By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
FRONT ROYAL, VA–Area Republican State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, recently pummeled by Warren County Report readers for his self-declared ‘War with the Eastern Box Turtle’ has set his sights on another slow-moving target, the Virginia Department of Transportation.
In a March 16 press release, Obenshain attacked VDOT for posting videos on YouTube that he says are a waste of tax money.
Obenshain’s release “expressed disappointment at learning that the cash-strapped department, which is cutting essential services to rural areas, is not so broke as to stop producing its own YouTube videos – some legitimate public service announcements, but others unadulterated examples of government waste.”
One example Obenshain cites is a video of kids sledding. Obenshain said that although VDOT officials “have insisted that limited funds give them no choice but to abandon all snow and ice removal on unpaved roads, the department had no trouble finding the resources to film children sledding during a recent snow. Instead of sending film crews to watch kids go sledding, VDOT should be clearing the roads to get those kids to school,” said Obenshain.
VDOT Chief of Communications Jeff Caldwell agrees that some of the videos are not “hard news” but says that they are an effective way to reach out to the masses. “We recognize that these are tough times. We are pulling back on traditional expensive media and are finding that social interactive web sites, like YouTube, are a great way to get our message out. Plus they are free,” he said.
Caldwell went on to say that the ‘kid’s sledding’ video was not shot with expensive “film crews,” as Obenshain claims but rather was taped by an off-duty videographer. The employee shot the video near his home with his own camera, Caldwell said.
Among the videos targeted by Obenshain’s release is one of bridge demolitions set to opera. Caldwell said that video was done using old footage and was created as a training exercise for employees working on a new video editing computer that had just been installed. “These types of videos are popular and cost us nothing to post. They draw in a lot of traffic and we find that some of those visitors will stick around and watch our other informational videos and messages about public safety,” Caldwell said.
The Obenshain release says the senator “unearthed VDOT’s YouTube Channel on Sunday.” Apparently not many people have unearthed the senator’s own YouTube channel. Regardless of who wins this debate, the YouTubers appear to have sided with VDOT. The bridge demolition set to opera video received about 130,000 views in it’s first 12 days. Obenshain’s latest YouTube video of the senator talking about the budget received 140 views in the same period.