How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Secretary of the Commonwealth to give Voter Restoration Update in Mt. Vernon

 
Governor McAuliffe has restored more peoples' voting rights in 18 months than any governor has in 4 years and the Route 1 Corridor has a high concentration of people who are eligible for restoration. It is important to spread awareness about the restoration process and my campaign has already identified a dozen people who are eligible to have their voting rights restored.
 
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fort Hunt Park Public Comments

The National Park Service is in the process if revising their long-term use plan for Fort Hunt Park.

Their initial proposal was met with a health rebuke from our community.  I wrote about it here, accepted hundreds of community comments, the National Park Service heeded our comments and the process was further revised:

 
 
The National Park Service is now out with their final two proposed alternatives (three if you count "no action").  My public comments are below.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Surovell Calls for Debates Across the 36th District

Mount Vernon, Virginia- Today Delegate Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), challenged Republican nominee Mayor Jerry Foreman to debates across the 36th district.

"It's time for Mayor Foreman to stop hiding behind negative push polls and debate me face to face", Surovell said.  "I propose we hold a series of debates in every section of the District so the voters can come hear our vision for the Route 1 Corridor."

Surovell proposed a debate in every part of the district- organized by the two campaigns or any community groups willing to do so.  To date, no debates have been proposed by any group in the 36th district.

Surovell's plan includes 6 debates, with them held in each of the following areas:

Stafford County
Lee District (Fairfax County)
Mt. Vernon District (Fairfax County)
Occoquan/Coles Districts (Prince William County)
Woodbridge/Neabsco Districts (Prince William County)
Potomac District (Prince William County)

"Our district spans nine magisterial districts in three counties, and runs for over 20 miles along the Potomac River", Surovell noted.  "I hope Mayor Foreman will accept my challenge and we can begin planning debates immediately."
 
 
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Fairfax County Change on U.S. 1 1960-2010

Fairfax County Channel 16 has come out with a new video featuring some historical highlights of the U.S. 1 Corridor 1960-2000's. 

The video features discussion of change on U.S. 1 through the years has some nice segments on Gum Springs, Mount Vernon High School, Montebello, and Woodlawn.

Great cameos by area history buff Michael Bohn, Gum Springs History Curator Ron Chase, SFDC Executive Director Edyhe Kelleher, Pamela Hess Executive Director of Arcadia Center for Food and Sustainable Agriculture which is about to launch a major initiative at Woodlawn, and a few clips of me.

Great production which summarizes our local history.  You can watch below.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Biking Through Coal County

Woke up this morning at the Comfort Inn in Big Stone Gap, Virginia which is currently populated with about two dozen cherry pickers to restore power lost last night.   This morning, I'm heading over to Wise, VA to serve as a panelist at a continuing legal education class on Drones and Spacelaw.

Driving up here last night, all I could think about was August, 1996 when I rode a bike across the United States. 

After getting a bike "tune-up" from an aggressive technician in Carbondale, IL, I noticed that my rear shifter had become a bit more erratic.  Once we hit the Ozarks in Missouri, it basically started to fail which was lots of fun going up hills with 15% grades.  When I got to Hindman, Kentucky it was basically completely dead and I knew there was no way I was going over the Virginia mountains with only about three gears (the low ones that aren't good on hills).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Weekly Column: Prompt Action and Cooperation Needed to Clean the Potomac River

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 July 6, 2015.
Prompt Action and Cooperation Needed to Clean the Potomac River
This past week, the senior member of Virginia’s congressional delegation introduced legislation to remove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to hold Virginia accountable for failing to clean up the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.  People should be deeply disturbed. The Potomac provides drinking water to five million people.
 
A Rich History  
The Potomac River was once a bountiful asset and source of employment.  In 1604, Captain John Smith wrote of fish so plentiful he could spear them with his sword, oysters that “lay as thick as stones” and schools of fish so plentiful that his men attempted to catch them with frying pans. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weekly Column: Predatory Lending Continues Its March Through Virginia and U.S. 1

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 23, 2015.
Predatory Lending Continues Its March Through Virginia and U.S. 1
The Virginia’s State Corporation Commission latest annual report says that predatory car title lending is thriving in Virginia .  With nearly three dozen car title lenders between Alexandria and Quantico on U.S. 1, this is troubling news, except to the lenders out to make big profits.    You can read the full report on my online newsletter –The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com 
Car title lending began in our state in 2010 after Virginia limited interest rates on payday loans and predatory lenders argued that a new option was needed.  Virginia law authorizes lenders to lend money at rates up to 30% per month which equates to around a 297% annual percentage rate (APR).  A consumer can  borrow up to 50% of their vehicle’s equity and the loan term is limited.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

California Ordered to Repay $331 Million - Is Virginia Next?

Today, $350 million worth of chickens came home to roost in California.  Virginia might be next and here's why. 

In the aftermath of the 2008 mortgage-driven financial crash, federal, state and local government budgets were walloped.  One of the jurisdictions hardest hit with foreclosures was Prince William County.  Property values plunged.  Vacant houses were everywhere as people dumped houses that they could never afford with adjustable rate mortgages coming due for readjustment purchased with "no doc" loans.

In 2011, Attorneys General across the United States reached a $25 billion settlement with five major banks regarding illegal and abusive mortgage lending practices.  Virginia's share of the settlement was over $66 million and was directed to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to disburse.  As part of a floor debate, I made the card on the right.   

Here's what the court's order said Virginia could do with the money:
Each State Attorney General shall designate the uses of the funds set forth in the attached Exhibit B-1.  
To the extent practicable,such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants.  
Such permissible purposes for allocation of the funds include, but are not limited to, supplementing the amounts paid to state homeowners under the Borrower Payment Fund, funding for housing counselors, state and local foreclosure assistance hotlines, state and local foreclosure mediation programs, legal assistance, housing remediation and anti-blight projects, funding for training and staffing of financial fraud or consumer protection enforcement efforts, and civil penalties 
Accordingly, each Attorney General has set forth general instructions for the funds in the attached Exhibit B-2.
What did Virginia do in the 2012 Session? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Endorsement for Mount Vernon Supervisor


With the retirement of Supervisor Gerry Hyland, Mt. Vernon is losing passionate fighter with decades of experience. Our next Supervisor must be an experienced leader that will fight for our community's fair share of resources and who has a track record and results.

Mount Vernon has four good candidates who are running.  Each have their accomplishments and positive attributes.

However, Dan Storck is the only choice for Mount Vernon and I am proud to endorse his campaign for Supervisor for the TUESDAY, JUNE 9 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY. 

Dan has lived in the Stratford Landing neighborhood of Mount Vernon for over 25 years with his wife Deb and their three children. He previously served as President of the West Potomac High School PTSA and President of Good Shepherd Housing's Board. Dan was first elected as the Mount Vernon Representative to the Fairfax County School Board in 2004. 
 
Unlike the other candidates, Dan can also point to specific concrete results that he has achieved for the Mount Vernon District.
  • Opened three brand new schools (South County H.S., South County M.S. and Laurel Hill E.S.) in Mount Vernon in order to tackle overcrowding issues
  • Worked to fund construction for two entirely new elementary schools on the Route 1 Corridor in the next few years (at Fort Belvoir E.S. #2 and Pinewood Lake-Area E.S.)
  • Renovated or expanded ten existing Mt. Vernon schools with an additional Mt. Vernon seven schools in planning or currently under renovation
  • Personally re-worked the financing of the South County Middle School development and saved taxpayers $35 Million in financing
  • Fought for full-day kindergarten for all Fairfax County Schools
  • Created the Smart Services, Smart Savings initiative that has saved taxpayers $1 million by increasing efficiency and cutting unnecessary costs
  • Secured a needs-based staffing formula which secured a lower relative student-teacher ratio for most Mt. Vernon area schools
  • Fought to create the Priority School Initiative which supplements staffing at the neediest schools
  • Prioritized teachers' salaries in the budget
Dan understands the challenges facing Mount Vernon's schools because he has been forced to deal with the underfunding of our schools for the last twelve years and understands why Supervisor Gerry Hyland has been fighting to raise funds for our schools for years.  Like Supervisor Gerry Hyland, fully-funding Fairfax County Public Schools will be a priority for Dan.

Dan also understands that the strength of our schools is directly tied to the quality of housing and transit on the Route 1 Corridor and has made clear to me that he will work to revitalize Route 1 and extend the Yellow Line as soon as possible.

He has also made clear that he finds the explosion of predatory lending on U.S. 1 intolerable and that he will fight to get them under control. 

In order to fight for these priorities, he needs your support.   Please join me in voting for Dan Storck on Tuesday, June 9 and click below to get involved with his campaign this week.
 
http://www.danstorck.org/volunteer/

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Column: VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up

The following appeared in the Stafford and Potomac Local on May 25, 2015.
VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up

As the weather warms and summer nears, we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia.  Several paving projects are coming to eastern Prince William County and northern Stafford County in the 36th District. 

Click to Enlarge
VDOT plans to pave I-95 from Neabsco Creek to Smoketown Road, all of VA-123 and Old Bridge Road from VA-123 to Minnieville.  Cardinal Drive will get a new surface from U.S. 1 to Minnieville as well.  Southbridge will see new blacktop in on Wayside Lane, Pine Ridge Boulevard and several surrounding streets.  VDOT will pave the entire length of Joplin Road from U.S. 1 to Bristow Road and all the streets of the entire town of Quantico.  Main Street (U.S. 1) between Curtis Drive and Quantico Gateway Drive through Dumfries is also scheduled to be repaved. 
Many of Stafford County's secondary roads are in better condition than streets in other areas since many are newer.  In northeastern Stafford County, VDOT will resurface half a dozen streets around Dorothy Lane and Anita Drive in Garrisonville with all of Stefaniga Road.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Amundson Institute Presents Policy Projects

This past year, I held my 5th consecutive Amundson Institute. This engaging program was orginially
founded by my predecessor, the Honorable Kris Amundson. This program allows for the 44th District high school juniors and seniors that qualify for the program to join me during the Virginia Legislative Session. During this time, the students experience the Virginia state government first hand, while learning the intricate legislative process.

I was fortunate enough to have 6 very qualified students from Mount Vernon and West Potomac High School join me in Richmond this year and see what the politicians they read about do. From West Potomac High School, we had Kelly O'Meara, Margret O'Meara, Jayne Orleans and Emma Kelly. From Mount Vernon High School, we had Catherine Ming and Taamson Joshua. These 6 students were chosen because they demonstrated a passion for their school work, community and leadership. 
   While the primary component of the institute is the trip to Richmond, I also require that each individual student pick an issue to present that they are both passionate about and pertains to the 44th District. In the former years, I have drafted bills based on these projects.


       This year, the students addressed a variety of subjects:

***To see a specific student's presentation, please click on their name and you will be redirected to their project***
  • Ms. Emma Kelly, a junior at West Potomac High School, presented on the need for free screenings for 504 Plans for standardized testing. A 504 Plan is used to ensure that students with mental or phyiscal handicaps receive the help and assistance they need in order to succeed in school. Currently, children who are physically and mentally disabled that need a 504 Plan evaluation, but cannot afford it are suffering during standardized tests due to lack if assistance. Ms. Kelly proposes a bill that would allow these economically disadvantaged households easier access by requiring schools to have therapists in place that are able to diagnose and implement a plan to help these students succeed. 
  • Ms. Jayne Orleans, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed implementing riparian buffers to protect the Potomac River from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. In large quantities, these pollutants create Dead Zones, areas of water with excessive nutrient pollution, that causes aquatic life to either leave the area or die. Ms. Orleans proposes that by utilizing riparian buffers, we would be able to help protect our local water and environment from excessive runoff.
  • Mr. Kelly O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed mandating school programs that would teach both parents and students how to effectively manage teen stress. Mr. O'Meara came up with this proposal due to the recent increase in teen suicide because of academic and social pressures. He proposes that by encouraging more mandated and open communication between students and their families, we might be able to help parents and children learn how to balance school work, while encouraging stress-reliving personal time. 
  • Ms. Catherine Ming, a senior at Mount Vernon High School, presented a project that would implement a container deposit law that would encourage recycling by refunding those who return recyclable bottles. This bill would require a refundable deposit on containers that are turned into mandated locations. This practice would encourage responsibility and reduce waste. 
  • Ms. Margaret O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, presented the need for crosswalks along US 1 to ensure pedestrian safety. With the increase in traffic on US 1, there is an increase in the need for protective travel measures. Ms. O'Meara proposed installing more cross walks and traffic lights to help ensure pedestrian welfare.

From environmental issues to disability service accessibility, the Amundson Institute students provided well-researched and thought out projects. It was my pleasure to show such a distinguished group of young leaders an inside look of their state government. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Weekly Column: Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44th District

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 9, 2015.
Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44th District
As the weather warms and we approach the summer, it also means that we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia, and good news is coming for the 44th District.
From 1987 to 2013, the General Assembly refused to raise Virginia’s $0.17/gallon gas tax to even keep up with inflation.  As salaries, the cost of materials, and infrastructure needs all increased, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had to prioritize funds for other critical maintenance needs.  As a result, grass mowing was massively limited, primary and interstate maintenance was prioritized and secondary road paving was limited.  Over 70% of secondary roads in Northern Virginia were rated to have substandard pavement quality (secondary roads are roads numbered over 600).
Over the last six years I have been in office, I have consistently received complaints about pavement quality – especially on major secondary arteries like Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane.
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