We have a Budget!

I do routinely take some delight in skewering the General Assembly for their foibles – the budget and ethics laws are usual targets. However, credit where credit is due: The General Assembly appears to have passed a budget that everyone can live with. It’s a budget somewhat reduced from the proposed 2 year budget but it’s a bit higher than was thought some months ago. Hopefully Terrence will see fit to sign it. We also have ethics legislation that passed. It wasn’t as tough as I would like but that’s the way government works…compromise.

Thanks to our guys, Jackson Miller and Mr. Colgan for their work in Richmond.

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The College Tour

We're getting close.  Close to that time when the daughter is going to have to make an important life decision.  A life decision that the 'rents can't make for her.  We can get her to the vicinity of the decision – this ain't horse shoes but close also counts when it comes to parental involvement in life decisions.  To this end and in pursuit of my parental duties I agreed to take her on a whirlwind tour of colleges in Virginia.  Well, three colleges anyway.  It was quite an experience.  The weather chased us the entire length of the state but we managed to stay one step ahead the entire way!  Of course, when you go college touring with my daughter you must be prepared for just awful weather.  

So, we motored down I-66 to 81 – the "college highway".  There must have been a state law at some point that all colleges would be built along I-81.  There are a ridiculous number of them but we were looking at two: Mary Baldwin and Hollins.  We've previously been to many of the other schools and these two institutions had both offered Erin a decent scholarship.  Not sure that either one was the right fit but we had an invite at Hollins to interview for a more august level of scholarship so we figured we'd take it.  The experience is worth the time.

First up was Mary Baldwin.  We've been accepted to Mary Baldwin but didn't really know much about it.  There was no organized activity at MBC so we just drove around campus.  It's a nice looking facility but it is hilly!  Having checked that box, we went to stay overnight at Hotel Roanoke.  What a great hotel that is and the way that Roanoke has built up that downtown area is just fabulous.  We arrived about 30 minutes before the snow / wind storm kicked into high gear.  Thankfully it didn't last long – we were driving a rear-wheel drive car!

The next morning we went to Hollins.  I admit to not knowing a hell of a lot about Hollins other than it is all women and that they have a riding team.  That seems like a fair breeding ground for a bunch of snobs and I'm sure that they're there somewhere but all of the women we had occasion to talk to were pretty ordinary peeps.  Sitting in the dining hall (really nice btw) and watching the kids interact, it's pretty clear that the school makes a serious effort to recruit all kinds of women.  The Hollins tour and presentations were well-executed and highly informative.  Beautiful campus.  It was actually a 2 day event but the next day we had to run over to VCU for an accepted students event.  So, along about 2 we left Hollins.


Stairs to the Lobby

Richmond is an easy drive from Roanoke and 64 is pretty relaxed so I let my daughter drive part of the way.  The first time she's driven on a "fast road".  She did great but she sure was nervous.  We rolled into Richmond and I had used some card points to get us a room at the Jefferson.  What a marble barn that place is!  My thoughts on the Jefferson in a nutshell: check-in was great.  Service was slow.  Room was large but the heater couldn't keep it warm.  Food was great.  There's signs of faded glory creeping in.  I'd go back to eat but would not stay there again.  Wasn't worth it.  

The next morning we were up and off to VCU for some more education about the school.  They sent the kids to one auditorium and the parents to another.  VCU is always a tough school to fathom.  It's pretty large and mixed right into the surrounding city.  The daughter thought the students portion of the program was pretty good but I thought the parents one was horrid.  We were in an auditorium that had a 30 foot tall screen (top picture) but there was no presentation.  The Dean of the college spoke and his preperation consisted of a crumpled sheet of paper with some notes.  I've never been impressed with a VCU event and this one was no different.  I felt that if I'm investing a day of my life in this thing the least they could do is to prepare a little.  I'm sure the college itself is just fine but I don't know why they don't go the extra mile on the front end.  Hollins just murdered VCU in that respect.  The event went on for awhile after lunch but we had to blow outta there as the first of 2 snow storms were approaching.  Good thing we left when we did.  When we took the exit for 234 off of 95 the snow was starting to stick!

still waiting to hear from Va Tech and William & Mary…

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Some School Board Baseball

Looks like the School Board is having themselves some fun with the appointment process!  Glad to see that there were, what, 9 people that applied?  That's a good number.  A couple of those folks called to ask me to have a chat and I was happy to do that.  I think that 1 or 2 of those folks could be future leaders for our City!  I've been through the appointment process twice and it was a lot of work.

However, based on the number of Facebook screenshots that have been forwarded to me some number of people seem not to appreciate the process.  Some folks, including members of Council, have had some pretty critical things to say about the schools in general and the nomination process in particular.  That is, of course, their right and I understand that there are those that have little use for the schools and believe them to be an exercise in futility.  However, not everyone believes that and I'd be pretty careful when making accusations about some part of the process being illegal.  That is much more than a policy difference.

As I understand it, one of the issues is that the interviews are not televised.  I'm with those that would prefer that the interviews be televised but that isn't in the cards and I can live with it.  The interview meetings are public meetings and the public is invited.  Could the School Board put web cams in their conference room to stream each meeting up there?  Sure, but so could the City Council in their second floor conference room.  The place where most of the hard policy debates take place is in that second floor conference room.  It wouldn't even cost the citizens any money for the Council to televise their meetings on the second floor.  There's a thing called the "PEG Fund" that is funded by payments from Comcast and Verizon.  I tried to get the Council to use that money to televise our meetings in the conference room and got exactly zero interest.  So, no, they don't need to be televised.  Would it be nice?  Sure.  However, it is a public meeting.  If you're that interested, stop bellyaching and drag your butt over there.

The other thing I'm reading is that some part of the closed meeting portion of the appointment process is somehow illegal.  That would be true if 1 of 2 things happened: there was a ballot taken in the closed meeting or things not mentioned on the closed meeting motion are discussed during the closed meeting.  Those things are under the direct control of the Chair and Tim is an ethical man that I have known for a long time.  I trust him completely and have no doubt that he will run that closed meeting by the rules.  Having been through the process twice myself I can tell you that the Council never took a vote in a closed meeting but we did take what we called a "straw poll".  It's really better characterized as a "sense of the Council".  It has never been suggested that the Council process was in any way "illegal" so 'm sure the School Board will do the same thing.

The other bad thing that can happen is that someone who was in the closed meeting talks out of school.  Trust me, only bad things happen when someone breaches the trust of their colleagues.  These deliberations are doubly sensitive because board members will be discussing people, not issues. 

Closed meetings are always fodder for the critics and this seems to be no exception.  However, I wonder if the aim here isn't so much about the process as it is to impeach the results before the vote is even taken?

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Parrish for Senate!

At long last!  I have been hoping that Hal would run for Mr. Colgan's senate seat and what do I see when I open the facetube this morning?  It's official.  Hal's in.

I'm glad to see that it's official.  Hal's a good guy and he will always do what is in Manassas' best interest.  I know that he will continue Mr. Colgan's support of the City.  It is always comforting to know that your representatives in higher office are absolutely dedicated to the City.  We might not always agree on policy but that's ok.  Hal's long record of service to the community is admirable and, while I think he's got big shoes to fill, he's more than capable.

Hope that everyone gets onboard and supports Hal.  I know that I do.

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I've never been big on "milestone" birthdays.  When I turned 40 my wife got together a group a friends, rented a limo, and we went Vineyard hopping.  That was great fun until I decided it would be a good idea to go for a little skateboard ride.  That episode had a predictable ending.

I'm now 48 and will be 49 in June.  For whatever reason my 50th birthday looms large in my mind.  I don't think that I'm "afraid" of turning 50.  That's just a date on the calendar.  I think it's a fear of aging.  The late 40's – early 50's seem to be another shadowy line in life.  The first 20 some years of life are pretty easy.  Mostly you're healthy and everything just works.  Yes, there are some tragic deaths but most of those are of the accidental variety.  After that, everyone starts having children.  Again, some issues with miscarriages and fertility challenges which can cause a fair amount of mental anguish but the sun will shine.  Might have some challenges in late 30's as your doctor starts to fuss about your weight or blood pressure.  But usually not serious.  

Depending on when you elected to start churning out children, the late 40's can be a real golden time of life.  The early in life marriages have dissolved and the participants have re-married.  Most of the marriages that are still intact are stable.  People at this stage of life have developed a pretty firm sense of self and know when they're comfortable in a room.  So, by now, you've usually gravitated towards people who you can stand (except for family events) and have a good time with.  Again, at this age everything in your body still works ok.  The ladies in the crowd might be going through some changes and the dudes are aging a bit but that stuff is largely tolerable.  You can still pee standing up and sex typically has fewer consequences.  If you can stay awake.  (changing voices a bit)

However, the storm clouds aren't all that far off – (and I'm tempting fate here) there are a couple of friends lost to heart attacks and some cancers.  Your doctor is crabbing at you about your weight or blood pressure.  Cancer becomes scary as hell because it's real and largely invisible – until it isn't.  I well remember thinking about aging when I got my first real job out of college.  I was about 25 and thought, "holy hell.  I have a work life in front of my that is at least as long as I've already been alive.  That seems like a long time."  Well, I'm at that finish line now.

For me, I'm still young enough that I can work all day, hit the gym and then blast over to Bad Wolf on Wednesday night, knock back a couple pints with my peeps and be square in the a.m.  My crowd are all late 40's-ish and it's great.  We fight about politics, pop culture and everything else and then laugh it off.  Everyone's been to the show already – we've all had babies, raised (or are raising) kids, bought a new car and took a bath when we sold it, bought a house, had low points and high points and all of that other jazz.  It makes for an easy crowd to slip in to.   

But I worry.  I worry what it's going to be like to age.  In fact, it occurs to me that the preceding paragraphs are really an unconscious rendering of the reality that it is relatively easy to slip into middle-age.  I think it gets a lot harder from here on out.


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