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Good news: Virginia has a state budget

I am typing these words of good news on the night of Friday, March 11th, on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond. We just adjourned the 2016 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly with approval of a bipartisan two-year Virginia state budget. The good news: The budget is balanced, cautious, sensible, and doesn’t increase taxes or fees.

As a member of the 22-member House Appropriations Committee (HAC), I have been engaged since December with crafting the budget, along with two other Prince William County legislators, Del. Scott M. Lingamfelter (R-31st) and Del. Luke M. Torian (D-52nd). I serve on three HAC subcommittee (Public Safety, Transportation, and Higher Education), so I had a hand in developing these three parts of the budget.

Here in bullet fashion are the highlights of the budget we approved Friday night:

– It was passed by large margins in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in both houses of the General Assembly.

– It was completed early, permitting the General Assembly to adjourn one day early, saving taxpayers $25,000.

– It is balanced, fair, and cautious. Unlike the federal government, we build the budget like you build your family budget, with common sense and without gimmicks.

– It doesn’t increase taxes or fees.

– It represents a spending decrease of 5% over the last 10 years, when adjusted for population and inflation.

– It funds the core functions of state government from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018.

– It eliminates state liabilities, reduces borrowing, and makes one-time investments rather than long-term spending commitments.

– It funds investments in economic development to grow businesses and create jobs.

– It invests $73M more for K-12 public education than Gov. McAuliffe proposed, for a total of $900M.

– It includes $36M for Cost to Compete for school employees in Northern Virginia (a budget amendment that I co-patroned with several of my PWC colleagues).

– It includes $100K for the VaSTAR (Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment Program) computer rehab program administered by PWC Schools (a budget amendment for which I was Chief Patron).

– It invests $78M more for higher education than Gov. McAuliffe proposed.

– It includes $114M for operations and maintenance at colleges and universities and $48M for undergraduate financial aid to hold the line on tuition increases.

– It includes a 2% teacher pay raise, a 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees, and a 3% pay raise for state employees and state police.

– It deposits $605M in the state rainy day fund to raise the balance to $845M in two years as a hedge against the unforeseen.

– It funds the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) at 100% of the Board-certified rate (two years early). It repays VRS $189.5M owed from a funding deferral in 2010 (six years early).  

While this is a lot of information, it’s not all-inclusive, so go to the state budget website for details: https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/amendments/2016/1

No budget is perfect in every respect. This budget is no different in that regard, but the bipartisan, bicameral way in which it was approved says that it is a sound spending plan. We have a second crack at improving it next January when we can offer amendments during the 2017 legislative session of the General Assembly. In the meantime, I sincerely thank our neighbors for the privilege of working on their behalf in crafting the state budget.

I’ll be back home with Ruth and on the job in Prince William County the week of March 14th, and I look forward to getting back to the rigors of community life. Although the General Assembly session has ended, my duty to you has not. If I may assist you or your family in any way, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

I’m easily reached at DelRAnderson@house.virginia.gov or at our legislative district office (571-264-9983). My legislative aide, Ryan Galloway, is at RGalloway@house.virginia.gov. If your need is urgent and can’t wait until the next business day, please call my Woodbridge home at 703-730-1380. We’re here for you.

Many thanks for the privilege of serving you and your family at home and in Richmond!

Over $210 million in new funds coming to the 36th District

The last week of the 2016 General Assembly session brought a flurry of activity on some of our most difficult bills, along with approval of a state budget.  In this column, I will detail highlights in the final budget affecting our area.  Next week, I will report on other important budget items.  In the near future, I will cover some of the more important legislation that we considered and the fight over the state Supreme Court.  I will also let you know about my eight bills the Governor has signed or are awaiting his signature.  
The legislature approved a final budget, including two of my amendments.  First, I advocated for an additional $100,000 to fund the Virginia Star Program which provides refurbished computers to low-income, public school students.  Prince William County’s public schools are using this program extensively in the U.S. 1 corridor.  The final budget includes my complete request.
The new budget provides significant new funding for K-12 education over the biennium: Fairfax County, $87 million; Prince William County, $93 million; and Stafford County, $24 million.  Given that our local schools are hundreds of millions per year behind, it is now up to local governments to fund their share.
Second, my proposal to boost appropriations to fund court-appointed attorneys passed.  Virginia pays $120 per district court misdemeanor and between $445 and $1,235 for felonies, depending on whether they are “non-serious” or punishable by more than 20 years.  
Lawyers can apply for waivers from these fees, but the court runs out of money every year in the spring.  The General Assembly approved an additional $900,000 over the biennium.  In jurisdictions that do not have public defender offices, such as Prince William County, these funds are critical to meet our Constitutional obligation to provide counsel to low-income people.  This is the first increase in appropriations since the waiver system was adopted.  
We also approved $7.5 million in funding for Phase I improvements for Widewater State Park in Stafford County.  This will provide the only public water access to the Potomac River in Stafford County along with event facilities and ultimately campgrounds and cabins.  I was pleased to help  Delegate Mark Dudenhefer who has been working on this for years.
My biggest disappointment was the failure to expand Medicaid, a change that could bring the state $40.5 million in federal funds per year, 800 jobs and healthcare to about 10,000 people in the 36th District.  Sadly, politics continues to hold this up.
It is an honor to serve you in Richmond.  Please email me your feedback at scott@scottsurovell.org.  

Volunteers needed to clean Occoquan River

On Saturday, April 9, 2016 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (rain date April 23, 2016), Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition (PWTSC), a 501(c)3 organization, is conducting its 7th annual clean-up of the upper Occoquan River, from nine different sites along 25+ miles of the Occoquan River.

The clean-up ranges from Cedar Run/Broad Run, through Lake Jackson, and from the base of Lake Jackson Dam to Hooes Run (south of Lake Ridge Marina). This cleanup is part of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (www.fergusonfoundation.org) Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Friends of the Occoquan (www.friendsoftheoccoquan.org) will also be holding a cleanup at different shoreline parks along the Occoquan River on April 16, 2016.

PWTSC is partnering with the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Prince William County Parks and Recreation and Prince William County Public Works along with a number of home owners associations, civic associations, businesses, and volunteer groups to accomplish this major 25+-mile river clean-up. During last year’s clean-up, 197 volunteers pulled 6,700 pounds of trash out of the Occoquan River and this year we hope to get more help to remove even more!

PWTSC needs experienced kayakers, canoeists, jon boaters, and pontoon boaters to sign up for this major on-the-water conservation effort. Some kayaks and canoes will be available for loan provided by Penguin Paddling (at Hooes Run) and the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department (at Lake Ridge Marina).

Please visit www.pwtsc.org for more information and to register for this event or contact Ed Dandar at efdandar@verizon.net or 703-791-6158.

St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School Librarian wins grant

Junior Library Guild (JLG) recently awarded the Sister Sally Daly Grant to Mary Gildersleeve, Director of Library Services for Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School near Dumfries, Virginia, to attend her first Catholic Library Association(CLA) conference this March.

The Catholic Library Association together with Junior Library Guild established a $1,500 grant in 2007 in memory of Sally Daly, SSJ, an ardent supporter of recruiting new members to CLA and its Children’s Library Services Section.

“Mary’s application was compelling because she showed an intention to be a major activist in CLA and to implement best practices learned to make her library great,” said Randy Asmo, President and CEO of Media Source, Inc., parent company of Junior Library Guild. “Her enthusiasm and desire to make a difference showed through.” Gildersleeve will attend the 2016 Annual Convention, March 29-31, 2016 in San Diego, Calif.

Boy Scouts hosting annual Pinewood Derby in Woodbridge

This weekend, the Occoquan District Boy Scouts are hosting their District Pinewood Derby in Woodbridge on March 12.

The derby will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Woodbridge Middle School gym at 2201 York Drive. Following the races with the Scout’s cars, awards will be given based on Scout rank, and overall speed.

Special awards will also be given for the ‘coolest car’ and the ‘builder fair’, based on how the car was built, and the inspiration behind it.

Scouts that are interested in participating in the Derby need to be registered in advance.

Manassas Symphony receiving award from councilman

Manassas City Councilman and longtime friend of the orchestra, Ken Elston, will present the American Prize in Orchestral Performance by a Community Orchestra to the Manassas Symphony at their concert on March 5, 2016. The concert will be held at Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 pm, and will feature music by British composers.

The American Prize is a series of non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels. The prize was first awarded in 2009, and is now awarded annually. The MSO was previously a semi-finalist for this same award in 2010, and a finalist in 2013.

Mr. Elston has, on several occasions, narrated children’s books set to music commissioned by the MSO for their annual family concerts held each December. His wife Molly has also served in this role. He was recently elected to the City Council, and is also the Director of the School of Theatre at George Mason University. Mr. Elston said, “I’ve greatly enjoyed working the MSO in past, as has my wife. The symphony plays a vital role in the community by providing the classical music component to the Hylton’s presentation of the arts. This award shows how well the orchestra performs that role.”

For two decades, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra has brought the excitement of live orchestral performances to the Manassas and Prince William County area for a unique, lively, and entertaining concert experience. The orchestra serves as the educational and performance medium for its all-volunteer community members.


Chamber of Commerce holds annual Business Awards

On the evening of February 25, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce honored the nominees and recipients of their annual Business Awards at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Winners of the 2016 Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards, who each receive a $1,000 check to continue their work, were also announced along with the recipient of the inaugural Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award.

Nominees included businesses large and small from a variety of industries, showcasing the diverse organizations that blend to make the Prince William region a national leader for jobs creation and economic growth. Northern Virginia Community College was the Presenting Sponsor of the event. Bernie Niemeier, Publisher of Virginia Business was Master of Ceremonies.

Chamber President & CEO Debbie Jones congratulated all of the nominees and winners on their business excellence and work in the community. She went on to say, “The best part  of the awards ceremony is hearing about how the various winners are working together on strategic partnerships, helping one another to be successful and giving back. I’m proud to be a part of a business community that truly understands the value of collaboration.”

While the sizes and industries of the nearly 80 nominated businesses varied greatly, a commitment to giving back was a common thread. Each of the nominees regularly steps outside of their organization to make a difference in the community they serve, whether through the Chamber or one of hundreds of local not-for-profit organizations. 

This year the Chamber added a new legacy award to their Business Award categories. Named for recently-retired Virginia State Senator Charles Colgan and sponsored by Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC, the Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award is meant to be awarded to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, including but not limited to their own organization. Just like Senator Colgan who was a long-time member of the Chamber with Colgan Air and a Past Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. This individual should be known as an innovator, a great partner, a visionary and an advocate for his or her community and beyond. This year the award went to Rex Parr, the recently-retired long-time President of Didlake, Inc.

Additional sponsors of the event included: Whitlock Wealth Management; NOVEC-Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative; The Fauquier Bank and Prince William Today. Cardinal Bank sponsored the Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards. 

Pictures from the 2016 Business Awards are available at facebook.com/pwchamber, and a full list of nominees and sponsors can be found under the “EVENTS” tab at www.pwchamber.org. Following are descriptions of each winner, as they were announced during the 2016 Prince William Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.


New budget emerges from Senate

This week, the seventh of this session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering the state’s two-year budget. After each house passes a budget, a joint conference committee resolves the differences.
The Senate budget has good news and bad news.
Good  News
Revenues have increased more than expenses for the first time in seven years, offering opportunities to address unmet needs.  The Senate Budget makes significant investments in education including an additional $80 million for Fairfax County, $32 million for Prince William County and $22 million for Stafford County over last year’s appropriations including $16 million for a program called “Cost to Compete” which is supplemental funding for high-cost areas like Northern Virginia to pay teachers and support staff.  The plan also includes a two-percent salary increase for all elementary-secondary school teachers.  
The budget increases funds for our state colleges and universities by $223 million, increases student financial aid and limits tuition increases to three percent.  The Senate budget has about $1.4 billion in construction projects, including $350 million to modernize the Port of Virginia, construct college buildings and renovate state park facilities. 
It adds over 800 “waiver” slots due to the closure of Virginia’s training centers and an additional 400 new slots for adults with developmental disabilities so they can receive needed services. 
The Senate budget begins the closures of Virginia’s Juvenile Detention facilities, adds 11 new mental health positions in probation offices and provides $2.5 million for mental health pilot projects in our jails.  It also funds one new General District Court judge position in Prince William County and one Circuit Court spot in Stafford County.
The Senate budget includes my amendment to increase funds for court-appointed criminal attorney by $1.2 million, the first increase since the program’s inception. 
It also includes funds to keep down costs at Dulles Airport and to begin planning the widening Interstate 66. 
Bad News
A major disappointment to me is the omission of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed Medicaid expansion, to provide health care to more low-income and disabled people.  Rejecting Medicaid and the available federal funding represent legislative malpractice, but the votes simply are not there to pass it.
Second, the budget fails to fund three desperately needed Fairfax County judgeship positions – Circuit, General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  Fewer judges means more delays in access to justice.
Unfortunately, the Senate budget also cuts capital improvements to Widewater State Park. This desperately needed project would create the only public access to the Potomac River in Stafford County.  
I am working hard to pass a budget that addresses our needs and to get my bills passed by the mid-March adjournment.  Please share your views and suggestions at scott@scottsurovell.org. 

Electronic textbook bill moves to House of Delegates

As we pass the mid-point of this General Assembly session, many bills are moving.

After a 30-minute debate, the Senate approved my bill prohibiting the use of electronic textbooks in public schools without a plan to provide school broadband and digital devices to every student required to use an electronic textbook.

Virginia’s constitution requires that every child receive a free textbook. On the floor, I argued that without home computers, electronic textbooks create a two-tiered education system for the haves and the have-nots. Senators Adam Ebbin and George Barker joined me in stressing that even Northern Virginia’s schools have significant low-income student populations who face disadvantages in the classroom without their own devices. The bill now moves to the House of Delegates.

Also, the Senate passed, 39 to 1 my legislation to reverse recent anti-sunshine Virginia Supreme Court rulings. Last year, the Court held that if one sentence of a government document is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the government can withhold an entire document instead of simply redacting the sentence. My legislation requires disclosure to the public of the text of the document that is not redacted.

Additionally, the Court held that government officials’ decisions to withhold documents are entitled to “great weight.” My legislation requires judges reviewing FOIA responses to look at government officials’ decisions in an unbiased manner. The House of Delegates passed identical legislation 99-0 and it will be on the Governor’s desk by the end of the week.

Around 100 people attended our town hall meetings this weekend in the Mount Vernon and Lee areas of Fairfax County. The number one concern raised was public school funding. Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget has $54 million in new funding for Prince William County and $15 million for Stafford County. The House and Senate budgets come out this weekend and will likely include additional funds.

We also heard concerns about Potomac River oil spills and coal ash pollution, skyrocketing college tuition, protecting women’s reproductive rights and strengthening mental health services. People voiced support for driver’s licenses for undocumented Virginians and anger about voting restrictions.

This week, we will debate the state budget. To share your view, please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

Free Children’s Day at the Weems-Botts Museum

Pirates on the Chesapeake Bay on March 12, 2016

Join Historic Dumfries for Children’s Day at the Weems-Botts Museum.

Make & take crafts!  Snacks! Lots of FUN!!! 

Pirates and privateers (thieves who had the blessings of their home countries) were major players in Chesapeake Bay history. For nearly 200 years, pirates roamed the Bay’s waters looking for prey and outfitting themselves to search for prizes in other parts of the world.

Learn about these men, the life they led, as the young Virginia colony flourished and commerce with Europe expanded. Pirate adventures helped shape the patterns of settlement on the Bay’s shores and the consequent use of its waters. To Blackbeard, the Davis trio and other pirates who frequented the Bay, we owe a colorful — yet barbaric — slice of Virginia history.

The Weems-Botts Museum is located at 3944 Cameron St, Dumfries, VA 22026.


New officers join Prince William K9 Unit

Four police officers have recently graduated from Basic K9 School, a course offered by the Prince William County Criminal Justice Academy in Nokesville.

The officers are from Prince William County, Arlington County, and Fairfax City Police Departments.

A 16-week-course of training had to be completed in all fields of police canine work in order for the officers to graduate. They completed classes in obedience, evidence recovery, suspect search, tracking, agility, criminal apprehension, and building search. Master Police Officer W.F. VanAntwerp taught the class to the trainees. He has been with the Prince William County Police Department since 1996 and has served with the K9 Unit since 2000.

The Prince William County Police Department hired Officer Shaun Barrett and Officer Katybeth Strobel in 2006. Before being selected to work in the K9 Unit, Strobel served as a detective in the Criminal Operations Division. Her four legged partner is named Abrams. Strobel is the first female K9 officer to work for PWC Police Department.

Prior to working in the K9 Unit, Barrett worked as a patrol officer. His four legged partner is named Kane.

Arlington Police Department hired Sergeant Bryan Morrison in 2002. Eleven years later in 2013, Sergeant Morrison was promoted to the rank of sergeant and assigned to the Patrol Section. He now works as the supervisor of the K9 Unit.

In 2003, the Fairfax City Police Department hired Officer Vann Sayasithsena. He served in the Operations Division as a patrol officer until he was selected for K9 handler in 2007. Sayasithsena’s first canine partner was Niko until his retirement in 2015. Valor now works as Sayasithsena’s canine partner in Niko’s place.


New exhibits coming to the Manassas Museum

March events at the Manassas Museum include two new exhibits, free book talks and more.

From March 4 – April 17, the Manassas Museum presents “Impressions”, the Osbourn High School art show.  Impressions features the paintings, mixed media works, sculpture, and drawings of Osbourn art students.  The exhibit offers students the opportunity to be guest curators, as they choose works to be displayed, create frames or mounts, and write descriptive labels for their works.

March 4 – April 17, the Manassas Museum will feature “To Be Sold,” a new exhibit.

Using the works of acclaimed nineteenth century artist Eyre Crow, this exhibit examines the story of enslaved African Americans sold into the largest forced migration in American history. This is an exhibition from the Library of Virginia with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On March 6 at 1:30 p.m. enjoy a Free Book Talk: “Poems of the Manassas Battlefields” with Author Patrick Bizarro.  Bizzaro, winner of numerous national literary prizes, a Fulbright award, and teaching awards, started his teaching career at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas. He has published 32 books of various kinds, including his twelfth book of poetry, Poems of the Manassas Battlefield, vol. 1 

 On March 12 at noon, visit Liberia Plantation for Basement to Attic Hard Hat Tours.

Walk in the footsteps of presidents and generals from the Civil War and explore the oldest home in Manassas as it undergoes restoration.  Discover the most recent Civil War graffiti and see the rarely opened attic and basement.  For tickets, visit www.manassasmuseum.org or call 703-257-8453. 

On March 13 at 1:30 p.m. hear from author Lee Lawrence about his book “Dark Days in Our Beloved Country.”  Lawrence edited the Civil War Diary of Catherine Hopkins Broun that recounts her visits to battlefields, smuggling goods across the Potomac River from Maryland into Virginia, and travels to Washington. The diary also illuminates slavery in northern Virginia and includes dialogue between master and slaves that reveal the individual personalities of some of the slaves.

OWL Volunteer Fire Deparment reuniting families

For Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department, saving lives is just in a day’s work.  Sometimes those lives aren’t even human.  

While the engine crew from station 14 was retrieving dinner, they spotted a beautiful husky who was without his family.  “We saw him walking around the parking lot and we just walked up to him and he came right to us. He was very well behaved and friendly, so we knew he had a family,” said Firefighter Chris Weber.  Although wearing a collar and tag, the veterinarian listed was out of business. “We took him to Old Bridge Animal Hospital but he did not have a chip.” 

Animal control had been contacted, but Firefighter Weber put out a post to other department members in the hopes that the owner might be found.  Another member recognized the dog, whose family had posted his disappearance on Facebook.  Within the hour, dog and owners had been reunited.  “Kai” who is four years old had run off through an open gate in the back yard.

He had been gone for two hours and the family was thrilled to find him so quickly.  “Sometimes your best chance of finding help for a missing pet can be in your pocket on your smartphone,” said Valencia Lee, Kai’s owner.  To the OWL firefighters, Lee expressed gratitude. “Thank you for finding him and bringing him home! I don’t know what we would’ve done if no one had found him!”

Remember to chip and have current tags for your dog. If you find a lost pet, call Animal Control services at the Police non-emergency number at 703-792-6500.


The Painting Ladies upcoming summer gallery exhibitors

The Painter’s Journey from June 21 to July 29.

The Painting Ladies – Nancy Brittle, Janie Mosby, Chris Smith and Kathleen Willingham explore life in rural communities. Their works in oil, water and photography depict a sense of place through landscape, still life and figurative art. They believe in working together with unique voices and variety of media as complements to one another.                    

The four of us are and have been art teachers in Fauquier County Public Schools. We worked together, had workshops and classes with each other and decided that we should continue those efforts by spending time doing what we love to do and that is to paint. This has been going on for over fifteen years.  

We try to carve out time for each other and create opportunities to paint, give each other suggestions and impromptu critiques and sometimes go to workshops. We have made it an annual tradition to spend one entire week each summer painting in the Northern Neck where Kathleen has a home. We often plein air paint at each other’s homes or at a variety of locations in the area. We all feel that these interactions are valuable to our artistic growth and creative spirit and we enjoy being together.

We have had a number of group shows since 2006 and several have included another local artist. Janie and Chris are still teaching and will often enter juried shows in the area as well as displaying work with the Blue Ridge Region of the Va. Art Education Association. Since Kathleen and Nancy have retired they participate in juried shows, art events, belong to numerous art organizations and show in several galleries around the region and state.

We all live in Fauquier County.  Kathleen and Nancy are native to Fauquier and in fact went to elementary school together. Chris is from Maryland and has lived in Fauquier for over 30 years. Janie grew up in Lynchburg, VA. and has been in Fauquier County for over 40 years.  

The Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/Prince William County sponsors theatrical productions for children and adults of all ages, teaches arts classes, promotes visual arts and provides community outreach programs for all ages.

Founded in 1984 by a group of artists and art lovers, the Center for the Arts aims to enrich the quality of life in the Northern Virginia through arts performance and education. A theater, an art gallery and classrooms are located in the three-story, historic Candy Factory building in Historic Manassas, at 9419 Battle Street. The third floor provides additional space for weddings, corporate meetings and receptions, lectures, poetry readings, recitals and chamber concerts.

For more information, call 703-330-2787, visit www.center-for-the-arts.org, or Facebook.    

Manassas Art Guild displays in The Hall

Paintings from the Manassas Art Guild are on exhibit in The Hall at City Hall through March 11, 2016. Prices range from mixed media, acrylics, watercolors and quilling. The Manassas Art Guild is an organization that was set up to promote participation and appreciation of the visual arts.

Artists participating in this exhibit include: Maureen Guillot, Herald Grandstaff, Laura Lavarnway, Janet Hansen Martinet, Stephanie McGhee, Ann Null, Connie Ryman, and Marti Whitehead.

Exhibits in The Hall rotate on a monthly basis and include different forms of visual art. Visiting The Hall is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and later evening meetings are held in the building. 

Manassas Symphony to perform ‘From the British Isles’

The Manassas Symphony, under the baton of Music Director James Villani celebrates the music of English composers with From the British Isles. The performance will be held in Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm. The concert includes music by Malcom Arnold and Frank Bridge, and it closes with Vaughan Williams’ rhapsodic Symphony No. 2 (A London Symphony).

The concert features MSO Principal Cellist Diana Chou who takes center stage for a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in e minor, Op. 85. Diana received her Bachelor of Music Education from Ithaca College and a Masters of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Houghton College. She is establishing a reputation in Northern Virginia as a dynamic performer, educator, and conductor.

During the school day, she teaches approximately 300 elementary students within the Fairfax County Public School system, and in the evenings maintains a private studio with students of all ages. She has coached various youth orchestras through the region, and is well known for her ability to engage students. During the summer Diana is the cello coach for Stallion Summer Strings camp at South County High School. She currently sits principal cello with the Manassas Symphony and Fairfax Chamber Players, and is the founding member of the Gemini Ensemble.

All seats for the Manassas Symphony Orchestra concerts in Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center (HPAC) are reserved and everyone needs a ticket.  Individual concert tickets are available at the Hylton Center Ticket Office open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am to 6 pm and Thursday 10 am to 8 pm and two hours before the performance begins.   Tickets may also be purchased through Tickets.com by calling 888-945-2468, or by visiting the HyltonCenter.org. Tickets are also available for sale at the Center for the Arts Box Office on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.  Individual concert tickets are priced as follows:

  • Adults $20
  • Senior Citizens 62+ $16
  • Educators w/ID only at Ticket Office   $16
  • Children/Students, Free – must obtain ticket at the Ticket Office

College Students must show ID to obtain free concert ticket.


Citizen Police Academy accepting applications

Do you wonder what it would be like to be a police officer? How do they make the decisions they make? What does a detective do? How are they trained?

The Citizen Police Academy gives citizens an overview of the Prince William County Police Department. Graduates of the course will have a better understanding of the operation of the Department, and a greater awareness and appreciation of the challenges and decisions faced by Prince William County police officers each day.

The 10-week program meets Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., starting on April 5, 2016. Graduation will be on June 7, 2016. The program consists of classroom and hands-on instruction. Topics to be covered include virtually every aspect of police work, including Patrol Operations, Criminal Investigations, Tactical Operations, Crime Scene Management, Internal Affairs, and Special Operations. In addition, participants will be given the opportunity to ride a shift with a patrol officer and be familiarized with police equipment, including firearms.

There are a few slots still available for the upcoming session. To apply, simply complete the Citizen Police Academy Application Form, which is found on our website at www.pwcgov.org/police. From there, select “Volunteer Center,” then “Citizen Police Academy.”

Once the application is submitted, a background check is completed and letters are mailed to those who are selected approximately one month prior to the available session. Eligible applicants who do not get into the upcoming session in the spring will be placed on a waitlist for future sessions in order of receipt of their application.

For more information, please call the Criminal Justice Academy at 703-792-6599

Without bill, pressure builds to raise real estate taxes to fund transit

The fifth week of the General Assembly Session brought some long days and nights as we rushed to complete work on bills before our mid-session deadline called “Crossover.”

First the Senate passed legislation to plug a hole in the Northern Virginia 2.1% regional gas tax that is used to fund transit.  This legislation was the top priority for Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford Counties.  It now goes on to an uncertain future in the House of Delegates, but without the legislation, localities will be under even more pressure to raise real estate taxes if we expect to maintain the same level of transit service. 

Eleven of my bills have passed the full Senate with two more still waiting for final passage.  One bill involved improving the fairness of protective order proceedings and another ensured that Virginians can enforce subpoenae in civil and criminal cases in Virginia due to a recent Supreme Court of Virginia opinion. 

My legislation to help close the Digital Divide moved through committee this week.  Today’s children learn digitally and digital literacy is a key job skill in a modern workforce.  However, low income families often cannot afford devices or broadband connections. 

After I learned Fairfax County was using electronic textbooks and failing to provide computers for low income families to use them at home, I introduced legislation to require any school using electronic textbooks to provide a digital device to every student.  The legislation was vetted and approved by the Joint Commission on Technology and Science but was tabled in the House.  Last week, the Senate Education, Health and Welfare Committee passed the bill on a 14-1 vote. 

The proliferation of companies providing background checks for people has led to an increase in dissemination of inaccurate information.  This severely limits Virginians’ opportunities, especially in employment and housing.   My legislation to create a Virginia-based cause of action to remedy these situations and hold companies accountable for putting out inaccurate information passed the Senate.  

Several of my law firm clients and lawyers in Northern Virginia have told me that some orthopedic practices are refusing to see individuals who have suffered injuries in vehicle collisions – even if they have insurance.   My bill to require insurance companies to contractually prohibit doctors from refusing patients based on how they were injured was continued to 2017 so we can convene meetings between insurance companies, doctors, and other stakeholders to mediate a resolution. 

If you have any feedback, please send me a note at scott@scottsurovell.org.  It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

2016 Northern Virginia Housing Expo March 19 in Woodbridge

Anyone looking for an affordable place to live in Northern Virginia should plan to visit the 2016 Northern Virginia Housing Expo, hosted by Fairfax-based nonprofit AHOME Foundation in cooperation with the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), Prince William, Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church, and the Town of Herndon.

Admission is free.

The area’s only regional housing expo showcases both homeownership and rental opportunities and resources throughout Northern Virginia. The event will be held from 10 am until 3 pm and will feature workshops, exhibits and free one-on-one credit counseling.

The sixth annual expo is designed to educate attendees about location options, being prepared for buying or renting, understanding and improving credit scores and improving their financial literacy and personal finance habits. Visit the event web site for the growing list of exhibitors and the schedule of the free workshops.

The expo, whose location rotates annually throughout Northern Virginia, is being held at Freedom High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, located at 15201 Neabsco Mills Road, between I-95 and Jefferson Davis Highway.

The event is produced by a collaborative effort of the aforementioned housing authorities along with representatives of the banking and mortgage industry, and is managed by Laura Nickle, president of Leesburg-based Communi-k, Inc. Past expos have been recognized with a prestigious award from the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) for “best government initiative.”

More information about the expo is available at www.NoVaHousingExpo.org; you can also follow the Northern Virginia Housing Expo on Facebook and Twitter to receive event updates.

The event is made possible by a variety of sponsorships, including funding from platinum sponsors Capital One, the Prince William County Office of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Housing Development Authority, as well as gold sponsor Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®, and silver sponsor George Mason Mortgage.

Plant NoVa Natives Recognizes Kim Hosen and the Prince William Conservation Alliance

The Plant NoVA Natives Campaign presented Kim Hosen, Executive Director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance, with its first ever “Plant NoVA Natives Champion Award” in recognition of her work to preserve and improve environmental quality in the county.

Hosen and the PWCA have used plants native to the region to transform the landscape surrounding the Stone House Nature Center into the Merrimac Farm Conservation Landscape Garden.

Their work has created a diverse habitat for birds, butterflies, moths, turtles, amphibians, and more. Here creatures great and small can find nesting sites, food and water, and places to rest and hide among a wealth of Virginia’s native plants.

The garden serves as an example for residents who are interested in creating landscapes with plants that are adapted to the local ecosystem.

In addition to their work at Merrimac Farm, PWCA coordinated a number of volunteer organizations to plant natives at K9 Gunner Memorial Dog Park in Lake Ridge.

The PWCA also identifies and pursues conservation opportunities throughout the county. The Plant NoVA Natives Campaign is a local social marketing campaign created to educate the public about the importance of implementing native plants into our local landscapes.

Learn more at www.plantnovanatives.org

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