Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alter "The Dabbler" Chimes In

Okay folks after quite a few emails from folks, which of course I would never post on this blog, pointing me in the direction of the blog Virginia"Right" today regarding a post in which he references me directly I do not really feel compelled to answer the laughable babble posted over there, but to humor those of us who always need a really good chuckle and want to tip toe into the surreal.....here goes.

First, many have emailed me to remove the link to Virginia"Right" in large part due to his personal attacks against not only myself but evidently the folks that rant here from time to time.

I will not. I believe in free speech and think that we as Virginians should probably hold it closer to our hearts than others if you know our history. Now, that does not mean that I endorse Mr. White's views simply because I offer a link, but rather it offers folks here another avenue to explore regarding local politics. I linked the blog in large part due to the fact there are very few focusing on local matters and Mr. White's interest in the 73rd race was compelling.

For all I know the two of us could have been sitting near each other a recent debates or meetings. Its an interesting race on the issues alone, however, some have sought to inflame that race with national themes that are a bit misplaced. I mean if folks want to keep focusing on what divides us instead of getting solutions to the table thats their right.

Mr. White attempts to set forth wild accusations and plays association politics in his analysis of myself and the race in the 73rd for that matter. Somehow, ironically Mr. White believes that a $500 contribution by the SEIU is somehow equates to greater influence than 100,000 contributed by an industry such as the medical industry. He for some reason continues to link comments made regarding the insurance aspect of healthcare to my detailed examination of he contributions by somehow equating that because Dr. O'Bannon has not be getting "insurance money" that he is in the clear on the issue. Please.

Correct me if I am wrong-and of course you can bet Mr. White will- but without insurance companies where exactly would the following be:

Hospital Corp of America
Virginia Assisted Living
Southern Physicians
Medical Society of Virginia
Virginia Independent Insurance Agents
Virginia Nurses Assn
Virginia Dental Assn

The above have contributed along with others to the tune of 101,182 (Healthcare related), 18,531 -political pacs and the like and another 18,200-real estate/developer to the O'Bannon campaign in large part since the annoucement of the challenger. Compared to that $500 contribution I can see why its such a concern-snark.

Virtually most of all of Tom Shields contributions have come either from the Democrat Caucus or Party Pacs and individuals throughout the region. Then there is that SEIU donation, which of course they make to most Democrats, that Mr. White is so offended by and yet probaly has little clue as to exactly how much within the Commonwealth gets touched by members of SEIU locals. Afterall, if you happen to be a part of that organization you must be a lover of Acorn right? Thats about as stupid as saying all tea baggers and town hall protestors are racist folks.

There are plenty of members of SEIU that are not aligned with Andy Stern who sits on Acorns Advisory Council and to make the assertion that because Shields accepts $500 from a labor union he somehow embraces an element (Acorn) that may be linked in some parts of the country to SEIU is absurd.

If you want to challenge Shields effectively and with intellectual integrity instead of gutter mining maybe Mr. White would be better served by informing his readers just why SEIU is such a threat. That would illustrate more effectively than some ludicrous and meaningless link to Acorn. Why?

Simple. SEIU is a big supporter of Card Check and ending Virginia's Right to Work State status.

Does Mr. Shields support card check? Would he support ending the right to work status? These are fair and valuable questions far better serving the public than Acorn inflamatories and diatribes. Mr. White leave that to Glenn Beck- he is more effective.

It is obvious that Mr. Shields has run a viable campaign, otherwise there would not be the need for such attacks brought about by the lickes of Virginia"Right". If he wasn't you would hear about as much about Shields in the blogosphere as you do Grogan and Rheinhart both challenging incumbant Republicans in Chesterfield.

Fact is, when there is no real differences on the issues in reality the only resort is to try and create controversy. Evidently Mr. White learned very little from the UR debate. They seem to agree quite a bit on most issues. In fact, it was more like an introduction than a debate.

I have made it clear that I fully expect Dr. O'Bannon to win re-election, but I absolutely love that fact that he is having to work for it. As he and all leaders should. This cycle is more of a testing of the waters IMHO. The shape and demo of the 73 has been changing for a few years now so it will be interesting to see how it comes down. I said in July, I expect Shields to take the City and the old annexed section in Southside where O'Bannon will be strongest in Henrico.

In no post have I ever endorsed either candidate. I have simply stated the obvious; its a race. I make no assertions about Henrico other than to say that the GOP over there will get the vote out, but here in the Southside I have been involved in enough races over the years to see alot of "mo" for the challenger. Thats par for the course though given the City portion traditionally votes Democrat. The real news is that Shields appears poised to get them to the polls, something many Dems will struggle to do this cycle given its an off year election and there no "OBAMA" on the ticket. I expect turnout to be below average which benefits the incumbant.

I see very little more than partisan diatribe on the part of Virginia"Right" with no real analysis and for the record Mr. White its not how many times you swing the bat but how many times you make contact!!!

This "dabbling" is rather fun-----but the steaks are done....

Support Another Term for Loupassi!

This years election is quickly approaching and many canvassing teams will be out in force this weekend around the area. We are beginning to see those signs go up around the corridor along Robious and Huguenot which is a good thing. The larger banner signs for Bob McDonnell are up with zero Deeds signs showing up along the major arteries throughout the area. These areas are in and around Bon Air are Robious, Huguenot and Buford Roads that get alot of the traffic during the week.

The most popular sign intersection is always Buford& Jahnke Road in the Crestwood area of the Midlothian District, Chesterfield. It is always interesting to see the sign wars every cycle.

A few bloggers recently cast some pretty broad assertions regarding some sign vandalism, but in the end I think its pretty obvious to all who live here in the area it was merely kids out late engaging in some horseplay. The notion it was some conspiracy by those supporting Deeds for example is not only baseless in fact but ridiculous. Afterall, who knows anyone around here supporting Deeds anyway-hahaha.

We must not forget that we have some House races that will be on the ballot. These should not be taken for granted at the polls. The House of Delegates must be there to help Bob McDonnell set forth his agenda OR check Creigh Deeds should he somehow manage to erase the current five point deficit ij the next month or so.

Manoli Loupassi should win handily, but we should all still make sure that we get everyone out to the polls and not take anything for granted. I have not posted much about Loupassi over the last year or so because lets be honest; there has really just not been much to talk about. Loupassi will have to step up this term and deliver on the promises that helped him win election in the first place. Loupassi has not impressed, but he has not disappointed either.

Loupassi deserves the opportunity to deliver on his pledges, especially government reform and ethics. Many of us would love to see that come about in the Assembly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

73rd House District: O'Bannon v. Shields

The race in the 73rd House District is heating up. There has been some considerable interest in this particular race which pits incumbant Dr. John O'Bannon (R) versus challenger Tom Shields. Its a really interesting matchup because if you get the opportunity to speak with these two men you will find that they are very close on many of the issues. In fact, I would say that Shields in my view is the equivalent of a blue dog ( thats politico speak for Conservative Democrat).

As such, Shields is coming under fire from bloggers who understand the threat of his bid for Delegate. Some have resorted to the worst kind of association politics in an attempt to bring irrational debate and take focus away from the real issues at hand facing the Commonwealth.

The two men recently squared off in a rather civil debate at the University of Richmond as compared to many of the recent depictions of the various town halls going into September. If the viewer expected any fireworks they were most likely disappointed.

What did not come up and was quite surprising was the status of the Commonwealth's budget with regard to employee benefits, healthcare and retirement. Healthcare being such a large aspect of the current national debate could have easily been brought into the debate by the Shields camp regarding contributions and donations to Dr. O'Bannon by way of the healthcare and medical industry. This industry according to VPAP represent the biggest donor percentages of any segment to the O'Bannon campaign.

This race could boil over in the next few weeks. The O'Bannon camp must figure out why it is losing support in the City areas of the district while Bob McDonnell in the same canvass is rolling right along. If O'bannon is counting on the top of the ticket helping him out, his campaign may want to rethink that strategy. The groundgame being orchestrated by Tony Coppola and the Shields camp is becoming very effective.

It doesn't hurt that its Tom Shields himself out there knocking on those doors either.

In fact, recently a few bloggers have misrepresented the Shields support as coming from the likes of disgraced groups such as ACORN/SEIU when in fact the Shields camp has never been a recipient of any funds directed either by ACORN of any of its known arms. ACORN currently faces countless investigations and the attempt to link Shields to the organization is simply an attempt to mislead and malign the Shields campaign.

In fact, O'Bannon has secured more donations from organizations and business interests both in and out of the 73rd. Such donors include Medical Society of Virginia, Virginia Dental Assn, Virginia Ind. Insurance Agents, Hospital Corp of America, Virginia Asst Living, Southern Physicians as well as such Richmond mainstays as Ukrops, Goodwin, and Reynolds.

Healthcare related donors account for some 101,000 to the O'Bannon campaign. This makes since given the O'Bannon is of course a Doctor and a Director of Henrico Doctors Hospital. That said, its interesting given the current climate in the healthcare debate whether Shields can leverage the issue regarding exactly whom O'Bannon may be beholden to given these donors and the current state of healthcare. The bills in Congress will likely require State legislators to sign off on certain aspects of the plan with regard to participation.

Tony Copploa, campiagn manager for Tom Shields , has worked an excellant ground game in the 73rd and though Shields has been out-raised by the incumbant, virtually all of the donations Shields has received is FROM the 73rd and from individuals. The largest exception being the donation from the Democrat Caucus, which is seeing the potential in the candidacy of Shields while others in the area have little chance of defeating the incumbant Republican.

Shields recently was endorsed by the Virginia Education Assoc. which has elevated his campaign and local PTA's are enthusiastic about his candidacy.

If you want to understand exactly what kind of guy the 73rd could get in Shields, this says it best:

"We need to reach across the aisle and see what we can do to make the Commonwealth better, not two years from now, but 20"

You got that right. If citizens understood just what dire times lie down the road if the State does not fix its budget woes and have to fund the benefit situation of an ever increasing State employee pool they would get the very point Shields is making.

This race very well may boil down to whom exactly citizens feel the elected Delegate will look after most, them or the those that have contributed for influence. Voters and the Shields campiagn for that matter should examine exactly what the O'Bannon record is on heath related issues during his time in the House and balance that record with his campaigns contributions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ask the Chairman (Governor) Kaine- Healthcare

WRVA 1140 (AM Radio) in Richmond hosted Tim Kaine today for his monthly "Ask the Governor" call in show and by all indication the current healthcare debate is certainly resonating with many in Central Virginia.

The majority of the questions served Gov. Kaine this morning were in the area of Healthcare Reform and the Economy. Virginia, like many States, has seen Unemployment rates climb steadily in recent years. Virginia still ranks in the Top 5 for Employment based on current rates where Virginia is approaching almost 7% unemployment. Virginia, in large part due to the growth of both the State and Federal government and appropriations and contracts flowing from Washington into the region has faired much better than most States.

One major admission made by Gov. Kaine this morning was his support for the implementation of health insurance access across State lines. This has been something that Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress have long supported and just may turn up in the final Healthcare reform bill.

However, Gov. Kaine's full endorsement of the "public option" seems very intriguing given at no time in his term as Governor has he proposed such a plan very similar to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for here in Virginia. Kaine spoke to "portability" for the public, but failed to provide the impact of such programs would have on the bottom line regarding the funding of the public option.

While I think everyone would support "portability", it is a matter of record that there are already in place programs to do just that not only here in Virginia but also nationally. For example, the Federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires group plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees to offer "continuation of coverage" for employees and dependents for up to 18 months following departure from the company. Of course, the individual would be responsible for the premium (whole) during the term but they would remained insured. Kaine also failed to mention that State employees under Code 2.2-2818 that Virginia shall provide a credit toward the cost of health insurance coverage for former State employees who have retired under the Virginia retirement System, State Police Officer's Retirement System, Judicial Retirement System, Virginia Law Officer's Retirement System and others. Thats quite a few systems to manage by the State.

Recently, the VRS has come under fire. Virginia is sitting with close to a four billion dollar shortfall in large part to increasing costs associated with retirees, benefits, workers comp and other insurance related areas that are outpacing inflation. We as citizens must understand that the impacts of growing State government is rarely felt in the early years of the creation of departments or jobs increasing the payroll but in the later years when those employees have reached there fifteenth anniversary and later retire.

It is also important to note that one retires with the benefits of the last highest position held with State government and its benefits are determined based on that grade during the enitre retirement. An example of this can be illustrated by a member of the General Assembly leaving political life and then taking a position in State Government as an unelected official. Regardless of how long the individual was say a Delegate or State Senator, after a few years in grade the retirement would be graded at the full benefit of that position and not the former elected office.

Kaine also failed to mention that in Virginia, we spent 9,224 per government employee enrolled in health benefits program in 2008 and in 2007 the State spent 614 million in medical, behavorial health and pharmacy for the States almost 100,000 employees. In 2008, that cost rose to 714 million.

Kaine had an opportunity to inform the public regarding the program COVA Connect, provided State employees through Optima Health (Sentara Healthcare) in the Beach region that is an experimental program covering 17,000 State employees. This two year contract is costing the State 5 million a year in "administrative" costs according to the Department of Human Resource Management. That contracted amount would amount to 10 million to cover 17,000 for two years. It begs the question what the real costs would be before savings to roll this program out to the roughly entire 100,000 active State employees. Do not misundertsand me, COVA Connect offers some real promise towards addressing the issues of preventative care. 20% of State employees are smokers and 35% do not exercise on a regular basis according to Optima.

An important aspect of the program however that can be set against the debate in Washington is the fact that the State employees , predominately in the Hampton Rhodes area ,are asked within the COVA Connect program to leave their doctors behind. Thats the rub. If we are experimenting with a program at the government level which would ask (force) employees to leave their doctors than what is the real notion behind what Kaine is endorsing in his idea of the public option where he states he thinks people will be able to keep their doctors and plans should they desire to do so. Why could not the COVA Connect be implemented in the same manner without having employees have to leave their doctors behind.

The State and Optima are said to be tracking the program and will evaluate the program to determine viability for the entire government pool and the Virginia Governmental Employees Association is also very interested in the results.

By the way, this program replaces Anthem's COVA Care in the Hampton, Virginia Beach region which may attribute to the situation regarding which doctors are in the current program and which ones were available through Anthem. Not exactly a true "option" regarding physician selection.

In listening to the conversations Gov. Kaine was engagin in this morning the more and more I am convinced that if the State truly wants to solve many of its problems regarding costs related to healthcare it must go the route of full "self-insurance".

What does it mean to be "self-insured"?

The rising costs associated with healthcare as pointed out by Kaine are a direct result of the lack of competition or bids for the State plan and in many areas some insurers have a monopoly. The only way for sel-insurance to work is through large participation to begin with and pool funding at the onset by the General Assembly to implement to measure. The benefit is that most people pay more IN premiums than they spend out in claims. Basically, State employees would pay in a set amount per period just as if they were paying an insurance premium through payroll deduction or buying an alternative health policy. Instead of those proceeds going to the insurance company they are directed to the "pool". Funds are then drawn out of the pool to cover the medical expenses for those enrolled. How can the State handle this?

The State can simply contract the administrative service or claim aspect out which would also create jobs in the greater economy. These are known as third party adminstrators. In some aspects there is also the ability to go the route of re-insure as well in other areas of insurance as well.

The key to self-insurance for the State which undoubtedly would save millions of dollars is wellness. The State would have to determine to make wellness and fitness a priority which would mitigate claims and costs associated with poor health.

Self-Insured plans are subject to the Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), handled by the Department of Labor.

Kaine's objective today it seems was to support Obama's Healthcare agenda or at the verty least the Congressional plan as it appears as though Obama really has not released a plan yet of his own for the nation to review and yet across the board within State government never seemed to take responsibility for the rising costs of State government and the shortfalls with the budget othern than to say that costs are spiraling out of control.

Frankly, as long as we allow the government to expand at both the State and Federal level "costs" will never be reigned in. In healthcare alone, we are spending today over 9,224 per State employee and the more we expand government and grow its ranks the larger that number will become. How will we fund those expenses?

According to Kaine, taxes will certainly be raised in Virginia. Yeah, just not on his watch. I guess is better politics to leave that burden to the next adminstration by leaving those shortfalls to the budget, but then why should we be surprised Kaine's predecessor in Mark Warner did the exact same thing to him.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shields Proving To Be A Challenger

73rd House District-

Eventhough the climate up in Washington these days could hardly be worse for Democrats, that does not neccessarily translate into State Democrat candidates being beaten up at the polls in November.

Democrat challenger Tom Shields is going toe to toe with the Republican incumbant in a rather interesting battle. The lines in this contest are hardly clear. Republican John O'Bannon is faced with having (for the first time since entering office) to canvass large areas of the district. The biggest criticism levied at O'Bannon has been his lack of engagement with consituents. One voter in the 73rd basically told me that O'Bannon likes to play up the fact he is the only doctor in the House of Delegates, but what good is a doctor to you if you can never get an appointment to see him? Its an interesting analogy given the fact that countless constituents have complained that O'Bannon has in the past taken their votes for granted.

So what is in store for the O'Bannon campaign? Along night on election day possibly. The 73rd has parts of Henrico County and Richmond that had significant rise in supported for Democrats last year. Warner and Obama both faired better than many previous Democrats in the area. There is a rebellion of sorts out there focused on the establishment. Its not just directed at Democrats but ALL incumbants. People are asking what exactly their leaders have delivered on their behalf and whether they offer transparency and access to constituents. It does not seem to matter which Party a politician belongs in this regard.

An example is the transportation debate which very well may in the coming weeks trickle down from the McDonnell/Deeds race. People will focus on the solutions offered up by the GOP in the House over the last two years and then evaluate many Delegates accordingly. O'Bannon has very strong credentials from such interests concerned with Family Values, Gun Legislation, and Chamber of Commerce. The arguement being waged is O'Bannon has failed to deliver a balanced agenda and has failed in areas of Labor, Environment, Conservation, Education, and most importantly Government Reform and its beginning to register with many older voters in the 73rd.

Recent get togethers in the 73rd with likely voters has seen a rise in the interest of Tom Shields as a candidate. One such event recently had a straw poll where Shields earned almost 60% of the vote.

A recent attempt to somehow tarnish Tom Shields with the recent voting record of Democrat Congressman Bobby Scott seems a bit oof a reach. Shields was for a time Bobby Scott's legislative assistant where he undoubtedly learned to cut his teeth on the process, but to somehow link Shields to his former boss in this regard is highly inflammable AND dangerous for those supporting O'Bannon. Hell, I have worked for plenty of people I did not agree with. Its the equivalent of saying if your a State employee than you are linked to everything Gov. Kaine says and believes.

Regardless, O'Bannon get the vote out better be kicked in high gear. Shields is winning the dialogue with voters through his schedule of meetings, canvassing and phone banking himself. O'bannon seems to be losing a foothold in the south side of the City area as well based on recent canvass results.

Six or so weeks. The clock is ticking. Your move Delegate O'Bannon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Chesterfield County NAACP (24th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet)

Anyone who was out and about this Holiday Weekend day and past by the Holiday Inn in the Koger Center in Chesterfield County probably noticed hundreds of campaign banners and signs alongside the roads in and around the hotel that almost resembled a polling station.

The Chesterfield County Branch of the NAACP is holding its 24th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet at the hotel which also will celebrate the 100 years since the NAACP was founded.

It is all of of our hopes that in celebrating 100 years we since the inception of the NAACP that we all can reflect on all the progress we as a nation have made with regard to the advancement of colored people and other minorities. We are an imperfect people and nation for that matter, but it should be the hope and desrie of all Americans the recognize the long journey that was undertaken some 100 years ago and lives with us today.

It is interesting to note for all you politicos out there who routinely like to box people or group people in terms of political ideology that the signs surrounding the hotel were predominately Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli signs with but a handful of Creigh Deeds scattered amongst the sea of red, white and blue signs. Many in the national media would not associate too many Republicans with any kind of NAACP event, but than thats just where they demonstrate media bias. Either that or they simply just have never been to Chesterfield County!! There is strong support for Republican candidates traditionally in Chesterfield by the African-American and minority community. If the media had bothered to cover a recent local Tea Party organized early summer this would have easily been demonstrated, but then our folks in the media are not terribly concerned with portraying anyhting that does not fit into its formulated agenda now are they?

There is a reason why Chesterfield County is a First Choice Community and its simply that we do not by into the divisive notions of division within our community and we all as citizens can step back and appreciate just how far and how hard the NAACP has worked over the last 100 years. All the best to the Chesterfield County Branch as you celebrate tonight a great achievement.