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High School at Center of Redistricting Debate

Prince William County, Va. –– Wooodbridge may soon lose its only high school, and may not be the one you’re thinking of.

A plan put forth by the Prince William Board of Supervisors, called the seven district alternative map, moves Freedom High School on Neabsco Mills Road from the Woodbridge district into the Neabsco District (Dale City).

The issue was discussed last night as residents spoke at a public hearing about the county’s magisterial redistricting process ––mandated every 10 years after the census –– to determine voting precincts and who will represent neighborhoods on the Board of Supervisors.

“Removing Freedom would make Woodbridge the only district without a high school, and this is unacceptable,” said Bonnie Klakowicz, president of the Prince William Education Association.

Klakowicz reminded the Board the Neabsco district is represented by an entirely different member of the School Board member that represents Freedom High School now, and that parents used to dealing with Woodbridge district School Board member would have to begin working with one from the Neabsco district.

What’s more confusing under the new plan, she said, is some parents would work with the Woodbridge School Board member during their child’s elementary and middle school years and then be forced to work with Neabsco’s during their high school years.

Woodbridge Senior High School is in Lake Ridge, in the Occoquan District, and there are no plans to change the district in which that school sits in.

Tuesday was the final public hearing on the county’s redistricting process. A final plan must be approved and submitted to Virginia’s State Board of Elections on April 18 and then submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.

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Minorities Want Fair Districts

Woodbridge, Va. –– An alternative to Prince William County’s redistricting plan will be presented tonight prior to the County Board hearing.

At 6:30 p.m., minority residents are expected to present their drawn maps that are expected to counter the lines drawn by officials that for the next 10 years will govern political boundaries and districts in the county. The presentation will be held at the Prince William County Government Center in Woodbridge.

A press release from the organizing group says minorities have for years been excluded from county services under previously drawn maps.

The county board will take up a public hearing on the redistricting process that must be completed April 18.

Officials say Prince William must reexamine its magisterial districts as they have experiences major growth in the past 10 years.

According to proposed district maps produced by the county, the Coles District would expand to include portions of the Manassas area. Each district would encompass about 57,000 residents.

The public hearing to address the changes begins tonight at 7:30.

News
Moran Endorses Lateef

Prince William County, Va. –– The man looking to unseat Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart got a nod Monday from a seasoned Northern Virginia politician.

Democratic congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) endorsed Babur Lateef in his bid to become Prince William’s next board chair.

“Congressman Moran has been a strong advocate for Northern Virginia’s families and businesses for decades,” Lateef said. “I welcome his support of my campaign.”

Leteef is an eye surgeon for Woodbridge and announced his candidacy in January.

He has mounted his campaign against Stewart by saying taxes rose during his term as Board Chair, along with class sizes in county schools.

Stewart has long clung to illegal immigration as a camping issue, and launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants after he was reelected to the post in 2007.

Moran was elected in 1990 and is now serving his 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The general election will be held November 8.

News
Commonwealth Attorney’s Race Heats Up

 

Shaking the hand of outgoing Stafford commonwealth attorney Daniel Chichester, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Eric Olsen (center) announces his bid to replace Chichester, as Stafford sheriff Charles Jett looks on. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford, Va. ––Eric Olsen says he is the clear choice for Stafford County’s next Commonwealth Attorney.

Olsen made his campaign announcement on a cold, damp Thursday afternoon on the steps of the county’s courthouse in front of about 80 supporters.

“The primary function of local government is to keep people safe. There are a lot of other things that local government does, and all of them are necessary, but let me tell ya, they don’t amount to a hill of beans unless people are safe inside of their homes, people are safe when  they go to their schools, people are safe when the go to the grocery store,” said Olsen.

During his speech, Olsen spoke of his time on the job prosecuting murder and domestic violence cases since he was hired to work in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office in 1989.

Olsen wants at least one change to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, saying he would assign someone from the office to each magisterial district to be a liaison to community groups and home owners associations.

“There’s a movement across the county to move to a different type of an approach to prosecution, and it’s called community prosecution. Most law abiding citizens have two experiences with the criminal justice system: if they’re a victim they have an experience with it and if they are sitting on a jury they have an experience with it. Other than that they don’t know what a prosecutor does,” said Olsen.

His opponent, defense attorney Jason Pelt, is also seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for the position. Pelt charges Stafford’s Commonwealth Attorney’s office spends too much money to combat crime, and says he could do the same work for less money.

Olsen says you can’t put a price tag on justice because not punishing criminal behavior and incarcerating those who commit crimes only encourages more crime.

“You can’t measure the criminal justice system in terms of dollars. You can measure it in the competence of a prosecutor, you can measure it terms of your passion to present cases, but you can’t measure it in terms of dollars and cents,” said Olsen.

At the podium next to Olsen for his announcement Thursday stood retiring commonwealth attorney Daniel M. Chichester and Stafford County Sheriff Charles E. Jett.

Olsen was hired by Chichester in 1989, and was handpicked by the outgoing prosecutor as the candidate to be his successor.

Olsen described himself as a local man who has only been away from the Fredericksburg area for three years, long enough for him to go to law school. He got his undergrad from the Mary Washington College.

A long-time resident of Fredericksburg, Olsen said he is selling his house there and has rented an apartment on Poplar Road in Stafford County. Changing his residence to Stafford allows him to run for the position.

News
State’s Attorney Candidate Steps Forward

Jason Pelt is seeking election as Stafford County's Commonwealth Attorney.

Stafford, Va. –– Jason Pelt announced his bid to be Stafford County’s next Commonwealth Attorney on Tuesday.

A defense attorney in his own private practice in Stafford, Pelt says the office he wants to lead currently spends too much money see’s little return on its effort.

“The Commonwealth Attorney’s office is horribly inefficient, wasting tax dollars while doing nothing to combat crime or promote justice,” said Pelt. “In our sister county, Spotsylvania, there is a less than one-percent difference in the crime rate between that county and Stafford, but Stafford County spends $1.2 million more than Spotsylvania does in their Commonwealth Attorney’s office.”

Pelt, a republican currently running unopposed, says he is seeking the nomination of the party.

He acknowledged outgoing Commonwealth Attorney Daniel Chichester who held the job for 40 years.

“I’m not running against him, so you’ll hear me say nothing negative about him, but changes do need to occur, and there needs to be an end to the mentality to where ‘we need to spend more money to combat crime because we can’t put a price on justice.’ The price of justice should be less than $3 million per year [Stafford is] spending,” said Pelt.

Pelt also said lines of communication between the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department and clerk of the court can be improved –– something he’s learned during his time on the job, he said.

Pelt accepted an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps in 1998 and served as both a defense attorney and a federal prosecutor in the JAG Corps until 2005. He is now a Marine Reservist.

Chichester last month suggested Eric Olsen, a deputy commonwealth’s attorney in Stafford County, would make a good replacement for him.

Olsen lives in Fredericksburg and would have to relocate to Stafford County to be able to run and be elected to the position.

News
McDonnell to Stump in Woodbridge

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell

Woodbridge, Va. –– Political season in Woodbridge kicks off next month with an appearance from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

The governor is expected to appear at 8:30 a.m. Saturday April 9 at an event for Del. Richard Anderson (R-51).

The event is a fundraiser for the freshman delegate who is looking to return to Richmond for another two years.

The event is not free, but will be held at Appliance Connection at 13851 Telegraph Road #101 in Woodbridge.

The appliance store has another political connection , as Prince William County Supervisor Marty Nohe on his LinkedIn page lists himself as the president of the store.

News
Redistricting Date Moved Up

Prince William County, Va. –– Prince William officials say they need to adopt their redistricting plan sooner than later.

A special meeting of the county’s board of supervisors to adopt the redistricting plan was announced late Friday night, to be held at 7:30 p.m. April 18 at the Prince William County Government Center in Woodbridge.

The county originally thought they would have until May 17 to adopt the new redistricting plan.

“The change stems from an error realized by the Electoral Board. State and federal law requires absentee ballots be available no later than 45 days prior to a Primary or General Election. This requirement was not communicated to the County during the planning process for redistricting. The letter from the Electoral Board indicates that ‘… the May 17, 2011, date is no longer early enough for the Board of County Supervisors to finally adopt its redistricting plan,’” stated a press release from Prince William County.

The county’s next electoral board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 5, and is open to the public.

Stafford County has also called public meetings about their redistricting process.

Town hall meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday April 7 at Stafford High School at 33 Stafford Indian Lane, and at 7 p.m. Thursday April 14 at North Stafford High School at 839 Garrisonville Road (Va. 610).

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New Law Closes School Bus Loophole

Woodbridge, Va. –– There’s a lot of meaning in the two-letter word “at.”

A bill by Del. Richard Anderson (R-51) adds the word to an existing law passed in the 1970s that mandates drivers stop at school buses.

Without the word, some judges interpreted the law literally to where drivers must stop school buses, not stop “at” school buses.

Some drivers who failed to stop at a stopped school bus loading or unloading children were let off the hook because of the loophole, said Anderson.

The new law takes effect immediately unlike other bills signed into law which take affect July 1.

“I was pleased to patron this legislation to ensure that our children are safe on their trips to and from school.  Parents expect us to take care of their students from the time they leave home and until they return.  This bill does just that,” said Anderson in a press release.

Anderson drafted the bill and filed it with the house clerk’s office, but it was similar to another bill by Del. Scott Surovell (D-44).

Surovell’s bill was absorbed into Anderson’s bill and both freshman delegates worked together to pass the legislation.

News
Lone immigration bill survives

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

Legislators’ attempt to put tougher restrictions on illegal immigrants in Virginia failed in the state Senate Wednesday – all except for one bill.

The E-Verify bill, which would require any corporation doing business with Virginia subject their employees to an electronic background check verify their employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

It has survived in a Senate some Republicans say too often block measures to curb illegal immigration in the state. Democrats often say immigration reform unfairly targets Hispanics and could lower the rate at which they report crimes to local police. (more…)

News
E-Verify bill moving forward

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

Woodbridge, Va. –– A new bill sponsored by a Woodbridge lawmaker would force state agencies to verify that those contracted to work for them may legally do so in the U.S.

Del. Richard L. Anderson (R, Va.-51) has sponsored HB 1859, which would require any agency contracted to do $50,000 or more in work for the state submit their employees to an E-Verify check, which would determine their employment eligibility.

The bill remains in committee but is gaining traction among lawmakers. (more…)

News
Anderson to lead Civil Air Patrol

 

Woodbridge, Va. –– Richard L. Anderson has accepted a high-ranking position in with the Civil Air Patrol.

The republican delegate from Virginia’s 51nd District, which includes Woodbridge and Lake Ridge, was appointed chairman of the organization’s board of governors this fall.

He will assume his new role in February.

Anderson, a retired Air Force Colonel, brings with him more than 30 years of experience working with defense missile and space command.

He joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1969 and has served the organization as both a cadet and senior member.

“It is truly a privilege to be elected chairman of the Board of Governors,” Anderson said in a press release. “I look forward to this new opportunity to continue to serve this outstanding organization, one of the premier community service organizations in America.”

Later in his CAP career, Anderson from 1993 until 96 was one of the youngest national commanders ever to serve in the organization. (more…)

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