The 2011 Scott and Toddy Show: or Let’s Not Define Civil Discourse in VA-36 or VA-44

(I’m having difficulty uploading the recording I made.  It may have to follow.  Maybe that’s what I get for using Windows Media Player instead of a real audio program.  I can hear it fine on my machine. Where I reference time hacks on my recording, the time is very rough.  For some reason, I can’t see the time hacks on my playback. )

Today was the 2011 Annual Town Hall Meeting sponsored by Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller (VA-36) & Delegate Scott Surovell (VA-44).   (I’ve linked to both sites, but Puller’s is, as of today, 29 January, woefully out of date). It should have been titled differently.   I came away feeling as if I’d just attended a report on a Democratic Committee strategy session, and not a report of legislation.  This is the third such town hall I’ve attended – two under Surovell’s predecessor Kris Amundsen, and one with Surovell.  I presume there was one last year, but I never heard about it.  Probably because I’m not on the Democrat’s mailing list.  I don’t know why—I’m on the Republican’s list, and I give them exactly zero percent more credibility than I give the Democrats.

I simply cannot understand how an elected official can stand in front of constituents and vilify “the other side” while barely defending positions on budget, transportation, education, child care, health care, redistricting, and other issues.

Toddy spoke first.  After  lamenting that she was in Richmond during the storm and came home last night to find her driveway not shoveled (in all fairness – she can’t do it, but it doesn’t seem to me it’s her constituents’ worry that whoever was supposed to have done it did not), she whined that the legislators only had a week to submit bills.  Not that they follow that rule; she did note that every day someone asks unanimous consent to submit another bill.  Why have a rule you’re not going to follow?  And how on the planet of the gods can a legislator not know what legislation s/he intends to submit in a given year.  What are they waiting for?

Since 1994, Toddy has been fighting for studies of one form or another for US-1 – that glorious highway that defines Virginia east of I-95 from Prince William County to DC.  It’s poorly constructed, with little to no capability to handle the number of cars that traverse it each day, and sadly in need of work.  However, the other side of that issue is that there is apparently no will on the part of the County or the State to enforce laws on the highway, either.   I’m almost convinced there are massive magnets built into intersections for the 6-or-so-mile stretch, given the number of people who think intersections are THE place to change lanes.  And for that stretch of highway, people seem to have forgotten that if you miss a turn, you go down, turn around, and come back.  No, on US-1 you cut across three lanes of traffic, right-of-way be damned.  I’m personally convinced that vigorous enforcement of existing laws on just the 4-mile stretch from the beltway to Ft Belvoir would easily solve both traffic problems and the lack of funding for transportation.  At about 19:00 on the link (audio of the townhall) she starts talking about it.

Then she complains about lawyers arguing over the meaning of law.

Toddy then spoke about how she, as Chair of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, is holding the governor’s privatization plan hostage (starting about 23:00 on attached).  Governor McDonnell proposes to privatize alcoholic beverage sales in the state, but the Democrats in the state see alcohol as a revenue producer and don’t want to give it up.  I’m not sure where “retail sales” is a governmental function in anyone’s constitution, but there you go.  Toddy should assign the proposal to the Alcoholic Beverage Control subcommittee (there is no other appropriate subcommittee), but has to date not assigned it, nor has she scheduled any action on it.  She bragged that she won’t do anything with it before the House does, since the House is controlled by the governor’s party.   Her words – that way he can’t blame the Senate Democrats for voting it down.  At least she admits to being a coward, and brags about stymying the bill.

She dismisses the governor’s transportation plan, but claims that transportation is her #1 issue.   Apparently his plan involves general fund monies, which she opposes.

I’m not sure what Scott spoke about.   He starts about 26:45 on the attached, and rails against Republicans for a while.  This is a guy who was formerly Chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, so one expects partisanship, but this is ridiculous.   I felt he was giving his presentation in that Chairman role, and not as a state Delegate.  Maybe it is just his mannerism, but every second or third sentence, he looks at Toddy as if for approval.  He sure seems like a Toddy clone.  At least his predecessor – you know, the one who didn’t decide to retire until after the Republicans ran someone against her, and after primaries, so the County committee could name the nominee – was her own person.

First, he complained that he’s not in the Senate, then that he’s not in the majority.  Then he bitches about the press (about 29:58).  And the governor’s definition of “surplus”, referring to the governor’s “budget gimmicks”.   On transportation, he admits that looking at only one’s district is parochial and small-minded, but then complains that he didn’t get enough in the 44th.  Listen about 36:13 – one of the problems in the House is the Tea Party.  Apparently he doesn’t like states’ rights, from the way he dismisses them “or whatever”.  Actually, that’s probably right – he doesn’t think the state should tell the county how to live its life.  Not sure what kind of a reading of the Bill of Rights leads one to think that if the states have primacy over the federal government, then counties should have prmacy over states.  I don’t read it that way.

Redistricting was a big deal.  But my delegate has absolutely no say in anything, if you listen to him.  It’s someone else’s say.  Listen to Toddy starting about 53:25.  Listen carefully. “I have to lose 10K people and probably in PWC.  The growth is in PWC and Lorton.  We will be trying to redraw the PW lines to help Sen Colgan’s district ‘cause his is very very Republican and he’s the only one who could win that district.”  Then Scott says “Toddy left out the part where the AG sues somebody.”  Neither the senator nor the delegate admitted to having a clue how redistricting works.  When asked if it follows a formula or is it a partisan heyday, Toddy blamed politics.  She swears the House of Delegates doesn’t want to be nonpartisan.  She says the Senate will be fairer, implying that the House will not.  They both claimed that “both sides” have hired lawyers.

Then there was the Cuccinelli bashing.  Mind you, if any politician ever needed bashing, it is Cuccinelli, but this was not the place for it.  This was the place, I thought, for talking about issues.  Apparently I was in the minority today.  He blasted the AG opinion that says the state may not appropriate monies to charity.   Much as I dislike Cuccinelli, I do agree that the state has no business providing my tax dollars to charity.  At 44:51, he states the AG is not very popular.   In fact, the statements on the questionnaire didn’t ask about the AG.  At about 45:10, he states the Senate is considering legislation to restrict the AG power for the next three years.  (Addendum;  this post in the Washington Post addresses it.)

Surovell spoke about his survey.  He noted the 283 (46.2% of respondents) who want to raise taxes rather than cut government.   However, 283 respondents of the 8000 surveys sent out is 3.5%, so the real answer is probably somewhere between 3.5 and 46.2%.

Neither individual spoke about any issues s/he had not specifically introduced bills for.  Surovell lamented the fact that he’s limited to 15 bills, but his 15 include solar tax credits, funding  a local charity (a GREAT organization, by the way, but still a charity) and providing credit for students who study piano.  Notwithstanding that he apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass about cello players, or tuba players, or harpists, can one honestly and with a straight face lament one can’t do enough, while simultaneously sponsoring legislation for piano credit at the high-school level?   At least his constituent survey showed him that of the 2.25% of his constituents who even gave the question any credibility, 48% oppose it.

Toddy was masterful at finishing up the remarks with redistricting, so the initial questions all dealt with redistricting, and they got to electioneer while ostensibly answering questions.
Now, I’ve not been to town halls in other districts.  I only became involved in state issues after moving here to Virginia.  If most town halls go this way, it’s no wonder people blew up at them.

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