Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Chooses Gov. Sarah Palin as VP- GREAT CHOICE!

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press

DENVER - John McCain tapped little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate on Friday in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Two senior campaign officials disclosed McCain's decision a few hours before the Republican presidential nominee-to-be and his newly-minted running mate appeared at a rally in swing-state Ohio.

Palin, like McCain, is a conservative with a maverick streak who has shown a willingness to clash with others in her own party. A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, she has been governor of her state less than two years.

Palin's selection shocked numerous Republican officials.

At 44, Palin is a generation younger that Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is Barack Obama's running mate on the Democratic ticket.

She is three years Obama's junior, as well — and McCain has made much in recent weeks of Obama's relative lack of experience in foreign policy and defense matters.

In making his pick, McCain passed over several more prominent prospects who had figured in speculation for months — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge among them.

Palin flew overnight to an airport in Ohio near Dayton, and even as she awaited her formal introduction, some aides said they had believed she was at home in Alaska.

She is a former mayor of Wasilla who became governor of her state in December, 2006 after ousting a governor of her own party in a primary and then dispatching a former governor in the general election.

More recently, she has come under the scrutiny of an investigation by the Republican-controlled legislature into the possibility that she ordered the dismissal of Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper.

The timing of McCain's selection appeared designed to limit any political gain Obama yields from his own convention, which ended Thursday night with his nominating acceptance speech before an estimated 84,000 in Invesco Field in Colorado.

Public opinion polls show a close race between Obama and McCain, and with scarcely two months remaining until the election, neither contender can allow the other to jump out to a big post-convention lead.

McCain has had months to consider his choice, and has made it clear to reporters that one of his overriding goals was to avoid a situation like the one in 1988, when Dan Quayle was thrown into a national campaign with little preparation.

Palin has a long history of run-ins with the Alaska GOP hierarchy, giving her genuine maverick status and reformer credentials that could complement McCain's image.

Two years ago, she ousted the state's Republican incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski in the primary, despite having little money and little establishment backing.

She has also distanced herself from two senior Republican office-holders, sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don young. Both men are under federal corruption investigations.

She had earned stripes — and enmity — after Murkowski made her head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. From that post, she exposed ethical violations by the state GOP chairman, also a fellow commissioner.

She and her husband Todd Palin, have five children. The latest, a baby, was born with Down syndrome.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The One?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

January 1973

A busy month for conspiracy, distraction, successes and to launch the most profound homocide campaign in America– ever.

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A 3am Lie from the Osama Bin Biden Campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Barack Obama named Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate early Saturday, balancing his ticket with a seasoned congressional veteran well-versed in foreign policy and defense issues.

Obama announced the pick on his Web site with a photo of the two men and an appeal for donations. A text message went out shortly afterward that said, “Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee.”

Biden, 65, has twice sought the White House, and is a Catholic with blue-collar roots, a generally liberal voting record and a reputation as a long-winded orator.

Across more than 30 years in the Senate, he has served at various times not only as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but also as head of the Judiciary Committee, with its jurisdiction over anti-crime legislation, Supreme Court nominees and Constitutional issues.

In selecting Biden, Obama passed over several other potential running mates, none more prominent than former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, his tenacious rival in dozens of primaries and caucuses.

Obama’s campaign arranged a debut for the newly minted ticket on Saturday outside the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

Obama’s decision leaked to the media several hours before his aides planned to send a text message announcing the running mate, negating a promise that people who turned over their phone numbers would be the first to know who Obama had chosen. The campaign scrambled to send the text message after the leak, sending phones buzzing at the inconvenient time of just after 3 a.m. on the East coast.
Hundreds of miles to the west, carpenters, electricians, sound stage gurus and others transformed the Pepsi Center in Denver into a made-for-television convention venue.

Tucked away in one corner were thousands of lightweight rolled cardboard tubes, ready-made handles for signs bearing the names of the Democratic ticket — once the identity of Obama’s running mate was known.

Osama Bin Biden 2008… The Change America has already seen in the Senate since 1972.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are tax increases in Spotsylvania inevitable? No.

by D.J. McGuire:

Last night, the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors received a report from county staff that projected yawning budget deficits over the next five years (Dan Telvock, Free Lance-Star):

Spotsylvania County residents could see the real estate tax rate increase by as much as 15 cents in five years if the economy doesn't improve. That would boost the average real estate tax bill by more than 24 percent.

And that's just to balance the budget.

Budget officers said during last night's Board of Supervisors meeting that revenue projections continue to fall short in the sluggish economy.
The actual report (Exec Summary) spells out the gloom and doom, and hints that the pain will start really early (emphasis in original):

The Budget Plus Five Model sent to the Board in early July has been updated to reflect the approximately $7.6 million revenue decrease currently estimated for FY 2009 (the earlier version sent to the Board prior to the most recent revenue update assumed a $1.9 million revenue decrease in FY 2009). Given the assumptions and methodology outlined on page 2 of the attached Budget Plus Five narrative, tax rate increases are needed in each of the next five years to balance the General Fund and Transportation Fund budgets. The tax rate increases are shown by fund on the second page of the financial analysis spreadsheets and are summarized in total below:

FY 2010 - $0.067; FY 2011 - $0.034; FY 2012 - $0.024; FY 2013 - $0.025; FY 2014 - $0.002

That's an increase of 6.7 cents next year, or nearly 11% again.

Sure, that's a hefty tax hike, but if it's necessary, it's necessary. Only here's the thing: it isn't necessary.

To understand why, one has to dig into the report's attachments, particularly how the spending and revenues were projected. We'll start with the glaring problems on the spending side:

  • Average Municipal Cost Index (MCI) applied to Operational costs less one-time costs

  • Addition of Sheriff’s replacement vehicles, replacement PCs, and redevelopment of the athletic fields not included in the FY 2009 Budget

  • Estimated Personnel costs (assumes 2.5% merit and 2.0% cost-of-living adjustment each year)

  • Adjustment to Debt Service (in accordance with the Approved CIP revised to include updated schedules for Campus Master Plan and Transportation projects)

    For starters, the Municipal Cost Index may not be the best way to examine operational costs for next year. This isn't an issue with the MCI per se as much as it is a timing concern. The MCI over the last few years has factored in soaring construction and energy cost. Given the dramatic drop off in demand for oil and gas over the last few months, I sincerely doubt we'll see such a dramatic up move in energy prices as we've seen in recent years. As for construction, a combination of the now past housing boom and a massive building spree in Communist China led to those costs soaring in recent years. The housing market still has a long way to go until it will start to put pressure on construction cost, and the cadres in Beijing are putting the squeeze on new construction. For these reasons, the MCI is almost certain to be overinflating operational costs.

    The construction cost factor will also likely have a downward effect on the cost for the construction-fueled new debt service, easily the biggest cost driver in (in terms of percentage increase) for next year.

    Finally, there is the labor assumption of a 4.5% raise next year. This is hardly etched in stone. There is no reason the BOS must automatically approve such a salary. In fact, with one more vote for the equalized tax rate last year, this would have gone by the boards. Should one of the four Supes who voted for higher taxes have a change of heart, this could disappear next year.

    While it's difficult to get an exact grasp on what effect this will all have (the documents don't have the granularity required to see personnel and operational cost), I would say the projected cost increase could be cut at least in half (minus school funding, more on that later) - which would close the shortfall by roughly $4.7 million.

    Now, on the revenue side, the report basically follows the projections of the Virginia Employment Commission's economists, and come up with this:

    The underlying assumption on the revenue side is that economic recovery from what many currently believe is a recession in 2008 does not begin until FY 2011. This conservative approach, consistent with the Virginia Employment Commission’s conservative scenario, directly affects the estimates of meals, sales, and recordation tax revenue.

First of all, while "many currently believe" we're in a recession, that's still up in the air. At present, the economic figures actually show growth - slow growth, to be sure, but still growth nonetheless. The "conservative scenario," by contrast, already has us in recession (VEC):

In the pessimistic scenario, the U.S. economy initially responds to the stimulus package of tax rebates and low interest rates by the second half of 2008, but housing starts continue to fall, dropping below 800,000 per year; home prices drop another 10 percent; and oil goes to over $115 per barrel and stays there. Consumer confidence erodes still more, and the U.S. economy falls into a deeper recession in 2009. GDP growth averages neutral for all of 2008, but averages -0.2 percent for 2009. Recovery does not come until 2010.
The VEC report was printed four months ago, and does not take into account the fact that GDP growth in the second quarter of this year stood at 2%. The odds of GDP growth being "neutral" (I.e., zero) for the entire year is very slim indeed.

This is important because the county staff used the pessimistic scenario to assume revenue will remain flat on its back until FY2011. If revenue growth actually recovers in FY2010, it would mean an additional $8.7 million in revenue. Even a recovery halfway through FY10 would add more the $4.2 million to local coffers. Thus, the supposed $10.6 million deficit in FY10 could be as low as $1.9 million, or not even exist at all. I don't write this to beat up the county staff, but rather to make clear that the situation need not be as dire as they project.

Finally, the staff assumes no cuts in local spending - which is probably the most questionable assumption of the bunch (even Emmitt Marshall, one of the tax-hiking four, talked about the need for county staff reductions - although he may have been focused on, say, Animal Control).

Last spring, as the BOS was pondering the budget, School Superintendent Jerry Hill sent out a flyer detailing the impacts of certain budget cuts. It was easily the most detailed and traceable numbers I've seen out of Dr. Hill in the six years I've lived here (and I've heard from at least one resident that it's the most detailed stuff they;ve seen in twenty years). Sadly, the Supervisors did not take the opportunity to dig deeper into the school budget for more granularity. However, there is no reason they can't do that next spring.

Nor need it be limited to the school system either. I managed to find over $10.5 million in savings (just about the entire projected FY10 deficit) during the last budget cycle without touching the school system (note to Emmitt - FLS: I also spared the Planning Department, but there's no need to follow that precedent).

To conclude, while the county staff projections should give us cause for concern, I think the projected spending is too high, and projected revenues are too low. More importantly, what these numbers tell us is that we should look add reducing government spending to make up whatever shortfall may occur, not hitting property owners with tax increases or reducing already sinking property values.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal