Monday, December 31, 2007

Your Final Warning

This gotta be my lucky day. At first I was really annoyed. First, I went to the store without my shopping list. Then, I found it impossible to find a trash can that is the right size for those white kitchen trash bags. When I finally had my shopping cart full, I faced many long check-out lines. I quickly looked to see if any lines were shorter, but soon faced the reality that whichever line I picked would turn out to be the slowest.

So here I am with at least twenty minutes to kill. There is only so much I can think of saying to the woman in front of me. We commiserated on the long lines and that was it. I started looking at the tabloids and magazines. I read about which celebrities are hooking up and those that are unhooking. I found out who is the father of Jamie Lynn Spear’s little bundle of joy. Or maybe not (he is denying the whole thing, or at least the pregnancy part. “How could she be pregnant? We only did it once and it didn’t take that long.”) I read about the water remedy for belly fat (I have been constantly drinking since I got home, but I still have to bend over to see my toes.) Then I saw it.

It was this week’s issue of the “Sun.” As I remember from the movie “Men in Black,” the Sun is one of the most reliable sources of news on the planet, so I really take it seriously. On the front page there was a large statue of Jesus with his arms raised. Then there was the big headline,

“2008—The Year All Final Prophesies Come True”


Then there was another headline, which read,

“Armageddon—Where The Final Battle Will Be Fought”

And another headline,

“Apocalypse—5 Signs The End Is Near”

And finally,

“Second Coming Is Sooner Than You Think”

And I thought this was just an ordinary day. I go to the store for some ordinary stuff and I come home with the bad (or good, if you're a fundamentalist) news that everything is nearly over. Now, I don’t have to worry about the Iowa Caucuses. I don’t care any more whether global warming is real (I can replace those mini-fluorescents with some REAL bulbs and see again). I don’t even have to worry that I will outlive all my ancestors and develop Alzheimer’s. Because, it ain't gonna last too much longer.

So dear friends, I am passing on this last notice to you. Do what you will with this knowledge. You might consider making New Year’s resolution that will not take a full year to fulfill. You also might want to get around to all those home maintenance chores that you’ve been putting off for "next week." Or, you might want to go to your local store, buy the Sun and read the other article highlighted on page 1:

“7 Miracle Foods to Add Years to Your Life”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Something Is Rotten In The Old Dominion

I humbly apologize. I have a responsibility to keep you informed on critical issues and I let you down. Although I touched briefly on an alarming development in the Commonwealth in my “Shame” posts about the election campaign of soon-to-be Delegate Manoli Loupassi, as soon as the election was over I dropped the ball. Then I read an article in today’s (December 23) Washington Post that announced the formation of “Save the Old Dominion,” a new umbrella group organized to lobby our General Assembly to enact legislation to further marginalize illegal aliens in Virginia. What a burst to the Christmas spirit of good will toward man. Save the Old Dominion, and its rival Help Save Virginia (along with such local groups as Help Save Manasssas, Help Save Fairfax, Help Save Loudon, Help Save Hampton Roads, Help Protect Culpeper and Save Stafford) are making it clear that Christian love this season only applies to citizens and those who are in this country with permission.

All these “help save” groups have me wondering. Just what do Virginia, the Old Dominion and all the localities need to be saved from? What exactly is the terrible danger to peace, justice and the American way? I know that we have been in dire straights before. During the American Revolution, British troops invaded Virginia, occupied Richmond, and chased Governor Jefferson beyond Charlottesville. Those were dark days; everybody suffered; but we survived. During the 1860s, either because of a rash decision to secede from the Union or, if you prefer, because of a northern invasion, our fair Commonwealth was devastated. Those were even darker days; thousands died; our economic infrastructure was destroyed; but we survived. What is the calamity that faces Virginia now in the 21st Century? It must be terribly grave to cause this outburst of savior groups.

Here it is friends: We’ve been invaded by “them”—illegal aliens. And, they’re much more dangerous than were either the British or Yankee armies. We knew who the British were; they were dressed in red. We knew who the Yankees were; they were dressed in blue. How do you identify this new enemy? Because they have no army, they wear no uniforms. They could even be living right on your block and you wouldn’t know it. Fortunately, there is one tell-tale sign that enables us to identify them—the vast majority of them speak Spanish.

What exactly is it that “them” has done that makes them so dangerous? They may have violated section 1325 of title 8 of the United States Code by entering into the country at a time or place other than that designated by immigrations offers or by eluding examination or inspection by immigrations officers. (I say “may” because in our jurisprudence we have this inconvenient presumption that those accused of crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty). The Congress has shown how serious it considers this crime by designating a penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months for a first offense. First time offenders are also subject to a civil penalty of between fifty and two hundred fifty dollars for each violation. In addition, of course, offenders are subject to deportation.

The crime of which our new “enemy” may be guilty is not exactly in the category of murder or rape or marketing drugs or espionage or treason or stuff like that. They have simply crossed our border without permission. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone violation of the law. If our legislature, whether the Congress, the General Assembly or the Richmond City Council, prohibits certain behavior I expect the law to be enforced. When people “get away” with violating the law, the law is held in disrespect, which is very dangerous for our society. On the other hand we have to keep this illegal alien thing in perspective. Aliens who have entered our country illegally are not, for the most part, dangerous felons.

I have no objection to a group of people who press for enforcement of the federal law. I don’t even object to a group that lobbies, fairly, for legislation that its members believe will benefit all the residents of Virginia. However, the “help save” groups go dangerously far in their crusade to purge the Old Dominion of illegal aliens. Let’s start with their names. Just by using “Save Virginia” or “Save the Old Dominion” (or any of the other saves) these groups are strongly suggesting that civilized society is seriously jeopardized by the mere presence of illegal aliens. You don’t need to save something unless it is seriously threatened with destruction. Thus, the savior groups are making clear their belief that illegal aliens are a real menace that must be stopped.

Further, the language the “help save” groups use is inflammatory. It tends to build strong anger not only against illegal aliens but against all Spanish speakers. I quote to you from the December issue of “The Front Line,” the publication of Help Save Manassas (Parental discretion is advised):

“Through a misguided attempt to promote multi-cultural awareness, our wonderful American traditions now find themselves under assault. Recently, we witnessed such an assault right here in Manassas at the annual Christmas parade. Do your fond memories of childhood include having someone dressed up as the devil in a Mexican dance troupe lunge out and frighten you? Probably not. Do you remember seeing the Mexican Flag displayed during a parade, promoting the tribalism of national origin over the unity of our American heritage? Seeing the devil marching in a Christmas parade is bizarre enough. But injecting a Mexican harvest ritual into Manassas’ sixty-two-year-old, all-American, traditional celebration of the Christmas season, represents a not-so-subtle attempt to introduce a political agenda. This so-called diversity, which the few seek to impose on the many, is in reality a dis-unifying deed. It can lead nowhere but to tribalism, a Balkanization of our community and nation, where we no longer share a common heritage, but are simply members of various tribes, briefly coming together to compete for America’s bounty.
* * * *
“Will we defend our culture from those who seek to change it to suit the needs of the ‘tribe of the week?’ If not, we risk losing those traditions that bind us together as a community and as Americans. If we reach the point where being American is redefined and reduced into the meaningless oblivion of being a ‘world citizen,’ we will soon find ourselves wandering down the broken road which other nations have already traveled, squandering their unifying, commonly shared values and beliefs. At the end of that road, only civil strife and death await us.

“We are obliged to defend our embattled culture before we inexorably veer off onto that destructive path. But we fight on many fronts. Whether our battle is combating the ‘press one for English’ insanity, or preventing the pollution of our longstanding cultural traditions with pagan harvest rituals from Mexico in our Christmas celebrations, we must engage in the struggle.”

Another article in “The Front Line” reads,

Unfortunately, the illegal alien problem is dramatically diminishing the stability and security of the American neighborhood. Numerous homes once occupied by “known quantities,” fellow Americans we knew or could at least identify with on many levels, are now being re-placed en masse by foreigners, many of whom are here illegally. The quaint rambler next door once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Smith may now be bursting at the seams with day laborers or multiple families of questionable legal status. In many cases, the occupants do not even speak our native language. Who are they? Do they have a criminal record? Could there be sex offenders among them? Are they all here to work or are some escaping the law of their ‘home countries? We can no longer be sure, and our needed sense of security fades.

The Front Line” is filled with photographs supposedly showing how the undesirables have ruined countless neighborhoods by their intolerable life styles. The message is clear, if we don’t get rid of this scum, your house will be next.

In my November 3 post I stated, “Marginalizing people leads to considering them less than human. This can lead eventually to such nice things as internment camps and even genocide.” Yesterday I warned about the dangers of our inborn xenophobia that can lead any of us to carry out terrible actions against “the other” to protect “us.” Unfortunately, the hate preached by Help Save Manassas creates the potential for violence against those they declare to be undesirable.

Oh, come on, maven! You are exaggerating. This is a good Christian country and no matter what rhetoric is used we’re not going to do terrible things to people even if they are not part of “us”. In the words of Sinclair Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here.”

How foolish of me. What was I thinking? Clearly we are not the people who kept African Americans in a state of bondage for nearly two hundred fifty years. We are also not the people who waged over two hundred years of genocidal war against the American Indians. Certainly, we are not the people who expelled American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their homes and kept them in concentration camps during World War II. We are Americans; we would NEVER treat our fellow humans so badly.

Hate is contagious. Once it spreads in a community, that community is in danger of breaking down. Today it’s the “help save” groups preaching hate against illegal aliens. Tomorrow the hate may be directed at others. The continued success of our Commonwealth requires that we not only tolerate but accept our differences. People like those who write “The Front Line” threaten the domestic tranquility of the Old Dominion. We cannot allow them to prevail.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Virginia Holocaust Museum at 10

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published my letter this morning. However, the editors made some changes that subtracted from the message I was trying to convey. Further, since there may be some people outside the publishing range of our great metropolitan daily who read my rantings, I shall exercise my editorial discretion and publish the whole thing.

"Thank you for your editorial today, “An Anniversary,” acknowledging the important work being done by the Virginia Holocaust Museum. However, by prefacing your congratulations with several paragraphs describing current instances of anti-Jewish sentiment in the world, you portray the Nazi Holocaust and the ten years of work by the Museum as exclusively Jewish issues. They are not.

"Certainly the event we call the Holocaust was a disaster of unprecedented proportions for the Jewish people. Approximately six million Jews, including more than one and a half million children, were murdered by the German Nazi regime and its allies. It is also alarming that today so many people still express such animosity toward Jews. However, the Holocaust was a disaster for others in Nazi-controlled Europe. Millions of other “undesirables”—Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, mentally or physically handicapped—were murdered by the Nazis.

"In addition to being a Jewish issue, the Holocaust is a Christian issue. It is an unfortunate fact that the many thousands who participated directly in the murders and the millions of bystanders who either watched without protest or cheered the elimination of the Jews from their area of Europe were born and raised as Christians. Christians today must still address the question of how worshippers of a God of Love could have acted with such hatred towards Jews and others.

"The Holocaust is still an ongoing issue for the whole world. It is another unfortunate fact that since the end of World War II millions of defenseless humans have been “eliminated” by various regimes throughout the world in the interest of racial or ethnic or religious or political purity. We need to recognize that either through evolution or by intelligent design we humans are a very violent species. We have been endowed by our creator, or by the accident of natural selection, with a very powerful sense of xenophobia. This allows us to carry out rather nasty acts against “them” in defense of “us.”

"Finally, the Holocaust is an issue for you and me. Another of those unfortunate facts is that most of the Nazi murderers were “normal” people. How is it that someone can machinegun or shove hundreds of people into execution chambers during the day and then go home and have a normal dinner that night? It is very comforting to think that only very evil people can commit such terrible crimes. However, history shows that under certain circumstances ordinary people like you and I can be persuaded to perpetrate acts of unspeakable cruelty against our fellow humans."

You may ask, why this waste of bits and bytes when anyone can read the edited letter in the TD? Maven, is your ego so big that you can’t tolerate a little editing?

I must confess that my ego often is too big for my own good. But, this is not just a matter of the pride of authorship. The TD version misses some important issues I was trying to address.

First, the TD left out the next-to-last paragraph, highlighted above. We, as humans, especially with the power and sophistication of our weapons systems, need to realize that we have been programmed to defend our own tribe against the “other.” Perhaps, hundreds of thousands of years ago, this trait helped our ancestors to survive. In the 20th and 21st centuries, however, this inborn xenophobia (Fear and hatred of foreigners—Webster’s English Dictionary), has led to the brutal murders of tens of millions of our fellow humans. We need to know that all of us have inherited this trait and must guard against demagogic leaders who exploit this trait by urging us to purge our society of this or that group of “undesirables.” This is the most important lesson we need to learn from the Holocaust. Unfortunately, since genocide continues unabated in the world, it is clear that this lesson has still not sunken in.

Second, the TD has made a few language changes that have affected the meaning of my original letter. In one sentence in the last paragraph I asked how someone could “machinegun or shove hundreds of people into execution chambers” and go home to a normal dinner at night. The TD took out my graphic description of what the Holocaust murderers actually did and substituted the word “execute.” This is not just a matter of using a euphemism. I have read diaries of Holocaust perpetrators and they often refer to the killings they did as “executions.” One of the definitions of “execute” in Webster’s English Dictionary is “to put to death in compliance with a legal sentence.” It may have given perpetrators comfort to think that they were merely carrying out government policy. However, the people they killed were murdered, not executed.

Finally, by leaving out the little word “however,” the TD editor weakened the concluding sentences of the letter. All of us assume that only certain “evil” people could perpetrate genocide. You and I know that we are basically good people and could “never” commit atrocities. By blaming genocide on evil people, we can avoid considering what we are capable of doing. The history that the Virginia Holocaust Museum teaches us, however, shows that it is possible for “ordinary” people, like you and me, to carry out terribly evil acts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deja Vous—Again?

Despite my diatribe yesterday, I do read the Richmond Times Dispatch every day. Without it, I couldn’t write this blog. Where else would I get my information? The local broadcast news only reports on four things—crime, accidents, weather and sports. So, for me, it’s the TD or nothing. (Well, not exactly; I occasionally find meaningful stories in Style Weekly or the Richmond Free Press.)

In case you’re interested (and even if you’re not) this is the way I read it. First I look at the cover to see what non-news item the editors have chosen to make the lead story. Then I immediately go to the editorial/op-ed pages where all the action is. I especially pay attention to the letters to the editor. Every once in a while I’ll find a gem of inanity that deserves my “most wonderful letter of the day” award. I also like to see the kind of letter that the editors deem worthy to be their Correspondent of the Day. (For the record, my maveness has won this award; I have not.)

Well, today, the lead story on page 1 was “Richmond jail forms mental-health unit.” I guess I’ll concede that is news. The editorials consisted of a tribute to my favorite local congressman for his opposition to taxes and some kind of religious piece about Jamie Lynn Spears (who has embarked on the family’s favorite activity, teen pregnancy.) If I hadn’t attacked the editorial yesterday, I’m sure I could have found something useful in these pieces. Oh, lest I forget, I was quite impressed with the editors’ observation that “[t]he slotting of six Democrats and six Republicans in next year’s presidential primaries suggests Virginia could be a battleground.” I can only guess at the logic behind that statement.

So, I looked at the Correspondent of the Day. It was a letter asserting that the founders intended the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms to apply to everybody, not just state militias. That sounded amazingly familiar. I got this eerie feeling that I had sat and read that letter before (but who knows where or when?) Counting from the time of conception, my brain is over 64 years old. And, during the dark times of the year, it only functions at about 37% capacity. So it was entirely possible that my gray matter was deceiving me. But the earlier letter seemed so real.

I went looking for an earlier TD. However, since our resident recycler allows papers to accumulate for only 36 hours in our home, I had to log onto the TD website. I looked through the letters for December 20; nothing. I looked through the letters for December 19; there it was! The Correspondent of the Day on December 19 (that’s about 48 hours ago for those of you who can count) was a letter asserting that the founders intended the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms to apply to everybody, not just state militias. Wait a second! Did they mistakenly print the same letter twice? Did they mistakenly print the same letter twice? Nope—different letter, different correspondent. I started hearing the familiar music and Rod Serling’s voice saying “There’s the signpost up ahead...”

But seriously, how can the same newspaper award the same award to virtually the same letter first on December 19 and then again on December 21? The Richmond Times-Dispatch is certainly entitled to its editorial policy, although you and I find it to be rather Neanderthal. If they want to rave about Nancy Pelosi, that is their right. But, I would expect that their editorial policy would not affect their choices of what letters to print and award each day. I don’t care if they feel a lot safer packing their Glocks, they need to be objective about the letters they print.

How I long for the Brooklyn Eagle!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Would George III Be A Strong Enough Mayor?

I went to the website of the Pulitzer Prize to make sure. Yes, the 1948 prize for “distinguished editorial writing” was awarded to TD Editor Virginius Dabney, not to the Richmond Times-Dispatch itself. So, I guess the Pulitzer committee cannot retroactively rescind the award based on the current quality of TD editorials.

What, you may ask, led me to check out the Pulitzer thing? I had just finished reading today’s (December 20, 2007) lead editorial “Charter Member,”, and I was baffled. Not that I think that today’s editorial was the worst I have read. Since I came to live in River City in 2004, I have read many TD editorials that have left me wondering whether it was me or the editors who had lost the power of reason. By comparison, today’s editorial was not that bad.

As were many Richmond citizens, the TD editorial was discussing our beloved mayor’s Tuesday speech to the Crusade for Voters. As I noted yesterday, Mr. Wilder’s remarks indicate that he is getting back into his imperial aggressive mode after a couple of months of playing mild-mannered Uncle Doug. The TD used His Excellency’s remarks to raise its repeated assertion that our city charter does not give to the mayor as much power as we the people wanted our mayor to have. In the words of the editorial,

“This summer many Richmonders learned the mayor's office was not so powerful as they may have suspected. The city has a strong personality in a relatively weak position.”

Excuse me, Mr. Editor. Are you saying that we Richmonders want a mayor who has the authority to ignore the law? Does the ruling by the District Court that Mr. Wilder cannot disregard an ordinance passed by City Council indicate that the office of mayor of Richmond is a weak position? The President of the United States governs subject to restrictions placed upon the position by the Constitution and laws enacted by the Congress. The Governor of Virginia rules subject to the Commonwealth’s constitution and the laws enacted by the General Assembly. Are you suggesting that the presidency and the governorship are weak positions?

The editorial goes on to say,

"Maybe it [Richmond’s citizenry] did not want a mayor who would have an impact on Richmond similar to the impact celebrated mayors such as Rudy Giuliani have had on the cities they are credited with reviving."

We need not examine Mr. Giuliani’s performance as mayor of New York City. There is plenty of time to do that should he win the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. I need to point out, however, that through no fault of my own I grew up in New York City and I know for a fact that mayors of the Big Apple govern subject to the constitution of the State of New York and also to laws enacted by the New York legislature and ordinances enacted by the City Council of New York City. If Mr. Giuliani did “revive” New York City, he did not do it by asserting that the law did not apply to him.

We citizens do desire a mayor and City Council that will work together to make Richmond the great city it can be. However, we do not want, nor did we intend to elect, a tyrant who claims powers we have denied to our executives since 1776.

As I indicated in my October 26 post, “It Ain’t Broke, It’s Just Badly Bent,” our city charter divides power between a legislature (the City Council) and an executive (the mayor). This is the model of government that has worked very well for us for over two hundred years. The division of power keeps both the executive and the legislative branches from gaining dictatorial powers.

The penultimate paragraph of the editorial is the strangest. It explains Mr. Wilder’s expressed intention to abandon his attempts to have the charter revised to “clarify” his power. In the words of the editorial,

"Wilder's decision regarding the charter reflects political reality, alas. The city's legislative delegation did not figure to be helpful; the Assembly would have been unlikely to embrace reforms that lacked the enthusiastic backing of senior Richmond legislators. This season suggests the aptness of one of the late Henry Howell's favorite aphorisms: There's more than Santa Claus running around in the dark."

That the editor quoted Henry Howell is strange enough. Considering its editorial policy, I don’t suppose the TD had much use for Mr. Howell when he was alive. But what is the editor driving at? What’s this stuff about Santa running around in the dark? If we look at what old Howlin’ Henry actually said, the editor’s meaning becomes clearer. Mr. Howell’s adage was “There's more going around in the dark than Santa Claus, and hanky-panky is its name! “ When read with the complete quote from Howell, it becomes clear that the editor is accusing the Richmond area’s General Assembly representatives of conspiring to keep the mayor from achieving the greater powers that he somehow deserves. If, in fact, our local delegates and senators oppose Mr. Wilder’s attempt to rewrite the charter in his image they deserve our gratitude. Rather than hanky-panky, they are merely responding to the Commonwealth’s motto, “Sic Semper Tyrannis.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Doug Wilder: Jekyll or Hyde

Watching Doug Wilder is so interesting because you never know which Wilder you’re going to get. Will it be the mild mannered benevolent Uncle Doug, who we all love? Or will it be the nasty dictatorial His Excellency, who drives many of us up the wall?

For a while, since the disastrous Friday night invasion of Richmond Public School offices, Mr. Wilder has been in the Uncle Doug mode. He appears to be nice to everybody. He schedules all these photo ops that show him smiling and shaking hands. He makes a brilliant appointment (Sheila Hill-Christian) for Chief Administrative Officer, replacing Harry Black who the City Council refused to confirm. He seems so anxious to let bygones be bygones and work productively with the City Council. However, based on Michael Martz’s front page article in today’s TD, it appears that Uncle Doug is on the way out and His Excellency is coming back.

In his article (, Mr. Martz points out that Mr. Wilder is no longer interested in working peacefully with City Council. Mr. Martz quotes Mr. Wilder as saying,
“I’ve extended all the olive branches I intend to extend. . . I’ve been told I’m supposed to be conciliatory—you’ve seen all you’re going to see of me being conciliatory.”
To prove his point, according to Mr. Martz, the mayor accused the City Council of turning back the clock on black political representation. He noted that the black majority on the council had been replaced by a white majority. Although Mr. Wilder found “nothing wrong” with a white majority, he accused the council of “turning back the clock” because the council’s only black male has a vote on only one council committee. (It’s appropriate that Mr. Wilder did not object to the white majority since he supported a white candidate running against a black incumbent in last year’s election). Martz’s article indicates that the mayor’s comments were aimed at City Council President Bill Pantele.

Am I mistaken, or is His Excellency the Mayor rolling out the race card in his renewed battle against the council? Those of you who were watching Mr. Wilder’s 1985 run for Lieutenant Governor or read “When Hell Freezes Over"(which tells the story of how a boy from Brooklyn was able to get a state senator from Richmond elected as the Commonwealth’s first African American Lieutenant Governor), know that the race issue is not new for Mr. Wilder. In the 1985 campaign Mr. Wilder frequently used his race and the accusation of racism to blunt attacks on him for having been disciplined by the Virginia Bar or for acting like a slum lord with respect to his rental properties in River City. No matter what issues were raised against him in that campaign, Mr. Wilder’s standard defense was that he was being accused only because he was black. By the end of the campaign, Mr. Wilder and his strategist Paul Goldman had convinced most Virginia voters that if they voted against him they would be perceived as racists. The result was that Doug Wilder won the election.

Can it be that His Mayorship is planning to run for reelection next year and is starting to use the race issue now just in case his opponent turns out be Mr. Pantele? Could Mr. Wilder be planning a campaign based on the entitlement of an African American majority in the city to an African American mayor? I would really hate to see this city suffering through a mayoral election in which race was a major issue.

On the other hand…

I just finished reading Mr. Wilder’s holiday message in this week’s Vision Newsletter ( It seems that Uncle Doug is back. Uncle Doug tells us about his unannounced visit to Fairfield Court Elementary School and how well he was treated by school principal Dr. Irene Williams. (This maven is not so egotistical to think that Mr. Wilder was following my advice to him on December 7 that he spend some of his time in Richmond’s public schools.) In talking of the school and Dr. Williams, Mr. Wilder says,
"This highly-motivated and selfless devotion to cause and to duty impressed me beyond measure. Here is a school in the shadow of public housing units portraying to all who would care that yes, these young people can learn. They can show that it doesn't matter where you were born or your economic status - you can achieve and overcome and become outstanding contributing citizens."
He concludes with
"The holiday season represents a time of love, joy, remembrance and reflection. Amid the food, decorations and festivities, it is also a time to look ahead and envision the means toward a brighter future for our community."

Just when I was getting really mad with Mr. Hyde, Uncle Doug uses his Dr. Jekyll to make me love him again (at least for the moment). Didn’t I tell you that Doug watching was so much fun?

The “Fair Fax” Just Ain’t Fair

Reading Jon Wakefield’s op-ed in Monday’s TD, “Tax Code Change Would Benefit All” ( might lead you to believe that he had discovered Nirvana. Mr. Wakefield has apparently become a true believer in the so-called “Fair Tax” proposal. In his article he spits back the arguments made by Americans For Fair Taxation on their website ( ). And it sure is a compelling argument. The Fair Tax proposal would repeal all federal income-based taxes and replace them with a 23% federal sales tax on all purchases made in the United States. It would eliminate everybody’s nemesis, the Internal Revenue Service, and would convert April 15 into just another beautiful spring day. No more loopholes, no more tax cheating, no more expensive tax lawyers or CPAs, no more H&R Block commercials all winter, no more anxiety-producing tax forms, no more keeping of receipts. It would truly be a taxpayer’s heaven. But, would it be fair?

A tax system should have only one purpose—raising revenue for the government to carry out the functions that the representatives of the citizens have assigned to it. In addition, under the theory that those who accumulate the most wealth derive the most benefit from the country or state, the tax system should be progressive. Those who earn the most should pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than do those who earn the least. Finally, a tax system must not only be fair, it must also be perceived as fair by the citizens.

Under these standards, our current tax system ranks low. First, rather than being only a mechanism for raising revenue, our current system is used continuously by the government as a mechanism for controlling the behavior of individuals and corporations in our society. When the government wishes to encourage certain activities it offers tax incentives to those who abide by those wishes. Likewise, when the government wishes to discourage certain behaviors it places tax costs on those behaviors. This management of our society by use of the tax code is probably as old as the code itself and has been used by both Republican and Democratic governments. It explains why the Internal Revenue Code is thousands of pages rather than only a few pages long.

Second, our tax system is unfair and is perceived by most citizens as unfair. It is set up as a yearly game between the citizens and the IRS. The objective of the IRS in this game is to maximize the amount of taxes each citizen pays. The objective of each citizen is to minimize the amount of taxes he, she or it pays. The rules of the game are tens of thousands of pages long, and those who can afford expensive CPAs or tax lawyers who have mastered those rules are going to play the game much better than those who can’t. A tax system in which the amount you pay depends on how clever you and your tax preparer are is not a fair system. And it cannot be perceived as fair. Many taxpayers get the feeling that somehow they are paying more than their fair share of taxes. They fear that their neighbor has discovered a hidden deduction that they don’t know about. Or they fear the dreaded audit in which the IRS will discover that they have claimed more in deductions than the law allows.

The unfairness of the system extends into its progressiveness. Although our tax system is, on its face, progressive, the presence of so many loopholes and deductions and credits and shelters reduces the tax burden on those with higher incomes. The result is that in many cases individuals with high incomes may be paying a lesser percentage of that income in taxes than do individuals with lower incomes.

Look, I would love to see our present system replaced with a fair tax system. I would love to see the IRS disappear. I would love to eliminate the anxiety I suffer every year in playing the 1040 game. However, I see no purpose in replacing one unfair system with another unfair one.

By their very nature sales taxes are not progressive. In a state with a 5% sales tax, everybody who makes a purchase in the state pays the same 5% tax regardless of their income. Further, since lower income families spend a far higher percentage of their incomes on subsistence items such as housing, clothing, food or fuel, the 5% percent tax they pay on each purchase is more onerous. The Fair Tax proponents are, of course, aware of this inequity. They have tried to deal with it by creating a mechanism called the “prebate”.

Under the Fair Tax prebate, the Social Security Administration (you read me right) would mail a check to every household in the United States each month. The purpose of this prebate would be to compensate each household, in advance, for the amount of sales tax it pays on subsistence. The Fair Taxers have established an “annual consumption allowance” for each household that varies with the number of persons residing in that household. For example, for 2007 had the Fair Tax been in effect, the consumption allowance for a single adult household with three children would have been $20,650. For a two adult household with one child the allowance would have been $23,900. The sales tax that would apply on the amount of this allowance is calculated and constitutes the annual prebate. One twelfth of this amount would be sent to the household each month--$396 for the first household above, $458 for the second household. (If this sounds complicated, blame the Fair Taxers, not me).

The Fair Tax proponents prepared a chart that demonstrates that with the addition of the prebate feature the federal sales tax would actually be progressive. There are two problems with the chart. The first is the assumption that a household’s annual income and its annual spending will be the same. The second is the calculation of the tax rate as a percentage of the amount the household spends rather than as a percentage of the household’s income. If we look at a hypothetical real world (how’s that for an oxymoron), however, things are not as fair as they seem.

Let’s look at some examples:

The Smiths have an annual income of $50,000. They would like to put away part of their income in a savings account. However, with the cost of living in their city being so high, they are unable to save and end up spending all their income. The 23% federal sales tax they pay on their $50,000 consumption amounts to $11,500. Based on the size of the Smith household, they receive a prebate of $5,497. Therefore, the actual federal tax they will have paid is $6,003. As a percentage of their income, they are paying a tax of about 12%.

At the other end (but not the far end) of the income spectrum are the Jones. The Jones household has an annual income of $1,000,000. Because the Jones are not conspicuous consumers they spend only $200,000 and are able to save or invest $800,000. The 23% federal tax they pay on their consumption amounts to $46,000. Like the Smiths, the Jones receive a prebate of $5,497. The actual federal tax paid by the Jones is therefore $40,503. As a percentage of the household’s annual income, the Jones are paying a tax of a whopping 4%.

Let’s review. Under the so-called Fair Tax, the Smiths with an income of $50,000 would pay a 12% tax. The fortunate Jones, however, with an income of $1,000,000, would pay a tax of only 4%. I don’t know about you, but to me this is not a fair tax.

Despite Mr. Wakefield’s assertion, the Fair Tax plan also has its loopholes. If our Jones household wishes to be less frugal they may choose to buy a $500,000 yacht with the amount of their income they don’t need to live on. If the Jones buy that yacht in Newport News, they will pay a federal sales tax of $115,000. However, if the Jones are smart (and I assume they are), they will buy their yacht from some boat yard in the Bahamas. They will then pay a federal sales tax of zero. And, this loophole does not only apply to the wealthy few. It is also available to those of us who live along the Canadian border. Why buy a $25,000 car in Detroit and pay $5,750 in federal tax on that purchase when you can go across the river to Windsor and buy your car without paying any federal tax.

I can discuss other unfairnesses that I have found in the “Fair Tax,” but this post is already much too long. When the Fair Taxers fix these inequities, I will be happy to support their proposal.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Use For Old Schools

I read with interest Olympia Meola’s lead story in the TD today, “Old School Buildings Go Unused.” I then turned to the Metro section and read Michael Paul Williams column on the fate of old school buildings. Well, it’s the dark time of the year and this maven’s mind is in hibernation mode. But it doesn’t take the fully functioning mind of a maven to figure out what to do with buildings that are no longer needed as schools.

Before I moved to River City, I lived in the far north of the Commonwealth. I even crossed the border on a regular basis into the Columbia District. I often saw old school buildings being used by school systems for other purposes. In the District, old buildings house school system administrative offices. I’ve seen the same in Fairfax County.

Now, I know that the Columbia District was the capital of Mr. Lincoln’s evil Union. I also know that Fairfax County was occupied by union troops during most of the War of Northern Aggression. So it is proper to suspect that those parts might be tinged by Yankee thinking. However, even the Yankees might have some ideas worth considering in the Old Dominion.

If my Swiss-Cheese brain serves me, I remember a time, not too long ago, when our fair city’s chief executive officer sent his minions on a guerrilla raid to cleanse City Hall of the administrative offices of Richmond Public Schools. His Excellency indicated that he had better uses for his precious City Hall than administering schools for our children. Then there was this nasty court battle and Mr. Wilder was told he had to let the schoolies stay. Now, as I said, I’m not thinking too well now, but wouldn’t it satisfy the needs of Mayor Doug and RPS to use unneeded school buildings to house the administrative offices of RPS?

Just this morning, I drove past the building that formerly housed Patrick Henry School and was used last year as shelter from the storm for students of A.V. Norell School. It is a beautiful building, and since it was used as a school as recently as last spring it has not traveled far down the road to dilapidation that Ms. Meola indicates the building and site of Whitcomb Court School have. Patrick Henry is located at the intersection of Forest Hill and Semmes avenues and is thus only about ten minutes from City Hall. It would make a fine home for those pesky RPS officials that Mayor Doug wants out of City Hall.

What would it cost to renovate Patrick Henry for office use? I don’t know, but I’m sure that city officials could find out rather quickly. If the cost is prohibitive, I’m sure that the city could enter into a sale-rent-purchase agreement with a private developer. Under such an agreement, title to the building would be transferred to the private developer. The developer would renovate the building and then lease it to RPS for a period of twenty or twenty-five years during which time the developer would recover its investment and a reasonable profit. At the end of the lease period title would revert back to the city and RPS would continue to use it.

Ms. Meola indicates in her article that city officials are considering other possible uses for vacant school buildings. However, since these building were built to serve the educational needs of our students, using them for the administrative needs of RPS makes the most sense.

Friday, December 07, 2007

An Open Letter to Mayor Wilder

Dear Uncle Doug,

That was a really great picture of you with the hard hat in Wednesday’s TD. But I knew right away when Michael Martz quoted you as saying, “This is a helluva atrium! I've never seen anything like it in my life!" you weren’t talking about the new learning courtyard at Westover Hills Elementary School. In case you missed it, that atrium for our kids was put together with the money and work from the Westover Hills School community and its business partners. It’ll be a great place for the kids to learn about nature and that kind of stuff.

Of course, the atrium you were talking about, at the new Hilton Garden Inn being built on the old Miller & Rhoads site, is probably a lot prettier than the one at Westover Hills. And the people who see it will probably be of a much better class than the students that go to our schools. I would imagine that many of our students will never see it at all. But, it was a great photo op.

I also like that one of you last week leaving your hand print to be hung on the wall at the new North Boulevard Cinema. It really has the homey touch. It takes the edge off of some of the bad press you’ve been getting lately. I wish that nasty Judge Spencer could just get to know you. Maybe then she wouldn’t be writing those decisions against you.

There are probably some people that will criticize you for all these photo ops. They might think they are a waste of time, especially when the city has so many problems. I really have to disagree with them. I understand fully you hanging out with the business men. I know that all the new business development will increase tax revenue for the city. I also know that once that revenue rolls in you’re going to make sure that the City Council appropriates it all for Richmond Public Schools. Those people who think you don’t care about the kids just because you insist on the School Board cutting $20 million from their budget before you’ll talk to them just don’t know the real Doug Wilder.

Uncle Doug, there is another thing you could do for the kids. You might consider spending an hour or so each week in one of our public schools reading to the kids or helping them learn to read better or to learn their math. As the Crupi report indicated last week, there are a lot of kids in our schools who can really use your help. If you choose to do it, and I really hope you do, I suggest that you don’t bring the photographers or reporters. Trying to make sure our kids succeed is not something you want to do with the camera running. It’s not a photo op. It’s just doing the right thing.

Take care.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Greater Richmond: First Create It, Then Save It

You may not have noticed it, but at the end of November, David Ress of the TD wrote an article entitled “Business leaders eager for input from public.” In the article Mr. Ress indicated that the very same business leaders who paid Dr. James A. Crupi to write his report, “Putting the Future Together,” have decided to implement Dr. Crupi’s recommendation that the business community take the lead in developing a plan for rescuing “Greater Richmond.” I guess this makes sense. If you’re going to lay out big bucks to hire a consultant to recommend that you become “Greater Richmond’s” superhero, you better be ready to don the mask and cape.

At first I was a bit upset. Where did these business leaders get the gall to appoint themselves our saviors? Is there some provision in the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia that says that when you’re not happy with the way things are going you can appoint yourself to fix them? Do we not have in the Commonwealth a General Assembly and a Governor that we elected to make and implement policy? Do we not have in the local jurisdictions boards of supervisors or city councils, not to mention Uncle Doug, that we elected to do exactly what the business community has appointed itself to do? What ever happened to the republic we fought so hard for only 230 or so years ago?

But then I started thinking. Who was I to complain about the business community? Aren’t I, as a maven, self appointed? Oh yes, I studied long and hard and struggled through six decades of life to qualify to be a maven. But I have to admit that nobody elected to me to this position. So, if I can self appoint myself maven, I have to concede that our business leaders can self appoint themselves regional saviors.

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this posting. Is there such a thing as “Greater Richmond?” I have studied my map of the Commonwealth long and hard and cannot find anything called “Greater Richmond.” I see the City of Richmond. I see various counties surrounding the city. But there is no “Greater Richmond.”

How can this be? If there is no “Greater Richmond,” how can there be such a thing as the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce? I went to the chamber’s website to find out about this “Greater Richmond.” On the page “About Us,” under “The Facts,” it says that the chamber is,

“Located in Richmond, Virginia and serving the City of Richmond, and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico."

I guess that means that “Greater Richmond” means the city plus Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties. That makes sense to me. The city and the counties do make a nice little compact area, except for Hanover, which is on the wrong side of the Chickahominy. But… in Dr. Crupi’s report he talks as if “Greater Richmond” also included Charles City, Goochland, New Kent, and Powhatan counties. He also sometimes uses the term “Metro Richmond.” Does Metro mean the same thing as Greater?

But, you may say, this is all semantics. I agree. The definition of “Greater” or “Metro” Richmond is not the major issue. In his report, Dr. Crupi sets out as one of the reasons there is little regional cooperation in the Richmond area, “[t]he inability or unwillingness of metro leaders or citizens to think of themselves as a region.” I think that what Dr. Crupi is saying is that there is no feeling of community in the area.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the following definitions for “community:”
1- a unified body of individuals;
2- the people with common interests living in an area;
3- an interacting of various kinds of individuals in a common location; or
4- a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
These definitions use word like unified or common or interacting or together. Unfortunately, none of these words currently apply to the people living in Greater or Metro Richmond.

Rather than being a single community, Greater Richmond is an amalgam of hundreds of small local communities. Aside from those places with historic names like Midlothian, Short Pump, Glen Allen, Bon Air, Mechanicsville, Highland Springs or Varina, there are all those named neighborhoods in Richmond City and the tons of developments built in the suburbs over the years. The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of the people living in the counties surrounding Richmond do not consider themselves connected to the residents of the city.

Take a ride out Broad Street. Take a ride out Hull Street Road west of route 288. Take a ride out the many other suburban boulevards. What you see is mile after mile of commercial development. Our suburbs have been developed in a way that the residents have all their needs satisfied right near their homes. Need food, go to the local strip mall. Need gasoline, go to the local strip mall. Need medicine, go to the local strip mall. In addition, look at all the jobs that are located out on those suburban boulevards. The fact is that because of the way the suburbs have developed a majority of the people living there have no need to ever enter the City of Richmond. There is no feeling of unity or interdependence or togetherness or connectedness between the residents of the suburbs and the residents of the city.

(An aside: My daughter is a high school teacher in Henrico County. She told me that in one of her classes more that half the students stated they had NEVER been in the City of Richmond.)

Before our business leaders can became saviors of Greater Richmond, they need to create a community. They need to find a way for residents of the city to care about the problems of people living in the suburbs. They need to find a way for residents of the counties to care about the problems of people in the city. On page 28 of his report, Dr. Crupi listed the dismal statistics of poor people living in the city: 19% of the residents of the city live in poverty; 25% of the city’s children live in households with annual incomes of $20,650 or less; 74% of the students in Richmond Public Schools receive subsidized lunches; etc. The business leaders have to get the residents of the counties to care about the poverty in the city. Our business leaders need to find a way to deal with the attitude shown in a letter to the TD back in October:

“Does anyone really believe that suburban citizens will experience any improvement in their lives if such a [regional] government is adopted? Do the surrounding county residents want to see their current quality of life decline to the point that mediocrity and complacency are benchmarks? Should the county citizens be penalized for Richmond's failures?”

Or in this response to TD reporter Michael Paul Williams’ article last week about the inferior quality of school buildings in the city as compared with the counties:

"If the students and teachers can't take care of what they have, what makes it mandatory to give them more. The majority of suburban students, teachers and parents take pride and care in their educations and schools ... Problem is that the people that stay in Richmond don't care about the schools their kids go to."

I am sure there are equally negative attitudes held by city residents toward our suburban cousins.

So, our business saviors, the first thing you must do is convince us all that we live in a community all the time, not just when we suffer from a hurricane or a drying up of our beloved James. You must show us that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. You must convince us that we will sink or swim together.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Richmond Public Schools are Pretty Damn Good

Let me be the last person in the River City area to talk about the Crupi report. I thank the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce for laying out the big bucks to pay for Dr. Crupi’s study. I also thank the Richmond Times-Dispatch for providing a copy of the report to all its readers.

I will not mention the amazing coincidence that a report paid for by the business community came back with the observation that only the business community is able to save Metro Richmond. Some people might be suspicious about the self-serving nature of the report. Not this maven. Paraphrasing Bob Dylan, “I guess they’re just lucky.”

I will also not mention that this report deals with a nonexistent Metro Richmond. Oh, of course, it exists on census maps. But lets face it, some of us live in the City, some live in Midlothian, some live in Mechanicsville, some live in Short Pump. But none of us respond to “where do you come from?” with “I’m from Greater Richmond.”

What I will talk about is the part of Dr. Crupi’s report that deals with the Richmond Public Schools. We are all used to hearing how bad Richmond Public Schools are. The Richmond 26, in their letter to the mayor in July, indicated that the state of RPS was an “emergency.” Our leading cheerleader, Uncle Doug, is constantly telling us how our schools are failing and that the School Board and RPS administration are wasting millions of dollars. So it is not surprising that Dr. Crupi in listing Metro Richmond’s weaknesses included “Weak City Public Schools.”

However, before I can agree with all the critics of RPS, I need to look at the facts. In 2003, only 19% of Richmond’s schools were accredited under the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning (SOL). Also in 2003, only 23% of Richmond’s schools were meeting the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. By 2006, however, 86% of Richmond’s schools were SOL accredited and 84% of the schools were meeting AYP requirements. That doesn’t sound like an emergency situation or a failing school system to me. Perhaps the Richmond 26 and the mayor are looking back at 2003 statistics in making their assessments. I see RPS making exceptional progress. It is clearly not a failing school system.

Let us go back to Dr. Crupi’s report. In discussing the City of Richmond and its public school system, Dr. Crupi points out these facts about the city:

•19 percent of the population lives in poverty – rates that are over twice as high as Henrico, ten times as high as Hanover and four times as high as Chesterfield.
• 25 percent of its children (0-17 years) live in households at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level [i.e. below $20,650 annually].
• More than one of every two parents in Richmond is a single parent.
• Median income is less than 60 percent of the Greater Richmond average.
• 74 percent of students receive free/reduced price lunches.
• It has the highest rate of food stamp distribution in the state.
• Foster care rate is about three times the metro area’s rate.
• 50 percent of children are dependent on Medicaid or FAMIS [child health insurance program].
• 30 percent of kindergarten children need additional reading assistance.
• 14 percent of children from 3-4 years old are in the Head Start Program.
• 19 percent of children have disabilities and receive special needs education.
• It has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the metro area.
• 51 percent of students drop out of school according to a 2005-06 report by the VA Department of Education.
• The high school absenteeism rate is 26 percent and 14 percent in the middle schools [2005-2006].
• It is the only locality in the state in which all seven community problems involving youth are rated as “very serious.” Problems include: “violence on TV, movies, or in music.” lack of affordable and quality child care, lack of after school supervision, and alcohol and other illegal drug use by children or adolescents.
• It lacks a coordinated, proactive approach to addressing a young person’s needs

Dr. Crupi puts all these facts in the section of his report entitled “Give Richmond Schools a ‘Product’ They Can Work With.” As Dr. Crupi puts it,

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the Richmond public schools are getting large numbers of children who are not ready for school, who grow up in single parent homes that don’t (or find it difficult to) reinforce education, require nutritional support, and live in a community environment that makes it very difficult to study and learn. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that much of the poverty is concentrated in 4000 public housing projects that are primarily located in Fairfield Court, Whitcomb Court, Gilpin Court, and Creighton Court. Were these problems in the counties, the schools would also have problems.” (Emphasis added).

Given the factors discussed by Dr. Crupi, it is really amazing that RPS is doing as well as it is. In the August article in Style Weekly, “The Real Problem With Our Schools,” Don Cowles of Initiatives of Change said that school systems with more than 50% of their students reliant on subsidized lunches “simply do not succeed.” Yet, with a subsidized lunch rate of 74%, Richmond Public Schools are clearly succeeding.

As Dr. Crupi points out, large numbers of students in Richmond start school without the skills necessary for learning. The Richmond 26 and the mayor clearly are making unfounded accusations about RPS. Imagine that the kitchen receives sour milk, moldy flour, rotten eggs and rancid shortening. These ingredients are baked into a cake. After tasting the less-than-perfect cake, would it be fair to conclude that it was made by a terrible baker?

I am not putting our students down. It is clearly not their fault that they come to the race with a ball and chain around their ankles. I see these children every week and almost all of them are eager to learn and they are making remarkable progress despite the difficulties of their lives. They have dedicated, hard-working teachers. Their schools are run by competent, demanding principals. I have seen RPS administrators at work. They are competent people dedicated to making RPS into a school system this city can be proud of. I have interacted with members of the School Board. They are committed to turning RPS into a world-class school system. They put in long hours trying to make RPS work despite real dollar budget cuts imposed by City Council.

Is RPS perfect? Clearly not. There is lots of room for improvement. But, I am really tired of all these critics with little knowledge attacking our public schools because they seem like an easy target. They need to stop complaining and do something to fix the problem. In the words of Dr. Crupi,

“Richmond’s leaders need to understand that concentrating on the output (i.e. what the school’s produce) without addressing the input (i.e. the condition of students entering the schools) is doomed to failure. It is a question of investing on the front end or paying on the back end. The time has come to design a way forward.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Well Earned Awards

1- The Chutzpah Award for the first half of November is awarded to L. Douglas Wilder, our beloved mayor. In a TV interview last week Uncle Doug indicated that it was not his fault that he was the defendant in two law suits. He stated that he had sued nobody. He was just doing his job. It was the City Council and the School Board who sued him.

C’mon, Mr. Wilder. That’s like a bank robber who claims he is sitting in the defendant’s chair in court only because the police and the prosecutor chose to arrest and prosecute him. (It’s an analogy; I am not accusing the mayor of robbing banks). Mr. Mayor, you are a defendant in two law suits because you chose to ignore an ordinance enacted by City Council. The Richmond city charter indicates that you are to carry out the laws of the Commonwealth and the ordinances of the City. If you claim the power to ignore city ordinances, you are likely to end up in court.

2- The Neville Chamberlain Appeasement Award goes to City Council member Doug Conner for his November 10 letter to the editor in the Times-Dispatch. In his letter, Mr. Conner said,

“I offer the following to start dialogue: RPS should move from City Hall. The city should pay for the move and the rent on 3600 West Board for two years; talk of the mayor and Harry Black personally paying for the failed eviction should cease; drop the lawsuits and mediate; the mayor should lead education town halls that include the City Council and the School Board.”

I certainly agree with Mr. Conner that if the mayor gets his way in his dispute with the City Council and the School Board all will be quiet in the city again. All that is needed to bring these nasty little political disputes to an end is for the council, the board and the citizens of Richmond to concede that the mayor has all the power he wants. I am sure that if Uncle Doug is allowed dictatorial powers, we shall have “Peace in our Time.”

Monday, November 05, 2007

Undocumented Aliens and Loupassi’s Ad

A sloganeer submitted a comment to my post “Shame On You, Manoli (revisited)”. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against sloganeers. In fact I have been known to be a sloganeer myself, and I think I am quite good at it. Sometimes, however, slogans are not the best way of addressing issues. For example, my commenter began with “What part of the phrase ‘Illegal Alien’ don’t you understand?” Now that’s a pretty good slogan, but it doesn’t begin to address the complexities of the issue. The commentator, Anonymous, goes on to say he has nothing against aliens in general. He is bothered that the first act these particular aliens did on coming to America was breaking the law.

Anonymous is right. In fact, as these undocumented aliens were in the process of stepping across the border of our country they were violating Section 1325 of Title 8 of the United States Code. For violating this statute they can be prosecuted and if convicted they may spend some time in prison or pay a fine. They may also be deported from the United States.

So, this attorney turned maven certainly understands the phrase “illegal alien.” Moreover, as an attorney I am greatly bothered by laws that are not enforced. When any laws are routinely violated without consequences the commitment of our citizenry to obeying the law is weakened. Our country learned this lesson when we tried to outlaw alcohol about eighty years ago. By making booze illegal we created an entire class of “illegal drinkers” and a vast criminal enterprise to serve their needs. Tragically, we have not yet learned this lesson with regard to outlawing drugs.

Since the Federal Government has made entering our country “other than as designated by immigration officers” illegal, the Federal Government has an obligation to enforce that law. However, since there are many millions of individuals who have violated this law, the logistics of enforcement are mind-boggling. Understanding this, President Bush proposed a reasonable way to solve the illegal alien problem. (You may want to save that sentence. It is and will probably be the only time that I praise W). However, there are far too many politicians in this country who would rather use this problem as an election issue than trying to solve it. So, this problem goes on unresolved.

What Mr. Anonymous does not realize is that I did not criticize Mr. Loupassi for his views on the illegal alien problem. I criticized him for running an ad that naturally has the effect of dehumanizing people. I criticized him for engaging in hate-based politics. I criticized him for being a divider rather than a uniter. I criticized him for scape-goating. In sum, I criticized Mr. Loupassi for having such a low opinion of the intelligence of the voters in his district that he thought such negative campaigning would work.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Shame on You, Manoli (Revisited)

Well, this maven was wrong (in part) in my posting Thursday. And as my motto indicates, I am not afraid of being wrong and admitting it. In my post, I lambasted 68th district House of Delegates candidate Manoli Loupassi for his television ad. I said that at worst the ad was a lie and at best it was a distortion. After further consideration I must conclude that the ad is a distortion not a lie.

I am getting older. Sometimes I see and hear things strangely. Thursday I said that Mr. Loupassi’s ad criticized Delegate Katherine Waddell for having voted against a bill that would make undocumented aliens ineligible for in-state tuition rates at the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities. As I pointed out in my post, Ms. Waddell voted in favor of that legislation. Thursday night I saw the ad again. Now I see that the ad criticizes Ms. Waddell for opposing a different bill, a year earlier, that totally bars undocumented aliens from our institutions of higher learning. I went back to the General Assembly’s Legislative Information Service and discovered that in 2006 Delegate Waddell did vote against House Bill 262 that made undocumented aliens ineligible to be admitted to Virginia’s public colleges and universities. Since Mr. Loupassi’s ad does not indicate that in the next year Delegate Waddell voted in favor of withholding in-state tuition rates from undocumented aliens, I view the ad as a distortion of Ms. Waddell’s record. I apologize for calling Mr. Loupassi a liar.

Confession should make me feel better, but I don’t. I still find myself very angry with Mr. Loupassi’s ad. I feel almost as angry as I did two years ago when I saw Jerry Kill-more’s capital punishment ads against Tim Kaine.

I am sure that this statement does not apply to all Republicans, but I see many of the GOP’s candidates running campaigns that appeal to the basest of human instincts. Just two weeks ago I was up in northern Virginia and saw a mega-sign for a candidate for chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors that read (I paraphrase) “He knows how to handle illegal aliens.” Now, it’s Manoli Loupassi that is trying to ride to office on the backs of undocumented aliens. I abhor this type of us-them politics. It triggers our inborn xenophobia and makes us fear and hate “the other”—those who have entered this country illegally. What is worse is that most of these illegal aliens speak Spanish. The stigma that is attached to them by this hate-based politics naturally transfers to all Spanish speakers. When we hear construction workers or the people behind us in the check-out line speaking Spanish we start wondering whether they are here legally.

Yes, illegal aliens are in this country without permission. Yes, illegal aliens have broken the law. But, they are not murderers or rapists or child predators. Their crime is that they came into this country to earn money because they are unable to do so in their home country. Things are so bad where they come from that they are willing to risk their lives in the often perilous journey across our borders. And, let’s not forget that they serve a very useful purpose in this country. They work at jobs for low pay that few other people would do. Without them in our economy the prices of much that we buy would increase drastically.

Mr. Loupassi and his fellow Republicans need to realize that these aliens are human beings. They are not vermin that need to be eliminated. Mr. Loupassi must understand that his ad creates animosity against these aliens. The words of the ad that speak of these “undesirables” taking the places of good American children in our colleges and universities can have no other purpose than to marginalize people. Marginalizing people leads to considering them less than human. This can lead eventually to such nice things as internment camps and even genocide.

Mr. Loupassi, my grandparents came to this country just before the First World War They answered the call of the Statue of Liberty to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I am therefore an immigrant. I assume that your ancestors came to this country at some time after the settlement of Jamestown and that you are also an immigrant. Manoli, if your ancestors were like mine they were not treated very well when they arrived here. They dressed strangely, they spoke foreign languages, they were different. They were considered undesirable by all the true Americans—those who had come here a few years earlier. Since we know what it is like to be the “other” we should be the last to cast aspersions on today’s others. In the words of Scripture, we must “love [the stranger] as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34)

Why do candidates rely on this type of extreme negative campaigning? Because they are told by the professional political salesmen that they have hired that it works. If Mr. Loupassi is elected on Tuesday, I fear that we will have more of this nasty campaigning in the future. If residents of the 68th District deplore this type of politics as much as I do they must show the political professionals that it does not work. They must vote for the reelection of Delegate Waddell.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shall Never the Twain Meet?

On Saturday I had a delightful time at the dedication of the newly renovated media center at Westover Hills Elementary School. It was a great party. In addition to this maven and his maveness, the Superintendent of Schools, School Board members, community partners of the school, faculty, and about 200 children and their parents were in attendance. With music, arts and crafts activities, a dance contest, pizza and lemonade everybody really enjoyed themselves.

I found myself looking at the children at one of the tables. They were beautiful. Their eyes were alive with joy, their mouths were smiling or laughing, their faces were filled with the wonder of learning. As I watched them, my mind connected with the picture I saw on the front of Section B of the TD last week. It was a picture of a group of students at Tuckahoe Elementary School watching a Richmond Opera production of Gilbert and Sullivan. The children in the picture were also beautiful. Their eyes too were alive with joy, their mouths were also smiling or laughing, their faces too were filled with the wonder of learning.

Two groups of elementary school children. Each having a great time. All of them alive with the joy and wonder of learning. Sitting in elementary schools located no more than five miles apart. Two identical groups of children . . . except that all the students in the Tuckahoe photograph had light skin, while almost all the children I saw at Westover Hills had dark skin.

The children in these two groups are not aware that the others exist. And, in all likelihood these light-skinned and dark-skinned children will not interact for at least the next ten to fifteen years, if ever. They will not have the opportunity to meet each other, to get to know each other, to play with each other, to learn with each other, to appreciate each other, and, perhaps, to love each other.

Will all of these light-skinned children at Tuckahoe and these dark-skinned children at Westover Hills eventually adopt the attitude held by their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents that the color of a person’s skin is a key factor in judging them? Will their ignorance of the other lead to these children acquiring, over time, a pigmentation prejudice?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think children are color blind. I think they notice that some people have light skin and that others have dark skin. However, if they’re young enough, complexion just doesn’t matter. Two examples—

1- I do some tutoring at Westover Hills School. My skin is light. Most of the kids have dark skin. Do they notice the difference? I assume so. But they also notice that I am older than them, taller than them, a bit pudgy around the waist, and because I am older that I have acquired greater knowledge than they have. Do they have any notion that because of our skin colors I am better than they or they are better than me? I think not, especially my second graders.

2- My four-year old granddaughter often asks me to take her to the Westover Hills playground to play with the school children. She is the only light-skinned child there. Neither she nor the other kids seem to care. I know she recognizes complexion differences. Once in Target she asked that I buy her a “brown baby” for her doll collection. When she plays with her doll house, she has both African American and Caucasian dolls. She plays with them interchangeably, often having white dolls with black offspring and vice versa. Skin color just seems irrelevant to her.

So how do we prevent these children from catching the complexion bias that most of us adults suffer from? I suggest that we institute community building in all of our public schools. We need to schedule opportunities for our urban and suburban children to get together. Maybe, instead of a field trip to some colonial ruin, we should schedule a field trip to each other’s schools. Maybe, we can arrange for them to interact through video-conferencing. I am sure that you have an idea that might work.

If we do this, maybe we will have reached one of the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Maybe we will achieve a society in which we are all judged by the strength of our characters, not by the color of our skins.

Shame on You, Manoli

I guess this is what happens when a candidate has too much money to spend. I just saw the latest of Manoli Loupossi’s political ads, and it makes me mad. Manoli gets on at the end and says he approved of the ad, so the buck stops with him. The ad criticizes incumbent Delegate Katherine Waddell for voting against legislation that would make aliens not legally in the country ineligible for in-state tuition rates at Virginia colleges and universities. The ad stirs up animosity against Ms. Waddell with the conclusion that she wants to give away commonwealth revenue to illegal aliens.

Shame on you, Manoli, you should know better.

House Bill 2623 is described by the Legislative Information Service as follows:

In-state tuition for aliens. Provides that an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, and therefore ineligible to establish domicile pursuant to § 23-7.4, shall not be eligible on the basis of residency within Virginia for any postsecondary educational benefit, including in-state tuition, unless citizens or nationals of the United States are eligible for such benefits in no less an amount, duration, and scope without regard to whether such citizens or nationals are Virginia residents.
The LIS indicates that this bill passed the House of Delegates on February 1, 2007, by a vote of 74 to 23. Voting in favor of the bill was Delegate Waddell.

So, Manoli, the ad, which you approved, is a distortion at best and a lie at worst. I think that running an ad like this shows that you would do anything to get elected. Although I do not live in your district, I will have to endorse the candidacy for reelection of Ms. Waddell. If your campaign represents the type of delegate you will be, I hope that the voters in the 68th district reject your candidacy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mayor Wilder, Repeat After Me

I just read the mayor’s Visions Newsletter for this week (
The mayor is still making excuses for his disastrous decision to try to evict the RPS administration from City Hall a few weeks back. This, in connection with his treatment last week of the School Board committee and its chair, Betsy Carr, leads me to conclude that the mayor still doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand that the citizens of this city do not approve of the way he is acting as mayor.

In the interest of saving your administration, Mayor Wilder, repeat after me:

I am sorry. . .

I was completely wrong in trying to evict the school administration from City Hall after the close of business on a Friday afternoon. . .

In the future, I will try really hard not to make mistakes like this again. . .

I need and welcome the contributions and cooperation of all citizens of the city, including the nine members of the City Council, the nine members of the School Board, the Superintendent of Schools, the City Auditor, the City Assessor, and others.

I really hope you can turn things around Mr. Mayor.

It’s Really Tragic

I take no joy from the poll results published in the TD that show that Mayor Wilder’s approval ratings have gone way down. The poll shows that if the election for mayor were held today only 35% of registered voters would vote to reelect Mr. Wilder. I cannot deny that for the past year I have been constantly berating Mr. Wilder for his performance as this city’s chief executive. But that’s not the way I wish it was.

When Mr. Wilder was elected mayor, I was kind of excited. I thought he would provide the type of leadership that any city could use. I have been greatly disappointed. That is the reason that I have felt compelled to criticize him.

Almost from the day he took the oath of office L. Douglas Wilder has been acting as if he had been anointed instead of elected. He has attempted to purge the leadership of the city to remove anyone who doesn't agree with him. He has not acted like a leader. A leader tries to bring about change by persuading other people to follow and by making compromises if necessary. Mr. Wilder tries to lead by imposing his will, by making unfounded public charges against anybody who tries to be independent. And he has never thought himself to be bound by the law.

I think it is tragic that this man, who has earned a place in history, should destroy his reputation in a few short years. Unfortunately, he will be remembered most for his attempt to evict the School Board from City Hall rather than for the things he accomplished as Governor of the Commonwealth.

Hopefully, Mr. Wilder will use the poll results as a wake-up call. He still has a year before the next election to regain the trust and support of the citizens of Richmond. I wish him well.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Entering City, Proceed At Your Own Risk

It is time to award the Maven’s “most wonderful letter of the day.” This time the letter goes to “Keep the City Out of Our Suburbs,” published in the TD on Friday.

This letter has been making me mad since I read it. I have started writing a response several times, but each time I just get too nasty. You know that I am basically a mild-mannered guy and I don’t want to publish anything that will make people feel bad. So, I will not write all the things I wanted to say to the author of that letter. Instead I will write this greeting:

Thank you for the Christo-Judeo-Islamo-Budist love that your letter shows for the unfortunate people who call this decrepit city home. Of course, if we could, we would all run to your suburban paradise. You are always welcome to visit Richmond either for business or pleasure, even though you see no need to pay for that privilege. If you are considering coming to Richmond, however, please heed this warning.

In River City you may come in contact with people who are neither white nor affluent. So, if you’re gonna come here, be sure to wear a surgical mask and bring lots of hand sanitizer. I wouldn’t want you to get contaminated.

Uncle May I?

When I was a lad, back in Brooklyn, USA, we played a little street game called “Mother May I?” The rules were simple. One kid, the mother, stood on one end of the backyard. The other kids stood on the other end at the starting line. The mother would then give instructions on how they could cross the divide between them. S/he might say, “Fred, you may take one giant step.” Fred could do nothing until he asked, “mother may I?” The kid playing mother would then either say “yes you may,” or “no, you may not.” Fred would act accordingly. Mother then would go through each of the other kids, instructing them to take giant steps, itsy-bitsy steps, umbrella steps (you had to spin as you moved), jumps, hops or whatever. Slowly the group of children would advance across the backyard toward mother. If, however, one of the players advanced without asking “mother may I,” he or she would have to go all the way back to the starting line.

According to the TD, School Board member Betsy Carr and Mayor Wilder have been playing this game (now called Uncle May I) and Ms. Carr is not winning. It seems that Ms. Carr, as chair of a School Board committee, has been working on the Board’s revised plan for new and renovated school buildings. A Thursday TD article indicated that the School Board committee was holding a meeting next Wednesday and had invited city officials and community leaders to provide their input. Ms. Carr stated that “[a]s we’re moving forward for a great city and making the schools best as possible, we need to get everybody thinking their best thoughts of how we can make it work together.”

Ms. Carr’s motive seemed pure and her position seemed reasonable but as indicated in Friday’s TD, Ms. Carr has made a fatal mistake. Before she moved, she failed to ask Mr. Wilder “Uncle May I?” It makes no difference that Ms. Carr “thought the invitation [to city officials] met Wilder’s desire for better communication between various parts of city government.” It makes no difference that this meeting would accomplish a great deal. Ms. Carr did not ask Uncle Doug for his permission and now she must return to the starting line.

It is tragic that Ms. Carr had to learn this lesson the hard way. Of course, it would be a lot easier if our regal chief executive employed a protocol officer to explain to us mortals which hoops we need to jump through to make His Excellency happy. Then Ms. Carr would have known how to proceed without offending the mayor.

As you might expect, Ms. Carr’s failure to ask “Uncle May I” has converted our benevolent Uncle Doug into the vengeful dictator that he sometimes becomes. He has listed new rules for playing the game in the future. King Doug now insists that before he will accept any further communications from the School Board on the issue of school construction or renovation, the School Board and the School Superintendent must carry out the recommendations made last winter in the City Auditor’s audit of Richmond Public Schools. His Excellency has indicated that his support for new or renovated schools will depend on actions taken by school officials to save money. “When you do this, we’ll do that. It’s a quid pro quo situation,” the mayor said.

I am sorry that this had to happen to a hard-working, independent minded public servant like Ms. Carr. Of course, she is the exactly the type of person that King Doug has been trying to drive out of city government since his coronation. If there is one thing His Excellency cannot stand it is someone who doesn’t answer to him. Ms. Carr, welcome to the long list of public officials who have drawn the mayor’s wrath for trying to do the right thing. I wish you the strength and courage to keep up the good fight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It Ain’t Broke, It’s Just Badly Bent

I really have to object to Bob Rayner’s Op-ed in the TD entitled “If the City Charter's Broken, Let's Fix It -- Starting Now.” Mr. Rayner places the blame for the recent chaos in and around City Hall on our City Charter. Mr. Rayner says,

“One clear perception emerged from the recent chaos: The city charter is profoundly unclear about the relationship between the council and the mayor. And that's a sure recipe for endless, distracting, expensive court battles.
Perhaps it's time for the General Assembly -- which oversees local governments -- to help Richmond write a new charter for itself. The mayor's public stance has eased, at least mildly, giving the City Council an opportunity to press for the creation of a city charter that works. Local legislators should offer their services, publicy or privately.
A fight is inevitable. Better to have it settled by the people's elected reprentatives than by the courts. If the rules don't make sense, write some new ones. The mayor, the City Council, and the region's delegates and senators need to sharpen their pencils.
It's time to lead.”

I wonder whether Mr. Rayner has actually read the Charter. I have, and I don’t see why it needs any changes. The people who drafted this charter were capable lawyers and, although I might have written it better, they clearly stated the relationship between the mayor and the council.

Chapter 4 of the charter deals with the City Council. Section 4.02 says,

“All powers vested in the City shall be exercised by the Council except as otherwise provided in this Charter.”

This sounds pretty clear to me. The City Council has the authority to exercise ALL city powers except when the charter grants those powers to someone else. Now who else might the charter grant powers to? How about the mayor?

Section 5.01 of the charter says,

“The mayor shall be the chief executive officer of the city and shall be responsible for the proper administration of city government.”

Section 5.05 spells out the duties of the mayor. The mayor has the duty to:
1- Attend meetings of the council (or send a delegate authorized to answer questions);
2- Keep the council advised of the financial condition and future needs of the city, and make recommendations when necessary;
3- Oversee preparation of the annual city budget;
4- Perform such duties that the Code of Virginia assigns to chief executive officers of cities or that are assigned to the mayor “by ordinances adopted by the council.” (The mayor is given the power to veto such ordinances subject to override by the council.)
5- Issue regulations necessary to carry out the job of mayor.

I think it is clear that the charter creates a city government with two separate branches--the council and the mayor. The council is granted all powers of the city except those specifically given to the mayor (or his subordinates). The powers given to the mayor are clearly stated. Those powers are not unlimited. Clearly, the charter does not give the mayor the authority to ignore the laws of the Commonwealth or the ordinances of the City of Richmond that he does not agree with

The separation of powers in different branches has been a feature of governments in the Commonwealth since we evicted King George’s royal governor at bayonet point and emblazoned our flag with the words “Sic Semper Tyranis”. Separation of legislative and executive functions also exists in the Government of the United States and, I assume, in the governments of the other forty nine states. There are, of course, governments in the world in which legislative and executive powers are vested in the same person. We generally call those governments dictatorships.

But, argues Mr. Raynor,

“Wilder maintains -- not unreasonably -- that city voters overwhelmingly signaled that they want a strong mayor and that they want him to be that strong mayor.”

I don’t know how Mr. Wilder or Mr. Raynor determined that city voter overwhelmingly favor a “strong” mayor. All that is clear is that city voters approved the charter as written. That charter does not mention a “strong” mayor. It provides for a mayor who possesses only the powers specifically given him. All other powers are vested in the council.

There is chaos and dispute over the relationship between the mayor and the council in the City of Richmond only because the incumbent mayor asserts the authority to ignore the provisions of the charter. Mr. Wilder continues to operate under the charter that he wishes the citizens approved, one that gives him complete power. He refuses to follow the actual charter, which clearly limits the powers of the mayor.

So, Mr. Raynor, there is no need to go running to the wise General Assembly and ask it to fix the problem that we the naive citizens of Richmond have imposed on ourselves. The charter that we adopted is not broken. However, it has been bent by the actions of L. Douglas Wilder. Hopefully, in the next election we’ll choose a mayor who will obey the law.

The River’s Back and Now I Can Wash My Neck

Well, it’s official. Our beloved James River is back. I just drove down Riverside Drive between Huguenot and Pony Pasture and there is water flowing over the Zee dam. When I drove by on Monday, the river was so low that most of the dam was dry with only a trickle of water coming over the spillway.

That the river is back is vitally important to me. Since my identity is intimately tied up with the James, this week’s rain came at just the right time. After all, how would it look if I had to change my name to Dry Gulch Maven, or Rocky Rill Maven? No, I like James River Maven just fine and I’m so happy to have it flowing again.

This brings me to a song that my mother used to sing to me when I was a kid:

“It ain’t gonna rain no more no more,
It ain’t gonna rain no more.
How in the heck can I wash my neck
If it ain’t gonna rain no more?”

Well, much to my maveness’ delight, it has rained and I can start lathering my neck

Monday, October 15, 2007

Demand for Payment

"The conclusion then, is, that neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time." Thomas Jefferson, 1789

Dear American Taxpayer,

We regret to inform you that you that you have been the victim of a major financial scam. You have fallen for the ridiculous assertion that decreasing the federal tax rate will result in increased revenue flowing to the government. Accordingly the candidates you have elected to public office have increased the debt owed by your government to nine trillion, twenty eight billion, nine hundred fifty one million dollars ($9,028,951,000.00).

Until now, we have been willing to let your government pay off its debt in annual payments of nearly two hundred fifty billion dollars ($250,000,000,000). However, over the last six years, your government’s debt has increased at a phenomenal rate and we can no longer protect our stockholder’s interest unless we receive payment immediately.

As the Constitution of your government indicates that it is adopted by “We the People” and because you have benefited from your government’s continued deficit spending we consider it reasonable to hold you responsible for your share of the debt of the United States of America. Your personal liability for this debt is $29,785.35 for each member of your household.

We demand payment of your share of the debt by return mail. Because of the irresponsible credit practices of your government, we cannot accept credit cards in payment. We will accept only cash, money order or certified check in payment.

We regret that we have been forced to take this action. To avoid a similar occurrence in the future, we recommend that your government refrain from spending beyond its means.

Creditors of United States Government

Nor Any Drop To Drink

Scene I.
I was up in northern Virginia this weekend. In Low-down County (i.e. Loudon) there were signs on almost every street reading “NO OUTDOOR WATERING!” You see, because of the drought, the Loudon Board of Supervisors has imposed mandatory water restrictions.

Scene II.
I was back in Richmond last night. (I can no longer call this place River City, ‘cause there ain’t too much river left.) Yesterday, my neighbor across the street turned on his lawn sprinkler and it ran all night. This morning there was lots of water running off his property and down the street. I read in the TD this morning that Chesterfield County’s mandatory water restrictions go into effect today. The restrictions apparently are rather modest: lawn watering only three days per week; car and patio washing two days per week.

As for other jurisdictions in the neighborhood, the TD reported:
· Colonial Heights is scheduled to consider restrictions in the coming weeks.
· Dinwiddie put mandatory restrictions in place earlier.
· Petersburg officials asked residents to begin observing restrictions. City Council may make those restrictions mandatory at an Oct. 23 meeting.
· Prince George put mandatory restrictions in place earlier.

What about the City of Richmond and Henrico County? Well, if it doesn’t rain in a few weeks, maybe there will be a need for restrictions.

[I started this piece this morning. I put it away for a while. Then I drove across the mostly-rocks James for choir practice. But as I left I noticed that a different neighbor was pouring lots of water onto his lawn. My recollection is that under voluntary restrictions, nobody can water on Mondays. Well, I guess my neighbor volunteered not to comply.]

So, comparing scenes I and II, I started wondering: what is happening in Loudon County that is not happening in Exposed-rocks City? Now I know that Loudon County is really crowded. It’s already what Chesterfield County will look like in a few years—wall to wall houses; hundreds of miles of highways, all of them constantly congested; myriad strip malls trying to serve the needs of far too many people. But is that why they need a total ban on outdoor watering? Perhaps they have had a more severe drought than we. Maybe they have lawns that drink up more water than ours. Or, it could be that their newer water mains leak more than our old ones. And, maybe, just maybe, the Potomac is not as mighty a river as the James.

But suppose there are other reasons—so secret that even the TD can’t find out about them—for there being no need for water restrictions in Richmond.

1- It may be that our gaggle of nine has received classified weather forecasts indicating that over the next twenty days ten inches of rain will fall over the city—one half inch per day. Channels 6 and 12 meteorologists, “Eat your hearts out for missing that.”
2- Maybe the mayor has hired a rain maker, using the emergency procurement provisions of the city charter (which he learned to use when he bought an “emergency” audit for the city assessor last winter). We all know that dark clouds have been hanging over this city for months. The rainmaker can seed those and voila we’ll have lots of rain.
3- On the other hand, maybe we don’t need any rain. Perhaps the city has a secret stash of water. It could be hidden under Uncle Doug’s riverside ranch. (There’s nothing like the sun setting over the James.) Millions of acre-feet of H20, on tap for a thirsty city.

So, citizens of Richmond, consider yourselves lucky that we don’t have a City Council that would panic and impose mandatory restrictions (that my neighbor could not volunteer to ignore). Count your blessings that our beloved legislators would not sacrifice our clean cars and green lawns to make sure there is enough water to drink, for personal hygiene, for cooking, for putting out fires and other nonessentials. And, I’m sure we can add to the name of our beloved river. We can call it the Hidden James.

BTW, I advise that you start hording bottled water.