Jim Mitchell, State Senate, District 37

Jim Mitchell, State Senate, District 37

Office sought: State Senate

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous offices held; please include dates:

Incumbents: when elected to this position:

Occupation: President, Metropolitan Title and Escrow Company

Current employment (include name and address of employers): 14151 Newbrook Drive, Suite 250, Chantilly, VA 20151

Previous employment

Education: (please list schools attended, degrees and dates) Juris Doctor, American University, Washington College of Law, 1983; B.A., State University of New York at Albany, 1980.

Community ties: Currently, Vice-President, Westfield High School Theatre Boosters, Board of Directors; Centreville Community Foundation; Co-Founder, Westfields Club; Co-Chair, Centreville Strategic Planning Task Force; Previous, Chairman, Sully District, Boy Scouts of America; West Fairfax County Citizens Association, Land Use Committee; President, Rock Hill Civic Association.

List a few current endorsements you are most proud of: Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics; Fairfax Education Association; RENEW Virginia Schools

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Serving six years as a Scoutmaster to Centreville Scout Troop 1137, bringing values and leadership training to dozens of young men between the ages of 10 and 18.

2. Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn't voters blame you for current problems in your district?

3. What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them? Describe one challenge (or more) in your district that is different than in other parts of the state.

A. Transportation gridlock. I support public/private partnerships to provide for the construction of HOT lanes to expand some local highways. I also support the acquisition of a site for a future Centreville Metro station, now, before the last optimal site is lost to development. Ultimately, I support extending Metro to Centreville.

B. School Construction. Westfield High, only three years old, has fourteen classroom trailers. We have once again lagged behind growth in building our public schools. I proposed six years ago that the County utilize a public/private partnership that would have a private company build a new school and lease it back to the County, avoiding a bond initiative for that particular project. I believe this problem is somewhat unique to Western Fairfax County.

C. Full State funding for SOQs. If Virginia fully funded the Standards of Quality for public education within Fairfax County, our real estate taxes could probably be decreased while our school system could continue to excel. This would allow for increasing teacher salaries and reducing class size.

D. Proper funding of State Colleges and Universities. Because out of state students pay so much more than in state students, and we have lagged behind in spending for our public colleges and universities, our well qualified Fairfax County applicants are being passed over in favor of an ever-increasing out of state population. This forces Fairfax parents to send their children out of state or to private colleges. This is a hidden tax on the parents of Fairfax County. We need to provide for a dedicated funding source for public colleges, and provide for their expansion.

E. Revenue Restructuring to provide real estate tax relief. Real Estate taxes have climbed by double digit numbers for over three consecutive years in Fairfax County. This is because real estate taxes are the only viable source of revenue for local government. We need to re-work the way revenue is collected in Virginia to enable residential real estate tax relief, especially for those on fixed incomes

4. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

I am a consensus builder. I will focus on practical issues affecting our real quality of life and not get bogged down on a social agenda designed to appease an active minority of constituents.

5. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?

I am a proven consensus builder. I know how to work with a variety of people with different view points and bring them together. My opponent has thus far been unable to work effectively in Richmond. He alienated the Republican chairs of the Education and Finance Committees, and the Republican Floor Leader, by initiating primary challenges to all three of them. I do not see how he can now be effective when these three powerful Senators have been so obviously antagonized. He is so focused on making abortion illegal even in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, that he is unable to work with other legislators in solving our every day problems. He is not supportive of public education. I am a strong supporter of public education, as my record demonstrates.

6. What is one thing you promise not to do if elected? Not to reduce funding for public education for K-12.

7. What do you predict for the one-to-two year future of the budget and what adjustments will you propose to prepare for your prediction? What impact is this likely to have on your constituents? I believe given the current condition of the economy we can expect our budget to continue to have shortfalls. I agree with the Governor and legislative leaders that revenue collection in Virginia was designed in the distant past and now needs to be modernized. My hope is that this process will not continue to unfairly burden the taxpayers of Northern Virginia.

8. What specific solutions will you propose for the transportation dilemma? Please address funding, prioritization, air quality, bus service and other non-rail public transportation solutions, expansion of rail service, and any other possible approach. As stated, I support the construction of HOT lanes by private companies to expand some existing highways. I support the construction of a new Potomac River crossing somewhere in Eastern Loudoun County. I support funding the extension of Metro to Centreville, and rail to Dulles Airport, and the use of Bus Rapid Transit until both of these can become a reality. Air quality will improve when we can reduce the amount of time drivers spend stuck in gridlock and when we expand our rail service.

9. Do local governments have the tools they need to control and guide growth? How will state and local governments cope with the additional demand for services that comes with additional residential construction? Can more emphasis on smart growth help offset some of the effects of suburban development? Growth in my District is nearly complete. There are really no remaining large tracts in Western Fairfax County. We face problems in the future due to the increased traffic that will be created by development in Northern Prince William and Southeastern Loudoun Counties. I do support giving those jurisdictions additional reasonable tools for managing growth.

10. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc. I believe that pressure will increase over the next few years to develop that portion of Fairfax County which was rezoned twenty years ago to protect the Occoquan Watershed. This area must continue to be protected from intense development in order to protect the quality of our drinking water. I will oppose any effort to change this zoning. I realize this is a County issue, but as a Senator, I would speak out against any effort by the County to amend the zoning in the RC District. This zoning not only protects water quality, but has allowed for significant open space in this part of the County. Thousand of acres of land have come under the control of the County Park Authority and will be preserved for the benefit of all.

11. Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of "homeland security" with other safety and quality-of-life issues?

On the State and County level we need to do a better job of protecting our infrastructure from possible sabotage. The recent County water system problems after the hurricane only pointed out how vulnerable our utility distribution system would be to an organized attack. Better back-up systems need to be developed.

12. Do you have any concerns about civil liberties and public access to information in the wake of the Patriot Act and other responses to Sept. 11?

First of all this is primarily a Federal issue. Having said that, I believe that some individuals have had their rights threatened by overzealous Federal investigators. I do however believe that the Federal government has a great responsibility to protect all of us from terrorist attacks.

13. Working poor families in Northern Virginia face a daunting cost of living, with little in the way of affordable housing, health care, child care and transportation. Are low-wage workers important to the local economy? Obviously low-wage workers are important to any vibrant service economy. What do you propose to address the needs of these families?

We need to encourage more employers to get involved in child care issues, and this County desperately needs to improve its current affordable housing program. There are no easy solutions to this issue, but the current system is not solving the problem for anyone.

14. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities? I strongly support the idea that all localities should have the same powers.

15. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for cigarettes? At the very least cigarettes should be taxed at the same rate as all other goods sold in Virginia.

16. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for gasoline? I do not know what the appropriate rate is, but I can only support a reasonable increase if it is dedicated to the transportation trust fund.

17. How would you restructure the tax code in Virginia? More progressive forms of taxation need to be utilized in order to bring real relief to those paying residential real estate taxes, since this is the most regressive form of taxation we have in Virginia. I am open to all alternatives for revenue restructuring and have no other preconceptions.

18. Should income taxes be collected and distributed locally? Probably, to some extent, but obviously only as part of a thorough reorganization of taxation in Virginia.

19. What proposals do you have for mitigating the effects of soaring property values and related taxes? Do you endorse the 5 percent cap on property tax increases? If you support a cap on property tax increases, please name at least one service provided by state or local government that you currently use that you would be prepared to live without. Please see my answer to number 17. I DO NOT SUPPORT THE GIMMICK OF A FIVE PERCENT CAP. Real tax relief can only occur if an alternative source of revenue is developed for local governments.

20. After redistricting, Northern Virginia now has a critical mass in the General Assembly, but so far that doesn't appear to have translated into additional political clout for the region. Why? Regional and partisan squabbling is still the rule of the day in Richmond. Too many members of the Northern Virginia delegation are ideologues dedicated to furthering an extremist social agenda rather than working to solve everyday practical problems. What will you do to increase the influence of Northern Virginia in Richmond? I would favor fostering regional cooperation and avoiding divisive social issues.

21. Would you favor the repeal of the Dillon Rule? Why or Why not? I would at least support reducing the scope of the Dillon Rule. I do believe that business wants and needs some consistency in laws and regulations, but that must be balanced against more local government control, which I believe is only fair.

22. What is right and wrong with Virginia's current laws governing abortion? Would you support any changes? I support Virginia's current laws, including the ban on partial birth abortions and parental permission. I believe that the parental permission law should be changed to delete the requirement for notarization. I believe that a parent dealing with this intensely private family problem should not be forced to go before a constitutional officer of the Commonwealth to grant their permission.

23. Would you support allowing localities to ban weapons from public buildings? YES.

24. The state provides only a fraction of the funding for local schools that it should given requirements under the "Standards of Quality." How would you address this? During revenue restructuring, a dedicated source of revenue must be found to allow the state to fully meet its legal obligations to fund the SOQs.

25. How would you rate the Standards of Learning tests and what improvements still need to be made?

I feel that much progress has been made by our schools in preparing students for these exams, but it has altered our teaching. Instead of preparing students for life, we are preparing them for SOL tests. I would favor less restrictive testing procedures and practices.

26. Should local school boards be allowed to ban all weapons on school property? YES.

27. Characterize the financial situation in Virginia institutions of higher learning and what efforts you recommend in the General Assembly to shore up the quality of Virginia's public colleges and universities.

Our out of state acceptance rates have climbed dramatically due to the unfortunate recent in- state tuition cap. This has forced many of our otherwise qualified Northern Virginia applicants to attend private college or attend out of state. This is a hidden tax on the parents of these students which has cost many families thousands of dollars. We need to increase the capacity of many of our public colleges and universities, and we need to provide more state funding to allow less reliance on out of state tuition revenue.