notes from the edge













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Send in the clowns




February 26, 2003








It seems that every January the circus train pulls into Richmond and disgorges clowns of all stripes who meander up to the Capitol and take their seats in the state legislature. There for several weeks they wreak the mayhem, mischief and madness that is so typical of their species. This year has been no different. In fact, their penchant for irreverent ribaldry may well have soared to new heights on the scale of inanity. 


For instance, did you know that trespassing on railroad property, prostitution, and oral sex are now considered “violent felonies?”  That’s right. According to Robert Bell (R-58) and his HB 2020, they rank right up there with homicide, kidnapping and violent assault. As a result, if you’re caught walking the tracks, tricking, or engaging in anything but reproductive sex, you may never again be eligible to vote in Virginia. Even after you’ve spent a few months in the pokey and paid your fine, you’re still a violent felon. 


Also passed was a bill that will have the state stamping out license plates urging us to “Choose Life.” Why the legislature felt we needed to be reminded to do that is beyond comprehension, unless their intent was to counter another plate proposed by Virginians for Sadism that said “Choose Death.” That was too bizarre even for the clowns.  


Rather paradoxically, the legislature refused to allow a “Pro Family, Pro Choice” license plate. This would seem to put them squarely in opposition not only to families, but to choosing anything, be it life, death or something in between.  But that’s about as logical as this loopy group is going to get. 


What is even stranger is that the “Choose Life” license plate won out over other more practical messages, such as those that would identify one with the American Legion, scholastic rowing, Job’s Daughters, the Washington Capitols and the Police Benevolent Association. After lengthy discussion, all of those drizzled down the drain. So, if you’re associated with any of those groups, you’ll just have to forget  that the clowns killed them and remember that they want you to “Choose Life,” though not families, choice or Job’s Daughters. 


Among the losing bills was one that would have promoted the coalescence of guns and booze in restaurant gin mills, and another that would have granted sales and use tax exemptions to people who run sanctuaries for mini-pigs. But we needn’t go into those here. Suffice it to say that I’m not making up this stuff.


On the other hand, I’m happy to report that both my representatives to the General Assembly have risen, like dough, and are on their way to making fulsome loaves of political bread.


Melanie Rapp, whose district includes York and upper James City, has finally brought some sense to urban planning and again has made clear why the state must exert its powers of restraint upon overly aggressive city and county governing boards. Not only did she wipe out generations of tradition by axing the undemocratic Yorktown trustees, but she then turned her sights on Williamsburg, which, of course, is not in her district.


However, since Bill Barlow, who does represent Williamsburg, seems to have gotten into his Rip Van Winkle pills again and, as a result, may never be heard from until the next election rolls around, Rapp fearlessly leapt into the void and told city council that they had gone overboard in their attempts to ambush the city’s slum lords. And that took guts, as far as I’m concerned, since we all know how prissy the city can get when it comes to  image and architectural standards. So two thumbs up for Rapp and her courageous stand on all that. 


Then there’s Tommy Norment, who, according to Paul Jost, is the darling of college professors. And he’s right. The reason Norment appeals to college professors is because he’s so astute, especially with regard to judicial appointments. In the case of Verbena Askew, Norment denied her reappointment because of the importance he placed on bar association input. In voting for Colleen Killilea, however, he went with the partisans and overlooked completely the strong endorsement the local bar associations gave to Susan Tarley. Now what could be more astute than that when you’re up for re-election?  So another two thumbs up for Tommy and his ability to cover all the contradictory bases of hypocrisy at once.


And that’s about all there is to report from under the Big Tent this year. The clowns have boarded the circus train again and have left Gov. Warner to sort out all their mischief. On the other hand, given his silence relative their shenanigans, he may have boarded the train himself and now be on the way to some place where, as he said, he can be a real Democrat.   











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