Enjoy the Eclipse! — Remember to keep your eyes safe as you check out the celestial display this afternoon. If you take any photos during the event, share them with us at [email protected] and we will consider publishing them this afternoon. [Fairfax County/YouTube]
New Labor Day Pool Hours — Lake Audubon, Lake Newport, North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will be open Labor Day weekend, until 7 p.m. each day. [Reston Association]
In-Custody Death at Adult Detention Center — A 46-year-old male inmate was found unresponsive at about 7:30 p.m. Friday, and he was pronounced dead about 45 minutes later at Fairfax Hospital. An investigation is underway. [Fairfax County Police Department]
School Board Candidates’ Forum This Week — A special election to fill the vacant At-Large seat on the Fairfax County School Board is Aug. 29. A candidate forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area, is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at McLean High School. [LWVFA]
Reston Station Building Lights Get Thumbs Up — Last week, we asked what you think about the new lighting on the 1900 Metro Plaza building. Nearly three-fifths of our readers said they like the color-changing display; while only about a quarter said they don’t. [Reston Now]
The Fairfax League of Women Voters is set to host a public presentation on Fairfax County’s Diversion First program.
The event will be on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza N.).
The presentation will include a panel led by the Hon. John Cook, Braddock District supervisor and chairman of the Board’s Public Safety Committee. On the panel will be law enforcement members such as Lt. Ryan Morgan of the Fairfax County Police Department; PFC Janelle Colie of the Fairfax County Office of the Sheriff; and Marissa Farina-Morse, Falls Church Community Services Board Service Director for Diversion First.
Diversion First was developed to limit the number of mentally ill and disabled people in jail. The county found that it was costing too much money to incarcerate people who needed help rather than jail time, according to information about the program.
The program relies on changing how law enforcement interacts with those with special needs. The county has required officers go through Crisis Intervention Team training so that they can better understand mental illnesses and learn how to de-escalate conflicts. The hope is that officers will be able to make informed decisions when confronting those with mental illnesses.
Part of the program allows officers to transfer nonviolent offenders to the CIT-trained officer or deputy assigned to the Merrifield Crisis Prevention Center. A law enforcement official is on duty at least 21 1/2 hours a day, every day of the week.
For more information about Wednesday’s event, visit the website of the League or call 703-658-9150.
Virginia Marks Washington’s Day — The holiday known as Presidents’ Day in many places around the United States is called George Washington’s Day here in Virginia. Fairfax County is home to Washington’s Mount Vernon, and it offers an explainer for why the name of today’s holiday is different here. [Fairfax County]
League of Women Voters to Host Documentary Screening — “GerryRIGGED: Turning Democracy on Its Head” will be shown at an event jointly hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area and OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting. Two showings Thursday, at 4:30 and 7 p.m., will each be followed by a question-and-answer session. The event will be at the Fair City Mall in Fairfax. [League of Women Voters]
Local Fan’s Baseball “Free Agency” Subject of New Video — Andrew Volpe, of Reston, has made a short documentary film chronicling his father’s quest to find a new Major League Baseball team to follow. Michael Volpe’s journey in the 1990s was the subject of national news. [Fairfax County Times]
General Assembly Looks to Curtail Opioid Abuse — A number of bills that aim to fight opioid addiction have advanced to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s desk. Among them is a bill that would reduce the amount of pain pills health care professionals can prescribe, and one that would require all opioid prescriptions be handled electronically for monitoring purposes. [Roanoke Times]
The award is annually given to a county resident who shows “dedication to improving the community through volunteer service.” Varon was the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Fairfax County Electoral Board.
Johnson serves as the Voter Service coordinator for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax area. Her role includes overseeing the publication of Facts for Voters, a directory of Fairfax area public officials and government offices; the Voters’ Guide, published in The Fairfax Times; and a handout which includes all of the candidates and issues on the ballot.
Johnson, in her volunteer position as Voter Service Chair for three years, has organized and participated in many voter registration drives as well as in a variety of voter outreach projects, says the League of Women Voters.
Said the League in a release:
[Johnson] reached out to a variety of diverse groups to increase voter participation and has been especially passionate about getting underrepresented citizens engaged in activities that are civic, including voting,” the league said in a release. “She has coordinated and overseen the publication of various voter guides such as FACTS for VOTERS, the Voters’ Guides, and a handout that lists all issues as well as candidates on the ballots.
This year, Sidney organized 13 Meet and Greet Candidate Forums throughout Fairfax County, with the help of volunteers. These forums aimed to inform the public and give voters an opportunity to meet and interact with the candidates as well as to learn their positions on the important issues.
In an attempt to reach more voters, Sidney helped organize the first televised Meet and Greet forums for the candidates for the Senate, House of Delegates, Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, and Soil and Water Commissioners.
Sidney has demonstrated Barbara Varon’s dedication and contributions of time and energy for many community causes and who “fought for the rights and privileges of all citizens to participate in the electoral process” and richly deserves this Award.
Sept. 1 brought yet another reminder of the partisan rancor that too often paralyzes the Virginia General Assembly these days. Despite convening briefly for a special session in mid-August, that body failed to meet the deadline imposed by a federal court for redrawing the boundaries of the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
To briefly recap, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the General Assembly to go back to the drawing board after it found that its 2011 Congressional redistricting plan sought to pack as many African-Americans as possible into the district represented by Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Richmond. Because African-Americans now make up nearly 20 percent of the state’s population, this approach served only to dilute their potential political power in a state that has 10 other Congressional districts.
While the legal and political wrangling continues, the failure of the General Assembly to address its responsibilities will likely leave the map-drawing in the hands of the federal judiciary — a job that the League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV-VA) suspect the judges are not eager to take on.
The LWV-VA believes that these maps are a good place to begin, because they were developed by persons seeking to adhere to the redistricting requirements embedded in the Virginia Constitution, rather than by persons seeking only to amass enough voters of the right political stripe in their districts to assure their easy re-election.
The judges DO have the opportunity to set a very positive example for all future redistricting efforts by using as their starting point the independent, bipartisan redistricting plans that were developed during the last redistricting cycle. A good redistricting plan would respect natural geographic boundaries, the boundaries of local jurisdictions and communities of interest.
If redistricting is done in a way that is fair and non-partisan, it will ultimately produce a result that permits democratic processes to flourish in our state and reflects the true political power of minorities and other ethnic groups within our increasingly diverse Commonwealth.
The court also has the opportunity to follow a key recommendation of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s bipartisan Integrity Commission. The commission recommended amending the Virginia Constitution so that future redistricting plans would always be drawn by an independent commission, rather than partisan politicians.
It was commendable that then-Gov. Bob McDonnell appointed an independent, bipartisan advisory commission, which held hearings around the state before proposing three different congressional redistricting maps. The commission also encouraged the consideration of the winning maps that emerged from a competition among Virginia college teams that year.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of using such commissions to draw the boundaries of legislative districts, we believe the current impasse provides the appeals court with a rare opportunity to demonstrate that this approach CAN actually work in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In doing so, the court can strike a blow for fairness, transparency and good government — and take an important step toward promoting a healthier democracy in our very politically polarized state.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV-VA), along with Leagues across the country continue to press for redistricting reform at the state level. To learn more about redistricting and LWV-VA decades-long efforts to decrease gerrymandering, visit our page on the topic. A major effort of LWV-VA is to have redistricting reform by 2021 when the next redistricting occurs.