How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Weekly Column: Coal Ash, Predatory Lending and Education Equity

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of January 15, 2018.
The General Assembly has reorganized, added nearly twenty new members, and we inaugurated a new Governor on Saturday.  The 36th District now overlaps with five new state delegates including four new women.  I am looking forward to the new ideas and energy they bring. 

This year brings a long session and a new two-year budget.  The biggest news in Governor McAuliffe’s proposed budget was about $500 million of new education monies, a proposed funding solution for Metro, and $170,000 to finally clean up a derelict barge in Belmont Bay. 

While we need to fix Metro, Governor McAuliffe’s proposed fix takes over half a billion dollars away from other Northern Virginia transportation projects and will serious jeopardize the current timeline on U.S. 1 projects in Fairfax County and potentially Prince William County.  I cannot support it as written and will work to find other revenue sources to solve this problem.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Demanding Answers Relating to Bijan Ghaisan

On November 17, Bijan Ghaisan, a McLean Accountant, was shot three times in the head at the intersection of Alexandria Avenue and Fort Hunt Road at the conclusion of a traffic stop following an alleged hit and run near Slater's Lane and the George Washington Memorial Parkway.  He was unarmed.

As of today (December 6), the public has been given no explanation of what happened in the incident.  The Fairfax County Police have refused to make officer dash camera video public. 

A week ago, I sent the following letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking answers.  When the government takes a human life, the public is owed information.

Friday, December 1, 2017

It's Coal Ash Day in Virginia

Today, Dominion Energy released its long-awaited coal ash assessments mandated by my legislation last session - Senate Bill 1398.  You can read the entire 800+ page report below, or just the executive summary.

Dominion's Possum Point Power Station has about 4 million cubic yards of coal ash stored in 120 acres of coal ash ponds in Dumfries in the 36th District.  Several constituents have polluted groundwater wells. Some are reporting health problems that they attribute to groundwater pollution from these coal ash ponds.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Weekly Column: Election Day Earthquake Brings Three Possible Policy Shifts

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of November 20, 2017.
Election Day Earthquake Brings Three Possible Policy Shifts

Election Day was an electoral earthquake in Virginia politics.  Fourteen seats in the House of Delegates switched from Republican to Democratic members – the largest switch since 1899.  Two have not yet been certified due to irregularities and three are heading to recounts.  We do not know if any party will control the House and probably will not know until late in the day on the first day of session after the dust has settled.

While the new situation in the House of Delegates will create some uncertainty over the next fifty days, it will create some opportunities in Virginia public policy, but not a wholesale change of direction.  The Senate of Virginia is still controlled by the Republican Party and most major committees have significant partisan majorities. 

Notwithstanding, I am hopeful that in the short-term, we might see some changes in a three areas: Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, and Nonpartisan Redistricting.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

U.S. 1 Widening Comment Deadline 12/5!

One of my top priorities since I was first elected in 2009 has been the improvement of U.S. 1.

In 2011, former Senator Toddy Puller and I passed legislation authorizing the Route 1 Multimodal Alternative Analysis Study.  VDOT is proposing its first widening which extends from Woodlawn to Costco pursuant to this study and is accepting public comments on their design.

This project will widen U.S. 1 to six lanes, provide a bike and pedestrian trail on both sides of the road, and maintain a median necessary for future Bus Rapid Transit.
Possible configurations for the intersection of U.S. 1 and
Buckman Road/Old Mt. Vernon Hwy
VDOT is also considering several improvements that require community input such as whether to create "superstreets" that allow fewer left turns and provide better traffic flow (see below), whether to underground telephone, electricity, and cable lines, and whether to mitigate litter and storm water runoff from the road.


All submitted comments will be forwarded to VDOT.
The U.S. 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis Study found that this segment should be served by bus rapid transit to encourage development to support a Metro extension. The bus rapid transit system will provide curb-separated lanes for buses which will run ever 6-10 minutes and carry passengers to and from residential and mixed use areas along U.S. 1 to the Huntington Metro.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Weekly Column: Let's Grow Early Voting

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of November 3, 2017.
Let’s Grow Early Voting  
The 2017 Virginia elections once against demonstrated that Virginians are choosing to vote early in larger numbers each election.  
As compared with 2013, early voting in Prince William County was up over 210%, 170% in Fairfax County, and 146% in Stafford County. In 2016, over 120,000 or one in five Fairfax County voters cast their votes early while nearly forty-four percent of Prince William County voters voted early.  
Voting early allows voters to avoid precinct lines, unpredictable weather, job, family or health problems. Voting by mail gives voters more time to complete their ballot in the privacy of their home. Most importantly, it provides the flexibility to allow more people to participate in our democracy.  
Given its popularity, there are more things our government can do to facilitate early voting.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Weekly Column: Four Big Issues No One is Discussing This Election Cycle

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of October 16, 2017.
Four Big Issues No One is Discussing This Election Cycle
Virginians go to the polls in three weeks and if you followed the new cycle, you would think that the next General Assembly Session is going to be all about Confederate Statutes, street gangs and natural gas pipelines – none of which is accurate.  Here are four big issues facing Virginia that have been missing in action this cycle. 
Hyper-partisan legislative districts are at the root the partisan gridlock we see today.  While the Senate Democratic Caucus drew Virginia’s Senate districts in 2010, Virginia’s congressional and legislative districts were otherwise drawn by Republicans majorities with the cooperation of Republican governor’s in 2000 and 2010.  Democratic voters have been crammed into a small number of seats and Virginia’s Congressional and House of Delegates districts are way out of proportion to Virginia’s actual voting.
Virginia’s next Governor will participate in Virginia’s next redistricting process.  Ralph Northam and I have repeatedly endorsed and voted for non-partisan redistricting which would go a long way towards voters picking their leaders instead of leaders picking their voters.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekly Column: People Support Firearm Limits. Elected Officials Should Too.

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of October 7, 2017.
People Support Firearm Limits. Elected Officials Should Too

Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas assault rifle killing spree has again highlighted the dangers of Virginia's and America’s much-too-lax firearms environment.  Virginians know the dangers of high-powered weapons having experienced snipers Malvo and Muhammad and the Virginia Tech massacre.  Some of us have been steadily, but unsuccessfully, trying to pass reasonable firearms violence prevention laws in Virginia for years.

For example, after Jared Loughner’s 2011 attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, I cosponsored legislation to prohibit the sale of firearm ammunition magazines that hold more than 20 bullets.  The legislature has rejected the bill every year since.

In 2015, a Fairfax attorney told me about a client he defended in a mental commitment proceeding in which his client was found to be a danger to himself or others.  Virginia law prohibits these people from obtaining a concealed weapon permit or possessing a firearm, but the law does not prohibit the possession of ammunition.  I tried to prohibit mentally-incapacitated people from purchasing or possessing ammunition, but the legislature struck it down.  (video at right)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Weekly Column: Burying Utilities Should Be A Priority

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of September 5, 2017.
Burying Utilities Should Be A Priority

As we enter hurricane season, I start to get questions about burying utility lines.  We are making limited progress in Virginia but efforts hit a setback last week. 
In communities built since the mid-1980’s all utilities are underground.  In the older parts of Northern Virginia, such as where we live here in Eastern Fairfax and Prince William Counties, nearly all utilities are above ground.   
In June, 2012, Northern Virginia was rocked by a Derecho that stormed in from Chicago, killed 22 people and caused over $2.9 billion in damage. Our older infrastructure, coupled with our heavy older and established tree canopy caused major utility outages.  In the Derecho’s aftermath, I heard calls through my district for undergrounding of utility lines.  I even held a town hall focused exclusively on undergrounding power lines.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Leesylvania State Park Under Big Pressure

The Potomac Local reports that Leesylvania State Park has now closed its gates six times this summer due to over capacity problems.

This has been a problem for years and only underscores the urgency of getting Widewater State Park in Stafford County open for business.

Stafford County has no public water access.  Two years ago, funding for all three phases of Widewater State Park's buildout was funded in the state budget, but was removed after private campground operators complained about damage to their business.

We did get Phase I of three funded and held a groundbreaking last March on a canoe launch and other amenities but no public bathrooms.  

Next year we need to fight to get all three ohases funded.  There is clearly demand for more parks on the Potomac River and we need to get this funded as soon as possible so Virginians can enjoy their River.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of August 3, 2017.
U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

On August 3, 2017, the Federal Highway Administration is hosting a ribbon cutting to commemorate the widening of U.S. 1 through Fort Belvoir.  The project’s completion  is an important milestone for our community and has broad ramifications. 

When I first ran for office in 2009, I stated that improving U.S. 1 was my number one priority.  U.S. 1 is the spine of Mount Vernon, Lorton, Woodbridge, Dumfries/Triangle and Eastern Stafford’s central nervous system and  a critical driver of not just transportation, but also access to employment, recreation, retail businesses and restaurants.  U.S. 1’s fate can mean revitalizing area schools and housing and can enhance our overall quality of life from Stafford County to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Weekly Column: Voluntary Background Check System is a Failure

In 2016, the General Assembly enacted a legislation requiring the Virginia State Police to staff gun shows and be available to conduct voluntary background checks upon request by private, non-federally licensed gun sellers as part of a broader compromise on concealed weapon permits.  The law has been a total failure.

The legislation required the state to spend $300,000 to hire three new Virginia State Police employees to be present at all gun shows.  What have we got for our $300,000?

In January, The Daily Press reported that as of January 1, 2017, one person was denied a purchase at 41 gun shows after thirty nine checks.

This week, the Richmond Times Dispatch Reported that since that time, only 18 more checks were performed in the next six months ending June 30, 2017.  In other words, in 77 gun shows there were 59 voluntary background checks.  At 45 of 77 shows, no checks at all were requested. As of today, one buyer was denied.

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