Delegate, 45th District
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Incumbent since: 1982
Occupation: Artist, with studio at The Torpedo Factory Art Center
Previous Employment: University public relations; writer, U.S. Public Health Service; press aide/speech writer, Capitol Hill; Projects Director, Alexandria Bicentennial Commission; Director, Torpedo Factory Art Center; Director, Alexandria Volunteer Bureau.
Community Ties: Proposed Torpedo Factory Art Center and was first Director; Founding Director Alexandria Volunteer Bureau; past president Upper King St. Neighborhood Assn.; past president Torpedo Factory Artists Association; former vice chair, Alexandria Democratic Committee; former Board Member, Alexandria Symphony, the Athenaeum, Lee-Fendall House; member NAACP; etc.
Current Endorsements: 2003 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Virginia Education from Va. Assn. of School Superintendents; "Top of the Class" Fairfax Co. Council of PTAs;Legislative Hero Award in 2000 and 2003 from League of Conservation Voters; Delegate of the Year, 2001, Virginia Transit Assn.; Sierra Club, 2003; Virginia NOW (National Organization for Women), 2003.
1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?
Top Public Service Accomplishment: Omnibus Education Act of 1995.
2. Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn’t voters blame you for current problems in your district?
Last Session: Chief Sponsor of Legislation to move the Democratic Presidential Primary to February, 2004. (Note: I carried a light legislative load in 2003 because I had an operation for colon cancer in early Dec. 2002 and started chemotherapy at the Medical College of Virginia Massey Cancer Clinic during Session in January. I missed only one floor session, however, and almost no votes.) I believe my constituents understand that I did not cause the fiscal woes of the state that have caused so many problems. I have tried to be a voice of fiscal conservatism while protecting education and vital services. If there is blame, it should be focused on the irresponsible actions of the new Republican majority and the previous two Republican gubernatorial administrations.
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.
Five Problems: 1. Local Governments are too dependent on property taxes. We must give them more tax options so they can reduce this dependency. 2. Sharply rising housing costs. This is a regional problem spurred by high demand and there is very little state legislators can do about it. 3. Traffic Congestion. We must fund more mass transit options and encourage better land use near transportation nodes. 4. Public Schools challenged by very diverse student bodies need more financial assistance to help at risk students, English as a Second Language students and those in Special Education. I instituted state funding for ESL students 15 years ago through budget amendments. In 2003, Del. Dillard and I sponsored legislation to codify this support. 5. Flooding. The lower Old Town Alexandria business area and the BelleView/New Alexandria residential area and shopping center need additional protection. We should explore funding sources for flood control.
4. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?
Qualifications: B.A., M.A. Degrees, Political Science, Emory University; more than 20 years on-the-job legislative experience. Senior member of Appropriations Committee with experience and knowledge of state finances and programs who can help safeguard vital programs and support Gov. Warner in meeting the needs of our citizens for public education, higher education, health and human services, our environment, homeland security and transportation needs.
5. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?
Distinguish from Opponent: I understand state government, have good relations with other legislators and support staff, as well as with local governments, and, most importantly, with a wide range of citizens in my district.
6. What is one thing you promise not to do if elected?
If re-elected, I promise NOT to vote for anything that will make the state's fiscal condition worse in the long run in order to achieve short-term political benefit.
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?
Budget Prediction: We will be faced with a deficit of at least $1 billion (following cuts of $6 billion over the past two years). I believe that we will have to reform the tax system to make it more equitable and to support the investments in infrastructure and people necessary for a growing state.
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.
Transportation: We must invest more in mass transit in general and I would like Northern Virginians to begin seriously planning mass transit to parallel the Beltway. This could be rapid bus transit, light rail, or metro rail. I served on the panel which has proposed rapid bus transit for Potomac Yard.
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? What are the important features of "smart growth," and can more emphasis on smart growth help offset some of the effects of suburban development?
"Smart Growth": Yes, I believe "smart growth" planned around transit nodes can ease transportation problems. However, as long as many families prefer a suburban life with large lawns and low density, sprawl will continue with its attendant transportation problems caused by too many cars making too many trips. Greater coordination between jurisdictions in land use/transportation planning would be an enormous help.
10. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc.
Pollution: Air pollution is particularly acute during summer ozone alerts; this is a regional problem. Another local problem is old coal burning power plants, which need much better pollution control technology. Very small particulate matter from these plants can travel deep into the lungs. We should be purchasing and setting aside more public open space, but I do not see this happening as long as there are major budget problems. In the meantime, much may be lost.
11. Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of "homeland security" with other safety and quality of life issues?
Homeland Security: Virginia is a state with many potential targets and I do not know that there is any way to measure our safety. The Federal Government has been slow in providing money and assistance. I am on the new Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee of the House.
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?
Patriot Act and Civil Liberties: Yes, I have many concerns about civil liberties and public access to information flowing from the Patriot Act. It invokes an atmosphere that recalls the Red Scares of the 1950s.
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?
Local Wage Workers contribute in a vital way to our local economy, but it is almost impossible for them to survive financially in our high-cost region. For the past 8 years I have gotten funding for the Arlandria Clinic which serves mostly Hispanic mothers and their babies. Every year I also work for funding for prevention of homelessness, shelters for the homeless shelters, and transitional housing.
14. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?
Taxing Powers: Yes, counties should have the same taxing powers as cities.
15. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for cigarettes?
Appropriate Tax Rate for Tobacco Products: Much higher than the present!
16. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for gasoline?
Gas Tax: At least 5 cents more.
17. How would you restructure the tax code in Virginia?
Restructuring the Tax Code: As you know, there is a special legislative committee working on recommendations, and Gov. Warner has also said he will develop recommendations. I will await the options they present, and then make my decisions based on what I believe represents the most equitable mix.
18. How should income taxes be collected and distributed locally?
Tax Collection and Distribution: Approximately half of our present state budget goes to local governments for everything from schools to courts, health departments, and social services. I am not sure that "earmarking" a percentage of a particular tax will help unless it involves a significant increase of state funding over and above what is currently funded. A shell game of reducing present distributions and "giving" local governments a share of some state tax may not help.
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.
Taxes and Property Values: To help localities be less reliant on property taxes, we must give them other taxing options. To put a cap on property taxes without providing other options would cause local governments even more problems. It is akin to what we have done to colleges and universities: cut state funding and then try to limit their ability to raise tuitions to cover the deficit....while insisting they educate our youths!
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?
Clout of Northern Va. Legislators in Richmond: We are still only 25% of the General Assembly and we are not as united as we were 20 years ago. The inner Beltway communities have different priorities from the outer suburbs. I vividly remember Loudoun Co. legislators opposing increasing the sales tax for schools....even though the County needed 24 new schools!
21. Do you favor the repeal of the Dillon Rule? Why or Why not?
Repeal of Dillon Rule: The Dillon Rule restricts the powers of localities to those that are specifically given to them by the state legislature. I do not expect the Dillon rule to be changed because its demise would reduce state authority. Virginia is already a patchwork quilt of local powers and I believe that this would be made worse by repeal of the Dillon rule.
22. What is right and wrong with Virginia's current laws governing
abortion? Would you support any changes?
Abortion Rights: I support a woman's right to choose. I am deeply disturbed by attempts last Session to limit access to contraception -- the true aim of many social conservatives.
23. Would you support allowing localities to ban weapons from public
Guns in Public Buildings: I absolutely favor banning guns in public facilities.
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?
School Funding: I support upgrading the Standards of Quality by which the state funds its share of school costs as recommended by the State Board of Education -- and which was based on the 2001 report of the Joint Legislative Review Commission (JLARC). I am on the Public Education Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and a former subcommittee chair.
25. How would you rate the Standards of Learning tests and what improvements still need to be made?
Standard of Learning (SOL) Tests: Because children have different learning styles and developmental stages, it is wiser to use a variety of measurements, not just SOL tests. I have been concerned about "teaching to the test" since the accountability fad began. Now the Federal Government has come up with an even worse testing program, and those who supported the SOLs are complaining about the inadequacies of No Child Left Behind.
26. Should local school boards be allowed to ban all weapons on school property?
Banning Weapons at Schools: Yes!
27. Characterize the crisis 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.
Higher Education Funding: Our first priority must be to restore operating funds cut during the last biennium. We are $350 million a year below the state's own standards of what is needed. Between 2003 and 2010, Virginia high schools will graduate 33,000 more college-bound students than are currently enrolled in our institutions. Northern Virginia Community College just opened a new campus dedicated to educating professionals in the allied health professions, including nurses. The campus is planned for 3,000 students but operating funds are limiting the initial student body to 500. Very, very short-sighted.