Saturday, January 31, 2009

Augusta: Together ... we can make a difference!

Update ... print and save!

Attention Augusta County Residents

Are you outraged over your 2009 real estate assessments?

Together ... we can make a difference!

Show up and speak out!

Homeowners Against Unjust Assessments

will have an organizational meeting on

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

7:00 pm

Verona United Methodist Church
Fellowship Hall
(Rt. 11 in Verona beside Burger King -
additional parking in rear; enter in front door)

Info: Lynn Mitchell ( - updates

Over 600 signatures collected in first 48 hours!

News coverage by WHSV TV-3 News, News Leader,
and Waynesboro News Virginian.

1) Attorney Francis Chester will discuss his plan to ask the Board of Supervisors to roll back assessments to the 2005 value.
2) Supervisor Tracy Pyles has been invited to speak.
3) Petitions will be available to sign & circulate in the community.
4) Mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 11, 2009, to attend the
Board of Supervisors meeting.
5) Check for updates.

Forward this email to your friends ... invite your neighbors!

Petitions can be found at the following locations:

Middlebrook General Store
Junction (Buffalo Gap)
T-Bone Tooter (Churchville)
Churchville Library
Jake's Convenience Store on Rt. 250
Riverside Grocery (Churchville)
Jiffy Mart on Grubert Ave (Staunton)
Greenville Country Store
Family Dollar (Greenville)
Bookkeeping Management (Waynesboro)
Deerfield Convenience Store
West Augusta Convenience Store
Ace Gift Store - Acedemy of CE, Inc (Waynesboro)

More locations needed!

Freedom is not free ... in memory of a fallen hero

Lance Cpl. Jason Redifer, 19
United States Marine Corps
Augusta County, Virginia
Fallen hero - Operation Iraqi Freedom
Killed in Action
January 31, 2005

"All gave some ... some gave all."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Augusta tax revolt ... the phones are ringing off the hook

Francis Chester has hit a nerve in Augusta County. The phones at his Churchville law office have been ringing off the hook since the story hit the newspaper Wednesday about circulating petitions to take to the Board of Supervisors on March 11th. Everytime I stop by his office or talk with him on the phone, the phones are ringing, ringing, ringing.

Dozens of calls earlier in the week were followed by at least 50 phone calls and visits on Friday morning. My phone has been ringing and many emails have been received.

The tax assessment is an issue that reaches across socio-economic lines and has no political persuasion.

These are people's lives.

I traveled throughout Augusta County today, stopping and talking with folks in the rural areas, dropping off petitions at businesses and for individuals ... and across the board they are not happy. Whether it was the farmer with hundreds of acres ... or the homeowner with a half-acre lot ... people were upset.

Petitions are filling up with names, and many of those signing are offering to carry petitions to their neighbors. I sent a notice out on my SWAC email list which was picked up by others who sent it out to their email lists and on to another's email list ... and so it goes. People outside Augusta County are hearing about it and calling for information.

Community involvement. It's like the ripples in a lake, reaching farther and farther as all join in to work together.

This community has been hit hard with lost jobs. For those who have an ear to the ground and are listening to folks, there is hardship. Homes are being foreclosed ... jobs lost ... neighbor taking in neighbor ... the stories go on and on. Some don't know where to turn to find help.

But one thing they do know ... they received tax accessments that caused more pain.

Tuesday ... 7 pm ... Verona United Methodist Church -- "Homeowners Against Unjust Assessments" ... please join us to learn how your voice can be heard.

"Homeowners Against Unjust Assessments" - join us and be heard!

Attention Augusta County Residents:

Are you outraged over your 2009 real estate assessments?

Show up and speak out!

Homeowners Against Unjust Assessments

will have an organizational meeting on

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

7:00 pm

Verona United Methodist Church - Fellowship Hall
Rt. 11 in Verona (next to Burger King at Rt. 612 intersection)

1) Petitions will be available to sign & circulate in the community.

2) Attorney Francis Chester will address homeowners about his plan to ask the Board of Supervisors to roll back assessments to the 2005 value.

3) Supervisor Tracy Pyles has been invited to speak.

4) Mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 11, 2009, to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Forward this email to your friends ... invite your neighbors!

Info: Lynn Mitchell (

Petitions can be found at the following locations:

Middlebrook General Store
Junction (Buffalo Gap)
T-Bone Tooter (Churchville)
Churchville Library
Jake's Convenience Store on Rt. 250
Riverside Grocery (Churchville)
Jiffy Mart on Grubert Ave (Staunton)

More locations needed!

Thanks to Yankee Phil for helping spread the word.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sign the petition to protect freedom of speech

Smart Girl Politics has a petition supporting Freedom of Speech for everyone, including Rush Limbaugh. Freedom of Speech is not just for Democrats and any attempts to stifle opposition is something we should all be concerned about. Please take a moment of your time to sign the petition.

BOS: Augusta taxpayer revolt ... part 2

16 members of the community speak up....

See Part 1

Sixteen Augusta County residents addressed the Board of Supervisors at Wednesday night's meeting. All were upset with their high real estate assessments and all wanted something done about it.

Resident # 1 (Shutterlee Mill Road - either Pastures or North River District):
The gentleman said he had been a 28-year resident in his home. One parcel of land he described as unbuildable was up 100% in value. He suggested supervisors throw out the 2009 assessments and keep the prior one. He suggested homeowners had to budget so why not the county.

[Applause from audience]

Resident # 2 (Shutterlee Mill Road - either Pastures or North River District):
He bought his house six months ago for $21,000 less than its value. Home values have continued to decrease, he said, so how could assessments be up? In an economy that is the worst we've seen since the Great Depression, he suggested taxes be frozen for a year to see where the economy goes. The market, he said, is going down.

[Applause from audience]

Resident # 3 (Beverley Manor District):
This older gentleman suggested this was the most ridiculous assessment he had ever seen. His land increased from $3,500 an acre to $6,500 an acre for land that cannot sustain a septic system. He declared there was nothing fair about this assessment and that it was stupid.

[Applause from audience; reprimanded by Chairman Howdyshell to hold the applause]

Resident # 4 (Pastures District):
This gentleman's home had increased 45% in a neighborhood where four houses have stood vacant for over a year, two of them for 18 months. Houses, he declared, are not selling. Retired from the state, he said he's on a fixed income while assessments are up, taxes are up, and sacrifices are being made by many who cannot afford it. He declared the "land use" program as not fair, feeling all property owners should pay their fair share. The community is not happy. He commended Supervisor Pyles for proposing to keep assessments what they are.

Resident # 5 (South River District):
Declaring that he was 85 years old, the gentleman said his assessment was up 55% which he called outrageous, not fair, and he wants the supervisors to do something about it.

Resident # 6:
This gentleman felt assessments should be rolled back to the 2004 assessments because property values are falling and home cannot be sold for what they have been assessed. People are upset, he said, and elected officials should take that into consideration.

Resident # 7 (Pastures District):
This lady owns a small farm. The land went up 135%. One parcel increased from $4,600 to $10,000, and another parcel increased from $3,100 to $7,500. Her feelings were that supervisors should throw out the assessments and use the one from 2004.

Resident # 8:
Retired and "living his dream," the gentleman said he's not sure he can afford his dream anymore. His property increased from $144,000 to $296,000. Supervisors, he said, must provide relief for the people.

Resident # 9 (Beverley Manor District):
Irate at supervisors, the gentleman said he had 10 acres that wouldn't perk so he couldn't build on it and, yet, the assessment rose 45%. He appealed to the Board of Assessors in 2004 and one of them said it was "fools like us" who come in and buy the land so it makes it more valuable. The equity in his home, he said, was going down but assessments were going up. This is not Wheel of Fortune ... how do they decide the process of reevaluating? Are they going to nullify or lower the rate? It's an outrage and he wanted to know the process.

Resident # 10 (South River District):
Another older gentleman, his property had been assessed an increase of 93% on one parcel and 97% on another -- land that is in a flood plain so cannot be built on. This South River resident who is a constituent of Supervisor David Beyeler suggested the board listen to Supervisor Pyles and postpone the rate hike.

Resident # 11 (Pastures District):
Acknowledging that he had the same story as many others, the gentleman said homes in his neighborhood had been standing awhile before selling, and compared the situation to the Tech Bubble of the past. We've missing the bubble, he said ... cannot sell for assessed rates. He respectfully asked that supervisors hold onto something that makes sense instead of scattered rates across the county. Uniformity would help.

Resident # 12:
Land values for this gentleman increased 200% on one parcel and 100% on another while the value of the property went down. He cannot build on the property, it is in a flood zone, and has no timber to harvest. Rates, too, need to go down, he said, It's a constant balancing act between what people make and what it costs to live. He questioned who hired the company that did the assessments and wondered if the county had to pay them. One of his neighbors' properties tripled in value. He concluded by wondering how much more it was going to cost him to live on his own land.

Resident # 13 (Riverheads District):
When he went to protest his assessment, he saw that the assessor who had been on his property was also on the assessment board, something he felt was not fair. His piece of vacant land went up 408% while another parcel went up 54%. He tried to call his Supervisor Nancy Sorrells but did not receive a return call. Supervisor Pyles, he said, was the only one with guts enough to stand up against this.

Resident # 14 (Wayne District):
Wondering if anyone had heard President Obama's speech that day, this older gentleman said the president had called for everyone to cut back. Everyone was cutting back, he said ... the federal government, the state government ... but the county was going on with business as usual. His little house had gone up 38%. Supervisor Pyles was the only one making sense on the Board of Supervisors because older people on fixed incomes could not handle the increases. If the BOS was not willing to sacrifice anything, he wanted to know why they expected people to be the only ones to sacrifice. We're in a crisis in this country and headed toward another Great Depression.

Resident # 15:
From the back of the room, he told the Board they had heard the people speak ... so now what were they going to do about it.

Resident # 16:
He also called out from the back of the room wanting supervisors to do something about the assessments.

Next: The supervisors respond.

BOS: Augusta taxpayer revolt ... part 1

There were fireworks at the Augusta Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday night.

Bob Stuart of the Waynesboro News Virginian was there and has the following stories:

- Appraisal company has drawn criticism
- Supervisors tighten belt for next year's budget
- Editorial: Put brakes on reassessment

I haven't even been able to write up this post about the meeting because my phone has not stopped ringing all day. There is a taxpayer revolt in the works and it began playing out at the Government Center as dozens of citizens supported the 16 speakers who addressed the Board.

Wednesday night's meeting was not an organized effort but, rather, citizens showing up at the first BOS meeting after receiving their new real estate assessments. It was impressive ... a packed house ... and it presented something I have never seen before in my 8-9 years of attending those meetings -- citizens shouting at supervisors.

After listening to citizens, the board members began addressing the audience ... and for the first time in my memory citizens shouted back at the board from their seats or from the rear of the room. Folks around here are generally kind of laid back and easy going. Not last night. These assessments are messing with people's livelihoods ... and they aren't remaining silent.

On one side was Supervisor Tracy Pyles (D - Pastures) who wanted to roll back accessments to 2005 values to relieve the tax burden in economic hard times.

On the other side were the remaining six supervisors (2 Independents, 4 Republicans), some who were openly combative toward Mr. Pyles for his stand with the citizens, and who maintained they needed revenue to continue services in the county.

Next: 16 members of the Augusta County community speak up.

Reassassments front and center at Augusta BOS meeting

Wednesday night's Augusta County Board of Supevisors meeting found dozens of county residents at the Government Center to protest their 2009 real estate reassassments. The meeting was not planned for that subject but the room was full of citizens who needed to vent.

Too late tonight to go into it ... I have pages of notes from the meeting to break down into a post on Thursday.

Stay tuned....

School choice defeated in State Senate

From Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation....

This morning, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) introduced his school choice bill, SB 1221 in front of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Obenshain presented the committee, not just with the facts as to how tuition tax credits save the state money, satisfy parents and increase the amount of funds per child who remain in public school, but he also helped them understand the momentum on this issue around the country.

Highlighting programs in Arizona, DC, Florida and elsewhere, Senator Obenshain emphasized the bipartisan nature of the national support for this type of reform. In particular, he outlined the similarities between his bill and the tuition scholarship program in Pennsylvania, specifically noting that Pennsylvania’s program has been so successful that its Democrat governor pushed for it to be expanded.

After Senator Obenshain’s presentation, Chris Freund of The Family Foundation presented the committee with the data from the poll we commissioned in partnership with the Virginia Catholic Conference just last month. Knowing that many legislators will only respond to grassroots pressure and the overwhelming popularity of school choice, instead of the merits of the concept, our organization felt it necessary to gather data from a reputable source to whelm as a tool in this battle. Thank you for your financial support that made this poll possible!

Our December 2008 Mason Dixon poll found that:

69 percent of Virginians support tax credit proposals
62 percent supported it in Hampton Roads
70 percent in Northern Virginia
74 percent in Southside and Southwest Virginia

A large majority of both whites and African Americans support tax credits

Despite this support, the Senate Finance Committee defeated SB 1221 in their usual weak manner. . . no one made a motion to support or defeat the bill. This method is used by legislators when they fear public scrutiny for their vote. Without a motion, they cannot be held accountable for a vote on this policy proposal. At The Family Foundation, we hold every legislator who did not make a motion responsible for defeating school choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TONIGHT: Augusta Board of Supervisors meeting

Tonight ... January 28 at 7:00 pm ... Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting ... Government Center in Verona on Rt. 11.

It's reassessment time in Augusta County and many are unhappy at the unjust increases in their real estate taxes.

Attend tonight's Board of Supevisors meeting, join your neighbors, and speak out!

Augusta: One citizen plans to fight against outrageous reassessment increases

Francis Chester is a straight-talking farmer who just happens to be an attorney ... and he's mincing no words in saying he is livid about his real estate reassessments.

From today's Waynesboro News Virginian:
Reassessment records show that property Chester owns in both Churchville and Swoope increased from 73 percent to 233 percent.

“The assessment is supposed to be done on market values as of Jan. 1. The way the market is today there is no way you could sustain those values,’’ Chester said.

Over the next month, Chester plans to circulate in stores, libraries and other public places petitions for his rollback idea. He is seeking volunteers to help with the effort.

“I want to get as many people as possible,’’ he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of warm bodies, a lot of people to back you up on this.”

Chester plans to ask for a meeting with Augusta County supervisors in early March. If that fails to produce results, Chester said he then will take his case to Augusta County Circuit Court.
People in the community are hurting.

Tonight ... Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting ... 7:00 pm ... Government Center in Verona.


"Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things."

--Ronald Reagan

Global warming? NASA atmospheric scientist disagrees

From Icecap....

James Hansen’s Former NASA Supervisor Declares Himself a Skeptic ... Says Hansen "Embarrassed NASA" & "Was Never Muzzled" ... Gore Faces Scientific Blowback

Also See: Gore’s Inconvenient Astronaut: NASA Moonwalker Defies Gore's Claim That Climate Skeptics Believe Moon Landing was 'Staged'

NASA warming scientist James Hansen, one of former Vice-President Al Gore’s closest allies in the promotion of man-made global warming fears, is being publicly rebuked by his former supervisor at NASA.

Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist, Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fear soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA” with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was “was never muzzled.”

Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of man-made global warming fears.

[See: U.S. Senate Minority Report Update: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims & See Prominent Scientist Fired By Gore Says Warming Alarm ‘Mistaken’ & Gore laments global warming efforts: 'I've failed badly' - Washington Post – November 11, 2008 ]

“I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man made,” Theon wrote to the Minority Office at the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009. “I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results.”

“Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA's official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind's effect on it). Hansen thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress,” Theon wrote.

[Note: NASA scientist James Hansen has created worldwide media frenzy with his dire climate warning, his call for trials against those who dissent against man-made global warming fear, and his claims that he was allegedly muzzled by the Bush administration despite doing 1,400 on-the-job media interviews!

See: Don’t Panic Over Predictions of Climate Doom - Get the Facts on James Hansen - UK Register: Veteran climate scientist says 'lock up the oil men' – June 23, 2008 & UK Guardian: NASA scientist calls for putting oil firm chiefs on trial for 'high crimes against humanity' for spreading doubt about man-made global warming – June 23, 2008 ]

Theon declared “climate models are useless.”

“My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

Read the entire article here.

H/T Marc Morano

Icy wonderland ... part 2

Photos by SWAC Girl
Lynn Mitchell
January 28, 2009

School choice bill passes out of House Finance Committee

Another hurdle has been passed by Del. Chris Saxman's (R-Staunton) school choice bill that was supported by Del. Matt Lohr (R-Broadway). Now it goes to the Appropriations Committee.

Rocktown Weekly reported:
A plan by Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, to help give residents a choice about where to send their children to school passed the House of Delegates Finance Committee on Monday.
Saxman is proposing a tax credit for businesses and individuals who contribute to eligible public school foundations and scholarship foundations.

For individual taxpayers, the amount of the annual credit is 100 percent of the contribution but may not exceed $800 for individual taxpayers and $1,200 for married taxpayers filing jointly, according to a summary of the bill posted on the General Assembly Web site.
Del. Saxman has been trying to get a school choice bill passed for years. It usually runs into a road block in the Senate.

Jerry Fuhrman's quote of the day....

"Big government is where once successful nations go to die."


H/T From On High

Icy wonderland....

Ice-covered snow blanketed the SWAC area leaving treacherous conditions. Roads and sidewalks were covered in a layer of ice causing school closings for a second day.

Snow, ice, freezing rain ... snow day! As many Shenandoah Valley public schools remain closed for a second day, the freezing rain continued this morning with predictions it will taper off by noon. A predicted 3-5" of snow never materialized. We got just enough snow to cover everything before it turned to sleet and freezing rain.

Augusta County public schools and Blue Ridge Community College are closed. Truck drivers still reported for work ... the freight must be moved so no snow day for them.

The woodstove is cranked making it toasty warm as we watch the wintry scene outside. Last night we cooked teriyaki chicken in the cast iron skillet on the woodstove top along with veggie sides cooked in foil. So far there are no electrical outages in our area but icy limbs still may cause disruptions.

It's another snow day!

Photos by SWAC Girl
Lynn Mitchell
January 28, 2009

Del. Saxman works to keep Commonwealth Center open but schools want their $$$

Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine, searching for budget cuts, suggested closing Staunton's Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents as part of his budget cuts, hoping to save $6 million ... but at the loss of 100 jobs in the Central Shenandoah Valley, an area that has been hit hard by recent job layoffs. The expected closing would take place in June 2009.

Staunton Del. Chris Saxman (R) searched the budget, something he is good at doing in his role with the VA Cost Cutting Caucus, and discovered money could be found if schools delayed purchasing textbooks, thus preventing 100 employees from being laid off.

The schools' reaction?

According to the Harrisonburg Daily News Record, some school systems do not seem willing to compromise to help save jobs:
Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Donald Ford said he knows the center serves a need, but he does not believe education should suffer to keep it open.

"I understand the value of maintaining the Commonwealth Center," Ford said. "[But] I don't think that should be pitted against local school divisions."
"I am not willing, as a local superintendent, to support taking ... money that the state has previously provided for us and putting it toward [the center]."
One hundred jobs will be lost if the Commonwealth Center is closed.

"Fireproof " ... in top 5 of highest grossing Christian movies

From Focus on the Family's blog -
by Dale Buss, guest reporter
After seven years of marriage, Caleb and Catherine Holt have drifted so far apart that they are ready to move on without each other. Yet as they prepare to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's dad asks his son to try an experiment: The Love Dare.

While hoping The Love Dare has nothing to do with his parents' newfound faith, Caleb commits to the challenge. But can he attempt to love his wife while avoiding God's love for him? Will he be able to demonstrate love over and over again to a person that's no longer receptive to his love? Or is this just another marriage destined to go up in smoke?
As the family friendly blockbuster hits the DVD market, what will a Georgia church do for an encore?

The movie industry loves nothing more than a sequel to a successful film. And Fireproof — with U.S. box-office receipts of $33 million and counting, one of the top-five highest grossing Christian movies of all time — certainly qualifies for encore treatment.

So what will the Kendrick brothers, who produced the movie on a shoestring for Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., do next?

“We’re waiting on God,” said 35-year-old Stephen, who, along with his 38-year-old brother, Alex, shepherd Sherwood’s members. “We do the ‘God’ ideas, not just the ‘good’ ideas. Fireproof was so clearly of God, it was undeniable. We needed to make a movie about marriage; it was laid out right in front of us. We’re waiting for that kind of epiphany with the next project.”

For now, the Kendricks and their partners in the entertainment-media business — including Sony Pictures and Goldwyn Films — are attempting to harvest every good fruit from Fireproof’s established success and continued momentum.

Today's DVD release of the 122-minute film includes a “prank reel” and producers’ commentaries. Meanwhile, The Love Dare, the book featured in the movie, has sold a million copies.

A companion Web site to the book and movie provides relationship-building tools for couples. The Fireproof team has posted e-mails there from more than 2,000 people testifying to the movie’s impact on their lives.

Fireproof’s proceeds could allow the church to finish construction of an 82-acre, $3.5 million sports park in Albany that will provide ministry platforms for its members and recreational opportunities for the public.

However, the Kendricks have made it clear they intend to keep making movies.

“Our desire is to tell many more stories that hopefully will impact the culture and draw people into a relationship with God,” Alex said. “In that regard, we want to change the world.”

The Kendrick brothers and the rest of the leadership of Sherwood Baptist have been praying about where their celluloid endeavors might lead in the future.

A Fireproof sequel seems unlikely, at least for now, Alex told CitizenLink. Instead, the brothers have been seriously considering a movie set in pre-Reformation Europe.

“We have a story line that we’d like to shoot, but it would cost $20 million to $30 million to do it,” Stephen said. “But we do think one day we’ll shoot it. We’ve met guys, and are friends with guys, who are billionaires, so we know that God could provide that money.”

The brothers are taking some time off from the business while simultaneously seeking direction on their next project. As the married fathers of five and four children, respectively, Alex and Stephen want to make sure that “we’re investing in our families and local ministries,” as Alex put it. “Doing a movie and marketing and promoting it can be so consuming.”
Some observers hope Sherwood Pictures’ success will spark more involvement by Christians in the movie business, especially as they see that they increasingly can work around the left’s iron grip on Hollywood.
Focus on the Family is re-airing the Fireproof radio broadcast, in which Dr. James Dobson spoke with Kirk Cameron and Stephen and Alex Kendrick.Request your copy of Fireproof on DVD.Find more information about Fireproof, as well as other movies, video games and music.

Schools closed Wednesday ... winter weather

Many Shenandoah Valley public schools will once again be closed on Wednesday due to snow, ice, and freezing rain that moved into the area Monday night.

Augusta County public schools and Blue Ridge Community College are included in that list, according to WHSV TV-3.

It's a messy wintry mix out there. Here's hoping the electricity stays on....

It's winter in the Shenandoah Valley!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Saxman pushes annual budget cycle

Del. Chris Saxman wrote on his VACostCuttingCaucus blog, "In Case You Missed It: Virginia Needs to Ditch Unwieldy Two-Year Budget Process:"
One thing we are definitely in favor here at the Cost Cutting Caucus is accountability. And we know that one key to accountability is transparency.

Delegates Albert Pollard and Chris Saxman have introduced legislation (HB2092) that would help bring more accountability to Virginia's budget process by shifting to an annual budget cycle, as opposed to the current 2-year budget cycle.

We mentioned their bill here the other week- and the two delegates shared also their views on this proposal in this editorial that ran in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

They write:
As members of opposite parties in the House of Delegates, we realize that revenue shortfalls know no partisan bounds.

While no one could predict Wall Street's meltdown, we believe that a concrete step to bring greater budget discipline to Virginia is the enactment of annual budgets. For that reason, we are co-sponsoring legislation to change Virginia's traditional two-year budget to a one-year document.
The argument for an annual budget can be summed up in two words: accountability and discipline.

The two-year budget creates a muddy picture of the state's true finances. For instance, when a headline screams about a billion-dollar shortfall, is it a billion dollar annual shortfall, or is that spread over two years? When a leader talks about a $500 million cut, is it an annual cut or a biennial?
Read their full Op/Ed piece online here.

Once again ... school choice on the line

Action alert from Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation....

Last month, in a Mason Dixon poll commissioned by The Family Foundation and the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginians once again voiced their strong support for education freedom. The poll found support for tax credits for donations to scholarship programs similar to those proposed in legislation patroned by Delegate Chris Saxman (R-20, Staunton) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) is an overwhelming 69 percent!

Yesterday morning, the House Finance committee voted to send Delegate Saxman’s school choice bill to another committee. Tomorrow, Senator Obenshain’s education freedom bill will be debated in a very hostile Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Obenshain’s SB 1221 (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) is similar to Delegate Saxman’s bill but with several additional provisions. SB 1221 would provide better education opportunities for many Virginia students by allowing for tax credits for corporate donations to student scholarship programs. Many private scholarship programs annually turn kids away simply because there are always far more applicants than can be accomodated and because there is no tax credit in the Commonwealth few scholarship programs exist. This bill will encourage more donations to these important programs and motivate the creation of additional scholarship programs.

The bill is modeled after legisaltion passed in Pennsylvania and used as a model in several other sates.

According to Senator Obenshain, “Eight years ago, then-Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania championed a program of ‘Educational Improvement Tax Credits.’ Since that time, the program has been embraced and expanded by Democrats and Republicans alike, and the model has been replicated, with considerable success, in Florida, Arizona, Rhode Island, and elsewhere. Each program has its own unique features, but they share a common idea: corporations should be able to claim a substantial tax credit for contributing to K-12 scholarship organizations that provide families with educational choices not previously available to them.”

Besides higher caps on the tax credits and different provisions in which students can receive the scholarships, Senator Obenshain’s bill also includes a provision that public schools that lose students to private schools because of the scholarship programs would continue to receive at least 25 percent of the per-pupil funding that they would have received should the student have stayed.

In states where the program has been implemented it has seen extraordinary success, to the point of bipartisan support for expansion of the programs.

Unfortunately, the Senate Finance committee has regularly killed any and all attempts at expanding education opportunities for families in Virginia. It has routinely voted down similar bills.

But with new polling that shows an overwhelming number of Virginians support exactly the type of scholarship program that Senator Obenshain has introduced, the pressure on the committee is greater than ever. Still, we need you to voice your opinion today!

ACTION: Please contact members of the Senate Finance Committee IMMEDIATELY and urge them to support SB 1221, Educational Improvement Tax Credit!

Click this link to log in and send your message.

NV: "Augusta needs lower tax rate"

"Augusta needs lower tax rate" ... the editorial in the Waynesboro News Virginian tells what is on the minds of many Augusta County citizens.

While talking with county resident Sherri McCambridge on the increase of her property:
The land in Crimora serves as a septic drain field, an apropos use for the 62.6 percent increase assessors divined for the property.

That was almost double the average jump of 33.3 percent in the Middle River magisterial district, where McCambridge’s land is located. Other districts fared worse. Values soared by almost 50 percent in North River. In two other districts – Pastures and Middle River, neither of which is considered affluent – values increased by more than a third.

The figures are staggering at a time when governments elsewhere are staring at decreased home values and declining revenues, and the central Shenandoah Valley has been wobbled by the nationwide housing collapse and its ripple effect on the flooring industry. In two weeks, more than 200 Invista company workers will finish their shifts facing layoffs and gnawing uncertainty about their future prospects and the plant’s. Dozens of other workers at area companies tied to flooring are in similar predicaments.
Only one supervisor has said he would push for lowering the tax rate:
Supervisors, if they felt the pain, could ease it by voting to reduce the tax rate to keep revenues level with last year, something Tracy Pyles of the Pastures District has urged but has failed, so far, to gain backing for from the other half-dozen members of the board. That would require Augusta to survive, somehow, on $43.3 million in property tax revenues. Getting by with the same or less is the task of taxpayers. Forgive them for feeling the government they fund ought do likewise.
Read the entire editorial here.

News Virginian: "Mass appeals"

And so it begins ... folks lined up at the Augusta County Government Center to protest real estate reassessments mailed to residents last week. The Waynesboro News Virginian talked with some who waited for their chance to have an adjustment in their assessment (video link).

Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles (D) is open to looking at equalizing the rate with a drop in the real estate tax. Riverheads Supervisor Nancy Sorrells (I) hedged by saying the county still has bills to pay including parks and recreation and libraries.

Now Middle River Supervisor Gerald Garber (R) has spoken in today's News Virginian:
The value on Les Curry’s 2,400-square-foot Weyers Cave home and property shot up by almost 50 percent to $144,500.

“I can see an increase, but not double. It’s outrageous,” said Curry, whose home was built in 1919.

Augusta County Supervisor Gerald Garber said most of the complaints he heard over the weekend and Monday were about the increase in land prices.

“No one has complained to me about houses,” Garber said.

Supervisors need to look at all the reassessment data before making any decisions about tax rates, Garber said.
Chesterfield County assessments actually went down, according to today's Richmond Times-Dispatch:
For the first time since the early 1990s, home values in Chesterfield County are down this year.

Reassessment notices for most of the county went out Saturday and reflect a 1.5 percent decline in the average home's value since last year. The median assessed value of a home in Chesterfield is $216,000.

Values in 2008 went up 10.9 percent from the year before, and in 2007, they were up 16.2 percent from 2006.

Commercial assessments increased by nearly 1 percent, leaving overall assessed property values close to flat.
DJ McGuire at Right-Wing Liberal had comments yesterday, and previous posts on SWAC Girl have addressed this issue:

- Augusta reassessments: a tale of two supervisors
- Augusta reassessments arrive

Congrats, Kristi

Congratulations to Kristi Way who has been promoted to chief of staff for Congressman Eric Cantor. She began working with then Del. Cantor in 1999. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the details.

Best wishes to Kristi in her new job.

Walter Curt resigns from RPV

Norm at Tertium Quids reports "Trouble at RPV" ... the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on Tuesday that Harrisonburg businessman Walter Curt had resigned as RPV's top fundraiser:
Walter Curt says in a letter to chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick that he is leaving his voluntary post as finance chairman because the party is in bad shape and has defied efforts to fix it.

"Unfortunately the problems of structure, power projection, consultant interference, interpersonal difficulties, years of internal malaise, luddite attitude, leadership, and unity of purpose stand in the way of any hope of success," Curt wrote.
Norm's post on Saturday referred to an article in the Weekly Standard that calls Virginia Republicans "happy." Norm's remarks after reading the article:
... there is one surprise -- the notion that Virginia Republicans are "happy."
A commenter responded to his post and I think it is worth posting here what was said because it is thought-provoking:
Oh, where to begin...

Happy? I'm not and I know many others who aren't either.

The first step in correcting a problem is admitting that there is one. That part is obvious.

The next is getting honest with oneself and properly identifying the problem. Tom Davis, and so many others are simply delusional in my not-so-humble opinion.

The bottom line for republicans: they've abandoned their principles of limited government, low taxes and freedom. Period. Some good republicans received the axe due to Bush and his Big Government Adventures, and an essentially complicit republican congress. That's a shame, but they didn't speak out against it, they made no effort to hold anyone accountable and they didn’t distance themselves from it.

That crap in DC rolled right outside the Beltway and all over Virginia.

We used to talk about eliminating the Dept. of Education but republicans installed NCLB instead. We used to be the party that ended wars, now we start them and keep 'em going 'till the military is worn out and the country is broke. We used to talk about personal responsibility, now we have way too many republicans embroiled in scandals and too many congressmen think We the TaxedtoDeath are a bottomless ATM.

During the past 8 years, with republicans manning the helm, we've grown government, not shrunk it. No one has shown any leadership to speak of explaining and demonstrating in a positive way how republican principles are American principles. Instead of being at war with Big Government, we've been at war with Democrats as though this is some football championship.

People are hurting. Republicans have simply not addressed this in any meaningful way. Jobs have been shipped overseas, illegal immigration is out of control, our wealth has declined, our economy is in shambles, the debt grew precipitously this past fall and what do republicans do? Obsess about gay marriage and abortion, the former of which wouldn't even be an issue were the government not involved in every little aspect of our lives.

All this trying to appeal to this group or that group is a ridiculous waste of time. Freedom, be it personal or economic, appeals to everyone. My grandparents immigrated here in the late 1800's with little more than the shirts on their backs to this shining beacon of Liberty that was (and yes, I said was) America with its streets "paved in gold".

In Tidewater, only the blind could have missed Obama's tax cut signs. Republicans missed the boat entirely; even allowing the Democrats to co-opt the low tax message.

Of late, it seems republicans stand for nothing. For Heaven's sake, McCain would make a good Democrat! Where was his limited government message? In fact, where was his message at all except for suspending his campaign and running to DC to campaign for government bailouts. And we wonder why people think the republicans are the party of rich white guys?

Republicans who were supposed to be representing us forgot that and instead decided that they are our "leaders" and arrogantly decided what was best for us rather than listening to the wishes of those whom they represent.

Blaming Obama's fund raising for republican losses?? Gimme a break! I know of at least one republican presidential candidate who raised a truckload of money because of his message, a message that used to be standard with republicans. Incidentally, a large group of young people were shunned by the party for daring to support their candidate of choice. They will only be won back by a winning message.

In general, republican ads have been completely negative, again, warring against the Democrats rather than giving people something to vote FOR. I, for one, am sick of the negative ads and would be interested to hear if republican candidates could even articulate a small government, low tax message.

And bipartisanship? Oh, please again. If someone thinks the Democrats have such good principles please, please join them. I thought we were supposed to be republicans for a reason. We should stop compromising our principles for political expediency and votes.

Bottom line: if we don't return to our principles, learn to articulate them properly and give people something to vote FOR-- things that will actually improve their everyday lives-- we will continue to lose.

Bob McDonnell would do well to start explaining how we could remedy Virginia's economic situation with sound, traditional republican principles such as lower taxes and less regulation.

Snow day!

Here it comes ... the winter weather many in the Shenandoah Valley have avoided so far this year. Snow, ice, and freezing rain are already falling up and down the Valley ... and numerous public school systems have already announced they will be closed today including Augusta County, Staunton City, Waynesboro City, and Blue Ridge Community College as well as Grace Christian School.

Students were already preparing for a day off as friends piled in at a Lee High School student's house Monday evening to spend the night. They were hoping for the winter weather to close schools ... and they got their wish.

WHSV TV-3 out of Harrisonburg is issuing a weather alert to viewers: "WINTER STORM WARNING is now in effect ... Expect up to 5" of snow with an ice glaze." The weather warning runs until 6 pm Wednesday. Be safe out there....

Snow day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

SWAC: Chamber's Murder Mystery at Barren Ridge Vineyards - Updated

Update: See Ben Carter's photos of the event.
"Willie" aka Chamber President Ben Carter expresses delight at the news that his younger has been found murdered.

Saturday night's mission was clear: Pop a bottle of wine, click your glass in celebration, and kick back for some merriment and laughter at the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce's "Murder Mystery" night at Barren Ridge Vineyards.

Set in the beautiful renovated barn of this former apple orchard, a packed house of movers-and-shakers from the Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro areas gathered to share in good eats and great wine and the fun of "solving" the murder of Ben Carter, the Chamber's president, by poisoning.

As the evening progressed and guests sat munching on a wide assortment of appetizers, a sudden blood-curdling scream broke through the air ... and a hush came over the crowd as startled partiers turned first toward the screamer ... and then in the direction her finger was pointing ... just in time to see Ben Carter stumble across the room, fall against the wall, stumble into the hallway, and drop dead at the top of the stairs.

As investigators moved in to cover him in a white sheet (Ben later told me it got hot under that sheet!), the crowd began receiving their instructions to help find the murderer. Five suspects from the community were named ... the objective was to discover a motive by searching for evidence.

A twist in the murder showed up in the guise of "Willie," Ben Carter's older brother who expressed glee that his younger brother had been found poisoned.

It was entertaining to watch the investigation unfold ... I strolled throughout the building and took photos of the crowd and the winery as my sister donned her Agatha Christie hat and searched for clues. Two hours later, the murder was finally solved ... much to the delight of all involved.

We sat with Barren Ridge Vineyards owners John and Shelby Higgs, quickly finding common ground when we learned they had lived for years in Richmond but had moved back to this place that was in John's family.

Complimentary tours and tastings are available and Shelby invited us to come back and join them for a tour. The tasting room is a comfortable gathering area in front of a massive stone fireplace under wooden beams ... the outdoor patio showed promise of being a great spot to sit and sip wine in warmer weather while looking out over the vineyards and mountains beyond ... the barrel-aging room was the location of the dessert bar. The location is perfect for weddings, private parties, and corporate dinners.

Kudos to the Chamber staff for a great event.

TWC: "Why I Love Winter"

All this week on The Weather Channel ... "Why I Love Winter."

Check out Jeff Mielcarz's blog which asks, "Do you love winter?" ... or see the 10 places to beat the winter blues and the ski resorts with the most snow.

For a thrill, watch the video as you Ski with the pros at Beaver Creek.

It would be wonderful if we could get some snow in the Shenandoah Valley during "Why I Love Winter" week.

Augusta reassessments: A tale of two supervisors

As real estate assessments arrive in the mail around Augusta County, home and business owners are receiving a shock. At a time when many jobs are being lost in this central Shenandoah Valley location, the thought to some that their tax rate would rise is not appreciated.

Home real estate values rose an estimated 28%; commercial properties rose an estimated 42%. That is a concern to the companies that are having to let workers go ... and to the workers who are being let go.

At the center of it all is Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles (D) who wants tax relief for citizens of the county ... while Riverheads Supervisor Nancy Sorrell (I) has other thoughts:
Supervisor Tracy Pyles said Friday that the county should make reassessment revenue neutral.

To do that, supervisors would be required to lower the current tax rate of 58 cents per $100 of assessed value to offset a 27.7 percent increase in reassessment values.
Supervisor Nancy Sorrells said it’s too early to determine such a move.
Pyles questioned the accuracy of the reassessment and the prudence of increasing the tax burden on property owners at a time when the economy is reeling.

“The federal government is giving a tax cut and the state is cutting their budget. But we’re going to do business as usual and increase taxes. We are not comprehending the pressures people are under,” Pyles said.
While Mr. Pyles is concerned about the effect of local layoffs at a number of companies including Ply Gem of Stuarts Draft (53 workers laid off), Invista of Waynesboro (210 workers so far and possibly more), Mohawk of Waynesboro (73 jobs lost), and the Commonwealth Adolescent Center (slated to close the end of June resulting in the loss of 100 jobs), Ms. Sorrells said the county has to continue with necessary spending.
“It would be fiscally irresponsible” to lock in a lower rate now, she said. “We have to see the projected revenues and needs. Where we can make the cuts and tighten.”

Just because times are tight, Augusta County can’t stop funding schools, emergency services and other essential services for county residents, Sorrells said.
Sorrells said that since the last reassessment, Augusta County has added population, adding to the need for services.

“The additional people need parks and recreation, libraries and schools. This is not population neutral,” she said. “We have to think about how we can continue to provide a high quality of service.”
Some may disagree with what "needs" the county should fund during tight times when citizens are having to cinch their belts.

The discussion about raising the rates has just begun as citizens begin to show up at the Government Center to protest their assessments.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is this Wednesday, January 28, at 7:00 pm.

Augusta reassessments arrive

Augusta County reassessments that were mailed last week have arrived ... and many are not happy. Some taxpayers, hearing about the 28% increase, were shocked to open their bills to find 50% increases.

The Waynesboro News Virginian talked with Pastures District resident Melissa Avey who lives in the rural, mountaineous area west of Staunton.
Melissa Avey, of Deerfield, had followed the reports of a 27.7 percent average increase on residential properties in the county, but got the surprise of her life when she opened her mail.

She and husband Michael’s 100-year-old home on 50 acres went from $177,000 to $280,000, a 58.6 percent increase over the last reassessment four years ago.

That would take the couple’s annual tax bill from $1,026 to $1,624, based on the current rate of 58 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“I was prepared for an increase, but this was a shock,” she said. “We’re not talking about an area where it’s really building up. We’re talking about western Augusta County with no real development and farmland.”

Avey said she might have expected such an increase had her home been in a more developed area such as Stuarts Draft or Fishersville.
Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles, the only BOS member to publicly advocate lowering the tax rate, expects the discussion to continue at this week's Wednesday meeting.
“Instead of putting people through the ringer with reassessment challenges, the board should just adjust the tax rate to make it revenue neutral,” said Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles.

If the tax rate remains the same, the owner of a $150,000 house with an average increase would have a value of $191,000 and tax increase of $240 to $1,108.

Pyles said he also continues to believe that assessment values are a constantly moving target and the values reflected in the assessments “are not accurate to judge for the next four years.”
The appeals process begins today at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona. There were many appeals four years ago. This year is shaping up to see even more.

If you are concerned about your assessment or interested in seeing the tax rate equalized, attend the Board of Supervisors meeting this Wednesday, January 28, at 7:00 pm. Questions may be directed to the Government Center (540 245-5600).

- Augusta County real estate reassessments
- Augusta reassessments on hold until Dec. 31
- Augusta County reassessments to go up 33%?
- Augusta County: Pastures Supervisor Pyles wants to delay home reassessments

Sunday, January 25, 2009

1967 Staunton double murder solved?

The High's Ice Cream unsolved double murder that has been a mystery in Staunton, Virginia, for 42 years appears to have finally been solved.

The Associated Press reported:
When she was a teenager working part time at an ice cream parlor in 1967, Sharron Diane Crawford Smith shot two co-workers in the head after they mocked her for being lesbian, a terrible secret at the time.
Ms. Smith confessed to the crime, and revealed her motive, when she was terminally ill last November, and the police made the information public Friday, four days after Ms. Smith died.

Ms. Smith ensured some mystery would outlive her, however, when she also claimed that the lead detective in the case, who is now dead, helped her bury the murder weapon. Investigators said on Friday that they would try to verify that accusation and to find out why one of their own might have hidden Ms. Smith’s guilt in a case that has practically become folklore in this city of 25,000 in the Shenandoah Valley.
Read the entire fascinating article here.

Karl Rove: "Bush was right"

Memories, friends, and family were aboard Special Air Mission 2800 as President Bush flew home to Texas, leaving behind the White House and eight years of service to the country.

Former Senior Advisor Karl Rove was on board and wrote about that last flight. In the Wall Street Journal he tells of Mr. Bush's accomplishments and his willingness to make the tough decisions even when they were unpopular:
To start with, Mr. Bush was right about Iraq. The world is safer without Saddam Hussein in power. And the former president was right to change strategy and surge more U.S. troops.
Mr. Bush was right to establish a doctrine that holds those who harbor, train and support terrorists as responsible as the terrorists themselves. He was right to take the war on terror abroad instead of waiting until dangers fully materialize here at home. He was right to strengthen the military and intelligence and to create the new tools to monitor the communications of terrorists, freeze their assets, foil their plots, and kill and capture their operators.
Mr. Bush was right to be a unilateralist when it came to combating AIDS in Africa. While world leaders dithered, his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative brought lifesaving antiretroviral drugs to millions of Africans.

At home, Mr. Bush cut income taxes for every American who pays taxes. He also cut taxes on capital, investment and savings. The result was 52 months of growth and the strongest economy of any developed country.
Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.

He was right to stand for a culture of life. And he was right to appoint conservative judges who strictly interpret the Constitution.
That leadership will be missed.

SWAC: Chamber's Murder Mystery at Barren Ridge Vineyards

"Willie" aka Chamber President Ben Carter expresses delight at the news that his younger has been found murdered.

Saturday night's mission was clear: Pop a bottle of wine, click your glass in celebration, and kick back for some merriment and laughter at the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce's "Murder Mystery" night at Barren Ridge Vineyards.

Set in the beautiful renovated barn of this former apple orchard, a packed house of movers-and-shakers from the Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro areas gathered to share in good eats and great wine and the fun of "solving" the murder of Ben Carter, the Chamber's president, by poisoning.

As the evening progressed and guests sat munching on a wide assortment of appetizers, a sudden blood-curdling scream broke through the air ... and a hush came over the crowd as startled partiers turned first toward the screamer ... and then in the direction her finger was pointing ... just in time to see Ben Carter stumble across the room, fall against the wall, stumble into the hallway, and drop dead at the top of the stairs.

As investigators moved in to cover him in a white sheet (Ben later told me it got hot under that sheet!), the crowd began receiving their instructions to help find the murderer. Five suspects from the community were named ... the objective was to discover a motive by searching for evidence.

A twist in the murder showed up in the guise of "Willie," Ben Carter's older brother who expressed glee that his younger brother had been found poisoned.

It was entertaining to watch the investigation unfold ... I strolled throughout the building and took photos of the crowd and the winery as my sister donned her Agatha Christie hat and searched for clues. Two hours later, the murder was finally solved ... much to the delight of all involved.

We sat with Barren Ridge Vineyards owners John and Shelby Higgs, quickly finding common ground when we learned they had lived for years in Richmond but had moved back to this place that was in John's family.

Complimentary tours and tastings are available and Shelby invited us to come back and join them for a tour. The tasting room is a comfortable gathering area in front of a massive stone fireplace under wooden beams ... the outdoor patio showed promise of being a great spot to sit and sip wine in warmer weather while looking out over the vineyards and mountains beyond ... the barrel-aging room was the location of the dessert bar. The location is perfect for weddings, private parties, and corporate dinners.

Kudos to the Chamber staff for a great event.

Home education in Virginia celebrates 25 years

On Tuesday, January 27, during Virginia Home Education Week, the General Assembly will commend home schoolers on the occasion of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Home schooling in the Commonwealth!

Representatives of Virginia's home schooling community will join legislators and state officials at the General Assembly to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original legislation that codified the right of families in the Commonwealth to educate their children at home. A reception, jointly sponsored by the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) and the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers), will be hosted by Delegate Bob Tata (Newport News, Chairman of the House Education Committee) and Senator Ed Houck (Fredericksburg, Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee).

This event marks the passage of legislation in 1984, which made Virginia one of the first states to formally recognize the right of families to educate their children at home. HEAV was there in 1984 and, with the Lord's blessings, has tirelessly worked to protect our home schooling freedoms for the last 26 years. Every year since 1983, we have carefully reviewed thousands of bills and have had lobbyists at the Capitol monitoring each General Assembly session.

Today, home schooling is a recognized and respected educational option. Each year, thousands of Virginia families choose to home school, and our state is seen as a model of how parents and legislators can work together to shape effective policy that benefits our children and our future. The Lord has done a mighty work here in Virginia!

Home schoolers are invited to participate in the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration by joining us at noon in either the House or Senate gallery in the Capitol building. After the reading of the resolution, home schooling families in attendance will be recognized. Please plan on visiting your legislator's office to personally thank him or her for supporting home education prior to the beginning of the noon session. We look forward to having you join us for this milestone in home school freedom.

Even if you can't join us at the Capitol, we hope you'll take a few minutes at home to celebrate the blessings of these past twenty-five years, remember the history, and renew your vision. You may wish to read the "History of Homeschooling in Virginia" on our website and explore the other tidbits of history we have there.

Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) ... serving Virginia's home schooling community since 1983.

School Choice Day at the Capitol with Del. Chris Saxman

Monday, January 26, is "School Choice Day" as Delegate Chris Saxman invites public, private, and home school groups to meet at the Capitol to support school choice.

HB1965 (Saxman, R-Staunton) allows tax credits for businesses or individuals who contribute to non-profit education foundations. Scholarship foundations may distribute funds to qualified public, private, or homeschooled students.

HB 1965 will be heard in the full Finance Committee on Monday morning, January 26. Finance meets Monday at 8:30 a.m. in House Room D; however, we anticipate the bill will be heard later on the docket to give parents more time to arrive at the hearing.

Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) ... watching out for Virginia home schooling families since 1983.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

SWAC Niece is here!

A long weekend for Chesterfield students made for an opportunity for my sister and SWAC Niece to head to the Valley to play, celebrate a birthday, and roam the mountains.

Too bad we don't have snow ... we almost always do this third weekend in January ... as we celebrate my sister's birthday with outdoor activities. A Murder Mystery, grilling out, and snowboarding at Massanutten are in store for the weekend so we will find snow somewhere.

I love having SWAC Niece here for a visit....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reagan inauguration had more viewers than Obama

NewsMax is reporting that more viewers watched Ronald Reagan inaugurated in 1981 than watched Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Notes from the General Assembly

By Del. Chris Saxman
R-20th House District

A quick greeting from Richmond!

Session is rolling along here, and there is lots of news to report. First, I am very pleased to announce that my budget amendment to defer textbook purchases for a year in order to save the Commonwealth $79 million is gaining broad, bi-partisan support. 16 Democrats in the House have already signed onto the amendment, including members of the House Democratic Caucus leadership. You can view the press release below.

As I mentioned in my last email, my 2009 Legislative Survey is now up on my website, and I hope you will take a moment to let me know your thoughts on some of the issues before us this session.

With the fast moving pace of the session, I am using various technologies to share news and information from session. I invite you to sign up to be my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at saxman8091 to keep up to date on the latest.

Finally, I wanted to wish a very happy 48th Anniversary to my parents! 48 years ago today they were married in a blizzard in Boston, and my sisters and I are so grateful that they did.

As always, please feel free to email me any time to share you thoughts on the session, or if there is anything I can do to be of service.

Cross-posted at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$160 million inauguration ...

... and the liberals complained in 2004 at the $40 million being spent by President George W. Bush. I remember ... I wrote a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch calling the libs hypocrites because of all the Hollywood pat-yourself-on-the-back awards shows that go on this time of year and the extravagant costs involved including those "goodie" bags given to celebrities.

This time ... not a peep. $160 million ... maybe even as much as $170 million, according to ABC News.

That would have bought a lot of health care.

Is the GOP on the edge of irrelevance?

Michael Powell, son of Colin, believes so unless the GOP is willing to do some self-criticism. At, he writes:
I believe the Republican Party is on the precipice of irrelevance if it cannot rebuild a respect for civil debate-including self-criticism. ... The litmus test politics that has abducted the party, has dulled the edge of its ideas, discourages those who respond to intellectual rigor, and repels too many from the party who are unwilling, as a condition of admission, to sign an oath of allegiance to a set of talking points.
He goes on to address the issue of new media, new communications, and how those ideas draw young people raised in a digital revolution. Anyone in the blogging community knows how much the liberals have been ahead of us in technology ... but we are working to catch up.

Then Powell addresses the changing demographics of this country, saying we are a "browning" nation:
The Party also must be more sober about the demographic transformation that is taking place in America. We are a browning nation, but a Party seemingly incompetent in connecting with America’s diversity and its ascendant multiculturalism. We are stuck in antiquated notions of race. My kids saw Barack Obama not as black but as modern. His race and enlightened manner of dealing with it captures how the young see themselves.
He ends by saying politics is not a faith:
While Republicans are a proud party of values, politics is not a faith. It is an instrument for winning the consent of the American people to steer the nation that they love into a future they believe in. It is a sacred responsibility.
Words worth heeding....

David Frum blogs....

... at

Former George W. Bush speech writer, he live-blogged yesterday's inauguration speech which he called "flat." describes itself as, "... a site dedicated to the reform and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement. It is edited by David Frum and published by NewMajority LLC." It includes an interesting array of writers offering opinions on a myriad of subjects.

H/T Fishersville Mike

ATTA Alert: "Kill this bill ... no new taxes on Albemarle residents"

[Alert from Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance -- ATTA]

On January 14, 2009, Delegate David Toscano submitted House Bill (HB) 2161 for consideration by the General Assembly. The bill would allow an eventual 20% increase in the Sales Tax we pay, to fund transportation spending.

ATTA articulated several reasons why the underlying premise of this bill is a bad idea. Please see our letter to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, directly below.

HB 2161 was sent to a Finance Subcommittee today. Please contact the following members of this subcommittee today and ask them to vote NO on HB 2161.

The subcommittee will meet Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at about 2:00 p.m., so please call and / or email them immediately--and be sure to tell them you're from the
Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance!

Delegate Timothy D. Hugo (Chairman)
(R) - House District 40
(804) 698-1040

Delegate R. Lee Ware, Jr.(R) - House District 65
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 698-1065

Delegate Kathy J. Byron
(R) - House District 22
(804) 698-1022

Delegate Benjamin L. Cline
(R) - House District 24
(804) 698-1024

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick(R) - House District 52
(804) 698-1052

Delegate Christopher K. Peace(R) - House District 97
(804) 698-1097

Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin
(D) - House District 80
(804) 698-1080

Delegate Franklin P. Hall
(D) - House District 69
(804) 698-1069

Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr.(D) - House District 100
(804) 698-1000

Delegate Ward L. Armstrong
(D) - House District 10
(804) 698-1010

Delegate Harry R. Purkey
(R) - House District 82
(804) 698-1082

Rob Schilling returns to Charlottesville radio station

[From Keith Drake with the Albermarle Truth in Taxation Alliance]

You spoke. They listened.

And on Monday, January 26, The Schilling Show returns to the local airwaves in a new and expanded format!

Tune in to WINA AM 1070 on Monday at 12 noon to hear the return of The Schilling Show. And it gets better: Rob's program returns for a full two hours every day, Monday through Friday.

The Schilling Show is the local area's premier afternoon AM talk show. Without your support over the past month, it likely would have stayed off the air.

Please send a note of thanks to the management of WINA and Saga Communications who made it possible for Rob to return to WINA:

Edward Christian-President/CEO of Saga Communications
Phone: 313-886-7070
Fax: 313-886-7150

Steven Goldstein-Executive VP/Group Program Director of Saga Communications
Phone: 203-221-1666
Fax: 203-222-9633

Rick Daniels-WINA Program Director
Phone: 434-220-2300
Fax: 434-220-2304

Renee Quesenberry-WINA General Manager
Phone: 434-220-2300
Fax: 434-220-2304

From Rob Schilling....

Dear ATTA Friends,

It is with humility and gratitude that I announce the return of The Schilling Show to WINA.

Just over a month ago, the show was unexpectedly cancelled due to corporate cost cutting. However, thanks to your ceaseless calls, emails and personal contacts with WINA and Saga management, they have reconsidered the value of my program to the community, and I will return to the airwaves at noon, on Monday, January 26, with an expanded two-hour version of The Schilling Show.

This never would have happened without your involvement. I am truly blessed to have such loyal friends and supporters.



Those "classy" Democrats

H/T to Jerry at From On High

Nowhere did I ever see where Bill Clinton was mocked by Republicans in the inaugural crowd when he left the White House the year President Bush was sworn in as President. However, Democrats feel no such restraint.

Didn't their moms teach them the manners of a civil society? Did they not learn how to behave in public?

The Hill writes, "Bush Mocked As He Arrives on Inauguration Dais."

Sad. As I have asked many times before, "What part of 'No Bombs Dropping On Your Head' do those people not understand?"

I'll bet the weight of the world fell from President Bush's shoulders yesterday ... but I now feel not as safe ... as if America is a sitting duck waiting for the world's bullies to start picking on her again.

From The Hill:
The crowd packed on the west side of the Capitol grounds serenaded President Bush in mocking fashion when he took to the inaugural stage alongside Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Nah nah nah nah, hey hey, good-bye," a section of the crowd chanted.

The crowd packed immediately below the podium received Bush in stony silence when he took his seat on the stage surrounding the podium where Barack Obama was scheduled to take the oath office to become the 44th president of the United States.

The jeers are among the final public feedback Bush will receive as president.
This will not be forgotten.