Market savvy

Market savvy

Market savvy

Just wanted to say I enjoyed the article on the Charlottesville Black Market [“Go inside Charlottesville’s black market,” April 17, 2007]. As someone involved in that lifestyle I found it to be very accurate. Perhaps next you can do an article on the sentences given out for committing some of those crimes or for violating probation or parole. An item of interest might be how a drug addict (myself) who violated probation by not showing up for an appointment (absconding) was sentenced recently between Greene and Albemarle to a prison term of eight years and just two days later, Wednesday, April 25, a sex offender (pedophile) who violated his probation got only three years. How is that for justice in our legal system?

Or maybe you could do an article on the Public Defender’s Office and how when they are appointed to represent you the one and only time you see them is the day you go to court. Or how the jail is overcrowded yet they are bringing in inmates from Loudoun County to be housed here. Or how about the drugs, sex, illegal tattooing and gambling in prison and how is that supposed to make you a better person.

Does the general public know how high the recidivism rate is? Feel free to interview me at any time on any of the above.

Scott Dunn
Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail

Damner be damned

Dan Catalano has the right to his opinion on whether Tom Davis can “measure up” should he decide to run for the U.S. Senate ["The man who would be king," The Odd Dominion, May 1, 2007]. But Catalano doesn’t have the right to his own facts.

Catalano, a freelancer from New York, says “Davis’ congressional tenure has been marred by lax performance and allegations of influence peddling.” Almost nobody who covers Congress regularly would agree.

Davis has authored more than 100 bills that have been signed into law. Some rename post offices and widen roads in his district. But his D.C. Control Board Act saved home rule for Washington, D.C., and set the city on a sound financial track. His D.C. Revitalization Act closed Lorton Prison, an escape-prone complex in Fairfax County that housed D.C. felons. Its closure made way for three school sites and significant parkland.

He also authored legislation giving D.C. students in failing public schools scholarships to attend private schools and its high school graduates the opportunity to attend college anywhere at in-state rates. No state’s colleges have benefited from this more than Virginia’s. And he secured funding for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, a key component in maintaining the sanity of those who drive the East Coast.

He authored the Federal Information Security Management Act, which requires federal agencies to establish safeguards to protect the information Americans are compelled to share with government. He authored the Services Acquisition Reform Act, which changed the way the federal government purchases goods and services, resulting in billions in savings for taxpayers, and critical language on cooperative purchasing that allows state and local governments to harness the federal government’s buying power for IT products and services. Catalano is right that these aren’t sexy issues, but they make government more efficient, less expensive and more responsive.

Catalano says Rep. Davis, upon becoming chairman of the Government Reform Committee in 2003, turned it from “government watchdog into a lap dog.” Again, nobody who watches Congress closely would agree. In their book The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, congressional scholars Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann said: “But when George Bush became president, oversight largely disappeared. From homeland security to the conduct of the war in Iraq, from the torture issue uncovered by the Abu Ghraib revelations to the performance of the IRS, Congress has mostly ignored its responsibilities. The exceptions—for example, the bipartisan efforts in several areas by House Government Reform Committee Chair Tom Davis with his ranking member Henry Waxman—glaringly prove the rule.”

“A Failure of Initiative,” the Committee’s scathing report on the failure of governments at all levels to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina, won plaudits from both sides of the aisle, as well as the press, for its frankness and stark lack of pulled punches.

The Committee’s report on Jack Abramoff led to the resignation of Susan Ralston, secretary to Abramoff and, later, Karl Rove, for improperly accepting gifts. Catalano says Rep. Davis ignored “obvious political malfeasance” because he didn’t investigate the Valerie Plame affair. If he’d made any effort to contact Rep. Davis or his staff, Catalano would’ve found that the Committee interviewed Joe Wilson, husband of Plame, and was investigating until told to back off by the U.S. Aattorneys who were conducting criminal investigations at the time. This also explains why Rep. Davis called Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, but not Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi, to the baseball steroid hearings he conducted in March 2006.

Finally, there is the accusation of influence peddling. Catalano points to a “damning article” in The Washington Post last July about Rep. Davis’ connections—and those of his wife, State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis—to ICG Government, a Tysons Corner-based consulting firm. The Post sicced two of its top reporters on this “relationship” for months and ended up with 4,600 words that said almost nothing. “Damning” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But one has to wonder how damning it was when Rep. Davis’ aggressive opponent in last year’s election, Andrew Hurst, rarely mentioned it in the campaign. Perhaps that’s because the House Ethics Committee looked closely at the issue and found absolutely nothing improper.

Yes, Rep. Davis knows Donald Upson, head of ICG. Yes, Upson employs Mrs. Devolites Davis and did before she was married to Rep. Davis. But this is a two-income town. People have to work. In fact, 30 members of Congress are married to registered lobbyists, and Rep. Davis is not among them.

And yes, ICG Government has “access” to Rep. Davis. But so does everyone else in the 11th District and most everyone beyond its borders. He is one of the most accessible members of Congress. He makes hundreds of appearances each year on behalf of companies, individuals, organizations and groups of all kinds. It’s only natural that a man who represents a district whose economic engines are technology and government contracting be close to those in the technology and government contracting businesses. Even Mr. Hurst admitted in another Washington Post story during the campaign, “Everywhere I go, Tom has been there—twice.”

Tom Davis, like all politicians, understands that criticism comes with the job. But he, and those of us who work for him, suggest it ought to have some merit, and the author ought to have the professionalism, if not the decency, to get his side of the story pre-slam.

Brian McNicoll
Director of Communications
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

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Mind the minions

Great Day…another revelation of no planning leading to unintended consequences that cost the taxpayer in terms of things we must forego unless we are a developer [“Sewage holds back Albemarle Place,” Development News, April 24, 2007]. Albemarle Place follows a pattern where master planners, city planners and supervisors are play acting, showing their absence of know-how which we pay for.

Once again the template of decision-making is limited to the inputs of developers who lead the supervisors and their civil service minions around by the nose, and the only penalty is levied on the taxpayer who foots the bill—a mandated tax, bond, revenue enhancement etc., that takes away money without net benefits. Let’s call it the FOOLS TAX which pays for the fool-salaries.

If folks don’t think that these costs are real, look at your water bill, your trash bill, county taxes, tariffs and fees the locality puts on your utilities, on and on, all adding up to money spent which ruins household budgets and creates misery.

Let’s take the water bill as an example and look at the ACSA fee structure…if there are about 1.5 people in your household and you’re not watering your lawn, you are already being punished with a higher water/sewer usage fee. Why? The ACSA recital is that you are using too much water. The real answer is that the area water demand is stretching supply reserves, and anytime we have a tiny drought, the reservoirs get drained down quickly. Now isn’t that a sign that we are beyond supply limits? ACSA will tell the supervisors that the fee structure is only FAIR and that more reservoir capacity is needed. What they don’t tell you is that the supply to the reservoir is also limited.

It’s akin to a clear-cutting mindset that might wake up too late when the last tree is cut and the last drop of water is sucked out of the aquifers around Albemarle County. Connect the dots. The water demand which already exceeds supply is the result of development enabled by supervisors who don’t have a clue and are being fed incomplete data by their civil service minions—the city planners, the zoning folks etc. without the know-how to do city planning and zoning.

Some of the supervisors look to Richmond to solve our local problems. Bad idea! We know what our problems are and we made them by voting for incompetence.

Also think on this. Richmond needs water too and the front range Blue Ridge aquifers look pretty good to those Tidewater-folk. Think they won’t create canals from here to Richmond? O.K., look at Los Angeles fed by canals, hundreds of miles long, which have ruined the state of California, once known for its farmland now leached out into salt flats which grow nothing and lose top soil to wind erosion. Look at the once-great aquifers running along the front range of the Rockies feeding cities like Denver with its smog. It is happening here and nothing is done to stop it.

Tony Deivert

Sexual abuse sans sarcasm

The Advice Goddess’s recent column [“Diddle he or didn’t he?” April 24, 2007 (not on-line)] contains outrageous and dangerous misinformation. The letter-writer, “Uneasier,” states that “one in four women report having been raped or molested in childhood, and stepfathers play a prominent role in those statistics.” She is absolutely correct! Amy Alkon, “The Advice Goddess,” is sarcastically dismissive of this data and states that it is a “common misquote of a survey by radical feminist sociology professor Diana Russell.”

The truth is that at least one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, most often by a parent or step-parent. This is data that has been collected and verified in repeated studies over several decades.

In 2004, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control joined to present the First Congressional Briefing on the Epidemic of Child Sexual Abuse. These are not “radical feminist” organizations, using “substandard sampling techniques.” These prestigious medical and scientific professionals urged our Congress to study the long-term medical and mental health consequences of this serious problem and urged Congress to direct funding toward treatment and prevention.

Our own Virginia Department of Health did an extensive survey about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in our Commonwealth and found the same results.

The irony is that this column was published in April, “Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month.” Your readers, many of whom are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, deserve to know that they are believed and supported.

Joyce Allan

Amy Alkon replies: I have enormous sympathy for victims of child sexual abuse, but I don’t see how perpetuating an untruth helps them in any way. This “one in four” stat has been widely disseminated, and is repeated by some reputable organizations, but that doesn’t mean they checked out the methodology behind it. I did. I dismissed the data because it’s bad data—derived from biased questions and substandard methodology—as is that of others who came up with similar stats (Finkelhor, for example, whose work is used in the Virginia study Ms. Allan mentions). These researchers are respected mainly because nobody looks too hard at how they got their numbers, perhaps because the subject matter makes questioning their numbers taboo. To understand what, specifically, is wrong with their stats, read Welfare Justice by UC-Berkeley professor Neil Gilbert. Child sexual abuse is a terrible thing, but advocacy researchers like Russell trivialize real sexual abuse by giving the impression that nearly all women are victims—in turn, criminalizing being male and diverting funding and attention away from the real victims.

Mind meds

I know I speak for all of the staff of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia Department of Student Health in saying thanks to C-VILLE and Meg McEvoy for the outstanding article on student mental health, [“The Life of the Mind,” May 1, 2007]. We greatly appreciate the attention brought to bear on the challenges of recent years.
I write to correct one small error and to reassure readers. The psychiatric staff do not use Thorazine or any of the older antipsychotic medications. Students thought to possibly need medications are evaluated by the psychiatric staff, and if indicated, treated with the latest psychotropic medications.

Thanks again for the detailed attention to the issues raised by the Virginia Tech tragedy.

J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., Staff Psychiatrist
Counseling and Psychological Services
University of Virginia Department of Student Health

Ticking Tech-bomb

I am becoming increasingly concerned about comments in the media that Virginia Tech did everything it could to prevent the tragedy that unfolded there recently [“7 Days of Tech News,” April 24, 2007]. The United States has never had a tragedy where more blatant warning signs were available. While the school has suffered an immense loss, it is time to objectively examine their actions. When a university cashes the tuition check for a student and welcomes them into their campus community, they accept responsibility for the safety of that student on its campus. Surely the discovery of two students shot to death in a university dorm would warrant an automatic closing of college campus. Police made a horrendous rush to judgment in deciding they already had the killer (something it takes juries weeks to decide).

Tech is a large and open campus, making communication with the entire student body a challenge. Since when is it acceptable to forego a responsibility simply because the task is difficult? Surely our institutions of higher learning are capable of finding a workable solution. Today’s college students are equipped with cell phones and computers making them instantly accessible. Had the Tech students and professors arrived at the Norris building to find the doors locked and a sign posted cancelling classes, they would still be alive today. Sure, Cho may have attempted a shooting elsewhere. But an appropriate presence of campus police with help from local authorities on campus would have headed off any number of Cho’s possibilities, and ensured that students got word of the danger. While hindsight is 20/20, so is common sense.

Lastly, upon hearing the highly disturbed writings of this troubled young man, the school failed to get him the help he needed. Yes, this is a moral and ethical obligation of a university to its students. Professors should have referred him for a psychiatric evaluation and counseling with required follow-up. Mental illness is a treatable condition, and Cho himself was a victim of a system that failed to see his need for help. Sure, he could have refused treatment, and that should have resulted in removal from a campus community.
Have we learned nothing from September 11? How many tragedies will America have to undergo before we realize that sitting back and doing nothing when the warning signs are there is not an acceptable way to handle things?
Jenny Clark

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