Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Three Mt. Vernon Authors

One of these days, I'm going to get around to writing a book.  In the meantime, I can live vicariously through our neighbors!  Mt. Vernon has three authors in our midst - Marfe Delano, Chuck Santangelo and Steve Hayes.

First, one local author has written about a subject of local interest.  Marfe Ferguson Delano hails from my neighborhood of Tauxemont and has written several children's books.  Her latest book, Master George's People: George Washington, His Slaves, and His Revolutionary Transformation, is about George Washington's slaves and the process that led towards their emancipation at his death. 

General Washington's impact on our country cannot be underestimated although his views on slavery were never widely promoted.  He was one of a handful of Founding Fathers from the south who freed his slaves at his death.  Several started the communities of Gum Springs and Springbrook (the area where West Potomac High School stands) today. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Airborne Mercury & Mt. Vernon's Fish

Pollution control on power plants has come a long way in the last 30 years. 

I've spent my summers in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York since I was born.  We stay at a house on a large nine mile lake called Schroon Lake.  I've hiked over twenty-nine of the Adirondack's High Peaks and dozens of smaller mountains.  When I was younger, the tops of mountains and all of the trees would be dying.  Many ponds had no fish because if acidification. 

In the 1980's, the steel industry and utilities were targeted for sulfur dioxide emissions. They were causing acid rain.  The government imposed new standards and industry put pollution controls in place.  Today, acid rain is an afterthought, the moutain tops are recovering and ecosystems are replenishing.

However, other pollution problems have become apparent. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weekly Column: Why Del. Cline and I Are Propose to Restrict Phones While Driving

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of December 19, 2012. 
Why Del. Cline and I Are Propose to Restrict Phones While Driving

At 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, 2011, 18-year-old Kyle Rowley was driving home from his summer job down Route 7 near the Fairfax County line when his car ran out of gas. He pulled his car into the right-hand lane, turned on his flashers and got out to push his car off the road.
Behind him, Jason Gage approached from the west.  About 20 feet from a break in the curb, Gage’s car struck Rowley and his car from behind, throwing Rowley to the middle of the road where another car ran him over. Both cars flipped and rolled. Gage was rendered unconscious, had no recollection of what occurred.  No one witnessed the collision.
Gage had 2,000 feet of straight, level pavement on a lit road to see Kyle’s vehicle. There were no skid marks. A forensic analysis of his mobile phone revealed that he sent or received text messages within fifteen seconds of the time stamp on the 911 call reporting the collision.
I represented Kyle Rowley’s family in his wrongful death action.
A Fairfax County General District Court Judge found Gage not guilty of reckless driving after noting that the Commonwealth could not prove any driving behavior beyond a reasonable doubt, except for possibly the texting on a hand-held electronic device.  Because the maximum punishment for texting while driving under Virginia law is a secondary non-reckless infraction, the judge dismissed the charge, as required under Virginia Law.  Jason Gage has never been punished by the state for the death of Kyle Rowley and cannot be under our current laws. 
Del. Cline and I believe that Virginia’s laws should be changed and we are introducing a bill in the General Assembly next month.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Using Money Wisely? $1.4 Billion for 5,500 Vehicles

Today's Washington Post has an article about a new bypass for U.S. 460

The new toll road is being constructed pursuant to the state's Public-Private Partnership Act and does not require legislative approval.  According to the Washington Post, taxpayers' portion of the road is being funded as follows:
  • $250 Million from the Virginia Port Authority (which McDonnell recently fired the entire board and replaced with his own appointees);
  • $216 Million from state bonds rated BBB- (one notch above junk status); and
  • $80 Million from Virginia's brand new Transportation Infrastructure Bank in case toll revenue underperforms.
It was proposed twice and no private entity would make a bid.  After the state put this amount of money on the table, a private entity finally made a bid to construct the road by 2016, charge tolls, and earn a profit.

However, what struck my eye about this project was the amount of vehicles expected to use it - 5,000 to 6,000 per day.  In other words about $254,545 per daily vehicle trip

Sunday, December 9, 2012

History of U.S. 1: The Potomac Path

This is article #2 of a series that originally appeared in the Mt. Vernon Gazette.

The Origins of Route One.
Michael K. Bohn
Mount Vernon Gazette, April 2005

In early 1772, George Washington traveled to Williamsburg to attend a session of the Virginia General Assembly. At the beginning of the trip, he made the following entries in his diary:

January 25. Set of for Williamsburg but not being able to cross Accatink (which was much Swelled by the late Rains) I was obliged to return home again.

January 26. Sett off again and reached Colchester by nine Oclock where I was detained all day by high winds & low tide.
The route that he followed from Mount Vernon on the first leg of his journey south was the Potomac Path. During Washington’s time, it was a wagon road, but sections of it followed an old trail that Indians had used for hundreds of years. Almost all of the Potomac Path between Alexandria and Woodbridge still exists, but today we call most of it Route One. The current road smoothes out many of the Potomac Path’s twists and turns, but there’s still plenty of history left to see.

(On right - U.S. 1 at Accotink, 1915)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cows, Corn and Uranium Don't Mix

One of the things you learn when you show up in Richmond is the way that laws can affect people you never even think about. 

For example, when I put in my legislation to raise Virginia's lowest-in-the-United-States misdemeanor-felony threshold from $200 to $500 I thought I was home free when the VA Association of Prosecutors supported me along with the Attorney General.  Then I found out that the large retailers didn't like the idea and I got one vote on subcommittee. 

Similarly, some people came to be about being allows to hunt on a Sunday.  Hunting during the week outside of NOVA is no big deal because you just drive 10 minutes and you're in the woods, but for Northern Virginians who need to escape traffic, it usually takes the better part of a day and weekends are more convenient.  Turns out the major antagonist is The Farm Bureau - farmers like to have one day per week they can go out on their farm and not worry about dodging bullets from stray hunters.

During that debate, I discovered how influential The Farm Bureau is in Virginia.  While the majority of Virginia's delegates now hail from the suburbs, they still have a ton of pull.  They also speak for a significant sector of the Virginia economy. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

History of U.S. 1: Introduction

Back in 2005, the Mount Vernon Gazette ran a series of articles by local author Michael K. Bohn on the history of U.S. 1.  They provide some interesting history and context to why U.S. 1 runs where it is today.

The following was written by Michael K. Bohn and ran in the Mt. Vernon Gazette in April, 2005:
Introduction to the Route One Series
Michael K. Bohn
Mount Vernon Gazette, April 2005  
Route One. To some, it’s just a road, a way to get home after work. Residents close by, however, view it as their Main Street, the commercial center of their community. Others use “Route One” as a pejorative term to describe an area that has been down on its heels—a place of strip malls, fast food joints, and yellow crime-scene tape.
However widely impressions vary of Route One in Mount Vernon, there is one perception of the highway that is rarely acknowledged—the history of Route One is the history of southeast Fairfax County. Travelers along what started as an Indian path have witnessed the spread of English settlements north from Jamestown, the construction of colonial churches and court houses, and the creation of the grand plantations owned by Virginia’s first families—Mason, Fairfax, and Washington. Known in Colonial times as the Potomac Path, the route served General Washington and his French ally, Comte de Rochambeau, during their march to destiny at Yorktown, just as the route carried both Federals and Johhny Rebs during the Civil War. The road’s ford at Little Hunting Creek--Gum Springs--became not only a key intersection on the way to post-war Mount Vernon, but also a growing refuge for African-Americans living in segregated Fairfax County. World War I saw the opening of Fort Belvoir, with the Army paving the section of the highway between the new installation and Alexandria. The onset of the automobile, and later the motel, made Route One a prominent feature of the county during the middle of the 20th century. The route is a four-hundred-year timeline, one that began when the forest knew only the Dogue Indians.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NOVA v. ROVA = Massachusetts v. Georgia?

Tom Jackman has an interesting analysis up on The State of NOVA blog comparing results in Northern Virginia v. the rest of the Commonwealth and looking at differences in Virginia exit poll results from 2008 and 2012.  Not Larry Sabato (Ben Tribbett) also recently started a series on his blog comparing House of Delegate electoral margins to different states to give some perspective to how different Virginia is.  I thought I'd take a shot at merging both.

Defining NOVA as Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, including Fairfax City, Falls Church City, Manassas City and Manassas Park and using the Unofficial Results (not including the Fairfax County absentees & provisional votes (over 90,000 votes).  Here were the margins:
  • President Obama's wins NOVA by 21.4% (60.7% v. 39.3%)
  • Governor Romney's margin in the "Rest of Virginia" or ROVA was 3.4% (48.3% v. 51.7%). 
If you compare that to other states, NOVA's margin sits between Massachusetts and California and ROVA's margin sits between North Carolina and Georgia (see chart below from Nate Silver at the New York Times).  Well I knew that Massachusetts was a Commonwealth like Virginia, but I did not realize we also had that much in common politically.  Quite a juxtaposition which perhaps gives you some perspective about our challenges in Richmond.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

VA Leads the National Way Foreclosure Settlement Diversion

Sometimes I wonder why voters get so cynical about the government.  Then there are days that I join the chorus.

As a state with booming housing starts and population growth in the late 2000's Virginia was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.  Prince William and Loudoun were hit hard.  It also hit the Route 1 Corridor.  When I knocked doors in new townhouses around Huntington in 2009, neighbors were complaining to me about people purchased claiming rental homes are primary residences, putting 10% down, and then bailing.  There have been other pockets of foreclosures along U.S. 1 as people over committed into homes they couldn't afford.

Last year, forty-nine attorneys general and the federal government announced a $25 billion settlement with five of the largest banks.  As part of that, $2.5 billion was paid to states.  The Court ordered the following regarding that money:

In Virginia. we took $66,525,233.00 and it initially went into the Attorney General's Regulatory, Consumer Advocacy, Litigation and Enforcement Revolving Trust Fund.   You can read the court order for yourself - it's pretty clear:

Each State Attorney General shall designate the uses of the funds set forth in the attached Exhibit B-1. To the extent practicable,such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants. Such permissible purposes for allocation of the funds include, but are not limited to, supplementing the amounts paid to state homeowners under the Borrower Payment Fund, funding for housing counselors, state and local foreclosure assistance hotlines, state and local foreclosure mediation programs, legal assistance, housing remediation and anti-blight projects, funding for training and staffing of financial fraud or consumer protection enforcement efforts, and civil penalties. Accordingly, each Attorney General has set forth general instructions for the funds in the attached Exhibit B-2.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maryland Goes for NOVA's Discretionary Income

There's an interesting article in today's Washington Post about Congresswoman Donna Edwards lone stance against the effort to bring casino gambling to National Harbor (Question 7).  I've always been impressed by her independence.  It got me thinking. 

I had to suffer through about 20 gambling industry sponsored ads for an against this while trying to watch Hurricane Sandy news tonight.  The money being spent is incredible - and it's because the stakes are high.

The problem is that the ads are completely disingenuous.  I don't think this fight is about keeping $500 million of Maryland's money in Maryland.  I think it's more about attracting Northern Virginia's discretionary spending into Maryland which is why they are going to park the casino a 10-minute car ride from my front door and just about everyone else with an Alexandria post office address just in time for the completion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Emergency Information

Update 10/31/12 - 11:00 P.M.
Dominion Power's Outage Map appears to show that nearly all outages in the 44th District have been resolved.  They just hit the one down the street from my house about an hour ago. 
Go check out Great Falls tomorrow if you want to see some serious water power!

Update 10/30/12 - 7:00 A.M.

Fairfax County is warning of possible flooding in Belleview and New Alexandria today and this evening.  Keep your fingers crossed that doesn't happen.

Update 10/30/12 - 6:30 A.M.

While it appears that the Mt. Vernon-Lee Area was spared from the kinds of extremely damaging winds we saw during the Derecho, there are approximately 5,000 homes without power in the Mt. Vernon-Lee area and about 2,500 in the 44th District.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I-495 Express Lanes Set to Open

Last week, I attended a briefing given by Transurban - the company constructing the I-495 Express Lanes that will run between the Mixing Bowl and the Dulles Toll Road on I-495.  You can see the briefing we were given at the end of this post. 

These lanes are sometimes called High Occupancy Toll Lanes.  The basic concept is that users will be pay tolls via transponders that vary depending upon traffic on the lanes.  The more traffic, the more the tolls.

If you have three people in the car, you ride free.  However, you have to purchase a new transponder with a switch so the system can differentiate your car from others. 

The project is funded partially with public funds, but mainly with private money pursuant to an agreement with the Commonwealth guaranteeing a specified rate of return to the investor group. 

Whether you use the lanes or not, you should educate yourself about not only how the lanes work, but also where the exits are located - there are not exits at every Beltway exit and there are some exits off the HOT lanes that do not exist on the Beltway.

If you would like more information, you can review the I-495 Express Lanes website here:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Voting Law Changes Have Consequences

Here is an email I received from a constituent regarding her experience trying to vote four months ago in Riverside Precinct.
Allow me to relate to you my recent experience while trying to vote at the [Riverside] precinct located in the Riverside Elementary School, Old Mt. Vernon Road, Alexandria. This happened during primary elections this past June.

I have voted at the [Riverside] precinct during every election since moving to the Mt. Vernon area in August l975. My husband and I are now retired. When we came to the registration desk, I discovered that I had left my driver’s license in my other purse.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weekly Column: Should Virginia Put Its Port on the Auction Block?

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of October 1, 2012. 

Should Virginia Put Its Port on the Auction Block? 
Largely out of sight in the Northern Virginia media, there has been a controversy raging in the Hampton Roads area about the privitization of Virginia's Port.

Governor McDonnell is very passionate about privatizing government functions. Everyone is familiar with his effort to privatize the state liquor stores. He has also announced multiple efforts to privatize Virginia's roads by selling tolling rights to foreign investors for I-95, US 460 and a new tunnel between Portsmouth and Norfolk.
In May, APM terminals offered Virginia $540 million to run the Virginia Port for 48-years. Governor McDonnell is now soliciting proposals from other private entities. After a flood of criticism about the timing of the proposal, the lack of information provided to elected officials, and the short timeframe for accepting proposals, the Governor slowed the process down a bit.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eminent Domain Amendment: Well Intentioned, But Bad Amendment

As absentee voting starts, I've been receiving a lot of questions about the Question #1 on the ballot which is a constitutional amendment regarding eminent domain (Questions #1).

I am going to vote No and would encourage all Virginians to vote No.

First, some background.  In the case of Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court held that there was nothing in the United States Constitution prohibiting the government from condeming private property from an individual or business and giving it to another private person or entity.  The case held that the general benefits a community receives from redevelopment were sufficient to justify that action as a "public use" of the property.  However, the Supreme Court noted that while the United States Constitution did not prohibit the action, there was nothing to prohibit the states from having more restrictive provisions in their state constitutions.

The United States Constitution's Bill of Rights is based upon the Virginia Declaration of Rights that makes up the first article of the Constitution of Virginia.  Therefore, the Constitution of Virginia also contains no prohibition. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thoughts On The Democratic National Convention

Last week, I attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Patch asked me to do a series of daily diaries.  I was able to do something for the first three days.  I had to drive home after Day #4.

I also wrote this column for the local papers recapping the entire convention which ran in Patch, The Mt. Vernon Voice and the Mt. Vernon Gazette.
National Democratic Convention: An Inspiring Experience  
I would like to share with the community some of my reflections on the recent Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolinaat which delegates nominated President Barack Obama for re-election.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dominion Power Town Hall Follow Up

About 80 people turned out for last night's Town Hall Meeting on the undergrounding of utility service.  There was some discussion about the cost and two studies.  I have posted the 2005 study by the State Corporation Commission done in the wake of Hurricane Isabel on undergrounding power lines below along with a link to the Thomas Edison study referenced as well.

The cost of a specific undergrounding project is a function of many variables. 

I am also conducting a survey of the views of 44th District residents to measure their level of interest in this issue and willingness to pay for undergrounding.  Click on the link below to complete the survey.
2005 State Corporation Commission Report Underground Lines

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fairfax County Crime Collapses: Richmond Keeps Pushing

U.S. Senator Jim Webb always likes to point out that in the United States 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prison population.  As Jim likes to say, either our sentencing policy is out of proportion with the rest of the world, or Americans are incredibly evil people. 

The costs of this are staggering.  Virginia abolished parole in 1995.  Since then our prison budget has skyrocketed - consuming more and more money that could otherwise go to education, healthcare or our safety net.  Depending on how you count, Virginia spends between $25,000 and $35,000 per year per inmate to house them in prison.  For a point of reference, Virginia also spends around $5,000 per student to educate them. 

Virginia even has one brand new $105 million prison in Southwest Virginia that is currently empty and costs taxpayers $700,000 per year to keep available.  In the article, leaders in that part of the state lamented the fact that the jail was empty.  From my point of view, it is actually a good sign. 

Today, Tom Jackman reported that Fairfax County announced that in 2011 crime hit an all-time low in Fairfax County - even with a new reporting system that should have caused the stats to increase.  Fairfax County has always had a relatively low level of crime compared to the rest of the state - largely because crime is often driven by economics, mental illness, or other dysfunction.  Affluent households tend to have access to health care and treatment which helps to prevent crime.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekly Column: Should We Bury Our Power Lines In Mt. Vernon & Lee?

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of September 5, 2012.

Should We Bury Our Power Lines in Mount Vernon and Lee?

Two months ago, my wife and children were out of town so I decided to work at my office in the City of Fairfax until about 9:30 p.m. As I drove home from Fairfax, I was listening to WTOP and didn’t notice anything unusual other than a thunderstorm warning for the far western suburbs.

Around 10:30 p.m. the wind started blowing and the power went out. I called my wife after our generator didn’t turn on and looked outside. The 100 year-old trees in my yard were swinging around like Hurricane Isabel and it didn’t stop for fifteen minutes. That’s when I knew this was no ordinary storm.

The next day, as I disseminated information and checked out Dominion’s outage map, it was obvious that we had a major situation on our hands. As I walked my dog through Hollin Hills, I had to repeatedly dodge downed lines. Multiple streets were closed. Trees were down everywhere. For some reason, the west side of Mason Hill got clobbered as that storm rolled in.

Dominion Power’s response was initially slow. There were multiple reasons for this, but the primary reason was that the Derecho was a complete surprise. Hurricanes or snowstorms usually allow for \one or two weeks of preparation. Then, as the week went on, I started to receive a lot of constituent contacts about burying power lines.

This was not the first time I heard this. In the summer/fall of 2011, I knocked about 4,000 doors including doors in two precincts that were returned to the 44th District in redistricting – Hayfield and Kirkside which contains most of Hollin Hills. Last summer, we were hit by a Tropical Storm Lee, an earthquake, and then Hurricane Irene within about forty-five days.

As I walked through Hayfield Precinct, I noted that about half the lines were buried and half above ground. In Kirkside Precinct, the Mason Hill neighborhood was buried and the rest were mostly above ground. On the doors, many people told me that the loss of electricity was a real problem in their community.

Another complaint that I hear is that many people feel we are one of the last places in Northern Virginia to have our service restored whenever a mass outage hits. After the recent Derecho, if you looked at the outage map, you would have seen that the western part of Fairfax County have relatively fewer outages compared to the neighborhoods closer to the Beltway so this is not entirely inaccurate.

There are several reasons for this. One reason is that our neighborhoods are older and we have more big trees which cause more outages. However, the second reason is because Fairfax County did not mandate the burying of power lines on new development until the 1970’s so the “newer” part of the County has less above ground lines and less outages.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekly Column: Voting Law Changes Approved by DOJ

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of August 20, 2012.

Voting Law Changes Approved by DOJ

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved Virginia’s voting law changes for use in the November 6 election. Many are questioning why DOJ approved the changes.

Virginia has a long history of voter suppression. When the colonies declared independence from England, only land-owning, male citizens were allowed to vote. In 1851, the Constitution was amended to allow all white men to vote.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Weekly Column: Improving U.S. 1 North of Fort Belvoir

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of July 31, 2012.

Improving U.S. 1 North of Fort Belvoir
The other day, I came across and article about the widening of Route 1 in Woodbridge. Between that and the coming federally-funded widening through Fort Belvoir, I often get queries from constituents who want to know why Route 1 is being improved there, but not between Woodlawn and the Beltway. There are two reasons – planning and money.
Before a road can be widened there are a series of required studies that lay the groundwork for construction. In our community, that process was started back in 1991 by Senator Toddy Puller who passed multiple resolutions through the General Assembly to initiate the planning process. That process was called the Route 1 Centerline Study - an effort to set the general configuration of Route 1 from Fredericksburg to Alexandria. That process chugged along until it bogged down on our stretch about 12 years ago over two problems.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekly Column: Partisan Games on Healthcare Hurt Mt. Vernon-Lee Community

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of July 12, 2012.

Partisan Games on Healthcare Hurt Mt. Vernon-Lee Community

Everyone deserves the security of good healthcare and reliable insurance. Americans have chosen a mixed system of public and private health insurance. We have Medicare for the elderly, military health care for our active duty and veterans, and Medicaid, a federal-state program that insures many disabled, low-income, and elderly people, especially people needing long-term care.

The political delay games currently being played in Richmond will hit our community harder than any other part of Northern Virginia. In the 44th Delegate District with 80,796 residents, the 44th District is tied for the highest percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries in the County at 15%. One in seven people in the 44th District presently receive their health insurance from Medicaid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Little Hunting Creek Trash Flows On

This weekend I heard a report of new shopping carts in Little Hunting Creek only a month after we cleaned out most of them.  So I dropped by this morning to check things out.  Here's a picture I took. 

If you click to enlarge the pictures, you can make out the detail much better.

The battle goes on I guess.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Weekly Column: Five Lessons from the Derecho of 2012

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of July 2, 2012
Five Lessons From The Derecho of 2012

The storm of June 29, 2012 will go down as one of the more memorable moments of Mother Nature in the Lee-Mount Vernon Area. I pulled into my drive way around 9:30 p.m. while listening to WTOP. There was no mention of a pending storm. Within an hour, the trees in my yard were wildly swinging around. After we lost power and my natural gas generator didn’t automatically come on, I ventured outside to turn it on manually and the battery exploded. Lesson #1 – Stay inside the house during a Derecho.

While everyone in the 44th District will probably not be fully restored by the time this newspaper is delivered, substantial progress has been made on restoration of service. If you continue to have difficulty getting service restored, please contact my office at 571.249.44TH(4484) and we will do our best to get you assistance.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UPDATED 7/3/12 1:30 PM: NOVA Power Outage Information - 6/29/12-7/3/12

As of midnight, there are currently over 450,000 households without power in the Northern Virginia Area and widespread power outtages in the 44th District (including your state delegate's house).  This is over one-half of all households in Northern Virginia.

If you have a power outtage, please report it to Dominion and sit tight. 
You can reach them and view up to the minute outage information on the links below.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Laws Effective Today - 7/1/12

Here is a sample of some new laws that are going into affect today:
  • Mandatory ultrasound within 48 hours of an abortion (transvaginal requires consent).
  • Families of fifth grade girls will no longer be offered vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) which prevents cervical cancer
  • Identification required to vote (pending DOJ approval)
  • Virginians can now sue if someone negligently injures their fetus (e.g. in a car accident)
  • Adoption agencies are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, race or religion
  • Taxpayers may donate to foundations that support private schools and take a 100%/dollar-for-dollar credit against their taxes.  Donations to other needy charities still get only a regular deduction.
  • Virginians can now buy more than one handgun per month or more than twelve handguns per year
  • Virginians employed by local governments can now keep their guns in their cars on local government property
  • Electricity generated by pig waste now gets the same credit as wind and solar under Virginia's renewable energy standards
  • Ignition Interlock Devices required for restricted license after convictions of driving while intoxicated
  • Must pay sales taxes on all purchases from Amazon.com (actually effective 9/1/13, but is a law without further action starting 7/1/12)
Not many of my constitutents would consider any of the foregoing priorities (the last two are debatable). 

Needless to say, we have made zero progress on transportation funding.  Schools are still funded below 2007 levels.  We are not in compliance with federal health insurance reform because we have not raised our Medicaid eligibility or set up a state healthcare exchange.

Hopefully, we will do better in the 2013 Session.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Chief Justice Threads the Needle

This morning, I fully expected the Supreme Court to throw out the individual mandate and uphold the remainder of the Federal health insurance reform act. Turned out I was totally wrong and I also have a whole new level of respect for Chief Justice John Roberts.
The introduction to the 193-page opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius is an interesting mix of constitutional and political theory. I cannot remember the last time I remember an opinion that leads off with six pages of discussions about Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, Chief Justice John Marshall, and early Supreme Court cases such as McCullough v. Maryland.

What is clear to me is that Chief Justice John Roberts took this moment to write this opinion not only due to the policy implications of healthcare reform, but (1) because of his concern that this case had the potential to dangerously blur the lines between the political and judicial branches of our government (like Bush v. Gore) (2) this case presented questions that go to some very fundamental powers of the federal government, and (3) this case also presented fundamental questions about the interplay between federal and state government.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity make a mark as a jurist in an historical way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where I Stand Today On Widening of U.S. 1

I've now posted up a couple articles about the background of the widening of U.S. 1, Woodlawn and Woodlawn Stables.  You can read them here:

From my point of view, this is a balancing act.  Here are some of the variables I've been thinking about balancing in arriving at my position:
  • The need to expand U.S. 1 to handle present and future transportation needs including enhanced mass transit.
  • The community's interest in promoting economic development in the U.S. 1 corridor including the promotion of our community's historic assets such as U.S. 1 itself, the Mount Vernon Estate, The Grist Mill/Distillery Complex, Woodlawn Mansion, Gunston Hall, and coming soon, the U.S. Army Museum.
  • Minimizing the impact of improvements on existing community institutions such as Woodlawn Baptist Church, Woodlawn Stables and the Woodlawn Estate.
  • Ensuring this is achieved in a timely manner without undue delay that could jeopardize funding.
It's also important to keep a long-term perspective about these matters. The configuration for U.S. 1 will be in place for generations and potentially in perpetuity. According to most maps, the road has been in its current location since it was originally constructed and then widened for four lanes in the 1930's.

Comment on the Widening of U.S. 1

The widening of U.S. 1 is going to be one of the most significant public infrastructure projects in the Mount Vernon-Lee Area over the next ten years.  It is critically important that we get this right.

I would strongly encourage all of my constituents and persons with an interest in the improvement of U.S. 1 to consider providing public comment.  Here are some resources you may want to consider:

I have also written some articles regarding my perspective on the issue that also contain letters that have been exchanged by various parties and other information provided through this process:

Go below the fold to provide comments.  I'll release the results to the multiple choice questions once they are all in. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Public Discourse on U.S. 1 Widening

Earlier this week, I wrote about some of the historical and legal background to the U.S. 1 widening problem.  I said I would write more on Tuesday, but I got a nasty cold from my kids - sorry for the delay!  In this article, I focus on the back and forth on the political parts of this.

As a quick aside, the image at the right is a close up of a detailed 1928 Fire Prevention Map for Fort Humphreys (Belvoir) that I've got framed in my house.  Note that the entire area has no trees.

After a multi-year oddyssey, Congressman Jim Moran was finally able to secure funding for U.S. 1 by transforming an earmark into a grant program.  Fairfax County applied for a grant and last November, was awarded $180 million to widen U.S. 1 between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (VA-235) to mitigate the effects of BRAC.

Monday, June 18, 2012

*UPDATED* Some Historical Context on Woodlawn

Most of my constituents know that the widening of U.S. 1 through Woodlawn has been a hot local issue lately.  I wrote about this previously here when things originally got contentious:

Today, most people do not realize that Fort Belvoir employs more people than the Pentagon.  This is clearly part of the reason congestion on U.S. 1 and through Fort Belvoir has become a daily problem.  Since the new $800 million Army Hospital has opened congestion has appeared at the Mt. Vernon Estate, and the Walker Gate on Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. 

Since I was elected, the widening and improvement of Route 1 is one of my highest priorities.  Also, being a local, I'm also a local history geek, and this widening project has been a very interesting but extremely challenging problem. 

First, there is a lot of history about Woodlawn and also history about the widening of U.S. 1 that has brought us to this point.  More about that below. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Three Amundson Fellows Featured on Patch & Graduation!

Every year, I invite five or six area high school students to come with me to Richmond to learn about state government called Amundson Fellows.  It's a program that was started by my predecessor Delegate Kris Admunson. 

This year two of my Amundson Fellows were featured by Patch after graduation due to their achievments.  You can read their inteviews below.

I was very proud to see all of the success they've had! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Fort Hunt Park Plans Up for Discussion!

Last year, the National Park Service (NPS) came out with plans to significantly modify Fort Hunt Park including demolition of most of the existing picnic pavillions.  I wrote about it here:

Seventy-seven people provided feedback on this blog, nearly all opposed, which I forwarded to the NPS.  Congressman Jim Moran and Supervisor Gerry Hyland were also instrumental in working with the NPS.

The NPS eventually deferred their proposed plans and started over.

Today, they announced their new proposals.  They are much improved.  You can view or download them below the fold and there will be a public hearing:

NPS Fort Hunt Park Site Development Plan Public Hearing
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Snakeheads in the 44th District!

Last month, I went on a fishing trip with Delegate David Bulova and the Dr. John Odenkirk with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) hunting Great Northern Snakeheads in Potomac Estuaries.  This year, I made a video of our trip that you can watch below.

Last year, I took a similiar trip.  I wrote about it in this article where you can also watch an introductory video by DGIF about Snakeheads.

I also did a short video back then that you can watch here:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Judicial Selection: Gaming the System

Yesterday, something happened that really gave me a headache because it undermines people's trust in government.

One of the functions the Virginia General Assembly serves that gets little attention from the general public but has a significant impact is the selection of judges.  If you need a divorce - they decide where your kids live, who gets property, and how much support is paid.  They decide if people get executed or not.  They rule on all kinds of matters that affect people's lives.  It is critical that we get bright, capable, even-tempered, and experienced people on the bench.  Not simply people who have the best political connections. 

Virginia's system is unique - the General Assembly elects judges.  There are rules in place in case a retirement occurs while we are not in session.  If the vacancy is in Circuit Court or an appellate court, then the Governor can make a recess appointment.  In a General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court position, then the local Circuit Court appoints a replacement.  Appellate and Circuit Court judges are elected to eight year terms.  District Court judges to six year terms.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Intern with Delegate Surovell

Now that school is almost out, the internship season begins and we always have a need for interns around the office.  Interns with Delegate Scott Surovell can be expected to do the following kinds of activities:
  • Voter Data Entry
  • Finance Data Entry
  • Data Mining
  • Research Constituent Requests
  • Processing Mail
  • Assistance with Events
  • Drafting Press Releases
  • Website Maintenance
  • Policy Research
  • Canvassing Constituents
If you know, or are, a college student or recent graduate who will be in the Mt. Vernon/Lee/Alexandria/Fairfax area during the summer and would like to work as an intern, please fill out our form and email a resume and brief writing sample to scottsurovell@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Memorial Day Little Hunting Creek Cleanup PART II!

Last month, I led a cleanup of a site on Little Hunting Creek off Janna Lee Avenue where we recovered 49 shopping carts and 550 pounds of trash.  Here are pictures below.

There are still 30 more shopping carts that need to be removed and this weekend we are headed back out to make another dent.

Little Hunting Creek Cleanup Part II
Memorial Day Weekend
Saturday, May 26, 2012
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
7950 Seven Woods Drive
Alexandria, VA 22309

RSVP with Delegate Scott Surovell delssurovell@house.virginia.gov or
Megan Howard at 
(571) 249-4484 
In case you have never done it before, it is a terrific activity for elementary school kids.  Picking up litter is a fun and easy way to introduce children to environmental stewardship.  I will provide the bags and gloves.  Just bring your tennis shoes (or boots) and please RSVP so we know how much stuff to bring

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 End of Session Sine Die Letter

Every year I send out a letter summarizing the General Assembly Session.  Most of us call it our Sine Die Letter named after the motion that is made to adjourn sine die at the end of a session. 

My letter for 2012 appears below the fold.

Also, check out my end of session summaries and my voting record with the following links:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DMV Works for Veterans!

As part of Governor McDonnell's efforts to make Virginia the "most veteran friendly state" in the country, the Department of Motor Vehicles is initiating a whole new series of measures for veterans.

According to the U.S. Census, 13.1% of the 44th District's residents are veterans.  Also, the 44th District now includes a large part of Fort Belvoir which is part of these efforts.  Hopefully these measures will help make state government more responsive to residents of Mt. Vernon and Lee.

Here is what's in the works.
  • Troops to Trucks
  • Veteran's ID
  • DMV Mobile Visits
  • Military Base Partnerships
  • Homeless Veterans Initiatives
You can read more below the fold.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weekly Column: Movie Star Tax Credits, A Gay Judge & The Session Ends

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of May 14, 2012
Movie Star Tax Credits, A Gay Judge and the Session Ends 
Well, it’s over. The 2012 General Assembly ended on May 15, 2012 at 2:00 a.m. after a 13-hour House of Delegates’ session involving 117 of Governor Bob McDonnell’s amendments and the election of 40 judges. It was a fitting end to a very contentious session.
The day was not without controversy. This year, we authorized a bonus and raises for state employees for the first time in five years to be funded with unanticipated revenues.  These state employees include state troopers, corrections employees and people who work for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), Department of Transportation (VDOT), judges, court clerks, game wardens, and colleges. On a zero to 95 vote, the House of Delegates rejected the Governor’s proposal to allow raises only if employees could find millions of dollars of cuts in 45 days.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hollin Hall Charlie

Once upon a time, Hollin Hall Senior Center was my elementary school (and my dad's).  In 1983, the school closed and it became the Hollin Hall Senior Center

The 44th District has one of the largest concentrations of elderly citizens in the entire Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.  One of the reasons for that is the popularity of "aging in place" and the services that Fairfax County makes available to my constituents in our community. 

This great movie below produced by Julie Ellis who is the director of the center shows some of the things that go on there today and demostrate why it's an asset to our community (and what a great job Julie does).

It's especially fun for me to watch all of the acitivity in the old cafeteria. Aside from eating there, that was our "gym" and also where I performed as Charlie Chipmunk in kindergarten. It's great to see that it's still being used!

I'm also pretty sure that when the room Hollin Hall Charlie goes into at the begining was the principal's office (not that I would have known where that was). 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Third Annual Cinco de Surovell!

Come out and support Delegate Scott Surovell while enjoying food by Chevy's and beer by Dos Equis!
El Presidente- $5,000
El Jefe- $2,500
Acogida- $1,000
Patrocinador- $500
Benefactor- $250
Patron- $100
Amigo- $25
We cannot accept donations at Fort Hunt Park so please

Or make your contribution payable to:

Surovell for Delegate
P.O. Box 289
Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121

Paid for and authorized by Surovell for Delegate

Saturday, April 28, 2012

**Updated** U.S. 1 Widening & Woodlawn Stables

This past week, I've received quite a few emails and Facebook messages from people concerned about the future of Woodlawn Stables due to the widening of U.S. 1.

Here's what's going on.  U.S. 1 is going to be widened between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway/Old Mill Road (a.k.a. where Roy Rogers is).  The project is fully funded and is currently undergoing design and environmental reviews.  The Mulligan Road (Old Mill/Jeff Todd Way) project is also proceeding along the other edge of Woodlawn Estate.

I've written about it a few times:

At its northern terminus the road runs right in between the the Woodlawn Mansion and Woodlawn Stables.  Woodlawn was originally the main home on the 2,000-acre estate of  Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis Lewis - the granddaughter of Martha Washington who gifted the property to her.  Both properties are owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  This was also the National Trust's first property and was donated to them by former U.S. Senator Oscar Underwood of Alabama in 1952. The main house was designed by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol and was constructed between 1800 and 1805. 

There are also two other houses on the property that are historic - one between the main mansion and Fort Belvoir and the other south/east of the stables.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Weekly Column: The New State Budget Misses the Mark

This column below was my weekly column that appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette and Patch in their April 26, 2012 editions:
The New State Budget Misses the Mark

I voted against the final state budget last week because it fails to address our needs and reflects badly-skewed priorities.    It was an eventful two days in Richmond.

The Senate budget deadlock  centered on new funding to “buy down” tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and in Hampton Roads.  Hampton Roads is in revolt right now due to a public-private partnership the Governor negotiated for a new tunnel that could cost Portsmouth drivers $1,000 per year.

Several years ago, the Dulles Toll Road was transferred to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which assumed responsibility for the construction of the Silver Line.  Tolls will double next year to over $4.00 per trip.  For someone driving five days per week, fifty weeks per year, that totals over $1,000 .  The High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes on the Beltway will bring more tolls, plus the Governor has plans to bring HOT lanes from Fredericksburg to I-395.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The New 1940 Census: Mount Vernon & Lee 70 Years Ago

The 1940 Census has just come out and being a local history geek, I had to go look.  My grandparents didn't move to Mount Vernon until Halloween Day, 1941, so it predated their arrival, but it gives a fascinating glimpse of our community poised for the massive growth that arrived 1945-1960.

The Census has a map that helps you get oriented.  the Fairfax County Map is split into quarters and two parts are relevant for our area.  One if the overall map for our quadrant. Second, there is a closeup of Route 1.  You can click on the copies below to enlarge or I've put both below or you can download your own copy here:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mt. Vernon & Lee Potomac Cleanups This Weekend

The Friends of Little Hunting Creek have organized numerous cleanups next weekend as part of the 24th Annual Alice Ferguson Foundation Potomac Cleanup.

Please volunteer at one of these sites in our community. 

Delegate Scott Surovell at Upper Little Hunting Creek At Huntley Meadows & Sequoyah Apts
Time: Noon to 4 p.m.
Contact: Delegate Scott Surovell delssurovell@house.virginia.gov or Megan Howard at 703 850-8618
7950 Seven Woods Drive
Alexandria, VA 22306
This site upstream of the Janna Lee Ave. bridge also needs your help. Travel south on Route 1 from Alexandria and turn right onto Buckman Road, turn R on Seven Woods Drive, take the 2nd right after Laramie Place and turn into a parking lot that includes a playground. (If you reach Silverada Place, you have gone too far.)

Gum Springs Community Cleanup
Time: 9 a.m. to noon
Contact: Bryan Birch, 571-201-2802.
Meet at Shaw Park Court (Go South on Route 1, make a U-Turn at Mount Vernon Highway/Buckman Rd, turn R on Napper Rd, R on Shaw Park Court and park at the end.

Time: 9 a.m. to noon
Contact: Karl Egloff, 571-214-2773
Take the Mount Vernon Pkway S from Alexandria, turn right at Stratford Lane (1 mile north of Mount Vernon), L at Captains Row, to 9000 Captains Row. 

Help the Girl Scouts at Janna Lee's Creekside Village
Time: 9 a.m. to noon
Contact: Kathy Lehner, kathy.lehner@gmail.com
Come help the Creekside Village Girl Scouts clean up this trash hotspot! From Route 1 (at the intersection with Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy), turn west onto Buckman Rd, R on Janna Lee Ave., to the bridge over Little Hunting Creek (just before the Creekside Village Apts). 

Paddle at Stratford Landing
Time: 1 to 4 p.m.
Contact: Celia Boertlein at cboertlein@aol.com or Paul Siegel at 703-346-9141.
Bring your canoe or kayak, life vest, and paddle, and meet at the canoe launch at 8706 Stockton Parkway (across from 8707). At this site volunteers will retrieve trash from the water. Experienced paddlers only; any children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weekly Column: Lee & Mount Vernon’s Streams and Rivers Are Polluted, says Virginia DEQ:

This column below was my weekly column that appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in their April 5, 2012 editions:
Lee and Mount Vernon’s Streams and Rivers Are Polluted, says Virginia DEQ

Last week, I received a report from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding Mount Vernon and Lee’s rivers and streams. The annual assessment reports are disturbing and continue to show our rivers and streams are in poor health.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s analysis of the data, 71% of Virginia’s streams violate state water quality standards along with 94% of all estuaries (tidal parts of Hunting Creek/Cameron Run, Little Hunting Creek, Dogue Creek and the Potomac River). Every embayment and stream monitored in my delegate seat violated state water quality standards.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

UPDATED: No Progress - Creeks in the 44th District Still Polluted

I've been writing a lot about trash in our community waterways, but there are other problems as well that are much harder to see.  Virginia's Department of Environmental just came out with its most recent water quality reports and the results are still ugly for our area.

Overall, 71% of Virginia's rivers and streams do not meet Virginia water quality standards.  Additionally, 94% of all estuaries (e.g. the tidal part of Little Hunting Creek & Dogue Creek) are out of compliance.

Saturday, April 14, 2012
12:00 P.M. TO 4:00 P.M.
I've been writing about this occassionally when these come out. 

I also posted our 2010 water quality reports here (hint: we've made no progress):

In terms of our area today in 2012 here's what it says or you can click on the links below: