With the outcomes of the elections in 2019 Virginia may be considered by some to be in an altered state. While the flipping of the legislature from red to blue will have consequences, actual proposed changes will not be known until campaign rhetoric is translated into legislative languages, a multitude of interest groups and individuals have weighed in, and the level of political will for significant change can be measured by votes in legislative committees and on the floors of the House and Senate. Readers of this column will be getting steady reports over the next weeks and months following the beginning of the next 400 years of the Commonwealth.
In the meantime, it is helpful to step back as much as that is possible and to closely examine where we are today as a baseline in moving forward. The Commonwealth is a wealthy state–twelfth wealthiest among the states. That is not common wealth however. Three regions of Virginia that make up the Golden Crescent from Northern Virginia through Tidewater exceed U.S. per capita income. Northern Virginia jurisdictions have a per capita income level greater than Connecticut which is the highest in the nation. At the same time, three regions of Virginia in Southwest and Southside have per capita income less than Mississippi, the poorest state in the country. Parts of Virginia are the wealthiest while other parts are the poorest in the United States. Even with its great diversity in income Virginia continues to have the lowest state minimum wage in the country at $7.25 which had it simply kept up with inflation would be $10.54.
Virginia is certainly not unique among the states in having broad differences in growth rates and wealth within its boundaries. There are many factors that create differences. From a public policy perspective, it is important that Virginia be viewed in its uncommon aspects as well as generalized as a state on the whole. One size seldom fits all, and certainly the diversity of Virginia requires that its unique regions be considered in any statewide policies and programs.
Unfortunately, the regional differences seen in per capita income are reflected in the growth rate, educational level, life span and many other measures of the health of the state. Northern Virginia grew by about 12 percent in population between 2010 and 2017, central Virginia by about 7 percent while Southside declined by 2.5 percent and Southwest by 4 percent.
A recent national America’s Health Ranking report shows Virginia moving up from 20th to 15th among the states in health rankings. A big drop in persons smoking–29 percent to about 15 percent of adults–helped. At the same time there has been a significant increase in drug-related deaths over the past three years, from 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people to 15.4.
The diversity of the state will impact the business of the legislature. I will discuss these and further aspects of the Commonwealth at a State of the Commonwealth Breakfast this Friday, the 3rd of January, at the Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston at 8 am. RSVP to secure.actblue.com.
Four hundred years ago yesterday, July 30, 1619, a group of 22 colonists met in the wooden and mud church on Jamestowne Island as instructed by the investors of the colony “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” and to provide “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.” They adjourned on August 4. That event is variously described as the beginning of representative government in America and as the beginning of the oldest continuous law-making body in the western hemisphere. It merits the commemoration it is receiving.
In order to fully understand the importance of a signature event as this one, I believe it is important to put it into perspective as our knowledge of what happened afterwards allows us to do. While termed the beginning of representative government, the first legislative meeting was anything but representative. Only white males could vote or serve in the Assembly. The indigenous people — called Indians because one of the purposes of sailing to this new world was to find a shorter route to India — were not able to participate even though they had inhabited the land for at least 15,000 years. Not only were they kept out of the Assembly, they were forced off their lands where they had their homes, governance, religion, and farms. In less than a half century the immigrants had taken over the land and displaced the indigenous people.
Nor could women take part in that first Assembly because they did not arrive in Virginia until 1619 and did not secure the vote until three centuries later! Enslaved people from Africa did not arrive in the colony until 1619 and not only were they not in the First Assembly but they were the subject of laws in subsequent sessions of oppressive slave codes that denied them basic human rights. It was necessary in the beginnings of the Assembly to belong to and pay taxes to the established church.
The history of Virginia and of America has been to move from this humble beginning and through decades and centuries of events to evolve into what is more closely a representative government. The planners of the events surrounding 1619 have correctly I believe termed it “evolution.” Contrary to what some may have us believe, our state and our country did not start out meeting the ideals and vision that we have. We have built on a humble beginning to evolve into the country we are today.
I trust that this important celebration will not be allowed to be taken over by an ignorance of what happened at Jamestowne and turned into a biased partisan view to justify the terrible actions of government today against people of color, people from other lands, and people in the LGBTQ communities. We do not need to try to return to a past that was much more imperfect than we sometimes care to admit. I am attending the Commemorative Session of the General Assembly to learn more about the past and how we can learn from our experiences and evolve further into a more perfect union. I will not be attending the session with POTUS.
“LOVE” will tour around Fairfax County this summer. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, the iconic letters will take a trip across the county to promote the message “Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation,” according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
Fairfax County received a $10,000 grant from the corporation for its first permanent “LOVEwork” sign, which kicks off its tour in Tysons next month. It’ll make stops at Roer’s Zoofari (May 21-27), Reston Town Center (May 20 to June 4), and Frying Pan Farm Park (July 26 to August 4).
The tour concludes in August at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton — the permanent home of the letters.
Virginia’s slogan was coined by Richmond-based advertising agency Martin & Woltz in the late 1960s. After playing with different slogans like “Virginia is for History Lovers” and “Virginia is for mountain Lovers,” the firm chose the catch-all phrase “Virginia is for Lovers.” In 2009, the marketing campaign was recognized by Forbes.com as one of the top ten tourism marketing campaigns of all time.
Photo via Virginia Tourism Corporation
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.”
Many people said they were shut out of registration on Oct. 17 when the online registration crashed.
That resulted in the New Virginia Majority Educational Fund filing suit against the Virginia Department of Elections on Tuesday.
A judge in the Virginia Eastern District Court in Alexandria issued an injunction Thursday.
The guidance from the Department of Elections is to accept all voter registration applications that are:
- Received in-person during normal business hours (until 7 p.m. Thursday and between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday).
- Received online by 11:59 p.m. on Friday Oct. 21.
- Received through the mail with a valid postmark on or before Friday, Oct. 21.
To register in person in Reston, visit the North County Government Center, 1801 Cameron Glen Dr. When you do so, keep your receipt for proof of registration in case of a recount or voter irregularities.
The suit had been seeking to keep registration open through the weekend.
“I am pleased that the court has agreed with the request to extend Virginia’s voter registration period after unprecedented web traffic prevented many people from completing their registrations online before the original deadline,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “The Commonwealth will fully comply with the court’s order and extend our registration process online, in-person and through the mail.”
“The Virginia Department of Elections and the Virginia Information Technology Agency have been working overtime since Monday night to expand the capacity of the system that allows Virginians to register to vote online, and I am confident that the steps we have taken will provide an improved experience to people who use it.”
The Virginia American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the crash “an avoidable crisis” and pressed the commonwealth to do better.
“The on-line registration system went ‘live’ with General Assembly approval in July 2013,” said a statement from the ACLU. “Nonetheless, in the ensuing three years, the Department has not received the funding for needed hardware and software upgrades nor has it developed the technical expertise needed to ensure that the online registration system is able to handle the predictable increase in usage in a presidential election year. …”
“The Commonwealth must do better, and the legislature needs to take action to ensure that the Department of Elections has the state funds it needs to operate, especially when in the not too far distant future when federal dollars are no longer available.”
The dangers of heroin use — a growing problem in Virginia and nationwide — are the topic of a talk by Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring Thursday at Herndon Middle School (901 Locust St, Herndon) at 6:30 p.m.
There will be a special free screening of “Heroin: The Hardest Hit,” a documentary that explores the heroin and prescription drug epidemic and its effects on Virginians.
Herring will be joined by Town of Herndon’s Vice Mayor Jennifer Baker and Chief of Police Maggie DeBoard.
Heroin overdose fatalities in Virginia have more than doubled from 100 deaths in 2011 to 239 deaths in 2014, while an additional 547 Virginians died from prescription drug overdose in 2014, the movie materials say.
Between 2011 and 2013, every region of the state experienced an increase in heroin overdose fatalities. More Virginians were killed in 2014 by heroin and prescription opioid drug overdose than car crashes.
“There is not one corner of the Commonwealth untouched by heroin’s influence and destruction,” Herring said.
In response to this growing public health and public safety problem, Herring has launched a plan to combat heroin and prescription opiate abuse by creating and implementing partnerships and creative solutions for a complex problem.
This film is one example of the preventive and educational measures the Herring’s office is pursuing to make all Virginians — from teenagers to adults — more aware of the growing crisis involving heroin and prescription and the risks associated with dangerous drugs.
Virginia used to have several sales tax holidays, but legislation passed in the Commonwealth in 2015 has combined them into one weekend, Aug. 5 to 7 this year.
So, if you are in the market for school supplies, clothes, appliances or emergency preparedness items, you will save.
Here is what you need to know:
Consumers can purchase qualifying school supplies ($20 or less per item); clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item); hurricane and emergency preparedness products ($60 or less per item)l and Energy Star and WaterSense appliances ($2,500 or less per item) without paying sales tax.
Clothing and school supplies: Items such as backpacks, calculators, lunch boxes, disinfectant wipes and tissues are exempt. So are shoes, belts, bathing suits and diapers. See this extensive list from the Virginia Department of Taxation for what is and is not included.
Qualifying Energy Star™ Items: dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, light bulbs, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators are tax exempt. WaterSense items include bathroom sink faucets, faucet accessories such as aerators and shower heads, toilets, urinals, and landscape irrigation controllers. See this list of what is and is not included.
Emergency and Hurricane Preparedness: Qualifying items include portable generators ($1,000 or less per item: gas-powered chainsaws ($350 or less per item); chainsaw accessories ($60 or less per item). Other items for $60 or less include batteries, smoke detectors, duct tape, bottled water and first aid kits. See a list of items.
When Hillary Clinton selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Thursday evening, it marked the first time since Woodrow Wilson that a Virginian is on the national ticket.
Virginia may be the mother of presidents — it’s had eight, more than any other state — just not in 100 years or so. And the last vice president from Virginia was John Tyler, who served for 30 days and then was vaulted to president upon the death of William Henry Harrison.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 23, 2016
Kaine, 58, has represented Virginia in the U.S Senate since 2012. Prior to that he served as Virginia governor (2006-10) and Mayor of Richmond. He has a law degree from Harvard and spent a year as a Catholic missionary in Honduras (where he learned to speak fluent Spanish). He is also a former Democratic National Committee Chairman.
Kaine’s early legal career was spent in Richmond, representing clients in fair housing and racial discrimination cases. His attention to civil rights is one factor that makes him “a Reston kind of guy,” says Virginia Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston).
“Tim Kaine is a Reston kind of guy,” said Plum. “He made his mark early on in civil rights litigation. The kind of things our community stands for are the kind of things Tim Kaine stands for.”
Kaine and Clinton spoke together last week at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale.
Kaine has made many appearances in Reston in recent years. He sat next to Reston founder Bob Simon at Simon’s 100th birthday celebration in April of 2014. He praised Simon as a visionary in creating an integrated new town in a divided south.
“In 1964, when Reston opened, discrimination was rampant and legal,” Kaine said that day at Lake Anne Plaza. “It wasn’t until 1968 that the federal Fair Housing Act was passed. It wasn’t until 1971 that the Virginia General Assembly passed the South’s first fair housing law. Bob [Simon] was a real visionary.
“When we look at Virginia history since World War II, Bob should be one of the five or six individuals [we talk about]. Bob took a state that was facing backward and turned it facing forward.”
Kaine also spoke at Simon’s celebration of life last April. Read More
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive directive Wednesday instructing state transportation officials to facilitate the creation and staffing of a Metro Safety Commission.
The commission will have the authority to oversee compliance with safety directives at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Executive Directive 8 also instructs the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to review all accident investigations related to the Metrorail system, to inspect public and nonpublic areas of the system, and to assess the state of repair for all trains, tracks and other infrastructure.
“Our administration has been a constant advocate for stronger safety protections for the commuters who use the Metrorail system each day, including more than 300,000 Virginians,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “We concur with the direction of the new leadership at WMATA and its work to ensure that safety is the central goal of the Metrorail system. By establishing the Metro Safety Commission and collaborating with our partners in Maryland and the District of Columbia, we are putting in place the necessary policies and oversight to ensure that safety continues to be the top priority.” Read More
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) January 21, 2016
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency for Virginia because of the winter storm expected to slam the region tomorrow and Saturday.
McAuliffe declared the state of emergency around 8 a.m. Thursday to allow Virginia businesses, residents and officials to prepare for the impending snow, and urged them to prepare right away.
“Keeping Virginians safe in the event of severe weather is our top concern – that is why Virginia began preparing for severe winter weather yesterday by ordering more than 500 vehicles out to pretreat roads in Northern Virginia,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “All Virginians should take the threat of this storm seriously and take necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period.”
A Blizzard Watch was issued by the National National Weather Service Wednesday, well in advance of the storm that could bring up to two feet of snow in Reston.
The Blizzard Watch begins Friday at noon and will be in effect until Sunday morning. The NWS says to expect 40 mph winds and below-freezing temperatures.
Virginia road crews were not as vigilant Wednesday night, when an inch or two fell in DC and Northern Virginia, snarling traffic on main roads for hours.
Virginia officials issued the following tips for staying safe during the storm (after the jump).
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
These are two of many new laws that go into effect in Virginia July 1.
Among the new laws:
Social media: Employers cannot ask employees or prospective employees for the username and passwords of social media accounts. Virginia is the 19th state to enact password protection legislation.
Breastfeeding: Women can breastfeed anywhere the mother is lawfully present. Virginia was one of only three states with no such protections, making it possible to kick a mom out of a public place for feeding her child.
Campus sex assault: There are several measures related to campus sex assault violence that will go into effect. They include requiring campus police departments to notify local prosecutors within 48 hours of starting any investigation into possible felony sexual assault and requiring university registrars to put a note on the transcripts of any student who is suspended, expelled or withdraws from school for reasons related to an offense involving sexual violence.
Medical marijuana: The law allows epilepsy patients who have a doctor’s note to use cannabis oil for treatment.
State song: Virginia will now have two official state songs. The official traditional song is “Our Great Virginia” and the official popular song is “Sweet Virginia Breeze.”
Police drones: The law requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant for use of unmanned aircraft systems.
Traffic: Drivers can cross double yellow lines in order to pass pedestrians and cyclists safely.
Hemp: Farmers can now grow industrial hemp as part of a university-managed research program.
A rocket that was scheduled to take off from the Virginia coast Tuesday night exploded on the launch pad, several news sources reported.
CNN reports that no one was injured in the unmanned rocket.
“There was failure on launch,” NASA spokesman Jay Bolden told CNN. “There was no indicated loss of life.”
The launch was set to carry some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.
Orbital Science’s Antares rocket was originally scheduled to take off Monday at 6:45 p.m. from Wallops Island, Va., and its track would have been visible from Reston and other East Coast areas. Monday’s launch was delayed due to a boat in the area.
NASA officials are trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
NASA will be offering more info, including video and a news conference on its website.
Photo: NASA via YouTube
The growth of the region has come primarily from people moving here from other states or countries. Survey downstate Virginians and you will find many not wanting to travel here much less move here. Most will cite traffic as their main objection, but clearly there are differences in lifestyle and perspectives across the regions of the Commonwealth.
For those who move here and live here for a short time or even for decades, there are many questions about the state — its history, traditions, politics, and culture.
I often get questions directed to me as an elected official who is a native Virginian and student of her history. Periodically, I teach a course on Virginia history at the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) of George Mason University at its Reston location at the United Christian Parish.
This week, I just started a new class that I have entitled “What is it about Virginia?” Once again most of the students are “come heres.” Even though as retirees they may have lived here for a long period of time, they still have questions about the state, its history, its impact nationally, and its people.
First there is the history. As Ronald Heinemann and his co-authors described it in their book Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia 1607-2007 (University of Virginia Press, 2007):
“Four centuries of remarkable history. Site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Home of the first representative assembly in America. Landing place of the first Africans in the Chesapeake, whose heirs were among the first to be enslaved on the plantations of British North America. Birthplace of the great generation of founders, who led the Revolution and created a brilliant constitutional order, four of whom were among the first five presidents of the new republic. Mother of presidents. Mother of states. The state whose territory was the scene of much of the critical fighting of the Civil War…The Commonwealth of Virginia — the Old Dominion — was without peer in the first two-and-a-half centuries of American history.”
Then came the matter of being on the wrong side of the Civil War and the move “to a defensive, tradition-bound, inward-looking, and different version of American development (1820-1960) and back again to a progressively conservative society in the late twentieth century” to today when President Obama wins the state twice, all five statewide elected officials are Democrats, and the General Assembly is controlled by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.
The major themes that play throughout Virginia history — change and continuity, a conservative political order, race and slavery, economic development, social divisions, and geographic diversity help to make Virginia a fascinating topic for discussion. I hope my students will enjoy the class as much as I am sure that I will, and I hope someday to be able to talk with you about Virginia.
Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Reston Now.
Virginia’s first governor, Patrick Henry, was elected to four one-year terms. Henry’s reputation as a leader was well established before he became governor with his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech made in St. John’s Church in Richmond before the Revolution.
Virginians honored his memory about a decade ago when the renovated Library of Virginia/Supreme Court building was named the Patrick Henry Building and became the office location for the governor and his staff and cabinet secretaries.
Henry would have been proud when one of the former reading rooms converted to a public meeting room was the scene last week of a press conference by Gov. Terry McAuliffe announcing his plan to expand Medicaid to the extent that he could within the constraints of the law.
Henry in his day railed against oppression and taxation without representation. McAuliffe spoke on behalf of Virginians who are paying billions of dollars in taxation while the legislature is refusing to act on a plan that would bring that money back to the Commonwealth to provide health insurance to the poorest working people.
I went to the Governor’s press conference last week as a way to demonstrate my support for the actions he is taking to expand Medicaid. Because of legal constraints, his plan is modest. It extends coverage to about 25,000 persons who do not have health insurance including 20,000 Virginians with serious mental illnesses.
The number eligible for health insurance under the federal programs is 400,000, but to reach that number requires an act of the legislature. In the meantime, the Governor has instituted a program to aggressively enroll eligible persons in the federal insurance marketplace.
“While the plan that I am announcing today will do a lot of good for a lot of people, it does not solve the larger problem of providing health insurance coverage to low-income Virginians,” the Governor said. “The General Assembly has made it perfectly clear that they unequivocally are the ones that have the power to expand and close the coverage gap. With that power also comes responsibility.”
The General Assembly is scheduled to go back into special session on Sept. 18 to discuss Medicaid expansion. Neither the Republican leadership that controls the House or the Senate’s Republican majority has indicated a willingness to approve any kind of expansion of health benefits. Rather, they continue to follow the direction of the Koch Brothers-financed Americans for Prosperity and their Tea Party constituents to refuse to accept anything related to what they call Obamacare.
The insanity of refusing to take $5 million a day of Virginia taxpayer monies while thousands go without insurance coverage defies a reasonable explanation.
As Governor McAuliffe clearly stated, it is up to the legislature. I bet Patrick Henry would have been even more forceful; we have taxation of Virginians to support health insurance programs in other states but not ourselves!
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, sign up for a webinar at Innovate Virginia.
Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Reston Now.