Peaceful Rally at City Hall in Suffolk Virginia

I attended a Black Lives Matter rally at City Hall tonight, in light rain, although it was still going on when I left at about 7:15. As far as I could tell, it was primarily organized by Eric Knight who is active in Suffolk. It was peaceful and dignified. Mr. Knight and other speakers called for peace, unity across demographics, and in what might even please the “what about Black on Black crime?” crowd, said that he was tired not only of crimes committed by police, but by people in the neighborhoods.

There were no nasty insults against the police, although there were calls for rules to ensure police accountability. For their part, a few officers where parked across the street near the library at a respectful distance.

City officials who were in the crowd were invited to speak, and among those who spoke where Clerk of Court Randy Carter, who spoke about the importance of registering to vote and voting.

I was proud that a rally in my city could be so peaceful, but mindful of the fact if we want rallies to be peaceful, then peaceful rallies have to make a difference.

Santa for Seniors, Driver Days, and my Periodic Republican Attitude Adjustment

Every now and then I get to thinking that Republicans are just a bunch of mean, stupid lowlifes and I get ready to write a nasty post saying just that. Several weeks of dishonest smears by phone and by mail, along with a few stories about stolen or vandalized yard signs, canvassers getting an earful of racist and jingoistic nonsense, and a weekend in the Organizing for America tent at Driver Days in Suffolk, Virginia, can do that to a Democrat. Fortunately, before I finish such a post, I usually meet someone who reminds me that there are truly good people who don’t agree with me about important issues. This weekend, during Driver Days, that person was Deneen Evans, a representative of Home Instead Senior Care, and a good, compassionate person who will probably vote for Romney.

Deneen Evans speaking with visitors at Home Instead tent at fair.
Deneen Evans with Visitors, and Staff Coordinator Kathie Czerwinski

Driver Days is a street festival in the Driver neighborhood of Suffolk. It’s a nice festival, and I don’t want to scare anybody away from having fun in the good city of Suffolk, but the festival can be a little disheartening when looking at it from behind a table covered with Obama, Kaine, and Ella Ward literature. A big part of Driver days is a celebration of the confederacy, and not all of the confederates there are the “heritage not hate” types, unless you can convince me that the bumper sticker about picking cotton is actually some kind of an apology. Most of the people who passed by our booth this year were carrying Romney signs and wearing confederate flags.

Confederate Bikers walking near Confederate Memorabilia Tent at Fair

There were a good number of Democrats who stopped by, including a couple of bikers and guy with a big confederate patch on the front of his straw hat, but the Driver festival is, by far, Republican territory and the dirty looks and occasional rude comments from the Romney supporters can really lower someone’s opinion about Republicans.

It was nice to have a friendly native nearby. Home Instead had the spot next to ours, and Deneen and I had a lot of time to chat about politics, Suffolk, and the kind of care, or lack of it, that many seniors are receiving today. One of the things we discussed were the bleak conditions of a local assisted living facility which used to be called Nub Jones, but recently changed it’s name to Oakwood. Deneen not only works for a Senior Care company, she is a volunteer and an advocate for her company’s Be a Santa to a Senior drive, for which Home Instead collects gifts and distributes to them to seniors living in nursing homes such as Oakwood.

This year, as last, the Walmart on Main Street will have a gift giving tree for collecting donated gifts from customers. Here’s how it works (shortened, from the website).

  • Remove an ornament from the tree
  • Purchase the gift
  • Bring ornament and gift back to store and give to a store employee

Deneen and I won’t agree on the best way, as a nation, to ease the suffering of seniors who can’t afford an appropriate level of companionship and medical attention in the last years of their lives, but we do agree that something has to be done.

There is an article about the Be a Santa to a Senior program in the Suffolk News-Herald.

You’ve probably passed by one of those trees. It’s one of those things most of us ignore while filling our carts with corn-syrupy food products and Chinese made plastic trinkets. This year, take a little time to look at the tree and do something to help out. A small gift can make a big difference in the life of a lonely senior.

The Suffolk, Virginia, Community Heroes Luncheon

Next weekend, on May 5th, the Suffolk Democratic Committee (in Suffolk, Virginia) will, for the fourth year, honor three citizens of our city at a very nice luncheon at the Quality Inn. The three honorees are heroes who the committee believes have distinguished themselves with selfless contributions to the community.

When deciding who the heroes are, the committee does not test for politics. This year, one of our honorees will likely vote for Mitt Romney in November. But this woman volunteered for years at the Tidewater Free Clinic and has distinguished herself by helping desperate people receive vital medical services while treating each of her clients, despite their social and economic status, with the same courtesy and respect with which one would treat a friend.

In the next few months many of us will get into emotional arguments with friends and strangers about economics, war, the power of government, the use of lethal force, and host of other vital topics, and we may feel that those who disagree with us are selfish, stupid, or crazy. But in the end, good people don’t necessarily believe what you believe or what I believe, and can hold views that we find to be outrageous.

By all means, argue. I have opinions and I’m not afraid to use them. But in the end, remember to recognize the goodness of those people around us, despite our strongly disparate views.

Tickets next week’s event are $25 and you can contact me or visit the SDC’s site for more information.

64th: Don’t be Mislead by Last Minute Smears

I recently received a creepy flier in the mail accusing Bill Barlow of voting to make it possible for convicted felons to work at your child’s school or coach their soccer team. The flier also says “Barlow was 1 of 26 out of 100 Delegates who said ‘YES.’”

I don’t know what vote is Rick Morris talking about. The flier doesn’t say. It’s as vague as Morris’s other accusations against Barlow. Whatever vote Rick Morris is talking about, the “1 of 26 … who said ‘YES’” phrasing is interesting. It doesn’t say anything about the “No.” votes.

Who's Watching Our Kids at School

I looked through the Legislative Information System and found no recorded votes on any bill related to felons or convictions with 26 yea votes. This means that the vote Rick Morris is talking about, unless he’s simply making it all up, was probably a voice vote. These votes are usually one of a few votes that a proposal will go through on its way through the General Assembly, and rarely do more than a handful of delegates even participate in the vote. So these 26 yeas probably represent unanimous support for a bill, not to be passed, but just to be pushed along to the next phase.

Bill Barlow has been strong supporter of tough-on-crime legislation. He voted to expand the death penalty to accomplishes and voted against limiting the death penalty to ages 18 and up. He voted to increase restrictions on sex offenders, including a rather tough bill to prohibit convicted sex offenders entry onto school grounds or other property. And he has voted to increase funding for police.

On the other hand, Bill Barlow has also supported bi-partisan legislation like that championed by Governor Bob McDonnell to streamline the civil rights restoration process for ex-offenders who have proven themselves worthy of a second chance. Thanks to Governor McDonnell’s efforts, along with Republican and Democratic legislators, a non-violent felon, after serving his sentence and clearing all court costs and fines, can, after another two years of proving to be a good and productive citizen, request to have his civil rights restored. So maybe Rick Morris is upset that Bill Barlow has worked with his Republican counterparts and Governor McDonnell in order to pass important, sensible, bi-partisan crime legislation.

I don’t know what vote Rick Morris is talking about in his creepy flier. I do know:

  • There were no final votes in the house on any crime legislation with 26 yeas.
  • Bill Barlow has repeatedly voted for tough-on-crime legislation.
  • Rick Morris’s creepy flier is vague and provides absolutely no information to back up it’s outrageous accusation.
  • Rick Morris’s creepy flier arrived late in the campaign, leaving little time for Bill Barlow to respond to this vicious smear.

I’m pretty certain that Rick Morris’s campaign staff combed through the legislative records, and in their efforts to paint Bill Barlow as a weak-on-crime liberal, the best they could come up with was a procedural vote to push a legislative proposal up for further consideration. And “26 out of 100” is almost certainly misleading, since this vote was probably unanimous with only 26 delegates even bothering to participate.

In fact, Bill Barlow’s voting record on crime as well as other issues would be distressing to many liberals. I certainly don’t like his votes on the death penalty. But I’m not supporting Bill Barlow because I agree with everything he does. I’m supporting Bill Barlow because he supports public schools, the police, tax credits for small businesses, and has honestly, faithfully, and intelligently served his constituents for two decades.

Bill Barlow is being attacked by an opponent who falsely accuses him of everything from fiscal irresponsibility to putting “felons ahead of the safety of our children”. We simply should not support such a dishonest politician.

This Tuesday, vote for the honest guy. If you’re in Virginia’s 64th, vote Bill Barlow.