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Howell Breaks Reston Lawmakers’ Silence on ‘Horrible Week’ as Scandals Engulf Virginia

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) is breaking the silence among Reston lawmakers about the recent developments in a series of scandals among state-elected officials.

Earlier this week, a racist photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page surfaced, prompting Reston-area lawmakers to join widespread calls from both sides of the aisle for Northam’s resignation.

Then, the man in line to replace Northam if he steps down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, became mired in scandal after a woman came forward alleging Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.

On Wednesday (Feb. 6), Attorney General Mark Herring, the third in line for the governor’s seat, admitted to wearing blackface while he was a student at the University of Virginia in 1980.

Yesterday, news reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that included photos of people in blackface, and racial slurs.

Howell called the recent news a “horrible week” in a newsletter she wrote to constituents today (Feb. 8).

While Howell previously urged Northam to step down, she stopped short of calling for the resignation of Herring, Fairfax and Norment in her newsletter.

Here is her message:

Greetings!

This has been the week from h— here in Richmond. All of us, regardless of party, are shocked and devastated by the recent revelations about our Richmond leaders. Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, Justin Fairfax, and Tommy Norment are men we have known and worked with for years. Worse, we have trusted them to lead our state. We are all trying to sort through what is true and what isn’t.

At the same time we are being surrounded and queried by press – most of whom know little about Virginia. They don’t know about our shameful racist past or about how hard we have been working to overcome it.

I saw raw racism in Virginia. In 1963 I was a 19 year old civil rights worker in Danville, trying to guarantee fair pay and voting rights for everyone. Tensions were high and skirmishes broke out between civil rights activists like me and local white youth. The day after I left, a police riot occurred – called “Bloody Monday”- where dozens of peaceful demonstrators were injured by police. Those were ugly times.

People of goodwill have been working tirelessly to help Virginia move beyond the disgraceful parts of our past. Progress has been slow but there has been progress. We recently have been viewed as a beacon of hope for the South. The revelations of the past week and the pain they have caused have been a major setback. Obviously we must work harder. A bandage cannot cover the pain.

I am hopeful that this can be a cleansing moment for our state. We must each search our souls and work to bring about reconciliation and healing. There is a role for each of us to do so. This is not a time to sit back.

Meanwhile, please be assured that we are working hard here in Richmond to do the people’s business. Just yesterday the Senate passed our budget – on time and balanced. We Senate Democrats worked closely with Senate Republicans to produce a budget we can be proud of.

Please feel free to write me about anything of concern to you. I read all the emails myself and respond to as many as humanly possible.

Best regards,

Sen. Janet Howell

P.S. I found this article to be very insightful and urge you to read it.

Photo courtesy of Janet Howell’s office

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Reston-Area Lawmakers Join Calls for Northam to Resign After Racist Photo Surfaces

Reston-area lawmakers are calling for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation after a racist yearbook photo recently surfaced.

The photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook shows two people standing next to each other — one in blackface and the other person in a KKK costume.

Northam apologized on Friday (Feb. 1) for appearing in the “clearly racist and offensive” photo and the hurt it caused 35 years later, indicating that he plans to stay in office.

Then on Saturday, Northam said that he doesn’t think he is in the photo and suggested that it may have been placed on his yearbook page by mistake. He admitted to a separate incident where he darkened his skin for a costume, according to news reports.

Still, many politicians from both sides of the aisle say a resignation can help heal the pain caused by the photo and bring in a new leader who Virginians can trust — a sentiment backed by Reston and Herndon lawmakers (who are all Democrats).

State Sens. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) and Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd District) called on Northam to resign. Howell wrote the following to constituents:

The Ralph Northam I know is not a racist.  The Ralph Northam I know is a decent and kind man.  For the ten years I have known him, he has courageously tried to promote racial harmony in our Southern state.

However, if he is in the disgraceful, abhorrent photo, he must resign. This is a very sad time for our Commonwealth.

This horrible episode has ripped the scab off the festering wound of discrimination still in Virginia.  We must all examine our consciences to see what more we can do to bring healing and reconciliation to all Virginians.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) said in a tweet that he agrees with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus calling for Northam’s resignation.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), who represents Reston and Herndon, released a statement with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) on Saturday (Feb. 2) saying that “nothing we have heard since changes our view that his resignation is the only way forward for the Commonwealth.”

Connolly and Breyer said that the governor must step aside and “allow the process of healing to begin” under Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.

“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” the statement said.

Both of Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senators tweeted that they believe Northam should step down.

Despite the widespread condemnation, it remains unclear at this time whether Northam will resign or not. If he does, Fairfax would become the second African American governor in Virginia’s history.

Photo via @GovernorVA

 

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Independent Candidate Jumps Into Race for 86th District Seat

Connie Haines Hutchinson, a former vice mayor of the Herndon Town Council, is joining the race for the 86th District seat, which represents Herndon and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Hutchinson is running on a campaign to improve education, revamp transportation, lower medical costs and ensure Northern Virginia gets support from the Commonwealth.

Ever since she ran for the Herndon Town Council in 1990, Hutchinson said she is dedicated to “give my time and talents to improve the quality of life in my hometown,” according to her website, adding that her seven terms on the council gave her the background and knowledge to represent the area in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Hutchinson, who claims that her main issues are nonpartisan, decided to run as an Independent for the 86th District seat because elected officials in Herndon run as Independents “in order to allow cooperation and collaboration without divisive party politics,” her website says.

Currently, Hutchinson is the general manager at The Borenstein Group, according to her LinkedIn. She is also the treasurer of the Herndon Hospitality Association, a nonprofit she founded to assist Herndon’s hospitality industry.

Previously, she has served on the Virginia Municipal League’s Legislative Committee and was the president of the Dulles Area Transportation Association.

In 1992, she became a member of the Herndon Town Council, and she served as vice mayor during the 2008-2010 term and again in 2012-2014. Prior to that, Hutchinson served on the town’s architectural and heritage preservation review boards.

She has also been involved with the Optimist Club of Herndon, Herndon Recreation, Inc., Herndon Youth Soccer and the parent-teacher associations for Herndon Elementary School and Herndon Middle School.

Hutchinson is a Herndon native, and her four children attended Herndon schools, according to her website.

Hutchinson will face Republican Gregg Nelson and Democrat Ibraheem Samirah in the special election set for Feb. 19.

Photo via Connie Haines Hutchinson/website

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Del. Ken Plum: A Tale of Two Houses

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The General Assembly had not been in session for more than two weeks until the differences between the House of Delegates and the State Senate became obvious. The Founding Fathers who conceived the structure of government built-in safeguards and checks and balances to ensure that a runaway government would be less possible. Two houses in the legislature were part of that scheme.

The lower house would be elected by a popular vote, but in the federal model the so-called “upper house” was first elected by state legislatures before the popular vote was instituted. Another major difference in Virginia is that in the House of Delegates, 100 members were given two-year terms and smaller districts. The 40-member Senate was given four-year terms and districts two-and-a-half the size of delegate districts.

The result is that in some parts of the state there are election contests where the delegate and the senator reflect different values and positions on issues. That is not the case in my district where Sen. Janet Howell and I have taken the same position on every issue I can remember. These structural differences bring about different results as is being dramatically shown in the current General Assembly session.

In alternate election cycles, as is the case this year, senators and delegates all run for office. In light of the last election for House seats, I approached this legislative session with the hope that there might be more flexibility in the House leadership that might result in the consideration of bills that had been summarily defeated in past sessions. My hopes have already been dashed.

Even this early the session has demonstrated the differences that the two-house legislature presents. Certainly, there has been strong public support for Virginia being the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The Senate passed a resolution for ratification, but was defeated in a subcommittee in the House.

This major struggle between the two houses is the same for establishing an impartial and nonpartisan system for legislative redistricting. The Senate has passed a bill to establish such a process while House leadership is expressing opposition. Since the legislation is a constitutional amendment, it is important that a resolution is passed this year and next to go to a popular referendum in 2020 in time for redistricting after the 2020 census results are known.

Sometimes differences between the two houses can be resolved in a conference committee if both houses pass bills on the same subject. If differences are not resolved, the bill dies. Legislation must be passed in identical form from both houses to be sent to the governor for signature. If the governor disagrees with the bill sent to him, he can send down amendments or veto the legislation. It takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to override a veto.

Legislating with a two-house body can be cumbersome and difficult. Sometimes it seems to be easier to say how bills are defeated rather than how they pass. In either case, voters can be assured that the two-house legislature ensures full consideration of issues.

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Del. Ken Plum: General Assembly Agenda

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

In a recent social media post, I indicated that the annual General Assembly session would be underway very soon. AutoCorrect changed the text to be “underwater very soon.” My son alerted me to the change, and I made what I thought was a correction. As the General Assembly session has gotten underway I am starting to wonder if AutoCorrect knew something that I am now coming to realize: the General Assembly may well be underwater!

The session is scheduled to go until Feb. 22. Meeting five days a week means 38 actual days for work on more than 2,000 bills and resolutions. While I have highlighted big issues like redistricting reform, preventing gun violence and ERA ratification, there are many more issues large and small that make up the agenda for the session.

Virginia has always conformed its income tax policies to the federal system. With the massive changes that have been made in federal tax law, the General Assembly will wrestle with what we will do in Virginia. There will be an effort to resolve the issue early in the session to accommodate taxpayers who want to file their returns early. Part of the tax policy debate will be making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable as promoted by the governor in a bill that I have introduced. The purpose would be to allow persons of low income to keep more of the money they earn and be more self-supporting.

As a Dillon Rule State — meaning local governments have only the powers granted to them by the state — dozens of bills called “local bills” are introduced to extend powers some of which are very minor to a particular locality. Another group of bills is called “housekeeping” to make corrections or clarifications to legislation that passed in previous sessions. All these bills are important but add to the workload of a session.

Challenging environmental issues will be coming before the legislature many of which relate to energy. There are proposals to increase the required uses of alternative and renewable fuels. Cleaning up from the past use of fossils fuels and the resulting growth in coal ash ponds will be taken up. There is a strong need to deal with the degradation of water quality in the Chesapeake Bay area. The Tidewater area is subject to recurrent flooding coming about with climate change that needs addressing now rather than later.

There are many bills dealing with criminal justice reform including bills intended to reduce the school to prison pipeline. The governor has announced his support of decriminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana. A bill that has been introduced would allow casino and sports gambling.

There will be a number of dog and cat bills that include high levels of emotion from interested parties. Being able to limit dogs running across the properties of landowners is a big concern in rural areas.

You can review all the bills on the agenda of the General Assembly.

If you have not done so already, let me know your positions on issues by going to my website and click on Legislative Session Survey.

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Delegates Call to Freeze Tolls for Federal Workers Commuting to Unpaid Work

Del. Ken Plum and 14 members of the Virginia General Assembly want toll relief for federal workers who are commuting on Virginia toll roads — including the Dulles Greenway — to go to their unpaid jobs as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues without an end in sight.

On Friday (Jan. 11), the 15 members sent a letter to the Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Greg Woodsmall from the Toll Road Investors Partnership II, L.P., urging them to work with EZ-Pass to develop a system to freeze tolling Virginian workers who are forced to work without pay during the current government shutdown.

“It is suggested that this letter [from the workers’ respective departments] is submitted in conjunction with their EZ-Pass transponder number and that this number be used to freeze the transponder’s ability to charge the petitioning Virginian during the entirety of their furlough,” the members wrote in the letter.

They also urged Valentine and Woodsmall to design a way to reimburse tolls that were collected from Dec. 20 —  the beginning of the federal government shutdown — until the shutdown ends.

Virginia is the sixth most affected state by the shutdown with more than 34,000 workers who are affected by the furlough and a “significant number of them” who are expected to work without pay, according to the letter.

“These hardworking Virginians are TSA agents, United States Marshalls, FBI agents and others who are working hard to protect our nation and state, allowing our nation’s operations to continue during the government shutdown,” the members wrote.

Del. Karrie Delaney, who represents a large population of federal workers in the 67th District, which includes parts of Herndon, said that the letter is an opportunity to provide some financial relief for the federal workers who “are trying to figure out how they are going to make ends meet.”

“I represent TSA Agents, United States Marshalls, and FBI agents who are currently working without pay in order to protect our nation and our state,” Delaney said in a press release. “These residents are still going to work every day to ensure our nation’s operations continue, but they are not receiving a paycheck.”

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FCPS Offers Resources, Hiring Events for Furloughed Government Employees

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, Fairfax County Public Schools is offering resources to furloughed government workers after most missed their first paycheck of the shutdown last Friday (Jan. 11).

FCPS plans to hold a second hiring event for furloughed federal employees interested in substitute teaching positions.

The hiring event last week hit capacity. The event is set for tomorrow (Jan. 15) from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the FCPS Administration Center at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, Va. Participants are encouraged beforehand to register, complete an application for employment and bring original documents required for the I-9 form I-9.

FCPS’s “No Student Will Go Hungry” program is supporting families affected by the federal government shutdown by providing breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of their ability to pay or temporary financial circumstances. FCPS will also allow unpaid balances to accrue during the shutdown.

Furloughed workers can also look at Fairfax County’s resources online, including a Human Services Guide to seek assistance from nonprofits and a list of free or low-cost events at county libraries and parks.

The county also plans to have a “Stuff the Bus” event on Saturday (Jan. 19) where locals can bring food and cash donations to support local nonprofit food pantries. One of the collection spots will be the Fox Mill Giant (2551 John Milton Drive) in Herndon from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Food, utility and rent assistance is available from the county’s Health and Human Services agencies.

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Del. Ken Plum: Time for Further Evolution in Virginia

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The Virginia General Assembly will convene for its annual session at noon today. The opening session will no doubt note that a form of representative government first met at the church at Jamestown 400 years ago. I am honored to have served nearly 10 percent of the span of existence of the Assembly.

The events of 400 years ago are being observed through a coordinating body, American Evolution, that in its publicity states that “1619 was a pivotal year in the establishment of the first permanent English colony in North America. It was the year of the first representative legislative assembly in the New World, the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America, the recruitment of English women in significant numbers, the first official English Thanksgiving in North America, and the development of the Virginia colony’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.”

I encourage constituents to participate in the events of the year for I believe they form an excellent starting point for an understanding of where Virginia is today and most importantly where Virginia is headed.

Some historians and public relations experts would proclaim what happened in Virginia in 1619 as the birth of democracy in America. Certainly, it was a small step, but that was 400 years ago. It is time to take another step in our evolution to a more democratic phase in our government. Namely, it is time for the people of Virginia to pick their legislative representatives rather than their representatives picking them. I am referring to the process of redistricting legislative boundaries after the federal census that is often referred to as “gerrymandering.”

In 1982 I introduced what I believe to be the first bill in Virginia to create a nonpartisan and independent legislative redistricting commission. The Democrats who overwhelmingly controlled the General Assembly at the time dismissed the idea for they were firmly in control. When the Republicans took the majority in the General Assembly years later, they also rejected my proposal because they were now in control.

I am pleased with the growth of awareness on the part of the public that the current partisan-controlled system of dividing up the population into legislative districts serves the legislators’ interests instead of their constituents and the issues important to them.

The General Assembly must act in this session to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in time for a commission to be organized to do redistricting after the 2020 census. Thanks to all associated with OneVirginia 2021 for the advocacy they are doing to bring about this evolution of democracy in the Commonwealth.

Plan to visit the General Assembly during this session that runs five days a week through Feb. 22. All committee meetings are open to the public. Legislator offices are just across Bank Street from the Capitol, and I am always pleased to see constituents. Let’s make sure that when the history of the 2019 session is written that a major step in representative government will have taken place.

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Free Panel in Herndon to Tackle Surviving the Government Shutdown

As the partial federal government shutdown nears its 19th day, the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a free panel on Thursday to help companies and workers prepare for a long shutdown.

Certified public accountants, bankers, insurance experts and lawyers will provide advice during the panel from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel (13869 Park Center Road) in Herndon on Jan. 10.

The individuals from the financial, legal and insurance industries will talk about the direct and indirect cost of the shutdown, along with how companies can remain solvent and what are the different options for their employees.

They will also give advice on remedies available to government contractors, what to do when this shutdown ends and how to prepare for a future shutdown.

The free panel is intended to help workers and local businesses of all sizes “mitigate the adverse effects the federal government shutdown and be ready to go when this shutdown ends,” Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Boylan said in a press release.

“Our region is disproportionately affected by federal government shutdowns, and the impact reaches deep into our community,” Boylan said.

More than 35 percent of Reston Now readers said in a poll on Jan. 3 that the shutdown affects them, with roughly 22 percent indicating they are federal workers.

The partial federal government shutdown started on Dec. 22 after Congress and the White House failed to reach a spending deal. It remains unclear if or when the White House and congressional Democrats could negotiate a deal as President Donald Trump keeps a firm stand for $5 billion to pay for a border wall.

With no immediate end in sight, Trump’s third government shutdown is nearing a record-breaking mark. (The longest government shutdown was 21 days during Bill Clinton’s presidency.)

“Beyond the direct effect felt among our friends and colleagues within the federal government, this shutdown imposes a real burden on many of the businesses in our region, especially contractors and subcontractors who are increasingly pressured each day this shutdown continues,” Boylan said.

Participants are encouraged to register for the event.

Photo via Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce

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Janet Howell Pens Book with Daughter-in-Law on Female Leaders

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) is set to debut in October a book about women leaders that she wrote with her daughter-in-law.

Candlewick Press announced yesterday (Jan. 7) that Howell and her daughter-in-law, author Theresa Howell, penned a book to share the stories of more than 50 female leaders, ranging from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Condoleezza Rice.

“Leading the Way: Women in Power” will include brief biographies of the women, how-tos for young activists, a timeline, index, and glossary, according to the independent publisher based in Somerville, Mass.

“I wish I’d had a book like this when I was a kid,” Janet Howell, who has been serving in the Virginia State Senate since 1992, said in the publisher’s press release.

Candlewick Press provided this description of the book:

Meet some of the most influential leaders in America, including Jeannette Rankin, who, in 1916, became the first woman elected to Congress; Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; and Bella Abzug, who famously declared, “This woman’s place is in the House . . . the House of Representatives!” This engaging and wide-ranging collection of biographies highlights the actions, struggles and accomplishments of more than fifty of the most influential leaders in American political history — leaders who have stood up, blazed trails and led the way.

The book follows the record number of women who ran for and won elected offices in 2018 and will debut before the 2020 presidential primaries, the press release said.

“We at Candlewick could not be more proud to be publishing this timely and inspirational book,” Karen Lotz, the president and publisher of Candlewick Press, said, adding that “Leading the Way: Women in Power” has already garnered praise from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security.

Napolitano said that she wants the book to inspire young readers to become future leaders. “The women profiled here were once girls who not only dreamed big — they went big,” she said.

The book will also feature portraits and lettering design by illustrators Kylie Erwin and Alexandra Bye. The book’s visuals aim for an “accessible, inviting look ideal for the project’s mission to inspire middle-graders, young adults, and even adults to create change in their own communities,” according to the press release.

Recommended for ages 10 and up, the book is set to hit stores’ shelves on Oct. 8.

Images via Janet Howell’s office and Candlewick Press

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Reston Lawmakers to Focus on Gun Violence, Criminal Justice Reform

Reston lawmakers are gearing up to tackle gun violence and criminal justice reform ahead of the General Assembly kicking off a new session on Wednesday (Jan. 9).

The delegate and state senator representing Reston have been crafting legislation for the 46-day “short session” of the state legislature.

A review of the General Assembly’s online database gives a glimpse into what they plan to address.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) plans to introduce legislation for universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a press release from Plum’s office.

That bill is a part of a package of legislation that is meant to prevent gun violence and improve safety, which Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced.

Plum, who will be the bill’s chief patron in the Virginia House of Delegates, said the bill “will close a significant loophole in Virginia law and require background checks on all firearm sales including private or online sales.”

Additionally, Plum said in the press release that he agrees with Northam’s assertion that “this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has prefiled several bills as a chief patron that address criminal justice. Howell wants to change the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for any person who leaves a loaded and unsecured gun in a place that could endanger a minor.

In a separate move, she wants to allow evidence of prior statements that are inconsistent with testimony at a hearing or trial for a criminal case admissible.

Howell outlines three main criteria:

  1. If the testifying witness faces cross-examination
  2. If the prior statement was made under an oath at a trial, hearing or the proceeding
  3. If it narrates or explains the witness’s knowledge of the event

Howell also is trying to allow the local school board of a school division located in Planning District 8 — which includes Fairfax County — to set the school calendar and determine the opening day of the school year.

She also wants to require licensed assisted living facilities with six or more residents to have a temporary emergency electrical power source available on site in case of an interruption of the electric power supply. The temporary power supply must be enough to power necessary medical equipment and refrigerators, along with heating, cooling, lighting and at least one elevator.

Currently, assisted living facilities are not required to maintain a power source on site.

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Poll: Are You Affected by the Government Shutdown?

The partial federal government shutdown is nearing the two-week mark with no immediate end in sight.

Parts of the federal government shut down on Saturday, Dec. 22, after Congress and the White House failed to reach a spending deal. It remains unclear if or when the White House and congressional Democrats could negotiate a deal as President Donald Trump keeps a firm stand for $5 billion to pay for a border wall.

Yesterday (Jan. 2), Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo closed, joining National Parks around the country, according to news reports. Even though people got very concerned very quickly after the zoo’s beloved live “panda cam” went dark, the pandas and other animals will continue to get fed.

One place not affected by the shutdown — the Newseum — is offering federal workers who show their badge free admission.

Trump’s third government shutdown is impacting locals and visitors in the Washington, D.C.-area from furloughed federal workers to surprised tourists. (The longest government shutdown was 21 days during Bill Clinton’s presidency, in case you were curious.)

Now, on day 13, let us know if your work or D.C. plans have been affected by the shutdown.

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Del. Ken Plum: Politics and Policies in 2019

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Four hundred years ago colonists representing each of the 20 or so plantations in Virginia met together in the church at Jamestown Island to take care of the business of the new colony. The upcoming meeting of the General Assembly which will convene in the Jefferson-designed Capitol in Richmond at noon on Jan. 9 is likely to be historic as well with the enormity of the issues before it. These issues will be taken up in view of the election in November of this year when all members of the House of Delegates and State Senate will be on the ballot.

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment illustrates what I mean. For 40 years, the Virginia General Assembly has refused to pass a resolution supporting the ERA. This year is different in that Virginia would be the 38th state to ratify the amendment and barring court challenges would be the final state needed for making the ERA a part of the Constitution. Some public opinion polls show popular support of the amendment as high as 80 percent, and supporters of the amendment have never been better organized. A large demonstration of supporters has been planned for the opening day of the session.

A recent story posted on www.fauquier.com about three delegates who spoke before the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce about the issues in the upcoming session illustrates the challenges facing the legislature. The story reported the ERA score as “one for, one against, and one undecided.” The one against is Del. Mark Cole who chairs the Privileges and Elections Committee to which the bill has been assigned and which has defeated or refused to hear the resolution in past legislative sessions. There is little surprise that Cole, who is one of the most conservative members of the House, would continue his opposition. Whether he can refuse to have the resolution taken up to keep vulnerable delegates from having to vote on it will be part of the drama of the session.

Supporting passage of the ERA is Del. Elizabeth Guzman who is in her first term and who was part of the defeat of 15 Republicans in the last election. She has shown herself to be a progressive and effective leader who will not allow opponents a way to duck the issue.

Attempting to stand in the middle as undecided is Del. Michael Webert who in the past would have been counted as an opponent. The report says, “he needs to study the proposed ratifying legislation.” More likely is that he needs to study the changing demographics of his district to see if he could be re-elected after voting against the ERA. Webert also has a record of helping defeat commonsense bills to prevent gun violence as part of a subcommittee that defeats all such bills. He will need to explain his votes to the new constituents in his changing district.

All 140 members of the legislature will be measuring their re-election prospects after voting on the ERA. Constituents need to continue to let legislators know their support of the ERA. As for me, I will be supporting the ERA as I always have in the past.

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Reston Developer Joins Race for Board of Supervisors Chair

Timothy Chapman, the managing member of Reston-based Chapman Development LLC, entered the race to become the next chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

On Dec. 6, Chairman Sharon Bulova revealed her plans to retire after her term ends Dec. 31, 2019. That same day, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, a Democrat, announced his intention to succeed her, the Fairfax County Times reported.

Now, Chapman has joined the race to become the county’s next chair with a Facebook post on Tuesday (Dec. 18) indicating that he plans to run as a Democrat.

Chapman wrote in the post that he wants to offer an “alternative path” to bring changes to one of the country’s wealthiest counties.

“[The county] has settled for effectively ignoring a crisis in affordable housing, sending its children to school in trailers, for not paying our teachers and firefighters and police officers what they deserve, and for the horrific traffic that imprisons us in our cars and steals away precious moments with our children and families,” he wrote.

The post also says the following:

As far as my political views, through the years I have voted for and donated to Democrats, Independents and Republicans. Now, I am so disgusted by today’s out of the mainstream Trum-publicans that I realize the only successful path forward is the compassion of a strongly progressive Democratic platform. It’s essential that we fight for the little guy against often rigged politics which seem to benefit the wealthy and well connected, while leaving those hard working families who are the backbone of Fairfax County to struggle to make the everyday choices that many of us take for granted.

My own life experiences have taught me to have an overwhelming, unwavering compassion for the less fortunate. I know what it feels like to be judged rather than understood, to experience the pain, fear and anxiety of being homeless. But I have also enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, an inherent privilege which afforded me the opportunity for a second chance and another second chance. Without question, I have worked hard for every step forward I have accomplished, and I own every step backwards I have caused myself, but to ignore or deny this privilege would be like denying climate change. I am living proof that with grit and determination, one, if provided the opportunity, can overcome obstacles and succeed beyond their wildest dreams. I now live in Vienna with my wife and our 5 children. I’ve built a successful affordable housing development company. I chaired the Virginia Housing Development Authority at the request of Governor McAuliffe.

Records from the Virginia Public Access Project show that Chapman has indeed donated to politicians from both sides of the aisle. He gave $50,000 last year to Democrat Tom Perriello and $15,000 in 2013 to Republican Kenneth Cuccinelli for both men’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns.

Other donations include $15,000 to Ralph Northam’s gubernatorial campaign and then $25,000 to Northam’s 2018 inaugural committee.

Back in 2005, he gave $4,000 to Republican Sean Connaughton’s unsuccessful bid to become the state’s lieutenant governor.

His Chapman Development bio says he has “an extensive background in multi-family development and tax-credit communities” and that he served in the 3rd U.S. Infantry’s Presidential Honor Guard.

Previously, Chapman chaired the Virginia Housing and Development Authority, according to a Bloomberg profile.

The upcoming election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5, 2019.

Photos via Fairfax County/Facebook and Tim Chapman/LinkedIn

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Herndon Residents: Voting Details for the Special Election

The special election on Jan. 8 will determine who will replace the State Senate seat of Congresswoman-elect Jennifer Wexton.

Democrat Del. Jennifer Boysko, who currently represents the 86th District, will face former state Del. Joe May, a Republican who is the chairman of the board and chief technology officer for Leesburg-based tech firm EIT.

The deadline to register to vote is 5 p.m. in person and 11:59 p.m. online on Jan. 2. For locals who want to absentee vote via mail, the registration deadline is 5 p.m. on Jan. 2. Absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Jan. 8.

Absentee voting in person will take place on Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Herndon Fortnightly Library (786 Center Street) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If Fairfax County Government Offices close due to inclement weather, absentee voting will get canceled.

Herndon residents can vote on election day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Voters located in Herndon’s first precinct, which stretches from Park Ave and Elden Street to Grant Street, will vote at Herndon Elementary School (630 Dranesville Road).

Voters in the second precinct, which is west of Elden Street and between Monaghan Drive and Park Ave, vote at the Herndon Community Center (814 Ferndale Ave).

Herndon Middle School (901 Locust Street) is the polling place for voters in the third precinct, which is southeast of Elden Street and above the Dulles Access Road.

File photo

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