All posts by Bob Brink

A Look Back at 2006 — And a Preview of 2007


As we look forward to tomorrow’s General Assembly opening day festivities, Kris and I want to thank our loyal readership (which we estimate numbers in the high single digits) for indulging us over the past months. We appreciate your giving us a chance to share some perspectives on the legislative process as practiced in Richmond, and to brag about our  Midwestern roots, while exposing to public view our peculiar musical tastes.

As they used to say in the Vegematic commercials, “But wait — there’s more!” This will be the year of the Value-Added 7 West. Along with the occasional useful insights  from us that you’ve come to expect, we’re planning to invite each of our neighbors — Kilgore, Carrico, Moran, Sickles, Ebbin, Englin, Miller, Gear, Marshall, Reid, Jones, and Hamilton: the whole crew — to grab the 7 West tiller for a turn as Guest Blogger for a day. And we’re going to ramp up our weekly General Assembly constituent e-newsletters (you can read my previous years’ editions here) by posting them as 7 West blog entries, complete with images, sounds, and a chance for you to comment. We promise this, with a minimum of snark and a great deal of affection for the institution in which we serve, all at one low, low price.

Road Trip!

easy-rider.jpgThe opening day of a General Assembly session is a scene of barely controlled chaos. Members rush around getting signatures of copatrons on their bills before the 10 a.m. filing deadline. Staff assistants dig through boxes and struggle to get offices set up in working order. New pages and interns try to figure out why the elevators in the General Assembly Building don’t all go to the same floors.

This year will be different, it seems. We’ve decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Richmond.

We’re going to Jamestown. On a bus.

Last week the Joint Rules Committee decided to help launch the 400th anniversary celebration of the landing at Jamestown by visiting the site on opening day. So at noon on January 10 we’ll hold our House and Senate sessions in Richmond. Then all 140 of us will pile onto buses and journey 50 miles down the road to Jamestown. There, Governor Kaine will deliver his State of the Commonwealth Address. Vice President Cheney has been invited along to lend some sparkle to the occasion. When we’re done with the festivities, we’ll climb back on the buses and come home.

The last time a lot of us went on a field trip like this was during high school, and we’ve forgotten what you do to make the time pass. So Kris and I have come up with our list of


10.  Every time you spot a roadside sign with a superfluous “E” (“Jamestowne,” “Shoppe,” etc.), pull over, take a Magic Marker, and E-rase it.

9.  Tell the freshmen that under General Assembly Road Trip Rules, they ride in the luggage compartment.

8.  Speaker leads us in “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

7.  Karaoke contest with the entries to the Virginia State Song competition.

6.  Tie Englin’s shoelaces together and steal his lunch money.

5.  Check out the congestion on I-64, and wonder aloud why nobody’s done anything about it.

4.  When Jack Reid asks to hang his vest on the coathook next to your seat, tell him it’s taken.

3.  If it’s a fancy bus with a restroom in the back, give somebody a swirlie.

2.  Agree with the bus driver that Bobby Orrock’s HB 70 was the best darned bill of the 2006 Session — otherwise, you walk home.

1.  If you see Jack Reid and Dick Cheney having words in the aisle — DUCK!



Congestion: It’s Not Just for NOVA Anymore

congestion.jpgEvery few months I drive from Arlington down to Charlottesville for meetings of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at their headquarters next to the Boar’s Head Inn. I always allow myself enough time to deal with the random delays that crop up when you’re trying to put Northern Virginia in your rear view mirror, and I’ve never been late for a meeting. Until last week. I escaped from Area Code 703 without incident; the hangup was in AC 434. Things may be changing in Charlottesville, and not for the better.

It took me nearly 1/2 hour to go the final mile on 29 South and get onto 250 West. As is so often the case in NOVA, there was no visible source for the backup: no overturned SUV in the median, no burning tourist bus at the side of the road. I’d like to chalk the delay up to holiday shopping or some event at The University, but the next morning a woman approaching from the west was 1/2 hour late due to a similar experience. Some incident on I-64 sent traffic cascading over onto local roads, causing gridlock that would do Tysons Corner proud.

There are those who see Charlottesville as a kind of Little City In The Bubble, magically sealed off from the indignities of urban life such as highway noise walls, Fuddruckers, — and congestion. Those days of innocence may be coming to an end. Sorry, Charlottesville, but welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia. 



It Was 60 Years Ago Today . . .

The political parallels between November 1946 and November 2006 are instructive for both parties. Sixty years ago, there was a general feeling of discontent with the country’s direction. Weighed down by a President whose approval ratings were stuck in the low 30s, his party lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate  for the first time in over a decade. Among the newly elected members of Congress were three – Joseph R. McCarthy, John F. Kennedy, and Richard M. Nixon — who would dominate American political life for the next 30 years. November 1946 was a momentous point in the Nation’s political history.

Two years after the revolution of 1946, however, the tables turned once again. The President successfully campaigned against a “Do Nothing Congress,” and control of both the House and Senate returned to his party. What an unhappy electorate giveth, an unhappy electorate can take away. Results are what counts.

At the other end of the shopping list . . .

beatles-love-cd.jpgAlmost any Boomer of your acquaintance should love “Love,” a “mash-up” (new concept to me) of dozens of original Beatles songs, vintage 1963-70. It’s produced by Sir George Martin and his son Giles. In the words of the New York Times, “Songs are edited together, dismantled, reconstructed from unused takes, overlapped, mined for guitar licks or orchestral bits, segued into free-form montages, even run in reverse. The result is both familiar and disorienting.”

Forgive the fact that the material was originally assembled for a Las Vegas stage show. Accept that here “A Day in the Life” follows “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” rather than the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper,” as it has since June of 1967. Buy it for a Boomer friend or relative. If you’re as much of a Beatles fan as I am, do yourself a favor, go out and get yourself an early Christmas present, sit back and enjoy 90 minutes of deja entendu.