Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fishersville Mike shares 'Easter Song' by Keith Green



Fishersville Mike posts "Easter Song" by Keith Green (October 21, 1953 – July 28, 1982) for this holy weekend. Who was Keith Green? He was a contemporary Christian musician who joyfully shared the message of Christ through his songs.

In 1982, he was killed in a plane crash at the age of 28 along with his 4-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. His wife was at home at the time with their one-year-old daughter and was six weeks pregnant with their fourth child, another daughter. If alive today, Keith Green would be 60 years old. Read more about this remarkably talented man who left too soon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Bundy Ranch: Reminiscent of other Easter run-ins with federal government

What is it about Easter and incidences involving the government? Today I saw that that a group named Oath Keepers had individuals from all across the nation heading to the Bundy Ranch in Nevada to counter federal agents. It was a reminder of other clashes in the past between citizens and the government.

Easter 1993 -  Waco, Texas siege of religious compound by federal agents
During the Clinton administration and Attorney General Janet Reno's watch was the Waco Siege that culminated on April 19, 1993, when 76 people died in a fire after being surrounded and then attacked by federal agents. Easter was on April 11 that year, during the time of the siege and eight days before the final battle. More here.

Easter 2000 - Elian Gonzalez removed by federal agents
Remember April 22, 2000? The raid occurred on the day before Easter so on Easter morning the photo of a goggled American soldier pointing a machine gun at a six-year-old Elian Gonzalez was plastered all over the newspapers. It was also during Clinton and Reno's watch. More here.

Easter 2005 - Terri Schiavo ordered removed from feeding tube by government courts
Remember Terri Schiavo who was in a coma and whose parents wanted to keep her on life support but her husband wanted to terminate life support? After seven years of legal battling, the courts decided in favor of the husband. The feeding tube was removed and Schiavo lingered for almost two weeks, dying on March 31, 2005. That was four days after Easter. More here.

Easter 2014 - Bundy Ranch in Nevada watched by federal agents
And then there's this year's hold-off at the Bundy Ranch in a dispute with the federal government over grazing rights on public land. With armed federal agents on hand as well as armed militia, could there be disaster? Let's pray there isn't on this Easter weekend. More here.

Perhaps we should paraphrase the March saying into "beware the ides of April."

Data.Virginia provides easy access

Governor McAuliffe today announced the launch of Data.Virginia, a new online portal that will provide easy access to Virginia’s open data and keep Virginians informed of major initiatives that take advantage of big data.

Speaking on the new initiative, Governor McAuliffe said: “Virginia is generating more data on a daily basis than ever before. Much of that information is intended for public access, but is often buried and hard to find. With this new initiative, Virginians will have a one stop shop to get access to data from a variety of sources. That’s empowering data that can be used by  citizens to make more informed decisions, by innovators to build cutting-edge applications, and by community stakeholders to plan smarter projects.”

Examples of open datasets that will be available through the Data.Virginia portal include the Department of Education’s State Report Card on school performances, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s database of board and commission openings, and the Department of Transportation’s traffic data from across Virginia.

In addition to serving as a central repository for open data, Data.Virginia will also serve as an information clearinghouse for the Commonwealth’s  big data initiatives. Big data, with the common characteristics of volume, variety and velocity, refers to the collection and analysis of huge amounts of electronic information. Commonwealth initiatives that make use of big data include the new Virginia Longitudinal Data System, a project which makes use of a variety of education and workforce development datasets and applies analytics to produce data-driven solutions that improve student outcomes. 

Speaking on the importance of big data, Governor McAuliffe said:

“Traditionally, data has been used to solve a single problem.  Now, through big data and analytics, we can analyze large quantities of information from a variety of sources more efficiently and develop better insights and solutions to our challenges. Several Virginia universities have established big data initiatives, and we need to expand and institutionalize the use of data analytics across the Commonwealth.”
The security of personal information will remain a priority.  Electronic data held by the state is subject to federal and state laws, protecting especially sensitive data. The Commonwealth also has an extremely high-level of security in a top-rated data center with security operations that monitor network traffic 24 hours a day, every day. Tax identification, Social Security and credit card numbers and health and other personal records are protected by even more stringent security standards.

In closing, Governor McAuliffe re-emphasized the importance of Data.Virginia:

“By adopting a two-pronged approach for harnessing Commonwealth data, we will not only enhance the way we use big data internally, but we will also make it easier for our citizens to access information.  It is through initiatives such as Data.Virginia that Virginia will continue to be a nationwide leader in innovation, smarter government, and increased transparency.”
The new portal can be accessed at Data.Virginia.gov

Karaffa: Augusta County's Mill Place Commerce Park in Verona


By David Karaffa
Supervisor, Beverley Manor District, Augusta County

The Mill Place Commerce Park in Verona, is Augusta County’s industrial park and is in the Beverley Manor District. One of my campaign promises when running for the Board of Supervisors was to work toward filling Mill Place with new business. Since taking office, the park has seen a lot of activity and growth.

In March of 2013, Shamrock Farms out of Phoenix, AZ, decided to invest $50 million in a state of the art dairy. Once completed it will employ 60 people in a 130,000-square foot facility. It was a year-long process for Augusta County as we competed against locations up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. Shamrock complements the valley with our culture and sense of community along with utilizing local materials and local source milk.

In June of 2013, Dascom Printing announced their purchase and investment in Mill Place. Their 23,000-square foot facility will add another 15-20 jobs in the printing industry with excitement about expanding into other technologies.

In 2014, private investment started moving dirt for more office space in Mill Place because the first building was filled. I am excited to see both small and large business coming together in the park.

Lastly, a yet-to-be-named business is poised for their announced coming to Mill Place and we will be happy to announce who they are once everything has been settled.

In all, Mill Place Commerce Park is on the move and doesn’t look to be slowing down. Augusta County and the Board of Supervisors are always introducing and touring the park with visitors and look forward to continued success.

You can learn more about Mill Place by clicking here or about Augusta County Economic Development Office by clicking here.
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David Karaffa, 30, represents the Beverley Manor District of Augusta County on the Board of Supervisors. A registered nurse, he is the Director of Nursing at Stuarts Draft Christian Home. He and his wife, Katie, have three daughters. Supervisor Karaffa can be reached at DavidKaraffa@comcast.net or by contacting the government center in Verona at (540) 245-5600.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie meet at Shad Planking ... and Bob Brown catches it in classic political photo

One of the best photos taken during Wednesday's historic Shad Planking showed Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner laughing as he greets a laughing Republican Ed Gillespie who is seeking to boot him out of the seat, so to speak. Under the pines in Wakefield, Warner was wearing a blue long-sleeve Oxford shirt while Gillespie was dressed in a blue shirt and navy jacket. No ties on either.

The picture was captured by photographer Bob Brown who has done it again with his photography  magic. Classic. Kudos to Brown and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The photo can be found on page B-1 of the Metro section in hard copy. The online version can be found here.

It wasn't unusual to hear that the two senate candidates kept it "clean and cordial, " according to RTD political reporter Jim Nolan who has an account of the day's activities and sightings ("Politicians walk the Shad plank").  That's what the Shad planking is all about:
In its early days the event functioned as a political Miss America pageant for the Byrd Democratic machine, where groups of white men in coats and ties would gather to look over candidates and decide the slates for local and statewide offices.

Over the years, the shad has stayed the same — cooked over a fire on wooden planks by members of the Wakefield Ruritan Club. But the event has evolved to be more inclusive and bipartisan, reflecting a diversity that has Democrats in U.Va. baseball caps sipping red Solo cups next to cigar-smoking Republicans.

“It’s much more relaxed,” said [former Governor George] Allen. “It’s not pretentious. People from all over Virginia go to it and they get together, and you can talk to people and they can look you in the eye and ask questions, and follow up questions,” he said. “It’s the way politics ought to be.”
Politics and fish and beer, and a way to remember it. Love that photo, Bob Brown....

Congressman Eric Cantor kicks off 2014 campaign with first ad



Virginia Congressman and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has hit the ground running in the 2014 campaign season with an ad that was released Wednesday. The election spot focuses on how the Congressman is standing up for conservatives to repeal Obamacare and reduce spending while highlighting his efforts to create jobs and strengthen families not only in Virginia but in America.

Fundraising reports for this quarter showed Cantor raising $920,000 with over $2 million on hand while his primary challenger Dave Brat raised under $90,000 with only $42,000 on hand. Cantor's fundraising abilities as well as those of 7th Congressional District Chairman Linwood Cobb are impressive. That kind of leadership is needed as Republicans look to the future.

Monticello - April 28: Hear author-landscape architect Thomas Woltz at an elegant garden party on West Lawn


TOM Talks
Join us to celebrate the opening of Garden Week
at our first TOM Talk of the year!
Thomas Woltz (right), celebrated landscape architect and author, will speak at an elegant garden party on Monticello's West Lawn on April 28. Drawing on his work for Monticello's landscape stewardship plan, Woltz will address modern design methods which can improve our ecology and reveal cultural and historic landscapes. Woltz was educated at the University of Virginia in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, fine art and architectural history. He was recently profiled in Elle Decor and Garden Design magazines.
Subscriptions to the annual TOM Talk series - four talks for $185, a 20% savings - can only be purchased until the first talk on April 28!
This month, celebrated landscape architect Thomas Woltz will speak at an elegant garden party on the West Lawn;
In June, we'll take you inside Monticello's South Pavilion, the first home which young Thomas and Martha Jefferson shared at Monticello that is not normally open to the public;
In October, we'll meet in our newest vineyard on Montalto for a talk with Gabriele Rausse, the "Father of Virginia Wine" and also our Director of Gardens. Rausse will share Jefferson's ideas for an agrarian society and vision for a U.S. wine industry;
In December, we'll host a discussion of slavery in America and at Monticello between Pulitzer Prize winners Annette Gordon-Reed and Alan Taylor.
Tickets can be purchased a la carte, or through the series subscription (a 20% savings!). Whichever selection you choose, your ticket will include a tax-deductible charitable donation to Monticello.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Monticello!

          

Ed Gillespie announces campaign finance committee


Press release from the Ed Gillespie for U.S. Senate campaign....

The Ed Gillespie for Senate Campaign announced today its Virginia finance committee and co-chairs. A full list of the finance committee membership is available below. Bill Goodwin, Fred Malek, Senator Jeff McWaters and Steve Smith will serve as co-chairs.

Speaking about the announcement, Finance Committee Member Juan Pablo Segura said, “Ed Gillespie has the right ideas for creating opportunities, spurring job growth and letting our private sector businesses reach their potential. The members of his finance committee are committed to making sure he can share his message with Virginians.”
Jane Abraham said, “The finance committee will seek support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats who are ready for a change in course from the last five years. Ed Gillespie’s experience working his way through college, serving as a policy and communications aide in Congress and going on to serve as a White House counselor will let him be effective from the start in getting things done in the Senate.”
Bill Goodwin said, “Many Virginians believe that the United States Senate has not demonstrated the leadership necessary for our country in order to provide balanced financial stability, economic growth and, in particular, jobs for our citizens. I believe Ed Gillespie possesses the leadership capabilities to help the Senate find solutions to many of the issues that face our country today.”
Virginia Finance Committee Co-Chairs
William H. Goodwin, Jr., Richmond
Fred Malek, McLean
Senator Jeff McWaters, Virginia Beach
Steve Smith, Abingdon
Virginia Finance Committee Members
The Honorable and Mrs. Spencer Abraham
Stan F. Baldwin
Charlie & Mari Ann Banks
Honorable and Mrs. William P. Barr
Kirk & Kristen Blalock
Tom and Carol Boyd
Reg Brown
Jim Carter
Hon. Thelma Drake
John and Anne Hazel, Jr.
Everett and Robin Hellmuth
William B. Holtzman
Marc and Emily Lampkin
Leonard Leo
Marlene Malek
Steve McMillin
Dan and Ellen Meyer
David & Laurie Norcross
Jon Peterson
Dan & Sonia Runde
Juan Pablo Segura
Tom Snead
Pete Snyder
John Tickle
John D. Whitlock
Wyatt Winslow
www.EdforSenate.com

Bill Bolling posts Facebook status updates

Jean Ann and Bill Bolling
January 2014

Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling recently posted a status update on his public office Facebook Wall  and regular Facebook Wall that caught the attention of his supporters.

On Saturday, April 12, he wrote:
Many of my Facebook friends have asked what Jean Ann and I are doing to stay busy now that my term as Lieutenant Governor has ended. So, for the next few days I will be updating you on some of the things we are doing to stay busy in the public and private sector. Stay tuned for Part 1 tomorrow.
Update #1 - On Sunday, April 13, the first update was posted:
Here's the first update on what I've been doing since my term as LG ended. Professionally, I have returned to the private sector and taken on some new duties as Managing Director of Virginia Operations for RCM&D, one of the nation's largest independent insurance brokers. You can read more about this below. While I enjoyed public service a great deal, I'm a business guy at heart, and I have really enjoyed getting back to the private sector full time and focusing on growing our firm's business in Virginia. More to come tomorrow.
Included was a link to the RCM&D News announcing that long-time employee "former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling joined the firm on a full time basis when his term ended on January 11, 2014. Bolling assumed the position of Managing Director of RCM&D’s Virginia operations, and will have lead responsibility for managing all aspects of the firm’s strategic growth plans in the state."

RCM&D was founded in 1885 and ranked among the top privately-held independent insurance advisory firms in the country with over 300 professionals and six locations throughout the mid-Atlantic region including Richmond. They provide "property and casualty; management liability, and employee benefit services to clients in a number of critical business sectors, including health care, higher education, manufacturing, technology, construction and real estate, and transportation and logistics."

The announcement continued, "Lieutenant Governor Bolling has been affiliated with RCM&D on a part time basis since 2003. His focus had been on new business development and client retention. As Managing Director of RCM&D’s Virginia operations, Bolling will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategic growth strategy for the firm in Virginia, and overseeing all aspects of the firm’s operations in the Commonwealth."

Update #2 - Monday, April 14:
In January, I agreed to serve as Chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce's Industry Council on Business Climate and Economic Development. This is an excellent way for me to continue the work I did during the McDonnell administration as Virginia's Chief Jobs Creation Officer.
Update #3 - Tuesday, April 15:
At the request of former Gov. Jerry Baliles, I have agreed to serve as co-chair of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative. One in four Virginians across parts of the Rural Horseshoe have less than a high school education, and this initiative seeks to change that.
Update #4 - Wednesday, April 16:
As an avid fly fisherman and outdoor enthusiast, I was honored to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
It's good to see that the Bollings continue their involvement in public life even while finding a bit more private time like their recent trip to Cancun.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Gilmore: '1994 borders are the only option in Ukraine'


By Jim Gilmore

As Washington watches events unfold in eastern Ukraine with great concern, the United States must exert its diplomatic muscle to assure Kiev that the only solution to the crisis in Crimea is a complete return of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine, and a declaration by Russia that their annexation is null and void.

Restoration of the captured territory must be the U.S. policy, especially in the face of continuing pressure on Eastern Ukraine.

Other policy measures and compromises will not work, and the United States, NATO and the community of civilized nations must act to assure the government in Kiev that Russia’s land grab will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom worked with Russia to secure the Ukrainian nuclear arsenal leftover from the Soviet years, transferring those weapons from Ukraine back to Russian soil. This agreement, commonly referred to as the Budapest Memorandum, reaffirmed the existing borders of Ukraine – extending through Crimea to the shores of the Black Sea.

By conquering Crimea, Russia has violated its own written commitments, and has rendered null and void the commitments of the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Brushing aside U.S. and U.K. guarantees is most destabilizing and very dangerous.

Additionally, global initiatives to stop nuclear proliferation are dead if a country who gave up its nuclear arsenal, and whose borders were guaranteed is rendered helpless to invasion by a nuclear power.

Should United States and her allies accept the policy position and premise of the Russian conquest of Crimea, Russia will effectively be free to invade and conquer any territory occupied by native Russians and those areas where Russian is spoken. Allowing such aggression reawakens the old Soviet policy of “Russification” whereby Russia occupied countries to culturally take over countries to be added to the Russian empire.

The current situation exposes the unfocused and inattentive foreign policy under the Obama administration and secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry. Attempts by President Obama to minimize the actions of the Russians by calling them a “regional power” are absurd. Russia is a global power, and takes actions for good or evil on a worldwide scale.

Potential resolution of the crisis is made more difficult by such an dismissive statement by the President. The so-called “sanctions” doled out by the West are weak and ineffective. U.S. sanctions have only led to Russian counter-sanctions and expose the sanctions reaction as ineffective.

Direct military intervention, however, will not end the Russian occupation of Crimea. It is too late. The message the United States is currently sending by reducing our military capacity is that we are tired, and disillusioned after a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. and its NATO allies must commit themselves to a strong policy to reverse Russia’s Crimean conquest. We must refuse to deal with Russia as an international partner so long as they lay claim to Crimea. NATO must resolve to place soldiers in vulnerable countries along the Russian periphery: not enough to imply aggressive action against Russia, but to make it clear that further Russian invasion will have to go through NATO soldiers.

Acting in good faith, the West has intertwined itself with Russia over the last several decades. Untangling those connections is not desirable, but the U.S. and NATO did not create this new Cold War. Some pain now may avoid much a greater disaster in the immediate future if the Crimean conquest is allowed to stand in the name of forgiveness and a new “Reset.” Russia cannot count on “business as usual,” as it comes out of a policy of aggression.

Finally, we, as citizens must guard against allowing President Obama to negotiate a face-saving deal that would effectively allow Russia to benefit from its illegal action. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has stated that he would seek the return of the Crimea if he were still President. Yanukovych would never have made such a pronouncement without direct consultation with Russian President Putin. This may very well be a trial balloon to achieve a long term Russian strategic goal. A deal could be offered by the Russians to return the Crimea, subject to the Kharkiv Accords, in return for granting more autonomy to the provinces of Ukraine, which could then be subverted by Russia. The deal could include the return of Yanukovich, who can claim to be the democratically elected President of Ukraine, with elections in the future unsupervised by any neutral group or power.

President Obama’s inept foreign policy might seize upon a deal to give the appearance that he is a great conciliator who defused the Crimean crisis. But this would be a replay of the successful Russian ploy that forces the Administration to abandon his goal of the removal of Assad in Syria, in return for a meaningless deal to secure Russian cooperation (nay leadership) in securing Syrian chemical weapons. That deal secured Russian strategic interest in Syria, and defeated an American policy of removing a dictator hostile to the U.S. and its allies. A repeat of such a sorry deal in the Ukraine only postpones and may make inevitable the next Russian outrage, until miscalculation leads to a general war with catastrophic consequences for all mankind.
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Jim Gilmore is the president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation. He served as governor of Virginia from 1998 to 2002 and as Republican National Committee chairman from 2001 to 2002.

NOTE: This editorial originally appeared in the April 14, 2014, edition of The Hill.

Karaffa: Augusta County's real estate assessment

By Supervisor David Karaffa
Beverley Manor District
Augusta County Board of Supervisors

Augusta County, like all counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia, must conduct an assessment of all real estate. According to the Code of Virginia this must be done every four years for a county of our size. However, Augusta County has a special provision in the code that allows for us to assess every fifth or sixth year if the Board of Supervisors desire.

Most folks in Augusta will remember the reassessment of 2009. Some didn’t mind the assessment. Many did, so much so that it became a part of my campaign when I ran for supervisor. I told folks that I would engage in the reassessment and work to get a new one off the ground as soon as possible. That is exactly what the new board did when we took office in January 2012.

That first month that the new Augusta County Board of Supervisors was seated, we voted to begin the reassessment process and put together the reassessment committee. I was one of the supervisors selected. As a committee we were responsible to select the next company that would conduct the county assessment.

The committee met for the first time in February of 2012 and a request for bids was sent out. In March of 2012 bids were submitted by companies across the Commonwealth and interviews took place later that month. Some options were good, others not so much. In April of 2012 the committee decided on Wingate & Associates of Roanoke to perform the reassessment of Augusta County. (Click here for the Frequently Asked Questions that the Board responded to about the new assessment.)

Wingate & Associates went to work immediately setting up an office inside the Government Center with space for meetings and files. Field work began on July 1, 2012, and finished up in August of 2013 (11 months). Then the company went to work with their calculations and verification.

The process would take more than a year to complete.

As a member of the reassessment committee, we had monthly meetings that kept us up to date with their overall progress and they were able to demonstrate their process for evaluating and setting a value to property. We discussed property types and county ordinances that would affect property. We discussed federally owned land, state owned land, county owned land, non profit land (schools, hospitals, churches, etc). We as supervisors also asked about random properties to evaluate the company’s process and procedure. This all went very well. The company also gave a number of updates to the entire Board of Supervisors during their work and met individually with supervisors to discuss and explain what the real estate market was doing in their districts. I found this information extremely helpful.

The total reassessment process wrapped up in November of 2013 (16 months in total). The new real estate assessments were compiled and submitted to the county (the Land Book) and on January 1, 2014, they became the official values of real estate for taxation in Augusta County.

We are currently going through the Board of Equalization process. This process is set forth in the Code of Virginia to allow for property owners to appeal the value placed on their property by Wingate & Associates. If you have any questions about your assessment you should contact the Government Center at (540) 245-5600 and ask to speak with the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office.

I hope this post has shed light on the issue of reassessment and what the current Board of Supervisors did in response. I am proud to have been on the reassessment committee that selected Wingate & Associates and am satisfied with the work they performed. As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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David Karaffa, 30, represents the Beverley Manor District of Augusta County on the Board of Supervisors. A registered nurse, he is the Director of Nursing at Stuarts Draft Christian Home. He and his wife, Katie, have three daughters. Supervisor Karaffa can be reached at DavidKaraffa@comcast.net or by contacting the government center in Verona at (540) 245-5600.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell 

20 years later ... Mrs. Doubtfire 2


My family loves the 1993 movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" featuring the hilarious humor of actor Robin Williams with the hunkiness of Pierce Brosnan and the perkiness of Sally Field. The Warp has all the details about a sequel that will again pair Williams and director Christopher Columbus.

Twenty years ago we were all a lot younger so what would a sequel look like? Soon we'll have the opportunity to find out when the film is released. Sounds like more fun and maybe another run-by fruiting. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The bunny and the garden gate


Look who I found this afternoon sitting by my garden gate. Is it Peter Rabbit ... or is it the Easter Bunny?

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 16, 2014

Wool Days at Frontier Culture Museum - April 16-19, 2014



Spring in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley means Wool Days at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. The museum will shear sheep using traditional hand shears at 11:00 and 2:00 at either the English farm yard or at the 1850 American farm barn yard. There is a good chance we will shear a third sheep at 10:00 most days.   

Visitors will have the opportunity to try many activities during Wool Days. Perhaps try your hand at:
* Weaving on the Irish Farm
* Card and spin wool on the 1820s American Farm
* Help sort and scour wool at the English Farm
* Process flax on the German Farm
* Touch flax, wool, and sheep
It's sunny with comfortably cool temps in the 50s and 60s this week ... come on out and join costumed interpreters as they relive life as it was in earlier days of America.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

National Library Week and thanking Augusta County Library folks

Newest Augusta County Library board trustee Dr. Kurt Michael with library director Diantha McCauley at the Fishersville main branch. Read more about Dr. Michael here.
 
 Goodies for staff and volunteers to celebrate National Library Week.

 Lucy, the resident dinosaur, dressed in her Easter bonnet as she oversees the children's section.





Check out the Augusta County Library ... there's so much to see and do!

Update: Thanks for the shout-out from the library crew: http://aclstaff.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/april-16-2014/

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 15, 2014

Augusta County Library: More special events during Nationial Library Week

 Children's Department in the Augusta County Library in Fishersville, Virginia.

This week Augusta County Library joins libraries across the country in celebrating National Library Week. Special events include a book signing with author Billy Coffey, a Wizard of Oz performance for children, a book sale and a fine removal event.
 
Started in 1958, National Library Week is sponsored by the American Library Association to highlight the value of libraries and library workers.  Libraries today are more than repositories for books and other resources. Often the heart of their communities, libraries are deeply committed to the places where their patrons live, work and study.  

“Service to the community has always been the focus of the library,” says Diantha McCauley, ACL Director. “As a result, our library system has grown and evolved to provide for the needs of every member of our community.” 

The National Library Week events at the Fishersville Library illustrate the range of free services offered by the library. This week's activities include:


·         Using the Internet for Beginners, Wednesday, April 16 at 3 p.m.
·         Wizard of Oz Performance for Children, Wednesday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m.
·         Accessing Free EBooks for Kindles, Thursday, April 17 at 3 p.m.
·         Author Billy Coffey Book Talk and Signing, Thursday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m. 
·         Who Done It Crime Scene Investigation for Teens, all week long

In addition, the Friends of the Augusta County Library will be hosting a special book sale where gently used books may be purchased individually or by the bagful in a Friends book tote. 

The library is also waiving overdue fines on request at all five of its locations.

For additional information, contact the library at 540-885-3961 or visit www.augustacountylibrary.org.  

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 15, 2014

Gillespie rakes in record $2.2 million in first quarter fundraising


Ed Gillespie's Facebook message said it all: "More than $2.2 million raised." It's a monumental milestone for the Republican going up against incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner for a number of reasons.

  • 3 out of 5 individual donors are from Virginia.
  • The median donation amount was $500.
  • There were 827 donations of $100 or less totaling nearly $40,000.
  • Donors reside in 89 of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities.
  • The $2.2 million raised by the Gillespie Campaign in part of the first quarter is more than any other non-incumbent Republican Senate campaign
  • 15 Gillespie donors had previously given to Mark Warner
Today's numbers prove that not only is Gillespie capable of raising impressive amounts of money but he is also able to chip away at Warner's polling numbers, holding him beneath 50 percent in the last two polls. Gillespie's high name recognition in political circles is playing out in his quest for the Republican nomination and confirms he is the only one in the field of four candidates who can make a serious run against Warner.

Gillespie's campaign manager Chris Levitt commented about the fundraising total:
“In less than a full quarter, the Gillespie campaign raised more money than any other Republican Senate challenger in the country. Virginia voters know that they have an opportunity not only to replace a Senator who’s voted 97 percent of the time with President Obama, but to replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. Our first quarter report shows strong support from across the Commonwealth and reflects enthusiasm for Ed Gillespie’s plans to put Virginians first and unleash job creation.

“In addition to having the funds to take our message to all Virginians, the Gillespie campaign has absorbed an overwhelming amount of support from grassroots activists, college students, and even independents who supported Mark Warner in 2008. Ed has been publicly endorsed by 49 of the 83 voting members of the RPV State Central Committee members and 51 unit chairs from around the Commonwealth. With unemployment among 20-24 year-olds continuing to be in the double digits, we have seen young people and college students flock to Ed’s message of growth and opportunity. Over the last five years, Virginians have seen a stagnant economy with work hours cut, too few jobs, higher energy prices, skyrocketing health care premiums and policy after policy from Mark Warner and President Obama that makes the problem worse. They know that Ed will be effective on day one to take us in a better direction.”
The Republican state convention to determine the U.S. Senate candidate will be held in Roanoke on Saturday, June 7.

Medicaid expansion ... looking for solutions instead of just saying no


It's an interesting stand-off in Augusta County with the discussion (or lack of for some) about Medicaid expansion and what to do about those who fall through the cracks of coverage. If I listen to those to the political right of me, the solution is that we should do nothing, shut down, just say no.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of being painted as the party of no. While I don't agree with Obamacare and I don't subscribe to the political decisions of the current president, it is what it is. After listening to the rants and vitriol for eight years against Republican President George W. Bush, I'm now hearing the same from the right side of the aisle against President Barack Obama and all Democrats.

Enough already.

Augusta County probably personifies the divide in the Medicaid expansion issue more than many because our delegates -- Steve Landes, Ben Cline, Dickie Bell, all Republican -- are staunchly against expansion while our state Senator Emmett Hanger, also Republican, wants to find a compromise.

Today's editorial in the Staunton News Leader said it well:
Last week, when most of  the country’s surviving presidents gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, George W. Bush said something that almost sounds quaint:
“A segregated society can never be a successful society, because the only success worth having is achieved together.”
Achieved together. Does that happen anymore in this country?
Good question.

I talked briefly with Senator Hanger last week about this very complicated issue. We haven't always agreed about his votes in Richmond but his pragmatic approach to Medicaid expansion is appreciated in today's politically toxic atmosphere. Indeed, it's put a target on his back from local far-right constituents who will probably -- most likely -- primary him next go round.

That reality is not lost on the editorial crew at the News Leader:
We are so divided on the role of government that for some the aim is not to achieve together but to stop their political opposition, at whatever cost.

When we do not like a law, some of us waste years trying to repeal it. Our elected leaders tread water in constant campaign mode, which is all about satisfying the loudest and the richest, not working for the good of all.

Nowhere is this more visible than the Virginia General Assembly, which cannot — because so far it will not — come up with a compromised solution to Medicaid expansion controversy.
Our General Assembly is made up of hard-working men and women who strive to represent their constituents and work long hours to do what's best. Having an election every two years may be a stumbling block to good governing. But in the spirit of good governing, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission was formed and headed up by Landes and Hanger. The News Leader, referring to the commission, wrote:
MIRC, which some note, rhymes with “jerk,” was to study Medicaid expansion. Among its 10 members are State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.

MIRC has met, but many of the 10 had no intent to agree to any Virginia benefit from the Affordable Care Act under any circumstances. Hanger has with others proposed a compromise called “Marketplace Virginia,” in which government money would fund private insurance for the poor. Landes, though, goes for satisfying the far right and says Marketplace Virginia simply is Medicaid expansion. He is wrong.

And we are stuck.

The middle understands that Obamacare is here to stay, like it or not, and want to make it work in Virginia.

The right points to the states where Medicaid expansion has not worked well while ignoring the states where it has. The right is also sick of compromising on legislation and losing winnable statewide elections.

And the left? Far-right talking points aside, the General Assembly has never been and certainly is not today a liberal bastion. The few who are there learned compromise long ago.
Virginia has a Democratic governor and a Democratically-controlled state senate. The News Leader opined, "Calling for a 'clean' budget, one that does not address Medicaid expansion, is simply disingenuous." I'm not sure if I agree with that; after all, we need the state budget passed so localities can go about the business of putting their own budgets in order. However, in politics the name of the game is using the leverage at hand. Both sides are doing exactly that.

In today's turbulent political waters, it takes a courage beyond what most understand to buck the base. Think back to Governor Bob McDonnell's battle with those in his own party last year over the transportation issue. He was the victim of some of the most vile, vitriolic bellowing I have seen -- from the right side of the aisle. So the News Leader noted:
At the Civil Rights Summit last week, where George W. Bush spoke of achieving together, Bill Clinton noted that political courage outlasts political capital. [emphasis added]
Very true.

The NL editorial concluded:
Democrats lost the south for a generation after the Civil Rights Act, but when they came back, they did something and agreed to a plan that had Republican roots, the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, Virginia Republicans lose statewide races and refuse to compromise.

Working together, with give and take, usually works well in our country. Richmond needs to remember how to do just that.
Where will the Medicaid expansion hold-off go from here? I joined up with A Healthy Virginia Works, a group of chambers of commerce and hospitals as well as community leaders across the Commonwealth, in a quest to find answers and solutions. Senator Hanger and fellow senators have offered their Marketplace Virginia plan. Hopefully, that middle ground will be found, preferably sooner rather than later.

Wednesday: Tech Remembrance Day ceremony in Richmond



Richmond, VA  -- Wednesday, April 16, 2014, Governor Terry McAuliffe will hold a remembrance ceremony at 9:30am by the Bell Tower on Capitol Square honoring the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Brief remarks will be offered by Chief of Staff Paul Regan and Secretary of Education Anne Holton. The bell will be rung following the reading of the names of each victim by Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran.
Virginia Tech Remembrance Day Ceremony  – Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 9:30am
Bell Tower – Capitol Square
Richmond, VA 23219

Thank a librarian! Celebrate National Library Week 2014


Thank a librarian! During National Library Week that runs now through April 19, stop by your local library to celebrate all they have to offer. Lots of activities and events are planned for this annual event -- plus it's a great time to thank those workers and volunteers who man the desk, shelve the books, answer questions, lead programs, and make the library an extension of everyone's home.

Best-selling author Judy Blume is the national honorary chairman. Since 1970, this prolific author has written books loved by children and young adults, selling over 80 million books that have been translated into 31 languages.

If you haven't been to the library in a while, check out the list of fun activities available with the Augusta County Library:
  • All week at all Augusta County Library locations: Tell us what you geek & we’ll waive your overdue fines!

    • Wednesday, April 16 at 6:30 pm in Fishersville: Children of all ages will have the chance to travel down the Yellow Brick Road with some of the cast members of the Wizard of Oz.  Come watch as these beloved characters bring us a sneak preview of this classic show and then meet them afterwards. Waynesboro Players in partnership with Imagine That! Theater will be presenting The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum on May 8 through the 10th at 7:30 p.m. and May 11th at 2:00 p.m. at Waynesboro High School Louis Spillman Auditorium.

    • Thursday, April 17 at 6:30 pm in Fishersville: We’re excited to offer an evening with local writer Billy Coffey, author of four books that combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond ordinary. Mr. Coffey will discuss his writing and sign books. Light refreshments provided. Sponsored by the Friends of the Augusta County Library.

    • Saturday, April 19 at 6:30  in Churchville (Time TBD): Children of all ages will have the chance to travel down the Yellow Brick Road with some of the cast members of the Wizard of Oz.  Come watch as these beloved characters bring us a sneak preview of this classic show and then meet them afterwards.
Augusta County Library Locations

     

    National Library Week 2014 - Proclamation  

    WHEREAS, libraries help lives change in their communities, campuses and schools;

    WHEREAS; librarians work to meet the changing needs of their communities, including providing resources for everyone and bringing services outside of library walls;

    WHEREAS, libraries and librarians bring together community members to enrich and shape the community and address local issues;

    WHEREAS, librarians are trained, tech-savvy professionals, providing technology training and access to downloadable content like e-books;

    WHEREAS, libraries offer programs to meet community needs, providing residents with resume writing classes, 24/7 homework help and financial planning services to teens applying for student loans to older adults planning their retirement;

    WHEREAS, libraries continuously grow and evolve in how they provide for the needs of every member of their communities;

    WHEREAS, libraries, librarians, library workers and supporters across America are celebrating National Library Week.

    NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that I proclaim National Library Week, April 13-19, 2014. I encourage all residents to visit the library this week to take advantage of the wonderful library resources available @ your library.  Lives change @ your library.

Passover 2014


Passover begins at sundown on Monday, April 14, and runs until Tuesday, April 22. The Jewish holiday of Passover is about freedom. Read more about it here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Follow that truck


Pretty dang good slathered on a rack of ribs....

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell April 13, 2014

Milmont Garden Nursery and Stuarts Draft

I followed the road to the river in Stuarts Draft last week, driving past the Little Debbie factory and Target warehouse in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a pretty spring day so I let the road lead me.

Milmont Nursery. The summer annuals aren't in yet but there were plenty of other varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers.



Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 2014

Now you see it, now you don't


Do you see what's missing in the second picture? The first photo was taken Friday and the second photo was taken Saturday. As seen in the middle of the first picture, SWAC Husband took out the river birch that had been robbing our Colorado Blue Spruce, named Albert, of water. Since we have an abundance of river birches in the yard but only one Albert, the decision was made to eliminate the water-grabbing culprit. Voila!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 14, 2014

Today in RVA: Congressman Cantor supports STEM education

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Those are the components of STEM education.

Today Congressman Eric Cantor will meet with Richmond-area members of the start-up community at 804RVA to talk about expanding STEM education as well as creating a culture of innovation, and finding creative ways to solve problems in the community. He will also encourage participation in the upcoming Congressional App Contest.

The Congressman will be joined by Larkin Garbee, Chief Imagination Officer for 804RVA, Robby Demeria who is Executive Director of the Richmond Technology Council, and other local members of the tech community.

Education and technology ... the pathway to the future.

Karaffa: Technology in our schools


By Supervisor David Karaffa
Augusta County

The desire for computers in the classrooms of the Augusta County Public School system is a significant discussion this budget season. The issue points are cost, maintenance, integration, and impact on our children’s education.

This school year (2013-2014), a pilot program was started in Stuart Middle School (SMS) with Apple MacBook Air laptops networked with Apple TVs mounted in the classroom. I had the opportunity to visit SMS, meet the students, speak with teachers, and see first hand how the technology has been integrated into their classrooms. What I witnessed was an overall positive in the classroom. However, let's review the topics of debate over this issue.

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors has agreed to fund the school system with $1 million per year for three years to implement a technology program in our public schools. This will involve the continuation of the technology in Stuart Middle School along with all of the other middle schools, and Fort Defiance High school next year. The second year will see the integration in all the high schools across the county. In the third year, elementary schools will be brought online with the computers. The $3 million is coming from the sale of Ladd Elementary school; therefore, it will not impact the taxpayers in the initial three-year roll out.

It's important to understand that it isn’t just the laptops that need upkeep, but also the wired/wireless system and other components that make the system work that will need upkeep and replacement as they age or become obsolete. Each school will have its challenges and the School Board will need to start planning and putting money away for replacement of these components in their budgets now in order to keep up. That would mean hundreds of thousands per year that needs to be put away. This will be a new expense.

In order for the technologies impact to be significant, teachers will need to be assisted and coached on how to use the technology in the classroom to enhance the learning experience for each student. As a county, we need to be able to see and measure the positive impact this technology is having. Most notably, through SOLs, SAT, and other current measures of student performance.

The debate points are as numerous as the opinions on whether technology in the classroom actually helps education. The argument has been made that a perfectly good education can still be had with a knowledgeable teacher and a chalkboard. However, it is too basic to be practically applied in today’s world and in our current public school system. It is important to face a few realities. Discipline, special needs students, and the constantly evolving digital world have a real affect on public school.

Other learning institutions are able to be picky about which children they accept and teach but public schools cannot. An individual computer for each student in the classroom allows for students to learn at their own pace. It enables a student who understands a subject material to accelerate ahead of the rest of the class and allows for other students who are still struggling to be given more guidance by the classroom teacher. I saw this in practice at Stuart Middle School during my visit. It is important to point out that since the computers have been put in place discipline issues have gone down, according to SMS’s principal.

Technology also aids in educating special needs students. Currently, Augusta County has over 700 special needs students. Some computer programs have been specially made to offer assistance to teachers who are educating these young people. They offer different avenues or approaches to these students' different needs.

Lastly, technology is here to stay, and as much exposure we can give young people to it as possible will help with their ability to assimilate into our digital culture. And while many of our young people do get an adequate exposure to this technology at home, it is not uniform or consistent. Having this technology in a controlled atmosphere will give that experience of uniformity and consistency along with accomplishing the task of enhancing our students' education and exposure to technology.

In my opinion, this technology should be cautiously embraced in our public school system. Computers shouldn’t just replace paper and pen and technology shouldn’t replace a teacher -- to do so would be inappropriate. We need to make sure that teachers are trained to use the technology to their fullest and that they are used to enhance our children’s education. That administration shouldn’t let the computers just sit in the corner of the classroom with their screens dark. The three-year roll out will allow for the teachers to be trained and administration to measure the usefulness of the technology before another group of our kids are exposed to it.
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David Karaffa, 30, represents the Beverley Manor District of Augusta County on the Board of Supervisors. A registered nurse, he is the Director of Nursing at Stuarts Draft Christian Home. He and his wife, Katie, have three daughters. Supervisor Karaffa can be reached at DavidKaraffa@comcast.net or by contacting the government center in Verona at (540) 245-5600.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Full moon over Virginia Tech

 Full moon over the Inn at Virginia Tech. Sunday, April 13, 2014.


Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 13, 2014

Virginia Tech weekend with SWAC Niece ... college decisions

 I'm at Virginia Tech this weekend with SWAC Niece and her-mother-my-sister for a follow-up visit to help in SWAC Niece's college decision after she was accepted at both Virginia Tech and University of Virginia. She visited UVa last week; this weekend it's Tech.

 This James River High School senior has worked hard, studied hard, been involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities, athletic, plays guitar, and is fluent in French.

 Her grandpa was in the Cadet Corps at Virginia Tech and graduated with his engineering degree, Class of 1947.


 Hundreds attended today's events, breaking up into groups to tour the campus.


 It's spring in Blacksburg with blooming flowers and blossoming trees.


 Our home away from home for the weekend is the Inn at Virginia Tech.






 Look at that view of the mountains from downtown Blacksburg. Beautiful.


Tonight, as we returned from dinner, a full moon could be seen in the sky over the Inn at Virginia Tech. SWAC Niece has a meeting Monday morning with one of the professors -- Chesterfield County schools are on spring break this week which presents the opportunity to finish visiting and make her decision -- and then we're heading home. It's been fun. This aunt was honored to be asked to join in this adventure as SWAC Niece makes her decision about whether she will become a Hokie, or a Cavalier. Stay tuned....

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 13, 2014