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Milde: New, Unnecessary Stafford High School Takes Priority Over Teacher Raises

Stafford Aquia District Supervisor 

Last fall, the Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to tear down the current 285,000 square foot Stafford High School and replace it with a new 275,000 square foot Stafford High School. The estimated cost to Stafford’s taxpayers for this proposal: $66 million.

At the time the Board of Supervisors was considering this venture, two of my Board colleagues and I argued for a different approach. We promoted renovating Stafford High School instead of tearing it down and rebuilding. To us, this made sound economic sense. Why tie up $66 million in County borrowing capacity to build a new school when renovating the existing facility would fulfill our needs for about a third of that?

Believing and trusting in the wisdom and sound judgment of the people of Stafford County, I even proposed putting the question to the people in a referendum. The reaction to my proposal – as voiced in letters and a lead editorial in The Free Lance-Star – was negative. I responded by submitting an opinion piece detailing my reasons for supporting renovating over demolishing and building a new Stafford High.

Now, just a few months after the decision was made to build a brand new Stafford High School, we are seeing one of the downsides of that choice.

As Stafford County has been working through the process of preparing its budget for Fiscal Year 2014, there have been calls for teacher pay raises. In some cases, school system employees have submitted letters to the editor in The Free Lance-Star calling for pay increases. Their arguments for higher pay are substantive and persuasive. But, the decision to build a new Stafford High School clearly demonstrated that teacher pay was not the school system’s top priority.

The teacher pay debate – and the scarcity of resources to fund it – is the first real consequence of the costly decision to rebuild instead of renovate. Stafford County has effectively prioritized having a brand new facility over strengthening the compensation for the people charged with the responsibility of delivering a quality education for our children inside that facility.

In my view, those priorities are entirely backward.

Although Stafford has one of the best economic environments in Virginia, we still are in the midst of a tenuous and struggling recovery. And with many of our residents directly affected by the consequences of the federal sequester, County government must tread cautiously when it comes to setting tax rates. Now is not the time to raise taxes. We should instead be looking for ways to make our tax code more effective in aiding the growth of our local economy, as the Board is doing.

Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it news[at]

Letter: Madera Farm will Keep Materials Out of Landfill

Madera Farm, LLC is a family-run farm located off of Farmview Road in Nokesville, Va.

Madera Farm is intended to be primarily used for agricultural practices including growing crops and raising livestock. Madera Farm is also planning to operate a landscape service business on the property to include mulch grinding and composting for use by local people and businesses.

The fact sheet presented below will outline the claims certain individuals are making and the actual facts about Madera Farm and the intended use of the owners and its impact on the surrounding community.

Claim: This will be a “Stump Dump.” Fact: This is not a stump dump at all. Opponents to Madera Farm are using a derogatory and misleading slogan to disparage Madera Farm. Opposition has put up signs saying “Stop the Stump Dump” in several places in and around Nokesville. The problem is that the signs are a lie.

The SUP specifically says, “the site shall not be used for landfill (debris) and/or dump heap use.”

Wood materials are produced when new subdivisions are built and from other forestry activities. For example, the neighborhoods springing up near the intersection of Vint Hill Road and Sudley Manor is producing a huge amount of trees and stumps that were cleared for development.

In the past this material would have been dumped in a landfill, buried or burned. We take that material and turn it into mulch and it goes right back into the community.

Claim: There will be too much noise. Fact: There will be minimal noise levels for a farm operation and there is already a train running through the property.

The farm equipment we will be using includes front loaders, trucks and the grinders used for making mulch. The sounds from our equipment are dwarfed by the sound of the locomotives that pass throughout every day. The trains can be heard for miles, so the notion that we will be a noise burden is unfair.

Moreover, Madera Farm has extensive noise buffers. The land will have a large forest easement, berms and a natural downslope, which will all minimize noise. The farm is also in an isolated location, with no home within a ¼ mile of the SUP area. In fact, there is no home located within 1000 feet of the entire property – remember the SUP will only be on a small portion of the 125 acres.

Claim: The farm will be a fire hazard. Fact: Fire control is taken very seriously and prevention is handled in a variety of ways.

Madera Farm will have a huge wet pond – at least an acre – and a dry hydrant that will supply fire equipment in the event of an emergency. There is an access road that doubles as a fire break, which encircles the entire SUP area that is designed specifically to accommodate fire equipment. Lastly, there will be berms and landscape buffers that will add further layers of protection.

Additionally, Madera Farm has purchased their own water tanker truck to remain on site for fast reactions in the event a mulch fire breaks out.

The natural surrounding adds to the fire prevention as well. The land that Madera Farm sits on is in a natural depression, which helps by keeping wind currents less severe.

Claim: Area roads will become congested with trucks. Fact: Trucks will be kept only on certain roads to reduce congestion thus having minimal impact.

We are committed to keeping traffic congesting down. Not only will the majority of our trucks be kept on the Route 28 truck route, but we will also be limiting the number of trucks that will be on the farm at any one time. The Special Use Permit allows for an average of 3 trucks per hour maximum. This will go a long way in minimizing the impact to this already busy stretch of Route 28. The addition of our trucks will have minimal impact since Madera Farm, for all intents and purposes, is located on an existing arterial highway.

Madera Farm will be at the forefront of keeping the Rural Crescent area of Virginia pristine, while providing the community growth that will keep Prince William County vibrant.

For more information about Madera Farm, please visit

Jake Klitenic
Madera Farm

Letter: Bloggers Present Misinformation about Prince William Schools

Dear Editor,

As a blogger myself, I’ve come to realize that the best part about blogging is also the worst part about blogging. In a world without editors, information can be posted instantly without regard for validity, content, or tone. This is great news for things that I post, mainly fliers and events provided to me by organizations, but I also take great pride and personal accountability for the information I post, because my name is on it. At the end of the day, PWCMom is me, Kristina Schnack Kotlus, and because I value my reputation, when there is an error or an oversight, I apologize and make it right.

In Prince William County politics, however, we currently have a few bloggers who are either so afraid of backlash or so uncomfortable with their positions that they aren’t willing to put their names on their work. I would caution readers that authors hiding behind a mask are frequently not operating with a level of journalistic integrity that merits an audience.

As an example, the author behind “Our Schools” recently incised Facebook followers with the news that an unnamed source told her that they spoke to Dr. Steven Walts, Prince William County’s Schools Superintendent, at a pool and he encouraged them to support the building of a pool at the next planned high school. Our Schools further stated that “The truth is board members are being told I did this for you and now you owe me,” providing no evidence, quotes, or emails to their claims. On March 15, Our Schools again tried to incise readers giving a source this time! Unfortunately, the source was The Derecho, another blog that doesn’t list information for the author.

When considering your involvement in county schools, please consider a source that’s providing reliable, accurate information. Potomac Local News is a great place to start. Reading through “Our Schools” Facebook page clearly provides insight that the author supports spending as much as possible of our education budget on special education. The author is also “disgusted” by anyone who supports initiatives, again such as the pool, that they disagree with.

Here’s the thing folks: I’ve been to enough school board meetings to know that for every decision the school board makes, some kids will benefit and others will suffer. New math approach? It’s probably great for the visual learners and horrible for the auditory learners, or vice versa. More money for special education or the gifted program? Great, but that money is coming out of your “average” student’s allotment somehow. If it’s affecting your child, get involved after carefully reading actual press on the issue, school board commentary, and reputable outside resources for background.

If there’s one thing you learn from this, skip getting upset about a nameless blogger trying to share her anger without backing up what they “heard” from a “source.” In fact, Our Schools says it best-

“The owner of this site is not responsible for the writings of other posters nor does this site guarantee accurate reporting on shared materials.”

Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Lake Ridge, Va.

*Editors note: Kristina Schnack Kotlus is the owner and publisher of and is a contributing writer for Potomac Local News.

Anyone may submit an open letter to Potomac Local News by emailing it to and writing Open Letter in the subject line.

Letter: Woodbridge Man Returns Missing Wallet

You must be doing something right in Woodbridge!

Last week, after several days frantically searching for my perpetually-misplaced wallet, I received a call from a wonderfully honest Woodbridge man whose selfless action brought me joy and, finally, a good night’s sleep.

Corey Smith was doing work near Cox Farms in Fairfax County when he came across my wallet, soaked through from the recent snow but intact. I had no idea I had dropped it there while taking my dogs for a walk. He called me immediately, and as he couldn’t wait for my arrival, we arranged for him to take it to the Cox Farms office, where I picked it up later.

As Corey had assured me on the phone, nothing was missing. A lesser man might have availed himself of some cash, or not have returned the wallet at all. In fact, about a decade ago, I lost a wallet and it was dropped into a local mailbox — after the money and credit cards were removed. Corey Smith, someone raised you right. Many thanks.

Barbara Tourtelot
Delaplane, Va.

Letter: Madera Farm Threatens Rural Way of Life in Western Prince William

The definition of agriculture is and has been for thousands of years, the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain human life. The word “agriculture” is the English adaptation of Latin agricultura, from ager, “a field” and cultura, “cultivation” in the strict sense of “tillage of the soil”. Thus, a literal reading of the word yields “tillage of fields.”

Prince William County is now preparing (with the Special Use Permit -SUP #PLN2012-00334) to make a decision that will set a precedent to change the definition of “agriculture” in this county, and our Comprehensive Plan and Zoning regulations, to include a recycling and landscaping supply business as an agriculture use. Approval of this SUP will forge the change to the definition and character of the rural area of Prince William County. If Madera Farm was truly a “farm,” there would be no need for an SUP.

This SUP will be the first of many SUP’s submitted for heavy industrial uses that will come from the purchase of “cheap” or less expensive agricultural land in the rural area of the county, and converted to industrial uses. These industrial sites will change the face of the rural area, and will increase the traffic on our narrow, already heavily used, country roads with many more tractor trailers and dump trucks.

Instead of encouraging land-use opportunities that would benefit farmers and landowners and supporting the production of agricultural crops on the existing farm land, the approval of an industrial landscaping supply business and other industrial uses through Special Use Permits, the Planning Commissioners and the Board of County Supervisors, would be allowing our rural area to become exactly what was purported would never happen while they were in office.

Everyone was “on board” to keep the Rural Crescent rural, as was approved by the Comprehensive Plan. And yet now, it seems “political winds” have changed. Is the preservation of the rural area not so important now?

“Political will” has created the Rural Crescent… now, it seems that “political will” is about to destroy what is left of the farm land in the rural area of the county and replace it with industrial sites. Approval of industrial operations, such as the Madera Farm SUP, in the rural area will set the stage for further erosion of the preservation of the rural area. There are approximately 80,000 acres in the rural area of Prince William County, all of which are affected by this pending action.

The BOCS recently handled a controversial issue regarding the widening of Purcell Road in the Coles District at their meeting March 5, 2013, in a manner that was both beneficial and satisfactory to the citizens who live in that area. This issue was resolved through community action, led by residents who objected to a road that would open neighborhoods to significant cut-through traffic without addressing local traffic problems.

Citizens should look for a similar outcome in Nokesville at Madera Farm, which can happen only if residents speak out to protect the character of the County’s Rural Crescent. Share your views at the Public Hearing and Planning Commission vote for the Madera Farm Special Use Permit #PLN2012-00334 on Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m. at McCoart Government Center, Board Chambers.

-Melinda Masters, Brentsville District

Questions on Metro to Woodbridge Can’t Be Answered Without Study

Delegate, 2nd District 

On Tuesday, March 5, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran introduced legislation to study the extension of Metrorail from Franconia-Springfield to eastern Prince William County. The extension would include an addition to the Blue Line along Interstate 95 through Woodbridge to Potomac Mills, and the Yellow Line down the U.s. 1 corridor in Prince William County.

I am proud to support their efforts to authorize a project development analysis on the extension.

This study would allow us to analyze the long term economic impact, value for taxpayers, questions over costs, and other information to make well informed decisions on the extension. It is a practical common sense endeavor. The Metrorail extension may not be a solution, and funding road construction is always the first priority. However, we can’t firmly answered the questions without a study.

Recently, I also sat down with the Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton to outline potential mass transit projects, lane additions, and widening of major traffic veins in the area. We have voted for and addressed the funding gaps at the state level.

It is now time to work at all levels of government to prioritize projects and investments that benefit Virginia citizens. With funding from the transportation bill, we will concentrate on widening of U.s. 1 and I-95, needed repairs and safety improvements on secondary roads, using technology to improve traffic flow at peak hours, and exploring alternative transportation resources. With growth in the region expected to continue I am ready join and be a leader in that conversation.

Transportation congestion and safety are issues that we can no longer avoid in the Second District and Northern Virginia. That is why it is necessary to study each alternative and invest in our infrastructure. Virginians are tired of politics as usual and are looking for efficient, cost effective, and cooperative ways to alleviate these issues.


Anderson: Why I Voted No on Transportation Deal

R-Delegate, Prince William County

I am typing these words at my General Assembly desk in Richmond about a crucial vote on transportation that we took on Friday, February 22.

This crucial vote concerned final passage of HB2313 (the House-Senate Transportation Bill originally submitted by Gov. McDonnell, amended by a House-Senate Conference Committee, and put before the House for a vote on Friday). By the time we saw the amended bill, HB2313 has changed dramatically since it left Gov. McDonnell’s desk. Although it passed by a final vote of 60-40, I voted no on this bill, along with five other Prince William County delegates. As a Prince William delegate to the General Assembly, I feel a strong sense of accountability to our citizens and wish to explain my vote.

Despite the reality that the transportation needs of the Commonwealth require additional new funding for construction of new roadways and maintenance of existing roads, I felt that this bill levied a heavy fiscal burden on our neighbors in Prince William County. Washington’s solution to our challenges seems to be higher taxes on families and job creators, and I didn’t want to do the same in Virginia.

My reasons for my no vote resulted from the below realities.

First, we first saw the final copy of HB2313, 109 pages of complex data, on Thursday night at 6:15pm—hours before our vote on Friday morning and without full discussion and understanding of its complexities. The bill was not posted promptly on the General Assembly website for citizens to read and make input.

Second, our citizens were hit last month with a 2% federal decrease in their take-home pay. Additionally, federal officials openly speak of federal tax increases. Sequestration and the federal fiscal cliff threaten to kills hundreds of thousands of jobs in Virginia and Prince William County. The national economy didn’t merely remain flat last quarter…it contracted. And the nation is in the midst of unprecedented fiscal uncertainty.

Third, HB2313 is a “compromise” that raises taxes and fees on Virginia families at a time when people are worried about losing their jobs or are facing a significant reduction in working hours and take-home pay. It increases taxes at the pump for cars and trucks; it increases the tax on car sales by 40%; it increases the sales tax to 6%; it increases fees on alternative fuel vehicles; it implements a high grantor tax on houses; it levies a 3% transient occupancy tax; and it depends on internet taxes that will be implemented by Washington—all without a single dollar cut in spending or an offset of another tax.

Let me be clear. I am not a legislator who will reflexively vote against a tax or fee increase if it’s truly needed—and affordable to our hardworking taxpaying citizens in Prince William County. I have also declined to sign any “no-tax pledges.” I have a high standard before I will vote for a tax or fee increase. And while I was a no vote on this plan, I can readily vote YES on another plan that doesn’t embrace Washington ways, addresses transportation, and respects the pocketbook of our citizens.

To better understand the perspective of others, I conducted three community town hall meetings with our neighbors in January and February; personally exchanged several thousand emails with people in Prince William County; discussed the issue of taxes in hundreds of telephone calls; and met with hundreds of PWC residents visiting the State Capitol and when back home on the weekends in Prince William County. The overwhelming sentiment expressed to me was a simple “please do not raise my taxes in this economy.”

As a member of both the House Transportation Committee and House Finance Committee, I presented an alternative Transportation bill last month, on behalf of several legislators, in a committee hearing in the Capitol. The bill would have adjusted a number of taxes to raise revenue, repealed the food tax to assist those less fortunate, saved the average family of four $100 in taxes each year (as scored by the Virginia Department of Taxation), and lessened the financial impact on you and your family. Unfortunately, the House-Senate Conference Committee wrote the final plan placed before us for an up-or-down vote.

For years, Northern Virginia has sent money to Richmond without adequate return to our area. We currently get on average of 30 cents back for every dollar we send to Richmond. The final transportation plan did not fully resolve that problem, and I believe strongly that more transportation dollars must come back to our community where the gridlock exists.

In some respects, this was a tough decision. In other ways, it was easy. We received an avalanche of mail and calls from our Prince William neighbors. My colleagues and I are citizen-legislators, meaning that we are citizens first. The input of our neighbors helped shape my vote, and I believe strongly that most Prince William County residents sincerely want a transportation solution, but not one that burdens them financially.

In short, after receiving calls, letters, and emails from our neighbors, I heard their concerns, took their advice, and voted no on a transportation plan that raises taxes on our already-overburdened neighbors in a down economy.

Serving my neighbors at home and in Richmond is a great honor, and I hope to always have their input when it comes to making decisions that affect our community. Please feel free to reach me directly at or at our Prince William County office (571-264-9983). My legislative assistant, Ryan M. Galloway, can also be reached at the same number or at We look forward to seeing and serving you soon!

Parents Should be Prepared for School Spending Cuts

Chairman, At-large
Prince William County School Board

The just-completed presidential campaign renewed interest in questions about revenue and expenditures; how much our nation wants versus what we can afford. Now, our Prince William County School Board and administration face similar questions in preparing the budget for 2013-14 and beyond. Fortunately, we share the desire to continue Providing A World-Class Education for all students. That does not necessarily require extra spending. Still, public support is needed; and that demands understanding of the complex issues and facts involved.

First, the School Board has neither taxing authority nor control over our revenue. Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) builds each year’s budget proposal around what we expect to receive from combined county, state, and federal sources. The county provides a significant share, but unlike other nearby jurisdictions, the amount we receive is not based on program or support needs, but on a fixed percentage of county revenue.

Under a longstanding agreement with the Board of County Supervisors, the Superintendent’s budget proposal—the basis for School Board deliberations—includes 56.75 percent of general county revenue. However, student enrollment increases dramatically every year, yet there is no connection between the increased costs of educating more students and the total county revenue for schools.

This does not mean the county’s actual school spending has gone down; indeed, it has increased in recent years. However, it has not kept pace with the school funding expected under approved county five year plans. Because tax rates change every year, the five year document gets revised too, effectively yielding a series of one year plans that may not reflect increased enrollment and changing student needs. Under those plans—and adjusted for inflation—the value of the county’s contribution to schools has diminished by $850 per pupil since 2009.

With taxpayers hurting, there is talk of alternative county tax rate proposals for the future. Scenarios under consideration range between boosting anticipated school funding by a modest $30 million over five years, to slashing the funding projected in the approved five year plan by much as $130 million.

Federal and state funding raises additional concerns. Federal money that supported important programs through recent lean times has largely dried up. A staggering federal deficit makes it unrealistic to expect federal funds to cover future shortfalls.

Worse, our budget may yet suffer the loss of millions in state funding under proposals that School Board lobbying efforts helped to defeat last year. Some of those costly proposals are now resurrected; threatening state funding that when adjusted for inflation is already $540 per pupil below the 2009 level.

Despite the efforts of our local legislative delegation, Virginia’s budget still does not provide funding to help school divisions cover the growing costs of state-imposed requirements. Only public support can guarantee that Richmond returns a fair share of the tax revenue generated here. PWCS needs more from state funds, not less.

With combined per pupil funding down and our enrollment soaring, the Board-encouraged focus on efficiencies that has allowed PWCS to proudly accomplish more with less are being stretched to the limit.

In 2011-12, PWCS spent $9,852 per-pupil compared with $11,014 for Loudoun County, and $12,820 in Fairfax. While many parents want an instructional program comparable to Fairfax County’s, funding our students at the same level as Fairfax does would require nearly $250 million more than PWCS received last year.

That is why our $865.9 million operating budget for 2012-13 barely allowed preservation of key educational programs and services like full day kindergarten, specialty programs, and sports; while avoiding layoffs, and providing for employee raises. Repeating that achievement in the face of lower per-pupil funding is harder than it seems.

Most of the PWCS budget is mandated. Whether for special education, required transportation, or ESOL programs, numerous expenses stem directly from federal requirements or meeting Virginia Standards of Quality. We also have little control over many other costs associated with housing, transporting, and educating the average of 2,000 new students added to our burgeoning enrollment each and every year.

Clearly, only a limited portion of our budget goes to so-called “discretionary” expenses; yet even this flexibility is relative. We sometimes hear demands to cut what some view as “bloated” central office costs.

However, if we eliminated 10 percent of all Kelly Leadership Center employees not required under mandates or grants, we would save only $1.7 million. Yet it would require the layoff of highly specialized employees whose work directly benefits teachers, students, and efficient Division operations. That would adversely affect our ability to pay employees on time, maintain critical computer systems, manage expenses, keep schools clean and safe, and meet curriculum needs; all in exchange for a relatively small savings.

By comparison, every one percent pay increase costs approximately $7 million; reducing class sizes by one student in every Division classroom requires about $15 million. Those amounts are hard to squeeze from administrative expenses already recognized for being just two-thirds of the national average—and that was before being cut for several consecutive years.

Consequently, parents should be prepared for cuts we may be forced to make. People might suggest saving money by eliminating specialty programs and associated transportation; but many would argue that they provide unique student opportunities that distinguish a PWCS education. What about full-day kindergarten, sports, and arts programs? Some would endorse cuts there, but spending for things some consider expensive “extras,” is indispensible to others. Everyone has different views on what makes the biggest difference to students and our ability to deliver the education they deserve.

Spending is not what makes PWCS World-Class; still, we must spend wisely to afford the programs and people that do.

Facing revenue shortfalls and difficult cuts, the School Board recently placed protecting current employee jobs and providing staff pay raises among the top budget priorities. We want desperately to reduce class sizes and to retain capital improvement plans, too.

The School Board and administration are striving for creative solutions to make this possible. As we do, please let elected officials know you understand and support the value of education and what it takes to provide it.

Soon, we must decide what we want and what we can afford. Remember, we are spending taxpayer money on the future of our children, our work force, and our community itself.

For information on how to reach your elected officials, visit and click on the “Legislative Updates” button. will provide useful budget facts and updates as the process evolves.

Stewart: After Loss, GOP Needs to Listen to Minorities


Demographics. That’s the word I’ve seen over and over this past week as the pundits try to diagnose what’s wrong with Republicans. Last week’s presidential election certainly indicates that my party has a problem reaching minority voters. It’s a problem we must address, but the solution is not, as many suggest, to jettison our core principles to accommodate changing demographics. In fact, I think the answer is much simpler.

In the last six years I’ve won three countywide elections in Prince William County, including winning 72 of the County’s 77 precincts just one year ago. During that same time John McCain and Mitt Romney were losing the county, badly.

According to the 2010 census, Prince William County has a majority minority population. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians make up more than 50 percent of the county’s population. Those are three groups of people that Republicans are losing nationally. And that’s why some say the GOP must quickly embrace amnesty, gay marriage, and abortion-on-demand if we’re ever going to reach the demographics that Romney lost last week.

The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, does not need to overhaul its governing philosophy, but we do need to make changes in how we reach minority communities. In 2008 Barack Obama started and ended his general election campaign in Prince William County. He came back twice during the 2012 campaign. But, where were Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, especially late in the campaign? The Romney campaign had to cancel one planned stop in the county, but it would have been to an area that is heavily white and strongly Republican. Why not go to a place where you have a chance to persuade people?

As I’ve campaigned and governed, I’ve gone all over Prince William County. I’ve attended celebrations at local mosques, talked with people at ethnic grocery stores, enjoyed black church services, and shaken hands at commuter parking lots. The people of Prince William County are a snapshot of America. They represent the broad range of racial groups and social classes, and I’ve never written off one group or another.

I believe in the principles of a free market, a limited government, the rule of law, good governance, and individual responsibility, and I share those ideas with people from every walk of life. That’s why I’ve never questioned the value of going to the neighborhoods, churches, and businesses of voters who belong to a demographic that Republicans historically have not won, and listening to what they have to say.

Before Republicans consider major changes to our platform, let’s first get back to basics. Voters expect to be asked for their vote. And flashy TV ads and glossy flyers don’t make up for the lack of a personal touch. If we intend to ask people for their votes we need to go where they are, tell them what we believe, and listen to their concerns. The GOP must respect minority communities and not blow them off by never visiting their neighborhoods. When candidates do that, voters feel ignored and disrespected. For me, showing people a long-term commitment starts by going where they live, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye, and telling them how the principles I stand for will produce benefits that flow through their neighborhoods, regardless of their skin color.

I’ve done that, and you know what I’ve often found? Agreement. Time and time again I’ve met minority voters who agree with me, even on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and the enforcement of immigration laws. By suddenly changing our positions on these issues we could actually be walking away from common ground we share with large numbers of minority voters. I’ve also found, from my conversations, that even when we don’t agree, there are countless minority voters who have supported me over a Democratic candidate, because they know that I will represent them, that I will listen to them, and that I’m genuinely interested in the issues that concern them.

It would be a big mistake for the Republican Party to change our principles. But we’re already making a bigger mistake by not taking our principles to minority neighborhoods and talking about them with voters we should be winning. I know it sounds simple, but it’s time Republicans start showing up and demonstrating a real commitment to everyone we hope to represent.

Letter: This Cannot Ever Happen Again

Dear Woodbridge Residents,

Election Day is perhaps the greatest expression of our democracy. I would like to thank each and every person that made it to the polls on Tuesday to cast their vote. As many of you know firsthand, there were excessively long lines at several Woodbridge voting locations. As I went from precinct to precinct, I was amazed and uplifted by the positive, patient, and determined citizens waiting in line, as well as the hardworking and empathetic Election Day volunteers. It was remarkable and inspiring. Thank you.

The last ballot was cast at the River Oaks precinct at approximately 10:45pm. At other precincts in the Woodbridge District, voters waited three, four, or five hours to cast their vote. This is completely unacceptable to me. We already face one of the longest commutes in the nation. In today’s economy, having to miss a day’s work to cast your vote is unconscionable. In the seventh most affluent county in the nation, this cannot ever happen again. We must determine the factors that contributed to this situation, asking if it was the result of antiquated technology, an operational shortfall, a budget issue, or a combination. Election operations are obviously a critical unmet need in Prince William and this must be resolved before next year’s election.

I will host a town hall in the coming weeks and invite residents, the Prince William Electoral Board, and the State Electoral Board to address the concerns that arose on Election Day.

If you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at 703?792?4646 or


Frank J. Principi

Woodbridge District Supervisor

Letter: Dumfries Mayor Thanks Voters

Gerald Foreman (Photo; KJ Mushung/

The Council would sincerely like to Thank the citizens in the Town of Dumfries who exercised their right to vote on November 6, 2012.

The lines were long and the weather was cold, but the Town’s citizens were friendly, social, cheerful, looked out for one another, and there was a small-town feel.

It was great to see entire families to include the children participating in the electoral process.

Thanks again to each and every voter.

-Mayor Gerald “Jerry” Foreman

Dumfries, Va.

Teen Shaving Head for Tumor Research

Katy Patton

My name is Katy Patton and I am raising money for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine.

Over the past six years, I have watched a close family friend of mine battle this disease, and she has been an inspiration to me.

On Sunday, Oct. 21, I will shave my head as a token of appreciation to everyone who has donated. I will hold an event at Aquia Church at 1 p.m. This event is open for anyone to attend.

Any size donation is appreciated, and as a special bonus, any donations of $100 or more will be awarded with a turn with the razor on my head!

A raffle will take place where for $5 you can be entered into a drawing to be take a turn on the razor first!

For more information on ACC and how to donate directly to UVA, please visit


Letter: You’ll Need ID to be ‘Election Ready’


There have been several changes in voting laws and procedures that every voter should know about. Here are four important questions all voters need to answer in order to be ready to vote this fall.

(1) Are you registered to vote at your CURRENT address? If you have moved or changed your name due to marriage or divorce since you last voted, you must update your voter registration information. The deadline to register or to update your voter registration status is October 15. You can verify your registration status by going to the State Board of Elections website at or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office at (703) 792-6470.

(2) Has your polling place been changed? Every ten years, political district lines are redrawn to reflect population changes. Prince William County magisterial districts, Virginia General Assembly districts and US Congressional districts have all been redrawn over the past two years. As a result of redistricting, your polling place may have been changed to a different location. You can verify your correct polling place online at or at or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office. Be sure to verify your correct polling place BEFORE election day.

(3) Do you have an acceptable form of ID? The Virginia General Assembly passed a new voter ID law this year, which was recently “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2000, Virginia law has required all registered voters to provide some form of acceptable ID at the polls. However, voters without an ID could sign an “Affirmation of Identity” form under oath and be allowed to vote on the machine.

Under the new law, voters without an acceptable form of ID will no longer be allowed to sign the “Affirmation of Identity” form and vote on the machine. They will be required to vote a Provisional Ballot. This is a paper ballot that is not counted on Election Day; the Electoral Board decides later whether to count Provisional Ballots. Voters without an acceptable form of ID who cast a Provisional Ballot must provide a copy of an acceptable ID to the Electoral Board by noon on the Friday after the election in order to have their ballot counted.

The following are now acceptable forms of ID:

• Voter registration card

• Social Security card

• Valid VA driver’s license

• Any federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID

• Any valid student-ID issued by a higher education institution in VA

• Any valid employee-ID card containing a photo of the voter

• A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter

• A permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Unlike new laws in several other states, the new Virginia voter ID law does not require a photo-ID. In addition, a new voter card will be mailed to all registered voters beginning in late September by the State Board of Elections. Be sure you have one of the acceptable forms of ID when you go to the polls.

(4) Do you qualify to vote absentee? Registered voters who will be away from Prince William County on Election Day or who are unable to go to the polls for certain reasons may vote by absentee ballot. Eligible voters may vote in-person prior to Election Day or apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

Who is eligible to vote absentee?

• Persons absent from the county on business or vacation

• Persons working and commuting to and from home for 11 or more hours between 6AM/7PM

• Students and their spouses residing out of the county

• Active duty military members, their spouses and dependents

• Persons temporarily residing outside of the US

• First responders

• Persons with a physical disability, illness or pregnancy

• Persons who are the primary caretaker of a confined family member

• Persons with a religious obligation

• Electoral Board members, registrars and election officers

• Designated Representatives of candidates or political parties working inside the polls

• Persons confined while awaiting trial or following misdemeanor conviction

• Persons wishing to vote only for President and Vice President who have moved from Virginia to another state on or after October 8, 2012

To vote absentee by mail, you must submit a completed Absentee Ballot Application to the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office, 9250 Lee Avenue, Suite 1, Manassas, VA 20110 by October 30th. Ballots will be mailed out beginning on September 21st and must be returned to the Voter Registration office by 7PM on Election Day.

In person absentee voting begins September 21st at two locations: the Office of Voter Registration and Elections in Manassas and the Voter Registration Office in the Woodbridge DMV Office; 2731 Caton Hill Road, Woodbridge, VA 22192. There will also be in-person absentee voting later in the fall at two satellite locations: the McCoart Government Center and the Haymarket Town Hall. Saturday, November 3rd is the final day for in-person absentee voting.

All absentee votes will be counted on Election Day after the polls close at 7PM.

I encourage every voter to get election ready today.

Keith Scarborough is Chairman of the Prince William County Electoral Board.


Letter: Broken Oath Lead to Barring Gay Prosecutor

Submitted by: Virginia Delegates Richard Anderson, R-51, Mark Cole, R-88, John Cosgrove R-78, Mark Dudenhefer, R-2, Tim Hugo, R-40, L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31, Chris Stolle, R-83.

A key function of the General Assembly is to elect judges. Unlike other states, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the General Assembly and we must select judges of the highest character and ability. If either condition is lacking, we must ask “is this candidate worthy of selection?”

Such was the case on Monday, May 14, when the House of Delegates chose not to elect Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland as a District Court Judge. Advocates for Mr. Thorne-Begland point to his prosecutorial abilities, however, they ignore that as a naval officer in 1992, he violated clear military directives not to appear on television to advocate for a personal cause. Nevertheless, Mr. Thorne-Begland made that appearance, ignoring the requirements of duty that he voluntarily took an oath to uphold. We contend that Mr. Thorne-Begland exercised profoundly bad judgment in using his military office to advance a personal cause, in this case sexual orientation, on national television; an act he knew was prohibited.

Let’s begin with the oath those of us who served the nation in war and peace took when we were commissioned.

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

A key word here is “duties” and among them are fidelity to rules and regulations of the military and support for the chain of command. When an officer violates this fidelity for a personal cause, no matter how sincerely held, he has broken his trust with the service he has sworn to obey. An officer who does so demonstrates exceptionally bad judgment. Those who don’t think that oaths, discipline, and fidelity to the chain of command matter, fail to comprehend how the military must function if it is to be effective in combat, which is it’s raison d’être. It may be difficult for someone who has not served to understand the depth to which we hold this oath, but it is profound.

An officer shirks his duty when he willingly and knowingly violates a lawful directive of the military and his chain of command by appearing in the media to advocate for a personal cause he believes is more important than the oath he took. The prohibition to “participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause” is unambiguous, yet Mr. Thorne-Begland violated it knowingly. Some say, “Well, what about his First Amendment right to free speech?” Simply put, when you join the military, you give up your right to free speech when it comes to good order and discipline. You can’t say anything you want about any cause, no matter how deeply held, when, in doing so, you speak publicly in contravention to the policies of your service. You can be sure that many of us who have served this nation have had times when we didn’t agree with our chain of command and in some cases may have felt the orders and requirements were misguided. But no matter what side of an issue you take, you do not, as a military member, have the right to speak publicly against your service and chain of command to advance your personal beliefs.

A case in point was the recent discharge of a young Marine sergeant who made disparaging comments about President Barack Obama, his Commander-in-Chief. That sergeant may have felt, as Thorne-Begland did, that he was right in speaking out, but that Marine was wrong to do so and should have been discharged, as he was. And if he ever becomes a lawyer, moves to Virginia, and seeks a judgeship, he shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t support him either. In both cases, the proper course of action would have been to resign from the service, hang up the uniform, put on civilian garb, and speak to your heart’s content.

In the military, we take oaths, duty, good order and discipline very seriously because we know the important role they play in creating an effective fighting force. We think no less of these values when selecting judges. If you exhibit bad judgment and indiscipline, you shouldn’t be a judge. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s decision to go on national television to advocate for a personal cause in violation of his sworn duties to his service indicates poor judgment and a lack of regard for the institution he swore to serve and respect. These aren’t the qualities we seek in a jurist.

Delegates Richard Anderson, R-51, Mark Cole, R-88, John Cosgrove R-78, Mark Dudenhefer, R-2, Tim Hugo, R-40, L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31, Chris Stolle, R-83, have all served in the U.S. Military and now serve in the Virginia House of Delegates of the General Assembly.

Op-ed: USPS Wants to Keep Rural Post Offices

The United States Postal Service has announced a plan to preserve Post Offices in small towns and rural communities across the country while the organization aims to achieve cost savings to return to financial stability.

After listening to our customers and communities across the country who expressed a strong desire to keep their local Post Office open, the Postal Service developed a new solution that will preserve a Post Office in a rural community by modifying the retail window hours. Access to the lobby and P.O. Boxes would remain the same and a community would retain their ZIP Code and community identity. This plan would enable the Postal Service to achieve over a half a billion dollars in annual cost savings in an effort to regain a stronger financial footing.

Later this year, the Postal Service will hold public meetings with affected communities to gather feedback on this new plan as well as the previously announced options which include a) establishing mail delivery service to residents and businesses by either rural carrier or highway contract route; b) contracting with a local business or community venue to create a Village Post Office; c) providing service from a nearby Post Office.

Some communities may opt for a Village Post Office where a local business, like a grocery store, could provide more convenient access to postal products and services 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, the Postal Service continues to expand alternative access by providing most postal services online at and developed a new smartphone app where customers can buy stamps and print off shipping labels without leaving their home.

In addition to online offerings, customers can utilize the alternate postal access at more than 70,000 retail partner locations across the country including Wal-Mart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and many others. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all retail sales for the Postal Service come from online purchases or at approved postal providers.

While this trend will continue and reach a point where a majority of customers are accessing postal services outside of the typical ‘brick and mortar’ Post Office, there is still a desire to keep Post Offices open in rural America. However, 88 percent of small rural post offices do not cover the operating costs to keep the facility open and customer visits to your typical ‘brick and mortar’ Post Office have declined by more than 27 percent since 2005 with 350 million fewer visits a year.

While the financial crisis has forced the organization to leave no stone unturned in achieving cost reductions to return to financial stability, the Postal Service has not forgotten its fundamental role in delivering for the American public and providing universal access to its products and services.

The new plan to preserve Post Offices in rural America provides a path forward for small towns and rural communities to keep the flag flying at their local Post Office.

Michael Furey
District Manager
Northern Virginia

6-Year Mail Decline Prompts USPS Changes

Letter Submitted By Michael Furey
USPS Northern Virginia District Manager

America needs a financially-stable Postal Service. Toward that end, the Postal Service is taking aggressive actions to preserve the long-term affordability of mail and to adapt to a changing marketplace and evolving mailing needs.

Subject to adoption of a final rule changing its delivery service standards, the Postal Service is pursuing a significant consolidation of its national network of mail processing facilities that will reduce the number of facilities from 461 to fewer than 200 by the end of 2013. No consolidations will occur before May 15, 2012.

Declining mail volumes and substantial fixed costs dictate that we take this bold action to preserve and protect the world’s leading Postal Service for our customers and our employees.

From 1940 to 2006, the Postal Service oversaw a continuous expansion of mail processing and retail facilities to meet growing demand for mail delivery.

This expanded capacity was built to handle high mail volumes that peaked at 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006.

However, since 2006, First-Class Mail volume has rapidly declined as the economy recessed and the age of digital communications advanced.

In 2011, 168 billion pieces of mail were delivered. By 2020, the Postal Service expects to deliver as few as 130 billion pieces.

By any standard, this is a steep decline.

In just the past quarter, the Postal Service lost $3.3 billion and is projecting further losses for the remainder of the year.

No one is to blame. Times have changed. So must the Postal Service. The American public and businesses are relying more on electronic communications. Bills are paid online. Friends and family interact through Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, the demise of the Postal Service is greatly exaggerated. The Postal Service sustains a $900 billion industry that employs over 8 million people. Every day, we deliver to more than 151 million locations.

Even in a digital age, mail remains a powerful communications, marketing and delivery tool.

The aggressive steps we are taking to realign our mail processing network will keep mail affordable, valuable and viable for generations to come. These are responsible steps any business would take.

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Letter: Uranium Mining Decision Should Have Been Open

PL Box LogoThe article, “Governor wants to keep ban on Uranium Mining” describes the recent decision by Governor McDonnell to create a commission to both study and draft regulations for uranium mining. This behind-closed-doors mandate is a movement towards lifting the uranium mining ban in Virginia.

I applaud the governor’s decision to maintain the moratorium for now. However, a decision to move this process forward should have been an open process, especially if the mining will take place in our backyard. In the event of a catastrophic failure at a waste disposal facility, radioactivity in Lake Gaston (primary drinking water source for Chesapeake/Virginia Beach) could reach levels 10-20 times greater than allowed in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Any threat to our public health should not be tolerated. The NAS study stated that uranium mining in Virginia poses serious health risks. Our climate, ripe with hurricanes and floods, is untested ground. Could the uranium waste be washed away and into our drinking water? Governor McDonnell’s actions beg the question, “Are we killing the goose to feed the gander?”

Michael Edwards
Richmond, Va.

Editor’s note: Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it

Letter: Postal Service Changing but Cannot Stand Alone

As Congress considers legislation to reform the business model of the Postal Service, it must confront a basic choice: to permit the Postal Service to function more as a business does, or constrain it from doing so.

With greater business model flexibility, the Postal Service can return to profitability and financial stability. A flexible business model would speed product and pricing decisions, enable a five-day per week delivery schedule, and permit the realignment of mail processing, delivery and retail networks to meet lower mail volumes. It would also allow the Postal Service to more effectively manage its healthcare and retirement systems, and better leverage its workforce.

For an organization that generates all of its revenue from the sale of its postage, products and services – and is contending with declining use of First Class Mail for bill payment – having the flexibility to quickly adapt and react to the marketplace is vital. Our immediate goal is to reduce our annual costs by $20 billion by 2013, which would put the Postal Service in the black and ahead of the long-term cost curve.

The alternative is a business model that prohibits or delays cost reduction, perpetuates an inflexible structure, and constrains the Postal Service from being more responsive to the marketplace. Under this scenario, and in the absence of meaningful and immediate business model reform, the Postal Service could soon incur long-term deficits in the range of $10 to 15 billion annually.

Within the limits of our current legal framework, we have responded aggressively to a changing marketplace – reducing the size of our workforce by 128,000 career employees and reducing annual operating costs by $12.5 billion dollars in just the past four years. However, to return to profitability we must move at an even faster pace. And to do so requires changes in the law.

If provided with the flexibility and speed to act, the Postal Service can avoid being a financial burden to the taxpayer. More importantly, a financially stable Postal Service that can operate more like a business can more readily adapt to America’s changing mailing and shipping needs.

For example, we are expanding our network of 70,000 retail partner locations and on-line offerings so that our customers will be able to purchase stamps and conduct other mailing and shipping transactions outside of the traditional Post Office. Customers will increasingly be able to visit gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies – which are part of regular shopping patterns, open longer hours and weekends, and more conveniently located – to conduct their postal business. The traditional Post Office will always exist, but a changing world demands rethinking the status-quo and adapting to the needs of our customers.

In a digital world, businesses and individuals have choices in the way they communicate. Although the Postal Service facilitates trillions in commerce annually, and supports a $900 billion mailing industry that employs almost 8 million people, it must have the tools and the motivations to effectively compete for customers.

In the current debate about its future, some have argued the Postal Service should not operate like a business and be allowed to regress into an unchanging, taxpayer-subsidized agency, and some have urged that it be privatized and completely separated from the government. The former is undesirable and the latter is unrealistic.

The answer resides in the middle – an organization that performs a vital national function, and operates with the discipline and motivations of a business that competes for customers. If it is to endure as a great American institution, provide the nation with a secure, reliable and affordable delivery platform, and serve as an engine of commerce, Congress should provide it with the speed and flexibility it needs to compete in an evolving marketplace.

The Postal Service is far too integral to the economic health of the nation to be handcuffed to the past and to an inflexible business model. To best serve taxpayers and postal customers, it’s time to remove the constraints.

John Budzynski

USPS District Manager/A

Northern Virginia

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Letter: Principi Vows Same Vision, Energy, Focus

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi

To the residents of Woodbridge,

With Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks to the residents of Woodbridge for re-electing me to a second term. I look forward to continuing to work together to create the “New Woodbridge.” We will revitalize the Route 1 corridor, implement smart growth principles, explore a variety of transportation solutions, preserve our neighborhoods, and work to build a stronger sense of community.

I vow to offer the citizens of Woodbridge the same vision, energy, and focus of the last four years. I am honored to serve the people of Woodbridge, and I look forward to fulfilling our continued goal to make Woodbridge an excellent place to live, work, and play.

For more information on the Woodbridge District, please feel free to contact my office at 703-792-4646. To sign up for my quarterly newsletter, sent electronically and by mail, or to find out more about the Woodbridge District, please visit


Frank J. Principi

Woodbridge, Virginia

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Letter: Royse Concedes, Urges Supporters to Stay Active

Chris Royse

Friends, neighbors, and citizens of Woodbridge, Woodbridge has spoken.

In every campaign, there is a victor and the vanquished. Today, I congratulate Frank Principi and wish him well in his next term serving the people of Woodbridge on the County Board of Supervisors.

Our campaign was one of inclusion and elevation, concentrating on what we would do, rather than what was wrong. This resonates in a place like Woodbridge, where work boots and business suits, a true cross-section of America, regularly mingle while creating a better life for our families. To the end, our positive message was overshadowed by the Principi Campaign’s attacks. So be it. We knew that defeating the entrenched incumbent would be difficult, but we also knew that our cause was just and our intentions were honorable, and for that I am both glad, and hopeful for the future.

My campaign remained on the high ground and never went negative. I may have lost an election, but not my integrity or honor. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my opponent. In October, he launched a vicious, personal attack, under the advisement of his paid political consultant, which is what ultimately helped sway critical votes. His was a campaign of lies about me, and deception about his record. I never expected to be in such a bitter political event. Thomas Jefferson purportedly said, “you get the democracy you deserve.” Our community will now put that axiom to the test.

Now, our challenge will be to move Woodbridge in the right direction, and to build on the start we have made. Woodbridge still needs all of our help, so to those that did vote for me I say this, do not lose hope. For that is the flip side of democracy, there is always a new chance to make your voice heard.

I want to thank my family: my wife Kathy, who has done such a great job as our Republican District Chairperson, my children who have made signs, encouraged me, and kept me grounded all this time. I want to thank all who wrote checks, pounded signs, asked questions, or gave me encouragement during this trying campaign. And to all of the people who have volunteered and supported me, I say this: I will continue to work everyday to see a better Woodbridge.

Today we showed the political establishment that positive campaigns can happen, and though we lost the race, I honestly believe that, in the long run, we will win the trust of the people of Woodbridge. There is a place for civility in our political dialogue, and that the appeal of common sense conservatism is strong, deep, and powerful. Frank Principi won the election, but his tactics cost him any claim to true leadership. Now, we begin to work for the future of our community again.”

-Chris Royse
Woodbridge, Va.  

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Letter: Vote for Fred Sweat

Fred C. Sweat (Submitted)

I am writing in support of Fred Sweat for Supervisor in Stafford County’s Griffis-Widewater District.

I’ve gotten to know Fred because he owns Sunnyside Nursery near my home in North Stafford. It’s a wonderful nursery and unique gift shop and I am there often meandering about the flowers, sculptures and beautiful water features. And while his nursery operation is impressive, I am more impressed with the man himself.

Fred Sweat is instantly liked by most people with his always sunny disposition, but more than that he is a leader in our community. He sets the example everyday by getting involved with this community, the Griffis-Widewater community, where he lives and works. He gets involved, and more importantly he gets you involved. He listens to the people and knows firsthand issues that affect our neighbors, he promotes the other small businesses in this area, he encourages us to buy American, and he urges us to work together as a community.

Fred has hopes to implement a gardening program to educate the young people on how to be self-sufficient and how to live off what you grow in your garden, and I love that idea. Bottom line: Fred Sweat has integrity, compassion, and works hard. I can think of no better qualifications for a public servant. I am most fortunate to call Fred Sweat my friend, I hope you all have the same opportunity to meet Fred, and if you do, I am confident that you will benefit from it.

Fred Sweat is the candidate I trust to represent me, and to protect my interests when it comes to making the decisions that come before the supervisors of this county.

Kelly Reynolds
North Stafford

Editor’s note: Fred C. Sweat is a Democrat vying to represent the Griffis-Widewater District on Stafford’s Board of Supervisors. Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8. Submit your open Letter to the Editor by emailing it


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