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)