Wednesday, March 30, 2011

44th District Redistricting Proposal

Here is a map comparing the new and old 44th House of Delegates District. I will post more later. The 44th District as of 2001 is in blue and the proposed 44th is in red.

View 44th District 2011 Redistricting in a larger map

Northern Virginia Public Hearing This Saturday Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 10:30 a.m. Fairfax County Government Center

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reckless Driving Statute Fixed

Yesterday, Governor McDonnell signed my legislation that corrected an error in Virginia's Reckless Driving statute that effectively decriminalized passing a stopped school bus.

I previously blogged about it here where the problem is described in more detail:

My press release issued today is below. Thank you to Delegate Rich Anderson for his work on this bill, Senator Chap Petersen for adding the emergency clause, and Governor Robert McDonnell for signing it into law.

Press Release: Governor Signs Delegate Scott Surovell's Legislation Correcting Reckless Driving Law

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mt. Vernon Redistricting Blast From the Past

My parents tell me that since I was a toddler I had a fascination with railroads and where railroads used to run. My grandmother used to also tell me stories about the old Mount Vernon Trolley although I'm not sure she ever saw it because it was torn up in 1933.

In 2001, the Mount Vernon Gazette ran a series of articles on the trolley and I cut them out and saved them. I was looking at them a couple weeks ago and noticed this Editorial below on the back of one of the articles from April 19, 2001.

I thought it was interesting given that we are about to go into redistricting in about two weeks.

April 2001 Gazette Redistricting Editorial

All of this just goes to show why bipartisan or nonpartisan redistricting would be a good idea.

Mulligan Road Progresses

With the beginning of construction on the new Wegman's grocery store at the intersection of Beluah Road and Telegraph Road, many people in the 44th District have been asking me about what the status is on Mulligan Road.

What's Mulligan Road?

When I was a kid, Fort Belvoir was an open base and you could drive on Woodlawn Road and over to Beulah Road to cut across Fort Belvoir. After 9-11, Fort Belvoir changed their security policy and shut the base down. With the opening of the Fairfax County Parkway, there are no only East-West crossings from Mount Vernon to Kingstowne until you reach Lockheed Boulevard. This VDOT page describes it briefly.

The alleviate this problem, a $41 project to expand Mulligan Road is being constructed across Fort Belvoir. It is being financed by the Federal and State Government and Fairfax County. You can see where it is going in on this map below.
View Larger Map

The right of way has been cleared for some time now, but construction really seems to be lagging. Last week, I spoke with Fairfax County transportation staff and there are five things holding up completion:
  • Lack of complete funding (until just recently)
  • Need to acquire right-of-way to complete improvements (land on north edge of Woodlawn Estate)
  • Need to complete Telegraph Road intersection
  • Utility relocations are not complete
  • Remaining bridge work needs to be completed

There a little bit of discussion in this transportation briefing document. Wegman's is also going to widen Telegraph Road from Beulah Road down to the Mulligan Road intersection as part of a development proffer.

The Mulligan Road Phase II Project was posted for bid presolicitation on February 17, 2011. It was posted for bids on March 16, 2011.

The staff advises that this project is slated for completion in Fall, 2012. When complete, this will bring some significant relief for Mount Vernon residents - especially people who live south of Little Hunting Creek.

P.S. Roy Rogers will not be displaced.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reopening The Carl Sandburg Planetarium

Over the last six months, I've been working with Carl Sandburg Principal Terrence Yarborough to get the planetarium functional again.

If anyone knows any likely volunteers, please shoot me a note.

Here's a piece I wrote for the Gazette.

Reaching for Stars
Students need to be able to see them to imagine they can attain them.

Back when I was a student at Waynewood Elementary, field trips were always a big moment. Several stick out in my head — Jamestown & Williamsburg in 4th Grade, Philadelphia in 6th Grade, and one other — the Planetarium at Fort Hunt High School (Carl Sandburg Intermediate School today).

I remember learning the difference between the size and color of stars and planets in the sky, the changing of the constellations, and the corny picture of the arrival of Halley’s Comet in 1986. Coming straight on the heels of Star Wars IV and V, it was an amazing experience for a kid from Northern Virginia where the sky has never really been the best place to stargaze.

On one of the nights right before my election, I was out after midnight putting up door hangers in Hybla Valley and got a call while walking by a field at the back of some condominiums that backed up to Huntley Meadows Park. While I was talking on the phone, I started looking around and couldn’t believe how few stars there were due to the light pollution. It got me thinking about how kids in our areas probably do not see many stars between the light from Washington, D.C. and the U.S. 1 Corridor.

After I was elected, I had a conversation with a Fairfax County School administrator who was not even aware of the Planetarium’s existence — it hadn’t been used in years due to lack of resources to fund field trips and a lack of staff to run the equipment.

Fairfax County teaches astronomy units in 4th, 5th and 6th Grades. Fairfax County Public Schools also has eight planetaria — the highest concentration in the United States except for Dallas, Texas. Seven of them have staff and are operational. Carl Sandburg’s is the only one that is not functional.

Carl Sandburg’s new principal, Terrence Yarborough, is working on getting the equipment operational, locating volunteers, and staff willing to be trained. I’m also working on some funding. Hopefully, it will be back up soon so that the children in our community can benefit from the same things we did as a kids growing up in this community.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weekly Column: Redistricting Looms: The 44th Changes But Also Stays the Same

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and on March 10, 2011:
On April 4, 2011, we will return to Richmond for a constitutionally-mandated special session to consider vetoes and draw boundaries for state and federal legislators’ districts. The Board of Supervisors controls redistricting for Supervisors and School Board seats.

The Constitution of Virginia requires every district to “be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.” There is no requirement that districts be drawn to protect incumbents, consider the political implications of the lines, or yield to communities of interest.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also requires the General Assembly to take no step that effectively dilutes minority voting rights. Also, because of Virginia’s history of racial discrimination, all of our electoral activities are subject to the review of the Department of Justice before they become final.
The 2010 Census found that Virginia now has 8,001,024 people. Most of the population growth in Virginia has occurred in Northern Virginia, primarily in Prince William and Loudoun Counties. Northern Virginia is expected to gain 2.5 to delegate seats and one senate seat in the exurbs between Fredericksburg and Leesburg. Hampton Roads will lose a seat along with Southwest Virginia and probably Southside Virginia. This could give the more populous areas more leverage in the legislature.

I support bipartisan or nonpartisan redistricting. Elected officials should not draw their own districts. In the past two years, the State Senate passed legislation to establish bipartisan redistricting, but the House of Delegates killed it. The Governor also campaigned on redistricting reform but did little to press it during this legislative session. He has set up a bipartisan commission to make recommendations and appointed Mount Vernon resident Jean Jensen to serve. Feel free to send them your suggestions or ideas.

The House and Senate will propose their plans later this month and the public will have an opportunity to comment in writing and via public hearing. You can design your own plan, on this website - and if you would like it to be considered. All of the Virginia census and political performance data have been uploaded.

The General Assembly will vote on plans in the first week of April. The plans will then go to the Governor for signature or amendment and then on to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval. Political primaries will take place two-and-a-half months later than usual, on August 23.
Roughly speaking, the 44th District currently includes both sides of U.S. 1 to the Potomac River and from Huntington Avenue to Woodlawn minus the communities of Belleview, Marlan Forest, Villamay, Hollin Hills, and Kirkside which are represented by Del. David Englin. The 44th District, with 79,833 people, is the closest to the “ideal” in the entire state out of 100 districts. It is only “short” 127 people. Although no changes would be required, changes to other districts could affect the 44th District. The 45th District (Englin) to the north is 1,300 people short and the 43rd District (Sickles) to the west is 2,000 people short. Delegate Albo’s district to the south has too many people.

The district I represent, the 44th, has changed since 2000 although parts of it have stayed the same. The 44th has become majority non-white – 35,693 or 44.7% out of 79,833 are White. The 44th was 21% African-American in 2000 and is the exact same percentage today even with population growth. The Hispanic population has increased by 88% in the 44th – from 14.58% to 24.59%. Additionally, those identifying as Asian has risen to 6.9% still well below the 2010 average Asian population in Fairfax County of 17.5%.

Hollin Hall, Waynewood, Fort Hunt and Stratford Precincts rank as #2 through #5 as the least diverse precincts in Fairfax County out of 230 precincts. This is unchanged from 2000. Each is over 91.5% white. Westgate Precinct (around Mount Vernon Estate) ranks 16th. Fairfield Precinct (roughly the west side of U.S. 1 between the
South County Government Center and Little Hunting Creek) is the #1 most diverse precinct in Fairfax County and Groveton, Woodlawn, and Bucknell Precincts are in the top 20.

The rich diversity of our community is one of its important strengths. Given a limit of 80,000 people, I hope the boundaries of the 44th don’t change much. I like it the way it is.

If you have any comments or suggestions, send me an email at Thank you for the honor of serving as your State Delegate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weekily Column: The 2011 Session Concludes: Five Bills Pass, A Unanimous Budget

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and on March 3, 2011:

The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up the 2011 Session this past Sunday around 8 p.m. It was quite a journey.

Five bills I authored are now sitting on the Governor’s desk waiting for his signature. I discussed those last week. I am especially pleased that legislation I drafted requiring home energy auditors to be licensed was passed by the House of Delegates on a very close vote with 29 Democrats and 28 Republicans in support. I worked hard both last year and this year with the Energy Efficiency industry, Dominion Resources, and the McDonnell Administration to put together a coalition of consumer groups, industry groups, and legislators from both sides of the aisle to get the bill through.

Senator Puller’s resolution authorizing the U.S. 1 Transit Study was unanimously adopted by the House of Delegates last week. Both Secretary Connaughton and the Director of Rail and Public Transit, Thelma Drake, have assured both myself and Senator Puller that they will move forward on the study with available funding. This is the first step in the process of laying the groundwork for an enhanced U.S. 1 transportation infrastructure.

We also passed a budget on a unanimous vote for the first time in anyone’s memory. Both sides made significant sacrifices to reach a budget that was mutually agreeable. During the budget floor debates, House Democrats were unified in saying that “transportation is important, but it’s wrong to take money from children, seniors, education, health care or public safety to pay for roads.” House Republicans heard our message and more than $117 million previously budgeted for roads are now dedicated to funding our schools, police, and mental health services including an additional $4.1 million in education funding for Fairfax County above the Governor’s proposal.

Around the Commonwealth, brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety. Sheriffs will receive an additional $22.6 million over the biennium in the adopted budget. An additional $12.4 million is allocated for police through HB 599 funding. We must fulfill our responsibility to children from low-income families by funding the medical services they need. The adopted budget restores $12.5 million in children’s mental health services and provides $3.1 million for a pilot program aimed at managing the care of children in need of community mental health services.

We cannot turn our backs on our seniors when they need us the most. The original proposal to cap personal care services at 40 hours per week was draconian. The adopted budget caps personal care services at 56 hours per week and requires the development of criteria for exceptions to this cap including the level of care, activities of daily living and risk of institutionalization.

To move our intellectually disabled and developmentally disabled citizens from trainings centers to community based care, we established a trust fund of $30 million. This funding begins to address the serious flaws in the treatment of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Commonwealth as identified by the Department of Justice.

We also passed a significant piece of transportation legislation. Three weeks ago I set out the reasons I opposed the legislation. Several of my concerns were addressed with the compromise legislation, but I still have significant concerns. I ultimately voted “yes” for the final transportation bill, but I want to emphasize that it is a very minor step and does very little to solve our transportation problem beyond 2011.

We are back in Richmond on April 4 for our special session on redistricting and the Reconvened or “Veto” Session. My next columns will discuss the redistricting process and changes that we have seen in our community since the last census, the new transportation legislation, and the other bills we passed this session.

I have also posted a summary of some of the more important votes along with my votes and a more detailed summary of the budget on my blog at I will also post my entire voting record on my blog once I have received it. I have also posted over 16 floor speeches and 180 articles in the last fifteen months containing my analysis on the issues facing the General Assembly and our community. You can also email me at if you have any feedback.

It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.