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Saturday, April 20, 2013
Virginia's chief valet
We already knew that Gov. Bob McDonnell and Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. were good friends, so close that Williams picked up the $15,000 catering tab for the 2011 wedding of McDonnell's daughter at the governor's mansion. McDonnell also has taken more than $100,000 worth of trips on Star Scientific's plane as a candidate and as governor.
Now comes word from The Washington Post that McDonnell's family enjoyed a four-day stay at Williams' Smith Mountain Lake house in 2011. McDonnell had reported receiving $2,268 in "lodging and entertainment" gifts from Williams on financial disclosure forms, but provided no more specificity because Virginia's flimsy ethics laws don't require it. McDonnell's office confirmed details of the gift to The Post.
The governor's office also confirmed that members of McDonnell's family took Williams' Range Rover to the lake house and returned to Richmond in a Ferrari that retails for $190,000. A McDonnell spokesman told The Post that the governor's family was merely doing Williams a favor by transporting one of his luxury vehicles to Franklin County and another back to Richmond.
It's nice that generosity works both ways. We can only guess whether McDonnell also waxed Williams' boat and watered the plants at the lake house during his stay. And because McDonnell never followed through on a campaign promise to create an independent ethics commission, we can only guess what a neutral watchdog would say about this too-close-for-comfort relationship between the governor and the head of a company that is embroiled in a tax dispute with the state.
Spring cleaning for Earth Day
Last Saturday during spring cleaning in the Roanoke Valley, 36 tons of trash were bagged and hauled away from our streets, streams, parks and pathways. We'd like to think that fewer litterbugs walk among us, but the collection during Clean Valley Day was two tons heavier than last year's haul. We aren't sure how many flimsy plastic bags plucked from branches or how many tires heaved over hillsides - who does such a thing? - equal just one ton. Tons of shame should weigh down contributors to this mess.
Tons of gratitude go to the many volunteers devoted to picking up after others and making our little section of the globe sparkle in time for Earth Day.
This year's observance at Grandin Village takes place today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A full line-up of musicians, artists and food vendors, lectures and demonstrations is scheduled. Participants should walk away with great ideas to practice at home. And Earth Day coincides with the season opening of the Grandin Village farmers market, a tasty reminder of the good things the earth bears when nurtured.
A little different marathon
Welcome, runners! You are one classy group of athletes.
The Blue Ridge Marathon is not for the faint of heart in any event. Just showing up for this year's race shows a little extra moxie only days after the bombings that so tragically ended the Boston Marathon. Rather than cancellations, organizers report a flurry of last-minute registrations in a show of solidarity with Bostonians.
Some of your number even went for an upgrade from half-marathon to full, adding more than 1,000 feet of climbing to take on what the Roanoke Valley likes to claim is America's Toughest Road Marathon.
Perseverance is what marathons are about. This year, that seems an especially worthy trait to laud and to emulate. Many of the fans who turn out every year to urge you on undoubtedly will be pulling for you and for Boston, and the loved ones of the three who died there.
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