Category Archives: Uncategorized

The 3 to 11 Shift

When describing the life of a legislator, I would often say, “Basically, it’s like working the 3 to 11 shift.” Legislators work when other people can go to meetings. So late afternoon and evening times are nearly always booked.

Saturdays, too. It’s a light Saturday that includes only two or three meetings and drop-bys. Then, usually, there’s some more formal affair in the evening.

So that’s why today feels so, well, liberated. I got up. I went to Starbucks, where I read the paper from front to back. I worked out.

Then I worked in my yard. This is newsworthy stuff–for 20 years, my lawn work has consisted of doing the minimum necessary to stay ahead of a neighborhood petition.

Hey, Saxman–there’s life after the GA.

Another Farewell

Today, our friend Chris Saxman announced he would not be running for re-election to the House. He’ll be missed.

Chris is that rare breed of partisan who always takes the issues seriously–but never takes himself seriously. During long and less-than-riveting floor sessions, he and I spent more time than we ever want our constituents to know exchanging emails. I thought he was funny. He thought I was funny. That was about all it took to cement a friendship.

Through his years in the House, Chris also managed to find time to coach his kids’ athletic teams, drive a lot of car pools, and, oh yeah, chair the McCain campaign in Virginia.

He says he’s going to spend more time working on education issues. I say that as well.

I sure hope that means we’ll get a chance to work together in the future.

A bumper crop

In today’s urbanized society, few children have the opportunity to know where their food comes from. But at Hollin Meadows Elementary School, a school garden provides enough salad-makings for 900 people at the yearly Thanksgiving lunch—and fresh produce for a local food bank.

The garden has become an integral part of the school’s curriculum at this Title I school. Every class has a garden plot. The smallest kids learn their colors in a rainbow garden. Older children learn about the herbs used to preserve food in the Medieval period.

But community service is also a big part of the garden. Each year, the school raises enough produce to donate lots of fresh vegetables to a local food pantry. They were such great role models, in fact, that a nearby Catholic church has planted their own gardens, citing the Hollin Meadows kids as “mentors.”

On Wednesday, 30 children from Hollin Meadows will make a visit to the White House garden. There, they will speak with the First Lady. This year, there’s a bumper crop of excitement at Hollin Meadows.

The school is actually in David Englin’s district, but most of the kids are from the 44th. We’re both very proud.

Busted: Or, Helping Fill the Commonwealth’s Revenue Gap, One Ticket at a Time.

In Richmond this morning, I read a newspaper article about “Operation Air, Land, and Speed,” a State Police speeding enforcement effort targeting I-95 and I-81. Read, but didn’t absorb. Five minutes onto I-95 northbound, I got a ticket. 72 in a 55. My first since September 1969, when Richard Nixon was president and man had just landed on the moon.

Why am I sharing this? As a cautionary note, but also to get ahead of the story by putting my transgression on the public record before the Washington Post’s intrepid police reporter got wind of it.

“Hunger can be a positive motivator”

I really couldn’t believe it. I read that Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis had allegedly opposed extending school lunch programs into the summer months.

And I simply couldn’t imagine it.The National School Lunch Program is one of those Federal programs that attracts wide, bipartisan support. Who could NOT support a program that makes sure kids don’t go hungry?

Rep. Davis, apparently.

In her June newsletter, Davis indeed rails against programs that provide nutritious food to children during the summer months. “Hunger can be a positive motivator,” she says.

She also suggests that eliminating a summer food program might help combat childhood obesity. “People who are struggling with lack of food usually do not have an obesity problem,” she says. (Which, of course, completely ignores the fact that the prevalence of obesity among low-income children seems to be related to “food insecurity,” not nutritious lunches during the summer.

A Word About Honduras

We’ve always tried to stay away from foreign policy on this blog. But since the news of the takeover of the government by the military, people have been calling me to get my take. (I have a long relationship with Honduras and with individual Hondurans, and have visited the country more than a dozen times in the last few years.) Here’s what I know–from phone calls,  blogs, and news accounts:

Honduras is a relatively young democracy. After years of unstable governments, Honduras adopted a Constitution 27 years ago. Since then, the Honduran government has been, for Central America, relatively stable.

President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya is nearing the end of his term. The Honduran Constitution specifies that the Presidency is a single-term office. But it was widely believed (both in Honduras and around the region) that Zelaya was going to try to alter the Constitution so he could run for a second term. In elections for local offices, scheduled for yesterday, Zelaya tried to add a “cuarta urna,” (fourth ballot box) so citizens could express their desire for Constitutional “reform,” which would allow for a second term.

The referendum was opposed by Hondurans across the political spectrum, including most of the members of Mel’s own party. I certainly heard stories (unpublished, but widely believed) that institutions such as hospitals were using a combination of threats and bribes (“We cannot treat you at this hospital unless you plan to vote for the cuarta urna” was the basic rumor) to influence the outcome of that referendum.

The Supreme Court had made a determination that the referendum was illegal and had ordered that the ballots and ballot boxes not be distributed. The military complied with that Supreme Court order, so Zelaya fired the head of the Joint Chiefs. Later,  Zelaya’s allies seized the ballot boxes and began distributing them.

So yesterday, just before the election was to begin, the military removed Zelaya from office.

My take on this:

Zelaya was probably planning a government takeover, not unlike the one executed by his ally Hugo Chavez.

Nonetheless, we should all be deeply concerned about a return to military takeovers in Central America.

If Zelaya is returned to office, there must be assurances that regular elections will be held on schedule.

If Zelaya is not returned to office, it must be clear that a democratic government will continue to rule in Honduras.

UPDATE: Two emails from Honduras. One, from a doctor who says he “has seen a REAL coup–This one was NOT a coup!”

Another, from a priest, “There is a lot of support for the change in Honduras that was made according to the Constitution.”

News That Bites


So you’ve read Kris’ announcement that she’s hanging up her spurs at the end of this session. Sure — it may be the right decision for her. But — in the spirit of the Toby Keith song that we proclaimed as the Politicians’ National Anthem — what about me? She’s leaving me high and dry.

Issue 1: The George W. Bush Memorial Nickname Project. There are 45 members of the House Democratic Caucus. We’d started coming up with nicknames for them, but had only gotten around to three that are suitable for printing in a family blog: Princess Margaret, Prince Albert, and Dear Leader. What about the rest of them — not to mention the new crop of a dozen or so that we’ll be electing in November?

Issue 2: Eating Up the Miles. We have this agreement: every time one of us is on our way to or from Richmond on I-95, the other one will fill the boredom of the drive with telephone conversation — gossip, political plotting, kvetching, whatever is at hand. We measure the gift in distance rather than time: “Okay, I’m good for 25 or 30 mile markers, but then I have to get to work.” Sounds trivial, but it kept us in business: the tedium of I-95 Hell was enough to send at least one predecessor into retirement.

Issue 3: The Blog. Seriously: Can you imagine a blog titled “3-1/2 West”? This whole New Media thing doesn’t come naturally to folks in our age bracket — when you think about it, we’re not a lot younger than Ted Stevens. We’ve worked long and hard to build our readership into the high single digits, and I’m not certain I’ll be able to find another co-conspirator who gives lectures on “What I Learned About Blogging From Britney Spears.”

The author of the Great American Novel claimed, “There are no second acts in American lives.” I have a feeling Kris will prove him wrong.


To everything . . .

I announced today that I will not be running for re-election to the House. I have loved my service for the past ten years. I loved the time I spent on the School Board before that. (OK, I didn’t love the times that School Board meetings or floor sessions ran on until the middle of the night. But other than that, I loved it beyond measure.)

Public service is a fabulous way to make a difference in people’s lives. But you can’t do this work unless you can also earn a living. And the kind of work I do–consulting and freelancing–has, quite frankly, been one of the early casualties of the recession.

So with a lot of soul-searching, I made the decision not to seek re-election. I’m going to stay in my House seat until January and I’m going to keep working for the people in the 44th, who have given me the enormous honor of representing them for all this time.

I’m not sick (thanks to all of you who asked, though).  And I’m still planning to do work on public policy issues that I care deeply about. There are plenty of ways to stay involved. And I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines for long.

I’ll also keep blogging here right up til the time when I’m no longer a member of the General Assembly. I am, as readers know, a rather opinionated sort. Having a chance to continue to sound off on policy issues is a privilege I won’t give up.

Meanwhile, as I said in a letter to my constituents, this has been the greatest honor of my life.