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Republicans say new House leadership lacks regional diversity

Earlier this month Democrats elected a new House of Delegates leadership team as the party took control of the chamber for the first time since 1999. For outgoing House Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, the Democratic leadership team lacks diversity in one area: their home districts.

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By Jason Boleman

Earlier this month Democrats elected a new House of Delegates leadership team as the party took control of the chamber for the first time since 1999.

For outgoing House Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, the Democratic leadership team lacks diversity in one area: their home districts.

In a statement released Nov. 9, and retweeted by Republican leadership, Gilbert congratulated the new House leadership and said Republicans are looking forward to working with them, but also expressed concern with the party electing “an entire leadership team that is centered in the deepest parts of Northern Virginia.”

“The House of Delegates represents our entire commonwealth, and the varying and often conflicting interests of Northern Virginia, metro Richmond, Hampton Roads, and rural Virginia deserve a fair hearing in our legislative process,” Gilbert said.

Among the new leadership is Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, who is set to become the first female speaker in the chamber’s 400-year history.

Joining Filler-Corn in leadership positions are Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax. Herring will serve as House majority leader and Sullivan will serve as majority caucus chair in the upcoming General Assembly session.

Under the current House District map, all three delegates are from northern Virginia. The outgoing leadership team represented central, western and northern areas of the state.

“It is a bit unusual to have an entire leadership team drawn from one region of the state,” said Bob Holsworth, political analyst and managing partner at the consulting firm DecideSmart, by email.

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said that regionalism has been “a fairly common theme here in the commonwealth.”

“As for whether the regional dominance translates into an actual resource or representation imbalance: not likely,” Bitecofer said. “But keep in mind, every time a resource gets distributed to NoVa the accusation will be leveled.”

Holly Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Filler-Corn, said the delegate does not have a response to Gilbert’s statement, instead choosing to focus on policy matters.

“Her decisions on leadership, including committee chairs, will speak for themselves,” Armstrong said. “The policy agenda will begin to take shape as the committee chair decisions are made and caucus members continue to discuss priorities.”

 On Thursday, Filler-Corn announced Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton and Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex would receive chair positions – respectively – to the Appropriations, Finance, Commerce and Labor, and Education committees.

With more chair decisions to be made, Bitecofer said she would not be surprised to see more regional diversity in the assignments.

“I expected that the fact that Democrats have chosen leaders from NoVa would be raised as concerns among the minority,” Bitecofer said. “This detail has not been overlooked, and I assume we’ll see some nice committee chairs doled out to members representing other regions to offset that.”

Holsworth agreed that committee chairs will play a role in offsetting Gilbert’s concerns.

“Key committee chairs – who have greater power and leadership than some of the leaders – exhibit considerable diversity in terms of region,” Holsworth said.

The current House leadership team, which has been in place since 2018, includes Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, Gilbert and Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax. Republicans are still determining the new Republican minority leadership roles. Cox, outgoing speaker of the House, said he will not pursue a leadership position in the upcoming session. Hugo, the current majority caucus chair, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Dan Helmer.

 Gilbert, House majority leader since 2018, and Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, are likely contenders for the minority leader position, according to the Washington Post. They are both influential figures in the Virginia House of Delegates Republican Caucus, Holsworth said.

The last Democratic Speaker of the House was Tom Moss, a delegate from Norfolk who served as speaker from 1991 until the Republicans took control of the chamber in 2000. Moss’s House majority leader was Richard Cranwell, who represented Danville until leaving the House in 2001.

Democrats now hold a 55 to 45 majority over Republicans in the House, and a 21 to 19 majority in the Senate. No change in Senate leadership is expected, according to Senate Democrats. Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, will assume the majority leader position currently held by Thomas Norment, R-James City.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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VDH acknowledges first case of new COVID-19 variant identified in Virginia

SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of Northern Virginia with no reported recent travel history. The variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

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The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) today announced that the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of Northern Virginia with no reported recent travel history. The B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

DCLS confirmed the case using next-generation sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19. DCLS has informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the case.

“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness. As our state public health officials closely monitor the emergence of the B.1.1.7 variant in our Commonwealth, it is important that all Virginians continue following mitigation measures.”

In the United States, nearly 200 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in 23 states as of January 22, 2021. While scientists are working to better understand its impact on vaccine efficacy, early data suggests currently authorized vaccines are effective against the new variant. VDH continues to work with communities across Virginia to slow the spread of all strains of COVID-19 through widespread adherence to preventive measures, supporting testing and vaccination efforts, and conducting investigations of cases and outbreaks.

As a virus spreads from one person to another, it makes copies of itself and sometimes makes small genetic changes called mutations. Because of these mutations, new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. According to the CDC, multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and around the world. The B.1.1.7 variant contains an unusually large number of mutations.

DCLS began sequencing positive COVID-19 samples in March 2020, becoming one of the first public health labs in the nation to use this technology to examine the genetic makeup of the virus and track how it is changing and being transmitted in the Commonwealth. To date, DCLS has sequenced more than 10 percent of positive samples tested by the state lab, and is working with other labs in Virginia to solicit additional positive samples to sequence so public health officials can get a representation of variants circulating throughout Virginia.

“Sequencing is one of many tools we have available at the state’s public health laboratory to enable medical and public health officials to quickly identify and respond to threats such as emerging COVID-19 variants,” said Dr. Denise Toney, Director of DCLS. “We share this information not only within the Commonwealth, but with our federal and international partners to gain a better understanding of emerging genetic changes to SARS-CoV-2.”

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Community

Results from “Lost Cause” Studio Project Survey Reveal a Richmond Eager to Confront its Past

The survey asked Richmond region residents to share their knowledge about and ongoing impact of the Lost Cause myth, their desire to learn about this complex history and how a transformed Valentine Studio can address community needs.

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From the Valentine.

Today the Valentine released the results of a community survey, conducted in October and November of 2020.

The survey asked Richmond region residents to share their knowledge about and ongoing impact of the Lost Cause myth, their desire to learn about this complex history and how a transformed Valentine Studio (the location on the museum’s campus where sculptor Edward Valentine created many Lost Cause works) can address community needs. More than 1,000 participants, representing a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds, completed the survey.

A diverse team of historians, activists, local leaders, Valentine family members and community members developed the survey. The Valentine also held focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of the variety of opinions about the Lost Cause, the role of cultural institutions in sharing this history and the potential installation of the damaged, paint-covered Jefferson Davis statue, until recently displayed on Monument Avenue, in the space. The results of the survey and the focus groups will inform and guide the project development.

Results included:

A majority of respondents stated that they would like to see the Valentine use the reinterpreted studio to explore the history of power and policies in Jim Crow Richmond, the art and artistic processes that created Lost Cause sculptures and the history of racial oppression in Richmond.

Additionally, 65% of respondents from the Richmond region agreed that museums should acquire the monuments from Monument Avenue and display them with context. For the Valentine specifically, this reinforced our request to the City of Richmond to acquire and display the graffiti-covered Jefferson Davis statue on his back as he fell.

Additionally, focus group participants, moderated by project partner Josh Epperson, felt that using the studio to explore Lost Cause history and connect it to the present would be a valuable use of the space. Focus group participants also affirmed the Valentine’s commitment to continuing its high level of community engagement, which they expected to be critical to the success of the reimagined studio.

You can find additional survey results HERE.

“Based on the survey feedback we received from our fellow Richmonders, we are confident that this is the best next step for this space and for this institution,” said Director Bill Martin. “We look forward to providing a location where Richmonders can learn about the Lost Cause, consider Richmond and the Valentine’s early role in disseminating the damaging Lost Cause myth and ultimately gain a deeper, more nuanced, more empathetic understanding of the region we call home.”

The Valentine will continue to solicit and address community questions, comments or concerns as the Studio Project develops.

On December 31st the Washington Post had an article on the museum taking a closer look at the role that founder of Edward V. Valentine had in the lost cause.

Today, the artist’s studio is closed to visitors at the Richmond museum that bears his family name — the Valentine. But museum director Martin and others see the workshop as the center of what could be a public reckoning with the racist mythology that Valentine’s sculptures helped bring to life.

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Bookbinder’s Brings you Mac & Cheese on Another Level with BIGWIFE’S Pop-Up

This isn’t your typical mom’s mac & cheese. If your mom makes mac & cheese like this we would like to be adopted.

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Old Original Bookbinder’s Seafood & Steakhouse has launched a new experimental pop-up concept focusing exclusively on macaroni and cheese. BIGWIFE’S Mac & Cheese is operating for delivery and carryout from the Bookbinder’s kitchen.

The inventive menu includes creative spins like Buffalo Mac with spicy chicken and gorgonzola cheese; Little Figgy Mac with goat cheese, ham and fig; Mac Lorraine with bacon, scallions, and gruyere; and Greek Wedding Mac with tomato, olive, artichokes, pepperoncini and feta. Any mac can be made gluten free.

Orders can be placed at https://www.bigwifesmac.com/ and via Grubhub. BIGWIFE’S is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Old Original Bookbinder’s is located at 2306 E Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23223.

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