Thursday, December 29, 2011

State Support for UVA Less Than 50% of 1989 Levels

Some people joke that the the session really starts around December 1 of every year.  Well, this time of year, we are busy getting innudated with briefing materials with various organizations showing us their importance to the Commonwealth.  I was reading through a few sets of materials today and the package from UVA really blew my mind. 

My parents both benefitted from an affordable high quality in-state higher education.  Like my parents, I also benefitted from this attending James Madison University from 1989-1993.

First, today's General Fund inflation-adjusted appropriations for UVA is less than 50% what it was in 1989.  The Commonwealth is investing $7,657 per student at UVA as compared with $16,846 per student when I attended college.

Second, if you compare the UVA General Fund appropriation from 1989 and apply the rate of inflation to it, it has gone from around $120 million down to approximately $105 million. 

You can see from the chart that this trend began when I was in college - I really remember it.  Right after I started at JMU, a recession hit and Governor Wilder insisted that he was going to balance the state budget without raising taxes (he was also talking about running for President).  Higher education was one of the first thigns to be cut.  You can see there was a slight recovery in 2001, but then things fell off the charts in 2001 after control of the General Assembly changed hands.

Monday, December 26, 2011

VA State Parks Youth Conservation Corps

The Virginia State Parks' Youth Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications through April 13, 2012 to help this summer at the state's 36 parks from kids ages 14-17. 

Here's a description:
(YCC) - This is a three-week residential program. Crews live in the park for three weeks. Work generally takes place in the daytime, and environmental education and adventure opportunities fill evenings and weekends. Crewmembers work and live as a team. Crewmembers also complete several projects throughout their park. Recruitment is targeted to attract youth from diverse backgrounds. Young people with a strong background in environmental education are encouraged to apply, but young people who have never experienced a park setting are welcome as well. An executive director and YCC coordinator handle the recruitment and selection of crewmembers and supervisors. Selection is based heavily on the quality of responses given in the application. Site selection and project planning are handled by park staff.
The Virginia State Parks have more information at the link below.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2012 Young Leaders Program

This year, I will be sponsoring my second annual 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 2012 legislative session. Students will come to Richmond for 3 days(January 20th-31st) and observe the General Assembly at work. 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 a 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. Last year we had a fantastic group of students and I'm looking forward to meeting more of the 44th District's high school leaders.

If you'd like a hard copy, please contact my office at 571.249.44TH(4484). Applications are due no later than December 30, 2011. Students selected for the Young Leaders Program will be notified during the first week of January.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Birth of WePo & The Return of Red Dawn

Now for a bit of local history. 

Back when I was in 7th and 8th grade, the southern end of the county endured an epic battle over the closure and merger of Fort Hunt High School and Groveton High School.  I'm not going to revisit that, but after the decision was made, the students were asked to make some decisions. 

I was in the Class of '89 and in the Fall of 1984, I started 8th Grade.  My class (and possibly others), were tasked with coming up with the name, colors, and mascot for the new high school.  My brother was in 6th grade, and the pyramid 6th graders got to work on the "new" intermediate school.

I have a vague recollection of the choices.  I remember that Gunston High School was in play and I have a fleeting recollection that a "Heifer" was one of the mascots on the table, but maybe I'm just confusing rumors with reality. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nonpartisan Congressional Redistricting Options

Earlier this year, the Virginia Redistricting Competition featured 55 teams of students competing for cash prizes to draw congressional districts based on nonpartisan criteria. 

Here's what the winning maps looked like (click to enlarge) with links to the other documentation submitted with each entry. 

I have also put copies of the Governor's Bipartisan Redistricting Commission maps below the page break here. 

Weekly Column: A Nonpartisan Redistricting Opportunity

This column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette on December 22, 2011:
I have repeatedly advocated nonpartisan redistricting. I believe that our current redistricting system is at the heart of political gridlock in Washington and Richmond.  Thanks to power software, today politicians pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians.  We also have a system designed to minimize public input and maximize incumbent protection.  However, in January, a federal judge will have an unprecedented opportunity in Virginia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Putting Some Sunshine on Tax Credits

WAMU is running a story this morning by Michael Pope on some legislation that I am introducing next session regarding shining some light on tax credits.

During the last two years I have been elected, I have been astonished at the number of tax credit bills that I have seen go through my Chamber.  Towards the end of last session, several of us were discussing these and the cumulative effect they are having on our budget - especially given how picky we are being about expenditures because Virginia's budget situation is so horrific.

For example, in the last two years, I have noticed the following:
  • A $4M tax credit for movie production;
  • A $40M tax credit for coal production;
  • A $4M tax credit for wineries;
  • A $2M tax credit for Virginia's ports;
  • A $2M tax credit for research & development (I voted for this one);
  • A $2M tax credit for telecommuting;
  • A tax credit for creating "green" jobs.

Monday, December 19, 2011

NAS Study Highlights Risks of Mining Uranium

Six months ago, I wrote about the coming fight this session over the lifting Virginia's thirty-year moratorium on mining uranium.  You can read my article here:

This week, the National Academy of Sciences released its long-awaited report regarding this issue.  The New York Times has a good summary here

The full report has a fascinating section on Virginia's geology, weather, and ecology.  For example, it points out that debris flows are some of the most destructive events in the Virginia's mountainous areas, account for more than 50% of erosion in Virginia mountainous area river basins, and recur on a 2,000-4,000 year cycle.  (P. 30-31)  Virginia is at a relatively high risk for flooding because we have a high precipitation rate and topography - much higher than areas where uranium has ever been mined before in the United States (P. 34). 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Medicaid on the Chopping Block in 2012?

The Governor is set to announce his budget sometime in the next ten days.  The word from Richmond is that we have an approximate $1 billion shortfall.  One of the big drivers of that is medical inflation reflected in our Medicaid budget.

Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program for low-income and disabled people.  It is also the only provider of long-term nursing care for many Americans, since Medicare coverage and coverage by most private insurance policies is quite limited.  Virginia has one of the most restrictive programs in the United States - you have to be very poor to be eligible.  Most rankings put Virginia at 48th in Medicaid expenditures and 7th in per capita income.  In other words, we are a relatively wealthy state and we do not help the poor much. 

A significant portion of Virginia's Medicaid population are children, elderly and the blind.  Here's how Virginia's 881,075 Medicaid recipients played out in 2008:
  • 480,392 Children
  • 177,755 Blind & Disabled
  • 140,716 Adults
  •   82,212 Elderly

Friday, December 9, 2011

Coming Soon: Unwanted Solitications to Your Mobile Phone

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA").  The TCPA was passed in 1991 and placed limits on robocalls, phone solitications, and unsolicited faxes.  The current law prohibits companies from using robodialers to call your mobile phone. 

There is currently legislation proposing amendments to the TCPA pending in Congress.  The legislation is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association, the Air Transport Alliance, and the Mortgage Bankers Association.  The rationale is that they want to be able to call you about a security breach, fraud alerts, flight cancellations, etc.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012 Mt. Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

I had a great night tonight at the Mt. Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce's annual awards dinner.  The award winners pictured at the right were the following:
  • Large Business of the Year - Cox Communications
  • Mid-Sized Business of the Year - Mt. Vernon Athletic Club
  • Small Business of the Year - Commercial Lynks, Inc.
  • New Business of the Year - Walker's Grill
  • Citzen of the Year - Tom Harvey, Hollin Hall Automotive, Inc.
In my comments, I said that sometimes in Mt. Vernon it feels like Mayberry because we're such a tight community.  Cox funds my Young Leaders Program, I played tennis daily at Mt. Vernon Athletic Club when I was in high school, I sat next to the owner of Walker's Grill at dinner the other night, and Hollin Hall Automotive is simply legendary. 

They are all part of why we live in such a great community.  My commending resolution for Hollin Hall Automotive is below. 
Hollin Hall Auto 50th Anniversary Commending Resolution

Saturday, December 3, 2011

VA General Assembly War of 1812 Bicentennial Concert

On January 11, 2010, the General Assembly is sponsoring a concert to kickoff the state's War of 1812 Bicentennial activities.  The concert is FREE, but is ticketed.  Information is below. 

If you are interested in coming or bringing a group, please click on the link below.  If you have questions.  You can email me at

You can access more information regarding the Bicentennial on the webstie for the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

General Washington's Whiskey is Back!

Last year, I wrote about the Mt. Vernon Estate's newest round of whiskey production.  You can read more about it here: 

The Dixie Pig: Rye Back of Sale At Mt. Vernon (Dec. 1, 2010)

I wrote about the history of General Washington's whiskey production and the legislative hurdles that were cleared to make it possible.  Senator Toddy Puller was a big part of making it happen. 
Last month, the Mount Vernon Estate sold their newest batch of rye whiskey made from General Washington's recipe (in the left picture, pictured on the left side, click to enlarge).  The newest batch was aged which is why it is brown in color.  However, General Washington did not age his rye - the stuff he produced was clear (in the bottle on the right).

The bottle on the right (the clear whiskey) costs $99/ea.  The newest aged batch runs $185/ea.  I bought several of each.  Apparently, among liquor afficiondos, they are a very in-demand curiosity.  They actually hand-number each batch so you can prove their authenticity.  The picture on the left side of the page shows the numbering. 
I'm not really much of a liquor drinker, so I can't really comment on how they taste.  I tried the first batch and I thought it tasted kind of "grassy" compared to what I'm used to - I think that's why they call it rye. 

As for my new bottles, I'm still trying to figure out when it's appropriate to drink something that costs about $20 per shot.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Keep your eyes open for the next round.  Yet another part of our community that makes this area a unique place to live.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2012 Session Looms

The 2012 Session awaits in January.  "Prefiling" or the process to request legislative drafts and file them has started.  Several bills have already been introduced.

The Budget continues to be in horrible shape. The money committees have told us to expect a $1 billion shortfall that we have to plug. The condition of the budget will have effects across all kinds of programs and issue debates.

Due to changes in the Virginia Senate, there are a lot of issues that are likely going to be coming up:
  • Bills on "personhood" for fetuses and abortion restrictions will be front and center.
  • Legislation to marginalize undocumented immigrants will be a hot topic.
  • Bills to remove restrictions on firearms will be coming.  For example, legislation to allow a person to manufacture, sell and possess a gun in Virginia free from federal restrictions is introduced annually. 
  • Removing the moratorium on uranium mining.  I wrote about that here.
  • The Governor has made noises and changing Virginia's pension system to a 401K-style pension. 
  • Legislation to limit people's ability to vote will be introduced again.
  • There is some talk about pushing some transportation responsibilities to localities.
The Division of Legislative Services has published a newsletter which is a fairly good non-partisan recap about what is coming and has some interesting statistics.  You can read it here.  In 2011, we considered 2,692 bills and resolutions and passed 890. 

Personally, I have about 110 different ideas I've collected over the last eight months that I am narrowing down for the session.  If you have any legislative ideas for me, please feel free to drop me a note.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thank You 44th District Voters

Things have been slow over here at The Dixie Pig over the last couple weeks.  I've been busy engaging with my family, getting my law practice back up an running, and I had four-day trial last week. 

Between September 27 and November 11, the Republican leadershrip invested nearly $200,000 into my opponent’s race.  Here are the final results:

Surovell: 8,738 Votes (59.43%)
Barsa:  5,742 Votes (39.05%)
Glean:  223 Votes (1.52%)

Thank you.

I was also very pleased to see Senator Puller, Senator-Elect Ebbin, and School Board Member Dan Storck win by commanding margins as well while we held on to our majorities on the Fairfax County School Board.  These results would not have been possible without the time and effort of hundreds of volunteers, and the financial support of nearly 1,300 donors.

If you are interested in how your precinct turned out, you can look up more specific results here.   We won 15 of 18 precincts and the absentee vote. 

We tried to run a positive, issues-focused campaign that focused on my record and vision for the future of our part of Fairfax County and Virginia.  The voters of the 44th District rejected the overwhelmingly negative and nasty campaign of my opponent. 

I never publicly responded to my opponent's attacks, but here are a few thoughts.

Route 1 
My opponent said my only accomplishment on Route 1 was "a little brown sign."  During my first year in 2010, Delegate Sam Nixon proposed legislation designating a portion of Route 1 in Chesterfield County as "Historic Route 1" as part of their Route 1 revitalization efforts.  I lead a bipartisan coalition of thirty-two legislators who sent Governor McDonnell a letter asking him to designate the entire road.  Governor McDonnell followed suit and the amendment was passed unanimously.  I wrote more about it here:

I've also led many other efforts on Route 1 since being elected including:
  • Passage & funding of the Route 1 Transit Study
  • Obtaining over 500 signatures demanding that Route 1 be added to the state's Six Year Improvement Plan (letter & signatures here);
  • Being only 1 of 2 Northern Virginia legislators to speak out at the Commonwealth Transportation Board public hearing on its Six Year Improvement Plan (watch video here);
  • Introduced legislation two years in a row to study the creation of a special Route 1 Transportation Funding District (legislation here);
  • I've also written countless letters and articles that you can access here.
"The Third Least Effective Delegate In Richmond"
My opponent cited a statistic published by Virginia FREE which surveys Richmond lobbyists every year regarding legislators' effectiveness.  Virginia FREE is an organization that promotes business interests in Richmond.  It provides us with a questionnaire every year that is designed by the state's largest corporate interests. 

The Washington Post reported that although I had raised more money than any incumbent who won re-election in my Caucus, I raised less money from Richmond interests than any legislator in the entire legislature. 

On the other hand, my opponent has reported raising at least $193,000 so far.  Of his total, $176,000 came from the Republican Leadership committees and he reported an additional $25,000 in late reported leadership money as well.  These are largely funded by Richmond interest groups.  He only raised about $10,000 (five percent) from people inside the 44th District.  I have raised about $82,000 from voters in the 44th District over the last two years (approximately one-third of my total fundraising). 

VA FREE's rankings consistently rank freshman Democrats very low.  Nearly all of the bottom ten members are Democratic freshman.  Freshmen in the minority are rarely given lobbyists' bills to carry and their bills are routinely killed by the majority. 

Notwithstanding that, I introduced more bills than any freshman in the minority and passed more bills (seven) than any other freshman in the minority. 

92% Partisan Voting History
My opponent said that I "voted with my party 92% of the time."  His citation for that statistic was the entire legislative database.  I have no idea what that statistic is based upon.  Having said that, given that my chamber is controlled by the Republican Party, there are very pieces of legislation that come to the floor that I would characterize as being Democratic. 

Meals' Taxes
My opponent also attacked me for attempting to undermine the will of Fairfax County's voters on the meals' tax. 

Due to the Dillon Rule, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors cannot enact a meals tax.  Counties only have the authority to enact a meals tax by referendum.  Five counties (Arlington, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Roanoke & Frederick County) have been given the authority to enact a meals tax by unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors.  In 2001, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors proposed a referendum on the meals tax.  It was rejected by the voters. 

Fairfax County's Public Schools faced a $180 million deficit two years ago.  A meals tax is projected to raise $80 million per year.  Meals taxes are also currently levied by the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, the City of Falls Church, the City of Fairfax and the Town of Vienna.  I introduced legislation that would allow Fairfax County to be added to the list of jurisdictions that could enact a meals tax by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors.  Given that Fairfax County has three Republican Supervisors, enactment would require bipartisan agreement. 

Negative campaigning did not work.  At the end of the day, the voters of the 44th District have spoken and I am honored to have two more years to serve our community.  Thank you so much for your support during the campaign and on election day.  If I can ever be of any service please don't hesitate to contact my office.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

$180 Million to Widen U.S. 1 Finally Released!

Congressman Jim Moran has been working hard over the last three years to obtain federal funding to help mitigate some of the traffic problems caused by BRAC at Fort Belvoir.
I have written about some of his previous efforts here:

Today, the U.S. Army announced that it was awarding $180 million to Fort Belvoir.  This is significant on a number of levels. 

First, Route 1 is desperately in need of widening along this stretch of road due to current and future traffic and this will bring some relief. 

Second, this lays the ground work for transit along this stretch of U.S. 1.  The improvement will likely include dedicated right-of-way for some kind of future transit improvements.

Third, this project will have taken place due to the efforts of the federal, state and local government.  Senator Toddy Puller initiated the Route 1 improvement process in 1994 with her legislation authorizing the Route 1 Centerline Study.  Fairfax County funded the engineering design process last year with a $2 million appropriation.  Finally, the Federal government has come through with the funding for the improvement.

Lastly, federal funding of a local transportation improvement validates the importance of Fort Belvoir to the United States Military and demonstrates that the Federal Government will fund local transporation improvements when they benefit a military asset like Route 1.  This demonstrates why the Federal Government will be involved in funding the extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir once we have laid the groundwork for that as well. 

My joint press release with Senator Puller is below.
RELEASE- Puller Surovell Applaud $180M for Rt 1-1

Monday, October 24, 2011

Big Slim's Neighborhood: Knocking Doors on Lockheed Boulevard

Over the past few weeks, I've been knocking doors in apartments on Route 1. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about knocking doors in Hayfield Precinct.  I also wrote about a few people I've met including an artist named Pat Monk, and an old soldier named Samuel Ferguson

Tonight, I had to coach our makeup game for my oldest daughter's soccer team until about 6:30 P.M.  I wasn't able to start knocking until late.  I swung by the campaign office, said hi to the volunteers, and I headed over to Lockheed Boulevard right up the street.  Because I started late, I was only able to hit about twenty doors, but it was an interesting night. 

The first door of the night had a really unusual name.  It turned out to be a Cambodian family.  I had not remembered meeting a Cambodian family in 10,000 doors.  The the mother and daughter were registered to vote.  However, the mother was unemployed and disabled.  She told me she could mend my clothes and gave me a homemade business card which was an index card with an address label stuck on it with a phone number handwritten on it. 

Her daughter was off at NOVA in classes and her other daughter was doing her homework on their one computer in the living room.  She corrected her mother a few times when she was not picking up my english well (a common occurrence when I talk to immigrant families).  A friend from Janna Lee was visiting, but she was not registered yet because she said she had not been able to afford the fee take her citizenship test yet.  I encouraged her to take the test so she could vote next year.  They all pledged to vote this year.

Next, I ran into a hispanic family whose door I knocked two years ago.  Their forty-five year old son answered the door.  He said he was staying with his parents because he was unemployed, but he used to live in Murraygate Apartments (behind Gold's Gym).  His parents were at work (it was 8:00 pm).  He assured me that they would make every effort to vote and he appreciated me stopping by.

I next knocked the door of an African family (maybe from Ghana).  The mother opened the door with a few kids.  At first she was kind of annoyed and then she had an epiphany - she said "you were here a year ago!" (two years ago actually).  She said "we're voting for you," thanked me for stopping by and returned to her apartment.

Downstairs, I met another African man who I spoke to two years ago.  He came out in his pajamas after his son at West Potomac answered the door.  He said he remembered me and our conversation two years ago.  He was really interested in getting more well-paying technology jobs in the Route 1 Corridor.  His daily commute to Herndon was over one every day one-way.  He said that he had never really voted before President Obama was elected, but that the President had inspired him to register and participate.  He assured me he would find time to vote. 

I walked up to the next building and ran into a tall African-American man outside who was kicking a soccer ball with a kid.  No one in the apartment was registered and I asked him if he was registered.  He said he used to vote where he lived before and wanted to register when he moved to Virginia, but they would not let him because of his felony. 

We talked about how Virginia's restriction dates back to the 1905 Constitution that was specifically adopted to disenfranchise black voters and that Virginia was the last state in the country to have significant barriers for felons to vote.  He said everything else in Virginia "was great" and he was really pleased at how things had been going for him, but that he really wanted to vote and could not.  I told him I would help him with his restoration next Spring whether I was elected or not.

I went upstairs and knocked the door of a woman.  She answered the door with three children.  After I talked to her about expanding preschool, she told me about how she had been on the waiting list for subsidized childcare or Head Start and that only one of her children was able to get in.  She was paying $300 per week for childcare for her youngest child and she was barely breaking even working and was thinking about not working because it was not really working out.  She leaves for work at 6:00 A.M. every day and drops her children off at daycare so she can be home in time for school to let out. 

We talked about the McDonnell Administration's recent proposal to limit childcare subsidies to five years per family.  She said that would hit her hard.  She can only earn so much with her job skills and was barely breaking even as is.  She could not figure out how to make things work out with a five year cap.  I talked to her about how important these issues were and told her she needed to vote.  She said she would.

I knocked her next door neighbor.  That turned out to be the sister of a high school classmate (who was in bed).  I talked to her son who I had talked to two weeks ago at a West Potomac J.R.O.T.C. car wash.  We didn't realize we had that connection.  He told me that he would get his mother to vote.

For my last door of the night, I went downstairs to the last apartment on my list.  The registered voter was a thirty year-old woman, but the door was answered by a 6'8" man who probably weighed 250 lbs. (his name was "Big Slim"), was holding a video game controller and was decked out in some kind of high tech X-Box head gear.  The voter wasn't available so I asked Big Slim if he could vote.  He also couldn't vote because of the prohibition on voting for former felons.  We also talked about Virginia's Jim Crow Era prohibition, I took his information and we agreed to talk next Spring about getting his rights restored. 

When he closed the door, it had started to rain and then pour so I called it a night. 

I hadn't really planned on writing about knocking doors tonight, but I was really struck by how different each door was in this one complex.  I've now knocked over 10,000 doors in two years.  Obviously, tonight was a bit different from the 1,000 doors I knocked in Hayfield, the 5,000 that I knocked up and down Fort Hunt Road in 2009 or the 1,000 doors I knocked in Hollin Hills last month.  I really enjoy it because there is no better way to understand who makes up our community.  You never know who will be behind the next door and what perspective, story or issues they will bring to the table. 

Route 1 is especially interesting because it is so different from the part of the district where I live.  U.S. Senator Jim Webb always says that you measure a strength of a community at its base, not its apex, and when I first ran, I pledged to work hard to represent both sides of Route 1.  Knocking doors helps me remember my pledge and keeps me in touch with everyone that makes up the community that is the 44th District. 

At the end of the day, every person I met tonight was working hard, trying to make it in a tough economy, and trying to provide the best they can for their children to the best of their own individual ability.  It is an honor to represent them.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Supreme Court Moves Forward On E-Filing!

Virginia's Courts remain one of the few systems in the United States that do not have a functioning e-filign system.  Legal papers still must be filed on paper signed by attorneys at the courthouse between normal business hours.  This is not only unnecessary in today's electronic age, it is costly, inefficient, and results in thousands of wasted hours of productivity, wasted paper, and limits public access to information.

During the 2010 Legislative Session, I partnered with Fairfax County Clerk John T. Frey to introduce legislation to facilitate the adoption of "e-filing" in Virginia by eliminating a requirement that all e-filing be governed by the Rules of Court. 

Due to its size, Fairfax County has very unique circumstances compared to the rest of the state.  Our civil dockets make up the vast majority of our dockets - in most other jurisdictions, criminal cases are more prevalent in Circuit Court.  Fairfax County Circuit Court also has a case volume that is much larger than most other systems.

My legislation was ultimately incorporated into several other bills, passed, and signed by the Governor on April 11, 2010.  The purpose was to give localities the flexibility to adopt the systems most appropriate for their circumstances. 

This week, the Supreme Court of Virginia announced new rules to facilitate electronic filing.  The new rules are posted here:

Proposed comments are due before March 30, 2012. 

I am happy we are finally making progress on modernizing our court system.  Electronic filing will ultimately save taxpayers and litigants millions of dollars of expenses and attorney's fees, plus make our system more open and available to the public.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mulligan Road Delayed...AGAIN

My constituents who live in both Hayfield, the Route 1 Corridor and Mt. Vernon are are very interested in the completion of Mulligan Road which will run between U.S. 1 at the Woodlawn Mansion and Telegraph Road.  I previously wrote about the status Mulligan Road here:

Most of the grading work has been completed through Fort Belvoir (picture at the right). 

To complete the road, the connection to Telegraph Road needs to be constructed, land acquired from the Woodlawn Mansion, grading between Pole Road and U.S. 1 completed, some slight adjustments to the intersections of Old Mill (new Mulligan), Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, U.S. 1, and the Woodlawn Estate and then paving the entire length of the road.

Now that funding has been completed, the project was bid out. After the bid was awarded, a bid protest was filed, and the project had to be rebid.  The project was posted on February 17, 2011, rebid, and the $10.2M contract was awarded on June 23, 2011 for the second time.  Bulldozers were scheduled to start digging this month. 

Last night, I attended the public hearing at the South County Government Center regarding the potential widening of U.S. 1.  Before the meeting, Supervisor Jeff McKay and I spoke to a representative of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The representative advised us that yet another bid protest has been filed by a disgruntled contractor and that the project is currently on hold although utility relocation will proceed.

I have spoken with Supervisors Hyland and McKay and Senator Puller.  The word "annoyed" does not begin to describe the level of frustration that we feel.  This project will save tens of thousands of people hundreds of thousands of hours per year and help to alleviate Route 1 congestion and the effects of BRAC.  Further delays with this project are not acceptable and I will do everything I can to make this project move forward. 

I will post further updates when I have them.  In the meantime, I'm thinking about introducing legislation renaming the road "Snakebit Road."


The FHWA has advised me that under federal bid protest contracting rules there will be no decision on the bid protest until at least January 20, 2012.  Given timeframes for deployment, etc. the earliest possible construction start would be Spring, 2012

The bid protestor in both cases was the Overland Corporation.  If you are interested, you can follow the status of the bid protest here using Solicitation Number DTFH71-11-R-00009:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Paving of Fort Hunt Road Begins!

I was driving home from a meeting around midnight tonight when I came up Sherwood Hall Lane up to Fort Hunt Road.  It looked like a spaceship had landed so I got out to look around.  I blogged about the coming operation two weeks ago:

The paving company had milled the pavement off the entire intersection in both direction, but was only working over the northbound lanes so that traffic could pass.  The entire road was devoid of traffic, but it was also quite busy with spotlights and police emergency lights activated. 

There were no spectators (except me). 

The Fairfax County Police controlled the main intersection.  They also had cars stationed at three different approaches.  Officer Patton told me how he does this two or three times per week when he's not at the Northern Virginia Police Academy.  It's a very specialized crew. 

The paving company was providing a guidecar for all traffic to get through.  It was very slow - not everyone coming up Sherwood Hall Lane was going the same direction. 

There were probably ten six or seven dump trucks waiting for milled roadway or waiting to supply asphalt to the paving machines.  The steam rollers were chugging along with the painting crew running right behind.

The paving of Fort Hunt Road is long overdue and has been delayed for years because of the lack of state funding.  It's great to finally see some progress.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Samuel Ferguson: A Soldier From Gum Springs

One of the reasons I like knocking doors is because you get to meet many of the amazing people that make our community so great.  Tonight, I got to meet one of those people.

While knocking doors in Spring Garden Apartments, I ran into Sam Ferguson.  Mr. Ferguson is 89 years-old.
While I was talking to him about my race and voting in November, I noticed the military certificates hanging on the wall and said something to him about being a veteran and then we got to talking. 

Mr. Ferguson was born in 1922 and grew up in Gum Springs.  He grew up "cutting corn" and "milking cows" around Mt. Vernon's farms.  He told me about the farm where the Multiplex stands today and a man with 400 dairy cows back towards Mt. Vernon Hospital. 

He listed off a litany of the places where he had attended school - Gum Springs, Woodlawn, "Springbank," and high school in Manassas before Fairfax County agreed to build Luther Jackson High School.  That was the status quo in the days before Fairfax County's schools were desegrated in the 1960's.

I had never heard of a school at Springbank, so I Googled it when I got home and found a fascinating doctoral dissertation which discussed the history of the Gum Springs, Springbank, and Woodlawn schools along with the busing to Manassas.   
Mr. Ferguson enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during World War II.  He also listed off all the places around the world he'd been, but I didn't take notes and couldn't remember all of them.  He showed me portraits taken of himself in uniform in the Navy (on the left) that looked like they were from a different time. 

After serving in World War II, he was the head shoe repairman at Fort Belvoir for 17 years.  He also had pictures of himself at work (on the right) and other pictures of men watching him do his work. 

He's not quite as spry as he used to be and he doesn't like to call attention to himself, but he still gets around.  His apartment was a treasure trove of Mt. Vernon's past.  He still had his childhood baseball mitt which was straight out of The Natural.  I wish I could've stayed longer.

It's easy to forget about Mt. Vernon's rural past.  My grandmother used to tell me stories about moving to Mt. Vernon in 1940 and having to deal with live chickens, cope with milk delivered via a milkman, and the stories about the rampant segregation that was the status quo in Fairfax County until the 1960's. 

I'd never met Mr. Ferguson before, but he reminded me a lot of my grandmother's stories.  There are also so few World War II veterans left, it's always an honor to meet one, hear their stories and gain some perspective. 

It's also good motivation to keep knocking doors!

Friday, October 7, 2011

VA Sales Tax Holiday on Energy Efficient Products!

Today marks the start of the third and final Virginia Sales Tax Holiday of the year. From now to October 10th, non-commercial purchases of the following Energy Star products:

  • Dishwashers
  • Clothes dryers
  • Refrigerators
  • Air conditioners
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • WaterSense products including bathroom sink faucets, faucet accessories and toilets priced at $2,500 or less
I have written before about how home energy efficiency can provide major savings. Whether it is regulation of home energy auditors, rebates for energy efficient appliances, or creating incentives for hybrid vehicles, I believe that Virginia must be a leader in adopting and developing green technologies.

You can find more information about the sales tax holiday here

Monday, October 3, 2011

South County Youth Network Wins State ABC Grant

Last week, I appeared with the South County Youth Network for the presentation of a $7,250 grant to promote zero tolerance of underage alcohol consumption by underage children.

The grant for SCYN was awarded to increase membership; hold six alcohol and drug-free events including “Stompout” and Friday night movies; develop and implement prevention trainings for the coalition; and organize three efforts to influence policy.

Public Hearing on Route 1 Thru Ft. Belvoir

About three months ago, Congressman Jim Moran did an incredible job navigating a gridlocked Congress to secure $300 million to benefit transportation improvements for new military hospitals.  Most expect $150 million of this funds to be used to widen U.S. 1 between Telegraph Road and the Woodlawn Plantation.

I wrote about it here:

The Federal Highway Administration has announced a public hearing on the improvement for:
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
South County Government Center
8350 Richmond Highway, Room 221
Alexandria, VA

The public notice is below (click to enlarge).  Anyone interested in U.S. 1 should attend!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Comment on Proposed Changes to Fort Hunt Park

As I wrote in my column in the Mount Vernon Gazette, the National Park Service is considering major changes to Fort Hunt Park including:
  • The demolition of 4 of 5 picnic pavillions
  • The construction of a visitor's center focusing on the park's historic assets
  • Re-routing the road and separating bicycle and pedestrian traffic
Here is some information regarding the proposals:
You can read my column with my more complete views here:

I oppose the demolition of the picnic pavillions.  Fort Hunt Park is a valued community asset used by thousands of my constituents.  The current proposals significantly change the purpose of the park. 

I have already spoken with the offices of Congressman Moran and Congressman Connolly.  They are going to be in touch with the National Park Service. 

The National Park Service is accepting comments on this proposal through October 6, 2011.  If you have any feedback on their plans, you can enter it below.  I will forward all comments I receive to the National Park Service, Congressman Moran, Congressman Connolly, Senator Webb, and Senator Warner.

***NOTE that the "Preferred Alternative" is the NPS' preferred alternative - not what I am recommending.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UPDATED: Fort Hunt Road Repaving to Start Soon!

The condition of Fort Hunt Road has been pretty abysmal for the last couple years - especially in front of Paul Spring Retirement Home.  I have written several articles where I call it "rumble strips."

According to VDOT, twenty-five percent of all lane miles in Fairfax County have deficient pavement quality and that number is growing due to cuts in maintenance funding due to the lack of transportation revenue.

Last year, Richmond Highway was finally paved in Fall, 2010 after the pavement became incredibly pockmarked.
The good news is that repaving will start no sooner than this week and no later than October 7. 

Repaving will start from Quander Road to Sherwood Hall Lane as shown at the right.  Then, they will pave from Richmond Highway to Hunting Cove Place.

We are finally getting some attention. 

***UPDATED 9/29/11***

Here is an email I received from VDOT this afternoon.
Garrett asked that I respond to your request in regards to the projected paving schedule for Fort Hunt Road. The following sections are tentatively scheduled for paving on this year’s schedule between 10/16/11 – 10/31/11.   
Quander to Sherwood Hall Lane (both North and South bound lanes) 
Hunting Cove Place to: Woodnut Road (North bound lane only)  
Woodmont Road to Rte. 1 (North bound lane only)  
Rte 1 Richmond Hwy to: Woodmont Road (South bound lane only)  
These dates may be subject to change due to weather, so we appreciate your patience. The streets listed above are in the proposed “order” of paving that the contractor has provided us with.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Maps of Three NPS Proposals for Fort Hunt Park


Weekly Column: Recognize Fort Hunt's History and Keep Picnic Areas

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and on September 28, 2011:
Recognize Fort Hunt's History and Keep Picnic Areas

I have been using Fort Hunt Park since I was a kid. I spent time in the woods, I scrambled over the World War II gunneries, I played soccer on its fields and attended dozens of picnics and parties at its facilities. My father actually attended elementary school in trailers in Fort Hunt Park in the late 1940s while work was being done on Hollin Hall Elementary School. More recently, I taught my children to ride  bikes on its oval, have held  events there and organized picnics for the staff of my business.

In recent months, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has prepared a plan to strengthen the preservation and interpretation of Fort Hunt's many layers of history, from native Americans to George Washington's slaves to the World War II spy interrogation camp.  On the latter, NPS officials  have  compiled an extensive history of Fort Hunt's contributions to World War II through interviews with Americans who interrogated German officers there and through newly-declassified documents.  NPS has held two meetings in Mount Vernon, including one last week and they are now receiving public comments on four options until October 6. 
The proposed plan, called their preferred alternative, out of four alternatives, would emphasize the historic assets of the park and de-emphasize the recreational uses.  In the preferred alternative, NPS would build a new visitor center to help visitors better understand the history of the park. This proposal would also  demolish four of five picnic facilities, leaving only the main pavilion area near the entrance along with bathroom facilities. It also would realign the road through some existing woodlands and separate car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Fort Hunt Park is one of our community’s prized assets for many reasons. It is one of the few places to hold large,  affordable, outdoor events,  facilities not available anywhere else in Mount Vernon.   Clearly, there is a need for picnic pavillions like those in Fort Hunt Park and the people of the Mount Vernon area have come to depend  on these facilities.

There must be a way to structure the park so that its historic elements can be highlighted and some of the recreational uses can continue.  The Mount Vernon area has played a key role in U.S. history.   After all, our community was our first president's home. Some of his slaves lived on the land that is now the park.  Enhancing the historic resources of Fort Hunt, like the Spanish American War tower and the World War II gunneries and explaining what happened there could highlight yet another significant historic resource in our community.  I am confident that the National Park Service puts their mind to it, they can find a way to preserve and better interpret Fort Hunt's history and also provide picnic areas for large groups.  Their proposal also should prompt the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and the state parks to provide areas for the types of activities held at Fort Hunt if NPS forces the reduction of the picnic and sports areas.

Several people have reached out to me to express their concerns s. Supervisor Gerry Hyland is also assembling comments to forward to our congressional delegation.  I have contacted both Congressman Moran and Connolly to express my concern and they are meeting with the National Park Service as well.

I encourage you to read the NPS rationale and proposed options and to weigh in.I have posted links to them on my blog, The Dixie Pig, at
If you would like to send me comments that I can forward to the NPS and our Congressional delegation, you can also make them on my blog on the same page. The public comment period closes on October 6 so please send me your feedback as soon as possible.

It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. If you have any concerns, please email me at or call my office at 571.249.44TH (4484).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pat Monk: Hollin Hills' 90 Year-Old Picasso

I've been knocking doors for the last month in the new parts of the 44th District. Although I've lived here pretty much my entire life, you never know what you'll find when you start walking around.

This past weekend, I was walking down Brentwood Place in Hollin Hills when I came across the home of Gaines "Pat" Monk. Mr. Monk is a 90 year-old retired nuclear physicist who was born in the coalfields of West Virginia in 1921.
Around the time I was born (40 years ago), he decided to get into modern art. In 1974 (when I was 3), he moved into the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria.
I walked into his yard which is pretty much a sculpture garden. It has a little sign out front next to the stump of a magnolia tree that he turned into a sculpture that says "Sculpture Garden is Open to All.  Welcome."  Pat said that he put it up because he was tired of people leering at his yard from the street and he didn't really care if they walked around. 

We talked for a few minutes about why I was running, redistricting, and about how he had eeked out a living selling modern sculpture. He invited me to walk around, but I was in a hurry to finish out a few more doors because the sun was setting, but I came back the next morning and walked around. It was really astonishing. I've put the pictures I took below. 
After talking to his neighbors, I poked around and found his website and read about his prior career working on the A-bomb at Oak Ridge, TN and infrared spectrometers.

You never know what you will learn by walking around and getting to know your neighbors. I hope I am lucky enough to have a 40+ year second-career after I turn fifty!