Failing Grade for Black
In their campaign against Democrat David E. Poisson in the 32nd District, Del. Richard H. "Dick" Black (R-Loudoun) and his supporters have made a lot of noise about an editorial error in one of Poisson's fliers (a mistaken bill number used in reference to Black's voting record), while offering no critique of Poisson's plan nor any plan of their own.
I fear that labeling such an editorial error as an "outright lie" may be an attempt to divert voters from a simple fact: In seven years as our delegate, even as a member of the House Education Committee, Black has never sponsored legislation that helped Loudoun obtain more state funding for its public schools. When it comes to getting additional funds for our schools from Richmond, Black has not brought home the bacon.
Nor has Black succeeded in making any change in the "composite index" used to determine state funding for school districts, an issue that, both parties agree, needs attention. As Loudoun School Board Chairman John A. Andrews II (Potomac) recently observed, Loudoun could receive more than $80 million in additional funds from the state if it had a composite index similar to Prince William County's.
Unfortunately, Black's attention is more focused on tuition tax credits and vouchers, such as those used to fund private, religious and home-based schooling. Noting this tendency, Republican James Dillard, who was chairman of the House Education Committee and a 25-year champion of education in the General Assembly until his retirement this year, put it simply: "He's just not a friend of public education." Dillard added that the "F" grade in education assigned to Black in Poisson's flier was "richly deserved."
We, the taxpayers of Loudoun County, have ourselves funded the bulk of our school construction through the school bonds we have approved each election cycle and paid with our property taxes. Recent raises in teacher salaries -- absolutely vital in retaining our teachers -- have been enabled by legislation that Black opposed.
When half of all teachers nationally quit within their first five years, it's little wonder that Loudoun has had to hire 800 teachers this year. Poisson supports raising teacher salaries to the national average, so that good educators need not leave the classroom for more money. He also has proposed financial incentives for teachers in the critical shortage areas of math, science and foreign language.
I invite all readers -- particularly open-minded moderates of both parties, parents of school-age children and independent thinkers -- to learn more about Poisson's candidacy and his plans to bolster our public schools and teachers.
Stick With What Works
As we have seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, good management is the difference between life and death. So why would Virginia fire the team that earned us a rating as the best managed state in the United States to elect as its governor a man with absolutely no management experience?
Imagine if Katrina had hit Virginia. Wouldn't you want a leader who has demonstrated the ability to bring people together and who has solved tough problems rather than someone who has never demonstrated any management or leadership on critical issues confronting our great state?
Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who recently resigned, had no experience in emergency management. His previous job was director of the International Arabian Horse Association. Jerry W. Kilgore, who wants to be Virginia's next governor, has no experience in any kind of management. His entire career has been lawyering. He has zero executive experience, never met a payroll and never provided health insurance for employees.
"Well, actually we didn't have a deficit," Kilgore said, referring to James S. Gilmore III and his administration, whose risky and imprudent mismanagement dumped a $6 billion deficit on Gov. Mark R. Warner and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine when they entered office. "We just, at the end of his administration, weren't meeting the revenue projections. It was not a deficit at that point," Kilgore said at a candidate forum earlier this month in Alexandria.
The nervous laughter that ensued was at, not with, Kilgore. As anyone who has taken a high school accounting class can tell you, when revenue doesn't match expenditures, you're going to have a deficit.
The war has drained the federal budget, forcing us to face Hurricane Katrina with a $352 billion budget deficit. Running up massive deficits is dangerous and bad management. Warner and Kaine rescued the commonwealth from the mismanagement of Kilgore's campaign chairman, Gilmore. For our families' safety and welfare, let's stick with the successful management team we have.
Do Unto Others
I remember that, a few years ago, many people in our area and around the country wore WWJD bracelets. "What Would Jesus Do?" is a good question and a principle that is hard to follow; perhaps that is why the fad went away.
Let's take the current struggle over a day-laborer site in Herndon as an example. Would Jesus use the issue as a political wedge as Jerry W. Kilgore has done, pitting man against man? I don't think so. Would Jesus sue to stop the site from opening as the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has threatened to do? I doubt it.
Jesus preached that we should look out for the least among us. He also preached that we should seek to serve instead of being served. These teachings seem to fit the day-laborer site well.
I hope that those running and holding elected office in Loudoun County, Virginia and our nation remember that it is more important to act on our values than just to talk about them.
Real Leadership Unites
Like most places, Loudoun County has become host to a few politicians on the prowl for divisive wedge issues around which to build campaigns.
This sad trend is becoming more pronounced, especially among some who are misleadingly using the label Republican.
Fear is an easy emotion for politicians to exploit. Human nature being what it is, we can easily be encouraged to fear and blame "those people" if "those people" are different in some way.
There is no doubt that it works. Given low voter turnout, an opportunistic politician can garner enough votes to win simply by using divisive rhetoric about a convenient "them." Fear is an effective motivator, and motivating voters to go to the polls is the only thing that really matters.
We see this approach at work in the campaign of Del. Richard H. "Dick" Black (R-Loudoun). The writer of one pro-Black letter published here ["Democrats' Familiar Tune," Letters, Loudoun Extra, Sept. 15] resorts to a slur about "gay adoption." We see it also in the anti-immigrant grandstanding by Black's political twin, Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling).
Black and Delgaudio would, for some cheap and easy votes, demonize gay and lesbian Virginians who want to provide stable, loving homes to children who would otherwise remain in our overwhelmed foster care system. They would vilify men who are doing the best they can to support their families, and they would obstruct a faith-based charity, Project Hope and Harmony, that has offered to help solve a real problem in its community. Meanwhile, the real issues that concern their constituents go unaddressed.
This is not leadership. It is cowardly pandering, and engaged voters of all parties should recognize it as such. Real leaders don't manipulate people by exploiting fear. Real leaders don't deliberately incite divisions and turn neighbor against neighbor. Real leaders bring people together and do the hard work of representing the whole community they were elected to serve.
Weintraub is president of Equality Loudoun.