1. A Tragic Week
Two devastating tragedies overwhelmed all other news in the Commonwealth this week.
First, Tornado-related deaths in Washington County and the extensive destruction in the wake of the twister further compounded the recent disasters in Pulaski and Gloucester. All accounts note that this has been one of the worst tornado seasons in U.S. history. And all Virginians are grieving for the people and families who have been the victims of the tragedy.
Second, the death of House Clerk Bruce Jamerson by his own hands cast a pall over the Assembly’s return to town this week. Virginia is extraordinarily fortunate to have a remarkably competent and dedicated public service and Jamerson epitomized these twin virtues. Legislators were eloquent in expressing their admiration. And the tremendous sadness felt over the loss was expressed in hundreds of private conversations this week.
2. Wilder on Redistricting
Forner Governor Doug Wilder entered the redistricting fray this week with a commentary piece wondering if the required steps were taken to consider additional majority-minority districts in the Assembly.
While most legislators are breathing a sign of relief that they reached an agreement that will keep judges from drawing Virginia’s political boundaries, Wilder’s commentary is a good reminder that we’re not quite sure how the Justice Department will respond to Virginia’s plan and what will ultimately happen when suits are filed in the court system.
I may well be wrong, but I’m not certain that there won’t be further negotiation between the state and the feds.
3. A New Springtime Tradition
Has developed in the last few years. Virginia’s colleges and universities, a number of them among the nation’s best, announce their tuition and fee hikes and deplore what they consider to be an inadequate level of state support.
The increases inevitably outpace inflation, often by a significant multiple.
My sense is that for many student and parents, the cost of higher ed still represents a good investment in terms of lifetime learning power.
But it’s hard not to worry about accessibility, about the message that these increases send to students and parents who have limited knowledge of higher ed, and about what this is doing to the average student debt, of graduates and non-graduates alike.
This is a tradition that will become increasingly difficult to sustain and it seems that some combination of increased state funding and dramatic changes in how course are delivered will ultimately be part of the answer.
4. Trumped by His Own Money?
I always thought one of John McCain’s major problems in 2008 was that while fellow Republicans respected him as an individual, they didn’t have much affection for his politics.
It’s been my belief that whoever obtains the GOP nomination in 20112 is likely to be someone for whom the party base is more enthusiastic.
I guess this is why I don’t quite see the Trump boomlet getting much larger.
Will Virginia Republicans easily forget Trump’s $25,000 donation to Terry McAuliffe? Will the fact that Trump turned around and gave Bob McDonnell the same amount after McAuliffe was defeated buy him political absolution?
I doubt it.
Trump’s “Virginia problem” may well be a microcosm of the challenges that he’ll face in state after state.