Three Thoughts for this a.m.

This morning, I saw the latest scandal du jour in the VPAP clips.  Three thoughts on that.

1.  I’ve known Paul Reagan for fifteen years, as an official for Mark Warner, Jim Webb and now Terry McAuliffe.  (Back in the 90′s, he also served on the Consumer Protection Commission, where I used to appear as an attorney).  I regard him as one of the most honest and reputable people I’ve met in Virginia.  Nothing he said or suggested with Senator Puckett has changed my opinion.  I’ll leave it at that.

2.  The Puckett investigation is a road to nowhere and we’re slowly getting there.  While Phil’s actions in resigning just before a key vote were wrong (in my humble opinion), that is a matter between him and his friends.  It does not involve the U.S. Attorney.  This is not “McDonnell Part Deux.” There is nothing illegal about resigning from a public office to take a better-paid position, either with the private sector or with state government.  If it was, then you could lock up a lot of people in River City right now.

3.  The Puckett resignation was never about his taking a job with the Tobacco Commission or allowing a full-time judicial position for his daughter.  (Neither of which has happened to date).  It was about THE TIMING.  In June, the Senate budget still contained Medicaid expansion through “Marketplace Virginia,” but we needed a couple more weeks to enact that in the final state budget.  Phil’s resignation killed that opportunity.  It also cost us the majority — but that’s a separate issue.

In summary, this whole thing is getting absurd.  The Puckett resignation happened.  Each side took actions to make it happen (or keep it from happening).   Neither set of actions were illegal, although we can all agree that the situation was awkward — especially for Democrats who were blindsided and tried to react.

Regardless, the Governor and Paul were doing all they could to save a legislative measure (Medicaid expansion) which had great value to thousands of Virginians.  If that’s a scandal, well then lock us all up.

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VDOT Projects = on-time, on-budget

As the resident curmudgeon in Richmond, I spend a lot of time criticizing state government and its faults.  I don’t spend enough time pointing out when state agencies do  things right.  So let me address that flaw right now.

On Tuesday afternoon, I attended the annual “State of Transportation” in NoVA, which was hosted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.  The presentation featured brief (five-minute) summaries by the various agency heads charged with moving people around in Virginia’s urban core.

The summary by Virginia’s Department of Transportation, ubiquitously known across the Commonwealth as “VDOT,” was especially well done.  After a major overhaul during the Warner administration, VDOT has emerged as a state agency which gets things done and, just as importantly, tells you what it’s doing.

In fact, in the past three years, VDOT has a record of completing its projects on time (95%) and on budget (98%).  Hard to argue with that kind of success.

In the 34th Senate District, VDOT is coordinating the final design of the I-66 improvement project, our #1 transportation need.  At the same time, it is managing local projects like the Stringfellow Road widening ($60M budget, completion date July 2015) and the Route 50 widening, beyond Rte. 28 ($100M budget, completion date November 2015).

Of course, VDOT’s major pending project in northern Virginia is the new “HOV/HOT lanes” along I-95 in Fairfax and Prince William.  The price tag is $1 billion for all improvements and the completion date is “early 2015.”  While that project does not physically touch the 34th Senate District, we all travel north/south on that corridor — and it’s the biggest parking lot in Virginia (especially going to the beach in the summer).

Did I get all this inside information because I’m a State Senator?  No.  I just checked VDOT’s public website which is www.vamegaprojects.com.  All the information is listed there, along with supervisors to call if you have any construction-related issues.

Construction projects take time.  They clog traffic.  But it’s a lot more tolerable when you know what’s going on — and when it will be over.

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Twenty Years Ago Today …

It was a Friday night in Alexandria.  September 30, 1994.  Bill Clinton was President and Heath Shuler was a rookie quarterback for the Redskins.  I had just graduated from UVA Law, taken the Bar Exam and started a new job.

Life as a single guy was awesome.

I was hanging out with my buddies at our row house on King Street watching television.  My club had a rugby match the next day in Philadelphia, and I was just killing time.  It was a perfect fall night.

For no particular reason, we left the house at 9 pm to have a drink at “GW’s,” a country and western bar on the next block.  I ordered a Budweiser, leaned against the bar and studied the array of belt buckles, hats and boots that filled up the dance floor.

A few minutes later, I saw a beautiful girl across the room … and my life was never the same!  Thank you, Sharon Kim Petersen, for being THAT GIRL.

Which just proves — you can never spend enough time in bars.

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