How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weekly Column: U.S. Supreme Court Should Overturn Partisan Redistricting

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 December 9, 2016.
U.S. Supreme Court Should Overturn Partisan Redistricting
Virginia is represented by Democrats in all five statewide offices, has voted for a Democratic president three times, yet the Virginia House of Delegates has 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats.   

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality and constitutionality of the last redistricting of Virginia House of Delegates’ districts.  The court’s decision could be monumental for all Virginia voters.

If I could fix one thing to make our government work better at every level, I would reform redistricting.  Partisan redistricting abuse has been around since the beginning of American democracy.  The term “gerrymander” originates from an 1812 attempt to draw districts favoring Massachusetts Governor Eldridge Gerry.  To be clear, both parties do it, but in the last two decades, gerrymandering has become especially powerful for a few reasons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

GMU'S Point of View on Mason Neck

Point of View Looking Up From the River
Last month, I was invited to a community reception at the newly opened Point of View Complex managed by the George Mason Center for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on Mason Neck.  It is a beautiful complex.

As a practicing litigator, I can testify to the growth in methods of alternate dispute resolution.  The practice of mediation and conflict avoidance is really becoming a science and universities across the world are investing significant resources in teaching students alternative methods to resolve conflicts.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Weekly Column: Expand Early Voting in Virginia

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 December 2, 2016.
Expand Early Voting Now in NOVA

The success of early voting in the 2016 Presidential Election reaffirms my conclusion from visiting 12,000 homes last year – Virginia should expand early voting.

In 2016, I personally knocked on over 12,000 doors and after July 1, using an online secure application form, I helped over 900 voters sign up to vote by mail from their home.  Nearly all of them had no idea they could vote early or vote from home.  The vast majority of these voters did not participate in non-presidential elections (or even some presidential elections) because of a disability, lack of transportation, long commutes or disabled family members that required 24-7 home care.   

Saturday, November 26, 2016

National Museum of the Marine Corps

The 36th District has many unique places including two federal parks, three state parks, three national wildlife refuges, and two military bases.  While I have been familiar with Fort Belvoir my entire life, I had only been inside Marine Corps Base Quantico 86 square miles a few times. 

A few months ago, I decided to visit and get a feel for its mission, facilities and get a taste of its history.  Colonel Joseph Murray gave me an excellent guided tour, lunch in a brand new chow hall (that's what they call dining facilities) and his staff encouraged me to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The day after Thanksgiving I headed 40 minutes south with the kids to check it out.  It was a fascinating trip.

The museum opened ten years ago in November, 2006 and you have probably seen it rising over the trees as you drive up and down I-95. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Column: Vote “Yes” for FCPS Teachers' Salaries

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 20, 2016.
Vote “Yes” for FCPS Teachers' Salaries

When you vote on Tuesday, November 8, Fairfax County voters can vote for our schools by voting to allow a four percent tax on prepared restaurant meals.  Of the revenue generated by the tax, 70 percent is required to be dedicated to public schools and 30 percent to other county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

I support a meals tax because we need to strengthen our schools.  Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) are suffering from underfunding.  While state funds have increased by over 50 percent since the 2009 Great Recession, local funds, which represent 80 percent of our school system's budget, have risen only 20 percent and lagged investments made in Arlington and Alexandria.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Weekly Column: Your 2016 Ballot: Yes for Widows, No for “Right to Work”

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of September 7, 2016.
Your 2016 Ballot: Yes for Widows, No for “Right to Work”
On November 8, you can vote on two state constitutional amendments that require voter approval, in addition to voting for President and U.S. Congress.  There are also local measures on the ballot in some counties.  
One constitutional amendment is relatively non-controversial and would allow localities to exempt property owned by the widow of a killed-in-action first responder from real estate taxes.  Two years ago, Virginians approved similar treatment for the widows of killed-in-action soldiers.  I support giving our localities this authority and voted “yes."
The second amendment is very controversial and very confusing as written on the ballot.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Early Voting Has Started - Avoid the Lines!

Virtually all voters in Virginia are eligible to vote by mail or vote early in person with a legal reason. 

In 2008, 1 in 5 Fairfax County voters cast their vote before Election Day.

Sign Up Online
You can now apply to vote by mail by using an online form on my website.  It takes only 3 minutes to apply:



Sunday, September 11, 2016

47 New Americans at Gunston Hall

Yesterday, I was honored to attend a naturalization ceremony for forty-seven new United States Citizens at Gunston Hall.  It was both an honor and very interesting.  You can see pictures here.

The citizen candidates hailed from 20 countries.  I have now been to about two dozen countries, but I had only been to four of the countries represented in the ceremony - it was a really interesting mix.  I had expected it to be a different group, but it says a lot to me about who is coming to the U.S. and making up our community.

I pointed out to them that about thirty-percent of all residents of the 36th District are foreign born so they are going to have lots of company! 

I also found the oath they took to be fascinating.  I had never heard that oath administered before, and it was a fresh reminder to me of our fundamental obligations as citizens of the United States.  Natural born citizens are never required to take any oath.  This made me think about how all of us should be reminded of our responsibilities.  Here is the text.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Weekly Column: Virginia Faces Another Shortfall

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of September 7, 2016.
Virginia Faces Another Shortfall

Last month, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that state revenues were lower than assumed in our state budget passed earlier in the year.  This creates a series of difficult choices. 
In July, the Governor announced that the budget ended on June 30 and came in $266 million short of expectations.  Last month, the Governor announced that due to continued lagging revenues, the current budget was projected to be short by $850 million this year and $630 million in next fiscal year.  This creates a total $1.7 billion from what was budgeted last session.   
There are many causes of this.  First, the lingering effects of the Sequester – automatic spending cuts by the federal government – continue to stall the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads economies.  Cuts to defense spending alone took $9.8 billion and 115,000 jobs out of the Virginia economy.  Income tax collections are down, even with 2.6% job growth last year, because new jobs do not pay as much as the jobs we have lost.  Commercial office vacancies are still at record highs in Northern Virginia. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Column: Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of August 8, 2016.

Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve
In July, it was revealed that the University of Virginia had managed to retain over $2 billion of excess revenues – exclusive of their $5 billion endowment maintained by their foundation.  An outgoing member of the Board of Visitors called it a “slush fund.” 
This was very concerning to me for several reasons.  First, UVA has increased its tuition by nearly 100% in the last ten years.  UVA’s debt at graduation is up by over 50% in the last years to over $23,000.    Tuition has been exploding in Virginia while UVA has been pocketing over $2 billion of excess revenue. 
Second, while every school needs working capital and a modest financial reserve to operate, I do not believe any school needs to keep cash reserves on hand that amount to $50,000 per student.  UVA is a public school – not a private university.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Supreme Court of Virginia: PWC School Board Must Choose Replacement

Last month, the elected member of the Brentsville District on the Prince William County School Board, Gil Trenum advised his colleagues that he had received orders to report for active duty service for twelve months.  However, he attempted to condition his notice on being able to choose his temporary successor.

Virginia Law provides that when any local government official is called into active duty, they do not forfeit their position for serving our country, but only take a temporary leave of absence.  Confusion arose as to whether Mr. Trenum could select his replacement or the School Board could choose.

In light of the confusion about the process, I requested an Attorney General's opinion.   You can read my request and the response below.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

3 Quick Steps to Goose the VA Economy

Potomac Local asked me to comment on Virginia dropping to the 13th "Best State for Business" in CNBC's annual rankings. 

Here's my comments:
Virginia's rank dropped to thirteenth largely due to weakness in the Virginia economy relative to other states.  Our economy is lagging because our largest source of business - The Federal Government - has imposed across-the-board spending cuts via the Sequester.  This economic weakness was predicted two years ago.  There are three quick ways we can ramp up the Virginia economy. 
#1 - Raise The Minimum Wage
There are some small short term steps we can take here at home to fix this.  First, raising the minimum wage would help to stimulate more economic activity by giving millions of Virginians more money to spend - 6 of 12 states ranked higher than Virginia (CO, MN, WA, MI, FL, NE) have higher minimum wages than we do here in Virginia.  
#2 - Expand Medicaid
Second, Virginia needs to expand Medicaid.  Virginia has left $4 billion on the table so far.  Numerous studies predict that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000 jobs in Virginia, about 2,000 jobs in Prince William and Stafford Counties, save Virginia taxpayers $180 million per biennium that could be spent elsewhere, and provide healthcare to 400,000 people including at least 20,000 in Prince William and Stafford Counties..
#3 - Clean Up Coal Ash
Third, cleaning up coal ash would generate at least a billion dollars in new spending right here in Virginia and clean our environment.  If the average coal ash job pays $50,000/year, $1 billion in coal ash remediation spending equates to at least 20,000 new jobs and would cost the average rate payer less than $1 per month.

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