Transparency News 8/29/14


Friday, August 29, 2014

State and Local Stories

Several dozen people at yesterday's Denbigh Warwick Business Association meet-and-greet got a vivid demonstration of gerrymandering today, courtesy of Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach. They'd grabbed tables on either side of a Denbigh Community Center meeting room, leaving a wide central aisle. Imagine, said Rigell, the people to his right were in one district, mainly Republican. Those to his left, in a different district, leaning to the Democrats. "You're going to want to get any Democrats over there," he told the people to his right. The others, would want Republicans to be in the other district. With computer models and mapping data that can pretty much narrow down how groups of people, even block by block, will likely vote, it's easier than ever to draw Congressional district lines that can keep an incumbent safe. Rigell thinks that needs to change. He's joined forces with a liberal Democrat from California, Alan Lowenthal, to find a way to take the impulse to protect incumbents' seats.
Daily Press

As the federal corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, moved toward closing arguments, Virginia's two U.S. senators urged state lawmakers to move quickly to tighten the commonwealth's ethics laws. "We've got a repair to do - a reputation repair," Sen. Tim Kaine said Thursday, just before he and Sen. Mark Warner spoke at a Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. Noting that Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants tighter restrictions on gifts to elected officials, Kaine said the governor and state legislators "have a superb opportunity, and they shouldn't drop it." "I couldn't agree more," Warner said. "There needs to be clear rules about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate." "It starts with a limit on gifts," Warner said, adding that whether that limit should be $50, $100 or $250 is for state elected leaders to work out. "But I think we all want to get back to the ways when the Virginia way meant a step above."

Danville School Board members discussed the logistics of open meetings and looked at revising goals and mission statements during a retreat Thursday. “I feel like if we could agree on some rules of the road, it would be helpful,” said board member Steven Gould about the board’s legal compliance. Per the state’s opening meetings laws, a meeting is defined as a communion of three or more board members. Board members discussed that sometimes they would need to talk with the superintendent or board chair before a meeting to be briefed and prepared for issues, and chair Ed Polhamus said he would be happy to summarize events for other board members before meetings.
Register & Bee

What kind of combat weapons do my local cops have? That’s what people around the country have been asking as images and videos of a heavily armed police force responding to protests and riots over the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri over the last two weeks sparked criticism of the militarization of law enforcement agencies.  In Virginia, local law enforcement agencies can apply for free surplus military equipment through an arm of the DOD called the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The 1033 Program, as it’s known, is administered by the Virginia State Police and gives local departments access to “vehicles, weapons, computer equipment, body armor, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment, radios and televisions, tents and sleeping bags, photographic equipment, various clothing items, and more.” A document released late last week by the DLA in response to a flurry of Freedom of Information Act requests by reporters across the Commonwealth shows all the equipment disbursed in Virginia by municipality since 2006. Aggregating the data by city and county and not listing individual agencies was “a matter of security,” according to DLA spokeswoman Mimi Schirmacher. But the DLA’s numbers don’t square with local law enforcement reports.
C-Ville Weekly



A bit of political bait-and-switch: The secretary of the Fairfax County electoral board says election officials have cross-referenced the county’s voter rolls with those in Maryland and found evidence that 17 of the county’s 700,000 registered voters might have voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. Hear, hear to state Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins in quickly issuing a statement that such evidence “demands a full investigation” and, if warranted, prosecution “to the fullest extent of the law.” Darn straight. The vote is sacrosanct. That’s the bait. The switch: Mullins points to “the discovery this week” in again dismissing critics of his party’s aggressive efforts to weed out fraudulent votes. “Time and time again,” he writes, “we hear that voter fraud is myth, and naysayers argue that those who express concerns about the integrity of our elections have only the worst of intentions. Yet once again we find that voter fraud is real.”
Roanoke Times