Future Programs

Posted June 27th, 2011 by Bruce Saunders
Categories: Future

The public is welcome to our meetings that take place at the Senior Center, usually on the second Wednesday of the month from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. The Senior Center is located at 1180 Pepsi Place in Charlottesville — www.seniorcenterinc.org. There is no charge, although we suggest you join our group.

Wednesday, May 10:  General Assembly Report:  the senators and delegates representing Charlottesville and Albemarle are invited to report on the outcome of the 2017 session of the General Assembly.

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Past Programs

Past programs are arranged in inverse chronological order.  Speaker bios and links to podcasts are given, with a program summary written by SSV Treasurer and board member Jim Peterson.

Changing Populations in Virginia — The Death and Life of Virginia Localities

Posted April 14th, 2017 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Luke Juday is director of planning for the City of Waynesboro, VA.  He stated that after decades of attracting migrants from across the country, Virginia has suddenly experienced three consecutive years of net loss to other parts of the country. The effects of that change will start to ripple across the Commonwealth. With cities getting younger and rural areas getting older, population growth is becoming more and more polarized. The economic climate is becoming increasingly competitive for cities and towns, forcing local leaders to find new niches in a global economy. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Rich DeMong.  Listen while watching his excellent  presentation as a PDF.

Luke Juday is director of planning for the City of Waynesboro, VA. Before coming to Waynesboro, he was a transportation planner at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and a demographer at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center, where most of this presentation was prepared. He has a bachelor’s degree in political philosophy from Grove City College, a Master’s in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Botswana. He is originally from Chesapeake, VA, where he was home schooled through high school.

ObamaCare to TrumpCare

Posted March 11th, 2017 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Carolyn Engelhard, who is the director of the Health Policy Program in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, spoke at our March 8, 2017 meeting.   She identified the promises and pitfalls of ObamaCare including the winners and losers over the last six years. The post 2016 election polls were discussed, and the “you break it you own it” politics of the current debate over repeal, replace, repair and delay.  The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Rich DeMong.  A podcast of the meeting is below along with a PDF of her excellent PowerPoint.

Professor Engelhard’s academic activities include analyzing and monitoring changes in health policy at the federal and state governmental levels and teaching in both the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine. Ms. Engelhard received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX, and her M.P.A., Public Administration, from the University of Virginia.

Ms. Engelhard co-authored a book looking at the myths surrounding the U.S. health care system, completed a national project in conjunction with the nonpartisan Urban Institute examining the use of public policies to reduce obesity, and contributed a textbook chapter examining the effect of the new law on health care organizations.

Professor Engelhard co-directs a national webinar featuring health policy experts and students across four universities each spring, and she is a contributing health policy expert for the web-based news journal, TheHill.com.

Program Summary

“ObamaCare,” the Affordable Care Act, originally came to be to address gaps in traditional health coverage. Historically, the majority of the those not elderly in the U.S. received health insurance as a job benefit. The private non-group market charged higher premiums based on medical history and often excluded specific conditions like maternity care or cancer. In 2008, 29% of individuals 60 to 64 who applied for non-group insurance were denied coverage based on health status.

The number of non-elderly uninsured Americans reached 49.1 million in 2010, amidst rising unemployment rates and a struggling economy. The steady decline in employer-sponsored health coverage since 2000 largely explained the growing numbers of uninsured.

Conclusion: BACK TO THE FUTURE: competing philosophies as to the fundamental nature and purpose of health insurance.

The traditional Democratic philosophy favors a comprehensive medical payment structure with government subsidies to encourage preventive care and to protect against financial exposure to high medical costs due to illness.

The traditional Republican philosophy favors a market-based traditional insurance structure, with high deductibles, catastrophic protection, and routine costs paid out of pocket. Relying on taxpayer-subsidized health care for others is anathema to Republicans.

In many ways, ObamaCare has become the “new normal.” The political battle now is WHO will pay to help keep Americans insured and HOW it will be paid.

Local Food – What Could Be Better?

Posted February 12th, 2017 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

 

Kristen Suokko served as Board of Directors chairwoman of the Local Food Hub in 2012, and in 2013 became executive director. Kristen spoke at our February meeting on the value of fresh, farm sourced food from local farms. The program was moderated by SSV board member Madison Cummings. Listen to her presentation via podcast.

Local Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food. They provide the support services, infrastructure, and market opportunities that connect people with food grown close to home.

Local Food Hub grew out of a community-supported discussion that identified a need for greater linkages between small family farms and institutions seeking local food. Farmers were being locked out of the institutional market due to missing infrastructure, delivery minimums, insurance requirements, and time. Institutions and businesses found it challenging to access a consistent supply of local produce, and were looking for one number to call to source locally.

Since its founding eight years ago, Local Food Hub has made strides in its mission to make fresh, farm sourced food available to everyone. Locally sourced food is now accessible to school kids and seniors, hospitals and universities, and restaurants and retailers. Community partnerships and programs ensure that we not only feed but also educate a new generation about the value of eating fresh and local. Family farms, the environment, public health, and the local economy all benefit as a result.

Kristen Suokko maintains a wealth of experience in environmental philanthropy and nonprofit excellence, as well as environmental planning and sustainability. She began her career in Washington, D.C., working for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Kristen has lived in Charlottesville for over 15 years and previously held positions with the W. Alton Jones Foundation and the Blue Moon Fund. Kristen received a degree in Russian from Middlebury College and is from New England.

Program Summary

Here’s how the hub works: partner farms and producers (small family farms and specialty producers) sell farm sourced food to the Local Food Hub which in exchange provides support services and resources to the food producers. The Local Food Hub then distributes the food through partner distributors, institutions retailers and schools. The Local food Hub also has partnerships with other community groups including nonprofits, hunger and food access organizations and farm to school. A third element of their services involves public education by increasing knowledge of local food to all segments of the community.

For distribution, the Local Food Hub has a 3,000 square foot warehouse in Ivy, and three refrigerated vehicles. With over 200 customers the Hub has $1.5M in sales.

The Hub assists more than 70 small family farms with Training and technical assistance, liability insurance, marketing, traceability, food safety and certifications. Community Partnerships include hunger organizations, PB&J Fund, City Schoolyard Garden, the Health Department and Crutchfield. The Farm to School program involves 70 public schools in eight districts, Harvest of the Month, Virginia Farm to School Week, and private schools and universities. The Fresh Farmacy program serves 75 patients in three clinics with measurable health improvements.

Vehicle Safety: Today and Tomorrow

Posted January 13th, 2017 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

2017-01-11-1-ssv-ageeMarshie Agee is the communication liaison for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In her position Marshie speaks to groups visiting the IIHS Vehicle Research Center, and we were fortunate to have her at the SSV January meeting. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Rich DeMong.

Ms. Agee spoke about these issues surrounding traffic safety.

  • Crash testing and consumer ratings programs have made vehicles safer than ever.
  • Autonomous vehicles get lots of attention, and they do have the potential to make automobile travel even safer. However, none of us can buy one now, and there are many issues to be resolved before they can become mainstream.
  • Crash avoidance technologies like auto-braking are the building blocks for autonomous cars, and these systems are already on the market and reducing crashes.
  • Despite the promise of technology, it’s important not to forget about things we can do right now to improve safety, no matter what kind of vehicles people are driving. Lowering speed limits, using automated enforcement to deter both speeders and red light runners, and improving enforcement of safety belt use and impaired driving laws are proven ways to bring down the death toll.

A PDF version of the PowerPoint presented is here and the podcast is below.

Marshie Agee is the communication liaison for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In her position Marshie speaks to groups visiting the IIHS Vehicle Research Center about the Institute’s work and represents the Institute at conferences and community events. She also fields consumer inquiries about the Institute’s research and presents research findings on the web for both the media and general public. Marshie has been with the Institute since 2004. She received a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Before joining the Institute, she worked as web designer and a teacher.

Program Summary

Dozens of people gasped and grimaced as they watched brand-new cars slam into barriers during a lecture at the Senior Center on Wednesday.

Marshie Agee, communications liaison for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, presented these crash-test videos and a wealth of information at a meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

The IIHS is an independent, nonprofit organization that aims to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage from crashes on U.S. roads through scientific research and educational outreach. The IIHS and its partner organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute, are entirely funded by auto insurers and insurance associations.

“We hope that we have changed the way consumers go about buying cars,” Agee said. “We hope the first question consumers ask before buying a vehicle is not whether it is fast or sporty, but whether it is safe.”

The IIHS established its Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville 25 years ago and has conducted crash tests on cars there since 1995. Automakers covet the institute’s annual Top Safety Pick awards, which recognize new models that perform best in its safety tests.

“Manufacturers love using these awards in their advertising,” Agee said. “If we dangle that carrot out there, it encourages them to make [safety] improvements.”
In 1995, fewer than 25 percent of vehicle models received the highest safety rating, “Good,” in the institute’s first round of frontal crash tests. That percentage rapidly increased, and today, virtually all new models get the top rating for this test.
The IIHS has gradually expanded its testing regimen for new vehicles over the years.

“We don’t let the manufacturers rest on their laurels for very long before we introduce a new challenge,” Agee said. The IIHS conducts five different crashworthiness tests today: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints/seats.

This is excerpted from an article written by Josh Mandell (jmandell@cvilletomorrow.org) that was printed in the January 12 issue of The Daily Progress. You can access the entire article at: http://www.cvilletomorrow.org/news/article/26029-crash-tests-and-autonomous-vehicles/

Unpacking the 2016 Presidential Campaign and Election

Posted December 16th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

The results of the 2016 presidential election pleased some, disappointed others and surprised just about everyone. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was supposed to have a lock on the presidency but Republican nominee Donald Trump, who faced not only Democratic opposition but a “Never Trump” movement among Republicans, prevailed by winning a majority of Electoral College votes.

2016-12-14-1-hobart-cooper

Speakers Jim Hobart and Terry Cooper

The excellent slide presentation can be downloaded as well as the podcast.  The PDF version does not include the two election videos, but is much faster to download.

PowerPoint (pptx) Presentation   (74MB)

PDF Version of Presentation   (18MB)

The Senior Statesmen of Virginia hosted two political consultants in a program that was moderated by SSV Vice President Rich DeMong.

Jim Hobart is a vice president at the leading Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.  Jim is a veteran of numerous important campaigns, including four victorious U.S. Senate campaigns and 11 winning U.S. House campaigns in 2014.  He was named Campaigns & Elections magazine’s Rising Star in 2013.  Terry Cooper is a native of Charlottesville and a veteran opposition researcher for Republican campaigns.

Many questions about the elections were addressed, such as:

  • How was a political novice (Trump) able to dispatch more than a dozen seemingly far more qualified Republicans and secure the nomination?
  • Why did Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders perform so well in the Democratic primaries and caucuses yet lose the Democratic nomination to Clinton?
  • Why were voters left with a choice that many described as between the lesser of two evils?
  • How was Trump able to carry states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that were supposedly part of a “blue wall” guaranteeing a Clinton victory?
  • Why didn’t the pollsters and the media see what was coming?
  • And what do the 2016 election results portend for the nation and for the futures of the Republican and Democratic parties?

Policing Issues In Albemarle and Charlottesville

Posted November 10th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

2016-11-09-police

Charlottesville Chief of Police Al Thomas Jr. (left) and Albemarle County Chief of Police Ron Lantz addressed current policing issues including traffic concerns, staffing levels, drugs and gangs. They spoke at our Wednesday, November 8, 2016 meeting. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Rich DeMong. A podcast of the one-hour presentation and Q&A is below.

2016-11-09-2-ssv-thomasAlfred S. Thomas Jr. was appointed Charlottesville chief of police effective May 23, 2016. Chief Thomas served as chief of police for the City of Lexington, Virginia, since 2010. During his time in Lexington, he has directed a number of major initiatives, including operational reorganizations, upgrades to emergency communications infrastructure, implementation of mobile data terminals and digital in-car camera systems, and expanded outreach to city youth with the implementation of multiple programs including a junior police academy, police summer camp, and a regional high school internship program.

Upon his appointment to chief of the Charlottesville Police, he was cited for his experience, interpersonal skills and leadership abilities.

Prior to his time in Lexington, Chief Thomas spent 20 years with the Lynchburg Police Department working in varied roles with increasing command responsibility. From 1985 until 1990, he proudly served in the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

Chief Thomas was chair of the Rockbridge Regional Law Enforcement Command Board, vice-president of the Rockbridge Area Housing Corporation Board of Directors, is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Rockbridge Area YMCA.

2016-11-09-3-ssv-lantzAlbemarle County named Ron Lantz as chief of police effective June 1, 2016.  Chief Lantz served as Albemarle’s deputy chief of police where, since 2012, he assisted the chief of police in planning and directing the many activities of the Albemarle County Police Department including providing supervision for 115 of the 129 sworn officers in the functional areas of patrol, traffic, school resource, crime prevention, and animal control.  In addition, Chief Lantz was responsible for leading the implementation of the County’s Geographic Based Policing initiative which was launched in 2012.

Prior to joining the Albemarle County force, Lantz completed his career with the Fairfax County Police Department by serving as a district station commander where he was responsible for 155 officers providing police service to 125,000 residents. While with Fairfax County, Lantz received the Departmental Meritorious Commendation, the Departmental Meritorious Action Award, and the Departmental Meritorious Service Award.

Lantz received his Bachelors of Science from the University of Charleston with a major in Organizational Leadership. He successfully completed the Key Executive Leadership Certificate Program from American University and is currently enrolled in courses geared towards a Master of Science with a focus on Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Liberty University. Lantz is also a graduate of the DEA Drug Commander Academy, the FBI National Academy, and the Virginia Association of Police New Chief / Deputy Chief School.

Program Summary

Charlottesville Chief Al Thomas spoke about changing the structure of the department’s ranks — including the recent promotion of Maj. Gary Pleasants to the role of deputy chief. He also addressed the need to focus more efforts on connecting with the community and listening to what people want.

Albemarle County Chief Ron Lantz addressed his department’s efforts in geopolicing, a strategy that splits the county into geographical sectors and assigns officers to specific areas, allowing them to better engage their community. He also spoke about traffic being one of the biggest issues his officers face, most notably distracted driving.

“I once saw a guy eating spaghetti while driving with his knees,” said Lantz, getting a laugh from the audience. “We had a good conversation, pulled over on the side of the road.”

Lantz said he hopes to hire more officers and, eventually, open a district police station in the north part of the county near Hollymead Town Center. Along with the addition of a new satellite office in Crozet, he said he’d like to see another open in the urban ring near apartment complexes with high numbers of calls for service.

Taxes, Growth and Our Albemarle County Quality of Life

Posted October 19th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs
palmer-and-keller

Liz Palmer, Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Tim Keller, Chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission

We all appreciate the amenities, cultural and historical richness of our community and those are the very things that attract others. Growth often increases road congestion, noise and property taxes. How can we avoid these problems?  This question was addressed by officials of Albemarle County at our October 17th meeting where the program was moderated by SSV past president Bob McGrath. The details are in this podcast.

Liz Palmer is the chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and represents the Samuel Miller District. She was elected in 2013. Prior local government service includes eight years on the board of the Albemarle County Service Authority. She has been a practicing veterinarian for 35 years. She currently operates a mobile practice, Charlottesville End of Life Pet Care.

Tim Keller serves as the at-large commissioner and chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission. He is a founding principal of Land and Community Associates and professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. Tim has directed a variety of innovative landscape planning and conservation projects throughout the United States and abroad.

Program Summary

In her opening remarks, Ms. Palmer observed, “Anyone who has lived here for the last decade or longer has witnessed the population growth of our area and has felt the effects. Many enjoy our beautiful countryside and the fact that we can drive just a short distance outside of town and be in the rural areas. This is possible because of the growth management practices of the last 30 + years and hard development lines established in 1980 which Tim will talk more about later.

Others complain that this growth management plan holds back business and thereby hurts people’s ability to make a living. They also believe it is driving up land prices and making the county increasingly unaffordable. Then there are higher taxes which is a negative impact not always directly associated with growth. Our talk will concentrate on what local government can do to balance these competing concerns. What kind of economic development can help with the budget without stoking growth.”

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Keller covered three discussion points:  1. Does growth pay for itself?  That is, do the local taxes paid by the average family in a single family home cover the costs of services provided by local government? (Spoiler alert: No! Growth does not pay for itself).

2. Does local government possess the tools to mitigate the negative impacts of growth on our taxes, environment, and quality of life? (Another spoiler alert: Yes, but ultimately will need state help and tax reform).

3. Can urban infill and redevelopment help us maintain our Albemarle County quality of life in the face of population growth and increased property taxes?

Ms. Palmer turned over the presentation to Mr. Keller to address the third point. His answer: the Albemarle County Growth Management Plan is successful. The rural is still rural. Development is primarily directed to the growth areas. The growth areas warrant focus through continued and refined economic and land use planning and urban design.

One of Mr. Keller’s major takeaways: “This quick trip through planning history brings us to today. Would some folks like to see more development, and less controls? Of course. Would others like to see little or no change? Albemarle County’s growth management approach provides a reasonable middle ground.” The current rural areas policy has proven effective.

Update on the Supreme Court

Posted September 16th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

2016-09-14-1-ssv-lithwickDahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate Magazine, and in that capacity, writes the Supreme Court Dispatches and Jurisprudence columns. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Commentary, among other places. She won a 2013 National Magazine Award for her columns on the Affordable Care Act. She is currently working on a book about the four women justices of the United States Supreme Court.

Ms. Lithwick spoke at our Wednesday September 14, 2016 meeting. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience, and can be heard in the podcast below. The program was moderated by SSV past president Bob McGrath.

Ms. Lithwick has been twice awarded an Online Journalism Award for her legal commentary and was the first online journalist invited to be on the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.  Ms. Lithwick has testified before Congress about access to justice in the era of the Roberts Court.

She has appeared on CNN, ABC, The Colbert Report, and is a frequent guest on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Ms. Lithwick earned her BA from Yale University and her JD degree from Stanford University.

Program Summary

Speaking to an overflow audience, Dahlia Lithwick began her report on the Supreme Court observing, “…the Supreme Court and I are having nervous breakdowns—it’s been a very hard term to cover and it’s very hard to talk about what’s not happening—which is the not-vote and the not-confirmation on the invisible Merrick Garland.”

Here’s just a sample in more of her own words: “So usually I come here and I talk to you all about the term that just happened and the term that’s coming and all the incredibly riveting cases that are before us but this term and to some degree last term are to quote the show Seinfeld, “terms about nothing.” I mean they’re not interesting, but certainly there were some blockbusters at the very end of the last term, but really this term that’s coming up the court has only granted 29 cases. That’s a record low. They’ve turned away incredibly important cases because they know they’re going to be tied for the foreseeable future, and so this is an incredibly interesting story about nothingness and a term that will be nothingness and so I thought what I would do instead of talking only about the cases that came before and what’s coming up—I’ll do a little bit of that at the end—but I thought I would talk a little bit about life after Scalia, and is there life after Scalia. It seems there is, but not much. And certainly at the court, very little.

And so, as you probably know, the Supreme Court seat that was occupied by Antonin Scalia has been vacant since he died on February 13th of this year. That means his seat has now been empty for 212 days, and we also know that within hours of his passing we learned by way of Twitter that that seat was not going to be filled by this president, but that the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee would be very certain that the seat was filled by the next president and they’ve made good on that promise. There’s been no hearing and no vote and not even really a serious national conversation about whether there should be a hearing or a vote.

So when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court on March 16th, what that means is that Judge Garland has been waiting 181 days for a hearing. Just by way of comparison for people who think this gridlock is usual, Elena Kagan only waited 87 days. Chief Justice John Roberts waited 62 days. The previous record for doing nothing while nothing happened was in fact held by Louis Brandeis. He had the longest wait between nomination and confirmation which was 125 days, but that was a hundred years ago and Judge Garland handily passed that record on July 21st. He is now the greatest waiter in Supreme Court history. Congratulations invisible Judge Garland.

Now in case anyone is wondering, and I hope you are not any more, but it being the week of Constitution Day, in case you’re wondering whether there’s some constitutional or legal mechanism to force a hearing against the will of the leadership of the Judiciary Committee, the answer is “No!”. There are a few very interesting lawsuits that have been filed by various renegade lawyers around the country who are really, really mad….”

Fifth Congressional District Candidates Forum

Posted August 11th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

$1120-Jane Dittmar and Tom Garret
The Senior Statesmen of Virginia has sponsored the 5th Congressional District candidates’ forums for many years. All of the candidates for this year’s August forum were invited: Jane Dittmar (D), Tom Garrett (R), Stephen Harmon (Libertarian), and Yale Landsberg (Independent). Only Jane Dittmar and Tom Garrett agreed to participate in this forum. The candidates spoke at our Wednesday August 10, 2016 meeting, which was well attended with several hundred standing. Bob Gibson moderated the meeting. A podcast is available.

2016-08-10-2-dittmarJane Dittmar (D) is the immediate past chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and former representative of the Scottsville District. Through her position as supervisor, she served on the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council.

Jane is a certified mediator for both General District and Circuit Courts and has served as court coordinator for the General District, Juvenile and Domestic Relations, and Circuit courts of the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa.  She is also a principal in the Positive Solutions Group and a business consultant specializing in strategic planning. Jane’s background is business and she has owned and worked with many businesses in the Commonwealth particularly when she served as president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce from 1992-2000.

Jane became a Virginian when she was six years old, attending Arlington County Public Schools after her family moved from rural Illinois.  She graduated from the University of Virginia where she received a degree in Economics. Since then, Jane attended the UVa Darden School’s Executive Program and Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy. Over the past 40 years, she has lived in Nelson, Fluvanna, and Albemarle Counties, and the City of Charlottesville.

Jane resides with her husband, Frank Squillace, in Albemarle County. They have raised six children (Will, Mary, Virginia, Leia, Jed, and Joe), four of whom are in college.

2016-08-10-3-garrettTom Garrett (R) is in his second term as state senator representing the 22nd District. He earned both his Bachelor’s and Law Degrees from the University of Richmond, and began his service to our country with six years in the Army. During that service he honed his leadership skills, had an opportunity to work with great American patriots, and fight for the Constitutional rights we hold dear.

In 2007, Tom entered public service in a new way. That year he challenged and defeated a two-term incumbent for the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney in Louisa. Tom won that election by 17 percent. It was the first time in decades that an incumbent countywide office holder was defeated – and the first Republican countywide candidate to win since Reconstruction.

In 2011, Tom was elected as the state senator for the 22nd district following a reshuffling of district borders that saw the 22nd moved eastward and into the 5th, 6th, and 7th Congressional districts. Tom won a 5-way nomination contest and subsequently won a resounding general election contest against an accomplished Democrat opponent, despite being outspent nearly 2-to-1.

In the Senate, Tom has focused on expanding liberty, reclaiming our Constitutional rights, fiscal responsibility and restraint, and common sense reductions in the size and scope of government.

Bob Gibson (moderator) is a senior researcher at the Academy for Civic Renewal, a part of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. He has served eight years as executive director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership prior to joining the academy on July 1.

 

Program Summary

Attendance at the forum was outstanding with an overflow crowd and standing room only. The article below appeared in the August 11, 2016, edition of The Daily Progress (page one, top of the fold!), and was posted online.

In first debate, Garrett and Dittmar discuss
health care, guns and Trump

BY MICHAEL BRAGG
Aug 10, 2016

Two candidates for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District attended their first of several scheduled debates on Wednesday, giving their takes on several topics such as health care spending, public safety, environmental issues, voting rights and the economy, to name a few.

Democratic candidate and former Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Jane Dittmar and Republican candidate Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Buckingham, attended the Senior Statesmen of Virginia’s event.

The heavily attended forum at the Senior Center was moderated by Bob Gibson, senior researcher at the University of Virginia’s Academy for Civic Renewal, which is a part of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Many of the questions asked by Gibson were submitted in writing from audience members.

One of the first questions for the candidates was on health care and spending for it. Dittmar used her time to defend the Affordable Care Act, adding that there is a need to examine and improve it, rather than fighting in Congress to repeal it or keep it.
Garrett argued against the effectiveness of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, and suggested taking a step back and looking at other ways to address health care need and cost.

Garrett then was given the chance to respond first to a question on public safety and gun policies. He used his time to proclaim his support for the Second Amendment and pointed out that other weapons can be used to harm others, too.

“Ultimately, the problem I don’t think is guns,” he said. “The problem is violence.”
Dittmar responded by saying she thinks there should be universal background checks for gun purchases.

“We need to make sure that people who shouldn’t own guns are not allowed to buy them,” she said.

Early in the forum, a question came up regarding a local Gold Star family who spoke at the Democratic National Convention. After Ghazala and Khizr Khan — the Muslim-American couple whose son died in 2004 serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq — spoke about their son, Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, they criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his immigration proposals.

The Dittmar campaign took the opportunity to ask the Garrett campaign to join other
Republican leaders and distance themselves from Trump’s comments and response.
Garrett responded first by saying the extent to which Trump criticized the family was not good and that Trump “is a smart man who sometimes picks dumb words.” He then spoke highly of Humayun Khan.

“Having worn the uniform, knowing soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, having friends who lost an arm, specifically in one instance, I think that Humayun Khan is every bit as much or more of a hero than any one of those young men and women with whom I served,” he said.

Some audience members audibly disagreed with Garrett at times during his full answer, and some held up pocket-sized copies of the Constitution, a gesture Khizr Khan made famous at the DNC when he asked Trump if he had ever read the Constitution.

Dittmar responded, calling Trump’s comments to the Khan family “reprehensible” and that she was pleased with the Republicans who have called Trump out for his comments.
“It’s more than tone, it’s more than forgetting the best way to communicate,” she said. “There is an attitude there, and he disrespected a Gold Star family.”

It was one of a few times on Wednesday that members of the audience audibly reacted negatively to comments made by Garrett, but the most frequent response was applause for both candidates. Both candidates, too, were civil and disagreed on subject and policy without making personal attacks. Dittmar and Garrett also complimented one another when they agreed on certain issues or how best to address them, such as equal work for equal pay.

Before running for the 5th District, Dittmar was the previous chairwoman to the Board of Supervisors and the representative for the Scottsville District. She also served the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council.

Dittmar is a certified mediator for general and district courts and is also a principal in Positive Solutions Group, a firm that specializes in strategic planning.
Dittmar served as the president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce from 1992 until 2000.

Garrett is currently serving his second term as a state senator and was the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Louisa prior to that. Garrett is also a U.S. Army veteran.
Libertarian candidate Stephen Harmon and independent candidate Yale Landsberg were both invited to the forum but only Garrett and Dittmar confirmed their participation in the forum, according to a news release from the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.
Wednesday’s forum was the first of a few debates currently scheduled between the two candidates.

The next is set to take place at the Appomattox Inn & Suites on Sept. 26. The debate is hosted by the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance and Appomattox Chamber of Commerce and will focus on economic development issues.

The next two are scheduled to take place in the Charlottesville area.

Dittmar and Garrett will debate at UVa’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at 6 p.m. Sept. 28. The other scheduled debate is set to take place at Piedmont Virginia Community College on Oct. 10.

Michael Bragg is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7265, mbragg@dailyprogress.com or @braggmichaelc on Twitter.

Passenger Rail in the Commonwealth

Posted June 12th, 2016 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Meredith RichardsMeredith Richards spoke at our Wednesday June 8, 2016 meeting about rail service in Virginia and the Northeast Corridor. The program was moderated by SSV board member Rich DeMong.

Across the nation, people are demanding more passenger rail service. Virginia is a national leader in funding rail infrastructure and Amtrak services. Six state-supported Amtrak trains connect Virginia to the Northeast Corridor. These are among the most profitable routes in the nation.

Charlottesville is one of Virginia’s strongest passenger rail markets in terms of ridership. It has direct, daily trains north to Washington, New York and Boston and south to Charlotte, Atlanta and New Orleans, with east-west service to Chicago three days a week. Future expansions of Charlottesville Amtrak service will require major upgrades to the Charlottesville station.

Passenger rail service is improving, but freight rail is a different story. The unprecedented recent decline in demand for coal is having a dramatic effect upon America’s Class I Railroads, which are responding with a policy of retrenchment. This raises questions about the future of rail in Virginia and creates significant public policy challenges for the Commonwealth. Listen to the presentation and the discussion after in the podcast.

Meredith Richards is a former Charlottesville City Councilor (1996-2004) and vice mayor who has specialized in transportation public policy during her public career. She served three terms as president of Virginians for High Speed Rail and currently serves as its co-chair. Meredith is also president of the Virginia Rail Policy Institute. She formerly served as a member of Governor Mark Warner’s Commission on Rail Enhancement for the 21st Century and was president of the Virginia Transit Association from 1998-2000. While in elective office, Meredith served on regional and statewide boards, including the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, Virginia First Cities Coalition and the Virginia Municipal League.

Meredith founded and is chairman of CvilleRail, a nonprofit that promotes enhanced passenger rail for Central Virginia, and she established the Piedmont Rail Coalition, a consortium of local governments, economic development authorities, organizations, businesses and citizens throughout Virginia’s US 29 corridor who work together to bring more frequent and accessible passenger rail to the region.

Meredith holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois and is a former faculty member of the University of Virginia and the University of Louisville.

Program Summary

Virginia has funded six passenger trains including the Amtrak Northeast Regional that goes between Lynchburg and DC with a daily stop in Charlottesville. The other state-funded passenger trains are the two Richmond-DC Amtrak trains, the two Newport-DC Amtrak trains, and the one Norfolk-DC Amtrak train. These trains are some of the most profitable of all of the Amtrak state-supported and short regional trains. The Newport-DC is the most profitable Amtrak short-route and the Lynchburg-DC regional is the second most profitable.

In addition to the Lynchburg regional train, Charlottesville also is served by Amtrak’s Crescent (New Orleans to New York City) and the Cardinal (Chicago to New York City). Over 134,000 passengers last year (and over 788,000 passengers since 2009) board, or depart, their train at Charlottesville’s depot on West Main Street every year. More passengers get on or off the Northeastern Regional in Charlottesville than in any other city between Lynchburg and Boston. There are plans to expand passenger rail from Charlottesville.

In contrast to the growth of passenger rail travel since 1997, freight rail has been declining over the last several years and has dropped precipitately in 2016. Much of the decrease is a result of the declining shipments of coal and petroleum. Even so, approximately 19 percent of freight goes on the rail network.

Trains take traffic off of our roadways. For more information please visit the Virginia Rail Policy Institute website (www.varpi.org).