The Bulletin

The Weekender: our round-up of opinion from across Virginia 

By: - November 24, 2019 2:43 pm

Mercury commentary ICYMI: Bob Lewis delved into whether Democrats will stick to the plan on a new redistricting commission to thwart gerrymandering or abandon it now that they have the keys to castle in 2021. Roger Chesley drew disappointing parallels between the the pair of gun-related reports released earlier this month: one on the mass shooting in Virginia Beach and the other the Crime Commission’s refusal to make recommendations for new state gun laws.

And guest columnists included Brian Chiglinsky, who says Medicaid expansion, even belatedly, may be the most important thing the General Assembly has done in a generation, and Sarah Sherman-Stokes, who warned about the Trump administration’s plans to make people fleeing persecution in their home countries pay for the right to apply for asylum in the United States.

By the numbers: The Roanoke Times broke down some figures from the elections earlier this month and what they say about Virginia’s electorate now. Also writing in the Times, Washington and Lee professor Chris Gavaler disputes the notion that no one saw President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory coming: “I’ve heard it so many times from both Democrats and Republicans that it has the seeming credibility of encyclopedic knowledge: 2016 was an upset that no poll saw coming.” he wrote. “Except it’s not true. Look at the actual numbers.”

Politics and Thanksgiving: Everett L. Worthington Jr., a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes on how to keep political bloodsport from ruining relationships with members of your family. Step 1: Forgive ahead of time, he says in a piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Perhaps your experience with Uncle Huck has shown that he just can’t control inflicting extreme opinions on everyone. Or Grandma seems very feisty in the past couple of years,” he wrote. “Tell yourself, I might get triggered. It’s happened in the past. I don’t want to lose this close relationship. My family member doesn’t either.”

InsideNoVa contributor Harvey Gold says Thanksgiving should be a unifying holiday. “There is no question that our country remains a work in progress. But having the ability to change under rules, when properly administered, that brings blessings to more folks is the blessing that remains special and worthy of celebration.”

More money, authority for localities: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says giving localities more funding and authority should be high on the list of the new Democratic majorities in the Capitol. “Democrats can finally lead and support the needs of localities that have been overlooked and underfunded for years,” he wrote in The Virginian-Pilot. “Leadership is about more than just campaigning and now we need our new leaders to deliver on their promises.”

Public need and the pipeline: Writing in The Roanoke Times, Irene Leech and Roberta Bondurant, two ardent opponents of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, says the idea that anyone urgently needs the gas it would deliver is increasingly undermined by some inconvenient facts.  “On Halloween night, EQT announced it would sell its interest in the MVP, and shortly after, Consolidated Edison reported it would cap its investment. The house of cards appears to be falling, with no true demographic of constitutional need, and not even a purported “construct” of need in affiliated shipper contracts.”

As the revolving door spins: RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro charts the resetting of the landscape for the lobbyists who shape big decisions in Richmond in the wake of the Democrats’ wins earlier this month. “Despite elevated sensitivities over ethics because of the Bob McDonnell scandal — and tighter restrictions on freebies for officials — there are few barriers to members of the political class moving between the public and private sectors,” he wrote. “The switch from public to private trough is an enduring tradition in Virginia.”

Who will be the ‘fulcrum’? Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, one of the most powerful Republicans in the House, was, “in recent years, the fulcrum, pivot point and hinge to all things requiring state support,” for Hampton Roads, writes Virginian-Pilot columnist Gordon S. Morse. With his defeat earlier this month, Morse wonders, “who’s volunteering for fulcrum duty now? Who will — quite literally — tend to business?”

The Pilot’s editorial board also worried about the implications of the new power dynamic (with Northern Virginia largely in the driver’s seat) in the legislature. “The consternation over this power shift is legitimate and its potential implications are deeply worrisome,” the paper wrote. “Hampton Roads lawmakers, regardless of party, have done well in recent years to speak with a unified voice on a handful of issues each session, recognizing that delivering on transportation initiatives or funding for the Port of Virginia were essential responsibilities of representing this area.”

Foster care: The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star takes note of a troubling trend. Virginia’s foster care numbers are up even as they are on the decline nationwide. “If child welfare is the goal, keeping as many children out of the foster system as humanly possible, while making sure that the family issues that precipitated the crisis are resolved, should be the state’s top priority.”

Radford’s missing papers: “Something doesn’t feel right here. And by here, we mean Radford University,” The Roanoke Times wrote in an editorial. “Let’s review what we know in the case of the missing student newspapers and then pose some questions we haven’t seen asked.”

Redistricting: The Danville Register & Bee also added its voice to the chorus of editorial boards warning Democrats against reversing course on redistricting reform. “Virginia has a chance to end partisan redistricting forever, but it depends on the long-out-of-power Democrats re-passing the constitutional amendment. No doubt, some may be rethinking their support for redistricting reform now that they’re the ones with the power of the maps, but we have some advice for any wavering Democrat: Rise above your partisan leanings, do what’s right for this commonwealth and pass this amendment. It’s good policy and good politics. History will take note of what you do with this opportunity.”

Letter of the week: Tscharner D. Watkins III of Richmond, chairman of the Virginia Agricultural Council, takes on Omega Protein, the masses of menhaden it pulls from the Chesapeake Bay, and the company’s special relationship with the General Assembly in a letter to the Times-Dispatch. “This is the only fish in Virginia still managed by our state legislature. Why? Lobbying and campaign money keep it this way.”

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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers before becoming editor of the Virginia Mercury in 2018. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and central New Jersey. A former waiter, armored car guard and appliance deliveryman, he is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact him at [email protected]