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Letters

Anderson: Why I Voted No on Transportation Deal

By RICHARD ANDERSON
R-Delegate, Prince William County

I am typing these words at my General Assembly desk in Richmond about a crucial vote on transportation that we took on Friday, February 22.

This crucial vote concerned final passage of HB2313 (the House-Senate Transportation Bill originally submitted by Gov. McDonnell, amended by a House-Senate Conference Committee, and put before the House for a vote on Friday). By the time we saw the amended bill, HB2313 has changed dramatically since it left Gov. McDonnell’s desk. Although it passed by a final vote of 60-40, I voted no on this bill, along with five other Prince William County delegates. As a Prince William delegate to the General Assembly, I feel a strong sense of accountability to our citizens and wish to explain my vote.

Despite the reality that the transportation needs of the Commonwealth require additional new funding for construction of new roadways and maintenance of existing roads, I felt that this bill levied a heavy fiscal burden on our neighbors in Prince William County. Washington’s solution to our challenges seems to be higher taxes on families and job creators, and I didn’t want to do the same in Virginia.

My reasons for my no vote resulted from the below realities.

First, we first saw the final copy of HB2313, 109 pages of complex data, on Thursday night at 6:15pm—hours before our vote on Friday morning and without full discussion and understanding of its complexities. The bill was not posted promptly on the General Assembly website for citizens to read and make input.

Second, our citizens were hit last month with a 2% federal decrease in their take-home pay. Additionally, federal officials openly speak of federal tax increases. Sequestration and the federal fiscal cliff threaten to kills hundreds of thousands of jobs in Virginia and Prince William County. The national economy didn’t merely remain flat last quarter…it contracted. And the nation is in the midst of unprecedented fiscal uncertainty.

Third, HB2313 is a “compromise” that raises taxes and fees on Virginia families at a time when people are worried about losing their jobs or are facing a significant reduction in working hours and take-home pay. It increases taxes at the pump for cars and trucks; it increases the tax on car sales by 40%; it increases the sales tax to 6%; it increases fees on alternative fuel vehicles; it implements a high grantor tax on houses; it levies a 3% transient occupancy tax; and it depends on internet taxes that will be implemented by Washington—all without a single dollar cut in spending or an offset of another tax.

Let me be clear. I am not a legislator who will reflexively vote against a tax or fee increase if it’s truly needed—and affordable to our hardworking taxpaying citizens in Prince William County. I have also declined to sign any “no-tax pledges.” I have a high standard before I will vote for a tax or fee increase. And while I was a no vote on this plan, I can readily vote YES on another plan that doesn’t embrace Washington ways, addresses transportation, and respects the pocketbook of our citizens.

To better understand the perspective of others, I conducted three community town hall meetings with our neighbors in January and February; personally exchanged several thousand emails with people in Prince William County; discussed the issue of taxes in hundreds of telephone calls; and met with hundreds of PWC residents visiting the State Capitol and when back home on the weekends in Prince William County. The overwhelming sentiment expressed to me was a simple “please do not raise my taxes in this economy.”

As a member of both the House Transportation Committee and House Finance Committee, I presented an alternative Transportation bill last month, on behalf of several legislators, in a committee hearing in the Capitol. The bill would have adjusted a number of taxes to raise revenue, repealed the food tax to assist those less fortunate, saved the average family of four $100 in taxes each year (as scored by the Virginia Department of Taxation), and lessened the financial impact on you and your family. Unfortunately, the House-Senate Conference Committee wrote the final plan placed before us for an up-or-down vote.

For years, Northern Virginia has sent money to Richmond without adequate return to our area. We currently get on average of 30 cents back for every dollar we send to Richmond. The final transportation plan did not fully resolve that problem, and I believe strongly that more transportation dollars must come back to our community where the gridlock exists.

In some respects, this was a tough decision. In other ways, it was easy. We received an avalanche of mail and calls from our Prince William neighbors. My colleagues and I are citizen-legislators, meaning that we are citizens first. The input of our neighbors helped shape my vote, and I believe strongly that most Prince William County residents sincerely want a transportation solution, but not one that burdens them financially.

In short, after receiving calls, letters, and emails from our neighbors, I heard their concerns, took their advice, and voted no on a transportation plan that raises taxes on our already-overburdened neighbors in a down economy.

Serving my neighbors at home and in Richmond is a great honor, and I hope to always have their input when it comes to making decisions that affect our community. Please feel free to reach me directly at DelRAnderson@house.virginia.gov or at our Prince William County office (571-264-9983). My legislative assistant, Ryan M. Galloway, can also be reached at the same number or at RGalloway@house.virginia.gov. We look forward to seeing and serving you soon!

Parents Should be Prepared for School Spending Cuts

By MILTON C. JOHNS
Chairman, At-large
Prince William County School Board

The just-completed presidential campaign renewed interest in questions about revenue and expenditures; how much our nation wants versus what we can afford. Now, our Prince William County School Board and administration face similar questions in preparing the budget for 2013-14 and beyond. Fortunately, we share the desire to continue Providing A World-Class Education for all students. That does not necessarily require extra spending. Still, public support is needed; and that demands understanding of the complex issues and facts involved.

First, the School Board has neither taxing authority nor control over our revenue. Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) builds each year’s budget proposal around what we expect to receive from combined county, state, and federal sources. The county provides a significant share, but unlike other nearby jurisdictions, the amount we receive is not based on program or support needs, but on a fixed percentage of county revenue.

Under a longstanding agreement with the Board of County Supervisors, the Superintendent’s budget proposal—the basis for School Board deliberations—includes 56.75 percent of general county revenue. However, student enrollment increases dramatically every year, yet there is no connection between the increased costs of educating more students and the total county revenue for schools.

This does not mean the county’s actual school spending has gone down; indeed, it has increased in recent years. However, it has not kept pace with the school funding expected under approved county five year plans. Because tax rates change every year, the five year document gets revised too, effectively yielding a series of one year plans that may not reflect increased enrollment and changing student needs. Under those plans—and adjusted for inflation—the value of the county’s contribution to schools has diminished by $850 per pupil since 2009.

With taxpayers hurting, there is talk of alternative county tax rate proposals for the future. Scenarios under consideration range between boosting anticipated school funding by a modest $30 million over five years, to slashing the funding projected in the approved five year plan by much as $130 million.

Federal and state funding raises additional concerns. Federal money that supported important programs through recent lean times has largely dried up. A staggering federal deficit makes it unrealistic to expect federal funds to cover future shortfalls.

Worse, our budget may yet suffer the loss of millions in state funding under proposals that School Board lobbying efforts helped to defeat last year. Some of those costly proposals are now resurrected; threatening state funding that when adjusted for inflation is already $540 per pupil below the 2009 level.

Despite the efforts of our local legislative delegation, Virginia’s budget still does not provide funding to help school divisions cover the growing costs of state-imposed requirements. Only public support can guarantee that Richmond returns a fair share of the tax revenue generated here. PWCS needs more from state funds, not less.

With combined per pupil funding down and our enrollment soaring, the Board-encouraged focus on efficiencies that has allowed PWCS to proudly accomplish more with less are being stretched to the limit.

In 2011-12, PWCS spent $9,852 per-pupil compared with $11,014 for Loudoun County, and $12,820 in Fairfax. While many parents want an instructional program comparable to Fairfax County’s, funding our students at the same level as Fairfax does would require nearly $250 million more than PWCS received last year.

That is why our $865.9 million operating budget for 2012-13 barely allowed preservation of key educational programs and services like full day kindergarten, specialty programs, and sports; while avoiding layoffs, and providing for employee raises. Repeating that achievement in the face of lower per-pupil funding is harder than it seems.

Most of the PWCS budget is mandated. Whether for special education, required transportation, or ESOL programs, numerous expenses stem directly from federal requirements or meeting Virginia Standards of Quality. We also have little control over many other costs associated with housing, transporting, and educating the average of 2,000 new students added to our burgeoning enrollment each and every year.

Clearly, only a limited portion of our budget goes to so-called “discretionary” expenses; yet even this flexibility is relative. We sometimes hear demands to cut what some view as “bloated” central office costs.

However, if we eliminated 10 percent of all Kelly Leadership Center employees not required under mandates or grants, we would save only $1.7 million. Yet it would require the layoff of highly specialized employees whose work directly benefits teachers, students, and efficient Division operations. That would adversely affect our ability to pay employees on time, maintain critical computer systems, manage expenses, keep schools clean and safe, and meet curriculum needs; all in exchange for a relatively small savings.

By comparison, every one percent pay increase costs approximately $7 million; reducing class sizes by one student in every Division classroom requires about $15 million. Those amounts are hard to squeeze from administrative expenses already recognized for being just two-thirds of the national average—and that was before being cut for several consecutive years.

Consequently, parents should be prepared for cuts we may be forced to make. People might suggest saving money by eliminating specialty programs and associated transportation; but many would argue that they provide unique student opportunities that distinguish a PWCS education. What about full-day kindergarten, sports, and arts programs? Some would endorse cuts there, but spending for things some consider expensive “extras,” is indispensible to others. Everyone has different views on what makes the biggest difference to students and our ability to deliver the education they deserve.

Spending is not what makes PWCS World-Class; still, we must spend wisely to afford the programs and people that do.

Facing revenue shortfalls and difficult cuts, the School Board recently placed protecting current employee jobs and providing staff pay raises among the top budget priorities. We want desperately to reduce class sizes and to retain capital improvement plans, too.

The School Board and administration are striving for creative solutions to make this possible. As we do, please let elected officials know you understand and support the value of education and what it takes to provide it.

Soon, we must decide what we want and what we can afford. Remember, we are spending taxpayer money on the future of our children, our work force, and our community itself.

For information on how to reach your elected officials, visit pwcs.edu and click on the “Legislative Updates” button. PWCS.edu will provide useful budget facts and updates as the process evolves.

Stewart: After Loss, GOP Needs to Listen to Minorities

By COREY STEWART 
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CHAIRMAN 

Demographics. That’s the word I’ve seen over and over this past week as the pundits try to diagnose what’s wrong with Republicans. Last week’s presidential election certainly indicates that my party has a problem reaching minority voters. It’s a problem we must address, but the solution is not, as many suggest, to jettison our core principles to accommodate changing demographics. In fact, I think the answer is much simpler.

In the last six years I’ve won three countywide elections in Prince William County, including winning 72 of the County’s 77 precincts just one year ago. During that same time John McCain and Mitt Romney were losing the county, badly.

According to the 2010 census, Prince William County has a majority minority population. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians make up more than 50 percent of the county’s population. Those are three groups of people that Republicans are losing nationally. And that’s why some say the GOP must quickly embrace amnesty, gay marriage, and abortion-on-demand if we’re ever going to reach the demographics that Romney lost last week.

The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, does not need to overhaul its governing philosophy, but we do need to make changes in how we reach minority communities. In 2008 Barack Obama started and ended his general election campaign in Prince William County. He came back twice during the 2012 campaign. But, where were Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, especially late in the campaign? The Romney campaign had to cancel one planned stop in the county, but it would have been to an area that is heavily white and strongly Republican. Why not go to a place where you have a chance to persuade people?

As I’ve campaigned and governed, I’ve gone all over Prince William County. I’ve attended celebrations at local mosques, talked with people at ethnic grocery stores, enjoyed black church services, and shaken hands at commuter parking lots. The people of Prince William County are a snapshot of America. They represent the broad range of racial groups and social classes, and I’ve never written off one group or another.

I believe in the principles of a free market, a limited government, the rule of law, good governance, and individual responsibility, and I share those ideas with people from every walk of life. That’s why I’ve never questioned the value of going to the neighborhoods, churches, and businesses of voters who belong to a demographic that Republicans historically have not won, and listening to what they have to say.

Before Republicans consider major changes to our platform, let’s first get back to basics. Voters expect to be asked for their vote. And flashy TV ads and glossy flyers don’t make up for the lack of a personal touch. If we intend to ask people for their votes we need to go where they are, tell them what we believe, and listen to their concerns. The GOP must respect minority communities and not blow them off by never visiting their neighborhoods. When candidates do that, voters feel ignored and disrespected. For me, showing people a long-term commitment starts by going where they live, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye, and telling them how the principles I stand for will produce benefits that flow through their neighborhoods, regardless of their skin color.

I’ve done that, and you know what I’ve often found? Agreement. Time and time again I’ve met minority voters who agree with me, even on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and the enforcement of immigration laws. By suddenly changing our positions on these issues we could actually be walking away from common ground we share with large numbers of minority voters. I’ve also found, from my conversations, that even when we don’t agree, there are countless minority voters who have supported me over a Democratic candidate, because they know that I will represent them, that I will listen to them, and that I’m genuinely interested in the issues that concern them.

It would be a big mistake for the Republican Party to change our principles. But we’re already making a bigger mistake by not taking our principles to minority neighborhoods and talking about them with voters we should be winning. I know it sounds simple, but it’s time Republicans start showing up and demonstrating a real commitment to everyone we hope to represent.

Letter: This Cannot Ever Happen Again

Dear Woodbridge Residents,

Election Day is perhaps the greatest expression of our democracy. I would like to thank each and every person that made it to the polls on Tuesday to cast their vote. As many of you know firsthand, there were excessively long lines at several Woodbridge voting locations. As I went from precinct to precinct, I was amazed and uplifted by the positive, patient, and determined citizens waiting in line, as well as the hardworking and empathetic Election Day volunteers. It was remarkable and inspiring. Thank you.

The last ballot was cast at the River Oaks precinct at approximately 10:45pm. At other precincts in the Woodbridge District, voters waited three, four, or five hours to cast their vote. This is completely unacceptable to me. We already face one of the longest commutes in the nation. In today’s economy, having to miss a day’s work to cast your vote is unconscionable. In the seventh most affluent county in the nation, this cannot ever happen again. We must determine the factors that contributed to this situation, asking if it was the result of antiquated technology, an operational shortfall, a budget issue, or a combination. Election operations are obviously a critical unmet need in Prince William and this must be resolved before next year’s election.

I will host a town hall in the coming weeks and invite residents, the Prince William Electoral Board, and the State Electoral Board to address the concerns that arose on Election Day.

If you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at 703?792?4646 or woodbridgedistrict@pwcgov.org.

Sincerely,

Frank J. Principi

Woodbridge District Supervisor

Letter: Dumfries Mayor Thanks Voters

Gerald Foreman (Photo; KJ Mushung/PotomacLocal.com)

The Council would sincerely like to Thank the citizens in the Town of Dumfries who exercised their right to vote on November 6, 2012.

The lines were long and the weather was cold, but the Town’s citizens were friendly, social, cheerful, looked out for one another, and there was a small-town feel.

It was great to see entire families to include the children participating in the electoral process.

Thanks again to each and every voter.

-Mayor Gerald “Jerry” Foreman

Dumfries, Va.

Teen Shaving Head for Tumor Research

Katy Patton

My name is Katy Patton and I am raising money for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine.

Over the past six years, I have watched a close family friend of mine battle this disease, and she has been an inspiration to me.

On Sunday, Oct. 21, I will shave my head as a token of appreciation to everyone who has donated. I will hold an event at Aquia Church at 1 p.m. This event is open for anyone to attend.

Any size donation is appreciated, and as a special bonus, any donations of $100 or more will be awarded with a turn with the razor on my head!

A raffle will take place where for $5 you can be entered into a drawing to be take a turn on the razor first!

For more information on ACC and how to donate directly to UVA, please visit medicine.virginia.edu/research/research-centers/cancer-center/teampages/adenoid-cystic-carcinoma.

 

Letter: You’ll Need ID to be ‘Election Ready’

By KEITH SCARBOROUGH 

There have been several changes in voting laws and procedures that every voter should know about. Here are four important questions all voters need to answer in order to be ready to vote this fall.

(1) Are you registered to vote at your CURRENT address? If you have moved or changed your name due to marriage or divorce since you last voted, you must update your voter registration information. The deadline to register or to update your voter registration status is October 15. You can verify your registration status by going to the State Board of Elections website at sbe.virginia.gov or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office at (703) 792-6470.

(2) Has your polling place been changed? Every ten years, political district lines are redrawn to reflect population changes. Prince William County magisterial districts, Virginia General Assembly districts and US Congressional districts have all been redrawn over the past two years. As a result of redistricting, your polling place may have been changed to a different location. You can verify your correct polling place online at www.sbe.virginia.gov or at pwcgov.org or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office. Be sure to verify your correct polling place BEFORE election day.

(3) Do you have an acceptable form of ID? The Virginia General Assembly passed a new voter ID law this year, which was recently “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2000, Virginia law has required all registered voters to provide some form of acceptable ID at the polls. However, voters without an ID could sign an “Affirmation of Identity” form under oath and be allowed to vote on the machine.

Under the new law, voters without an acceptable form of ID will no longer be allowed to sign the “Affirmation of Identity” form and vote on the machine. They will be required to vote a Provisional Ballot. This is a paper ballot that is not counted on Election Day; the Electoral Board decides later whether to count Provisional Ballots. Voters without an acceptable form of ID who cast a Provisional Ballot must provide a copy of an acceptable ID to the Electoral Board by noon on the Friday after the election in order to have their ballot counted.

The following are now acceptable forms of ID:

• Voter registration card

• Social Security card

• Valid VA driver’s license

• Any federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID

• Any valid student-ID issued by a higher education institution in VA

• Any valid employee-ID card containing a photo of the voter

• A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter

• A permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Unlike new laws in several other states, the new Virginia voter ID law does not require a photo-ID. In addition, a new voter card will be mailed to all registered voters beginning in late September by the State Board of Elections. Be sure you have one of the acceptable forms of ID when you go to the polls.

(4) Do you qualify to vote absentee? Registered voters who will be away from Prince William County on Election Day or who are unable to go to the polls for certain reasons may vote by absentee ballot. Eligible voters may vote in-person prior to Election Day or apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

Who is eligible to vote absentee?

• Persons absent from the county on business or vacation

• Persons working and commuting to and from home for 11 or more hours between 6AM/7PM

• Students and their spouses residing out of the county

• Active duty military members, their spouses and dependents

• Persons temporarily residing outside of the US

• First responders

• Persons with a physical disability, illness or pregnancy

• Persons who are the primary caretaker of a confined family member

• Persons with a religious obligation

• Electoral Board members, registrars and election officers

• Designated Representatives of candidates or political parties working inside the polls

• Persons confined while awaiting trial or following misdemeanor conviction

• Persons wishing to vote only for President and Vice President who have moved from Virginia to another state on or after October 8, 2012

To vote absentee by mail, you must submit a completed Absentee Ballot Application to the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office, 9250 Lee Avenue, Suite 1, Manassas, VA 20110 by October 30th. Ballots will be mailed out beginning on September 21st and must be returned to the Voter Registration office by 7PM on Election Day.

In person absentee voting begins September 21st at two locations: the Office of Voter Registration and Elections in Manassas and the Voter Registration Office in the Woodbridge DMV Office; 2731 Caton Hill Road, Woodbridge, VA 22192. There will also be in-person absentee voting later in the fall at two satellite locations: the McCoart Government Center and the Haymarket Town Hall. Saturday, November 3rd is the final day for in-person absentee voting.

All absentee votes will be counted on Election Day after the polls close at 7PM.

I encourage every voter to get election ready today.

Keith Scarborough is Chairman of the Prince William County Electoral Board.

 

Letter: Broken Oath Lead to Barring Gay Prosecutor

Submitted by: Virginia Delegates Richard Anderson, R-51, Mark Cole, R-88, John Cosgrove R-78, Mark Dudenhefer, R-2, Tim Hugo, R-40, L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31, Chris Stolle, R-83.

A key function of the General Assembly is to elect judges. Unlike other states, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the General Assembly and we must select judges of the highest character and ability. If either condition is lacking, we must ask “is this candidate worthy of selection?”

Such was the case on Monday, May 14, when the House of Delegates chose not to elect Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland as a District Court Judge. Advocates for Mr. Thorne-Begland point to his prosecutorial abilities, however, they ignore that as a naval officer in 1992, he violated clear military directives not to appear on television to advocate for a personal cause. Nevertheless, Mr. Thorne-Begland made that appearance, ignoring the requirements of duty that he voluntarily took an oath to uphold. We contend that Mr. Thorne-Begland exercised profoundly bad judgment in using his military office to advance a personal cause, in this case sexual orientation, on national television; an act he knew was prohibited.

Let’s begin with the oath those of us who served the nation in war and peace took when we were commissioned.

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

A key word here is “duties” and among them are fidelity to rules and regulations of the military and support for the chain of command. When an officer violates this fidelity for a personal cause, no matter how sincerely held, he has broken his trust with the service he has sworn to obey. An officer who does so demonstrates exceptionally bad judgment. Those who don’t think that oaths, discipline, and fidelity to the chain of command matter, fail to comprehend how the military must function if it is to be effective in combat, which is it’s raison d’être. It may be difficult for someone who has not served to understand the depth to which we hold this oath, but it is profound.

An officer shirks his duty when he willingly and knowingly violates a lawful directive of the military and his chain of command by appearing in the media to advocate for a personal cause he believes is more important than the oath he took. The prohibition to “participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause” is unambiguous, yet Mr. Thorne-Begland violated it knowingly. Some say, “Well, what about his First Amendment right to free speech?” Simply put, when you join the military, you give up your right to free speech when it comes to good order and discipline. You can’t say anything you want about any cause, no matter how deeply held, when, in doing so, you speak publicly in contravention to the policies of your service. You can be sure that many of us who have served this nation have had times when we didn’t agree with our chain of command and in some cases may have felt the orders and requirements were misguided. But no matter what side of an issue you take, you do not, as a military member, have the right to speak publicly against your service and chain of command to advance your personal beliefs.

A case in point was the recent discharge of a young Marine sergeant who made disparaging comments about President Barack Obama, his Commander-in-Chief. That sergeant may have felt, as Thorne-Begland did, that he was right in speaking out, but that Marine was wrong to do so and should have been discharged, as he was. And if he ever becomes a lawyer, moves to Virginia, and seeks a judgeship, he shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t support him either. In both cases, the proper course of action would have been to resign from the service, hang up the uniform, put on civilian garb, and speak to your heart’s content.

In the military, we take oaths, duty, good order and discipline very seriously because we know the important role they play in creating an effective fighting force. We think no less of these values when selecting judges. If you exhibit bad judgment and indiscipline, you shouldn’t be a judge. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s decision to go on national television to advocate for a personal cause in violation of his sworn duties to his service indicates poor judgment and a lack of regard for the institution he swore to serve and respect. These aren’t the qualities we seek in a jurist.

Delegates Richard Anderson, R-51, Mark Cole, R-88, John Cosgrove R-78, Mark Dudenhefer, R-2, Tim Hugo, R-40, L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31, Chris Stolle, R-83, have all served in the U.S. Military and now serve in the Virginia House of Delegates of the General Assembly.

Op-ed: USPS Wants to Keep Rural Post Offices

The United States Postal Service has announced a plan to preserve Post Offices in small towns and rural communities across the country while the organization aims to achieve cost savings to return to financial stability.

After listening to our customers and communities across the country who expressed a strong desire to keep their local Post Office open, the Postal Service developed a new solution that will preserve a Post Office in a rural community by modifying the retail window hours. Access to the lobby and P.O. Boxes would remain the same and a community would retain their ZIP Code and community identity. This plan would enable the Postal Service to achieve over a half a billion dollars in annual cost savings in an effort to regain a stronger financial footing.

Later this year, the Postal Service will hold public meetings with affected communities to gather feedback on this new plan as well as the previously announced options which include a) establishing mail delivery service to residents and businesses by either rural carrier or highway contract route; b) contracting with a local business or community venue to create a Village Post Office; c) providing service from a nearby Post Office.

Some communities may opt for a Village Post Office where a local business, like a grocery store, could provide more convenient access to postal products and services 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, the Postal Service continues to expand alternative access by providing most postal services online at usps.com and developed a new smartphone app where customers can buy stamps and print off shipping labels without leaving their home.

In addition to online offerings, customers can utilize the alternate postal access at more than 70,000 retail partner locations across the country including Wal-Mart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and many others. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all retail sales for the Postal Service come from online purchases or at approved postal providers.

While this trend will continue and reach a point where a majority of customers are accessing postal services outside of the typical ‘brick and mortar’ Post Office, there is still a desire to keep Post Offices open in rural America. However, 88 percent of small rural post offices do not cover the operating costs to keep the facility open and customer visits to your typical ‘brick and mortar’ Post Office have declined by more than 27 percent since 2005 with 350 million fewer visits a year.

While the financial crisis has forced the organization to leave no stone unturned in achieving cost reductions to return to financial stability, the Postal Service has not forgotten its fundamental role in delivering for the American public and providing universal access to its products and services.

The new plan to preserve Post Offices in rural America provides a path forward for small towns and rural communities to keep the flag flying at their local Post Office.

Michael Furey
District Manager
Northern Virginia

6-Year Mail Decline Prompts USPS Changes

Letter Submitted By Michael Furey
USPS Northern Virginia District Manager

America needs a financially-stable Postal Service. Toward that end, the Postal Service is taking aggressive actions to preserve the long-term affordability of mail and to adapt to a changing marketplace and evolving mailing needs.

Subject to adoption of a final rule changing its delivery service standards, the Postal Service is pursuing a significant consolidation of its national network of mail processing facilities that will reduce the number of facilities from 461 to fewer than 200 by the end of 2013. No consolidations will occur before May 15, 2012.

Declining mail volumes and substantial fixed costs dictate that we take this bold action to preserve and protect the world’s leading Postal Service for our customers and our employees.

From 1940 to 2006, the Postal Service oversaw a continuous expansion of mail processing and retail facilities to meet growing demand for mail delivery.

This expanded capacity was built to handle high mail volumes that peaked at 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006.

However, since 2006, First-Class Mail volume has rapidly declined as the economy recessed and the age of digital communications advanced.

In 2011, 168 billion pieces of mail were delivered. By 2020, the Postal Service expects to deliver as few as 130 billion pieces.

By any standard, this is a steep decline.

In just the past quarter, the Postal Service lost $3.3 billion and is projecting further losses for the remainder of the year.

No one is to blame. Times have changed. So must the Postal Service. The American public and businesses are relying more on electronic communications. Bills are paid online. Friends and family interact through Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, the demise of the Postal Service is greatly exaggerated. The Postal Service sustains a $900 billion industry that employs over 8 million people. Every day, we deliver to more than 151 million locations.

Even in a digital age, mail remains a powerful communications, marketing and delivery tool.

The aggressive steps we are taking to realign our mail processing network will keep mail affordable, valuable and viable for generations to come. These are responsible steps any business would take.

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Letter: Uranium Mining Decision Should Have Been Open

PL Box LogoThe article, “Governor wants to keep ban on Uranium Mining” describes the recent decision by Governor McDonnell to create a commission to both study and draft regulations for uranium mining. This behind-closed-doors mandate is a movement towards lifting the uranium mining ban in Virginia.

I applaud the governor’s decision to maintain the moratorium for now. However, a decision to move this process forward should have been an open process, especially if the mining will take place in our backyard. In the event of a catastrophic failure at a waste disposal facility, radioactivity in Lake Gaston (primary drinking water source for Chesapeake/Virginia Beach) could reach levels 10-20 times greater than allowed in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Any threat to our public health should not be tolerated. The NAS study stated that uranium mining in Virginia poses serious health risks. Our climate, ripe with hurricanes and floods, is untested ground. Could the uranium waste be washed away and into our drinking water? Governor McDonnell’s actions beg the question, “Are we killing the goose to feed the gander?”

Michael Edwards
Richmond, Va.

Editor’s note: Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news@potomaclocal.com.

Letter: Postal Service Changing but Cannot Stand Alone

As Congress considers legislation to reform the business model of the Postal Service, it must confront a basic choice: to permit the Postal Service to function more as a business does, or constrain it from doing so.

With greater business model flexibility, the Postal Service can return to profitability and financial stability. A flexible business model would speed product and pricing decisions, enable a five-day per week delivery schedule, and permit the realignment of mail processing, delivery and retail networks to meet lower mail volumes. It would also allow the Postal Service to more effectively manage its healthcare and retirement systems, and better leverage its workforce.

For an organization that generates all of its revenue from the sale of its postage, products and services – and is contending with declining use of First Class Mail for bill payment – having the flexibility to quickly adapt and react to the marketplace is vital. Our immediate goal is to reduce our annual costs by $20 billion by 2013, which would put the Postal Service in the black and ahead of the long-term cost curve.

The alternative is a business model that prohibits or delays cost reduction, perpetuates an inflexible structure, and constrains the Postal Service from being more responsive to the marketplace. Under this scenario, and in the absence of meaningful and immediate business model reform, the Postal Service could soon incur long-term deficits in the range of $10 to 15 billion annually.

Within the limits of our current legal framework, we have responded aggressively to a changing marketplace – reducing the size of our workforce by 128,000 career employees and reducing annual operating costs by $12.5 billion dollars in just the past four years. However, to return to profitability we must move at an even faster pace. And to do so requires changes in the law.

If provided with the flexibility and speed to act, the Postal Service can avoid being a financial burden to the taxpayer. More importantly, a financially stable Postal Service that can operate more like a business can more readily adapt to America’s changing mailing and shipping needs.

For example, we are expanding our network of 70,000 retail partner locations and on-line offerings so that our customers will be able to purchase stamps and conduct other mailing and shipping transactions outside of the traditional Post Office. Customers will increasingly be able to visit gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies – which are part of regular shopping patterns, open longer hours and weekends, and more conveniently located – to conduct their postal business. The traditional Post Office will always exist, but a changing world demands rethinking the status-quo and adapting to the needs of our customers.

In a digital world, businesses and individuals have choices in the way they communicate. Although the Postal Service facilitates trillions in commerce annually, and supports a $900 billion mailing industry that employs almost 8 million people, it must have the tools and the motivations to effectively compete for customers.

In the current debate about its future, some have argued the Postal Service should not operate like a business and be allowed to regress into an unchanging, taxpayer-subsidized agency, and some have urged that it be privatized and completely separated from the government. The former is undesirable and the latter is unrealistic.

The answer resides in the middle – an organization that performs a vital national function, and operates with the discipline and motivations of a business that competes for customers. If it is to endure as a great American institution, provide the nation with a secure, reliable and affordable delivery platform, and serve as an engine of commerce, Congress should provide it with the speed and flexibility it needs to compete in an evolving marketplace.

The Postal Service is far too integral to the economic health of the nation to be handcuffed to the past and to an inflexible business model. To best serve taxpayers and postal customers, it’s time to remove the constraints.

John Budzynski

USPS District Manager/A

Northern Virginia

Editor’s note: Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news@potomaclocal.com.

Letter: Principi Vows Same Vision, Energy, Focus

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi

To the residents of Woodbridge,

With Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks to the residents of Woodbridge for re-electing me to a second term. I look forward to continuing to work together to create the “New Woodbridge.” We will revitalize the Route 1 corridor, implement smart growth principles, explore a variety of transportation solutions, preserve our neighborhoods, and work to build a stronger sense of community.

I vow to offer the citizens of Woodbridge the same vision, energy, and focus of the last four years. I am honored to serve the people of Woodbridge, and I look forward to fulfilling our continued goal to make Woodbridge an excellent place to live, work, and play.

For more information on the Woodbridge District, please feel free to contact my office at 703-792-4646. To sign up for my quarterly newsletter, sent electronically and by mail, or to find out more about the Woodbridge District, please visit newwoodbridge.org.

Sincerely,

Frank J. Principi

Woodbridge, Virginia

Editor’s note: Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news@potomaclocal.com.

 

Letter: Royse Concedes, Urges Supporters to Stay Active

Chris Royse

Friends, neighbors, and citizens of Woodbridge, Woodbridge has spoken.

In every campaign, there is a victor and the vanquished. Today, I congratulate Frank Principi and wish him well in his next term serving the people of Woodbridge on the County Board of Supervisors.

Our campaign was one of inclusion and elevation, concentrating on what we would do, rather than what was wrong. This resonates in a place like Woodbridge, where work boots and business suits, a true cross-section of America, regularly mingle while creating a better life for our families. To the end, our positive message was overshadowed by the Principi Campaign’s attacks. So be it. We knew that defeating the entrenched incumbent would be difficult, but we also knew that our cause was just and our intentions were honorable, and for that I am both glad, and hopeful for the future.

My campaign remained on the high ground and never went negative. I may have lost an election, but not my integrity or honor. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my opponent. In October, he launched a vicious, personal attack, under the advisement of his paid political consultant, which is what ultimately helped sway critical votes. His was a campaign of lies about me, and deception about his record. I never expected to be in such a bitter political event. Thomas Jefferson purportedly said, “you get the democracy you deserve.” Our community will now put that axiom to the test.

Now, our challenge will be to move Woodbridge in the right direction, and to build on the start we have made. Woodbridge still needs all of our help, so to those that did vote for me I say this, do not lose hope. For that is the flip side of democracy, there is always a new chance to make your voice heard.

I want to thank my family: my wife Kathy, who has done such a great job as our Republican District Chairperson, my children who have made signs, encouraged me, and kept me grounded all this time. I want to thank all who wrote checks, pounded signs, asked questions, or gave me encouragement during this trying campaign. And to all of the people who have volunteered and supported me, I say this: I will continue to work everyday to see a better Woodbridge.

Today we showed the political establishment that positive campaigns can happen, and though we lost the race, I honestly believe that, in the long run, we will win the trust of the people of Woodbridge. There is a place for civility in our political dialogue, and that the appeal of common sense conservatism is strong, deep, and powerful. Frank Principi won the election, but his tactics cost him any claim to true leadership. Now, we begin to work for the future of our community again.”

-Chris Royse
Woodbridge, Va.  

Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news@potomaclocal.com.

 

Letter: Vote for Fred Sweat

Fred C. Sweat (Submitted)

I am writing in support of Fred Sweat for Supervisor in Stafford County’s Griffis-Widewater District.

I’ve gotten to know Fred because he owns Sunnyside Nursery near my home in North Stafford. It’s a wonderful nursery and unique gift shop and I am there often meandering about the flowers, sculptures and beautiful water features. And while his nursery operation is impressive, I am more impressed with the man himself.

Fred Sweat is instantly liked by most people with his always sunny disposition, but more than that he is a leader in our community. He sets the example everyday by getting involved with this community, the Griffis-Widewater community, where he lives and works. He gets involved, and more importantly he gets you involved. He listens to the people and knows firsthand issues that affect our neighbors, he promotes the other small businesses in this area, he encourages us to buy American, and he urges us to work together as a community.

Fred has hopes to implement a gardening program to educate the young people on how to be self-sufficient and how to live off what you grow in your garden, and I love that idea. Bottom line: Fred Sweat has integrity, compassion, and works hard. I can think of no better qualifications for a public servant. I am most fortunate to call Fred Sweat my friend, I hope you all have the same opportunity to meet Fred, and if you do, I am confident that you will benefit from it.

Fred Sweat is the candidate I trust to represent me, and to protect my interests when it comes to making the decisions that come before the supervisors of this county.

Kelly Reynolds
North Stafford

Editor’s note: Fred C. Sweat is a Democrat vying to represent the Griffis-Widewater District on Stafford’s Board of Supervisors. Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8. Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news@potomaclocal.com.

 

Letter: Chamber Supports I-95 HOT Lanes

I-95 south in Woodbridge

This week, VDOT will hold a series of hearings on the I-95 HOV/HOT (High Occupancy Vehicle/High Occupancy Toll) Lanes Project. As President of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, I see this project as critical for the long term prosperity of our region. It will boost the local economy, create jobs and help get traffic moving on congested Interstate 95.

Research from George Mason University found that construction of the I-95 project is expected to support 8,000 jobs and create significant opportunities for small businesses and contractors. It could not come at a better time. While our economy is showing signs of recovery, the construction industry is still hurting. This project will help get contractors back to work.

The HOV/HOT Lanes will also provide faster, more predictable travel for drivers and carpools on I-95. HOV violators now clog the existing lanes. Part of the HOV/HOT lanes project includes dedicated state troopers to help get those cheaters out and keep traffic flowing. The project will also extend HOV to Stafford County, helping to free up our local Park-and-Ride lots for Prince William residents and fixing the daily traffic jam at Dumfries.

After sitting in heavy congestion for years, drivers on I-95 deserve some relief. This project will connect HOV service on I-95 to new HOT Lanes on the Beltway, enabling travelers to move more quickly through the entire region. According to George Mason University’s research, when the Capital Beltway HOT Lanes improvements come online, they are expected to reduce travel time by 14,763 vehicle-hours each year.

When the I-95 system is in place, that time savings will increase exponentially.

Everyone in the region will reap immediate benefits from less time spent in traffic congestion. Businesses will see greater productivity, decreased delivery costs and times and be more accessible to customers. In addition to savings on gas and car maintenance, commuters will be able to enjoy more time with their family, as they arrive home earlier and less stressed from the drive.

Imagine the economic benefits of every small business making even just one more delivery each day. Imagine being able to count on getting to work or home on time. This can be the future of I-95, with HOT/HOV Lanes.

Visit virginiahotlanes.com to learn more about the benefits of this project and to find a hearing near you.

Rob Clapper
President & CEO
Prince William Chamber of Commerce

Letter: Frederick Will Work to End BPOL Tax

Jeff Frederick

The 36th Senate District of Virginia needs new leadership, and Jeff Frederick is the best person for the job.

Everywhere you go these days people are hungering for a new environment in the halls of power, a new wind that will blow down barriers to business and job creation. They are tired of arrogant regulations, burdensome taxes, and unnecessary layers of government that have assumed lives of their own and are killing the very same enterprises they should be supporting.

Toddy Puller, after 20 years on the job, has come to represent the interests of government, not the people, not the citizens, and not the taxpayers. It is time for her to go.

Jeff Frederick, who runs his own technology firm, and has served in the House of Delegates, understands Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s pro-growth agenda. He will help to cut taxes, protect families and traditional values, and encourage business formation and new jobs.

Jeff will work to end the anti-business Business Permit and Operating License tax, one of the most destructive taxes businesses face in America. BPOL taxes companies whether they have profits or losses, so it discourages success and compounds failure.

Vote for Jeff Frederick to end BPOL, reduce taxes, support business growth, and reclaim government for all its citizens.

David Paine
Alexandria

Anyone may submit an open letter to PotomacLocal.com by emailing it to news@potomaclocal.com and writing Open Letter in the subject line.

After Floods, Terror, the Brave Still Stand

In 1972 hurricane Agnes ravaged the area leaving Occoquan and the Woodbridge area virtually under water and the taking out the Route 1 Bridge. The headlines in the Potomac News “Botts fire station was Occoquan’s refuge” (thank you Ernest). In 2011 a storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico and dumps rain on the US, from the Gulf Coast to New England, leaving more than 12 inches of rain in Woodbridge in a 24-hour period.

Once again the members of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department rose to the occasion assisting or making more than two-dozen water rescues. Headlines may not have made reference to OWL, but I can tell you that the citizens, other fire departments, the police department and local politicians all took note of the services you provided Thursday night.

On September 11 2001, within moments of the worst attacks on U.S. soil, the members of this great department left their jobs, said good-by to their families, stopped what they were doing and headed for our three stations. Every fire truck, ambulance and special piece was staffed and on the road. Our units were sent north to backfill other fire and rescue stations. Eventually, through continued station transfers and dispatches, some units end up at the Pentagon. Once again our members performed admirably to say the least, no matter what their role was that fateful day.

I could go on and on with examples of events where our membership performed above the rest and demonstrated acts of heroism during natural disasters, local emergencies and even on “routine incidents”. Among all of this tragedy, there is a common theme. That common theme is the bravery, courage, dedication, honor, loyalty and sense of community service that has been displayed by the members of this department from its inception in 1938 to today. It is our job to pass these traits on to the generations that will follow us. It is our job to maintain the legacy started and carried forward by many before us. It is also our job to continue our commitments and maintain the trust of our community.

Although today is a tragic reminder of the events that unfolded ten years ago, let today also be your inspiration to continue the legacy of the greatest fire department and the greatest family anyone could ever expect to be a part of.

Let me be the first to thank you for your service, commitment and dedication to our department, our family and most importantly our community. Your commitment and professionalism are appreciated more than words can ever express.

Sincerely,

James McAllister
Department Chief
Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department

 

Anderson: High-Speed Rail will Benefit PWC, Stafford

Del. Richard L. Anderson, R-Va. 51

By Del. Richard Anderson

The Virginia – North Carolina High-Speed Rail Compact last met in Richmond on Jan. 7, and meet again on Sept. 19 in Raleigh. We meet every six months and alternate between the two state capitol buildings.

The driver for high-speed rail is that the Southeast was one of the nation’s fastest growing regions over the last decade, with population increasing 16.5 percent. Traffic gridlock and energy prices increase the drive and need for more efficient intercity travel. As a result, Virginia and North Carolina have created the High-Speed Rail Compact and are using $800 million in federal, state, and private funds to progress the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor. To fully develop the SEHSR corridor, Virginia and North Carolina will need approximately $7.7 billion in funding.

The Washington to Richmond corridor has been appropriated $75 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to build 11.4 miles of additional track capacity in Prince William and Stafford counties. The area received $45.5 million in federal FY 2010 funds to complete the next level of environmental analysis on the Richmond-Washington corridor and to complete environmental and preliminary engineering work on a new bridge over the Appomattox River. This work will bring the Richmond-Washington portion of the corridor to the same level of environmental analysis as the Richmond-Raleigh portion. The Richmond to Norfolk corridor has seen their Tier 1 environmental study advanced through the public comment stage and sent to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for final approval. Once the FRA provides a Record of Decision on the route eligible for federal funding, the corridor can begin the next phase of the federal planning process heading toward construction readiness.

Virginia is also in the process of investing $101 in the Richmond-Norfolk corridor to add the needed capacity to extend the first of three passenger trains to the region since 1977. The Norfolk-Boston Amtrak Northeast Regional Service is expected to launch in October 2013. The introduction of the new conventional speed Amtrak Virginia service allows the Richmond-Hampton Roads corridor to be considered an emerging high speed rail corridor, which makes the corridor more competitive for federal funding.

North Carolina and Virginia continue work on the Tier 2 environmental study for the corridor between Richmond and Raleigh. North Carolina received a $4 million federal grant to complete the study, and public hearings are taking place along the study corridor in those areas which have seen changes since hearings were held in July 2010.

The document is scheduled to be sent to the FRA for review/approval in late 2012. When approval is given, the corridor will be ready for construction pending funding availability. In the meantime, $25 million will be invested in the current Richmond to Raleigh corridor alignment to improve safety.

Del. Richard Anderson (R-Lake Ridge, Prince William) serves on the Virginia – North Carolina High Speed Rail Compact.

During Heat, OWL VFD Answered the Call

Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Firefighters put their personal lives aside to pull together to assist the community. In addition to their regular equipment, OWL VFD staffed additional apparatus as well to serve the community.

Prince William County had a very busy weekend with several major events going on all over the County, including the 150th Commemoration of the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run, Youth for Tomorrow Fundraising Event at Old Dominion Speedway, Virginia State Senior Little League Championships at Veterans Park and Aquapoloosa on the Potomac River.

In anticipation of heightened call volume, OWL VFD off duty fire fighters and EMS came in to help staff additional apparatus. In addition to the normal apparatus that was staffed, OWL VFD staff two additional ambulances and boats 502 and 512.

“The heat makes this weekend even more challenging, but we are committed to serving the community” said Chief McAllister. Many Prince William County volunteer fire departments and the Department of Fire and Rescue brought in additional resources as well. “This is further proof that the combination, career and volunteer, fire and rescue system works and works well here in Prince William County.”

“OWL VFD is committed to community safety. These men and women, and all our volunteers, exemplify the spirit of OWL VFD. We strive to provide the very best fire suppression, emergency medical, technical rescue, and water rescue services to the citizens and visitors of Woodbridge, Virginia and Prince William County.”

OWL VFD has historically strategically planned for disaster events, keeping up on the latest training, equipment and education available. OWL VFD invests thousands of hours in professional training and certification courses. Our care and dedication to Fire and Rescue is reflected in our efforts of staying up to date and ready for the task.

OWL VFD is one the largest and busiest volunteer fire departments in the United States with over 300 members. OWL VFD provides fire suppression, EMS care, and rescue services to 80,000 residents in our 27 square mile area through the operation of three fire stations. OWL volunteer Firefighters and EMTs work the 6 pm to 6 am shift, five days a week, plus 24/7 holidays and weekends.

-Submitted by Rebecca Barnes, OWL VFD spokeswoman

Letter: Like Metro, Ferries Would Spur Development

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi

By Frank J. Principi
Woodbridge District Supervisor

In 2007, as I was campaigning to be your locally elected representative on the Board of County Supervisors, I brought a ferry to Woodbridge from Boston to promote the use of a commuter ferry service up the Potomac River. During this time, we conducted several runs and were able to complete the Quantico to Navy Yard run in under 55 minutes one-way, giving us hope that a commuter ferry option was feasible as another viable transit alternative to help alleviate gridlock on our roads. I also brought a ferry here in 2009 and replicated the service time for a series of origin/destination pairs.

Now as the Woodbridge District Supervisor, I am still actively pursuing alternative transit options for our community. As you know, traffic gridlock is among the most pressing challenges to our quality of life in Prince William County. In addition to an aggressive road building initiative, elected officials must work together to build smarter transit alternatives (wiser, not wider) that will alleviate this gridlock and reduce auto emissions. Commuter ferry service is a timely, outside-the-box, solution to several challenges facing Northern Virginia.

In addition to a new form of transit, ferry service also makes sense from a homeland security and tourism perspective as well. In doesn’t take a natural disaster or a terrorist incident to paralyze our road system, we experience gridlock in bad weather, peak commute times, and with fatal accidents. A fleet of high-speed ferries capable of evacuating residents or moving military equipment and personnel during a declared emergency would improve our capacity to respond and recover quickly to a wide range of incidents.

Too, the availability of a fleet of ferries on nights and weekends could shuttle residents and tourists to a local baseball game, airport, or to dining and museum locations along our river system. Ferry origin and destination points would be expected to generate economic development opportunities as Metrorail Stations have done in this region in the past.

Given the forecasted population growth, pending impacts of the BRAC decisions, existing gridlock, limited capacity of our road system, and our history with water-based transportation alternatives, a commuter ferry service along our river system holds promise as a transit alternative to our region’s multi-modal transportation network. Commuter ferry service would take advantage of an existing, unused transportation asset and provide commuters with a convenient alternative to traveling on the region’s congested roadways.

A Commuter Ferry Stakeholder’s group has been created and has met several times over the last few months. This is a planning group that is comprised of federal, state and local officials representing Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The private sector, military and academia are also part of this group. We are on track to conduct a regional market analysis this fall. It will determine whether there is a need for the service and more simply put, if we build it, will you ride it. The group is also tasked with coming up with a funding formula that will ensure the success of the project. For this to work, it needs to be done through a public, private, and military (BRAC) partnership. We will not ask the taxpayers, nor will they accept taking on the brunt of this burden.

In Prince William County’s Future Commission 2030 report, citizens envisioned a water-based transportation service to serve the region. “A water ferry provides transportation to Washington, D.C. and Maryland along the Potomac River…These services are used for commuting, as a regular means of transportation, and for residents and tourists to reach historic towns and sites along the shoreline.” The thousands of residents who participated in the 2030 visioning process clearly stated the vision for an effective, efficient commuter ferry service. It’s now up to area governments, public officials, private employers and individual residents to help make the vision a reality. I am very committed to this cause and will continue to push for a commuter ferry service on the Potomac River.

To may submit an open letter to PotomacLocal.com, please email it to news@potomaclocal.com and write “Open Letter” in the subject line.

You may also mail letters to:
PotomacLocal.com
Unit 115-10
Stafford, Va. 22554

By Frank J. Principi

Woodbridge District Supervisor

In 2007, as I was campaigning to be your locally elected representative on the Board of County Supervisors, I brought a ferry to Woodbridge from Boston to promote the use of a commuter ferry service up the Potomac River. During this time, we conducted several runs and were able to complete the Quantico to Navy Yard run in under 55 minutes one-way, giving us hope that a commuter ferry option was feasible as another viable transit alternative to help alleviate gridlock on our roads. I also brought a ferry here in 2009 and replicated the service time for a series of origin/destination pairs.

Now as the Woodbridge District Supervisor, I am still actively pursuing alternative transit options for our community. As you know, traffic gridlock is among the most pressing challenges to our quality of life in Prince William County. In addition to an aggressive road building initiative, elected officials must work together to build smarter transit alternatives (wiser, not wider) that will alleviate this gridlock and reduce auto emissions. Commuter ferry service is a timely, outside-the-box, solution to several challenges facing Northern Virginia.

In addition to a new form of transit, ferry service also makes sense from a homeland security and tourism perspective as well. In doesn’t take a natural disaster or a terrorist incident to paralyze our road system, we experience gridlock in bad weather, peak commute times, and with fatal accidents. A fleet of high-speed ferries capable of evacuating residents or moving military equipment and personnel during a declared emergency would improve our capacity to respond and recover quickly to a wide range of incidents.

Too, the availability of a fleet of ferries on nights and weekends could shuttle residents and tourists to a local baseball game, airport, or to dining and museum locations along our river system. Ferry origin and destination points would be expected to generate economic development opportunities as Metrorail Stations have done in this region in the past.

Given the forecasted population growth, pending impacts of the BRAC decisions, existing gridlock, limited capacity of our road system, and our history with water-based transportation alternatives, a commuter ferry service along our river system holds promise as a transit alternative to our region’s multi-modal transportation network. Commuter ferry service would take advantage of an existing, unused transportation asset and provide commuters with a convenient alternative to traveling on the region’s congested roadways.

A Commuter Ferry Stakeholder’s group has been created and has met several times over the last few months. This is a planning group that is comprised of federal, state and local officials representing Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The private sector, military and academia are also part of this group. We are on track to conduct a regional market analysis this fall. It will determine whether there is a need for the service and more simply put, if we build it, will you ride it. The group is also tasked with coming up with a funding formula that will ensure the success of the project. For this to work, it needs to be done through a public, private, and military (BRAC) partnership. We will not ask the taxpayers, nor will they accept taking on the brunt of this burden.

In Prince William County’s Future Commission 2030 report, citizens envisioned a water-based transportation service to serve the region. “A water ferry provides transportation to Washington, D.C. and Maryland along the Potomac River…These services are used for commuting, as a regular means of transportation, and for residents and tourists to reach historic towns and sites along the shoreline.” The thousands of residents who participated in the 2030 visioning process clearly stated the vision for an effective, efficient commuter ferry service. It’s now up to area governments, public officials, private employers and individual residents to help make the vision a reality. I am very committed to this cause and will continue to push for a commuter ferry service on the Potomac River.

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