Sunday, March 29, 2015

Will You Get To Vote In A GOP Primary?

How many of you remember the 2012 Presidential Primary fiasco that resulted in only two of the declared GOP candidates being on the ballot in Virginia – Mitt Romney and Ron Paul? Many people, myself included, chose to vote for Ron Paul over Romney as a protest rather than being able to cast a vote for our favorite candidate. Some blame the candidates for not being organized enough to get their names on the ballot, but the fact that those candidates were able to get on the ballots of the other 49 states makes it clear that the problem was with the qualification process in Virginia rather than the candidates’ organizing abilities.

The fix for that is simple, choose any state where the candidates were all on the ballot and adopt a similar qualifying process for Presidential candidates. Unfortunately some in the Virginia GOP have advocated a different approach – choosing the Presidential nominee at a state nominating convention rather than holding a primary. Proponents of this plan say doing so will prevent Republican voters in Virginia from being disenfranchised.

Let that sink in for a minute.

In order to prevent Republican voters from being disenfranchised of their vote for their Presidential Primary favorite, they want to prevent 99% of Republican voters from being able to vote for their candidate of choice. Huh? Voters who were angry about not having enough choices in 2012 are going to be less angry about not having a choice at all in 2016? Can someone please tell me how that works?

When I expressed my disagreement with this plan via the comments section of the Bull Elephant blog, the answer was that if people wanted to vote all they had to do was become a delegate to the Convention, otherwise they could join the local party and vote for a delegate that would vote for them. Frankly, the only people who would suggest something like that are people who do not understand the average Republican voter.

While some of us are into politics like others are into football or NASCAR, most people are not. The majority of voters are people who pay just enough attention to politics to get mad about what goes on in the country, but only get involved when the polls open. They don’t join political parties, campaign for candidates, and they most certainly do not travel to Richmond for two or three days to attend a political convention. An increasing number of voters express dissatisfaction with both parties and identify themselves as Independents.

I have spoken to a number of people, both politically active and just average voters, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has reacted negatively, VERY negatively, to the idea. In fact, the response from one average voter pretty much summed up the sentiment: “If they do that,” he said, “I will never vote for a Republican in this state again”.

As a Republican candidate for office, that reaction bothers me a great deal. We need solutions to the nominating process that will result in higher Republican voter turnout, not dramatically less which is what a nominating convention will likely do.

At a GOP Leadership Conference held in Wytheville, I had an opportunity to discuss this issue with Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck who said there were a number of problems associated with a nominating convention that would have to be overcome before that process could be adopted. He seemed very concerned with the potential for lower Republican voter turnouts due to this issue and was very open to other ideas. He asked me to tell people who were opposed to a nominating convention to contact him and/or members of the Central Committee to express their disapproval.

This issue has not been widely reported and most people are unaware of what is being considered. A decision has not yet been made, so now is the time to let your views be known.  I encourage anyone who wants to have a voice in the nomination process to go to and email John Whitbeck and members of the Central Committee with their comments. Also please share this article with as many of your friends as possible to help get the word out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fighting Symptoms Doesn’t Solve Problems

Pinnacle Construction and Development President William Park

This past Monday night the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors addressed a request by Pinnacle Construction Corp. for a 15 year tax abatement package for their Fieldstone Housing Development totaling more than $700,000. The proposed project is scheduled to be built on Givens Lane in Blacksburg in an effort to alleviate a shortage of affordable housing in Blacksburg. The request comes following a vote by the Blacksburg Town Council to provide almost $800,000 incentive plan. Supervisor Matt Gabriele offered an alternative 10 year abatement package totaling $412,000 which was ultimately approved by a 4-3 vote with Chris Tuck, Todd King, and Gary Creed voting in opposition.

Supporters of the Fieldstone project point to a lack of “affordable” housing in Blacksburg as the reason tax breaks are needed from both the Town of Blacksburg and Montgomery County. While anyone who has been in the market for housing in the area would certainly attest to the fact that the Town of Blacksburg is certainly a more expensive market than other areas in Montgomery County, the $1.2 million in tax incentives granted by Blacksburg and Montgomery County, coupled with over $8 million in federal tax breaks are doing nothing more than alleviating the symptoms of the real issue rather than solving a problem.

A lack of housing does not exist in Blacksburg; it is affordability that is lacking. While there may be other factors involved, the bulk of that issue lies with the Town of Blacksburg. Without a doubt Blacksburg is a beautiful town and a great place to do business and shop, and that reflects a lot of careful planning on the part of the Town Council. The result of that planning and the subsequent regulations on developers and businesses is that the cost of doing business in Blacksburg is often higher than in other areas. The Town’s property tax rate is .22 per hundred, compared to a rate of .13 per hundred in Christiansburg. The logic result is that housing in Blacksburg is more expensive.

The lack of affordable housing exists only within the Town of Blacksburg; Christiansburg and other areas of the county do not share this problem, yet residents of those areas are now being asked to use their tax dollars to alleviate the symptoms of Blacksburg’s problem. While I don’t mean to come across as being callous about the need, it bothers me that Montgomery County has now become an enabler for Blacksburg’s actions, and in the process has started down that same road.

The Blacksburg Town Council answers to the voters in Blacksburg, and if they are satisfied with their taxes and costs associated with living there, I have no issue with it. It does become an issue however, when Montgomery County is dragged into the Town’s problems.

For more than thirty years I worked in industrial maintenance in positions ranging from submarine nuclear power plants to food manufacturing facilities, and I learned early on that unless you address the root cause of a problem you will be forced to repeatedly fight the symptoms. This is exactly what is being done by providing these abatements rather than finding ways to reduce high property taxes and burdensome regulations that drive up the cost of construction.