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Votes

Ron Christian, State Senate, District 34

Office sought: State Senate, 34th District

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous offices held; please include dates: N/A

Incumbents: when elected to this position:

Occupation: Non-profit director

Current employment: Lutheran Housing Services, Inc., Fairfax, VA (include name and address of employers):

Previous employment: Lutheran Social Services of Northern Virginia

Education: BA, Luther College, 1961; Bachelor of Divinity, Luther Theological Seminary, 1965; Doctor of Ministry, Luther Theological Seminary, 1979

Community ties: I have deep roots in Fairfax County.  For more than 30 years I have been involved in my community not only as a coach and PTA member, but in a variety of leadership positions. Currently, I am vice-chairman of the Housing Authority, chair of Faith Communities in Action, a Hospice Board member, and a member of the County’s Coordinating Council on Long Term Care. I also have been a church pastor.

List a few current endorsements you are most proud of: I am proud that the Fairfax County Council of PTAs has rated me as “Top of the Class.” These are parents deeply concerned about the education of their children. Also, I am proud of the support and endorsement of hundreds of individual voters—Democrats and Republicans—who have encouraged me to run for State Senate, contributed financially to the campaign, and volunteered to reach out to other voters to get my message out. Many endorsements by large groups have strings attached, so it is gratifying that there is a strong grassroots movement of voters who have enthusiastically backed my candidacy and are not tied to special interests.

1.   What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Helping to provide hundreds of families, seniors and disabled residents of Fairfax County with decent and affordable housing.

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?

Transportation and traffic problems; sustaining a quality educational system, K through university; tax reform and tax fairness; ensuring services and affordable housing for seniors and disabled persons, and protection of the environment. The approach I will take will be consistent with they way I have helped to solve community problems over the years—bringing people together, being proactive, responsible and responsive.

Describe one challenge (or more) in your district that is different than in other parts of the state.

In Fairfax County we face enormous challenges to have the tools, financially and politically, to govern effectively to solve traffic problems, support quality education and provide tax relief for property owners. Despite 6 years in office in a legislature controlled by my opponent’s party we are not better off. It’s time for a change in leadership.

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

I have an extensive record of proven community leadership. I will bring that experience, as well as trustworthiness and integrity to the State Senate. I believe my years of helping to solve real community problems in cooperation with people of different political views, different faiths, and ethnic backgrounds will be an important asset in getting results in Richmond.

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

My agenda is simple: dedicated service to the people of Fairfax County. I have been involved in solving real problems in the community for 30 years. Being a politician is not a career goal. Rather, it is, and will be, an extension of the life I have lived in service to others.

6.    What is one thing you promise not to do if elected?

I can promise that I will not abandon the State Senate to run for higher office and will be a strong partner to Gov. Warner in achieving the goals he has set in the areas of education, transportation, and tax reform.

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?

The State has weathered recent problems creatively but it is likely there will be budget hardships in the next 1-2 years. Tax reform and broadening the tax base will be needed but if properly managed could actually ease the burdens on homeowners. Increasing the “rainy-day” fund will be required to protect our AAA bond rating. All of us need to understand that these solutions will take fiscal discipline.

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.

I believe that every moment citizens are needlessly stuck in traffic is time taken away from their families and from other meaningful activities. Inefficient transportation is costly, adversely affects our local economy and reduces the quality of life. Priorities: rail to Dulles and non-rail approaches such as BRT to move people cost effectively and quickly; reforming VDOT to be more accountable and efficient; changing the state transportation funds allocation formula to give greater consideration and emphasis to congestion factors and prioritizing use of new technologies including traffic light synchronization and Smart Tag/EZ Pass compatibility.

9.   Do local governments have the tools they need to control and guide growth?

Given the long-standing protections afforded property owners and the historic difficulty controlling growth at the local level in Virginia, the answer is they have but limited power. 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? Yes. Land use planning and transportation must be aligned and should include extension of Metro service.

10. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc.

First priority: we must gain control over our air quality. This links directly to increased efficiency and improvements in the transportation system. Open space must be preserved—this is not just an esthetic value but a health matter. Protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is critical. There must be no weakening of regulations protecting the Bay.

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

I believe our public safety personnel are providing the highest quality safety possible for our citizens. This is a constant challenge and they should be equipped with the resources and funding to fully protect our citizens. To do any less would be irresponsible.

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?

Yes. I believe some of the provisions are well-meaning and intended to offer more latitude in protecting us but it appears it may put the very liberties we want to protect in peril. This is a federal law, of course, and our Congressional leaders need to be mindful of the potential dangers.

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? What do you propose to address the needs of these families?

Low-wage workers are vitally important. They are the backbone of many of our small and mid-sized businesses and contribute to our region’s vibrant economy despite recent downturns. Our tax structure and social programs should be designed in a way that will provide a reasonable measure of assistance to allow these families to thrive in our community. I have fought for years to build more affordable housing and support health coverage for all children under seven. Subsidized day care and improved mass transit will help such families and many others as well.

14. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?

Yes.

15. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for cigarettes?

At 2.5 cents, Virginia’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the country; the national average is 73 cents. So, doubling it to 9 cents is more than reasonable and even some Republican leaders are suggesting a state-wide tax of 30 cents per pack. With the tax reform effort under way, it may be too early to pin down an amount but the cigarette tax should be raised.

16. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for gasoline?

The current rate appears to be adequate.

17. How would you restructure the tax code in Virginia?

Carefully. This will take great GA discipline, bipartisan cooperation and recognition that some sacrifice is likely to be involved. Decisions will have to transcend the usual narrow interests, and legislators will have to focus on the greatest good for all.

18. Should income taxes be collected and distributed locally?

No.

19. What proposals do you have for mitigating the effects of soaring property values and related taxes?

Tax reform is required, as well as broadening the tax base, and we need a fairer share of state dollars for our schools. There is too heavy a dependency on property taxes and homeowners deserve relief.

Do you endorse the 5 percent cap on property tax increases?

No. However, this is a local, not a State decision. 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.

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? What will you do to increase the influence of Northern Virginia in Richmond?

Ensure that there is a unified Northern Virginia delegation in sync with the Governor. The Republican leadership has not delivered and a new direction is needed.

21. Would you favor the repeal of the Dillon Rule? Why or why not?

Yes because it is an outdated concept that fails to help a large and growing jurisdiction such as Fairfax County manage its affairs.

22. What is right and wrong with Virginia’s current laws governing abortion? Would you support any changes?

I don’t foresee changes to current law. However, I support privacy and reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose.

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

Yes. This is a matter of public safety.

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?

Standards are important and necessary to measure school results and provide accountability. But, State mandates should be properly funded. The governor has proposed full funding for the State Board of Education’s projection for Standards of Quality in the biennial budget. I support the Governor’s approach.

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

I support the Standards of Learning—they raise expectations for all and provide a means to measure students (and school) achievement. There are 2 issues: 1) teachers need support through professional development to help them teach the standards and 2) test scoring should be “disaggregated” to measure the progress of subgroups and used to help schools improve not punish them. Tests should not be the only measure of student and school success.  “Teaching to the test” is not the answer—education is more than testing.

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.

Virginia’s universities and colleges are struggling.  However, the Governor has committed to creating a budget to meet their financial needs. Additionally, there is potential for increased economic development through higher education. To help achieve greater economic benefits from higher education, the Governor’s “Education for a Lifetime” initiative will provide incentives for colleges to graduate more students (thereby increasing earning power) and to increase the amount of cutting edge research conducted at public universities and colleges. As State Senator I will work with the Governor to ensure that Virginia’s colleges and universities continue to be nationally-acclaimed institutions of higher learning.