Notes from Virginia Free
Yesterday, I drove to Richmond to attend the annual luncheon by Virginia FREE-a remarkable group that everyone should know more about. Virginia FREE, capably directed by Clayton Roberts-a former journalist-is a bipartisan coalition of business and civic leaders that advocates for solutions to grow Virginia’s economy. The organization also provides members with factual information about the progress of relevant legislation in Virginia’s General Assembly — cutting through a lot of clutter to let people know what’s actually happening.
In a Virginia that is too often badly fractured down party and ideological lines, yesterday’s event was a refreshing departure. Before the lunch, hundreds of Democrats, Republicans, independents, business leaders, and advocates cheerfully met for cocktails and chatter in the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel. During the lunch, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Governor Bob McDonnell made presentations centered almost totally on the need for bipartisan cooperation on innovation, reform, and education.
Whether those remarks squared with these two men’s past and future governance was one question; but there was no question at all that the assembly and mission of Virginia FREE served as a forcing function to induce everyone there to concentrate on the promise of cooperation and solutions.
During the event, I had conversations with everyone ranging from a mineral mining company recovering deposits of valuable minerals from ancient ocean sand lining the I-95 corridor, to the manager of Rolls-Royce’s new plant in the Richmond area. These enterprises are creating hundreds of new jobs, and the conversations about them elude the rhetorical snags that often prevent Democrats and Republicans from talking to each other. In other words, it’s hard to argue over some ideological point when you’re learning about the mining of zircon from sand!
We here at NDP strongly believe that a strong economy founded on openness, innovation, and robust public education is good for everyone-increasing opportunity and progress for all. And so along those lines, it was refreshing to see so many people from all walks of life and all political stripes, at least once a year, drop their banners and break bread for good business.