McDonnell vetoes gerrymandered redistricting plan (FULL TEXT)

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By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Gov. Bob McDonnell has vetoed General Assembly redistricting plans saying that he has “significant issues” with the senate reapportionment plan.

While the House of Delegates redistricting plan passed with bipartisan support, the senate plan was criticized for efforts to gerrymander democrats into safe districts and put four Republican senators into two districts. In one case, Sen. Steve Newman of Forest and Sen. Ralph Smith of Roanoke were put into a sprawling district that would have been a four hour round trip from Lynchburg to the West Virginia state line with much of the path through Jefferson National Forest.

In vetoing House Bill 5001, McDonnell sent both chambers’ plans back since they were in the same bill. While McDonnell indicated that the house plan would benefit from some tweaking, the Republican Gov. praised its less partisan approach.

Specifically, McDonnell said the proposed senate districts were not compact and did not properly preserve locality lines and communities of interest.

In a statement released shortly after McDonnell’s announcement, Sen. Newman said McDonnel’s veto was “a wise decision given the impact the Senate plan would have imposed on many of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

“If an individual near the West Virginia border must travel to Central Virginia to see his or her state senator, a part of our democracy is lost. Similarly if a person on Main Street in Lynchburg must seek out their state senator down near the North Carolina border when three other senators are closer, it diminishes trust in the representative system,” he said.

The Senate plan passed on a straight party-line vote.

Redistricting plans are available online here.

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm  Comments (1)  

Obama holding military families hostage, Trump the ‘Apprentice Candidate’ – Gingrich

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Audio and transcript at

LYNCHBURG – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama is holding military families hostage in his budget battle with House Republicans and said that potential Republican rival Donald Trump’s newest show is ‘being Apprentice Candidate.’

Speaking at The Awakening 2011 conference at Liberty University on the eve of a potential government shutdown Apr. 8, the potential Republican presidential hopeful said that the government “doesn’t have to shut down today if the President is willing to work with the House Republicans one, to not have the military as a hostage, which as an army brat I find very offensive. I mean this idea that he won’t pay for the military for a year and take care of military families while they’re risking their lives for America I find, frankly, pretty darned offensive.”

Gingrich faced his own budget showdown with former President Bill Clinton that led to a government shutdown in 1995. He had some advice for the current president and Speaker John Boehner. “Maybe they’d be better off to break the bill into three or four components and try to solve one of them a week and keep the government rolling one week at a time. That might be the most practical way to do it. I don’t think a shutdown is unavoidable but of course they are running out of time,” he said.

Gingrich said he thinks blame for a shutdown will split along ideological lines but that most Americans think the government is spending too much money. “ Virtually every survey says the American people want a smaller deficit and less spending and they want a smaller government in Washington. I know of no survey that doesn’t generally say the country thinks this scale of deficit is impossible to sustain and so I would say the country will ultimately sort it out,” he said.

Gingrich laughed when asked his thoughts on fellow Republican Donald Trump’s statement that he had a ‘team of investigators’ combing through records in search of President Obama’s birth certificate. “I think that the Donald is such an interesting person in every way that being ‘Apprentice Candidate’ is his newest show. He’s a terrific guy. He adds a lot to the race. I can’t imagine what he’ll announce by tomorrow. He’s very inventive and I think frankly for a Republican party that is sometimes a little bit dull having somebody like Trump hang out is going to guarantee that you all have a lot more to cover. I think he is seriously inventive and I think he will have many things, none of which I intend to comment on,” he said.

Audio and transcript at

Published in: on April 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm  Comments (5)  

(AUDIO) McDonnell talks Clay Athey, Steve Newman, redistricting, Jens Soering, Va. Retirement System, autism and VCU

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

LYNCHBURG — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell spoke to reporters Wed. March 30 at a ribbon cutting in Lynchburg just one day after Senate Democrats and House Republicans released their respective plans for new legislative lines in the Commonwealth.

The senate plan groups four Republicans into two senate districts. In one case, Sen. Steve Newman’s district runs two hours from Lynchburg through the Jefferson National Forest to the West Virginia state line and includes the home of Sen. Ralph Smith.

McDonnell said he hadn’t looked at the plans closely but said they must be contiguous, compact and meet the legal qualifications of the Federal Voting Rights Act.

Gov. McDonnell addressed his long-time advisor and colleague Del. Clay Athey’s decision not to seek re-election this fall. McDonnell said Athey indicated that he would most likely retire two months ago and his Warren County district has been divided among four neighboring delegates.

McDonnell said the Virginia Retirement system needs to be changed or it will run out of money and that convicted murderer Jens Soering should remain in prison and in Virginia.

McDonnell says he has made several recommendations for changes to a bill for autism insurance and that he is headed for Texas Saturday to watch the VCU game.

Complete transcript and audio are at

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Warren County split into three Delegate districts

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Va. Del. Chris Jones has released the Republican plan for redistricting of the 100 House of Delegates districts. Del. Clay Athey’s district 18 has been split into at least three pieces. See story on Del. Athey’s political retirement.

Current House District 18 (Del. Athey’s district)

Proposed new House districts splitting Warren County

Related stories:

Athey ending House of Delegates career

Gov. McDonnell statement on Athey House retirement

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 11:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Gov. McDonnell statement on Athey House retirement

Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today regarding the announcement that Del. Clifford L. “Clay” Athey, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, will not seek re-election to the House of Delegates this fall:

“Clay has been a trusted representative of his constituents in Warren, Frederick and Fauquier counties, a valued associate, and a good friend during his decade of service to the Commonwealth in the Virginia House of Delegates. His dedication to his constituents is reflective of the type of person he is, and his decision to focus on his young children Madagan and Clayton and his loving wife Stacey demonstrate the values, honesty and focus that have made him a principled and highly effective legislator.

“Clay has been a solid leader and advocate while serving as the vice chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, and as an active partner on the Education, Health, Welfare and Institutions, and Militia, Police and Public Safety committees.

“His energetic, focused, and strong leadership on a host of issues throughout his tenure has been highly effective in protecting the interests and safety of his constituents and Virginians statewide. Clay’s passion for public service and his keen intellect will be missed in the General Assembly, but will serve as a lasting inspiration to all of those with whom he served.

“I wish Clay the very best in his future endeavors, and thank him for his tremendous service to the people of the Commonwealth.”

Related: Athey ending House of Delegates career

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 7:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Athey ending House of Delegates career

Del. Clifford L. “Clay” Athey, Jr. (R-Warren), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, announced today that he would not be seeking re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates this fall.

Athey commented:

“Following discussions with my family and my colleagues in the General Assembly over the last several months, I have decided not to seek the nomination of my party for a sixth term representing the citizens of Warren, Frederick, and Fauquier County in the Virginia House of Delegates.”

“In the forefront of this family decision is the fact that our children, Madagan and Clayton, who will turn five years old next week, will be attending Kindergarten at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School beginning in September. Since another term in Richmond would require me to be away from my children more than I am willing to endure, Stacey and I decided that standing for re-election at this time would not be in our family’s best interest. To stand for re-election when I believe my children need my undivided attention would be contrary to the values I learned by example from my parents, Phyllis Madagan Athey and Lynwood Athey, as a young boy growing up in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Athey added:

“Although I will certainly miss working with all of my friends at the General Assembly beginning the second Wednesday of each January, I am heartened by the knowledge that the close friendships forged during times of crises and accomplishment over the last ten years can never be extinguished. I will always respect and admire my colleagues in the General Assembly for their commitment to public service and I am sure that the heartfelt feelings of friendship and loyalty we have for our General Assembly family, on both sides of the aisle and in both bodies, shall endure for the rest of our lives”

Athey concluded:

“Finally, the Athey family shall always be appreciative and grateful for the opportunity afforded to us by our constituents during our ten year tenure as their voice in Richmond. Although I am not seeking re-election, our family remains committed to public service as a high calling. Without question, Stacey and I would recommend a life in public service to any young person of high ideals. However, as families in Warren, Frederick, and Fauquier County well understand, the most important task in my family’s life is the proper Christian upbringing of these two precocious, precious, inquisitive and intelligent children who our blessed Savior brought into our lives almost five years ago. Therefore any future public service commitment for our family must necessarily allow their father to be at home in the evenings and on weekends to attend their various games and events.”

Related: Gov. McDonnell statement on Athey House retirement

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Town gets its terms on Dominion Power H2O

Dominion Power Director of Business Development John Ragone and Front Royal Town Councilman Shae Parker shake on a deal for central water and sewer to Dominion's billion-dollar business investment in this community.

Absent Conkey blasts county silence on help with corridor expenses

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

After two weeks of intense negotiations the Front Royal Town Council approved a final version of a contract to provide central water and sewer service to Dominion Power/VEPCO’s gas-fired electrical generating facility in Warren County’s 522 North Industrial-Commercial Corridor. The planned power plant formerly known as CPV-Warren since being introduced as a means of helping meet future eastern, urban corridor power needs in 2002, is now targeted for a 2015 or 2016 opening following a 2-1/2 to 3-year construction period.

The vote came at a Special Meeting called for March 7th in the midst of a previously scheduled town council work session. The 5-0 vote, Tom Conkey was absent, came after some last minute closed session discussion. The only substantive change in the terms of the contract originally on the table since a Feb. 22nd work session was a wording change that the removed the description of the town water service as essentially an accommodation to the customer while the town has “excess capacity” in its water supply.

As explained by officials on both sides of the negotiation, that change was requested by Dominion, which did not want to go before a pending State Corporation Committee rate hearing with a utility contract essentially stating the plant’s water service could be terminated by the provider – the Town of Front Royal – at any time it deemed its water service as exclusively needed by in-town customers. The lifespan of the plant has been estimated by Dominion at half a century.

Despite not getting an additional five years of in-town service rates to compensate for a requested total of $5.4 million in up-front expenses, Dominion officials seemed relieved to get a contract guarantee in place that will allow them to explain their desired rate structure to the SCC and move development of the plant forward.

“I think we’re pleased with what happened tonight with the agreement that was reached,” Dominion spokesperson Dan Genest said following the vote. “We plan to be a part of this community for the next 40 to 50 years – and being a part of that community means getting along and working things out and settling our differences and I think the agreement tonight represents that.”

While Dominion had been seeking a reduction in up-front costs of $5.4 million, including $4 million in capital improvements to the existing system, in the end it agreed to pay those costs in exchange for a decade of reduced service costs. However, Dominion did not get the additional five years at the flat, in-town service rate it had been seeking in exchange for a $3.5-million contribution to implement a long-sought after looping system to assure service to all corridor water customers in the event of a break in the water line. Rather, the company will get the originally proposed five years at the in-town rate and an additional five years at 1.5 times the in-town rate before paying the full double rate to out-of-town customers.

While county Supervisor Tony Carter was again an interested observer to the evening’s developments, the county’s ongoing official silence on the matter of helping the town or Dominion defer their respective costs didn’t sit well with at least one councilman, Tom Conkey. Conkey and other town officials involved in the negotiation have pointed out the town will receive only its hook up and service costs, by law based solely on the cost of providing a municipal utility, while the county will realized between $3 million and $4 million per year in tax revenue almost exclusively profit.

“My only disappointment is that it seems that at least some members of the board of supervisors still see the relationship between the town and county governments as an adversarial one, rather than the partnership I believe it can and should be,” Conkey stated by way of a letter read into the record by Mayor Tim Darr. Darr explained Conkey was absent due to a previous out of town commitment. “The town’s discussions with Dominion were open and frank as partnerships should be. I think this was the perfect opportunity for our two bodies to work together to come up with an arrangement that would be mutually beneficial. As it is, we now find ourselves in the position of working our a deal with Dominion and hoping that we have done enough to ensure that this power plant is built in this community,” Conkey concluded in his letter sent to the mayor to be included as part of the meeting’s public record.


The town’s exiting corridor water-sewer system began service about a quarter century ago when town utility was extended outside its boundaries to facilitate the location of the county’s first new industrial corridor client, DuPont, to build here. That utility service extension was seen as pivotal to this community attracting an increased commercial-industrial presence and tax base to keep residential costs and taxes down.

Following the 2009 legal challenge of meals tax-based fees tied to the town’s water-sewer bills by three chain corridor restaurants, the town lost a major portion of its “Corridor Agreement” fees. According to the judge’s comments, that legal decision came about in part at least due to the changing corridor tax landscape, primarily the county’s 2002 introduction of its own meals tax.

The town and county have only recently began “corridor committee” discussions of how to adjust the 1998 Corridor Agreement designed to compensate the town for its utility service allowing business and industry to locate on county land. That agreement, approved by a 3-judge state panel in 1998-99, likely headed off a contentious annexation fight between Front Royal and Warren County’s municipal governments.

Dominion had initially agreed to cover the full $490,000 cost of upgrading the system’s pumping system to assure its estimated average of 350,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per day without placing an undue strain on the system. However, it was seeking help in meeting the capital improvement expense of a looping system seen as a system-wide benefit to all corridor customers in Warren County. Some councilmen, obviously including Conkey, thought it would have been appropriate for the county to step into the recent negotiations after Dominion complained about all the additional rate and infrastructure costs it was being asked to shoulder.

The county did have a closed session “corridor contract” discussion with Dominion at its March 1st meeting. However, no announcement was forthcoming following that session.

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Alleged White House Gate Crashers Talk Dr. Drew, Release Iphone App

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

This story has been updated.

I’m not making this up.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi released a statement Monday that says two things: a) Michaele is seeking help from Dr. Drew Pinsky for “private pains and personal struggles she endured” following her alleged crashing of President Barack Obama’s first White House state dinner and b) she has released a new Iphone app that lets users “Crash any party with Michaele.”

The statement almost, semi, sort of confirms that Michaele is set to appear on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab. After stating “we are unable to discuss any Television Shows/projects in development” it proceeds to do just that:

“Whatever new show she is participating in, it will be a focus for her on the private pains and personal struggles she endured that resulted from the White House issues, Congress and how these life changing events affected her Multiple Sclerosis. Michaele Salahi is consulting with Dr. Drew and she hopes he will be able to assist her about everything she has endured over the last year.”

Hubby Tareq Salahi told TMZ that he is crashing at Michael Lohan’s place while the show is being taped and said his wife isn’t addicted to anything except perhaps “love and chocolate” and claims Michaele has never even had a drink.

Speaking of love, the title of the couple’s new all-things-Michaele app is “LoveYou!” It promises “Cutting-Edge Technology to Provide Exclusive New Features and Closer Interaction With Fans.”

In addition to offering Michaele quizzes, personal photos and even a playlist of her favorite songs, the app allows users to “Crash a Party with Michaele: Fans can easily insert Michaele into any of their photos, which can be saved, e-mailed and shared with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Now you can crash any party with Michaele.”

The first review of their new app on iTunes is not kind.

In a critique entitled “Rehab needed for this app for reals” VeganisAwesome writes:

“I’m an absolute Real Housewives fan, but this app is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. A complete copy of Paris Hilton’s app produced by the same company. If you want to know where to find tanning salons or have the words HOT and FUN relentlessly and repeatedly annoy you from you iphone then by all means go for it. No wonder it was free.”

Fear not Android fans, the Salahis promise a version of the app just for you is in the works.

A version of this story first appeared on The Huffington Post.

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm  Comments (2)  

Dalai Lama’s nephew killed in Florida

Jigme Norbu, second from right, with his party of supporters and fellow Tibetan walkers during April 2009 stop at Front Royal's Lucky Star Lounge. Co-owner of the Lucky Star and Norbu interviewer Shawn Patterson is at far right.

Norbu struck by vehicle during most recent ‘Tibetan Freedom’ walk

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

We were distressed to hear of the death of Jigme K. Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama, on Feb. 14. Norbu, who passed through Front Royal during an earlier Tibetan rights walk, was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while walking along the southbound side of State A1A near Palm Coast in northeastern Florida.

According to a local source close to the regional Buddhist community, Norbu, 45, was in the first day of a planned 300-mile walk from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach. She said Norbu had decided to push on later into the night in an attempt to keep on his planned schedule for his latest walk to raise public awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule.

“Yes, it is true unfortunately,” Tempa Tshering, a representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, India, where a Tibetan government in exile is based, told CNN.

An online report by Lisa Flam at AOL News states Norbu was struck by an SUV driven by 31-year-old Keith O’Dell. O’Dell was questioned but not charged, according to Flam’s post.

Norbu’s home base was Bloomington, Indiana. He was the son of the Dalai Lama’s late older brother, Taktser Rinpoche. Rinpoche died in 2008, and was a high-ranking Buddhist religious official in his own right when the Chinese invaded Tibet.

Rinpoche fled his homeland with his brother, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetans in the face of the Communist Chinese military assault of 1959. Between 1959 and 1960 a reported 80,000 Tibetans followed The Dalai Lama out of their homeland. Today an estimated 128,000 to 150,000 Tibetans live in exile.

The Dalai Lama and his associates’ experience of the historical epoch of Chinese intervention in Tibet has been recounted in numerous documentary and creative Hollywood films, most notably Martin Scorcese’s “Kundun” and “Seven Years in Tibet”, the latter which starred Brad Pitt as a German engineer “tutoring” the young Dalai Lama while living isolated in the Tibetan holy city of Lhasa in the years prior to the Chinese invasion.

Local stop

To accommodate conflicts in our work schedule, Lucky Star Lounge co-owner Shawn Patterson interviewed Jigme Norbu for Warren County Report during his dinner stop at her East Main Street, Front Royal restaurant during Norbu’s 900-mile “Walk for Tibetan Independence” in April 2009. Norbu was then in the midst of a nine-week walk from Indianapolis, Indiana to U.N. Headquarter in New York City. During his April 2009 interview Norbu commented on how well he had been treated by average Americans he had met during that walk.

“Especially out in the rural country where they come out and give me water, food, even money, and the truck drivers along the way as well. So, it has really showed me how kind American people are … They’d say it was great what we’re doing. You know this is not just for the Tibetan issue. We are doing it for the universal issue of world peace and human rights.”

Norbu expressed a belief in the basic humanity of all peoples but worried over the influence of governments and personal apathy in how nations interact with each other.

“We have nothing against the Chinese people. They’re human beings just like us. It’s the Communist policies we are totally against. And I think the world should know clearly that this has been going on for so long and that Americans should wake up and realize, even though I know America deals with China, that we are feeding that sleeping giant,” Norbu said of America’s growing economic relationship with China while the Tibetan people remain oppressed.

“So it’s something that we have an obligation not only to protect our Tibetan people, but the world. I think no country should experience what we went through. So we have this opportunity to meet great people and good people. To come in here and make new friends who give us support and give us the strength to continue on with what we need to do to accomplish our goal. And that goal is to hopefully one day to see our country become independent. That’s our determination and that’s our goal.”

Talk without results

Norbu’s fellow traveler during that 2009 walk, 66-year-old Tibetan Wangchuk Dorjee, expressed mixed emotions about potential results from the Dalai Lama’s ongoing negotiations with the Chinese for a return of some political, cultural and religious autonomy for his people.

“There are positive signs. You know the last few years his Holiness’s envoys have had a dialogue with the Chinese government a few times. That is kind of a positive, I feel that way. But at the same time while the dialogue is there – not very much has become of it. The Tibetans have tried to speak up about their rights and point of view. But when they do that they are put in jail or are killed and all sorts of unbelievable things are done. It is very, very bad.”

A future without hope?

By coincidence as I helped Patterson prepare our story on Norbu and his 2009 walk, I had just finished a re-read of George Orwell’s dark vision of a totalitarian future, “1984”. Norbu and Dorjee’s observations about Tibet’s current plight mixed with Orwell’s dark vision of mankind’s future, a future it seems the Tibetan people and others on our planet already experience on a daily basis. I suggested we end her story with a reference to the lasting warning to humanity Orwell gave us in 1948, perhaps not coincidentally the transposed final two digits of his book’s title. Patterson agreed and to close that story we quoted from perhaps “1984’s” most frightening passage, as the Party spokesman O’Brien explains the Party’s view of the flow of history to Winston as he is tortured into total submission to the state and its symbolic figurehead, Big Brother.

“Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Jigme Norbu walked to remove that boot from the face of the Tibetan people – and perhaps also to make us all ponder how far our own faces are from the sole of that boot as it is allowed to crush the spirit of others we share this planet with.

On Feb. 14th Norbu’s walk ended on the side of a dark, Florida highway – or did it?

A national/world version of this story appears in The Huffington Post.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Hannity discusses scandal swirling around top Va. exorcist priest

Fox News Host Sean Hannity faced off with a top Va. exorcist priest in this now infamous clip from 2007. Father Thomas Euteneuer called Hannity a ‘heretic’ for his promotion of birth control as opposed to abortion among non-believers. In an unusually foreshadowing response, Hannity suggested the priest ‘judge not that ye not be judged.’ Fr. Euteneuer was recently removed from his post and has admitted to sexual misconduct.

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

[A version of this story originally appeared in]

Fox News host Sean Hannity addressed the controversy surrounding a top Virginia exorcist Catholic priest at the end of his Hannity cable news show Wed. night and made note of the unusually favorable treatment he has been getting from Huffington Post commenters.

After playing portions of a now infamous 2007 exchange in which then Human Life International Father Thomas Euteneuer called Hannity a ‘heretic’ and ‘cultural Catholic’ Hannity read part of Fr. Euteneuer’s recent confession to transgressions which caused him to be removed as head of Human Life International.

“I take full responsibility for my own poor judgment, my weakness and my sinful conduct that resulted from it,” Hannity read.

The host then noted the priest’s admission of violating his vow of chastity due to human weakness which Fr. Euteneuer said ‘did not involve the sexual act.’

“Bill Clinton would be proud of that,” Hannity joked.

“Look, I don’t want to make a situation worse. Apparently something happened–pretty severe–and he’s been taken away from his position,” Hannity said.

But Hannity still seemed upset at at having his faith questioned and the priest’s conduct after the appearance on Hannity & Colmes.

“He’s so self righteous. He spent years raising money off this exchange with me and building his name recognition,” Hannity said.

Euteneuer had originally appeared on the program to chastise Hannity for supporting birth control instead of abortion for persons who did not live a Christian life.

“But in this world we live in, do you really think that you can convince non-Catholics, non-Christians [to] wait until marriage to have sex? There’s a certain realistic quality to what I was saying. Not that I like it. It’s just real,” he said.

Hannity said he does teach his own children to abstain from sex until marriage.

One of the panelists joked that the video clip of his face-off with Rev. Euteneuer had ‘brought out the inner liberal’ in Hannity.

Hannity responded ‘That’s like the Huffington Post defending me [today].”

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 10:58 pm  Comments (9)  
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