For years politicians have run on calls for “blue ribbon” panels and commissions to target government fraud and waste. However, often times the calls either day in the hands of legislators unwilling to anger bueracrats or do little but add to the noise. Although Mark Obenshain has called for an official independent audit of VDOT, he’s also decided to put the issue of waste at VDOT into the hands of the people it most effects:
Obenshain’s new website, located at www.vdotwaste.com, provides an avenue for Virginians to do just that, reporting waste and unnecessary projects. “We’ll look into every tip sent our way,” said Obenshain, “and where there’s waste, we’ll publicize it and hold VDOT’s feet to the fire.” It will also serve as a community building support for a formal audit of the Department.
“I don’t do this just to pick a fight,” added Obenshain. “My constituents, and people across this Commonwealth, will suffer if VDOT’s central office bureaucrats in Richmond downgrade its maintenance standards and board up rest areas across the Commonwealth. Before they create potentially unsafe conditions, officials at VDOT should make every effort to ensure that each dollar is being spent wisely. The people of this Commonwealth deserve nothing less.”
The “Expose VDOT Waste” website has a companion Facebook group, launched last Friday, which already boasts over 350 members. Integrated with the website, www.vdotwaste.com, it offers Facebook users an opportunity to express their support for transparency and fiscal responsibility at VDOT, and to share their own accounts of VDOT waste and mismanagement. The Facebook group is located at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=50843179057
For years exposing problems in government has been the domain of insiders gaining the courage to speak out and talk to the media. However, now with constantly lowering thresholds for common citizens to become involved in the process, both in terms of increased free-time and technology, these sorts of efforts are gaining unprecedented involvement from concerned citizen activists.
So if you’re out there and see VDOT doing something silly, write it down, or better yet, if you have a camera, snap some pictures, and do your part to expose waster and fraud in the department that is supposed to keep our Commonwealth moving. Remember: it’s not the workers we’re after–it’s the tax hu
I spent last night with 176 of my fellow Shenandoah County Republicans at our Annual Lincoln Day Dinner. The crowd was the largest its been in years, the food from Shaffer’s catering wonderful (as always), and the speakers electric. I’m working on getting some video up, but there’s one thing I wanted to comment on while I’m getting some of that up.
As I noted the other day, Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Todd Gilbert have been taking VDOT to task for holding rural Virginia hostage in order to provoke legislators into supporting a tax increase, all while the General Assembly has been unable to get an independent audit of the department conducted. Delegate Gilbert devoted most of his speech to the topic, noting some of the waste during the inaugural while calling again for an independent audit.
Well, from Mark Obenshain’s office, via Tertium Quids, we have word that VDOT is playing its hand as towards where some of the money is going. It appears that, while making the decision to cut services in rural Virginia, there’s plenty of time and money for the department to launch its very own YouTube channel. There, you can watch scenes from the last winter storm (if your local news station and the Weather channel just weren’t enough):
Learn about the Norris Bridge Festival:
And watch five years worth of bridget demolitions, both with natural sound:
And set to OPERA!
Look, some of these videos are good public service announcements, but are they really best distributed via YouTube? The video on workzone safety should be required watching for every high school driver’s ed class, yet I never recall seeing it. Does VDOT really expect to be able to get the public’s attention this way when videos of laughing babies and dancing cats have hits in the millions? A number of the videos are self-serving promotional materials, but should a department with giant orange trucks really have a PR problem? Well, I suppose if it had no idea how to manage it’s money it might…..
YouTube doesn’t charge a fee, but I’m sure that the videographers who either work for the department or are contracted do. VDOTs maintenance workers are fine, hardworking people who take pride in their work. The problem here is with the bureaucracy. They are making cuts that will cripple rural Virginia, all the while not making such non-essential expenditures clear. Call your Delegate and Senator now and demand an independent audit of VDOT.
There’s a perennial debate in this country about whether or not we need, in this day of electronic commerce and nickel candy, the smallest and most maligned of all the coins, the penny. However, this debate has resurfaced thanks to the rollout of four new designs for the penny in celebration of the great leader whose countenance graces the coin, Abraham Lincoln. From The Washington Times:
As an “act of civil disobedience” among the scones, Concord Teacakes became the first retailer in the nation Thursday to refuse to accept pennies as payment, rounding down all transactions to bypass small change.
“We believe that Lincoln himself would support our emancipation from the slavery of the mining lobby, which is behind the continued minting of pennies,” said Al Lewis, who organized the protest in the historic Massachusetts town with bakery owner Judy Fersch. A half dozen neighboring businesses have joined in.
Pennies at the cash register wastes time, and time is money, Mr. Lewis said, adding that there’s an excess of 3,000 pennies per American, prompting people to horde the coins – or throw them away.
From the PilotOnline:
The House Rules Committee on Tuesday killed three resolutions to confer the status on various songs composed by Virginians.
The state has been without a tune since 1997, when “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was retired because of its lyrics. The song is about a slave fondly recalling the days toiling for “old Massa.”
The Rules Committee for years has been hearing and rejecting potential new state songs.
Actually, its not just the Rules Committee that suffers through greatly enjoys listening to potential offerings. The year I worked in Richmond, there were at least three CDs that came through the office with potential offerings on them. I know that replacing the song has been a pet project of “beloved” State Senator Emmett Hanger, but, come on. Number one, do we really have to out and out replace the state song? Wouldn’t a few changes have fixed the two? Number two, twelve years???? It’s been twelve years, and from my research no less than 23 songs have been considered by the Senate and the House regarding the state song.
However, this doesn’t even include the hard work of the State Song Sub-Committee of the Virginia Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relation. This is the group that worked for 2 YEARS to first whittle the list down to 59 songs then to eight grand finalists. They ran into some flack over Jimmy Dean’s submission being favored and again when another contestant didn’t want to sign over the rights to his song, and then the Committee was abolished in 2004. Apparently, according to the Washington Post, it was only due to the fact that the committee lost the staff person who was keeping track of the votes during that year’s budget crisis.
Your tax dollars in action. Just pick a damn song already! I don’t even care if its “Meet Virginia” by Train at this point. At least it has the state’s name in it.
While the state government continues to cut aid for local government and many localities are facing epic shortfalls, New Market is keeping things light by focusing on a town slogan. From the NVDaily:
Through Feb. 18, residents can vote for one of 28 slogans to describe their town. The options on the ballot were all submitted by residents as part of a contest created by Mayor Larry Smith.
“We want something to characterize the town, something that will capture the essence of New Market,” he said.
Smith said after visiting towns in Northern Virginia that had slogans, he wanted to apply the same concept to New Market. The response from the community was as positive as he could have wanted, he said.
Smith said he has no preference on which motto wins. The winner — the names of those who submitted each idea are not on the ballot — will get his or her water bill paid for a month, not to exceed $75, and the slogan might be placed at the bottom of the gateway signs at the edges of town.
While the contest certainly seems like fun and there are some great submissions, is this the sort of effort that the town government should really be focusing on during an ever deepening recession? Even if it is just the time of the town clerks to count ballots, the $75 for a water bill, and new signs, this sets a bad precedent and underscores the belief that, somehow, pretty words and sights will bring business to a town.
Here’s my suggestion for a slogan: “New Market-Where government waste lives on”