The news here has been a bit discouraging, and that’s without considering the human tragedy and disaster of several different international situations.
The unsettling narrative rolling out from the Richmond trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen would hopefully result in action on campaign finance reform in Virginia.
Up until the news about “gifts” to family members of Gov. Bob McDonnell, almost all elected officials would defend Virginia’s notoriously unregulated system of allowing candidates and elected officials to take unlimited amounts of money and unlimited gifts from anyone or any company at all. Because Virginia has such strict disclosure requirements, elected officials seem to think that it’s OK to be awash in all that money. Voters can look up who is giving money and draw their own conclusions. How could it hurt if the details are all out in the open?
It isn’t just disclosure of gifts to family members that needs reform here.
Discovering that the system is entirely self-regulated with no independent auditor, no ethics commission and no penalties for failing to report gifts or contributions should give voters some pause. Consider that only four states, including Virginia, have no limits on contributions. Most states have limits; for example, in Maryland, individuals can give $4,000 to any one candidate and $10,000 total in a four-year election cycle. We’ve already had one session of the General Assembly without a meaningful reform effort.
The current stubborn road block to extending health coverage to at least 200,000 very poor Virginians, including another unsettling narrative about Democrats losing control of the Virginia Senate because of the resignation of one senator who was apparently offered a great job and a judgeship for his daughter, is dispiriting.
The failure in Fairfax County of a proposal to allow the building of affordable studio apartments to house working poor people is discouraging on several fronts. The proposal was many years in the making. Why did this proposal come forward without support from members of the Board of Supervisors? Even if it was approved, it appeared to lack commercial viability. Back to the drawing board? (There is some good news pending about more federal money for affordable housing in the county.)
So here are a few end-of-summer activities that can serve as antidote.
In Arlington, go to the Marine Corps Sunset Parade and Concert, last chance this summer, Tuesday Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m. in August. Iwo Jima Memorial. Visit www.barracks.marines.mil.
Or catch the Arlington County Fair, through Aug. 10 at Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 Second St. South. Shop for arts and crafts, watch pigs race and enjoy rides and entertainment. Visit arlingtoncountyfair.us.
Go to the farmers markets and enjoy the local bounty.
McCutcheon/Mount Vernon Farmers Market. Wednesdays, 8 a.m. - noon. Sherwood Library, 2501 Sherwood Hall Lane, Alexandria. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets/mtvernonmkt.htm.
Wakefield Farmers Market. 2-6 p.m. Wednesdays, May 7-Oct. 29. 8100 Braddock Road, Annandale. 703-321-7081. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets/wakefieldmkt.htm.
Kingstowne Farmers Market. 4-7 p.m. Fridays, May 2-Oct. 31. Giant Parking Lot, 5955 Kingstowne Towne Center, Alexandria. Vendors products include fresh organic honey and hand held pies and rolls. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets/kingstownemkt.htm
Lorton Farmers Market. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays, May 4-Nov. 2. VRE Parking Lot, 8990 Lorton Station Boulevard, Lorton. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets/lortonmkt.htm
Lorton Farmers Market. 3-7 p.m. Thursdays. New Hope Church, 8905 Ox Road, Lorton. www.smartmarkets.org.