Jun 092021
 

Top row Jeff Gould (left) and Norman Dill. Bottom row Evan Feinman.

Evan Feinman, Governor Northam’s Chief Broadband Internet Advisor, joins the Senior Statesmen of Virginia to talk about broadband and internet access in Virginia. In 2018 Governor Northam set a 10-year goal to reach universal broadband coverage to all Virginians for social and economic reasons.

The Broadband Committee recommends policy changes to promote broadband development and created the Commonwealth Connect Coalition, a group of 125 organizations which is fully committed to the concept and funding for universal broadband coverage.

Mr. Feinman spoke at the Wednesday June 9, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was introduced by SSV President Jeff Gould and moderated by SSV board member Norman Dill.

May 122021
 

Senator Creigh Deeds (top left), Delegate Chris Runion, Sue Friedman (moderator), Delegate Rob Bell (bottom left), Delegate Sally Hudson. Not pictured: Matt Fariss

The Senior Statesmen of Virginia presented their annual recap of the recently concluded session of the Virginia State General Assembly with reports from local legislators Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegates Rob Bell, Matt Fariss, Sally Hudson and Chris Runion. Topics included: Criminal justice reform, broadband access, the pros and cons of Zoom including changing role of lobbyists, the death penalty, redistricting, and passenger rail.

The legislators spoke at the Wednesday May 12, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Sue Friedman.

Apr 142021
 

Rebecca Kendall (left), Lisa Beitz and Jeff Gould speaking via Zoom.

Lisa Beitz and Rebecca Kendall spoke at the April 14th meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia about behavioral health treatment services in the time of COVID.

Rebecca Kendall is the director of the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition which collaborates with providers through planning, advocacy and delivery of effective services to promote behavioral health and wellness. She shared that all their services have been affected by COVID. Problems include effects of social isolation, food insecurity, unemployment and school closings. Some of the consequences have been increased alcohol consumption, increases in requests for services and overdoses seen in ERs. On the positive side the increase in Zoom telehealth services, where available, has been very fruitful. Two new services have been developed: Warmline, to help people who are stressed and to connect them to local care and a free service for essential workers.

Lisa Beitz is the executive director of the Region Ten Community Services Board which is required by law to be available 24/7 to assess people for involuntary hospitalization and case management assessment for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders as funds allow. Region Ten serves the City of Charlottesville and the Counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson, and is involved in over 40 programs and has more than 550 staff. Local trends exacerbated by COVID include lack of psychiatric hospital beds and closing of resources that keep individuals safe in the community leading to more hospitalizations.

The two spoke at the Wednesday April 14, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV President Jeff Gould.

Mar 102021
 

Alyson Ball speaking via Zoom.

Alyson Ball spoke at the March 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia about the basics of United States Immigration policy. Ms. Ball began with a brief history of US immigration from a time when all immigrants were accepted and it was easy to become a citizen, to the 14th amendment following the Civil War where being born “on soil” eventually leading, to citizenship to the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act.

According to Ball, there are currently about one million individuals seeking a pathway to United States citizenship. Of that group, three-fourths are family based, 140,000 are employment based and 130,000 are humanitarian. Other topics covered include: Detention centers and the Biden government’s recent role in reversing some of former President Trump’s immigration policies.

Ms. Ball spoke at the Wednesday March 10, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV board member Peyton Williams.

Feb 102021
 

K. Craig Kent

K. Craig Kent, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Virginia, talks about UVA Health and challenges during COVID and the future. UVA Health has four sections: the medical school, nursing school, physician organization and hospitals including three hospitals in Northern Virginia. It employs 14,000 people with a yearly revenue of $3 billion. One goal of the organization is to transition from single doctor care to care provided by a whole team. This new philosophy will be the focus of a new strategic plan being developed in the summer of 2021. COVID information and questions from the audience filled the remainder of the meeting. UVA early on developed a COVID test with a six-hour turnaround time to diagnose the disease. They built 84 negative pressure rooms to provide care for very ill COVID patients to decrease mortality.

Concerning the administration of the vaccine, Dr. Kent said that the Virginia Department of Health controls the supply distribution. Currently UVA has a location at the former Big Lots and has a capacity to deliver 3,000 shots per day. The supply has been 3,500 shots per week. Dr. Kent stressed that the recommendations for COVID and supply of vaccine are moving targets and change as more information becomes available. For those who have had the vaccine, the current plan is to “stay the course” with masking, social distancing and personal hygiene.

Dr Kent spoke at the Wednesday February 10, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Past President Rich DeMong.

Jan 132021
 

James Hingeley (left) and Joe Platania speaking via Zoom.

Speaking at the January 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorneys from Albemarle and Charlottesville, James Hingeley and Joe Platania discussed the recent changes in law as passed by the 2020 General Assembly and some of the proposals being put forward for the upcoming Session.

The men agreed that their backgrounds led them to better understand why crimes were committed and addressing those challenges would reduce criminal behavior. They see their roles as prosecutors as balancing the safety of the community with the rights of the defendants. They are both known as “progressive prosecutors” and hope that their philosophy will lead to criminal justice reform.

Hingeley and Platania reviewed new laws passed in the 2020 General Assembly including the banning of police from executing unannounced warrants, using choke holds, or conducting searches based on the smell of pot. Other new laws include empowering localities to form police civilian review boards with the power to subpoena and impose punishments. Juries will decide guilt or innocence, but no longer be imposing sentences. Judges will assume sentencing as they can have more knowledge and a better understanding of the law. Also, in certain categories, prisoners can earn good time credit and reduce their sentences.

In response to questions about the effect of the pandemic, both men agreed that trying to reduce jail population has been a goal. A collaborative group including attorneys, jail personnel, judges, OAR, and clerks as well as program services providers are working together to find alternatives to serving jail time. Other topics included: Prosecuting pot infractions, judges deciding sentences rather than mandatory sentencing for convictions.

The two spoke at the Wednesday January 13, 2021 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV President Jeff Gould.

Dec 092020
 

Thomas Frampton (top left), Chief Ron Lantz (top right) and Chief RaShall Brackney speaking at the December 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

 
Charlottesville Police Chief Dr. RaShall Brackney and Albemarle Police Chief Ron Lantz explore current policing issues in this podcast from the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

Lantz explained that since 2012 the county has been divided into two geographic based districts with each staffed by its own officers in order for the community and officers to get to know each other better. As a result, there has been a 30 percent decrease in crime and police response times, and there is increased trust between the police and community. Brackney emphasized relationship building with citizens in order to determine what they want, need and deserve.

The effect of COVID-19 on police policy has both departments relying more on phone or online reporting from citizens which has been beneficial in some instances and may be used more in the future. There has been a decrease in violent crimes and traffic stops. On the other hand, there have been concerns about increases in domestic violence, homicides and suicides as well as an illicit underground economy with so many unemployed.

The two spoke at the Wednesday December 9, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by Thomas Frampton, University of Virginia Law professor and expert on criminal law and constitutional procedure.

Nov 112020
 

Al Christopher (left) and Michael Skiffington

From the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), administrator of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Michael Skiffington Director of Policy and Al Christopher director of the Energy Division, spoke at the November 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia on the goals and implementation of the Virginia Clean Economy Act passed by the Virginia legislature in 2020. By 2050 Virginia targets to be 100 percent clean power. After an explanation of the role of DMME, the speakers focused on the implementation of the Clean Economy Act. There are benchmarks to be met along the way to a 100% clean power economy with penalties for failing to reach them. For example, by 2030, 30 percent of energy must come from renewable resources and any new building has to account for the cost of carbon pollution. Penalties are administered by DMME.

Past legislation has tried to address the problem of pollution, but in recent years there has been renewed interest, New to this legislation is the requirement that there can be no negative effect on disadvantaged communities. Wind and solar power are additional areas that offer opportunities to reach the 2050 goal. Twenty-seven miles offshore of Hampton Roads there are three wind turbines that could produce enough energy for 5,000 homes with many more turbines in the works. The two also spoke about the economic opportunities for business in Virginia such as research and development and job training. Virginia is involved in regional cooperation in this venture as well as “cap and trade” efforts with northeastern states.

There are two major companies affected by this act, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power with separate goals for each one.

The two spoke at the Wednesday November 11, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV board member and past president, Bob McGrath.

Oct 142020
 

Christopher Ambrose (left), Brian Cannon (right) and Bob McGrath (below)

Christopher Ambrose, an opponent of the proposed constitutional amendment #1 on this year’s ballot, and Brian Cannon, a proponent of the amendment spoke at the October 14, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. Both men agreed on the problem: The need to remove the legislators from the drawing of district lines while each had a different vision of how to get there.

Brian Cannon (Fair Maps VA) supports the amendment. He believes that this is a “good government” issue and agrees that it is not perfect. He believes that there is a hybrid commission of one-half legislators and one-half citizens that are evenly balanced by parties, is transparent and makes racial gerrymandering illegal. This amendment has a lot of support from independent organizations who have fought for redistricting reform around the country.

Christopher Ambrose (Fair Districts VA) opposes the amendment. From his perspective the amendment trades one type of gerrymandering for another. His ideal is to get legislators totally out of the process. His objections include that though judges pick citizens for the commission, but they are picked from a list provided by legislators. His compromise would be to have some legislators on the commission. New Jersey passed a similar amendment and results have been the incumbents there have an advantage and voter turnout is diminishing.

The two spoke at the Wednesday October 14, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV board member and past president, Bob McGrath.

Sep 092020
 

Allison Wrabel (top left), Bob Good (top right) and Cameron Webb

On September 9, 2020, the Senior Statesmen of Virginia held a Candidate Forum for the two candidates for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Participating in the forum were Democratic candidate Cameron Webb and Republican Candidate Bob Good.

Our podcast begins with Jeff Gould, president of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

00:00 - Introduction from Jeff Gould
01:30 - Moderator Allison Wrabel introduces the candidates
04:45 - Democratic Candidate Cameron Webb
18:30 - Republican Candidate Bob Good
30:30 - Webb is given change to rebut Good's concluding statement
32:00 - Question #1 - The 5th District encompasses different kinds of area from rural to small cities. There can be a difference in ideology among those constituents. If elected, how in any specific way would you bridge that gap?
37:00 - Question #2 - What will both of you do if elected to address environmental conditions and climate change?
43:00 - Question #3 - Which specific actions are you going to take to get broadband to the 5th District
48:30 - Question #4 - Can you each discuss your views on health care?
55:40 - Closing statement from Good
59:00 - Closing statement from Webb

The candidates spoke at the Wednesday September 9, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by Daily Progress journalist Allison Wrabel.

Jun 102020
 

The June Senior Statesmen of Virginia program recaps the recently concluded session of the Virginia General Assembly with reports by our local legislators. Present at the meeting were Del. Sally Hudson (D) of the 57th District, Del. Chris Runion (R) of the 25th District and Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) of the 25th Senatorial District.

The two delegates are both first session members of the General Assembly and Sen. Deeds is completing his 29th year in office. The members spoke about the successes and disappointments of the session. All three were pleased with the passage of the budget on March 12,2020 and concerned about the anticipated $2.2-3 billion deficit (2% of total budget) anticipated because of the COVID virus. The unknown effect of COVID-19 was an overriding concern of all three.

The members were asked questions on their primary goals. Deeds said education, healthcare and safety, Hudson replied budget with both more equitable taxation and less spending, and Runion listed non-partisanship, redistricting, agriculture, clean energy, and broadband to rural areas. All three agreed on the concern and responses of government to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Deeds emphasized the need to reform policing and stressed importance of training for de-escalation skills and implicit bias training. Hudson said racism should not be a separate issue, but a consideration in every decision made. Runion agreed with his colleague’s goals but said the conversations on the topic were important though the solutions each have may differ.

Asked about the Confederate statues Deeds replied that local government control made sense and Hudson pointed out that the legal aspect of removing statues is determined by different laws in different locations. Other topics of conversation centered around redistricting, on-line v. mail voting, clean energy, gun control. and the agenda for the August session.

The delegates spoke at the Wednesday June 10, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by Meg Heubeck, Director of Instruction for the Youth Leadership Initiative, UVA Center for Politics.

May 132020
 

Mike Signer speaking to Senior Statesmen of Virginia members via Zoom.

The deadly invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalist militias in August 2017 is a microcosm of the challenges facing American democracy. No one is better placed to tell the story of what really happened, and to draw out its larger significance, than Michael Signer, then Charlottesville’s mayor. His new book, Cry Havoc: Charlottesville and American Democracy Under Siege, is a vivid, first-person chronicle of the terror and mayhem of the August 2017 Unite the Right event that reveals how issues of extremism are affecting not just one city but the nation itself.

Mr. Signer sets the events on the ground-the lead-up to August’s “Unite the Right” rally, the days of the weekend itself, the aftermath-into the larger context of a country struggling to find its way through the Trump era.

Mike confronts some of the most pressing questions of our moment. How do we:

  • Reconcile free speech with the need for public order?
  • Maintain the values of pragmatism, compromise, even simple civility, in a time of intensification of extremes on the right and the left?
  • Address systemic racism through our public spaces and memorials?
  • Do something about the widespread disaffection with institutions and a democracy that seems to be faltering and turning on itself?

The siege of Charlottesville shows how easily our communities can be taken hostage by forces intent on destroying democratic norms and institutions. But Mike concludes with a stirring call for optimism, pointing out, with evidence drawn from Charlottesville and work it has spurred since, that even this tragedy contains an opportunity to bolster democracy from within and defend our very ability to govern.

Mike Signer served as the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, from 2016-2018 during the Unite the Right rally of 2017. The Washington Post wrote that he was “one of Trump’s strongest critics.” Afterward, he founded and chaired Communities Overcoming Extremism: the After Charlottesville Project, a bipartisan coalition including the Anti-Defamation League, the Ford Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, the Fetzer Institute, and New America. National Public Radio featured Mike’s work “sharing painful lessons from the fight against hate.”

Mike is VP and general counsel of the country’s largest independent digital design agency, where he sits on the firm’s executive committee. He has also taught for the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. He is the author of three books: Cry Havoc: Charlottesville and American Democracy under Siege (PublicAffairs, 2020), Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father (PublicAffairs, 2015), and Demagogue: the Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Time, and has been interviewed on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, The Rachel Maddow Show, AC360, and NPR.

He is a recipient of the Levenson Family Defender of Democracy Award from the Anti-Defamation League, the Courage in Political Leadership Award from the American Society for Yad Vashem, and the Rob DeBree & David O’Malley Award for Community Response to Hatred from the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Forward Magazine has named him one of 50 most influential Jewish leaders in America. He is an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow. He has been profiled by the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CNN, and the Guardian.

He lives with his wife and their twin five year old boys in Charlottesville. In his spare time, he enjoys running, reading, cooking, gardening, and being a jungle gym for his boys.

Mr. Signer spoke at the Wednesday May 13, 2020 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held on Zoom. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Board Member Peyton Williams.