Thursday, February 28, 2013

News-Virginian on Bill Bolling run for governor: 'We would welcome it'

One thing's for sure: Bill Bolling has people paying attention. Today's Waynesboro News-Virginian's editorial is all about him and the question of whether he will run for governor as an independent candidate.

This is where Ronald Reagan's famous quote comes into play when he famously said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the party left me."

Wonder if Bolling ever feels that way? Seems from feedback that a large section of Republicans in the Commonwealth are feeling that way about the Republican Party for a variety of reasons not the least of which is this: a conservative is not a libertarian, and vice versa.

The News-Virginian editorial appears to join others in their appreciation of the LG's even-keeled governing style. He may not be the flashiest man in the room but he can rally a crowd with that booming voice that was heard at October's Mitt Romney rally in Fishersville, "HELLO, SHENANDOAH VALLEY!"

In the editorial, the News-Virginian wrote:
The reason it seemed unfortunate that Bolling was dropping out was that he has been heavily involved in a success of Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration: drawing jobs to Virginia.

And he has been particularly supportive of Waynesboro. For a time, it seemed that barely a week went by when Bolling wasn't here, either to announce grant funding for the city or to celebrate with a business in the community that was hiring, which is obviously no small feat in this economy.

These days, though, Bolling is known for a question: Will he, or won’t he?

That is, the gentleman from Hanover County is weighing an independent bid for the governor’s mansion.

He got out of the race last year because it appeared he was at a competitive disadvantage to Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli. The state GOP chose to select its gubernatorial nominee in a convention rather than in a primary election, and Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general, was seen as the favorite in a convention setting, where fewer people would decide the winner. Bolling, on the other hand, would have more luck in a primary, the thinking went.

Without Bolling’s challenge, Cuccinelli has become the Republican standard bearer to the Democratic Party’s Terry McAuliffe.

But supporters have urged Bolling to make an independent run. He’s seen as the moderate alternative to Cuccinelli’s more extreme brand of conservatism, and as a longtime public servant in the Old Dominion whereas McAuliffe is viewed by some as a carpetbagger.
While the Lieutenant Governor talks with supporters about funding for an independent run -- no easy task considering he's going up against McAuliffe aka Bill Clinton aka Barack Obama and the multi-millions they can bring to the race -- the voices continue from editorial boards around the Commonwealth. They suggest that Bolling could be the middle-ground candidate needed in a state that has turned purple and now boasts two Democratic U.S. Senators after twice voting for a Democratic president. The shining light has been Republican leadership at the top of state government along with a House of Delegates majority and a tied State Senate.

Bolling has said he will announce a decision two weeks from today on March 14. It cannot be an easy decision. Running as an independent is tough when the Party demands loyalty of its candidates and grassroots leaders. However, some areas of the Commonwealth have seen the rise of the independents in the past few years. If Bolling ran, he would become a leader for independents to rally around, sending fear down the spines of other candidates.

The News-Virginian noted they would welcome Bolling into the race. I have a feeling there are many others who would, too.

"Bob's for Jobs" ... Virginia wins with McDonnell's pragmatic conservative leadership

On election night in November 2009, many of us were at the jam-packed Richmond Marriott listening to the Black Eyed Peas' "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" playing in the background as it was jubilantly announced that Bob McDonnell had won the gubernatorial race. The win was historic. He had won with the most votes of any governor in Virginia history by running an incredible campaign on the economy and "Bob's for Jobs" and, in the process, helped sweep in a wave of Republicans with him.

It was a victorious evening following years of GOP losses. McDonnell had brought the Republican Party of Virginia back after losing two straight gubernatorial races (2001, 2005), two straight U.S. Senate races (2006, 2008), and a presidential race (2008).

The new governor hit the ground running, fulfilling his campaign promise to immediately reopen the 19 rest areas and welcome centers that had been closed by Democrat Tim Kaine in the final six months of his administration after he claimed there was not enough money to keep them open.

McDonnell then went to work on his campaign promise of jobs. Virginia's unemployment is now down to 5.5%, the lowest in four years, the lowest in the Southeast, and the lowest east of the Mississippi. Bob's for Jobs.

All along the way, this pragmatic conservative leader pushed for what was best for Virginia. Public service has been his life. A 21-year U.S. Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, he served in the Virginia legislature as a delegate before becoming attorney general and then governor. 

When McDonnell took the oath as governor, he knew he was inheriting a transportation problem that had hung over previous occupants of the Executive Mansion for decades. Reminiscent of "Dave" in the movie of the same name, he and his staff figuratively took out the red pencil and went to work auditing, cutting, and abolishing unnecessary expenditures.

They tried everything from privatizing Virginia's ABC stores (voted down by the General Assembly) to auditing VDOT to using all the Commonwealth's debt capacity available to build roads. The math didn't work out. So he assembled a broad coalition of over 60 transportation, business, and labor groups to press for immediate action on the 27-year problem, reaching out to Democrats as well as Republicans.

The final plan was submitted to the 2013 General Assembly but it was kicked to committee where a compromise was hammered out. The historic landmark legislation passed in the General Assembly with a bipartisan vote of 44 Republicans and 43 Democrats.

In 2010 when McDonnell stepped into the governor's office, he inherited the largest budget deficit in the history of the Commonwealth with a $4.2 billion budget introduced by outgoing Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. No governor had ever taken office confronting a budget shortfall of that size. By reducing spending instead of tax hikes, McDonnell was able to close the historic budget shortfall and reduce state spending to 2006 levels. He ended the session with 80 percent of his legislative proposals passing the General Assembly.

In 2011, legislators passed 92 percent of the Governor's legislative proposals. One was his bipartisan "Top Jobs" higher education reform act that created the pathway for 100,000 more degrees to be awarded in the Commonwealth over the next 15 years, prompting Democratic State Senator Edd Houck to note, "Some have suggested this is the most significant and comprehensive higher education initiative since the creation of the Community College System 40 years ago." He also gained legislative approval for elimination of various boards and commissions to make state government smaller and more efficient.  CNBC named Virginia their Top State for Business and reported that the Old Dominion received the highest point total in the history of their rankings. That same year, Pollina Corporate named Virginia the "Most Pro-business State in the Nation," and noted, "Virginia is the unquestionable brightest star on the American flag when it comes to being pro-business ... Virginia is truly in a class by itself."

In 2012, the Governor saw 88 percent of his agenda passed by the General Assembly. Unemployment was at 5.6 percent which was 23% lower than when he took office two years earlier. Agricultural exports reached an all-time high, and cattle were to be exported to Canada for the first time in Virginia history. Soybeans were shipped to China, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters announced 800 jobs in Isle of Wight, brought over 1,300 new jobs, and the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population soared back to a 20-year high. Good year.

The 2013 session just concluded and the Governor saw 88 percent of his legislation passed by the General Assembly including the landmark transportation bill that will fund roads, infrastructure, and other projects throughout the Commonwealth.

Three years after taking office, Bob McDonnell's leadership has produced a string of accomplishments that will positively benefit the Commonwealth into the future.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift and VaPoliticalPineapple

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bob McDonnell: 'We are all on the same American team'

“We aren’t going to get through the tremendous fiscal and international challenges facing our great nation if we can’t first agree that we are all on the same American team. We can disagree without being disagreeable. We can practice civility.”
Governor Bob McDonnell
UVA Commencement Address
May 22, 2011

Transportation: Thank you to the man in the arena

To Governor Bob McDonnell and those who made the tough decision for Virginia and transportation:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.” --Theodore Roosevelt (American President, 1901-09)
The Republican elected representatives listed below worked with their Democratic colleagues to move Virginia into the future. Their willingness to work together provided the necessary funds to repair crumbling infrastructure and highways. The plan is not perfect ... few plans ever are ... but it's a start. We thank them.

Executive: Governor Bob McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.

House of Delegates: Dave Albo, John Cosgrove, Kirk Cox, Mark Dudenhefer, Jim Edmunds, Tag Greason, Chris Head, Gordon Helsel, Keith Hodges, Speaker Bill Howell, Sal Iaquinto, Riley Ingram, Chris Jones, Terry Kilgore, Barry Knight, Jim LeMunyon, Manny Loupassi, Joe May, Donald Merricks, Randy Minchew, Richard Morris, John O’Bannon, Bobby Orrock, Charles Poindexter, Bob Purkey, Lacey Putney, Tom Rust, Ed Scott, Beverly Sherwood, Chris Stolle, Ron Villanueva, Michael Watson, David Yancey, Joseph Yost.

State Senate: Harry Blevins, Bill Carrico, Jeff McWaters, Tommy Norment, Frank Ruff, Walter Stosch, Frank Wagner, John Watkins.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Bill Bolling: Will he, or won't he?

Bill Bolling went to Charlottesville on Monday and talked with UVa political science Professor Larry Sabato's class of 400 about all things political, and the question on everyone's mind was will he or won't he run for governor as an independent?

As a statesman in Richmond during his years in governing, Bolling received high praise from Sabato, as reported by the Daily Progress:
In his introduction of Bolling, Sabato said if Bolling does decide to run for governor, he would bring credibility, respect and experience to Richmond. Sabato cited Bolling’s leadership and connections in the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors as one example.
Sabato went on to say:
“He has served as chair of that group, he knows the [lieutenant governors] all over the country and number twos have a way of becoming number ones,” Sabato said.

“Or fading forever into political oblivion,” Bolling quipped, prompting a round of laughter from the students.
Bolling's willingness to jab fun at himself is one thing that has endeared him to grassroots and supporters throughout the years.

Noting that many Virginians do not know who the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe is, he then poked a little fun at the possible Republican nominee:
“On the other hand, you’ve got Mr. Cuccinelli. His problem is that people do know him,” Bolling said, eliciting another round of laughter from the students. “I think his challenge is that he has to redefine himself if he’s going to have any realistic chance of reaching a more moderate, mainstream voter.” But Bolling said his moderate tone shouldn't been seen as abandonment of his conservative values.

"I’m a conservative guy, I believe in a conservative approach to government, that’s why I’m a Republican, but I’m a mainstream conservative guy,” Bolling said.
Perhaps thinking of the constant objections from anti-tax tea party members of his own party, the Lieutenant Governor noted that governing means working together to solve problems and get things done but, sadly, too many people think compromise is a four-letter word.

I like that way of thinking. Someone told me a long time ago that to be an elected official meant to represent all the people, not just the ones who put you in office. Bill Bolling has proven over the years that he is that kind of leader.

So the question remains: Will he or won't he? His announcement is March 14. Stay tuned.... Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Best Facebook line about McDonnell's transportation bill

Best Facebook line so far about Governor Bob McDonnell's compromise bipartisan transportation bill that was passed over the weekend by the General Assembly:
Have you heard? Building new roads and fixing old roads is all free! Doesn't cost anything. In fact, they just magically appear.

Rand Paul betrays tea party on Hagel vote

In the ever widening hunt of tea party and Ron Paul supporters to find betrayers to their cause, they stumbled over a surprising and unlikely name: Rand Paul

On Tuesday, Rand Paul cast a "yea" vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as U.S. Secretary of Defense. As Slate noted, Paul was against him before he was for him.

Will Ron Paul libertarians stand by their man? Will the tea party turn on him? Is the crack widening between the two groups? Stay tuned....

U.S. House schedule for Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....


On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for
legislative business. First and last votes expected: 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

One Minute Speeches

H.Res. 83 - A resolution providing for the consideration of S. 47 - Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Special Rule, One Hour of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Richard Nugent / Rules Committee)

Special Order Speeches

Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on
Is the Broadband Stimulus Working?” (Wednesday, February 27th, at 10:00 a.m.)

Printable PDF

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February: Icy, rainy Tuesday

 It's 2 p.m. as icicles form on our deck railing in Augusta County and the temperature hovers between 30-32 degrees. It's cold, dreary, and the rain is picking up with a bit more icing showing up on tree limbs. Weather forecasts say we should have heavy rain later this evening so hopefully the icing will not continue or else we will have power outages. Wintergreen Resort has announced it will close at 4:30 due to the messy inclement weather.

Looking out the window from my desk at the fog settling in as the rain continues. Careful traveling out there. On days like this, Afton Mountain is usually socked in with fog.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 26, 2013

Capital One and Cell Phones for Soldiers

Friday's Capital One "Every Second Counts" event in Richmond in partnership with Cell Phones for Soldiers. From right to left: Steven Manley, Capital One Military Network Lead, Tom Poole, MVP for Enterprise Mobile and Social Media, Brittany Bergquist, Co-founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers and David Wright, SVP Information Technology

Capital One celebrated the six million minutes it has donated to U.S. military members and veterans through “Every Second Counts,” a mobile banking campaign to support Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit organization that keeps military families connected by providing free communication tools to servicemen and women serving overseas. The presentation took place on Friday, February 23, 2013, in Richmond.

Monday, February 25, 2013

U.S. House schedule for Tuesday, February 26, 2013

From Leader Eric Cantor's office....

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for
legislative business. First and last votes expected: 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

One Minute Speeches

H.Res. 77 - Academic Competition Resolution of 2013 (Suspension, 40 Minutes of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller / House Administration Committee)

Special Order Speeches

Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce hearing on
Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation's Workforce Investment System
(Tuesday, February 26th, at 10:00 a.m.)

Printable PDF

Reagan's words about raising taxes for road upkeep

On January 6, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill that would more than double the gas tax from four cents to nine cents a gallon for upkeep of the interstate system. He had noted earlier that there had been no tax increase in 20 years and that it was time to deal with crumbling infrastructure.

Before signing the bill, Reagan commented:
“Today, as this bill becomes law, America ends a period of decline in her vast and world-famous transportation system. Because of the prompt and bipartisan action of Congress, we can now ensure for our children a special part of their heritage—a network of highways and mass transit that has enabled our commerce to thrive, our country to grow, and our people to roam freely and easily to every corner of our land.

"Overall, we have 4,000 miles of Interstate Highway that needs resurfacing and 23,000 bridges that need replacement or repair. Our cities need new buses, new or rebuilt railcars, and track improvements that will cost $50 billion during the next 10 years. Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch."
The previous November, Reagan had addressed the nation during a radio program and talked about his proposed legislation to repair highways and bridges. On November 27, 1982, he spoke to the  American citizens about a gas tax to help with maintenance:
"My fellow Americans:

"This special holiday weekend is a time when we all give thanks for the many things our land is blessed with. It's also a fitting time for us to think about ways in which we can preserve those blessings for future generations.

"One of our great material blessings is the outstanding network of roads and highways that spreads across this vast continent. Freedom of travel and the romance of the road are vital parts of our heritage, and they helped to make America great. Four million miles of streets and roads make it possible for the average citizen to drive to virtually every corner of our country -- to enjoy America in all its beauty and variety. They also form a vital commercial artery unequaled anywhere else in the world.

"Our interstate system has reduced by nearly a day and a half the time it takes to drive coast to coast. And more efficient roads mean lower transportation costs for the many products and goods that make our abundant way of life possible. But let's face it: Lately, driving isn't as much fun as it used to be. Time and wear have taken their toll on America's roads and highways. In some places the bad condition of the pavement does more to control speed than the speed limits.

"We simply cannot allow this magnificent system to deteriorate beyond repair. The time has come to preserve what past Americans spent so much time and effort to create, and that means a nationwide conservation effort in the best sense of the word. America can't afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems. The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.

"So I'm asking the Congress when it reconvenes next week to approve a new highway program that will enable us to complete construction of the interstate system and at the same time get on with the job of renovating existing highways. The program will not increase the Federal deficit or add to the taxes that you and I pay on April 15th. It'll be paid for by those of us who use the system, and it will cost the average car owner only about $30 a year. That's less than the cost of a couple of shock absorbers. Most important of all, it'll cost far less to act now than it would to delay until further damage is done.

"And I should point out, delay is also dangerous as well as costly. And let me give you a few examples.

"There's already a section of interstate highway in Illinois that's so far gone the truckers call it the only all-gravel interstate in the country. There are bridges that schoolbus drivers won't drive across until the children get out of the bus and cross on foot. Little league baseball actually had to be suspended on a field underneath the Queensborough Bridge in New York because of the condition of the bridge. And in one small community in Pennsylvania, a family living beneath a bridge that's part of I - 70 has told their children not to play outdoors because rubble from the bridge keeps falling into the yard.

"Overall, we have 4,000 miles of interstate highway that need resurfacing and 23,000 bridges that need replacement or repair. Our cities also have vital public transit capital needs for new buses, new or rebuilt rail cars, and track improvements that will total $50 billion over the next 10 years.

"Common sense tells us that it'll cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it crumble and then have to start all over again. Good tax policy decrees that wherever possible a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service. Our highways were built largely with such a user fee -- the gasoline tax. I think it makes sense to follow that principle in restoring them to the condition we all want them to be in.

"So, what we're proposing is to add the equivalent of 5 cents per gallon to the existing Federal highway user fee, the gas tax. That hasn't been increased for the last 23 years. The cost to the average motorist will be small, but the benefit to our transportation system will be immense. The program will also stimulate 170,000 jobs, not in make-work projects but in real, worthwhile work in the hard-hit construction industries, and an additional 150,000 jobs in related industries. It will improve safety on our highways and will make truck transportation more efficient and productive for years to come.

"Perhaps most important, we will be preserving for future generations of Americans a highway system that has long been the envy of the world and that has truly made the average American driver king of the road.

"Thanks for listening, and until next time, God bless you."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Monday: LG Bolling addresses Larry Sabato's students at UVa

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling will be in Charlottesville on Monday talking with Professor Larry Sabato's students at the University of Virginia. The "Intro to American Politics" class will likely ask the LG about his possible run as an independent in the gubernatorial race. Bolling has said he will announce his decision on March 14.

Sabato says Bolling faces a financial challenge if he decides to run as an independent, but there are advantages. 

"Ken Cuccinelli is seen by many to be too far to the right," Sabato said. "Terry McAuliffe is seen by many to be inexperienced and unconnected to Virginia. So Bolling is kind of the porridge that's just right - not too hot, not too cold - just right, at least for those in the middle in Virginia."
Sabato had an op-ed piece in Sunday's Richmond Times-Dispatch with background on independent gubernatorial runs from Virginia's past with thoughts on Bolling.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Bob McDonnell: Pragmatic conservativism produces one of the most successful legacies of any governor

From Governor Bob McDonnell....

Following the conclusion of the 2013 General Assembly session I’m so pleased to be able to report to you that the overwhelming majority of our 2013 legislative agenda passed with strong bipartisan support. 88% of our agenda was approved by the General Assembly. That means over the course of our four General Assembly sessions in office, 87% of our legislation was passed into law. That could never have happened without your support and hard work advocating for our common-sense conservative agenda. And I want to personally thank you for all that you’ve done to make this success possible.

You already know about our transportation legislation. It was an historic moment for Virginia. Republicans and Democrats came together to find common ground, make hard decisions, and finally get the first major transportation funding package passed in 27 years.

National conservative pundit Jennifer Rubin wrote about that victory: “…pragmatic conservatism produced one of the most successful legacies of any governor in recent memory.” I certainly appreciate the kind words.

More than anything I appreciate the fact that Virginians finally have a transportation funding plan that will get them to work and back quicker, save them money that is currently being wasted by sitting in traffic, and help our private-sector job creators to continue to expand and create the good paying jobs our citizens need.

Last year CNBC dropped Virginia to #3 in their rankings of “Best States for Business.” And they specifically and directly cited an ongoing lack of transportation funding as one of the chief reasons. That’s unacceptable. Virginia must have a strong and robust economy where all our residents can find good paying jobs. This bill helps ensure that will remain the case. It was a critical piece of our ongoing work to bring more jobs to Virginia.

But that was just one bill. We had so many others this session, and I wanted to take an opportunity to share some of the other highlights with you.

The game-changing "All Students" K-12 education reform agenda generated numerous successful bills focusing on increasing teacher pay, improving the ability to reward good teachers and increasing accountability for poor performing teachers, establishing the Governor's Center for Excellence in Teaching and the Governor's Academies for Excellent Teaching, bringing Teach for America to the Commonwealth, creating transparent school report cards to provide parents and educators with clear A-F grading measures, reducing red tape for local school divisions, supporting teacher innovation and staffing, guaranteed long-term support for students to achieve key learning milestones in reading and mathematics to strengthen their education, helping students stuck in chronically failing schools by creating a turnaround entity to ensure schools dramatically improve and reach accreditation, providing parents with more public school choice, and continuing to recognize that excellent teaching is key to a great education. This legislation moves us closer to our goal of ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to learn from a great teacher in a great school, regardless of her zip code.

We continued to make major higher education reforms and investment to prepare Virginians for top jobs, boost job-creating research and innovation, make college degrees more affordable for students, and advance our goal (now in statute) of having 100,000 more Virginians earn degrees over the next 15 years, and investing an additional $31 million in higher education, in addition to the $350 million in new money we put into the system over the last 3 years, to make college more affordable and accessible for Virginia students. It has worked, and last year we saw the lowest average yearly increase in college tuition in more than 20 years.

Our Taskforce on School and Campus Safety met with a sense of urgency during the 2013 legislative session to discuss recommendations to improve the security of Virginia’s schools and college campuses. After reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations, we sent down several legislative initiatives that were well received by the General Assembly. The General Assembly passed legislation to create threat assessment teams in schools, require lockdown drills in schools, improve the school safety audit process, and increase the penalty for those who perform “straw purchases” of firearms.

Building on our achievements over the last three years to make government more efficient and effective, we enacted several measures to make government leaner, eliminate red tape and relieve mandates on localities. This session, we passed legislation to merge agencies in order to deliver better services to our citizens and small businesses, eliminate and merge boards and commissions, and cleared the way to repeal even more unnecessary regulations.

The Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development agenda focused on ensuring Virginia remains the best place in the United States in which to start and run a business. This legislation will make it easier for the private sector to create jobs, and easier for Virginians to get training in the skills necessary for those jobs. By improving the online Business One-Stop system, making the Commonwealth friendlier to entrepreneurs, and making sure that students graduate from our K-12 and college systems career-ready, we will continue to expand jobs and opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, we have a community of entrepreneurial individuals who, in spite of the very real risk of failure, put their energy and sweat and savings into creating opportunities for themselves and others. Virginia is an incubator for good ideas and we have the right tax, regulatory and business climate for entrepreneurs to turn those ideas into job-creating businesses.

While this was the last General Assembly session of our administration, we did not take it easy! Instead we put forward perhaps our boldest and most far-reaching legislative agenda since we came to Richmond. We laid out bold initiatives to lay the foundation for Virginia's future economic growth and spur job creation. We proposed historic legislation to permanently address Virginia's longstanding and long-neglected transportation funding crisis, enhance K-12 education by ensuring that every student receives a world-class education regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status, and place the Commonwealth on sound financial footing. We continued to reduce our unemployment rate, now the 2nd lowest east of the Mississippi, and the lowest in Virginia in the last four years.

Our aggressive agenda enjoyed bi-partisan support in the General Assembly, and garnered support from business groups, industry leaders, teachers, educators and citizens all across Virginia. We have demonstrated our continued focus on the issues that impact every Virginian. We got results. We passed policies that help the private-sector create good-paying jobs, increase Virginians access to higher education, further improve our high-quality K-12 education, build a transportation system that serves its users and saves motorists time and money currently wasted sitting in traffic, make government smaller and smarter, help our veterans here at home, and ensure our citizens are safe and secure. You played a key and crucial role in making all this happen. Thank you, again, so much for all that you do for Virginia. Together, we are building a true “Commonwealth of Opportunity.”


Bob McDonnell
Governor of Virginia

News Leader on transportation bill: 'Bipartisan sanity carries the day'

A new transportation package was 27 years in the making for Virginia. The last two days of the 2013 General Assembly session saw an historic, sweeping transportation bill pass both the House and the Senate as it now heads to Governor Bob McDonnell's desk.

The Staunton News Leader applauded the bipartisan legislation that was passed by 44 Republicans and 43 Democrats:
In recent years the General Assembly has fallen short of the ideal of working together, through disagreement, for the greater good. Today, despite the misguided efforts of some, is not that day.
With many working for the better good of the Commonwealth, the editorial noted:
As of Saturday afternoon, we have a new plan transportation funding plan for the first time in 27 years. It is nowhere near perfect, but that we have one at all is nearly miraculous. Conservatives are dismayed.... The plan highlights the critical need for compromise and action on what matters most.
Not all conservatives are dismayed. Many recognize the need to stop kicking the can down the road on infrastructure, roads, and transportation while others are understandably concerned about the money part. These are financially shaky times but one could also argue that crumbling roads are not going to get better yet our traffic volume continues to grow.

The News Leader noted there were some bumps on the way to passage:
This victory for McDonnell comes no thanks to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who continues to make a name for himself not as statesman worthy of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but as an ideological flamethrower who seeks attention and his own way at all costs.

His 11th-hour efforts to thwart the Medicaid expansion compromise — which would in “legislative la-la land” have killed the transportation bill — expose Cuccinelli as a wannabe governor who would surely lead the Commonwealth away from the overdue productive compromise we witnessed in Richmond last week.

We are disappointed, but not surprised, to note that Cuccinelli issued the opinion at the request of Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge. The far right has a long, destructive habit of ignoring obvious progress. If they cannot win on the merit of their ideas and ideals, they seek to stop their opponents’ progress through voter suppression, electoral-college trickery and other shenanigans.
Bob McDonnell has proven to be an extraordinary leader in Virginia and continues to be among the most admired governors in America. This 21-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel has proven to have the toughness necessary to make the hard decisions and stick with them. As the News Leader concluded, "Gratefully, today the Commonwealth moves forward."

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Saturday, February 23, 2013

25-15: landmark transportation bill passes Virginia Senate

"There is a 'Virginia Way' of cooperation and problem solving, and we saw it work again today in Richmond. A historic day in Virginia."
--Governor Bob McDonnell

Virginia's landmark bipartisan transportation bill passed the Virginia State Senate in a vote of 25-15 on Saturday afternoon. On Friday it had passed the House by a vote of 60-40.

Tucker Martin, communications director for Governor Bob McDonnell, tweeted after the vote, "Worked for for 7+ years. An honor -- never more so than today. Brought Virginians together to fix transportation. RIC is not DC."

Tucker's assessment: "Transportation passes w votes of 43 Republicans and 42 Democrats. Gets over 60 percent in each house. That's bipartisan as it gets."

The Governor took to Twitter, too, noting, "We have worked together across party lines to find common ground & pass the 1st sustainable long-term transportation funding plan in 27 yrs."

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who had joined the Governor in supporting the bill, tweeted afterward, "I commend members of the Senate & House for coming together to forge a historic transportation agreement."

From House Speaker Bill Howell, "This is a truly historic moment for Virginia. We have passed a bipartisan funding plan that will address VA's transportation needs."

An eleventh-hour ruling by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threatened to derail the legislation that had been supported by McDonnell and Bolling. Early Saturday, however, legislators said they felt they had language in place to cover any questions to the bill.

Throughout it all, McDonnell was a voice of reason in his leadership while working through the transportation issue that had been put on the back burner in the Commonwealth for 30 years.

The bill now goes to the Governor's desk.

Speaker Bill Howell: 'A truly historic moment for the Commonwealth'

Press release from House Speaker Bill Howell's office....

RICHMOND, VA -- Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell (R-Stafford) issued the following statement today on the General Assembly's bipartisan passage of House Bill 2313, Governor Bob McDonnell's long-term transportation funding overhaul:

"The House and Senate passage of House Bill 2313 represents a truly historic moment for the Commonwealth. We have crafted a compromise plan that addresses Virginia's critical transportation needs, provides a long-term, sustainable source of revenue for transportation, and makes Virginia the best state in the nation for business and job creation.

"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Bob McDonnell and the hard work of House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle, Virginia has once again demonstrated its commitment to results-oriented governing based on the best interest of the people. We have chosen to put politics aside and instead crafted a bipartisan solution to one of the most complicated and vexing public policy challenges the Commonwealth has ever seen.

"This legislation paves the way to addressing our maintenance funding shortfall, generates hundreds of millions of dollars for new road, highway and rail construction, will alleviate congestion in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and puts transportation funding on a stable and secure foundation for the future.

"Make no mistake - this is a compromise piece of legislation. Neither Republicans nor Democrats achieved exactly the kind of solution that they wanted. But this moment shows why Virginia is so fundamentally different from the rest of the country - in a time of crisis and need, we came together and worked in a bipartisan fashion to find a solution. We did not stick our heads in the sand. We did not duck the tough decisions. At the end of the day, regardless of how you feel about this bill, that I think we can all be proud of that."

And now a few words from Governor McDonnell on the transportation bill....

 From the desk of Governor Bob McDonnell....

Today, Republicans and Democrats joined together to pass the first new significant sustainable transportation funding and reform bill in Virginia in 27 years. Crafted and led by Republicans, the bill received the votes of over 60% of legislators in both houses.

Virginians worked together across party and regional lines to find common ground to solve one of our Commonwealth’s most intractable problems. We got results. And the result is $3.5 billion in new transportation funding over the next 5 years, an estimated 35% reduction in the tax on gas at the pump, a shorter commute for you, and the strengthening of Virginia’s economic competitiveness.

This bill is a compromise. It had to be. As you know the House of Delegates has a strong Republican majority. But the Senate is tied, 20-20, and the Lieutenant Governor cannot vote on a transportation funding bill. That means to get any major bill passed, everyone would have to find common ground. The nature of a compromise is no one gets every policy they want. There are things I like and don’t like in this bill, I’m sure it’s the same for you too, but it solves a longstanding problem after years and years of inaction. For 27 years you’ve sat in traffic as too many have waited for a “perfect” bill. That failure to act has cost you and the Commonwealth dearly.

Every year that Richmond has failed to act has added up to a bigger and bigger hidden transportation tax that you are paying. The Texas Transportation Institute found that our failure to approve new transportation funding, and the resulting congestion, costs every motorist in Northern Virginia $1400 a year; every driver in Virginia Beach $877 a year; and every commuter in Richmond $581 a year. Your commute has gotten longer as political positions have gotten more divided. Every pothole you’ve hit, and bill for repairs you’ve received, is a result of the chronic failure of lawmakers to find a solution and pass it. Those are hidden taxes that you’ve been paying for years.

Virginia’s economy depends upon our transportation system. Without good roads, rail, transit and bridges we cannot attract the new businesses that will create the good-paying jobs our citizens need and deserve. A continued failure to address transportation would leave the Commonwealth less competitive economically, shrink our tax base and endanger our well-earned reputation as the best state in the nation in which to do business. In fact, just last year CNBC dropped Virginia to 3rd in its annual ranking of “Best States for Business” in large part because of our repeated inability to agree on how to properly fund transportation. We plummeted from 10th to 33rd in the specific category of “Transportation and Infrastructure.” That is unacceptable. I ran and was blessed to be elected on a pledge to make Virginia a jobs-magnet and do everything I could to help our state attract more employers so our citizens could get the good jobs they need and deserve. This transportation plan helps us do that. Conservatives believe we must grow our economy by allowing the private sector to thrive and create. We believe in paying as you go and in not running up high levels of debt. That is how you create new revenue. But that can’t happen if we don’t provide private-sector job creators with the infrastructure they must have to be successful.

As a result of this plan, thousands of construction and maintenance projects around the state will be funded, from widening I-64 between Newport News and Williamsburg, widening Route 28 in Northern Virginia, bringing down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and advancing the Silver Line, bringing Amtrak service to Roanoke, and helping to build the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. (You can see a full list of projects that will be funded by this bill here.) Thousands of new jobs will be created. Before this vote it was projected that by the year 2018 we would have been transferring $500 million meant for construction to just fund simple maintenance projects. There would have been virtually no new money available for new construction projects. Now, this problem has been solved for the foreseeable future.

You elected me to come to Richmond and focus on growing our economy, creating jobs, and fixing the problems you face in your daily lives. This session we have dramatically reformed our K-12 system with more accountability, choice, and innovation. We reformed government, eliminated budget gimmicks and doubled the rainy day fund. The last few years we have made our unemployment rate the lowest in the Southeast, created $1.4 billion in surpluses, reformed our pension system to save $9 billion, dropped yearly average tuition increases to the lowest in a decade, toughened our criminal laws and cut the size and scope of state government.

However, even with all that progress on a wide array of issues, without a modern and well-funded transportation system our future economic growth would remain in jeopardy. Private sector job-creators would have a harder time moving goods to market, expanding their enterprises, and hiring new workers. And your commute would just grow longer, the money you waste sitting in traffic would increase, and your quality of life would diminish. We could not afford to let that happen.

Throughout this debate, when many said we couldn’t get a transportation bill passed, so many of you stood up and advocated for passage. You called your legislators, you talked to your neighbors, and you made a difference. Today we’ve shown that there is still a ‘Virginia Way.’ Richmond is not Washington. In Richmond, we cut out rhetoric and work together to fix problems and get results.

I can’t thank you enough for your support of this bill and our Administration. Today’s vote will make our economy stronger, and Virginia an even better place to call home. Thank you, so much, for everything that you do for this great Commonwealth.


Bob McDonnell
Governor of Virginia

PS: Remember if you want to see what this bill means in your community please visit the project list page HERE. In every region of Virginia, this bill will mean new roads, new bridges, shorter commutes and more jobs.

Bill Bolling on passage of historic transportation agreement

Press release from Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling's office....

RICHMOND – Lieutenant Governor Bolling today issued the following statement on final passage of a long-term transportation funding bill by the State Senate and House of Delegates:

“I commend the members of the Senate and House of Delegates for coming together to forge a historic agreement to address Virginia’s long term transportation funding needs. The votes they cast today were not easy votes, but they were important votes for the future of our state. It shows what can happen when we work together, are willing to compromise, and keep our focus on solving problems and getting things done.

“Building a transportation system for the 21st century is the most important issue facing Virginia today. Every region of our state has its own unique transportation needs, and a solution to this issue has eluded us for far too long. The legislation approved by the General Assembly today will ultimately generate $860 million a year to meet critical highway maintenance and construction needs in every part of our state. It will truly enable us to start building a transportation system for the 21st century.

“Needless to say, this was not a perfect bill. Each of us would have addressed this issue in different ways if left to our own devices. This legislation represented a compromise of many competing viewpoints. No one was happy with every aspect of this legislation, but I commend those members who supported the bill for not letting the pursuit of the perfect prevent us from accomplishing the good. What we did today was good for Virginia. It is a historic accomplishment.

“I want to personally thank Governor McDonnell for the leadership he provided in putting this issue on the front burner during his final legislative session. It would have been easy for the Governor to have avoided tackling this difficult issue, but he knows how important it is to our efforts to build a better Virginia and provide more opportunity for our people. I feel confident in saying that this historic agreement would not have been possible without the Governor’s steadfast support.

“I also want to thank the leadership of the General Assembly for helping usher this legislation through the Senate and House of Delegates. There are 140 members of the General Assembly, and they all have an equal vote and their own ideas on how to solve the critical issues facing our state. The General Assembly’s leadership worked hard to pull these competing views together into a compromise that could receive majority support. Special thanks go to Speaker Howell, Senator Norment and those legislators who served on the Conference Committee that produced the final agreement.

“Passage of this legislation will enable us to enhance the economic competitiveness of our state and improve the quality of life of our citizens. It is an accomplishment we can all be very proud of.”

Bob McDonnell on passage of historic transportation legislation

Press release from Governor Bob McDonnell's office....

RICHMOND — Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today following final passage by the House of Delegates and the State Senate of a comprehensive long-term transportation funding and reform package for Virginia.

“This is a historic day in Virginia. We have worked together across party lines to find common ground and pass the first sustainable long-term transportation funding plan in 27 years. There is a ‘Virginia Way’ of cooperation and problem solving, and we saw it work again today in Richmond.

“Most Virginians and Americans are tired of the politics of dysfunction and inaction that we see in Washington. They prefer cooperation and results. They want elected officials to advocate for their principles and then find ways to work together to get things done and improve their daily lives. We do that in Richmond. For several decades now transportation loomed as an issue that seemingly could not be solved. Lines were drawn and debates droned on as motorists sat in traffic. Today we have shown a path forward, a path past the old political arguments and endless posturing that threatens the economic prosperity and competitiveness of our state and nation.

“Every year, Virginians have been paying a hidden transportation tax. The Texas Transportation Institute found that our failure to approve new transportation funding, and the resulting congestion, cost every motorist in Northern Virginia $1,400 a year; every driver in Virginia Beach $877 a year; and every commuter in Richmond $581 a year. For nearly three decades, Virginians have paid a high price for our inaction on transportation. Their commutes have gotten longer as political positions got more and more rigid and unyielding. And that is a tax in and of itself. With this bill, gas prices will be reduced, and we will reduce our historic reliance on the gas tax which is in a long-term decline. Today we have stated unequivocally that transportation is a core function of government, by moving $200 million in future general fund dollars, and another $200 million from anticipated changes to federal law, to transportation. And we will allow Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads the resources they have long requested to address their pressing, local transportation needs. Through tax reform, general fund dedication, and economic growth, we will build a 21st century transportation network.

“Over the past three years, we have cut spending, audited and reformed VDOT, authorized new bonds, used surpluses, issued new public-private partnerships for toll roads, created the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, and dedicated two-thirds of all undesignated surplus funds to transportation. We have used every tool provided by law to leverage scarce dollars. Yet those actions were not sufficient to meet the mobility, economic development, and quality of life needs of the people of Virginia. Today, we fixed the problem.

“This is a compromise bill. It had to be. Neither party controls Richmond outright. The House is Republican, the Senate is split 20-20, and the Lieutenant Governor cannot vote on transportation funding. On an issue like transportation funding, regional differences and needs are just as important as partisan affiliation. If we were ever going to fix this problem, and improve our citizens’ quality of life, a compromise had to be fashioned.

“Virginia’s economy depends upon a modern transportation system. Without good roads, rail, transit and bridges we cannot attract the new businesses that will create the good-paying jobs our citizens need and deserve. A continued failure to dramatically improve transportation would leave the Commonwealth less competitive economically, shrink our tax base and endanger our well-earned reputation as the best state in the nation in which to do business. In fact, just last year CNBC dropped Virginia to third in its well-recognized annual ranking of ‘Best States for Business’, in large part because of our repeated inability to properly fund transportation. We plummeted from 10th to 33rd in the specific category of ‘Transportation and Infrastructure.’ That is unacceptable. I ran and was blessed to be elected on a pledge to make Virginia a jobs-magnet, and do everything I could to help our state attract more employers so our citizens could get the good jobs they need and deserve. This transportation plan helps us do that. Conservatives believe we must grow our economy by allowing the private sector to thrive and create. We believe in paying as you go and in not running up high levels of debt. That is how you create new revenue. But that can’t happen if we don’t provide private-sector job creators with the infrastructure they must have to be successful.

“This vote is an important moment for Virginia’s economy, Virginians quality of life, and our political system. We have demonstrated that in Richmond we cut the rhetoric and we get results for the people. We have found ways to move from sound bites to solutions. We have passed, on a bipartisan basis, the first major new sustainable transportation funding and reform bill in Virginia in 27 years. I thank the over 60 percent of legislators in each chamber who voted for this bill and I thank Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and his team and the many individuals and groups all across Virginia who have advocated tirelessly for this legislation from business to labor, and local government to technology.

Specifically I would like to thank Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Speaker Bill Howell, Majority Leader Tommy Norment, Majority Leader Kirk Cox, Delegate Chris Jones and all of the conferees. With this vote, we have made Virginia more economically competitive, improved our business climate, helped the private sector to create more jobs in the years ahead, and helped families spend more time together and less time in traffic. I look forward to receiving the bill in the days ahead, and, as with every piece of legislation we receive, conducting a thorough policy and legal review of the legislation for any amendments that may be appropriate.”

Update: Legislators work to get beyond AG's eleventh-hour ruling

Interesting. An eleventh-hour legal opinion by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli questioning the constitutionality of expanding Medicaid in the Commonwealth put a stop to the debate going on over transportation, causing the State Senate to adjourn Friday without voting on the bill that was passed earlier in the day by the House.

Reporter Jim Nolan with the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote that local delegate Ben Cline, who voted against the transportation bill in the House, took the question to Cuccinelli:
But while lawmakers were closing in on a deal, and a letter from McDonnell, to allow legislative action to move forward on transportation, Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, the co-chairman of the Conservative Caucus, asked Cuccinelli whether the General Assembly, as part of enacting the budget, could delegate the authority to make spending decisions regarding Medicaid to a smaller "sub-group of elected officials, including members of the General Assembly."
Nolan updated with the latest going on at the Capitol:
House and Senate budget negotiators say they already have language that addresses the constitutional concerns raised by Attorney General Ken Cuccinell over the proposed creation of a special legislative committee to determine whether Virginia could expand its Medicaid program.

"We feel like we have worked it out in a constitutional manner," said Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, chairman of the Senate Finance subcommittee on health and human resources.

Hanger's position was supported by two key House negotiators, Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, and Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, who huddled in the Capitol before meetings of their respective caucuses.

"We have language already agreed to," said Landes, who said the conference report would not require amendment.

Jones said the attorney general issued his opinion to Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, without seeing the actual language in the Medicaid budget amendment agreed to by the conference committee.
It's the last day of the 2013 regular General Assembly session. With these latest maneuverings, will it go into the night?

Va. Governor Bob McDonnell offers voice of reason in transportation debate

As soon as the Virginia House of Delegates passed HB 2313, the bi-partisan transportation bill, with a 60-40 vote, protests went out from no new taxes conservatives and libertarians. Their immediate cry was to drum the delegates who supported the bill out of office, all within minutes of the vote. At a time when many are suffering financially difficult times, reactions were swift and emotional.

The House and Senate came up with the 100-page compromise bill that was different from the version Governor Bob McDonnell originally submitted. However, the Governor along with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling supported the bill and urged its passage.

“I did not get everything I wanted in the final bill,” McDonnell said on the John Fredericks radio show on Friday, “but no one did…that’s called compromise.”

Bolling commented in a press release, "This is not a perfect plan ... no compromise is perfect and no one gets everything they want. ... This is a deal that generates real money for transportation and it will finally solve our long term transportation funding needs."

The Washington Post wrote that "the compromise forced Republicans to agree to higher taxes while requiring Democrats to change their opposition to diverting additional funds raised by sales taxes, known as the general fund, to roads."

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli disagreed with the bill. Governor McDonnell told Fredericks he was disappointed that the AG was not on board, but not surprised.  " 'He only had a draft version of the bill and spreadsheets, but not the full language,' the governor said. McDonnell hinted that Cuccinelli’s ultimate view of the bill might evolve over time."

Thank goodness for the voices of reason within the GOP.

The Post noted that both sides of the aisle worked together to bring about a compromise that would be acceptable to most:
Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), a chief architect of the compromise, thanked the governor for starting the process, and he thanked several Democrats, including Del. Vivian E. Watts of Fairfax, a former transportation secretary, for working out the nitty-gritty details. Jones urged members to vote for the bill, saying that any pact forces people on each side of a conflict to accept something they might not like but that both sides need.
The transportation package approved by the House was markedly different from the initiative initially pushed by McDonnell and sponsored by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). But supporters credited the governor with setting the bill in motion and Howell for removing a key hurdle when he killed a surprise redistricting plan that Senate Republicans shoved through the evenly divided chamber when a Democratic senator was out of town.
The final version of the bill brought a protest from some conservative bloggers who signed an open letter condemning the bill even as a Republican governor tried to get some traction on an issue that had been overlooked for 30 years.

Not all conservative bloggers disagreed with the transportation bill and some are speaking up, pointing out the reasons Virginia needs to address an ever-growing problem. One blogger opined that the anti-tax crowd is killing the GOP.

In reality, no plan would have satisfied everyone. The alternative was to kick the can down the road and let the next occupant of the Executive Mansion worry about it, or the next or the next or the next. The Governor demonstrated leadership even in the face of loud protests from conservatives.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Governor McDonnell for taking the heat and standing up for this bill. He and his staff have researched and know far more than many who are protesting it and, quite frankly, I voted for him to make the tough decisions. He did his job.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Friday, February 22, 2013

'Do you believe in miracles? YES!'

Today is the anniversary of America's stunning 1980 Gold Medal win against Russia in the ice hockey finals for the Olympics, a fact I had forgotten until Doug Mataconis posted on Facebook along with the link to the final minute of the Miracle Game. It brought the excitement, the roar of the crowd, and the "USA" chant back like it was yesterday....

February 20, 1980 ... the Miracle Team from the USA made it all happen and America was proud....

Shenandoah Valley ramblings: Snowy roads of western Augusta County

We drove to a friend's house today -- this is their road all covered in snow -- and then took the long way back to our home, driving the back roads along the foot of the North Mountain range of the Appalachian Mountains.

Beautiful any time of year, today the weather was brisk with freshly fallen snow and overcast skies, and the winter woods allowed long-range views of this beautiful part of Virginia.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 22, 2013

North Mountain Outfitter in Augusta County ... horseback riding and longhorns

North Mountain Outfitter, Swoope, Virginia, in Augusta County, offering horseback riding and trail rides like they do out west.

 Where does the fence end and the longhorn begin? They match!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 22, 2013

Does anyone know what kind of bird this is? UPDATE: It's a Northern Flicker

This bird was in my front yard this morning digging through the dusting of snow into the ground as if he had found something to eat. He pulled up grass and dirt and slung it and continued to dig. I took these photos through the window and screen so they aren't sharp. I'm not familiar with this particular bird in our group of winter birds who spend time in our yard during cold weather. Does anyone know what he is?

Update: Facebook friend SallyAnn Gowen identified it as a Northern Flicker: "Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with a gentle expression and handsome black-scalloped plumage. On walks, don’t be surprised if you scare one up from the ground. It’s not where you’d expect to find a woodpecker, but flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you’ll see a flash of color in the wings – yellow if you’re in the East, red if you’re in the West – and a bright white flash on the rump." Facebook comes through again. Thanks, SallyAnn!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 22, 2013

Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell's proclamation honoring George Washington's birthday

WHEREAS, one of the greatest stories ever told in our nation is the life and times of George Washington, iconic father of the United States of America, who was born in Virginia at Pope's Creek plantation on February 22, 1732; and

WHEREAS, a sixteen year old in Colonial Virginia, George Washington penned the classic Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, a piece on gentlemanly etiquette that would guide him throughout his life and influence countless others throughout history; and

WHEREAS, in 1752, twenty year old George Washington was commissioned as a major in the Virginia militia, and the bravery he demonstrated in his early military career through missions in the wilderness and during the "French and Indian War" earned him an international reputation as a respected leader and distinguished him as the most experienced colonial military officer in Virginia by the age of twenty-seven; and

WHEREAS, in addition to his private business, George Washington was a devoted family man and statesmen, helping to raise his wife Martha's two children while simultaneously serving several terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and as one of seven Virginia representatives to the Continental Congress; and

WHEREAS, in 1775, Congress authorized the creation of a Continental Army and appointed George Washington to organize and command the colonial forces against the world's greatest military power, the British Empire; and

WHEREAS, from the horrendous conditions of Valley Forge and across the ice-filled Delaware River to the final triumph over tyranny at Yorktown, General Washington's courage, conviction and resolve held the Continental Army together for eight long years of hardship against seemingly insurmountable odds; and

WHEREAS, after the American War of Independence, rather than using his position and status as the hero of the revolution to further his own self-interest, General Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army and retired to private life, an unprecedented action underscoring his commitment to liberty and the ideals in which the revolution was founded; and

WHEREAS, George Washington played a critical role in the formulation of the Constitution of the United States of America, having encouraged the development and support of the document and having presided over its adoption during the Constitutional Convention of 1787; and

WHEREAS, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States of America in 1788, a distinction that sets him apart from all of his successors, and under his strength and wisdom he laid the moral foundation of the United States and guided the fledgling government through its infancy; and

WHEREAS, in his first inaugural address on April 30, 1789, President Washington stated, "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people"; and

WHEREAS, President Washington understood the unique character of the new nation as one grounded in faith in God and the rule of law, he stated in his first inaugural address, "the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained"; and

WHEREAS, understanding that his behavior in office would set a precedent for generations to come, President Washington wrote in an April 25, 1788 letter, "The first transactions of a Nation, like those of an individual upon his first entrance into life make the deepest impression, and are to form the leading traits in its character"; and

WHEREAS, President George Washington lived by his written rules of civility, and the honesty, integrity and humility of his administration set precedents that are adhered to today, such as his refusal to treat the office as a royal court and his two-term limit on the presidency; and

WHEREAS, President Washington's farewell address, one of the most influential speeches in history, advised future generations to avoid entangling foreign alliances, to be wary of partisan loyalties, to revere our republican form of government, and he also underscored the critical importance of the Constitution, stating, "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at all times exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all."; and

WHEREAS, George Washington died on December 14, 1799, and upon his death, President John Adams stated, "His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read.";

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize February 22, 2013 as GEORGE WASHINGTON DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Hey, Google ... it's George Washington's birthday!

George Washington.
Life-sized marble statue of this famous Virginian, sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon,
is located in the Virginia State Capitol.

On this day in 1732, one of the most famous men in America was born. George Washington, a Founding Father, Virginian, first American president, soldier, land owner, and well-respected leader, is remembered by millions as an important man in history.

Apparently not so much at Google where their doodle today is to celebrate what would have been the 88th birthday of the late Edward Gorey.


That's right. While the majority of Americans recognize the name George Washington, how many recognize the name Edward Gorey?

I didn't. I discovered he was an author and illustrator but wasn't familiar with any of his books.

So while Google celebrates the birthday of Mr. Gorey, many will remember a man who helped shape our country.

Happy Birthday, George Washington!

Snow day!

The first flakes started before dawn, quickly covering the deck and grassy surfaces and then covering the driveway, causing slick conditions. With the temperature hovering at 26 degrees and not expected to get above the low 30s, some local students have a snow day while others will go in on two-hour delays.

As I gaze out the window at the snowflakes falling from the sky and the ever-whitening landscape, the little kid in me is excited at this snowy Friday. Hopefully, the de-icing beet juice put down yesterday by VDOT will help with the roads since this latest winter weather hit just in time for commuting to work.

If you can, sit back and enjoy. If you have to go out, be safe on this snow day....

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 22, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

VDOT prepares SWAC area for winter weather

So I hit the Rt. 252 Bypass this afternoon, heading from my western Augusta County home to the grocery store. No, I wasn't going on a winter weather food run. I was cooking for a family who lost a loved one, and was missing a few items for my recipe.

As I hit the bypass, a VDOT truck came toward me putting down behind it "beet juice," the de-icing liquid used to help combat ice and snow on local roadways. The familiar three-stream track could be seen on the road as I made my way to Martin's and later as I headed back home. Those VDOT guys had been busy so here's a big thanks from my corner of Augusta County.

Weather forecaster Eric Pritchett at NBC-29 had Friday's weather forecast:
Friday, a storm tracking to our northwest will spread a light wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain over the region. Some icy conditions look to impact the morning commute. The wintry mix could linger into the afternoon, for some locations, otherwise a light, cold rain. Temperatures will likely hold in the cold 30s and perhaps even some upper 20s during the day Friday. Late Friday night and into Saturday, another surge of moisture looks to overspread the region. At this time, rain and freezing rain look to continue across the region. So some additional icing on untreated and colder surfaces will be possible. Temperatures Friday night for some locations will hover around freezing, while other areas see temperatures several degrees above it. Milder temperatures make a return as we move through the weekend, with a dry and brighter day for Sunday.
Now let's see if Mother Nature follows through....

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Original Rocket Boy Homer Hickam born today ... Augusta County's Rocket Boys shut down

Graphic courtesy of The Write Side Of My Brain
Bearing Drift colleague Mike Fletcher posted that Homer Hickam, the NASA scientist from West Virginia who authored the book, Rocket Boys, that inspired the movie, October Sky, was born on this day in 1943.

Whenever I think about Hickam, I remember Augusta County's own Rocket Boys who were shut down and denied the opportunity to learn about rockets and science and chemistry and all the other wonderful lessons that could have been taught by volunteer leaders. It really drives home Hickam's quote: "It is better to confess ignorance than provide it."

I wrote a fourteen-part series about the Rocket Boys, young boys who had joined a rocket club run by volunteer scientists, who unexpectedly found themselves the center of controversy when surrounding land owners and the county government joined forces to shut them down.

Here is the final installment along with links to all the installments. Maybe one day Augusta County children of the future will have an opportunity to launch rockets and dream of the wild blue yonder.

Part 14: Dreams of space ... Augusta County shuts down Rocket Boys

(Updated 8/6/10: Augusta Board of Zoning Appeals approves paraglider ... now could they re-do the Rocket Boys case?)

(Updated 9/26/10:  Highland County opens its doors to VAST)

Part 1 ... October Sky
Part 2 ... Who is VAST?
Part 3 ... What is agri-tourism?
Part 4 ... Francis Chester
Part 5 ... Launch location -- Croft Field
Part 6 ... How it began ... anonymous complaint
Part 7 ... "It's only a formality"
Part 8 ... VAST prepares for BZA meeting
Part 9 ... VAST presents case to BZA meeting
Part 10 ... VAST denied Special Use Permit
Part 11 ... Augusta County denies BZA hearing tapes
Part 12 ... The legal case begins
Part 13 ... Community reaction
Part 14 ... Dreams of space

Remember the movie October Sky that told the true story of Homer Hickam of West Virginia, a coal miner's son who was intrigued by the Soviet Sputnik satellite in the 1950s that streaked across the October sky?

That incident inspired Homer to study rocketry, win a science contest, go away to college, and eventually earn his Ph.D. and become a NASA scientist. And it all began when he and his friends put together and launched model rockets even though some of the town people tried to shut them down.

Just imagine ... in Augusta County there is a new generation of Rocket Boys who could be future NASA scientists, much like Homer.

And in western Augusta County with its large tracts of land, there appears to be the perfect place for a local rocket club to teach science in the wide open spaces, smack in the middle of 500 acres of land, isolated from surrounding properties. But you would be wrong.

This series looks into the background of a group of boys and adult volunteers who were blindsided by an anonymous complaint that brought the government into what should have been a recreational, educational activity in the middle of a 500-acre farm field void of government involvement.

It looks into Augusta County's desire to cultivate agri-tourism, and Del. Steve Landes' agri-tourism bill that passed this year's General Assembly, and questions the fairness of the decision of who can participate in agri-tourism ... and who can't.

And it looks at community reaction ... questions that have been brought up by county citizens who wonder if they will be next by what is perceived as an overbearing Big Government mentality.

I had not seen the movie October Sky for a number of years so checked it out of the Churchville Library to once again get the feel of students who dream ... and the adults who nurture those dreams. In the movie, one adult who encouraged Homer was his teacher Miss Riley who died at age 31 of Hodgkin's Disease but not before she planted the seed for him to look beyond the coal mines and pursue his dreams of space.

In Augusta County, we hope to one day see local dreams played out once again, and we hope the Rocket Boys are allowed to again fly the skies of western Virginia.

Feedback about this series is welcomed.

Related stories:
- SWAC Girl: Del. Landes' agri-tourism bill passes House
- WHSV TV-3: Agritourism Brings Boost for Augusta County
- NBC 29: Rocketry club goes to court to get permit
- Staunton News Leader: Sparring launches in rocket case
- Staunton NL: Rocket club grounded
- Staunton NL: Aerospace Team may scratch launches
- Staunton NL: Why can't we give rocket club a chance?
- Staunton NL: Zoning board denies permit for rocketry club
- Waynesboro News Virginian: Throttle up: Rocketry appeal heats up
- Waynesboro NV: Zoning board denies liftoff of Swoope rockets
Update: WVTF Public Radio news story - 4/7/10
- Waynesboro NV: Go for launch - 9/25/10
- SWAC Girl: Are the skies friendlier in Highland than Augusta for the Rocket Boys? - 9/26/10

Other bloggers write about Rocket Boys:
- Yankee Phil: Local boys trying to be good ... denied in Augusta County
- Yankee Phil: More info on ... Local boys trying to be good ... denied in Augusta County
- The Journey: No rockets on company property
- Virginia Virtucon
- StrictlyVA
- The Journey: His neighbors didn't like rockets either