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.