Archive for the 'Programs' Category

The Coming Retirement Crisis

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Can we count on Social Security? Did Baby Boomers save enough?  What about Gen X and the Millennials? What is the future of 401(k)s, IRAs, mRAs? Will retirees have sufficient funds for health care and nursing home care? Are there any solutions other than working until you drop?  Find out the answers to these and many more questions in this interesting podcast.  The PowerPoint used can be downloaded here.  Mr. DeMong spoke at the Wednesday October 10, 2018 meeting that was moderated by SSV board member Bob McGrath.

Rich DeMong is the University of Virginia’s Virginia Bankers Association Professor Emeritus after teaching investments and corporate finance at the McIntire School of Commerce for 37 years. He has a PhD from the University of Colorado, an MBA from William & Mary, and a BA in Political Science from California State University at Long Beach. He has authored or coauthored many research papers, books and monographs on investment and finance topics.

In addition to having retired from UVa, Rich retired from the United States Air Force as a colonel. He flew C-130s in Viet Nam and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and many other medals and ribbons.

Rich has a CFA charter and has taught investment, 401(k), and retirement seminars in the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Kazakhstan, and the U.K.

Rich is the president of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and is on the board of The Center, Charlottesville Committee on Foreign Relations, Innisfree, and the University of Virginia Physicians.

Program Summary

Rich DeMong led off with the very sobering news that 43 percent of workers will run out of money in retirement representing a shortfall of 4 trillion dollars. The first slide of his data-packed PowerPoint presentation began whimsically showing the famous head shot of Mad Magazine cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman with the caption, “What me worry?” And, as we were to learn during the course of the program, unfortunately that attitude pretty well sums up the journey of many of today’s workers as they advance towards retirement. In fact, there is plenty to worry about.

Rich listed the following topics to be addressed during his presentation: (1) Current situation; (2) Can we count on Social Security? (3) Have Baby Boomers saved enough? (4) What about Gen X and the Millennials? (5) Future of 401(k)s, and IRAs; (6) Will retirees have sufficient funds for health care and nursing home care? and (7) Possible solutions.

Fifty-seven percent of workers feel they are not on track for a successful retirement, and then overlay this with the recognition that we as humans tend to be over confident with regard to our knowledge and abilities. Positive investment outcomes in the past may have been due to luck or good timing and in any event are no assurance of future successes.

Further, most people underestimate what they’ll need for retirement. Typically it is assumed that income needs will drop to 65 to 70 percent of preretirement spending where in reality it often increases because you start doing the things you always wanted to do over time but never got around to doing such as travel and visiting and supporting children and grandchildren.

After citing dire predictions from national media sources, Rich brought the message close to home by quoting a similarly unhappy prediction from The Daily Progress, “By 2030 one in five Americans will be of retirement age and most of these won’t have the financial means to pay for their erstwhile golden years.”

Rich described what our parents experienced with the “joys of retirement” as having a nice pension which enabled them to take cruises, visit grandchildren, get a gold watch, and at age 65 sign up for Social Security and Medicare, and have no mortgage. That contrasts with workers today who face a much different situation. Forty-four percent still have mortgages when they retire; 2.8 million of 60 years olds have a student loan; and more persons 75 and older have more debt today than in 2007. This is just a small sliver of the “troubling news” facing today’s retirees. Other issues relate to health care costs; long-term care; Social Security; 401(k) and 403(b) plans; and IRAs and Roth IRAs. Offering a bit of relief, Rich also explicated some “good news” as well as some solutions for individuals and policy solutions.

Likely Effects of the 2017 Federal Tax Law Changes

Friday, September 14th, 2018

The 2017 federal tax law changes were controversial from the beginning. The bill was essentially written in secret, without the benefit of public hearings. Opponents, though they hadn’t seen even a draft, lambasted the bill as a giveaway to “the rich” that would massively increase the deficit and the national debt.

Professor George Yin spoke at the Wednesday September 12, 2018 meeting, which was held at the The Center in Charlottesville. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV board member Bob McGrath. Listen to the podcast for a clear explanation of the impact of the new law.

Professor George Yin, an expert on federal tax law, presented a balanced assessment of the bill’s likely consequences on individuals, on businesses and on the economy. His analysis includes both a lay explanation of tax-law arcana such as “the Byrd rule” and an even-handed, practical critique of the assessments of the bill by its supporters and its opponents.

Professor Yin was formerly chief of staff to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (known colloquially as “Joint Tax”), a nonpartisan body that helps draft tax legislation, analyzes it and prepares official revenue estimates concerning its effects. Prior to that he was tax counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, and the George Washington University Law School.

Program Summary

A lot has changed in the legislative process since the last major tax reform adopted in 1986. The 2017 bill was rushed through almost as if the legislators were ashamed of what they were doing. In 1986 the first proposal came out in three volumes. In 2017 the proposal was one page of bullet points. The second proposal in 1986 was contained in a 500 page report, while in 2017 the second proposal consisted of a nine page press release. The markup of the bill took 17 and 26 days in 1986 as compared to four and four days in 2017. The total time to pass the legislation in 1986 took almost two years. In 2017 it was just seven weeks.

Almost all of the selected tax changes affecting individuals will expire in 2025 while most of the tax changes affecting businesses do not sunset. For individuals the maximum rate has been reduced to 37 percent. The standard deductions for individuals and married couples have been increased from $6,500 and $13,000 to $12,000 and $24,000 respectively. An additional standard deduction for a single person 65 or over is $1,600 and for married couples with only one person over 65 is $1,300, and $2,600 if both over 65. The child credit increases from $1,000 to $2,000. Offsetting some of these changes, the personal/dependent exemptions which were $4,050 in 2017 have been repealed. To sum up, under the old law a married couple both of whom are 65 or older would have been entitled to total exemptions of $23,700 before any taxable income at all. Under the new law the total exemption is $26,600, a difference of about $3,000 resulting in a bit of a tax cut.

The major business-related changes include a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent—a 40 percent decrease! “Passthrough” businesses have a new 20 percent deduction but only through 2025. Businesses can deduct 100 percent of capital investments other than buildings through 2022 and then the amount is reduced between 2023 and 2026 to 80, 60, 40 and finally 20 percent.

There has been a growing inequality of income and wealth over recent decades. With regard to income, the top one percent has experienced a 169 percent real increase between 1980 and 2014 with the top one-tenth of one percent enjoying a 281 percent real increase. Compare those increases to the median household increase of only 11 percent over the same three decades. During approximately the same time period the top one percent increased its holdings from 25 percent to 40 percent, while the top 10 percent increased from two-thirds to three-quarters.

Fifth Congressional District Candidates Forum

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Leslie Cockburn (D) spoke at the candidates forum with Preston Bryant moderating

The 5th Congressional District candidates forum is a biennial SSV event. Both major-party nominees, Democrat Leslie Cockburn and Republican Denver Riggleman, were invited to discuss their views. Mr. Riggleman declined the invitation. The program was moderated by McGuireWoods Consulting Senior Vice President Preston Bryant. Listen to a podcast of the event by clicking below.

Leslie Cockburn (D), is a graduate of Yale, and has had a 35-year career in journalism, including as a producer for CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” a correspondent for PBS’ “Frontline,” a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton and a writer and author. She has won two Emmys, two George Polk Awards, two Columbia duPont Journalism awards and the Robert F. Kennedy Award. She has covered many of the major developments of our time, from the financial meltdown to the rise of radical jihadists.

She has served for many years on the boards of the Piedmont Environmental Council and the conservationist Krebser Fund and has been active in her opposition to the Dominion pipelines and uranium mining.

Leslie and her husband Andrew, Washington Editor of Harper’s Magazine, reside on a farm in Rappahannock County. They have two daughters, a son and four grandchildren.

Our moderator, Preston Bryant is a senior vice president at McGuireWoods Consulting, where he works in the firm’s infrastructure and economic development group. His experience lies in water, wastewater, and energy generation projects, and he advises clients on project site selection and regulatory affairs.

In 2009, President Obama appointed Preston to chair the National Capital Planning Commission, the central planning agency for all federal lands and buildings in Washington, DC, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia. At NCPC, he presides over a staff of some 45 planners, architects, engineers and other professionals.

An large crowd attended the event at the Senior Center on Hillsdale Drive in Charlottesville.

Program Summary

At the Senior Statesmen forum, Leslie Cockburn received questions from the audience and was given five minutes to answer each. The topics ranged from her past work as a journalist to her thoughts on Medicare for All, a proposed legislative alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Reintroduced this year by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Medicare for All would move all people onto Medicare, even if they have private health care coverage. It has received support from Senate Democrats.

Due to recent changes to the Affordable Care Act, people in the Charlottesville area who receive health care through the act could pay some of the highest insurance rates in the state.

“A family of four in Charlottesville can pay $36,000 a year because we have one provider because [President Donald] Trump pulled out the legs from under the companies that are no longer subsidized,” she said.

Her support of Medicare for All is one of the few policy points where Cockburn differs from U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who is running for reelection. Kaine has proposed Medicare-X, which would allow people to buy into Medicare and has been characterized as less extensive than Medicare for All.

More details can be found in an article written by The Daily Progress reporter Tyler Hammel (434-978-7268, thammel@dailyprogress.com, @TylerHammelVA on Twitter) which appeared in the August 9, 2018, edition of The Daily Progress. The above was excerpted from this article. Click here to read the article.

Immigration

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Some of the most contentious and significant issues facing the United States today involve immigration. It’s not just, or even primarily, about the “dreamers” (undocumented people who were brought here as minors). The issues involve more basic questions, such as what the level of overall (legal and illegal) immigration should be and what categories of immigrants should be preferred, and the national-security and economic implications of various immigration policies.

Cathleen Farrell of the National Immigration Forum and Matt O’Brien of the Federation for American Immigration Reform spoke to the issues facing immigration policy makers today.

The National Immigration Forum is a network of faith, law enforcement, business and veterans that seeks to help new arrivals attain the opportunities, skills and status to reach their fullest potential. The Forum advocates for policies that keep us secure, respect the rule of law, help grow our economy and are compassionate.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform works for immigration policies that include better border management, lower levels of overall immigration (about 300,000 per year as opposed to the current more than a million) and a greater focus on highly skilled immigrants.

The program was moderated by SSV board member Terry Cooper.  The podcast of the meeting and Q&A is below.

Cathleen Farrell is The National Immigration Forum’s Director of Communications. Cathleen has more than 30 years’ experience in advocacy and strategic communications. She is a native of Canada and a graduate of Montreal’s McGill University.

 

 

Matt O’Brien is responsible for managing The Federation for American Immigration Reform’s research activities. He has an extensive background in immigration, including with the federal government. He holds a law degree from the University of Maine and a master’s in National Security Affairs from the Institute of World Politics.

 

Program Summary

Ms. Farrell observed that not a day goes by that immigration isn’t in the news. That is because candidate Donald Trump made it a centerpiece of his campaign, and also because immigration touches many aspects of our daily lives such as the economy, national security and culture. For many years we’ve heard about undocumented immigrants, border security, sanctuary cities, and the cost-benefit of immigrants to our country. Lately the news has covered family separation at the Southern border, asylum and vetting of refugees, the border wall with Mexico, and reducing levels of legal immigration. We are a nation of laws and grace, meaning that we respect the rule of law and we are compassionate and uphold our long cherished values in the writing and application of laws and policies.

Mr. O’Brien began his remarks by noting that he spent the majority of his career working directly in immigration enforcement, ending his career with the government as the chief of the National Security Division of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. He also spent six or seven years as an immigration attorney representing people in all matters of immigration proceedings so he has seen this issue from both sides. In years past it has cropped up in the news when some controversial issue occurs but is otherwise ignored. President Trump’s campaign changed that completely with immigration becoming the primary issue in the American political realm, and we have the first president in 50 years who is taking immigration seriously.

Virginia General Assembly Legislative Report

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

The 2018 Session was very different from other recent Sessions. Topics included the impact of the 2016 Presidential election of Donald Trump on the 2017 legislative elections, in which Democrats came within a hair’s breadth of capturing control of the House of Delegates, and on the 2018 General Assembly Session. Also discussed are the 2018 federal elections, the 2019 General Assembly Session and the 2019 legislative elections.

In this podcast, and the accompanying PowerPoint (click here), you will learn about issues that came before the 2018 General Assembly including: Medicaid expansion and the proposed work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients; the proposed hospital tax to help pay for Virginia’s share of the cost of expanding Medicaid; efforts to reform the redistricting process and end gerrymandering; bills to protect the integrity of our elections; measures to make the criminal-justice system fairer; and, locally, legislation affecting the City-County Revenue-Sharing Agreement and the relocation of the County’s courthouses. The program occurred on May 9, 2018 and was moderated by SSV board member Terry Cooper.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D) represents the 25th Senate District which includes the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington and Lexington, and the counties of Albemarle (part), Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Nelson and Rockbridge.
Delegate David Toscano (D) represents the 57th House of Delegates District which includes Charlottesville and part of Albemarle County.

Program Summary

The 2018 session was initially scheduled to adjourn on March 10, but due to the inability of the legislature to achieve agreement on a budget, the session was extended and reconvened on April 11. The session still had not concluded by the time of the SSV meeting on May 9 (the budget was not adopted until May 30!).

Delegate Toscano utilized a PowerPoint presentation to help convey the actions taken—and not taken—during the session to date. He began with an enumeration of some of the more whimsical bills that were passed: HB 459 – Designated Pseudotriton Ruber as the official state salamander; HB 239/SB 375 – Removed the prohibition on hunting raccoons on Sundays after 2:00 am.; HB 286 – Allows dogs “inside or on the premises of” a winery, brewery or distillery (other companion animals must still drink at home!)…and more.

On the more serious side, the following actions were also taken: HB 1558/SB 966: Utility Rate Reviews (The Dominion Bill); HB 1600: Limiting length of school suspensions to help address the school-to-prison “pipeline”; HB 1249/SB 565: Additions to DNA database sample collections: specific misdemeanors linked to later violent crimes; Felony larceny threshold increased to $500; SB 698 & SB 699: DEQ stop-work orders authorized to protect against adverse impacts on water quality due to land-disturbing pipeline construction activities.

Failure to achieve agreement on a budget remained the most significant aspect of the session at the time of the SSV May 9 meeting. The primary point of contention was related to Medicaid expansion. House committee members, both Republicans and Democrats, insisted on expansion, but the Senate conferees were divided–Republican members would not agree to expand Medicaid.

House budget highlights include: Medicaid expansion: added health care access for 400,000 Virginians AND freed up state monies for education funding increases, education and economic opportunities in high-demand fields (such as cybersecurity) and raises for teachers/ school personnel, law enforcement, state mental health hospital nurses and staff.

Highlights of the Senate budget include: no Medicaid expansion; funding cuts to education, public safety, and more; funded some high-priority mental health initiatives, but others were cut; studies to evaluate safety of biosolid use funded; and the Rainy Day Fund allocation was twice that of the House budget.

Focused Ultrasound — A Medical Breakthrough

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Focused Ultrasound is an early-stage, non-invasive therapeutic technology that could transform the treatment of many medical disorders by serving as an alternative to surgery and radiation.

Jessica Foley and Nora Seilheimer at the SSV meeting at the Senior Center

Jessica Foley, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and Nora Seilheimer, its director of external affairs, spoke to SSV on April 11, 2018.  They stated that, unfortunately, taking a new therapeutic medical device from concept to standard of care is an extremely slow, complicated and inefficient process. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is working to provide patients with the focused ultrasound option in the shortest time possible. It has become a model of how donor funding can be used to bridge the gap between laboratory research and widespread patient treatment.  SSV vice president Terry Cooper introduced the speakers and moderated the Q&A after the presentation. In this podcast you will learn about some of their early success stories.

Jessica Foley is a veteran of the ultrasound field and guides the strategy, development and implementation of the Foundation’s scientific and research programs. She holds a B.S.E. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

 

 

Nora Seilheimer is a graduate of the University of Richmond and is engaged in development work for the foundation.

 

 

 

Program Summary

The program– Medical Breakthroughs in Our Backyard: The Focused Ultrasound Foundation — was presented by Jessica Foley, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. She was accompanied by Nora Seilheimer, the Foundation’s director of external affairs. “Focused ultrasound” (FUS) is an early stage, revolutionary, disruptive non-invasive therapeutic technology that is an alternative or complement to surgery, radiation therapy and drug delivery. It has the potential to transform treatment with improved outcomes and decreased cost.

Founded in Charlottesville in 2006, the Foundation provides unique medical research, education, and advocacy with a global impact. It is tax exempt, entrepreneurial, high impact, market driven, and action and results oriented. In short, a catalyst to accelerate the development and adoption of FUS.

Unfortunately, taking a new therapeutic medical device from concept to standard of care is an extremely slow, complicated and inefficient process. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is working to provide patients with the focused ultrasound option in the shortest time possible. It has become a model of how donor funding can be used to bridge the gap between laboratory research and widespread patient treatment.

Jessica explained the process of Immunomodulation, the modification of the immune response or the functioning of the immune system. Cancer cells are camouflaged from the immune system, but FUS destroys camouflage and exposes cancer cells. The immune system recognizes and attacks tumors, both primary and metastatic, and enhances effectiveness of immunotherapeutics.

PowerPoint slides were employed in the presentation both to help communicate the very complex information and also to show videos of the incredible patient improvements such as the reversal of crippling Parkinson’s disease.

The comment repeatedly expressed by departing audience members was, “It’s a miracle!”

Criminal Justice Reform

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Pat Nolan speaking at the March SSV meeting

Pat Nolan, director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform, stated that when violent-crime rates spiked in the 1980s and early 1990s, the response of most states and the federal government was to toughen criminal laws by abolishing parole, legislating lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, reducing “good-time” credits that shortened sentences for inmates who obeyed prison rules, making prison life even more miserable and building more prisons.

The incidence of crime dropped dramatically and rates are now back to where they were before the spike, there are differing views about why this has happened, but the social and economic costs of those lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key laws were enormous. What’s more, the offenders weren’t being diverted from a life of crime.

“Criminal justice reform” is the umbrella term for a wide variety of proposals that attempt to reverse erroneous convictions and also get offenders out of the criminal justice system and into a law-abiding, productive citizenship.

SSV board member Bob McGrath moderated the presentation and Q&A after.  Listen to the hour and 17 minute podcast.

Pat Nolan is a nationally recognized leader in this movement. Pat is the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform and a leader in the Right on Crime project, a movement of conservative leaders who advocate for criminal justice reform. Before that Pat served 15 years in the California State Assembly, the lower house of the California legislature. For four of those years he was the Assembly’s Republican Leader.

Pat has personal experience with the criminal justice system. He was prosecuted for a campaign contribution he accepted that turned out to be part of an FBI “sting.” He pled guilty to one count of racketeering and served 29 months in federal custody.

Pat described how some states like Texas have been finding ways to simultaneously reduce prison populations, shrink recidivism and lower costs. There are proposed federal and Virginia legislation with similar goals.

Pat holds bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Southern California. He and his wife Gail reside in Leesburg, Virginia.

Program Summary

Pat Nolan addressed the topic, Criminal Justice Reform: Getting Offenders Onto the Straight and Narrow. Pat served 15 years in the California State Assembly, and for four of those years he was the Assembly’s Republican Leader. Pat has personal experience with the criminal justice system. He was prosecuted for a campaign contribution he accepted that turned out to be part of an FBI “sting.” He pled guilty to one count of racketeering and served 29 months in federal custody.

SSV board member Bob McGrath introduced the program stating that while Pat had found that the federal prison system was just warehousing inmates—including elderly and disabled persons—some states are finding ways to simultaneous reduce prison population, shrink recidivism, and lower costs. As mentioned at last month’s SSV meeting, part of the mission of SSV is not only to inform, but to do some advocacy. During the course of his presentation, Pat will describe some federal and Virginia initiatives that the SSV might like to become advocates for.

A challenge faced by Pat and others in the leadership seeking criminal justice reform has been to engage conservatives in what has been seen as a liberal cause. Increasingly, conservatives have come to see the flaws, the costs and the lives and families destroyed, and conservatives are joining together with liberals to call for reforms.

Pat presented a brief video entitled, “Unshackled, – America’s Broken Justice System,” produced by the Center for Criminal Justice Reform and featuring such conservative luminaries as Newt Gingrich, Ken Cuccinelli and Grover Norquist. It is a tragedy that we have become the country that has the highest level of incarceration in the world. Twenty-one persons are arrested each minute. Does the punishment fit the crime? What’s happening in our prisons? The system turns mild offenders into hardened criminals. A woman was shackled to her bed while giving birth. Another woman was sent to a Texas prison on a drug-conspiracy conviction, and later was raped by a guard. In her words, “Rape was not part of my sentence.” Innocent persons are locked up. Civil forfeiture is legal theft by government lawyers.

At the conclusion of the program, Bob thanked Pat for educating us on such an important problem, and then he extended an invitation to the membership of SSV: If members would like to get together to study the various bills and other things that are going on in Virginia and at the federal level with regard to criminal justice reform, and then present their findings and recommendations to the group as a whole with the goal of advocacy, please let Bob know and a group can be convened.

Becoming an Age-Friendly Community

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Representatives of the Charlottesville Area Alliance discuss the mission and vision of the Alliance, and how we can become the most age-friendly community in the country.

SSV President Rich DeMong and Charlottesville Area Alliance panel.

The event took place at the Wednesday February 14, 2018 meeting. SSV President Rich DeMong introduced the moderator Marta Keane who then introduced the panel. Watch the slides while  listening to the podcast.

Representing the Alliance are:

Marta Keane has been the CEO of JABA since April 2013. JABA works to help people age in community, by providing a Continuum of Caring for the Continuum of Living.  Her entire career has been on helping seniors achieve the highest quality of life, in the place of their choice.  She believes in creating a community that honors and respects the gifts that seniors have to offer.
Brad Sheffield serves as the executive at JAUNT Inc.  He has been working in the transit industry for 16 years, in both public and private transit planning roles. From January 2014 to December 2017, Brad served on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors representing the Rio Magisterial District. He is passionate about helping communities foster the traditional characteristics that make places great to work, raise a family, and retire.
Sunshine Mathon is the executive director of Piedmont Housing Alliance. Sunshine has lead the development of over 1,200 healthy, efficient homes in Texas and Virginia, including some of the highest ever LEED for Homes communities. He is a nationally-recognized leader in the deep green affordable housing sector. Sunshine holds a Masters in Architecture from the University of Texas
Rebecca Schmidt is the population health manager for the Thomas Jefferson Health District serving the City of Charlottesville and the five surrounding counties. Over the past 15 years, she has worked in health policy, program development, implementation and evaluation for nongovernmental agencies and for local, state, federal and international government.  She holds a B.A. from Boston University and an M.P.A. in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Peter Thompson has served as executive director of the Senior Center Inc. since 1999.  The Senior Center positively impacts the community by creating opportunities for healthy aging through over 100 programs and scores of partnerships.  Peter received his B.A. from UVa and his MPA from Virginia Commonwealth University.  Recent community service includes serving on the Board of Directors of the OLLI at UVa, Chamber of Commerce, and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

Program Summary

The vision of the Charlottesville Area Alliance is for the greater Charlottesville area to be the most age-friendly community in the country. The mission of the Alliance is to lead the advancement of an age-friendly community. The Charlottesville Area Alliance has requested that the Senior Statesmen of Virginia join its other 17 partners in advocating for an age friendly community, and so it was the purpose of the meeting for SSV members to acquire a full understanding of the objectives and activities of the Alliance, and then for the membership to vote to determine if SSV would become the 18th partner in the Alliance.

During the course of their presentations the five panel members addressed the eight life elements for an age-friendly community: buildings and outdoor spaces; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; and community support and health systems.

At the conclusion of the presentation, SSV President Rich DeMong called for a vote on the resolution for the SSV to became a partner member of the Charlottesville Area Alliance, and the resolution passed unanimously.

Introducing Our Local Commonwealth’s Attorneys

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

“Commonwealth’s Attorney” is Virginia vernacular for “prosecutor” — the D.A. who goes after the bad guys. There’s a lot more to their job.

Three examples:

• Prosecutors have wide discretion as regards whom they “throw the book at” and to whom they give second chances, as by sending them to “diversion” programs such as substance-abuse treatment versus locking them up. How they exercise that discretion is very important in determining the livability of the locality they serve, as New York City residents found when so-called “minor” crimes were ignored.
• Prosecutors can have a major impact on crime prevention, as by advising groups targeted by criminals about the scams likely to be tried on them.
• Prosecutors are among the best expert witnesses when legislators are considering changes to the criminal code or the process for considering criminal cases.

Our January program provided us an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of our relatively new Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Robert Tracci, and our brand-new City Commonwealth’s Attorney, Joseph Platania. SSV Vice President Terry Cooper moderated the discussion. Listen to the podcast below.

Joe Platania was elected Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney this past November but he has been with that office since 2003. For much of that time he also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney, helping to prosecute federal criminal cases. Joe is a graduate of Providence College and the Washington & Lee University School of Law. Before joining the City Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office he was an assistant public defender and an appellate attorney for the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center. Joe is the current president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association.

Robert Tracci was elected Albemarle County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney in November 2015. Before that he had been a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General dealing with violations of federal criminal law. Prior to that Robert had been a senior staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, the House committee that deals with criminal law and criminal procedure, voting rights, intellectual property and other areas. Robert is a Phi Beta Kappa alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan University and a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law.

Program Summary

Mr. Platania said that when he considered running for office, he wanted to balance two goals: to keep the community safe and to treat people charged with crimes fairly. He described an experience where the city had been experiencing a number of shootings which were unresolved. He participated in a drug investigation which resulted in the arrest and conviction of nine persons who had sold crack and heroine and committed a number of shootings in Charlottesville. By taking these offenders off the streets, the shootings ended making the community safer for everyone.

However, he indicated that these kinds of violent criminals are not the majority he deals with as a prosecutor, but rather persons who have made poor decisions and mistakes. They are not really bad nor evil people for the most part, so how does a prosecutor in the exercise of their discretion treat someone fairly who has made a mistake? There’s a tremendous amount of power that goes with that, and he tells his third-year law students that if they want to become a prosecutor, they should wake up every day terrified with the power they have to affect someone’s life.

Mr. Tracci said that when he was running for the office, he distilled everything into two words: tough and fair. It’s important to be very proactive when holding people accountable, while maintaining the safeguards and civil liberties and the traditions that set our system of justice above all others. The role of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.

He contrasted the federal system—where the attorneys report up the chain and ultimately to the Attorney General and the President—to the constitutional system in Virginia where elected constitutional officers are accountable to the public. He has been working with Mr. Platania’s office and many community and law enforcement agencies to seek improvements in the criminal justice system. One of the issues is a multi-jurisdictional elder abuse task force, the Jefferson Area Coalition to End Elder Abuse and Exploitation. Since the creation of this task force, there are more referrals, prosecutions and sentences that reflect the severity of the underlying offense.

Mediation in Central Virginia

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Richard D. Balnave (left), Edward B. Lowry and Robyn Jackson

On December 13, 2017, Edward B. Lowry, Richard D. Balnave and Robyn Jackson spoke about the mediation process and how it helps resolve differences in a way more effective than that of the court.  Check out their impressive credentials below and listen to a podcast of their presentations and the Q&A afterward.  SSV board member Bonnie Brewer moderated the forum.

Edward B. Lowry engages in a statewide commercial litigation practice. He has been with the law firm of Michie-Hamlett since 1971. His litigation experience includes business torts, construction law, securities arbitration, employment, contract, real estate and banking laws. He is a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American Bar Foundation and the Virginia Law Foundation. He has been president of the Virginia State Bar and the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Associations. Ed was a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law where he taught a course in trial advocacy until 2013. Ed has participated in many meditations both as mediator and attorney for parties. He virtually always recommends mediation to his clients as it provides an opportunity for clients to resolve disputes without the uncertainty and expense of litigation.

Richard D. Balnave came to the University of Virginia Law School in 1984 to direct the Family Law Clinic following eight years of practice in Pennsylvania.  An expert in the areas of domestic relations and children’s law, he served on the board of governors of the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and the Council of Domestic Relations Section of the Virginia Bar Association. He has lectured to Virginia circuit and district court judges and the Virginia Court of Appeals about issues in Virginia domestic relations law. Richard is a past president of the board of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society and a former board member of the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Association. He has assisted the Virginia General Assembly studies concerning child support guidelines and  mediation of child custody disputes.

Robyn Jackson is the founder of The Civility School, which teaches social skills, modern manners, and professional etiquette to all ages. The Civility School’s battle cry is “for the comfort and convenience of others.” Cultural awareness, flexibility, and empathetic intention are the keys to its method. Robyn’s background in teaching, counseling, and mediation combine to create a deep treatment of the often superficial world of etiquette. Robyn lives in Charlottesville with her husband, Brian, and their three sons.

Program Summary

“Mediation in Central Virginia” was the topic. Ed Lowry, an attorney with MichieHamlett, virtually always recommends mediation to his clients as it provides an opportunity for clients to resolve disputes without the uncertainty and expense of litigation. Richard Balnave, UVA Law school, an expert in the areas of domestic relations and children’s law, has assisted the Virginia General Assembly studies concerning child support guidelines and mediation of child custody disputes. Robyn Jackson is the founder of The Civility School, which teaches social skills, modern manners, and professional etiquette to all ages. The Civility School’s battle cry is “for the comfort and convenience of others.”

Although mediation is a voluntary process, a judge can order the parties to go to a mediation center to learn about the process, and then after they have learned what mediation is and how it differs from court, they are asked if they choose to stay or would they prefer to go back to court. In mediation, the participants sit in a private room with two mediators where what they say remains private, unlike the court situation that is open to the public and law enforcement, and all of their business becomes public information.

The percentage of couples who achieve agreement in mediation is much higher than the percentage of those who achieve agreement prior to the end of a court case. People report that they feel like they were finally able to say what was on their mind, and also they better understand what the concerns were of the other party.

Other major advantages of mediation as compared to the court process relate to time and money. Whereas it may take months or years to resolve an issue through the courts, mediation can provide a resolution in a single day. The impact on costs to the participants is obvious. In earlier times, the only options were court and arbitration. Arbitration is litigation on a private basis. You hire an arbitrator and that person makes the decision, but this process—like court—is horribly expensive. There are at least three costs to litigation. The economic cost can be withering if it is long and complicated litigation. The second is opportunity costs—the parties are spending hours and hours with their lawyers and others when they could be spending their time on things they want to do. The third are the emotional costs—it is very trying and exhausting to go through litigation.