Transparency News, 8/4/21


August 4, 2021
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state & local news stories
The House of Delegates and Senate are set to adopt separate plans Wednesday for spending about $3.5 billion in federal aid, but in the end their budgets may look the same. Any differences depend on the Senate, which is set to act on 142 amendments lawmakers proposed to the budget bill that Gov. Ralph Northam introduced after working closely with Democratic legislative leaders on how to spend $4.3 billion that Virginia received under the American Rescue Plan Act. Democrats ensured on Tuesday that there would be no changes to the spending plan in the House. In party-line votes, they briskly rejected three packages of Republican amendments in a confrontation that openly crossed the line from legislating to politicking, with Virginia’s top statewide offices and all 100 House seats up for election in November. House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said Democrats gave Republicans no choice by shutting them out of the budget process and giving them just two minutes to explain their amendments before killing them.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, Charlottesville government offices are unlikely to be back to normal anytime soon. Staffers are recommending that the City Council extend the city’s Continuity of Governance ordinance because of the spread the delta variant of COVID-19, City Manager Chip Boyles said during Monday’s council meeting. Originally, Boyles planned to use his presentation Monday to recommend the City Council consider terminating the Continuity of Governance Ordinance on Sept. 7. Brain Wheeler, director of communications for the city, said staff is looking at using a hybrid model for some city meetings. Members of city boards and commissions would attend in person, while a virtual option would be available for members of the public. However, due to technical constraints, this may not be possible for all boards and commissions. Wheeler estimates the communications department could support up to six boards in a hybrid model.
The Daily Progress

Middletown Town Council is looking for ways to increase participation in government meetings and events. During a Monday night work session, Middletown Town Council members lamented low turnout at two recent citizen input sessions. The town hosted public meetings on July 20 and 22 at the town office at 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. (both days) so citizens could provide insight into the town’s strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. But only 17 people participated. There was a consensus among the council that 17 people hardly represent the town’s 1,350-plus residents. Council Member Carole Snyder Jones said she was “very disappointed” in the poor turnout and felt the town failed to notify people of the meeting adequately. Council members noted how some residents would like town meetings broadcast live while other residents — particularly older ones — don’t use technology at all.
The Winchester Star

Former Norfolk Sherriff Bob McCabe's public corruption trial begins Tuesday. It's been nearly two years since a federal grand jury indicted him on multiple charges, including fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded not guilty. McCabe, who retired in 2017 after serving as sheriff for 22 years, is accused of rigging bids to provide medical services to Norfolk inmates. The indictment says McCabe and Gerard Boyle, who was the CEO of Correct Care Solutions, engaged in a quid pro quo relationship in which Boyle gave McCabe cash, gifts and campaign contributions in exchange for official actions that benefited Boyle’s company.

editorials & opinion

Can and should freedom of expression and civility co-exist? In case you missed it in last week’s edition, Smithfield High School student Maggie Mandara won an essay contest by the Virginia School Boards Association on that important question. While we’re thrilled with a local student’s winning a statewide writing contest, we’re saddened by Maggie’s conclusion that two values we cherish — civility and the right of expression — are in hopeless conflict in America. Adults would be wise to consider the impact of their words and actions on young people like Maggie, who, before they’re even old enough to vote, become jaded about the constitutional republic they’re about to inherit. We blame social media, where it’s too easy to spew hatred without accountability to our fellow man. Face-to-face conversations are more likely to explore, and find, common ground.
The Smithfield Times