Opinion

Letters to the Editor - September 2010

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Green Party deserves credit for interest in trains

To the Editor,

I am amazed your magazine is giving Thelma Drake any credit for the resurgence of interest in passenger rail transportation among Virginians [“Is Virginia on board,” July issue].
Credit has to go to the Independent Green Party (which is centrist-right, by the way) and its congressional candidates — especially Gail Parker, who has run several campaigns for House of Representatives and U.S. Senate with passenger rail as the primary issue. Gail has an MBA and is a successful business entrepreneur.

Julie McGuire
Alexandria


Passenger rail service needs dedicated source of revenue

To the Editor,

I applaud your July 2010 article “Is Virginia On Board” for doing a fantastic job of highlighting Virginia’s successes over the last few years, and the difficulties that we face today. The question now becomes how are we going to get from slow-speed choo choos to high-speed trains?

There are two ingredients in high-speed rail, trains and tracks. To successfully upgrade our tracks to allow high-speed trains, we are going to need Virginia to put some skin in the game. The way we can do that is give the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) the ability to waive the 30 percent match requirement for Virginia’s Rail Enhancement Fund (REF), which will give Virginia more latitude to invest in passenger rail projects, like the improvements that will bring a train to Norfolk in 2013.

We also need to think out of the box, such as giving the CTB the ability to sell bonds against the REF (which is funded by over 60 percent of out-of-state money). If we sell $100 million in bonds whose debt is covered by the REF, and leverage that money to get a 4:1 return-on-investment from the federal government, then Virginia now has $500 million to invest in high-speed rail, over 90 percent of which would be paid for by the federal government or non-Virginians!

However, high-speed tracks are no good without trains to run on them, and how we sustain and expand our levels of passenger rail service is the most pressing issue the commonwealth is facing today. To fully realize fast, frequent, and reliable trains service we are going to need a dedicated passenger rail operations fund. To put the cost in context, your article quoted the $41 million figure for the cost of two daily round-trip trains over a five-year period. Forty-one million dollars equates to four single-lane miles of I-95 in one direction. However, those trains could take over 200,000 cars off the road annually.

Danny Plaugher
Executive director
Virginians for High Speed Rail
Richmond


Community foundations allow philanthropic aims to continue

To the Editor,

With obvious interest in this particular issue [“The Generous Virginians Project,” June issue], I have followed your publication with increasing interest over the last several years. Your publisher has indicated the intent to repeat this particular subject matter on an annual basis, and it is my wish for our foundation to participate as a submitter of information.

Philanthropy at the organizational level is often better served in the format of a public nonprofit community foundation. The concentration of professional expertise is most generally at the highest level serving the greatest number of current and prospective donors.

Acknowledging that there is substantial wealth in family private foundations, it has become increasingly apparent that some of these will not transfer easily to the next generation due to lack of interest in the philanthropy of the parents/founders. While this suits some families, it clearly does not suit others. With increasing regulation and scrutiny being paid by the IRS to private foundations, the public community foundation may be a most welcome alternative, perhaps enabling the family to maintain its philanthropic objectives for generations to come.

This could be most important to Virginia charities as our findings indicate that the next generation does not always remain in Virginia.  If the private foundation survives, and its directors have moved out of state, there is a high likelihood of these new directors advising and approving distributions to nonprofits of their own choosing elsewhere than Virginia.

Tidewater Jewish Foundation offers a host of services to operationally and administratively handle particularly Jewish philanthropy in the Tidewater area. Our organization has converted several private foundations to become public foundations and even more simply to become restricted or donor-advised funds.

By the same token, Norfolk/Hampton Roads, Richmond and other public community foundations could well offer similar services, again for the direct benefit of nonprofits located in the commonwealth.

Philip S. Rovner
President and CEO
Tidewater Jewish Foundation Inc.
Virginia Beach


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