Category Archives: Uncategorized

Using MasterCard to Pay Visa

I opened the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning and saw my picture.

This does not happen often. Northern Virginia Democrats are not usually a favorite of the RTD.

But yesterday, as House Democrats were asking questions about the financing mechanism for the House Republican’s smoke-and-mirrors transportation funding plan, we took out our credit cards and waved them in the air.

It was part of our effort to point out that the Republicans’ highly touted $2.4 billion bonding bill gets its money by double counting money, borrowing, and raiding the general fund.

So now, our conservative friends are accusing us of opposing the use of bonds.

Let me say this in small, simple words: House Democrats are not against bonding.

However, we do want to emphasize that bonding is a financing mechanism, not a revenue source. The funds that the bill is proposing to designate for repayment of the 2006 bonds are ALREADY designated to repay the Gilmore-era FRANS.  I am certainly no financial genius, but I know you can’t spend money twice. If we now designate the insurance proceeds to repay 2006 debt, then the funds to repay the Gilmore bonds will have to come from somewhere else. Just because you haven’t reached the credit limit on your credit card doesn’t mean you have more money.

It ain’t the years

“It ain’t the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”
Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark

I’m feeling a bit like Indiana Jones as we head back to Richmond next week. Since our official “adjournment” in March, we have met on the following dates:

March 27 and 30

April 3, 10, 11, 12, 19, 26, and 27

May 3, 10, 12, 18, 23, 25, 30

June 6, 13, 16, 20, 28

July 24

August 8, 28

In addition, there have been the usual trips for committee meetings and other Richmond-type events.
I’m happy to keep going until we find some common ground on transportation. But, as I have said before, I am not interested in having the General Assembly become a permanent governing body.

Keep your fingers crossed.

For those who don’t sit on the sidelines

Tomorrow morning, hundreds of people will meet in parking lots all across Northern Virginia. They’ll pick up a clip board and some literature. Then they’ll hit the streets for several hours of knocking on doors and talking face-to-face with voters.

Here in Mount Vernon, super volunteers like Laura Sonnenmark, Scott Surovell, and Doug Reimel will organize the canvass. They’ll hand out the maps, the literature, and the voter lists. Then they’ll grab their own clip board and start walking.

Those of us with a Certificate of Election on our walls do the work because it’s part of our job. Yet weekend after weekend, we are joined by dedicated volunteers who lace up their sneakers and walk with us.

What brings them out? It’s not the Krispy Kreme donuts or the coffee. And it’s not because door knocking is so much fun. As a candidate, I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and I can assure you that door knocking is hard work. People yell at you. They slam their door in your face. And their dogs …

No, the volunteers do it because they believe in the process. They know that democracy is not a spectator sport—and they’re not going to sit on the sidelines.

The Republican voter turnout operation gets a lot of well-deserved praise. Their “secret?” A neighbor at your door is always more persuasive than anyone from outside the district.

It’s a lesson Democrats temporarily forgot. But, thanks to people like Laura, Scott, and Doug, we’re back to basics again.

So here’s to the volunteers—on both sides of the aisle—who make democracy work. Thanks.

Ah, the joys of home ownership

I am not, technically speaking, handy when it comes to home repairs. I can change lightbulbs. I can hang pictures. Move much beyond that and I am hopeless.

Which was why the chirping smoke alarm drove me so crazy.

On an infrequent and irregular basis, the smoke alarm in my upstairs hallway would chirp. I did what I could. I climbed the ladder, took out the old battery, took it to the store and bought a replacement. Then I climbed back up the ladder and installed it.

That night, the chirping came back.

Finally, I decided that perhaps smoke alarms could go bad. So I called an electrician and scheduled a house call.

Now, anyone who has ever actually secured the services of an electrician knows that they don’t come cheap. So, in one of those “While he’s here, he might as well” modes, I paid a visit to my local Lowe’s. Several hundred dollars later, I walked out with a variety of new lighting fixtures and switches. After all, I figured, it would be a shame to waste the electrician’s trip.

He arrived at the appointed hour and worked quickly. Still, the bill was about what you’d expect if you’ve had an electrician make a house call lately. But I was happy. I had dimmer switches, a new light fixture in my dining room. And best of all, the damn chirping had stopped.

Last night, I was awakened by an annoying noise. It appears to be the smoke alarm in the guest bedroom …

9-11: Arlington Remembers

Pentagon Flag.jpg Five years ago this morning, at 9:37 a.m., a hijacked Boeing 757 weighing 270,000 pounds, including over 10,000 gallons of jet fuel, slammed into the west side of the Pentagon at a speed of over 400 miles per hour.  The lives of 184 innocent men, women, and children were wiped out in an instant.

What followed from that moment of horror was a tribute to the courage and dedication of hundreds of people.  First responders from Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions flooded to the Pentagon, a location that was at once a crime scene, a conflagration, and the military nerve center of a nation at war.  Day after day they worked to rescue the injured, recover the bodies of those who had died, restore order, and fight a fire that at times threatened to consume the entire building.

This morning we gathered at Arlington’s Justice Center to remember the lives that were lost in the attack on the Pentagon. As a bell tolled 184 times, we honored those who responded to that attack and realized once again how much we owe to those who protect us.


In Memoriam

Many Americans are mourning because of the lives lost on that terrible day five years ago. Here in my district, we lost neighbors … fathers and mothers … husbands and wives … coaches … and friends.
This is a sad day. Please take time to honor those we lost.
Spc. Craig Amundson

Captain Robert E. Dolan

Cmdr. William H. Donovan

Steven D. Jacoby

Terence M. Lynch

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Gary Smith

Sandra C. Taylor

In addition, take a moment to thank the fire fighters, police officers, and other first responders — the people who ran into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers just when everyone else was running out. Every day, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Farewell to Field’s

Marshall Field.jpg For Chicagoans and many other Midwesterners, yesterday was a sad day: the conglomerateurs of Federated Department Stores completed their nefarious conversion of our Marshall Field stores to the Macy’s brand.  The change from the old soothing dark green to the new garish red is just one element of Federated’s Macyfication of retailing from coast to coast:  Boston’s Filene’s and the Washington region’s Hecht Company, among others, suffered the same fate.

But losing Field’s is the worst.Marshall Fields Clock.jpgThe clock outside its flagship store in the Loop;   Frango Mints.jpg the life-changing Frango Mints; fields santa.jpg the One True Santa Claus. Under pressure from an outraged populace, Federated will retain some of the trappings of Field’s.  But it won’t be the same.  They’ve stolen a piece of Chicagoland’s collective experience, and they’ll pay the price. Mark my words: this will go down as the most misguided marketing mistake since New Coke.

Back from the Big Apple

Spent several days in New York City, getting Sara (more or less) settled as she starts law school at NYU. It was one of those bittersweet moments parents have to get used to. I’m thrilled, of course, that she is so bright, so committed to making the world better, so willing to begin such a great adventure. And I’m wishing she could do those things … well, from closer to home.

Of course, as my mother reminds me, I moved halfway across the country at just about the same age.

She’s living in an apartment that is huge by New York standards, but pretty cramped for space. Still, it’s in a safe neighborhood, and there are two Starbucks within a block.

When I told her that meant I could visit frequently, she paled visibly.

So we got curtains on the windows and shelf paper on the shelves. Shoes are out of boxes and sweaters are put away for cooler days.

I only cried a little on the train home.