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by Del. Ken Plum — October 12, 2017 at 10:15 am 26 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.

Candidate Terry McAuliffe promised during his campaign for governor that he would work to build a new economy in Virginia. A reduction of federal spending in the state along with the decline of traditional mining and manufacturing jobs had left the Virginia economy sluggish.

If there was any doubt as to what Gov. McAuliffe had in mind, one only needs to look at his performance in office. His latest performance figures — although these numbers increase daily — are 1,027 new projects, 215,100 jobs created and $165 billion in capital investments. No other governor has come close to these kinds of numbers. But he clearly is not done yet.

Just last week, Gov. McAuliffe announced that Facebook will bring more than $1 billion of new investment to the Commonwealth. Facebook is directly investing $750 million to establish a 970,000-square-foot data center in the White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County. The project will bring thousands of construction jobs to the region and more than 100 full-time operational jobs. Virginia is already a leader in data centers with a record number in Loudoun County.

An exciting aspect to this new project is that with a new renewable energy tariff designed by Dominion Energy Virginia and Facebook, hundreds of millions of additional dollars will be invested in the construction of multiple solar facilities in the Commonwealth to service Facebook’s Henrico data center with 100 percent renewable energy. That feature continues a trend that has been going on in Virginia in the use of solar-generated electricity with new and expanded business projects.

In another project, Amazon is behind what had been the state’s largest planned solar installation to date, an 80-megawatt system in Accomack County. Early last year another solar project was introduced that spurred Virginia’s solar energy market by a partnership among the state, Dominion Virginia Power and Microsoft Corp. to bring a 20-megawatt solar farm to Fauquier County. The 260,000 panels on 125 acres represented more solar energy than was available across all of Virginia two years ago.

Recent evidence demonstrates that the new economy of the Commonwealth is being recognized nationally. Recently, Virginia was ranked in Area Development magazine’s 2017 “Top States for Doing Business” annual survey for the first time since 2010. Overall, the Commonwealth placed 11th out of 20 states ranked in the prestigious annual site consultants’ survey.

The Commonwealth ranked in the Top 10 in five of 12 subcategories that impact companies’ location and facility plans, including: Cooperative & Responsive State Government, fifth; Leading Workforce Development Programs, seventh; Competitive Labor Environment, eighth; Favorable Regulatory Environment, ninth; and Speed of Permitting, ninth. These rankings represent significant advances for Virginia as the state has not placed in any subcategories since 2013. This year also marks the first time Virginia has ever placed in the Cooperative & Responsive State Government, Competitive Labor Environment, and Speed of Permitting categories.

The new economy is proving to be good for jobs, with record low unemployment, and good for communities that were struggling to recover from the Great Recession. At the same time, it is good for the environment, with record growth in solar energy production.

by Karen Goff — December 17, 2015 at 10:00 am 14 Comments

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe/file photoVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was in Fairfax County on Wednesday to announce a proposed $1 billion investment in education, both at the K-12 and college levels.

The governor, speaking at Mark Twain Middle School in Alexandria, says his two-year budget proposal aims to prepare all students to succeed in the “new Virginia economy” by providing them with needed resources.

“I have heard from parents, students and teachers all over the commonwealth that we have been asking our schools to do more and more with less and less,” McAuliffe said. “But with thoughtful, bold ideas like the ones I am proposing, we will get back on the right track and ensure that we are laying the foundations for the New Virginia Economy.”

“This historic proposal represents the largest new investment in public education in over a decade, and the largest total investment in the history of the Commonwealth. I believe that if we want to have a world-class economy, we need a world-class education system, and this is where it starts.”

Some of the public education priorities funded in the biennial budget include:

  • New Teachers: Providing roughly 2,500 additional instructional positions – $139.1 million
  • Rebenchmarking: Fully funds the cost of rebenchmarking the Standards of Quality and additional updates – $429.8 million
  • At Risk Add-On: Provides flexible funding to divisions based on free lunch population to be used for drop-out prevention, parent engagement, English Language Learners, etc. – $50 million
  • Cost to Compete: Supports a cost of competing adjustment for school support positions in areas with a high cost of living – $41 million
  • Salary Increases: Provides a 2 pecernt salary increase for teachers, non-teacher instructional positions, and support positions consistent with state employee raises – $83.2 million
  •  Teacher Retirement: Increase general fund contribution to teacher retirement – $30 million

McAuliffe will present his full two-year budget to the Commonwealth Budget Committee on Thursday.

It is not yet known exactly how the commonwealth’s additional funds will directly impact Fairfax County Public Schools. However, FCPS has said it is facing about a $65 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2017.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza will announce a proposed budget in January, which will be voted on by the board by May. A community Budget Task Force has looked at various changes, including larger class sizes and eliminating language immersion programs, as a means of narrowing the gap.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which gives about half its annual budget to FCPS, said part of the deficit starts at the state level. Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said last week the state’s contributions have not kept pace with rising enrollment and other mounting budget needs in public schools.

“The state has reduced its share [of funding all Virginia schools] by $1 billion,”Bulova said at the Supervisors’ Dec. 8 meeting. “Counties have tried to make up the difference. In Fairfax, we have increased about $200 million for schools.”

Grassroots group #IamFCPS said it was encouraged by McAuliffe’s pledge.

“Solving the Fairfax Country Public Schools budget crisis will require collaboration, tough decision-making, and long-term financial planning by state and local elected officials,” Suzanne Zurn of Reston, founder of #IamFCPS, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Fairfax County delegation, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and the governor to ensure Fairfax County Public Schools receive the necessary funding to continue the legacy of excellence that has benefited the entire region.”

Photo: Terry McAuliffe/File photo

 

by Karen Goff — September 30, 2015 at 9:00 am 12 Comments

Alfredo Prieto/Credit: Virginia Department of Corrections

Update, 7 p.m. Thursday: The temporary order has been lifted and the execution will likely take place at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Update, 4:30 p.m. Thursday: Late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Alexandria issued a temporary restraining order on Virginia carrying out the execution, which was scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. Thursday.

At issue is the supplier of the drugs for the scheduled lethal injection.

Original story, 9 a.m. Thursday: Alfredo Prieto, convicted in 2010 for a rape and double homicide near Reston, is scheduled to be put to death on Thursday after Gov. Terry McAuliffe denied a stay of execution earlier this week.

“After a thorough review of the facts of this case, the actions of the various federal and state courts, and the petitions and recommendations of individuals representing both Mr. Prieto and the families of his victims, I have decided not to intervene in this execution,” McAullife said in a statement. “Mr. Prieto was convicted in a fair and impartial trial, and a jury sentenced him to death in accordance with Virginia law. Federal and state appellate courts have extensively reviewed his case and denied his requested relief.”

Prieto, now 49, was sentenced to two death sentences in December 2010 for the murders of Rachael Raver and Warren H. Fulton III, both 22. The couple was murdered in 1988 on a vacant lot off Hunter Mill Road. Raver was a recent graduate of George Washington University, and Fulton played on GW’s baseball team.

Evidence of a Prieto’s involvement in a third slaying, in Arlington in May 1988, was also presented to the jury during its sentencing phases.

Prieto may be responsible for nine killings between 1988 and 1990, when he was arrested in Ontario, Calif., for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Yvette Woodruff., authorities said. Prieto was sentenced to death in the Woodruff case in 1992, but his California appeals continue.

Prieto was linked by DNA to the Hunter Mill and Arlington murders in 2005. Authorities extradited him from California for trials here.

Prieto’s was first tried in Fairfax in 2007, where a jury rejected his defense attorney’s claims his IQ met the standard for mental retardation defense and convicted Prieto of capital murder and rape. But a juror refused to continue deliberating during sentencing and a mistrial was declared.

Prieto was tried again in 2008. The jury again rejected the retardation defense, convicted Prieto and voted for two death sentences. However, the sentences were reversed on appeal.

The third trial, for sentencing only, was held in 2010. The jury voted for two death sentences. The most recent appeal was rejected earlier this year.

Added McAullife:  “It is the Governor’s responsibility to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are properly carried out unless circumstances merit a stay or commutation of the sentence. After extensive review and deliberation, I have found no such circumstances, and have thus decided that this execution will move forward.”

“I will continue to pray for all of the individuals and families affected by these tragic and horrible crimes.”

Prieto is the first Virginia prisoner to be executed since January 2013.

by Karen Goff — September 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm 0

Sharon Bulova/File photoFairfax County Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to serve on a new commission on ethics in state government.

McAuliffe on Thursday signed signed Executive Order 28, which establishes the Commission to Ensure Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government.

The order comes in the wake of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen’s convictions for corruption.

Says the governor’s office: “The executive order identifies the broad priorities of the governor in his pursuit of a better state government, including meaningful rules for the ethical conduct of state officials, procedures for ensuring accountability to the electorate, and policies guiding the selection and service of high quality public servants.”

The 10-member commission will provide the governor with recommendations in December 2014 on ethics laws and policies with the goal of pursuing legislation during the Virginia General Assembly’s 2015 session, which begins in January, a release from the governor’s office said.

The commission will continue to meet in 2015 in order to study and make recommendations on other good government topics, including campaign finance, the selection and service of judges and other public officials, and gubernatorial terms.

“I am creating this commission because it is imperative that we foster a culture of professionalism in state government that attracts future leaders of the highest caliber,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “I want to guarantee superior service to the next generation of Virginians. And I want to establish an enduring culture of integrity on which this state can prosper. These are not merely my values. They are the essential covenant of democracy.”

McAuliffe, a Democrat, pointed out that the commission is bipartisan. It will be co-chaired by former state senator and U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher (D), of Abingdon and former Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R).

Other members of the commission:

  • Viola Baskerville, of Richmond, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia and former House of Delegates member
  • John T. Casteen III, of Keswick, President Emeritus at the University of Virginia and former Virginia Secretary of Education
  • Christopher Howard, of Hampden Sydney, President of Hampden-Sydney College
  • Susan A. Magill, of Alexandria, Vice President for Advancement at George Washington’s Mount Vernon
  • Courtney M. Malveaux, of Henrico County, a business attorney at ThompsonMcMullan and former Commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry
  • Joe T. May, of Loudoun County,  former Virginia House of Delegates member and chairman of its transportation committee
  • John Sherman, Jr., of Richmond, former President and CEO of BB&T Scott & Stringfellow, Inc.

Photo: Fairfax County Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova/ file photo

by Karen Goff — May 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm 0

Gov. Terry McAuliffe in honorary chair of the 2015 World Police and Fire Games/Credit:  Craig S. Luecke

Local officials and Virginia’s governor gathered in Vienna Wednesday to kick off the countdown to the 2015 World Police and Fire Games.

The games, which will bring more than 12,000 athletes/public safety officers to Fairfax County beginning June 26 of next year, are expected to be an economic boom for the county as well.

While events will take place all over the county, Reston will play a key role in the games. The Hyatt Regency Reston will serve as the Athletes’ Village for the competition for the 10-day event, says Fairfax 2015 CEO Bill Knight.

Fairfax 2015, the organizing committee for the biennial games, announced at a news conference Wednesday the establishment of an Honorary Board, as well as new funding commitments of $5 million from public and private sources.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will chair the Honorary Board. Other leaders on the board: Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell;  Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; Congressmen Gerry Connolly, James Moran and Frank Wolf; Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran; George Mason University President Angel Cabrera; President & CEO, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Jim Corcoran; and baseball great Cal Ripken, among others. (See full list on Fairfax 2015 website)

Fairfax County tourism officials project that games’ visitors and activities will bring $60 to $80 million into the county.

It will cost $20 million to put on the event, Fairfax 2015 says. The group has received corporate sponsorship commitments, and McAuliffe said he has requested funding in this fiscal year budget. Corporate sponsors who have committed over $2 million so far: Keolis, Pierce, SAIC, Scott Safety, Cardinal Bank, Cordia Partners, and Venable law firm.

“I am excited to serve as Chairman of these Fairfax 2015 Olympic-style games and to help support and honor the first responders and public safety heroes who have given of their service and sometimes their lives to protect us,” McAuliffe said at the news conference at Fairfax County Fire Station 42 near Wolf Trap National Park, where the closing ceremonies will take place next July.

Opening ceremonies will take place at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. and sporting events will happen at 53 locations in the county. Exact venues will be announced soon, officials said.

Earlier this year, Knight said Reston may be home to weightlifting and Honor Guard competitions, as well as a dodgeball competition, a cycling event and the open water swim.

Knight has executive experience with the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, World Cup USA and other major events. He said on Wednesday that the group is “making great progress in the planning and coordination of the Games which are 400 days from today.”

“The days will fly-by, so it is critical that individual citizens and business leaders step-up today, embrace the World Police and Fire Games and help accelerate the momentum we are currently enjoying,” Knight said.

Photo: Gov.Terry McAuliffe. Credit: Craig Luecke

by Del. Ken Plum — January 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm 1 Comment

Ken Plum/File photoEach year, the Governor of Virginia addresses a joint assembly of the House of Delegates and the State Senate in a speech. It’s not unlike the President’s State of the Union address, except that the Governor provides  a “State of the Commonwealth” as well as his recommendations for legislative action.

Last week, I heard the 35th such speech since I have been a member of the House of Delegates. I think Gov. Terry McAuliffe made the best of any of the speeches I have heard over my career in the legislature.

He emphasized the need for all to work together: “…as we launch this new chapter in our history, let us resolve to show the partisans in Washington and across the nation that here in Virginia, in a Commonwealth that pioneered government by consensus, there is no challenge too great, no debate too intractable and no idea too ambitious that we cannot come together on common ground to build the future our families deserve.” The theme of his inaugural events was “common ground.”

He will put an emphasis on economic development. In his speech, he announced two economic development projects that he had already concluded after just three days in office.

“In today’s modern economy, Virginia has to be smarter, more productive and far more aggressive than our sister states for new jobs and investment,” he said. From the tone of his speech it is obvious that no one will be accusing the new Governor of not being aggressive enough in economic development.

His goals are clear, and he does not duck controversial issues. In his own words, “We should stop over-testing our students…The General Assembly should not wait another year to pass the bipartisan Dream Act…On Saturday I was proud to sign Executive Order Number One, which prohibits discrimination in state government on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity…An open and welcoming Commonwealth requires a state government that trusts women to make their own health care decisions, and works to expand access to quality care…I am eager to work with the coalition of Virginia leaders who agree that we need to strengthen our democracy by passing legislation putting Virginia on the path toward non-partisan redistricting.”

He was just as direct in his support for an expansion of Medicaid to help those “families (who) are just a major illness or accident away from financial ruin.” As he pointed out, if we fail to exercise the option of federal funding for Medicaid, “we will forgo $2.1 billion annually in federal funding over the next three years. That is more than $5 million per day.”

The Governor has extended an invitation for legislators of both parties to work with him. I look forward to working with him in moving Virginia forward.

To read the full text of the Governor’s speech, go toGovernor’s Address.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s General Assembly. He writes weekly on Reston Now. He can be reached at [email protected].

by Karen Goff — December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and family spent part of Thanksgiving Day serving breakfast at Reston’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter.

“Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, wife Dorothy and children were there to learn firsthand about the daily challenges of people who are homeless– and the work of the many extraordinary nonprofits and Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness in finding solutions,” said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Cornerstones, the local nonprofit that operates the shelter.

“These are hard times for many in our community, but every day we see people willing to come together and offer a hand,” she said. “Volunteering is not something new for the McAuliffe family, but it was a generous gift that reflects the importance of these issues and gave hope to those under our roof.”

McAuliffe will be sworn in in January.

Wilson also said she commends outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell for his work helping the homeless. McDonnell was the first sitting Governor in Virginia to establish a committee on affordable housing and homelessness, she notes.

“While not all of these recommendations were funded, much of the policy/strategy level work has been implemented through some of the priority setting and state level contracting for homeless services, a Virginia Housing Trust Fund was established and some initial seed funding from the mortgage settlement provided a start (it needs real funding),” Wilson said.  “I hope that among the many areas that Governor-elect McAuliffe and his family will embrace – as they discussed on the campaign trail – hunger/food insecurity, mental health, homeless/workforce housing – can build on these efforts.”

Photos courtesy of Cornerstones.

by Karen Goff — November 5, 2013 at 10:45 am 0

Reston Election DayRestonians steadily went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new Virginia governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Locally, Fairfax County Sheriff, state delegate and a FCPS bond issue were also on the ballot.

But it was the race for governor that drew many voters out to vote, they said. Turnout was about average for a non-Presidential year, poll workers said. As of 8:45 a.m., South Lakes High School had 479 voters. Reston Community Center Hunters Woods had 397 by 9 a.m., about 10 percent of the precinct. Voters at various polling spots reported little to no waiting.

At RCC Hunters Woods, there were a variety of opinions on the candidates.

“I voted for Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring,” said David Burns of Reston, who says he usually votes the Democratic ticket.

Ellen Graves, a longtime Restonian who is active in many civic causes, including the Reston Association Board of Directors, had more to say on supporting the Democratic candidate.

“I want a governor who is not in my bedroom,” she said. “[McAullife] appreciates and recognizes women. He has a business background and understands what people are going through economically.”

Nearby, John Schwarzman of Reston worked the volunteer table for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

“I think he has a lot of integrity,” said Schwarzman. “I like what he has done for Virginia [as attorney general]. He was one of the first  to go after Obamacare, which I don’t like.

Ron Weber, a retired civil engineer who has worked at the city, state and federal level, said he is disappointed in both McAullife and Cuccinelli and was casting his vote for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.

“McAuliffe is just a bull[expletive],” he said. ” “Cuccinelli is too far to the right. I think a lot of people feel that way. I wish [Lieutenant Governor Bill] Bolling would have run. He was the right man.”

Polls will be open until 7 p.m. Check Reston Now on Wednesday to see how Reston voted.

by Karen Goff — October 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

Bill Clinton (photo courtesy Clinton Foundation)

As the Virginia Governor’s race heats up, so does the star power.  Former president Bill Clinton will be on hand to stump for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe at a Virginia Votes event at Herndon Middle School Monday evening.

Free tickets have been available from McAuliffe headquarters since late last week. Click here to inquire whether any are still available or stop by Democratic Party of Virginia offices at 384 Elden St. in Herndon.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and entrance is first-come, first-served, so plan on arriving early. Herndon Middle is located at 901 Locust St. in Herndon.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will campaign in Fairfax Monday for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, in a “Get Out the Vote Rally.”

The rally will take place at The Waterford, 12025 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy. Interested in attending the rally?  RSVP on Cuccinelli’s website.

Election Day is Nov.5.

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