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by RestonNow.com April 19, 2018 at 2:30 pm 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.

Legislators who were in Richmond on April 13 for the Special Session to complete work on the biennial budget interrupted their work on April 18 for the Constitutionally required Reconvened Session commonly referred to as the “veto session.” In 1980 the State Constitution was amended to provide that on the sixth Wednesday after the adjournment of a regular session the General Assembly is to reconvene “for the purpose of considering bills which may have been returned by the Governor with recommendations for their amendment and bills and items of appropriation bills which may have been returned by the Governor with his objections.” Prior to the establishment of a reconvened session, a Governor could veto bills without concern that the vetoes would be over-ridden.

Governor Terry McAuliffe set a record with nearly a hundred vetoes all of which were sustained by the General Assembly even if by the narrowest margin. Governor Ralph Northam has exercised his veto powers on eight measures that are highly unlikely to be challenged with the almost even distribution of partisan representation in both the House and Senate. A two-thirds vote is required to pass legislation without the Governor’s approval. In the case of Governor McAuliffe and now Governor Northam, vetoes by the other branch of government–the executive branch–have kept the General Assembly from enacting some of the more divisive laws on social issues proposed by extremely conservative legislators.

Two of the bills Governor Northam vetoed related to voter registration records that would unnecessarily burden the registration and voting process under guise of preventing fraud and abuse. Virginia has not had a problem with voting irregularities; the state’s problem has been to get more people to vote since Virginia has among the lowest levels of participation in the nation. Efforts to make it easier to vote such as “no excuse” absentee voting have been defeated in the General Assembly.

The Governor vetoed three bills that would limit the powers of local government when the local governments are in the best position to know what would best serve the people of a locality. One bill would have prohibited local governments from requiring contractors to pay more than minimum wage for work for the locality and another would interfere on local governments establishing property tax rates for country clubs. A bill that would prohibit “sanctuary cities” of which there are none in Virginia was also vetoed.

The Governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state participation in adopting regulations on carbon dioxide cap-and-trade programs thereby limiting Virginia’s ability to deal with climate change. He also vetoed a bill that would have allowed legislators to change legislative district lines between the federal census dates.

In considering bills passed by the legislature, all of which must be signed by the Governor to become law, the Governor can propose amendments. Of the dozens of amendments proposed by Governor Northam, most are technical corrections in language passed in the fast pace of the legislative session.

After the likely one-day Reconvened Session is adjourned, the General Assembly will return to the Special Session to complete the budget. I believe there will be good news to report on the budget very soon!

by RestonNow.com April 13, 2018 at 3:45 pm 2 Comments

Before we head off into the warm weekend (temperatures could hit above 80 tomorrow again), let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Fairfax County Board Approves Expanded Reston Station Project
  2. Comstock’s Expanded Reston Station Project Heads to County Board for Final Consideration
  3. Updated: Newly Elected Reston Association Board Members Highlight Need for Transparency, Improving Infrastructure
  4. One Day After Election, Vacancy on Reston Association Board Surfaces
  5. Herndon Councilmember Jeff Davidson Dies After Car Crash

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

by Del. Ken Plum April 12, 2018 at 10:15 am 7 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photo

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.

On a recent early morning walk from my home in the South Lakes area of Reston I met a new neighbor that I learned lately moved into the area weeks ago. I would not call the new neighbor friendly; he seemed to be more disinterested in me although his family acted a bit jittery with me being around. While he may not have been interested in me, hundreds have been interested in and curious about him. A photo I took of him that I posted on social media has elicited nearly 400 reactions. I continue to use the male pronoun, but truthfully I am not sure of the neighbor’s gender.

I introduced the new member of our community on social media as being an albino deer, but I was quickly corrected. The almost white deer did not have the pink eyes, pink nose, and pinkish hooves of an albino deer. One neighbor suggested that he was probably a piebald deer. Although I grew up in rural Virginia where there is a lot of wildlife, I had never heard of a piebald deer. That sent me to the internet where I learned that contrary to popular belief, a piebald deer is not a cross between a normal whitetail deer and an albino. The origin of the word “piebald” comes from “pie” meaning “mixed up” and “bald” meaning “having a white spot.”

Piebalds have various amounts of white and brown patches similar to a pinto pony, and they have normal brown eyes and nose with black hooves like a normal whitetail deer. Their coloration is due to a rare inherited genetic defect that fortunately affects less than one percent of the white-tailed deer population because it also may result in the deer having short legs, scoliosis of the spine, internal organ deformities and other health conditions.

At the risk of turning this story into another diatribe on my part about the importance of diversity in our community and the need to welcome all, I will end with an acknowledgement that some people do not want another someone in the community who may eat their flowers. It does make me appreciate our trails and natural areas where we can see our animal neighbors. When you see our pielbald deer near Snakeden Branch Trail or wherever else in Reston, take a photo if you can and share it on my Facebook page, Kenneth R. Plum. We want him to feel welcome. You might want to call him by the name I understand Terraset Elementary students have given him: Blanca.

By the time you are reading this column I will be back in Richmond for the serious work of the legislature of passing a budget for the next biennium. The outstanding issue to be resolved is the expansion of Medicaid to nearly 400,000 Virginians who do not have health care even though taxes are being collected in Virginia to pay for the program. I support the Governor in his insistence that we approve the expansion. Thanks to all the citizens who have been calling and writing supporting the program. I will be back with details on the budget issue as soon as it is resolved.

by Del. Ken Plum April 5, 2018 at 11:30 am 15 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.

Our Founding Fathers were brilliant individuals. Not only did they craft a new form of government with the United States Constitution, but they established a government of “we the people” leaving behind monarchies and special privileges. While it created “a more perfect union,” it included within its structure mechanisms upon which the union could be further perfected. While it did take a civil war to bring about the most needed reform that had been debated at the Constitutional Convention and not settled but compromised away, many other reforms and perfections have taken place through constitutional amendments, laws and judicial decisions.

With the massive changes that have taken place in our nation’s history, particularly in civil rights, it is amazing that there have been so few changes to our basic structure of government. Building on the ideals of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that all persons have unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Constitution and its provisions created a way to realize these goals that ensures America’s greatness is not in its past but in its future.

Most often mentioned in the guarantees that propel our country into future greatness are the freedoms of speech, press and religion. Less discussed in the past but now seen as a critically important right to maintain our free government is the freedom to assemble. If freedoms are to be maintained in the future, it may be our right to assemble that will ensure it happens.

It is somewhat ironic that at a time when the internet enables advocacy blitzes to fill the electronic mail boxes of public officials to support a cause that the crowds of people filling the streets in various marches may be our greatest safeguard. Many feel it is not enough to simply send a letter or brochure or give or listen to a speech; we need to visibly show the depth and breadth of our cause by assembling supporters by the thousands in the heat, cold, rain or sunshine.

I participate in marches in our Nation’s Capital as well as our State Capital to show support for equality in our society and for an end to gun violence. I find the marches inspirational because of the worthiness of the cause and the wonderful people I meet who have such strong dedication and conviction that they will take part however inconvenient. If you have not taken part in a march, I encourage you to do so. After all, assembling together to support our rights is part of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they included the right to assemble in our Bill of Rights. The other important day to be sure to exercise your right to assemble is on election day when you have an opportunity to express your right as a citizen. It amplifies your voice when you assemble with others to vote for the persons who most clearly are representing your views on issues.

by Fatimah Waseem March 30, 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.

  1. Maryland Man Killed in Reston Crash on Saturday
  2. Reston Association’s Board Establishes Reporting Mechanism for Whistleblowers
  3. Updated: Construction Incident Knocks Out Power at Reston Town Center
  4. Tuesday Morning Notes
  5. Sweet Leaf Café to Open at Reston Station’s BLVD This Week

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

by Del. Ken Plum March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am 2 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.

Celebration of the first day of spring had to be delayed last week with a record-breaking spring snow fall. The unusually wet snow that clung to the trees and filled the branches of evergreens with a holiday-like cover was spectacular even with the inconveniences it brought with it. The earliest spring flowers have a way of surviving late season cold snaps and some snow. When the spring flowers emerge, they will be as beautiful as they always are even if a bit delayed.

Spring is not the only thing that is late this year. Completion of the state budget continues to be delayed, although a date has now been set for a special session; the special session will be held in the State Capitol on April 11. The immediate outcome of that session is predictable. The House and Senate will replace the budget that has been sent down by Governor Ralph Northam with the budgets each passed at the end of the regular session, each will reject the budget of the other, and we will send both budgets to a conference committee to resolve the differences.

The big spring snow of last week melted in a week to let spring emerge. It is difficult to envision the thaw that will happen to let a budget be adopted. The major difference is the Senate leadership’s refusal to agree to any form of Medicaid expansion regardless of facts or reason that are presented.

Recently The Commonwealth Institute found that Medicaid expansion in Virginia “would improve the lives of more than 118,000 women in the Commonwealth who are uninsured …Expanding Medicaid would not only save the state millions of dollars, it could save an invaluable number of women’s lives.” That is on top of the mound of evidence that has been presented already for the economic and quality of life advantages of Medicaid expansion.

More than 600 members of faith communities from throughout the Commonwealth have been advocating for the House version of the budget as it contains Medicaid expansion. Last week three former Republican members of the House of Delegates who among them have 60 years of combined experience in the legislature–Tom Rust, Joe May and Harvey Morgan–endorsed the House budget in a newspaper column: “The House budget proposal meets any common definition of conservative budgeting.

It is a Republican-led fiscal plan that makes responsible use of public resources. It funds core services and creates conditions for the private sector and general population to succeed and thrive, while limiting the reach and power of government…This is prudent budgeting in action. It deserves the support of every Virginian, officeholder or not, who professes to favor a responsible philosophy of government.” (Richmond Times Dispatch, March 21, 2018) I too support the House budget and am doing all I can to get it passed! It is a bipartisan effort.

If you would like to join the advocacy effort for Medicaid expansion, I invite you to go to virginiainterfaithcenter.organd look at the suggestions for your involvement. Act now to ensure that the legislature considers your position by April 11. In the meantime, enjoy the emerging spring!

File photo

by Fatimah Waseem March 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.

  1. Herndon Man Killed in Great Falls Vape Store
  2. Op-Ed: Some Reston Association Campaign Watchers Have Gone Off the Rails
  3. County Board Approves Plan to Redevelop Three-Story Office Building into 20-Story Condominiums
  4. Public Hearing Date Set for Reston Gateway Near Future Reston Town Center Metro
  5. Reston Man Arrested for Shooting and Dumping His Dog in 2017

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 good weekend.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below. If you haven’t filled out our annual reader survey, please do so as well. We want to hear from you.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

by Del. Ken Plum March 22, 2018 at 10:15 am 7 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.

On March 26, Senator Janet Howell and I will meet with constituents at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. to discuss the outcome of the 2018 General Assembly session. No pre-registration is required. Come with your questions and suggestions or just come to listen to the discussion. While the biggest issue of passing a budget will not be resolved by that time, we will give you the insights we have going into the Special Session scheduled for April 11.

There were areas of slow but positive movement coming out of the regular session. The threshold limit for felony larceny was raised from $200 to $500. The lower amount was catching an unreasonably large number of young people in felony crimes for fairly minor offenses. The change was supported by all the faith and human rights communities with most favoring an even higher threshold amount of $1,000 to $1,500. The newer amount will mean fewer young people, particularly minorities, will face prison time for offenses that in most other states are considered lesser crimes.

Progress was made on reducing “the classroom to prison pipeline” whereby children with misbehaviors were sent into the judicial system for actions that are best handled in the schools as acts of juvenile misbehavior and not crimes. The number of suspensions that schools are permitted to make has been limited. Where such programs have been instituted with appropriate level of resources, the instances of misbehaviors go down and fewer children are incarcerated. Appropriate early intervention is a good investment to save money and to save futures of the young people involved.

It took Virginia until 1952 to ratify the amendment granting women the right to vote although by 1922 the amendment had sufficient states to approve it. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to receive ratification by a sufficient number of states to add it to the Constitution, and once again the Virginia General Assembly refused to ratify it. A bill to exempt feminine products from the sales tax was defeated, but a bill to ensure that women prisoners were provided such products did pass.

Dozens of gun safety bills were defeated with minimal consideration as were bills to allow guns in places of worship. A bill to approve a “Stop Gun Violence” license plate for motor vehicles passed, and these plates will be available from the Division of Motor Vehicles later this year.

Numerous “dog and cat” regulatory bills were introduced as they are each year. A bill to outlaw tethering of dogs was defeated by legislators from the rural areas of the state.

An effort to outlaw the use of handheld devices while driving was unsuccessful because of a concern on the part of some delegates that such a law would simply provide police officers with an additional opportunity to profile drivers and to pull them over. I continue to support limitations on the use of handheld phones while driving.

And there were many more lesser bills. Check out the entire list at lis.virginia.gov or at pilotonline.com.

by RestonNow.com March 20, 2018 at 10:15 am 122 Comments

This is a commentary from Lynne Mulston, director on the Reston Citizens Association Board, the Coalition for a Planned Reston, and chair of Rescue Reston’s North Course Committee. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Please, citizens of Reston and members of Reston Association. The real issues are those that we hold dear to our hearts.

These attacks within our own ranks weaken our strength as a community. I refer to the recent activities within the Reston Association that attack staff and our elected board, resulting resignations of competent leaders, and negative campaigning tactics. The Reston Association staff and elected officials who should be looking out for our community, and protecting the ideals that Reston was built upon. I view this turmoil as a distraction of our attention away from the real risks our community is facing: developers purchasing our open space, Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning attempts to amend our PRC zoning, the County’s ongoing deference to developers when it comes to amending the comprehensive plan, etc. We need to be fighting the REAL issues at hand that threaten our community, our way of life, the Reston that Bob Simon envisioned and we have come to love and cherish.

Don’t think that the County’s deferral of the PRC Zoning Amendment constitutes a “win,” it is not. The County will continue with their standard M.O. – add community meetings to the agenda, allow citizens to believe they have input, that their voices are heard. With a placated citizenry, the County then steamrolls their desired outcomes (or the desired outcomes of the developers) despite the inputs of the community.

We’ve got a fight on our hands and it is not inward facing, but outward facing. Please let’s put all this infighting aside and focus on the real issues. We need RA leaders who are willing to stand up for the citizens of Reston and advocate for the issues that the community needs in terms of representation, motivation and advocacy. This is not us!

Get involved!

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) needs your help! We are an integral part of the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) as we defend Reston’s current 13-persons per acre density zoning limitations for PRC zoned areas, and the need for infrastructure build-outs to support the building that has already occurred. RCA needs your talent and time to help affect positive change. RCA’s President, Dennis Hays observed: “RCA is the incubator for just about everyone involved in leadership positions in other organizations in and around Reston.  We provide the opportunity to get involved in serious issues and teach people how to interact with our state and local governments.” RCA includes all of Reston, including those who live in Reston Town Center, Deepwood and other parts of Reston that are not part of RA. Learn more about RCA Committees and how to get involved here.

Rescue Reston needs your help to protect and defend the Open Space that we call Reston’s “lungs,” the North and South Golf Courses, and the removal of the Road from Nowhere from the County’s “Conceptual” grid of streets that threatens Reston’s North Course.   You can join by sending an email to [email protected] and/or donate to Rescue Reston by visiting www.rescuereston.org/donate  and check out easy ways to help with our current fundraisers.

by Fatimah Waseem March 16, 2018 at 3:45 pm 2 Comments

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

  1. Updated: Lockdown Lifted at Three Reston Schools After Police Investigate Report of Student with a Gun
  2. Roughly 800 South Lakes High School Students Participate in Walkout to End Gun Violence
  3. Op-Ed: Multiple Resignations from the Reston Association Elections Committee
  4. Fairfax County Board Unanimously Approves Sunset Hills Road Realignment
  5. The Bike Lane Plans to Relocate to Sunset Hills Road in May

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. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers. Have a safe weekend.

by Del. Ken Plum March 15, 2018 at 11:30 am 20 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 Virginia Constitution provides that in the even-numbered years the General Assembly is to meet in session for 60 days and in the odd-numbered years for 45 days. Either may be extended by half the number of days with a two-thirds vote by the membership. The reason for the longer session in even-numbered years was the additional responsibility of passing a biennial budget. Yet on Saturday, March 10, the General Assembly adjourned sine die (meaning with no appointed date for resumption) without having passed a budget for the next biennium!

The budget under which the Commonwealth is currently operating does not expire until June 30, 2018. The Governor is empowered to call a special session of the legislature, and he has indicated his expectation in the near future to call such a special session whose business would be limited to passage of a budget. Members of the House and Senate understood that would be the procedure to be followed when they voted to adjourn the regular session.

There is good news in all this procedural action to bring the legislature to an end for the year. The budgets of the two houses could not be reconciled by the constitutional deadline because of one great and meaningful difference: extending Medicaid to many more persons of limited income. The really good news is that Medicaid expansion is being discussed in a positive context, and I am certain it is going to take place in Virginia within the year.

A total of about 2500 bills and resolutions have been considered during the last 60 days. Of those, fewer than a thousand will make their way to the Governor for his signature. When duplicate bills are counted once, the total production of the General Assembly will be close to 500 new laws. While that small number may seem like limited production for such great effort, some of the bills introduced are really not good ideas. It is just as important that the legislature defeat bad bills as it is for the legislature to pass good bills.

This session was noteworthy for its lack of bills limiting women’s reproductive rights and bills that would discriminate against persons for their sexual orientation or identity. Much of that change can be attributed to the defeat of one incumbent delegate who specialized in such bills but also to the great number of defeats of incumbent legislators who voted for them.

There were 70 bills introduced relating to ending gun violence, and all were defeated in a six-person subcommittee. Recent public outrage over gun violence is likely to change that dynamic in the future. Good news for Metro was the passage of a bill to put Virginia’s contribution to the system on sound financial footing with a dedicated source of funding from the Commonwealth. Maryland and the District of Columbia are expected to take similar action.

A major victory for environmentalists was the passage of the Governor’s bill to expand the use of renewables in electricity generation, modernization of the electrical grid, and expansion of energy conservation. More to come on the work of the session in future columns

by RestonNow.com March 13, 2018 at 10:15 am 87 Comments

This is a commentary from Eric Carr in response to an editorial published on March 9. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Recently on these pages, an editorial appeared attacking me rather personally over a recent episode involving the RA Elections Committee. What struck me is that its author is a man I have never met and, indeed, was not involved in the issue. He did not reach out to express his concerns to me prior to putting pen to paper.  If he had, he would have learned that my concerns had nothing to do with any RA member’s right to an opinion, and everything to do with tone and civility, above all from members of the RA Committee chartered to enforce that very civility.

Reflecting on this has led me to a series of thoughts about the quality and tenor of discourse here in Reston, and I submit them for your consideration.

We have entered a time in our country where attacking people, rather than ideas, has become fashionable. People have become proxy for their positions and we have collectively relinquished our interest in dialogue.

This is all the more puzzling given that the vast majority of us are likeminded on the existential issues we face here in Reston. We almost all agree that we need to preserve our open space, develop our infrastructure before we grow, and band together to advocate for Reston on a bigger stage than ever before. We all want to foster a community where we can live, raise our families, feel safe, embrace all shades of America, be treated fairly, and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

We differ, too. In some cases, we differ on how to achieve these goals, on others how to govern ourselves in pursuit of those goals, and others yet on the relative role that our elected organizations should play in achieving those things on which we agree. That’s healthy, and those are conversations well worth having.

So, I am using this space today to ask a favor: let’s make our conversations contests of ideas, not people. Let’s assume noble intent in those with whom we disagree. Let’s not rush to imagine conspiracy or an intent to hide information or to deceive.

Let’s have more conversations in person, rather than from behind a keyboard or using pseudonyms. Those of you who know me, know my standard response to disagreement: let’s get coffee or a beer and talk about it. Face to face, as Restonians who care deeply about the health of our community.

Thank you for reading this. I look forward to our next conversation.

File photo

by RestonNow.com March 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm 164 Comments

This is a commentary from Bill Krieger, a resident of Reston. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

On Wednesday, Michael Gandolfo resigned from the Elections Committee after a public dispute with current Board Member, Eric Carr.  In solidarity with Michael, I resigned as well. If you’ve seen Carr on Facebook you may already know some of the story. But you may not know it all.

Weeks ago, a current board member asked if he could actively campaign for candidates. The Elections Committee wasn’t certain if this was allowable, and sought legal counsel. My understanding of the answer we received was that no one forfeits their basic rights as an RA member to speak out as they please, regardless of serving on boards or board committees, as long as they make it clear that they are speaking as individuals and not as representatives of those boards or committees.

Speaking only for himself and not for the Elections Committee, Michael Gandolfo posed questions to Carr on Eric’s public Facebook page about whether the Tetra Loan was paid off with Reston reserve funds.  According to Gandolfo, Carr proceeded to berate him saying, “As a member of the RA Elections Committee, I would hope you would be more attuned to the operations of the Association, and I would further hope your social media postings might serve as an exemplar of civility.”  Carr then contacted the Chair of the Election Committee expressing his concerns about Michael’s position on the committee. In response, the Chair sent all its members an email, saying, in effect, that as Election Committee members we must not to engage in any Reston political issues with board members or candidates on social media or elsewhere.

While the position of the Chair seems reasonable at first, unfortunately it contains an inherent hypocrisy.  RA members do not forfeit their rights to speak out on any RA issues when they make it clear that they are speaking out as individuals, not official representatives. Michael Gandolfo did just that. His speech, therefore, was as valid and protected as Eric Carr endorsing candidates. When the Election Committee Chair sent out this email, Michael Gandolfo resigned. I followed suit not only in solidarity with Michael but also because I believe Eric Carr crossed a line. In my opinion, he used his influence as a current board member -not as an individual -to take Michael to task with his committee chair. I believe he abused his positon and for that reason, frankly, he should either be censured by the board, resign his office, or be voted out of office the next time he runs.

Eric Carr’s behavior, to me, personifies the fears of some Restonians regarding the candidates he is actively supporting – Bowman, Ganesan, Johnson and Petrine. These four candidates are running as a slate calling itself “4 for Reston.” For some, the math is troubling.  A slate of four fortified by even one current board member in lockstep can easily translate into a guaranteed majority, or what some Reston Now readers are calling “group think.” They rightly fear the creation of a board with a built-in majority that has the potential to rob the RA Board of all debate and independence when important issues come before it.  And now a second slate of candidates appears. This is a trend that we, as members, should actively discourage with our votes. The Board must consist of independent thinkers.

(Editor’s note: If you wish to submit an op-ed, email [email protected])

by Del. Ken Plum March 8, 2018 at 10:15 am 33 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.

Last week I ended a walking tour of Capitol Grounds as I always do with a stop at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial that is between the Executive Mansion and the Capitol. The Memorial is very attractive as a physical structure, and the story it tells is especially meaningful to Virginia’s history. Featured prominently on the Memorial is a bronze statue of 16-year-old high school student Barbara Johns. In April of 1951 Barbara had become increasingly upset at the fact that she had to attend school in a tar-paper building without adequate heat or a gymnasium while the white kids in the area attended a new brick school.

The plan she put together led to all the students walking out to dramatize the unfairness and inequities of the segregated school system. Once the differences were so dramatically shown, there was no going back. Two NAACP lawyers agreed to represent the students, and their case made it to the Supreme Court and was combined with the Brown v. Board of Education case decided in 1954. It took another decade for Virginia to desegregate its schools.

As I recounted that story to the visitors to the Capitol it became clear to me that we are at another Barbara Johns moment in Virginia albeit of a very different kind. I shared my realization with members of the House of Delegates in a floor speech last week. I pointed out that the children of the Commonwealth are bringing to our attention our failure to pass any kind of legislation to keep them safe from gun violence. Not only have common-sense gun safety bills not been passed, they have been defeated with the most minimal debate and with as few as four votes in a subcommittee defeating them. A bill that would have allowed guns in places of worship was withdrawn at the very last minute.

As guns and the violence of which they are a part proliferate, the students through their walking out of schools and by their expressions of concern are seeking answers that incumbent legislators are going to have to answer. I told my colleagues that we could expect when we get back home in a few weeks to get questions as to our lack of action to address gun violence as an issue that warranted our attention. We can expect to get these questions first from our children and our grandchildren and at appearances at educational and civic events. There really is not an adequate answer that will make sense to the children and to parents. My youngest grandchildren often follow my answers to their questions with a follow-up, “why?” Try telling a child that one person’s constitutional right can take away another person’s life.

Society had to answer the questions raised by Barbara Johns and her classmates even as it took decades. We now have to answer the questions raised by the children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and those expressed here in Virginia. The General Assembly cannot tarry in taking action. Lives depend on it!

File photo

by RestonNow.com March 5, 2018 at 3:45 pm 131 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Paul Anderson, a Reston resident, on February 28. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

I was saddened to see that Ms. Fulkerson “resigned” last week. Saddened and disheartened that the populist anger that has so gripped our country seems to be very active right here in our own little community. Clearly the purchase of the Tetra property was the last straw, but I suspect that this has been simmering over a long time with many initiatives and changes causing increasing ire and angst; the new RA Headquarters, the Nature House, the Lake Anne land swap and finally Tetra. Add to that anything at all that happens in small tax district 5 and paid parking at Reston Town Center and boom! One head on a stake and sadly probably more to come.

The spite of board member John Bowman’s attempt to have the Tetra purchase reviewed by the Commonwealth Attorney even after a professional review by highly regarded StoneTurn, which found no evidence of malfeasance, was shocking in what it exposed. A well of vitriol whose depth is breathtaking to behold.

The orchestration of this separation before the new board is seated in April was also disheartening. Clearly there is a core on the current board with a mission, they needed to act while they knew that they had the numeric advantage. Which brings me to the election.
We have for the first time that I can recall a large “slate” running for the four vacancies. Two of the incumbents were previously appointed to their positions and two are running for the first time. Three of the four have past experience in the same Reston organizations, RCA – the Reston Citizens Association and Reston 2020. Since the four are using a single piece of co-branded campaign material it would appear that the old agreement that current Board Members do not endorse candidates has gone out the window. We could check the Ethics Rules on this topic but wait, no, we can’t because this board after making scene after scene about ethics found it inconvenient to actually get that task done.

My point in all of this is simple. The health of the Reston Association Board depends on a diversity of independent opinions, not groupthink that has been hobbled together by our most angry citizens. I’m not telling my fellow Reston citizens who to vote for but I hope that they’ll consider the new faces and differing opinions that are seeking election this term because that’s what will move this community forward in positive ways. To the current Board; you’ve got your pound of flesh in Ms. Fulkerson. Let’s move on.

File photo.

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