People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Southwest Virginia Dodges a Bullet

Well, the transportation financing deal agreed to by Governor Tim Kaine could have been a lot worse. It will raise the tax on diesel fuel, which means the cost of doing business here in Southwest Virginia just got higher (how many job losses will result?...). Car purchase fees are going up as well. But all in all ...

Here's the gist of it:

Kaine solves road block [and if you believe that ...]
Republicans say they're likely to sign off on the compromise plan April 4
By Michael Hardy and Jeff E. Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writers

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday announced a deal with Republicans on a $3 billion transportation fix, an issue that threatened to derail his administration and imperil lawmakers in the fall elections.

Kaine's long-awaited revisions include additional bonds -- up another $500 million from $2.5 billion -- as well as new sources of cash to finance them. He also retooled regional remedies for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Members of the Democratic minority credited Kaine with finding a substitute for what he and they considered its most offensive feature: using almost $200 million a year for schools, human services and police to repay bonds to build roads.

Kaine is recommending, with Republican consent, to finance the bonds with $137 million to $170 million a year from the tax Virginians pay on their motor-vehicle insurance. That transferred cash too comes from budget dollars for schools and other vital services. (
Here's why we should support this compromise (let's call it The Kaine Mutiny Surrender):

● It meets all the demands that our courageous Republican delegates have been making the last two years with regard to financing. As Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling put it in a press release:

"I am pleased that the Governor’s amendments endorse every key provision of the transportation plan previously adopted by Republican legislative leaders. By agreeing to the basic structure of the Republican plan, and by abandoning his demand for massive statewide tax increases, the Governor has helped us move one step closer to finding a solution for Virginia’s long term transportation needs."

● It utilizes the General Fund for financing after all (the Democrats' biggest bugaboo) as well as considerable bond debt.

Bolling: "I am also pleased that the Governor appears to have abandoned his opposition to the use of existing general fund resources for transportation. In fact, by some estimates his amendments may increase the amount of general funds going to transportation."

● It does not contain the massive tax increase that the Democrats and Chichester pushed (on income, gasoline, sales, etc.).

Attorney General Bob McDonnell in a press release: "The Governor has maintained the important reforms in land use decisions and the delivery of transportation services. He has abandoned his previous request for a large, statewide tax increase. He has added to the Republican plan to use more bonds and surplus revenues to fund transportation."

Taxes will be levied on those who need their roads fixed. The state will require regional taxation in Northern Virginia and in Hampton Roads (where the local economy can easily withstand the blow) to pay for the costly upgrades the citizens there desperately need.

● The hero of the moment, Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), in yet another press release, provides a summation:

“With the Governor’s announcement today of his proposed changes to House Bill 3202, Virginia is now another step closer to enacting landmark legislation this year that will comprehensively address its transportation challenges well into the future.

"Throughout this process, leadership and compromise have been key components to achieving progress. In January, House and Senate Republicans united and unveiled our initial proposal, which formed the foundation and basic tenets integral to a comprehensive transportation plan.

"In February, the House of Delegates approved the conference report on that bill by a strong, bipartisan vote of 64-34 and the Senate of Virginia did so by a vote of 21 to 18, advancing this far-reaching proposal to the Governor. Today, Governor Kaine added his assistance to our advances by agreeing to compromises on several important points and returning his proposed amendments.

“First, the Governor has agreed with the General Assembly’s position that utilizing significant General Fund revenues for transportation – a core service of government – is both prudent and fiscally responsible. Although our legislation designated a specific dollar amount to this purpose, the Governor’s decision to rededicate an existing General Fund revenue source, the Recordation Fee, works similarly. Ultimately, that legislative commitment will provide a substantial increase in overall transportation funding. If current growth trends remain, this General Fund source can be expected to provide $182 million annually for transportation within a decade.

“The Governor’s decision to stay within the structure of the legislation – eschewing his previous positions to insist upon massive statewide tax increases without regional components – is a very positive development. The fact that, for the first time, he has demonstrated a commitment to a judicious use of the Commonwealth’s AAA bond rating is certainly welcome news to those of us who have advocated this reasonable and widely accepted approach for many years."

The only menacing part of this legislation as proposed is in the fact that the Governor wants to use 2/3rds of the existing budget surplus for road repairs. That means that (a) you're not going to get it back in the form of a refund or a reduction in your tax rate, as should have been done, and (b) you can expect these guys - about a year from now - to be pleading poverty, ruination, and impending doom if we don't raise taxes - again - to alleviate the ... (fill in the blank) ... problem.

So it's not perfect. Taxes are going up. But, had Kaine and the Democrats (and Chichester and Potts and ...) gotten their way, we'd be seeing an even greater acceleration of business exodus from our area. That, at least, won't occur.

So let's celebrate. Embrace compromise. Feel the love.

A Good Fit

The Roanoke Times comes out this morning in favor of moving the Museum of the Confederacy to Lexington:
Bring Confederate history to Lexington

The city could provide an excellent home to the Museum of the Confederacy.

Lexington might become the new home for the Museum of the Confederacy. The city already hosts several Civil War landmarks and would make an excellent fit for the museum.

The museum, now located in Richmond next to the White House of the Confederacy, is feeling the squeeze from growth at Virginia Commonwealth University's medical campus. The museum lacks room for its large collection and is becoming increasingly difficult to reach by car.

Museum officials are therefore looking for a new location.

[They] have a tough decision ahead of them as they seek a permanent home before 2011's 150th anniversary of the start of the war. They should give Lexington a serious look. (link)
Next to relocating it to a more prominent place in Richmond, this makes great sense. It is the perfect fit.

And, for those of you who are big on tourism as the economic be-all-end-all, they ain't a better draw than this.

Here's to the final resting place of Lee. And Jackson. And Pendleton. Home of the renowned Rockbridge Artillery. VMI.

Somebody Is Playing With Somebody

Let me ask you a question. If a local official in Grayson County paid a consulting firm to conduct a survey and come up with a profile of "the tourist," do you suppose that tourist would be described thus?

Tourists tend to be middle-aged, relatively wealthy couples that are interested in everything from rest and relaxation to specialty stores and historic sites.

Doubtful, right? In these parts, the tourist is thought of this way:

Tourists tend to be young, upwardly mobile individuals who enjoy the outdoors, with a particular appreciation for the environment, a penchant for healthy exercise, who have considerable disposable income with which they invest in such recreational activities as biking, canoeing, camping, and hiking.

So why the difference? It all depends on who's paying for the survey, it seems:
Valley tourism likely to swell
The Associated Press

Harrisonburg -- Tourism officials have a survey to help them attract more visitors to the Shenandoah Valley.

Among its findings, the survey concluded that tourists tend to be middle-aged, relatively wealthy couples and that they're interested in everything from rest and relaxation to specialty stores and historic sites.

The survey, conducted for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, will be used to develop a comprehensive guide for an area from Frederick County to the counties of Augusta and Highland, said Carolyn Brackett of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The valley anticipates tourism to swell in 2011 during the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. (link)
Spend any amount of time on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you come away with the perception that this survey is accurate. Visitors to Meadows of Dan are all old to middle-aged and are in high-end vehicles, signifying the fact that they aren't poor - like the scrawny, haggard, lice-infested, impoverished teenagers who stagger down the Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus (all twelve of them in a day's time).

Anyway, someone is going to capture the tourist dollar. My guess is, the Harrisonburg area, with its rich Civil War history (Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Cross Keys ...) is going to win out over the Creeper's newly refurbished abandoned train trestle.

But that's only a guess ...

The Other Shoe Falls

I read the following headline in the Roanoke Times on Sunday and let out a guffaw:

My reaction was: Ponders my ass. I know these guys (and their public relations departments) too well.

Today's headline:
Tech decides to raise tuition
By Greg Esposito, The Roanoke Times

Blacksburg -- The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors voted Monday to raise tuition and impose special fees on undergraduate students taking engineering courses.

Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students will be $7,397 this fall, up 6.1 percent from this year. The total cost, including room and board, for in-state undergraduates will rise from $11,739 to $12,503, an increase of 6.5 percent. Out-of-state undergraduates will pay $24,881 for tuition, fees and room and board. That's an increase of 4.5 percent from this year. (link)
Now I know you're thinking that the massive tax increase that former Governor Mark Warner foisted upon a doting and foolishly acquiescent citizenry just a few short years ago was supposed to nullify the demand for such increases.


These Guys Crack Me Up

In the You Can't Make This Stuff Up category this morning:
Trouble Times Two
By Janet Whitman, The New York Post

March 27, 2007 -- The New York Times is suffering from two bouts of fresh humiliation after admitting to being duped by a woman claiming to be an Iraq veteran and ...

In a lengthy Editors' Note printed over the weekend, the Times revealed that one of the servicewomen profiled in the cover story on female veterans of the Iraq war in last week's New York Times Magazine never served in Iraq and may have made up her story.

... the Times said Amorita Randall, a formal naval construction worker, never served in Iraq, as the Sunday Times Magazine reported.

The servicewoman had told the Times she saw combat in Iraq in 2004 and suffered a brain injury when a Humvee she was riding in was blown up.

The Times said it learned after it published the article that Randall served in Guam and that the medal she received was due to a clerical error, not her heroic deeds in Iraq.

In the note published over the weekend, the Times said, "it is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did." (link)
"Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did."

Convinced. Yes. And convincing.

Ms. Randall may have a brain injury. What excuse can the Times use?

She's Doing The Right Thing

Well, it appears there is someone in the White House who understands what's really going on with regard to the attorneygate non-scandal:
DOJ Official Won't Testify About Firings
By Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press Writer

Washington (AP) -- A senior aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has decided against testifying before lawmakers about her role in the ousters of eight federal prosecutors, the latest flare-up in the controversy surrounding the Justice Department.

Monica Goodling's announcement that she would take the Fifth Amendment to avoid possibly incriminating herself came as the embattled attorney general cast himself as misunderstood in his conflicting accounts of his involvement in the firings. Goodling is the Justice Department's liaison to the White House. (link)
Goodling knows what's going on here. And she's protecting herself. Because she knows there is no one else in the White House who will do it for her.

You go, girl.

Earth To Webb

I once described our junior senator here in the commonwealth as suffering from a severe case of megalomania, brought on by uncontrollable delusions of grandeur - and macaca.

My hypothesis gains credibility this morning with this bit of disturbing news:

Senator’s Aide Held on Gun Charge
By Carl Hulse, The New York Times

Washington, March 26 — A close aide to Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, was arrested on Monday and jailed after trying to take a loaded handgun into a Senate office building, officials said.

The aide, identified by Mr. Webb’s office as Phillip Thompson, 45, had a semiautomatic, 9 millimeter pistol and two magazines that were discovered after he put his bag through an X-ray machine at an entrance to the Russell Senate Office Building, said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the United States Capitol Police. Mr. Thompson faces felony charges of carrying a pistol without a license and possessing an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.

Another Congressional official briefed on the case said the aide had told the authorities that Mr. Webb gave him the pistol while being dropped at the airport and that he inadvertently took it to the Capitol complex. (link)
What in God's name is this all about?
Is someone out to get him?
Is Webb's life in danger?
Does he know something about national security - or the lack thereof - that we don't know?
Should the rest of us be packing too when we travel?
Is he writing another novel? Is he acting out some role? Is his mind off in another dimension?

Noun: megalomania megulow'meyneeu
1. A mental disorder characterized by delusions of grandeur.
2. Psycopathy.

And They Probably Believe It

Only those suffering from a severe case of psychoneurosis could believe this (or write this for that matter...):

A headline in the New York Times. Need I say more ...

We Make Progress

We have encouraging news out of the state of New Jersey:

1) New Jersey
2) Only 14

Things are looking up.