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!