This morning David Bulova and David Marsden co-hosted a town hall meeting with Bill Leighty, Chief of Staff to Governor Tim Kaine.
It started early at 9 a.m., and there were about 280 chairs set out for 50 people. By the time stragglers finished coming in, about 65 total attended.
Gerry Connolly showed up at the beginning, and described both Delegates as "Rising Stars in Richmond". He reminded the audience that Fairfax County is 14% of the state's population, but pays 26% of Virginia taxes. The income tax alone accounts for 2.5 billion dollars in revenue from Fairfax County yearly.
Gerry declared the House transportation plan "fleeced Fairfax County" in favor of Prince William County. More on that further down, as Marsden brought it up later.
Bill Leighty started his presentation, and I was immediately struck by the fact that he seemed to not understand the concept of a town hall meeting. Every other "Town Hall" I have ever attended is for all citizens to provide their input, but Bill immediately began by mocking social conservatives and Republicans. He opened with a joke about the marriage amendment, then said the House of Delegates was becoming a "partisan sandbox."
It was interesting to watch the reactions of the Delegates on stage. Despite having once been a "Constituent Service" representative for Delegate Jim Dillard, Marsden smiled and nodded, and didn't seem to understand how inappropriate some of this was. David Bulova sat stoned face during the partisan parts, which gave me an idea that he understood this was not the place.
Leighty went on to make the comments I described earlier, then took questions from the audience. He declared that Scott Lingamfelter's bill on allowing guns on any business property was "not backed by the NRA".
One person asked Leighty about Tim Kaine's zoning bills. Leighty could only recall two of them, and David Marsden shook his head when Leighty asked if either he or Bulova remembered the other one. This was Bulova's moment in the sun, he stood up, named all three and gave a brief summary of them. Great job!
Leighty got a little smart assed with a question about Danny LeBlanc and asked the audience to "raise your hands if you care about Danny LeBlanc". He looked shocked when about half the group raised their hands, and then said he was working that situation behind the scenes. Someone asked if people should contact legislators in support of Danny, and Bill turned a little pale and asked people not to intervene as he was "massaging the situation". He also pointed out the LeBlanc appointment was in the same resolution as he and Marty Kilgore. (I couldn't help but think that didn't stop Republicans from rightly removing Jim Dillard).
Leighty closed by mentioning the METRO bill, and took a shot at JeanneMarie Devolities-Davis by pointing out Tom proposed this idea, then JeanneMarie voted NO.
At this point it was a little past 10 a.m., and Leighty got going. I was impressed the meeting continued on, with Bulova taking over. Unlike Marsden, he was totally prepared with a power point presentation on what was going on in Richmond. Nothing new in that, but again Bulova seemed to have an idea of what he was supposed to do in a Town Hall, and kudos to him.
One interesting note was Bulova attended the smoking hearing in the House subcommittee, and made an audio file. He promised to upload it to his website soon, which I am really looking forward to.
Bulova also mentioned the Cost Cutting Caucus, which was a smart non-partisan move.
Marsden spoke for a much shorter amount of time. The only interesting thing he said was the reason for Prince William doing so much better than Fairfax in the House budget is "They have four GOP Delegates and Fairfax only has two". Actually, Prince William has 5 (Marshall, Lingamfelter, Parrish, McQuigg, Frederick) and Fairfax has 4 (Albo, Rust, Hugo, Callahan), but the point was taken.
The questions from the audience were friendly and non eventful until the very end. One gentleman from the 41st district stood up and told Marsden he was a social conservative and didn't appreciate the jokes and mocking of conservatives at the beginning of the meeting. Marsden backtracked and said he wanted everyone to feel welcome at the meeting, but the damage was done.
I didn't ask any questions, although I came with one. The crowd wasn't worth making a scene with my Delegate, so I will wait for a better opportunity.
Overall, here's how I rate the meeting:
Dave Marsden gets a "C". He came unprepared, and seemed to be piggybacking on Bulova who came prepared, but having a town hall is an improvement over Dillard so I give him credit for that. Also, I could be wrong on this, but given how he didn't understand a lot of what is expected at a town hall, he might have learned something from Bulova, and the next one hopefully will improve. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt today.
Gerry Connolly gets a"C". His speech lasted 15 minutes and had some good information, but he made the town hall into a little too much of a pep rally for Democrats. He needs to lose the dark eyeglasses from the 70s.
Bill Leighty gets a "D". He knew a lot of material, but he just didn't understand the format. Town hall meetings are not for inside jokes. They are not for partisan comments. I might have given him a higher score if I had not attended Tim Kaine's town hall in Woodbridge this week and seen a much more professional presentation of the Governor's agenda. He didn't do the administration any favors with his off key performance.
David Bulova gets an "A". He came prepared, his presentation was excellent, and everytime there was a hard question he came off as the person in the room who knew the bill, the ramifications and what its status was. He wasn't perfect yet, but he's getting good at this format, and Bulova gets an A for effort.