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:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Former Dixie Pig Owner Passes Away

Yesterday, I was sad to learn that Addie Arthur had passed away last week.  Addie was the former owner of The Dixie Pig Restaurant - a Route 1 institution for a long time formerly located at the corner of Beacon Hill Road and Route 1.  She was 73 years-old.

Ms. Arthur actually became my constituent in redistricting.  She lived over in Hayfield Farms.  She wasn't home when I knocked her door so we never got to meet which is too bad. 

Here's the obituary from the Washington Post.
On Thursday, March 22, 2012 of Alexandria, VA, at the age of 73, Adelaide joined our Father in Heaven. Addie graduated from St. Mary's Academy, in Alexandria, and went on to become a successful entrepreneur who owned and operated many business; the most proud and famous of which was the Alexandria Dixie Pig. People from all across the country have raved about the Dixie Pig, including weatherman Willard Scott. The restaurant was also featured on an episode of CSI. Addie volunteered her time for St. Lawrence Catholic Church, the Franconia Moose Lodge, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Mended Hearts, and the VA Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. She also travelled the world, including Israel, Spain, Italy, Mexico, many Caribbean islands, Guam, and Africa. She was a true adventurist having traveled by hot air balloon, antique train, bi-plane, air-glider, gondola, cog train, and even camel. Addie was the beloved wife of the late Robert Arthur Sr. "Sid"; mother of Debbie Daugherty (Jim), Robert Arthur Jr. (Gerry) and Gary Arthur (Cheryl); niece of Catherine Delores Kane; dear friend of Georgia Meadows; also survived by six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Relatives and friends may call at Jefferson Funeral Chapel, 5755 Castlewellan Dr. Alexandria, VA on Monday, March 26 and Tuesday, March 27, 2012 from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 6222 Franconia Rd. Alexandria, VA on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Mt. Comfort Cemetery.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Litter In Upper Little Hunting Creek

Trash and litter are a significant problem in the Route 1 Corridor.  I have blogged about this many times.
Most people would be shocked by the volume of trash flowing into these creeks if they actually saw it.  You can see pictures above and below.  One picture at the right was taken six months ago in Little Hunting Creek.

On April 14, 2012, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is sponsoring the Potomac River Cleanup Day.  The Friends of Little Hunting Creek are also sponsoring a cleanup.  I am going to sponsor a cleanup of the Upper Little Hunting Creek which runs between Janna Lee Apartments, Sequoyah Condominiums, Audubon Estates Trailer Park, Huntley Meadows Park, and starts around Mount Vernon Plaza behind Michaels near South Meadows Condominiums.

Today, I scouted out the section of creek looking for some good points to access the creek. You would be shocked at the amount of trash in the creek (pictures on the flip). 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Walt Whitman Middle School's 50th Anniversary!

Tonight, I had the honor of attending the Walt Whitman Middle School 50th Anniversary celebration.  It was a great event.

Principal Jean Bell recapped the history of the school which was founded in 1961 on the site of the current Mount Vernon High School.  It moved to old Mount Vernon High School in 1973 and then into the former Stephen Foster Intermediate School (where I went) in 1985.

Famous alumni include Governor Bob McDonnell, successful author Matt Bondurant whose novel will be a Hollywood Movie this fall (The Wettest County in the World), and local powerhouse Lavern Chatman-Brown who was recently one of five women given the Women of Power Award by the National Urban League. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

VRS Changes Part III: Why I Voted No

On Sunday and Monday, I wrote about the changes that the General Assembly passed regarding the Virginia Retirement System on the last day of the 2011 Regular Session.  You can read those articles here:

When this bill was debated on the floor, I spoke out based upon what I knew at the time.  Here are my remarks.

Now that the fiscal impact statements are out, I have had a chance to think about it further.  I continue to this this was bad legislation.  The short version is:
  1. This cuts teacher and state worker compensation.
  2. This cuts benefits to current employees.
  3. It is an unfunded mandate on localities.
  4. It shifts investment risk to employees from the public.
  5. It undermines recruitment and retention of state workers.
  6. There was no transparency, sunlight or citizen input in the legislation.
I have set forth my explanation of these reasons in more detail below.

Monday, March 19, 2012

VRS Changes Part II: Explaining the Changes

On Sunday, I wrote about the status of the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) and how we got to where we are.  You can read that here:

In this article, I'm going to cover the changes to VRS that were passed by the General Assembly and are awaiting the Governor's signature.  In my next and last article, why I voted against them. 

While most people probably think this is anything but exciting or interest reading, it has significant effects upon expenses at state government on local government employee costs and consequently your real estate taxes.  These issues are very complex from a legal, budgetary and monetary point of view so few news organizations have reported on these issues.  It is a big deal and it merits lots of sunlight and discussion.
The changes were contained in three bills.  The main changes were in Speaker William Howell's HB1130 relating to a hybrid plan (and a parallel bill SB498), and Senator John Watkins' SB497 which covered local governments

Sunday, March 18, 2012

VRS Changes Part I: How Did We Get Here?

One little known part of Virginia's government that affects a lot of people is the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). 

Currently, VRS is mostly a defined benefit pension system that provides retirement benefits to most state employees.  Hundreds of local governments also participate in VRS because it is cheaper than setting up their own retirement plan.  There are approximately 570 government units that participate in VRS including Fairfax County Public Schools. 

Police, fire, correctional, and other hazardous duty employees do not participate in VRS.  They have separate retirement plans called SPORS (State Police) and VaLORS (Va. Law Officers).

As with most businesses, payroll is the #1 expense and so VRS has a significant effect on the state budget and taxpayers. More importantly, the benefits that VRS pays also affects thousands of teachers, professors, and other state and local government workeres and their families.  VRS changes are a big deal. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview on The Inside Scoop - CTB, Retirement & Protective Orders

Last Sunday, I appeared on the Fairfax County Public Access Channel's The Inside Scoop Program with Bettina Lawton. 

We were able to only talk for thirty minutes, but we discussed some my Commonwealth Transportation Board legislation, protective order legislation, the transportation compromise and the last minute bill we passed regarding changes to the Virginia Retirement System.

My interview starts at the thirty minute mark.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Telegraph Road Interchange Construction Update

A constituent recently asked me why there was very little work occuring on the approach to Telegraph Road and why the lanes had not opened yet.

I emailed VDOT and they gave me their answer below, plus a brief outline of the timeframe for completing the work on the interchange. 

Many of my constituents (including yours truly) use that intersection every day so I thought it might be worth posting for general consumption.
The critical path of the project is on the Telegraph Road portion of the project, which is where the majority of the work is taking place at this time. 
The Beltway work still needs final surface paving, which will begin in June on the inner loop and move to the outer loop in July/August. Before they begin the paving they are finishing up with the approach slab work on the bridges and final barrier work.  
By late August, all work on the Beltway will be complete with traffic on both the local and express lanes from Eisenhower Ave interchange to the Telegraph Road interchange with traffic in its ultimate location on the beltway. 
Relief is on the way. . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Weekly Column: The Session Ends with Last Minute State Pension Deal

This column below was my weekly column that appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in their March 15, 2012 editions:
The Session Ends with Last Minute State Pension Deal
Although we still did not pass a budget, the last week of session was an eventful week.
We considered over 1,600 bills this session.  I have written a more thorough summary of about 40 highlighted bills on my blog – The Dixie Pig – which you can read at

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2012 Session Legislative Wrap Up (Minus a Budget)

You would never think that two seats in the State Senate would mean so much, but we had an incredibly contentious session with some unprecedented national attention.  Here are some of the highlights of the 2,000 votes I took this session. 

We still do not have a budget yet.  I will cover the budget in a separate post once we have an actual budget.

Here is a key:

PASSED - Means it is on the Governor's Desk.
FAILED - Means it did not clear both House & Senate.
CARRIED OVER - Means legislation was continued to 2013 General Assembly Session.
ENACTED - The Governor has already signed into law.

I have indicated my vote or position on the final bill in parentheses. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Weekly Column: Two Surovell Bills Become Law & State Budget Stalls

This column below was my weekly column that appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in their March 7, 2012 editions:
Two Surovell Bills Become Law; State Budget Stalls
Governor McDonnell signed two of my bills into law on February 29. One clarifies that when a person files an action for child custody, child support or spousal support, any powers of attorney between the parties would automatically terminate. My second bill clarifies deadlines for calculating compounded interest in appeals to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

A companion of another of my bills is moving through the Senate. It clarifies that the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts have jurisdiction over protective orders in situations that do not involve family members. Because of changes in the law last year in response to the Yeardley Love case, confusion had arisen and several children’s petitions were rejected in Fairfax County because the courts lacked jurisdiction. I expect that bill to pass this week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Trash Continues to Flow In Little Hunting Creek

Earlier this session, I cosponsored legislation that would put a $0.20 fee or tax on every disposable plastic bag.  One of my constituents recently sent me some information that reminded me why I've been thinking about this.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in Paul Spring chasing minnows, crawfish, turtles and eels.  The last few times I've been down there, the creek is biologically dead.  Similarly, I've spent some time cleaning up other creeks in our area.  They aren't much better. 
The picture at the right was taken in Little Hunting Creek three months ago about two previous cleanups in the previous six months.  I wrote these articles after two different cleanups I participated in.

After viewing the volume of trash in our creeks first hand, I floated the idea of a plastic bag tax on my blog and posted a survey which received a mostly positive response.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

State Budget Misappropriates Money for Foreclosure Victims

There has been a lot of talk about the current budget stalemate.  What the press has not focused on is all of the problems in the current budget.  I wrote about this earlier this week.  One problem I did not discuss in that column was the misappropriation of the mortgage settlement.

We recently suffered one of the biggest financial crises this country has ever seen.  It was caused by a number of factors.  One of them was an overheated real estate market, fed by out of control banks lending money to people who had no business borrowing.

After the size and scope of the problem was discovered, the banks tried to cut their losses by jamming hundreds of thousands of foreclosures without proper documentation or jumping through the right hoops.  Thousands of families were evicted without proper basis and people who attempted to negotiate in good faith were steamrolled.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Richmond Stuck On a Bad Budget

The press has started to heat up over the budget situation.  I was one of twenty-one delegates to vote "no" on the House Budget (HB30).  It has now been rejected by the State Senate.  Here are some of the reasons why I voted "no."

Earlier this week, I appeared at a press conference with my colleagues Delegate Patrick Hope and Senator Adam Ebbin in our press conference to discuss the problems with the current budget.  You can view our Press Release here and watch video of the press conference here:
  • The Governor's and House Budget's transportation funding proposal in the budget is a gimmick.
  • Our secondary education spending levels are still 10% below their peak in FY 2009.
  • The proposed budget is laden with bad choices and special interest pork.
  • The budget does not reflect the priorities of my district of the Commonwealth of Virginia given our current budget environment.