Covering the Greater Prince William County, Virginia Area

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U.S. 1 Widening Spurs Budget Battle

By URIAH KISER

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — When it comes to building roads using bond money, it’s eastern Prince William County’s turn to enjoy the spoils.

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved a $53.1 million project to widen U.S. 1 between Neabsco Mills and Featherstone roads from four to six lanes in Woodbridge. The project will help traffic in a commuter corridor often gridlocked during rush hours, but it also will strap county taxpayers with about $50 million in new bond debt – all of which will be need to be paid off over the next 20 years, starting in 2014.

But, with interest rates and construction costs at all-time lows, it appears now is the time to invest and spur redevelopment in Woodbridge with a wider main street.

“We’ve already completed the western-end 2006 [voter approved bond referendum] projects…now this Woodbridge project has been put off and needs to get done,” said Prince William Board Chairman Corey Stewart, At large. “It’s about the rejuvenation of the Route 1 corridor which is happening as we speak.”

Since 1988, Prince William has built roads – including the highway that bears its namesake, Prince William Parkway, with bond money used after voters approved new road construction. The last road bond referendum was passed in 2006, when, among other projects in the western portion of the county, voters approved widening U.S. 1 in Triangle (a project now completed).

Known across the state as a county willing to finance and build its own roads rather that wait on the Virginia Department of Transportation to do it for them, this new U.S. 1 widening project in Prince William will add to improvements already planned to widen U.S. 1 to six lanes from the Occoquan River south to Mary’s Way in Woodbridge.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland was the only one on the eight-member Board who voted against widening U.S. 1 between Neabsco Mills and Featherstone roads. The debt was too much for him to swallow, and, in a futile effort, he urged the county’s staff to go back to the drawing board to see if the widening could be done for less money.

Prince William County Budget Office Director Michelle Casciato warned the Board that if they committed to this project now, they would be limited on making changes to a five year plan that includes funding other projects like a police station and new libraries.

In the coming years, county officials plan for a four-percent annual budget increase that would grow its already $2.4 billon annual budget.

Earlier this year, Occoquan Supervisor Mike May requested new numbers from the Budget Office essentially asking “what if” the county doesn’t increase it’s budget by four percent, choosing instead to increase it by just two or three percent. What if the county doesn’t increase its budget at all and continues to cut services and reduce its government workforce? May asked.

Those projections are due out this fall, and May said they could also affect the projected levels of funding for other projects already in the county’s five year plan, stating all projects are still on the table.

The general consensus on the Board remains, however, that if planned projects like new libraries, parks, and improvements to public safety are going to get built, the money is going to have to come from somewhere.

 

News
Dumfries Honors West, Barr

Nancy West (Photo: KJ Mushung/PotomacLocal.com)

DUMFRIES, Va. – Though no longer on the council, they’ve not been forgotten.

Former Interim Mayor Nancy West and Former Councilwoman Dorothea Barr were both recognized by Dumfries Mayor Gerald Foreman on Tuesday night. Both women stepped down from the Dumfries Town Council after losing their bids for re-election in May.

“She was passionate about transforming the town from a place people drive through to a place where people want to live, work, play and visit,” said Foreman of West.

Barr (Photo: KJ Mushung)

West, a retired Prince William schools employee, served on the council from 2008 to May 2012 and served as vice mayor until the death of Mayor Fred Yohey in November 2011 when she became interim mayor.

“It has been a privilege to serve this town for many years, not just the years I served on the council as interim mayor, but for all the years my husband and I have lived in Dumfries,” said West.

Barr, an often outspoken member of the town council, served from 2008 until May. She’s an advocate for sound walls to block noise from Interstate 95, which runs through the town, established bi-annual meetings of homeowners associations in the town, and was a supporter of small business.

“It says here in one little line that I ‘will have served,’ and if anyone saw me up here I only missed two meetings – I served,” said Barr, commenting on the written resolution honoring her service on the council. “Please, let’s not forget the sound wall. We’re trying to get the sound wall throughout the entire Town of Dumfries…”

Barr is a realtor who works in Montclair and, since her departure from the council, has become known for posting shopping deals and discounts to her personal website.

News
Dems Rally Support, Take in Baseball Game

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — On Sunday, members of the Prince William County Young Democrats rallied on Marblestone Drive in Woodbridge, across from the Prince William County Government Center, to rouse support for local Democratic candidates and speak about the important issues in the upcoming election cycle.

Kristen Cabral, a congressional candidate, Chairman of the Prince William County Democrats Harry Wiggins, and congressional candidate Adam Cook, all spoke about the issues and challenges in the coming months leading up to Election Day.

Cabral will face incumbent Frank Wolf, R-10, and Cook incumbent Rob Wittman, R-1. 

Cabral shared her experiences as a working class child, exulting the importance of continued affordable financial aid, talking about how she had to hold down many odd jobs and take out student loans to put herself through the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School.

Cook, an Air Force veteran, also shared his experiences of being raised as one of six children, putting himself through school and how he hopes to make a big difference in congress, using his humble roots as inspiration.

Wiggins also spoke on the importance of all Democratic supporters volunteering their time for the different races throughout the state, including the unexpected Prince William County School Board race in the Occoquan District, which will take place this Fall.

At the conclusion of the rally, the group attended a Potomac Nationals game in their campaign gear, making a strong presence at the game to provide exposure for the Democratic candidates. There was also a non-partisan voter registration drive at the game, to allow citizens to register to vote and update voting address information

-Submitted 

 

News
First Lady’s Appearance Canceled

By KJ MUSHUNG

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — First Lady Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg today. However, in light of the massacre in Aurora, Colo., the event has been canceled.

According to news reports, a lone male gunman opened fire on people in a movie theater. At least 38 people are wounded and 12 people dead, according to the latest numbers from CNN.

The suspect has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes of Aurora, Colo.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the first lady have canceled all planned events today to address the tragedy.

Many people waited in line for hours in the extreme heat earlier this week to get free tickets to see Obama. According to the campaign, they will do their best to ensure that those holding tickets will be the first contacted if the first lady schedules another event in the area. However, nothing is guaranteed.

 

 

News
Sheriff Jett Donates $20,000 to Memorial

STAFFORD, Va. — With the pomp and circumstance normally reserved for a presidential campaign speech, Stafford County welcomed Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to its public safety center Wednesday.

Arriving about 9:30 a.m. in a black motorcade traveling on Va. 630, McDonnell was greeted by uniformed officers from the county’s sheriff and fire agencies. A large U.S. flag was draped overhead from two ladder trucks from the fire department marking the spot where McDonnell would sign new bills into law that offer new protections for public safety workers, as well as expand their investigative powers.

The keynote piece of legislation signed Wednesday streamlines the process that allows drug monies and other funds seized in criminal investigations to be donated to Virginia’s Public Safety Memorial being built at the State Capitol in Richmond. The first donor under the new law is Stafford Sheriff Charles Jett, who wrote a check for $20,000 and presented it to the governor.

Virginia is one of the five states without a memorial to honor fallen law enforcement officers, fire, and rescue personnel.

“The Public Safety Memorial will serve as hallowed ground forever honoring the respect of our heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice. This memorial will give friends and family a place to forever remember loved ones, as well as provide all Virginians a place to offer their gratitude,” said Jett.

Jett and McDonnell were also joined by several state and local leaders, who all sat under a hot sun with temperatures soaring well above 90 degrees.

“Being able to work with the governor and his staff on asset forfeiture legislation, to streamline and make it easier to take the profits and property and criminals, the ne’er-do-wells that gained these treasures through criminal means, that is a satisfying feeling,” said Delegate Jackson Miller, R-Manassas.

Other legislation signed in Stafford on Wednesday will give expanded investigative powers to the Virginia State Police when investigating arson crimes, will provide police officers on state college campus the same recognition as municipal law enforcement officers, and a new law that will provide full death benefits for all police, fire, and rescue workers killed in the line of duty.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell shakes hands with a caterer who brought food for the bill-signing ceremony. (Photo: KJ Mushung/PotomacLocal.com)

 

Stafford County Sheriff Charles E. Jett presents Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell with a $20,000 check that will go to fund a portion of the cost to build the state’s Public Safety Memorial in Richmond. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

 

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell meets with members of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Senators Richard Stuart and Charles Colgan, to sign in new legislation to protect public safety workers. (Photo: KJ Mushung/PotomacLocal.com)

 

News
Occoquan Schools Nominee a College Advocate

By URIAH KISER

OCCOQUAN, Va. — A retired educator and administrator with 35 years experience at Prince William County Public Schools will make a run for the School Board.

Lillie Jessie, of Lake Ridge, will run as a Democrat to represent the School Board’s Occoquan District — one of eight seats on the countywide Board. She will face Michael E. Wooten, who was appointed to the Board this spring following the sudden resignation of Grant Lattin in May.

Working now as an educational consultant and small business owner, Jessie retired from Prince William schools as Principal of Elizabeth Vaughn Elementary School in Woodbridge. During her tenure with the school system, she focused her work on the U.S. Department of Education’s Title I program that works to ensure fair access to higher education.

“Middle-class kids, my kids, I know are going to go to college. But some children don’t have that chance,” said Jessie.

Candidate Jessie appeared publicly for the first time Sunday night at Occoquan Town Hall. There she noted Prince William’s public schools as some as the best in the nation.

If elected in November, she said she’d do more to educate parents on the inner workings of schools, show them what educational options are available to their children.

She also said students need fewer multiple choice test and more exams that require critical thinking.

“I’m sticking with Prince William County School’s ‘World Class’ motto, and if our schools are world class you’ve got to make them teach students to be competitive in a world market,” said Jessie.

A product of a segregated school system in Newberry, S.C., Jessie was the first in her family, and was one of only a handful in her graduating class to go to college, she said. She credits the encouragement of a teacher, and his help filling out college applications, as the reason she continued her education beyond high school.

Jessie also has ties to Virginia Tech, and she developed a program called “Kindergarten to College” where fifth grade students at Vaughn Elementary School traveled to the Blacksburg school annually.

Wooten, her opponent, served as Marine Corps officer, holds a Doctorate of Higher Education Management, and serves as Vice Chairman of the Board at Northern Virginia Community College.

Jessie said her experience will make all the difference in this race.

“[Wooten] has a degree in education. I have a background in education, and my experience is documented,” she said.

 

News
Obama Stop Planned for Centreville

 ELECTION 2012 

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — President Barack Obama will campaign this Saturday in Centreville.

The president plans a 4 p.m. stop at Centreville High School in Fairfax County. It’s the final stop on a two-day tour of Virginia that begins Friday and includes stops in Virginia Beach, Roanoke, Hampton, and Glen Allen.

Obama faces former Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the November General Election.

First Lady Michelle Obama last month stopped in Occoquan, and it was onto a campaign stop at Dale City VFW Hall 1503.

Want tickets to see the president? Read this from the press release:

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entrance. One ticket per person will be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

To pick up your ticket, visit one of the following locations beginning Thursday, July 12th at 5:30pm.

Organizing for America, Fairfax Office

11215-P Lee Highway

Fairfax, VA 22030

Organizing for America, Falls Church Office

7285 Arlington Blvd

Falls Church, VA 22042

News
Voter Education Forum Planned

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A group of Woodbridge residents want to educate voters on recent changes involved in the electoral process.

The Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity – Woodbridge Alumni Chapter will host a voter education forum at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building on U.S. 1 in Woodbridge Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m.

This is the first time the group has held an event like this in the area, and they’re doing it on behalf of the PWC African Americans Coalition.

“In light of the changes made with the new voter ID law and the district map that was revised since the 2008 election, we are working closely with the [Prince William County] Electoral Board in an effort to educate voters in the county with accurate and up-to-date information on how these changes may affect where and how they vote,” stated event organizer Dora Muhammad in an email.

The forum, “Your Voice, Your Vote,” will be the first of four forums held between now and October. Prince William County along with others in the state changed their election districts last year as part of the decennial redistricting process.

 

News
Fox News Likes Occoquan as Prince William Noted Bellwether

Bret Baier

 FIRST ON POTOMACLOCAL.COM 

By URIAH KISER

OCCOQUAN, Va. — The political spotlight is once again on Prince William County as the Fox News Network plans to broadcast from Occoquan Monday afternoon.

The evening news show, Special Report with Bret Baier, will broadcast live from the deck of Maddigan’s Waterfront restaurant from 6 to 7 p.m. as part of their “counties that count” series that will examine Prince William as a political bellwether for Virginia.

Restaurant owner Cathy Maddigan said a producer visited her Occoquan riverside eatery and asked if they could use the deck for the Monday broadcast. Maddigan said she will learn more about the planned broadcast when she speaks with the show’s producers Sunday afternoon, and the network has already advertised the show on their website.

All of this comes as a recent blog post on Not Larry Sabato noted voters in Prince William County have correctly chosen the winners of every national and statewide election since 2004 – the year when the county went red and put President George W. Bush in office for a second term. Prince William voters also sent Governors Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R), and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) to Richmond.

The blog notes Prince William’s Coles Magisterial District as being the bellwether for the county. Encompassing much of the midsection of the county of 400,000 residents, the Coles District stretches from Minnieville Road in Woodbridge to Manassas.

“The Coles District is a microcosm of Prince William County. It’s a district, more so than any other district, it has a rich mix of urbanized areas, of purely classic suburban neighborhoods with quarter-acre lots, a lot of semi-rural areas similar to what we see in southern Virginia, and then some rural areas on the outside areas of the Rural Crescent,” said Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe.

And it’s not just bloggers or TV shows that have the attention of the Coles District and Prince William County, so does the state’s health department. Because of the cross section of residents in the district, the Virginia Department of Health with grant funding is studying the Coles district to determine trends in smoking and obesity, as well as other factors.

“The health department wanted to study the entire county but didn’t have the staff or resources to look at all of it, it’s just too big a piece of pie to eat all at once, so they decided to study the Coles District,” said Nohe.

In June, First Lady Michelle Obama stopped at Moms Apple Pie in Occoquan on her way to a campaign event for her husband inDale City. 

 

News
McDonnell will Sign New Laws in Stafford

STAFFORD, Va. — Governor Robert F. McDonnell is coming to Stafford to sign bills into law.

The governor will meet with Stafford Sheriff Charles E. Jett on Wednesday, July 18. While there, he will sign into law bills that increase support for public safety officials and agencies, said McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell.

The Stafford County Sheriff’s department traces its roots back to 1664 when Colonial Virginia decreed each county should have a sheriff. Today, the department is divided in to sections, including criminal investigations, administrative, communications, and animal control.

 

News
Hospital, Local Politicians React to Healthcare Ruling

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Leaders at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge are unclear on how to react to the landmark decision today to uphold President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.

The healthcare organization that purchased Woodbridge’s Potomac Hospital in 2009 and changed its name to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in April, says advances in technology and their sheer size will best position them adapt to the healthcare mandate that requires every U.S. citizen to purchase medical insurance.

‘It’s difficult to predict the far reaching results of today’s ruling. But what the U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t change is our strategic direction. Sentara is well positioned for the ripples of this decision because of our vision and strength as an integrated system,” stated Sentara CEO Dave Bernd in a press release.

It’s not just healthcare professionals who are reacting. Unsurprisingly, local politicians have also chimed on the decision.

“The ruling means more than 837,000 Virginians receiving Medicare – seniors and the disabled – including 56,000 of them in the 11th District, will receive free preventative services including colonoscopies and mammograms. It means nearly 3 million Virginians, more than 330,000 in the 11th District, with cancer or other chronic conditions will never again have to worry about arbitrary annual or lifetime limits on coverage. And it means that young adults will be able to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26,” stated Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William.

Overall the high court upheld the law, and likened it to others that give Congress the ability to levy taxes on citizens. Many Republicans who denounced the president’s healthcare law say it’s up to voters to elect candidates to Washington who, now through the legislative process, will vote to repeal the law.

“Be careful what you wish for…now the ‘government’ is on a path to tell you what you must and must not do, whether you like it or not. As Justice Kennedy stated, the role between the citizen and the state has now fundamentally changed. The battle is now on to fight for the foundation of our government; the power is derived from the people,” Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson posted to her Facebook page.

News
Gibson to Face Connolly, Perkins in 11th Race

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — There will be an independent congressional candidate on the ballot this fall for voters in the 11th District.

Fairfax County resident Mark Gibson said he collected more than 1,000 signatures from area voters, which clears the way for his name to be listed alongside Democratic Incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly and Republican challenger Chris Perkins.

The 11th Congressional District (Microsoft Sliverlight plug-in needed to view map) includes Dumfries, Woodbridge, Lake Ridge and Occoquan, as well as Reston, Herndon, Tysons Corner in Fairfax County and Fairfax City.

“I can’t thank everyone enough: friends, friends of friends, neighbors, colleagues, and complete strangers,” Gibson said in a press release. “These are all voters who want to get involved in our political process, giving voters a greater number and more diverse selection of candidates for Congress. Getting on the ballot is a strong victory for democracy.”

Gibson, a CEO of an IT firm,  faces the two-term Connolly, who also served as the At-large Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Perkins is a retired Colonel and former Green Beret who has lived in Fairfax County since 1991.

 

News
Lingamfelter to Compete with Stewart?

Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R, Woodbridge)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Will he, or won’t he? If the look of an email sent out by his campaign staffers late Tuesday afternoon is any indication, he probably will.

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, Fauquier, appears to be putting his name in the upcoming Virginia Lt. Governor’s race for 2013. The staunch Republican who lives in Dale City is known for prodding reforms within the Virginia Department of Transportation, and recently made waves in the debate over now-defunct slush funds for Prince William County Supervisors.

Lingamfelter said he’s received lots of calls asking if he’ll run.

“I am very grateful and humbled by the positive response I have received. People are seeking proven conservative leadership and I believe my record as a movement conservative will be a rallying point for many Virginians. We will have more to say about this effort next week. You should expect a media advisory in the coming days,” the email stated.

If Lingamfelter officially announces his bid for Lt. Governor, he’ll join Prince William County Board of Supervisors At-large Chairman Corey Stewart who has been making his rounds across the state campaigning for that job.

There’s been no response yet from the Stewart camp on what Lingamfelter’s move might mean for their campaign. Stewart is scheduled to appear alongside other fellow Republicans this weekend for a fundraiser inFairfaxCounty.

 

The email distributed by Lingamfelter:

 

News
Kaine Cautious on Sweeping Budget Cuts

Timothy Kaine seeking a U.S. Senate seat for Virginia campaigned in Woodbridge on Friday. (Submitted)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Timothy Kaine made a campaign stop in Woodbridge on Friday to tell voters  he’ll fund more educational opportunities.

Over coffee at Osprey’s Landing restaurant at Belmont Bay, Kaine told resident’s he’s the right choice for U.S. Senate because he’s had experience in an economy in recession during the time he was governor of Virginia between 2005 and 2009.

“On the economy, Virginia has some lessons for the nation,” said Kaine. “When I was governor we were in the worst recession in 70 years, but we were still among the lowest 10 unemployment rates and top 10 median incomes,” stated Kaine in a press release following the event.

Instead of across-the-board budget cuts, Kaine favors more financial support for schools and students with math, technology, and other career, technical, or workforce training.

Kaine faces former U.S. Senator and Virginia Governor George Allen during this fall’s General Election.

Since last year, Kaine has hosted 55 roundtable discussions similar to the one held in Woodbridge on Friday.

 

News
Allen in Stafford Ahead of Primary Election

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — U.S. Senate hopeful George Allen will be in Stafford County today for pizza.

He’ll join Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, Stafford Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson, and Sheriff Charles Jett at noon for a get-out-the-vote event at Family Pizzeria, at 1924 Jefferson Davis Highway in Stafford.

Allen, who faces Virginia Senator Bob Marshall and Tea Party Candidate Jamie Radke in a  Republican Primary Election set for tomorrow, has toured much of the Potomac Communities as of late. Last week, Allen partnered with Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart on a tour of Woodbridge.

Allen’s Democratic opponent is Timothy M. Kaine, a former Governor of Virginia.

Polls open Tuesday at 6 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Find out where to vote

The following candidates are listed on the ballot for the June 12 Primary, according to voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov:

U.S. Senate

George F. Allen Republican georgeallen.com  

E. W. Jackson Republican jacksonforvirginia.org  

R. G. “Bob” Marshall Republican bobmarshall2012.com  

Jamie L. Radtke Republican radtkeforsenate.com  

U.S. House of Representatives 11th District

Chris S. Perkins Republican perkins2012.com  

Ken L. Vaughn Republican vaughnforcongress.com

 

News
First Lady Rallies Voters to Obama’s Vision

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses a crowd of more than 400 people at VFW Post 1503 in Dale City, telling supporters her husband, President Barack Obama, needs four more years to finish the work he’s started. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com))

By KJ MUSHUNG

DALE CITY, Va. – The parking lot of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars building on Minnieville Road was full hours before First Lady Michelle Obama was slated to appear. So was the parking lot of the Staples Mill Shopping Center down the street. Nearby neighborhood roads were lined with cars as people walked some distance to see the first lady speak on behalf of her husband’s campaign.

According to Prince William County Fire Marshal Matt Greenfield, 475 people filled the small VFW building for the event. Because the facility could only hold a limited number of people, many there were volunteers for the Barack Obama reelection campaign. So the first lady’s message wasn’t so much “vote for Obama,” nor was the visit about raising funds from the audience. Instead, it was more of an urging to register voters, to get friends, family and neighbors involved in the campaign and to tell others about Obama’s “vision.”

PLUS: First Lady makes a surprise stop in Occoquan 

Obama told the crowd that the president needed four more years to finish the work he started and to achieve some of the goals that he had not yet accomplished, such as equal pay for women. She listed a few of the president’s accomplishments so far, like helping the auto industry get back on its feet, the benefits of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, the return of troops from Iraq and the elimination of Osama Bin Laden.

“Because of [health care] reform, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care,” she told the crowd, throwing in other details, for instance that senior citizens on average can save about $600 a year on their prescriptions because of the reform.

Obama reminded the audience that one of the first bills her husband signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. “Women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success.”

A follow-up to that law, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is supported by the president, has been blocked by senate Republicans.

The first lady said all of the accomplishments her husband has achieved so far are on the line with this election. “We cannot afford to turn back now. We have to keep moving forward.”

She said that this election could be a close one and may come down to only a few thousand votes. (The Bush-Gore race of 2000 may have come to mind for a few people listening.)

Kristine Hatton, a county resident and student at Northern Virginia Community College, said what resonated with her was Michelle Obama’s remarks about women getting equal pay.

Gail McDonald traveled from Loudoun County to be present. She’s the Ashburn team leader of Loudoun County’s Obama reelection campaign. For her, the first lady’s remarks about healthcare resonated the most.

“I have a son who has diabetes,” she said. Not restricting her son’s health care options because of this pre-existing condition is of key importance to her.

 Michael Futrell, co-chair of the Young Democrats of Prince William County, said: “People need to realize you can’t look at this as a snapshot, you’ve got to look at this as a motion picture. You’ve got to make sure you see the whole thing. And when [Michelle Obama noted] everything [Barack Obama] was able to accomplish… it’s astounding. It reminded us of what we need to be able to do to help him. We need to make sure we don’t repeat [the past] where we got him elected but we didn’t give him any assistance or any help.”

“The thing that really jumped out to me was, not just let’s make sure we get him elected, but the importance of getting Tim Kaine and getting Gerry Connolly elected,” Futrell added.

 

News
Allen Touring Woodbridge Wednesday

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Senate hopeful George Allen will join Virginia Lt. Governor hopeful and Prince William At-large Board Chairman Corey Stewart on a tour of Woodbridge Wednesday.

Allen will appear at 8 a.m. for a breakfast at Appliance Connection in Woodbridge, a kitchen electrics store owned by Prince William Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe.

At 9:30 a.m., Allen will tour the Prince William Realty office on Prince William Parkway. Just before 11 a.m., the tour will stop at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, home of Wegmans in Woodbridge.

Allen will wrap up his tour in eastern Prince William with lunch at the Woodbridge Senior Center.

The tour has also scheduled a stop at the Loft Data Center in Manassas later in the day.

According to a press release, the event is part of Allen’s “Send a Message” tour.

 

News
Prince William Slush Funds Banned

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Elected officials in Prince William County today voted to do away with discretionary funds.

In a letter from At-large Board Chairman Corey Stewart, the county’s top official announced the Board banned the monies known as slush funds from their budgets. The funds were not in the best interest of the county government or taxpayers, stated Stewart.

The Board also put in place tighter restrictions on how staff members who work at offices of Prince William Supervisors enter into contracts. The latter move was to fend off additional criticism of the Board, whose eight members have come under fire for the use of discretionary funds to pay for pet projects.

As part of the new rules, each Supervisors office will receive $20,000 less per year to bring funding in line with that of the At-large Chairman. In a press release, officials outlined how Supervisors may spend monies going forward.

• Funds may not be appropriated in cash or through in-kind donations to any non-governmental organization or any governmental entity that is the recipient of appropriated funds in the Prince William County budget:

• Funds may not be used to sponsor events or advertise in any publication associated with events;

• If a Supervisor is to attend an event in furtherance of the official duties of the District Supervisor, funds may be used to purchase a single ticket for admission to the event for the individual District Supervisor and/or designated staff member;

• Fund balances currently existing in District Office expense accounts for the current fiscal year or carried over from prior years may be transferred to a currently approved Capital Improvement Project fund or approved future Capital Improvement Projects;

• Fund balances remaining in District Office expense accounts at the end of each future fiscal year shall be automatically transferred to the County Revenue Stabilization Fund or to an approved Capital Improvement Project at the request of the District Supervisor;

• Board members will not pay nor incur a legal obligation to pay overtime or allow incurred comp time to Board office employees;

• No Board member will employ or retain any full-time or part-time employee on the County payroll who owns, is employed by, or is a contractor to any company which offers services for hire to any political campaign of that Board member;

• No Board member will engage or retain any vendor services using County funds where the vendor has been retained or is currently retained by the political campaign of that Board member;

• Every Board member will follow County Personnel Manual policies regarding nepotism in hiring employees and managing Board offices;

• Board members may retain up to 10% of salary and benefits cost on an annual basis to cover any unintended staff costs year-to-year.

 

News
Prince William ‘Slush’ Funds at Center of Debate

UPDATED

By URIAH KISER

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The debate over discretionary funds in Prince William County has reached a crescendo, prompting one official to call for banning them altogether.

Discretionary funds, also dubbed “slush funds,” are monies left over to Prince William County Supervisors after the costs of operating their offices have been paid. Each supervisor has an office to serve their respective magisterial districts, each with staff to field questions and concerns from constituents.

On Saturday, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, Fauquier, said he would introduce legislation next year that would bar local governing boards from having discretionary funds.

“If the Supervisors feel that they have a special project they want to do, put it in front of the people at the time the budget passes when folks are focused on the process,” said Lingamfelter. “I don’t think its right to provide politicians with money that they can hand out or expend on just about anything they want. While I know they have to put each item before the board for a vote, most times this is just a formality. A more disciplined approach is required.”

The Prince William Board is expected to address the matter at Tuesday’s meeting. Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins since the beginning of the year has donated at least $7,350 of his funds to local schools, a library, to the Prince William / Greater Manassas Boys and Girls Clubs, and other local organizations — more than any other Supervisor in Prince William’s Potomac Communities. He said the “discretionary” term doesn’t paint the entire picture.

“The term is misused; there really aren’t any discretionary funds. The funds we do have are used to run offices and are moved around occasionally to fund certain things,” Jenkins said Sunday afternoon.

Other supervisors in the Potomac Communities have also donated to certain causes like public schools, charity walks, events, the arts, and environmental organizations, according to public meeting agendas.

Supervisor Maureen Caddigan has donated $4,150, Marty Nohe $3,400, Frank Principi $1,625, and Mike May $375 since beginning of 2012.

According to documents produced by the Prince William County Budget office, public school funding is the largest portion of the funding pie, accounting for 48 percent of the county’s $912 million budget.

The debate is also turning heads in neighboring Stafford County where Lingamfelter’s proposed legislation got the attention of Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson. After Lingamfelter announced his pending legislation,  Stimpson took to her Facebook page to share her thoughts. 

“I love it when politicians grandstand. One delegate (not from Stafford!) just sent out an email update that he is going to introduce legislation to prevent local governments from having “slush” funds. I wrote him an email telling him that not all local governments are corrupt and perhaps we should meet to discuss this legislation. He said he’d have his staffer call my office. Um, yeah. I don’t have an office. And I don’t have an assistant,” Stimpson posted.

Stimpson never mentioned Lingamfelter by name, and told PotomacLocal.com that Stafford Supervisors do not have discretionary funds or individual offices or aides. Stafford does employ one Citizens Action Officer who handles questions or complaints from county residents.

News
New Training, Education Needed to Fill Open Jobs

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

MANASSAS, Va. — A top educator says there will be 500,000 – 600,000 job vacancies in Northern Virginia over the next few decades.

Northern Virginia Community College Dr. Robert Templin made the forecast Wednesday during the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s education summit, and says it will be due to economic growth, mismatches in worker skill sets, and available jobs. Education is going to be a major player in expanding the county’s workforce, he added.

Templin, and other regional leaders, say the area needs to push for more innovative education programs, and job training.

Amy Harris, head of Northern Virginia Systemic Solutions, began the summit by signing a resolution to work with the chamber to expand educational programs, create internships, and provide job shadowing activities for the future workforce. This partnership also looks to expand STEM learning – an integrated approach to learning science and math — in public schools, to better equip students for careers, and help to prepare them for college.

“Our economy, in Northern Virginia, is becoming a thinking-based economy. Virtually all of those jobs are high wage, high education jobs. We can grow our workers – if we’re really smart, we’ll get to it now,” said Templin.

Northern Virginia Community College currently hosts a workforce and STEM based learning program, titled the Pathway to the Baccalaureate, which helps 7,000 children — particularly those in high risk categories — to move into the career field they want to pursue, guaranteeing the students admission in George Mason University.

George Mason University Assistant Provost of Graduate Education Dr. Michelle Marks said colleges must innovate to stay competitive and cater to the learning methods of the a generation of students by 2020. In this age group, where 50 percent of fifth graders own a cell phone, 90 percent play computer games and 26 percent use more than one form of media at once, college courses were going to need to become customizable, with curriculum and learning methods chosen and created by students, in a mainly virtual setting, said Marks.

Also at the event, three high school students were given $2,500 scholarships to the college of the student’s choosing. The three students; Hannah Weatherington, Hayley Lawrence and Brooks Martino, were chosen by a team of members from the Prince William Chamber for their academic excellence and community involvement.

News
Advocates Laud Settlement in Mental Health Case

By SHERESE A. GORE
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Calling it a “historic opportunity,” mental health advocates are awaiting a judge’s approval of a settlement agreement that would improve the lives of thousands of Virginia’s intellectually disabled citizens.

U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. is scheduled to make a decision on the 2012 settlement agreement filed by state and federal officials over Virginia’s non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Central to the federal government’s complaint was Virginia’s failure to provide services to the intellectually and developmentally disabled in the most “integrated setting appropriate to their needs,” in accordance with the ADA and the 1999 Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C.

Individuals are classified as “intellectually disabled” for a combination of factors manifested before age 18, such as an IQ testing of 75 or lower and limitations in adaptive behavior such as problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

In a January letter to the General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell acknowledged the state’s shortcomings.

“Although we were forced into a process and timeline we did not invite, we affirm our longstanding commitment for a stronger, more integrated system of care,” McDonnell wrote.

The settlement follows a series of federal investigations of the Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights, near Lynchburg, in 2008.

The CVTC is one of the state’s five “training centers” – institutions for the care of intellectually disabled people. Currently, Virginia’s training centers house more than 1,000 individuals. The CVTC is the largest, with more than 400 residents.

In its findings, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that systemic failures within Virginia “have resulted in the needless and prolonged institutionalization of … individuals in CVTC and in other segregated training centers throughout the Commonwealth who could be served in the community.”

Mental health advocates criticize the continued use of institutions by states such as Virginia to provide services for intellectually disabled citizens.

“Number one is that it deprives them of everyday liberties – most things we all take for granted: to be able to make the types of choices we make every day in terms of when to get up and when to go to bed and who to associate with,” explained Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C.

“Secondly, it perpetuates the stereotypes and assumptions that people with disabilities are incapable or unworthy of participating in society.”

The Bazelon Center is a nonprofit advocacy group for people with mental disabilities.

Federal investigators found that CTVC residents had little privacy and limited opportunities to associate with nondisabled people. They also found that because of procedural shortcomings, some residents suffered repeated injuries and the facility had slow rates of discharge and transition planning.

The Justice Department also accused the commonwealth of “misalignment of resources that prioritizes investment in institutions rather than community-based services.”

Of particular concern was the lack of availability of Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Intellectual Disability Waivers that would provide community-based day and residential services to intellectually disabled citizens. These ID waivers, as they are called, would help satisfy the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

About 8,600 Virginians are receiving services through ID waivers. However, more than 6,000 Virginians are on a waiting list for ID waivers.

Of the individuals waiting for services, 3,500 are classified as “urgent” due to risk factors such as aging caregivers, abuse or neglect.

The Justice Department’s investigation noted that the waiting list exists even though community care is less expensive than institutionalization: Virginia spends on average $194,000 to house an individual within a training center as opposed to $76,400 for community-based services provided by an ID waiver.

“Theoretically, there’s no limit to the waivers,” said Richard Hemp, co-author of the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities, a research project administered by the University of Colorado.

“Think of it as a push-pull phenomenon, where the federal government is trying to push the waivers to the state because … they are convinced by the research that shows that waivers are clearly the most cost effective way to go.”

Mental health advocates applaud the settlement agreement as long overdue.

In April, a coalition of 70 advocacy groups signed and presented to Judge Gibney a statement saying, “The settlement affords an historic opportunity for thousands of Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live full lives in their own homes and communities.”

Among other features, the agreement would create 4,170 more ID waiver slots by 2021.

That “will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of citizens with ID who will have access to person-centered services and better quality of life,” said Silva Bey, executive director of Community Living Alternatives, a day support and residential program in Fairfax.

In addition, the agreement calls for the closure of four of the existing training centers within 10 years, creation of crisis services and regional mobile dispatch teams, as well as vocational and housing assistance.

“Virginia has the opportunity to make things right,” said Jamie Liban, executive director of The Arc of Virginia, a leading advocacy group for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The settlement agreement provides a solid framework to help Virginia responsibly transition to a community-based system of care that is focused on safety, quality and community integration.”

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