0
Votes

Del. Mark Sickles (D-43)

AGE: 48

CAMPAIGN MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 10628, Alexandria, VA 22310

CAMPAIGN PHONE: 703-660-6697

E-MAIL: sickles2005@marksickles.com

WEBSITE: www.marksickles.com

OCCUPATION: Public Relations

EMPLOYMENT: Weeks Marine, Inc.

EDUCATION: B.S., Clemson; 2 M.S., Georgia Tech

QUALIFICATIONS: Fairfax County Library Board: Eleven Years, Two as Chairman; United Community Ministries Board: Six Years, One as President; Southeast Fairfax Health Planning Task Force: from the beginning to present

1. What is your top public service accomplishment?

I am most proud of my continuing long term service to the Fairfax County Public Library. Over my 11 years of service on the Board of Trustees, many improvements were made to better serve our students, career builders, dedicated lifetime learners, and recreational readers. We expanded hours, upgraded technology, opened the Kingstowne Library in 2000 (there are 15 years left on the developer’s proffer), and developed the current capital improvement plan which led to the purchase of the land for an eventual Kingstowne Regional Library in heart of the 43d District. In my first term in Richmond, I was able to obtain additional funding for the library that was usually denied because Fairfax is the sole jurisdiction with a population exceeding 600,000. These funds are dedicated to improving the Library’s collection.

2. What sets you apart from the other candidate(s) in the race?

Elected office should follow a demonstrated commitment to the community over a period of time that allows citizens to judge your professionalism, personality, ability to work with others of different views and general suitability for office. It is very helpful to understand how government works at the local level and to have working relationships with key people in your district. In my first year, these relationships and my legislative experience was very helpful in finding solutions and passing eight bills solely due to my initiative as well as helping to pass other very significant legislation that has put our state back on solid fiscal ground and saved our threatened AAA bond rating. When it was clear that the economy was even hotter than predicted, I was one of the five original co-patrons of the governor’s successful bill to accelerate the elimination of the general fund portion of the sales tax on food. As of July 1, 2005, that tax has been eliminated. While the bipartisan budget and tax deal raised net taxes, it enabled the state to address many problems of long standing. This year, it may well allow the General Assembly to further reduce the car tax, now stalled at 70 percent of the first $20,000 (at a current cost of nearly $1 billion per year and going up). Despite campaign promises requiring more spending, my opponent has taken the famous and irresponsible pledge never, ever to raise taxes. In contrast, I am proud to have played a small part in Virginia’s being named "the best managed state in the nation."

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

I will not disappear from the community and I will not stop listening to citizen concerns. While serving the General Assembly is technically a part-time job, I will continue to work full time at it as I have over the last two years. It is important in these very large districts to maintain contact with people, their neighborhoods, and local concerns. I will continue to maintain a strong working relationship with supervisors Kauffman and Hyland.

4. What is the biggest issue facing your district? What should be done to address it?

Traffic is the biggest concern for my constituents. We need to upgrade Telegraph Road generally, and improve the South Kings Highway/Telegraph Road intersection in particular. We must also improve the Van Dorn/Franconia interchange by building the grade separations that Fairfax County is now designing. Forward movement toward possible workable HOT lanes on the Beltway and upgrading the Fairfax County Parkway with grade separations would allow signalization to be removed. Unfortunately, there are no funds for these needed projects. In fact, funds intended for construction are now being used for maintenance. Dedicated funding for transportation, largely the gas tax, has not been increased even to cover inflation since 1986 while vehicle miles driven have increased 79 percent over the same period. Furthermore, the cost of purchasing right of way in Northern Virginia has skyrocketed. We need to continue to use budget surpluses for transportation as we did in fiscal 2005 by committing $848 million to transportation.

5. Is there any additional legislation in regard to abortion that you would support? Would you make any changes to the current laws and regulation about abortion in Virginia?

I would support legislation that reduces the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and eases impediments to adoption. However, I believe that this most personal decision should be left in the hands of women in Virginia and whomever they wish to consult, not a decision made by elected officials on someone else’s behalf. In any case, an abortion should be safe and remain legal in Virginia. My opponent has criticized me for opposing legislation that would have shut down 18 of 20 abortion clinics in Virginia by requiring burdensome and unnecessary regulation on first trimester abortions.

6. In Virginia, local governments have limited control of revenue and taxing authority. Should they have more? Less? What changes would you propose?

Counties like Fairfax should have the same authorities as cities, such as Alexandria or Fairfax cities. Ultimately, the voters decide whether or not the Board of Supervisors has used its authority wisely and spent the money on worthy programs and projects.

7. In Northern Virginia, property taxes have increased dramatically in recent years. What role should the state play in this?

The state can give localities more options for targeted property tax relief, like a homestead exemption, and can fund more of the mandates it passes down to localities. The new money for education made possible by the 2004-2005 budget agreement, paid for four cents of the 13 cent reduction passed by the Board of Supervisors. I also support sharing existing income tax revenue with localities. In the past two General Assembly Sessions, I introduced a bill that would distribute 5 percent of the state’s income tax revenue to localities for property tax relief.

8. What do you believe the role of the state should be in determining the status of same-sex couples in Virginia?

The state is the appropriate venue for policy decisions in this area. However, the first step toward greater equality for all of Virginia’s citizens would be for the state to allow Fairfax County to pass an ordinance preventing sexual orientation discrimination in employment and housing, an authority repeatedly sought by the Board of Supervisors. Same-sex marriage has never been lawful in Virginia and has been explicitly outlawed three times in the Code. Our conservative, non-activist, circuit court judges, appointed for eight year terms by the General Assembly, reads the Code narrowly. There is, therefore, no reason for a Virginia constitutional amendment.

9. What are your views about public-private partnerships and other mechanisms to privatize Virginia's highway system? What are the caveats you would identify as we move forward with this process?

We must explore all options for improving mobility in the region. I believe that public-private partnerships may very well be able to provide some relief more quickly and must be carefully considered by VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA), however, is not a panacea and tolls or tax districts are not free. Taxpayers will pay one way or another. Whatever the case, the state will still have to fund the "public" part of the partnership, something that it will be hard pressed to do.

10. Do you believe that illegal immigration is a problem in Virginia? If so, why, and what should be done?

No person should be working the United States without proper documentation. It is the job of the federal government to control our borders. It is hard to know how many illegal workers are displacing U.S. citizens and otherwise holding wages down, or simply taking jobs that cannot otherwise be filled. Whatever the case, the state should treat all people humanely and the United States should look toward employers as the most likely place to improve implementation of the law.