this November for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 56th District. She is challenging the incumbent, John McGuire. Based on what I know about Juanita Jo and her opponent’s unhelpful voting record, I believe Juanita Jo will vote for legislation that we, as Virginians, sorely need. She has my enthusiastic vote!
Climate change is one of the issues that concerns me most. Juanita Jo and the overwhelming majority of scientists believe the evidence that climate chaos is caused by human activity and that we must limit our carbon emissions if we want future generations to have a habitable planet, and ourselves to have a reasonably civilized old age. As a professor at the College of William and Mary, Juanita Jo Matkins taught future science teachers. She understands the science very well.
The majority of residents of our district also understand this need to act to restrict climate chaos. In the 56th district (Louisa County and parts of Goochland, Henrico, and Spotsylvania counties), 69 percent of people know that global warming is happening, and a similar share of residents are worried or very worried about it.
An even larger number, 78 percent, support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 82 percent want to provide tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels. We have bought hybrid cars and solar panels for our household, without waiting for tax incentives, but rebates would encourage more people to take these steps.
Juanita Jo’s opponent, on the other hand, has consistently voted against legislation that would begin to limit carbon emissions. He voted against House Bill 1700, recommendation 34, which would have let Virginia partner with its neighbors to reduce climate pollution from cars and power plants through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Transportation and Climate Initiative. This directly reduces Virginia’s ability to attract clean energy jobs and innovate in the transportation sector.
He voted against integrating basic environmental education into Virginia’s schools curriculum, a proposal that had the support of both industry and environmental groups (House Bill 1908).
His vote on House Bill 2611 made it more difficult for Virginia to enter into a regional cap and trade program. States in this program have seen lower electricity bills and more clean energy job growth – joining the regional program makes common sense.
We could all benefit from lower utility bills and more clean energy jobs! Another approach we could take is a carbon fee and carbon dividend system, which was recently proposed in Congress by the Citizens Climate Lobby.
We need a delegate who has the knowledge and the willingness to tackle this vital issue before it’s too late. Juanita Jo Matkins is that person.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the October 3rd edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
The excitement is everywhere. Motivated by Republican legislative roadblocks year after year, on issue after issue, Democratic candidates are taking the field in unprecedented numbers this year, and they are demanding action.
In this “off-off-year” election, Democrats in Virginia are competing in 36 of the 40 senate races and 92 of the 100 delegate races. This is unprecedented in Culpeper, as well, where we have Democratic candidates running in three State Senate and two House of Delegates races.
Culpeper’s Democratic candidates are local people with local backgrounds and experience in the jobs and problems of the people of this county, and these districts.
Amy Laufer, running for Senate in the 17th District, grew up on a dairy farm, found her passion in teaching, and later served as chairman of a school board.
Annette Hyde, running for Senate in the 24th District, lives on a historic farm in Madison, owns a private business, and worries that lack of rural access to the internet hobbles children’s futures.
Ronnie Ross, running for Senate in the 27th District, is also a teacher.
Ann Ridgeway, running for the 30th District House of Delegates seat, is a native Virginian, grew up in a family of dedicated community activists, advocates for the underprivileged, and has worked as a teacher and juvenile probation counselor.
Laura Galante, running in the 18th Delegate District, also grew up in Virginia, worked in 4-H and now, in addition to being a small farmer, is also a cybersecurity expert who helped the Pentagon uncover Russian and Chinese attacks on America.
These five prospective citizen legislators want to work in a bipartisan way to actually represent the needs of the people and to solve problems.
What have our Republican incumbents given us?
Very little movement or progress on better funding for schools and teacher pay—teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
Very little movement or progress on access to rural broadband—this depresses or slows home and real property sales and keeps folks driving in gridlock for hours to seek better paying jobs. Hence, one Democratic candidate’s quip, “If you want broad band, vote for a broad.”
Almost all Republicans voted against expanding Medicaid. The poor barely have access to health care, putting incredible pressure on free clinics and emergency rooms at the expense of preventive care. Local hospital scandals demonstrate that without insurance you can be charged incredible fees that will cost you your home.
Zero movement on reducing gun violence or enacting common sense gun safety bills. Republicans have spent years gutting mental health services, and then blame gun violence on the mentally ill.
No movement on increasing the minimum wage.
Our jails are bursting at the seams because no substantive action has been taken toward criminal justice reform.
Republicans stopped Virginia passing the Equal Rights Amendment, again.
These Republican failures have given Democrats in the General Assembly their new “to do” list.
The “Republican Creed” is more cover story than a plan for action. They allow out-of-state money to threaten local influence. Nick Freitas has accepted the donation of a tea party Illinois billionaire tycoon for a half million dollars, a larger single donation than any other candidate from either party in the entire General Assembly during this election cycle.
This is democracy?
Culpeper citizens deserve better than the thin gruel these Republicans have delivered. On November 5th, you have the opportunity to take back your county and your commonwealth, and truly return them to government of, by, and for the people. Vote like your lives depend upon it.
Because they do.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and has been edited to include links to relevant information, and is reposted here with the author’s permission.
No discussions here about physics and relativity, but there are things to be said for looking at things that have happened in the past.
Here in Louisa County, the board of supervisors has been voting on issues it claims to be related to economic development, which turns out to be a very loosely defined term.
Yet, you can hear that term at the board meetings whenever it comes time to make a decision on how to spend or allocate millions of taxpayer dollars without having full understanding of the consequences. The same rationale of economic development is used – willingly or unwittingly – when putting private citizens’ resources at risk.
There are two good examples that show up within the past year, the Shannon Hill Industrial Park and the rezoning for apartments and commerce near Spring Creek. Neither of these has adequately addressed specific benefits to Louisa citizens, other than the vague terms that are more suited to business profitability.
The decisions about Shannon Hill were made based on reports that would have been better if generated as a middle school project. The professionalism of these reports needs to be scrutinized with more thoroughness than they were. There seemed to be no doubt beforehand about the decision the board would make.
When it came time to vote for the rezoning near Spring Creek, did the board use current data and information about groundwater? No! But they did put up a public employee without credentials in hydrogeology to pass off as an expert. Could the board have taken the time to delay a decision until further research was done? Yes! But they chose to ignore any sound advice.
Did the board even recognize an expert in hydrogeology, such as Nick Evans, who provided the supervisors with a rationale for delay? No! Why would anyone from the board care what a real expert has to say? For that matter, they don’t seem to listen to the citizens either.
Now we have the citizens of Louisa County who are going to be left to suffer the consequences of these inexplicable decisions. What to do? There are at least two paths. One is to maintain the status quo of continuing to attend the board meetings to make the repetitious complaints that the supervisors have heard many times before and have discounted just as many times. The other path is to take some time to gather with organized citizens to display dissatisfaction with, and demand repeal of, those decisions that the citizens don’t want, don’t need, and didn’t ask for.
We don’t need the supervisors to make bad decisions for us. They need to make decisions on our behalf.
We need government for The Rest of Us.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the September 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author's permission.
I just can’t stand lie. I wasn’t going to write this letter. After all, Toni Williams is not my supervisor, but the portrayal that Louisa Republican Committee Chair Graven Craig painted of Toni Williams in his Aug. 22 opinion letter “Wants Fiscal Hawk in Office” was full of lies.
I have been to many board of supervisors and broadband meetings over the years. I once believed that the board would take seriously the task of finding solutions to internet access, after former Supervisor Stephanie Koren spearheaded the effort to create a broadband authority.
I attended many meetings when they were making funding decisions on the broadband towers. Williams voted to give Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) money to install fiber at Zion Crossroads. That’s fine and good. We all want fiber to our homes. The only problem is, it would cost tens of millions of dollars to install fiber countywide.
Williams voted to spend money on fiber in Zion Crossroads, which already has excellent internet service. He wasn’t interested in his constituents’ getting broadband, but he advocated for Zion Crossroads to get even faster internet.
Williams has been AWOL on several other issues that matter to Louisa residents. He’s never voted to give the library adequate funding. He may not use the library, but many of our citizens do. Many remember Williams’ notorious comment questioning why we need a community library at all. “Why not build a Starbucks?” he asked in public session. Really?
Let’s talk about schools. Our schools are improving and teachers have gotten raises. I doubt that Williams had much to do with that or cares very much about the schools. He has no skin in the game. His children have been homeschooled for years.
Don’t get me wrong. Homeschooling can be a great experience. I’m just saying that the schools probably aren’t a priority for Williams.
What Williams has shown up to vote for is millions and millions of dollars for new growth at Zion and the proposed industrial park at Shannon Hill. This may result in more jobs and revenue for the county or it may not. It’s a gamble and will take years or decades to realize, if ever. But “fiscal hawk” Williams took the gamble and voted for it.
Whose interests is Toni Williams looking out for? I’m not sure, but I’m certain it’s not the interests of his constituents in the Jackson District or the citizens of Louisa County. Go vote Nov. 5. Vote for your interests, not his.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in the August 19th edition of the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
When you vote for a candidate, how do you make your choice? So many of the issues can be argued logically from either side. They are complicated issues. If you have a job and family, how do you ever have the time to delve into the details so that you can see who has the better solution? Most of us go with the party we’ve always been aligned with or ask our social and church communities for guidance.
If you are looking for a way to make your own choice, one idea is to follow the money. Unfortunately, candidates need a lot of money to fund a campaign and to get their voice heard. TV ads, Facebook ads, signs: all that costs a lot. All other things being equal, the candidate with the most money wins. Sad but true. Where does the money come from? It stands to reason that, when elected, a candidate will have to make policy decisions favorable to their largest donors if they want to be reelected. Sad but true.
So I look at who the major donors are to see what a candidate will do once in office. Did Dominion Energy write a big check? They have written quite a few. And that just might be why the General Assembly keeps making decisions that help Dominion’s bottom line, rather than the bottom lines of the customers paying their electric bills. How about the pharmaceutical industry and our drug prices?
Rather than accepting corporate donations, Juanita Jo Matkins is raising money one small donation at a time, from individuals who believe in her. That means she’s working for us, not for the big money people. She understands that politics isn’t so much about left versus right but big versus small.
That’s why I’m voting for Juanita Jo Matkins for 56th District delegate.
Reliable internet service is important to me and to the vitality of our community. So are affordable health care, education and job skills and the expectation that rights are not curtailed by race, gender or wealth. We all want respect, opportunity, and fairness.
All these things are critical to a happy and healthy life in modern-day Virginia. Because we all know this, we should replace John McGuire in the General Assembly this November. He has persisted in preventing efforts to provide all Virginians with these important benefits. There is nothing to indicate next year will be any different if we return him to office in Richmond.
Juanita Jo Matkins is campaigning to replace John McGuire in the House of Delegates. She has made clear that she will fight for better education, access to broadband internet, affordable health care and representation for all Virginians. Voters in the 56th District should seek to meet her, hear her and then vote for her in November.
Lynn Engler Louisa
I was pleased to see a Richmond television station airing interviews with local candidates for government office. I saw the interview with Juanita Jo Matkins, candidate for the House of Delegates for Louisa County.
Matkins plans to increase spending for education in the Commonwealth. When asked how she would pay for this, she explained that the important thing is to make your priorities reflect what is important. If, as she would like, education is the highest priority in the budget, then the question becomes how to pay for the things lower on the priority list. Just like a home budget, you will always fund those things you see as the most important, then worry about the rest.
I thought her response was pitch-perfect. What do we value most? Budget the needed money and then see what the next priority is. Budget for that, and so forth.
It’s clear that education, rural broadband and affordable health care need to be higher on the priority list of the Virginia General Assembly. I believe Juanita Jo Matkins will represent my priorities in the legislature.
Jim Wolf Louisa
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with with the author's permission.
The Central Virginian's readers may not be aware that Tyler Adams, Supervisor Duane Adams son, is not the CV's usual kind of letter writer. He's a Republican political operative, who has worked for, and continues to work for some of the most radical politicians in the Commonwealth.
What they need to know is that his hit-piece last week continues a running narrative, that government has no role in promoting services that would benefit everyone in the county.
Apparently he and likeminded county officials want people to forget their history, and the reasons why rural electrification cooperatives were started, and who was responsible — our government. Their shared vision is to undermine faith in government’s ability to work for the common good. A hypocritical con game that’s as breathtaking as it is effective, throwing just enough sand into the gears to jam things up.
Like our supervisors voting against the industrial park, only to reverse course the next month, and supporting a housing development just to shoot it down after “debating” into the wee hours. Knowing that neither project could happen until the situation with the intake site for the James River Pipeline involving the Monican nation was resolved.
A crucial fact that has been public knowledge since 2016, one they would have you believe was a minor oversight. Yet according to an representative the Monican nation, it was the first in a chain of six major errors, each one compounding the previous mistake.
Statements that weren't printed by the CV in their coverage of the earlier James River Authority meeting with the Monican nation and their attorney, or in last weeks edition.
Tyler’s grandiose statement about “government intervening … where it has no business,” is taken straight from the playbook of Koch brother sponsored front groups’ the American City County Exchange (ACCE), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose sole purpose is to develop model policy at the city/county level and model legislature at the state level.
Unsurprisingly, both groups and their front men are highly sensitive to being publicly exposed, like how Jon Russell ACCE’s executive director, after recently chiming in on the CV’s and Toni Williams Facebook page about Louisa County’s Broadband project, stopped commenting almost as soon as he was exposed.
Or when Tyler Adams was similarly challenged on both FB pages he responded with deflections and schoolyard taunts in an attempt to silence any opposing views.
And when it comes to the Adams family, apparently the batshit doesn’t fall far from the family tree.
While shills like Mr. Russell and Adams are fond of pretending to the world that they are heroically challenging ingrained assumptions, and crowing about — limited government and free market principles, low taxes, minimal debt and regulations, the organizations they represent are mostly concerned with finding creative ways to help themselves.
The reality behind their rhetoric is that leaders from business and industry are the ones writing this model legislature, often for their own benefit, and in Republican controlled states they are rubber-stamping it, actions which affect the lives of millions of Americans.
Here in Virginia, our General Assembly changed the SCC’s ability in 2015 to regulate Dominion Power with a series of bills promoted by former House Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell. Now all of their customers and the states taxpayers are footing the bill. Where last year they collected $227 million in excess profits from their customers, and could be in line for a 26% increase this year.
From all appearances this creative interpretation of responsible governance is driving the actions of our three most ideological supervisors — Wade, Adams and Williams. Even though Wade is stepping down this year, should the rest of the supervisors continue with their spineless ways and follow Adams and Williams lead until the 2021 elections, Louisa County is likely to become more like Goochland and Hanover where the Tea Party has taken over.
In the meantime, these supervisors’ hypocritical claims of “fiscal responsibility,” are excuses; not to deliver high-speed internet to the county, or ensure there will be water for future growth, and are in Mr. Adam’s words, an indictment of their “qualifications for office.”
The residents of the Jackson district in particular should start by removing deadwood like Toni Williams from office. Likewise, the people of Louisa should act to restore accountability in the General Assembly, by voting for Juanita Jo Matkins as their state delegate, and Amy Laufer as their state senator.
Editor’s Note: this is an extended version of a letter submitted to the Central Virginian, and expands on themes in this post.
I don’t often become parochial in these columns, but in his Aug. 25 column Jon Russell asserted that America cities are dying because of their public policy choices. His list of dying cities included my hometown, Seattle.
I just returned from visiting family and friends in Seattle and marveled again at nearby, majestic Mount Rainer. If Seattle is dying, Mr. Russell better not tell Microsoft or Amazon, or the people who just built the new monorail into town from the airport, or those who tore down the unsightly viaduct along the waterfront.
Neither the educators associated with Seattle’s great academic institutions, such as the University of Washington, nor the doctors, nurses and technicians of its cutting-edge hospitals would see themselves in Mr. Russell’s characterization. Perhaps Boeing is having a spot of trouble, but one can’t blame that on local governments.
There is no evidence that local or state governments are passing unwieldy regulations that will bring the city to its knees or bring rats out of the gutters. Pike Place Market is as attractive as always.
Mr. Russell’s basic argument is that U.S. cities are dying because of homelessness, which he says is a consequence of local overregulation.
But in the wake of considerable scientific evidence, everyone else understands that homelessness is connected with mental illness, loss of income leading to loss of homes, PTSD, weaknesses in the Veterans Administration’s assistance to veterans, and corporations’ spread of opioids.
Mr. Russell completely garbles the facts concerning homelessness in Los Angeles, a city with a population of 4 million. The city has a homeless population of 60,000; it didn’t increase by 60,000. And that’s 1.5 percent of LA’s total population. You can read the facts about this incredibly complicated situation right here.
Predictably, Mr. Russell’s views on major urban areas echoes the president’s sentiments. To attack a member of Congress, Rep. Elijah Cummings, President Trump characterized Maryland’s 7th Congressional District as a place where “no human being would want to live” and claimed it ranked last in “almost every major category.” Not surprisingly, the fact-checkers had great fun demonstrating that Cummings’ district did not fit the president’s destructive Twitter rantings.
Howard County, Md., is the third-wealthiest county in America, with a median household income of $115,576, far above the national median of $57,652. The district, overall, has a median household income of $60,929, still above the national average. It has the second-highest median income of any U.S. predominantly black district, according to the Baltimore Sun. And as American statistician Nate Silver points out, the district has above-average college education rates.
Oddly enough, the bulk of Mr. Russell’s column was spent singing his own praises as the chair of the American City County Exchange, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Legislative Exchange Council, both of which are notoriously conservative lobbying organizations funded by corporate giants attempting to impose their views and objectives on state and local governments for their own profits. For a closer, alternate look try this site.
So, we ask, is homelessness due to a lack of programs or to overregulation?
We started with the thought that American cities are dying, and one data point was homelessness. But wait, by Mr. Russell’s measure, Culpeper is dying, too. Just ask the stalwart volunteers at our community’s Food Closet. They see homelessness.
Mr. Russell has been elected to take care of our community. Would he please tell us which specific local regulations the Town Council or the Board of Supervisors passed that caused homelessness in Culpeper? We ask in the name of problem-solving, not dogma, especially with elections for local offices coming this November.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission, and has been edited to incorporate his links to other websites.
Given his role as the Executive Director of ACCE, it’s no coincidence that Mr. Russell has taken to commenting on the Central Virginian’s and Toni Williams Facebook pages with his views about the counties Broadband project.
I volunteer with a non-partisan organization dedicated to making sure everybody who is eligible to vote and wants to vote is registered and able to vote.
One of my partners in this work is Juanita Jo Matkins. Her untiring dedication to this work has inspired me and others to volunteer. We set up tables in public places where we can register voters, and when necessary, begin the process of obtaining an ID. Sometimes we have a client who can’t vote because of a felony conviction. If they have served their sentence, we can log onto the state Department of Elections website and find out whether their rights have been restored. If not, we help them apply. This is a non-partisan effort. Nobody’s asking who they’re going to vote for.
Although it’s quite rewarding, tabling isn’t all that easy. I’ve tabled with Juanita Jo out in a parking lot when it’s 90 degrees and when its 30 degrees. When we get a lull in activity I’m likely to be thinking: “Can we go home now?” Not Juanita Jo. Not if there is one more person we might be able to help.
This non-partisan dedication to the American democratic ideal of representation is one of the reasons I will be voting for Juanita Jo Matkins for delegate for the 56th district this November.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the August 29th edition of the Central Virginian and has been reposted here with the authors permission.
At Louisa County High School on Aug. 17, I listened to our Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and three experts talk about the problems rural Virginia has with access to broadband internet. I also listened to Louisa residents talk about the problems they face (poor connectivity, long delays, lack of access) and the consequences of these problems (can’t work at home, moving out of Louisa, disadvantaged children, lack of competitiveness in attracting businesses and others).
Where were our board of supervisor members? Who knows! They were not there to listen to their constituents. When a citizen asked about their absence, another constituent yelled, “They don’t care.” This got some applause.
The following Tuesday I had occasion to talk to a member of the Louisa County Broadband Authority and asked how things were going. The response came as no shock. I was told the board of supervisors never wanted the broadband authority to succeed.
It’s been six long years since the authority started its work. How many residents are being served? According to the authority’s minutes, it’s around 20.
Are all the authorized towers installed yet? No. Why not? One reason was a 35 percent increase in the price of steel caused by the federal government-imposed trade war with China.
Did the supervisors take that into consideration? No. As the current chair of the board stated, the authority had to work with the money authorized. If that meant cutting back on coverage, too bad—so sad.
Is this the government we want?
Do we want to cripple our children and grandchildren due to lack of access to all the benefits of modern technology? Do we want them destined to a work life of lower opportunity because they didn’t have the same internet access as their competitors in other counties?
We can no longer sit back and wait for our supposed leaders to do their jobs. You want a better life for you and your children? Show up at the board meetings and demand action. Vote out any supervisor that waffles and delays implementation of the authority’s plan. They are the decision makers—it’s on them to make this happen. Failure is on them as well.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the August 29th edition of the Central Virginian and has been reposted here with the authors permission.
On Saturday I attended the 2019 Rural Broadband Summit sponsored by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. The summit drew a large crowd from Louisa, Goochland and Orange counties.
In the opening session I heard a range of questions and comments from concerned parents, small business owners, local farmers and residents trying to telecommute. There was also valuable information provided by the panelists on programs and grants that are available to help expand broadband in rural areas such as Louisa County.
Unfortunately, what I did not see was any member of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors or any member of the county’s broadband authority. Several members of the audience asked questions regarding the board’s efforts (or lack thereof) to expand broadband, but there was no one there to respond.
No one to discuss the status of the broadband towers we have been waiting for. No one to explain why county residents must pay two or three times what non-rural Virginians pay for slower, less efficient broadband.
This should not be a partisan issue. One audience member mentioned a bill sponsored by Rep. Rob Wittman (RVA) that would provide some funding for rural broadband. Rep. Spanberger immediately agreed to cosponsor the bill. Broadband access should be an issue with bipartisan support.
Editor’s note: This letter to the editor originally appeared in the August 22 edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
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