Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Still looks weaker to me.

As I figured, proponents of the rule of law are siding with the Washington Times suggestion that the PWC resolution was strengthened, and castigating the Washington Post for saying it was weakened.

Greg L, President of Help Save Manassas, has two posts on this subject. The first was referenced in a comment in my preceding thread, and the second is his explanation, What the Changes Actually Mean. He included a chart which broke down the issue the same way I did in my previous post, but assesses the consequence of the 3rd case differently than I would:

The third case, where a suspect is released with a ticket, warning, or nothing at all is where most of the confusion lies. Under the current policy, we again have immigration checks done at the discretion of an officer, subject to probable cause. The change here is that the probable cause requirement here seems to have been removed. Officers will still check immigration status of those detained for non-arrestable offenses (it can’t be prohibited under 8 U.S.C. 1373) at their discretion, but aren’t required to vault the probable cause hurdle. My understanding here is that since a suspect isn’t being subjected to detention, the opportunity for a successful civil rights lawsuit is either absent or tremendously low. Whether this increases or decreases the number of immigration checks that will be performed remains to be seen, but since it’s easier for an officer to conduct these checks, it’s pretty likely that more checks will be performed.

Remember, my statement was this:

So the question is: Was there more probable cause questioning of non-arrested people, or more probable cause questionings of people who were arrested and NOT taken to jail. The Washington Times article gives us the answer: As of April 1, police said they had had contact with 89 illegal immigrants and that 46 received a ticket but were not arrested or detained. 46 people who we learned were illegal immigrants, were NOT arrested or detained. Under this new "stiffer" policy, those 46 could NOT be questioned anymore.

Now, Greg argues that the new rule doesn't take away the board direction to question these non-arrested people. He argues that they still have "discretion" to question, and in fact will be MORE likely to do so because they don't need "probable cause".

The problem I have with this argument is that, as Greg also notes, under 8 U.S.C. 1373 the police have the right to question illegal status. They had that right BEFORE the resolution was passed, they had that right under the current resolution, and they still have that right under the new resolution.

In other words, for those who are not arrested, Greg's argument is that the NEW resolution simply goes back to what the law was BEFORE THE CURRENT RESOLUTION.

But if that is true, then it would mean that the CURRENT RESOLUTION was actually more restrictive than what was true before it was passed. In other words -- for those not arrested, the resolution that supposedly led to more questioning actually restricted that questioning, so that repealing that part of the resolution will actually let us question more people.

But I doubt Greg is trying to say he pushed for a resolution that restricted the police's right to question status. Of course, the original proposal didn't include "probably cause", but we certainly were led to believe it imposed a requirement for the police to implement a policy of questioning EVERY illegal for which there was probable cause.

In other words, to believe the situation for those not arrested will lead to MORE questioning now is to believe the resolution gave us LESS questioning.

Since it seems clear that in fact MORE questioning was done under the resolution, I believe that the resolution DID order the police department to implement a policy of questioning, subject to "probable cause", and the NEW resolution REMOVES that order.

IN truth, time will tell. But logic can be instructive. How many times in the past 3 months have you read Greg L., or ANY person supporting the rule of law resolution, complaining that Deane might interfere with the resolution by not having the police do the questioning they were required to do under the resolution?

Heck, do you remember any posts suggesting we should remove the requirement for probable cause questioning before last night?

Let's use some more logic. Police wanted video cameras because they were afraid if the questioned someone about their illegal immigrant status, and acted on the results of that questioning, they might be sued for civil rights violations. This when they had been told to question status based on a probable cause criteria.

But now the entire subject of asking questions is left to the "discretion" of the officer. If the officer now, using his own discretion, asks about illegal status, and acts on those answers, it will be COMPLETELY on the officer. There's no order telling him to ask questions, and no more clear process to be followed to show a lack of discrimination (the probable cause process).

And we are supposed to believe that the police, afraid to use probable cause without video camers, will be happy to use a "at your own discretion" process, without any video to protect them? The first time an officer asks the question, a lawsuit will follow, and the department will stand back and say "well, it was up to the officer NOT to violate civil rights. We didn't ask him to do ANYTHING. "

We'll know in a couple of months if the number of non-arrested people who are then hauled in for being illegal goes up or down (realise that we are now talking about people who were not arrested for an underlying offense, but in the act of being suspected of an offense, they are asked their status, give the wrong answer, and are taken into custody for deportation).

Of course, if the argument is that they will be ASKED about their status, but will NOT be detained, then maybe more questions will be asked, but what would the point be. We already have illegals ADMITTING to being illegal in meetings with the Chief of Police, because he has the "discretion" not to take action, and he doesn't.

WP: Pr. William Softens Policy on Immigration Status Checks

This should at least mollify those critics who said we were just too hard on the illegal immigrant population. We have "softened" our policy, at least according to the Washington Post's article Pr. William Softens Policy on Immigration Status Checks:

The Prince William County supervisors abolished a key part of the county's illegal-immigration policy last night by directing police officers to question criminal suspects about their immigration status only after they have been arrested.

In October, the Board of County Supervisors directed officers to check the legal status of crime suspects, no matter how minor the offense, if they think the person might be in the country unlawfully.

It remains to be seen how big a deal this is. On the surface, it looks like a big change -- before if you got pulled over for speeding, you could be questioned. Now you can only be questioned if you are actually arrested, not just if you are questioned (I'm not sure but I don't think a speeding ticked is considered an arrest).

But the initial reports on the policy suggested that most everybody who was found to have questionable status was actually arrested, so the number of total people detained may be the same under the new policy.

It was a strange session. Principi, in part arguing it wasn't fair to make the police to this task without giving them cameras, proposed a resolution recinding the policy:

Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) used the camera budget cut as a rationale for offering a proposal to change the policy the board approved in October.

That was voted down. But then when Corey Stewart moved to put the cameras back into the budget, Principi voted against it, helping to stop it:

Before the board's final vote, Stewart made a motion to add nearly $4 million to the budget, restoring funds for cameras and additional police staffing that were tentatively cut last week.

That vote appears to have prompted a closed session where the supervisors decided to simply punt on the part of the resolution that seemed to require cameras, and pretend nothing had changed. If you believe that, you will be impressed at how they even got Principi to vote against this change, in order to make it look like it wasn't anything like what he had proposed earlier.

And the supervisors are furiously working on convincing people all is well. Again from the Post:

"The basic policy is fundamentally the same. We just changed the way it's implemented," Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) said. "We want to give officers discretion in the field to use their judgment about when they ask and when they don't. This allows them to make their own call."

The policy as it were is ALL in the implementation. Heck, that's all the policy really was -- implementation. Question people about legal status, detain them if they seem to be illegal. That's not a policy, that's an implementation of immigration law. If you change that implementation, you've fundamentally altered "the policy".

The Post continues:

Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said the change will not amount to any "appreciable difference in the number of people arrested."

I'm not sure if Corey was being clever, or was just too tired to make a rational statement here. Under the new policy, they will question for immigrant status if you get arrested. So if you were going to be arrested, you will still be arrested -- hence, it will not change the number of people arrested.

Further, I can tell you that if it does change the number of illegal immigrants who are detained and deported, the difference will be most UNAPPRECIATED.

Corey pretty much seems to have set this up with his motion for cameras before the closed session:

Before the board's final vote, Stewart made a motion to add nearly $4 million to the budget, restoring funds for cameras and additional police staffing that were tentatively cut last week. He said he has received information that convinced him that the cameras are needed for the safety of the officers. His proposal failed on a split vote by the eight-member board.

"I have voted against every tax increase this board has put up," Stewart said before the board deadlocked on his motion. "This resolution is vitally important. It is making a difference, and long term it is going to save the residents of this county money. We need to do it right. We cannot leave our officers exposed."

I mean, if he believed the cameras were needed to safely implement the resolution, and if he believed we could not leave our officers exposed, what choice was there?

Wally Covington put it best:

The debate turned on us," Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) said. "Suddenly . . . having cameras matters. The perception is you start to lose credibility on your commitment to curb illegal immigration without them."

That's a shame. The cameras are a good idea in general for law enforcement (although they seem way overpriced). But they really aren't germaine to the illegal immigration crackdown, and if they were so important, the Chief should have been pushing for cameras years ago -- we'd probably have a federal grant by now.

This could really rile up the anti-illegal-immigration crowd. However, there will be a lot of political pressure for the leaders of that movement to claim this as a victory. So it remains to be seen how that dynamic will play out.

I've got to get to bed. I'm not feeling well. And not just because of what I just watched the board do.

BTW, the Washington Times thinks this new resolution is better. But they are almost certainly wrong. They claim that:

With the board's decision, county police can verify the immigration status of anyone they arrest, even for minor infractions such as speeding or jaywalking. Before, they needed probable cause to think the person was in the country illegally.

But in fact, EVERY illegal who gets arrested and taken to jail was already having immigration status checked, under the 287G program. The only question was whether we should question, in the field, people who were not being arrested, or people being arrested but then released without being taken to jail.

Under the old resolution, anybody being arrested could be questioned in the field, if there was "probable cause", or else you'd just wait until they were in jail.

Under the old resolution, you could also question anybody you pulled over, if you had "probable cause". And you could question under probable cause those you arrested but didn't send to jail.

Under the new resolution, you can ALWAYS question arrested people (most of whom would go to jail and be questioned there anyway). And you can NOT question those you don't arrest.

So the question is: Were there more probably cause questioning of non-arrested people, or more probable cause questionings of people who were arrested and NOT taken to jail.

The Washington Times article gives us the answer:

As of April 1, police said they had had contact with 89 illegal immigrants and that 46 received a ticket but were not arrested or detained

46 people who the learned were illegal immigrants, were NOT arrested or detained. Under this new "stiffer" policy, those 46 could NOT be questioned anymore.

The only real question is whether this new resolution actually gives police the "choice" to question anybody they want, even if they aren't arresting them. If so, it is possible it will lead to more questionings, not less. However, left to the police discretion, it seem clear Chief Deane would be leaning to telling his men NOT to question anybody they weren't forced to under law.

Ninety Seven Cents -- I thought it wasn't possible.

When the board voted to advertise a $1.00 tax rate a few weeks back, I wrote a scathing opinion column castigating them for it. I knew that it was just an advertisement, and it was possible they could vote for a lower rate.

But frankly, I thought the chances of that happen were between none and no way. They had already taken the heat for saying $1.00, so why not vote for a buck?

Well, I have to say thankfully I was wrong. Tonight the board voted to adopt a 97 cent rate. It turns out that, with the much-lowered value of my house (due in no small part to the number of empty homes in my neighborhoow where hispanic families once resided), I will actually get a tax cut this year.

On the downside, they eliminated the car cameras. That itself isn't all that bad, but they then seem to have gutted the illegal immigration resolution. Although it's hard to say for sure.

More on that in another post.

What goes around, comes around?

Last year, Greg L. accused (apparently falsely) a candidate for local office of misusing his uniform. Greg claimed there was an active investigation, although he never reported it's result, no other mention of an investigation was ever made, and it appears that nobody but Greg ever knew anything about this so-called "investigation".

So I thought it was funny that the anti-bvbl folks are up in arms about what Greg wore while harassing day laborers. From one of their commenters:

1. Greg is (or was) in the reserves. He wore his uniform (BDU’s) while probably not under orders to perhaps intimidate civilians. This is a potential Federal violation. There are clear rules for wearing uniforms issued to you for active duty.

I'm guessing this complaint would go about as far as Greg's so-called complaint from last year.

But it would be funny if it DID go somewhere, if for no other reason than Karma.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What Democrats see when they think of our Troops in Iraq

Ever imagine what the Democratic Party sees then they think about the tremendous sacrifice our troops have made in Iraq, and the results of the hard work that hundreds of thousands of our hard-working men and women put in to make Iraq a better, safer, more friendly place for democracy?

Well, you don't have to imagine any more, because they are ready to tell the world. In a campaign ad which they correctly label "devastating" (to the DNC, unfortunately for them), they sum up the value of the sacrifice of our troops in 30 seconds of depressing video trying to sell defeat and demoralization.

Oh, they also pretend to "use McCain's own words", but if you listen you can see that they wouldn't even bother to include a complete sentence, or bother to do a better job of hiding their contempt for the truth -- you can hear the gap as they jump past the truth in McCain's comments.

For those who are uninformed, the quote the DNC falsely provides in that video is "Maybe 100. [bad editing break] That'd be fine with me".

The actual quote from McCain is: ""Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, that'd be fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day." "

Why is it that the DNC always wants to focus on only the troops who have died, rather than the hundreds of thousands who have fought? Because the fighting for our freedom isn't what interests the Democrats like Howard Dean -- only that our enemies killed some of our brave men and women in the process.

A dead soldier is worth a lot more to the Democratic Party, because they can use their corpses to sell defeat.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do cameras cost 3.1 million dollars?

Why would the county have to spend 6.9 million dollars for video cameras?

According to an old story in the Virginia-pilot "Bills coming due for Prince William County's excess:

The county is stuck with a bill for $3 million to install and monitor cameras in its 270 police cars. The cameras are needed to protect the county against lawsuits invited by the new rules

WJLA reported:

It will cost $1.8 million to install cameras in the county's 270 patrol cars, and Wittman says he will request 80 percent federal funding. It will cost an additional $1.2 million to monitor the camera footage.

Ok. So first, the cameras cost 1.8 million, but we hope to get 80% back, which means the real cost would be $360,000. Of course, we can't be sure we could get that money.

But let's step back. 270 patrol cars are to get cameras. 1.8 million dollars. That means each camera costs $6,666 dollars.

$6,666 dollars for a video camera. A camera which simply has to record in some vague detail images of a police officer and the person they are talking to, maybe a license plate.

Heck, the important thing is what is SAID, not really the picture.

$6,666 dollars? You can get a hi-def sony camcorder, that puts data direct to chip, for about $1200. Add $400 for a rubber shock mount. At low-res (you don't need hi-def for what we are doing) we can drop the data on a chip, and drop it onto a terrabyte hard drive for about $500 bucks, which has enough space to store a year's worth of data for one of the cameras. That's less than half the price they are quoting here.

Or you could do something cheaper. I picked up a nice little hi-def camera for my son. It's fixed focus, has no moving parts, drops the data onto a little chip. Price - $120 on sale. You can get the same camera for $80 in regular def instead of hi-def. Sounds not that good though.

Or why video at all? The issue here is whether the police say something that suggests a civil rights problem. why not just record the audio? I've got a recording mp3 player. About 80 bucks, stores hundreds of hours of audio. If you have to, combing it with that $120 camera. Now you've spent $200 bucks.

But then there's the $1.2 MILLION needed to monitor the pictures. Per year. Well, 270 police cars all with real-time feeds might take a few people to monitor.

Except we weren't putting these in for real-time monitoring. we were putting these in to protect us from a civil rights lawsuit.

So we don't have to monitor any of them. We just need to catalog and store them. If someone sues, we can pull the images and audio from that stop, and random stops before and after from the same officer.

Unless we are expecting hundreds of lawsuits (hard to imagine, as there aren't hundreds of people being pulled over), it shouldn't take more than one full-time employee to handle the storage, retrieval, and review of the evidence on an as-needed basis. That's $80,000 max.

Let's add in $20,000 for a nice server, some video editing software, and a nice large-screen TV and comfy chair.

So I've got 270 cameras at $300 each (I decided to go back to a nice mid-range camera with auto-focus), 270 wireless transmitter-receiver microphones for about $300 each (so the police officer can wear the microphone and record onto the video), 270*10 SDRAM digital storage cards, at $30 each (or 270*$300) (so the technician can go on vacation for a week and store the data off when they get back), $20,000 in computer equipment, $10,000 for a 10-terabyte RAID storage system, and one $80,000 technician to run it all.

270*(300+300+300) = $243,000.
+ $20,000 + $10,000 = $273,000.
+ $80,000 = $353,000.

So, $353,000, compared to the 3.1 million they are asking for.

Obviously, I'm missing something. But is it what we really needed the cameras for, or is it just that the cool camera system they are looking at is just so much more expensive than what we would need to meet the bare minimum requirement for keeping our police officers from being unjustly charged with violating someone's civil rights.

Washington Post's full-court press against Rule of Law Resolution

This Sunday's Prince William Extra from the Washington Post appears to be their last-ditch effort to derail the County's attempt to get control of the illegal immigration problem.

Three of the four letters to the editor are calls to repeal the Rule of Law resolution. The included a 1-year anniversary piece on HSM which included that dreadful picture of Greg from a previous article which makes him look more crazed than usual (I guess it was too much bother to get another picture taken). They have an article about Principi's effort next Tuesday to rescind the resolution, along with a piece about Manassas City's budget hearing where the post-jump headline suggests people are upset about the City's immigration policies, calling for curtailing spending for the 287-G program.

The most interesting of these articles was the one titled "Board is set to Reconsider Immigration Crackdown" (subtitled "Residents Encouraged to Attend Tuesday Meeting). The biased reporting starts with the headline, where they drop "illegal" to suggest PWC is targetting all immigrants, not just the ones who broke the law. It continues:

County supervisors are prepared to tweak, and possibly repeal, Prince William's controversial crackdown on illegal immigration. The board is expected to revisit the policy Tuesday before voting on the upcoming year's budget.

A single supervisor has said he'd consider repeal. There is no way the "supervisors" are prepared to repeal the crackdown. Even the other democrat explicitly told the Post he wouldn't support repeal:

"We need to review the policies necessary to make sure we don't get caught in a Catch-22," Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) said. "We may need to change the current policy. But I don't want to rescind the resolution."

The Post continues:

Several supervisors have suggested that they are willing to have officers question only the worst criminal offenders.

Who are these "several supervisors?". Principi, of course, who is looking to rescind questioning, and Jenkins who, as noted above, said he'd consider changing the current policy. But that is only two. "several" means more than two. Was the Post just misleading us, or are they protecting other supervisors (Maureen Caddigan perhaps?) who are afraid to mention their views ahead of the meeting? We know Maureen in particular has appeared rattled at times over constituents complaining about her position on issues. But she has not shown a lack of candor in expressing her views from the dias, so I would think if she wanted to change the policy, she would have said so.

But what other supervisors could there be to make up "several"? We know that Marty Nohe attended the pro-illegal-immigration party held by "antibvbl" and the 9500liberty organization at the beginning of the month, but I don't remember him ever publicly suggesting repeal of the police questioning provisions.

But I'd be shocked if any of the other four had made this suggestion. I have no doubt a couple of them are concerned over how the perception of racism is hurting the county. Corey Stewart even gave a video interview to the 9500liberty group to specifically distance himself from the anti-immigration, by making it clear he supports MORE immigration, and wants only to remove those here illegally, so they can be replaced by legal immigrants who can't get in right now.

I'm not sure how that would go over with people who seem happy that their streets are no longer populated by people of other cultures who park too many cars in the street, enjoy salsa music, speak other languages, and in general don't have the same view of what a neighborhood should look like as the "natives".

But regardless, I would be shocked if there were more than 2 votes to curtail police questioning for legal status.

Funny thing is, last year the WP also suggested right before a big vote that supervisors were waffling. Except they denied doing so, said it was all a ruse. The antibvbl folks have been re-running that story this past week, suggesting that telling people supervisors were questioning the resolution was some illegal act of manipulation.

I don't suppose they will be complaining about the WP efforts at manipulation this week though, as it seems coordinated with their own.

NOTE: I'm posting this now, but I'm coming back later to add links for everything I mentioned above. I just have to get off to church.

Greg did not create Black Velvet Bruce Li

The Washington Post had an article chronically the 1-year anniversary of Help Save Manassas. A good portion of it was little more than re-worded statements they got from Greg in an interview (Aside: it is a sign of a lazy reporter that rather than verifying facts from an interview, they simple stick the words "xxx said", or "xxx alleged", or "according to xxx".)

So I can't be sure whether this particular error was from Greg's interview, or more likely just another sign of laziness on the part of the reporter.

However, since the reporter is not the only person who has made this same false statement, and others probably believe it to be true (not being students of web history), a correction is in order. From "Taking a Stand on Illegal Immigration":

Letiecq, also the creator of the conservative blog Black Velvet Bruce Li,

For the record: Greg is NOT the creator of Black Velvet Bruce Li. (Also, BVBL is not a conservative blog, but that's another issue).

BVBL was created by a blogger who called himself Black Velvet Bruce Lee. That blogger was focused not on conservative politics, but on false personal attacks on Steve Chapman. Greg simply went along for the ride. And when BVBL was threatened with a lawsuit over the defamatory comments made on the blog, the blogger BVBL erased all his posts and went into hiding.

Greg simply commandered that site for his own use, taking the popularity while trying to avoid the legal consequences (I guess it remains to be seen if he is successful in that 2nd endeavor).

Later Greg re-hosted the site, and because of repeated requests to stop infringing on the Bruce Lee trademarks changed the name from "Lee" to "Li" and to remove Bruce Lee's image from the header.

It is interesting because other people make the mistake of saying that Greg was the one who created the "Help Save xxx" organizations. But as this article gets right, Greg didn't create that, he took it from other organizations:

Letiecq united unhappy residents around the region, he said, by forming Help Save Manassas. He noted that similar groups were in place: Help Save Herndon and Help Save Loudoun.

Oddly, while some might think it a compliment to be falsely credited with creating a successful franchise, Greg has used people's honest mistake in the matter to discredit them for sloppiness.

Which is fine, and why I espect he'll have also corrected the Washington Post's major blunder on his web site.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Was Corey Stewart the only supervisor to propose cuts?

Denny Daugherty was kind enough to send a link to a Washington Post article about the PWC budget, titled "Video Cameras might not be funded".

We always here "show us the cuts" when someone proposes holding the line on taxes, and to his credit, Stewart presented enough cuts in spending to give us a zero tax growth rate:

He proposed $21 million in budget cuts yesterday, delaying a planned vote by the board on the county's spending plan for the coming year.

In the end, by straw poll vote the supervisors approved a little less than a third of those cuts:

In all, supervisors cut the proposed budget by $6.7 million. That amount brings the property tax rate to 97 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The change would amount to a 5 percent increase in the tax bill of the average homeowner.

As Denny noted in his e-mail, that 97 cents is pretty close to the proposed rate approved by half the board last month.

Some supervisors complained that Stewart had not presented his cuts ahead of time so they could look them over:

Stewart's proposal caught some supervisors by surprise. The board was scheduled to mark up the $913 million budget yesterday, and supervisors usually offer spending cuts in advance so they can be discussed.

"I'm pleased the chairman came up with something," said Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles). "I would rather have the proposal at the last minute in lieu of no proposal at all. But having a weekend to review it would have been helpful."

I am also pleased that Stewart made a proposal. But I heard NOTHING about any other proposals in advance. So, if the supervisors usually put these out in advance, and we didn't hear of any in advance, does that mean that NO OTHER SUPERVISOR proposed cuts in the budget?

My guess is there had to be at least a few proposals by others, but they must have been dwarfed by Stewart's proposals.

I wonder how many millions Marty Nohe was willing to stick his noeck out for to save us taxpayers from the 8% increase in the rate he was trying to force on us by his votes on the advertised rate.

If I'm lucky, someone will comment and point me to all those proposals made by Nohe, Caddigan, and the others who want higher taxes.

Given the supervisor's unwillingness to even cut their own salary increases, I would be surprised that had the guts to propose cutting anything else.

Except of course for Principi, who seems to want to cut the funds for illegal immigrant enforcement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Funny line from PWC Budget Work Session

The board asked the staff to determine what tax rate would be a "flat" tax. At the work meeting, Gerhart was presenting that information, and said "we got it down to $1.00".

It was clear the members were confused, thinking he was saying that the flat tax rate would be $1.00, which obviously wasn't the case.

After a short period, Gerhart figured out the confusion and clarified that they had arrieved at a number (92 cents) that got them to ALMOST flat. "We got it to within $1.00", he said, noting that if they took it down a 10th of a cent it would actually be a tax cut, so they figured the number that would raise average tax bill by $1.00.

To which Corey Stewart added "I guess that might by a slice of pizza".

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PWC Work Session Surprises

OK, just one surprise, and maybe it isn't a surprise. I happened to switch over to channel 23, and Stewart was talking about cancelling the pay raise for the board. He admitted it didn't make any difference, that the amount of money is very small, but it was a gesture showing the board was taking part in "the pain".

Caddigan spoke next. And she actually argued FOR the pay increase, complaining they didn't get a raise before. Jenkins then came in and also complained about it.

To which I want to respond -- if the pay was too low, you shouldn't have run for office. There were other people who would have been HAPPY to take your spot.

Then Mike May also spoke on the it -- and said he would accept a larger office account cut in place of the salary freeze. I guess that might be an easier vote in the end because of some question over how you stop pay increases that were set by a previous board. Maybe I'll send him an e-mail to ask him about it.

Now they are arguing over a cut to the discretionary fund. Jenkins is upset because cutting the discretionary funds would take away a lot of money he uses to buy votes.

Apparently Jenkins gets a lot more public inquiries than some of the others.

I think Principi spoke up and also complained about the cuts. Stewart said it wasn't "discretionary funds", they were "excess office funds".

Only TWO people were willing to vote against their own pay increase (Stewart and Stirrup). THREE voted to cut $10,000 from the office accounts (Stewart, Stirrup, and May).

Remember, when they were raising taxes on business by 32%, Caddigan said they wouldn't miss the money. Now we see that when it comes to a few thousand dollars at most in salary, Caddigan (and most of the board) can't show the same level of self-sacrifice that they expect from the taxpayers.

Of course, I'm guessing if those business owners had a vote, they'd be happy to vote to lower their taxes, and cut the pay of the supervisors for them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speaking of the PWC Republican Committee

Lyle Beefelt was chosen as the new chair. I am pleased, as I have deep respect for Lyle, and also respect for anybody who is willing to sacrifice himself by signing up for this position.

He takes over a committee that is strong in some ways, and weak in others. 151 people have asked to be members. We have some good victories, some things have been going very well. We also have rifts which Lyle may be able to heal because it appears he has respect from the different factions.

It remains to be seen whether some members of the committee can ever be satisfied with what the committee does. But if some of the same things happen again as happened last year, and in the years prior, I hope people will begin to see that sometimes it isn't the leadership, but those being led, that are the problem. :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why the PWC Credentials Committee was justifiable

IN an otherwise uneventful PWC convention, one minor skirmish regarded the acceptance of Greg Letiecq as a PWC Republican Convention delegate.

UPDATE: Citizen Tom has his explanation as a member of the Credentials Committee posted HERE.

UPDATE: First, to tone things down a bit, second to correct an error. The fight wasn't about the PWC committee MEMBERSHIP, it was to be seated as a delegate to the PWC convention.

According to the PWC committee site, Greg did not request membership in the PWC committee. Although I'm guessing some people mistakenly thought the fight was over membership, not simply about voting in the convention and getting to go to other conventions. That's no excuse for my error, and I apologize. I've updated the post to fix the error.

(Note: Greg has his version at his blog, which anybody who is interested should go read.)

(Note 2: While this post is about Greg, it is not to argue about the decided issue. I offer support for the action of the credentials committee, to defend their action, not to argue that the decision should be reopened).

Two otherwise eligible candidates for PWC convention delegate were rejected by the Credentials committee, both for taking direct action against Republican candidates -- Greg Letieq and Desi Arnaiz. To understand why the Credentials committee was justified in rejecting Greg, it is important to note that the other rejection was not contested by the convention -- showing that in general the members of the Republican party still understand that being in the Party means supporting ALL of the party candidates, not just those we like.

I will note that Desi Arnaiz has had a LONG history of tireless work for the Republican party. Greg made an argument on his own behalf about how much he's done for the party, but while he has done a lot more than I have, his work doesn't match Desi's contributions. If anybody had the right to argue that they did so much for the party that they should be forgiven one indiscretion, it would be Desi Arnaiz.

Desi of course refused to support Gil Trenum for school board once Gil was endorsed by the Republican Committee. School board is in fact a non-partisan position, so technically Desi was not "refusing to support a Republican nominee". But Desi had pledged to support the endorsed candidate in order to seek that endorsement for himself. So when he continued his run for the board seat after failing to receive the endorsement, while he wasn't violating an RPV rule, he was breaking a pledge he made to the committee.

And as I said, nobody at the convention questioned the rejection of Desi. Those who make a pledge to the committee are expected to honor it, and if you don't, it may be held against you later.

So, what about Greg? Greg made a pledge to the committee when he joined, to support all the Republican candidates. The argument against him was simple: In violation of his pledge to support Republican candidates, Greg, a prominent public figure in his own right, publicly endorsed a Democratic Candidate, Paul Nichols, for the general election.

Sometimes we forgive people who take such action, but Greg expressed no remorse nor did he ask for forgiveness. I don't believe Greg thinks he did anything wrong.

The Credentials commitee has a difficult task. It must evaluate who is eligible to be a convention delegate based on their pledge to support Republicans. If a candidate has recently violated such a pledge, they may not easily accept the candidate unless the candidate makes an argument why their new pledge will be better than the old pledge.

Greg's endorsement of a pro-abortion, pro-tax Democrat in a race where we had a Republican candidate violated his pledge to support Republicans. As a citizen, Greg has every right to do so. But as a member of the Republican committee, he pledged to support Republicans, and if you want to support Democrats, you need to remove yourself from the committee which exists solely to elect Republicans.

Of course, this is not an easy call to make, and the Credentials committee was divided on the issue, voting 3-2 to reject Greg as a delegate. And while I defend that vote here, I could also understand if they had voted to leave this one lapse in the past, as apparently some of them desired to do.

Now, the convention can do what it wants. And I don't think the argument against Greg was well-presented -- and I felt no compulsion to do so, even though I had offered to do so simply to ensure that the convention voted based on a clear understanding of the real issue.

Unfortunately, that real issue was somewhat obscured by other issues that are important to some people -- integrity, ethics, honesty -- that were not considered germaine to the simple question of eligibility. Also, the question of the 51st district convention, while a clear example where a lot of people (not just Greg) let their emotions get away from the facts, isn't a very good reason to withold a delegate vote now. If the complaints rose to the level of being a punishable offense, the time to do that was last year.

But I knew that no matter how clearly the issue was presented, Greg was not going to be denied. I voted against him in the end, mostly because Greg's speech showed no indication that he wouldn't endorse Democrats in the future. If not for that, I would have followed the sound lead of Faisal Gill, offered through his son, to leave the past in the past.

But while I voted no, I am particularly concerned that the convention did not join me. We've allowed worse. And we are stuck with worse because of the rules regarding elected public officials.

I would like to hear the rationale some would offer for so quickly defending Greg, while offering not even a token comment about Desi. My guess is the argument would be that Desi actually ran AGAINST "our person", while Greg was just offering a personal opinion. It's not a bad argument, although because School Board is a non-partisan position, in the end the "crime" Desi committed was identical to Greg's -- a violation of a pledge made as a committee member.

But the argument Greg offered, that his hard work for SOME members of the party gives him free reign to break any pledges he wants, or to turn against any of our nominees that he disapproves of, is a very poor argument. Fortunately, Greg has only done this against one candidate, and maybe the personal circumstances were unique.

What DID disturb me was how receptive a many of my Republican colleagues were to that type of argument. A mix of "you can't live without me", "the ends justifies the means", and "dishonesty for the cause is no vice", Greg's speech received enthusiastic cheers where I would have hoped more sober judgement would have left people politely silent.

I may right more about that later.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Board Meeting

An interesting group of people showed up to speak to the board tonight. I only watched little bits of it, because we were watching Mike Roe wrestle alligators -- probably safer than being a supervisor.

So why is it that the board is getting a 3 percent pay increase while we are getting an 8 percent tax increase?

Certainly if Maureen Caddigon is right and businesses won't miss the money they need to pay for a 32-percent tax increase, she wouldn't miss the 3 percent raise she is slated to get.

One nice thing, one of the first speakers actually thanked the board for the programs they were asking to be funded. Most of the speakers just complain about not getting enough money.

Of course, it would have been nicer if the people had thanked US, the taxpayers, for these programs, instead of thanking the board members. After all, they aren't the ones paying for the programs. Even when the money comes out of their "discretionary funds", those are still the taxpayers money.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Caddigan -- Let them Eat Cake?

If you've been wondering why some members of the PWC board seem so clueless about how much they are raising taxes, this article from the paper provides a different and disturbing perspective:
The $1 tax rate being discussed by Prince William supervisors for fiscal 2009 could leave some businesses seeing double-digit increases in their bills, and that's a scenario that begs reversing, said one board member.

See, the problem is that while residential property values are dropping, business values are not.
The county's most recent figures show the $1 tax rate that's been advertised will lead to an estimated 8.5 percent increase in fiscal 2009 tax bills for the average homeowner. At the same time, business owners could see up to a 32 percent increase in their bills, said county finance director Chris Martino.

Corey Stewart understands this problem, although I wish I had seen him quoted about it BEFORE the unfortunate "compromise" was reached last week. Maybe he's been talking. But don't expect that now that the board understands what they've done, that they will fix it. Because some of them don't see this as a problem:

"I don't see any negative impact from the $1 rate on business," said Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries.

And John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, saw the issue as just another "cost of doing business … and [no] cause for concern."

(county finance director) Martino, reminded of the tax relief experienced by the business sector these past few years due to market conditions that depreciated commercial values,said that those reduced bills should "kind of offset the increases" that are now on the horizon.

I'm picturing those three monkeys:

Apparently, businesses hit with thousands of dollars in new taxes, at the same time citizens are paying higher fuel and food bills, as well as their own huge new taxes on their houses, won't actually HURT anybody, because, well, where are they going to go?:

"We're competitive … and still have one of the lowest rates in the area, and I look at other counties, they're raising rates, too," Hendershot said. "So I don't see [the rate] being an impact on whether or not businesses are moving to the county.

But at least one person is quoted in the article that gets it:

From Laurie Wieder, president of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, comes this point: Any increase to business should really be viewed as an increase to the taxpayer, as tax hikes on the former are often passed along as price hikes to the latter.

"The concern is when you raise the tax [on businesses], that makes it more difficult to provide for consumers," she said. "The increase is going to hit business hard and that has an impact on the consumer … it makes it more difficult for businesses to create jobs and to provide the goods and services that consumers want."

But remember, Maureen says it's no big deal. It's getting harder and harder to figure out why Caddigan thinks she is a Republican.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Juan Williams Defends MLK against irrational Obama Comparison

In an opinion piece titled "Obama and King" in today's WSJ, Juan Williams disabuses his readers of the notion that Obama is anything like Martin Luther King. Painting an unflattering view of Barack Obama and his "pandering" to black voters, Juan lays out starkly the profound differences between Obama and the man some ignorantly compare him to.

In contrasting the message of Dr. King to the dime-store philosophy of Senator Obama, Mr. Williams seems genuinely dissappointed that Obama has not lived up to the hope that many put in him to truly move the conversation past the simplistic rhetoric of racism.

Some notable quotes:

While speaking to black people, King never condescended to offer Rev. Wright-style diatribes or conspiracy theories. He did not paint black people as victims. To the contrary, he spoke about black people as American patriots who believed in the democratic ideals of the country, in nonviolence and the Judeo-Christian ethic, even as they overcame slavery, discrimination and disadvantage. King challenged white America to do the same, to live up to their ideals and create racial unity. He challenged white Christians, asking them how they could treat their fellow black Christians as anything but brothers in Christ.

When King spoke about the racist past, he gloried in black people beating the odds to win equal rights by arming "ourselves with dignity and self-respect." He expressed regret that some black leaders reveled in grievance, malice and self-indulgent anger in place of a focus on strong families, education and love of God. Even in the days before Congress passed civil rights laws, King spoke to black Americans about the pride that comes from "assuming primary responsibility" for achieving "first class citizenship."

Last March in Selma, Ala., Mr. Obama appeared on the verge of breaking away from the merchants of black grievance and victimization. At a commemoration of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights, he spoke in a King-like voice. He focused on traditions of black sacrifice, idealism and the need for taking personal responsibility for building strong black families and communities. He said black people should never "deny that its gotten better," even as the movement goes on to improve schools and provide good health care for all Americans. He then challenged black America, by saying that "government alone can't solve all those problems . . . it is not enough just to ask what the government can do for us -- it's important for us to ask what we can do for ourselves."

I imagine it was speeches like that which led some otherwise sane people to ignorantly embrace the idea of Barack Obama as the new MLK, the one man who could bring the races back together.

But what a difference a year makes...

But as his campaign made headway with black voters, Mr. Obama no longer spoke about the responsibility and the power of black America to appeal to the conscience and highest ideals of the nation. He no longer asks black people to let go of the grievance culture to transcend racial arguments and transform the world.
Instead the senator, in a full political pander, is busy excusing Rev. Wright's racial attacks as the right of the Rev.-Wright generation of black Americans to define the nation's future by their past. He stretches compassion to the breaking point by equating his white grandmother's private concerns about black men on the street with Rev. Wright's public stirring of racial division.

And he wasted time in his Philadelphia speech on race by saying he can't "disown" Rev. Wright any more than he could "disown the black community." No one has asked him to disown Rev. Wright. Only in a later appearance on "The View" television show did he say that he would have left the church if Rev. Wright had not retired and not acknowledged his offensive language.

Williams closes on a somber note:

As the nation tries to recall the meaning of Martin Luther King today, Mr. Obama's campaign has become a mirror reflecting where we are on race 40 years after the assassination. Mr. Obama's success has moved forward the story of American race relations; King would have been thrilled with his political triumphs.

But when Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright's pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question.

Hypocrisy about Discretionary Funds

little-noticed by the blogosphere or the mainstream press was the hypocrisy evidenced by a move Tuesday where several PWC board members pledged money from their discretionary funds.

Now, we can debate the propriety of discretionary funds some other time. They exist, and let's go from there.

On Tuesday we had the annual "Say a program is being cancelled so all the people who love it come show their love for you and big government" event. Last year it was Senior Day care. This year it's the Office of Dispute Resolution.

OK, we'll discuss the merits of the ODR at some other time. But for now just know the program is IN TROUBLE. In fact, the board members don't know what to do about it, but in the meantime it needs money. A program that needs money -- a regular program of the government, a program that IF it is going to exist, should be funded by the government, but how will we fund it BEFORE we can work our way through the normal process?

Several supervisors decided that using discretionary fund money to fund a government program was just a great idea:

Supervisors who dove into their own discretionary funds to pay for the program through April said it would be difficult to cut programs despite the county's dramatic drops in home property values.

Who gave the money?

Nohe and Supervisor Wally Covington, R-Brentsville, each used $10,000 of their discretionary funds to put off a decision and allow the issue to be reviewed in the context of the broader budget at a time when supervisors are considering a 27 percent increase in the tax rate.

No supervisors objected -- not even Maureen Caddigan or John Jenkins.

OK, I'm getting to the hypocrisy. Remember THIS story from 2007: "Supervisors Spar Over Televised Meetings"?:

In what may have been a preview of coming attractions in this season of budget shortfalls, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors engaged in a spirited and sometimes contentious debate Tuesday before narrowly defeating a proposal by Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) to televise meetings of the county Planning Commission.

What? The board opposed televising meetings?
Every member of the board agreed that they would like to see meetings of the Planning Commission -- and other county agencies -- on Prince William's government access station.

OK, then why were they opposed?

But what stirred the debate was that this would cost $9,000 at a time when the board is facing an $18 million revenue shortfall for this fiscal year and is looking to cut about $22 million from next year's operating budget.

Ah. A good idea for a program, but we just can't afford $9,000 to carry it over. But what does this have to do with discretionary funds?

Stewart had proposed to pay for the new programming with $9,000 from his discretionary fund. Usually such expenditures are quickly approved by the board. But Democrats Hilda M. Barg (Woodbridge) and John D. Jenkins (Neabsco), along with Republican Maureen S. Caddigan (Dumfries) raised questions about who would pay for televising the meetings in subsequent years and suggested that the cost would eventually become part of the operating budget.

Oh, so we can't let a supervisor use the discretionary funds to pay for a program if we might want to cut it later.

Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) -- who was elected vice chairman of the board -- said that he favored televising the hearings, but that he was concerned about "how it was brought up." ...
We need to figure out a way to get the thing as a budget item. I think we should take a look at the funding mechanism."

So, who were these "principled" supervisors who opposed using discretionary funds to pay for a program while waiting to decide whether to adopt it as a real budget item?

Jenkins, Caddigan, Barg and Nohe voted against the funding. Stewart, Stirrup and Supervisor W. S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) voted for it.

So, last year Jenkins, Caddigan, and Nohe opposed spending discretionary funds for a program that should be funded as a normal budget item -- but Tuesday they supported doing the same thing.

The dust-up by Marty and the three liberals in 2007 should remind readers exactly WHO it is on this board who is making petty attacks and nitpicking. Going after a perfunctory expenditure of $9,000 from a discretionary fund? That was petty, personal, and only done to attack Corey Stewart.