Open chair — Want to run the Reston Association’s Fiscal Committee? The chair position is open and accepting applications. [Reston Association]
Northam appoints Reston man — Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced more appointments to his administration, which include Michael Rush, a Reston resident and senior vice president of the Association of American Railroads, to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. [Virginia Governor]
Great Falls historian and civic activist dies — “Kathleen J. Murphy brought her intellect and passion to initiatives that improved the community, friends said. Murphy, who died Jan. 2 at age 71, was president of the Great Falls Historical Society from 2011 to 2017 and was ‘absolutely dedicated to preserving the history of Great Falls, which is a very historical area,’ Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said” at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. [Inside NoVa]
Read to a therapy dog — Head to the Reston Regional Library this evening for kids to read to a therapy dog during 15-minute sessions. [Fairfax County]
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:
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.
Sen. Janet HowellP.S. I found this article to be very insightful and urge you to read it.
Photo courtesy of Janet Howell’s office
[Note: This column was written before the release of the photos from Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook.]
The 2019 session of the General Assembly has reached its mid-point, or crossover, when the two houses start to consider bills that have survived the other house. It also represents the final action on many bills giving an indication of what the ultimate legislation for the session is likely to be.
In the back of most legislators’ minds is the fact that when the legislature adjourns sine die (until another day) the election season will begin. The thought of going home to meet their voters motivates many votes. After all, that is the way it should be in a representative democracy. The results, however, create some absurdities.
Republicans appear to be planning to focus once again on abortion. Although Roe v. Wade — decided in 1973 — was supposed to set the rules for abortions, the debate still goes on. This week in a massive media campaign linked to fundraising, the opponents accused Gov. Ralph Northam, who is a pediatrician, and first-term Del. Kathy Tran, a mother of four (the youngest of whom she was nursing during the session last year), of favoring infanticide!
I witnessed the verbal ambush by some of the most skilled lawyers in the House who with some editing of the tape of their cross-examination of her created a false impression of her bill and what it did. Calling the episode absurd is a mild description; I think Gov. Northam came closer to an accurate description when he called it disgusting. (Read more at abortion restrictions bill.)
Thirty-seven states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. It is looking doubtful that Virginia will join that group this year. In floor speeches on the amendment, one of the women opposing the amendment said that she did not need “words on a piece of paper” to get what she wanted.
Bills that would have created an independent redistricting commission including my perennial bill have been defeated in the House. A bill introduced by the Speaker of the House that would create a commission to redistrict the legislature is far from independent in that it still has legislators picking their voters in order to protect incumbents and hold onto the majority. If the bill makes it through the legislature, it will be amended or vetoed by the governor.
It remains difficult for the majority to play fair especially when it holds control by such a slim sliver of power. A two-vote shift in both houses would put Democrats in charge of the legislature.
Major divisions continue to exist between the parties on finalizing the budget. Republicans favor a plan that continues the federal approach of giving tax breaks to those with the highest income. My bill to establish a partially refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was defeated. About half the states have used an EITC to help raise the income of working families. There is a slight possibility that Gov. Northam could get the EITC in a compromise budget as he is a strong proponent of it.
Several weeks remain for the legislature to work its will. Some good bills are passing that will be favorable to the people of the Commonwealth, and I will discuss these in future columns. With an election looming in the fall, we may still see more absurdities!
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.
With great sadness for the people of the Commonwealth I concur with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Senate Democratic Caucus that Governor Ralph Northam must… https://t.co/YaTNC8gozK
— Ken Plum (@KenPlum1) February 2, 2019
— Jennifer Boysko (@JenniferBoysko) February 2, 2019
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.
I no longer believe Governor Northam can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia. The events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) February 3, 2019
— Rep. Bobby Scott (@BobbyScott) February 2, 2019
Photo via @GovernorVA
Drawing class — Head to ArtSpace Herndon from 5-8 p.m. to develop artistic skills with pens, watercolors and pencils. [ArtSpace Herndon]
Photo of Reston lawmaker goes viral — A photo posted by photojournalist Tom Brenner of Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) quickly went viral on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez responded that the photo makes it look like they are “in a road trip buddy comedy or something.” [Patch]
Data products partnership — Herndon-based SAP NS2 recently partnered with Google to bring integrated cloud computing and data products to the federal market — similar to the Herndon company’s partnership with Amazon Web Services last year. [Washington Technology]
Calls for governor to resign over racist photo — Democrats and Republicans are calling for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after a photo of two people — one wearing a KKK costume and another in blackface — surfaced from his medical school yearbook. “In a press conference held Saturday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he now does not believe he was in a racist picture in his 1984 medical yearbook and has no immediate plans to resign. Northam said that while he previously apologized, after further reflection he does not believe he is in the photo.” [ABC7]
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.
By the time you’re reading this Gov. Ralph Northam will have made his annual speech to the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committees to advise them of any changes he proposes to the biennial budget of the Commonwealth.
While the complete list of adjustments that he will propose to a budget that was passed nearly a year ago had not been made public when this column was written, we do know from public announcements some of the proposed changes that he is going to make, specifically in funding education. That is why I think he deserves a hearty holiday “Thank You!”
The Governor has proposed an additional $39 million in new money for investments “to ensure safe learning environments for Virginia’s K-12 students.” Of that amount, $36 million will be used as the first installment of a three-year, phased plan to reduce school counselor caseloads to 1:250 from its current 1:425. The additional $3.3 million will go to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety to train school staff in maintaining safety in schools.
As the Governor explained, “Taking steps to provide additional support to students, raise awareness about suicide, and ensure students, school professionals, public safety personnel and community members are equipped with appropriate training and intervention skills are critical to a holistic school safety strategy.”
To recruit and retain the best teaching talent to the Commonwealth, Governor Northam has announced that he will seek an additional $268.7 million in new money for K-12 education that will among other improvements fund the state share of a 5 percent raise for teachers effective July 1, 2019. That is an increase over the current budget that would have funded a 2 percent raise.
The additional money for public schools includes $70 million for programs for at-risk students targeted to schools with the highest concentration of students eligible for free lunch to provide dropout prevention, after-school programs, and specialized instruction. An additional $80 million will be a one-time deposit to the Literary Fund which is a method by which the state helps poorer school divisions fund school construction.
As explained in a press release from the Governor’s Office, “Altogether, the budget proposals reflect the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that every Virginia student, no matter who they are or where they live, has the same access to a quality education.”
Even with these needed additional funds, the state share of education will continue to trail its pre-2008 economic recession level. With the slow recovery over many years that kept state revenues low, local governments have had to increase their funding to schools at the expense of other local needs. The proposals that the governor is making will help move the state back to a more equal partnership with localities in funding schools and hopefully to a 60 to 40 sharing of costs of state and local funding that had been envisioned for schools.
Gov. Northam deserves a big thank you for giving priority to funding programs for our children and their education. That is about investing in our future!
The Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and the county’s Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services are slated to receive nearly $180,000 as part of grants to boost criminal justice services across Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday (Dec. 6) that law enforcement and services for crime victims across the Commonwealth will receive $5.9 million in grants administered by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
“This funding is key to our ability to respond to the diverse needs of our communities and build a safer, healthier Virginia,” Northam said in a Dec. 6 statement. “From survivors of violent crimes to the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line each day to protect our Commonwealth, these resources will help ensure that all Virginians have the opportunity to thrive.”
The DCJS approved the grants at its meeting in Richmond on Thursday (Dec. 6.) The federal Violence Against Women Act and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program allocated the funds to Virginia.
The awards include more than $4.5 million to bolster the response to crimes of violence against women and services for survivors and $1.4 million to provide equipment, technology and training.
Fairfax County received about 3.1 percent of the funding. Here is a breakdown:
- $87,205 for the Fairfax County’s Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
- $52,993 for FCPD’s Violence Against Women’s Act project
- $39,500 for FCPD’s law enforcement training
“Each year, DCJS administers nearly 1,000 grants totaling over $250 million in state and federal funds.” Shannon Dion, the director of DCJS, said in a statement. “These grants support programs and initiatives across the criminal justice system and enable DCJS to provide extensive training and technical assistance to agencies throughout Virginia.”
IT services firm 1901 Group (2003 Edmund Halley Drive) will bring more than 200 jobs to Reston in the next three years as part of a $4 million expansion.
The Reston-based company, which provides internet technology services for the public and private sectors, plans to bring 225 more jobs to Reston, along with 580 new jobs to Montgomery County by 2021, according to an announcement released today (Nov. 15). The additional 805 jobs across both counties are part of the company’s expansion of its corporate footprint in Reston and IT operations center in Blacksburg, the press release said.
1901 Group’s growth in the two counties will result in “tremendous” opportunity for the state’s citizens, State Gov. Ralph Northam said.
“With one of the largest technology talent pools in the nation, Virginia’s thriving IT industry promises high anticipated growth and upward mobility for employees,” Northam said, adding the decision reflects Virginia’s ability to compete for major projects.
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure the project for Virginia, according to the press release. VEDP will support 1901 Group’s recruitment activities through the state-funded Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs.
Founded in 2009, the company provides internet technology services for public and private sectors, offering infrastructure, applications management and security services through the IT-as-a-service delivery model. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce recognized the company as one of its “Fantastic 50” in 2016.
1901 Group anticipates future growth after experiencing a substantial increase in the federal government’s use of its services, according to the press release.
“1901 Group’s revenue in the federal market has increased thirty-fold in the last six years,” said Sonu Singh, CEO of 1901 Group. “Much of this growth can be attributed to operating in the Fairfax region, which has a strong technology focus and great access to talent.”
The announcement comes days after Amazon chose to locate its second headquarters to Crystal City — a decision that business leaders in the area said will transform communities including Reston into a technology corridor. Secondary and tertiary businesses lured by Amazon’s Arlington presence may entice new and emerging developments in Reston around the Silver Line, Mark Ingrao, CEO and president of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, previously told Reston Now.
Photo courtesy 1901 Group
Developments on development — It’s no secret that mixed-use development is on the way. Reston Association’s acting CEO Larry Butler gives an update on development issues in the community. [Reston Association]
The big drop — Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.9 percent. The rate decreased for a third consecutive month. [Governor Ralph Northam]
Frost advisory in effect — You’ll likely notice some frost on your windshield today. An advisory is in effect through 10 a.m. Frost could harm sensitive outdoor vegetation. [National Weather Service]
Photo by Flickr user vantagehill
Last week I joined with nearly fifty of my colleagues in the House of Delegates in signing a joint letter to all the Virginia senators and representatives in the United States Congress about “our outrage at the cruel and systematic separation of immigrant children and their families at the U.S. border with Mexico.”
While immigration issues are mainly federal responsibility, the actions on the part of the current administration have been so horrendous that we felt an obligation to speak out. We asked our Virginia delegation to intercede with the administration to cease the policy and to reunite the children involved with their families without delay.
Since our letter there have been some pronouncements from the administration about changes in the policy, but it remains entirely unclear what will happen with the thousands of children who have already been separated from their families and are being held in mass facilities that seem more like prisons than homes.
It is equally unclear as to whether a continuation of a zero-tolerance policy on border entry will simply replace prisons for children with adult prisons. I am pleased that Governor Ralph Northam has withdrawn the use of any Virginia National Guard forces from being involved in implementing this inhumane program.
The politics of building fear of immigrants to further political goals stinks as does the attempted use of children as pawns to bargain for a disastrously conceived wall with our neighbors. Beyond the politics are the long-term human rights issues that many thought and most hoped America was beyond. The negative long-term impact on the children involved cannot be over-looked or not addressed. Nor can the impact be underestimated of sending people back to a country from which they were seeking asylum in fear for their lives.
Earlier this month, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) along with 540 other organizations wrote to the administration as part of the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign stating their opposition to actions that would separate children from their parents. As NAEYC stated it, “There are no ends that justify these means.”
The organization that is well respected for its research on the education of young children went on to state, “The research is clear, and so are our core values…We have an obligation to create and advance policy solutions that support child well-being and strengthen the bonds between all children and their families.”
Part of that research has found the traumatic impact of separation on young children can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. As NAEYC said, “You don’t have to be either a parent or an educator to understand that separating children from their families–and putting them in a place where they cannot be hugged, touched, or loved–causes harm. And not the kind of harm that is easily repaired. This is the kind of harm that is significant and long-lasting, interfering with positive child development and well-being.”
Please take some time and join me in expressing to the administration our opposition to their policies and actions on immigration.
Despite the downpour of rain on Tuesday, a steady stream of voters cast their votes at Armstrong Elementary School in Reston. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 209,223 residents of Fairfax County voted in Virginia’s election.
The state is only of of two in the United States with statewide elections this year. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are vying for governor in what is expected to be a narrow contest, according to The New York Times. Libertarian Cliff Hyra is also running.
In the last election in 2013, turnout rested at 46.8 percent. With a little more than four hours before polls close, turnout this year sits at 30.6 percent, according to the county.
A record number of absentee ballots were cast this year, according to Fairfax County officials. More than 41,000 Virginians participated in early voting, up by roughly 61 percent from voting in 2013. Absentee voting was up in every jurisdictions in Virginia, except three, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit organization that provides information about local politics.
There are more than 684,041 active registered voters in Fairfax County. Throughout the day, voters trickled in at various polling sites throughout Reston and Fairfax County. By 10 a.m., nearly 16 percent or roughly 109,000 of registered voters already casted their ballot.
All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election. Fifty-five of those seats are contested.
Reston’s current Delegate, Democrat Ken Plum, is running without opposition in this election. Plum is currently serving his 36th year as the local Delegate for the 36th District, which includes Reston. Prior to his political appointment, he served for roughly 20 years as a public school teacher and administrator. Plum recently commented on his unopposed race for re-election in his weekly commentary.
Two candidates, Republican Jill Vogel and Justin Fairfax are running to replace Ralph Northam as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, a role which often presides over the State Senate, and has the power to break tie votes. The race for attorney general is between the current attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, and his opponent, Republican John Adams.
The Board of Supervisors has asked residents to approve the sale of $315 million in bonds. If approved, the county has published a list of school improvement projects they would use the money to pay for.
The American Civil Liberties Union received multiple reports from Virginia voters who said that they received calls falsely saying their polling place had changed. The civil liberties organization advised voters to confirm polling locations at elections.virginia.gov and report any issues by calling the organization at 804-644-8080.
Photo by Fatimah Waseem