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 on a Sunset Kayak Tour in Great Falls, Friday, Aug. 8, 5-7 p.m. Riverbend Park, 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls. Experience the end of the day with a tour of the upper Potomac. Ages 14+. $59-$74. Register at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/riverbend-park/kayaktours.htm.
Try out Tai Chi for free. Beginners’ Practice. 8-9 a.m. McLean Central Park basketball court, 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd, McLean. Open to all, including first-timers, every Saturday morning. 703-759-9141 or www.freetaichi.org/practice.shtml.
Dance on Aug. 16, 8-11:30 p.m. Colvin Run Dance Hall, 10201 Colvin Run Road, Great Falls. 8-9pm Mambo lesson; 9-11:30 p.m. $15. 703-759-2685.
Go to the farmers markets and enjoy the local bounty.
Frying Pan Farm Stand. Wednesdays. 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon. http://fryingpanpark.org/2014/05/15/farm-stand/
Fair Lakes Farmers Market. Wednesdays. 3:30-7 p.m. 4501 Market Commons Drive, Fairfax.www.greentowns.com/initiative/farmers-market/fair-lakes-farmers-market-fairfax-va.
Fairfax’s Government Center Farmers Market. 3-7 p.m. Thursdays, May 1-Oct. 30. Ten vendors including a Middle Eastern delicacy bakery and custom organic ice cream shop.Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets/governmentcntr-mrkt.htm.
Fairfax Farmers Market. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, May 10-Nov. 1. 10500 Page Avenue, Fairfax. www.fairfaxsaturdaymarket.com.
Fairfax Farmers Market. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, May 11-Oct. 26. 10500 Page Avenue, Fairfax. www.fairfaxsaturdaymarket.com/