Re “Virginia Beach will collect public input on election system despite objections from several new council members” (Jan. 18): I am shocked, yet at the same time not surprised, reading that these five City Council members — Sabrina Wooten, Jennifer Rouse, Amelia Ross-Hammond, Chris Taylor and Worth Remick — tried to block a plan initiated by Mayor Bobby Dyer to collect public input on the city’s election system. Why would they feel so strongly about suppressing and denying citizen input? Aren’t elections intended to be about the people’s voice? I question their motives as well as all the confusion surrounding the last several elections. I choose to vote in person for elections, but my votes in the past two had to be submitted as provisional ballots and put aside for later due to confusion over the unwanted mail-in ballots I received and was not sure what to do with at the time. From what I heard, there was also a lot of confusion about who was to vote and where. This might explain how people who hardly campaign at all win elections. Sound familiar?
Paula Peddicord, Virginia Beach
Re “‘School choice’ proposals face an inconvenient obstacle” (Our Views, Jan. 17): The editorial criticizes a draft school choice program on the grounds that it violates two provisions of the Virginia Constitution. These criticisms are wrong.
First, the editorial quotes Article VIII, Section 10: “No appropriation of public funds shall be made to any school or institution of learning not owned or exclusively controlled by the State or some political subdivision thereof … .” This suggests that no public funds can go to nonpublic schools (if not students). But the following sentence says the opposite: “the General Assembly may … appropriate funds for educational purposes which may be expended in furtherance of elementary, secondary, collegiate or graduate education … in public and nonsectarian private schools.”
Second, the editorial argues that choice programs may violate Article IV, Section 16 of the Virginia Constitution, which bars public funds from going to religious institutions. This provision, steeped in anti-Catholic origins, is effectively a dead letter after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue and Carson v. Makin. In those cases, the court held that the federal Constitution prohibits the application of state constitutional provisions to bar religious options from educational choice programs (for the same reason, the “nonsectarian” language in Article VIII is null).
With these legal barriers cleared away, one question remains: Should parents have the choice to send their children to the school that works best for them or should their main option be the school they are assigned by their ZIP code?
David Hodges, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, Arlington
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a frigid day. I took my gloves off and my hands went searching for my jacket pockets. My comrades and I of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2894 had a mission to fulfill. We were helping a young military couple get needed repairs done to their home so they could move in and begin some semblance of a normal life. The unfortunate circumstance the couple was in was not of their making. But they found a friend in VFW Post 2894. I drew the lot to pick up some hot coffee to warm the stomachs and hands of my VFW Post brothers. I didn’t know that a box of to-go coffee cost $21, sticker shock of our current economic times. “Were there any discounts?” I asked. “No, sorry,” was the response. I had to bite the bullet. “Two boxes please,” I said.
Then the surprise. I pulled out my wallet, and the cashier waved me off. “It’s been taken care of.” She pointed behind me. “Thank you sir. But, I’m not buying a cup; I’m buying two boxes.” “I know,” he replied. “It’s OK. I’ve got it.” He said his name didn’t matter. So one mission of kindness melded together with another. To the unknown coffee angel, VFW Post 2894 says thank you. Salute. Kindness is alive and well in Chesapeake.
Ronald Liston, Chesapeake
Self-interest and short-term-interest appear to have all but obliterated the idea of sacrificing purely personal or socially harmful interests for the good of society. For too many Americans, their guiding light seems to be the 1960s song, “My Way.” America’s “My Way” culture combined with the need for immediate self-gratification is destroying our social compact of cooperating for our society’s benefit. If we don’t abandon this mindset, America’s democratic republic is doomed. “My Way”-dominated thinking has contributed to the destruction of the family unit. Many children lack instruction on becoming a contributing part of a successful community. The absence of honest adult examples teaching societal wisdom is at the root of much of the violence. Self-interest has elevated capitalism to being America’s religion, the “god in whom we trust,” and that brings the profits, no matter the harm of production or the scourge on society the end product will produce. My way rationalizing, above God’s way, is humanity’s downfall. Jesus’ instruction is to love God, and our neighbor as ourselves, and we will be blessed. I thank God for the stories of people helping others and pray these examples make others emulate such models of servanthood as the way to be a successful person.
Joe Blumber, Newport News