Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let the GOP drive its Hell No! strategy into a wall

In a Washington Post OpEd in The Washington Post, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continued to say it’s all or nothing when it comes to the Bush tax cuts. Never mind the impact continuing the tax cuts for millionaires will have on the deficit.
The clock may be winding down on this session of Congress, but there is still time to do the right thing. If President Obama and Democratic leaders put forward a plan during the lame-duck session to cut spending and stop the tax hikes on all Americans, they can count on a positive response from Republicans.
Click here to read the entire OpEd.

Fueled by the fanciful notion that they heard what the voters said on Nov. 2, and Democrats can’t hear that voice, Republicans are playing a game of chicken with the Obama White House.

Election or not the Republicans, as led by their current team, will continue to do what they’ve been doing. The results of the election had no impact the GOP’s “Hell no!” strategy that has been in force for Obama‘s entire term. The emboldened Republicans obviously believe Obama will cave.

But why should he?

If Obama doesn't get a meet-in-the-middle compromise about this dollars and good sense issue, shouldn't he hold the line and let the GOP explain to America why it allowed taxes to go up for 98 percent of the taxpayers?

However charismatic he may have been in 2008, if Obama chickens out in this all important showdown, doesn't he risk mortally injuring his 2012 reelection potential?

*Update: PolitiFact -- Rep. Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) tax hike claim is Barely True. Click here. Now, how much do you think Cantor will care that what he says is considered to be less than truthful?

Neighbors Saving Byrd Park

From my latest rant about the proposed Go Ape ropes course project aimed at Byrd Park:
Gathering the story of why City Hall is considering the installation of a “ropes course” in Byrd Park has been something like trying to lasso a smoke ring. The only person who seemed to be able/willing to answer questions about the proposed project, J.R. Pope, no longer works for the City of Richmond.

But we have other sources. On Fri., Nov. 12, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Richmond’s then-Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, J.R. Pope, was at a meeting in the Marshall Plaza Building at 900 E. Marshall St. The initiator of the meeting, Marty Jewell (5th District Councilman), was also there.
Click here to read "Anywhere But Byrd Park."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunlight or radioactive glow?


Is Wikileaks welcome sunlight onto secrets that matter? Or, is it just another radioactive glow?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ropes Course? City Stays Mum

Interested in the controversial ropes course project the City of Richmond has been studying for installation in the last untamed section of Byrd Park?

Here are some links that will tell you something about it (some of the stories have more links for additional background).

"Go Ape bringing a ropes course to Byrd Park," RVANews (10/7/10), click here.

"Proposed ropes course would offer above group adventure at Byrd Park," Richmond Times-Dispatch (10/8/10), click here.

"Save Byrd Park" at the Fan District Hub (11/10/10), click here.

"Ropes Course Good for Byrd Park?" at Richmond.com (11/16/10), click here.

To visit the Byrd Park community blog, which has several posts (some with numerous comments) on the ropes course issue, click here.

To visit the Facebook page for Save Byrd Park (and join up if you like), click here.

Meanwhile, the postponed meeting to discuss this issue the City of Richmond had scheduled for Nov. 18 (6:30 p.m.) at the Carillon has not been rescheduled. The status of the Go Ape ropes course project remains in limbo, as no one who works for The City -- since J.R. Pope's sudden departure from Rec and Parks -- seems to know anything about the ropes course.

At least, they're not talking.


Update (11/24/10): Fifth District Councilman Marty Jewell was good enough to talk with me on the phone this morning. Jewell characterized the ropes course project as, "a ludicrous idea, from start to finish." And, he had quite a bit more to say. Thus, I'm writing a new piece on this brouhaha right now. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Williams: VCU president a keeper or a clunker?

The video above is the Richmond Times-Dispatch's columnist Michael Paul Williams' rant on the Rao row at VCU. Is Michael Rao, the man VCU hired last year to follow Eugene Trani as president of the university, already on his way out?

Click here to read the rather strange "confidentiality agreement" Rao wants his underlings to sign.

Monday, November 15, 2010

City official J.R. Pope fired!

J.R. Pope, who headed up the City's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Development for the last five years, has just been removed from his post in what has the appearance of a forced resignation.

Read about this sudden change in personnel at City Hall here.

At this point it’s unclear how this news will impact this Thursday’s (6:30 p.m. at the Carillon) meeting with City officials to discuss the ropes course project being considered for Byrd Park. Pope was a major booster for the Go Ape ropes course plan.

  • A new piece I penned about the Go Ape ropes course controversy, which Pope was at the heart of, is up at Richmond.com. Click here to read "Ropes Course Good for Byrd Park?"
  • Click here to read Chris Dovi's report on the Pope story at his Richmond Magazine blog.
  • From the City of Richmond: Due to internal changes, the public meeting scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Carillon on the proposed Go Ape ropes course for Byrd Park has been postponed. A new date and time will be announced when it becomes available.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who will save Byrd Park?

From "Save Byrd Park" at the Fan District Hub:
The City of Richmond is close to forming a partnership of a sort with Go Ape (of Maryland) to install a high-flying ropes course in the dense woods behind Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park. The course will be built and maintained under Go Ape’s hopefully watchful eye. Once completed, the concept will have people paying money to swing through trees and so forth.
Below are excerpts from comments posted by The Hub's readers:
  • The area at risk is a forest treasure...
  • ...Go Ape is a private company. They should put their course on private land instead. The city should not take the park away from the public and allow the Go Ape owners to make a profit at the expense of the citizens of Richmond.
  • This is a public park for all of us to enjoy. I can’t understand why the city would allow a private company to permanently alter and destroy what is there, to build something that only a limited number of the population would be able to use...
Click here to read the entire piece with links for background and comments from readers.

Next Thursday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m., there will be a public meeting at the Carillon. This may be the only public meeting because the project's planners want to install the ropes course this winter. The ropes course developer, Go Ape, will be there to make a presentation and answer some follow-up questions from the audience.

City of Richmond officials will be there, as well. Maybe they will answer questions, but I wouldn't bet on it. Some of Byrd Park's neighbors and others who want to save Byrd Park's last naturally wooded acres from going ape will be there to ask some questions.

Click here to visit Save Byrd Park's Facebook page.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Republican Tea Party Caucus agenda

As with the aftermath of all elections, if you don't tear yourself away from the churning political news you will be inundated with analysis. This year the pundits are telling their audiences about what the new Tea Party Republicans want. They’re explaining what the Independents who voted Republican want. We’re hearing about the direction in which the lawmakers are heading and so forth.

Me? I can take only so much of that stuff. On the other hand, when you get the real inside story, instead of spin, that can be fascinating.

Over the 26 years I’ve been writing commentary on politics and popular culture, I’ve had various characters approach me with stories they wanted told, but they needed to be left out of it. Some were clearly whistle-blowers, others had more complicated agendas. Some were righteous, others were more mischievous. In every case I have stuck to a policy of not revealing the identity of such a source.

So, dear reader, I can’t tell you who my source is this time, either. I did get permission from this self-styled whistle-blower to say that he or she may have been an official within the Virginia Republican Party at one time. Although this year my secret source became disgruntled and was not directly involved in party politics, he or she remains in touch with the guys who call the shots.

From here on this source will be called Sore Throat. What follows are five strategies from a supposedly longer list detailing what the Republican Tea Party Caucus will demand be made into new laws and new programs.

Sore Throat sat across from me in a Museum District watering hole and told me to write down what he or she said. He or she then unfolded a piece of paper and read from it. Afterward, Sore Throat ate the paper like a film noir spy. Then he or she bought us another round of beer.

Here’s what I wrote down:
In order to create jobs, cut taxes and pay off the deficit, certain laws must be written and passed by Congress next year. Certain new government-shrinking programs must be created by Congress. In the first 100 days of 2011 the Republican Party must put the following 20 ideas on the table. With no compromising, before the year is over they must all become the law of the land:

1. English must be declared the official language of the USA. No taxpayers’ dollars can be spent on signs written in any language other than English. The teaching of any foreign language in public schools must end.
Subtitles in all foreign films must be eliminated. The wearing of scary hats in which bombs could be hidden, such as fezzes or turbans, can only be allowed behind closed doors on private property.

2. The Indentured Servant program, which helped to build this nation into the greatest in all of Earth's 10,000 years of existence, should be revived. This time-honored program would be used to give illegals without a criminal record a path to citizenship. The number of years an illegal must be indentured would depend on their native country. Without discrimination, any bona fide citizen would be eligible to bid online on the annual contract of any servant. The revenue from the auctions would be earmarked to go directly toward paying off the national debt.

3. To eliminate frivolous lawsuits and stimulate the economy the cap for any valid corporation’s liability exposure must be set nationwide at $19.95.

4. To save time, and time is money, extra points must be eliminated from football games at every level.

5. In order to avoid impeachment by proving he is an American citizen -- and therefore eligible to be president -- President Barrack Obama must bring his birth certificate to a joint session of Congress and pass it around for inspection by all members requesting an up-close look at it.
Sore Throat said the rest of the Republican Tea Party Caucus list of top priorities will be revealed to me in a similar manner soon. Then he or she stood up and said, “These bozos want to plant Cheerios to grow doughnut trees!”

Sore Throat promptly disappeared into the night. No, I can't yet verify anything my source said. However, if there's any truth to his or her claims, next year promises to be a bumpy ride inside the beltway.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Let the GOP explain why

If President Barack Obama totally caves to the yammering Republicans on the extension of Bush tax cuts issue, and gives them everything they want, he may never recover the ground he would sacrifice in the process. In a nutshell, he will look like an absolute wuss.

Without an agreement of some kind in Congress the tax cuts will expire for everyone. So, in a brutal sense, time is on Obama's side. Obama, the good poker player, must calmly wait for the Republicans to recover from their victory party hangovers and offer the Democrats a compromise worth considering. After all, this is a showdown he has known was coming for a long time.

Moreover, this is precisely the perfect time for the president to demonstrate the bottom line veto power of the presidency and play some whoever-blinks-first hardball politics. Either it's a meet-in-the-middle compromise about this dollars and good sense issue, or the time just expires.

Obama can't cave on this one -- scared money never wins. If the time runs out, let the GOP explain why it allowed taxes to go up for 98 percent of the people.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Five Favorite Prison Movies

At the James River Film Journal last week's list of five favorites was about doing the crime -- Film Noir. This week it's about doing the time -- Prison Movies.

While you're there the JRFJ has plenty of other, more legit film buff commentary to read, too.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Holmberg on handbills

Please click here to see a video report from Mark Holmberg on handbills/signs. It was shot on the 900 block of West Grace Street last night. Spoiler: Yes, a (nearly reformed) handbill-posting geezer is in the picture.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Questions about Ropes Course in Byrd Pk.

Today children who live near Byrd Park -- or near Carytown, or in the Museum District, or in the Fan District -- are a few minutes bike ride from an undisturbed, naturally wooded area in which to play and learn. They can walk through the quiet woods and see the animals that call that part of town home. Soon, that may be changing.

And, now some questions:

While the public -- including Carillon/Byrd Park area residents -- first learned of the project last month from a newspaper article, is it true that City of Richmond officials have been working with Go Ape for almost a year on developing a ropes adventure course in Byrd Park?

Who initiated the contact between The City and Go Ape that has had them working together behind closed doors? City officials? Go Ape? Or a go-between?

With Mayor Dwight Jones talking about allowing sunlight into how his administration operates, why has the public been kept in the dark as the plans solidified?

Why does The City want this project to be shoehorned into the only passive natural area left in Byrd Park? Who decided this project would be better suited in undeveloped public land in the middle of town, rather than in a county or state park, or on private land?

If there are over a hundred zip line courses now operating in the USA, why is Richmond seemingly committed to Go Ape, a British company?

What has The City done to evaluate other ropes theme parks in America to see how many are on private land verses public land, and how those arrangements have worked, so far?

Note: Apparently, Go Ape will form/has formed a separate company to conduct its business here. That company, Adventure Forest, LLC, will be/is a limited liability entity, putting only its assets in the USA at risk. On top of that, Adventure Forest might not be responsible for construction liability, because another company, Altus Outdoor Concept (from France), would actually build the ropes course.

So, if there is a terrible accident, who would the City of Richmond expect to have enough liability insurance to pay damages, so it would not have to pony up? Would it be Adventure Forest, LLC, in the USA? Go Ape in Britain? Altus Outdoor Concept in France?

Should there be a catastrophic accident, who really thinks a competent personal injury lawyer working for one of the injured parties would not name all of those players as defendants -- including the City of Richmond, with its deep pockets -- in a law suit?

With the ropes adventure course installed in the Byrd Park, other than a huge liability potential, what will Richmonders have gained? What will they have lost?

-- 30 --

Monday, November 01, 2010