Transparency needed in Prince William board of supervisors

Opinion

Trust in government at all levels has been falling for years. And it isn’t particularly surprising. We hear almost daily about politicians on the take, breaking the public trust for their own personal or political gain. Unfortunately, we let it continue year after year not only by re­electing those guilty of such practices, but also by not demanding more transparency and accountability from our elected officials. But that doesn’t have to be the case in Prince William County.

In 2008, I was selected to serve as the lone, at­large citizen of the County’s Board Audit Committee, a group charged with ensuring that staff are efficient and effective in complying with laws, policies and procedures. The board itself eliminated the citizen position from the audit committee before I had the opportunity to actually serve. This lack of government transparency is unacceptable. To date, the board consists only of the County Supervisors themselves with no input or participation from members of the community. This needs to change. If we as citizens are not invited to be part of processes such as this, and get the bad news along with the good, we lose the power to keep our public servants honest and focused on finding real solutions to the problems we face. As Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, I will make it a top priority on my first day in office to restore citizen membership to the audit committee so that the public has direct access to compliance and efficiency audits.

But auditing the performance of County staff isn’t enough. The citizens of Prince William pay the salaries of the supervisors, and they need to be able to hold the supervisors themselves accountable. I’m committed to creating a local committee of private citizens whose purpose is to monitor Supervisors and report to the public annually on issues of transparency and conflicts of interest.

When Supervisors receive large contributions from donors who have business before the Board and then fail to recuse themselves on votes involving those contributors, that’s a serious conflict of interest. People shouldn’t have to spend hours digging through campaign finance reports to see the clear conflicts of interest brought up by big campaign contributions, we need a committee that brings that into the open so that citizens are able to hold their elected officials accountable. This committee will meet regularly and report annually, not to the Board, but to our citizens, sharing every instance where a Board member failed to disclose a conflict or acted in manner that wasn’t transparent or in keeping with the open, honest government we deserve.

Governing from the shadows and putting the interests of large donors over the needs of our people has no place in Prince William County. My promise is to not only act in the best interest of every resident of our community, but to put real reforms in place to protect us from those who would put their own interests ahead of ours.

*Rick Smith is running for Chairman of the Prince William board of supervisors.

Basis of a solid economy is education

Opinion

In November of this year, we will be going to the polls to select our representatives to the House of Delegates.  In the 31st District, the choice is between Scott Lingamfelter and Sara Townsend.  If you feel our school system is incredibly well funded and your representatives in Richmond have consistently been investing in education to create a better future for your children you may wish to re-elect Scott Lingamfelter; however, if you are an educated voter, fully aware of the Delegate Lingamfelter’s voting record, you will cast your ballot for Sara Townsend. 

The basis of a solid economy is a well-educated populace.  After teaching in public and private schools for nearly 20 years, I finally had to leave the profession last year because of the constraints put on public schools by our House of Delegates.  Despite mandated requirements put in place by our elected representatives, funding has been slashed at the state level thanks to representatives like Delegate Lingamfelter. 

When universal preschool pilot programs were proposed to create a solid foundation for children’s education, Delegate Lingamfelter voted to cut it.  Not merely voting against this program, early reading initiatives were also slashed.  Without a solid foundation for our students how can Virginia improve its economic future?  Scott Lingamfelter addresses the needs of the moment without having the vision to invest in the future.  When these cuts were made in Richmond, Prince William and Fauquier County residents must pick up the tab at the local level. 

Delegate Lingamfelter supporting tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs clearly was a waste of the taxpayers’ resources and negative effects the tax base.   These tax breaks have come at the cost of higher education.  Four year and community college funding has been stripped shifting the educational burden to those who desperately wish to improve their station in life.  It is no accident that college graduates leave their schools with soul crushing debt. 

Sara Townsend has been a teacher and understands the importance of education at all levels.  She is presently completing a PhD program in educational policies at George Mason University.  If elected she will be one of only eight delegates with an education background.  She will focus on improve the educational qualities and opportunities for all our citizens.  Her vision promises to create a brighter future for our children. 

If you wish to invest in the future of Virginia, your choice is clear, vote for Sara Townsend for District 31.

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Call to Action: Youth for Tomorrow seeks volunteers for weekend field trips

News

Good morning  – The General Heiser Boys and Girls Club in Dumfries is looking for a STEM coordinator for their new Pepco STEM Club. This exciting program will ignite the intellect and imagination of children so they can prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. Volunteers must be 21 yrs. old to coordinate the activities twice a week during the school year. Please call Adrian at (703) 441-0611 ext. 17 to learn more.

· Youth for Tomorrow in Bristow is looking for volunteers to help with weekend field trips for the kids visiting all the wonderful museums and historical sites. They also are looking for volunteer mentors as well. Both of these program offer the kids practical experience, build their confidence and support as they go through life’s challenges. Both activities offer you training. Please call Jenna at (703) 659-9886 to learn more.

· Please don’t forget to pick up a few extra things for families in need as both the SERVE Pantry and the Salvation Army Pantry have an urgent need for basics including canned beans, canned vegetables, canned meat, cereals, pasta and other dry goods. In Manassas please drop off food donations to the SERVE Pantry at 10056 Dean Drive or in Woodbridge at the Salvation Army Pantry at 1483 Old Bridge Road, Suite 102. Please help these wonderful organizations continue to support families in need.

· SERVE is gearing up for the 2015-2016 school year! Volunteers are needed for the Backpack program on August 13- 14, at Manassas Adventist Prep School. This is a great opportunity for volunteers 16 and older but volunteers 12-15 years of age can participate with a parent. Contact Navara for details on this fun project: ncannon@nvfs.org.

· Brain Injury Services is looking for a volunteer to teach basic email and web searching skills to a woman in Fairfax City. You can make a world of difference for just a couple of visits a month to bettering the lives of brain injury survivors. Please contact Michelle: mthyen@braininjuryservices.org or by phone: 703-451-8881, ext. 232.

· Manassas Senior Center needs volunteers front the front desk as receptionists – Mondays 9am to 1pm; Thursdays 9am to 2pm, and Tuesday afternoons 2pm to 4:30pm. Must have strong customer service skill in person and on the phone! For details contact: Melodee at 703-792-4583 or email: msheehan@pwcgov.org.

· Saved Hands Foundation and the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center are partnering on a back to school give-a-way set for August 29th. Volunteers are needed to help serve clients and the first planning meeting is July 20th at the Chinn Recreation Center, 13065 Chinn Park Drive Community room from 7pm to 8pm. Donations of cash and school supplies are needed as well! They also have on-going volunteer needs for teachers, grant writer and marketing director. All these opportunities give great experience with your special skill set. Please contact Pam at savedhandsinc.2008@yahoo.com if you can help with this worthwhile cause.

· The Prince William Area on Aging is updating their Communications, Referral and Information Services guide and needs volunteers this summer to make calls and emails to verify information. Must be able to work independently and be familiar with Portable Document Format (PDF). If this sounds like fun, please call Melodee at 703-792-4583 or email: msheehan@pwcgov.org.

· Historic Manassas, Inc. is looking for two energetic and friendly volunteers to greet visitors and citizens at the Manassas Visitor Center and provide information about events, the area, and local attractions. Contact Erin at erin@historicmanassasinc.or or via phone: 701-361-5699.

· Walk to End Alzheimer’s is gearing up for walks in September and October. If you want to help this year please visit: www.alzheimersassociatinnca.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer.

· Community Health Worker Volunteers are needed by the Virginia Department of Health. If you are looking to gain some valuable experience and get useful training, you can sign up to assist patients with medical forms and help navigate them to community resources. The clinics will be held at the Manassas Park Community Center. Please contact Valda at 703-792-6755 or Valda.wisdombrown@vdh.virginia.gov for details.

· Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District is looking for volunteers for Farm Field Days in October. If you enjoy children and the great outdoors, you will love this opportunity. They also are looking to expand participation in the Adopt-A-Stream program. Visit www.pwswcd.org for details!

· Historic Manassas, Inc. will need lots of volunteers for their Bands, Brews & BBQ on September 12th. You must be age 21+ and the fun jobs include checking IDs, pouring beer, ticket taking and of course set-up or take down.

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 1, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 0, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 3. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Call to Action is a column written by Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley.

Cars explode on Prince William roads

News
cardinal drive car fire

A mother pulled her two children from a burning minivan this afternoon.

Their 2001 Nissan Quest caught fire at the intersection of Cardinal Drive and George Fyre Circle just before 4 p.m. in Woodbridge.

No one was injured in the blaze, but the children’s mother India Cutler was visibly shaken. Cutler was taking her children out to eat and was waiting to make a left turn from George Frye Circle on the Cardinal Drive. That’s when her minivan exploded. Flames engulfed the front of the vehicle and the front seats. Fire also damaged the middle of the vehicle where her children were sitting.

Fire crews were called to douse the blaze. They were able to save some of Cutler’s personal items including a notebook and purse.

“I guess we’ll eat in tonight,” said Cutler.

In a separate incident earlier in the day, at PT Cruiser caught fire near the intersection of Hoadly Road and Route 234. About noon Friday, 22-year-old Karina Freeman had nearly pulled into her driveway at her home at 13617 Dumfries Road when flames started shooting from the inside air vents, she said. Fire then engulf the front of the car.

Freeman escaped without injury and ran into her house afraid her car was going to explode.

She called fire and rescue crews who came to douse the blaze.

The PT Cruiser was in a Fredericksburg repair shop just last week because the car had been overheating, said Freeman. She had plans to travel to Emerald Isle Beach in North Carolina tomorrow. She must now put off that trip.
“I don’t even want to think about getting another car right now,” said Freeman.

While not as humid as the day before, temperatures on Friday climbed into the low 90’s. It was the latest in a string of days in what has been a summertime heat wave.

Police closed portions of Cardinal Drive, and Route to 234, respectively, were closed during each incident as fire crews mopped up the mess.

Hurley found safe in Texas

News

Willard “Bill” Hurley is safe and sound in Texas. 

Someone in Texas recognized Hurley’s mugshot and notified police. Hurley left his home in Leesburg Sunday, July 19. His family reported him missing on Monday. 

Hurley is safe and sound. He chose not to tell police why he left his Virginia home.

Hurley is a retired Prince William County police officer, and is also the father of PGA golfer Billy Hurley. 

Hurley made an emotional plea on Tuesday at the Quicken Loans National for his father to return home.

New deputy city manager in Manassas

News

The City of Manassas has a new deputy manager.

According to a city release, City Manager Patrick Pate has selected Bryan Foster for the position.

Foster will oversee Public Works and utilities for the city, starting September 14.

“Bryan’s background makes him a perfect fit for our community. He has served in many roles in local government and I know the City will benefit from his expertise,” stated City Manager William Patrick Pate. 

Foster has served as a county administrator, town manager, and director of Municipal Services, prior to his current role as the Director of Public Utilities in Portsmouth, Virginia.

“My wife and I are looking forward to moving to Manassas. It is a beautiful city and I look forward to becoming part of the team,” stated Foster. 

I-95 lane closures expected overnight next week

News

Get ready for some lane closuvdotlogo600pixelsres on Interstate 95 next week.

Overnight on August 3 and August 4, there will be multiple lane closures on I-95 North near Exit 158 (Prince William Parkway).

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) stated that the lanes will be closed at 9 a.m. each night, and then there will be more closures overnight that will last for around 30 minutes.

All of the lanes will be fully reopened at 4 a.m., stated a VDOT release.

If there are any delays due to weather, the work will be completed overnight on August 5.

A VDOT release stated that the closures are being done to install a new overhead sign, as part of the 95 Shoulder Improvement Project.

The project is working to build auxiliary lanes, new guardrails, additional lighting, and widened road shoulders on I-95 between Dumfries Road and Prince William Parkway, according to VDOT.

Manassas couple ties knot on live TV at Harris Pavilion

News

Ashley and Thomas get hitched at Harris Pavilion in Manassas.
Ashley and Thomas get hitched at Harris Pavilion in Manassas.
WTTG Channel 5 broadcasts morning show from Manassas.
WTTG Channel 5 broadcasts morning show from Manassas.

Ashley and Thomas are now one.

The newlyweds tied the knot on live TV Friday morning at Harris Pavilion in Downtown Manassas.

Getting married in front of many complete strangers, not to mention a live TV audience on WTTG Channel 5, was a bit unnerving for the groom.

“Yeah, that’s the nervous part of all this. But we’re ready,” said Thomas Joyce, a horticulturist in the City of Manassas.

He and his bride Ashley Thiesing met while in high school in Manassas six years ago. He now works for the city, and she just graduated college with a criminal justice degree.

Joyce never thought he would get married on live TV. But when the opportunity popped up, it was one that Amy Domenech, owner of Amy’s Bridal on Battle Street, couldn’t pass up.

“Fox 5 walked into my store and offered me this great opportunity,” she said.

About two weeks before broadcasting their morning show live from Harris Pavilion, the crew from the TV station scouted out locations in the city to see what they could feature while they were in town. They had the idea for the live wedding, and Domenech knew of the bride.

“She bought her dress in my store on the 4th of July. She just came from hair and makeup trial and looked fabulous in her dress,” said Domenech. “She kept saying ‘I would get married right now if I could,’ so when [Channel 5] said do it in 11 days, the rest is history.”

Amy’s Bridal organized the wedding from start to finish. Chairs were placed in rows, and cheesecloth decorations were hung around the pavilion.

The couple walked down the aisle about 10 a.m., exchanged their vows, and then stepped over to the TV hosts for the all-important post “I do” interview. The two plan to go on a honeymoon sometime in September, said Joyce.

Channel 5’s visit to Manassas is part of an ongoing series call “Zip Trip.” The TV station plans to broadcast from localities around the Washington, D.C. area until Labor Day.

Retiring Virginia State Senator Charles Colgan was honored as “Manassas hometown hero” during the broadcast for his more than 40 years in public service.

 

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