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Saturday, May 25, 2013
Democrat Terry McAuliffe is drawing fire from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign over his . . . shall we say, updated? . . . views on Atlantic offshore drilling for oil.
During McAuliffe’s unsuccessful bid for his party’s nomination four years ago, he was OK with exploratory drilling for natural gas off Virginia’s shoreline, but not for oil — a position similar to then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s. The update: This year, with the Democratic nomination all but sewn up, McAuliffe says he supports “responsible offshore drilling” for both — a position similar to now-U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s. And to Sen. Mark Warner’s; the two introduced a bill this week to lift a federal moratorium on drilling off Virginia’s coast, so long as Congress agrees to sharing half the take with the commonwealth.
McAuliffe’s change of heart is a flip-flop, Cuccinelli’s spokeswoman, Anna Nix, charges — a show of his willingness to tailor his pitch “to whatever voters want to hear.”
Well, not all voters. Environmental groups remain opposed to offshore drilling. They probably won’t be tempted to flee into the Republican there’s-no-fuel-like-an-old-fuel camp, but they could decide in November that they’d really rather stay home than go to the polls.
The third time may be charmed
Roanoke City Council on Monday agreed to sell the old YMCA building on Church Avenue to the same developer fast at work modernizing the Crystal Tower on Campbell Avenue.
Faisal Khan’s Fifth & Church LLC company will pay $10 for the building and land currently assessed just shy of $1 million. In return, city officials expect that at least $500,000 will be invested within the first year, to be followed by another $6.5 million the following two years. When completed, between 47 and 53 more apartments and 6,000 square feet of commercial space will be added to a part of the downtown that is quickly becoming a desirable place to live.
Khan is not the only developer with the desire and will to turn the old Y into something new. A group of landlord investors tried to stall the deal Monday by offering $50,000 for the building and complaining that they were late to the bargaining table because they didn’t know it was for sale.
An odd comment for anyone involved in local real estate to make, given the building was placed back on the market when the last deal fell through. That developer and the one before had similar desires as Khan, but were not able to secure financing during a recession that dampened lenders’ enthusiasm for real estate projects.
The lending climate is brighter now. Let’s hope this third attempt will be charmed. If not, Roanoke will get the building back and try, try again.
It’s a date, at last
Two years after it sued the Virginia Department of Taxation, Star Scientific Inc. finally will get its day in court to contest a 2002 state sales and use tax assessment on tobacco-curing barns it owns in Mecklenburg County.
No thanks to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, whose office allowed the case to languish while the troubled company’s tax bill went unpaid and penalties accumulated. Star Scientific could be on the hook for $1.7 million in taxes and penalties if it loses.
Cuccinelli has received gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., including plane rides and the free use of Williams’ Smith Mountain Lake vacation home. The attorney general also owned Star Scientific stock, but dumped his remaining shares last month after his conflict of interest became clear to the public, if not to Cuccinelli himself.
Cuccinelli, who has been busy running for governor, announced April 5 that outside counsel will represent the tax department in the Star Scientific case. This week, a Mecklenburg County judge set aside a Friday and Saturday in December to hear legal arguments. The private lawyers representing the state told The Washington Post that the unusual scheduling demonstrated a commitment on both sides to resolve the dispute.
If Cuccinelli had shown the same commitment, perhaps the case would already be resolved.
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