Why is Robert Hurt lying to his constituents?

Robert Hurt is still telling the same lies abut the economy and health care/ACA now that he did when he was elected the first and second times in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.

His most recent newsletter to his constituents can be found at his House page.

March 11, 2014

President’s Healthcare Law Continues to Harm Working Families

My intent here is not to parse each word, but to show the utter falsehoods and tired arguments that are an indication of his and his party’s indifference to the district and to governing in general.

This is a congress that has sat on it’s hands for 5 years while claiming to do work, very little of which ever even gets to the Senate. “Jobs” bills benefit big businesses, “farmer’s” bills gut the Clean Water Act, and no town hall meetings have ever been held in this district since Hurt was elected. He will tell you he has met many citizens. That is true. In every hardware store and country restaurant in the district. No more than 10 people maybe, at a time.

Nothing but negativity about the President, and any program that they want to cut. Children’s lunches. Unemployment extensions. Public debt extensions in order to pay bills already voted on in the House.

It seems as though every time we turn around, President Obama is issuing decisions to unilaterally amend another one of the endless mandates within his signature legislation imposed on the American people. This past week, the Obama Administration announced that the millions of Americans who had their health plans cancelled because of the president’s health care law would be able to keep their plans and be exempt from penalties until after the 2016 elections. This politically-driven attempt by the Administration to delay the harmful impacts of the law is further proof that the president knows that it’s simply not working and that the massive failings of the law will have severe repercussions for Americans and their families.

This has so many patent falsehoods it is hard to list them here.

This is the law, duly drafted, debated, voted on by representatives of the people, signed by President Obama and upheld by the highest court in the land.

Yet, Republicans can only try to bolster the sheer brainwashing propaganda emanating from the Big Conservative Mouthpieces. The truth of the cancellations has been debunked thousands of times in public everywhere for months.

At least 4.7 million individual health policies have been cancelled due to the regulations associated with the president’s health care law.

Here’s the big finish, the red meat for the base.

The bottom line is that millions of Americans are losing their health insurance, being subjected to an unsecure [sic – ed.] online marketplace system, and paying higher premiums and deductibles under the president’s health care law. I stand committed to continuing to fight to repeal this harmful law, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to promote more positive health care reforms.

Unsecure is not actually a word. But I digress.

It is past time for Congress to get off their expense accounts, work more than 120 days a year, and get the country’s business done. The damage already done by unprecedented obstruction by Robert Hurt and his Republican colleagues in the House has slowed the economic recovery, spent unnecessary money on recall votes and other folly.

People like Robert Hurt being allowed to stay in Washington wasting the time of every citizen in his district is the reason why the problems most discussed by Republican Town Criers are problems actually caused by the intransigent, feckless Republican leadership. The truth is that over 200,000 Virginia citizens have looked into a health plan and have been deemed qualified. 100,000 people have actually gotten a plan. And many more have qualified for expanded coverage under the federally-run marketplace.

The truth about the ACA Statistics (choose Virginia)

Robert Hurt votes over 90% of the time with his party. Yet that’s all you here from the Big Noise Machines, how Democrats vote with their party. Well, yes. Somebody has to be an adult in the House.

Robert Hurt is Virgil Goode, redux. A backbencher that does little to nothing and collects a check. Period.

The author is a former resident and activist in the 5th District, including as a member of the 5th Congressional District Committee and the State Central Committee.


Why FOIA is important

The ability to get information from our government is the keystone of efforts to not only keep the government honest, but to bring to light issues which might otherwise not be talked or written about.

It is, quite simply, the last opportunity short of a court suit between citizens and their government. Information about many different things, different subjects, by almost every public body everywhere. It is the thing that is produced by government entities: files, emails, documents, contracts. This information is available to all of us (in Virginia only if a citizen or journalist, or in the DC media market are able to get this information) to decide for ourselves if we like the way our government runs. Think of it as a citizenship as an owner, a stakeholder in our country.

Sunshine Week is coming up March 17th, 2014, and it is a time to remind everyone that they have the right to ask questions, ask for materials, and generally interact with their government.

If you have a question about the running of your government and are tired of asking questions of representatives that answer with a form letter, FOIA is for you.

If you want to know why the county you live in did certain things and not others, FOIA is for you.

Did your property taxes go up recently? Have you ever looked at the actual budget of a town, city or county? Not the summary they publish in the paper. You will find all sorts of information about where your money goes.

Don’t mistake my comments as being anti-tax, because taxes, well collected and well applied, pay for everything you use. Universities, schools, roads, water systems, traffic lights. Water filtration facilities. Sewage treatment plants.

These all are understandable expenses for government.

Paying an attorney $285,00 a year for a county of 10,000 people is not. Now that county is $50m in debt and can’t afford a Community Development Director. Part of this is due to apathy, and even though I was watching them, there was nothing I could do but file requests. (Cumberland)

Ask your questions. Use your power. Use the resources I have listed below.

And fix it yourself.

Virginia Coalition on Open Government
FOI Council – A division of Legislative Services – Opinions, Cases
Virginia Labor Market Information – Find out about your county’s demographics
Virginia Freedom of Information Act

Buckingham Schools Superintendent refuses to take FOIA request, then sends no answers a day late

Since Sunshine week is coming up, I wanted to do a series of articles on my experiences with requesting information, and also comment further on FOIA.

If you remember the story last week, a school division superintendent here in Virginia was trying to say that he wasn’t going to take my FOIA request because it wasn’t written.

Previous article

After asking three times last week for the assistant and the superintendent to take my contact information for the request, I wrote an email to Dr. Cecil Snead, Superintendent of Buckingham County Schools.

Dr. Snead had been having trouble, including on the phone, understanding what I was asking for.Emails and the telephone call did not clear it up. He even told me that the value of submitting a written request is that they get the information right.

All told, required written requests, willful misunderstanding of the 4 or 5 times I explained to him what I wanted.

Here is a snippet of the law regarding prices charged for photocopies of documents:

2.2-3704(F) A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication.

(portion only)

The breakdown of the cost for those copies’ actual cost, as it states in the above portion of Virginia Code. That’s it. I don’t want 40 pages of documents or anything. Just the actual cost calculation of the copies charge.

Simple right?

After much back and forth, including a timely mention of the schools’ attorney, Dr Snead sent me a letter that basically said that he could do things that aren’t in the law. Written requests, willful misunderstanding of the 4 or 5 times I explained to him what I wanted.

Here is what he sent back to me:

February 24, 2014

Dear Mr. Brooks:

Please find below information you requested with regard to the justification of $0.25 per copy for FOIA document replication.

FOIA expressly permits public bodies to make a “reasonable charge” for the location and duplication of requested records, which can take into account numerous factors. Not unlike other school divisions, consideration is given to wages of staff search time, actual resources used for copying (lease of copier and materials), and incidentals (postage, courier). The $0.25 charge has been in effect for many years, and has not been increased in recent years to allow for increased costs of staff time, equipment, paper, and the other factors mentioned. It’s important to note that not all FOIA requests manifest into hard documents. Some of our requests can be fulfilled through electronic media; thus minimalizing or even negating a charge to the requester, depending upon the time committed.


Cecil C. Snead, II, Ed. D.

(Arrived 10:30AM 2-25-14)

I gave up trying to argue the points with this person, but it is indicative of the level of misinformation and outright myth-keeping that goes on in Virginia’s counties and other entities.

I sent a highlighted portion of the law to him, since his one day-backdated official letterhead letter saying nothing arrived ten hours late.

I have little patience with public officials that claim ignorance of the law and think nothing of making decisions and spending our money, mostly in secret.

It needs to end, now. We can’t afford it, it’s wrong, and it’s the law.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Virginia school division refuses to accept FOIA request

Buckingham School Division, in Central Virginia, refused yesterday to take my contact information over the phone for a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from the public body. The reason given was that the Buckingham County School Board has a policy that states in what form requests will be accepted.

I had asked the school board office on Monday of this week for information concerning the rate which is charged by the school administration for printing materials requested under the FOIA law.

I was told by a member of the administration that the price for photocopies of items was $0.35 per page.  I asked her if there was a record of the calculation used to determine that figure. She replied there wasn’t.

I then asked for FOIA-related information on how that price was calculated. This information is not covered under any of the sections of information prohibited from being released.

Since she had no answer, I informed her of my telephone number. The call ended at that time.

On Tuesday she called to tell me that the school board policy was that the request be written. I informed her that was not in accordance with the law. She refused any other contact information from me and told me she was referring me to the Superintendent, Cecil Snead.

Yesterday I called and left Superintendent Snead a voice mail. Your turn, Sir.

Watch this space.