I entered active political life in the late sixties, serving in the Virginia State Senate for 16 years.
There were legislators demanding that we “let the sunshine in,” referring to the actions of those who chose not to allow the people to see, and know, how they voted. There was no daily calendar to inform the people of the status of bills. No vote was scheduled to be taken with notice given of time and date, and ONLY the chairman of the committee could call such a vote.
Also, it was understood by the “old guard” that certain legislators should never have any bill bearing their name as a sponsor to pass and become law. Many states, especially southern states, followed this practice.
Then, there came a movement that swept across the nation like a breath of fresh air.
These new laws were termed “Sunshine Laws.” Various groups in Virginia championed and secured the passage of these laws in promoting government transparency. Two of my dear friends in the Senate, “Howlin’ Henry” Howell of Norfolk, and Clive DuVal II of Fairfax, my deskmate, were among those advocates for these essential reforms, enabling the public to be aware and participate in addressing their concerns.
Despite these advances, the timeless adage holds true: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
Recently, I have criticized the baffling waste of taxpayer dollars at VCU for a failed real-estate project – estimated at over $100 million – without ANY explanation from the President or the Board of Visitors.
What astounds me is the refusal by these so-called “administrators” to continue their inaction and refusal to provide answers.
When a VCU board member recently asked the rector of the board to have VCU President Rao answer questions, his request was outright rejected. When he questioned why the rector and vice rector had written a flattering op-ed for the local paper without BOV discussion, he was told that the rector had “been in contact” with nine members of the board without explaining how this “contact” was established. For further context on this you can read the full commentary published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
This action was NEVER discussed nor approved by the BOV. The board secretary NEVER informed members about this, and the public was not notified, as required by law. Is there something that we don’t know which would not make these violations of the law? I have written several members of Congress to initiate a federal inquiry into potential violations of federal and state laws.
It’s surreal to think that in 2023 we are still fighting for “the sunshine”. Why has there been NO clarification by the “leaders” regarding the waste of millions of dollars?
These actions will not be accepted by the public. NO ONE stands above the law. The truth will emerge, justice will prevail, and the people will be served.