As a U.S. Air Force veteran, I attended an event for vets hosted at VFW Post 1503 in Dale City. The Town Hall was on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.
I didn’t know this event for Vets was actually for Democrats only. I say this because Prince William County senators Richard Black and Richard Stuart, and Tim Delegate Hugo (all three veterans of considerable military stature) weren’t at the Town Hall.
They weren’t invited.
All of the Delegates in attendance (except Lee Carter) were Democrats who never wore a military uniform and aren’t veterans. To be fair, a few PWC Democrats (2 Senators and 2 Delegates) were absent.
Why did the guest speaker, Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Jaime Areizaga-Soto, speak as if all the new legislators were part of the veteran bills, which were discussed? In effect, they took credit for legislation which Republican delegates achieved for vets during the past several years.
That drives lots of vets to conclude that the July 25 Town Hall was a partisan event.
My husband (USAF Retired) and I (USAF vet) pay attention to what legislators do — and don’t do — in Virginia’s General Assembly. We knew that none of what Prince William County Democrat Delegates talked about at the July 25 Town Hall was their own work.
None of the Democrat Delegates at the recent town hall put up a disclaimer or gave credit where credit is due – and credit rightfully belongs with many Republican members of past and present Virginia General Assembly sessions.
Such information can be found very easily at virginiageneralassembly.gov.
Last year, more than three Virginians died, on average, to an opioid overdose every day.
While past drug epidemics have tended to hurt certain socio-economic groups more strongly than others, the opioid epidemic is devastating individuals from every race, gender, and economic background.
Fortunately, Virginia is beginning to wake up to the reality that we cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this crisis. As a public defender, many of my clients are the people we read about in the statistics – people accused of nothing more than using drugs, but sometimes facing years in prison.
Thankfully, we are recognizing that opioid use disorder (OUD) is not a personal failing where the user should be incarcerated, but rather a health disorder that must be met with treatment.
During the last legislative session, we took two important steps in fighting the opioid epidemic through treatment rather than incarceration. Most importantly, Democratic and Republican leaders in Richmond came together to expand Medicaid to cover 400,000 more Virginians.
Medicaid currently helps high-risk populations through the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services initiative launched last year. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond already has documented positive results, including a 31 percent decline in emergency department visits for individuals who are receiving this assistance over the first five months of the program.
With more individuals getting insured due to Medicaid expansion, more people than ever before will have access to addiction recovery programs. Medicaid expansion will also bring them into the overall health care system in which they can get treatment for mental health, pain management or other issues that could put them at risk of developing OUD.
Second, the General Assembly took steps to increase OUD prevention measures. I was proud to vote for a bipartisan bill last session that ensures safer opioid dispensing practices. These new regulations, paired with increased education and awareness, will enable more patients and doctors to seek alternatives to opioids so that they can build better, safer pain management plans.
Luckily, not just the General Assembly is waking up to the reality that we need more treatment programs and less incarceration. Insurers are leading by monitoring usage and alerting prescribers and pharmacies when patients demonstrate risky prescription-fill patterns, enabling proactive interventions.
Healthcare stakeholders have also worked with the Virginia General Assembly to raise the reimbursement rates for OUD treatment. As a result, more patients receive treatment through a managed care system and find alternatives to opioids.
Many insurers are now including addiction services, ensuring greater access to pharmaceutical-based treatments, such as Suboxone, which has proved to be effective when used as part of a rehabilitation program. They are also lowering access barriers to naloxone, the overdose “antidote.”
In short, OUD prevention and treatment initiatives are gaining momentum across the commonwealth. The battle to protect our residents from addiction is far from over, but with the help of so many stakeholders, we’re developing, validating, and rolling out programs that will enable us to overcome this crisis and save lives.
This summary of the Masabi Research report from April 2018 was presented to the PRTC Board of Commissioners at its meeting on June 7, 2018.
Summary: “Key Factors Influencing Riders in North America: The emerging urban mobility ecosystem.”
Masabi issued a Google Surveys poll in the fall of 2017 to a diverse group of over 1000 US residents in order to gain an overview of the trends taking place in regards to public transit ridership across North America. The survey included both people who use public transit services and those who do not. All respondents, however, did have access to public transit services. Those who did not have access were excluded from taking the survey.
The survey was conducted to isolate the macro trends that are currently impacting public transit ridership and to indicate subgroup trends taking place, which might highlight behavior occurring and may spur others to conduct more in-depth research.
Topline findings include:
• Citizens are mostly optimistic about public transit services
• Public transit is still underutilized
• Convenience is the top priority for passengers when choosing to ride public transit
• Ridesharing is connecting public transit for many, facilitating multimodal journeys
• Convenience enablers attract riders (combining modes of transit through an app, mobile ticketing and location tracking)
• Private car ownership vs. ridesharing and public transit: The use of shared mobility services vastly increases the likelihood of riding public transit, pointing to a growing urban mobility system.
This report states that convenience, more than cost and necessity is the number one driver behind public transit ridership across all of the respondents. Riders with multiple options for transportation – the ones that are most rapidly reducing their reliance on public transit – are concerned first and foremost with convenience, not cost or comfort. While this means public transit agencies are vulnerable to losing riders to more convenient options, it also means that even minor improvements in convenience can boost ridership numbers.
Per this report, the bad news for public transit agencies is that their ridership numbers are indeed being impacted in some capacity by the increasing popularity of ridesharing services – nearly 10% of all consumers with access to public transit are using ridesharing on a weekly basis. The good news, however, is that there’s a major opportunity to play to the trend of combining ridesharing and public transit by creating first/last mile partnerships.
The report concludes that agencies can take a lesson from some of the convenient features that ridesharing apps provide, like location tracking and seamless payment, and deploy them relatively easily within their own systems. Increasing ridership by boosting convenience would have a positive impact on street congestion, while ridesharing can serve to replace personal vehicles in the first/last mile and in places underserved by public transit.
So what? How could OmniRide grow by becoming innovative?
The report’s findings clearly paint a picture of urban transit that is growing increasingly complex. Given what we know about the importance of convenience, it’s clear that many consumers who are not strictly motivated by price are combining public transit and ridesharing.
While fare reductions and service hour changes could certainly be cost prohibitive, technology changes are relatively inexpensive to implement and have also measurably increased ridership based on the data in this report. OmniRide is currently in the process of implementing a real-time arrival and location tracking application, but could also benefit from a mobile ticketing solution and first/last mile partnerships.
There is much more potential moving forward for interoperability between public and private services to enable full first/last mile journeys with public transit at its core. Not to mention the fact that relatively small changes in convenience – the addition of location tracking or convenient ticket purchase options, for example – could result in a major ridership boost for OmniRide in the short term. Increasing ridership, even marginally, is a must for OmniRide for the sake of our congested county.
Through better public/private partnerships and a more integrated transit system in general, it is possible to reduce overall congestion while enabling growth in Prince William County by:
• Increasing the use and ridership of OmniRide, starting with easier to deploy, consumer-facing features that increase convenience and build goodwill
• Recognize that OmniRide has been suffering from years of investment neglect, but that immediate changes can be made to start moving things in the right direction
• Facilitating partnerships between different modes of transit to increase efficiency
• Moving towards a more integrated transit model with closer partnerships between public and private organizations
There is no reason to be focused on one transportation mode or another. Instead, improving the current situation should be about facilitating seamless mobility and enabling consumers to use the best mode for each situation, thereby increasing convenience. This is absolutely critical to converting the riders who aren’t using public transit every day out of necessity – a huge growth opportunity that OmniRide can start taking advantage of right now.
Last week, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia finished the fiscal year with $551.9 million more in revenue that we projected when writing this year’s budget.
First, the good news is that most of this surplus is due to increased tax revenue from payroll withholding taxes, not one-time revenue sources like capital gains or tax avoidance strategies related to the recent changes in federal tax laws. The Virginia economy has truly started to perform again.
However, it is important to keep these numbers in context. The state’s General Fund has been under significant stress over the decade since the Great Recession and automatic federal spending cuts caused by a process called a “sequester.” In the nine years, I have served in the General Assembly, this is the second fiscal year that the Commonwealth has experienced revenue growth equal to or greater than the historical average.
Because of our state Constitution, other state laws and the budget, all of these “new” funds are already allocated. Our laws require that 10 percent or $55 million go to the Water Quality Improvement Fund and that the $500 million balance be contributed to Virginia’s Revenue Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund, which before the 2018 General Assembly session had dropped to historically low levels due to frequent, sluggish revenues. Bond rating agencies had also expressed concern about the lower balances and had indicated that our AAA bond rating could be adversely impacted without significant contributions.
While everyone would love to have a tax cut, the General Assembly has enacted dozens of tax cuts over the past two decades, including car tax relief, estate tax repeal and removing the sales tax on food. These tax cuts have completely offset the effect of any tax increases that passed. As a result, most General Fund programs have been starved.
Here are some examples.
Virginia’s per pupil, elementary-secondary education expenditures are the 15th lowest in the nation and our teacher salaries are the 13th lowest. Virginia’s meager state-funded preschool program is still in its infancy.
Virginia theoretically set a goal for the state to support 66 percent of the cost of attending college, funding that actually existed when I attended James Madison University from 1989 to 1993. The state now only covers about 33 percent of the cost. This has caused tuition at our state-supported institutions to skyrocket so that tuition rates at these colleges have become the fourth highest in the United States of America.
There are 10,000 families on Virginia’s waiting list for Medicaid waivers. These are families with fully disabled juvenile and adult children who are incapable of living independently. A Medicaid “waiver” allows them to live at home or in group homes funded by the Commonwealth. Many families, such as military families, move to Virginia only to learn that our state is not supporting these services, services that are basic in most states.
State employee salaries continue to lag behind the private sector. Recent reports have concluded that state employees would need a 26 percent pay increase to reach private sector parity. State attorneys’ salaries are 90 percent lower than comparable private sector salaries. Until this year, the Virginia State Police had not had any new trooper positions authorized in over a decade.
Environmental enforcement in Virginia is severely limited by inadequate staffing. Former Governor George Allen cut employees by 20 percent during his term and the Department of Environmental Quality has never recovered. We struggled to find funds this year to pay for actual staff at the newly-created Widewater State Park in the 36th District. The state has been sitting on the 1,000 acres for 30 years but has not had the money to open the park.
Transportation is funded entirely separately by completely different streams of taxes mainly related to transportation such as gas taxes, annual fees and sales taxes on vehicles. We were only able to restart maintaining our roads and investing in new transportation projects after we increased taxes in the 2013 General Assembly session.
At the end of the day, the new funds are good news, but there are dozens of state-funded programs which are desperate for fresh funding. Please continue to provide your feedback as to how we should prioritize spending if we are fortunate enough for revenue to continue increasing. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
Occoquan District Supervisor, Ruth Anderson, is aiming to increase the green space area within the district as it has the least amount of green park space, per acre, of all the districts in Prince William County.
The unused commuter lot at the corner of Harbor Drive and Minnieville Road looked like the perfect start to accumulate more park space. Supervisor Anderson devised a team with Prince William Parks and Recreation, The Green Scheme (a non-profit out of Washington, D.C.), and Keep Prince William Beautiful (a local PWC non-profit) to make this a reality.
Prince William Parks and Recreation is instrumental in the planning process for this park, ensuring more green space in the county for the residents to enjoy. The Green Scheme was contracted to design the garden and park space.
Keep Prince William Beautiful is conducting community outreach and data collection for the town halls and community surveys. In order to move forward with the project, Supervisor Anderson is hosting two town halls on Thursday, July 12, and Thursday, July 19, both from 7-9:00 pm at Lake Ridge Baptist Church, to share information about the project and ask for input from the residents in her district.
We encourage those in the surrounding areas to attend and share their wants and ideas, but all residents are welcome to join! The collaborative effort of these community partners, along with input from the community, will drive this project forward so there is another park for all to enjoy.
Letter: Give Naloxone not only for first responders, but also to those who are susceptible to an overdose
As a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, I was heartened last year when Prince William County created a veterans treatment docket. Upon returning to the U.S., many of the men and women that I served with now experience post-traumatic stress and other health problems that may lead to opioid abuse.
Also, as a law enforcement officer, I can share with you that I am not only concerned about veterans, but also the lasting impact of the opioid crisis in our communities. This epidemic has increased our mortality rates and has lead more individuals who suffer from the disease of addiction to commit fraud and other crimes.
As a result, the criminal justice system has had to deal with this crisis head-on and often without the needed resources. One potentially life-saving resource is Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
With the passage of Medicaid expansion, Virginia now has more flexibility to get the residents the mental healthcare they need, fund programs to prevent use and provide access to drugs like Naloxone. I hope that we will be able to innovate and find creative ways to get this drug not only in the hands of first responders but also to other to individuals who are susceptible to an overdose.
Much like AED defibrillators have shown the ability to save a life during a cardiac arrest, the drug Naloxone should be accessible to prevent an overdose.
Virginia’s physicians have been responding to?this epidemic by co-prescribing Naloxone to individuals who are considered at-risk. Medicaid expansion was a start, but I encourage everyone to vote this year to send leaders to Congress who will increase Medicaid and Medicare funding, so residents can get the care they need.
It is my hope that our Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, will support co-prescription guidelines for life-saving drugs and treatment, so our states have both the resources and flexibility necessary to combat the opioid crisis.
Joshua L. King is a resident of Prince William County and lost to fellow Democrat Jennifer Caroll Foy in the 2017 Democratic Primary Election.
Thank you for your community publication that provides local news online. Upon reading the PotomacLocal.com May 31, 2018 article, below is some information we feel important to say in regard to our 9409-9413 Private Parking Lot.
The gate/fence design that was approved by the city is designed to allow for emergency access. Thank you for posting the January photo of the City approved gate/fence design at the end of your article.
The neighbor’s tenant, Shining Sol Candle Company, have their Center Street business property to dispose of their trash, and to do their business. Their business crate loads have been as large as a typical crate when I spoke to them May 2 trespass and as large as two crate loads at a time in a prior to May 2nd trespass.
City business large loading/unloading happens in the City of Manassas frequently, so the opportunity to check their City loading/unloading options have been present.
Although our property is private, with private property signs in our lot, adding a gate/fence like other private businesses have is apparently not out of the ordinary.
Three to four business tenants since 2016, without gap, depend on our private lot to do business, so it is important that our small business private parking lot
rights are protected.
Together, we are thankful for our City, and the opportunity to offer our business services, and for our private parking lot story told in Potomac Local.
Last week, the Virginia legislature, with my support, took several major steps forward. First, we agreed to expand Medicaid, health insurance for disabled and low-income Americans, so that now, over 36,000 people in the 36th Senate District receive their health care from Medicaid.
This includes over 24,000 children, children whose parents now have no health care. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, that will change.
Medicaid expansion will provide health care to between 300,000 and 400,000 Virginians and create 30,000 new jobs, many of which will be right here in eastern Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford Counties. It will also save taxpayers $180 million every two years by shifting charity care at state teaching hospitals and prison health care to Medicaid.
All of us pay for uninsured people who must resort to costly hospital emergency rooms for their care. Providing Medicaid coverage can help people avoid hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency care and will help limit insurance premium increases.
Virginia will pay 10 percent of the cost of this program by a new tax on hospitals. This coupled with revenue from federal tax legislation resulted in $900 million available to appropriate in our budget and we made significant investments.
Second, we helped education. We approved an additional $105 million for Fairfax County ($575 per student), $94 million ($1,057 per student) for Prince William County and $18 million for Stafford County ($613 per student) over the next two years. The new budget also funds a three percent teacher salary increase and raises funds for state-supported preschool by $9 million. The budget also increases financial aid to higher education by over $22 million.
Third, the budget gives a much-needed two percent salary increase to state employees and a five percent pay increase to state troopers and deputy court clerks and an additional merit-based salary increase to long-time state employees. We funded 1,700 Medicaid “waiver” slots or mechanisms to provide services to intellectually or developmentally disabled adults and invested over $15 million new dollars in our mental health system. Fourth, we restored $180 million to our “Rainy Day” Fund. This will maintain the state’s financial integrity, which was recently questioned by our bond agencies.
After nine years, we ended the scourge of vacant judgeships by funding all judicial vacancies effective July 1, 2019, including three in Fairfax County and one in Prince William County. We also funded the shortfall in court-appointed attorney fee money and provided funds to start new Drug Courts and Mental Health dockets – allowing people to receive treatment in lieu of harsh punishment.
I succeeded in having six of my budget amendments funded including the four judgeships in the 36th District. The newly-opened Widewater State Park in Stafford County will finally have staff, six new state park employees.
Virginia will provide nearly $400,000 for much-needed technology upgrades at historic Gunston Hall on Mason’s Neck. Making Neabsco Creek navigable is now more likely because of my efforts with Delegate Luke Torian to put Neabsco Creek first in line for funds from a brand-new state dredging fund. This will save 1,000 boat slips, 50 jobs and three marinas which were threatened with closure because the Coast Guard unexpectedly designated Neabsco Creek as unnavigable.
This budget was a long time coming. We first debated Medicaid expansion in the 2013 session and since that time, we have effectively relinquished nearly $10 billion in federal funds which could have helped to stabilize our economy and more importantly, saved some lives. Fortunately, we have now put politics aside and passed a budget which will change lives.
This was one of the most rewarding weeks of my public service since I was elected nearly nine years ago. This protracted budget battle resulted in major investments in people and changed lives for hundreds of thousands of Virginians. I am proud I could help forward these advancements.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have any questions. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
Congratulations to the nearly 6,000 new graduates of Prince William County Public Schools. We’ve watched you learn and grow into amazing young adults. You have reason to be proud. And our community can take pride in the School Division that gave you the promising start to bright futures.
New grads who began their education in PWCS had the benefit of full-day kindergarten. The early exposure to reading, writing, and literacy sparked the unmistakable glimmer of discovery on the faces of thousands of kindergarteners.
Surprisingly, even some better-funded Virginia School Divisions don’t offer universal full-day kindergarten. But in PWCS, that investment lit the flame of lifetime learning that now burns in our graduates. Take pride in that, as well as in our commitment to expanding educational opportunities for preschoolers.
Whatever our grads’ future directions, their PWCS journey introduced them to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Our commitment to STEAM supports robotics programs at every school. So many new grads were on teams that won regional and even international acclaim, building valuable knowledge and skills along the way.
Thanks to exposure to biotechnology, engineering, IT, or other STEAM areas, some grads are likely to become tomorrow’s tech entrepreneurs or to study for careers in medicine, engineering, and cyber technology.
Other new grads will be future educators, military leaders, linguists, diplomats, public servants, visual and performing artists, or pursue great careers not yet envisioned.
Through PWCS Career and Technical Education, many graduates built valuable skills in areas as varied as welding, culinary arts, cabinet making, and cybersecurity. Whether heading directly to the workforce or to further education, these grads are future-ready. Be proud.
Want more points of pride? Consider this: In 2008, just 83.3% of PWCS students graduated high school on-time. We’ve increased that every year since. Our 2017 on-time graduation rate was 91.8%, far above national levels, and even that of well-funded Fairfax County Schools. Had the rate remained at 2008 levels, about 500 fewer students would have earned diplomas this year.
Our increased numbers of grads are also reaching higher. This year, PWCS earned national honors for helping all students—especially those from previously underrepresented groups—take and succeed in rigorous AP, Cambridge, or International Baccalaureate classes.
Nationally, 20% of grads pass these advanced courses. All PWCS high schools beat that, with their grads achieving between 20.2% and 50.7% advanced program success. Many PWCS grads got a further boost by earning college credits in high school. Reason for pride? You bet.
Thinking “our schools could still do better.” You’re right.
As in districts nationwide, the performance of PWCS students from some demographic groups lags behind overall populations on certain measures. We’re committed to changing that, and have made progress.
On SAT scores, our Hispanic students beat national averages by 77 points. Black PWCS students beat the nation by 84 points, and Virginia by 57. Meanwhile, on-time graduation among black PWCS students is better than the overall student rate.
English learners have made big leaps too. The need for better programs to meet their needs once prompted a federal lawsuit. PWCS implemented improvements that now make us a model for other districts. With more than 120 languages spoken in our schools, both our latest grads and continuing students reaped real rewards.
So, congratulations to the class of 2018, and to the thousands of teachers, administrators, and support staff who helped make their commencement the start of something great. We’re proud of all of you.
We’ll be working even harder to make the education of future students truly World-Class. There will be plenty of reasons for pride at graduations to come.
Shining Sol: ‘We would never purposely infringe, or abuse anyone’s right to conduct business or to utilize their own property’
Since the Veterans Administration (VA) scandal broke in 2014, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) across the country have worked with Congress to ensure greater accountability, transparency, and efficiency in delivering quality care to our veterans.
The current VA Choice Program is one of those opportunities. With over two million veterans using the Choice Program to schedule over 39 million essential appointments, it is in danger of running out of funding by the end of the month. Without funding, millions of our nation’s warriors will lose access to the care they desperately need.
The MISSION Act, supported by over 38 National VSOs—a staggering and unified number—strengthens the VA’s ability to deliver efficient and immediate care to our veterans. It does so by providing over $5 billion to prevent disruptions of care in the Choice Program, modernizing VA healthcare, creating integrated networks of high-performing providers to support the VA, creating a commission to review current VA facilities, and making it possible for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War veterans with severe combat-related disabilities to receive comprehensive caregiver assistance.
Last Wednesday, 70 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the MISSION ACT and voted for political games over improving healthcare for those who served our country. Without immediate passage of the bill in the Senate, veterans could lose a critical support line to receive the care they require—and will again be forced to face long waiting periods to receive treatment.
Such waiting periods have led to veteran deaths in the past, and we cannot let a single veteran die waiting for the care they need simply because of Congressional delays.
As one who wore an Air Force uniform for 30 years and later chaired the Joint Virginia House-Senate Military and Veterans Caucus that is the legislative clearing house for bills on behalf of 800,000 Virginia veterans, I know first-hand that the MISSION Act is crucial.
I strongly encourage those reading this letter to call Senators Warner and Kaine, urging them to support this bill that ensures that our nation’s heroes receive the care they deserve.
If you ever get down to Dumfries to talk to its residents, one of the first things you learn is the state of U.S. 1 is one issue that binds all of its residents together. In the next three days, they have an opportunity to do something about it.
Dumfries and its communities to the east along the Potomac River have basically only three ways to get out of town – U.S. 1 North, U.S. 1 South, and two-lane Van Buren Road. In fact, U.S. 1 cuts across the creeks for each peninsula into the Potomac River, within a quarter mile of where each creek becomes tidal. This basically turns each peninsula into a massive cul de sac.
When coupled with the endemic congestion on Interstate 95, the consequences for the Town are tragic. Each time I-95 becomes gridlocked, interstate traffic bails out onto U.S. 1 causing U.S. 1 to freeze and leaving thousands of residents with no way out. The gridlock has also stymied the town’s ability to attract high-quality development to its business areas.
Prince William County is in the process of widening each of its U.S. 1 segments to six lanes – both north and south of the Town – but the Town has not been able to secure funding because its 5,000 residents do not have the same ability to leverage taxpayer revenue that Prince William County’s 400,000 residents have available.
This year, the Town applied for $116,554,000 from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to eliminate the 2.1 mile split of U.S. 1 through the town, widen Fraley Boulevard to six lanes, adding bicycle lanes and shared use paths and reconstructing sidewalks. It would be a massive improvement for the Town by allowing it to concentrate through traffic on one road while preserving multimodal uses, and allowing the Town to focus commercial development on the former fork.
When the NVTA ran the analytics on the cost-benefit analysis on the proposal it was ranked #17 out of 60 projects and #10 out of 60 on congestion relief in all of Northern Virginia. This puts it in a decent position to obtain funding.
However, there are a total of $2.1 billion of projects competing for only $1.2 billion of funds. Projects are going to be cut.
Last week, I spoke with Mayor-Elect Derrick Wood, Council-Woman Elect Monae Dickerson about the importance of funding these projects at the NVTA’s public hearing. Video of our comments are below.
However, if you would like to see this project funded, it is important that YOU speak up and be heard so that the NVTA’s Board members understand just how truly important this project is.
I have set up an electronic form where you can submit comments that I will personally deliver to each board member. You can access that form by going to bit.ly/US1Dumfries. The comment deadline is Saturday, May 20 at midnight.
From Laura Pehacheerre in Woodbridge:
Just looked at the interview with the parenting lady. Glad she likes [the] color gray. Now, how about interviews with people that actually make a difference in the county? Like the meals on wheels people, Brenda Wilson from lost and found pets, the volunteers at the soup kitchens, the shelter, the volunteers who feed the homeless, women achievers/ entrepreneurs, or someone who actually does something for the community?
Thanks for listening. I think you can have a larger audience and more engagement with this.
I follow your page but I was seriously considering unfollowing.
From Uriah Kiser, Potomac Local News:
Laura, All of the people whom you listed are great examples of who Potomac Local should feature on our site. We hope to interview them soon.
Potomac Local Parent is a feature that highlights parents in our community who are doing the most important thing — raising children to be responsible, contributing members of our community.
Without their help, guidance, and love, it would be nearly impossible for those children to grow up to become the next great volunteer delivery drivers at Meals on Wheels, or be the volunteers working with lost and found pets, feeding the homeless, or becoming the founders and entrepreneurs of our community’s next great businesses.
Great parents contribute to our community every day, and I think they deserve all the recognition they can get.
Thank you for reading.
Over the last two years, I have held six community meetings specifically on traffic congestion mitigation in or near the Occoquan District. Several solutions were suggested by residents including improvements to I-95 from the Route 123 interchange to the Prince William Parkway interchange.
Prince William County commuters suffer from the current configuration of I-95 south over the Occoquan River. As it stands today, traveling south, I-95 has four through lanes as you approach the I-95/Route 123 interchange.
The 4th lane abruptly ends at the same time as the exit ramp onto Route 123 pulls away. This effectively creates a two-lane reduction over about 200-300 meters. Moreover, the short acceleration ramp onto I-95 south from Route 123 creates a dangerous weaving motion that exacerbates the congestion.
To address these concerns I supported the Prince William County Board of Supervisors proposal to widen I-95 and apply for 2016 Smart Scale funding, which is the primary state funding source for transportation projects. This proposal was unsuccessful in its bid for several reasons.
One primary challenge was a conflict with the existing HOT lanes contract (Transurban) for I-95 that limits future expansion of general-purpose lanes on I-95. Once the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) made this determination, I began working toward an alternate plan with elected officials at the Federal, State, and Local level as well as senior representatives from Prince William County Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, and Transurban.
My new goal was to determine what project could be proposed for 2018 Smart Scale funding that would dramatically improve the safety and quality of life for commuters on I-95 southbound and secondary roads, without creating a new lane.
My office is working directly with all previously mentioned organizations as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation on a new proposal that creates a reinforced shoulder between the Route 123 interchange and the Prince William Parkway interchange. This will eliminate the need for cars entering I-95 southbound to merge quickly into traffic. The impacts of the proposed improvements are still being studied, but they would potentially make this section of road safer, improve the flow of traffic by reducing accidents, and make trips on the road more reliable for commuters. This project has been submitted for Federal funds with plans to submit for state funds this fall.
Editors note: A reinforced shoulder will allow the pavement to carry the weight of more cars on the highway, similar to Red X lanes on Interstate 66.
The following letter to the editor is from Charlie Grymes, Prince William Conservation Alliance chairman:
On March 6, the county supervisors will decide on yet another attack against the urban growth boundary adopted in 1998. A developer has requested a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for a subdivision in the Rural Area, so 108 houses could be constructed on a parcel planned for 32 homes.
This is the third attempt to “bust the Rural Area” at that site. The speculator purchased the land in 2003, long after he knew the allowed density was for 32 homes.
You can make a nice profit building 32 homes on property bought with the land prices from 15 years ago. Evidently, a nice profit is not enough for some developers. Changing the county’s zoning on that parcel since 1998 is needed for more, more, more.
Supervisors previously rejected amending the Comprehensive Plan at this site because adding 76 unplanned houses there would provide no public benefits. The private developer would get windfall benefits, while the public would get stuck with the costs of sprawl.
Sprawl is “dumb growth.” It ultimately increases property taxes, because it is more expensive to provide public services (fire/police stations, for example).
That’s why the supervisors adopted the Rural Area and Development Area boundaries in 1998. Voters were aroused by steadily increasing property taxes. The county’s population had boomed, and it was clear that focusing growth in the Development Area would minimize the costs to provide new public infrastructure.
Now the supervisors are being asked to change the course followed for the last 20 years, start allowing unplanned growth in the Rural Area, and eventually increase property taxes to support scattered development.
The “Mid-County Park & Estate Homes” development being considered on March 6 is not a proposal for a park. It’s a proposal to authorize unplanned houses, to trigger a surge of land speculation in the Rural Area, and to repeat the tax headache face by supervisors in 1998.
The supervisors should reject this development proposal – for the third time.
The following letter is submitted Vangie Williams, a candidate for in Virginia’s 1st Congressional District which includes Prince William and Stafford counties, a seat held today by Republican Rob Wittman.
The wrong direction.
All I can think is that we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to gun violence. The tragedy in Parkland, Fla. is just another in a long series of mass shootings to which we have built an immunity, much like the common cold – we feel it for 24 hours and then everything is back to normal. But it’s not back to normal. Families are shattered. Futures are destroyed. An unending and unimaginable lifetime of pain settles in on those who have lost a loved one.
I feel their pain because I have lost a family member to gun violence. That’s why I know we’re going in the wrong direction when it comes to guns.
I think it’s important to start any conversation with the one, immutable and not-so-popular fact about guns: they’re not going away. There’s a constitutional amendment that says you have the right to own guns. And seeing that state legislatures can’t even pass the Equal Rights Amendment despite being given 40+ years, I don’t think any effort to repeal the Second Amendment has a snowball’s chance in hell. So, let’s be adults and take the unrealistic idea of banning guns altogether off the table and talk about the real “who” and “what”.
I want to start by talking about the “who”.
The congressman who currently represents the 1st District of Virginia, Rob Wittman, has received $15,000 from the NRA political action committee in cash contributions. This amount doesn’t take into account how much money he’s received from individuals at the behest of the NRA nor does it take into account how much independent expenditure money has been spent on Wittman’s behalf. None of this is shocking since he’s more than happy to carry their water legislatively.
In fact, Rob Wittman is one of the few in the House who is willing to co-sponsor something called the SHARE Act (HR 3668). The acronym for this legislation sounds all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? What it stands for is the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. Again, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Well, titles can be deceiving. It legalizes concealed weapons on federal lands, removes restrictions on the use of silencers and flash suppressors and, worst of all, it prevents the ATF from classifying ammunition as being “armor piercing”.
Rob Wittman, the self-proclaimed friend of law enforcement, wants more cop-killer bullets out on the streets. What part of Rob Wittman’s mind says, “how can we increase the damage these bullets do when people get shot?” Rob Wittman isn’t just wrong, he’s part of the problem.
Now let’s talk about the “how.”
As I mentioned before, people absolutely have a constitutional right to own a gun. However, I think it has become crystal clear that we need to place common sense regulations on aspects of gun ownership. Right away I can hear people all over the 1st District (including my own relatives) saying, “how dare you talk about regulating my right to own a gun!”
I would like to point out that, first, we already regulate rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We’re not talking about breaking new ground here. The right to vote is heavily regulated.
Furthermore, caveats of regulation have been placed on the right to freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. Now I’m sure that someone will trot out the old “slippery slope” chestnut in response. To them I would simply say that if we as a civilized society cannot regulate guns – machines that were designed with the sole purpose of ending life – then why even bother with democracy at all?
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the marrow in the bones of our democracy. And, after all, isn’t life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness what was taken from the victims in Parkland, Florida?
The following is a letter to the editor from Bill Card, a former Chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee:
I’m 64 years old and I remember participating in school drills where we got under our desks to protect ourselves from fallout following a Soviet nuclear attack. We didn’t have active shooter drills because there weren’t any active shooters. Things were different then and a solution to Wednesday’s horrific shootings lies in analyzing those differences and correcting them as a Nation.
The biggest single difference between those days and today was the upheaval that began in the Sixties and has continued unabated ever since. We have been fed a steady diet of liberal nonsense that continues to this very day. This assault on our culture, our values, and the very concepts of right and wrong has impacted our youth in particular. A person who is brought up with appropriate boundaries, steeped in a sense of decency, good social skills, and manners just doesn’t end up on the evening news in handcuffs.
The miscreants who commit these heinous acts don’t have the same heroes that we had in my youth. Our sports figures weren’t drug addled millionaires and felons. Our songs weren’t rated “R.” Movies and television didn’t exhibit graphic violence and we played outside. An unusually large number of people attended worship services on Sunday. There were no “gun free zones.” We didn’t speak in the stilted and non-descriptive politically correct terms – we called out the weird, morally bankrupt, and evil.
Wednesday’s shooter was the boy who was “most likely to commit mass murder” as described by the children who knew him. A quick Google search on “school shooter psychological profile” returns a surprising array of articles that have a lot in common (and they barely mention guns). There are answers.
Somehow my grandparent’s era produced “The Greatest Generation” and no school shooters. Our solution to today’s problems lie in a return to the virtues of the past.
Proverbs 22:6 states “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” We’ve tried it the liberal way and lost – why not God’s way?
Prince William County
‘I just subscribed to Potomac Local and wanted to commend you for your piece on the homeless camps on the Parsons property’
We received this letter to the editor regarding our coverage of a new commuter parking garage that could be built on a property where homeless campers live.
“Hi Uriah, I just subscribed to Potomac Local and wanted to commend you for your piece on the homeless camps on the Parsons property.
Several of us in our church has been for the past 5-6 years working with individuals living there. We were able to help two men get out of the woods and live in studio apartments. Certainly, there are different personalities int the woods, some more than others interested in finding sustainable housing. But it’s been my experience that many have suffered or are suffering from emotional problems, substance abuse, and/or criminal records that make it difficult to find work.
Mr. Parsons has been a blessing over these years in letting the homeless use his property. Trash has become more of a problem. We have, in the past, come in with trucks to remove trash.
There has been an increase in transients as other campsites have been closed. I know people who go out of their way to keep their camp areas clean. But overall, its gone downhill.
I’ve met with and gone to numerous meetings over the past couple of weeks on this issue and while there are people with good hearts in the relevant government offices and in the non-profits, I have not heard of a comprehensive approach to assist the 30, 40, or 50 people (numbers vary) that will have to leave the Parsons property. Existing programs to help the homeless have some real limitations. While there are programs being developed, how effective they’ll will be still remain to be seen.
It will be interesting to hear from the county and the non-profits concerning the exact number of people they helped find new living space by March 1.
Thanks again for providing some good and much-needed coverage of what’s going on in our area.”
You may have missed our Facebook posts over the weekend.
Our social media posting service had a hiccup.
Some of our content was posted to Facebook multiple times. By Sunday, nearly all of the content that we had posted on our Facebook page over the course of the last year had disappeared.
Thankfully, by Monday night the content had returned. So did our ability to automatically post content to Facebook (thanks, Facebook, for fixing whatever it is that was broken).
Those who follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our emails, or visit the PotomacLocal.com homepage did not see a disruption.
I’ve been paying close attention to Facebook since last fall when I was invited to mingle with other journalists from the Washington, D.C. area at the Facebook Journalism Project. It was day-long meeting in Washington to discuss how the social network is responding to its critics when it comes to accusations of “fake news,” and it was an opportunity to show journalists how to use new tools on Facebook to use to reach new audiences and to produce better journalism.
I’ve grown Potomac Local with the help of Facebook. I’ve used the social networking service to share on content since we launched in 2010, I’ve purchased ads on the service to increase the number of local Facebook users who need to be aware of Potomac Local, and I’ve boosted our advertising clients’ posts on the social network.
In recent weeks, it has been disheartening to learn that Facebook will limit the news posts users will see when they log into Facebook. After hearing that news, I urged our readers to sign up for our emails so they never miss a post.
If you want to make sure you keep seeing us on Facebook, there’s also a way to do that, too.
The changes for Facebook have many wondering if the social network is trying to figure out a path forward. Others question whether or not the move to limit the amount of news content you see is so the company can expand into markets without a free press, like China.
Monday brought even more Facebook news, as the social network announced that it now wants to show more local news to its users. That’s good news for people like me, other local independent journalists, and of course Potomac Local fans.
It was the best news from Facebook I had heard in weeks.
But then I had to remind myself that only a week ago Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said users should expect less news, and more feel-good content, as well as content posted by friends and family.
Keeping up with all of this has been a rollercoaster ride. But, it’s part of the changing business local digital media and local news.
Uriah Kiser is the founder and publisher of Potomac Local.
Four Big Issues No One is Discussing This Election Cycle
Virginians go to the polls in three weeks and if you followed the news cycle, you would think that the next General Assembly Session is going to be all about Confederate Statutes, street gangs, and natural gas pipelines – none of which is accurate. Here are four big issues facing Virginia that have been missing in action this cycle.
Hyper-partisan legislative districts are at the root the partisan gridlock we see today. While the Senate Democratic Caucus drew Virginia’s Senate districts in 2010, Virginia’s congressional and legislative districts were otherwise drawn by Republicans majorities with the cooperation of Republican governor’s in 2000 and 2010. Democratic voters have been crammed into a small number of seats and Virginia’s Congressional and House of Delegates districts are way out of proportion to Virginia’s actual voting.
Virginia’s next Governor will participate in Virginia’s next redistricting process. Ralph Northam and I have repeatedly endorsed and voted for non-partisan redistricting which would go a long way towards voters picking their leaders instead of leaders picking their voters.
As we enter hurricane season, I start to get questions about burying utility lines. We are making limited progress in Virginia but efforts hit a setback last week.
In communities built since the mid-1980’s all utilities are underground. In the older parts of Northern Virginia, such as where we live here in Eastern Fairfax and Prince William Counties, nearly all utilities are above ground.
In June, 2012, Northern Virginia was rocked by a Derecho that stormed in from Chicago, killed 22 people and caused over $2.9 billion in damage. Our older infrastructure, coupled with our heavy older and established tree canopy caused major utility outages. In the Derecho’s aftermath, I heard calls through my district for undergrounding of utility lines. I even held a townhall focused exclusively on undergrounding power lines.
In the 2014 General Assembly Session, the General Assembly passed legislation declaring power line undergrounding in the public interest and authorizing Dominion Power to spend no more than $200 million per year and recover up to $2 billion from ratepayers to underground electrical lines but required the effort to focus on lines that were particularly prone to outages. Dominion’s methodology focuses on lines that have filed nine or more times in the last ten years.
Unfortunately, this program does not bury cable or phone lines due to problems with cost, coordination, and easements. I am exploring methods communities could partner to achieve this, but it is a very difficult problem. Also, none of this addresses undergrounding commercial utilities which is something that is only funded by localities is desperately need on Route 1, and I will write about that separately in the future. (more…)