Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Raise the Banner; Strike the Chord

Imagine that you are the average citizen of Virginia and you read the most recent article in The Roanoke Times. Would you understand what the heck is going on? $330 million this, $1.9 billion that. $731 million this, $240 million that. Freezing, unfreezing, making harmless, GIANT TSUNAMI's.

So what does it all mean? So what's real?

Here's what's real. State support for public school education is about to take a nose-dive. Historically, Virginia already under-funds schools. With this new effort, we may even take the gold medal over Mississippi in the under-funding championship.

Through it all, I'm amazed and floored by some of the revelations from this budget cycle. Here's an unscientific listing...in no particular order.

1. Senator Lacey Putney, a most powerful state senator, wants to grant school divisions the pleasure of adding one child to the maximum teacher /pupil ratio. Hey, in Kindergarten, that means going from 25-1 to 26-1. Bad becomes...badder? Thanks Lacey. That's ONE way to ensure we have "No Child Left Behind."

2. I'm sardonically bemused that local TV media portrayed the latest Senate budget as being a happy, rah-rah kind of thing that will SPARE Education bone jarring cuts. I heard one TV media source say that the Senate version only cuts $330 million. Right, perhaps on top of the $1.2 BILLION that Governor Kaine initially proposed.

3. VRS raiding is becoming an art form. Sort of like those modern painters who take paint and splatter it on a canvass and call it "art." "We take a little VRS and toss it at the budget canvass and BEHOLD!...Problem solved!!!" Folks, keep an eye on your retirement. Besides your job, it, along with your professional dignity, is all you have. It represents a trust established between you and the public. It's no small amount of money, and it's sitting there in Richmond-ready, ripe, and juicy. Legislation now being considered will change retirement ages, change to defined contribution, change "multipliers," and change how much you may have to contribute out of your pocket.

4. Lost in the discussion is the fact that most flesh was cut from local budgets LAST YEAR. This year, we're going after bone. Who needs bone? I guess bone is over-rated.

5. The Governor's Economic Opportunity Fund: People need jobs. McDonnell campaigned as a "Jobs Governor." So, it's no surprise that one of his first actions was establishing this opportunity fund. Funding. It needed funding. Hmmm, where could he find the $30 million needed to establish this fund to provide NEW JOBS to Virginians? ...He could take $26 million from VRS. (JLARC - General Assembly's non-partisan review committee had already determined that VRS is underfunded.) Kerosene on the fire. Splatter that paint.

6. Rest Areas are opening!

7. Virginian's will legally be able to go 70 mph.

8. Pot holes. Lots of pot holes out there thanks to the tough winter.

9. With 30,000 educators about to join 12,000 of their brethren who joined the unemployed ranks last year, a mega state effort to help these bread-winners find jobs is warranted. A program needs to be designed............

...Rest Areas.... Pot Holes...

The Governor needs a new "Jobs Initiative." Perhaps he can find some money in VRS to train and pay unemployed educators to maintain the new rest areas and serve in roving bands of pot-hole patchers. Call it the Educator Economic Opportunity Program (EEOP)... complete with it's own monikers: "No Seat Left Soiled"(NSLS) and "No Hole Left Behind" (NHLB).

If you've managed to follow this stream of consciousness opinion piece this far, congratulations.

This weekend, our friends in Orange County, Virginia are spear-heading a "Rally In Richmond." Educators and our friends will meet at the bell tower in front of the capital building between 11am and Noon. It's time to stand up...even louder than we stood up in 2004. We can't sit quietly by the wayside and let our school children be robbed. We need to MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD.

It's time to make time.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Big Storm

Some misguided people have been asking me what I think will happen to us during the big Friday storm to come. Do you remember that bad movie a few years back where the world was ravaged by a series of super storms? That Hollywood polar outbreak caused the Statue of Liberty to get buried by super snow. Looking at the early satellite pictures of Friday's storm as it moves through Texas causes shivers to tingle my weak spine. I want to call people and tell them to lock themselves into libraries and burn furniture and books for warmth.(That was part of the movie script.)

Tuesday, a little freezing rain event morphed into a surprise wet snow event here in Roanoke. We didn't get much snow because it was too warm, but just north of here, some people got up to six inches of snow. That little storm is what may just make or break our next storm on Friday.

Initial computer forecast models had Roanoke in the murky zone of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Melted down, the models predicted we would get about an inch and a half of liquid. Further north from about Greene County north through Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, the precipitation would stay all snow and they could end up with 20-30 inches by the time the storm exits on Saturday afternoon. Furthermore, the models predicted that the new storm will transfer its energy to a new low pressure off the coast of Virginia and "bomb." That means that it will quickly wrap up and pump copious amounts of snow and wind upon the east coast. Thus, blizzard warnings will no doubt go up soon.

However, things have subtly changed in the past few hours. That little storm that passed through Tuesday is now out in the Atlantic and IT has BOMBED. Amazingly, it will have the intensity and winds of ...get this...a Category 4 hurricane. Rarely has such a super non-tropical storm formed. (Watch out for the UK in a few days).

Sometimes, the best way to understand a storm is to pretend its sentient. Our new monster storm, the one slated to hit this area Friday, will be following the same path as the previously weaker storm. Now that the weak sister is POWERFUL, our new storm will have the tendency to STAY AWAY.

That's what the new computer model runs are beginning to detect. The new big storm's projected path is now slated to be further south than earlier predicted, essentially staying further away from the super cyclone in the Northern Atlantic. That more southerly track will allow more cold air to be dragged down the spine of the Appalachians ahead of the precipitation. This change will only be a degree or two, but it may prove to be enough to keep Roanoke in mostly all snow Friday-Saturday morning. It most likely will also slow down our storm as it decides on its final path and waits for the big Atlantic storm to clear the area. If all that happens, look for Roanoke to get about 15 inches of frozen stuff. If the sleet mixes in, as is forecast right now, look for us to get closer to 7 inches of stuff.

I'm beginning to lean toward big snow for us...but I have very little confidence in that prediction. And that's the truth.