Blue Louisa: A blog Covering Central Virginia & national politics from a progressive perspective
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.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.