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Politics

Cuccinelli Rallies Bristow, Hopeful for Prince William Win

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

BRISTOW, Va. – The end is in sight for Ken Cuccinelli and his race against Terry McAuliffe to become Virginia’s next governor.

He’s been out spent, and is lagging in the polls to his opponent by at least 12 points. But, during a campaign appearance with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday with just six days to go until the election, the conservative Republican says winning bellwether Prince William County and the rest of the state remains in his grasp.

“We are working the ground and working the other side like crazy in Prince William County… there’s a lot of work to be done here, a lot of voters to contact, and a real opportunity to win,” Cuccinelli told Potomac Local News.

Last year, President Barack Obama handily won Prince William County with 57% of the vote. When Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was elected in 2009, he turned the county red once again after Obama carried it in 2008.

By his own admission, it will be a close race for the Attorney General who brought Jindal back to Virginia following a similar appearance in Richmond following Cuccinelli’s nomination in May. Jindal, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, called Cuccinelli a “principled leader.”

“In these times, I’m so tired of politicians who stick their finger in the wind to find out where they need to go. We’ve got a saying in Louisiana is when they see a crows marching on city hall they get in front of it and call it a parade,” said Jindal.

This was the second high-profile campaign event in Prince William in the past three days. McAuliffe brought in President Bill Clinton to stump for him on Sunday in Dale City.

The candidates in this governor’s have chosen to rally supporters on national issues and have shied away from state and local issues, such as transportation and education. Cuccienlli on Tuesday referenced the most recent failings of the Obama care website and users inability to access the website and sign up for healthcare coverage. As Attorney General, Cuccinelli sued the federal government following the passage of the law only to have the U.S. Supreme Court rule Obama care a tax.

A vote for Cuccienlli, he maintains, will be a message to Washington that citizens do not want to be forced to purchase to healthcare.

“If the government can tell you how to do this and what to buy then they can tell you to buy anything,” he said.

He went on to liken McAuliffe’s record to insider politics and big government in Washington, and continued by calling the Federal Government the “largest opponent in the world.”

Cuccinelli was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 2002 and remained there until 2010, when he took office as the state’s Attorney General following the election and inauguration of McDonnell. He now lives with his wife Teiro, five daughters and two sons, in Prince William County.

Trimble Wants to Abolish Vehicle Decal, Keep Office Open Later

Patricia Ann Trimble has a long history in city government. She has seen how both the Commissioners and Treasurers offices work and feels that she can use this information to better operate the revenue office for the people of Manassas Park.

“I am a very down to Earth person and I believe that city officials are here for the citizens,” Patty told Potomac Local News.

As the Commissioner of Revenue, Trimble said she would like to eliminate the windshield decal that all residents are supposed to have on their cars. Trimble said that the taxpayers would save money for the postage of the decals, the printing of forms for the decals and creation of the decal stickers. Since the police department in Manassas Park can now stop people who are in arrears on tax payment, Trimble said the decals are no longer necessary.

“I would like to work on better hours for our citizens,” Trimble said. “We are here to make residential and business life easier not harder.”

Currently, Manassas Park city offices are closed from 1:30-3 p.m. to lower costs, however this makes it challenging for people working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to get city business accomplished. Trimble said she would like the office to stay open late at least one night a week and to make the Commissioner of Revenue’s office more accessible via the web, which would allow residents to make payments and do paperwork at home.

Voters will go to the polls Nov. 5.

 

Clinton Rallies Voters for McAuliffe, Paints Cuccinelli as Conservative Ideologue

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

DALE CITY, Va. – With nine days left until the statewide gubernatorial election, President Bill Clinton came to Dale City on Sunday to campaign for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

McAuliffe, who has been running a vigorous campaign to become Virginia’s next governor, has a seven-point lead over his opponent Attorney General Ken Cucineilli. The event at VFW Post 1503 on Minnieville Road was used to keep campaign workers and canvassers energized.

“The big reason for the big political division in this country is that during the non-presidential years a whole different America shows up than in the presidential years. And those of who want the country to come together and move forward, and those of us who want Virginia to come together and move forward, have got to care as much about this election as you did about the election in 2012,” said Clinton.

Last November President Barack Obama handily won reelection with the help of Virginia voters who swept him back into office with 51% of the vote. In Prince William County, where today’s campaign rally was held, Obama beat Republican rival Mitt Romney with 57% of the vote.

MORE to the STORY>> Stafford’s first elected black leader featured on Clinton – McAuliffe stage

McAuliffe once again painted his opponent as a conservative ideologue who out of touch with mainstream voters. He touted more funding for the state’s community colleges, expanding Medicaid, more equal rights for gays, and he repeatedly tied Cuccinelli to the recent 16-day Federal Government shutdown brought on by GOP members of congress.

“The idea that a mom or dad should have to tell their children that they can’t work because of congressional dysfunction is a national disgrace,” said McAuliffe.

But McAuliffe may be having a tough time tying Cucineelli to the shutdown, as the latest Quinnipiac University Poll however states the shutdown “apparently has no impact on the governor’s race.”

Also appearing at the rally was Democrat Attorney General candidate Mark Herring who faces Republican Mark Obenshain. Also on the ballot will be Democrat Ralph Northam who is challenging Republican E.W. Jackson for the Lt. Govenor’s job.

All candidates will be voted upon separately as they are not running on party tickets.

Libertarian Robert Sarvis is also seeking the governorship and is polling at 10% among likely voters, according to the poll.

Cuccinelli will appear with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is scheduled to appear in Bristow at a campaign rally at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Jindal shared the stage with Cuccinelli in May during Virginia Republican’s nominating convention in Richmond.

Rep. Gerald E. “Gerry” Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William) said Prince William County will remain a “blue” county and will serve as a bellwether for the election.

“This is a democratic county, and we are going to Virginia the same thing we showed them last November,” said Connolly as he warmed up the crowd.

Carlos Castro, owner of Todos Supermarkets in Dumfries and Woodbridge, touted McAuliffe’s entrepreneurial roots as a salesman and venture capitalist. An immigrant from El Salvador to the U.S. in 1980, Castro said it was people like McAuliffe who helped him grow his business.

“It is exciting to know we will have an entrepreneur as a governor,” he said.

A total of 533 people came to Sunday’s rally, according to Prince William County Fire Marshal Paul Smiljanich. The meeting hall has a capacity of 750 people.

Voters will head to the polls Nov. 5.

Woodson, Stafford’s 1st Elected Black Leader, Featured at Clinton – McAuliffe Rally

Democrat Terry McAuliffe rallies voters while Robert “Bob” Woodson (far right, 1st row) looks on. [Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

On the stage behind President Bill Clinton and Virginia Gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe on Sunday sat Stafford County’s first black elected member of its Board of Supervisors.

Bob Woodson represented Stafford’s Griffis-Widewater Magisterial District until he stepped down from the board in 2012.

While he’s been seen at public functions, he’s remained largely out of the public spotlight. At the rally, Woodson said he’s not looking to make a return to public life but does want get more people involved in the electoral process at the local level.

“This is where the action is. The action is in the local level, not necessarily the presidential level. It’s the local level where you elect your legislator, where you elect your House of Delegates, or you elect your state senators. That’s what’s important,” said Woodson.

In his home county of Stafford, where Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 won the vote by 10 points, Woodson expects McAuliffe to have a good showing.

“I think he should carry the county, but whether he will or not remains to be seen,” said Woodson.

He added the northern portion of the Stafford County is made up of an electorate of more issue-oriented voters, and has fewer conservatives than neighborhoods located further south near Fredericksburg..

“They’re looking at the issues and what can you do help improve our community? What can you do help improve our transportation system? What can you do to help improve our parks and rec.?” said Woodson.

Woodson was elected in 2008 to serve Griffis-Widewater and chose not to seek reelection. His term ended on a sour note when two Republicans on the board refused to sign a proclamation honoring him.

Woodson was succeeded by Republican Jack Cavalier who ran as an independent candidate.

Woodbridge School Board Candidate, Williams Says 2013 November Election is About Bettering Schools, Not Competition

Loree Williams has been a resident of Woodbridge  for over 30 years. She is running up against current incumbent Steve Keen for occupation of the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County School Board. She says this election isn’t about competition; rather, it’s about bettering the schools.

“There are no enemies in this race,” she says. “Keen has served before and I think that he is a wonderful opponent and has done a great number of things for our county.”

Williams is a wife and mother with two sons, one who is currently attending a Prince William County school. She says this gives her the opportunity to offer a fresh perspective that is not currently being represented on the board.

“I served as a PTA president at my son’s elementary for two years and I also am currently serving on the PWC Gifted Advisory Board. When the position for school board came up, I felt like this was the next logical step for me to try to help our county’s students, parents and teachers,” she says. “Currently there is no one on the board that has young children and with the best interest in seeing our county’s schools grow and change to meet the needs of the students that are in the schools,” she says.

Challenges

Williams says one of the biggest challenges facing schools is adapting to new technologies.

 “Technology is becoming more and more imperative in our schools and education and most of the students are doing some type of online learning,” she says. Williams says it is important that students and teachers both have the technological capabilities they need in modern society.

Additionally, Williams says she will advocate smaller class sizes to allow for a better learning environment for students and teachers.

“I am fully aware of how much time it takes for our teachers, especially when they have 33 students in a class, that’s over 108 students they have to deal with in a day when it comes to grading papers and all the preparation they need for the class.” she says. “It would be to our advantage if we reduce our class sizes to alleviate some of that stress from the teachers and to provide more one-on-one attention for our students.”

Controversial Pool Proposal

An indoor aquatics facility could soon be coming to the 12th high school in Prince William County and has caused controversial opinions across the Woodbridge community. One of the first decisions the newly elected Woodbridge school board member will make is whether to authorize the school division to build the pool.

Prince William County Schools project that the pool’s cost will be $10.5 million to construct and $800,000 per year to operate, in which usage fees will cover about 70-100 percent of the operating fees. PWCS says that it will serve the entire community, providing aquatic instruction, lessons and space for private and high school swim teams.

Williams says the pool could be beneficial to educational instruction, however, she says it is important to be mindful of the budgetary and upkeep factors that come along with the proposal.

“Because our mission for PWCS is to provide a world class education for our students, I could see how having a pool inside one of our schools would be an added benefit to that, but the operation and maintenance (issues) are something we need to look deeper into and come up with some definite and final decisions,” says Williams.

2014-2015 Budget

The superintendent’s proposed budget for FY 2014-2015 will be presented this February, shortly after the school board member is elected. One of the biggest issues talked about at the board of supervisors level is how the budget can be managed properly to see that schools are funded and teachers are retained. Williams says that if she is elected she will work to form a budget committee to review the school division’s proposed budget.

“I do everything in my power to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to the schools, whether I’m elected to the board or not,” she says. “If I am elected, it would only be to my benefit to continue that habit. I can’t make an informed decision unless I, myself is informed.”

Virginia voters will go to the polls on Nov. 5 for the 2013 General Election.

 

Del. Jackson Miller: Create More Opportunity for Business in Virginia, Focus on Security in Schools

Delegate Jackson Miller, Republican representing the 50th district (Manassas and Prince William County) has served the Virginia House of Delegates since 2006. This year he is running for reelection against Democrat Richard Cabellos. He will continue to center his campaign on public safety, criminal justice and business.

As a former police officer for 17 years, he is experienced with issues of criminal justice and public safety. He is responsible for sponsoring legislation that would protect victim and witnesses of crimes by requiring that the defense attorney not be able to publically disclose the personal information of the victim and witnesses. He said this exemption is only currently intact for gang crimes. His bill would include victims and witnesses of drug crimes and violent felonies.

“A lot of people assume that a violent felon who has been charged that they would not have access to the victim or witness’s information, but in fact they do,” he says. “Right now we only allow it for serious gang crimes. We should allow it for all crimes.”

Although these three areas are aligned with his professional level of expertise, Miller says he strives to represent all the issues important to his constituents. Having served as majority whip in the Virginia House of Delegates, he had the opportunity to influence legislation that he may not be a part of otherwise.

Education

Miller says he has worked hard to help fund and prioritize education properly.

“I’m proud to say that because of my previous support of education in Virginia, that I got the endorsement of the Manassas Education Association and the Prince William Education Association,” he says. “I continue to work hard on the funding of schools and classroom sizes and that’s why I have the endorsement of teachers and that’s something I’m very proud of.”

Miller’s target-area when it comes to schools has to do with security. Last session he sponsored a bill with the focus of providing experienced security personnel in the schools.

“It’s a bill that would allow retired police officers under the Virginia Retired system to be hired by a school system full-time to be a school security guard,” he says. Currently, several retired police officers are able to get jobs as school security guards, but not on a fulltime basis. He says that this bill would help provide a safer school environment, especially if a critical incident were to occur.

“It’s much safer for the schools because a retired police officer knows and understands police procedures in a critical incident,” he says. “In many cases, the police officer goes to work in the jurisdiction he was (originally) a police officer so he almost instantly knows the officers and how they respond.”

Transportation

Miller says he was not in favor of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bipartisan transportation package because he feels it is detrimental to Prince William County. He says that in Northern Virginia’s Planning District 8, which includes Prince William County, Fairfax and Loudon counties, Miller says the region saw a 20 percent increase in sales tax and a 150 percent increase in the Grantor’s Tax, which is a tax on homes sold in the area.

“I simply couldn’t support bill that would have significant tax increases on my businesses and my constituents,” he says. “Prince William’s biggest competitors for business aren’t Fairfax and Loudon, our biggest competitors are Stafford and to a lesser degree, Faquier County, but those counties don’t have that tax increase.”

Miller says that it could be argued that the population in Fauquier and Stafford are gaining a huge increase at a higher rate than the Prince William County residents because they do not have to absorb the same tax increase.

 “I simply cannot vote for the bill when we pay much more than our neighbors, yet they commute through the same region we do at a higher percentage than PWC residents.” Additionally, Miller fears the transportation package will ultimately be damaging to business development.

“I don’t disagree that it will benefit people in Prince William County, but still I don’t think it’s worth it at the cost of us not being able to attract jobs,” he says. “It’s a lot more difficult for Prince William to attract the huge high-tech companies that bring a lot of high paying jobs to Fairfax and Loudon counties.”

Job/Business Development

As a current realtor and real estate investor, Miller is oriented toward making Virginia more business-friendly.

“I drew a lot of pieces of legislation that were created to help businesses,” he says. “They (were created) to let businesses work more smoothly under the guidelines that the state government provides for them.”

He says creating regulations is not always bad for business and that his knowledge of different types of businesses helps with making regulatory legislative decisions.

“I’ve worked to help several types of business groups eliminate regulations that weren’t necessary and sometimes create regulations that the industry thinks is necessary,” he says.

Medicare expansion

Miller says that the Affordable Care Act, a federal comprehensive healthcare reform package that is set to be expanded in Virginia on Oct. 1, could be damaging to Virginia as a state. He worries that by accepting the healthcare expansion during a time when the federal economy is fragile, Virginia will later be expected to make significant budget cuts in order to continue to fund the program.

“It’s not good policy and has the ability to break the budget of the commonwealth of Virginia,” says Miller.  “I think that expansion is way too risky for the future of the commonwealth and that it would be a direct threat to funding for education, funding for public safety and all the other services that are provided by (the state).”

Why Miller?

Miller says his experience as a delegate and with the community help to give him an advantage as a candidate in the upcoming election. He says that he respects his opponent, Cabellos, as a respectable family man, however he doesn’t believe Cabellos has the pulse of the Prince William County and Manassas communities.

“Mr. Cabellos doesn’t know the district. He’s only lived here for a couple years. A vast majority of his political work is in the Arlington and Alexandria area and I believe he has the Arlington and Alexandria type of mentality,” he says. “I was a police officer for almost 12 years. I served on the Manassas city council for two years. I’ve been very involved in a variety of other organizations.”

Unopposed O’Neal Wants to Improve State-Funded Staffing in Office as Treasurer for Manassas Park

Winifred “Winnie” O’Neal is the current treasurer of Manassas Park City. She first worked as a banker in Tidewater, Va. for over 12 years and after relocating to Manassas Park City she worked for the parks and recreation department as an aide. In 2008, she was appointed by City Council to serve as treasurer and then elected to serve her first official term in 2009. Her experience as the City’s Treasurer motivates her to want to continue serving Manassas Park.

“Now that I have some experience under my belt and I’ve taken some classes, I’ve gotten the office to a good position with our collection rates and customer service and I want to keep that going,” she says. In short, the City Treasurer works with the commissioner of revenue and is responsible for handling the tax collections and funds coming into the area.

“The commissioner of revenue basically assesses the taxes, hands the book over to us and we bill and collect the taxes,” says O’Neal. She says that many people don’t realize that a large part of the responsibilities of the treasurer’s office is tax collections.

“This includes personal property taxes, real estate taxes, decals and state funding for the schools and city.”

The city treasurer plays a major role in making decisions on where to best invest the city’s funding. O’Neal says these decisions have a lot to do with relationships.

“The treasurer gets to pick our everyday banking relationships and there are a lot of great state-sponsored programs for deposits. We take all of that into account,” she says.

The treasurer’s office in Manassas Park is currently operated by a staff of four employees. The office is partially state funded and because the city had furloughs, O’Neal says that the employees that were not state-funded were laid off. She says these staff cuts over the past three years have created a challenge to providing adequate customer service.

“Right now the biggest challenge is staffing. We have portions of the day from 1:30 to 3 p.m. that we are closed and we used to be able to stagger the hours but because we’ve lost staff, we can’t provide the quality customer service that we want to provide,” she says. “We have some state mandated functions that are required, such as making our deposits daily and that’s definitely affected our customer service.”

One “hot topic” issue on the minds of many citizens in light of recent complications within federal government services is public disclosure of funds raised and spent by local, state and federal government. O’Neal says that the treasurer’s office maintains a fair level of disclosure for its citizens.

“How the money is handled in the treasures office is completely open for public inspection,” she says. “We have books with past records that the public can come in and view and we also have online systems where public knowledge is accessible.”

O’Neal says she is pleased to be able to continue to serve the citizens of Manassas Park City. She says that her five years of experience in the office, banking background and past success in handling various duties required by her role as treasurer make her a dependable candidate for treasurer. 

Marymount Graduate, Mara Sealock Hopes to Put Political Education Into Play as Aquia Supervisor

Mara Sealock, (D-Aquia) running for the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, is not the average candidate As a 21-year-old graduate of Marymount University, Sealock represents a stark contrast from her opponent, current incumbent since 2010, Republican Paul Milde III.

Sealock says that she found out about the open seat from Alane Callander, chairwoman on the Stafford Democratic Committee. She says she had worked with the committee before, volunteering at primaries and attending board of supervisor meetings.

“I started talking to people about the things I’ve learned while getting my degree in political science and a lot of the issues that came out within the county (were the same),” she said. “I spoke to Alane Callander and she told me the Democratic seat was open so I decided to go for it to reach out to the other voters in the community.”

Sealock works over 65 hours a week between two part-time jobs. At the age of 16, she graduated from Hayfield High School in Alexandria and immediately enrolled in classes at Marymount University. Her experience leads her to focus for her campaign on areas of education, government transparency and employment development.

Education

Sealock says her educational background and ability to appeal to the younger generation will serve as an advantage in the upcoming election.

“I know the schools within Stafford are experiencing major issues with overpopulation and financial support through the county,” says Sealock. “Being younger, I feel I could appeal to the younger voters and I could get an insight of what is going on in the school system and actually speak to the ones that are involved in it and using it.”

Sealock says education is important to her because of her experience and close ties within schools.  She says she hopes to improve the relationship between the school board and board of supervisors in order to be able to effectively tackle the major issues.

“I graduated high school at 16 and went straight into a university. Education is important, not only for students, but for society,” she says. “I know that students who aren’t in school are more likely to commit crime and so forth so if there’s more focus on school and it is more important community-wise, then the students will receive a better education and Stafford County schools can move back up on a  regional ranking.”

Transparency

“On the board of supervisors right now there’s a lot of back and forth about the transparency and how the citizens aren’t aware of the issues going on,” says Sealock. She refers to two issues that are being discussed on the board- the “Waste to Energy” plant, a proposal to allow power generating facilities on government-owned property in Stafford, and the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).

TDR was envisioned as a solution to limit development in areas where it would be least desirable and place it in areas with the infrastructure necessary to support growth.

Proponents hope it will help to preserve land and private property rights and target development in the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve. However, those who oppose the litigation argue that is flawed, restrictive and doesn’t allow for efficient citizen input. Sealock says that the program could have consequences for the entire county.

“To me, it ties into the schools because as Stafford is developing, the contracts are coming in really fast and that will add to the overpopulation in the schools because families are going to move with their students,” she says. Additionally she said, because the program removes the rezoning process for the Courthouse area, it will lead to a lack of standards, proffers and citizen input.

“I feel that it’s not a conservation program, and the supervisors are looking at the financial benefits, and not at what is best for the citizens right now,” she says. “With the development proposals coming in at the rate they are at now, things could only get worse.”

Employment and Economic development

Sealock says with the economy as weak as it is right now, it’s almost required that one has a degree to get any type of recognition. This area hits close to home for Sealock, who says she has been working her way through high school and college to help her family make ends meet.

“My mother is unemployed and has been searching for a stable job for two years. She was a stay-at-home mom when my father passed away,” she says. “From then on, my brother and I picked up jobs through high school and college to help. Now as she continues to look for a job, being older without a college degree, it’s hard.”

 She says she will promote a bottom-up approach for those that have the capacity to hold stable jobs, but may not have the ability to show that with a piece of paper.

“Being young and looking at it from a different perspective, I think it is important that people get out there and start somewhere to get where they want to be.”

In Cuccinelli-McAuliffe Governor’s Race, Reaching Virginia’s Sportsman Critical to Vote

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Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli takes aim while hunting in King George County. [Photo: Beau Beasley]

KING GEORGE COUNTY, Va. – Scott Lingamfelter pulls his car into a parking area along a windswept field overlooking the Potomac River in King George County. The Virginia House of Delegates member who represents Prince William and Fauquier counties exits his vehicle clad completely in olive-drab camouflage clothing, looking more like an Army sniper than a state politician ready to work a crowd.

He releases Sonny, his yellow Labrador retriever puppy, who runs circles around Lingamfelter’s legs while the politician tries to fill a bowl with water for his companion. Sonny doesn’t wait for the drink; instead, he bolts to a nearby white tent where a host of other sportsmen have gathered. He stops to greet the hunters and then sticks his nose under the tent. Has he picked up the scent of simmering barbeque?

“Sonny, get back over here!” shouts Limgamfelter.

Sonny quickly returns and obeys Lingamfelter’s command to sit, though it’s clear that Sonny is eager to get underway.

“He’s still pretty young,” says Lingamfelter to his companions, “but like most of us, he responds well to good training.”

This fundraising event is a Saturday morning dove hunt hosted by a local landowner with the support of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association (VPBA), a union representing law enforcement officers from around the state. While the crowd, mostly male, gathers near the barbeque tent and swaps old hunting stories, many hunters take the opportunity to question the local politicians in attendance.

The main attraction will be Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial election this November. Before he arrives, however, Congressman Rob Wittman (R, Va.-1), an avid sportsman who serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, holds the floor.

Attendees pepper Wittman with questions on everything from the stalled Farm Bill to public access to Virginia waterways to the plight of menhaden (a popular saltwater baitfish), and he is clearly eager and well prepared to discuss these issues. His extensive knowledge and understanding, and his search for bipartisan approaches to issues like solving the problems of the Chesapeake Bay and preserving the area’s wetlands, have made Rob Wittman very popular among Virginia sportsmen.

Will Virginia sportsmen decide the election?

Within an hour Attorney General Cuccinelli arrives, and he is immediately surrounded by attendees. Among those gathered are many law enforcement officers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. They are members of the VPBA, which has endorsed Cuccinelli, and they are concerned about the current and future plight of Conservation Police Officers—more commonly called game wardens—who face shrinking budgets and chronic understaffing.

After a hearty lunch of barbeque, coleslaw, and collard greens, Congressman Wittman expresses his regret that he cannot join the hunters, and heads to another scheduled event. Delegate Lingamfelter picks up his shotgun and makes for the field with the rest of the sportsmen, Sonny tagging along behind, tail wagging. The attorney general takes up his position near a large hay bale, shotgun in hand, and waits for his quarry to fly overhead.

Sportsmen—and particularly hunters eager to defend their Second Amendment rights—are an important source of votes, especially in an off-year election. Turnout in a presidential election year may be as high as 73% of registered voters, whereas in an off-year election, those numbers routinely plummet to the low 40s.

Both Cuccinelli and his opponent, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, recognize that the sporting vote could be crucial this year. The problem politicians face is crafting a clear message that appeals to those potential voters without turning away many others.

Outdoor pursuits represent a significant portion of the economy of the Commonwealth. Sportsmen spend money on gear, watercraft, clothing, ammo—and gas, food, and lodging when they travel. In a 2013 report released by the American Sport Fishing Association, the Commonwealth of Virginia ranked 10th overall in angler expenditures in a state-by-state ranking; total expenditures in Virginia reached nearly $1.5 billion.

A 2011 report released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that those who went afield to hunt spent nearly $1 billion in the Old Dominion. This directly supported 20,492 jobs and resulted in the collection of nearly $103 million in state taxes and $132 million in federal taxes. These taxes supported conservation work on everything from trout streams to waterfowl habitat.

The hunters are scattered across the field alongside massive hay bales. The shotguns soon sound, and Sonny and his companions retrieve the downed doves. Attorney General Cuccinelli rises from his seat to fire, but misses his first attempt.

“I’ve been hunting or fishing in Virginia for as long as I can remember,” he says.

He laments that he’s not able to fish or hunt as often as he might like: “Besides not getting to see my family every day, one of the hardest parts about being on the campaign trail 24/7 is not being able to be outdoors very often.” Then another flock of doves approaches and Cuccinelli shoulders his shotgun. This time his aim is true.

Candidates face challenges with sportsmen

Both candidates face obstacles to capturing the sporting vote. The attorney general has taken heat for not defending a fly angler who was sued by a riparian landowner for trespassing while fishing on the Jackson River. The angler was following all state laws at the time and fishing in a part of the river that the state had advertised as public property. Cuccinelli’s position—very similar to that of former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (D) in a similar case in 1996 on the same river—is that he could not defend the angler because the dispute was a civil matter between two private parties. This position drew the ire of several angling groups across the state.

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe may also struggle to gain traction among sportsmen at a time when the Democratic Party has embraced gun control legislation across the country. He has attempted to portray Cuccinelli as a staunch conservative out of touch with everyday citizens, while the attorney general points to McAuliffe’s lack of executive experience and has painted McAuliffe as the consummate political insider who moved to Virginia recently for the sole purpose of running for governor.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, both candidates possess a hunting license. Regrettably, the candidates’ single gubernatorial debate touched only lightly on issues of concern to sportsmen however both claimed to be hunters.

“I’m the only candidate in this race with a record of listening to sportsmen’s concerns and fighting for our Second Amendment rights at every turn,” says Cuccinelli. I’m proud of my A rating from the NRA. My opponent, on the other hand, is the only statewide candidate who received an F rating.”

Calls to the McAuliffe campaign about that candidate’s history on hunting and his position on sportsmen’s issues went unanswered.

Beau Beasley in an investigative conservation writer and the author of Fly Fishing Virginia: A No Nonsense Guide to Top Waters.

The Duggars of ‘19 Kids and Counting’ Stump for Cuccinelli, Jackson in Woodbridge

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. – The Duggars came to Woodbridge on Wednesday.

The famed family from TVs “19 Kids and Counting” appeared with mom and dad Michelle and Jim Bob, and their eldest son Josh, and spoke to a crowd of more than 200 people at Heritage Baptist Church on Spriggs Road.

The event was a campaign appearance for Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who is running to be the next Virginia Governor.

The Duggars endorsed both Cuccinelli and Lt. Governor hopeful E.W. Jackson.

Cuccinelli’s wife Teiro was also there and urged the crowd to vote for her husband.

This was the last stop of several for the Duggars in their “Virginia Values Bus Tour.” While in Woodbridge, a group of the Duggar children sang and played various string instruments at the rally.

Michelle Duggar said “Packing before [the trip], and making sure we had every ones clothes” was the most difficult part.

“19 Kids and Counting” began as “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008, and then later “18 Kids and Counting” before the couple’s 19th child was born. The show premiered its seventh season in April.

The Duggars have also rallied in Tennessee for an amendment in that state that would put a mandatory waiting period for women seeking abortions.

 

Government Reopens, Orders Workers Back

With a stroke of a pen the Federal Government is once again open for business, ending 16-day shutdown.

Congress passed new legislation late Wednesday night that will fund the government through Jan. 15, 2014.

With the government reopened thousands of federal employees will be headed back to work. Here’s the latest update from the Office of Personnel Management stating when federal employees in the Washington area should return to work:

Open. Employees are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day (Thursday, October 17th for most employees), absent other instructions from their employing agencies.

Due to the enactment of a continuing resolution, Federal government operations are open. Employees are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day (Thursday, October 17th for most employees), absent other instructions from their employing agencies. Agencies are strongly encouraged to use all available workplace flexibilities to ensure a smooth transition back to work for employees (e.g. telework, work schedule flexibilities, and excused absence for hardship situations).

Following the vote to reopen the government, local Congressman were quick to give their take on the measure.

“I support this bipartisan agreement because it is long past time to end this reckless shutdown of the Federal Government. For the past two weeks, residents and small businesses across Northern Virginia have shared with me the painful effects of being furloughed, losing contract work, or having access to Medicare and veteran benefits frozen. No state was harder hit than Virginia, and Northern Virginia, with its large number of federal employees, contractors, and federal facilities, has borne a disproportionate share of the pain.

The failure of some to compromise once again pushed us to the verge of a historic default on the nation’s credit. Even the threat of defaulting on the nation’s credit has led to disastrous effects for our region. The Fitch credit rating agency cited that hyper-partisanship when it placed the U.S. on a negative credit watch list. The last time political brinksmanship brought us to the verge of default in August 2011, it resulted in a historic downgrading of the nation’s credit, and it also jeopardized the AAA rating of several Northern Virginia jurisdictions and the Commonwealth.”

– Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William)

 

“It is unconscionable for members of one caucus to hold the American people and the economy hostage simply because one faction or another does not get their way. Unlike the Tea Party members of Congress, local elected officials in my district, including Republicans, know that making government work for taxpayers is the number one priority and that taxpayers count on their government to function properly. I am pleased to have been a part of the efforts by pragmatic Democrats to reach out to moderate Republicans to initiate the discussions that helped lead to resolution of this reckless shutdown and manufactured fiscal crisis.

“I do not advocate for last-minute deals, but tonight the choice was yes or no, and the right thing to do was to re-open our government and stand by our obligations,” Wittman said. “This bill re-opens a government that has been shuttered 16 days too long, while federal employees have sat at home, veterans wonder if they will receive the benefits they have earned, and Americans have been denied basic government services. This bill ensures the government can pay the bills it owes; however, I strongly believe that Congress must not simply kick the can, but have a healthy debate and return to regular order, instead of governing by shutdown threats and risk of default. This is no way to govern. For the past two years, I’ve been arguing that Congress needs to get the job of funding the government done before Congress goes home for an August recess. The business of the nation needs to be done. We have to get back to doing business in a regular order and stop this cycle of crisis management.

“I supported previous efforts to fund government and repeal Obamacare because I believe the law is fundamentally flawed. The fight for real health reform will continue, and the fight for responsible governing will continue. I believe that America has great days ahead, and hope for Congress to listen to the people. Washington is broken, and has a long way back to even ground. Our founding fathers intended healthy debate on critical issues affecting our republic, but not at the expense of its citizens. We have an opportunity to improve, and I intend to fight every day for what is right for our country and for our future because it is so important.”

– Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Prince William, Stafford)

Yeung Says She Will Bring the Stafford County School Board Diversity, Opportunity and Transparency

Pamuela Yeung, candidate for the Garrisonville seat on the Stafford County School Board, has been living in Virginia for over 30 years and in Stafford since 1983.  She is originally from the Netherlands and speaks Dutch, Spanish, English and Portuguese.  She says she was originally inspired to move to the county to raise her children in an area known to have an excelling academic environment.  She says her background and experience will be a valuable attribute to the school board.

“I can bring the board diversity, a business and technology background, an opportunity for critical thinking and decision making and I could bring transparency and trust working with the board of supervisors,” she says. “I’m focused on continued growth and achievement and ensuring that the mission is to build students as leaders of tomorrow and provide resources for acceleration for improvement in needed areas.”

Yeung says she choose to run for the school board because she is looking for changes in the current school system.

“I believe there needs to be an adequate balance of individuals that are on the school board members to help improve the educational experience of children, parents and teachers,” she says.

Improving Student Achievement

Yeung says that education can affect virtually all aspects of life and that many people do not realize that when there is a decrease in the education level, other areas suffer as well.

“One of the issues that were having is that 25 percent of the (Stafford) population is disadvantaged children and it affects everyone, rich and poor,” she says. “It will affect your home and even your social security later on because children are going to become adults and then they are going to work and collect social security and we will be collecting social security. We want (the current generation) to get the best jobs as possible, so we need to reduce the number of disadvantaged children in our communities.”

Teacher Retention

“We need to make sure that we maintain highly skilled teachers, administrators and employees and make sure that they don’t go north or south for better competitive salaries,” says Yeung.

She said this includes making sure teachers have the resources they need to prepare students for the future.

“Right now were asking for a lot from our teachers. We’re asking them to be parents, behavioral health social workers, teachers, really a little bit of everything but without their tools,” she says. Yeung says there is too much dependence on test scores to determine student and teacher achievement.

 “We’re asking these teachers to be able to test these tokens and put their jobs on the line when these students don’t test well,” she says. “We’re allowing the children to memorize material and be able to spit it out, but what are they getting out of the study?”

She also says that in order to attract and retain quality teachers, it is important that the school board review the policies and procedures that are currently used and pinpoint what works and what isn’t working.

Security

As a mother of four, Yeung says she has always been an active volunteer in the school system, attending meetings and field trips and serving as vice chairman on the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) for 2012-2013 school years. 

One area that she says she will continue to advocate is for safety through increased security.

“One of the things that I like is that my children are able to walk to school,” she says. “In order to not have to bus children, that means we have to have good quality schools and teachers in every neighborhood.”

Performance

Legislation that was passed in the most recent General Assembly session will soon place a letter grade on Virginia schools to test their performance. Yeung does not support this measure and says just as with student grading, the value should emphasize the content being retained, not the grade.

“I think we’re moving away from what the problem is and result-based (practices) are dangerous because you’re looking for the end product versus understanding what we are supposed to be teaching the children for the duration of their life, for them to be able to find jobs and compete with not only other states, but the world,” she says. 

She says that education has to move away from “teaching to a test” in order to preserve the best students and teachers.

“The grades will speak for themselves. You have to make sure that the students enjoy the education.They don’t enjoy the fact that they have to be memorizing in order to achieve that grade and the teachers don’t enjoy it either, the teachers want to teach because that’s their job.”

School board and board of supervisor relationship

Yeung says the school board and board of supervisors need to be on the same page when it comes to the issues affecting schools in the county.

“The relationship between the school board and board of supervisors needs to be in touch so that they both understand the dilemmas of the school system,” she says. “The school board needs to understand what the teachers are going through. The teachers need the tools to be able to educate the children and the school board needs to be able to deliver that information concisely to the board of supervisors throughout the entire school year and not when it’s time to discuss the budget.”

San Antonio Mayor Castro Stumps for McAuliffe in Woodbridge

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. – San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), met with Democratic volunteers and campaign staff at the Prince William County Democratic Headquarters in Lake Ridge on Saturday, to support Terry McAuliffe’s candidacy for Virginia Governor and excite volunteers as Election Day draws closer.

“I’m here because everyone around the nation is watching this campaign. Everyone around the nation knows what a great candidate Terry McAuliffe is for Governor of Virginia and sees the contrast that really exists in this race,” Castro said.

Castro pointed out several of the contrasts between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli including social agenda, ideology and proposed priorities in their potential role as Governor.

Castro also tied Cuccinelli’s platforms back to the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party, whom many Americans have assigned blame for, for the recent federal government shutdown.

“[Cuccinelli] is trying to appeal to a very small slice of the electorate with a myopic vision about the future – the Tea Party – and right now in Washington, D.C. with this government shutdown, we’re seeing essentially what happens when their vision comes to life. The events of the past couple weeks have really reminded us, you know – in this 21st century world, we’ve really got to figure out what we stand for as a nation. We became the greatest country in the world for a reason,” Castro said.

Thanking volunteers and campaign staff for their work on the campaign, Castro attempted to inspire and excite them for the phone banks and canvassing drives that lay ahead.

“All of us know that it’s pretty exciting during these presidential election cycles, and then on these off years, what we risk is that people stay home,” Castro commented, going on to share his own personal story as a progressive rising star in the Democratic Party, growing up as a grandchild of immigrants from Mexico.

“The year that I applied to college, my mother was making $19,000 that year – my grandmother was making a few hundred dollars in a Social Security check. The only reason we were able to go to Stanford University was because we worked hard, and they had worked hard,” Castro said.

The Cuccinelli campaign has also found support in the well-known Duggar family, famous for their TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting, who will be stumping for his candidacy this Wednesday in Woodbridge.

 

Hazard: Investment in Public Education Good for Business Development

Holly Hazard, current incumbent of the Hartwood seat on the Stafford County School Board says her interest in the county and ensuring that students receive a good education is what motivates her to run for reelection in November. Hazard has two daughters who attend Stafford County Public Schools and is very involved in the schools in her community.

She says that being able to work locally and be visible and active in the schools is something that is valuable to the community and her role as a school board member.

“I believe part of a school member’s job is to be in the schools, active and visible and to promote the schools themselves, be a little bit of a cheerleader for the school system and for the students,” she says. “It gives you an insight of some of the challenges that are faced on a daily basis and how (the school board) can be helpful.”

Hazard is centering her campaign on areas such as prepping students for the future, retaining quality teachers, and school safety.

“It is important we make sure students have the best education that they can, especially with so much changing in the world and make sure our kids are able to be competitive in this environment,” she says. “We have some really great teachers and people involved in our education system. I think we also need to make sure that we recruit and maintain the best teachers and continue to build upon our success as a school district.”

Hazard says she has some concerns with the current methods on testing performance of schools.

“I understand that there needs to be some type of analysis on how schools are doing, but I believe any overemphasis on one area of test scores or certain things doesn’t give the whole picture,” she says. “I am very concerned, as many are, that we are teaching to a test.

I want to make sure that our students are very analytical and that they have the skills that they need in the world.

However, Hazard says that over all, Stafford ranks well when it comes to performance.

“We are one of 36 schools in the commonwealth that has gotten full accreditation. Only 27% of schools in commonwealth met that goal and we were one of them.”

Another area that Hazard is focused on is school safety and security. She says she is pleased with the initiative to add more resource officers to the school with the aid of a grant that was approved for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.

“This year as we opened schools we had our resource officers very visible. I think it’s a wonderful piece that we’ve been able to add in conjunction with our sheriff,” she says. “Going forward I would like to explore whether a more permanent presence might be more available at our elementary school level.”

Hazard has been working as an attorney for over 20 years. She says her experience in her profession has helped her role as a school board member.

“One of the things an attorney is called is a counselor and I think that the desire to problem solve, think innovatively and try to consensus-build is an important attribute, because a school system is a people organization,” she says. Hazard says with over thousands of school employees and over 27,000 students and others involved in the school system, this is an important characteristic.

She says the effectiveness of a school system is important to outside factors as well, such as business development and the economy.

“A lot of times when business comes to potentially settle in Stafford County, one of the top things asked is ‘What are the quality of the schools?’ and we want to make sure that we can maintain that quality,” she says. “The best economic development is also an investment in our public education because these are going to be our students and our workers of tomorrow.”

 

Candidate for VA House, Heddleston Seeks to Diversify industries, Improve Transportation

Reed Heddleston is the democratic candidate for the 51st VirgiiaHouse District, which includes Prince William County.

This elction is going to be about choices,” said  Heddleston.

He’s up against incumbent Richard Anderson, who has held the seat since 2010. Heddleston says there is a stark difference between his and his opponent’s overall approach in the upcoming General Election.

Although Heddleston says he respects Anderson’s military service, as both candidates have served for the U.S. Air Force, Heddleston says his experience within his industry will make him a better candidate. Anderson retired from the Air Force a Colonel in 2009.

“I’ve hired people into jobs and I know what it takes to win contracts and to build business,” says Heddleston. “It’s not something I’ve read about in a book or that someone gave me in a ‘talk and pat’. My opponent can talk about things but I have done them.”

Heddleston currently works as a managing director for defense and government for the Luthan Group, a financial consulting firm based in Richmond. Prior to that, Heddleston worked for 14 years as an operations manager for the Science Applications International Corporation (SCIC), a Fortune 500 Company located in McLean, Virginia. Within his work at the SCIC, Heddleston says he gained valuable experience that would be useful as a delegate.

“I understand what it’s like to lose contracts and I understand what it’s like to win contracts,” he says. “I know what it’s like to hire veterans. I personally hired 30 veterans during my time with SCIC.”

Heddleston is focusing his campaign on major issues such as transportation, education, and equality in the workplace.

Transportation

Heddleston says he supported the transportation reform package, signed off by Governor McDonnell during the last legislative session which eliminates the gasoline tax and raise the state’s sales tax in an effort to raise funds for transportation issues.

“It took all these years to get a bipartisan transportation bill and it’s been 26 years since we’ve actually had a transportation bill,” says Heddleston. “Transportation is a long-standing problem and you don’t fix it one year at a time, you have to have a long-range plan.”

Further, he says transportation isn’t only about building more roads.

“We need to look at alternatives and be very careful where we spend that money. We need to look at light rail, metro expansion and at highways and improving traffic,” says Heddleston.

However, Heddleston does not support the development of the Bi-County Parkway, which will connect Prince William and Loudon Counties. Proponents say that the road will help promote economic development by improving the transportation network. However, opponents of the parkway fear that it will be costly to surrounding residents and damaging to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the official historic district.

He said there are three reasons why he doesn’t support the bill: the fear that it will add to traffic congestion, create unnecessary development in the Rural Cresent, and will not be a viable long-term goal.

“I believe it doesn’t address our transportation problem, which is getting people to and from work,” he says. “What that will do is just create more development in the Rural Crescent and that will just add to the congestion load.”

“That is a distinction because my opponent supports the Bi-County Parkway and he voted against the transportation reform plan.”

Education

Heddleston says the main problem with  Prince William County Schools is that the county has the largest class sizes and also the lowest teacher pay in the region.

“If we’re not in a crisis, we’re approaching crisis,” he says. “We need to raise teacher pay to the national average. We know that if you’re looking for disciplined classes, you need smaller class sizes but really it’s not a question of discipline, you need smaller class sizes so teachers can pay attention to students. “

Heddleston was recently endorsed by the Virginia Education Association. He says public education is a fundamental part of democracy.

“It’s where you meet and compete with your peer group that you’re going to work with for the rest of your life,” he says.

Another issue Heddleston points out is how Virginia currently tests the performance of schools and teachers.

“At the same time that we’re not putting enough money into the public schools and we have difficult to manage class sizes, we’re now asking teachers to bump up the standards of learning at the federal and state level and even within the county,” he says.

Heddleston says the soon-to-be enacted legislation which will place a letter grade on schools based on their performance is not an adequate measurement.

“We need to take a long look at the standards that we’re testing for and ensure that we’re not overtesting our (students) and teachers.”

Jobs

Heddleston says it’s important to realize that the job market is a competition and Virginia needs to be aware of how that market is continuously changing.

“I have spent 14 years in high technology and business. I understand how it works. I will tell you that what’s you’re interested in is intellectual capital,” he says. “You are interested in getting the brightest people you can because we compete. “

Heddleston says in order for Virginia to improve businesses, the state will have to diversify and be more welcoming to minorities.

“I’m not interested in who you are, I’m interested in how you think,” he says. “The majority of engineering students are now women. Thirty-percent of high-technology businesses and engineers are going to be run by women and CEOs.”

He says that social issues are also economic and civil rights issues and should not be used as a means to deny an individual employment.

“I support marriage equality because you cannot discriminate in the work place, so why would we discriminate in Virginia?” says Heddleston. “What Republicans do not understand is that they’re in a competition. You have not made the investment in services nor do you have a welcoming atmosphere in your industry and it’s going to continue unless we change what happens in VA.”

Improve Public Transportation, Strenghten Anti-Discrimination Policies, Key to Foltz Campaign

Jerry Foltz, Democratic candidate and church minister, is challenging Republican Delegate Tim Hugo this fall for the 40th seat of the Virginia House of Delegates. The district, which includes Prince William County and Fairfax County, has been occupied by Hugo since 2003.

Foltz is very active within his community as a protestant minister at the United Church of Christ.

“I’ve dealt with building communities; I’ve dealt with decision making among people in our churches that don’t always see eye to eye with their points of view,” says Foltz. “I try to build consensus with decision making and not divide churches – they don’t last long if you start dividing every time you make a decision and that division (also) hurts our state.”

Foltz has also served as chaplain for the Centreville Station #17 Volunteer Fire Department for over 16 years, providing support to fire personnel and aid for victims of tragedy. He says in the end, his motivation all comes back to the families.

“I would like to deal with issues that are really important to our families,” he says. “There are a lot of things that relate back to the families; our schools, transportation, our healthcare, and I’d like to overall build a sense of community.”

Transportation

Foltz supported the transportation reform passed last session. Still, he says, more needs to be done. He says he will advocate addressing alternative methods of transportation including the metro and transit system as well as support safer roads for bicyclists.

“More needs to be done to support other transportation,” he says. “The transits systems need more support. Both the metro and bus services need to be upgraded and made more accessible and we also need more parking for some of the metro stations.”

Education

Foltz says Virginia has some of the best quality schools, however, he says the legislature needs to be reprioritized to address some of the issues affecting education in the state.

“The state legislature should stop mandating the things that cost money without providing assistance for it,” says Foltz. As an example, Foltz says requiring certified teachers to monitor the SOL’s when they are needed in the classrooms. Requirements such as these inspire Foltz to want to influence reform. He says that schools rely too much on testing to evaluate students as well as teachers.

“Testing needs to be reoriented to help the students in terms of what their learning needs are and not used to punish the schools,” he says. “We also want to make sure, between our partnership with the state and the counties, that our teacher pay is adequate and what it should be.”

Obamacare

Foltz says he supports the expansion of Medicare to those in need and says that all Virginians deserve access to affordable health-care options. However, he says there are some implications that could result from the new healthcare changes.

“For the state as a whole, I see a potential for improvement of people’s health,” says Foltz. “However, I’m getting some indications that businesses and even nonprofit groups may be cutting back on the hours of employees to avoid having to provide health care, and I think that’s immoral. It’s exploiting people without providing the benefits they need.”

Jobs

According to Foltz, Virginia has great potential for employment growth, but the state needs to be more adamant about enforcing anti-discrimination policies and offering healthcare for domestic partners.

“That has discouraged businesses from coming here,” he says. “Employees will not feel secure, combined with the fact that some of the (future) healthcare provisions will not be provided for partners in whatever committed relationships people are in, and I think that that discourages businesses from coming here.”

Immigration

Foltz and his wife, Alice, helped to organize the Centreville Labor Resource Center in 2011 as a way to help immigrants find work in Northern Virginia and pave their path to citizenship. He advocates an appreciation for diversity and says that is has helped reduce cases of wage theft and provides more accountability for employees.

“It has been in place for over a year and a half with no tax money spent on it. It’s a $200,000 operation all with private funding. About 450 workers are registered and 35 of them are women,” says Foltz.

“I’d like to bring an appreciation for our racial and ethnic diversity in our district,” says Foltz. “Our racial and ethnic diversity really is a strength. My opponent has shown hostility toward the immigrant community and I resent that. I’d like to end that and help people appreciate each other more.”

NOVA Tech Council Endorses Hugo

The Northern Virginia Technology Council backed Delegate Tim Hugo  (R) in a recent endorsement.

More in a press release.

Delegate Hugo has received the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) TechPAC, the political action arm of NVTC, the premiere trade association for the technology community in Northern Virginia.

Dendy Young, TechPAC Chairman and CEO of McLean Capital, LLC stated, “We are pleased to endorse Delegate Tim Hugo for re-election to the House of Delegates. Tim has a strong record as a pro-business legislator and we appreciate his support of legislation to grow technology business, spur job creation, and further distinguish Virginia as a global technology center.” Dendy Young, TechPAC Chairman and CEO of McLean Capital, LLC.

“My colleagues and I have worked in a bi-partisan manner to ensure that Virginia has a pro-business environment. I look forward to continuing to work with NVTC so that Virginia remains the top state in which to do business,” said Delegate Hugo.

Voters will head to the polls Nov. 5.

 

Kitta: More Support for Teachers, Better Capital Improvement Planning, Fundamental to Campaign for Stafford School Board

Mark Kitta, candidate for the Falmouth seat on the Stafford County School Board, says he was motivated to run for the board after observing some of the major problems in the schools. Among the issues he wishes to address are: the teacher turnover rate, poor budget oversight and planning and most importantly to Kitta – addressing the planning behind the “Stafford County Rebuild Project.”

Kitta is not affiliated with a particular political party. In fact, he believes politics should be taken out of the school board decisions.

“I was approached by a number of political parties and I respectfully declined their endorsement,” he says. “I gave them the same answer; I’m more interested in providing for the citizens of Falmouth and ultimately the citizens of Stafford County then I am a political party of their agenda.”

Kitta says he is passionate about the “Stafford Rebuild Project” because it is dealing with a large amount of money and he says the plans were poorly communicated with the public.

“They’re not actually rebuilding the high school, they’re building a new school behind it and they’re demolishing a $36 million asset,” says Kitta. “That’s 250,000 square feet that they are going to bulldoze into the ground and make it into a parking lot.”

He says he supported the original plan, which was to build a high school on the newly acquired property of Ewalt Farm off of Clift Farm road. 

“In refocusing Stafford High School, they were going to build a career and technical education center, which would alleviate a lot of the overcrowding in the high schools,” he says. “It would take the career and technical education out of each high school and around 25,000-30,000 square feet in those high schools would be opened up for more classrooms with the (career and technical center) coming down to Stafford.”

Kitta says the Capital Improvements Plan is misusing the public’s funds by asking for $65 million in 10 years to build a new career and technical education center.

“The initial cost of building the new high school on the Ewalt Property was $83 million. Building the new school behind the existing Stafford High School, they didn’t have to do all the infrastructure improvements and they could use existing fields, which lowered the cost to $67 million,” says Kitta.

“Tomorrow wasn’t thought about in the decisions that were made for today,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s going to cost the citizens almost a $100 million dollars between demolishing that $36 million building and $65 million for a new career and technical education center.”

While Kitta says that he agrees that Stafford needed a new high school, he believes the school board and the board of supervisors should have considered long-term planning.

“If I were on the board, I would push to save the existing Stafford High School and renovate it for the CTE* programs,” Kitta says. “It would cost about $40 million less than what their current proposal is.”

Kitta says that the planning behind the building plan was poorly planned and communicated to the people of Stafford.

“There were only two public town hall meetings and people, to this day, when you tell them that part of the plan is to tear down the existing high school, their eyes get big and they look at me and say ‘What are you talking about?’”

He says that is something he hopes to bring to the board, open communication and a refocus on the problems that affect the public.

Employment

“It is important that the school system and the school board encourage partnering the schools with local businesses,” says Kitta.  “In doing that, you promote volunteers from local business coming in and helping the schools, but then you also open up job opportunities for your juniors and seniors and then opportunities for them when they graduate.”

Adopt-a-classroom

Kitta also says he would like to revive the adopt-a-classroom program, if he is elected. With the program, people are invited to sponsor classrooms to support teachers and students. The funds provide financial and moral support to the classrooms.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of teachers here who’s children were able to benefit from these donations (which) can be as little as $10 or $20, but an extra $10 or $20 go to that teacher and they are able to use it for the classroom and it goes a long way,” he says. “I believe that would be a great way for citizens to actually help classrooms, help teachers and help schools.”

*CTE: career and technical education

Griffin Wants to Boost STEM-based Programs, Food-Pantry Services in Stafford County

Vanessa Griffin is an active member of the Aquia community. She currently serves on a variety of different community boards and committees and helped organize and initiate the first North Stafford Farmers Market.

“Our community had a need for the production of local produce so I made it happen. I found the funding; I ran through all the red tape and was able to deliver that to the community,” she says. “Not only have we been able to partner with the local food pantry (S.E.R.V.E.) and provide nearly 500 pounds of produce per week, but are planning to implement the SNAP (food stamps) program next year to further extend our services to the lower income families in Stafford.”

Griffin is running for the Aquia seat on the Stafford County school board because she says she wants to continue to produce results for her community.

“I probably spend just as much time donating to the community as I do at my regular job,” she says. Griffin works for CACI International Inc., a professional services and information technology (IT) company that serves Intelligence, Defense, and Federal Civilian customers. When she isn’t working at her job center, she says she is working with the community as well as nonprofits to discover new ways to help Stafford succeed.

“I’ve had a lot of leadership roles and I’m extremely dedicated,” she says. “Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always in a million different places at once making things happen and that I’m 100 percent committed.”

Griffin is also currently working on the food pantry program offered by S.E.R.V.E, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief to those in need.

“I’m trying to help the food pantry down here boost their program,” she says. “When people talk to you and say ‘Thank you for making this happen,’ it really makes it all worth it. Just to see how many people you’re actually affecting.”

Issues in Education

Griffin says that it is important that Stafford County improve teacher salaries in order to retain current teachers and attract new ones. 

“The pay rate around the county has approved, but we are missing opportunities to attract quality teachers with a better salary,” she says.  Recently, Governor Bob McDonnell awarded $4.5 million in Strategic Teacher Compensation Grants, which rewarded teachers in 13 school division based on student achievement, professional growth and leadership. 

Griffin says that those grants, ranging from about $26,000 to $850,000, could have been an ideal opportunity for Stafford County to provide incentives to attract new teachers.

“If I am elected, I would be on the lookout to make sure we are not missing these opportunities that the other schools may be taking and are passing us by.”

Another issue Griffin says she would look into is a solution to evaluating the performance of Stafford schools, teachers and students.

“The No Child Left Behind Act was a little too extreme with encouraging teachers to just “teach to test,” she says. “This skews how kids are actually doing and how the schools are performing, because you’re not teaching concept as much so as memorization.”

The General Assembly passed legislation last session that assigns a letter-grade rating system to schools based on performance. Griffin says that one blanket solution doesn’t necessarily work for every school.

“We have to be somewhere in between. We need to monitor the progress of the students but also how trusted the teachers actually are,” she says.

Griffin says she would like to see STEM-based educational programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) expand in Stafford County.

“One in every five jobs now is STEM related,” she says. “There are grants out there right now that are trying to boost this level of education. Stafford County started and they have a small program that is developing right now but if we seek out the right kind of funding and make the right budgetary decisions, we could really make it into a very strong program.”

Dudenhefer Calls for Long-term Improvements in Transportation, Education

Mark Dudenhefer, Republican delegate representing the 2nd Virginia house district in Stafford and Woodbridge, has participated in major legislative changes since he was first elected in 2012. He is being challenged by Michael Futrell (D) for the 2nd district seat, which includes Prince William and Stafford counties.

This past session, he is responsible participating in the passing of legislation that helped give teachers raises, veterans more opportunities, as well as initiated “Gwyneth’s Law,” which was inspired by a woman named Gwyneth Griffin who passed away in July of 2012 after going into cardiac arrest at her middle school.

“One particular piece of legislation that I carried and spent a lot of time getting passed was a requirement for school teachers to receive CPR training and for high school kids to have CPR training as part of their graduation requirement,” says Dudenhefer.

He says, if reelected, he will continue to focus on areas such as transportation, education and the economy.

Transportation

Dudenhefer says there are many improvements that are in progress or on the agenda for the near future that will greatly improve transportation issues in the Northern Virginia region. After losing his daughter Emily in 2004 to a car accident in Stafford, Dudenhefer became determined to advocate for safer transportation in the region.

“One thing I learned early on is that I ran (for delegate) thinking I was going to fix all transportation problems by building more roads and widening the roads we already have,” says Dudenhefer. “You find out very quickly when you’re dealing with those problems that it takes an ‘all of the above’ approach. We need to fix the roads to make them more efficient and help with the flow of traffic but we also need to study and invest in mass transit.”

Dudenhefer refers to two studies that he says will be useful in determining what more needs to be done to fix transportation in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Education is conducting a study of the U.S. Route 1 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William Counties to determine what improvement approach will be most effective. Dudenhefer says he hopes to expand this study to cover more area.

Additionally, Dudenhefer says he supports another study proposed by Gerald Connolly, (D-Fairfax, Prince William) which would explore transportation alternatives.

“I have endorsed Congressman Connolly’s efforts to get a congressional study on the entire Route 1 corridor and that we’ll look at, amongst other things, the metro extension,” he says. “We need to start talking about that. It is many years down the line because it takes many years of planning and negotiating and it will be very expensive, but this is a long-term possible solution.”

Education

Dudenhefer says while Virginia has one of the best rankings in education, there is always ways to make improvements. He says Virginia should invest more in teacher salaries, training and performance in order to ensure they are “the best of the best.”

“I voted for the pay raise that most of the teachers in the Commonwealth received, but I think at the state level there are some areas of Virginia that aren’t as rich as Fairfax County or Prince William or Stafford, so they struggle with funding and bringing in good teachers,” he says.

Dudenhefer supported legislation signed by Governor Bob McDonnell last session that will provide a letter grade based on performance for schools in Virginia.

“(The legislation) is particularly beneficial to parents who want to know whether their school is performing at a high level,” he says. It will add pressure to local school boards to improve those particular schools. You have to build some kind of consensus that what you’re doing is fair otherwise it will fail. You have to listen to the educators; you have to listen to the parents and the school boards.”

Dudenhefer says that Virginia has some of the best schools and universities in the country. As a member of the Higher Education Subcommittee, he says it is important that Virginia strives to get more people college educations.

Further, Dudenhefer says Virginia not only set an example for other areas, but can learn from them. As a native of Louisiana, he says there are quite a few differences in the school systems. While he says Virginia’s schools tend to perform better than those in Louisiana, Louisiana can teach Virginia some things about education as well.

“In some of the areas (of Louisiana) where the public schools have failed miserably for generations, there are now charter schools, and the same kids are excelling,” he says. “We should always be open to looking at what other people do that is successful.”

Obamacare expansion

Dudenhefer says he is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, which has been fought by Republican legislators and thus has not yet been expanded in Virginia.

“Medicaid by itself needs to be revamped, revised, and updated,” he says. “We would expand Medicaid to 400,000 more people on the fact that the federal government is going to give us almost 100 percent the first year and then 90 percent thereafter, and they’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar they give.”

“We are going to hurt many more people than its going to help. And the people that are paying for it are the ones who are going to be hurt the worst.”

He says that representatives from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have created a commission and are observing and working on Medicaid reform before making the decision to expand Medicaid in the state.

Jobs/Economy

 Dudenhefer says regardless of what position Virginia holds, they are always in the top tier among the best business states. However, he says, the reason Virginia has not been able to secure the top spot in recent years comes back to transportation issues.

“If you go to any of the chambers of commerce and you ask that they’re business and growth is being inhibited by the traffic problem,” he says. Once transportation issues are addressed, he says, there will be more opportunities for employment.

Additionally he says that Virginia is an ideal area for small business creation, but the level of bureaucracy involvement inhibits Virginia’s creative potential.

“The best incentive we can give a small business is to get government out of the way,” says Dudenhefer.  “I think we would see some dramatic improvements.”

Keen Wants Better Board Relations, Teacher Benefits in Prince William County

Steven Keen, incumbent by special election for the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County School Board, has been elected to the school board before, serving two terms from 1995 to 2003. He says that this time around his main focus is on the direction of the schools and how the Board of County Supervisors and school board can work together to resolve the issues facing the county.

“I looked and saw that the current economic crisis is as fragile as it was when I was first elected. I thought that my experience would be valuable to the board,” Keen said. “However, the economy is now gotten to a place where it’s time for us to start asking what the implications are for the schools.”

Keen says that the relationship between the school board and Board of County Supervisors needs to revert back to the respectable relationship that it once had. He said one of the main problems was that the board of supervisors made tax cuts that didn’t abide by the conditions outlined in the Revenue Sharing Agreement, a five-year budget plan that was negotiated between the school board and board of supervisors.

“We need to be constantly in touch with them so they know it’s time for us to do things the way we agreed to, and if they feel that needs adjusting, let’s sit down and renegotiate,” says Keen. “Right now were in limbo. It’s back the way it was before the Revenue Sharing Agreement where there were strained relations between the members on the board.”

Educational Issues

Other areas of concern to Keen include classroom sizes and teacher pay and retention.

“We have the highest class sizes in Virginia and we can stay that without statistics because it’s the highest allowed under Virginia law,” he says. “Our teachers, while we have given small raises every year, are falling behind the salaries in other places.”

He says that in any supply and demand market, when countries that have  better salary structures are looking for new teachers, those countries are searching for experience.

“If a person with us shows up with a good work ethic and experience, we could lose them. So in those situations you always lose the best teachers first and that’s very damaging to the system.”

Keen says the focus always starts with salary in regards to bringing in the best teachers, but that the county is making effective steps to do so.

“We go well out of our way to attract quality teachers. We have job fairs and we are sending people to major teaching colleges with good teaching programs,” says Keen. “Recruiting, pay and benefits is a huge deal.”

Indoor Pool — Good or Bad for Woodbridge?

Another topic being talked about at the Board of County Supervisors level is the proposal to build an indoor aquatics facility at the 12th high school off Hoadly Road. Prince William County Schools project that the pool’s cost will be $10.5 million to construct and $800,000 per year to operate, in which usage fees will cover about 70-100 percent of the operating fees. PWCS says that it will serve the entire community, providing aquatic instruction, lessons and space for private and high school swim teams.

Keen says there are conditions that would determine if he would support the construction of the pool.

“Four people were in favor and there are three that said they are not. Then there’s me,” he says. “My attitude toward it is that if the proposal the superintendent brought forward and the Revenue Sharing Agreement don’t change, I have to oppose it because my district is the one that suffers the most with budget costs.”

“If the Board of County Supervisors really wants to do something with this, we need to make a plan with them to take the seven years of cuts they’ve given us and slowly integrate that money back in,” he adds.” If they agree to a plan to reinstate those cut funds and abide by the rules, then I would support building the pool because I could see a long range plan.”

Overall, Keen says his experience with the school board and budget planning, as well as 35 years of experience in retail fields makes him a well-rounded and dedicated candidate.

“Now that it appears that the county is under a financial crisis, it’s time for us to ask ourselves, what kind of county do we want for the future?”

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