Bill Bolling’s 100 Ideas: Everything to everyone.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has launched an interesting new initiative: 100 Ideas for the Future of Virginia. He’s assembled 100 proposals to improve the state, grouping them into eight categories on the website. A cursory inspection, though, shows that while the concept is good, but the execution is mighty poor.

This could be a great opportunity, a chance for him to list 100 clever proposals on the order of Gov. Tim Kaine’s energy reduction executive order. Simple solutions to problems, small things that can have a big impact, low-dollar ways to make a high-dollar difference. You know, the sort of proposals that Governor Doug Wilder is so good at, the hallmark of any politician who has earned the right to use the phrase “commonsense leadership.”

These ideas are not that. In fact, none of them are even proposals. It’s basically a grab bag of things that some people might like to see happen — there’s something for everybody, from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans. Each consists of a title and between one – three sentences explaining it. There is no more detail provided. Here are some of “his” ideas:

  • Give Local Governments More Tools To Control Growth And Development
  • Bipartisan Redistricting Commission
  • Gubernatorial Succession
  • Controlling Growth and Development
  • Put More Law Enforcement Officers On Our Streets
  • Keep Our Children Safe From Sexual Predators
  • Protecting The Second Amendment
  • Eliminate the Car Tax

The ideas don’t get much better than this. These are Bolling’s ideas in the sense that every bill in the 2007 General Assembly session was my idea because, hey, I put them on Richmond Sunlight. Those ideas that actually consist of doing something (that is, not “Protecting The Second Amendment”) are without explanation as to how they’d be done. How’s he going to pay for these? He’s not saying. How would he get these laws passed? Not a word about that. There’s not an ounce of creativity, ingenuity, or critical thought. Not one idea that makes the reader think “oh, now that is clever.”

(I love that build more coal power plants comes under the “environment” category. Mr. Environment says “thanks for the pollution!”)

These aren’t “ideas.” This is, rather, the world’s widest, shallowest platform for governor.

By trying to be everything to everyone, Lt. Gov. Bolling will wind up as nothing to anybody.

(Via The Mason Conservative)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

25 replies on “Bill Bolling’s 100 Ideas: Everything to everyone.”

  1. I’m half hoping that somebody will explain to me that perhaps I’m totally not understanding this 100 Ideas dealie. The execution is just so staggeringly poor that it strikes me as implausible.

  2. Maybe it’s just badly described. Maybe he’s describing problems, offering his ideas (such as they are), and figuring that he’ll get the real ideas from people providing comments?

  3. Waldo, this idea originates in Florida, where Speaker Marco Rubio used it to great effect in building what could be the strongest Republican Party in the country. Granted Nelson won, but Charlie Crist also won in a BAD GOP year.

    I was at Bolling’s kick off for this in Richmond. The basic premise, agree or disagree, is that Republicans are losing becasue we’ve gotten away from what we are suppose to be. How can we claim to be anti-tax when OUR senators are trying to raise taxes higher than Dems? How are we suppose to be the party of small government when OUR congress is spending money like a trust-fund princess? The point of this, as it was in Florida, to back to the grassroots have them shape the agenda. Becasue the agenda being shaped in the halls of power aren’t working.

    Agree or disagree, thats fine. I’m actually pretty excited about it. The one good things about being LG is that you have time to do things like this.

    BTW, the link between Bill Bolling and Marco Rubio is Randy Marcus. Marcus (son of Boyd, of course) worked for Rubio in FL before coming back here to be Bolling’s COS. And Bolling openly takks about this working in Florida.

    Just a littel info.

  4. Hey come on, Crist’s win was pretty impressive. But your right. What a disaster on that front. But you know what, 20-20 being what it is, perhaps it was for the best, in that all th GOP resources went to Crist and helped him pull that election out.

  5. Hey, I’m all about a candidacy based on ideas — that’s approaching novel these days. Though I guess I still don’t understand this. The ideas I’m seeing on the Florida site are often, y’know, ideas. “Replacing Grass with Ground Coverage Along Highways,” “Stop Unnecessary Medical Errors in Florida,” and “Income Tax for New Residents” are all proposals on that site that are unusual, interesting, and backed up with an explanation of why they’re necessary and what the proposal is.

    Contrast this with what’s on Bill Bolling’s site. “Protecting The Second Amendment”? C’mon, that’s not an idea.

    I did something very much like this in Charlottesville in 2003, proposing ten innovative proposals for how to improve Charlottesville for $10,000 or less. Whether or not one thinks that those ideas are any good (only two of them have been done, FWIW), the point is that they’re just about all small, inexpensive, and would certainly have an outsized impact compared to their cost.

    Innovative ideas, good. “Eliminate the Car Tax”? Weak.

  6. Well there is a process here. Basically, 2007 is going to be the year where the ideas are gathered, and Bolling stressed everything., 2008 will be the spaghetti strainer, so to speak. The ideas will be refined and packaged. 2009 (no coincidence) will be when the platform is unveiled.

    Perhaps its not fair to compare the Florida innitiative vs. the Virginia one, because Florida is the finished product. Bolling’s thing just started a month ago. There are going to be local meetings all across the state, he has a citizens council and business council to help out in organizing this. Come back in a year and a half, and then compare to Florida.

  7. So then do you know what these ideas are that are listed now? As presented on the website, these appear to be the 100 ideas. There’s no indication that they’re going to be supplemented, replaced, voted on, removed, etc., but that certainly appears to be the process, based on your description and based on the Florida site.

    If these 100 ideas on the website are not, in fact The One Hundred Ideas, Lt. Gov. Bolling had best get in touch with his website development staff and make that clear. At the moment, in all honesty, it makes him look like a fool, passing off this collection of platitudes as “ideas.”

  8. Yeah I can see what you mean. But like I said, this is still in its infancy. I wouldn’t be too quick to judge it yet. But hey, its open government! The point is to just let everyone have an idea and build on the innovative ones that come from it, and build a platform.

  9. I just think this whole idea structure is flawed — some of his ideas are tired, some have already been enacted by others in the General Assembly (I haven’t seen him take a leadership role on any of these issues before they are passed) and the rest are meaningless proffers to assorted interest groups. It seems like he’s a reactionary, not a visionary.

    Good post, Waldo.

  10. Johnson, I suppse thats becasue he has an “R” next to his name. If it were Lt. Governor Byrne’s “100 Ideas for Virgina,” I doubt you all would feel the same way.

  11. Waldo, there is a difference between carping and useful criticism. On Bolling web site, it says this:
    “If we are going to prepare our state for the future we have to talk about these challenges and build consensus around ways to address them. To do this we need the input of every Virginian.

    The 100 Ideas initiative is designed to do just that – to give every citizen in our state an opportunity to share their thoughts on issues of importance to them with Lieutenant Governor Bolling and other state leaders.

    Please take time to learn more about the 100 Ideas initiative, and please share your thoughts with us on how we can build a better Virginia. We need and want your input.”

    The point of Bolling’s web site is to get INPUT. If people care enough to comment on an idea, I suspect Bolling will refine the idea and include it his platform. In addition, such a such web site provides a way to collect names and email addresses. When Bolling starts running for governor, many of those names and email addresses could be useful to him.

    How well Governor Kaine’s executive order will work remains to be seen. Undoubtedly, the Virginia government wastes energy. However, picking a number out of your hat and saying we will reduce energy consumption is not a solution. Neither is a shopping list of supposedly good energy saving ideas. Ironically, Kaine’s proposal may suffer the same problem you ascribed to Bolling list. What will be interesting is how Kaine actually implements his energy saving proposal and what suffers as a result. Everything involves tradeoffs.

    Almost any idea, when you look into it, has problems. For an example, see

  12. Again, Tom, I can’t state this much more plainly: The website in no way makes it clear what the mission of this project is. If Chris had not patiently explained that this list of ideas is not, in fact, his list of ideas, I’d have no idea. That excerpt from the website does nothing to explain things to somebody unfamiliar with the concept.

    However, picking a number out of your hat and saying we will reduce energy consumption is not a solution.

    You have to actually read the executive order, Tom. For your convenience, I’ve summarized it in, like, 200 words. Gov. Kaine provides specific actions to be taken to reduce energy consumption. Like it or not, that’s a heck of a lot meatier than “Keep Our Children Safe From Sexual Predators.”

    Ironically, Kaine’s proposal may suffer the same problem you ascribed to Bolling list.

    I can’t find a single problem that I ascribed to Bolling’s list that’s present in Kaine’s single proposal. The problem with Bolling’s list of ideas is that it’s not, in fact, a list of ideas. (Which, based on what Chris has told me, is apparently the whole idea.) Kaine’s proposal is an honest-to-god proposal, one with specific action items and a metric by which success can be determined.

  13. Some of his “ideas” come straight from the Family Foundation: “Higher Patient Safety Standards For Abortion Clinics” (love how that is under “Virginia Values” instead of “Healthcare” section) – known as TRAP in the reproductive rights world. There’s also the “Parental Approval To Participate In Student Organizations” idea which references the three-year attempt by Dels. Weatherholtz and then Lohr to ban gay-straight alliances (defeated 3 years in a row).

    These aren’t ideas. It’s a load of base-satiating rhetoric mushed in with some token bridge-building crap to “reach out” to the other side. Blah blah blah. He doesn’t want to listen or get ideas, he wants to spew.

  14. Waldo, don’t be silly. I think most people are familiar with the concept of sharing ideas. I also think almost anybody who has used the web knows how to click on the “about” tab and read.

    Since the goals are suppose to be achieved near the end of his term, I also think that Kaine is serious about his executive order. However, an executive order is a policy statement, and much of this one is simply for public relations. While Kaine’s order to implement one idea is somewhat more specific than Bolling’s list of 100 ideas (no apples and oranges comparisons here), what counts are the procedures that implement the executive order. Kaine will have to follow through and make certain that personnel performance ratings suffer if they do not implement his policy.

    In addition, even if Kaine achieves a reduction in energy usage, that does not mean we will have a less toxic environment. What tradeoffs will Kaine make to achieve his goal? Does his executive order get into such detail? I don’t think so. Is such detail required or even desirable? That depends what details are missing and which details should have been left to lower level managers, a judgment call.

  15. Waldo, don’t be silly. I think most people are familiar with the concept of sharing ideas. I also think almost anybody who has used the web knows how to click on the “about” tab and read.

    Tom, I simply don’t know how to make this any plainer. There is nothing on the “about” page that explains that the 100 ideas listed on this website are not, in fact, the 100 ideas that the website exists to solicit. To list 100 ideas and simultaneously say that the goal is to collect 100 ideas is to demonstrate that the job is done, the goal has been met. Imagine if it were a fundraising site saying that the idea is to raise $100,000, and the site listed $100,000 worth of contributions. We’d conclude that it was finished, that the copy asking for more money was simply out of date.

    Any reasonable Virginian looking at this website would conclude that the listed ideas — the very ideas so strongly featured on the website — are the ideas that the website is promoting.

    Of all the major Republicans, I think Bolling angers Dems the most.

    I’ve never seen any Democrat angered by Bolling, Chris. Most Democrats see him as Tim Kaine’s Mini-Me, a Republican who has figured out that you have to be a centrist to be elected governor, but you have to claim to be a rabid righty to get nominated by Republicans. McDonnell can be downright infuriating. Bolling is one of the least objectionable Republicans holding office in Virginia today. In fact, I’ve only once written about him on this blog in the entirety of the period in which he’s held office, and that was acknowledging and thanking him for his role in the 2006 Summit on Blogging and Democracy in the Commonwealth.

  16. At the Summit, he (Mr. Bolling) could at least pronounce ‘netroots’ correctly, and was affable and not stiff like the AG.

    A list is fine, but this reads like the 10th iteration away from an idea.

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