- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

A regular critic of the Richmond City Council left members in tears and silence with a personal apology for his ancestors’ role in slavery.

Silver Persinger, 35, a self-described socialist, spoke after the introduction of a resolution in support of the Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue to be unveiled March 30.

“My ancestors owned slaves — 301 slaves,” Mr. Persinger told the council last Monday night. “I would like to apologize on behalf of my family. I would like to apologize for the sins of my fathers.”

His words prompted an outburst of tears from council Vice President Delores L. McQuinn, who had introduced the resolution.

“Hopefully, there will be individuals like Mr. Persinger, who come out and pour out their hearts,” Miss McQuinn said. “I accept your apology.”

“It is a small act of reconciliation,” Mr. Persinger said. “But I hope it is meaningful.”

Mr. Persinger surprised the council because he is a persistent critic of city government in the former capital of the Confederacy.

The General Assembly last month passed a resolution to express “profound regret” for Virginia’s role in slavery. Lawmakers in Georgia have announced plans to introduce a similar resolution, and another proposal is being considered in Missouri.

A resolution has been introduced in Congress asking the federal government to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow-era discrimination.

• Bracket buster

In a bracket battle between party leaders in the Virginia House, Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith won one over Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong.

On Tuesday, Mr. Griffith predicted that Virginia Commonwealth University, a No. 11 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, would take out Mr. Armstrong’s alma mater, No. 6 seed Duke University, in the first round.

When asked about the prediction Wednesday, Mr. Armstrong, Martinsville Democrat, cracked, “I have a wonderful relationship with Morgan Griffith. I think he is a great orator, but he is frequently wrong.”

Then the VCU Rams surprised the three-time national champion Blue Devils, beating them 79-77 Thursday night behind point guard Eric Maynor’s 22 points and game-winning shot.

On Friday, Mr. Griffith, Salem Republican, basked in the limelight. “I went for the upset and got it,” he said.

Then he pondered the future again, asking, “So is Ward going to issue a retraction?”

Mr. Armstrong laughed when he was told of the query.

“Where would I be without my friends on the other side of the aisle who point out my inadequacies?” he said. “Did I also mention I lost my glasses and my cell phone died? It has been a tough week.”

• Recruiting wars

As part of her enthusiastic push to fill Virginia’s November election with as many Independent Green Party candidates as possible, Gail “For Rail” Parker is going far and wide looking for willing participants.

Miss Parker, who last year ran unsuccessfully against Democrat (and victor) James H. Webb Jr. and incumbent George Allen in the state’s U.S. Senate race, recently left a message on the answering machine of Seth McLaughlin, who covers Virginia politics for The Washington Times.

“Good morning, Seth. This is Gail ‘For Rail’ Parker,” she said. “I was calling because, if I recall correctly, you live in Virginia, and I wanted to see if you would be willing to let us put you on the ballot for some office.”

Although the request generated newsroom laughter, Mr. McLaughlin had to decline. Alas, he does not live in the commonwealth.

• A walk in her shoes

School governance may be the hot political issue in D.C. government these days, but one of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s constituents recently confronted him with a decidedly more concrete issue.

During the mayor’s visit last week to the Arboretum Neighborhood Association meeting in Ward 5, a 90-year-old woman said she has been complaining since 2004 about the cracked and jagged sidewalk in front of her house.

“I’ve had the nicest conversations,” she said of her frequent calls to the city seeking repairs.

Still, that hasn’t helped fix her sidewalk.

At one point, she said, crews came out and spread tar all over the cracks. But now people just track the tar into her house. In other neighborhoods, people get concrete repairs, not tar, she said.

Mr. Fenty, who complimented the woman on her youthful appearance, said he would get someone on the problem.

The next day, the woman, who asked that her name not appear in the newspaper, reported encouraging news.

One of the city employees who accompanied Mr. Fenty to the community meeting arrived the next day to take pictures of her sidewalk.

“But I’m still waiting,” she said.

• PSC nomination

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley last week nominated Lawrence Brenner, an administrative law judge with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to Maryland’s Public Service Commission.

“Judge Brenner brings the experience and professionalism we need to protect consumers and to restore accountability to the PSC and create a stable regulatory environment in Maryland,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Mr. Brenner has worked as a lawyer and supervisor at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

He also served as an administrative law judge with the U.S. Department of Labor.

• A town’s happy tree

A smiling pine tree beat out Robert E. Flea and Aluminus the Foil Ball as the first mascot for a mountain town in Virginia.

Hillsville Mayor Randall Gravley announced the winner last Monday night after a townwide election settled on Carter the Hillsville Pine.

The winning entry was submitted by 20-year town employee Todd Jennings, who said the mascot refers to George Carter, the late Carroll County industrialist who planted a 30-acre tract of pines. The smiling conifer took in 82 of the 217 votes cast by town residents.

Happy the Hillsville Mascot — a yellow smiley face — captured 74 votes and Robert E. Flea received 23 votes. Robert E. Flea was a nod to the town’s popular Labor Day gun show and flea market and Virginia’s beloved Civil War general.

About 50 entries from across Virginia were in the running for mascot of this town of 2,607.

The other entries included the Hillsville Hound Dog and Charms the Flea. Townie the Tapeworm and Aluminus the Foil Ball didn’t make the final cut.

Mr. Jennings was handed a $100 grand prize at Monday night’s Town Council meeting. He already knows how he will spend it.

“As I was coming up here, my tailpipe broke, so there you go.”

• Let him stay

The Frederick County, Md., Democratic Central Committee is standing by county Chairman Bob Kresslein.

The members voted 6-3 on Wednesday night to reject a resolution calling for Mr. Kresslein’s resignation. Two members abstained.

The committee voted after Mr. Kresslein expressed his regret and embarrassment for his arrest in August that led to a guilty plea to a charge of driving while impaired. In a court appearance a week earlier, he was granted probation before judgment. He said he has accepted full responsibility for his conduct.

Adam Schultz, who presented the resolution, said Mr. Kresslein should have told the committee about his arrest. They learned about it when reading about his court appearance.

• Patrolling for tolls

Frederick County, Md., Commissioner John L. Thompson says the most efficient way to assure that the county gets the road improvements it needs would be to charge tolls on county roads.

The Frederick News Post reported last week that Mr. Thompson has circulated an e-mail calling on the commissioners to seek state and federal legislation granting toll authority to the county.

Mr. Thompson said that the current gasoline taxes barely raise enough money to maintain existing roads, and that there is no assurance that Frederick County will benefit from any gas tax increase. He said user fees — in the form of tolls — for roads and highways would be a more efficient funding source.

• Jim McElhatton and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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