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Hundreds of Gov’t Jobs Remain Vacant in Prince William

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – If government jobs go unfilled for more than 500 days are they really “critical” positions?

That question was raised during a marathon session of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Tuesday as they wrangled over what to fund in the next year’s budget, and how to fund it.

Supervisors agreed on a plan by Board Chairman Corey Stewart that sets the property tax rate at $1.148 per every $100 of assessed property value. It’ll make the average tax bill $3,568, a 4.5% increase over last year, and will net $27.7 million in new revenue to fund two new libraries, more public safety personnel, and improvements to parks, if approved.

Of the new revenue, $15.8 million will go to the schools and $11.8 will go to fund county government.

County jobs going unfilled 

Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland’s failed budget plan – which was to generate $17.5 million in new revenue for the county — called for slashing 227 county government positions that have been vacant for more than 180 days for an overall budgeted savings of $3.7 million a year, according to information presented Tuesday. Jobs vacant for less than 180 days could still be filled under his plan.

Most of the positions are general or civilian government jobs, while others within the police department – like an animal shelter technician job that has been open for more than 500 days, or a sworn police sergeant position unfilled for more than 200 days, would remain unfilled. The proposal also called for cutting a vacant crossing guard position.

“Crossing guards are a chronic challenge every year,” said Prince William police Chief Stephan Hudson, who said the position’s low pay makes it difficult for his department to retain and recruit staff, and that it and other unfilled positions within the department are undergoing review.

Keep Reading…

Prince William Budget Proposals: 1 Holds the Line, Next Funds More Police

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – There are two very different budget proposals on the table for Prince William County.

The first, released last week by Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, who says the county’s current tax rate of $1.126 is enough to fund the needs of county government.

The rate is 5.4% lower than the advertised tax rate officials agreed upon earlier this year at $1.158 per every $100 of assessed property value. The advertised rate would not be able to be increased in the required time it takes the county to pass a budget, but it can be lowered.

“The dramatic increase in taxes on Prince William County families that some on the Board of County Supervisors want to impose at as high a rate as 5.5%, is simply unfair and unsustainable. The recently mailed property tax assessments clearly demonstrate that low-to middle-income wage earners will be disproportionately hurt by this tax rate because the assessment increases hit them the hardest.  Homes with assessed values between $300,000 and $500,000 are seeing assessed values as high as 10% or more, and that will dramatically increase the average tax bills above even the 2.5% set in the approved budget,” said Candland.

Candland says his budget proposal also funds the construction of two libraries — in Montclair and Gainesville — which were approved by voters during a 2006 bond referendum.

But others on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors say there are other unment needs  that amount to more than just libraries. They include more police officers and fire and rescue crews.

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi says his budget proposal, released this morning, will do just that.

“Due to the budget cuts over the past few years, we have accumulated more than $40 million in critical unmet needs.  Many of our economic indicators are showing improvement; housing values are rising and new homes are being built, companies are again hiring and expanding operations, and the employment rate is trending downward.  The time is now for our elected leadership to begin adequately funding schools, public safety and programs for those suffering from mental illness,” said Principi.

Here’s some of what his budget proposal includes:

  • $3,103,140 for the Police Department to hire an additional 20 new sworn officers.

  • $2,460,000 for the Fire Department to hire an additional 20 new firefighters.

  • $500,212 for the Community Services Board for Mental Health Adult Outpatient Services.

  • $1,115,000 to match the School Board’s investment to lower class sizes.

Principi stated Prince William fire and rescue crews are not meeting the demands of responding to house fires and other emergencies within the required targeted time frame of under four minutes. More funding would help them do that, he says.

The Board will meet at 7:30 p.m. in Woodbridge for their budget markup session, the last meeting prior to the Board approving a final budget and ratifying it for adoption.


McAuliffe to Talk First 100 Days at Manassas Town Hall

Virginia Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe accepts the “Blueprint Virginia” economic plan presented to him by Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Barry DuVal, on the right. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

MANASSAS, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe will appear Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Manassas.

The governor will speak to employees at Micron Technology’s manufacturing plant on Godwin Drive.

The Governor will highlighting the progress the administration has made during the first 100 days in office and his priorities moving forward on issues he deems central to the Northern Virginia.

The event comes as McAuliffe administration released its first 100 day report chronicling McAuliffe’s time in office since his January inaugural in Richmond. Since then, the governor has announced 2,642 new jobs created in the state, including 12 in Stafford County at Washington Square Associates, according the report.

“Since my first day in office, I, along with members of my administration, have worked hard to find mainstream, common-sense solutions to problems and create a stronger and more economically competitive Commonwealth,” stated Governor McAuliffe in a press release.  “We have already made significant progress in investing our transportation dollars wisely, creating more jobs in every region of the Commonwealth, and preparing our workforce for a 21st Century economy. I am proud of the accomplishments my administration has made, and I am confident that we will continue to put people above politics to build a stronger economic foundation for the next generation of Virginians.”

The Governor has not been able to sign a comprehensive budget that would fund the state government. Legislators in Richmond remain at an impasse on expanding Medicaid, or Obamacare, in the state. Democrats presented a budget that would accept federal monies to expand the federal healthcare program while state Republicans want to study on the issue.

Following his presentation, the governor will then take questions from the audience. The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

After Dropping Out, Foreman Back in Dumfries Mayoral Race

DUMFRIES, Va. – Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman says he’s running for re-election, again.

The sitting official, in a statement released Sunday, said an outpouring of support from those who live in the town encouraged him to re-enter the race prior to the upcoming Election Day on May 6.

“During each conversation, it was made clear to me the accomplishments that had been achieved over the past two years and the shared vision and strong support of what has yet to be achieved. Lastly it was made clear to me that the voters of Dumfries want a choice.

I have stated on numerous occasions that Dumfries has a small Town feel, there are a lot of proud citizens and business owners in this Town that are working together for a common cause. I am humbled at the outpouring of support. With much thought and consideration, I am campaigning for re-election as Mayor of Dumfries,” Foreman stated.

Foreman is a Republican, and Prince William Republican Committee Chairman Bill Card says they’ve made volunteers available to Foreman who could go door knocking, as well as assist with other campaigning, if he chooses to use them.

“The people of Dumfries already know who he is and he has a good reputation, so I think we’ll let the voters decide what they think on Election Day,” said Card.

Vice-Mayor Willie Toney, a Democrat, is running against Foreman. Democratic advisors told him to continue campaigning as if Foreman had never dropped out of the race because Foreman’s name would have still appeared on the ballot on Election Day.

Foreman announced on April 1 he would not seek reelection. Since reversing that decision, Foreman has not stated why he decided to drop out.

“I really don’t know what to make of this,” said Prince William Democratic Chairman Harry Wiggins. “Here’s a guy who can’t make up his mind if he’s running or not. His indecisiveness hurts the voters’ perception of him, especially because of this flip flop.”

Wiggins said many volunteers have fanned out across the 1.6 square mile town to help Toney get signatures so he could appear on the ballot, as well as help with other campaign functions. The Dumfries race, including races in Prince William’s others towns: Quantico, Haymarket, and Occoquan, is one of Prince William Democrats are trying to win this season.

Following this election, local politicos will turn their attention to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors races set to take place in 2015, but not before a special election to replace Brentsville District Supervisor Wally Covington who’s expected to leave the Board for a judgeship as soon as Richmond legislators agree on a state budget to fund the position.

Foreman was originally elected to the Dumfries Town Council in 2010 and later elected mayor in 2012, replacing the late Fred Yohey who died in office while serving on the Dumfries Town Council as Mayor.

Dumfries Business Association to Interview Town Council Candidates

Dumfries Town Hall

DUMFRIES, Va. – Two mayoral candidates for the Dumfries Town Council have agreed to sit in the hot seat.

Current Mayor Jerry Foreman is seeking reelection and is running against Vice-Mayor Willie Toney. Both have agreed to be interviewed by the newly elected Dumfries Businesses Association (DBA) President Chris Caldwell. This is the first event to be organized by a changing DBA that is now charging for membership and vows to become a larger voice in town business affairs.

“Before the last election the DBA did put on a debate between the council members that where running for office. The DBA feels that we need to concentrate on businesses in the Town of Dumfries and not be a political organization and in addition, the bylaws require the DBA to be nonpartisan,” Caldwell stated in an email to Town Councilman Derrick Wood, in reference to the DBA’s new interest in town politics.

Caldwell says each candidate running for office has been sent a personal invitation to meet with the DBA. Current Town Councilman Charles Brewer will also sit down with the DBA though he’s not up for reelection until 2016.

Vice-Mayor Toney is not scheduled to meet with the DBA until after the election.

Town Councilwoman Kristen Forrester has declined to meet citing scheduling conflicts. She asked to receive the questions in advance and reply to them via email, but the DBA has declined her request.

“I’m a little confused as to why I’m not able to answer the questions by email. It seems to me if the goal was to get information on our positions, it wouldn’t matter the vehicle for receiving the input,” said Forrester in an email to Potomac Local News.

Gwen Washington, Derrick Wood, and Helen Reynolds have yet to accept to the DBA’s interview request, according to Caldwell.

Potomac Local News Publisher Uriah Kiser will also set on the interview panel. The news organization, however, is not a member of the DBA.

The question and answer session is the first project under Caldwell who became the new head of the business organization earlier this year. Prior to him, the DBA sent out a regular news letter to members and held infrequent meetings.

Caldwell vows to reexamine the bylaws of the group and charge membership dues for new and current members, something the organization had not been doing recently.

Mayor Foreman is seen as an ally to the DBA.

“The Town government and the DBA in order to be successful need to have a strong partnership in advocating economic development for the Town of Dumfries,” said Foreman. “In order for the DBA to remain strong, DBA needs to police themselves as well, to ensure businesses are properly licensed and operations are in compliance.”

Candidate Neville also said the organization could be a resource to grow entrepreneurship in the town.

“I would like to commend Mr. Caldwell on all of his efforts to restructure the DBA. The DBA is a tremendous resource in the expansion of our economic development. I would like to reiterate my commitment to providing resources to grow our micro businesses and strengthening our businesses relationship with the town,” said Neville.

The interview sessions will not be open to the public.

*This story has been corrected. Cydny Neville has not agreed to be interviewed by the DBA.

GOP Leaders Request Special Session on Medicaid Expansion

The Virginia Capitol in Richmond. (Photo: KJ Mushung)

RICHMOND, Va. – Just three days before the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn, Republican leaders in the House of Delegates have proposed a special legislative session to debate Medicaid expansion.

The House and Senate are less than one-tenth of one percent (or $26 million) apart from compromising on a two-year, $96 billion state budget agreement, but GOP leadership reinforced its position Tuesday that Medicaid Expansion does not belong in the budget bill.

Majority Leader Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said the commonwealth’s local governing bodies need budgeting information by Saturday’s deadline, and urged the General Assembly to pass a clean budget and reconvene at a later date to discuss Medicaid Expansion as a separate issue.

“We need a solution at this point, and our solution is to call for a special session,” Cox said. “We (House Republicans) have been clear that (Medicaid Expansion) has no business being apart of this process … Let’s free the hostage (the budget) and do what’s right for our schools, teachers, college students and first responders.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has publicly refused to sign a budget bill that does not include some form of Medicaid expansion, and the Democratic Senate has yet to budge on its plan to provide up to 400,000 additional Virginians with health coverage under a private provider known as Marketplace Virginia.

On Tuesday, House Democrats fired back at the Republican proposal for a special session, insisting the idea is a delay tactic and that the GOP is at fault for the government impasse.

“It’s very clear that a number of folks on that (Republican) side of the aisle have just been saying no to basically everything,” House Minority leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said. “’Just say no’ isn’t a policy, (it’s) a recipe for a government shutdown.”

Toscano refused to address Cox by name on the floor and said Democrats wouldn’t consider a special session without assurance the time would be used to work out the details of Marketplace Virginia or some other form of Medicaid expansion.

“We (House Democrats) agree with the gentleman (Cox) from Colonial Heights,” Toscano said in reference to avoiding a government shutdown. “But we can’t leave $1.7 billion on the table. We can’t discuss a budget without including this money.”

As members of both parties continue to point fingers across the aisle, one Republican legislator suggested the GOP has differences within its own caucus.

Delegate Thomas Davis Rust, R-Herndon, said Tuesday he doesn’t agree with House Republican leadership on all details of potential Medicaid expansion, but Rust did agree the legislature’s top priority should be passing a state budget on time.

“We can’t afford to go home Saturday without a budget,” Rust said. “And I think the fact that the two have been tied together is very detrimental to Virginia.”

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, went one step further, suggesting that Democratic President Barack Obama is “falsely taking credit” for federal deficit reductions. He said it’s the states like Virginia rejecting Medicaid expansion that are responsible for lowered national deficit projections.

A joint budget conference committee containing six delegates and seven senators has until Saturday to come up with a compromise before the session is extended. If an agreement isn’t finalized by July 1, the state government will shut down until terms can be negotiated.


Candidates File for Town Elections, Get Names on Ballots

Updated March 31, 2014

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Election season is heating up for the four towns in Prince William County.

The towns of Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, and Quantico will all vote for mayors and Town Council members. Votes in Occoquan will select a new mayor after current Mayor Earnie Porta announced his will not seek a new term.

Here is the list of candidates who will have their names on the ballot come Election Day May 5.

Names appearing on ballots in each of the Prince William County Towns’ Elections as of March, 31, 2014:

Dumfries Haymarket  Occoquan Quantico
Gerald M. Foreman II (Incumbent) David M. Leake (Incumbent) Elizabeth A. C. Quist

Kevin P. Brown (Incumbent)

Willie J. Toney Josh M. Mattox   Iris Ross Tharp
Gwen P. Washington (Incumbent) Steven C. Aitken (Incumbent) Tyler C. Brown Peggy L. Alexander (Incumbent)
Derrick R. Wood (Incumbent) Matthew E. Caudle J. Matthew Dawson Earlene D. Clinton (Incumbent)
Kristin Forrester (Incumbent) Milton J. Kenworthy (Incumbent) Joseph E. McGuire, Jr. (Incumbent) Sammoto Yomosa Dabney
Cydny Neville Christopher S. Morris James A. Drakes Tom E. Davis
  Joseph R. Pasanello Patrick A. Sivigny (Incumbent) Mary Lou DiMarzio
  Pamela L. Swinford   John L. Hallman
  Kurtis W. Woods   Albert R. Gasser, Jr.
  Nicole V. Zimnoch   Russell V. “Rusty” Kuhns (Incumbent)
      Virginia Macfarlan (Incumbent)


All interested candidates have until Monday to file their paperwork to the Prince William County Office of Elections to have their name appear on the ballot.

Here are a few other notes about the upcoming elections:

The Town Elections will be Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

The deadline for candidates to submit all the required paperwork is 7 pm on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

The last day to register to vote in the Town Elections is Monday, April 14, 2014.

Absentee voting begins Friday, March 21, 2014.

The last day to request an AB by mail is Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

The last day to vote AB in person is Saturday, May 3, 2014. DMV and the Main office will be open all day (8 am – 5 pm and 9 am – 5 pm, respectively).

 * Louis Parino failed to submit the required paperwork to the Prince William County Office of Elections and did not qualify to have his name listed on the ballot. 

Sunday Hunting Bill Expected to be Signed into Law

RICHMOND — Weekend hunters in Virginia may be able to enjoy more hunting opportunities if Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs a law lifting the traditional ban on Sunday hunting within the commonwealth.

House Bill 1237, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, passed the General Assembly and now is in the hands of the governor. A similar bill, Senate Bill 154, is expected to pass the General Assembly later this week.

Both bills would allow for Sunday hunting of deer and wild animals only on private property. Hunting would be prohibited, however, within 200 yards of a house of worship.

Although seen as a bipartisan bill, some lawmakers did not approve of lifting the ban on Sunday hunting.

Delegate Thomas Wright, R-Victoria, said the bill will act like a Christmas tree in the legislature, a bill that allows for amendments, like ornaments, to be added on to over time.

Wright predicts the General Assembly gradually will chip away at some of the restrictions in the current bill to eventually make hunting on Sundays equitable to any other day.

“This time it was just private land and still hunting, Wright said. “In the future I think there are going to be other bills amending this bill allowing eventually … the same hunting like on any other day of the week.”

Forty other states do not have prohibitions on Sunday hunting, according to the Coalition to Lift State Bans on Sunday Hunting. Only Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have kept these laws intact.

Both Wright and Gilbert are regular hunters in the commonwealth. Gilbert told Capital News Service earlier this month that the legislation is meant to counter a decline in hunting license purchases in Virginia.

“Virginia has such a strong hunting heritage that we thought this would be a great opportunity to attempt to reverse that trend,” Gilbert said. “The high-powered rifle season for deer is only two weeks long. So if you’re a hardworking person, you really only have two Saturday’s in which to engage in that activity all year. This would simply give you a couple extra days to enjoy a sport you love and be able to put food on the table.”

McAuliffe could not be reached for comment.

Students Won’t Be Able to Hire Attorneys to Fight College Suspensions

The Virginia Capitol in Richmond. (Photo: KJ Mushung)

RICHMOND — A bill was killed this week that would have allowed students to hire attorneys for representation when dealing with university disciplinary actions after officials at Virginia public universities expressed concern about multiple problems the bill would pose.

House Bill 1123, introduced by Delegate Rick Morris, R-Carrolton, would have allowed public college students or student organizations to hire an attorney if faced with more than 10 days of suspension or expulsion. The bill also would have allowed students to take their cases to circuit court after exhausting all college-level judicial affairs options.

At the circuit court level, the bill would have allowed accused students to seek repayment for their tuition and court fees from their college. The bill was tabled in a subcommittee of the House Education Committee.

Brent Ericson, director of George Mason’s Office of Student Conduct, expressed concern that the bill would have made student conduct hearings too similar to court.

“We work in an educational model, and we want to get to know our students,” Ericson said in an interview with George Mason’s student-run news outlet, The Fourth Estate. “Would that ever happen with someone speaking for you? It takes it from an educational process into a procedural criminal one.”

Virginia Commonwealth University Dean of Student Affairs Reuban Rodriguez, Ed.D., agreed with Ericson.

“One of the main reasons why public institutions were opposed to (the bill) was that it’s been clearly defined through various court actions — including the Supreme Court — that the intention is for student judicial hearings not to be similar in any way, shape or form to a court hearing,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also said student hearings would have lost educational value if they were made more similar to a trial.

Title IX requires that colleges take immediate action to address allegations of sexual harassment. Rodriguez expressed concern about how HB 1123 — if passed — could have made victims of sexual harassment more intimidated by a university’s more court-like student hearing process. Rodriguez thinks that because of that intimidation, victims would be less likely to come forward as they would feel disadvantaged.

“Most people who are not attorneys believe that when attorneys are involved, it creates a more adversarial setting,” Rodriguez said, “not only for the victim, but people involved in the hearing feel more tension … and feel like they’re in a situation where their expertise is not present because they feel overwhelmed because they have to interact with a fully licensed professional attorney.”

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Old Dominion University’s Director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Michael DeBowes “suggested Morris’ bill would create a more adversarial process than is in place on many campuses.”

Rodriguez also expressed concern about the cost of the bill to universities, saying that more staff would need to be hired, among other expenditures.

The bill’s impact statement projected that Virginia’s five largest universities (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University) would need additional full-time attorneys on-site.

The Office of the Attorney General estimated that the cost of these full-time attorneys would total nearly half a million dollars annually. This money would have come from tuition and fees.

North Carolina is the first state to have a law similar to House Bill 1123. The “Students and Administration Equality Act” was passed in August 2013.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education supported the bill in the subcommittee hearing.

“FIRE is obviously disappointed the bill was tabled this session,” said Joe Cohn, FIRE’s legislative and policy director, “but (we are) thrilled that Delegate Morris brought this issue forward and, in doing so, made sure that delegates in Virginia now know that the current system on most of Virginia’s campuses of disciplinary proceedings just isn’t working fairly.”

Anderson, Barker Holding Town Hall Today

Virginia State Senator George Barker and Delegate Rich Anderson meet in Lake Ridge to discuss legislative priorities for 2013. [Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

Two local elected leaders will hold a town hall this morning at the Prince William County Government Center.

Democrat State Senator George Barker and Delegate Richard Anderson will meet together at 10 a.m. to discuss what’s happening in the state legislature during this General Assembly period in Richmond.

One of Barker’s bills deals with mental illness and would require a patient who has been served with a detention order, and self-admitted to a mental hospital, could be brought before a judge who could order mandatory outpatient treatment for their illness if there is evidence to show the patient has not taken their treatment seriously.

Another bill would prohibit minors from using tanning beds at private facilities. Those ages 15 through 17 would have to have written consent from their parents before they could climb inside a tanning bed.

Anderson submitted a bill that would require a more clearly defined process of how to remove human remains from construction sites when they’re found. The measure comes after Prince William County school officials this past summer found human remains on the site of the soon-to-be-built 12th high school near the intersection of Va. 234 and Hoadly Road. Those remains will be reburied on a different plot of land on the site where the new school will be built, according to a December School Board resolution.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m., will be held inside the Board of Supervisors Chambers, and is open to the public.


Occoquan’s Porta Won’t Seek Fifth Term as Mayor


OCCOQUAN, Va. – Mayor Earnie Porta has decided he won’t seek reelection after nearly seven years on the job.

The popular Democrat announced today there are new things in life that we wants to occupy his time with, though there was no indication that he would seek higher office in a local or state seat if one were to become available.

Porta could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Here’s his statement he made to constituents:

With the deadline for filing for town elections approaching in March, I wanted to let everyone know that I will not be seeking a fifth term as Mayor of the Town of Occoquan this May. After making a careful and realistic assessment of other commitments and obligations, as well as of personal and professional goals, I have concluded that I simply would not be able to devote for another full two-year term the time, effort, and focus that I think the people of Occoquan deserve.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Occoquan’s Mayor over the past eight years, and I am very grateful for the generous support received during that time from residents, businesses, staff, visitors, and the many friends of the town in Prince William County and other areas. I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together. We have, I believe, provided a solid foundation on which future councils can build. Over the remaining five months of my term I will do my best to continue to work diligently on Occoquan’s behalf. Thank you all again for the privilege of serving.

Occoquan holds its Town Council elections in May. The mayor serves a two-year term.

Porta has become known for his knowledge of the town, and is an outspoken advocate for the Occoquan River and the natural features of the small town.

When the Ballywhack Creek flooded in 2011 after torrential rains poured for days, Porta was seen on the streets of the small town assisting business owners and directing traffic.

Torian’s Bill One of Several Proposed Reforms

RICHMOND, Va. – Among the flurry of ethics reform bills being proposed throughout the Virginia General Assembly is Senate Bill 212, which would remove Freedom of Information Act exemptions for legislators and their aides.

The new FOIA bill, which is part of an ethics package authored by Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, would remove Delegate Tag Greason’s, R – Potomac Falls, House Bill 1639 less than a year after its approval.

HB1639 also is known as the 2013 General Assembly FOIA Exemption Act. The measure officially added legislative aides to the exemption list of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

Currently, General Assembly members and legislatives aides are exempt from Virginia’s FOIA act, which means their working papers and written correspondence are unattainable for public viewing. Petersen said SB212 would increase accountability in the Virginia legislature.

“We need as much transparency as possible, and then people can make up their own minds,” Petersen said. “(FOIA) has an incredible influence on people because it makes you realize, ‘Hey I’m under scrutiny at all times.’”

House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, announced a bipartisan agreement pushing forward a plan for ethics reform. This proposed legislation come following a financial controversy surrounding former Republican Gov. Robert R. McDonnell.

“The (FOIA) exemption has been broadly interpreted, and it’s now used for everything,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “Anything that narrows that scope and keeps things in check is a good thing.”

Delegate Luke E. Torian, D-Dumfries, patrons House Bill 689, which would require legislators and lobbyists to file financial disclosure reports semiannually rather than annually. Along with the rest of the ethics legislation, the bill’s stated goal is to prevent another controversy by aiming for more government transparency.

“We just simply want to let the citizens of the commonwealth know that we’re operating with a tremendous level of integrity,” said Torian, one of an increasingly large group of bipartisan House members involved in ethics reform.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe was sworn in as governor this past week, while McDonnell faces federal and state investigations regarding gifts received while in office. The Justice Department said in December a decision for or against indicting McDonnell could come as late as February.

Petersen said in the current culture there is a symbiotic relationship between donors and politicians.

“It may be that way in every government, but I think right now it’s more pronounced in Virginia because you have unlimited gifts, unlimited donations, and the transparency is minimal,” Petersen said. “It’s all self-reporting.”

Gibson Running Again, Starts Drive to Unseat Gerry Connolly in November

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Mark Gibson will run again for the 11th Congressional District that includes portions of Prince William and Fairfax counties.

An independent, this will be Gibson’s second run at unseating Democrat Gerry Connolly whose been in office since 2009.

More in a press release:

Mark Gibson, an independent candidate for Virginia’s 11th Congressional District (VA-11), began his ballot petition drive today, the first day permissible under Virginia law. Gibson finished the 2012 election with the most votes among non-major party candidates; he says voter encouragement and an underperforming Congress prompted him to run again.

“I received a lot of compliments and inspiration from voters after the last election,” Gibson said, “and the dissatisfaction with Congress and the major parties is at least equal to that of 2012. More and more voters identify themselves as independents. I hope to build on the attention independent voters gained in the last election.”

Gibson will need to collect 1,500 signatures from 11th District voters by early June.

Though the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) has not yet finalized its candidate information bulletins for 2014, all forms and rules from the 2012 election remain valid through July 1, 2012. In addition to presenting ballot petitions to SBE, Gibson will submit completed forms for his declaration of candidacy and certification of candidate qualification. Filings to the Federal Election Commission and U.S. House Committee on Ethics will follow along with the establishment of a principal campaign committee.

Gibson has lived in Fairfax County since 1997. He serves as CEO of an IT firm. He is a native of the Washington, D.C. area.

During the last campaign cycle, Gibson worked to get out the vote early by announcing his campaign in April 2012.

Voters will head to the polls again in November.


Lawson Seeking Brentsville District Seat in 2015

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Jeanine Lawson will try again in Brentsville in 2015.

The Republican who ran against sitting District Supervisor Wally Covington during a GOP Primary Election in 2011 announced this morning she once again will seek election to that seat in 2015.

Covington won the Primary Election by five points in 2011, but this time Covington’s political aspirations aren’t so clear as many have publically hinted, including Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, that Covington would like an appointed judgeship at the Prince William County Courthouse.

Lawson lives with her husband in the Brentsville District and has two children, one of them she notes as a sophomore at Patriot High School. She says she has remained active in the Republican Party both locally and at the state level by participating in several campaigns since her Primary loss 18 months ago.

In an email to supporters titled ‘I’m in,” Lawson is quick to point out her concerns for the proposed Bi-County Parkway that would link Interstate 95 in Dumfries with Dulles Airport by way of the Manassas National Battlefield Park.

“This proposed road alignment raises a lot of concerns and I believe our state and local government should spend our taxpayer funds on more meaningful transportation solutions,” Lawson penned in her email.

Here is more what she stated in the email:

So why am I running again? Because I remain very committed to our community.

We learned from the 2010 census that PWC grew 43% from 2000-2010 with Brentsville District alone growing at 102%. Well, as we know, with all these new residents come serious demands to our infrastructure and that has lagged behind. Therefore our students attend schools well over capacity, sitting in traffic has become a way of life, and normal levels of service provided by local government are under achieved. Also, two-third of our workers commute outside the county to their jobs, and taxpayers continue to watch their property tax bills climb. We can do better!

Some of my vision for Prince William County and more specifically the Brentsville District includes:

* School Capacity and Class Size Reduction: We simply cannot build public schools fast enough to keep up with the growth. Currently, there are tens of thousands of additional homes approved to be built countywide. And to make matters worse, our class sizes are at the highest state allowed numbers. I am committed to working with Mr. Gil Trenum, (and honored to have his endorsement) Brentsville representative to the PWC School Board and his colleagues to bring resolution to this problem. Our kids and teachers deserve better!

* Attracting Business Growth: Clearly, we need to shift our focus to attracting business job growth which will also result in a healthier tax base. Right now, less than 20% of the county’s property tax revenue is from commercial and/or industrial property. It is the BOCS who is responsible for voting to rezone business property to residential property. This trend needs to stop. We need to do a better job of marketing our County’s assets to the business community. Virginia is known to be a very business-friendly state. We must take advantage of that, our location to our nation’s capital, and the high quality of our skilled work force. This is a trio of rare assets to many localities across the nation. We can do better because of these!

*Conservative Fiscal Policy: PWC has the highest tax rate in Virginia when you include the real estate tax rate and other levies. I expect all levels of government to be wise stewards of the people’s money. Property owners have watched their tax bills climb and the County’s five year plan calls for tax increases for each of the next five years. We can do better!

*Meaningful Transportation Solutions: As I stated earlier, I am committed to continue the fight against the infamous Bi-County Parkway. Property rights are under attack from VDOT’s over-reaching power grab, the historic Manassas Battlefield will forever be changed, local road closures will wreak havoc on our secondary roads, the Rural Crescent character and policy will be compromised and hundreds of millions of tax dollars will be wasted to serve one special interest group. We can do better!

Lawson joins another early announcer Republican Terrance Boulden who will seek the job of Woodbridge District Supervisor in 2015. Lawson also made a bid to supporters for donations as, at last count in June, she had $2,115 cash on hand.

Sellers Takes Stafford Supervisor Seat, Takes Garrisonville for Democrats


121411 StaffordDecides-Graphic-600x600-bNORTH STAFFORD, Va. – After two elections in 2009 and 2013, long-time Stafford resident Laura Sellers was sworn in on December 10, as one of the newest members of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. Filling incumbent Ty Schieber’s seat in the Garrisonville district, Sellers has big plans for her time on the Board.

Graduating from North Stafford High School, Sellers earned her Sociology degree from North Carolina State University. In 2009, she had returned to Stafford County and chose to run against then Garrisonville District Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer.

Sellers recalled a conversation with her parents about how many Stafford races go uncontested, that sparked her interest in running for the Board seat.

“That’s crazy; why would we have any races that were uncontested? That’s really why I decided to run back in 2009. There should never be a race that is uncontested because it keeps an incumbent honest – so I learned the issues, really educated myself,” Sellers said.

While Sellers did not win the seat against Dudenhefer, she made a commitment to run again in 2013.

“When I lost in 2009, I said ‘I’m going to stay on top of the issues,’” she added.

It was the change to her game plan during the campaign that made the difference in helping her to win the seat during this year’s General Election on Nov. 5. She turned a historically red Republican magisterial district in Stafford County to Democrat blue.

“I was more strategic this time. I’m the former Chair of the Stafford Democratic Committee, so I had an understanding of where the Democrats sat. I volunteered on a lot more campaigns here locally in Stafford, and I had finished all of the coursework for my Master’s degree in Social Work, so I have a really good understanding of public policy,” Sellers said.

And while recent Virginia elections have shown trending for more Democratic support, with Obama’s Virginia wins in 2008 and 2012, and the recent gubernatorial race with the election of Terry McAuliffe, Sellers does not believe that this sweep of support for her party helped her during the campaign.

“It helped in knowing where Democrats sat, but Obama didn’t win Stafford. Locally, it’s just a very different race than at the national level.”

To Sellers, one key strategy she implemented during the campaign was working on her bipartisan interactions with voters, and looking at the common ground they shared, instead of their differences; something she worked on in her role at the Department of Defense, working with openly conservative colleagues.

“In social work, we say there’s a time called a ‘learning moment’ and there’s a moment when you just move on,” Sellers said.

Despite being new to the Board, Sellers plans to act as a strong advocated for the Garrisonville District, making it a priority for the district to have a strong voice.

“There are issues that need to be addressed in the district, like, our fire station – Station 14. We need a full fire station instead of a modular and a temporary building, which is planned for 2018; I would like to work with the Board and the County to find a way to move that up,” Sellers said.

Herring Keeps Win in Prince William After Recount


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Democrat Mark Herring won Prince William County after a recount of ballots cast in the county. The finding reaffirms the initial vote count completed following the statewide General Election on Nov. 5, but with some slight changes.

More in a press release from the Prince William County Office of Elections:

Prince William County’s Recount Officials completed the recount for the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s race for all county precincts on Tuesday, December 17 at 3:30 p.m.

The only precinct that had a change was the absentee precinct. The county’s 77 regular precincts had no changes. The unofficial recount numbers are posted on the Office of Election home page. The final outcome is expected to be announced by the Richmond Recount Court by this Friday, December 20.

In a recount, Herring won more votes over his Republican opponent Mark Obenshain, 52,121 to 44,173, respectively.

On the first count in November, Herring won Prince William County by 52,109 votes to Obenshain’s 44,163.

Jurisdictions across the state have been ordered to recount the election ballots after the November results for the Attorney General’s race were too close to call. In late November, prior to the recount, the Washington Post declared Herring the winner of the race.

Obenshain won Stafford County with 56% of the vote in the November General Election. A recount was compelted in that county yesterday and we’re working on bringing you the results.

Herring won both Manassas and Manassas Park in the November General Election.

Congressman Wolf Won’t Seek Reelection

MANASSAS, Va. – Congressman Frank Wolf is calling it quits after 33 years in office.

The long-serving congressman, who represents portions of Prince William, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties, announced his decision not to seek reelection on Tuesday.

He released this statement:

“I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. I thank my constituents for giving me the privilege of representing them in Congress for 34 years.

“As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation, and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom – both domestic and international – as well as matters of the culture and the American family. My passion for these issues has been influenced by the examples of President Ronald Reagan, former Congressmen Jack Kemp and Tony Hall, Chuck Colson, and the life of 18th century Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.

“I want to thank the many excellent former and current members of my staff who have helped me serve the people of the 10th District. I am also grateful to my wife, Carolyn, and my family, who have faithfully stood by me all these many years.”

Republicans now must decide who they will run to fill Wolf’s seat.

Last week, Fairfax County Supervisor Mark Foust announced he is running to represent the 10th District.


Haymarket Mayor Censured, Withholds Information


HAYMARKET, Va. – Mayor David Leake was censured this morning in an special meeting of the Haymarket Town Council.

The censure stems from Leake withholding the names of two town employees. It appears those employees could be in trouble, though town officials are mum on who they are or what they might have done.

“Absolutely, It’s a very serious situation,” Leake told Potomac Local News when asked of the severity of the situation regarding the employees.

Prior to the Town Council’s vote to censure Leake for withholding the names, a special committee comprised of Vice Mayor Jay Tobias and Councilman Steven Aitken was formed and was charged with investigating personnel issues involving the two town employees.

Leake said the committee is not qualified to conduct such an investigation, and added he’ll only release the names of the town employees to a third-party investigator brought in on the council of the town’s hired attorneys. 

“Town council members handling the investigation…it’s out of their league and it’s out of their professionalism… it’s just not the right way to go,” said Leake.

Additionally, Leake said he is looking into overturning both motions made at today’s special town council meeting. The first: to create the investigative committee wtih Tobais and Aitken, and second: to reverse his censure. The Mayor said the town charter allows the mayor — who is not allowed to vote — to cast a veto by making his case in writing and presenting it within five days of the council’s vote.

Tobias made the motion Monday to censure Leake. When reached for comment, he said little about the investigation noting only that officials are looking into personnel maters, and added “it is certainly possible” the committee’s investigation could yield information on the good doings of the two town employees in question.

The censure comes after Mayor David Leake in October moved to censure and fine Tobias after he was charged with public intoxication at the town’s annual Haymarket Day.

Elected Leaders to Appear, Take Questions at Eastern Prince William County Town Hall

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Some of the Delegates from eastern Prince William County headed to Richmond next month for the annual General Assembly lawmaking session will take questions from voters next week.

More in a press release from Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William, Fauquier)

The General Assembly Delegation from Eastern Prince William County will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, December 19th at 7PM at the Coles District Volunteer Fire Department- 13712 Dumfries Road, Manassas, Virginia 20112.

The evening will be an opportunity to hear directly from legislators about their priorities during the upcoming 2014 General Assembly Session and take questions from those in attendance.

For more information, contact Andrew Clark at 703-580-1294.

Foust Challenges Wolf in Virginia’s 10th District

A Fairfax County Democrat is making a run for Congressman Frank Wolf’s seat in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.

Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, representing the Dranesville District, has challenge and the Republican Wolf for a seat he has held since 1981.

More in a press release:

“Like so many Virginians, my life has been shaped by opportunities that were forged through hard work, but the reckless and irresponsible politics of Washington are holding Americans back from achieving our country’s promise of this opportunity,” said John Foust. “When Congressman Frank Wolf shutdown our nation’s government, it became clear just how out of touch Congressman Wolf’s dysfunctional agenda is with the values of Virginia families who want Congress to stop standing in the way of solutions at every turn. Whether it was balancing six budgets while still delivering quality services to residents or expanding full day kindergarten county?wide, in Fairfax I brought Republicans and Democrats together, worked hard, and got results – and it’s exactly this problem solving leadership that I’ll bring to Congress.”

Foust was elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2007 and unseated Republican Joan DuBois for the job. A once practicing attorney focused on construction law cases, Foust has since transitioned from his law practice and focused full time on his duties as a member of the Board of Supervisors.

He is married to his wife of 30 years, Dr. Marilyn Jerome for 30 years. They

have two sons, Matthew and Patrick, who both are recent college graduates.

Foust in a press release touts his work to improve traffic along Va. 7 and schools:

…as chairman of the Board’s Audit Committee, vice chairman of the Budget Committee and chairman of the County’s Economic Advisory Commission. He worked to expand full day kindergarten to the entire county and fund widening of Route 7 to ease congestion for commuters, amongst numerous other accomplishments.

 Virginia’s 10th Congressional District spans western Prince William, western Fairfax County, and Loudoun County.

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