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George focusing on retaining teachers, hearing residents with and without children in public schools

Opinion 

Less than a month to go and what should a candidate be most concerned about? Getting out to meet as much of the public as possible? Leaving literature when you go door-to-door and no one is home? Where to place my campaign signs so they are not removed or damaged? Many of these concerns headline my campaign, but the Number 1 concern is – How can I ensure that the voters know who I am and what I am all about.

My name is Joseph George, a resident within the Neabsco District, and I wanted to introduce myself to the public. I am a husband of almost 15 years and a father of three wonderful daughters that are currently in their last year of their particular schools (Woodbridge Senior High School, Woodbridge Middle School, and Minnieville Elementary).

I have previously been either a PTO/PTA President or Vice President at Woodbridge Middle School or Minnieville Elementary, as well as either the Chairman or Vice Chairman for Minnieville Elementary’s Principal Advisory Council. In the 2010-2011 school year, I was on all three boards, as the PTA Vice President at Woodbridge Middle School, PTA President at Minnieville Elementary, and Chairman for Minnieville’s Advisory Council (a position I currently still hold).

Additionally, I have been active as a coach for the local softball leagues that my daughters have played in (Prince William Lassie League from 2008-2012 and Prince William Girls Fast Pitch Softball from 2013 to this Fall Season). All the while, I have worked within the Intelligence Community for the Department of Defense (21 years of experience), currently holding the position of Supervisory Criminal Investigative Analyst for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

I do not consider myself a politician or know the “dos and don’ts” of being one. I am a dedicated father that sees an opportunity to take what I have learned at my local schools and athletic fields, and expand them throughout the Neabsco District.

Bill Hosp, the President for the Prince William Federation of Teachers, indicated that the group endorsed my campaign because of “his enthusiasm for the job and because of his past involvement in parent groups at his children’s schools” which many of the teachers and staff I have come across would agree with.

My top priorities as a School Board Representative are: 1) Ensure that we are providing the best education for all of our students, 2) Attempt to keep the most capable teachers within our School District, 3) Ensure that our District members, both parents and tax payers without children in the School District anymore, have a voice on decisions made that impact spending, and 4) Get our communities and businesses involved with their local schools

Every decision will be made with the benefit of the students in mind and I am the type that can work with just about anybody, regardless of political viewpoints. I appreciate Mr. Brower and the PWC NAACP for hosting all of those debates last month, but I felt the panel-style format did not help showcase my viewpoints over my opponent, especially since there was no time for rebuttals, as debates typically have.

What I hope will happen is that a local community group (Dale City Civics Association, Neabsco District Democratic Committee, etc) or news outlet (Potomac Local, InsideNoVA, etc.) would be willing to host a debate for my opponent and myself, so that we can both respond to questions that are of a concern for Neabsco District citizens. Since I feel that I am the best candidate for the students, teachers, administrators, and citizens of the Neabsco District, I am open to a debate, so that there will be little to no doubt with the rest of the voters. Less than a month to go.

Joseph George is running for the Neabsco District seat on the Prince William County School Board.

Gar-Field High School student supports Steve Chapman for Woodbridge Supervisor

Opinion 

At 18, I don’t understand the complexities of politics. It seems to me that a profession that should require the best of man, attracts the worst qualities in man, power hungry, egotistical, selfish.

They call themselves leaders but they use words that divide us. It doesn’t make sense, so why should we be engaged and pay attention?

I don’t think it’s just younger people, I think people in general are tired of politics and tired of politicians. While most politicians may seem the way I described, I think there is someone different in Woodbridge, Steve Chapman.

I volunteer at the front office for a local organization. In the spring, a guy came in with lots of energy. It was Steve Chapman, he was always friendly, remembered my name and would chat for a few minutes whenever he would stop by.

I later learned he was running for Woodbridge Supervisor, my first question was, What is a supervisor and what do they do?

So next time he came in I asked him. He responded with enthusiasm.

“It’s a position that can bring the community together, Supervisors deal with the items that impact your life every day: schools, taxes, traffic, fire, police and development,” he said.

He then shared with me a couple stories from people he met at their doors, and “how a caring supervisor could help improve their quality of life.”

Chapman said that he has to work hard for these people because they deserve better than what they are getting.

Then Steve asked me “What did I want to see changed about our community?”

As a senior at Gar-field High School, no one with any kind of authority had ever asked me my thoughts on matters of significance. I thought, then I told him “I just don’t think people my age feel like they could make a difference”

He followed by asking if I wanted to help him get Woodbridge moving and help get the word out?

I have, I’ve joined Steve in knocking on doors and working at events and also help do some data work. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at the trust he has placed in me, I think Mr. Chapman sees the potential in each of us and wants to bring that energy together to benefit all of us.

That’s the belief that younger people like me need, someone to believe in them, someone to give them a chance so they can make a difference.

It’s been about six months since I first met Steve Chapman, I’ve worked with him, he’s got lots of energy, he listens, he cares, he’s very optimistic and is committed to working hard for all of Woodbridge. Please join me in supporting Steve Chapman for Woodbridge Supervisor November 3.

Increasing at-place employment wages, schools investment, smart growth on Principi’s to-do list

Serving the Woodbridge Magisterial District as your full-time Supervisor for the last eight years has been a privilege and an honor.  

I am thankful for the opportunity that the residents of eastern Woodbridge have given me and I never take for granted the awesome responsibility that is public service. During my time in office, we have accomplished great things together: widening Route 1 to improve safety and reduce travel times; building new schools and classrooms and hiring new teachers to help reduce overcrowded classrooms; and pushing for smart development like Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center while also investing in a new network of sidewalks, bike paths and walking trails.

Even with the progress we’ve made, more remains to be done, and that’s why I’m running for re-election.

Elections offer voters and residents a special opportunity to consider the future direction for their community and what priorities elected officials should focus on. As I’ve traveled Woodbridge, knocking on doors, attending events and speaking with residents, it’s been made abundantly clear: traffic (including mass transit and public transportation), education and maintaining a high quality of life are the most significant issues that continue to require attention.

I’m proud to say we’re moving in a positive direction on each of these while simultaneously bringing new investment to Woodbridge. Over the last four years, here are just a few of our recent accomplishments:

— Making Woodbridge easier to navigate, with widening of Route 1 to six lanes, undergrounding utilities and tearing down blighted buildings, and adding sidewalks, bike lanes, a walking path and a boardwalk at Neabsco Creek.

–Reducing classroom overcrowding by securing funding for the construction of a new Kilby Elementary School and addition of 36 new classrooms in five schools.

–Adding over 1,000 high-paying jobs to eastern Prince William.

–Improving pedestrian safety by securing funding for the construction of sidewalks at seven critical locations, including along Route 1, Dale and Rippon Boulevards, Optiz Boulevard and Blackburn Road.

–Enhancing recreational options, including $4.2 million for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and $1.2 million to add lights, building a skate park and improve turf at Veterans Park.

–Leading the fight to bring Metrorail to Prince William, including support of Congressman Connolly’s effort to initiate a WMATA-funded feasibility study.

-Investing in existing transit options, proposing legislation to preserve OmniLink and OmniRide services.

Our work together is not done. Over the next four years, my focus will be on:

–Continued investment in our schools: new construction, added classrooms and increasing teacher pay in order to retain our best and brightest.

–Integrating better and smarter growth strategies, co-locating similar and complementary businesses to create beneficial hubs and ensuring that developers are held accountable for infrastructure and educational needs created by new projects.

–Attracting growth industries such as green technologies, managed care and military manufacturing, increasing wages and at-place employment for area residents.

–Identifying and securing funding to complete the Route 1 widening and safety project.

–Beginning the planning process for bringing Metrorail to Woodbridge.

–Taking steps to make Fast Ferry service from Woodbridge to the Washington, D.C. metro area a reality.

–Supporting our public safety professionals with the resources they need to protect our residents.

–Continued investment in our green spaces and historical treasures: parks, athletic fields, wetlands, preservation areas, museums and landmarks.

If re-elected as Woodbridge Magisterial District Supervisor, I will continue to work collaboratively with residents, developers, investors and my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to build upon this foundation for a New Woodbridge, further enhancing the quality of life and economic opportunity for all that live and do business in our community.

I ask for your support on November 3, and look forward to serving as your Supervisor for the next 4 years.

For more on the progress happening in the Woodbridge District, along with voting information, please visit frankprincipi.com

Democrat Frank Principi is running for a third term on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors

Singstock is ‘Safe Schools’ candidate

Opinion 

Welcome back to another school year here in Prince William County; I am confident it will be a great one.

My name is Wendy Dempsey. I am a resident of Prince William County and a mother of two Prince William County School students: one is in middle school and the other is in elementary school. We have been in the Prince William County Public School System system going on seven years; I am a strong believer in Prince William County Schools. In 2013, I was appointed by my School Board representative, Loree Williams, to be a member of the Safe Schools Advisory Council.

It was a pleasure meeting Tim Singstock when I attended my first meeting of the Safe Schools Advisory Council (SSAC). The following school year (2014-2015) the SSAC unanimously selected Tim to be our chairman. The SSAC consists of parents and school division staff members. Our meetings are open to the public and held at the Kelly Leadership Building once every month. We discuss safety issues that may need to be brought to the attention of the School Board and the community as a whole.

As Chairman, Tim was in charge of running these meetings and keeping the council focused on the task at hand. Tim respects every member’s position and stays on schedule by starting and ending the meetings on time. Tim not only gives each member time to voice their opinion but he encourages each member to contribute to the conversation.

Tim led our council in two expos during the 2014-2015 school year. The May 2015 Social Media expo at Benton Middle School drew more than 250 parents, teachers and kids. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with parents requesting more events like this in the future. When Tim has something in mind he will deliver with astonishing results.

In our time together serving on the council I have had the opportunity to get to know Tim. He is not only a fellow Prince William County Public School System parent, but he completed his thirteen years of public school here in the county graduating from Potomac high school in 1993. Tim later went on to serve our country as an officer in the U.S. Army where he learned many leadership skills. In 2002 Tim chose to come back to the county he calls home and to the school system that he believes in. This assures me that his passion for the Prince William County Public School System is one of true rarity.

Tim is very passionate about school safety. Tim would like to provide a safe, healthy and drug free learning environment for kids and staff. Having worked with Tim directly, I can see that he understands how to collaborate with other people and build consensus. Tim is “The Safe Schools Candidate.” He will deliver positive results for the families, teachers and children in Prince William County! Please join my family in voting Tim Singstock for School Board Chairman on November 3.

Wendy Dempsey is the Woodbridge District Representative on the Prince William County Safe Schools Advisory Council.

Maureen Caddigan delivered because she listens to her constituents

Opinion 

Maureen Caddigan has served the Potomac District well for many years and continues to persevere on issues of smart growth, age restricted communities, big box stores, schools, parks, regional library, storm water management, transportation, and employment opportunities.

Take a drive along Route 234, Spriggs Road, Cardinal Drive, Route 1 to Quantico and Fuller Heights Road. You will see many of Maureen’s accomplishments.

Quality living communities such as Ashland, Montclair, Four Seasons, Brittany, South Bridge, Potomac Shores, Thomasson Crossing, Stonewall Manor, the town of Quantico to name a few. All of these communities have reached out to Maureen during the planning stages or as they were being developed, time and again, to seek her help in resolving numerous issues that addressed the quality of living.

Quantico Center, one of Prince William County’s largest employment centers, started with a vision of what Maureen realized it could become. Walmart, on Route 1, created a whole new design standard for big box stores because Maureen fought the establishment and changed the rules on which big box stores could be built in Prince William County.

Fortuna Shopping Center and the list of quality stores were the hard work of Maureen as she stood fast and opposed development until she could deliver what the citizens wanted. The American Steak House in Ashland, is another great negotiation that Maureen delivered because she listens to her constituents and delivered what was needed and what she promised.

When Maureen entered office as a supervisor, there were 41 schools in Prince William County, today there are 98 schools. Drive around the Potomac District and you will see quality schools.

Most are schools of excellence.” Quality schools come from quality neighborhoods. Maureen taught me this early on in my service to her as a planning commissioner. Libraries, parks, and schools are centers of community.

Maureen paved the way to enable the Marine Corp Museum, Fuller Heights Park, and the Montclair Regional library to be built and strengthen our communities within the Potomac District. Route 1 expansion and the Potomac Shores Town Center with the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Station, Route 234 and Quantico intersections are all part of Maureen’s vision.

The ground breaking of the Park Complex at Potomac Shores on 10 October is another example of Maureen’s vision and the community’s desire to provide the largest sports center on the eastern side of Prince William County. Maureen was instrumental in negotiating all the needs and desires of the Potomac Community, John Paul High School, and Prince William County Schools. When the project is complete, Prince William County will have a recreational complex that will be the model for other counties to obtain.

I will finish with this one last thought. When a constituent walks into Maureen Caddigan’s Office, she doesn’t ask if you are a Republican or a Democrat, she always greets you with a smile and asks, “How can I help you?” I have learned well from Maureen that families grow strong from good communities and good communities grow strong by great leadership. Maureen truly is a Great Leader.

Rene Fry is serves as the Potomac District representative on the Prince William County Planning Commission. He is appointed to that role by Maureen Caddigan, by vote of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. 

Tolls on I-66 are not the answer

Opinion 

Western Prince William County is a wonderful place to live. We chose to live here because we love the sense of community and the cost of living is lower.

Many other families chose this area for similar reasons. When we moved to Gainesville over a decade ago, traffic was challenging, but not impossible.

Over the years, it has continued to get worse and the commute gradually takes more time from our families. Now VDOT is discussing the possibility of tolls on I-66, removing the exemption for HOV-2, and retiring the Clean Special Fuel plate exemption.

Many working-class families who live here left the inside-the-beltway world of higher taxes and cost of living and we can’t afford an extra $85 a week just to get to work. I oppose any effort to toll the lanes on I-66, to remove the exemption for HOV-2, or to retire the Clean Special Fuel plate exemption.

I encourage you to join me and the 66 Alliance, of which I’ve been a member since the second week of its existence, and stand for the tens of thousands of commuters who use I-66 each week.

There are better ways to reduce congestion and improve our commutes. In 2013, the General Assembly passed a bipartisan transportation bill that was intended to address some of the costs of transportation in Northern VA.

Let’s push for full implementation of the bill rather than jumping to implement an onerous toll that will take even more money out of commuters’ pockets. Our solutions must be numerous; there is no one way to fix our traffic problem.

We must extend the VRE to Haymarket, explore bus rapid transit, and study metro extension to our area. But most importantly, we must create a business-friendly environment that brings high-paying jobs to Prince William County.

The fastest way to get cars off the road is to bring the jobs to where we live. Tolls are not the answer. Don Shaw is the Democratic nominee running for Delegate in the 13th House of Delegates District. 

Don Shaw is a Democrat running for the 13th District Virginia House of Delegates seat.

Millennials should support Ruth Anderson this November

Opinion

Prince William County is made up of close to half a million people.

Millennials (people born between 1980-2000) make up 23% of that population, though at the polls in an election year you wouldn’t know we existed. In a Presidential year, we are underrepresented, and in an off-year state and local election like this one, we might as well not exist.

So, I am writing to every 18 to 35-yearold living in the Occoquan District. Whether you went to Osbourn Park, Woodbridge, or Gar-Field Senior High School, whether you went away for college or went to NOVA, or whether you are a transplant to the area, I encourage you to check out Ruth Anderson to be our Supervisor who will work hard to represent us in local government matters.

Over 60% of millennials are not affiliated with a political party. They base their judgments on a candidates ideas.

As a long-time resident of Occoquan, Ruth is a candidate with a great platform and ideas that will benefit us (the Millennials), as well as the rest of the residents of our area. She is the only candidate I have heard talk about ways to keep Millennials in Prince William instead of having us move elsewhere. She wants to “bring Prince William home.” That’s her campaign theme and her driving message, something she learned from numerous communities she’s lived in while moving around the country during a 21-year military career.

Ruth wants to bring more “living wage” jobs to Prince William County so people can actually work where they live, spend less time commuting, and spend more time with their families. I know so many young professionals who spend so much of their time making that hike to their place of employment that will actually pay the bills, including that student loan.

She is going to do this by advocating for the phase-out of the Business, Professions, Occupations License (BPOL) tax. She’ll also push for a balanced mix of commercial and residential properties so businesses have space to set up shop. She also wants to set aside “enterprise zones” to be hubs for millennial entrepreneurs.

With Ruth’s emphasis on encouraging more living wage jobs in Prince William County, Millennials will benefit in so many ways. It will take some of the tax burden off the backs of residents and put it on businesses. She also wants to make core government services (police, schools, firefighters) stateoftheart enterprises that will be supported by the new businesses (which will also keep professionals and Millennials in Prince William County).

I challenge every Millennial (and anyone who reads this article for that matter) to take out their cell phone and look up Ruth Anderson, right now, on her website, Facebook, or Twitter. Make a decision on who you want to work hard for your local community, right here in Occoquan. This Millennial wants someone who is going to implement policies that will encourage and support my desire for a better work/life balance.

That candidate is Ruth Anderson and I will be voting for her on November 3.

Jacob Mosser is a lifelong resident of Prince William County and works as a substitute teacher in Prince William County.

We need to house police in the same building with social services staff to help victims, witnesses

Opinion 

Over the past decade, our local government, through its land use decisions and budget process, has created an infrastructure deficit that continues to have significant impacts on our quality of life as residents and our ability to entice businesses to bring more high-paying jobs to our community.

That infrastructure doesn’t just include roads – it’s also schools, public transportation, parks and libraries. These services, and their need for greater support and investment, frequently get the media coverage and attention they deserve.

One that doesn’t, however, and is of critical importance to our community, is the Prince William County Police Department. In 2008, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors adopted a public safety plan that included recommended staffing levels of two sworn officers per 1,000 residents. But as the population in our community continues to grow, our police department hasn’t grown with it. In fact, it isn’t even close.

At the end of 2011, our department had 571 sworn officers, which put staffing at just over 68% of the level mandated by the Board. My opponent for chairman claims that we’ve added new officers significantly during his tenure. But the reality is that over the four years ending in 2014, only a net of 22 additional sworn officers were added despite significant population growth.

Because of that growth, instead of being 267 officers short of meeting the public safety guidelines, we’re 287 officers behind or 67% of where the Board states that should be. In other words, our department is not gaining ground but losing it.

While it is certainly true that overall crime rates have declined in Prince William County overall for the last 20 years, and that’s certainly a good thing, the decline isn’t necessarily attributable to police staffing. Many different economic and demographic factors affect crime rates.

The real cause for concern is the safety of our police officers and their ability to perform important proactive services such as crime prevention and community outreach instead of focusing strictly on reactive policing. Make no mistake; we have a tremendous group of officers at all levels in our police department who want to be more proactive. But they simply don’t have the staffing or support they need to prioritize these functions.

The Board of County Supervisors needs to be more creative and forward-thinking in terms of creating opportunities for our officers and county staff to work better with our citizens. One example that has been suggested by police officers but found no support is the creation of a Victim/Witness Advocacy Center in our community. The concept is to house officers in the same building with Social Services staff to provide victims of and witnesses to crimes a more welcoming environment in which to interact with law enforcement. We know that there are crimes that go unreported. And we know that some witnesses are leery of coming forward to share valuable information that can help solve crimes.

It makes perfect sense to reallocate staff, without added expense to taxpayers, in a way that helps our officers do their jobs and makes residents more willing to come forward. Our community deserves this, and it is time for the Board to make it happen. Our police officers need our support. They need to be paid competitively and offered the benefits warranted to them based on the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

This year, the 401a program was reinstated for local government employees. But the 0.5% they were offered as a match for retirement was nothing more than a slap in the face to hard-working county employees, particularly when considering that departments were told to “find the money” within their existing budgets.

A few hundred dollars a year for retirement for folks who risk their lives on our behalf is unacceptable. It is completely irresponsible to continue to claim that we value public safety but refuse to invest in the people who keep us safe. We owe it to ourselves, and especially our children, to make public safety a top priority. That means investing in our officers.

Our department should reflect the diversity in our county, and we need to do more to ensure that our officers can not only work but also live in our community. It will make us safer, and help bring us together.

Rick Smith is a candidate for Chairman of the Prince William board of supervisors.

Corporations don’t settle in Prince William due to overcrowded schools

Opinion 

When I moved to Prince William County in 1972, the population was 111,000. Today, we have almost 450,000 neighbors.

The County has had monumental growing pains in the interim with a need to build an infrastructure of roads, schools, and County services to this enormous population growth. Our population is 60,000 more than the City of Cleveland and more than twice the size of the City of Richmond.

Corey Stewart has been Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors for almost ten years. In order to fund his election campaigns, he has raised almost $1 million from real estate developers.

Right now, we have some 30,000 homes in the pipeline. As a result, taxpayers will have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build new schools.

As Democratic candidate for Chairman of the Board Rick Smith points out, we have one of the largest class sizes in the Washington area. Our teachers are among the lowest paid, and we are among the lowest in per capita aid to education.

We are in a vicious cycle. Some 78% of county expenses come from real estate taxes. And unlike Cleveland, Richmond, and most other large cities, we have little commercial development that other areas have to help support local government costs.

Against these enormous odds, there must be a change in this vicious cycle. Corporations do not settle in Prince William due in large part, to overcrowded schools.

Rick Smith has some fresh ideas to address our problems. We need a change before we drown in debt and contingent liabilities.

Rick has been a resident of the county for over 35 years. His agenda is to address gridlock on our roads, strengthen our schools and improve the environment to attract new businesses and higher paying jobs to Prince William.

On November 3, please consider casting your vote for Rick Smith for Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.

We don’t need charter schools in Prince William County

Opinion 

As we enter the final few weeks of campaign season, it is important to remember that we have a great school system in Prince William County.

Charter schools certainly have merit for some parts of the country but we don’t need them here in Prince William County. My campaign platform in 2015 focuses on class size reduction, competitive teacher pay and safe schools.

These are the issues that matter to Prince William County’s parents and educators. Charter schools are helping economically disadvantaged kids in places like Washington, D.C., Houston, and New York City; we cannot deny this fact.

Charter schools are not a panacea for all struggling public school systems (ours not included) but they do offer innovative and responsive solutions to student needs. It is not fair that the quality of a child’s education is sometimes determined by their zip code.

This is why charters enjoy bi-partisan support including Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and even President Barrack Obama (Politifact.com, 2015).

With that being said, we have a great school system here in Prince William County. Our staff is hard-working and dedicated; they love their jobs and they love our kids.

We have diverse specialty programs empowering our high school students with choice and educational diversity. Every school in Prince William County has an innovative robotics program teaching our young people to think critically and work together to solve problems.

The business, faith-based and civic communities in Prince William County are eager to partner with our school system. Through partnerships, we build a stronger school system and better Prince William County.

With such a great community and school system, we don’t need charter schools in Prince William County. My family moved to Prince William County in 1979. I am a proud product of Prince William County Schools.

Counting my kids, my siblings, my mom who worked as a school librarian and myself, my family has 70 collective school years and counting in Prince William County Schools. I love this community and want to give back to the school system that has given so much to my family and me.

While necessary in some parts of the country, charter schools are not on my agenda. 

Having the highest student to teacher ratios in the state is not ‘world class’

Every seated school board member and candidate in Prince William County readily agrees our class sizes are too big. Having the highest student to teacher ratios in the state is not “world class.” It is disgraceful.

In the 2015 Superintendent’s Budget presentation Dr. Walt’s stated, “Lowering class sizes by one is not likely to lead to clear and measurable improvements in test results. But it will provide teachers and students with increased one-on-one time.”

Indeed after two years of various reduction plans, such as decreasing 9th grade math classes by one student, our teachers are seeing little to no improvement. Many report their class sizes and caseloads have increased this year and none have had increased one on one time with students.

Out of control class sizes, lowest teacher pay and student performance in the region are symptoms of greater illness. Treating these issues with quick, last minute poorly planned and implemented Band-Aid’s will not be effective.

To cure the symptoms our School Board must be committed to treating the cause. The cause is a lack of priorities. Our current administration has not developed a comprehensive plan and without one our division has been planning to fail.

If we are serious about the educational success of our children, class size reduction cannot be the last line item funded. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that a one size fits all solution is not going to work for our large and diverse school division.

As your elected School Board Chairperson I will bring parents, teachers and administrators together to set an appropriate course. Together we will establish objectives, annual goals and form a comprehensive 10 year plan. Its successful implementation will incorporate the input, buy in and continuous evaluation by our teachers.

Plans made in a vacuum, without consulting the latest research or educational experts, such as those made by Tim Singstock, are careless and will result in waste that PWCS can ill afford. Politicians, like Ryan Sawyers, who claim they will demand unlimited funding, display an enormous misunderstanding of the School Board’s authority.

Prioritizing funding for reduction will require team work, commitment and determination. This is what I am offering. I am not a politician; my interest is in education and the future of our children.

Tracy Conroy is a candidate for Prince William County School Board Chairman.

Reeder right for Prince William County School Board

Opinion 

Every year at back to school night, teachers like myself are required to show a promotional video which boasts that Prince William County schools are “world class.”

Having taught in the school system for seven years now, I can assure you, we are far from achieving such a lofty title.

For the last several years, the funding level provided by the Board of County Supervisors to the School Board has been inadequate to support the needs of our growing school-aged population. Teachers are underpaid (compared to neighboring counties and municipalities) and we do not have the resources (technology, classroom space, etc.) to provide a “world class” education to our students.

We need more School Board members who understand the needs our teachers and students and are willing to negotiate on an annual basis with the Board of County Supervisors to advocate for increased funding to meet the critical needs of our school division, such as hiring additional teachers and investing in infrastructure (new buildings, upgrading existing facilities).

Our school system has been on life support for many years now and the only way to bring it back to life and make it “world class” is to find someone with the educational background and financial acumen to lead the School Board in the right direction. That is why I am supporting Bill Reeder, who is running for School Board in the Coles Magisterial District.

Here is why I think Bill is the best candidate for the job. Bill is running as an independent. The two parties are so wrapped up in partisan bickering that education issues often get neglected. Bill and I may not agree on every political issue, but we do agree that investing in our education system is a top priority for the county.

Bill has no future political aspirations. His sole interest in joining the Board is to ensure that our county is properly investing in its future — our children. Bill is very knowledgeable about many education issues.

Unfortunately, many candidates running for office are not educated about education issues. Stump speeches on education tend to address “reducing class sizes” or “eliminating toxic SOL testing.” Beyond those two issues, there is very little knowledge or substance.

Bill not only understands the problems we face, but he actually proposes sound and logical solutions to those problems. As a math teacher, I appreciate a candidate who is willing to walk through the steps necessary to solve complicated problems.

Bill is a statesman. He has good relationships with folks on both ends of the political spectrum. He is well-respected in our community. When he talks, people listen.

I am confident that he will bring people together on the School Board and will not fall prey to divisive political antics of Democrats or Republicans on the Board. Bill cares about teachers. When I first met with him, we discussed the current state of our school system and brainstormed ideas about how to tackle some of the problems plaguing our school system.

He has since met with several of my teacher friends and had similar discussions. I appreciate a candidate willing to hear first-hand testimony. Bill has his ear to the ground and he is listening. Bill has fresh ideas and the long-term vision to make our education system truly “world class.”

I strongly encourage my friends who live in the Coles District to vote for Bill Reeder on November 3. Our students need him. Our teachers need him. And our county needs him.

Ebert built sound reputation, has extensive knowledge and trial experience

Opinion

I wish to take this opportunity to heartily endorse Paul B. Ebert for reelection as the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Prince William County.

Mr. Ebert has dedicated his life to his chosen profession. He has built a solid foundation by skillfully and professionally prosecuting some of the most heinous, complex and highly-publicized crimes of our times.

Paul Ebert has proven over a long and distinguished career in public service to Prince William County that he is a leader among his peers in Virginia and the U.S. During my tenure as a detective investigating violent crimes in Prince William County and as Chief of Police, I could not have asked for a more skilled and professional partner.

Paul Ebert built a sound reputation by adapting to the ever-changing world of law enforcement in the 21st century and by working with victims and advocating for the rights that all victims deserve. He continues to attract and train his diverse staff to use common sense and to apply fair and reasonable standards when making important prosecutorial decisions.

These decisions, which often have a tremendous impact on individual victims and the fabric of our community, require the high level of transparency and accessibility provided by Mr. Ebert’s office. The extensive knowledge and trial experience held by Paul Ebert cannot be overstated.

Prince William County is very fortunate to have such an effective leader in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Paul Ebert has always been a steadfast partner to law enforcement and is a true leader in his profession. I strongly endorse his reelection as the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County. 

Prince William losing out to Fairfax, Stafford on local jobs

Opinion 

If you live in Prince William County, the unfortunate reality is that, like the vast majority of us, you probably don’t also work in Prince William County.  

Sadly, we simply don’t have nearly enough high-paying jobs in our community to provide our residents with competitive salaries as compared to Washington and our neighboring counties. The average annual salary for jobs in Prince William County is $46,000 per year.  

Just across the Occoquan River in Fairfax County, the average salary is $82,000. Now, some may argue that the disparity between Prince William and Fairfax is natural considering the latter’s closer proximity to Washington. But we’ve also been passed by Stafford and Fauquier Counties in average wages — and they aren’t closer.  

In fact, our local government’s most recent economic report states “Prince William County has outpaced regional, state and national economies in business and job growth over the last five years but has lagged behind the state and region for at-place average weekly wage growth since 2009.” Simply put, we’re not only behind our neighbors — we continue to lose ground.

Much of the problem is due to the jobs we currently have in Prince William County and continue to attract. Other than local government, the sectors with the largest number of jobs in our community are Construction, Retails Sales and Accommodation and Food Services. Jobs in these areas tend to offer lower salaries than many others, and yet these sectors were the three with the most new jobs in Prince William County last year.  

Make no mistake, these industries offer honorable work. But they don’t pay enough to keep our residents from leaving the County for jobs. Our local companies lose daytime business to other jurisdictions. Our local government loses sales tax receipts. And, most importantly, those of us who commute outside of Prince William lose precious time that we could spend with our loved ones.

What seems to be forgotten at times is the fact that we’re in the midst of stiff competition with our localities to bring businesses to our community. To win, we have to offer a better value proposition than neighboring counties. And right now, that’s a tough sell. Ask yourself this: What major business would choose to relocate to a community with the most overcrowded classrooms in the Commonwealth of Virginia?  

And make no mistake, the quality of schools is one of the most important criteria businesses consider when determining where to locate. This is the case for two reasons: First, businesses look for a built-in, ready-made workforce with the knowledge and skills to do the job. Second, they want to ensure that their workers’ children have access to high-quality education as an added benefit.  

Beyond the school system, there are many other important considerations. Transportation infrastructure, particularly public transportation, is vital. And yet, we’re looking at a huge shortfall for PRTC funding that may mean elimination of local bus service, and the current Board refuses to even study bringing Metro to our County. Finally, the local government has to have earned a reputation for being both business-friendly and welcoming of a diverse population. Unfortunately, neither of these are the case in Prince William.

As I talk to business leaders both in and out of our County, the recurring theme is that it takes too long to get things done. Be it permits, inspections or other needed services, our efficiency simply doesn’t measure up to that of other local governments.  

Sadly, the anti-immigrant demagoguery by the current Chairman that consumed our community back in 2007 hasn’t been forgotten and continues to reflect badly on our community.

We can’t change this dynamic overnight. But we can send a message to our region that we’re ready as a community to change it. Solving our problems with education and transportation will take time and effort.  

Rebuilding our reputation can start with some changes in policies, procedures and, most importantly, leadership. I believe that leading the charge on economic development and high-wage job growth is the Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors’ most important responsibility.

Democrat Rick Smith is running against Republican Corey Stewart for Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large.

Chapman asks Democrats to reconsider Prince William Committee of 100 debate boycott

Opinion

While Supervisors are nominated by a political party, there is no place for partisanship in local politics, speed bumps, pot holes, traffic, sidewalks and bike trails are neither republican nor democrat.

Partisanship divides, segregates,  chooses winners and losers. Woodbridge residents I’ve talked to, over 3,500 so far, look to their supervisor to work hard in their best interest, and get things done, not play small, petty partisan politics.

Woodbridge has many beautiful cultures but lacks a sense of community. The current supervisor is not engaged, involved with people, so largely we are not that engaged with each other. If the supervisor doesn’t lead the effort to care for and remove trash in the streets and blighted buildings that should be torn down, who will?

Our hometown has atrophied the last decade with increased traffic and poor planning, the residents have lost confidence and believe, sadly, what we have is status quo.

The election is less than two months away, right now voters have their interest piqued and are wanting to make an educated decision on who will best represent their interests. Debates and communication are an important function of this process, as a candidate for Woodbridge Supervisor I’ve looked forward to debates. I’ve looked forward to asking the questions the voters have not got answers to.

While other races have received invites up to six debates, I have been invited to 1 debate hosted and by the NAACP yesterday at Garfield Senior High School. Woodbridge deserves more opportunity to meet and see their next Supervisor.

Every election year (yes, Virginia has an election every year) the Committee of 100 hosts debates.  While their members have their own political bias, they come together and host debates in a bipartisan manner. The organization is truly a treasure to our county.

Earlier this year their current President Jim Young made several insensitive, offensive comments on his private Facebook account, no one is disagreeing with that. The comments were offensive to all political stripes. 

Sadly, the local democrats are using his offensive remarks as an opportunity to keep the community in the dark by refusing to attend the Committee of !00 debates.

I for one am someone who works to bring the community together, I look for cooperation and look for solutions, to me, voter involvement and education is more important than small, divisive partisan politics. As a concerned citizen, voter, father, Rotarian, business owner, sport coach, ESOL teacher and a candidate for Woodbridge Supervisor, I ask Democrats to reconsider their partisan position do what is best for all citizens and participate in the Committee of 100 debates.

Editor’s note: Steve Chapman is running on the Republican ticket to unseat Frank Principi as Woodbridge District Supervisor.

Prince William Democrats won’t stand for free speech

Opinion 

In my opinion, Harry Wiggins’ Op-Ed Letter of September 10 misses the issue at hand and badly.

I’ve known Harry on a personal level for many years and I consider him a friend, however his letter is a red herring. James Young’s election as President of the Committee of 100, on a slated ballot for which Harry and many Democrats voted for, is not the issue.

James Young’s positions are and have been widely known for many years prior to his “venomous letter” to which Harry and the Democrats take issue. They should have anticipated this type matter might arise with Mr. Young in that position and should have spoken in opposition to his nomination on that slate.

But Harry knew better that a political opportunity would probably present itself and that as Prince William County Democratic Chair, he could then use that opportunity for the benefit of the Democrats. That’s the hidden issue in the present matter. The real issue Harry disguises is the right to free speech as guaranteed in the 1st Amendment.

I am not defending the words Jim Young used. Not even close.

He is no fan of me either and probably despises the very ground I walk on. But I will defend his right to free speech.

Many years ago I heard someone say words to the effect that “If we want free speech, we have to acknowledge the right of a man whose words make your blood boil, shouting at the top of his lungs words you’d spend a lifetime opposing at the top of your lungs. That folks, is free speech”.

Jim Young’s words made many peoples blood boil. But they were his words, not those of the Committee of 100.

Harry Wiggins admits he forbade all Democrats from speaking at any political event connected with the C-100. In my opinion, the C-100 is the Gold Standard for community discussion in election years.

Harry Wiggins and the Democrats have taken away the right of citizens to hear candidates for public office to hear opposing points of view because they didn’t like the words of James Young. That folks, is not free speech. That folks, is not defending the rights of citizens not concerned with the position of James Young.

It also proves beyond any doubt that all Prince William County Democratic candidates for public office are in fact totally controlled by the Prince William County Democratic Party and will do whatever the Prince William County Democratic Party tells them to do when they are in office. And that folks, is not Democracy.

I always fought for public schools

Opinion

On September 3, I had the opportunity to attend the Roundtable Discussion at Brooke Point High School with Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Education, Anne Holton.  The event took place in the brand new library – a high-tech learning space to foster collaboration and innovation among students. The takeaway from the discussion with 20+ parents that morning was that investing in teachers, reducing classroom size, and bringing innovation back into our schools will build a more prosperous Virginia for us all.

These parents made it abundantly clear that we must reform the SOLs. As one parent mentioned, previous generations sent a man to the moon and they never took a single SOL test.  We need to empower teachers to be creative and innovative in the classroom again.

Parents described the negative experiences of their children when they are stuck in overcrowded classrooms.  Fewer students in the classroom enable greater conversation and better exchange of ideas.

Several parents recounted how difficult it is for parents to be involved in their children’s schools, when they spend so much time fighting traffic to and from work everyday.

These parents also explained the importance of teachers having ongoing support through professional mentoring, skills training, and the chance to learn from one another.

Based on what these parents said, investing our schools must be our top priority.

Public education has seen a 17% reduction in state funding since 2008, while our student population continues to grow. Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 37th in the nation – $7,456 below the national average. When I served as the Aquia District Supervisor in Stafford County, I always fought for public schools. When Richmond told us they weren’t going to fully fund the Standards of Quality (SOQs), which covers the basics in our schools, I staged a bi-partisan protest outside the Stafford Administration Building because we deserve better for our kids.

I ask for your vote on November 3rd because elections matter. I want to go to Richmond and champion public education. Our ability to build a more prosperous Virginia in the future depends on the quality of public education today.

*Kandy Hilliard is a former member of the Stafford Board of Supervisors and is currently running for the 28th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Singstock would use military values to lead Prince William County School Board

Opinion 

As Prince William County tackles the various issues affecting our schools, the residents in this community deserve a School Board Chairman with leadership experience, values, integrity, and a proven record of success.

They also deserve someone they can trust. Tim Singstock’s leadership skills and sense of public service are rooted in the greatest institution in our nation, the United States military.

As an officer in the U.S. Army, Tim developed and honed his leadership skills right out of college, and he carries those skills with him today. They include: Sense of duty. Tim served his country as an Army officer and remains a devoted public servant, putting the needs of his Nation and his community first. He will continue to do this as School Board Chairman. Honesty.

Honesty is a core value of every Army officer, and Tim has already proven himself to be an open and honest candidate on the campaign trail. As Chairman, Tim will be honest with his school board colleagues, teachers, principals, and parents throughout Prince William County.

Integrity. Army officers are taught to do what’s right, even when it’s not easy. Tim brings a high degree of integrity to the School Board, and as Chairman, he will not let what’s easy prevent him from doing what’s right. Leadership.

Army officers are groomed to be leaders of America’s fighting men and women. Tim has chaired the Safe Schools Advisory Council for the past two years. As Chairman, he will help the School Board prioritize the top issues facing our schools and find solutions to the most pressing problems.

Loyalty. Army officers are loyal to their Nation, their soldiers, and to their families by demonstrating a willingness to make personal sacrifices and devoting their time and talent. Tim’s loyalty is unquestioned, and as Chairman he will devote thousands of hours of his time and talent to willingly serve the students, families, and our professional educators in Prince William County. Discipline.

The military requires its officers to be disciplined – focused on the tasks at hand, and always a student of their craft. As Chairman, Tim will instill discipline in the conduct of School Board business. He is also willing to learn new ideas from students, parents, and teachers. Cooperation.

Winning wars requires cooperation with other U.S. military units, and allies. In both the military and the business world, Tim has used his skills in cooperation to get things done.

As Chairman, Tim will bring this critical skill to the School Board and ensure cooperation with the Board of County Supervisors, our legislators in Richmond, the local business community, and his constituents: the students, parents, and teachers in Prince William County.

Tim Singstock brings valuable personal and professional qualities that the residents of Prince William County deserve in a School Board Chairman. Tim’s qualities will make him a School Board Chairman we can trust to do what is right for the students, parents, and teachers in Prince William County.

Editor’s note: Tim Singstock is running against Tracy Conroy and Ryan Sawyers to become the next Prince William County School Board Chairman. Voters will head to the polls Nov. 3.

Foreman for delegate: We reduced property taxes by over 50%

Opinion 

One of the main reasons I decided to run for Dumfries Town Council in 2010 was that I was tired of sitting on the sidelines while local home  values plummeted, property taxes and several additional fees were raised, and the local governing body seemed determined to make Dumfries  less and less competitive with our neighbors.

In 2009 – the year before I ran for office – the Town Council nearly doubled the local property tax rate, approved more borrowing, increased Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) rates 10% across the board, increased vehicle tag fees, doubled the cigarette tax and  hiked storm water management fees. With Northern Virginia residents besieged by plummeting wages and non-existent economic growth, the  last thing government should be doing is adding to their burden by raising taxes and fees that allow government to continue spending without regard for the economic and fiscal realities we are all facing.

After winning a seat on Town Council in May 2010 and taking office in July 2010, I set about to return our tax and fee amounts to pre-FY2010 levels. After being elected Mayor in 2012 and re-elected in 2014, I have accelerated my efforts to push for tax and fee relief on home and  business owners. This is a pledge I made on the campaign trail, and as a 25-year Marine, my word is incredibly important to me. Entering politics wasn’t about to change that.

I am proud to report that over the course of the FY12, FY13, FY14 and FY15 budgets, we have successfully reduced the property tax rate by  over 50%, and will reduce it again in the FY16 budget back to pre-FY10 levels. I instructed the Town Manager to conduct a zero-based budget review, and we have continually lowered the BPOL, as well as the vehicle tag fee and the cigarette tax.

Dumfries businesses fees are now equal  to or lower than the Prince William County and Stafford County fees in every category. More importantly, we did all this while increasing the town’s rainy-day surplus fund in case of emergencies and not eliminating any services to our residents and business owners.

Now I am running for Senate to use the success we’ve enjoyed in Dumfries as a blueprint for how to make our state more affordable and competitive. A key to our success in Dumfries is shedding political party politics and working together for a common cause. As Mayor I have built a budget that aligns with county, state and federal programs, in this way our residents and business owners are not taxed unnecessarily. Likewise, I will work with county and local elected officials in both parties to ensure that programs created in Richmond are truly having the local impact intended.

In contrast, my opponent, five plus year-current Delegate Scott Surovell is a supporter of bigger and more expansive government. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, that means taking more revenue from taxpayers to pay for it. Unfortunately, policies like these are what’s making us  less competitive economically and less affordable for young families and seniors. The proof? The U.S. Department of Commerce recently  reported that the commonwealth’s economic growth was zero percent  in 2014, and not much better in the several years prior to that.

It’s clear to voters and business owners we need a new approach to doing business in Richmond. Open dialogue, accessibility, transparency, and collaboratively working with all government agencies is working in Dumfries, and I am eager to apply the same concepts at the state level if you honor me with your vote Nov. 3, 2015.

Gerald “Jerry” Foreman is Mayor of the Town of Dumfries and seeks a seat in the 36th District Virginia State Senate. 

Why Democrats will not particpate in Prince William Committee of 100 candidate forums

Opinion 

As many know, the Prince William Democratic candidates for this November’s General Election are not participating in any forum, debate, etc, hosted by, sponsored by, or co-hosted by the Prince William Committee of 100.

This was a unanimous decision by all 27 Democrats running for office in Prince William. The reason?

Shortly after being elected President of the Committee of 100, James Young posted a venomous attack on homosexuals. Mr. Young is, of course, entitled to his political views, and he need not forfeit them simply because he is president of the Committee of 100.

He is free to publicly oppose gay marriage, adoption of children by gay couples, and a host of other policies targeting homosexuals. His rant, however, was not a political policy statement, but a hateful and vitriolic assault on homosexuals as people, employing the type of language that has been used in the past to both provoke and rationalize violence against them.

It was not only an offense to common decency, but totally inappropriate for the president of an organization devoted to civil discussion of issues. It is now simply impossible for a gay person to feel that they are welcome in the Committee of 100.

The organization’s application might as well now read “Homosexuals Need Not Apply.” When I first learned of Young’s public tirade, I called him and reminded him that historically the Committee has been open and accepting of anyone and that his rant as the face of the Committee will undoubtedly have repercussions.

The solution was relatively simple: Mr. Young need not resign as president, but he should apologize for the language he used. Subsequently, I resigned as Treasurer of the Committee, as did the Vice President and several other members of the boards; numerous others will not be renewing their memberships this month.

The Committee of 100 has served Prince William valuably for more than 25 years, hosting programs and candidate fora, and for candidates who have been active in the Committee this has been a particularly sad development. Unfortunately Mr. Young has singlehandedly tainted the organization and no candidate felt they could in good conscience implicitly support an organization whose leader has so viciously attacked our family members, friends, and others in our community

Speech is free, but not without consequences, and it would be intolerable if comparable language was used to describe African-Americans, Jews, Latinos, Muslims, or other minority groups – it is intolerable in this instance as well.

We can only hope that the Committee of 100 will someday return to its mission as a place for the civil discussion of important issues. The good news for voters in the meantime is that numerous organizations are sponsoring debates this year with ample opportunity for the voters to hear candidate’s positions on the issues facing Prince William County in an environment where everyone is welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.

 

More access to clean solar power for Virginians

Opinion

Last week, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved an innovative solar program proposed by Dominion Resources, a project that will enhance consumer choices and facilitate clean, renewable energy production for many Virginians.

As Virginia implements the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the state’s utilities  need to transition to systems that reduce carbon emissions and deliver reliable, affordable power to  homes and businesses.

Carbon-based energy sources like coal are the largest contributors to global climate change. Traditional fossil fuels can also produce mercury and ozone pollution.  We have some of the unfortunate consequences of coal-powered electricity right here in Northern Virginia.  At Possum Point near Dumfries and Quantico in Prince William County, there are coal ash dumps in the form of five ponds near the Potomac River.  Coal ash is well known to leech lead, boron and hexavalent chromium into ground water. This type of “storage” can also result in massive pollution spills. 

Natural gas is another alternative, but it too emits carbon dioxide when burned.  And producing natural gas by fracking is well-documented to cause ground water pollution and can even cause water to catch on fire.  In addition, the infrastructure to transport natural gas requires pipelines and condemnation or forfeiture of private property. 

Solar energy does not have these shortcomings.  Due to declining manufacturing costs as factories achieve economies of scale, solar power has increasingly become the preferred energy source of choice for many homes, businesses and utilities.  Solar also promotes individual freedom as Virginians can live off the grid and produce their own power on their own terms. 

Unfortunately, existing Virginia law only allows a customer to net the energy generated by a solar panel directly against a meter connected to the panel.  This means that solar is not available to everyone. 

Solar is usually not economical for homes in neighborhoods with significant tree cover.  Also, it is usually not available if you do not own your roof, such as apartment or condominium buildings.  Most businesses hesitate to make a significant investment in solar if they do not own their roof and most landlords are not incentivized to install solar because the tenants pay the electrical bills.   

Making solar more available

Given these obstacles, one solution I have championed over the last six years has been what’s commonly referred to as community solar or “solar gardens.”   Some states allow groups of consumers or businesses to pool their capital, construct solar panels on a third party’s property and then collectively net the energy generated by the panels against their individual meters.  This is a net win for individuals, businesses and the third party who can receive more return on their property.  However, Virginia’s investor-owned utilities have consistently opposed this because it undermines their monopoly. 

Because of our pressure, Dominion recently received approval to construct two megawatts of solar panels which they will resell to consumers and businesses in 100 kilowatt (kw) chunks for approximately $4 per month.  Each consumer or business will be allowed to purchase up to 400kw.  This means that customers in Dominion’s territory will be able to purchase solar energy and net it against their home meter. 

Last March, I was proud to partner with Dominion in announcing their application for SCC approval.  On August 7, 2015, the SCC approved this plan. Dominion can now move forward.

While I still believe that the best solution is allowing groups of individuals or businesses to do this independently, Dominion’s program is a great advance that will provide consumers with more choices and the ability to choose less-polluting, renewable energy if their homes or businesses are not ideally suited.

You can read the SCC’s approval order and Dominion’s “Frequently Asked Questions” flyer about this program at scottsurovell.blogspot.com

*Delegate Scott Surovell is currently running for Virginia’s 36th Senate district seat.

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