Corey Stewart, Steve Chapman, and political nut cutting in Prince William County

Two days ago the Prince William County, VA Republican party held firehouse primaries to determine their nominees for a variety of local and constitutional offices. Incumbent Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart was nominated, as was his favored and endorsed candidate in the Woodbridge magisterial district Steve Chapman.

On the face of it, nothing really to look at here. Then you look more at Chapman.

Steve Chapman is a colorful fellow. He ran against Harry Parrish in a primary for the Virginia-50 House of Delegates in 2005, and lost with a respectable total. Of course, along the way he savaged Harry. Many have said Chapman may have caused a decline in Harry’s health. When Harry died in March 2006 Chapman thought he should be allowed to sit with the elected officials at the funeral. He was quickly disabused of this notion.

Chapman announced his intention to run for the seat in 2007, but inexplicably missed the filing deadline, then sued blogger Greg LeTiecq for somehow preventing him from filing on time. The law suit went nowhere.

Fast forward about ten years. Chapman has moved to Woodbridge in the wake of his marriage unraveling, where he has apparently taken up residence with a woman (married to someone else-no divorces yet) who previously lived just down the block from his family.

The story is sad and unfortunate and somewhat tawdry. Naturally, after moving into an entirely new part of the county (well, he did live there as a boy-many years ago) with a personal life in turmoil, he did what any parent, father, and reasonable adult would do to right his topsy-turvy world. He decides to run for public office.

Now here is where we get to the nut cutting. Chairman Stewart looks over to Woodbridge precinct and has three choices, endorse Chapman and all his baggage, endorse Chapman’s opponent Lee Price-clean as a hounds tooth yet showing signs to being out of the Jim Candaland mold, or doing nothing.

Stewart without hesitation endorses Chapman, who wins-I suspect-in no small part because of the Stewart endorsement.

One must admire the sheer upfront nut cutting of Corey Stewart in endorsing the primary candidate who has inferior chances of winning in the general election just so you can minimize the opposition you would encounter on the elected board.

Sweet Briar College-Why Everyone Should Pay Attention

Most folks are not following the current saga surrounding the closing of Sweet Briar College, a 114 year old all woman private liberal arts college north of Lynchburg, Va.

You may think you have no stake or interest in the fight by alums to close the school or the decision of the Board of Trustees to close it.

If you are thinking that, you are dead wrong.

Why? One word-“governance”.

Perhaps I am a little more aware of this than most. I attended Bridgewater College, a private liberal arts college. My father served as a member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) at BC for 20+ years and directed the construction of the McKinney Science Building. Because of his involvement I became acutely aware of college finance, personnel considerations, marketing, planning-the whole range of collegiate governance activities. I also have friends who attended Sweet Briar, and having spent more than a few hours there during my younger days I appreciate the great love its alums have for the place. The words of Daniel Webster in defense of Dartmouth College in 1819 also apply here-“”It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!”

From my seat in the peanut gallery, there is a distinct “he said-she said” feel to the argument.

The Sweet Briar BOT thinks it holds bad cards financially and that closing the college is the best call. Declining enrollment, having to draw too heavily on the endowment to operate, having to discount the tuition too-these and other factors much led to the decision. They say the college has to close ASAP because once it was announced it was closing-even if in x years-applications and enrollments would immediately decline. The BOT feels this is the only fair way to honor the schools various financial commitments.

Alumnae feel like they have been left in the dark. There was no plea for funds, no distinct warning of how dire the BOT thought the situation had become. Upgrade of facilities had continued over the past few years, not exactly an indicator that the gas tank needle is on “Empty”. The college president stepped down last year, an interim president was brought in, and no mention of troubles-a process that now seems like a former president abandoning a sinking ship and a replacement brought in to shutter the college. It is as if this shutdown has been on rails for months, if not longer-and the alums were the last to be told. “Betrayal” is not too strong a word for some alums to use about the BOT

There certainly seems to be a difference in opinion of the BOT responsibilities. It looks to me as if the BOT is acting as if Sweet Briar College is a business that doe snot have long term chances of success, so the prudent thing is to close it out and meet its various financial obligations. The Alums look at the college as a very special educational opportunity that needs to be given every chance of succeeding and being allowed to continue its mission for as long as possible.

I do not know how this will play out. It is my hope that the alums united find a way to meet their goal of . Between the possibilities of money being raised, intervention by the Virginia AG, a lawsuit by Amherst County…this may be far from over.

But why does this impact people who have no connection to Sweet Briar College? Because it is the most recent example of what happens when a governing body is left unsupervised.

It is understandable.  We all are busy, there are so many things going on in our lives that we assume the same good motives we have to the folks who oversee things…like our government, our banking institutions, our churches, etc.  After all, these organizations are led by folks who have shown their value, and who want to give the time to lead and do the work-on top of living their lives-of running these organizations.

Its reasonable thinking-in the abstract.  In reality, things do not run so smoothly.

Too often in our recent history we have seen institutions led by individuals who decide to govern in a way that is contrary to the interests of the people they are supposed represent or work for. S&L’s in the 1980’s, Enron at the turn of the century, lending institutions of all types running up to the 2008 meltdown. An ongoing cycle of things being so good no one looks behind the curtain to see what is going on.

Sweet Briar College is the same, although the subject on the line is emotion and history and allegiance instead of pure dollars and cents. The alums assumed they and the Board of Trustees were on the same page-they all loved Sweet Briar College and would fight to the last ditch to protect and preserve it. The problem is the alums want to protect and preserve the special education experience, while the BOT want to protect the schools credit rating.

When the smoke clears and the dust settles, we should all embrace what may be the last lesson Sweet Briar College has to teach. Whether it is government, business, church, sports…take the time to be involved. Take the time to ask questions, to be knowledgeable, to be aware. Determine to your own satisfaction if your view of and goals for that organization are the same as those in positions of authority. If you don’t like them-work to change them.

Stay involved and always ask questions-even when things are great and all seems well-in fact, that might be the best time to be asking questions. Maybe things are not really as great as they seem.

Mario Cuomo: His death reminds us of what we have lost…

Mario Cuomo died on 1.1.2015.  Upon hearing this, I posted to FB:

First sad news of 2015-Mario Cuomo has passed. Eloquent, passionate, yet never quite ready to take the leap and run for President. A man of substance, expression, and passion. He was perhaps the only person in the 1980’s political arena who could hold his own against Ronald Reagan at the lectern. As a young man he had enough baseball skills to get signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and smart enough to know he did not have what it took to make The Show and used his signing bonus to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé. Requiscat in Pacem, Mario. May Angels Wings lift you to your reward.

And…I thought that was that.

It seems I missed the mark.  Since then the running commentary on so many blogs has been what a “liberal” he was, and how his son (current NY Governor Andrew Cuomo) is just as bad, etc.

These responses to Cuomo’s passing are mostly disrespectful of a man who spent years in politics, was never tarred by scandal, and was consistent in his viewpoint from Day one.  You might not agree with the man, but you always knew exactly where he stood and why.

Sadly these comments point out two things that have been lost in the political arena since my youth.

The first is comity.  It seems no longer possible to be friendly or even polite to people on the other side of the aisle.  It is a world where words like “conservative” and “liberal” are delivered with the same intent to hurt and demean that words like “selfish”, “venal”, and “evil” were once used. It is another example of how the farther we get from the political leadership of the Greatest Generation the more nasty and uncollegial politics has become.

At the same time as we have diminished comity, we have also lost-and in some ways willingly jettisoned-any idea that our political leaders should be able to give us a complete view of governance.  You may not like Mario Cuomo, but Cuomo could tell you not only what he believed in but offer an intellectual and moral justification for it.  Too often candidates for office not only speak only in glittering generalities of what they are going to do if elected, but are completely unable to offer a comprehensive view of why they are going to do it.

Thirty years ago there were articulate spokesmen for both parties who could bring a house down arguing and promoting not just policies but also principle.  They could argue forcefully and eloquently, and not suggest that those in opposition to their points of view were evil.

We don’t really have that today.  If we did the GOP and the Democratic Party would bring more to the political discussion than “It’s the Right Thing to Do”.

That’s why Mario Cuomo’s death is more than a moment of sadness for a public servant.  It’s a moment to reflect on what we have lost, and how much we need to get it back.

Look who just got back today…

In the words of Thin Lizzy, the Boy(s) are Back in Town.

It has been two years since my last post, and somehow the Commonwealth and country have survived.

But I have the itch, so I reckon it is time to occasionally scratch it.

Since last we spoke my extra-curricular load has lessened-more driving the WMD (one who is now taller than me) and less running the events.  There seems to come a break when the youngsters hit age 11 where they need more and more experienced leaders and not simply interested parents who have good judgement and can properly communicate. SWMBO is now teaching in the Fairfax School system, and Teddy the Wonder Dog is-still-wondrous.

This means more time for some things-like blogging.

Which is good, because from the doings I see clearly our elected leaders have neither heard nor heeded my advice…to say nothing of Daniel Snyder-of whom we say it best when we say nothing at all.

So, as the new year begins it is my plan to blog regularly but not frenetically.  How Lowell Feld continues to crank out quality writing-day in and day out on multiple topics-while still living Life Its Ownself is beyond me.

We shall see how it goes.

One might ask-why now?  Why start blogging again?

Well, one might blame Nelson Rockefeller….or at least the new biography. Like or no, Rockefeller was a man who tried to fix problems.  Rocky liked to build, found ways to make things happen, and worked across the aisle and with local and federal government to get the financial or political resources he needed.

It is a trait I remember fondly in the Harry Parrish’s and Caton Merchant’s and other men (like my father) and women who built my hometown of Manassas. Perhaps it was because they had been to war and saw creativity and team work in solving problems was a good thing, and that it was possible to solve problems by working with people with whom you did not agree on everything.

Todays politicians hide behind behind litmus tests and party platforms and a desire to have all done their way.  No room for compromise or creativity.  No room for Rockefeller’s.

I suspect a similar thing can be said of our national discourse.  The Greatest Generation went through a Depression, fought wars, and built their worlds.  They saw no one gets things done with out help.  As Omar Little might way, I’m pondering whether the ongoing bitterness in our national discourse is a natural thing.  Is it the result of the passing of leadership from a generation that built through creative cooperation and knew that life was too short to lose opportunity due to partisan differences and sending it to a generation-the Boomers-who have too often acted as if they are right in all they do, and look down on those that do not agree with them?  Like I said, I am pondering.

One way or the other, I feel the desire to write and the need to “speak”…so come 2015, we shall see how many electrons I can burn each week.

Happy New Year!

Blue Virginia Channels the Princess Bride…

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. One of my favorite scenes is where Vizzini again says the Man in Black’s progress is “inconceivable!”, and Inigo Montoya replies “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”.

I am wondering the same thing about the lingo at Blue Virginia.

In a recent post at BlueVA John Cook, GOP Supervisor in Braddock District, was refered to as a “career politician”. Given that he has held only one elected office (Supervisor since winning a special election in 2009), I not sure how they come up with that title. He has held a variety of county board and HOA type positions, but since the Democrats all feel that “community organizers” walk on water and are automatically qualified to be president of the USA, one would think they would be ecstatic about his qualifications.

The fact that he is running against one of their lefty favorites, Janet “The Hoot” Oleszek”, means they will disavow all their previous belief in what is important.

But Janet Oleszek has run for-and been elected to-the Fairfax County School Board. She ran unsuccessfully for a House of Delegates nomination against David Bulova, which seeming led to a longterm political enmity with the Bulova clan. She ran unsuccessfully against Ken Cuccinelli in 2007 for the State Senate. Now she is back on the ballot for the Board of Supervisors.

H’mmm. Candidate for the
a) School Board,
b) House of Delgates,
c) State Senate, and now
d) County Board

Friends, there is a career politician in the Braddock District race. A fair look at the field and the term shows that Lowell may not fully understand the term “career politician, and suggests that his use of the term in the Braddock race is truly “inconceivable”.

Monday Morning Ruminations 3.5.2012

A few things come to mind this AM…

GOP overreach in Richmond is unfortunate and somewhat predictable.  The last time the GOP had a GA win similar to the Quasi-regain in 2011 was after the 2001 elections…and in the wake of that blowout we had the GOP staff eavesdropping/Wilkins harassment scandals.  Hubris strikes.  This year the GOP, rather than push on kitchen table issues, has mistaken the nature of the electorate and gone all social issues.  They seem to forget that social issues resonate only when fundamental matters like security and the economy are in balance.  Alas, and to paraphrase, those who fail to learn the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

Despite the crowing at Blue Virginia over GOP tomfoolery, Obama’s relection chances, Timmy over George, etc., they are downplaying a small bit of hubris and ego in the Democratic Party.  Retired USAF General John Douglass has been gearing up for a shot at Frank Wolf in Va-10 for some time.  Now redistricting has moved him into the 5th district, and Douglass has decided he needs to gear up for a shot at Robert Hurt, despite there already being a democratic candidate out and about in the district.

Lowell and the Diaries has chosen not to comment on the front line Democratic candidate planning to challenge Congressman Wolf not running against him, the potential for Wolf to get a free ride in 2012, or the fact that Douglass in running in Va 5 has revealed himself to be a man of ego and ambition who is without party loyalty who simply wants to run for Congress this year.

The Democrats in Richmond are back to their old tricks.  They vote against the GOP budget because they want more seats on Senate Committees…yet they do not offer an alternative budget.  I wonder how this will play long-term.

I understand why everyone is upset with Gregg Williams and his bounty system.  But I played HS football back in the day, and you knew your chances of winning improved if you could neutralize the best players on the opposing team.  Headhunting has been going on for generations, and will continue no matter how Williams is disciplined.  By the same token, the decision by The Danny not to hire him as head coach when Joe Gibbs II ended now seems like a really good idea.

UPDATE: One day after I note the lack of Va-5 chatter on Blue Virginia, the place goes crazy with chatter…

New Reason for Frank Wolf Never to Retire…

We already know there are a host of candidates lining up on either side of the aisle to take a shot at Va-10 when Frank Wolf is no longer in office.

Yesterday, that line got a little longer thanks to the Dick Black victory in the Virginia 13 Senate contest.

I do not know which Dick Black will arrive in Richmond-the fundamental issues guy of the 2011 campaign, or the social issues guy who passes out plastic trinkets. If the latter, we have a strong reason to hope Congressman Wolf never retires, as the presence of the newly Senate credentialed Dick Black will likely inject an entirely new and more stressful level of discord into the process.

Congressman Wolf, puh-leeze stay right where you are for just as long as you want!