The Weekender: our round-up of Virginia opinion

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Mercury commentary ICYMI: 2019 was quite the year for Virginia, and, through a wild 12 months, the Mercury helped you make sense of it all. I complied a list of some of our best news and opinion coverage here.

Jay Bookman, a columnist at the Georgia Recorder, an affiliate website, noted that climate change hasn’t gotten the urgent attention Y2K (remember that?) received at the end of the century. And, in a guest column, former Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board member Rebecca Rubin says it’s time for Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Here comes the session: The Richmond Times-Dispatch urged lawmakers to continue making progress on improving transparency as the legislative session arrives this week. The Roanoke Times noted that “the Democrats who will run the House of Delegates for at least the next two years — and the state Senate for the next four — bear scant resemblance to the Democrats of 1993,” the last time the party held all the levers of state government.

With new gun restrictions looming, Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro took the temperature at a gun show in Richmond over the weekend: “’Fear — fear of Democrats,’ one attendee told him when asked why so many people had turned out.”

Schapiro also shed some light on how the incoming Democratic majority might tweak the rules of the House: “One of the first bits of business for the House will be to adopt the rules by which it operates,” he wrote. “Democrats could ram them through with nary a Republican vote. But were they approved on a strong bipartisan vote, that would signal a potential for magnanimity rather than the usual tyranny of the majority.”

The RTD called for a ban on handheld cell phones while driving. And, amid the yawning urban-rural divide, Virginian-Pilot columnist Gordon Morse advised everyone to “take a breath,” asking if “we can act as if we’ve been doing representative government in Virginia for more than four centuries.”

The Free Lance-Star picked up the call from Republicans to keep proportional representation on committees as Democrats take power: “There are risks in abandoning proportional committee representation. It would come across as mean-spirited, unnecessarily alienating a lot of voters, and put a partisan stamp on major legislation that should have both parties’ input and buy-in.”

Redistricting: The admonitions to Democrats against backing off redistricting reform continue.

  • Princeton University professor Sam Wang, writing in the RTD, says that since Virginia was home to the first gerrymander, it should be home to a solution.
  • David Kerr, a VCU adjunct professor of political science, writing for, said “it’s tough, when offered a possible guarantee of power for years, to turn it over almost immediately to a bipartisan commission.  … But, if representative democracy is to mean anything, then this is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it.”
  • The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press also say the time is now: “What’s clear is that the present system is profoundly broken, and Virginia is too close to real reform to allow that moment to pass.”
  • The News & Advance: “Pass the amendment, and give voters the final say in November. If they don’t, prepare to reap the whirlwind.”

All hail the Space Force: RTD Deputy Opinions Editor Robin Beres, a retired Navy chief petty officer, welcomes Trump’s new military branch: “And what about the uniforms? Will they be designed with a nod to stormtrooper chic or be just another run-of-the-mill camouflage-style uniform?”

Inside the pipeline case:
Writing in The Daily Progress, attorney Walker Richmond takes readers through the legal arcana at the heart of a Supreme Court case that could decide the fate of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Mourning a colleague: The News & Advance mourned the loss of a young reporter who died in a car crash. “Like many in our newsroom, she felt called to journalism,” the paper wrote. “She delighted in doing this work for the community and in the relationships she formed in her work. She had a bright future ahead of her.”

Remember that impeachment thing? The inimitable Winchester Star hasn’t forgotten about it: “The solons of our nation return to the fetid shores of the Potomac next week — and to the burning question, of course, of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to do with her treasured articles of impeachment.”

Questioning the carbon tax: Former journalist and lobbyist Steve Haner, now a fellow at the conservative Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, questions the Northam administration’s transportation carbon reduction plans. “The economic case is weak and the potential environmental benefits unmeasurably small,” he wrote in The Roanoke Times. “Advocates won’t be satisfied with a mere 25 percent reduction by 2032.”

Vehicle inspections: The Danville Register & Bee says the governor’s proposal to end vehicle inspections is “a bad idea that should be killed immediately.”

Letter of the week: “America! What a country! Where carrying a loaded firearm in a public place is a right … and health care isn’t,” wrote John Buford of Bowling Green to the Free Lance-Star.