50°Rain

by Fatimah Waseem February 23, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

  1. South Lakes High School Students Walkout In the Aftermath of Florida Shooting
  2. Reston Association Board Member Seeks Closure Following Scathing Critique of Tetra Purchase
  3. Crime Roundup: Police Investigate Three Gas Station Robberies
  4. New Fire Station to Replace ‘Outdated’ 1970s Facility
  5. South Lakes High School Student-Athletes Sign with Division I Colleges

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers. Have a great weekend.

by RestonNow.com February 22, 2018 at 2:45 pm 19 Comments

Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will begin posting profiles on each of the candidates.

Featured here is Tammi Petrine, who is facing one Julie Bitzer for the three-year South Lakes District seat. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?

In 1976, my family moved here from a beautiful small town in Illinois when my husband took a job with the FDIC.  On previous visits to the DC area, we had discovered Reston and were SOLD immediately on its diversity, beauty and reputation as a planned community.  When we moved here, Lawyers Road to Vienna was part gravel and forded Difficult Run Stream.  South Lakes had not yet been developed, nor had N. Point.  The Dulles tollway did not exist; Rt. #7 and Lawyers were the main access roads to the New Town.  Reston Town Center (RTC) and Metro were but dreams.  We shopped at the cramped Magruder’s grocery in Vienna, an iconic Washington institution with an international clientele – diversity in Technicolor!  Thriving though the years is the activist, pioneering spirit of Reston, where all are welcomed and robust opinions are expected.  But where we once led the way as the premiere planned community in the world, today we are fighting to keep the character of our unique community alive.

What inspired you to run for the board?

During our 42 years in Reston, I have participated in a variety of community organizations, but became intensely interested in RA when the 2013 Lake Anne land swap occurred.  I was alarmed at irregularities that occurred during that process and later became involved in the debate over RA’s purchase of Tetra.  Looking at both Tetra’s run-down condition and the property’s limitations, I knew instantly it was wildly overpriced.  When the referendum to purchase passed by a narrow margin, I vowed to get to the bottom of how RA members were so misled.  Curious others, also concerned with the radical transformation of our planned community, conducted successful campaigns to be elected to the board.  When two directors resigned this year, two very active community volunteers were appointed.  This allowed a strong new board majority to closely examine RA internal processes.  When the recent independent Callaghan/Gallagher exposé on Tetra was presented, I knew we could not afford to backslide into a situation where special interests could manipulate RA decisions over the well-being of all.  An aging community has many challenges, but our financial and ethical integrity is paramount to serving our membership well over the long term.

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?

  1. Urbanization: Bob Simon’s precious 7 founding principles  are disappearing as development springs up in the corridor and RTC.  The vast majority of Restonians object to recent densification without accompanying infrastructure in these areas. Livability in Reston is endangered, but Fairfax Co. officials are tone deaf to community frustration. A functioning, inclusive suburban planned community is our overwhelming preference.  Every day we worry ‘What is next?’
  2. Communication: Understanding who controls what in Reston is frustrating!  Decoding the functions of organizations is tricky, as many overlap or sound similar. Even worse, in a rapidly changing Reston, public lack of awareness advantages developer interests.  While RA and its community partners desperately seek to facilitate understanding, no way exists to communicate efficiently, if members do not sign up for newsletters or critical announcements.  People can empower themselves by providing email addresses to organizations who care and are working hard to serve.
  3. Aging Community Assets:  RA must be disciplined in allocating limited resources for upkeep of and accessibility to our commonly owned amenities: pools, courts, fields and trails, etc.  RA’s covenants must be applied consistently to protect the value of all members’ property.

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?

Prime goals are:

  • Promote RA as the representative of 22,000+ households, each of which has a stake in influencing future development in Reston.  Collectively, members represent a significant political force that is routinely ignored by Fairfax Co., as it seeks to capitalize on Reston’s fine reputation.  However, unrestrained densification without limits and supporting infrastructure threaten our community’s flavor and functioning.  We want to remain a welcoming, caring, diverse planned community!  OUR taxes pay county bills; we want OUR judgments to determine OUR future.
  • Continue the complete assessment of all RA departments, processes, programs, projects and internal controls.  One assumes, as a 52 year old organization, RA has sophisticated management systems in place.  Surprisingly, StoneTurn’s 2017 review proved otherwise.  The current new board led by President Hebert & new treasurer Ganesan have accomplished much in a short time; I support the completion of this huge, critical job.
  • Promote sound fiscal management of RA.  Although RA cannot be all things to all people, we can chart a holistic analysis of Reston’s many working parts.  We should identify what other entities can fill some of the voids impossible for RA to undertake.  We can and should coordinate with other resources to best serve our members.

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?

Reston is a complex puzzle and our history is not always pretty.  For the past 10 years, I have attended 100’s of meetings.  As a Reston Citizens Association (not RA!) board member and Co-Chair of Reston 20/20, I have learned about Fairfax County’s Small Tax District #5 (aka Reston Community Center) and RA.  At the county level, I have interacted with planners or chiefs in most departments.  I have been an outspoken advocate for the rights of Restonians in many issues:

  • The Make Reston a Town movement (2007)
  • Reston Master Planning including subsequent, continuous rapid-fire zoning amendments that change the density/character of Reston (2009 – present)
  • The fight to save Reston National Golf Course (2012)
  • Library system degradation (2012 – present)
  • Lake Anne land swap (2013)
  • Indoor Rec center at Baron Cameron Park (2013)
  • Lake Anne Fellowship House redevelopment (2013)
  • Tetra/Lake House (2015 – 2018)
  • Tall Oaks Shopping Center (2016)
  • St. John’s Wood (2016)
  • Reston Town Center paid parking (2017)
  • Kensington Assisted Living outside of Transit Station Area boundaries (2017 – present)
  • Hidden Creek Golf Course preservation pursuant to developer purchase (2017 – present)
  • Metro and gridlock (sigh…)

I have been privileged to serve as a member of Reston’s diverse, committed volunteer army and hope to use my knowledge and love of Reston to carry on in service to the residents of RA’s South Lakes District.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

by RestonNow.com February 22, 2018 at 2:30 pm 21 Comments

Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will begin posting profiles on each of the candidates.

Featured here is Julie Bitzer, who is facing one other candidate for the three-year South Lakes District seat. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?

January 1980, 38 years ago – Reston just felt right, my “magical Reston” the term I use with family, friends, and co-workers.  And it was close to work in Tysons. A Hunters Woods Deepwood townhome was affordable as a starter home.  Fourteen years later, I moved to my current home of 24 years off the 14th hole of Reston National Golf Course.  

What inspired you to run for the board?

Reston had everything I wanted in a forever home. I had embraced the Bob Simon vision actualized through “Live, Work, Play” and the diversity of Restonians in age, culture, values and economics. I had open natural space and lakes, protected and accessible. I had village centers populated by small businesses within walking and biking distance. And I had a golf course threatened by developers where letting one open space slip away would open the door to more onslaughts and increased population density without promised infrastructure.

So, I put my own skin in the game as South Lakes District Director. Three years later, with still more to be done –  I run to continue working for “us”.

Having active involvement as board liaison on three RA committees –  Design Review Board, Covenants, and Parks & Recreation Advisory, I know where and how we can improve our member service. I’ve supported members navigating the RA process for covenants and design review, clusters’ property & trail access, boat & lake policy, and even commercial redevelopment. One “fight” as director was to ensure the County was held accountable for stream restoration off South Lakes – a long-neglected erosion and safety issue.  Enduring the loss of Tall Oaks Village Center to residential development, I will fight to preserve our South Lakes Village Center, proactively working with RA’s Land Use Development team.

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?

We stand to lose our sense of community, the very spirit and essence of the Reston vision as we face external forces of growth and fiscal assessment pressure. How can we effectively reach both old and new members, and unite?

RA must deliver a tangible return on our assessment dollars, reflective of our needs and wants. We must continue to seek more efficient and optimal methods to deliver value; yet RA expenditure decisions must not be reduced to a purely monetary business case scenario. Facilities and programs supporting our community and shared experiences could be significantly impacted or eliminated depending on the election outcome – such as our neighborhood walkable pools, our camps, Walker Nature Center, and ad hoc programming by which to enjoy Reston’s amenities.  We’re a non-profit, established to provide services that support a fiscally responsible best quality way of life.

I want all voices in our community to be heard and reflected on our RA board.  A board made up of independent and individual thinkers, contributing to open transparent dialog.

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?

In our greater community, there are many opportunities to volunteer and serve.  As an elected RA district director, my direct focus has been and will be on RA’s mission as a homeowner’s association, delivering valued, responsive and continually improving service cost-effectively. My priorities are –

#1 – Giving members what they value. From my conversations, it’s often about member service, making it easier to interact with RA – think Covenants, Design Review, pool & tennis passes. It’s about making sure we maintain and improve facilities – think pools/tennis/fields/trails/pavilions. To date, we have addressed facilities on an individual basis – think Hook Road or Pony Barn. We should evaluate our facilities long term future collectively against RA’s changing demographics.  Tackling this comprehensive analysis in phases, we should start with all pools in 2018 as we are faced with decisions on Thoreau pool’s future beyond the 2018 swim season (to repair, replace, some want to close?)

#2 – Continuing partnerships with grass-roots, citizen-led initiatives, lending support and voice where our RA and community interests align and are impacted by County and external forces. This includes organizations like Rescue Reston for open space, Reston Citizens Association and the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) with its focus on population density and infrastructure support.

#3 – Ensuring RA matures its business processes and operations controls to a standard, best practices level that is comparable to an equally-sized commercial business.  

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?

I bring four decades of corporate experience in delivering quality solutions, programs and services to the Federal Government. My sales and marketing background provide strategic and tactical skills in identifying and meeting customer requirements.  My professional and graduate education provide expertise in best practices for business operations and controls. My Masters in Landscape Design supports my work with RA’s Design Review Board. Personally, I thrive in and have demonstrable skill in consensus-building, finding the win-win for all parties involved.

Find more information at facebook.com/Julie4RA.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

by Del. Ken Plum February 15, 2018 at 10:15 am 8 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

In a sight too seldom seen in the State Capitol, Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox stood together at the same podium to announce a bipartisan agreement on criminal justice reform. Governor Northam has agreed to sign a bill on restitution in criminal cases that when it passed last year was vetoed by Governor McAuliffe, and the Republicans agreed to pass a bill to raise the threshold for felony larceny from the current $200 to $500 for which many interfaith and social justice groups have been forcefully advocating. While there are details about the agreements that continue to be open for criticism, they represent important steps in criminal justice reform. 

The Governor intervened in a controversial bill on electric energy regulation that is likely to make the ultimate outcome more satisfactory to multiple stakeholders. The original bill was referred to as the “Dominion” bill because it impacted Dominion Energy, American Electric Power Company and the electric cooperatives. After the Governor called together 30 stakeholders and a professional mediator, a revised bill emerged that will keep the electric power companies financially stable while granting refunds to consumers with advances in smart metering, energy conservation and a giant step in moving towards renewable energy. For critics of any bill that deals with electric energy, take a look at the new bill that has been negotiated; I think there are very good reasons conservationists are happy with the new bill. 

The critical need for Metro funding presents a challenge for working out a solution. There is no debate about the importance of Metro; all business organizations testify to its critical role in the success of the Northern Virginia region. Holding up the process of working out the new funding are legislators who continue to want to talk about reforms of Metro without specific proposals and who are not willing to make a commitment on funding. Hopefully the partisan political speeches can be set aside, and serious discussions can be carried on by sane heads that will result in a satisfactory compromise.

A bill passed recently that supports a work requirement for recipients of Medicaid that was supported by the Speaker was the first indication that there may be a path to an agreement on Medicaid expansion. Such requirements are becoming common among the states. While such a requirement may be adverse to some people, we need to do what is needed to move the program forward for the maximum number of persons who are otherwise qualified. Certainly, the program will be revised and improved most every year. I share the Governor’s priority that we make progress on expanding health care this year. 

On every issue that comes before the legislature there are multiple points of view and different interests. Each has a legitimacy in the mind of the proponent. The continued challenge that keeps me interested and excited about legislating is the working out of complex issues to the best interest of the citizenry.

by RestonNow.com February 12, 2018 at 4:30 pm 60 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

In a February 5, 2018 letter to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR)–a partnership of the Reston Citizens Association, Reclaim Reston, and Reston 20/20–called on the Supervisor to consider a variety of amendments to the Reston plan and to defer the Board of Supervisors’ plan to officially authorize advertisement of the proposed zoning amendment on March 6.

Given county claims that it needs to move forward with the increased density proposed in the Reston PRC zoning ordinance from 13 to 16 persons per acre because the Reston plan calls for it, the CPR letter and its recommendations focus on managing Reston’s growth in a way that would eliminate the need to increase zoning density.

Among other features, CPR’s recommendations for managing growth call for:

  • A maximum population cap in all of Reston of 120,000 four decades from now at a time when its current population is about 62,000. This contrasts with the current plan’s language that would allow 160,000-180,000 people to live in Reston.
  • Limiting density throughout Reston–including the Metro station areas–to 60 dwelling units per acre (DU/A) and limiting redevelopment in the Village Centers to the mixed-use areas only at a “neighborhood-serving” 30 DU/A.
  • The elimination of special interest language permitting the massive–and inappropriate–redevelopment of the Saint Johns Wood apartment complex.
  • The removal of the road that appears on two Reston plan maps across the Hidden Creek Country Club, opening it to development and endangering its future as a major Reston open space.

A second key theme in CPR’s recommendations is to build in assurances that the supporting infrastructure–road and parks especially–keeps pace with development. This is particularly true of the county’s need to acquire space for parks, schools, and other key infrastructure elements. The failure of Reston’s infrastructure to keep pace with recent development so far, including the extremely long lead times for major capital projects, has been a great concern of many Restonians. Part of this includes assurances that proffers generated by development are used in Reston.

The CPR recommendations also focus on assuring that new development is accompanied by a strong commitment to affordable housing, generally calling for developers to provide an onsite allocation of 20 percent affordable housing for each new project.

As these proposals suggest, CPR is anxious to see Reston grow, but to do so in a manner consistent with its creation as a planned community with a grand vision and vibrant planning principles. We believe that Reston’s future ought to continue to be planned and managed, not merely left open to effectively unconstrained commercial development as the current plan allows.

We hope Supervisor Hudgins sees that our proposals are consistent with that legacy and, following up on a meeting of RA and CPR leaders this week, will defer official county action on the PRC zoning amendment proposal. Then we can work with her and county staff to enable Reston to remain one of the world’s great planned communities.

Terry Maynard
Co-Chair Reston 20/20 Committee Member
Coalition for a Planned Reston

by Fatimah Waseem February 9, 2018 at 4:00 pm 0

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Fairfax County Police: 20 Break-Ins in Herndon and Reston Could Be Connected
  2. Herndon Father of Five Killed by Taliban in Afghanistan
  3. Crime Roundup: Armed Man Robs CVS Pharmacy in Reston Town Center
  4. Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market Set to Open in Spring
  5. Trump Visits Reston for Meeting on Homeland Security

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Have a great weekend.

Photo via Flickr user @vantagehill

by Del. Ken Plum February 8, 2018 at 10:15 am 10 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Every session of the General Assembly, I am reminded of how much the functioning of the legislature is like a roller coaster ride. Every ride on a roller coaster regardless of how big it may be starts off very slowly.

The steep climb at the beginning is followed by a sudden acceleration as the bottom seems to drop out when the coaster descends into the first drop. While your stomach is still in your throat you go through sharp turns followed by other drops that leave most of us with white knuckles holding on for dear life. There is a great sense of relief when it is all over.

A session of the General Assembly is kind of like that. The first couple of weeks are busy with opening preliminaries, bill drafting, and this year settling into temporary offices. As bills get introduced and assigned to committees that start to meet you get that sense that the bottom is about to drop out. Days get longer and busier as the need to be in more than one place at a time becomes the rule rather than the exception, and the schedule for each day gets longer. 

The final product of the session will not be known until the scheduled end of the session on March 10. In the meantime, I will update you on actions taken on the nearly 2,500 bills and resolutions that are moving down the track. Be aware that there are likely to be changes at the next sharp turn or sudden drop. 

Hopes that the session would be less partisan with a 21 to 19 split in the Senate and a 51 to 49 division in the House with Republicans controlling both houses were dashed early as mostly Republican-sponsored bills were approved along partisan lines. All gun safety bills were quickly defeated including my bill for universal background checks.

A bill to repeal the current prohibition on guns in churches was passed. Ironically its proponents testified that it would make churches safer! Bills intended to keep the environment cleaner were mostly defeated while some technical and administrative bills related to the environment were passed.

Under the Dillon Rule, localities have only the powers granted to them in their charters or in general law. Many bills have been passed as usual to grant specific authority to a given locality; these are referred to as “local bills.” Many “housekeeping” measures add to the session agenda as they make technical corrections to existing law.

An increasing number of animal-related bills are under consideration as are bills related to hunting and fishing. Major legislation to regulate electric utility rates and expand the use of renewables is still being negotiated. Certificate of Public Need (COPN) for hospitals is likewise being negotiated among stakeholders. 

The really big bill, the biennial budget, will be worked out among conference committee members and usually is one of the last bills to pass. The mystery of whether it will include an expansion of Medicaid has yet to be resolved. Many twists and turns are still ahead before the Assembly comes to its final stop for the year. Continue your advocacy on issues of concern to you. Check on the progress of bills of interest to you at lis.virginia.gov.

by Fatimah Waseem February 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm 0

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

Two crime stories ranked high this week as the ongoing community debate about the Tetra purchase continues. We expect to hear more about new strategies to increase revenue from The Lake House on February 22.

  1. Updated: Reston Assistant Principal Placed on Leave After Arrest for Shoplifting
  2. Updated: 10-Hour Barricade Ends Peacefully
  3. Reston Residents Expand Nordic Knot, Deepen Community Ties
  4. Critique of Tetra Purchase Flags Conflicts of Interest, Transparency Concerns
  5. Boston Properties Secures Full-Building Tenant for 17-Story Tower in Reston Town Center

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Have a great weekend!

Photo by Studio-M Photos & Jennifer Heffner Photography

by Del. Ken Plum February 1, 2018 at 10:15 am 10 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

An article in the most recent issue of Money magazine described the best places to live in each of the fifty states; not surprisingly for Virginia the highest ranked place to live is Reston. Reston is not a county, city or town but a big community of 61,319 mostly happy people.

As a native Virginian who has traveled extensively throughout the state, I fully concur with the selection of Reston as the best place to live in a state that is filled with many desirable places to live. However, I was disappointed in the narrative that justified Reston–even their explanation of Reston’s history missed the mark.

I agree that “Reston was once just an idea,” but calling Robert E. Simon “an architect and economist” misses the mark of who he was and what his significant contributions were to building a best place like Reston. Bob Simon was a visionary, philosopher, community builder and developer, and humanitarian. He envisioned a community in which people could live, work and play, and his success in bringing about such a place against great odds continues to be celebrated.

Justification for the selection of Reston is understandably limited as the magazine contained descriptions of 50 communities. It says about Reston, “the thriving Washington, D.C. suburb offers a woodsy atmosphere that includes expanses of parks, lakes, golf courses, and bridle paths. Over 50 miles of pathways were designed to weave in and around its communities to increase pedestrian safety and to ensure that most residents’ homes were no more than a half-mile walk to village centers.” It mentions Reston Town Center that it calls “the community hub,” with an array of dining, entertainment, and shopping venues along with headquarters of major corporations.

Beyond quibbling with some details of the description, I would have chosen other factors that make Reston such a desirable place to live. Noteworthy is the openness of the community to all people from its very beginning. Simon was inviting African Americans to the community while the rest of the state was opposing fair housing laws. The diversity of people living, working and playing together that is occurring in communities throughout the country was a hallmark of

Reston from the beginning and is a value that is baked into the DNA of the community. Muslims pray in local synagogues. A local ecumenical church has four denominations meeting in one service. Its schools are happy places with children of all abilities learning together. It has a variety of housing options, from apartments, condominiums, town and single-family homes and senior and assisted living. It may be the only community in America that requested a homeless shelter be built in it. On a recent weekend, community members attended a social event that raised nearly $450,000 to pay for the relocation costs of families moving out of the shelter.

I love the lakes, trails and facilities of Reston. Most of all, however, I love the people of Reston –their caring, activism and spirit, all of which make it the best place to live in Virginia.

The General Assembly is going full blast. I will update you on what is happening in future columns.

by Fatimah Waseem January 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm 0

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Lorton Teen Served Petition for Reston Double Murder
  2. Reston Makes Money’s ‘Best Places to Live’ List 
  3. New Plan Underway to Control Traffic on Hunter Mill Road
  4. Reno of the Month: Lakeside Townhome near lake Thoreau (Sponsored)
  5. Herndon Police Seek Help Finding Suspect in Indecent Exposure Incident

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally.

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Have a great weekend!

by Del. Ken Plum January 25, 2018 at 10:15 am 14 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The experiences of the Virginia colonists with King George III taught them a lesson not forgotten even until today. Executive authorities are not to be trusted. Monarchies are likely to try to take away the people’s rights and property. The assertions of the Declaration of Independence were to make it clear that the people of America had sworn off monarchial government. They were not about to replace a king with a president or a government who might try to exert the kind of absolute executive power they had under the king.

Instead, controls were incorporated in the U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions to keep the executive authority in check. Virginia’s limitations on the governor were especially limiting. For example, the governor’s term was one year. He could run for re-election more than once, but likewise he could be turned out after just one year. We have loosened up somewhat in modern times by extending the term to four years, but there is a limitation of one consecutive term.

The governor can run for an additional term, but it cannot be consecutive with the first. I think the one-term limitation is unnecessarily restrictive and have voted more than once to allow the governor to run for a second consecutive term. One term may keep a governor under control, but it can also limit his or her effectiveness.

Governor Terry McAuliffe was a high-energy, strongly motivated, hard-charging governor whose accomplishments exceeded those of his predecessors. He accepted the fact he had just one term, and he worked energetically to get all he could done in the relatively short four-year term. He pushed the legislature to get things done, and he did not hesitate to use executive authority when necessary.

He was taken to court by the Republicans for restoring citizenship rights to those who had been incarcerated, but he won and restored citizenship rights to 172,000 ex-felons. He brought about a New Virginia Economy of high employment, job growth, and attractiveness to those seeking to locate a company here.

Governor Ralph Northam who served under the shadow of Governor McAuliffe as lieutenant governor was always recognized as being extremely able but without the show of high-energy and flair of the Governor. No one questioned his ability, but it was widely concluded that he would bring a different style to the governorship. Most expected a mild-mannered, cordial leader who would govern more by consensus.

Clearly the styles are different, but there may have been a bit of selling short Governor Northam because of his easy Eastern Shore manner. His inauguration speech as well his first speech to the General Assembly were anything but mild or equivocal. They were as strong and as direct as any that Governor McAuliffe delivered. Calling upon his background as a physician, he built a hard case for the expansion of health services to the people in need in the Commonwealth. He is as direct as anyone I have heard speak about the need for common-sense gun control measures. He is emphatic in his defense of women’s reproductive rights.

We may not have a second term for the governor in Virginia, but we have a governor taking over who is going to continue the policies of his predecessor. The difference in the two will simply be a matter of style.

by RestonNow.com January 19, 2018 at 4:00 pm 2 Comments

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Vehicle Crashes into Trader Joe’s
  2. Founding Farmers Close to Opening in Reston Station
  3. Total Wine & More at Plaza America Begins Hiring
  4. New Details Surface in the Murder of Reston Couple
  5. Tuesday Morning Notes

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally. If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Have a great weekend!

by Del. Ken Plum January 18, 2018 at 10:30 am 10 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

One of the first tasks in a new session of the Virginia General Assembly is to decide who is going to run the show. In the Senate of Virginia, the decision is made by the voters of the Commonwealth when they elect the Lieutenant Governor whose principal duty is to preside over the Senate. In the House, the Speaker of the House is the presiding officer who is elected by the members of the House.

The political party with the most members has control of the House and elects the Speaker. Republicans control of the House is 51 to 49 this session, a sharp drop in the 66-34 control of recent years. The closeness of the balance of power led to some meaningful discussions that should result in more transparency in the operation of the House.

My interest in becoming the presiding officer of the House by being elected Speaker was well known. Once the two disputed delegate elections where decided in favor of the Republicans there was no way I could reasonably expect to win. Only the Republican who had worked in his party and in the legislature for decades was nominated, and he was elected unanimously. That helped the session get underway in a cooperative spirit. There will be ample opportunity for debate when the many bills that reflect the issues before the General Assembly are considered. 

What does a Speaker wannabe do when his party does not gain control of the legislative body? I have decided for myself that if I cannot be the formal Mr. Speaker of the House of Delegates then I can return to my role as Mr. speaker (small “s”) speaking out on tough issues that some may want to duck, and I can speak out on institutional practices that are not transparent or fair.

In this way, I can best serve my constituents and the long-term interest of the Commonwealth. I can also serve as a mentor to the many new exciting members that are joining the House of Delegates, and I can help to reduce any feelings of intimidation they might be experiencing. Certainly the legislature provides experiences that are not replicated in any other role in life.

The techniques of mass communication through phone calls, postcards, rallies, opinion writings, and other practices that were so successful in helping to get candidates elected can be utilized in the legislative process to help influence the outcome of legislation. I have already been seeing groups shifting from advocacy for individual candidates to advocacy for issues. On issues like expansion of health care and independent redistricting, a strong public voice and advocacy are necessary for success.

There will be more opportunities for the public to follow the legislature in real-time this year than ever before. Video streams of meetings of House Full Committees can be accessed online. Download an instruction sheet at Live Stream Instructions.

You can contact me in Richmond by using regular email, [email protected], or by calling my local telephone number 703-758-9733 that will ring in my Richmond office.

File photo

by RestonNow.com January 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm 0

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

The following articles were the five most-clicked links on Reston Now this past week.

  1. Vehicles Crashes in to Trader Joe’s
  2. Mediterranean Restaurant in Reston Town Center Closes
  3. Thursday Morning Notes
  4. New Details Surface in the Murder of Reston Couple
  5. M & S Grill in Reston Town Center Closes

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally. Our normal publication schedule will resume on Tuesday, barring any breaking news.

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Have a great weekend!

Photo via Twitter @stultzat

by Del. Ken Plum January 11, 2018 at 11:30 am 13 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The General Assembly convened for its annual session on Wednesday. Hopes that the historic election results of November brought forth have dimmed somewhat as the drawing of lots to settle the results of the final district race gave the Republicans a one-member advantage to control the House of Delegates. Many wonderful people have been at work on the terms for a power-sharing agreement. 

Now the incentives for such reform have diminished with the acceptance of a disputed ballot that led to the Democrats losing a seat that would have made for a partisan tie in the House and much more likelihood of a power-sharing arrangement. There is likely to be some reform of the process but not a change of one-party dominance that has thwarted efforts to deal with some major issues.

I continue to be impressed with the make-up of the House of Delegates as the new members are reflective of the people of Virginia. For the first time in our history women will make up half the membership of the Democratic caucus. The new members bring wonderful backgrounds, expertise, and life experiences that will bring a greater sense of reality to legislative debates. We will make progress on more issues for sure but maybe not as great as I led people to believe when election results were announced.

One of my greatest concerns is that the thousands of men and women who chose to take part in the electoral process for the first time in ways other than just voting not become disillusioned with the process and retreat from it. Make no mistake about it: the outcomes of the legislative and state-wide races in Virginia in 2017 were historic. Voter turnout in these races was greater than in any other year with the same seats to be filled. The solid Republican majority of 66 to 34 was reduced to 51 to 49. Senior members of the majority with more than adequate monies to finance their races lost to a public uprising. All involved in this process can rightfully be proud. All that activity has been focused on campaigning; now we must turn to governing. 

I hope that all those who campaigned so hard for candidates will identify one or perhaps several issues upon which they can focus their attention and with the same techniques of phoning, social media, door knocking, rallying and more can help persuade members of the legislature to vote responsibly on the issues. Just as we sold voters on candidates, we need to sell legislators on important issues. Such campaigns can make a difference in the outcome of legislation.

Political parties on both sides will be eager to take credit for the outcomes of elections in which they participated. Without a doubt, the success of elections this cycle came from the women and men who volunteered–sometimes in organized groups or acting as individuals–that made the difference. Political parties can learn from these people. Please do stay involved, for your participation can make such an important difference as the General Assembly lumbers along.

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