Letter to the Editor on Highway Trash Cleanup

On Saturday, the newly combined West Springfield and Burke Rotary Clubs cleaned up trash on the Fairfax County Parkway, and I joined them to help out. (No, it was not court-ordered! We were just doing it because this is one of the Rotary’s local philanthropic projects.)

I have probably done almost 100 volunteer trash pickups, and every time I do it, this question comes to mind: What kind of person throws trash out of a car window? I don’t get it.

Here is a list of the things I had to pick up:

  • Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes (So, these cigarettes are so wonderful that people suck them into their lungs, but are so smelly and disgusting that the leftover butts can’t stay in the car?)
  • Aluminum soda cans
  • Beer bottles
  • Fast food meal bags
  • An American flag
  • A medical face mask
  • Frozen dinner packages
  • An empty airline bottle of liquor (I guess this person did not know drunk driving was against the law)
  • A “Vote for Meals Tax” road sign (I guess this person did not know that Supervisor Herrity and I made road signs illegal about five years ago)
  • A Pittsburg Steelers flag (A Redskins fan would never litter)
  • Halloween candy wrappers
  • A spit-filled water bottle with leftover chewing tobacco slime
  • Latex gloves
  • A box of fine wine (It probably wasn’t Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or have a Wine Spectator rating of 95)
  • A used adult diaper (I am not kidding)

I’m sorry to vent, but I just don’t get it. Maybe a reminder is in order here. Most people don’t know littering is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and that there are judges in Fairfax County who will literally send people to jail for it.

Thanks to the West Springfield and Burke Rotary members! You all help make Springfield the best place to live. Here’s a photo of me working with Ann Burton and Ed Robertson.

hwy-trash-cleanup

Rolling Road Turn Lane Options

I want to make you aware of an issue that has come up on Rolling Road re-design and ask for your comments.  Residents on Rolling Road want the project to include a mutual turn lane in the middle, and residents who do not live on Rolling seem to want a raised median with cut outs for turn lanes.

Maybe a picture describes this idea better.  Here is a picture of a road with a mutual turn lane:

two-way-lane-4

Here is a picture of a road with raised medians with cut outs for turn lanes:

median-road

To me, the raised medians are much more attractive aesthetically. But safety is most important.  Having oncoming traffic without a barrier, in my opinion, is a safety concern. The raised medians provide the barrier, and the cut outs for the turn lanes get turning cars out of the way so passing traffic can proceed through.

The raised medians will increase the width of the road by 15 feet at its widest point.  The mutual turn lanes increase the width by 12 ft.  But if we make the bike paths go from 10 feet to 8 feet, the impact of the raised medians will only be 1 foot.  While taking an extra foot of our Rolling Road neighbors’ property is not desired, it is my opinion that it is worth it to improve the safety of the roadway.

This is why I am e-mailing you. VDOT has received written requests from the people who want mutual turn lanes, but they have not received requests from people who want raised medians.  It is my impression that the vast majority of those who do not live on Rolling want raised medians with turn lanes, but I could be wrong. That is why I am writing.

Please log onto this site http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/rolling_rd_widening.asp and tell VDOT if you want the raised medians or the mutual turn lanes.  Even if you disagree with me, you should write.  I am not your Delegate to do what I want to do; I am elected to do what you want. Please let VDOT know what your preference is. You can email comments directly to VDOT at meetingcomments@vdot.virginia.gov.

Amendments to the Virginia Constitution

Recently I have been asked by many constituents to explain the two 2016 ballot proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  I will explain them, but I am not here to tell you how to vote.  A long time ago I learned that I am no smarter than my constituents.  In fact, at every meeting I go to, there is always one person who knows more than me on the topic I am explaining.  With that in mind, let me try to explain these amendments and both sides of the arguments for and against.

First, it may be useful to understand how an amendment gets on the ballot.  Other states have procedures where citizens can collect a number of signatures and get a proposed law on the ballot.  That is how marijuana has been legalized in many states.  In Virginia, all laws are passed by the General Assembly and not the public, except for Constitutional Amendments.  To get the Constitution amended, a bill must pass.  Then there must be an intervening election, and the exact same bill (not even a comma can be changed) has to be passed.  And then, it has to be voted on by a majority of the citizens voting in the next election.

We have two proposed amendments: (1)  Right to Work and (2) Allowing local governments to exempt property taxes for spouses of Police and Firefighters killed in the line of duty.

(1)  Right to Work

This amendment would guarantee in the Virginia Constitution a citizen’s right to hold a job without being required to join a labor union. For decades the Virginia Code has included a law which declares that no one can be forced to join a Labor Union (pay a fee) in order to work.  So, contrary to popular belief, Labor Unions are not illegal in Virginia.  The law simply means that union membership must be voluntary and not compulsory.

The practical effect of this is that Labor Unions have a great difficulty forming in Virginia because why would someone join a Union when others don’t have to join and pay?

Even though this concept is already in the law, this proposal seeks to move it to the Constitution so that it will be very difficult to repeal it.  (As stated earlier, to repeal, the same law would have to pass twice with an intervening election and then be approved at the ballot box).

Proponents say:

“There is also a practical issue. As you many know, many states are not right-to-work states. For many jobs in many parts of the country, people can be forced to join a labor union against their will just to hold a job. A nearby example of an organization that is not “right-to-work” is the  Metro.

When major businesses in the United States expand or relocate, a key factor in their consideration is locating in a place that has strong right-to-work laws. “By placing this provision in the state Constitution, Virginia would send a strong signal nationally that we want businesses to locate, expand, and create jobs in our state.”  (This is an excerpt of an e-mail written by Delegate Jim LeMunyon)

Opponents say:

“It is already in the Code.  This is just politics.”  Also, they point out that it is not fair that some people have to pay to get the benefits of being in a Union (e.g. negotiated wages and benefits with the government and private businesses), and others get to be “freeloaders” by getting the benefits without having to pay.

(2) Allowing local governments to exempt property taxes for spouses of Police and Firefighters killed in the line of duty.

This is not as controversial as the other amendment.  This proposed amendment allows, not requires, local governments to exempt from property tax the homes of a surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer or other emergency responder who is killed in the line of duty. A similar provision already exists for surviving spouses of members of the armed forces who are killed in the line of duty or are permanently disabled.

Proponents say that approval of this amendment is one way of showing our support for people who risk their lives every day to keep us safe.

Opponents don’t seem to be against this, but they point out that as more and more groups seek similar exemptions, our tax base begins to deteriorate.  And every person who gets exempted must have their share of taxes be made up by other citizens who have to pay property taxes.

I wanted to provide an explanation that is non-partisan and consists of just the facts.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  If you want my opinion, just e-mail me at  dave@davealbo.com and I would be happy to share it.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Budget Shortfall

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia’s budget shortfall is about $1.5 billion. The fiscal year 2016 budget shortfall is about $279 million, the fiscal year 2017 budget shortfall is about $564 million and the fiscal year 2018 budget shortfall is about $630 million. This is the result of a lagging economy that generated less tax revenue than expected. Our economy is replacing high paying full time jobs with lower paying part time jobs. However, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget. When the General Assembly returns to Richmond for Session in January, we will balance the budget. We will do this while working to preserve K-12 funding, protect our investments in higher-education, and maintain our commitment to fully-funding the state pension system. This shortfall backs the General Assembly’s decision not to expand Medicaid. It proves that Virginia cannot afford new long-term fiscal obligations like Medicaid expansion. Since 2008, the Republican-led General Assembly has closed three budget shortfalls totaling $8.6 billion without raising taxes. Over the last 15 years, Virginia has seen four budget shortfalls. But each time, we have met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

  • In 2008 we closed a $665.4 for FY2008 shortfall without raising taxes.
  • In 2009 and 2010 we closed a $6.1 billion shortfall for FY09-10 without raising taxes. Governor Tim Kaine’s plan to raise taxes did not receive a single vote in the legislature.
  • In 2014 we met in a special session to address an unexpected shortfall of $1.9 billion.

That being said, while budget shortfalls are never good, my fellow legislators and I have seen them before and we will work to balance this one just as efficiently as in previous years.

 

Special Olympics at SGCC

This past Sunday my son, Ben, and I volunteered at the Special Olympics Swim Meet at the Springfield Golf and Country Club.  The whole event was wonderful and I especially appreciated how it gave the Special Olympians the opportunity to swim competitively in relays and other events.  Ben and I had a fantastic time and you can be sure we will be volunteering again next year!Special Olympics Pic

LCAC Back to School Drive

Last week my staff and I dropped off backpacks and school supplies for the Lorton Community Action Center. Every year, before the school year starts, LCAC hosts a “Back to School” drive that collects backpacks and supplies to donate to students in need.  You can check out the backpack drive and other charity opportunities at: http://www.lortonaction.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=145&Itemid=152

West Springfield High School Renovation as Told by a Spartan

“I am a rising senior at West Springfield High School. I have a firsthand look of West Springfield and have been around the school before the renovation, and will have one year in school during the renovation. Being a resident of the area and having many siblings that have attended West Springfield, I have seen the school age, change, and become (in my opinion) more run down every year. A more detailed idea about the current state of the school would be that: in the school we have toilets that don’t always work or flush, moldy floor tiles that are rotting away, the air conditioning doesn’t always work or when it does it isn’t the desired temperature, many stairwells look rusted and have piles of garbage stuffed into the sides of the stair, a good amount of ceiling tiles had water damage on them from a leak in the pipes, many of the lockers were stuck closed and needed extra force to open them, the majority of the windows were stuck or needed a great force to wedge them open or close them, the turf field needed to be re-done because there was more turf than fake grass, and the overall structure and appearance of the school is lacking most times. That is why I am extremely excited that the school is in the process of being renovated.

WSHS will soon turn the tender age of 50 after being established in 1966. West Springfield was and will continue to be a diverse and happy community of individuals, but now it will actually have a real third floor (we always teased the freshmen that there was a secret pool on the third floor). The construction of the school will take approximately 3 years total ending in the year 2020. The planning begun a few years ago and was carefully planned out to the last detail, along with budgeting. The school wasn’t supposed to be renovated for a few more years but thanks to the help of our government officials, like Supervisor Pat Herrity and Dave Albo who brought the problem of our blighted school to light, our school board members who found the money to make it happen, and the taxpayers who are paying for it, the renovation process was moved forward, approved, and now is starting earlier than previously decided.

Renovations started by placing a trailer park outside of the school in the old practice field so the school could begin renovating and placement of a third floor onto the original structure. Due to the renovations, some sacrifices needed to be made. They had to remove a good number of trees that have been on the school’s land for a number of years, and there will be no parking lot for senior use next year. Sacrificing the trees, classrooms for trailers, and parking lot are all necessary actions that needed to be taken in order to give our school a proper makeover.

The main problems in the school that the renovations will be addressing are the fields, the structure of the building, the classrooms, the ceilings, floors, lockers, gyms, auditorium, parking lot, and an overall beautification of the school itself. An overview of what will happen to each aspect of the school is as follows. The field will get new turf, the score board will be replaced, there will be a new press box, they will build a third floor onto the school building and renovate the existing ones, expand the gyms, create equal sized lockers all around the school, install new floors and ceiling tiles, refurnish the classrooms, and, most importantly, they will install manual AC units and re-do the bathrooms (most of which are broken or are too unpleasant to go near). Pictures of the current state of WSHS are below.

Although it is great that the school is finally being renovated, and the protective coat of West Springfield filth will be lifted and replaced with a clean coat of paint, the spirit and great community of the school will always stay intact.”

Image

Virginia Thrasher, a West Springfield High School alumna, took home the first gold for the United States in the Women’s 10 Meter Air Rifle event! 

Thrasher Gold

How Road Repaving is Determined

I want to explain how all the roads in the state of Virginia are paved. There is a system in place that determines the roads, either primary or secondary, that need to be repaved. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) schedules roads to be repaved based on the condition of the roads and how heavy the daily traffic is on said road. For example, if a secondary road is classified as “Very Poor” it will have priority over a secondary road that is classified as “Poor” or “Fair”. The budget is mostly used for the primary roads every year because they are the roads drivers use the most every day. Only about 6-8% of secondary roads are able to be repaved with the remaining available funds.

Primary roads with higher daily traffic volumes, e.g. interstate and all roads beginning with a “1” (like 123) or a “2” (like 286, the Fairfax County Parkway), will always have priority over secondary roads (e.g. connector, residential, and neighborhood roads). It is a system of priorities that has a definite focus on helping as many people as possible within the boundaries of the budget.

For more information on VDOT’s paving schedule click here: http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northern_virginia/northern_virginia_paving_program.asp

To see the rating of your road, click here:  http://virginiaroads.org/Mapping/#PavementConditions

Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial: “Medicaid spending soars beyond projections – again”

In the General Assembly, there has been a long standing debate over whether Virginia should accept the “Obamacare” program where poor people who are of working age (19-64) should get free medical insurance via Medicaid.  The Federal Government is going to pay 90% of the bill.  Generally speaking, Democrats wanted to accept it and Republicans did not.  Democrats argued that it would be a nice thing to do and that the Federal Government is going to pay 90%.  Republicans, including me, (1) Pointed out that already all poor people who are 18 and under, 64 and older, disabled or pregnant already get Medicaid, (2) Agreed that it would be a nice thing to do, but (3) Argued that we cannot afford it.  We pointed out that if Virginia expanded Medicaid to include all poor people ages 19-64, just Virginia’s 10% share would cost $320 million per year.  And with Medicaid costs rising, in 10 years we would expect it to rise to $720 million/yr.

Here is an article to show you that our fears of rising Medicaid costs were not unfounded: http://www.richmond.com/opinion/our-opinion/article_bb21ce3b-5a13-5478-b9c4-016caf41cb17.html