The Council Candidates on WSVA

Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio
Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio

This week, the six candidates for Harrisonburg City Council took to the airwaves of 550 AM WSVA to share their thoughts regarding policies for the city as well as their political principles.

On Wednesday, Ted Byrd (R), Alleyn Harned (D), and Helen Shibut (L) spoke.  This morning, D.D. Dawson (R), Joshua Huffman (I), and Chris Jones (D) had their turn.  In case you missed either show, you can listen to them on the links provided above.

IMG_0119IMG_0120On a personal note, I have to say that I appreciated the opportunity to speak about the race from WSVA and enjoyed today’s conversations with Ms. Dawson and Mr. Jones both on and off the air.  Although we certainly have our similarities and differences, it has been great journey, exploring and discussing a variety of topics.

Less than two weeks until Election Day!

The Local Republican Headquarters

Yesterday, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Republican Party Headquarters celebrated its grand opening.  Local State Senator Mark Obenshain acted as the master of ceremonies as neither the chairman of the Harrisonburg or Rockingham County GOP was in attendance.  Oddly, none of the four delegates representing Harrisonburg or Rockingham County made an appearance.

IMG_2680As a surprise guest, Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) was on hand to speak.  Also talking about their candidacy were D.D. Dawson and Ted Byrd, the two Republican city council candidates.  One remark that the mayor made which stood out in my mind was that he declared that his opponents for city council were fairly new to the city.  Although that statement is true of many of his opponents, it isn’t true for all as I have lived in the city of Harrisonburg almost my entire life.

I was told that one of the organizers of the event wasn’t happy that I was in the crowd, given that I am running as an independent for city council.  However, given my multitude of years of ties to the party and my fellow activists, I wouldn’t be deterred from being there.  Not surprisingly, I wasn’t offered a speaking opportunity nor even officially acknowledged.

Nevertheless, I did end up talking to a sizable chunk of the crowd one-on-one, not really discussing my campaign, but rather the current state of the GOP.  Ms. Dawson pleasantly said hello as she often does and even Bob Goodlatte made it a point to shake my hand.  The mayor also came up to me at one point to offer his greetings and mentioned that his statement about his opponents being from out of town didn’t apply to me.  With that thought in mind, I thought it would have been prudent for him to use the phrase “almost all”.  Then again, technically both Ms. Dawson and Mr. Byrd are opponents for each other given that they could siphon away votes from the other from voters who wish to support one Republican, not both.

The Republican elected officials and candidates at the opening.
The Republican elected officials and candidates at the opening.

Although I was appreciative of the fact that Rep. Bob Goodlatte mentioned what supposedly are the guiding principles of the GOP, such as limiting government and promoting liberty, I’m disappointed that such rhetoric isn’t much in vogue among Republican politicians.  Worst yet, even fewer actually legislate with these thoughts in mind.

Anyway, the local GOP headquarters is now open and should be a hub of activity for Republican activists making phone calls and knocking on doors between now and Election Day.

A City Council Surprise

Harrisonburg City CouncilLast night, the Harrisonburg City Council held their bi-monthly meeting.  As I sat in my chair waiting for the 7 PM start time, one of the regular attendees leaned across the aisle and told me that he saw me on the TV speaking about the city owned golf course.  He went on to say that the golf course was here to stay and that city parks and recreations were not in the business of making money.  I agreed that parks weren’t designed to turn a profit and asked him if he knew of any privately run parks in the area.  Neither of us could name one.  However, I then countered that golf courses can be a source of revenue and asked if he knew of any privately run courses.  He said that he didn’t know of any and, at that point, I realized discussing this point further with him would not be particularly useful.

Anyway, as for the official council meeting itself, most of the event was business as usual, such as the time for public discourse and discussing tax exemptions for a charity.  However, things got a bit more interesting when the subject shifted to energy efficiency in the city.  Recently, the city has been considering the idea of improving energy efficiency in its buildings, a commendable idea as it will likely provide a significant savings to city taxpayers.  As a result, Council Member Kai Degner crafted a deal with a company who specializes in this kind of work to make these improvements.  However, the city manager declared this action was quite irregular as normally these issues are typically explored by the city staff, bids are accepted from a number of companies, and then the council picks the option that they feel best suits the city.  Although it is good to see Kai Denger working hard on this issue, given that neither the majority of council nor the Harrisonburg staff seemingly had a hand in this company’s selection, if the idea moved forward, it could bear the stain of crony capitalism.

Harrisonburg Mayor Ted Byrd argued that in the interests of the free market, the council should not simply accept the company of Degner’s choosing without considering other avenues.  When Degner proposed going ahead with the desired company, it seemed quite likely that the vote would fail.  This fact is significant because, of the multitude of council meetings that I have attended over the last six months, not a single proposal had failed nor had the vote been anything but unanimous.  Cognizant of such a possibility, Council Member Degner revised his proposal to allow other companies to bid for this contract as well.

At this point, Council Member Abe Shearer raised a new point.  Why should the council only allow companies who offered a money back guarantee for their work to bid for this project?  If the council could find a company with a good reputation who did not have such a guarantee, and at a considerable savings, shouldn’t they have the same chance to offer their services as well?  Vice Mayor Charlie Chenault seemed to disapprove of that idea.

In the vote that followed, Degner and Chenault approved the revised plan, as did Council Member Richard Baugh who declared that he was satisfied with this compromise.  Although clear that the measure would pass despite their objections, both Mayor Byrd and Council Member Shearer voted no.

As mentioned, I’ve attended quite a few council meetings as of late.  However, last night marked a first, the first time that I was proud of my council for voicing my shared concerns about a fair and open process, for supporting the ideals of the free market, and for demonstrating that they are more than a monolithic group, a rubber stamp for any and every proposal that is presented to them.  Returning to an earlier subject, last night gave me hope as well that the council might one day jettison the golf course, realizing that its public ownership is not a proper function of local government.

I appreciate Council Member Baugh for not simply accepting the first proposal as stated.  However, I write this post especially to praise Mayor Byrd and Council Member Shearer for their firm stands at Tuesday’s meeting.

Addressing The Council

Harrisonburg City CouncilLast night, the Harrisonburg City Council assembled for their bi-monthly meeting.  Although I had attended several of their gatherings over the last few months, tonight I went for a specific purpose; I planned to speak with the council regarding pedestrian safety in the city.

When the mayor motioned for me to approach the podium, my heart became a jackhammer in my chest.  For those who know me, this reaction might seem rather strange.  After all, I love speaking about politics with anyone and everyone who cares to listen (as well as many people who don’t).  However, this experience brought back a rather harsh memory, a reminder of the last time that I spoke before the council.

If we rewind the clock, 2006 marked both the first and only time that I stood before the Harrisonburg City Council.  Back then, the council held a public forum regarding selling the Harrisonburg High School building to James Madison University.  As it turned out, the hearing was little more than a formality.  Looking back, it seemed that the deal was more or less made and whatever the public opinion happened to be, it mattered little to the members of council.  As I recall, they weren’t a particularly receptive or sympathetic group and offering my opinion to them was a waste of time.

However unreceptive that council happened to be, the Harrisonburg School Board was far worse.  Arguing that the city schools shouldn’t forgo any usable classroom space, I informed the board about my experiences in 8th grade at Thomas Harrison Middle School; where I spent a good chunk of my days in one of those trailer units and how, when we got a heavy rain, I had to place a trashcan on my desk to collect the rainwater which dripped through the leaky roof.  Once I relayed my thoughts, I left the meeting.  I was told that after I did so, one of members of the school board stated that I was a liar.  As you might imagine, news of this allegation made me so incensed that I located my 8th grade homeroom teacher, a woman that I had not seen in many years, to see if she would either deny or confirm what I had said.  Yes, she told me that my memory was correct.  Another bitter pill to swallow was the fact that most of the councilmen and school board members, including the one who claimed I was deceptive, were fellow Republicans!

So, getting back to last night, with all of these thoughts in my mind as I spoke before the council, I felt that my words were horribly nervous and disjointed and, although I had planned what I wanted to say beforehand, nothing came out right.  It was an important issue, but, at that moment, I thought I was a poor spokesman.  I tried to remedy the situation in my mind by reminding myself that all but one of these men were not the same as the ones from 2006, that I had spoken to each previously and, with the possible exception of Mr. Chenault, each knew me and presumably we had some measure of respect for each other.  In fact, in mid 2012, Mayor Byrd told me that he read this blog.  But the memories from over half a decade ago gone by proved to be too strong.  Hopefully, they will lessen in time, but I believe that I must force myself to go before the council again, (once I have something important to discuss) so that these newly rediscovered demons from the past can be put to rest.

My take-home message to you, the reader, is as follows.  No one should ever be afraid to talk with their elected representatives, be they local, state, or federal.  Don’t ever be tricked into thinking that you exist to serve the government; the government exists to serve you.  And so friends, I encourage you once again to study the important political issues of the day, speak out when the time calls for it, and never be cowed into silence, as I was for many years in local matters.

In liberty, now and always!

A TV Spot for Ron Paul

Yesterday, I received an unexpected phone call from Bob Corso, one of the anchors at WHSV-TV 3.  I was told that they were looking for two people to come on the air for the evening news to talk about Virginia’s March 6th primary; one to discuss the merits of Ron Paul, the second to speak in favor of Mitt Romney.  I was told that Harrisonburg Vice-Mayor Ted Byrd would be representing Mitt Romney on tonight’s segment.

Although I have had very little experience with television, I was happy to get the offer.  After all, how many chances does one get to promote their principles and candidates to such a large audience?

Therefore, about two hours later, I found myself in the TV studio.  All of a sudden, there I was, in front of a camera.  Was I nervous?  Of course I was, but not so much for myself; it was mainly out of concern for saying the wrong thing and diminishing Ron Paul’s chances here in the Valley.  Nevertheless, I offered my thoughts regarding the race.  I must confess that I thought the process would be done over several takes, but instead it was all recorded as one; there was no room for error.

Thanks to Bob Corso, TV-3, and also to Suzanne Obenshain for recommending me to participate in this opportunity.

I hope you enjoy this video.  But more importantly, I hope it it inspires Virginians up and down the Valley to go out and vote for Ron Paul on Tuesday!

The Fair in Pictures

Last night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Rockingham County Fair.  The fair, of course, is many things to many people: a social gathering, a plethora of rides, a sampling of good food, a chance to see a multitude of farm animals, a concert, a tractor pull, and a demolition derby.  For me, the fair is another opportunity to promote my political ideology (no great surprise there, huh?).  Therefore, like I’ve done on and off since 1995, I volunteered at the Republican booth.

Speaking of politics, I guess the highlight had to be a visit from Governor Bob McDonnell.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see him myself.  Nevertheless, I did manage to get a handful of pictures of other things.

Throughout the night, the Republican Party booth was a hotbed of activity.  Many folks were drawn to promise of free balloons and a raffle.  One could find materials on about a dozen candidates and there were a multitude of colorful bumper stickers and yard signs.  You could even sign a petition to get Rick Perry on the ballot for the 2012 GOP primary.

Elected officials and hopefuls who I saw at the booth include:  Bryan Hutcheson (candidate for Sheriff), Delegate Todd Gilbert (15-Woodstock), Delegate Dickie Bell (2o-Staunton), Senator Mark Obenshain (26-Harrisonburg), Todd Garber (Treasurer for Rockingham), Ted Byrd (Harrisonburg City Council), Lowell Barb (Commissioner of Revenue for Rockingham), Bill Kyger (Rockingham County Board of Supervisors), and Karen Kwiatkowski (candidate for the House of Representatives in the 6th district).

By comparison, things seemed a bit slow at the Democratic table.  Given that they have no candidates for the Virginia General Assembly, their main focus appeared to be promoting Tim Kaine for Senator in 2012.  Although I won’t claim to have stayed at their table long, I didn’t see any elected officials there.

Outside the exhibition hall one could find a tent for Independent Sheriff candidate C.M Hess.  They seemed to enjoy steady traffic.  I’m very much looking forward to the Sheriff forum being held by the local tea party.  You can find more details on that event here in the near future.

Overall, the fair seemed to be a well-attended event.  There were a multitude of vendors, both food and otherwise,  and there was quite a bit to see and do.  I hear that the Beach Boys are returning for another concert this coming Friday.

The Rockingham County Fair never fails to impress, so, whether you happen to be interested in politics or not, I recommend you head over to check it out before it disappears until next year.

Wilt Wins!

Note:  News courtesy of Senator Mark Obenshain and hburgnews.com.

A little while ago, Tony Wilt was declared the winner of the Republican nomination for the 26th district House of Delegates.  Although the official vote totals will not be released to the public for the sake of party unity, in total, 1597 votes were cast.  Being a numbers kind of guy, I would be greatly interested in seeing the percentages, especially how they differed in the city and the county, but I can appreciate the desire to end any potential divisiveness.

With this win, Mr. Wilt will face the Democratic nominee, Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, in the June 15 special election.  With less than two months to go, I’m sure both candidates will be campaigning hard in order to claim the open seat.

So congratulations Mr. Wilt.  I expect many great and conservative things of you.  I also want to say congrats to both Mr. Elledge and Mr. Byrd.  Although I’ve never been a candidate myself, I know full well that campaigning is not an easy task.  It requires a will and a resolve that only a select few can muster.

I’ll post more news as it becomes available.

And on to June we go!

The 26th Decision

Can you believe that the day has arrived so quickly?  Tomorrow, we will be selecting the nominee for the Republican Party here in the 26th district.  When I got home from work tonight, my inbox was stuffed with emails from the three candidates (The count stands at ten from 12:30 to 10:40 PM).  Believe it or not, I’m still undecided.  I haven’t had sufficient time to study the candidates and I still think the process was rushed.  Nevertheless, I’ll continue to read about them this evening and tomorrow morning so hopefully when 4:00 PM comes, I’ll be able to make an informed decision.

I plan to support whichever candidate I believe is the most conservative in the three key areas:  socially, fiscally, and constitutionally.  Of course I want a delegate who shares our valley values, but, in addition, I want a leader who will boldly patron conservative legislation.  So then, who is the best candidate?  To help with our decision, I’d like to share with you the responses the three candidates gave to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.

SPECIAL EDITION–CANDIDATES FOR 26th House of Delegates District Answer Tea Party Questions

1. John Elledge

2. Tony Wilt

3. Ted Byrd

Please scroll down to read all answers.    Information Only.  The SVTPP Does Not Make Endorsements.

John Elledge Answers SVTPP Nine Questions


1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your background?
I am John Elledge and I am running to represent the 26th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.  Delegate Matt Lohr, re-elected this past November, will be vacating his position, leaving the seat open less than halfway through the term.  I am determined to fill his position because the citizens of the 26th District need a Delegate who can hit the ground running.  I know that I am the right man for the job.

I know the institution of the Virginia General Assembly because I worked ten years as a Legislative Assistant to former Delegate Glenn Weatherholtz.  I am the only candidate who knows the procedures and processes of the legislature.  I have drafted bills, monitored them, and developed a strategy to pass important legislation over those ten years.  I am aware of the ins and outs of the committee structure, and the tricks and setbacks that legislators face.  I know the players in Richmond and in the District, and I know the mysteries of the budgeting process.

My political values were developed under the guidance of Delegate Weatherholtz, who had a distaste for politics as usual.  He served 24 years as Rockingham County Sheriff.  During those years and during his service in the General Assembly, he made it a point of genuine pride to never spend his entire budget.  He was also a tough man who knew his own mind and did not give in easily to the pressures of the insiders in the political class.  It is my goal to emulate Glenn Weatherholtz in all these ways.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I will consider it an achievement every time I successfully work for the failure of government-expanding legislation proposed by a Democrat or a Republican.

I will consider it an achievement if I can make a dent in the status of the 26th District as a net exporter of resources.  I want to bring our fair share back home to be spent in our communities, not in the district of those who cater to expansive local governments in their districts.  I will work to fund core services of Education, Public Safety and Transportation, to relieve upward pressure on our local tax system.

I will proudly limit the amount of legislation I introduce each session.  Not every idea needs to become law.  What legislation I do introduce will have a priority of reducing the size of government.

3.  If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?
Yes, I will employ the latest technology to stay in touch with my constituents, to be as responsive and accessible as possible.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
That we eliminate services that are not the core role of government.

That we resist the intrusion of the federal government into the province of the government of the Commonwealth, and that we demand that the federal government lives up to its obligations to all the citizens, like protecting our borders, and spend on core infrastructure like Interstate highways, rather than expansive social programs.

That we fund core services in a focused and efficient manner: Education, Public Safety, and Transportation.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is too large.  Much of what makes it too large is the result of the imposition of unfunded mandates, like Medicaid and spending.  The current budget takes the Commonwealth back to the 2006 spending level, which were prosperous economic times.  We must prevent the budget from swelling back to its size before the recession.  We also need to see that a significant portion of revenue growth from the recovery goes to a Rainy Day Fund, and to repaying the frequently-raided Transportation fund.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?
Yes.

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
Runaway spending
The imposition of mandates on states, especially unfunded mandates.
The Federal government’s failure/refusal to seal our borders.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment legislation such as, H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I absolutely support both these legislative efforts, and further support sound legal challenges to the Federal government’s imposition of its healthcare rules and firearms regulations on Virginians, recognizing that success in these challenges will probably require the Supreme Court’s reversal of bad precedent in terms of its Commerce Clause jurisprudence (Wickard vs, Filbrum) and the extension of its good decision in U.S. vs. Lopez, which found the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional as an application of the Commerce Clause.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
This goes hand-in-hand with my views on question # 8.  The primary and fastest growing segment of the budget causing the explosion in spending has to do with unfunded mandates, especially Medicaid spending.  A forceful resistance to these impositions with the efforts of strong organizers and activists like the Tea Party groups working to change the makeup of Congress could do wonders to reduce this forced area of state spending.

Apart from that, I am generally supportive of Governor McDonnell’s approach to the planned cuts he offered before the General Assembly.

Tony Wilt Answers SVTPP Nine Questions

1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?

My name is Tony Wilt and I’m vying for the Republican nomination to run for the 26th District House of Delegates seat.  I’ve never run for public office.  However, I’m excited about the prospect of representing the people of the 26th District.  Vickie and I have been married for 25 years and have a grown daughter and son.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I am pro-life.  I believe the 2nd Amendment gives each qualifying citizen the right to keep and bear arms.  I was born, raised, and lived in the 26th District all my life, except for two brief times in California and North Carolina, while my dad served in the U.S. M.C.  I urge you to seek out those who know me.  My actions will speak out louder and truer than my words.  I trust that you will find that my actions and words are one in the same.

I’ve worked at Superior Concrete, Inc. for 30 years and am the President/General Manager.  I stand firm against any new taxes, regulations, mandates, and entitlements, and will fight to lessen or repeal current ones.  I believe in limited government intrusion in every aspect of our lives.  But along with that, I demand personal responsibility.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?

Greater freedom of government intrusion in our lives.

Re-evaluate the state budget for what is supported, and for how much.

Secure alternative sources of revenue, instead of raising taxes on hard-working Virginians.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?

Yes.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?

Out of control Federal government.

Efficiency of state and local governments.

Stagnant economy.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?

Too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?

Yes.    (This candidate submitted a signed and witnessed Taxpayer Protection Pledge with Americans for Tax Reform, that pledges he will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.)

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?

Disregard for the Constitution.

Ignoring national security and sovereignty.

Mandates passed on states and locales.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?

Yes.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?

This is a tough one, I believe two-fold.  Every agency must strive for efficiency, but I don’t know if that will do the trick.  We must prioritize just what the government should be involved in, and cut the rest.  That definitely means operations within each agency, but maybe the agency itself.
Ted Byrd Answers SVTPP Nine Questions
1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?
I am running for the Republican nomination for the 26th District of the House of Delegates, because I believe my experiences in Agriculture, Economic Development, Business, Transportation, and Local Government enable me to have a balanced perspective and will represent our community’s interest in Richmond.  I am committed to listen carefully to constituents and make decisions that will best address our local and state concerns.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I would be a Champion of our local Family Farmers.
I would work hard to ensure we have a business climate that encourages the creation of jobs.
I would continue to strive for fair funding for our local schools to enable children to compete for future jobs.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?
Yes.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
We need to return to prioritizing state funding for our core services which are: public safety, education, and maintaining our road infrastructure.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is still too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?
Yes.

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
National Debt.
National Security.
The massive size of the Federal government and its reach into each of our lives.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I do support the state of Virginia Federal lawsuit to uphold Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act and await the ruling from the federal court.  I was unable to get information on H.B. 69.*

* Newsletter Editor’s note:  While H.B. 10 passed in the recent legislative session, H.B. 69 was sent to an unfavorable committee where the legislation died for this session.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
Non-core services.  Through the years there has been pork or special interest funding inserted into the state budget and that would be the first place I would look to make cuts.

For some more information, I’d recommend that you read a recent article provided by hburgnews.com.

Remember that polls will only be open from 4 to 8 PM tomorrow.  If you are in the city, you vote at Keister Elementary, 100 Maryland Avenue.  If you are in the county, you vote at Lacey Spring Elementary School, 8621 North Valley Pike.

Be an informed voter!

Update: Assuming you lived in the 26th District (which of course many of you do not), based upon the above information which of the candidates would you support and why?  Please feel free to comment.