Paul Jacob

Without career politicians, life itself would be impossible. Or so they would have us think.

Take the recent Washington Post headline: “N. Va. Area Braces for Life After Callahan.”

The paper is talking about Vincent F. Callahan, a local rep in the Virginia House of Delegates for the last 40 years. That’s a long time. According to the Post, for the first 30 years this solon was simply “idling in the shadows.”

That’s a long time to idle.

But for the last ten years, Callahan served as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. During this stretch he played a big role in shipping tax dollars to a whole lot of people.

In the process, Callahan gained a whole bunch of new friends. Who now are really going to miss him.

"It was extraordinary and innovative,” says Robert Templin, the president of Northern Virginia Community Colleges. He's talking about the funding NVCC secured through Callahan’s committee to help train more health professionals.

Must have been a big check.

Terrence Jones, president and chief executive of Wolf Trap, a performing arts center, also spoke of Callahan as “an extraordinary ally.” I guess. The Post reports: “Callahan, who as chairman had the last word on funding of nonstate agencies each year (the equivalent of federal earmarks), inserted more than $3.5 million in the state budget for Wolf Trap in the past three years alone.”

Did Wolf Trap really need the $3.5 million dollars he “inserted” in the budget? They do charge for their shows. A lot. Wasn’t this really $3.5 million to subsidize arts for the area’s wealthier folks?

You may not like earmarks and pork, but it’s certainly true that those receiving the money keep saying, “Thanks a lot.” One thing you can say for them, these special interest beneficiaries certainly are polite.

With the Post’s lionizing of Callahan as money-bringer par excellence, we are led to believe this quite prosperous area of Northern Virginia owes some of its success and wealth to the loot Mr. Callahan has brought back through parochial power politics. But even the paper’s report admits that “Northern Virginia contributes far more tax dollars to state coffers than it gets back. . . .”

Hmmm? So while Callahan is bringing us a rabbit for our stew, the same legislature in which he is such a powerful force has confiscated our cow. Actually, the rabbit is for someone else’s stew (who happens to live a few minutes away as the crow flies, or an hour away as the car drives).

Thanks again, Vincent F.

There was some criticism of Delegate Callahan by Gerald Connelly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. As a Democrat, Connelly’s critique risks dismissal as partisan sniping. Yet, he seems fond of Callahan, much more so than the conservatives within Callahan’s own party that the 40-year veteran had regularly battled. Still, Connelly slings Callahan, arguing, “There have been times when he’s had to carry water for the leadership that ran counter to this region’s interests.”

Hey, don’t say that while slurpin’ on rabbit stew, buddy!

To bring us the rabbit, perhaps Callahan has had to work against the region some of the time. And he regularly voted to raise our taxes. But should we look a gift rabbit in the mouth?

When he announced his retirement back in March, Callahan wasn’t too shy to tell reporters how doggone important he has been, stating: “The stuff I have done over the years has been unsurpassed for any Northern Virginia legislator in history. I probably delivered more to my region and to the state than anyone else.”

So what does all his “deliverance” amount to? Huge gobs of tax dollars. My tax dollars.

And for that, he’s a legend . . . if only in his own mind. And that of the Washington Post.

Will we survive without Mr. Callahan? Sure. Somehow. Against all odds, we’ll find a way. Though, shucks, our taxes may not go up as fast.

Still, I bet we can find someone somewhere to raise our taxes.

Equaling Callahan’s arrogance? Now that may not be so easy. It will no doubt take some seasoning once in office.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.