Candidate Yates plans forums on key topics

Posted: July 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

Virginia House of Delegates candidate Larry Yates (right) speaks Thursday afternoon on North Kent Street as supporters Mary Dale Jackson (from left), Katy Pitcock, Donna Phillips and Joe Doherty listen. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The disabled will be the focus of an upcoming forum called by 29th House District candidate Larry Yates.

The Independent is hoping Mark Berg — who defeated incumbent Beverly Sherwood for the Republican nomination in June — will join him in a series of forums related to the needs of the disabled, the criminal justice system, housing, taxes and youth.

He said on Thursday he hadn’t heard back from Berg’s campaign, but will go forward with the first forum at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the War Memorial Building in Jim Barnett Park.

Election Day is Nov. 5. The 29th District includes Winchester and the northern, western and southern parts of Frederick County.

“...Disabilities affect every family, every class of people, every part of the community,” first-time candidate Yates said of why that subject was selected as one of the topics. “Nobody knows if or when they might have a disability. To me, that really speaks to the fact we’re all in this together as a community.”

The government has a role in supporting those with disabilities, he said.

“That’s what our taxes are for,” Yates said.

He plans to have a forum on young people and creating a sustainable future for them some time in September in Front Royal.

A third forum, this one on taxes, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Bowman Library in Stephens City.

Yates, who like Berg is from Winchester, said he thinks Virginia’s tax structure is “antiquated.”

“If you just talk about cutting taxes, with the structure the way it is, you’re going to make it even more unfair,” he said. “There are all kinds of tax breaks to businesses. The key thing is they don’t clearly demonstrate that they actually create jobs.

“There’s a fund that supports Hollywood coming to Virginia. That’s nice, but I’m not sure that the average working Virginian needs to be subsidizing Hollywood.”

Yates said he doesn’t want the forums to simply benefit his campaign for the election, but to show how people with disabilities are affected.

“And, just to get the topic being conversed [about] again,” said Donna Phillips, a campaign volunteer from Frederick County.

Even though Berg hadn’t responded to his outreach, Yates said he wanted to get his campaign moving.

“A campaign, particularly when there’s not an incumbent, is a great opportunity for conversation in the community,” he said.

As he talks to people, Yates continues to hear that the state needs to listen better to local governments. He said mandates and budget cuts are impacting localities’ budgets.

Yates also said ethics was a general public concern, especially in light of the gifts and loans scandal embroiling Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“Virginia is known to have one of the weakest sets of ethics laws in the United States,” he said. “That has been due to the assumption that we’re a little better than everybody else, that we don’t do anything wrong.

“I think it’s quite likely the governor’s correct that he hasn’t broken any laws. The question is, should there have been laws in place that would’ve prevented that behavior? I think common sense tells you that when over $100,000 is spent in gifts and presents by a businessman, that the businessman has a reason for it — may just be affection, personal affection — but that’s not how it looks to the average person.”

Prior to the June 11 primary, Yates’ campaign made a commitment not to accept cash donations above $1,000, or any from organizations, he said.

Berg’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment late Thursday afternoon.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com