Ginn Memorial Park Opens

[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

DUMFRIES, Va. — Children and residents of Williamstown come out and play: Ginn Memorial Park is officially open.

Complete with an NBA sized basketball court, horseshoe pits, playground, and mufti-purpose field, the park in Dumfries opened to fanfare on Saturday.

The 2.8 acre, $344,000 park is expected to serve mostly the Williamstown neighborhood, an adjacent community with about 900 homes.

“Everyone being here at the right place at the right time has brought all of us here today,” said Dumfries Vice-Mayor Willie Toney, who built the promise of the park into his political campaign platform. “We have to give our young people a place to play and to give them something to do.

The park will be open to the public from sun up to sundown each day, and was compilation of efforts from residents, and those who work in several town government departments from public works to police.

“There is no way this community will ever be the same,” said Toney, who added police will regularly patrol the park to maintain public safety here. “I’ve done all I can do. Now it’s up to the young people who use it to take care of it.”

Ginn Memorial joins the Weems-Botts Museum, it’s adjacent Merchant Park, and Garrison Park behind Town Hall as destinations in the small town of 5,000 residents. While Dumfries built the park, it’s open too all area residents.

“Town events hosted at Ginn Memorial Park are investments in our neighborhoods and have a direct impact on families, and provide our children a safe, state-of-the art place to play year-round, as well as a place where parents and neighbors can come together.  With Ginn Memorial Park, the Town of Dumfries has established itself as the gathering point for Southeastern Prince William County.” said Mayor Gerald M. Foreman.

Everyone who came to the grand opening ceremony was treated to a small Frisbee and plush football, each printed with Dumfries, Va. Those footballs were tossed about on the new field as children joined Town Manager Dan Taber who helped to coordinate a day of field games. The field will remain open to the community, but area sports teams will not be allowed to play regularly scheduled games on the turf due to stipulations of the grant used to fund the park’s construction and operation, according to Foreman.

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[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Zebra Shower Curtain a Turning Point in Adulthood

Mom on the Run


“Mom,” my son says, firmly, determinedly, with more than a touch of annoyance. “I know I said I needed a shower curtain. But why would you buy me a zebra one?”

I stop in my tracks, full and heavy basket of laundry in my arms. Um. Shower curtain. Oh! Right! Shower curtain! And I grin. “You don’t like it?”

I have to put this laundry down, so I walk on, through the hallway and into my bedroom, where I plop the basket on my bed. Then I turn back and talk to my kid. “Seriously? The zebra is bad?”

021113-freedom-mom-tagf“Why would you even buy it. Really.” My son is not asking, these are flat statements. He doesn’t have any desire to know. But I want to tell him!

“Well, see,” I start, hands up and out, placatingly, explaining, asking for understanding. “I didn’t want to get you just a shower curtain liner. Those are too thin. And I didn’t want to get both a liner and a cloth one, those are a hassle. I just wanted one heavy shower curtain. And the selection ….”

My son interrupts me: “If zebra was all they had, then you shouldn’t have bought anything. You totally wasted your money.”

“ … so the only other ones like that, the heavy plastic ones, were Hello Kitty and ….”

“I’m serious. I’m not using it. It’s zebra!”

“… Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse! I thought you might like the zebra!” I hurry to finish my explanation, before he cuts me off again.

I mean, he’s almost 18, what do almost 18-year-old boys like in shower curtains? Solid? Stripes? I looked and looked, and there really was a dismal selection. Nothing macho at all. Really, so many floral shower curtains. Floral and pastel shades. It was a horrible selection, and I did the best I could.

I had actually thought zebra might be cool, that he might like it. It’s wild, right, by definition. Aren’t animal prints in? I know my son liked the giraffe-print towel I bought a few years back. And with that dense black and white print – I had expected that he would appreciate the coverage. Nobody can see anything, even silhouettes, through that pattern, if they have to go into the bathroom during his shower for, I don’t know, toilet paper. Or something.

My son and I stand for a second in the hallway, at an impasse, looking at each other in silence. I’m thinking about all the consideration I put into the shower curtain, standing and debating, there in the store. I looked and looked, at cloth shower curtains and Mickey Mouse shower curtains. I thought he really needed a shower curtain! And right now, well, honestly, I’m thinking that it’s OK, and I’ll just hang the zebra thing and he’ll use it and we’ll all move on, because does anyone really care about the pattern on a shower curtain?

My son, though, is obviously thinking quite different things, because, “You may as well have thrown the money away,” he says again, in a new tone, one I haven’t heard before, one of maturity and determination. He puts his hand up, waves me away, and walks back to his room.

And those were the statements of an adult, I realize. He’s not placating me anymore. He’s no longer just putting up with whatever I inflict upon him. It’s his bathroom, his territory, and it’s not just a shower curtain, it’s a milestone. Camouflaged in loud black and white zebra print.

Alborn: Schools Need More Detailed Budget


Contributing Editor

I am a Strategic Planning practitioner (retired). As for bona fides, I was trained in strategic planning methodology while at Texas Instruments Software. I went on to apply this methodology to both government enterprises and Fortune 500 businesses for about fifteen years. That’s why I was happy to accept Prince William County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Stewart’s appointment to the last two Prince William County Strategic Planning teams.

Thanks to a well trained county staff and motivated volunteers from the Magisterial Districts across Prince William County, I think we did a good job creating a strategic plan that represents a consensus view of what Prince William should look like. I am also pleased to notice that the Prince William County Strategic Plan informs the budget process, and is recognized as the road map to creating the annual budget.

As anyone who follows my column knows, I have been particularly interested in the budget process, or where our taxes and fees actually go. The budget executes the Strategic Plan, establishes measures, and defines government. While people of good will may disagree over the details, nothing happens unless there is money to pay for it.

Most people pay attention to Prince William County’s budget, but not so many people pay attention to the county School Board budget. In the past, it has been an obscure process that spends around a billion dollars and change of our money. Prince William’s public schools receives money from various county, state, and federal sources. It’s all our money.

I watched Chairman Milton Johns present the School Board’s Advertised Budget Fiscal Year 2014 to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors Tuesday. As a Strategic Planner, I couldn’t help but notice that the budget presentation focused on money, not educational outcomes.

Slide one of the presentation listed major budget factors, or those things considered in doing the math. When I cross-walked these to the latest Prince William County Public Schools Strategic Plan FY 2011-15 (revised January 2013), I couldn’t help but notice that the School Board’s budget apparently has no relationship to its Strategic Plan.

That’s a problem.

As a taxpayer, I can only wonder why the school system bothered with the Strategic Plan if it is not the road map to the School Board’s budget. The major budget factors listed were certainly important; however, they are not (by the school system’s own judgment) “strategic.”

What I heard for approximately three hours on Tuesday was a discussion about the numbers, comparisons to what other jurisdictions spent, how the numbers moved up or down, demographics, and other interesting charts and graphs. What I didn’t hear was how the billion dollars and change was going to be spent to achieve the strategic goals defined by the county residents who crafted them.

Now to “connect a couple of dots.” The Prince William County Public Schools Strategic Plan FY 2011-15 (revised January 2013) actually does a pretty good job of defining community priorities and measurable results. It defines specific targets by year for performance improvements. The School Board’s budget focuses on things it builds and maintains, people it pays, supplies, etc. If you don’t do all of the latter within the context of the former, you can spend a billion dollars and still fail.

A budget that spends the public’s money must be created within the context of the strategy that the community created. This may happen at some level; however, it is important that a skeptical public understand how the School Board plans to spend our tax dollars to execute the strategy and achieve community defined goals.

Right now, I don’t think we do.

I would suggest that taxpayers should be interested in seeing a School Board budget that maps to its own Strategic Plan to demonstrate how our tax dollars will be applied to achieve community defined strategic goals. While many things easily map to the goals, budget items that have a tenuous relationship are easier to identify, and delete from the budget.

Salaries and benefits are 82.5% of the Prince William County School System budget. That’s good to know! I browsed the school system’s website for the next level of detail, at least roughly mapping this to the strategic plan I just couldn’t find the connection.

I want to see “the connection.”

I want to know, for example, how the FY2014 budget allocates those salaries and benefits to ensure that at least 40% of graduates will have received a qualifying score on one or more advanced exams, including Advanced Placement (AP) exams, International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, or Cambridge AICE exams (Objective 1.1.5) or reduce gaps among students in elementary schools (Objective 1.2.1), or the other objectives established in its Strategic Plan. You may read the full set of measurable objectives here.

Another slide tells me that 77.5% of the budget focuses on instruction. That’s a “warm fuzzy” number, but what exactly does that mean? How is it being allocated to help the School System achieve its strategic objectives?

What’s “in there”?

When we are talking about a billion dollars of our money, we want to see where it is going. I want to see a level of detail consistent with the detail provided by Prince William County’s Office of Management and Budget.

Mapping budgets to Strategic Plans is how those we elect ensure that our money goes to those things the community has defined as important. Its part of that “transparency in government” thing. To do otherwise eliminates transparency.


‘Evil Dead’ Improved But Still a Slasher Flick


I did not want to see “Evil Dead” today. Not because I was scared, really. I wanted to see either the new Robert Redford or Danny Boyle movies released today, but I can’t find them. So, when two legendary Oscar winning directors can’t get wide releases for their movies, it must be time to enter into an evil dark realm and fight the devil who rules all things. That is not a shot at Harvey Weinstein, really.

I liked the original, “THE Evil Dead” with Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead – duh) as Ash. It was campy and quirky and a breath of fresh blood in its time. So was it a good idea to give first-time director/screenwriter Fede Alvarez $14 million, the title and concept? The short answer – no.

Poor little Mia (Jane Levy of Suburgatory) has a drug problem, and she tries to kick it by going to her mother’s remote cabin in the woods. Three friends and her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez of Red Riding Hood), are committed to keeping her there until she is all better. This does start out as a good reason for them to be there together. It’s a nice, dusty old cabin that has not been used in years, but there is a great electric carving knife and a nail gun. How odd to highlight those out-of-place items early in the movie. I was sure that old chainsaw in the shed would never start. They are going to be just fine, even with that terrible smell they mention nine times, as long as nobody cuts the barbed wire from that old book and starts to read it. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson told me that reading a book would not kill me. She was so wrong.

Alvarez proves to be an effective director, and he may have improved on the screenplay. Still, it’s a cabin in the woods kids slasher movie. If this came out in 1981, then Alvarez would have directed “Spiderman.”

Wait – I just heard, if I can get to Utah, Robert Redford will screen his movie for me. What was my Expedia password…oh, “Evil Dead” – 2 stars, one step above ordinary hack horror. Bless you Sam Raimi for not re-making it, but damn you to hell for letting someone else do it. You should have just kept putting roman numerals after the title like everybody else.

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Crowds Expected for Virginia Bluebell Festival

[Photo: Prince William Conservation Alliance]

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — After the Prince William Conservation Alliance worked hard to preserve Merrimac Farm, group members decided they wanted to have an annual festival to acquaint the community with the site.

The Merrimac Farm Natural Wildlife Area, as it’s known officially, is made up of 302 acres of wetlands outside Quantico Marine Corps Base in Nokesville in western Prince William County.

Virginia Bluebell flowers grow wild on the property and peak this time of year, and when naturalists saw that the Virginia Bluebell Festival was born. This year’s Virginia Bluebell Festival kicks off at 10 a.m. Sunday on the grounds Merrimac Natural Wildlife Preserve

“We hoped it would become a great community event because it’s such a nice site, accessible to so many people, said Prince William Conservation Alliance Executive Director Kim Hosen. “It’s really unusual to have a natural area in such a large populated area.”

While the area surrounding Merrimac is populated, the wildlife area itself is secluded, and getting there is almost like taking a drive back in time down a gravel country road that leads to an old farm house.

But when there, some visitors have likened the experience of walking through the Bluebells like “walking through Oz,” said Hosen. And there are plenty of activities see and hiking to do. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offers tours, hands on wildlife and habitat exhibits, and exhibit on butterflies, dragonflies, as well as birds.

There will be barbeque on hand from local favorite N.C. Barbeque on Wheels, as well as a bake sale.

The natural area is located along Cedar Run, the headwaters of the Occoquan River, according to the Prince William Conservation Alliance’s website:

Merrimac Farm includes more than one mile of frontage along Cedar Run, a 7-acre island and boasts one of the largest patches of Virginia Bluebells in the Northern Virginia region.

It includes more than 100 acres of contiguous wetlands protected by 200 acres of hardwood forests and upland meadows, at the headwaters of the Occoquan Reservoir and adjacent to Cedar Run.

Merrimac Farm connects Quantico Marine Corps forests and wetlands with the 300-acre Cedar Run wetland mitigation bank. This connectivity enhances the conservation values of all parcels.

The area has been protected from development five years, opening to the public in March 2008, with the help of Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Virgnia Department of Inland Fisheries, at a cost of $3 million.

The Bluebell Festival is free to attend. Merrimac Farm is open daily sun up to sun down.

Winning Lottery Ticket Sold to Personal Trainer at Handy Dandy Market

[Photo: Virginia Lottery]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A winning lottery ticket was purchased in Woodbridge, and an area man is now $100,000 richer.

More in a press release from the Virginia Lottery:

“It feels good. I’m excited. I’m ecstatic.”

That’s how David Clark described his feelings as he claimed the $100,000 top prize in the Virginia Lottery’s Cash 5 game.  The Lorton man matched all five numbers in the March 30 Cash 5 night drawing.

He bought the winning ticket at Handy Dandy Market, 13316 Occoquan Road in Woodbridge.

The winning numbers for that drawing were 2-9-19-23-28. Mr. Clark said he selected numbers that had once been suggested to him by his father.

The personal trainer said he plans to invest his winnings.

Cash 5 drawings are held daily at 1:59 p.m. And 11 p.m. The chances of winning the $100,000 top prize are 1 in 278,256.

Clark is the second area man to claim lottery winnings in a week. Last week, a woman from Dumfries also claimed her prize.

Manassas Boys & Girls Club Holding Open House


MANASSAS, Va. — Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington-Manassas is joining other Boys & Girls Clubs across the country in opening its doors to the community during the annual celebration of National Boys & Girls Club Week (April 7-13).

For more than 75 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have celebrated this week in a variety of ways to support the organization’s overarching goal of helping all children achieve a great future.

On Friday, April 12, 2013 Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington-Manassas will open its doors to the community for visitors to learn how Clubs encourage youth to be great – all while having fun.

Visitors will have a chance to participate in various activities with young people to promote academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. These three outcome areas support the organization’s mission of preparing the next generation for success.

The open house event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Manassas Boys & Girls Club at 9501 Dean Park Lane in Manassas.


Hybrid Driver Aims to Change Slow Reputation

Slug Tales 



You’ll have to excuse me, as I’m still a bit carsick from my slug rides today.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to get motion sickness unless I’m driving, which I rarely do since my building does not offer parking for most employees. However, I slug back and forth to work all the time and can generally handle it without any problems.

But not today.


This morning, I almost didn’t think I’d make it to my office without getting sick. The driver we rode with, a lady who used her rental car as an excuse for her horrible driving, was all over the road. Distracted by all of the unfamiliar buttons and adjusting the mirrors every few miles, she would find herself drifting off into the other lane before jerking the wheel back to her own lane.

“Wow, I’m telling you, there’s nothing like driving your own car!” she laughed.

Here’s an idea, I thought. Why don’t you just pay attention to where you’re going and stop playing with all of the shiny buttons? I managed a disingenuous laugh instead.

Despite barely driving the speed limit, which is 65 mph in the HOV lanes, our driver couldn’t seem to gently tap the brakes when necessary. Instead, she’d almost slam the brake pedal, sending us forward in our seats each time.

I closed my eyes and attempted to escape to my happy place, but it was too much. The swerving back and forth, the crawling pace, even the sun beaming hard through the window – I couldn’t handle anymore. By the time we got off of the exit and ended up at a traffic light, I quickly took the opportunity to jump out and walk the rest of the way to my office.

I needed fresh air.

By the afternoon, I had all but forgotten about the bumpy ride to work. When I hopped into the backseat of a car, all I wanted to do was close my eyes and wake up back at the commuter lot. I was so exhausted! But when the driver peeled away from the slug line like Speed Racer, I quickly realized that this ride would be anything but relaxing.

Hybrid drivers, who don’t necessarily need to pick up slugs in order to access the HOV lanes, have a reputation for being some of the slowest on the road. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found the stereotype to be fairly accurate in my experience. This driver was certainly out to disprove that. I watched as his speedometer climbed to 75, 80, 85 mph He was driving pretty fast at times, but it wasn’t the speed that bothered me so much. It was the tailgating, the weaving in and out of traffic, slamming his brakes when the cars ahead of him weren’t traveling at lightning speed. It was borderline terrifying!

Keeping my eyes closed, I said a quick prayer. Then I contemplated typing up a quick will on my iPhone. You know… just in case.

I never said a word, never asked him to slow down or to drive more cautiously. Perhaps I should have, but I’ve never felt comfortable speaking up when someone I don’t know is driving erratically. After all, slugs are supposed to be seen and not heard – and what if a seemingly simple request to drive safely escalated into an argument? I’m not a confrontational person, and the very thought of such a thing gives me anxiety.

Thank goodness he was driving so fast; at least we arrived back at the commuter lot quickly, instead of dragging out the ride as we did this morning.

I jumped out the car at the first stop at Horner Road, wished the driver a good evening and walked back to my car. On the outside, I probably looked worn out and tired. On the inside, I was kissing the ground and thanking my lucky stars that we’d made it back in one piece.

It has taken me a while to recover from the stress of both slug rides, but such bad luck is pretty uncommon. My fingers are certainly crossed for a smooth ride tomorrow!

Stafford Students Cast in Mary Washington’s ‘The Tempest’

Submitted News

The following area students are among the cast of the University of Mary Washington’s upcoming production of “The Tempest”:

Jen Furlong of Stafford, Va., has been selected to play Caliban. Furlong is a 1989 graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Furlong is a senior theatre major in the bachelor of liberal studies program. She is an instructor at the Stafford House of Yoga. (22554)

Scott Houk of Stafford, Va., has been selected to play Sebastian. Houk is the son of John and Tammy Houk of Stafford and is a 2012 graduate of Mountain View High School. Houck is a freshman at UMW. (22554)

“The Tempest” tells the story of Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, who have been exiled to a majestic island by Prospero’s brother, Antonio. Prospero, seeking revenge, uses the help of a mischievous spirit, Ariel, to summon a storm to shipwreck his brother on the island. The passengers on the ship are separated and believe each other to be deceased. Magic and love interfere as the ship’s crew wanders the island seeking justice.

Produced in 1611 by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, “The Tempest” is believed to be inspired by Michel de Montaigne’s work, “Of Cannibals.” In its more than 400 year history, “The Tempest” has been performed internationally countless times and has been adapted into several feature films.

Performances will be held April 11-13 and April18-20 at 8 p.m., and April 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. in duPont Hall’s Klein Theatre. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $16 for students and senior citizens. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Klein Theatre Box Office at (540) 654-1111.

The University of Mary Washington is a premier, selective public liberal arts and sciences university in Virginia, highly respected for its commitment to academic excellence, strong undergraduate liberal arts and sciences program, and dedication to life-long learning. The university, with a total enrollment of more than 5,000, features colleges of business, education and arts and sciences, and three campuses, including a residential campus in Fredericksburg, Va., a second one in nearby Stafford and a third in Dahlgren, Va., which serves as a center of development of educational and research partnerships between the Navy, higher education institutions and the region’s employers. In recent years, the university has seen its academic reputation garner national recognition in numerous selective guidebooks, including Forbes, the Fiske Guide to Colleges and the Princeton Review’s 2012 edition of 150 “Best Value Colleges” and the 2013 edition of “The Best 377 Colleges.”

Drama, Music, Acrobats Among Many Shows Planned for Hylton Arts Center

The Peeking Acrobats, famous for their portrayal in Ocean's 11, will perform this season at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. [Photo: Tom Meinhold]


MANASSAS, Va. — With three successful seasons under their belt, the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas announced their offerings for the 2013-2014 season that include old classics, new favorites, and affordable family-friendly fare.

This upcoming season, the Hylton will tap talent from all over the globe for productions like Peter Nero’s “Classical Connections,” a fusion of both classic musical pieces and more contemporary works, the controversial “Fahrenheit 451,” the classic Shakespearean drama “Hamlet,” and The Peking Acrobats, famous for their appearance in the film “Ocean’s 11”.

For families and children, this season will showcase “Toying with Science,” with Garry Krinsky, perfect for the child that loves performing household experiments, “Simple Gifts” from The Cashore Marionettes, the dynamic Imago Theatre’s “Frogz” and a musical adaption of a Cinderella story from the Pushcart Players, will all take the stage this season at the Hylton.

The Pushcart Players perform Happily Ever After: A Cinderella Story. [Photo: Strotz Photography]

The Pushcart Players perform Happily Ever After: A Cinderella Story. [Photo: Strotz Photography]

Five local arts groups will also serve as staples for the season, including the Manassas Ballet Theatre with such performances as “The Nutcracker” and “Dracula”, the Manassas Chorale with four concert events, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra with their Annual Family Concert series, the Youth Orchestras of Prince William’s “A Night at the Opera” and “A European Tour” and Prince William Little Theatre with their summer musical and seasonal plays.

Hylton Arts Center Director Rick Davis praised these resident arts partners.

“These outstanding local ensembles have performed world premiere compositions, revived treasured classics, grown their performing ranks, educated, entertained and continued to build audiences and support for their work.,” said Davis.

One event that has become a focal performance for the Center and will continue this summer is the Castleton Festival at the Hylton – a program that has featured conductor Lorin Maazel’s fusion music performances. The Festival is hosted each year to help support Maazel’s program to foster the arts for fledgling musicians.

It’s a little early to be thinking of jingle bells, but consider purchasing your tickets to the Center’s Christmas season offerings early. The holiday performances include American Festival Pops Orchestra’s “Holiday Pops: Songs of the Season,” the magical “Christmas in Vienna” performance from the Vienna Boys Choir and Chanticleer’s “A Chanticleer Christmas”.

“The Hylton Performing Arts Center is coming into its fourth year as an increasingly vibrant and valuable asset to the communities that created it. Tens of thousands of patrons and participants, from every corner of the region and of every age, have made the Hylton Center their artistic home,” Davis said.

Via Email, Text, or Thick Envelope, College Acceptance News is Great

Mom on the Run


The text from my son is a little tiny image. No message, just this little forwarded picture. Luckily, I have a new brilliant phone (it’s much more intelligent than I am) so I can open it up, pinch the image, spread it out, and read it.

“People say that good things come in small packages, but in college admissions, good things come in thick envelopes. Consider this the small package, but something bigger is on its way. Be sure to check your mailbox closely in the coming days. Welcome! – The Admission Committee”


Oh! Oh! Really? 

Wait, what?

I read it again: “People say that good things come in small packages, but in college admissions, good things come in thick envelopes. Consider this the small package, but something bigger is on its way. Be sure to check your mailbox closely in the coming days.” Yes, that sounds like he’s in. Right? I want him to be in, so is that what it says? Or am I wanting it too much?

OK, so, a third, careful read, just to be sure: “People say that good things come in small packages …” OK, that part’s clear. “ … but in college admissions, good things come in thick envelopes.” True. “Consider this the small package, but something bigger is on its way.”

So that means: a small good-things email, followed by a thick envelope, which is a good thing in college admissions?

“Be sure to check your mailbox closely in the coming days.” For the thick envelope, right? That means … that means acceptance, right? Dang, why doesn’t it just come out and say whether he’s been accepted or not? I don’t want my tense brain to make false assumptions, to get excited about nothing.

I look at the message again, getting ready to read it once more, which is ridiculous, I’ve already read it three times, and this time my brain skips over the vague hints about small packages and thick envelopes, and focuses on the end, which says: “Welcome!”

Welcome! That means … come in! That means they want him! That means … acceptance! Yes!

I breathe again, and I pump my fist. This is my son’s final college notification. He applied to four universities: the first two acceptances came in the mail, and they were very clear: “You’re in!” said the first one, emblazoned across the outside of the mailer. “Congratulations!” crowed the second, right at the top of the cover letter. And, yes, both mailings were thick envelopes, with information on applying for financial aid, and selecting a dorm, and upcoming school Open Houses.

The third college is as high-tech as this one, though, and sent an email instead of snail mail: an email that my son read, distilled, and summarized to me in text: “Didn’t get in.” And that was fine, really, because – hmph! – he didn’t want to go to that school anyway.

But this final notification had us holding our breath. The challenge school, the stretch, and yes! He made it! The email says, “Welcome!”

pop my son a quick reply text: “Congratulations! I am so proud of you!” I sit a minute, smiling, and bask in the moment. And for now, right now, this moment, I’m glad, very glad. Right now, I don’t think about my son, my youngest, graduating and moving away. Not now. Right now, I’m just glad.

Jimmy the Greek Restaurant: Family Friendly Greek Fare

Greek plate lunch special and a side of sweet potatoes at Jimmy the Greet Restaurant in North Stafford. [Stephanie Tipple / Potomac Local News]


NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — When you hear “Jimmy the Greek” you may be picturing the renowned sports commentator, but instead think tasty and affordable authentic Greek dishes.

Located off of Garrisonville Road in Stafford, this restaurant is part experience and part food. If you’re on your lunch break and looking for a bite to eat, then you’ll likely have two immediate impressions before you enter the front door; the restaurant is situated on it’s own Boulevard, and they have free wifi.

A blending of authentic Greek décor and Americana trinkets, Jimmy the Greek Family Restaurant is a popular local destination, and was fairly crowded on the afternoon when I sat down to try out their Greek fare for myself.

The menu, which covers breakfast, American favorites, traditional Greek fare and lunch and dinner specials, can make it very difficult to decide on one dish. Making the decision to tread new waters and try Greek cuisine, I settled on the Greek plate lunch special ($8.95) and a side of sweet potatoes; I am admittedly a sweet potato addict.

I found the television and the menu and place setting overly laden with advertisements to be a little distracting, but my server was attentive and I got my food quickly: a must when you have a short window to eat.

The tzatziki sauce paired well with the pita and the cucumbers, which balanced out the rice and pork that took up a large portion of my plate. While the rice was on the blander side, a scoop of the sauce mixed in makes all the difference.

Never being one to say no to dessert, I settled on the turtle cheesecake ($4.95), after selecting from several contenders in the glass display case in the front of the restaurant. The slice was huge, so have a glass of water or your leftover beverage ready.

When you’re in Stafford, you need to stop in and give the Jimmy the Greek Family Restaurant a try. It’s affordable, quick and offers delicious Greek food and a long menu of choices that will keep you coming back for more.

Public Input Means Prince William Budget Process Will Never Be the Same


Contributing Editor

The Prince William County budget process has changed quite a bit during the past couple of years. It has transitioned from an obscure game of insider baseball to a relatively transparent discussion of how the county spends our money.  

It wasn’t that long ago that most people simply didn’t care about the budget process.   Our lack of oversight lead to incrementally bolder but perfectly legal uses of our money on things that clearly had nothing to do with the business of governance.

Hubris probably best describes the budget process in of the past.  Public interest in Discretionary Funds changed the process in 2012.  Public discussion is probably at an all time high in 2013.  Things will never be the same.

Like most people, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I just don’t want to pay “too much” taxes.  What constitutes “too much” is a constant discussion between people of good will with different views regarding just exactly constitutes those things government should do.

Like most people, I do not like seeing my tax dollars spent on things that clearly have nothing to do with the business of government.  While this is a gray area, its sorta like pornography.  We know it when we see it.

What used to be the simple approval of the budget created by the County Executive (for the record, its her responsibility to create the Prince William County budget) or the School System Superintendent  accompanied by a bit of theater to give the public the warm fuzzy feeling that those we elect to be the stewards of our money actually know what’s “in there” is history.

Our elected officials are now engaged, asking detailed questions, drilling down.  Some of this is, of course, the theater of politics and for our benefit.  I do believe that most of those behind the Dias have realized that keeping that seat with a view of “the rest of us” won’t be as easy as it used to be.

All things operate in cycles.  The Prince William County budget process has swung from relative obscurity to an object of intense public scrutiny.  In my opinion, this occurred because we simply lost faith in the process.  We realized that those in charge perhaps noticed that nobody was watching, and incrementally, quite legally, continued to expand the bounds of just what they might consider spending our tax dollars on.

It will take a while to restore our faith.   

As the FY2014 budget unfolds, and we see “whats in there”, we will see who “gets it”.  

I am particularly interested in the School System’s budget.  It has a history of being even more obscure than the county government’s budget.

Now, not so much.

We now have budget committees across the county going through every line of the Prince William County Budget.  The School Board is now on the public’s radar, and decisions that would have gone unnoticed until perhaps the construction equipment showed up are now the grist of local blogs, the press, and citizens’ time.

I suspect that the 2015 elections will be the first time that decisions made regarding the School System’s budget will perhaps generate unusual interest in the election of our representatives on the School Board.

We get the government we deserve.  While we elect people to make decisions for us, we have an obligation to give these elected officials our input regarding just what kind of a County or School System we would like to see.  If enough of us object to the decisions our elected officials make, we have the opportunity to replace them in 2015.  If we don’t like the budget proposed by the County Executive or School System Superintendent propose, we have the opportunity to elect folks who will replace either or both.

Government is like gambling:  You can’t win if you don’t play.  If you have absolutely no objection to where the money you work for goes, do nothing.  Others will decide how to spend it.  If you really don’t care what our County looks like, do nothing.  There are a few folks willing to make that decision for you.

On the other hand, if you do care about these things, you might want to take a look at the Prince William County FY2014 Budget and the the FY 2013-14 PWCS School Budget.  

Most of the Supervisors have budget committees.  You might want to chat with your Supervisor to see if they are still meeting, do a Freedom of Information Request  (if necessary) to take a look at their findings and conclusions, and make your preferences known.

I am a cynic when it come to government at all levels.  Government unchecked starts to think of taxes and fees as “their money”.  It’s “our money”.

It is important that we pay attention so they take only enough of “our money” to pay for the County we want, and to spend it on those things about which we care the most.  Your chance to weigh in occurs at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. during a regularly scheduled Board of County Supervisor’s meeting.

Why is the budget particularly important this time?  With sequestration looming, predictions of the loss of around 200,000 jobs and the possible collapse of our housing market, small businesses who supply, feed, and do the dry cleaning for the companies and people impacted we want to create the smallest burden possible on our community for the coming years.

We want to rig for possible tough times.

I certainly hope we don’t see those tough times, but the price of guessing wrong is just too high.

Short on Theme, ‘The Host’ Full of Forced Scenes, Bad Lines

032913-hostBy TOM BASHAM

Author Stephenie Meyer brings us “The Host,” based on the novel she penned while counting her “Twilight” money. Instead of vampires with an alternative lifestyles, we have aliens who take over our bodies and perfect them and the planet. They kill us with kindness and everything is for the common good. You know, like Obamacare.

Among the last few “unoccupied” is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan from Hanna), who has managed to keep her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury from A Bag of Hammers) safe for a few years. She meets Jared (Max Irons from Red Riding Hood) who seems to be the last man on earth, and they fall in love, naturally. And then, she gets taken (different movie) and implanted with a Host named Wanderer.

I did not read the book, and that is a great place for a character to have competing inner monologues. So, how do you show that on screen? They chose the old 1950’s Twilight Zone method of echoing voice over. Although Ronan is an amazing talent, her inner voice/host comes off as annoying, while the device yields abrupt responses disconnected from emotion.

The militant group of invading aliens all look like missionaries as they “seek” the last few humans for conversion. They don’t want to hurt anybody, and the only evil one, known as The Seeker (Diane Kruger of Inglourious Basterds) is certain that Melanie/Wanderer is going to be problem.

I figure they stuck to the book, as it felt like they were checking off scenes as they went. This happens when the novelist is a producer on the movie and may not understand how to transform her inner invasion to the screen. There is a great theme here, but the movie did not pull it off.

I dated a girl with multiple voices in her head, and it was terrifying. I got none of that from watching “The Host.” What I did get was horrible dialogue from great actors like William Hurt (The Village) who played Jeb, Melanie’s uncle. He actually says, “I am a big fan of science fiction movies, but I never thought I would be living one.” And he was living in the caves of a volcano that had the best set dressing I have ever seen in a cave. Nice lamps, pictures on the wall, Fred Flintsone style windows and all the trimmings.

We were due for an advancement of Jack Finney’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and Meyer does move the ball down the field by taking us inside the occupied mind and letting us know the body snatchers are beings too. This sets up a great dynamic in the main character and for the other characters as well. The ingredients are all there, but the soufflé fell flat. The entire world felt fake to me, and I never felt the horror of the invasion or the desperation of true love in what was an interesting love quadrangle. Director Andrew Niccol (In Time) has nowhere to hide, as he wrote the screenplay. He has done some good work in the past, but this one fell short.

I looked forward to “The Host,” and while it is a great concept, the movie did not deliver the theme, and therefore I did not find my viewing a hospitable experience. I give it 2 ½ stars out of 5 for using a tired technique on an interesting story. I am left with the thought, “What would Kubrick do?”

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Dumfries Woman Wins $150,000 in Scratch-Off Game

Sandra Vasquez of Dumfries won $150,000 in the Virginia Lottery’s $150 Grand game. [Submitted photo]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A Dumfries woman is $150,000 richer this today after winning big with a scratch game. Virginia Lottery officials say there are still two more top prizes yet to be claimed.

More in a press release:

You might say it was a team effort when Sandra Vasquez of Dumfries won $150,000 in the Virginia Lottery’s $150 Grand game. Her husband bought the ticket and scratched it. She took the winning ticket to the Lottery’s customer service center in Woodbridge to claim the prize.

The winning ticket was bought at the 7-Eleven at 13897 Telegraph Road in Woodbridge.

“I was happy, crying,” the mother of four said.

$150 Grand is one of dozens of Scratcher games from the Virginia Lottery. It features prizes ranging from $5 all the way up to $150,000. This is the third top prize claimed in $150 Grand, which means two top-prize tickets remain unclaimed.


New Public Access TV Channel Aims to Serve Stafford

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — A group of area residents have formed a non-profit public access channel, Central Virginia Public Access Television Corp (CVTV), that will cover Stafford and Spotsylvania County. It will launch this summer.

Run by Charles Thomas and Michele Trampe, the channel will showcase 24 hours of original programming a week.

“What we’re proposing is a multiple year ramp up to that, because we want to put good programming on,” Trampe commented, going on to say that the channel will rely on volunteers and fundraising to create and broadcast the programs.

“Living in Spotsylvania and Stafford, we’re located between Richmond and D.C. and that’s really what gets covered on local television. There’s so much here; I get really offended when people say that this area is just a bedroom community of either D.C. or Richmond,” Trampe said.

In addition to this void in local television coverage, Thomas felt that there needed to be more balanced and appropriate options for children and family television programs.

“I’m very passionate about kids, and working with youth, and giving them a good foundation. Having kids myself, and sitting down and watching TV with them at a supposedly family channel, and you look at it and you go, ‘Guys, we need to look at something else’, because they’re not really promoting a good element for children to be watching,” Thomas said.

Both Thomas and Trampe are currently talking with community members in hopes to tap into local talent for CVTV. With intended programming to cover education, family, sports, finances, cooking and physical fitness, “We’re looking for people who have passion about what they’re doing, and want to get that story out; writers, producers, story tellers. I can see the void – I can see the talent that’s here,” Thomas said.

CVTV’s first big program will focus on the history of the John J. Wright museum; a museum located in Spotsylvania County that was formerly a segregated school during the Civil Rights Movement. While the group is still going through the legal approvals, they have met with the Spotsylvania County Telecommunications Board, and expect to be up-and-running by this summer, said Thomas.

To get the word out about this launch, CVTV has relied on the use of social media sites and community meetings to spread the word.

Thomas hopes that CVTV will, “give the communities of Central Virginia programs with purpose, meaning and excellence, through the voice of public access television,” and Michael Nelms, a Co-Chair for the channel, expressed his excitement at the development of the project.

Carnival Ready for the Weekend

[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – It might not have felt like spring these past few days, in the parking lot of Gar-Field Senior High School, it’s going to look like it.

The carnival is back in town starting today through Sunday, and it’s ran by Amusements of America, whose employees spent much of Thursday afternoon getting ready for weekend business.

The traveling carnival offers rides like Ferris Wheel and carnival games. Workers were setting up for this weekend’s show under gray skies in temperatures in the upper 40s on Thursday. Temperatures will be warmer this weekend, approaching 60 degrees.

To ride, carnival goers will pay $1 per ticket, with some rides taking several tickets. Riders can purchase 56 tickets for $50, and pay $20 for a hand stamp for unlimited rides on a limited number of rides that allow patrons at least 36 inches tall to ride.

Picture 1 of 4

Lynn Brett of New Bern, N.C., takes bagged stuffed animals from a nearby truck to be used as prizes in carnival games, and then tosses them over a fence into the carnival area. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Belmont Bay’s Osprey’s Restaurant Ceasing Regular Operation

Osprey’s Landing restaurant in Belmont Bay has reopened after it closed for two years. (Stephanie Tipple/

Osprey’s Landing restaurant in Belmont Bay has reopened after it closed for two years. (Stephanie Tipple/

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The Easter Brunch at Osprey’s Restaurant will mark the final chapter in a sort of part two for the only eatery in Belmont Bay.

Executive Chef T.J. Fisher says the restaurant nestled inside of a golf club among high rise residential homes overlooking the Occoquan River will no longer be open to the public when it closes Sunday. Afterward, the restaurant will only be used by private caterers during special events like parties and weddings.

“It’s sad because we all really put a lot of effort into this place to make it work,” said Fisher.

And some things did work here, like the restaurant’s happy hour specials, and special events like this Sunday’s sold out Easter Brunch. At $25 per person, it’ll feature cinnamon French toast, Lavender Barbeque Chicken, baked Atlantic Salmon with peach salsa, and pretzel dusted three cheese macaroni.

But what didn’t work here was the location, said Fisher. While the Occoquan River is clearly visible from the restaurant, it sits at the very end of the Belmont Bay neighborhood, making it hard for passersby to notice. While Osprey’s was a neighborhood favorite by those who live and could walk here, it never became a destination restaurant.

After it closed for the first time in 2009, Osprey’s reopened for its second incarnation in 2011 and quickly brought back their signature American food served with French flair, along with popular deserts like waffle bread pudding and crème brulee.

Creative Challenge Urges Children to Walk to the Moon, and Back

bounce 123


With spring in the air, that only means one thing: allergies. OK, correction, two things: allergies and the renewal of creativity.

Especially for children. Creativity is the freest form of self-expression. There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves openly and without judgment. I’ve been very fortunate to work with teams of passionate youth development professionals, board members and various community stakeholders nationwide that collaborate proactively to solve social challenges in their communities. Without creative thinking, these challenges couldn’t be accomplished. 

Keeping to the theme of creativity, let me tell you about Bradley Leighton and his mission to the moon.

In the month of March, Leighton (better know as Brad) Director of Justice Title & Escrow had the ingredients for a great mission.

Brad’s Mission To The Moon Beef Stew:

  • 1 six foot dog mascot.
  • 10 cups of “walking to the moon”
  • 5 tea spoons of  “Send A Kid To Camp.”
  • 2 ounce of “creativity”
  • 3 tablespoons of “bounce”
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper


To support the Boys & Girls Clubs Send A Kid To Camp Annual Campaign, Brad wanted to do something high energy to appease his appetite, so he created a challenge with the help of our friend Jackie Sisouphonh of Amusement Bouncers . Using the Manassas Boys & Girls Clubs new Chase’s Play Yard, an affordable indoor inflatable bounce house, Brad’s challenge was simple for the youth: Walk to the moon and back!

Using pedometers to help count the 477,000 miles to the moon and back,  each step counted as one mile.  Justice Title & Escrow donated $ .02 for every step to the Send a Kid to Camp Campaign. After thousands of steps were taken to walk to the moon and (almost) back, this creative idea raised over $8,000 for summer camp scholarships and helped the fight against childhood obesity.

As adults we should never loose the creative nature that we are born with as children. As adults we should continue to invest in children’s creavtiy.  So take this time with the warm weather to smell the roses, paint a fence, help a neighbor or even walk to the moon.

More to come….


Chief Forker to Leave Dumfries Police in Fall

Dumfries Police Cheif Robert Forker [Photo; Uriah Kiser / Potomac local News]


Sitting at his desk on a snowy late March morning, Dumfries Police Chief Robert Forker answers a phone call. He, and is second in command Capt. Rebecca Edwards, are the only ones in the office this morning because their two-person front office staff is contending with a minor bout of the flu.

It’s a small department for a small town, made of up eight officers, charged with serving about 5,000 residents. But Forker has been around a long time, and has worn many badges and hats in Prince William County. Now, he plans to hang it up and move on to his next patrol beat – permanent retirement.

Forker started his career in as a cop in Washington in 1973, following in the footsteps of his father-in-law. He became a Prince William County police officer in 1981 and served until 2007, working in units like accident investigation, crime prevention, internal affairs, and in the department’s criminal investigation division during the infamous D.C. sniper attacks of 2002. He retired – the first time – as a Captain at the county’s 911 Public Safety Communications Center at the McCoart Building.

But he retired from Prince William’s force only to be called up again in 2011 to lead the Town of Dumfries Police Department, which during the previous year was undergoing a leadership change following an FBI investigation into the department. The changeover meant long-serving chief Calvin Johnson would exit and just retired Prince William police Major Ray Colgan would takeover as acting chief.

It wasn’t until after Colgan’s replacement, Daniel Taber, was promoted to Dumfries Town Manager that Forker was called in for an interview.

“[Colgan] told me it probably wouldn’t take more than six months before they found a permanent replacement chief. That was in 2011,” joked Forker.

During Forker’s time here he’s worked to the make the police department more responsive to its residents, and to make his officers more accountable.

“We initiated a program that has our officers walking a beat at least one hour a day. That means they get out of their cars and get out into neighborhoods and talk with citizens,” said Forker.

He also implemented a complaint tracker system used to identify complaints made to the department for things like parking and noise violations. Officers were required to document the actions used to rectify the complaints, and then report back to the to residents what measures officers used to resolve the problem.

His public open door policy came after routine police reports were not being logged properly, and after he learned that what records were being kept under Johnson were locked away from public view.

Forker doesn’t hold any ill will for Johnson, however.

“Chief Johnson was the right man for the job at the time,” explained Forker. “There was a large drug problem in this town, as well as other issues, and he was tasked with responding to that.”

New issues have also arose in the town, as the department will be the first and only in the county to hire and implement a school police resource officer for Dumfries Elementary School following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The move was ordered by the town council, who will also ultimately decide who will replace Forker.

But the whispering wail of retirement is calling him, and Forker plans to hang up his police cap for good come September’s end. He’ll follow his old boss, Chief Charlie T. Deane, who retired from the Prince William County Police Department last fall. He was one of the longest serving police chief’s in the country.

“Chief Deane was an institution in Prince William County. Under him, I learned that if you don’t have the support of your community you could not do your job,” said Forker.

Forker credits the implementation of his community policing strategy with what he learned from Deane.

Forker works hand in hand with his second in charger, Capt. Rebecca Edwards, who came to Dumfries after rising through the ranks a deputy in Spotsylvania County. She could be in line to replace Forker, but wouldn’t say if it’s a job she wanted to take on.

“We’re really going to miss his professionalism and his personality around the station,” said Edwards.

Come September, Forker knows what items will be piling up on his agenda.

“I’m going fishing, and if you can’t find me there I’m probably around the house doing a whole lotta nothin’, and if you can’t find me there you’ll probably find that I’ve gone fishing again,” said Forker.

Small Flakes Mean Measureable Snowfall

[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]
Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

Senior Photographer 

My parents were born in Massachusetts, so if I trust anyone’s prediction of potential snow fall amounts, it would be theirs.

Once when my siblings and I were very young, we were delighted to wake up to see big fat snow flakes falling from the sky. We felt surely this would mean loads of snow.

My mother just smiled, and said that if the snow had started with tiny snow flakes we would have likely got more snow, so go get ready for school!

Sure enough by the time we were dressed for school the snow had all but melted. Through the years my mothers way of predicting measurable snow fall has been right more times than any weather report out there.

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