Future Programs

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

The public is welcome to our meetings that take place at the Senior Center 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. Next meeting:

September 9, 2015:  Topic to be announced.


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.

Local Candidates Forum

Posted August 12th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Candidates for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council gave their views on many of the issues and priorities for the County and City. Listen to the event with the podcast below from the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

City of Charlottesville Candidates

Chris Callahn (on the left) and City of Charlottesville Candidates

Albemarle County Candidates

Albemarle County Candidates

The candidates spoke at the Wednesday, August 12, 2015 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. Click here for identification of the candidates. The meeting was held at the Senior Center in Charlottesville. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by senior reporter for 1070 WINA News Radio Chris Callahan. Chris has been with the station for 41 years and was honored in 2014 by the Associated Press Broadcasters for the Best News Operation of the Year.

The League of Woman Voters

Posted June 13th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

The officers of the Charlottesville Area League of Women Voters, Kerin Yates, Gerry Yemen and Patricia Hurst, discuss the mission of the League of Women Voters, its history and the positions adopted by the organization. The officers spoke at the Wednesday, June 10, 2015 meeting, which was moderated by SSV Board Member Jeff Gould.

Gerry Yemen, Kerin Yates and Pat Hurst

From left to right: Gerry Yemen, Kerin Yates and Pat Hurst speaking at the Senior Center

Kerin Yates has served as president of the LWV of the Charlottesville Area since July 2012. She is a 1958 graduate of Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA., and was a research chemist at NIH for 17 years and was business manager for a medical company in Pittsburgh for 15 years. Kerin is the treasurer of OneVirginia2021 Foundation and volunteers as a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels. Kerin serves as an election official for the County of Albemarle and has been a resident of Albemarle County for eight years. She is married to Professor John T. Yates, Jr. They have two sons and six grandchildren.

Gerry Yemen is the secretary of the LWV of the Charlottesville Area and is a senior researcher with the Darden Graduate School of Business. With any number of organizations, associations, and volunteer opportunities available, why would anyone choose to join the LWV? Gerry Yemen, who became a member shortly following graduate school, discussed what attracted her, why she stays with the organization, and offered her thoughts on how the league’s future relevance.

Patricia Hurst is the treasurer of the LWV and has been a member of the Charlottesville Area Chapter for six years. During this time she has served as president, treasurer, and secretary for the local league. She retired from a 40-year career in computer software engineering which began at NASA Langley in Virginia and ended with the SBA in Washington D.C. In between she worked for various companies in California, Georgia, New York, and London. As an instructor in software engineering, she traveled extensively in the US and other countries. For the past fourteen years, she has owned and actively managed multifamily properties. Pat has two daughters who live in upstate New York and five grandchildren.

Program Summary

Officers of the Charlottesville Area League of Women Voters: Kerin Yates, Gerry Yemen and Patricia Hurst, provided an overview of the mission of the League of Women Voters, its history and the positions adopted by the organization.

Kerin began by explaining how this meeting with SSV came about. About a year ago she saw the announcement in The Daily Progress that Dahlia Lithwick would be speaking on the Supreme Court at the upcoming SSV meeting. Kerin attended the meeting and found it to be very exciting. She then looked up SSV on the Internet and saw that there were many similarities between the League and SSV and so she emailed the SSV board and suggested they explore if we could coordinate our work. This led to a couple of informal meetings and then finally to today’s program.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Members study issues for two to four years (recent example is the issue of prisons in our country), and if consensus is achieved, then they lobby as a group. The League has a very good reputation for intellectual integrity. They are invited by legislators to testify on various issues. Their greatest asset is their reputation on intellectual rigor. This allows the League to open doors and to be invited to the table and to be taken very seriously. This is important because we are in an age when absolutely anything goes in public debate. Allegiance to the truth doesn’t exist very much anymore because the first consideration is often getting your way or getting elected.

Pat Hurst reviewed the history of the League which was founded in 1920 (the year the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified) by Carrie Chapman Catt who was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement that lasted for 71 years. There were many small steps towards the march to women’s suffrage, examples of which are: in 1896 Utah joined the union and granted full women’s suffrage; in 1906 Idaho adopted an amendment to the state constitution enfranchising women to vote; and in 1917 Montana elected the first woman to the House of Representatives.

Gerry Yemen described the profound impact her membership in the League has had in her life. A Canadian citizen, she credits the League in large part for her eventually achieving U. S. citizenship and the honor of being sworn in at the ceremony held at Monticello.

Montpelier & Why Madison Matters

Posted May 19th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs


Christian Cotz is the director of education and visitor engagement at James Madison’s Montpelier, and has been with the Foundation for fifteen years. He is responsible for the creation, implementation, and oversight of all Montpelier guided tours, hands-on experiences, student programs, interpretive signage and many exhibits. Listen as Mr. Cotz tells the story of Montpelier and it’s most famous resident, President James Madison.

Mr. Cotz spoke at the Wednesday, May 13, 2015 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held at the Senior Center in Charlottesville. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President John McCauley.

Program Summary

When Christian first came to Montpelier 15 years ago he said, “It was a great big pink house when I started and now it looks a lot better!” First and foremost, Montpelier is a home, and a home to three generations of the Madisons beginning with Grandfather Ambrose in the 1720’s. During this period it was also home to 300 enslaved people. The du Pont family radically altered the property in the 20th century. But it’s more than a home, it’s a place of inspiration where Madison conceived ideas of self-government that would change the course of human history.

The mission of Montpelier is to inspire continuing public engagement of American constitutional self-government by bringing to life the home and contributions of James and Dolly Madison. James, born at Montpelier in 1751, was the fourth president of the United States, father of the Constitution, and architect of the Bill of Rights. And even after all of this and more, Dolly, who was in the White House for 16 years, was probably better known by most Americans than Madison or Jefferson—an incredibly accomplished, admired and sought-after public figure.

Delegates Report on the 2015 General Assembly

Posted April 10th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Delegates Rob Bell, and David Toscano provided their perspectives on the issues that came before the 2015 legislature. The delegates spoke at the SSV Wednesday, April 8, 2015 meeting. Following two 15-minute presentations, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV member Terry Cooper. Listen to the informative podcast below.

Delegates at SSV

Rob BellRobert Bell (R) – 58th District:
An honors graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia Law School, Rob served as a state prosecutor for five years. He prosecuted over 2,400 cases, working with the police and crime victims to bring criminals to justice.

In the Virginia General Assembly, Rob has written laws that crack down on drunk driving. As a result, MADD (Virginia) named him the 2005 Outstanding Legislator. He is also interested in school safety. In recent years, he has written laws to ban criminal sex offenders from school property during school hours and to require additional background checks on school personnel. In 2008, Rob helped overhaul Virginia’s mental health commitment laws in light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. And, in 2009, Rob received the Act, Honor, Hope award from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance to recognize his work in the Virginia General Assembly.

An Eagle Scout, Rob was an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts and with the public schools prior to his election in 2001. Rob’s wife, Jessica, is a schoolteacher. She is currently staying home to raise their children, Robbie and Evie. The Bells live in Albemarle County and are members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

Rob understands that in tough economic times everyone – business, communities, government – needs to pitch in to create and protect Virginia jobs. That’s why Rob has fought to preserve and promote Virginia’s #1 business-friendly ranking. This helps Virginia’s small businesses to expand and encourages new companies to move here.

In response to the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Rob was chosen to lead a special Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee charged with reforming Virginia’s mental health commitment laws. The subcommittee’s goals were to ensure that a similar tragedy would not happen again and to protect the ability of Virginians to voluntarily seek care for themselves. In 2008, as a result of the subcommittee’s work, Virginia saw the most sweeping reforms of mental health commitment laws in 30 years.

Rob and Jessica’s son Robbie attends public school. Jessica is a high school English teacher who is currently taking time off to raise Robbie and Evie. As delegate, Rob regularly visits our schools to talk with students. He has taught more than 1,000 students about civics and how laws are made. Rob has also sponsored local students as pages in the Virginia General Assembly and others have served as interns in his legislative office.

Rob is a champion for our communities against crime. He has led an all-out assault against drunk driving and has fought to protect our families from sex offenders. Rob has served on the Virginia Crime Commission since 2003 and is currently chairman.

David ToscanoDavid Toscano (D) – 57th District: David Toscano is serving his third term in the Virginia General Assembly, representing the 57th District of the House of Delegates, where he serves on the Courts of Justice; Transportation; and Science & Technology committees. David also serves on the Disability Commission and has served on the special Joint Subcommittee to Study Land Use Tools in the Commonwealth and the Joint Committee to study Math, Science, and Engineering. He is also a member of the United Way Board and the Chamber of Commerce.

David, his wife Nancy A. Tramontin, and son Matthew live in Charlottesville. David is a practicing attorney and an active volunteer for many community-based organizations.

David is an attorney with Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, Ltd., and specializes in family law, real estate transactions, and estate planning.

David’s priorities are education, energy, and the environment. He fights for education funding, against teacher pay freezes, and to protect VRS and retirement benefits. He pushes the cause of renewable energy, and stood against those who deny the reality of climate change. He opposes predatory lending in its various forms. He argues for multifaceted transportation programs that include roads, rail, and public transit. He opposes cuts to services for the poor and disabled, defends a woman’s right to choose, and advances reforms in foster care and adoption, so that all children will have the opportunity to live productive lives in family settings free from abuse and neglect.

The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has named David a “Legislative Hero” four times for his work on environmental issues.

David was born in Syracuse, New York, the oldest of five children. He received a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University, a Ph.D. from Boston College, and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He has taught politics and sociology at various colleges and universities, including Boston College, University of Maryland (European Division), PVCC, University of Virginia, and James Madison University. He recently taught for the University of Virginia as part of its 14-week Semester at Sea program.

David served on the Charlottesville City Council from 1990 to 2002 and as Mayor 1994-96. David is a resident of the City of Charlottesville, where he lives with his wife, Nancy A. Tramontin, and their son, Matthew.

Program Summary

The following excerpted from the coverage provided by The Daily Progress written by Derek Quizon and appearing in the April 9 edition. The full story is available on the The Daily Progress website.

Dels. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, and Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, called for the state to strip the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control of its law enforcement powers at a legislative forum Wednesday afternoon. ABC, Medicaid expansion and sexual assault were among the topics the legislators discussed with residents during the question-and-answer session.

Legislators disagree on Medicaid expansion

Medicaid expansion — the decision over whether to increase state Medicaid rolls in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act — was on the minds of many of the attendees, although it was never addressed in the latest General Assembly session. The delegates were greeted by pro-expansion demonstrators standing outside the center with signs with slogans like “Honk your horn for Medicaid expansion” and “Affordable care for all.” Toscano and Bell, who are on opposite sides of the issue, each presented different arguments. “I’ve been crusading for Medicaid reform for a long time,” Toscano said. “I think it creates jobs and helps a lot of people who need it.” Bell said the state needs to get the costs of the current program down and make sure an expansion would be sustainable. Virginia currently spends about $3.79 billion from its general fund on Medicaid, up from $1.6 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, according to Susan Massart, a fiscal analyst for the state House Appropriations Committee. Legislative Republicans say they want to rein in the growth before any expansion.

Sexual assault bill touted

The legislators also talked about the bill passed during the session that would create a sexual assault reporting procedure at campuses across the state. The bill — which would go into effect if the legislature approves some minor changes by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — requires university administrators to bring reports of sexual assault to a Title IX coordinator. The coordinator, a representative of law enforcement and a student representative would review reports and bring them before prosecutors. There is no requirement for a victim to press charges or cooperate with prosecutors. If law enforcement and prosecutors decide there is a threat to the safety of a community, they would have the ability to push forward with an investigation. Bell said a goal of the legislation is to balance the privacy of the victim with public safety. “We didn’t want to keep spreading that information [on sexual assault reports] further and further, but we wanted a prosecutor to review it,” he said.

Albemarle County: Growth vs. No Growth

Posted March 14th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Tim Hulbert and Tom Olivier presented very different positions in a panel discussion on Population Growth vs. No Growth — What’s Best for Albemarle County and Charlottesville. Listen as they discuss the likely consequences of their positions on the physical environment, taxpayers, local businesses and job seekers. The program was moderated by CEO and Managing Partner of the bridge ltd, Grant Tate. SSV President Bob McGrath introduced the program. It took place on March 11,2015 at the Senior Center on Pepsi Place.


Grant Tate, Tom Olivier and Tim Hulbert Speaking at the Senior Center

Tim Hulbert has been president and CEO of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce since March 2001. The Charlottesville Regional Chamber has more than 1,100 members and affiliates that together employ more than 45,000 people in the Greater Charlottesville region. Their estimated annual payrolls exceed $1.75 billion. Tim is a native of upstate New York and a graduate of Manhattan College. Prior to coming to the Charlottesville Regional Chamber, he held a similar position with the Rensselaer County, New York Regional Chamber of Commerce. He also held a variety of positions in New York state government, including in the transportation field.

Tom Olivier currently is president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP). He grew up in New Orleans and moved to Albemarle County in 1981. Tom holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Tulane University and a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Duke University. Tom has done genetics research on mammalian populations in Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. He is a member of Albemarle County’s Natural Heritage Committee and past chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. Tom and his wife, Wren, now raise sheep on their farm in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Program Summary

The following was excerpted from the coverage provided by The Daily Progress written by Bryan McKenzie and appearing in the March 12 edition.  The full story is available on the The Daily Progress website.

It’s a fine line. To some, government regulations, including zoning and permits, could help limit growth in Albemarle County, create a sustainable population and save the local environment. To others, it could spur more growth in rural areas, stifle jobs for existing residents and drive up the costs of homes, local business and sustainability.

Tom Olivier, president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, and Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, debated commercial and residential growth in region during the meeting.

Olivier said economic growth seldom pays for itself, especially in residential developments, which have a direct impact on tax expenditures for police, schools and other services. He said the concept of a free market is good in limited form coupled with government restrictions, and also said a free market does not provide equal benefit to all residents…. Hulbert said that, although a free market does not equally benefit everyone, it provides benefits in the form of jobs, tax revenue and a vibrant local economy that pays for needed services.

Aging in Community – Action 2020: Celebration and Looking Ahead

Posted February 14th, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Over ten years have passed since the groundbreaking 2020 Plan: Aging in Community was finalized. Action 2020 is an initiative to create a challenging, but doable, 5-year action plan to achieve the goals of the 2020 Plan. Ms. Billie Campbell spoke at the Wednesday, February 11, 2015 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The program was moderated by SSV Past President Sue Liberman. Listen to the podcast.



Billie Campbell is the senior program manager for theThomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) and executive director of TJPDC Corporation, TJPDC’s companion nonprofit. She has been with the TJPDC since 1999, when she changed careers from structural engineering. She has a wide-ranging role at the TJPDC, managing a variety of projects, heading TJPDC’s housing program, and carrying out management and administrative functions for the regional agency. She has been actively involved in efforts to make our region age-friendly. She has been a leader in the Livable for a Lifetime (L4L) initiative since its inception in 2006 to promote amenities for ease, comfort and hospitality in homes and communities, and is a member of the Chamber’s Aging in Place Business Round Table. She holds a Master of Public Administration from George Mason University.

 Program Summary

Over ten years have passed since the groundbreaking 2020 Plan: Aging in Community was finalized. Action 2020 is an initiative to create a challenging, but doable, 5-year action plan (2015 to 2020) to achieve the goals of the 2020 plan. The plan was created between 2000 and 2003.  JABA was the leader of that effort and involved over 500 people and 85 organizations.  This was one of the few communities in the country to develop a plan on aging that early.  The plan is 97 pages in length and is a guide for this community to be age friendly.  The earlier plan called on promoting “universal design application” which is a home and community design method where you design objects that are easy to use for the widest number of people regardless of their ability without real adjustment or adaptation.  Subsequently, the term “universal” design has been mistakenly interpreted to mean “specialized” design and so we have changed our terminology to better convey a concept that makes things easier for everybody:  we talk about amenities for ease, comfort and things that are for hospitality.  At the end of the presentation, Ms. Campbell took questions and also solicited ideas and suggestions of things we might want to include in the plan about things you know about.

Bridging the Gap: Listening to People You Don’t Want to Hear

Posted February 1st, 2015 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Dr. Grant TateThis session was focused on learning how to identify and overcome the gaps between different points of view in public and private discourse. It was facilitated by Dr. Grant Tate, CEO/Managing Partner of the bridge ltd, a Charlottesville consulting company that helps leaders make difficult decisions. He is the founder of three small companies and was co-founder of the New Mexico Technical Innovation Center and the Connecticut Venture Center, organizations formed to help formulate and grow entrepreneurial companies. Before starting the bridge ltd, Grant was an executive at IBM where he led a software development lab, introduced new products and managed reorganization of a hi-tech division.

Dr. Tate spoke at the Wednesday, January 14, 2015 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The program was moderated by SSV Board Member Terry Cooper. A podcast of the session follows.

Program Summary

Grant Tate was introduced by SSV board member Terry Cooper who likened Mr. Tate’s organizational interventions to one who tunes up an automobile.  But sometimes more than just a tune-up is required. Mr. Tate began by observing that if the car hardly runs, then he gets involved in “turnaround,” which is what we have to do with the people and the organization to really turn this into an organization.

One of the things that has struck him over the years on conflict resolution is how sparsely held are the skills of debate—people get mad and they’ll run away.  Don’t turn your back.  What can we do as individuals to help bridge the gap.  Take the risk to trust the other people, and ask everyone in the group to take that risk and then you can begin to build trust in the organization.   We all have our individual filters that will affect how we hear and see things and how we respond.

First there is a stimulus—something we hear or see.  Next is our own interpretation.  Then an emotional response followed by a behavioral choice leading to actions and finally consequences.  Slow down and test your assumptions.  One filter is attitude—habits of thought.  Prejudice is an example of a fast response.  One way to change the attitude is to change the messages.  Persons are imbued with the attitude that they “can’t do it” due to the messages they hear throughout their lives.    Education, training and how you communicate across different groups has a profound effect.  One of the things he does in working to build organizations is to try to look at the person’s background.

Vladimir Putin and the Crisis in Ukraine: Policy and Personality

Posted November 16th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Prof. Allen Lynch

According to Prof. Allen Lynch, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the byproduct of two vectors of policy that predate Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in the Kremlin: (A) The desire of Moscow’s ruling elites that Russia be the dominant power throughout the territories of the former Soviet Union; and (B) NATO expansion. But Putin’s policy toward Ukraine not only reflects these political tendencies but also lessons that he learned during his family and professional socialization. These are: (C) Vacuums of power will always be filled; fill them yourself before others do, and (D) But in the process, be wary of over-extension, a lesson that Putin derives from his mastery of Judo, in which sport he attained advanced black belt status.

Prof. Lynch spoke at the Wednesday, November 12, 2014 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The program was moderated by SSV President Robert McGrath. Listen to the podcast to hear the details.

Allen Lynch, is the current professor of international relations and Russian studies at the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, and was director of research at UVa’s Center for International Studies (2010-2012) and was director of the University’s Center for Russian and East European Studies (1993-2008), raising $1.5 million for graduate fellowships in Russian and East European Studies.

Prof. Lynch has a PhD in Political Science from Columbia University (1984) and a BA in History from the State University of New York Stony Brook (1977) where he was also the All-American kicker/punter in 1975 in the 80-team National Club Sports Association.

He has held positions at the Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, Institute for East-West Security Studies (New York City), Feris Foundation of America, and is currently co-treasurer for the Friends of the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a Visiting Professor at the Free University of Berlin, East China Normal University (Shanghai), the Graduate School for Social Science (Paris), and the Radio Free Europe Research Institute (Munich). He is also a Visiting Scholar at the Russian Research Center, Harvard University, University of Lyon, France, and the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland (2014).

Mr Lynch’s publications include Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft, translated into Chinese; How Russia is Not Ruled; Does Russia Have a Democratic Future?; Europe from the Balkans to the Urals co-authored with Reneo Lukic; The Cold War Is Over Again; The Soviet Study of International Relations. He has also published in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and various journals in North America, Europe, Russia and China.

He has received the Marshall D. Shulman Award for Best Book by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and Teaching Awards from the University of Virginia and the American Political Science Association.

Prof. Lynch has consulted for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI Academy, the U.S. Air Force’s Special Service School, the U.S. On-Site Inspection Agency, the U.S. Army’s National Grounds Intelligence Center, and the Kettering Foundation.

He speaks Russian, French and Italian and reads in German, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish. He is married to the former Tullia Maffei. They have one son, Thomas, who is now working in Washington, D.C.

Program Summary

Professor Lynch’s presentation summarized the key events that have led to the present moment in this crisis in the Ukraine; a crisis which is also a crisis of Russian-American and Russian-European relations. He also posed the questions, Why is the Ukraine so important to Russia; and secondly, How did we get

He advanced a thesis which is basically this: the current crisis that we have been experiencing since last November (2013) is the byproduct of two forces that have been building ever since the middle of the 1990’s–long before Putin came to power in Moscow and Bill Clinton was still the U. S. president. The first has to do with NATO expansion: the progressive extension of NATO eastward to include almost every former Soviet satellite ally in east central Europe and the three Baltic states. The second also predates Putin: the clear determination of Russia’s leaders that Russia should be the dominant international power on the territories of the former Soviet Union. In the Ukraine, these two vectors have come into a conflict that cannot very easily be resolved. Professor Lynch traced events going all the way back to 988 AD and then jumping forward to 2008 and finally into the present.

What’s the Outlook for the 2014 Midterm Elections?

Posted October 14th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Mr. Geoffrey SkelleyNovember is quickly approaching and control of Congress is up for grabs. What will be the state of play in the U.S. Senate and House as well as gubernatorial races? The real drama in this cycle will be the battle for control of the Senate, where Republicans need to win a net gain of six seats to win a majority in Congress’ upper chamber. Mr. Geoffrey Skelley spoke at the Wednesday, October 8, 2014 SSV meeting, which was moderated by SSV President Robert McGrath. A podcast of his remarks can be found here.

Geoffrey Skelley joined the staff of the Center for Politics in November 2011. Working as a political analyst, Skelley is the associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Center’s weekly political newsletter. He also serves as the center’s media relations coordinator, helping manage its communications.

A native of Harrisonburg, VA, Skelley received an M.A. in Political Science (with a focus on the European Union) from James Madison University in 2011, and is a graduate of the University of Virginia, receiving a B.A. in History in 2009.

Program Summary

Geoffrey Skelley presented an overview of the state of play—the environment this election will be taking place in—and a review of the races, particularly the Senate where most of the drama is in this election cycle. Although Mr. Skelly is often asked what the most important issue is in this election, there really isn’t one thing that overhangs: foreign policy, the Middle East, immigration, the healthcare law, the economy. So at the end of the day, the most important aspect of this election is President Obama. The president’s party rarely does well in midterm elections, and this is compounded by Obama’s approval falling into the low 40s.

There are 36 Senate seats up, 21 held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. Republicans should do well because of the geography (more rural) and the Democrats hold the majority of the seats presenting a lot of opportunity for the Republicans to win the six seats or more that they need to win a majority. There are seven states that Mitt Romney won that have Democratic incumbents who are up this cycle (Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia and North Carolina).

There are nine toss-up races with seven incumbent Democrats and two Republicans. The outcomes of three of these races may not be known on election night—Alaska because of the time zone and its sparse, spread out population; Louisiana because nine candidates running which may end up requiring a run-off election on December 6; and Georgia where a majority is required and if it is not attained, a run-off election would be held on January 6, which is three days after Congress is supposed to convene!

At the moment, Mr. Skelly projects that the Republicans would gain between five and eight seats in the Senate. Five would be insufficient for the Republicans to gain a majority leaving a 50/50 tie with the Democrats maintaining control given Vice President Biden’s vote.

Update on the Supreme Court

Posted September 13th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Dahlia LithwickDahlia Lithwick recaps the highlights of the last Supreme Court term and gives a brief preview of the term to come.  The program was moderated by SSV board member Grace Zisk.  Interesting questions and answers follow her talk.  Listen to her lively presentation on the podcast.

Ms. 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 has been twice awarded anOnline 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. She is currently working on a book about the four women justices of the United States Supreme Court.

Program Summary

Dahlia Lithwick summarized the major legal decisions from the court’s 2013 term and predicted what cases the court might take on in 2014. Virginia’s ban on gay marriage could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court next year. Quoting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lithwick said the “court can’t duck the issue for gay marriage anymore.” She said she doesn’t know which case will come up to the nation’s highest court in the 2014 term — which is slated to begin in October — but one will, and Virginia is “one of the best candidates.”

Lithwick used three trends to describe the current court: Incrementalism; faux-nanimity — a term she coined; and a divide on “identity politics.” The first, she said, addresses the small steps the court took that could have large impacts. “This was a year where they could have done a lot and they did a little in a lot of areas of the law,” she said. “But they certainly teed up the next case or the case after that for doing a lot.” For example, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court decided that closely held for-profit corporations didn’t have to provide contraceptives to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, if it violated their religious beliefs. While the decision was meant to be narrow, Ginsburg warned that “you have no idea what you’ve just let loose,” Lithwick said.

When the court meets again next month, one of the first cases it will hear is Holt v. Hobbs, which addresses whether making prisoners cut their beards violates their religious freedom. The case is considered to be a continuation of the issues addressed in the Hobby Lobby case.

She did encourage conversation about whether justices should serve life sentences, given that people live longer and are appointed younger now than when the Constitution was written. Lithwick said it’s inappropriate that some liberals are asking Ginsburg to step down while President Barack Obama is still in office so he can appoint a liberal justice. Charlottesville resident Mary Kathryn Hassett said this was the most interesting argument Lithwick made. “This longevity was not foreseen by the founders, that is sort of a problem, but I don’t think she’s too old,” Hassett said.

Although citizens don’t get to directly engage with the court, Lithwick said Americans need to be more aware of what is happening there. “I do think there is, in good and bad ways, the idea that once you put on that black robe and you take up residence in front of that red curtain, you’re magic,” she said. “We have the most mystified, miracular court; it’s quite amazing in a democracy. I think that you have to understand that these are people too, that confirmations matter, that we need to really care, either way, because it’s a hugely consequential thing that doesn’t happen by people with magic, but through constitutional democratic processes that we control.”

The Daily Progress has a more detailed summary of Ms. Lithwick’s presentation.  Click here to read it.