Friday, June 23, 2017

Local Politics

In February, this year after participating in a march called by a group of ministers to encourage the city of Virginia Beach to fund a disparity study, I received an email to attend a Meet & Greet of a candidate seeking to become Virginia’s next governor. The candidate was Tom Perriello.

Politically speaking, I tend to hold true to the adage “no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests,” so I open my mind and my ears to all candidates pursuing public office. Due to another commitment, I arrived at the event during the Q & A portion. After the event, Mr. Perriello and I had a 5 to 10-minute one-on-one and I found myself intrigued by his work in the Obama Administration, his mastery of public policy, and his philosophy about leadership rising from the community level; in addition, we found some common interest related to broadband (high speed Internet) deployment and adoption as an economic and community development driver. We exchanged cell phone numbers, but I figured I would never hear from him again, and truth be told I never called him. However, his campaign staff was relentless with their follow-up – sharing information, requesting input, and asking for my assistance with meeting more voters.

As a Virginian who happens to be African-American, unfortunately I am used to democratic candidates pandering for the Black vote and republican candidates ignoring it. When the Perriello campaign contacted me for what felt like the twentieth time in two weeks about hosting a “listening and learning” event, I agreed to do it under two conditions: 1. Any dialogue would be “don’t hold back” and honest; and 2. The focus would be on how to support healthy economic and social development in communities.

Mr. Perriello and his campaign agreed and the “Let’s Do-ism, Healthy Partnership Tour with Tom Perriello” was born. The tour included meeting an African-American woman restaurateur dedicated to making a profit while creating jobs and opportunities in under-resourced neighborhoods; a conversation with pioneering entrepreneurs who happen to be white who reside in and are developing businesses in areas once avoided; a visit with a socioeconomic and racially diverse group of residents and community leaders truly dedicated to creating healthy neighborhoods by investing in resident self-management while divesting in top-down government control and dependency; listening to an African-American developer and the institutional barriers that must be overcome so that disparity studies result in equitable opportunities through policy and practice not just words and nods; and finally, we visited a youth development organization creating a platform for young people to impact personal change and community well-being.

Today, I am pleased and proud to endorse Tom Perriello for governor. Perriello possesses a deep knowledge of historical policies and practices that have stymied wealth creation and economic prosperity. Perriello offers policies and ideas designed to create new structures of opportunity and move Virginia beyond managing the status quo.

For too long and for too many The Virginia Way in politics has been the parties taking turns dominating political leadership, and its polite opposition, whose primary concern has been maintaining itself in power.

We need a governor who will lead to a new Virginia Way dedicated to the elimination of this old condition, committed to an impenetrable alliance amongst all segments of Virginians, and where prosperity and opportunity for all drives our present on behalf of our future. In 2017, I believe Tom Perriello is that governor. Please join me in vot for Tom Perriello June 13th.

Rodney Jordan is a member of the Norfolk City School Board. The comments and opinions herein are his own and do not represent those of any organization where he is a member.

This week I announced my support for Tom Perriello. This was not a decision I came to lightly or without thorough consideration.

November 8, 2016 was a wake-up call for our country. The seriousness of our situation cannot be understated. Our economy, our environment, our children’s education, our belief in equality and leveling the playing field for all citizens, and even our very own democracy, are all being threatened like it has never been threatened before. Now, more than ever, we need courageous, democratic leadership, willing to stand and fight for all citizens of Virginia; not just for a select few.

Yesterday’s solutions will not work today and they surely won’t work tomorrow. We need new leaders to embrace progressive policies that benefit working families, that vigorously fight inequality wherever it exists, and who are courageous enough to stand up to well-funded powerful corporate interests that harm our environment, hurt small business and stifle entrepreneurship.

The status quo is not working. It is hurting working families, small businesses, the poor and the uninsured. It is no longer acceptable.

Having grown up in a housing project in Richmond, I am familiar with poverty and struggle. However, I learned a long time ago, if you want something different, you must do something different. I believe we need new and different leadership for Virginia Democrats. We need progressive leadership, capable of boldly standing up to the Trump agenda, leading Democrats in Virginia. And that is why I am supporting Tom Perriello for governor.

It’s also refreshing to know that Tom Perriello’s progressive leadership isn’t some recent phenomenon.

While a member of congress, he was called the most “courageous” man in DC because he voted on issues he believed were right for the citizens of Virginia. Even when pressed and targeted by conservative groups in his district, he voted for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and other bills that protected our environment and the rights of immigrants.

Unlike most politicians, he was more concerned about the people he served rather than his own self-interest of staying in office. And speaking of special interests, Tom is the only democratic candidate for governor who has pledged not to take contributions from Dominion Power or any state regulated utility because he believes the needs of Virginia citizens and the environment must be a priority above corporate interests.

I’m with Tom because he’s not your typical politician. He’s a teacher, entrepreneur, diplomat, man of faith, and a fighter. And as governor, he will fight for:
• An economy that works for everyone; which includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making two years of community college free, guaranteeing paid family and medical leave, ending the gender pay gap, and ensuring pre-K for our youngest children is universal.
• Turning back bigoted Trump policies; which includes protecting equal rights for all, fighting any attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose, or assaults on our immigrant, minority and LGBT communities.
• Reforming criminal justice; which includes fixing a justice system that criminalizes poverty and addiction, wastes millions of taxpayers’ dollars per year on reinforcing racially discriminatory outcomes, fosters a school-to-prison pipeline, and de-emphasizes community policing
• Protecting our environment; which includes safeguarding Virginia’s natural resources, opposing offshore drilling, while investing in Virginia’s clean energy future with next-generation energy sources to power the clean energy economy of the future.
• Stopping the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline; and the Mountain Valley pipelines, which have been driven by large corporate interests ahead of those of Virginia landowners and everyone in the Commonwealth who enjoys clean water.
• Democracy; which includes overhauling our partisan gerrymandered map that fails to equally represent Virginians across the state as well as fight to modernize Virginia’s absurdly restrictive voting laws and making it easier for Virginians to vote.
• Common sense gun control; which includes work to enact universal background checks on all gun sales, end “default” gun sales, restrict access to weapons and ammunition that have no defensible role in sport or home defense, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and stalkers.

Please join me in supporting Tom Perriello for governor in the June 13th Democratic primary. Please know, I like Ralph and I like Tom. But while this “involves” Tom and it “involves” Ralph, this election isn’t “about” either of them. This election is about the millions of current and future citizens of Virginia. They deserve and desperately need fresh leadership who will chart a new course for our collective future.

That’s why I’m with Tom.

Gary McCollum is a local political activist and former Cox Communications executive.

Governor: Ralph Northam

Both Democratic candidates for Virginia’s Governor have won support from members of the African American community in South Hampton Roads. However only one has won a hard fought statewide race which included a victory in Hampton Roads and is now running for Governor. That is Dr. Ralph Northam.

Northam is opposed by Tom Perriello of Northern Virginia, a charismatic man who is being supported by many because he is not a part of the current Virginia political fold. Democrats are still reeling from last year’s presidential election and many are resistant to the “tried and true” as represented by Northam who has 10 solid years in Virginia state politics. The Nation magazine rightly says that opposition to Trump is serving as the “rocket fuel” for Perriello’s campaign in Virginia.

And that it is. Perriello and Northam are running a very close race as the June 13th Primary approaches.

Not surprisingly, Perriello’s resistance campaign is being driven by 57% donations from outside of Virginia, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Northam is currently the state’s Lieutenant Governor, and is a familiar sight in Hampton Roads where he lives with his family. He is a strong supporter of women’s rights to choose, and he led the fight against the state’s transvaginal ultrasound mandate. Had that measure been adopted, women in Virginia seeking an abortion would have been required to undergo an unnecessary and invasive procedure.

As a practicing medical doctor, Dr. Northam understands, values and supports health care for all, and he favors expanding Medicaid in the state for the 400,000 underserved Virginians now exempt from that coverage.

He aptly chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response, designed to improve Virginia’s complex mental health services system.

And his pediatric neurological practice brings him close to the needs of this segment of the population. As chair of the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success, he helped secure a federal grant creating up to 13,000 pre-K education spots for children from low income families.

It is well-known that Northam is no friend to the NRA and cast the tie-breaking vote that sought to allow Virginians to carry concealed weapons without a permit. He has fought for other gun control measures.

For the record, Northam’s opponent Perriello, who won one term as a Congressman from Northern Virginia, voted against the assault weapons ban and boasted about it when he was running for re-election. In 2008, Perriello received the NRA’s top grade.

And on women’s rights, Perriello voted for the so-called Stupak Amendment which would have prohibited insurance companies in the Obamacare exchange program from covering abortion for all women.

A few weeks ago, WHRO-TV presented the two candidates for Governor over a statewide broadcast. The New Journal and Guide and the Virginian Pilot had representatives who fielded questions with WHRO moderator Cathy Lewis to Northam and Perriello. Northam, the senior statesman, presented stronger and with more confidence in his answers and demeanor.

Ralph Northam has proved to be good for Virginia. He will do well as Governor. He has earned the support of most of Virginia Democratic office holders, including both of our U.S. Senators and state leaders.

Virginia Democrats need to close ranks and focus their efforts on putting progressive and tested candidates in position to lead in re-energizing the Party for this and future victories.

On June 13, let us go out to the polls and let us vote Ralph Northam for Governor. Don’t assume your vote won’t count. It will.

Lieutenant Governor: Justin Fairfax

Three Democratic candidates are running for Virginia’s Lieutenant Governorship: Justin Fairfax, Susan Pratt, and Gene Rossi. A few weeks ago, they appeared at the Murray Center in Norfolk to tell Hampton Roads voters why each should be elected. In a straw poll that night, Fairfax won overwhelmingly, and we urge our readers to support him with their votes at the polls on June 13th.

For Justin Fairfax, the June 13th Primary is his second attempt at a statewide election. He ran a strong race for the state’s Attorney General in 2013, narrowly losing to current Attorney General Mark Herring. Fairfax did well in Hampton Roads and has been visibly campaigning in the area over the past year. He has won the endorsement of officials throughout Virginia.

Fairfax represents an opportunity for voters to support a capable African American in state leadership. If he wins the Lieutenant Governor’s seat this year, he will become the state’s second African American in that position. L. Douglas Wilder was the first and only one in 1985. Wilder went on to become Governor in 1989.

Fairfax is a former federal prosecutor and current litigator with a law firm in Northern Virginia where he lives with his wife, Cerina. a dentist, and two children. He worked for 2000 presidential candidate Al Gore and later in the Washington office of then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. He was a co-chair for Warner’s 2014 re-election.

Virginia needs a strong, upstanding and intelligent second-in-command leader at the state capitol. We can make Fairfax that leader on June 13th with our votes. Vote Justin Fairfax.

89th District: Joe Dillard, Jr.

Two young outstanding men are running for the 89th District seat that is being vacated by Delegate Daun Hester. They are familiar in the Hampton Roads community: Joe Dillard, Jr. and Jerrauld “Jay” Jones.

New Journal and Guide believes that Joe Dillard is the right man to represent residents of the 89th District. He has a heart and will for the concerns of the people that will serve him well as a member of the state legislature.

Dillard has been an active advocate for his community dating back to his undergraduate college days when he served as the president of his campus NAACP. He is currently working on his Master’s degree at NSU.

He went on to become the youngest president of any branch NAACP when he was elected to serve as president of the Norfolk City NAACP. He also serves as an officer with the Virginia State NAACP.

Dillard’s leadership of these civil rights branches has prepared him to engage opposition and negotiate solutions with people of all stripes and causes. They have
placed him in strategic positions where, undoubtedly, he has had to navigate uncharted courses. At times, he has had to be a fast learner and quick thinker which will help him overcome Republican opposition in the state chambers.

Support for Dillard comes from many directions, as people have watched him circulate in the community.

On June 13th, vote Joe Dillard, Jr. in the 89th District.

Polls will open at 6 a.m. for the June 13 Primary to allow Democrats and Republicans to choose the candidates they want  to stand for election in the state’s top three offices, the House of Delegates and various Constitutional offices come General Election Day November 7.

You can vote in person using an absentee ballot up until  June 10 in your Office of Elections. You must give a good reason for doing so. Be sure to check the operating hours of  the office  on that date.

There are many races which have only one candidate, especially those in districts or cities dominated  by one party.  Since there were no challengers for the Democratic  nomination, for instance, in the Norfolk Treasurer’s race, Democrat Daun Hester will square off with Republican Michael Voogd on November 7.

In the Gubernatorial race for the Democrats, current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam of Norfolk, will be facing   Tom S. Perriello of Northern Virginia, in what has become a tight race in the final days.

For the Republicans Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie is facing   Corey A. Stewart  and State Senator  Frank W. Wagner, who hails from Virginia Beach.

For Lt. Governor, Democrats, Justin E. Fairfax,   Gene J. Rossi and  Susan S. Platt, all from northern Virginia, will be competing for that job.

For the Republicans, their Lt. Governor candidates are   Bryce E. Reeves,   Glenn R. Davis, Jr. of Virginia Beach and   Jill H. Vogel.

Neither  party will stage a primary contest for Attorney General, but on November 7, Democrat  Mark Herring, the  Incumbent,  will be challenged by Republican John Adams.

In the race for the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney in Norfolk, the incumbent is Democrat Greg D. Underwood, who is seeking another term against challengers Ron Batliner, Jr. and S.W. Dawson.

Also in Norfolk, two political newcomers are seeking the 89th House district: Norfolk NAACP President Joe W. Dillard and Attorney Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones.

In the race for  the 92nd House of Delegates, incumbent Jeion A. Ward is being challenged by Michael A. “Mic” Harris.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Almost two months after Portsmouth Councilman Mark Whitaker was indicted on 20 felony charges of identity fraud, forgery and using forged checks,  he still  has strong support among many of the city’s residents.

His support is strongest among African Americans and some Whites who do not believe that the long time public servant could have been involved in any illegal activities.

Whitaker has respect among Black  voters  and civic leaders for giving an usually strong voice  to economic and social issues they have been concerned about over the years.

At the same time that voice has irked some of his fellow council members and many Black and White residents who believe he should take a more diplomatic tone.

Recently the Guide talked to a number of residents to assess the level of support, or lack thereof of, for the embattled Councilman.

Views ranged from admiration and sympathy to disdain  from people the GUIDE talked to on the record.

A special grand jury is impaneled to hear evidence about Whitaker’s church, New Bethel Baptist Church, its development company and its now-defunct credit union which are central to the indictments.

The  special grand jury heard evidence about Whitaker’s alleged activities between August 2013 to October 2014 with the New Bethel Baptist Church, where he is a pastor and a credit union, which is now closed.

The panel handed down 11 counts of alleged forgery, seven “uttering a forged check” and two identity fraud.

Three people were identified as victims in the paperwork – Kevin Blount, Caroline Larosiliere and Malinda Starkley. New Bethel’s website lists a Malinda Starkley as a deacon.
Whitaker will  stand trial in November.

Meanwhile, he has refused to resign from council, continued to work at his church, and contrary to rumors, he was not dismissed from his duties as a Professor at  Hampton University. In fact, he said that his contract has been approved for next year.

He said there are people who are making contributions to a defense fund set up to help him pay for his legal  bills.

“I have received support not only locally, but from around the state and nationally,” said Whitaker recently during a brief interview with the Guide. “I am still at work, and working with my colleagues and at home with my family and church.”

Until the trial begins, questions will continue to be raised about the role that Sheriff William “Bill” Watson played in the process leading up to the investigation and eventual indictment in April.

The Sheriff’s department traditionally handles securing the city’s court rooms, managing its jail and process serving. But many residents are concerned about the role the Sheriff played in the Whitaker situation and if indeed he had legal jurisdiction, considering the bitter feud that has existed for years between him and Councilman Whitaker.

“Most of the people, in circles I travel, support Mr. Whitaker although they may have disagreed with his positions in the past,” said James Bailey, a leader in the city’s NAACP and the Regional Director of “Missing Voter Project” which advocates for helping people returning from prisons regain their voting rights

“Like other people, I never heard of a sheriff instigating an investigation of that kind against a sitting city official,” Bailey continued. “So there must have been some political motivations … How did he use all of those channels to make it happen?  I am supportive of him (Whitaker) because we stand for the same issues.”

Rev. Anthony Paige, the senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church Lambert’s Point in Norfolk, said he is planning on organizing a fundraising event for Whitaker’s Legal Defense Fund.
“In fact, I want to enlist all of the religious,  civic and social organizations in this region to come to his defense,” said Paige. “This was a vicious and political attack against Mr. Whitaker because they’re not used to speaking directly and forcefully on the issues in that city.”

Paige said he has known Whitaker for nearly three decades. He said that the Councilman’s father,  who was born and raised in Norfolk’s Lambert’s Point community, was ordained in the church he now leads.

“So I,  and others   in this community, have a long history with Mr. Whitaker and his family,” said Paige. “This is why there is such large and unwavering support for him.”
Former Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright, who lost his reelection bid last November after months of political and policy warfare with the Sheriff,  said he applauds the support the community is extending to Whitaker, as well.

Wright and Whitaker were two of the most outspoken critics of the Sheriff and his political allies during his tenure. At one point, Sheriff Watson    with a local tv crew in tow, chased the mayor’s car  over an expired city sticker after a stake out at a city garage.

“I support him  (Whitaker) 100 percent,” said Wright. “I am pleased with the outpouring of community support! We need everybody who believes in justice to chip in (to the defense fund). I strongly believe that we, the citizens, should take care of  his legal expenses and show the Sheriff the door in November.”

Costella Williams, a leader of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Steering Committee, said that “all of the people I talk to see this case against Whitaker as a political witch hunt.”
“Most of the people in my circle are very disappointed, “ she said. “I talked to Ken Stolle, the sheriff in Virginia Beach and he said that no sheriff would have done such a thing if the police chief did not.”

Williams said Whitaker attended a meeting of the city’s  Democratic Caucus and when recognized, “he received a standing ovation from everyone in that room.”

Barry Randall, who ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2016, said he has had his disagreements  with Whitaker over the years. Although he does not directly support Whitaker, he has concerns about  the process  in which the charges were brought against him.

He said that instead of the Sheriff  prodding investigators to look into Whitaker’s situation, the city’s police or Commonwealth’s Attorney “could have put a stop to this.”

“This is very troublesome, “ said Randall.  “White folks can’t get to a Black leader unless  Black people let them.  What message will this send if he is found guilty come November?”
But there are Portsmouth residents who have had issues with Whitaker since he took office.

Donna Sayegh, who is a Virginia Patriot, has been critical of him for supporting the removal of the confederate monuments in the city, among other issues. She said she has confronted him directly through e-mails after  council meetings.

“I don’t think he has a sense of justice or compassion,” said Sayegh. “He is so opinionated and full of hate. He does not want to establish positive relationships with others; he just wants to be in control.

Maggie McGuire is another White resident who said she, too, has gotten “in his face” before council on various issues,

“He is a very smart man but all he does is cause hate. I wish he would try to bring the city together,” she said.

“Black and White people in Portsmouth all want the same things – safe neighborhoods, strong schools and food to eat.  I just wish Mr. Whitaker would work harder as a preacher and man of  God to bring us together as opposed to separating us.”

Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky, who also ran for a council seat last year, said although he does not always agree with the positions Whitaker takes on various issues, he is willing to give the embattled Councilman the benefit of the doubt.

“I have difficulty believing that Councilmember Whitaker would have engaged in criminal activity of any kind,”  he said. “I am also skeptical that the investigators – deputies whose continued employment is tied directly to Sheriff Watson‘s favorable opinion of them – were people whose only agenda was searching for the truth.

“Furthermore, piling on charges is not uncommon when ‘the system’ wants to take someone down. I hope that the moral arc of the universe starts bending more sharply toward justice. I have contributed to  Whitaker’s legal defense fund and am sorry that he and his family are undergoing this ordeal.”

With time winding down before the Democratic statewide primary on June 13, the three candidates seeking the Democratic party’s nomination to run for
lieutenant governor participated locally in one of the last debates.

Justin Fairfax, Susan Platt and Gene Rossi, all hailing from Northern Virginia, were on stage touting their credentials and their stands on the issues on May 25 at the Murray Banquet Center Hall in Downtown Norfolk

The hall was filled with campaign ground staff,  and  300 plus Hampton Roads residents  who came from all over the region. It was hosted by the Political Action Ministry of Norfolk Historic  First Baptist Church Bute Street in conjunction with other groups.

The trio fielded questions from the debate moderator Dr. Quentin Kidd, Political Analyst and  Vice Provost and Director of the Wason Center for Public Policy Christopher Newport University in Newport News.

They also answered a few questions gathered from the audience.   The topics raged from education, voting rights and what they would do if they did not win  the hotly contested race.

During their opening statements, the candidates sought to endear themselves to the audience by talking about issues in their lives which may have prompted their interest in public service.

Fairfax  ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General four years ago, but secured the support of nearly 50 percent of the voters. He said he never left the field of political battle after that contest, supporting on his own, the winner, Mark Herring, and the candidates for Lt. Governor and Governor.

During his opening remarks,  Fairfax said he  owes his success to the “Spiritual Capital” he accrued during the time his father left his mother with four children to raise. The family moved in with his grandparents who were relatively middle class in Washington, D.C. at the time in the 1980s.

That stability helped his mother to  buy a home and send her four offspring to college, two to law school, including him.

He was a Northern Virginia federal prosecutor until he got an itch for politics.

As for Susan Platt, she mentioned the death of her stepdaughter to addiction and having to take care of her grandchildren and their emotional and material needs.

On the day of the debate, Platt‘s campaign sent out a press release, supporting the removal of all of the Confederate monuments and any references via name from public buildings.

Platt is a longtime political hand, having helped former Virginia Senator Charles Robb win his last Senatorial campaign against Oliver North in 1996, and she worked on the staff of former Vice President Joe Biden.

She mentioned that there would be history made again if she won, for there has never been a female Lt. Governor in Virginia.

Gene Rossi said he has spent 30 years as a lawyer, training U.S. Attorneys in Virginia, including Fairfax.

He talked about  his daughter’s overcoming a serious cardiovascular disease, and he labels her the ‘inspirational” comeback kid.

He noted that he had a rare blood disease in 2013  which  required replacement of his  blood stream. He said the Democrats are always looking for “New Blood” and he said his  life  story  was inspiring enough  to be elected Lt. Governor.

When asked by Kidd why each should be Virginia’s Lt. Governor, all three cited their experiences growing up which led them to where they are now.

Platt  said after her mother died, leaving her father to raise 12 children, she learned from him that her gender should not deter her from pursuing her goals in business or in politics.

Rossi, too, had to overcome the loss of a parent which took a toll on him, for he almost dropped out of high school. He was one of four sons raised by their mother. It was the encouragement of a Jesuit priest that helped him become a lawyer. Over the years, he has worked with four governors.

Fairfax said it was the support of his grandparents that helped him overcome the dangers of the crime-infested streets of Southeast Washington and eventually become a prosecutor of criminal offenders.

He said the nation’s school to prison pipeline must  be dismantled because of the racial and economic biases. He said he has worked in all three branches of the government and his wife owns a dental business in Northern Virginia which gives him insight to the plight of business people.

There has been a call to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While there is support from workers and liberal politicians and economics, the   GOP is standing against it.

Rossi said he would support a minimum wage, but would give an exemption to small businesses hard-pressed to do so.  He said he ran his father’s lumber company and had to make weekly payroll, giving him insight that paying workers decent wages shows that their employers respect them as workers and people.

Fairfax noted while Virginia pays only $7.25 minimum wage, West Virginia, which does not have as strong an economy as Virginia pays over $8. He said in Virginia a family making minimum wage earns about $14,000 a year which is not enough to raise a family.

The result, he said, is that people are forced to work two or more jobs and that impacts on the workers and their family’s lives.

Platt said when she traveled around the state as a member the state’s tourism board, she saw the disparity in earning power among Virginians. Like her opponents, she said raising the minimum wage and improving the educational opportunities for people would help better their quality of life economically.

All three candidates said they would work to improve healthcare services in the state and each supported Medicaid expansion.

On education and the high cost of attending college, Fairfax  said student loan debt was “crushing” students and he also supported a new state supported tuition loan refinancing plan.

Platt suggested that college graduates could pay off a portion of their loans by working for several years  in underserved communities, benefitting themselves and the local communities.

Rossi said the state could reallocate funds to pay for free tuition for college students.  He said instead of many students entering colleges, the state needs to “think outside the box”  and steer some high schoolers toward trade schools to learn HVAC  and other high paying skills not requiring a college degree.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

With two weeks remaining as of  May 25th before the  June 13 primary elections, Democratic and  Republican  candidates competing in state and local contests are making their final push to woe voters and inspire them to get to the polls on June 13.

Both parties are fielding candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. Open are all of the seats for House of Delegates, Constitutional Office of the Sheriff, Commonwealth Attorney, Accessory and Treasurer.

No race is more competitive than the Democratic Primary contest for the 89th House District which is located primarily in the city of Norfolk.  Norfolk  NAACP President Joe Dillard and Attorney Jay Jones are competing to replace Daun Hester.

Hester will be on the ballot in November  running as a Democrat for the Norfolk City Treasurer against three Independent candidates.

The 89th contest is symbolic of Norfolk Democratic Party operatives, working to inject new blood  into the local party leadership.

Dillard and Jones, two millennials, fit the bill. Both, who are in their late 20s and have some new ideas on old issues, come from distinctly different backgrounds.

The 89th  is among the most diverse demographic districts in Virginia, covering 21 precincts from Berkley to the Young Terrace public housing community, to West Ghent, Larchmont, Lindenwood, Poplar Hall, Ingleside and Lake Taylor.

Operatives  for the Dillard and Jones camps have been canvassing  the huge district, seeking to stir up a strong turnout from Democrats all over the city and win the day for them.

Democratic Party leaders are reluctant to label in traditional terms who is the leader or underdog in this race. Endorsements for the candidates have come from all segments of the community.

Although this is the first time either has run for political office, each is familiar with Norfolk’s political culture.

An  NSU grad, Dillard ascended to the rank of the youngest NAACP President in the nation and like his opponent, is using his connections with the faith and fraternal organization community to create  his network of supporters.

Jones  is a  College of William and Mary undergrad and University of Virginia  law school product.  He represents the third generation of members of his family in public and political service. His grandfather, Hilary H. Jones, Jr., was a pioneering lawyer, and  first African American appointed to the Norfolk School  and state School Boards of Education.

His father, Jerrauld C. Jones, served eight terms representing the 89th District, and was appointed the Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently he is a Norfolk Circuit Judge.

Jones said he is not taking his family’s storied name for granted to promote his political ambitions.

“I am my own man,” said Jones.  “Because of his job, my father is not allowed to  help me at all, but he is excited and supportive.  I canvass  five to six precincts a day, and I am humbled by the amount of support I am getting for  my cause.”

Dillard, who holds a college degree in political science and has a master’s thesis pending in urban affairs, said, “I have been working door to door each day and  I have seen a lot of support and good will. I have been keeping it on the concrete…working all over the city,  to familiarize people with my work in the community, my  name and stands on  the issue.”

Both campaign are voicing similar stands for key issues facing the 89th and other districts.

They  are supportive of ways to reform   public school  education to prepare students for the jobs of the future, finding ways to make college more affordable,  raising teacher compensation, diversifying the region’s    business and job creation efforts,  increasing wages for the working class, supporting police at the same time as reforming the criminal justice system.

Dillard said he is concerned about the proliferation of gun violence in the urban core, and would like to see stricter efforts to close loopholes that allow vendors to sell weapons at gun shows. He would also like to reduce the number of guns that can be purchased in a month.

Jones said the state should push back against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s plan to reconstitute the long mandatory sentences for nonviolent criminals involved in the nation’s illicit drug trade.

He said  it would mean a return to mass incarceration of mostly poor and Black people and “state legislation would be the first line of defense”  to refute the Trump Administration’s effort.

Dillard said he would work to improve  the level of minority businesses qualifying via technology and bonding to participate in the procurement systems to compete for contracts to provide goods and services to local and state governments.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Often a member will come to the floor of the House of Representatives and deliver a speech that focuses on an event or figure of importance to them.

Recently in the case of  Congressman Robert Scott of Virginia, he stood before his colleagues to honor someone who has been a very loyal and supportive figure in his life and career.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable woman who has dedicated the last 40 years of her life to serving the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia–my friend, closest adviser, and Chief of Staff, Joni Ivey.”

Three days later, after packing  up her office and bidding farewell to staff members, old and young,  Ivey retired.

Ivey  and  Scott have been inseparable figures working from the halls of the state and federal legislatures of power seeking to support and help  people and institutions.
The two were active in the Newport News civic and political affairs before they met in  1976.

Scott, the son of Dr. Waldo Scott, a physician and a mover and shaker in  the elite circle of political and  civic power, was groomed in the same community service spirit.
He is a Harvard undergrad  and a graduate of Boston College Law School.

Ivey, the product of blue collar parents, grew up in  the Newsome Park community of Newport News, one of seven children of Willie and Carnetta Ivey. She graduated from Carver High School in 1971, the last graduating class of the high school which served Blacks during Jim Crow. She attended Christopher Newport University and graduated from Norfolk State University.

One of her first summer jobs was at King’s Department Store in 1968, during a heady political time, nationally and locally.

These two offspring  from varied economic and social classes  joined forces to support and serve their community.

Their paths crossed while working for her pastor, Rev. W. Henry Maxwell, who was running for city council.

Ivey was  in her 20s and had cut her teeth in Newport News’ Black grassroots politics  by  “dropping” campaign literature  for Jessie Rattley on the door step of neighbors when she ran for city council and mayor.

Ivey said Rattley, Thelma Crittenden and  Madam Annie B. Daniels, who recently passed, were  a trio of role models who inspired her civic activism and “invested so much  into young people,  including me.”

Carver High now wears the name of Crittenden Middle School.

Maxwell lost his bid for council, but later  won seats in the  state House of Delegates and Senate.

A year  later, the political bug bit Scott, who made his first run for Virginia’s House of Delegates. Impressed with Ivey’s work ethic and approach with people, she was hired  to run his campaign headquarters,

He won the June 1977 primary and then the November election, and she joined his staff doing various administrative and political jobs.

For Scott, there was a Senate race in 1983,  and a decade later, a successful run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Scott was the first African-American  elected to the Congress from Virginia after Reconstruction.

Ivey was the second African-American  Congressional Chief of Staff from the Commonwealth. Norman Sisisky hired the first.

“I did not like D.C.  When Bobby won, I moved to Capitol Hill,” she recalled. “I moved in, drove  back home to pick up something and returned to discover I had a break in.

“I told  the Congressman and Larry Dillard   this would not work for me. I wanted to go back to Newport News,” she said.  “They  looked at me like I was crazy.  They convinced me to stay. A year later I had another burglary. So I started coming home  every chance  I could.

“Finally I was allowed to just stay in Newport News and commute to D.C., if needed. I  loved my work.  But I felt better when I was coming down (Interstate) 395 to 95 to 64 to home.”
As Chief of Staff,  Ivey coordinated and managed the work of the Congressman, hired for the D.C office  and various other positions.

Much of the work by a staff member in the district    involves constituent services. This includes resolving issues related to Social Security, health benefits, veterans affairs,  and other programs of Uncle Sam.

Also, there is the task of coordinating with cities, educational, military and other institutions on policy or funding.

The Third Congressional District is still majority Black.

It has  643,478 people  and once stretched  from Portsmouth to Richmond, and pulled in cities such as Norfolk and Newport News Hampton and Petersburg  and had three district offices.

Now the district is concentrated in Hampton Roads,  including the Peninsula, Norfolk, Portsmouth and slices of Chesapeake  and Franklin and Yorktown.

There is only one district office in Newport News, but the staff logs endless miles and hours driving through it, serving the inhabitants.

Just as important, according to Ivey, is that the Congressman or staff representatives  attend events around the district, to show support, listen to ideas and concerns of  constituents.

“People love  seeing Bobby and see him all over the place,” she said. “When he could not attend,  I was a stand-in,  talking and listening to people at small or big events. People were glad  to see us; it meant a lot to them. They can look you right in the eye and ask for help.”

While she did not like  Washington,  D.C. that much, she did like rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful and  of course,  trips to the White House.

“Before Bobby was in Congress, he took me along to an event hosted by President  Carter,” Ivey recalled. “I was worried about what to wear and say.  When we arrived the President was dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans.  I was relaxed. I adopted the motto ‘never sweat the small stuff.’”

“The last event was the Obamas’ last (Christmas) holiday party,” she recalled.  “It was very real at that point for us and Obama.”

Ivey could not point to any “lows” during her tenure as Chief of Staff of the Scott  operation.

“We just worked every day on the issues we knew were vital to  Hampton Roads, that is military, the shipyards and the schools and programs to help  the challenged,” Ivey said.  “We  also worked for issues for people in adjacent districts like (Republican) Rob Wittman.”

The Chiefs of Staff  of the Virginia 11-member congressional delegation are supportive of each other, Ivey said.  Whether conservative, liberal, Democratic or Republican, they leave their political differences at the office.

“We worked for  Bobby, a Virginia gentleman,” she said. “We believed in work and outcomes  based on facts and figures  not personalities and name calling.”

But as most people with her energy and love of  community, Ivey said she does not plan to ride into the sunset and find some charming place to watch the world past idly.

“I am going to stay busy. I am going to work  in my church  (Ivey Baptist Church), of course, and the community,” she said. “I will volunteer at the free clinic and, of course, I will be helping Ralph (Northam) in his campaign.

“I will still be working for the party.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Special to the Guide

Norfolk School Board Chairman Rodney Jordan says a new report on the adverse effects of reduced state funding for schools is must reading for anyone interested in public education.

Norfolk Public Schools is among six Virginia school divisions analyzed in a report on the adverse effects of reduced state funding for schools.

The report concluded that the ability of the six divisions has been  significantly impacted due to    reduced state funding since the recession.

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, an economic and policy research organization, in its report said Norfolk Public Schools and other divisions had  to  eliminate  teachers and instructional specialists. This action has placed increasing responsibilities on teachers, reduced critical support positions such as school counselors, not kept pace with the changing language needs of students, eliminated student clubs and shortened after school programs, and allowed facilities to deteriorate and fall into disrepair.

The funding reductions, according  the report, has   weakened the ability of school divisions to provide  day-to-day operations and forced schools to cut back on critical education positions and programs.

The divisions have been forced to make these decisions in order to balance their budget as the state reduced financial support.

Chairman Jordan said, ”This brief by The Commonwealth Institute is must reading for elected officials, policy makers, parents, and business leaders. Investing in our public schools and students matters if we want high paying jobs, growing regions, and a strong Commonwealth with a vibrant economy.”

In addition to Norfolk, the report summarizes findings from focus groups with teachers and administrators in Brunswick County, Fredericksburg City, Richmond City, Rockingham County, and Wise County.

“These experiences from instructors around the state show that years of the state cutting corners to balance the budget has finally caught up with teachers and schools trying to do more with less,” says Chris Duncombe, a policy analyst with the Institute and co-author of the study. “This is not a recipe for success.

In Norfolk, state support has fallen 15.3 percent per student since 2009 in real dollars. Today, the division has 306 fewer teachers than it did in 2009.

Overall, Norfolk has over 500 fewer staff in its schools than in 2009.

Meanwhile, the number of English learners has more than doubled, increasing by 669 students since 2009.

The report endorses proposals from Virginia’s Board of Education that would undo some of the harmful cuts made during the recession and ensure Virginia schools have adequate staffing for critical positions such as principals, assistant principals, school counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other support staff.

In the report, an administrator in Norfolk expressed concern about the general cleanliness and upkeep of school buildings, “You want the kids to go into a nice, clean environment. It’s hard to do that when you don’t have enough staff to … just literally clean … and do those things that keep the building up.” He said that custodial staff are forced to “hit the high spots” rather than doing a thorough cleaning of the facilities. Lack of upkeep has led to infestations of insects and rodents in some of the schools, including a problem with cockroaches in one of the cafeterias.

According to the report, mold is of such concern in Norfolk’s Historically Black Booker T. Washington High School, “That teachers are now writing to [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] … That is how bad the mold is in that building,” explained one Norfolk administrator.

The full report, Demonstrated Harm: Cuts to School Funding Are Impacting Virginia Classrooms, is available online at www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org.

VIRGINIA BEACH
Chef Jamie G of Bowie, Md., has been added to the line up of personalities who will be “throwing down” in the upcoming Celebrity Chef Throw Down charity event on April 8, 2017. The event is an outdoor celebrity cook-off that is pitting news teams from stations WTKR and WVEC in cooking competition to benefit the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

Chef Jamie G specializes in creating upscale comfort meals for entertaining. With 20 years of food service experience and 7 years of professional kitchen experience, she also has appeared on Food network cooking competitions.

Previously announced, Celebrity Chef J Ponder, media correspondent, Paula Beckett and the Jones Family along with Charmisey Events, are sponsoring the “Celebrity Chef Throw Down” from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the property of a private estate. Ticket costs are $40 and $45 the day of the event.

Only one news team can dominate and bring home the title of BEST COOK! Teams will create several dishes using only ingredients provided in a mystery basket. Each team has a set amount of time to work their magic before the judges cast their votes. In addition, there will be live entertainment, a cash bar, silent auction and heavy hors d’oeuvres, so bring your appetite.

Confirmed personalities include WTKR’s meteorologists, April Loveland, Dominic Brown, traffic reporter/co-anchor Kristen Crowley, WVEC’s anchor, Andre Senior, meteorologists Timothy Pandajis and Iisha Scott. Sponsors will announce special guest judges the day of the event.

Beckett says, “This type of event has never been done before in Hampton Roads. My vision was to build a dynamic team to bring my vision alive. So I partnered with celebrity Chef Jacoby Ponder and Shannon Gibson, Philanthropist and owner of Charmisey events to help me put together a wow factor event.”
For more information, email charmiseyevents@yahoo.com.