How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2011 Young Leaders Program

This year, I will sponsor my first Young Leaders Program. Former Delegate Kris Amundson began this program in partnership with Cox Communications as an opportunity for selected high school juniors and seniors who demonstrate high potential in leadership to learn about legislative and public service careers through a job shadow experience.

The primary event will take place in Richmond during the 2011 legislative session. Students will come to Richmond for 3 days- January 30th-February 1st- and observe the General Assembly. They will also meet with leaders in state government. The program is an excellent chance for students to learn how state government works first-hand.

Each student will also complete an individual study project, focusing on an aspect of the Commonwealth's government that they choose. After the legislative session, students will present their projects and we may even find a way to make the projects available to the community. Cox Communications may interview students about their experience.

The program will be open to juniors and seniors who live in (or attend a school in) the 44th District. We will be working with several sponsors so that there will be no cost for the students.

Delegate Amundson created this program in 2000 and many Mount Vernon area high school students have participated. I'm excited to continue the program and I'm looking forward to meeting some of the 44th's best and brightest young leaders.


If you'd like a hard copy, please contact my office at 571.249.4484. Applications are due no later than December 20, 2010. Students selected for the Young Leaders Program will be notified during the first week of January.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grey Goose v. Bowman's Virginia Vodka

As part of his ABC Privatization Plan, Governor McDonnell has proposed a $17.50 per gallon excise tax on alcohol to make up for the existing excise tax and wholesale markup that presently generates over $300 million per year to taxpayers.

When I first heard that proposed tax was done on a per gallon basis, I had to think a minute because we presently tax gasoline on a per gallon basis. Levying the tax as pennies per gallon instead of a percentage of cost is partly why we no longer have the revenue to sustain our road network. Taxing liquids on a per gallon basis requires consumption to increase to sustain revenue increases. However, if you tax liquids as a percentage of price, the natural inflation of prices increases your revenue along with consumption.

At our Town Hall Meeting the other night, Senator Puller pointed out that another side effect of converting our existing excise tax into a per gallon tax is that is have regressive effects.

For example, I hopped on Google and noted that I could by a 1/5th (750ml) of Grey Goose Vodka for $29.00 from a store in California. I can buy a 1/5th (750 ml) of good ol' Virginia Bowman's Vodka (formerly made in Fairfax County, VA (Reston or Sunset Hills for you history junkies like me) for $5.99 in Chester, NJ. For whatever it's worth, they cost $33.90 and $7.20 at the Virginia ABC store.

Under the Governor's proposed exise tax consumers would pay a $3.50 tax on both bottles (750ML = 0.20 Gal. x $17.50 = $3.50). In other words, the tax on Bowman's Vodka would be more than half of the cost of the bottle, but the tax on the Grey Goose would be about 10%.

If the tax were levied as a percentage - say for example 20% - then the Bowman's drinker would pay a tax of $1.20 in taxes and the Grey Goose drinker would pay $5.80 in taxes for the same quantity of alcohol.

One more thing to think about in this ABC privatization debate. You can also read my column with other questions by clicking here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

100 Miles to the Ocean

Yesterday, I rode my bike in the Seagull Century from Salisbury, MD to Assateague Island and back.

After I graduated from law school in 1996, I was looking for something interesting to do so I rode a bike from Astoria, Oregon to Virginia Beach in 46 days. It got me addicted to road riding. Today, it's hard to make time for it with work, kids, etc., but I like to ride down to Mount Vernon and around Ft. Belvoir to Mason Neck when I spin off some serious miles around the neighborhood.

Otherwise, I have two rides I try to do every year, Schroon Lake, NY to Lake Placid, NY and the the Seagull. Lately, life (kids being born, political campaigns, etc.) have been getting in the way, but luckily things lined up yesterday and I was able to go.

It's an interesting race on a number of levels. For one, it's a change of scenery from Northern Virginia. It's just like Tidewater Virginia - dead flat. You get some tiny contours riding - the streams and rivers are pretty much just trench depressions filled with still water. The biggest hill is the bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway (picture on the left).

People come from all around and various charities to ride. I ran into two constituents (Tom Curcio and Ed Farino from Waynewood). There are three Fairfax County Judges who are regular riders (Tom Gallahue, Dennis Smith, and Jane Roush), plus a slew of other Fairfax lawyers. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are all thoroughly represented. People are decked out in corporate logos, college jerseys, sports teams, you name it.

There were groups representing all ethnicities - I saw the "Team Vietvelo" and a number of groups dedicated to the memory of Major Taylor - a black cyclist from the turn of the Century who was frequently prohibited from competing for racial reasons. There's even a group of over the hill Northern Virginian's from my district who go by the moniker - "Team Lardbutt."

IN terms of the scenery, 95% of the ride is through fields of soybeans, sorghum, and corn interrupted by forests. Aside from a few blocks of the Salisbury "suburbs," the picturesque Town of Berlin and a few others, it's almost entirely rural.

There are chicken houses everywhere. If it's hot when we ride, you smell them everywhere because the venilation fans kick in.

As you ride into Assateague Island, we usually see the ponies. This year, I tried to take a picture with one and I was threatened with a citation by a Park Policeman (he was next to the bike path and I didn't realize you couldn't touch him).

The ride is put on by the Salisbury State University Bicycle Club. They started the event in 1989 and today's it's grown to over 7,500 riders. They've donated over $110,000 to their local Habitat for Humanity chapter and as you can imagine, bringing 7,500 people into one place has a significant impact on local commerce - e.g. if each person spends an average $100 on the race, food, hotels, etc. that equals $750,000 of impact alone - the race probably has over $1,000,000 of impact per year. In terms of economic development, it's a no brainer.

This year, I averaged about 21 MPH through the first thirty miles. Then, my body reminded me that I was 39. At the end, my time was up to 5 Hours, 42 minutes or an average of about 17.8 MPH. Back when I was about 10 lbs lighter and 15 years younger, I could do it in under 5 hours.

There's always next year.....

Friday, October 8, 2010

U.S. 1 Op Ed In Richmond Times Dispatch

Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an Op-Ed that I wrote after they ran an editorial last weekend entitled "The Scar" referring to U.S. 1. Here is an excerpt:

It's also hard to avoid the suspicion that Jeff Davis has suffered such neglect because it lacks the affluent, eloquent constituents that populate other parts of the city. What businesses there are in the area run more to bodegas, auto-parts dealers, and dollar stores than advertising agencies and smart boutiques.

Jeff Davis may be cursed by a sense -- perhaps an unconscious one -- that fixing up the infrastructure would be like putting a spoiler on a Pinto. But this sentiment, if it exists, amounts to a Catch-22. Smart boutiques will not relocate to an area whose main thoroughfare is rougher than riprap.
Sound familiar?

Much has been done to improve U.S. 1 in our neck of the woods. Right when I got out of law school, U.S. 1 had several police "hot" spots - Jim's Country Club (razed), the Belvoir Grill (burned down), Hillbilly Heaven (razed). Mount Vernon Plaza and Beacon Mall have undergone significant upgrades and many of the seedier hotels are gone, but there is still a massive amount of work to be done.

The focus on my RTD Op-Ed is that the improvement of U.S. 1 is a statewide problem - not just a Fairfax County or even a Northern Virginiaone. The road - and especially our part of Route 1 - has tremendous potential waiting to be unleashed as soon as we get widening and rail. However, to pull it off, all of the players involved need to step up to the plate to make major long term change a reality.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Waynewood Principal Turns on the Afterburners

Waynewood Principal Jamie Meier got to live every elementary school boy's dream the other day riding shotgun in an after-burning F/A-18 Hornet as part of the U.S. Navy's Key Influencer Ride-A-Long Program.

The Key Influencer Program is designed to recognize people who are:

"...people who help to shape attitudes and opinions of youth in the community. People turn to Key Influencers for advice or information because they have credibility. They may be experts int heir field, public figures, leaders of yougt organizations, teachers, guidance counselors or school administrators. They are not always the people at the top but have a strong impact recruting on age youth and/or a specific target audience."

Principal Meier tells me that he was selected from among thousands of people nominated for this position. It's an amazing honor for him. A video of his takeoff is below. It is VERY cool.

I'm not sure what it is about the Meier Family. Principal Jamie Meier's brother Dan was my guidance counselor at West Potomac High School in my senior year, helped lead WePo to the State Championship in 1990, and is now the principal at Robinson Secondary School. This family seems to have leadership grafted into its DNA. Waynewood Elementary is lucky to have Principal Jamie Meier leading the school.

As a kid who doodled many fighter jet attacks while bored in school, I am soooooo envious.

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