Virginia Capitol Connections Summer 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 29 Is Virginia Leading the Flock? By BONNIE ATWOOD “Bellwether,” a new book by David J. Toscano, is what a political junkie would call “a good read.” Especially if, like this correspondent, you lived and worked in the same place and time that this book describes. Toscano is, if you’ll excuse the expression, a Yankee, in his early years, whose reaction to central Virginia was the same as that of my Alabama-born mother: “They’re still fighting the Civil War here.” Starting with holding local offices in Charlottesville, he went on to become a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 2005. He served until 2019, climbing to the role of House Minority Leader for a critical seven years. In the chess game that is Virginia politics, we learn how Toscano views the Old Dominion to be a textbook study of how an earnest minority party can inch up to become a slim majority, gaining control of the all-important House of Delegates, and possibly of a predictor of national happenings to come. Almost a primer, and a useful one, he explains what it is like to be “in the room” where law and policy are created. We may not be in the room, but we at least get a peek through a crack in the doorway. He is not shy about laying bare the many recent scandals that have plagued Virginia. This is the most painful part of the book for those who know the players. He details the changes in rules for gifts to politicians. This writer remembers a certain governor who officially reported my gift of coffee mug declaring “Family Caregiver Month,” to the tune of $7.00 Objective, it is not, nor does it pretend to be. Toscano is a Democrat, tried and true. He does have the humility to acknowledge the “sacred trust” between constituents and those who represent them in government. Toscano admires the ethic of civil discourse and seeing both sides, (referred to as “The Virginia Way”) while keeping no secrets about his stance as a staunch Democrat. He delves into the nuance of the phrase, “The Virginia Way,” and its both positive and negative connotation. He walks us through the issues he identifies as “hot buttons,” such as abortion, guns, and immigration, arguably giving short shrift to more recent narratives, such as this correspondent’s favorite subject, LBGTQ initiatives. Toscano paints us a clear picture of how the “Blue Wave” of Democratic control changed the course of history. We see that processes are never as simple as they appear, and that even small changes can take agonizing lengths of time. In sum, everybody who works in and around government should read this book, and place it with other important works that sustain the institutional history of this significant time. Bonnie Atwood, J.D., is editor of Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine, and has been a professional lobbyist for over 20 years. Healthy Soils Lead to Healthy Plants By KIP CONNELLY AND MIKE GOATLEY There is a great deal of attention in the agricultural world these days regarding the importance of ‘soil health’, and that concept applies equally to the soils of our lawns, gardens, and ornamentals. There are many requirements to achieve soil health, but one of the most logical starting point points is to ensure your soil has appropriate pH, amounts of nutrients, and organic matter levels. Just guessing at amounts and timing of when to apply lime, nutrients, and organic matter often makes things worse rather than better for both your soils and plants, and in many cases the perception is “we probably need to apply more lime or nutrients”, and this further confounds the problem and likely contributes to water quality problems due to over- or mis-applications. But it’s not hard or very expensive to determine exactly what your soil needs: you can conduct a soil test. Just like the value of having a regular physical at the Doctor’s office to optimize your health, a soil test is an excellent way to know exactly what your soil needs to be healthy in its own right, and to best serve as the growing medium for high quality, environmentally friendly lawns, gardens, and ornamental beds. Soil tests use very technical scientific analyses and methods on just a few ounces of soil removed from your site in developing data that predicts nutrient availability to your plant’s roots. However, it can be very daunting to interpret what the test data and its recommendations for adjustment mean. In order to take the mystery out of soil test recommendations, a private company called respectDOWNSTREAM developed an easy to use program that instructs the homeowner step-by-step in how to conduct a soil test, how to measure the amount of area you have to treat in your lawn, garden, or landscape bed, and precisely what product and how much of it is needed to follow the science of the soil test analysis. respectDOWNSTREAM formed a public/private partnership with theVirginia Tech Turfgrass Management program to collaborate on the review and development of user-friendly chemical application recommendations based on a soil test, and to use the respectDOWNSTREAM program as part of Virginia Cooperative Extension outreach to better educate homeowners on strategies to protect water quality and the environment while still having great looking and productive lawns, landscapes, and gardens. If all the public/private partnership between Virginia Tech Turfgrass scientists and respectDOWNSTREAM did was to better educate homeowners about the importance of soil testing and nutrient management programs, the partnership would have great value in water quality protection and consumer education from those perspectives alone. However, respectDOWNSTREAM also has the potential to capture acreage under urban nutrient management programming that could be verified by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for reporting to the US Environmental Protection Agency in order to meet Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Program III goals. We will describe this program in detail in the next issue of Virginia Capitol Connections. E.H. (Kip) Connelly is currently President/Owner of Prescription Soil and Plant Nutrient Management. Mr. Connelly was previously President and part/owner of W.S.Connelly & Co., Inc. from 1973-2018. Mike Goatley is a Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. He conducts applied research and delivers outreach programs on sustainable turfgrass management strategies. BENNETT FUNERAL HOME Charles D. Morehead, Sr. Funeral Director & General Manager 3215 Cutshaw Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23221 (804) 359-4481 V V