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Locally-owned Jirani Coffeehouse celebrates grand opening

Jirani Coffeehouse recently celebrated their Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting in Manassas.

Located at 9425 West Street in the Manassas Historic District, Jirani’s proprietors, Ken and Detra Moorman are excited for the local community to see the place that they envision as much more than just a space for coffee and conversation.

Jirani is the Swahili word for neighbor or neighborhood – Ken and Detra hope it will become a neighborhood hub and a center for arts and culture. They started Jirani Coffeehouse with the mission of bringing people of all ages and interests together in a “third space” – that welcoming atmosphere that you love to frequent outside of home and work.

From their shared workspaces to the open library-style shelves to live group performances an open mic nights on weekend evenings, Jirani has something for everyone throughout the day and evening.

The Grand Opening event kicked off with the arrival of Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish and Virginia Delegate Jackson Miller in a Mercedes limousine provided courtesy of All About You Limousine Service. Mayor Parrish welcomed Jirani to the Manassas Historic District noting the comfortable and inviting atmosphere Ken has created in his coffee shop compared to the more austere setting of large chain coffee stores.

In addition, Delegate Miller urged Ken to savor the grand opening festivities as he looks to the future to envision a long and prosperous business for Jirani. The audience listened to the elected speakers, as well as Ken’s speech, with rapt attention, and often humorous remarks.

Committed to building other small businesses as well as their own, the Moorman’s have created their own small incubator for other local businesses who bake on site in Jirani’s space. Baked goods are made by local businesses including Works of Wonder Bakery, Sweet Pearlz Cheesecakes, and Pies + Petals. These businesses utilize the Jirani kitchen to make their goods which are also sold at Jirani.

6Robins Photography and Mosemak Creative have also found a home from which to promote their businesses within Jirani’s space.

Jirani is already welcoming a clientele eager to enjoy the coffee and baked goods in a comfortable, refreshing environment. There is even a private event space that can be rented for your next corporate meeting or community group – it’s known as “the Bean Box” and makes a great place to gather! Jirani’s open mic nights and scheduled singers offer entertainment for a diverse range of musical tastes and genres.

Stop by and see all that is happening at Jirani: Their business hours are: Friday, 5:30am to 2am, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Manassas & Manassas Park Democrats announce nomination process for 2016 local elections

The Manassas and Manassas Park Cities Democratic Committee (MMPCDC) has scheduled assembled caucuses to nominate Democratic candidates for Manassas and Manassas Park races in the November 8, 2016 General Election.

Specifically, the MMPCDC seeks to nominate Democratic candidates for mayor and city council in each city and for Manassas City treasurer (subject to a special election for that office being placed on the November 8 ballot). In each city, three city council seats and one mayoral seat are up for election this November.

Candidates who seek the Democratic Party nomination for any of those offices must submit a completed Declaration of Candidacy form and a $250 filing fee to the MMPCDC by Friday, May 27 at 5 pm. Complete details–including the Call to Caucus, the Declaration of Candidacy form, and the Caucus Rules-are posted on the MMPCDC website,

If more than one candidate for any elected office should properly file for the Democratic nomination by the May 27th deadline, an assembled caucus will be held to select the nominee. The caucuses for Manassas City nominations are scheduled for Monday, June 6, 7:00 pm, at Manassas City Hall, 9027 Center St, in the first floor Council Chambers.

The caucuses for Manassas Park nominations are scheduled for Wednesday, June 8, 7:00 pm, at the Manassas Park Police Station, 329 Manassas Dr, in the 1st floor conference room. For both sets of caucuses, the doors will open at 6:30 pm for check-in and close promptly at 7:00 pm. Voting will be open to all registered voters from the respective city who sign a standard Democratic declaration form and arrive for voting before 7:00 pm.

If the number of qualified candidates who file for a race by the May 27 deadline does not exceed the number of available seats, the Chair may declare those candidates to be the Party’s nominees and cancel the respective nominating Caucus. If there are no contested races for any seat, the Chair may cancel the Caucus entirely. A notice of all such caucus cancellations will be posted on the MMPCDC website by May 27 at 7:30 pm. For more information, call 571-358-9893 or visit

Town of Quantico needs veterans for Racer Quest for Veterans with Disabilities project

Are you a disabled Veteran interested in canoeing or kayaking?  Or a disabled Veteran already experienced in kayaking? 

The Town of Quantico, in cooperation with the American Canoe Association (ACA) and USA Canoe/Kayak (USACK), are looking for eligible disabled Veterans to participate in their upcoming Racer Quest for Veterans with Disabilities project being held on May 27 and 28. 

This project is being funded through the Veterans Administration’s (VA) Adaptive Sports Grant (ASG) Program. The Racer Quest for Veterans with Disabilities project will create an adaptive sports outreach program to introduce disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces to introductory through elite levels of paddlesports.

On Saturday May 27 the project will focus on introducing disabled Veterans to the whole-life health benefits of using a kayak as a recreational activity.  On Sunday May 28th the project will allow disabled Veterans to participate in the Racer Quest program which is a gateway to competing at the national and international levels in paddlesport as an elite athlete.

Please go to to find out how to participate.

Questions and comments should be directed to Sean McCarthy, Director of Sports and Recreation

Potomac View Elementary plants schoolyard garden

On Saturday, April 2, 2016 from 10 a.m. to noon, students, parents, teachers, and volunteers joined 3rd grade teacher Anna Houseworth to “break soil” in Potomac View Elementary School’s first Schoolyard Garden.

The hands-on project is grounded in the State Standards of Learning (SOLs), advised by Master Gardeners from the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), and supported by community volunteers. The project is funded by a grant from SPARK, the education foundation for Prince William County Public Schools.

The grant covered costs of wood for the two 3’ x 12’ frames, hardware, soil to fill the beds, hand tools for working the soil, two small tool sheds, and three rain barrels for collecting and distributing water.  All teachers at Potomac View will use Schoolyard Garden to implement the Prince William County Schools curriculum that follows the SOLs. Students have already participated in lessons that lead up to the garden planting activity and the weeks of tending it that follow.

The Potomac View Schoolyard Garden “is a wonderful example of how collaboration benefits student learning,” said Houseworth, who has taught at the school for 10 years. The support of local businesses that contribute to the SPARK foundation, Master Gardeners, community members, parents, educators, and Prince William County Schools have “created a space where Virginia Standards of Learning will come alive through hands-on experiences,” Houseworth said.

Neighborhood volunteers Jean and Gregg Reynolds drove implementation of the garden plans. They purchased materials, donated some supplies, designed and built the beds, filled them with a mix of topsoil and compost, and will fabricate the rain barrels. Asked about their dedication to this project, Gregg stated that, “Our children attended Potomac View back in the 80’s and next year we will have a grandchild there. It is so exciting to know that she and all her classmates will have this garden experience.”

Fifteen 4th and 5th graders — along with their teachers, parents, and one grandpa — planted broccoli and cauliflower seedlings, and a variety of seeds including lettuce, beets, squash, Easter egg radishes, and even flowers chosen to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

The Potomac View Schoolyard Garden provides students with the opportunity to practice authentic inquiry-based learning, decision-making and problem-solving skills with their peers and teachers. “The students couldn’t wait to dig into the dirt,” said Houseworth and they will “be able to leave something behind that they helped create. They will remember these experiences for a lifetime.”

The educational and interest value of the garden was proven even before it was officially open. When Jean and Gregg were making final preparation of the soil, the school resource teacher brought about 10 younger students to see the garden. “The kids had questions,” Jean said, “and got to hold brown dirt, then crumble chunks of compost. They were very excited about the earthworms, so we had a mini class right on the spot!”

Manassas, Manassas Park Democrats to host breakfast on April 23

The Manassas & Manassas Park Cities Democratic Committee (MMPCDC) will host its Blue Victory Breakfast, an annual fundraising event, on Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 8:30-11 a.m., at the new City Tavern, located at 9550 Center Street, Manassas.

The doors will open at 8:30 a.m., and the program will begin promptly at 9 a.m. The Blue Victory Breakfast celebrates MMPCDC’s outstanding volunteer leaders and elected officials, while raising the funds needed to help support its slates of Democratic candidates in the November General Election.

Enjoy a buffet breakfast that includes coffee, tea, juice, fruit, eggs, sausage/bacon, and a waffle station and the fellowship of your Democratic friends and neighbors. Several elected officials and 2016 election candidates are scheduled to attend and speak, including State Senator Jeremy McPike and LuAnn Bennett, Democratic candidate for Congress (VA-10th).

In addition, Virginia House Democratic Caucus Chair, Delegate Charniele Herring, will be a special guest speaker.

Ticket prices are $30 each, four tickets for $110, and eight tickets for $210. Sponsorships are available for $100 (True Blue), $250 (Blue Circle), $500 (Royal Blue), and $1000 (Blue Sky). RSVP and pay online from 

Fundraiser for House of Mercy to be held at MurLarkey Distilled Spirits

House of Mercy nonprofit organization will be teaming up with MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to hold a fundraiser for the less fortunate. 

Jim Larkin, General Manager of the distillery, states he is happy to help the agency that serves hundreds of people in local neighborhoods. The event is on Saturday April 23, from 6-8pm at the distillery.

 “We’re on-board to help provide food for the hungry. This will be a fun event for a great cause, and we’re pleased to be hosting it,” said Larkin.

Advanced registration is required. Email, or call House of Mercy at 703-659-1636, or use the “Contact” form at the House of Mercy website (

In addition to food, enrolled low-income House of Mercy clients receive a monthly clothing stipend for a minimum of three months from the House of Mercy aid program. This allows those in need to choose their clothing, promoting dignity and grace for those that House of Mercy serves.

About the House of Mercy

The House of Mercy is a Catholic-based humanitarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Manassas, Virginia. Founded in 2005, the organization is dedicated to serving the poor, marginalized, and forgotten. The House of Mercy provides aid to the poor regardless of background, race, religious affiliation, physical ability, gender or ethnicity. It offers a variety of free programs to the community, including:

  • Food Pantry
  • Free and discounted clothing
  • Thrift Store
  • New Shoe program for kids
  • Meal Packing (service project)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL), GED Math, and Beginning Math
  • Citizenship Exam preparation
  • Cooking and Nutrition
  • Spiritual Formation Classes
  • Christmas Assistance

House of Mercy Thrift Store is a public thrift store located at 8170 Flannery Ct, Manassas VA 20109. The sale of very gently used clothing, accessories, and home goods help to provide programs that serve the poor in the greater Manassas, Gainesville, and Nokesville areas. Everything in the store is supplied by generous donors, and are clean, fashionable, and trendy.

For more information about the House of Mercy, or to register as a client, or to donate financially,         email or call 703-659-1636.

Free 2016 Spring Veterans Resource and job fair

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY —  Michael Futrell  in partnership with Councilman Derrick Wood, Women Veterans Interactive, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Center for Minority Veterans and will host a free 2016 Spring Veterans Resource & Job Fair.

“We should be doing all we can to support our veterans and active duty military personnel,” said Hon. Michael Futrell. “I am pleased to be a partner in bringing this much needed resource and jobs fair to Prince William County. I also look forward to honoring Dr. Hampton and all that he has embodied since making the transition from protecting our country to impacting our community.”

The fair will provide a number of veteran-related services in a one-stop setting.  Onsite will be Department of Veterans Affairs’ representatives from the Center for Minority Veterans, the Veterans Health and Benefits Administrations, and the National Cemetery Administration. 

Other invited organizations will provide information related to GI Bill education assistance, finding jobs, completing wills, preventing homelessness and how to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.  Veterans are encouraged to bring DD214 or proof of military service for the opportunity to file claims on location.  Lunch will be provided at no charge to veterans and active duty military personnel in attendance. 

Dr. George Hampton will be honored for his work as a veteran in the community at the event.

Who: Hon. Michael Futrell, Councilman Derrick Wood, Delegate Rich Anderson, Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Minority Veterans, Women Veterans Interactive, and Stratford University.
What: Veterans Resource & Job Fair
When: Saturday, April 9th, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Where:  Stratford University:  Woodbridge Campus 14349 Gideon Dr. Woodbridge, VA  22192 
Members of the media are welcomed and invited to attend.

Manassas Battlefield to Host Junior Ranger Day Event

Manassas, battlefield, park, civil war

Manassas National Battlefield Park will celebrate National Junior Ranger Day with a special event for youths of all ages on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

The event will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Henry Hill Visitor Center. Children and their families can join in a variety of hands-on activities including sending messages by telegraph and signal flag, learning how a cannon was fired, learning the meaning behind the NPS arrowhead, building a monument, and more. Participants can earn their Junior Ranger badge by completing the specially planned activities.

National Junior Ranger Day is a special event held each year during National Park Week, celebrated this year between April 16 and 24. National Park Week is an annual presidentially proclaimed week for celebrating and recognizing National Parks. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service, and parks across the country are hosting special events, including many to allow families to experience America’s National Parks in a unique and kid-friendly way.

Entrance to Manassas National Battlefield Park and the event are free. For more information, contact the Visitor Center at 703-361-1339.

Government ID’s for all Virginia residents

In August of 2014, I organized a Hispanic Town Hall Meeting in Hybla Valley.  I spent the first hour going over issues with constituents.

Then, I asked attendees for feedback – what was their #1 issue?  Lack of government identification.  Attendees said that they and their friends and family were weary of obtaining ID’s from Maryland or not having them at all.

At the beginning of last session, I was approached by Virginia New Majority and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACALAO) about working together to bring this issue forward.  I introduced Senate Bill 390 that would have allowed the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a temporary driver’s visitor’s driver’s license to anyone who (1) resided in Virginia for one year, (2) had filed a Virginia tax return or been claimed as a dependent another Virginia tax return and (3) paid a $53 fee.  These licenses would be conspicuously marked with language stating “NOT FOR FEDERAL USE” so it is clear that they are not compliant with the Real ID Act. 

Similar legislation has now been passed in over twelve states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, District of Columbia, New Mexico, and Washington.  Other states are considering it.  Why is this legislation a good idea?

Reason #1 – Reducing Accidents 
New residents do not know the rules of the road.  According to the DMV, in other states where this has been implemented, over 80% of applicants fail the driving test and need to retake the test.  Having informed driver’s is good for everyone.  Data from California showed that people without driver’s licenses were three times more likely to cause a fatal accident.  The states with the longest record of providing licenses to all residents have experienced nearly a 100% larger drop in traffic fatalities than the nationwide average.  This legislation will save lives.

Reason #2 – Reducing Hit and Runs 
States adopting these measures have seen significant reductions in hit and run accidents.  Analyses by AAA have found that 41% of hit and run drivers lack a driver’s license and that unlicensed drivers are 66.36 times more likely to be hit and run drivers.  When people do not fear prosecution they stop and collisions are dealt with appropriately through our system.  

Reason #3 – Lower Virginia Insurance Premiums
More insured drivers means risk spread among more people, fewer accidents with uninsured drivers, and lower premiums for everyone. 

Reason #4 – Increase Interaction With Law Enforcement
Residents with government ID are much more likely to interact with law enforcement whether it’s for car accidents, domestic violence or to come forward as witnesses for other crimes.  Government ID means greater civic participation. 

Reason #5 – More Tax Revenue
There are an estimated 400,000 people who would benefit from this.  If 80% of estimated eligible Virginians sign up, Virginia will collect $1.7 million in new licensing fees per year.  If each new licensed driver claims $35,000 per year in taxable Virginia income, they would pay an additional $1,755 of state income taxes per person or a total of $561 million per year of new tax revenue.  If 200,000 new auto insurance policies are purchased for $1,000 per year, it will result in $225 million per year of new auto insurance premium tax revenue. 

Reason #6 – Provide All Virginians A High Quality of Life
Licenses allow people to enjoy a healthy quality of life.  Licenses mean being able to take children to soccer games, drive to work, get a bank account, or get to the doctor.  

The Way Forward
The legislation was supported by the McAuliffe Administration and the DMV has assembled a working group including representatives from law enforcement, the immigrant community, faith groups, driving safety groups, criminal defense, courts, chambers of commerce, taxation, human trafficking, and local governments to come up with consensus legislation.  

Hopefully, next year, this legislation will pass so that everyone living in Virginia can enjoy a healthy quality of life.  If you have any feedback, please send me a note at   

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:

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 or at our legislative district office (571-264-9983). My legislative aide, Ryan Galloway, is at 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  

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 ( Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Friends of the Occoquan ( 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 for more information and to register for this event or contact Ed Dandar at 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, and a full list of nominees and sponsors can be found under the “EVENTS” tab at 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 

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

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.


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