Opinion

To his excellency, the governor, whoever you are

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Print this page by Bernie Niemeier
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Photo by Adrienne R. Watson

Good morning!  Depending on when you are reading this, the governor’s race is over or soon will be.  It’s time to take a look in the mirror and slap yourself on the face!  Whether the visage you see staring back is kind of swarthy in a Nixon-like way, or just plain goofy Clintonesque, it’s time to wake up.

No more negativity, you’ve got to get yourself in shape.  You’ve only got four years.  If you can’t do yourself some good, how do you expect to help Virginia?

Don’t tell us that you are going to free us from federal regulation, that was voted down in 2008 and 2012 (didn’t we also lose that fight 150 years ago?), and don’t tell us that you are going to turn us over to Big Labor.  I mean who do you think you are anyway, the next Hillary?

No, there’s not time to worry about your hair! Let’s get to work on Virginia.  There are potholes to be filled, and that takes money.  I’m not just talking about some walnut-game slight of hand over changing gas taxes or selling liquor stores.  We’re talking real accomplishments!

This is where you get to find out that doing the real work of the governor’s office is a lot harder than just talking about it.  (Hint: the real work isn’t just planning for your next gig fours years from now.)

Lets forget the culture wars.  The rest of the nation is rapidly leaving us behind on multiple issues — medical  marijuana, LGBT rights and women’s issues.   Despite your expertise on all medical, scientific and economic matters, there are definitely places politicians should stay away from. Let’s not even go there ...

Here are a few places where you might be able to make a lasting difference:

Gubernatorial succession — Virginia is the only state that doesn’t allow its governor to run for a second consecutive term. It’s time to give up being last. Ever since Appomattox, we’ve clung to lost causes.  Face up to it!  Tough challenges take more than four years.

No one can say that you will support this change out of self-interest.  It takes constitutional reform, a majority vote by both houses in two sessions of the General Assembly with a statewide election in between and then a statewide referendum.  That can’t even happen until well after the end of your term.

Go for it!  Help Virginia accomplish the strategic things that take longer than four years.  A second term doesn’t give the governor’s office too much power.  If some future stumblebums fail in their first four years, we can still vote them out.

Nonpartisan redistricting — Believe it or not, everyone realizes the fox is in the henhouse.  It’s time to let voters start picking candidates instead of candidates picking voters.

The three C’s of redistricting — compactness, contiguousness and community of interests — need to be equally applied.  No, it’s not about party power; it’s about community interests.  The extremism promulgated by the current process prohibits compromise, killing the art of statesmanship.  We all know this.

Other states have adopted nonpartisan redistricting.  Virginia should do this, too.   Be a proactive leader.  This comes up again after the 2020 census.  The longer you wait, the more political it becomes.

Education — This business of reducing state spending per student on education to a fraction of what it was just a few years ago has got to stop.  We don’t want to reduce Virginia to the dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks status of lesser spending states in the Deep South.

Building a high-quality workforce is the key to economic development.  Education on all levels is a necessity.  Virginia has a rich educational heritage.  Don’t keep starving schools while demanding that tuitions be kept low.  Yes, the cost of higher education has risen — but what do you think the cost of a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, or the minimum wage was 30 years ago?

Speaking of gasoline, the work is far from done on transportation — The so-called historic legislation of 2013 doesn’t come anywhere near funding the infrastructure needs of the commonwealth.  Don’t think for a moment that this problem is solved.  Go out and find real money.  Don’t make this a résumé builder; get something real done.

Don’t keep trying to sell off state assets like ports and liquor stores to find short-term cash for government.  Few, if any, of these deals have shown a genuine benefit to citizens, and too many of them seem designed to curry potential favor with future campaign donors.

Oh, and guns — By now, I think that everybody who wants one probably already has one, so let’s leave that topic alone, too.
I know you want to “dance with the girl that brung ya,” but really, this ain’t the prom.


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