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.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.