We are closing in on the Nov. 4 elections, when Virginia voters choose between senatorial and congressional candidates. The stakes are huge. Polls indicate the present Congress’s performance is approved by only 20 percent (or less) of voters, because partisan gridlock prevents collaboration between Republicans and Democrats to address important issues, including taxes, entitlements, budgets, immigration, education and climate.
Make no mistake – this election is about legislative performance, not about the president or Obamacare.
The facts underlying many issues are clear. However, when facts suggest policies that run counter to party ideology or the interests of powerful political support groups, partisan interests block action, issues fester and America suffers.
With partisan gridlock the central issue, the nation will be best served by electing moderates, of whatever party, who will reach across the aisle to seek members of the other party ready to join in a cooperative effort to address critical issues. Today’s parties bear little resemblance to those grandpa supported. Choosing candidates should not be a traditional “R” or “D” response.
To be effective, legislative cooperators must agree on basic facts: America is aging, its white majority is shrinking, K-12 education results lag international competitors. Immigration reform requires both compassion and control; our military should be organized for today’s threats, not yesterday’s. Once facts are established, good ideas from each party can be blended into legislation that advances America’s interests.
That is how government used to operate. I experienced it in the second Reagan Administration, working on international trade issues. Congress was divided; Republicans held the Senate, Democrats the House. Imports of textiles and shoes were flooding America, with 300 protectionist bills introduced in Congress.
Democrats saw imports destroying U.S. jobs. The Administration saw free trade as a bridge to international cooperation and greater exports of U.S. high-tech products – computers and aircraft. Business and Labor were similarly divided.
This former Republican businessman needed to build trust and friendly relations with free trade opponents – Labor and Congressional Democrats, getting to know and listen to Democrats such as Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Representative John Dingell, and labor leaders, easier then because vitriolic attacks on candidates – typical of today’s elections – were infrequent in 1984.
Fruits of this government-wide effort were great. A US-Canada Free Trade Agreement was reached in principle on New Year’s Eve 1986, later adding Mexico to became NAFTA. The 1986 Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations broadened and improved existing agreements, creating the World Trade Organization.
Japan’s mercantilist attacks on our electronics industries were reined in, as were the European Union’s subsidies of commercial aircraft manufacture. Finally, following the President’s Geneva meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev, we reconnected with Soviet trade officials and opened US - Soviet trade as a happy prelude to the end of the Cold War.
Problems we face today are more daunting than the disputes of the 1980s. So we must work together, as Americans, rather than fighting along partisan lines, to serve our country and our world. This election gives us a chance to elect Americans, of whatever Party, best able and willing to reach across the aisle.
America’s future is in our hands.
Bruce Smart is a former CEO and former Undersecretary of Commerce who writes regularly for the Times-Mirror. He lives in Upperville.
UppervilleNorthern Virginia economy needs Comstock
Northern Virginia has some serious growing economic challenges – from flat wage growth to the president’s defense sequester cuts to youth unemployment – and with three Virginia incumbent congressmen leaving office, we will need effective leaders to take their places and fight to raise our standard of living.
That’s why at last week’s Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored debate, the moderator asked: Which candidate would be the most effective replacement for Congressman Frank Wolf?
The answer is clearly Del. Barbara Comstock for three big reasons.
First, Barbara’s record fits what the 10th district needs: a leader for the 21st century economy. She is the chair of the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Delegates and has helped implement policies that will continue to make the Tysons-to-Leesburg corridor a hotbed for tech companies and innovators. These are next-generation jobs we need to diversity our economy and get young people back to work.
Second, Barbara’s close relationship with Congressman Wolf would ease the transition and sustain his active constituent services. As the voters have resoundingly said for decades, Congressman Wolf has been a model legislator. As his former aide and trusted ally, Barbara is best suited to maintain the institutional knowledge of the office, as well as continue Congressman Wolf’s efforts to end human trafficking and defend human rights.
Third, Barbara would join the majority party as a rising star, verses her opponent who will be just another face in the crowd of the opposition party. Supervisor John Foust is your average liberal Democrat and his debate performances have shown him to be a below-average communicator.
Barbara, on the other hand, is an articulate spokeswoman, and the House Republicans – who hold the majority and make the real governing decisions – will elevate Barbara quickly through the seniority ranks. Barbara would govern immediately and help to end legislative gridlock on economic issues – including reversing the harmful defense sequestration cuts – while Foust has made it clear throughout this campaign that his role would be to obstruct the majority and focus on divisive social issues.
If these reasons don’t make you believe Barbara will be the most effective congressman, don’t ask me; ask the Northern Virginia and national business groups. All the groups who have endorsed so far, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the NFIB to the National and Virginia Associations of Realtors to the Associated of Builders and Contractors to the National Association of Women Business Owners, have picked Barbara Comstock – while Foust has no business endorsements.
Barbara Comstock is ready to fill Northern Virginia’s leadership gap, grow our region’s job prospects and help create long-term economic stability.
HerndonCandidate challenges opponent’s attendance record
I attend a number of Leesburg Town Council meetings and notice that most of the council members are engaged and informed – except one, Marty Martinez.
Now in his third term, and running for a fourth, I noticed he misses a lot of meetings. I decided to check the minutes of meetings over his last two terms and discovered he has missed nearly 27 percent of all council meetings from 2009 to present. This includes 25.2 percent of regular sessions and 28.8 percent of work sessions, for a total of 65 partial or complete absences – a total of 33 absences, 32 late arrivals or early departures.
I would venture to guess that no other elected person in office in Loudoun has missed so many meetings
One of the minutes of a 2009 meeting said Martinez missed one work session after a little league game because he said, “I came back home not feeling good because of the heat so I watched you guys on TV,” and at one point “apologized for missing so many events,” stating that (per the minutes) “he is coaching baseball again and has a full schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
In fact, one of his absences resulted in the absence of a quorum. For a council work session or meeting to take place, there needs to be a quorum or more than three members of the town council present. On this meeting date in September 2011, the work session could not be held due to insufficient quorum.
The last time this happened was in 2002. Budget work sessions have occasionally been scheduled, or considered, for times during the work day, to which Martinez objected. One of the minutes stated: “Council Member Martinez stated if the sessions are held during the work day he will not be able to attend and therefore will not vote on the budget because he will have not had any input.”
He rejected the notion of meeting with staff separately as adequate, as he would “not be able to share his point of view with council,” but despite the threats, he has consistently voted on budgets.
Why should Marty Martinez be re-elected to a fourth term if he is absent this often?
Candidate, Leesburg Town CouncilEnergy inefficiency puts state at risk
Your news item that Virginia is one of the nation’s most energy inefficient states in the nation, ranking 43rd overall, is extremely disturbing. As your article reports, “efficient use of energy is essential to national security and prosperity.” In addition, another way to state the statistic you cited is that for every dollar invested in energy efficiency, over $2 can be saved in the economy. Virginia must improve its energy efficiency.
Poor energy efficiency means: burning more fossil fuels; higher energy bills to be paid by taxpayers; more green house gas emissions; greater rates of asthma among children and the elderly; and exacerbated global warming and climate change. Climate change is real and so are its impacts. In Northern Virginia, we experienced the 2010 “Snowmageddon,” the 2012 derecho, the long winter of 2013-2014 and the cool summer of 2014, to name a few weather-related impacts.
In Tidewater Virginia, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that this part of Virginia is the third most vulnerable to climate change induced sea level rise, ranking behind only Louisiana and southern Florida. There is much at risk, including the safety of 1.7 million Hampton Roads residents, where there is no strong plan for shelter and evacuation in case of a weather disaster. Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences believe that 2003’s Hurricane Isabel caused more damage than a bigger storm in 1933 because the seas were already 14 inches higher. So, it is just a question of time when disaster will strike.
Also at risk, as stated above, is our national security. The world’s largest naval base and extensive military and federal infrastructure is located in the vulnerable Tidewater region. Historic sites such as Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg are at risk of disappearing. The Tidewater economy, based on tourism, the military and import/export activity, is threatened.
The U.S. Department of Energy states that energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most effective ways to combat climate change. Virginia needs to take swift action to improve energy efficiency. There is too much at stake to tolerate business as usual.
In addition to improving energy efficiency, Virginia must leave fossil fuels in the ground and rapidly transition to a clean energy economy powered by clean, renewable sources. Virginia is blessed with abundant wind, water and solar energy resources. Governor McAuliffe should withdraw support fossil fuel projects such as offshore seismic testing for oil and the 550- mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to transport natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia to eastern North Carolina. Instead, bold efforts to promote and implement renewable energy resources must be made posthaste.
To this end, Virginia also needs a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, like neighboring states and jurisdictions already have in place, namely Maryland, the District of Columbia and North Carolina.
“We do not inherit the Earth. We borrow it from our children.” – Chinese Proverb.
LeesburgCOMMUNITY VIEW: Local economy dependent on clean water
As the Clean Water Act nears its 42nd anniversary, we must recognize that the Potomac River is a Loudoun County treasure. Year-round, the river draws visitors from Northern Virginia to hike along, bird watch by and sail in its waters.
Along with the Potomac, other local waterways such as Beaverdam Reservoir and Goose Creek support dozens upon dozens of small businesses that both foster a sense of community and make for a strong local economy in Loudoun County.
Crooked Run Brewing, in Leesburg, is a great example of a small business that takes pride in and relies on clean, fresh water throughout Northern Virginia. Founded by Jake Endres through a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, the brewery prides itself on drawing crowds to sample its beers made from local ingredients.
To serve amazing local beer, Crooked Run needs the support of clean local waterways. For this reason Crooked Run’s business model depends upon the health of the rivers and lakes in Northern Virginia.
Virginians should be doing everything we can to protect our waterways. But far too many of streams and wetlands that flow into the Potomac and area reservoirs, along with 57 percent of the streams that crisscross our state, don’t have guaranteed protections under the Clean Water Act. That means developers could build over our wetlands; oil companies, power plants, or meat processing plants could dump into our streams; and federal law couldn’t stop them, thanks to a loophole created by a pair of polluter-driven lawsuits nearly a decade ago.
The loophole leaves vulnerable the wetlands and streams that feed into the Potomac River, Goose Creek and other popular area rivers and lakes; and this leaves businesses like Crooked Run Brewing more vulnerable, too.
“I grew up fishing and swimming in Catoctin Creek, spending countless sunny days exploring its many twists and turns. Now, all the smallmouth are dead, and the last time I went swimming there two years ago, I got so sick that I had to go to the hospital. Virginia’s waterways are some of the most beautiful places, and it is shameful that we can’t fully enjoy them,” said Endres.
Fortunately, in March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to close this loophole and restore protections to 28,000 miles of streams across Virginia and nearly 2 million across the country.
A broad coalition of clean water advocates, farmers, mayors, small businesses and tens of thousands of Virginians have heralded the EPA move. However, agribusinesses, oil and gas companies, and other polluters affected by the rule have waged a bitter campaign against it.
Earlier this year the House approved a bill, H.R. 5078, to block the new rule. Disappointingly, among those voting in favor of the measure and against clean water safeguards were seven Virginia representatives, including Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district encompasses a large portion of the Potomac River border.
There’s still time and the opportunity to get these restored protections across the finish line. EPA is taking public comments on their proposal through Oct. 20. In the face of all the opposition from the polluters, it’s critical that all Virginians who value clean water make their voices heard. It is also critical that Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner stand up for these rules if they come before them in the Senate.
Virginians depend on clean water to drink, swim and paddle. Businesses like Crooked Run Brewing depend on clean water to make a living. Let’s do everything we can to foster a strong local economy and a high quality of life for generations to come.
Campaign organizer for Environment VirginiaLeesburg takes solar LEAP Anti-Hindu graffiti “filled me with disgust, anger and sadness” Religious discrimination has no place in Loudoun Removing the stigma of mental illness To avoid tragedies, state must address mental health COMMUNITY VIEW: Intolerance: our moral disability? Lethal force should be the last, bad option How old is candidate Comstock? The argument for full-day kindergarten Foust best choice to succeed Wolf
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