Publisher’s Notebook: People for Portsmouth Endorsements and Interview

For a long-time advocate of openness in the civic realm, the candidate endorsements by the People for Portsmouth Political Action Committee were epoch making. Many organizations in our city and region — the Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Steering Committee, the teachers association, the firefighters’ union, the police association, the realtors’ association, to name a few — select their favorite candidates, bestowing praise and often contributions upon them. Some of these groups vet candidates through a nominally competitive process involving questionnaires and interviews for everyone running; others, anoint their champions in backrooms without any notice to non-members that they are deciding whom to endorse. Whatever the process, as private organizations they are free to choose whomever they like for reasons known only to members of the selection committees. Continue reading

“Money, Money, Money” in Local Races

The not-for-profit Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has been helping the public to track contributions to Virginia political candidates. Founded in 1997 as a collaboration among the largest newspapers in our commonwealth, it has expanded the breadth of its reporting to include the financial accounting for many local candidates. This is of particular benefit to the electorate because those seeking municipal offices can choose to file their reports either electronically or on paper. If not for the efforts of VPAP to collect and share the paper filings, those reports would be effectively shielded from public view by the necessity of visiting the local registrar of voters office every filing period to examine them. Continue reading

Publisher’s Notebook: Ending Life Support for VSHoF&M

If the Sports Section of the Virginian-Pilot is something you automatically place in the recycle bin after glancing at the five-day weather predictions on the back page, you may well have missed the “Portsmouth news story of the day” regarding the future of city funding for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Although I have expressed my opposition early and often to public subsidies for the VSHoF&M, once it came into existence, I advocated a gradual, incremental reduction in city funding rather than a “cold turkey” cutoff of taxpayer dollars. The direction taken by the ruling coalition on council during this budget season, however, appears to be termination of fiscal life support for the Hall of Fame. Continue reading

An Example Worthy of Emulation

On March 7, 2015, a very important, thoughtful, and respectful community conversation took place across the river from us. The Proudly Diverse Caucus, comprised of Norfolk citizens concerned about the quality of life in their city, had its first town hall meeting to focus on issues of public school improvement. Virginian-Pilot Schools Reporter Cherise Newsome was on hand to chronicle the proceedings. (Her excellent summary of the meeting is available at http://hamptonroads.com/2015/03/group-discusses-best-ways-teach-kids-poverty.) The videos of the major part of the conversation are available in four chunks on YouTube: Continue reading