How Much Have We Lost?

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:

In Person Early Voting
Every locality in the 36th District has early in-person voting.  You can find information regarding early voting in person in your County here:

Reasons To Vote Early
In order to vote early, you must have a legal reason.  If you have any difficulty regarding a reason to vote early, please contact our office and we will walk you through the process and help you assess your eligibility - or 571.249.4484. 

Most people have legal reasons, but do not realize it.  The most common reasons are:
  • Work outside the County where you live;
  • Away on travel;
  • Outside your county for any reason on Election Day for any period of time;
  • Attending college;
  • Disabled (including cannot stand in line);
  • Active duty military or spouse of active duty.
Please note these important dates:
  • October 17th - Final Day to Register to Vote or Update your Voter Address
  • November 1st - Deadline to Apply to Vote-By-Mail
  • November 5th - Final Day to Vote Early In-Person
  • November 8th - Deadline to Return Vote-By-Mail Ballots

   For additional information, please contact my office at 571.249.4484.

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.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Weekly Column: Summer Is Here: Time to Visit Your State Parks!

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 4, 2016.
Eighty years ago this month, Virginia created the first state park system in the United States.   With 35 miles of Potomac River frontage in the 36th Senate district, our community is lucky to have access to many natural resources, including our state parks. 
Our state park system has its origins in the Great Depression.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous park and recreational areas throughout the nation, as well as in Virginia. My grandfather grew up in Franklin County, Virginia, a county with no public high school so he had an eighth grade education and when he turned 22 in 1933, no job.
He enrolled in the CCC and was directed to report to the Arlington County “countryside” (yes, countryside).  Every day, he walked through farm fields to construct trails and plant trees on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, which had recently been renamed Teddy Roosevelt Island next to Rosslyn.  The CCC also helped build the George Washington Memorial Parkway.   

Monday, June 13, 2016

Public Comment Deadline on Route 1 Widening!

On Tuesday (6/14) at 6:30 p.m., there will be a public hearing at the South County Government Center regarding allocating $267 million of annual funding for transportation in projects in Northern Virginia possibly including Route 1. 

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has $267 million to spend this cycle.  Multiple jurisdictions submitted funding requests.  Fairfax County submitted requests for funding seven projects - (1) I-66 and VA-28 interchange, (2) Frontier Drive extension near Springfield Mall, (3) VA-7 widening in Great Falls, (4) Braddock Road HOV, (5) Fairfax County/Dulles Toll Road widening, (6) VA-28 widening from Prince William to U.S. 29, (7) widening U.S. 1 from Woodlawn to Napper Road (Hybla Valley).

Last year, the NVTA funded $10 million for project design and environmental compliance work for this project.  Delegate Paul Krizek and I submitted over 430 comments in support of the project. 

The NVTA recently announcing scoring for each of the submitted projects.   The NVTA scoring criteria focuses on congestion relief and projects that are shovel ready, and the U.S. 1 widening scored 20th out of 24 projects  because other projects were proposed to be completed earlier.   

Excerpt from Project Description Form Submitted
By Fairfax County
This year's NVTA project application submitted by Fairfax County staff stated that construction will start in 2023 and the project will be open for traffic in 2025

The main reason U.S. 1 in Fairfax County scored low was because of the proposed construction timetable as compared with other projects Fairfax County (and other jurisdictions) submitted.  The NVTA is required by law to give greatest priority to the projects that will give the greatest congestion relief the soonest.

For example, the two U.S. 1 projects submitted from Prince William County scored #6 and #13 on the list. 

Clearly, I am very disappointed both that current planning has this project going scheduled for completion in 2025 and that it is not looking good for getting NVTA funding this round.  I have been a staunch advocate for widening Route 1 and construction bus rapid transit and a Yellow Line extension as soon as possible - not in decades!

The public comment deadline is this Friday.  I have included a form below where you can provide public comments that I will deliver to NVTA on Friday. 

Last year, Delegate Krizek and I delivered a petition with 430 comments to NVTA.  We need to do it again -  Please explain why we need to fund Route 1 improvements now and how congestion on Route 1 is affecting your quality of life today. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Constitution Contemplates Mass Civil Rights Restoration

Governor McAuliffe Signs Order Restoring
206,000 Virginians' Voting Rights
Today, I read that several members have hired counsel to litigate the constitutionality of Governor McAuliffe's decision to restore the civil rights of 206,000 Virginians.  Some are questioning whether he has that power. 

I think he does.  Here's why. 

While prior Governors have not chosen to exercise the authority to restore civil rights in the same way as Governor McAuliffe, prior Governor's practical application is not binding on a court.  What matters is legal authority.

The primary legal argument I have heard is that some claim the second sentence of the Constitution only contemplates individual restorations.  After about twenty minutes of legal research, I do not read it that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup!

With the weather warming up and the flowers blooming, it can only mean one thing: it is time for the 2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup! In coordination with the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Delegate Paul Krizek and myself, I am excited to say that we will be hosting our annual cleanup on Saturday, April 9th. 

Details are are follows:

           2016 Little Hunting Creek Clean Up
                               April 9th
                           11 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Dubbed "Fairfax County's Trashiest Steam," back in 2007, Little Hunting Creek has seen continuous pollution due to the significant retail presence, inefficient storm water management systems, and unregulated waste disposal. In the past, volunteers and I have collected a total of 8,500 pounds of waste, 186 grocery carts, over 50 tires, a dozen bikes, multiple car seats and one .22 caliber rifle. 

We have three sites staged for the event:

  • Janna Lee Avenue BridgeFrom Route 1, turn west on Buckman Rd, Right on Janna Lee Ave., to the bridge over little Hunting Creek  

  • Creekside Village Apartments: Take Janna Lee Avenue all the way through Creekside Village Apartments, until it dead ends at the end of the parking lot 
  • Mount Vernon Shopping Plaza Near the Duron Store: Meet on Fordson Rd., beside the Duron Store at the northeast corner of Mount Vernon Plaza. Parking is available behind Shopper's Food Warehouse and the post office, or on Cyrene Drive in South Meadows Condos. DO NOT park in the limited parking in front of Duron and neighboring stores. Be sure to wear rubber boots- the easiest access is to walk in the channel. 

We have a responsibility to help ensure the quality of our environment and protect the health of our local watershed and it is a great opportunity for young adults to gain community service hours, learn about local ecosystems impairments and what they can to to improve them.

Again, please pick a site and volunteer by clicking the link provided below:


Please note that all volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear close-toed or sneakers. Additionally, we will be providing water, light snacks and pizza for all those who come out and volunteer!

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