Monthly Two Cents

WHEN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE ATTACKED A TEENAGER

by Ethan Lynne

“Ethan, you’re on in 3..2…” Right before the feed cut to me, I couldn't help but think about where I am now. Just a few months ago, I was registering my classmates to vote, and driving yard signs for delivery all over Ashland and Hanover. Just a few years ago, I was starting out as the youngest intern the Democratic Party of Virginia had ever had, having little to no clue about how the democratic party operates.

Now, I’m here. About to go on primetime CNN, to explain my reaction to being attacked by my governor on social media. Let me stop now, and walk you through this whole story.

This whole thing started Saturday, Feb.5, just after 3 p.m., to be exact. I noticed an article had been released from VPM, Virginia’s Public Radio, about how the woman tasked with teaching about slavery at the Virginia governor’s mansion had resigned. I immediately clicked on this story, as I remember reading earlier about her finding her classroom and office both cleaned out, and her future appearing unclear. As soon as I found out she resigned, I had to let the public know of this atrocity, especially during the first few days of Black History Month. So I tweeted in, then replied linking the article, so no one could accuse me of fake news.

The tweet exploded, getting hundreds of likes a minute, and I decided to get some fresh air, go for a walk and watch what people say. I was tweeted out by tons of activists, and even DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison. I then noticed that Gov. Youngkin's official press secretary responded to my tweet, emphatically denying it. Within minutes, the original reporter of the story finally received a comment back from the governor’s office, denying the situation. This was incredibly frustrating to him as he had been trying to get a comment for nearly two weeks. He corrected the story, and because only half of it was corrected, I kept my original tweet up, and replied with a link to the updated story.

That night, I remember seeing the unthinkable, for the first time in our nation’s history, the account of a sitting governor going after a minor, a high schooler, alluding to him being racist. I was taken aback and just shocked. Shock turned to anger, with me realizing this fits in perfectly with his agenda to endanger public school students, like he’s done with taking away our masks. Within minutes of me expressing my outrage, state legislators and people with national profiles had begun calling it out and drawing attention to it. I could hardly sleep that night, I was just in so much shock still about the whole thing.

I woke up to the tweet still being up, and was actually scrolling on it when it got deleted, shortly before 9 a.m. After it got deleted, loads of reporters started messaging me asking for comments, etc. As if Sunday wasn’t already turning out to be a whirlwind, I had a six-hour shift at work and a friend’s funeral to attend to. I went to work and the funeral, all while scrolling the internet and watching new articles pop up about the instance every second. Then that night, I finalized a CNN interview to happen on Monday.

When I went to school on Monday, all my friends and classmates were extremely supportive and asked me questions about the whole experience. My teachers were all checking on my mental health, and informing me of their plans to watch me on TV later that night.

I left school early to get ready, get through a press conference, and a photoshoot with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, all within a 3-hour period. I then recorded my CNN interview, and because of the delay, when it actually aired, I sat in my closet without my phone and could feel my heart beating out of my chest.

I remember being so nervous during the actual interview and panicking internally about his curveball questions, so I was extremely worried about what people would think once it aired. Luckily, I was inundated with thousands of messages of support from people all over the place, especially right here at home in Hanover.

The whole experience proved to me why I’m proud to be a Hanover Democrat. We never give up the fight and are never scared to face a Republican, as we’ve been surrounded by them our whole lives. I plan to use this new platform to further connect with the young people in our county because we have real momentum here, real, consistent, precinct swings, and if we can get the young people out to vote, there’s no stopping us.

Democrats Deliver

HDC's recently reelected chair reflects on the state of Democratic politics and our challenge 

by Daniel McGraw

Let us pray!

Thank you to all of the great Democratic believers. Through you, we are able to deliver the greatest expansion of health care to date. Because of your will, we are able to decriminalize activities that harm no one, yet historically penalize humans for being born. With your power, we are able to spread love and charity.

Please be mindful of the people in your circle who seek to destroy, rather than to build. I pray that you continue to provide me strength when I am weak, and that you are able to empower me to carry on the good fight, even if we should travel through dark times.

I believe in the goodness of the human condition. I believe that all worthwhile achievements have taken place under Democratic leadership. Together, we survived the Cult of POTUS, 45. In spite of the challenges, we have been able to increase access to communication and transportation.

I am proud to be a member of the “Yes We Can” movement that preserves our liberties, as opposed to the “Whatchamacallit” mafia that has consistently attempted to overturn democracy.

Through you, with us, and together we can achieve even greater feats. I pray that we all keep our faith in each other. We are the party of goodness. Let us now become the party of Greatness.

Remember that Democrats Deliver. And in these trying times, we need strong Democrats to work even harder.

We should be optimistic about our future. But, we must also be honest about our present condition. If you need a friend, call me. When I need reassurance, I WILL call you. Let's call upon one another as we strive to develop a Commonwealth that celebrates the achievements of our most vulnerable groups while exposing and ending the hateful hardships that have stunted growth for so long

I believe in humanity, and I believe in you. Thank you all for your confidence. This group of Democrats has saved me in times when I was lost. Now is the time to stay strong, Build Back Better, and withstand the tests that are still yet to come.

Our current state of affairs will pass. We will prevail. Our legacy is so great that future generations will know that Democrats Deliver.

Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay forever.

Amen!

Stand Up For Democracy

by Larry Fellerman

As a retired high school teacher, I have been stunned by the decision of the Republican Party to embrace the critical race theory put forth by extremists who wish to destroy democracy within the United States.

Their attempt to rewrite history so that young white children don’t feel “uncomfortable” about confronting the tragic racial transgressions against minorities (race, gender, place of origin, etc.) which permeate American history, is simply an attempt to base the study of our past upon a foundation of lies.

Republican opponents of critical race theory deny that massacres of African American citizens by white mobs in Tulsa, unarmed Native Americans by white soldiers at Wounded Knee, innocent Chinese-Americans in California and thousands of other incidents throughout this nation ever really happened. Many of these same Republicans deny that the Holocaust in Europe during the 1940s really occurred.

The same Americans who believe that these events are fictitious also deny that what millions of us witnessed on TV on January 6 was not really an insurrection against the U.S. Constitution, but rather was merely “tourists” who were taking a peaceful tour of the Capitol.

Let’s be honest. The insurrection on 1/6 was an attempt to destroy our democracy and to set up an authoritarian regime in its place. It is frightening that the extremists in our nation are willing to destroy the glue that has held our country together for 245 years. The basis for America’s greatness is its acceptance of the following principles:

1) Respect for the laws passed by “We, the People.”
2) An abiding faith that all people have unalienable rights.
3) Respect for truth and the laws of nature.
4) Belief in the golden rule (treat others as you wish to be treated).
5) Belief in majority rule with the protection of minority rights.
6) No person or political party is above the law.
7) Belief in governmental checks and balances.
8) Tolerance of all people’s views, even if different from your own.
9) Kindness is a virtue and not a sign of weakness.
10) Compromise is a way to resolve divisive issues and find common ground.

These are the political 10 Commandments that have united our people for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. It is wise to think about them in light of today’s descent into tribalism and authoritarianism. Democracy is a fragile thing and it has served us well for many years, We need to assure ourselves and the world that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, our constitutional republic, established by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

This is the time for ALL Americans to stand up for freedom. This is the time for ALL Americans to stand up for democracy. This is the time for all Americans to get involved in our effort to preserve our values. Join the Hanover Democratic Committee today and fight for your future and the futures of your children and grandchildren.

Walking A Dangerous, Fine Line

by Toni Radler

The race between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is razor-thin. In some polls, it’s tied. And so, what if Youngkin wins the governor’s mansion? Well, it will be a disaster for Virginia and the nation.

I started making a list, trying to put the most serious losses first. Initially, I thought the most detrimental issues would be health care and a women’s right to choose. After all, more than 500,000 Virginians were able to receive health care after a Democratic legislature and Governor closed the Medicaid gap, enabling the working poor to be enrolled in the Affordable Care Act. Under a Youngkin governorship, tragically, that would be reversed. What about a woman’s right to choose? Youngkin has already said he supports the Texas version of denying abortion for any reason including incest and rape. Make way for the Virginia version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

As I was trying to think of the third most grievous loss, I realized that even more disastrous to the citizens of Virginia would be the loss of our voting rights, the very basis of democracy. The way Georgia has set up a win for Trump in the next presidential election is that if the Georgia Republican legislature doesn’t like the outcome of the vote, they can reverse it. Voters be damned! The Georgia legislature can pick the winner of its choice. That’s not democracy. It’s Putin’s way and the way of other dictatorships/oligarchies in the world.

Then, I finally realized that as bad as all these outcomes would be, the worst outcome if Youngkin wins is that Trump will be able to proclaim to all that he turned a blue state red. And his stranglehold on the Republican Party would be set in stone for decades to come. Don’t let Virginia be the domino that falls. It’s not hyperbole to talk about fascism if Trumpism takes over. Let’s do everything we can to hold the line and keep Virginia blue. Vote and call your Democratic friends and ask them to get out and vote. Explain how important it is to vote for a straight Democratic ticket. Youngkin is a Trump Mini-Me. He will do everything he can to follow the Trump catechism to the letter. Please, let’s work as hard as we can to keep our state out of the hands of Trump and his Mini-Me.

MONTHLY TWO CENTS

For our October Two Cents, we are reprinting Rachel Levy's response to a candidate Q&A on the 55th House District from the Mechanicsville Local. It's long, so we're including only a portion of it to avoid being identified as spam by mail servers. Read the whole interview here (paywall may occur).

A few words about why you decided to seek or continue public service. What motivates you to serve and why are you seeking election, re-election to the General Assembly?

Levy: First, the combination of my engagement in local and state government matters, volunteering with campaigns, and my life’s work in improving public education made me realize that public service is my passion and my calling. Even when I finished my PhD, my first choice of a job wasn’t to be an academic but to continue to be a public servant. I ended up back in the classroom, as a teacher, and it’s been immensely valuable to me as someone who spent years studying education policy, school governance, and school finance. Because what can happen to people who go into research, policy, and administration is that they can forget what it is to be on the receiving end of policies they recommend, create, and promote. But I know what it’s like on the ground—I experience it every day. And that perspective is sorely needed in the General Assembly.

Second, an important lesson I’ve learned from being a teacher about being a good representative and legislator is that I keep in mind that every student of mine is someone’s child and worthy of respect and dignity. I care about my students and their learning unconditionally.

Central Virginia, including Hanover, is experiencing a lack of broadband access. How can the General Assembly assist localities in solving these issues and how would you address the problem of underserved areas?

Levy: Voters across the board in the 55th, and especially in the rural areas, are disappointed with the lack of progress on broadband access. For some people, it’s the issue they care the most about. I hear of so many broken promises and false starts—the situation with internet access is not only a technical problem, it’s undermining our faith in our governing bodies and elected officials. First, I operate under the premise that high-speed internet should be treated as a public utility, just like running water and electricity. Pandemic or no pandemic, access to high-speed internet is vital to the teaching and learning process, to sustaining small businesses and economic development, to supporting residents who telecommute, and to access to virtual healthcare options. I support increasing funding to the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative to defray costs of broadband access.

I also support compelling electric utility companies in the 55th to do their part to provide broadband access and subsidizing internet access costs. Between the federal infrastructure bill, Governor Northam’s commitment to spending $700 million on a statewide initiative to bring high-speed internet across the Commonwealth, and localities’, including Hanover’s, new plans to address the lack of broadband access, it seems we have the will and the funding to make this happen. However, I pledge to go beyond pronouncements to tackle working out the logistics and building the infrastructure needed for high-speed internet access. One idea I am very interested in exploring further is that of a public broadband utility that would be a partnership between local governments, broadband authority entities, and electric cooperatives. Private telecommunications companies have not deemed it profitable to install fiber optic cable to households in rural areas, nor are the services they provide affordable for residents, even for those who are willing to share costs. Hence, we need some sort of municipal-provided internet options that can work or compete with the private providers.

Although transportation funding has increased as regions search for alternative funding for new roads and infrastructure, it’s still the top priority in many areas. How would you increase state funds to address local transportation issues?

Levy: I am well aware that the state has slowly decreased funding for roads in recent years and has left localities holding the bag. That needs to be reversed as it not only impacts roads and transportation initiatives but ultimately has a negative impact on funding for other local services. Otherwise, I support the establishment of the Central Virginia Transportation Authority that was created, how it’s funded, and other entities like it—it’s a step in the right direction and a great model. I also support greater state funding for expanding public transportation options such as rail, buses, and vans, and for expanding infrastructure that supports walking and biking. Finally, we need to better fund the greatest public transportation system we have in the 55th District: our school buses! The state needs to support modernizing to an electric school bus fleet, which would be less polluting and healthier for our students, and to support compensating our school bus drivers fairly and competitively. Federal infrastructure monies could and should be allocated towards such initiatives.

With a massive influx of federal money directed at towns and localities, some are saying this is the perfect time to address long-term issues like transportation, improved broadband, stormwater management. What are your priorities for the state and local funds headed our way from Washington?

Levy: Yes, I agree that federal funds coming our way should be used to provide access to high-speed internet to all residents and to bolster current transportation needs to expand public transportation options. As to stormwater management, as with transportation and in some cases education, there are well-intentioned state-issued mandates and requirements, but with inadequate funding to meet them. Unfortunately, SLAF (Stormwater Local Assistance Funds) are not sufficient to meet stormwater management goals and more funding is needed. I think that filling the gaps in stormwater management funding would be a great use of federal infrastructure funding. Funding stormwater management may be expensive, but as we’ve seen in the past few years, preventing flooding disasters is cheaper than recovering from them.

Is there an affordable housing issue in the 55th District? How would you address the lack of affordable housing and why do we hear so little about this subject?

Levy: Yes, there is an affordable housing issue in the 55th. It’s an issue throughout the Commonwealth. Too many people in the 55th are spending more than the recommended 30% of their income for housing. It’s a crisis. A few solutions I’m considering:

1. Tax code reform. Because of the way our tax code and financing for services such as public schools is structured, we are too reliant on property taxes and values. There’s disincentive on localities to have affordable housing. We need to fix that.

2. Expanded rent and mortgage assistance for those in need. We’re in the midst of an eviction crisis. But simply having a moratorium is not the answer; we need to provide direct assistance to those in need due to no fault of their own so that rent and mortgages are actually paid and not simply delayed.

3. More competitive compensation for working and middle-class workers. It’s a chicken or the egg thing. Let me explain: Habitat for Humanity housing is now being offered to public school teachers. I’m a public school teacher. I have a master’s degree (I have a doctorate, in fact)—I should not be eligible for Habitat housing! I should be compensated competitively in the first place so that I can afford housing at market rates.

4. Expand and diversify housing options by providing more housing options in already developed areas including repurposing unoccupied malls and strip malls.

As to your second question, I hear a TON about this subject and have since I can remember. But I am a public school teacher in the district, a local advocate for the past ten years who goes to community meetings, and a candidate (and volunteer for previous campaigns) who has knocked on hundreds of doors and made hundreds of phone calls. If people feel like they haven’t heard about this issue, I would suggest they consider who they are listening to because this issue affects many citizens in the 55th district.

List three pressing issues facing 55th District residents and localities and how you would address those issues.

Levy: 1. Broadband access! We must treat high-speed internet as a public utility, just like we do running water and electricity.

2. Over-development and encroachment on rural communities and mitigation from the impact of climate change. I plan to focus on protecting historic and vulnerable rural communities such as Brown Grove in the 55th District. I support facilitating more housing options in already developed areas including repurposing unoccupied malls and strip malls. I will explore different possibilities for establishing protective trusts for rural land. I also support expanding public transportation options such as rail, buses, and vans, and expanding infrastructure that supports walking and biking. And I will find ways to connect rural landowners with innovative ways of living off of their land such as the production of bio-friendly products.

3. In majority rural communities, public democratic institutions like our public schools are popular and shared spaces. Everyone’s got a stake in them. Across the board in the 55th, I see the need for more state funding and resources for public services: public schools, public safety, the courts, and legal services, social services, healthcare services, transportation, and parks and recreation. These are services that touch ALL of us, that we all use and share. When these institutions are stronger and better resourced with public servants who are compensated fairly and competitively, then our communities will be stronger.

Do you think K-12 education in Virginia is adequately funded, and how can Virginia increase the state contribution to localities for education?

Levy: The state does not fulfill its funding obligations to our public schools. As a longtime teacher and educational leader with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy, I have a rare combination of policy expertise and practical classroom experience. I will work to make our public education system stronger and more equitable for everyone. Investments in our educational institutions are investments in our students and investments in our future. I support: Making sure the Commonwealth fully meets its educational funding obligations; raising the salaries of teachers and ALL other K-12 public school staffers including non-SOQ-funded positions; bringing the SOQs (Standards of Quality) in line with what it takes to properly educate our kids and fully funding any state-issued mandates; and. a state grant program for funding school infrastructure and facilities to modernize Virginia’s crumbling school buildings.

One way to fund this is tax reform so that the Commonwealth is accessing every viable and reasonable source of revenue possible while removing some of the burdens on the working and middle classes.

Do you support free community college for all Virginians, and why?

Levy: Yes. We must reverse disinvestment in our institutions of higher and continuing education and take the financial burden of Virginia’s students and their families. I supported Governor Northam’s program to make community college free for students who pursue degrees in high-demand fields, and I think it should be expanded to be universal and not limited to certain degrees or income thresholds. People say that community college shouldn’t be free for higher-income individuals, but they pay taxes, too, and should get the same benefits the rest of the public does.

Do you support the continuation of Medicaid Expansion in Virginia? Why or why not?

Levy: Yes, Medicaid Expansion helped an unbelievable number of Virginians. Providing healthcare lays such a solid foundation for everything else. I believe that healthcare is a human right and that no one should have to go into debt to preserve their or their loved ones’ health or lives. Students in families with access to healthcare come to school ready to learn. When young adults have healthcare, then they have the freedom to be entrepreneurs or take on dream jobs. When middle-aged people have healthcare, they can take better care of their children and their elders. I will work to ensure that we all have access to healthcare and that healthcare, treatments, and medications are affordable. As a mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes and a child with other disabilities, I know how important it is that ALL Virginians have access to the medications they need and access to health providers when they need them. I support broadening access to Medicaid by expanding eligibility. That being said, we must also expand provider capacity, especially for the provision of behavioral and mental health and medical disability services. Having health insurance doesn’t help if there are not enough providers to meet healthcare needs.