U.S. out of Iraq? Not yet.

I'm really glad that most all U.S. military forces are leaving Iraq this month; this is long past due.

Most of the media coverage this week seems to be glossing over the significant detail that the U.S. investment in Iraq, in terms of personnel and dollars, will continue.  Instead of uniformed troops from the military, we'll have 15,000-16,000 people there in the form of other government employees and private contractors.  We'll be spending almost $4 billion there in 2012.  These numbers are lower than what we've been investing, but they are not small numbers, and they still represent a significant commitment on the part of U.S. taxpayers, let alone on the part of the soldiers still on the ground.  We can't afford to start thinking or talking as though our involvement in Iraq is through.

It also seems appropriate that when we talk about the human life lost in the course of the U.S. presence in Iraq, we avoid artificial exclusions based on nationality.  The story and cost of war is incomplete if you only recognize the count of killed and wounded on one "side" of any conflict.  As we consider this particular milestone, let us reflect on the totality of what has been sacrificed, taken or destroyed along the way.

Violent crime in Richmond

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

The Palladium-Item has an article out today noting an increase in homicides here over the last year compared to previous years.

I want to be careful to say that I don't write about this trend in this space with any promise or implication that my election or anyone else's could prevent individual crimes or save lives.  We know that no elected official and not even the best trained and funded police forces can prevent individual violent crimes when there are so many other background factors that go into these horrific events.

But I think our reaction to this trend as a community will speak greatly about our future prospects for building a version of Richmond that is safe, vibrant and thriving.

Continue reading Violent crime in Richmond

The closing of the Conflict Resolution Center

In a final issue of its newsletter, the board of the Conflict Resolution Center here in Richmond reports the sad news that it has decided to close the organization down.

Having served on the CRC board in the past and having volunteered as a trained mediator, I came to greatly appreciate the idea that members of a community can resolve our interpersonal conflicts in ways that promote non-violence, justice, reconciliation and a deepening of connection, without resorting to the sometimes scarring machinations of the legal system. The CRC existed to facilitate those experiences, through its mediation program, educational work with local youth, and its rich history of related efforts in the Richmond area and beyond.

Continue reading The closing of the Conflict Resolution Center

Why Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst was good for you

Republican Congressman Joe Wilson has already apologized for his lack of civility in last night's joint session of Congress, after shouting "you lie!" at President Barack Obama during Obama's speech about health care reform. Wilson is unsurprisingly being raked over the coals by fellow politicians, the media, and indignant bloggers and Twitter users, but I'm not sure we don't also owe him a word of thanks.

Continue reading Why Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst was good for you

Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice

When Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested on July 16th at his house in an apparently over-zealous and possibly racially charged police decision, everyone involved quickly fell into the usual pattern of conflict for these kinds of incidents.  Statements were released, lawyers were hired, accusations and implications were flung, and everyone prepared for to defend themselves in battle.  The media did its usual thing, egging on the conflict and brinksmanship, interpreting every action and word in the worst possible light, and the parties involved in the fight used those channels to communicate their anger with each other indirectly.  When President Obama first got involved, he only escalated the situation by first admitting that he didn't have all the facts, and then proceeding anyway to say that one of the parties involved had acted "stupidly."  Awful and disturbing, but pretty much what everyone expected.

But then something curious and possibly amazing happened.

Continue reading Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice

EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!

If you read today's Palladium-Item article detailing the recent attempts by Richmond's City Council to gain more representation on the Economic Development Corporation's board of directors, you might be a little confused. I certainly was.

On one hand, you've got the City painting a picture of being left out of the key parts of the relationship the EDC has with its Richmond constituents, having to fork over $730,000 without appropriate representation.

You've got a County official noting that the City is as well represented on the EDC board as the County or other entities, and that things are working just fine as they are, while the Chamber president notes that there may be a conversation to be had, but that the current actions being taken are too poorly timed.

What's going on here?  Everyone seems to be making reasonable statements on the matter that represents the point of view of the entities they serve, but it sounds like they're having the conversation with each other for the first time on the pages of the newspaper. ARGH!

Continue reading EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!