Monday, April 26, 2010

Punch your ticket in City Council race

The first thing that strikes me about the upcoming Williamsburg City Council election is that none of the five candidates is awful..

That's unusual.

In a mutli-candidate race like this, you'd usually have at least one candidate whom only his mother or a crackhead would vote for.

This year, however, one can see any of these candidates serving with distinction on council. Which isn't to say they are are all on the same page. Each brings different strenghs to the table. And since two seats are up for grabs, various combinations of candidates might play out very differently.

There are 10 possible "tickets" that could result from the May 4 election. Which voters choose depends on what they want council to look like for the next two years, at least.

 1. Nice Guys Finish First Ticket (Bobby Braxton and Dr. David Dafashy):  Incumbent Braxton and Dafashy, a physician with the student heatlh service at the College of William & Mary, are the most amiable of the five candidates. Each is quick with a joke or a smile. That doesn't mean they'd do a great job on council. As the stories of Mark Warner, Rahm Emaneul, Tommy Norment or George Allen point out, sometimes you need a highly-motivated jerk to get things done.

2. Status Quo Ticket (Braxton and Sean Driscoll): Braxton, of course, is on council. Driscoll, a member of the Planning Commission, has recycled some of retiring Mayor Jeanne Zeidler's rhetoric and of all the challengers is probably closest in philosophy to the current Council. So he'd fit right in with a Council run by likely new Mayor Clyde Haulman. If you think everything in the city is going just great, this is your ticket.

3. Age Ain't Nothing But a Number Ticket (Braxton and Scott Foster): Braxton is 50 years older than Foster, a 22-year-old graduating senior at W&M. Braxton  has a lifetime of experiences. Foster, who'll enter law school in the fall, basically has none. They don't agree on much. Foster supports student efforts to expand the three-person rule to four. Braxton wavered before voting against the expansion but has brought his negative vote up repeatedly during rhe campaign. I guess you could say they balance each other.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare 5 to 10 in the Federal Pen?

The next big battle in Washington in heating up.

And, as they have since January, Republicans are ready to "just say no." They should probably re-think that plan.

 Because this fight won't be over providing access to health insurance, which could be characterized as "helping poor people," although it actually benefits everyone. You can always drum up some opposition to helping the poor in America.

The coming battle will be over punishing the bankers, traders and Wall Street fat cats whose greed and dishonesty almost threw us into a second Great Depression. And, so far, the GOP has come down firmly on the side of the bad guys. In a letter to President Barack Obama, every Republican member of the House and Senate declined to support financial reform legislation backed by the president.

You'd think Republicans would have learned something from the first Great Depression, when Herbert Hoover sided with the folks who'd caused the crash and handed Washington over to the Democrats for a generation.

The Great Depression also created a long-standing distrust of Wall Street and the financial system among working class and middle class Americans.

My Dad, a Depression baby, used to tell me that the stock market was just a scam to fleece the little guy for the profit of the big guys.

Turns out he was right.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Hey Bob, stop whistling Dixie.

C'mon Bob.

I'm really getting tired of explaining to my out-of-state friends that we aren't all neo-Confederate cesessionists who hate gay people and the unemployed.

You ran for office as "Bob for Jobs." Remember that? You haven't created any yet. In fact, the state budget you helped craft will cost thousands of teachers and other local government employees their jobs.

But, look, that's okay. It's a tough economy. Everybody understands that.

You've been trying to stick to your message.  You went on cable news shows and claimed that you'd filled a $4 billion hole in the state budget without raising taxes. That's a good message for you. Of course, it isn't quite true. There are taxes in the budget, although some of them are called "fees," and you filled a large part of the hole by borrowing from the Virginia Retirement System. That's money that will have to be paid back, with interest. The difference between that and the "deficit spending" your pals in the GOP are all over the President for seems largely a matter of semantics to me.

But the fixed-the-budget-without-raising taxes claim is close enough for politics. Particularly on televsion news.

So if that's why people were  talking about Virginia today, you'd be in clover. You'd have to start listening to all those people are who are lining up to tell you, "Yes, you can" in 2012's national elections.

But Bob, that's not why people are talking about Virginia.

They're talking abuot the damned Civil War again.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Virginia: Bursting with Energy?

Gov. Bob McDonnell this week said he wanted to see Virginia become the "energy capital" of the East Coast.

The governor was commenting on a ruling by the Obama administration which might lead to drillling for oil and natural gas off Virginia's coast.

While Interior Secretary Ken Salazar somewhat downplayed the prospect, saying the administration had okayed a "look/see," Republicans, whose motto is "Drill, baby, drill," are already spending the money. In McDonnell's case, he wants to spend Virginia's future oil royalities on transportation.

Before the new governor of Texas-on-the-James gets fitted for a ten-gallon hat, there are a couple of problems with his plan.

First, under current law, Virginia can't collect any royalties for oil and natural gas extracted off its coast. Congess, dominated by non-coastal states, has been very relectant to allow East Coast states the same right to collect royalties that states on the Gulf Coast and Alaska have. Virginia's congressional delegation has introduced bills to change that, but there's no gaurantee that they will pass.

So, right now, an oil well off Virginia's coast won't benefit anyone except the oil company that drilled it.

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