Last night marked the first night of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.
Chanukah is also spelled Hanukkah. It's Hebrew. So there's no one correct spelling in English. I choose the "Ch" to remind us that the correct pronunciation of the holiday begins with the "ch" found in "Lach Ness Monster" and not the "h" in "happy."
The candle in the middle is the Shammash, or helper candle. You light that one first and then light all the other candles with it, but it doesn't "count." (Candles, like people, need helpers to stand by them and to re-light their flames when they go out. The Shammash is the candle dedicated to public service.)
Every night of the eight nights of Chanukah, Jews will light one more candle until we have filled the Menorah with 9 candles (8 plus the Shammash.)
If you are still unconvinced that we ought to scrap the proposed irredeemably-flawed pro-gerrymandering Virginia constitutional amendment and replace it with a plan to create a truly fair redistricting process, I hope you'll take a look at my op-ed recently published by the Washington Post, which they captioned online as:
You may have heard: I don't like the proposal to enshrine in the Virginia Constitution the power of the partisan Republican-appointed Virginia Supreme Court to gerrymander Virginia's district lines forever.
I just don't think judges chosen by a legislature should get to choose the legislature that appoints them. Instead, I think the people should decide who best represents them.
Since Election Day, I have been crazy busy having conversations with constituents, colleagues, and allies to help me determine my legislative agenda for the 2020 session.
While I still have time to finalize what legislation I will be introducing, I have pre-filed requests for 68 different bills I am considering.
That's a lot of bills! In fact, I know that's way too many for me to work on in the less than four weeks we have before crossover in the nine-week session, and I have tremendous respect for the legislative services staff who has to wade through my myriad of proposed bills and other proposed legislation submitted by the other 139 delegates and senators.
My mom always told me I should be a teacher. And I must admit I take joy in taking a complex question and deconstructing it, laying out all its elements.
Similarly, prior to putting together Ikea furniture, I make sure I first have every last necessary dowel (those little wooden things, pictured below), including the one that rolled under the bed. And then I proceed to follow every last instruction in order, staring at each diagram until I understand exactly what they want me to do. And I just don't move forward until I understand the instructions. Perhaps it's a little OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), but I know that if I pound the wrong dowel into the wrong hole, that chest of drawers I'm creating may be forever lopsided, and I'll always regret the mistake I made in acting hastily.
I feel the same way with legislation. It's not enough to believe in a cause. I know if, with sincere belief that I'm doing something right, I neglect the details, I may actually do irrevocable harm to the very cause I'm fighting so hard to win.
So, particularly when I'm trying to upend an established belief, I know I have to move with caution and explain everything. I know from my life experience that you can change people's minds, as long as you proceed logically and methodically, step by step, answer every question and persist without fear of confronting a widely-held position. I have always had the following phrase at the bottom of my website.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead
So please excuse the level of detail I'm about to provide. But it's Black Friday weekend, and you have the time. And surely you don't want to go to the shopping mall. Not this weekend!
So please sit back and I hope you'll enjoy my little detour into the history and politics of gerrymandering. One of the reasons I like representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax is I know my constituents largely consist of seriously-minded intellectuals who appreciate getting the details right. And whether you think I'm right or wrong, by all means, let me know!
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thinking about all the reasons I have to give thanks. I am grateful for you -- the 45th District voters who trust me to represent my constituents' values in Richmond -- and the others outside the District who receive this newsletter and want to keep informed about what I do and try to do.
I am grateful to live in such a beautiful, vibrant community with such smart, engaged constituents. I am grateful to be able to work hand-in-hand with so many constituents, allies, and colleagues to make our Commonwealth a better place for all.
So before diving into the newsletter, I simply want to say, from the bottom of my heart: