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   (I’ve linked to both sites, but Puller’s is, as of today, 29 January, woefully out of date).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.

Cuccinelli the politician

The saint of the social busybodies, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, sponsored a brief in the DiGiacinto v. the Rectors and Visitors of GMU case. The wording in the brief came eerily close to a page from the Brady Bunch’s playbook.   It went so far as to assert that preschoolers would be at risk if a gun owner carried into a campus building.   This after he told the Virginia Citizens Defense League last year the case was “indefensible.”

Well, yeah, it was indefensible, thus the emotion-laden, “think of the children” far-out scenarios.  This is the page from the Bradys — if you can’t use logic, then scream with emotion, invent situations, and portray gun owners as idiots who turn from polite citizens off campus to raging lunatics the moment they step on campus.

Guess the Brady’s made a bigger campaign contribution.

There’s one good from this, albeit a small one.  Cuccinelli’s silent.  That is also unusual.

NRA being hypocritical AGAIN

We’d been talking about perhaps heading to Charlotte, NC for one day of the NRA annual meetings.  After all, we’re both life members.

Then we learn the NRA has contracted to hold its annual meetings in a place that does not allow the carry of firearms.

What hypocrites.

The NRA is supposed to be fighting working for the rights of law-abiding, gun-owning Americans.  Unless it’s inconvenient.

Ted Nugent, supposedly a fighter for our rights, is quoted in the latest issue of America’s First Freedom as saying Americans have to make their voice heard.  Yeah, right.

THIS American will be letting the NRA know what I think.

I’ve come to the realization that the NRA’s greatest strength is it’s propensity for self-promotion.  Second is it’s ability to try to guilt its members into sending donations.

What is a right?

Someone hand me a copy of the new Constitution, please?  The one I haven’t seen yet.  I didn’t get the memo it had been changed, but I’m seeing pieces of evidence.

Apparently, there’s a right to own a house.

Apparently, there’s a right to television reception.

And a right to broadband internet service.

And now, some say a right is being abridged if a student group isn’t recognized on a campus.  If the school doesn’t give them perks, like access to mass e-mail lists, or meeting rooms, or money.

What?????

So, a group isn’t recognized.  Free choice.  There are sound, valid reasons for not admitting everyone to every group.  (I know; I joined a sorority in college.  I don’t now, as a matter of principle, join all-female groups, but I took an oath back then, and I believe in the organization.  For some known-only-to-the-gods reason, fraternities and sororities are exempted, by law.  Another issue altogether, for another time.)  Of course, Young Republican groups don’t want a fervent group of Democrats to join, take over, and re-focus the organization (replace titles as you choose, the point is the same).  And religious groups want their leaders to be followers of that religion (silly as that may be, but again, another topic for another time).

But schools insist to get recognition as a student group — with the perks — you must accept everyone who chooses to join as a member.

Where’s the beef?

This is not a case of the group’s rights being trampled.  There are no rights being trampled.  The group is free to form, organize, meet, whatever.  It is not entitled to perks.  Perhaps the students should focus on learning logic; they might then be able to see the difference.

Unclear on the Concept

Since you have to be registered to read this part of the Washington Post, I’ll quote the entire letter to the editor:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Perhaps the record snowfall in the Washington region will give us pause to reflect on the value that a functioning and financed government plays in our lives. Those who seem sure that they want less government are equally sure that they want their streets plowed and their loved ones rescued when necessary.

All one need do is reflect on the tireless efforts of plow drivers, police, firefighters and emergency workers to understand that most government workers are proud of what they do and do their jobs well. Most of them also are paid a lot less than many of those people who are least supportive of the increased taxes necessary for government to meet growing demands for services and infrastructure.

We do not really want less government, particularly when we need services. We just do not want to pay for those services. So those of you who don’t want to fund the federal, state and local governments on which we all depend would do well to hope that the rest of us continue to do so at necessarily increased levels, so your streets will be plowed and your loved ones rescued.

Larry Beck, Kensington

Anyone else wonder where he went to school that he doesn’t understand the difference between “governing” and “providing services to the governed”?

And these people VOTE!
Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Never thought I’d thank the Washington Post

The Post printed a fabulous editorial piece on Sunday, though.  By Christopher M. Fairman, the piece was headlined “Saying it hurtful.  Banning it is worse.”  The piece presents a thoughtful response to the do-gooder movement to remove the word “retarded” from the English language.

I have such an emotional response to this issue that I have quit supporting the ARC of Northern Virginia (oh, by the way, ARC comes from Association of (for?) Retarded Citizens) and their rabid stance on it.

Yes, I understand.  Being called “retard” hurts,  as does being called “fatso” or “four-eyes”.   But people need to understand sometimes the meaning of a word is separated from a faddish use.  Legislating away the use of the word “retard” may make some feel good, but it will not change the fact that some people have a retarded intellectual, social, emotional, or multi-faceted development.

I sympathize with the effort in the pledge “I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”  (The pledge is from http://www.r-word.org (as if that isn’t patronizing … like I can’t understand what the word might be?)  The kicker is in “… the derogatory use …”.  If you can’t tell the difference, legislation is not going to help you.

As the parent of a retarded son, I feel it important to retain the distinction.  My son is retarded … his intellectual capacity is significantly less than that of most of his peers, and his social development lags.   He is not stupid in any way, though.  No, he can’t read or write.  He doesn’t understand a cold shoulder, or the concept of what most people consider personal space.  He has difficulty with any number of abstract concepts.  But he understands his world, and in a way, is probably much more fortunate than many of us.  He doesn’t question his abilities, or doubt himself, or long for impossibilities.

But as much as I would challenge anyone who derogatorily call him names, I also challenge those who think they’re “doing something” to get over their paternalism and offer a supportive hand instead.

Even the Wall Street Journal tells only half a story …

I’m only partially joking.  The Wall Street Journal pegs the cost of federal government shutdown at $100 million per day in lost productivity.  If you look at the money the government spends when it is “productive”, are we really losing anything?

Those of us who live in the DC area can see that, while the national news may show a snow-covered capitol building, the real story is the 20-30″ of snow the region cannot adequately remove.  The major streets, congested at best on a normal day, are restricted to 2/3, or even 1/3, their normal width — removing a lane.  Add to that lane markers are not visible, and the “me first” mentality of this area, and you can imagine how many lives and how much property was saved by this shutdown.

Imagine the “me firsters” parking in lots that are clogged with snowbanks.  Hell, parking is atrocious enough on the best of days in this area.  (Governments at all levels will “help” us, though, by mandating hi-rise construction near Metro stops so we can pay a corrupt quasi-government entity for poor, unsafe service while sharing oxygen atoms with the neighbors — but that’s another story altogether.)

If only the House and Senate would stay away rather than stay in session, we could probably save that $100M several times over.

But it doesn’t apply to the elite

Governors, mayors, and all officials were asking people to stay home so plows could get through.  This is one of the heaviest single snowstorms to hit the DC area since recordkeeping began.

But the Democrats held a winter meeting.

Obama thanked Democrats for being “willing to brave a blizzard. Snowmageddon here in D.C.”

During the Christmas snowstorm, some were so hot to vote on their health insurance bills (not healthcare — we haven’t seen a healthcare bill yet), both Jim Webb and Barbara Mikulski touted their willingness to drive (or be driven, in Mikulski’s case) through snow, against advice.

Response from Supervisor Hyland

I wrote Supervisor Hyland regarding the issue of phones/cameras in the courthouse.

A staffer responded; Hyland apparently doesn’t care.

The response:

“Ms. xxxxx – I have shared your email with the Court.  The Chief Judge in cooperation with the Clerk to the Court and the Sheriff propogate rules to keep our resident’s safe at the Fairfax County Courthouse Complex.”

Aside from not answering the question, expecting me to buy the security theater answer, and blowing me off, he blew me off with a staffer who can’t spell and doesn’t understand the rules of grammar.

The word is “propagate” and the plural of “resident” is “residents” — no apostrophe.

If this isn’t a “shut up and color” response, I don’t know what is.

Fun with Fairfax County … NOT

Dummy here let a Concealed Handgun License expire.  My fault, and I have no excuse, so some of this I brought on myself.  Had I mailed the renewal, I could have avoided some of this frustration.  Still, I have to wonder who thinks this stuff up.

According to Virginia law, I carried my firearm openly to the courthouse, and safely secured it in my vehicle prior to entering the courthouse.   FAIL #1.  At the entrance to the courthouse proper, though (NOT in the parking garage, where one could be proactive) is a sign that prohibits all kinds of things bureaucrats are afraid of — knives (no matter the blade length), firearms, cameras, voice recorders, etc.  You know, the stuff that might show what they do, or do not do, as the case may be.

Daughter had her camera in her purse, so she returned it to the car.  She was going to take our phones, which have cameras, but we discussed and decided they wouldn’t take our phones.  WRONG.  They don’t care that people might need to get in touch with one another from inside the courthouse.

So at the door, when the guard wants to take my phone, I told him I had to wait until my daughter returned, as she’d never find me inside.  FAIL #2. He informed me I couldn’t wait for her inside the doorway.  Not “please step outside so others can come through this narrow walkway” but “you have to go outside to wait.”  I told him of course I would, but I resented being ejected from my courthouse.  That was where he told me it was his because he worked there.

Daughter returns from the car; we’re going to give up our phones.  FAIL #3. Guard tells me I have to give up my holster too.  Never mind that it’s empty.  He tells me gun paraphernalia is not permitted in the courthouse.  I ask for a citation, since the law says firearms are not permitted, and he tells me not to quote the law to him; he knows what he’s been told. (BTW, this is not the first time an official in Virginia has used that line — “don’t quote the law to me”; I know it’s been used in Prince William County and have now heard it myself in Richmond and Fairfax.)  After I asked for a citation, he called a deputy.  When she arrived, I asked her the rationale for having to give up my holster, and she informed me, and the guard, I needn’t.  Of course, I did have to remove my belt and holster to go through the metal detector; I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to remove my shoes and underwear as well.

FAIL #4.  NO SIGNAGE. I knew I needed to submit the application to the clerk of the court.  On the first floor, that office is listed as room 304 — which we never found.  Eventually we found a sign that said for information go to 301, which we did find, and that person told us to go to 319 — which is in no way marked for clerk of the court; it says Civil Intake.

KUDO. Debby.  I didn’t bring extra copies, or a self-addressed, stamped envelope.   Nothing on the state police web site or the application says these are required.  Nice lady at the window tells me the state police website says these are jurisdictional (which means exactly what to me?) and I need to go to the Fairfax County website to see this information.   When I said “Oh, yes, the extra-legal requirements” she immediately made copies for me and handed me an envelope to address.  Perhaps they’ve heard that before.

Back to the front door, gather up confiscated phone.  Outside, I took a photo of the sign prohibiting recording devices (photo).  At this point, I truly expected to be stopped from doing so.  When I got home, I uploaded this photo, and looked up the authorizing sections of the code (cited below).  I sure don’t see authority for him to prohibit recording.  I suspect there are two factors at work — protecting the unions that the transcriptionists belong to, and protecting court employees who do stupid things.  I come from that old school, apparently, that believes court transactions are supposed to be open, protecting ONLY the identities of the innocent.  Where I’d draw the line is:  Proceedings = public; Records = private by default, with discovery being the point where a release/no-release determination is made.

The security at the courthouse might make some feel safe, but could likely easily have been circumvented (she posits, given the way in which they dealt with my mentally retarded son, who wasn’t in any mood to empty his pockets or give up his belt or radio, despite my best efforts to get him to comply).  The efficiency with which business could be transacted could be improved hundredsfold with some appropriate signage.  I’d bet a month’s pay that the number of people needed to run the courthouse could be significantly cut with some appropriate policies put in place (or a bunch of policies rescinded), some decent signage, and a culture that believes MOST people are there to take care of business quickly and professionally, not to thwart the bureaucrats.

——————————————-

Code sections referenced by the sign:

8.01-4. District courts and circuit courts may prescribe certain rules.

The district courts and circuit courts may, from time to time, prescribe rules for their respective districts and circuits. Such rules shall be limited to those rules necessary to promote proper order and decorum and the efficient and safe use of courthouse facilities and clerks’ offices. No rule of any such court shall be prescribed or enforced which is inconsistent with this statute or any other statutory provision, or the Rules of Supreme Court or contrary to the decided cases, or which has the effect of abridging substantive rights of persons before such court. Any rule of court which violates the provisions of this section shall be invalid.

The courts may prescribe certain docket control procedures which shall not abridge the substantive rights of the parties nor deprive any party the opportunity to present its position as to the merits of a case solely due to the unfamiliarity of counsel of record with any such docket control procedures.

17-116.2(B) The chief judge of the circuit shall ensure that the system of justice in his circuit operates smoothly and efficiently. He shall have authority to assign the work of the circuit as between judges, and in doing so he may consider the nature and categories of the cases to be assigned.