How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekly Column: The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured

The following is my column that will exclusively appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette in the week of August 25, 2014.

The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured
There are many issues facing the communities between the Potomac River, Huntley Meadows Park, Fort Belvoir and the City of Alexandria.  The top three are U.S. 1, the future of our local schools, and a burgeoning uninsured population. 

First, our quality of life revolves U.S. 1.  The future of U.S 1 not only functions as the spine of our mobility, but it drives housing, retail choices, property values, schools, environmental quality, crime levels, and tax revenue.     

A year ago, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million to fund the U.S. 1 Multimodal Study and determine the optimal transit, road, pedestrian, cycling, and accompanying land configuration for the U.S. 1 Corridor.  That study will come to a conclusion in the next few months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Column: Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of August 18, 2014.
Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, I held my third town hall meeting of the year and my first ever Hispanic Community Town Hall.  I was also joined by the first Democratic elected Latino State Delegate - Alfonso Lopez - who represents South Arlington and Bailey's Crossroads.  

The Hispanic population has grown from less than one percent in Virginia in the 1970s to 8.6% today.  Here in our area, there was virtually no Hispanic population when I was a kid.  Today, the Hispanic population is the largest minority demographic in the 44th District.  One in four people who lives in the 44th District is Hispanic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way Set to Open!

The Mulligan Road - newly renamed Jeff Todd Way - saga is set to come to an end very soon.  The new road will run from the Roy Rogers in Woodlawn to the bottom of the large hill on Telegraph Road just south of Hayfield Secondary School.  It is a hugely needed improvement for East-West traffic flow in the Mt. Vernon-Lee Area. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) advised me today that the road will be open on August 18, 2014 with a ribbon cutting on August 25, 2014.  Here's some older articles I've written about it:



On Sunday, August 10, 2014, I "inspected" the new road on my bike with my new GoPro camera.  You can see my video at 4x speed below the flip (sorry there is no music).


Judge Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.

When I got out of law school, the economy was still in the doldrums.  The firm seemed to have a few post-divorce bankruptcies coming through and the partners needed someone to figure them out so it fell to the new guy - me.  That's how I became a bankruptcy lawyer among other things.

At the time, there were two judges in the Alexandria Division Courthouse - Stephen Mitchell and the Chief Judge - Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.  I went on to try a few cases to both of them.

Last week, I learned of the passing of Judge Bostetter at the age of 88.

While I did not practice regularly before him and only practice before him for three of his forty years on the bench, I will never forget the day I was sworn in.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Sherwood Hall Lane Bike Lanes

While I was on vacation, VDOT finishing the paving operations on Sherwood Hall Lane.

The striping is still in progress, but the new bike lanes are on the ground.  VDOT still has to pain bike lane symbols in the ground, a few stripes here and there, and install signage, but they are now on the ground and usable.

I took them for a test spin with my new GoPro camera on Sunday, August 10, 2014 around 11:30 a.m.  You can see my ride a double speed below.

Multimodal improvements are critical to get more cars off the road.  It is also hoped that by restricting lane size, this will help to lower speeds and illegal passing on Sherwood Hall Lane which has become a real problem with increased cut through traffic. 

These improvements were the result of two public hearings and significant public input.   These lanes will eventually link into to a multiuse path on U.S. 1 and other bike lanes as U.S. 1 is redone, properties are redeveloped and road repaved.

Legislative Inaction and Legislative Efficiency?

I was reading the Washington Post this morning and an article about legislative inaction in the U.S. Congress.

Congress passed 140 in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) resulting in 2,324 pages of new laws.  As of July 8, 2014, the 113th Congress has passed 125 new laws resulting in 2,597 pages of new law.

While there are definitely shortcomings in Virginia's 60 and 45 day sessions and the entire part-time legislature concept, I went to look at a couple metrics.

For example, in the 2014 General Assembly, around 2,750 bills were introduced (minus commending resolutions), 902 were passed, 234 continued to next session, and 980 killed.  The Acts of Assembly are the compilation of every bill we pass.  The 2014 version isn't out yet, but the 2011 Acts of Assembly was 2252 pages long.

Much of what we do is "housekeeping" where there is no meaningful objection to the legislation.  For example, of the 902 bills we passed, 502 were unanimous.

Obviously, the Federal Government is a complex entity, it's budget is probably three times longer than Virginia's.  You would think that the U.S. Congress needs to pass at least 5-10 times as much "housekeeping" legislation (or at least pages) as the Virginia General Assembly.  They are not even doing that.

I recognize that pages do not necessarily reflect substance, and it's not unusual to see a bill that has ten new words and takes up 10 pages.  However, it is really remarkable just how little the U.S. Congress has achieved in a two year session when you compare it to the typical product of our part-time, 45-60 day legislature.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Week One of the McDonnell Trial

Johnnie Williams' Smith Mountain Lake Vacation Home
It has been a sad and sordid week in Richmond.  My General Assembly Office overlooks the Federal Courthouse.  I'm glad I'm not there to see this depressing spectacle in person.  A few initial thoughts.  

First, this trial is highlighting some of the worst parts of the political system in Virginia.  The talk about a New York shopping trip$5,000 bottles of cognac, free yard work, requesting free Land Rovers for children, Ferarris and rolexes, free golf equipment, no interest $120,000 and $50,000 loans, covered wedding receptions, and $10,000 wedding gifts has not been pretty.  

Johnnie Williams unabashedly asserting that he gave money and gifts to gain "access" and legitimize his company and its product only serves to reinforce the most pessimistic assumptions that many Virginians hold about politicians and donors that government is for sale.  Not every donor is looking for "access" or something in return for their contribution.  Some donors, mainly individuals, contribute because of their interest in public policy issues or over-arching government philosophies.  However, this trial - no matter what the outcome - will only serve to further undermine public confidence in government.

This trial only reiterates the need for actual ethics and campaign finance reform in the Virginia, and the problems created by the Citizen's United ruling and its progeny.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

VDOT Unveils Extended U.S. 1 Merge Lane for I-495 Express Lanes

Last month, I posted that VDOT had agreed to extend the merge lanes for all traffic from U.S. 1 onto the Beltway's southbound/eastbound express lanes after one of my constituents noticed the unsafe merging conditions.

The interchange is used by many 44th District residents and City of Alexandria residents on a daily basis.

A diagram of the new lane design is attached and it was implemented on July 23.  Let me know if you have any feedback!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Newly Released - Mount Vernon History Revisited!

Waynewood resident Michael Bohn and former Patch Reporter Jessie Biele have come out with a new book that focuses on local history called, Mount Vernon - Revisited.

I picked up a copy a few weeks ago at the Village Hardware.  It's a good primer into the early 44th District and provides some perspective as to how we got to where we are today in the 44th District.

Over the past two decades, Mike has written several series in the Mount Vernon Gazette focused on the Mount Vernon Trolley, old prominent homes in the Mt. Vernon area, and old Mount Vernon schools.  I published a series of them on this blog:


My favorite pictures are the old shots of U.S. 1 before it was four-laned and straightened out in the 1930's.

It's a quick must read for anyone whose zip code is between 22306 and 22309!

The text of the press release from the publisher is below the fold.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gum Springs Pride Circa 1966

The 44th District is home to Gum Springs - the oldest historically black neighborhood in Fairfax County tracing its roots back to its found Wes Ford - a freed slave of George Washington.

Gum Springs has endured many challenges through the years and often had to fight for its fair share of resources from the federal, state, and local government.  My grandparents were involved in many of these fights starting when they moved to Mt. Vernon in 1941.

The President of the New Gum Springs Civic Association has forwarded me a link to this fascinating movie made in Gum Springs nearly fifty years ago when Fairfax County was first beginning to confront the effects of desegregation in 1966.

It is a fascinating glimpse into Mt. Vernon's past including a great cameo from then-Mt. Vernon District Supervisor and future Eighth District Congressman Herb Harris.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DoD to Contribute $23,798,603 to Expand Ft. Belvoir Elementary

Fort Belvoir Elementary School opened in 1998 and quickly became one of the largest elementary schools in Washington Metropolitan Area.  Population at the base has continued to explode as the Army has renovated and added housing units on base.

Normally, when new development brings new families and infrastructure needs, localities can require developers to pay proffers, which are passed along to homeowners, to help cover the public infrastructure costs.  When the Federal Government creates development, that is not possible.

Last week, the Department of Defense announced a grant of $23,798,603 to Fairfax County Public Schools.  The press release says:
Fairfax County Public Schools will use its grant to renovate, repair and construct new classrooms at Fort Belvoir Elementary School to address the capacity and facility condition deficiencies that placed the school on the Deputy Secretary of Defense Priority List at #26. The school will serve over 1,590 military connected students in grades kindergarten through sixth.
Given that FCPS is currently facing a capital backlog of over $1 billion, this will allow the FCPS to focus on other renovation priorities.

Thank you Uncle Sam!

Monday, July 21, 2014

44th District's Osprey Impress!

As the Potomac River continues to recover, raptors have begun to rebound including Osprey.

William Young and Ashley Bradford has done an amazing job documenting an Osprey family near Bellehaven Marina (just north of the 44th District, but frequented by many 44th District residents!).

You can find Osprey nests all over the 44th District along the Potomac River including Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek.  I've also seen Osprey nests on the softball field light poles at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and Mount Vernon High School.

It's only ironic that these nests include plastic bags (thank you AutoZone for helping our Osprey make their nests). What would these birds do without plastic bags?    They attempted to reproduce with plastic bags attached.

 Excellent videos and resources about a striking predator in our area.

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