Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Al Weed - Can a candidate be that wonderful?

As I've said before, I am researching both 5th District Democratic candidates and pointing out problems that I have with their platforms, backgrounds, and job records. I'm asking questions of the candidates and, as any potential constituent should, expecting answers.

I've spent some time researching Al Weed on the Internet. And, so far, I only find information telling how hard he's worked over the last three years both on his campaigns and to build up the Democratic base in the 5th District, how down-to-earth he is, and the many organizations to which he belongs or offers support. He’s appears to be a very busy man, as the events list on his website easily shows.

Despite losing to Virgil Goode in 2004, he has continued to work for the good of Southside Virginia. He obviously didn't go back to Nelson County to turn his back on the 5th District voters and lick his wounds. Nope--he established Public Policy Virginia with leftover campaign funds. The ideas he discusses at campaign events show that both thought and time have been invested in examining all aspects of problems he has observed in the district (and on the national level as well). He is knowledgeable about biofuels, veterans affairs, and health care. He cares about the environment, education and election reform. He has position papers available on what he calls his “vision.”

So, can a candidate be that wonderful? Based on my research thus far, I’d have to say “Yes.”


Bern Ewert made several comments on Saturday, February 25, in Danville about his work in civil rights (especially in the Charlottesville area). But, when I started looking into his time in Texas, a statement in a 1996 local Galveston paper struck me as odd. It said,

In an unusual arrangement, City Council decided Thursday to keep Ewert on as interim manager for a full year longer than planned when the Virginia-based consultant was hired in January to straighten out the city's serious financial problems.

Rather than name Ewert permanent city manager, council extended his contract 12 months beyond May 3.

Attorneys for the local League of United Latin American Citizens and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had sought a court order earlier Thursday to prevent Ewert's appointment as permanent manager.

Why would two minority groups be trying to prevent him from being hired permanently? While I don’t know all the details of this right now, it makes me wonder what I’ll find out by doing more digging.

Hey, check it out!

Bern Ewert told the Register & Bee reporter on Saturday that he had filed with the FEC. As of this morning, there is still no record of that on the official Elections Commission site. And, more interesting than that, is the fact that Bern’s name no longer appears on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) site showing the Virginia races either. According to the DCCC, "This website is updated the first business day of each week with the FEC filings."

Looks like the only people that may be fooled here are the state Democratic leaders, the 5th District's leadership and county chairmen and/or voters who will believe what he has said (in Richmond at the 5th District/Central Committee meetings) or what they read in the newspaper and who don't go check this information out for themselves.

For your convenience, I’ve included links in my sidebar to both the FEC and DCCC sites that show exactly what I’m talking about. You can use these links to check his status whenever you want. I know I’ll be using them.

By the way, still no response from Bern on my question sent by email yesterday. (Come to think of it, he still hasn't responded to some questions I sent to him personally on Saturday and forwarded to his webmaster on Sunday). Makes me wonder about the campaign staff he referred to in that same Register & Bee article. Just like with the FEC, saying it doesn't make it so.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Questions for the Candidates - Al Weed's Response

Thank you, Lisa, for your very constructive questions. As to switchgrass, they go to the heart of the challenge a non-incumbent has in fleshing out a legislative strategy that is something more than just signing on to an existing bill. It takes a while for an outsider to pin-point the pressure points in Congress. We are in contact with two or three organizations in DC who are helping us to identify the answers to your questions. We have been working on this for some time and are planning a press-event here in Danville for 6 March and expect to have a fleshed out strategy. Let me, though, answer those components now that I can.

  1. Legislative strategy - forthcoming
  2. Time line: Our concept is that a pilot plant could be built (or existing steam/power facilities -- In Danville there is the Bramsby plant owned by the city)and switchgrass could be purchased right away. There are over 5000 acres planted in Virginia today, but not all concentrated in Southside. That means the startup costs would include transportation subsidies that would decline as local plantings come on-line. This initial plant would produce steam and power, generating immediate cash flow. As farmers respond to the market the output of the pilot plant could be increased, and bio-mass for co-firing with coal could become an additional product. As output develops the supply issue will be solved and bio-fuel technology will be brought on line to convert the switchgrass to its highest market value product -- bio-diesel, bunker oil, ethanol, pellets for co-firing.
  3. The first steps could begin as soon as a steady source of funding was available. There is scope in the 2005 Energy Bill to provide such funds, the Tobacco Commission is interested and the State, if it commits to buying fuel for co-firing, could also be a source. The very first step would be to fund an engineering study, but this is something for which DOE grant funding has been requested by a group in Charlottesville that I am working with via Public Policy Virginia.

Thank you, Al, for such a timely response. I look forward to hearing more of your plans after the March 6 event.

Questions for the Candidates--Part 1 (my email of 2/27/2006)

Today’s questions involve your opening segments from Saturday and your responses about tobacco and jobs. I have separate questions for each of you regarding this:


As a former agriculture teacher in Cumberland County, I found your biofuel/switch grass proposal interesting as an alternative to tobacco. It appears to be well thought out. My questions:

  1. Please briefly outline what Federal and/or state agriculture, policy, and tax changes would be necessary in order to make that plan more likely to achieve successful implementation in Southside Virginia.
  2. Knowing that there is a 3-year timeline for crops to reach maturity, how many acres of switch grass would be needed and how long do you estimate it would take for such a plant to be fully operational?
  3. In addition, what Federal and/or state funds are currently available for farmers looking to make the change from tobacco to crops supporting this proposition?


I can understand your opening emphasis on jobs while speaking to an audience in Danville. I can also see why you would continually emphasis your “work” in civil rights, given the physical make-up of the group. Therefore, I have two questions for you in this area:

  1. You cited the fact on Saturday that African Americans and divorced women were not in management positions in Charlottesville when you arrived there in 1971. At the risk of you possibly being accused of pandering to the crowd with your comments and being a divorced woman myself, I would like to know: How many African Americans and divorced women were in management positions when you left Charlottesville?
  2. You continually push regional economic development as a way to bring jobs to the Danville and Southside Virginia area. Personally, I see this as just another layer of bureaucracy in an area that needs answers now. Many of the localities already possess the information that such a council/committee would be charged with obtaining. What makes your proposal not just a repetition of work already done in this area? I also find the whole idea as presented very vague, hence my question: Briefly outline the regional economic development entity you have in mind. Please include:

· a demographic/geographic description of the localities/groups/individuals that should be included;

· a tentative timeline for: the creation of the group, the amount of time for them to gather data, and the tentative date that 5th district constituents could expect new businesses/jobs to locate and/or be created in the area; and

· an outline not only of what the group will be doing, but their basic budgetary needs as well.

Thank you both for your time. I’ll be posting this email (and your responses when I receive them) on my blog Honesty Counts.

Emailing the Candidates--and Publishing Their Responses

I have emailed both Democratic Congressional candidates for the 5th district about my intention to send them questions and concerns that I have, which I would like further clarified. Over the next few weeks I will be publishing both my emails to them--and their responses to me.
Sharing this information across the district will allow more people to focus on the issues in this race. I hope I hit your hot button issue. If not, just let me know. I'll be glad to add your questions to my list. : )

Sunday, February 26, 2006

That "Famous" Bern Ewert Temper

Yesterday I attended a “meet and greet” breakfast meeting at Ryan’s Steakhouse in Danville VA. I went with the purpose of listening to the current 5th Congressional District Democratic candidates for the office held by Virgil Goode. Having already done my research on both candidates, I admit to being a little distressed with what I had found out. Needless to say, that research was the basis of the question I asked Bern (and which I had written down upon arriving at Ryan’s):

Having lived in this district for 22 years and having voted for the Democrat Virgil Goode several times, I feel personally burned by his defection to the Republican Party and what I see as his lack of honesty in the recent revelations from Washington. So I am very interested in seeing Virgil replaced. In my personal research of the current Democratic candidates, I found several pieces of information mentioned about you that are stressful to me, given the recent 5th District history. (1) Opensecrets.org, which is associated with the FEC, shows a $500 donation to a Republican Congressman from Michigan and (2) I found documentation that you had also considered running for Congress in 1987—as a Republican. My question: How can 5th District Democrats be assured that you will also not defect to the Republican Party?

He quickly blew off my question by citing that the Republican donation was just a business- associated investment associated with a project being completed in Northern Virginia and admitting that he had “lost his mind for a couple of weeks.” He went on to say that he stands on his record and that “Dickie” Cranwell, the State Democratic Chairman, has endorsed him and has known him for 30 years. (Unfortunately, I have questions about a lot of that, too—and will be discussing my feelings and research in later postings).

After the meeting, I stopped outside the room near my friend, who was talking to the other Democratic candidate Al Weed (a man I had previously been introduced to only once—during his 2004 Congressional race against Virgil). Bern walked up to me and immediately asked if I was a member of Al’s campaign. Needless to say, that assumption made me very annoyed and I replied that I was a member of the Cumberland County (VA) Democratic Committee. During our ensuing conversation, I told him that the Republican issue was only one of the questions I had about the research I had done on him. As he gave me a business card and told me to call him about my concerns, he asked me what those other concerns were. I mentioned Explore Park and the fact that his two resumes don’t mention his exact duties in regards to the Park. He attempted to blow me off with some facts and figures about the Park, but I got the impression that my comebacks (based on research I had done) showed that I knew more than he thought.

I told him that I felt he should be presenting his entire employment record for the 5th District voters to examine—and, as he was digging in his bag, he told me that I was overreacting to the situation. He pulled out a resume (the same one handed out by Katherine Turner of Bedford at the 5th District/Central Committee meetings in Richmond) and proceeded to show me that Explore Park was listed under his company’s name—Ewert and Company. I told him that being a director of Explore Park was a lot different than just saying his company worked on the project. I told him that his resume shouldn’t just list what makes him feel good and look good as a candidate. He disagreed vehemently again and I left, after asking if I could take the resume with me.

Needless to say, I’m still annoyed—as much about his assumption that I work for the Weed campaign as the high-handed manner in which he discussed his irritation about my question with me. Unfortunately, for Bern, his irritation for having his actions/recommendations questioned and his lack of “people skills” have been mentioned before—in several online newspaper articles and web logs that I have researched (including today’s Danville Register & Bee).

· A July 20, 2003, comment by the Peoria Pundit about Bern when he was interim city manager was “I haven’t been particularly impressed with Ewert. He’s a go-along, get-along guy, and sits there at council meetings with a sour look on his face, like its (sic) an affront to his dignity to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with his recommendations.

· In August 2003, the Pundit says, “In his last official act as interim city manager, Bern Ewert displayed, once again, his unwillingness to follow the explicit instructions of the
majority of the council when the instructions conflict with the wished of the pro-economic development crowd.”

· A January 24, 2004, blog listing by the Pundit referenced a Peoria Star Journal article which said, “Bern Ewert, the Savior of Economic Development, is not beloved everywhere. The former /temporary/ city manager is being touted by Mayor Dave Ransburg to head the Peoria Civic Federation. But it’s a hard sell. It seems that the movers and shakers found Ewert’s tenure a little too contentious for their tastes. So did some of the other people he’s worked with before. Kudos to Jennifer Davis (a Star Journal reporter) for digging up the information.”

· The Peoria Star Journal’s Davis even mentioned his current Congressional race in a February 6, 2006, online article with this comment: “Bern Ewert, a Virginia-based former city manager and private consultant for government, was either heralded or hated during his five-month stint here in 2003 as Peoria's city interim manager.

· Even Waldo Jacquith says about Bern: “He’s prickly and seems to lack the people skills that, for example, Al Weed has.”

· Who’s who in Galveston says Bern left his acting city manager position “after failing to respect certain sacred cows.

These shortcomings have also been cited as reasons his contracts with various localities have not been renewed at times. So, I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised by his manner yesterday morning—just ticked off.

I still contend that Bern Ewert should disclose his entire employment history to 5th District constituents and take credit for even his failures. And why he should think that his skeletons [giving money to a Republican Congressman from Michigan (one wonders why) and thinking of running for Congress in 1987—as a Republican, no less] would remain in the closet in this day and age is beyond me. Even Jack Ryan (R-IL—and supported by Virginia’s own George Allen) found this out the hard way in his campaign against Barack Obama. Wake up, Bern—it’s the 21st century!

Welcome to Honesty Counts!

I'm looking for a few honest candidates! What a shame that's becoming harder to find all the time. From the scandals rocking Washington to the lies and/or omissions in the local races, I'm fed up. If you're tired of it, too--then this is the blog for you. Join me as I let you in on the research I'm doing.