Mount Vernon and the surrounding communities continue to be confronted by traffic congestion brought on by unprecedented additional numbers of military personnel assigned to Fort Belvoir to support the decisions made by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to shift more military roles to Fort Belvoir.
This included the transfer of a significant portion of wounded warrior responsibilities formerly provided by Walter Reed Hospital, new military responsibilities, and the construction of a new state of the art hospital on the base which will treat active duty wounded military and veteran retirees and their families. In addition, a new national U.S. Army museum is being built on the base. All of this will attract additional thousands of military personnel and visitors to the base and the area and place additional transportation burdens on the primary and secondary roads.
On the grounds of George Washington’s estate the Mount Vernon Ladies Association completed a landmark new center for the study of George Washington complete with a library, conference center and housing for use by scholars. All this will contribute to the traffic in the Mount Vernon area and require collaboration between local, state, and federal representatives and the infusion of tens of millions of dollars over the forseeable future to construct roads and mass transit systems to expand transportation infrastructure. Another overarching topic facing Mount Vernon is the continuing need to provide sufficient funding for the county school budget to keep pace with the growth and diverse needs of elementary and secondary education students.
Another a major public policy focus is the need to expand health care for civilian residents to adequately deal with the growth and diversity of the population, and the “Silver Tsunami” — 23 percent of the Mount Vernon population is now 55 and over. To meet the new demands the Lorton Health Plex was recently completed and construction of a major addition onto the existing Mount Vernon Hospital is now underway.
GERALD HYLAND, Mount Vernon District supervisor, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:
Q. In 2013 what were some of the most significant accomplishments you initiated or actively supported?
A. * The establishment of a Master Plan for an Off Leash Dog Park (OLDA) at the Westgrove Park. After extensive public participation, the Park Authority’s final plan provided for both an OLDA and preservation of the natural resources of the Park.
Approval of a $30 million bond referendum for financing a flood control plan for approximately 200 homes in the Huntington community. Despite the fact that only a relatively small number of homes are affected, voters county-wide overwhelmingly supported the need to finance this much needed flood control program
Approval and financing of artificial turf fields for Mount Vernon and West Potomac High Schools. The Board of Supervisors and School Board each contributed $1.5 million to the effort, and private funding of $100,000 was donated by the community from each school.
Completion of the Inova Lorton Healthplex, which was recommended by our Inova Mount Vernon Citizens Commission. Mount Vernon Hospital is now in the midst of a major expansion which, when completed, will enable the hospital to provide more medical care services to meet the growing demands of our community. The completion of the Lorton facility and the partnership between Lorton and Mt. Vernon helps to ensure the financial stability of both medical facilities.
In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was proceeding to ignore the master plan for the Meadowood Stables and wanted to raze the large horse barn without community input. Consequently, we held a public meeting to get the community engaged, and due to that public pressure, BLM is now in the process of restoring the barn per the community’s wishes. Because this is federal land, we also worked closely with Congressman Jim Moran.
Worked with the Inlet Cove community and the Federal Highway Administration to shift the widening of Richmond Highway south to reduce the negative impacts to the Inlet Cove community. We will continue to work with the community to mitigate noise infiltration into this community by studying various alternative design strategies.
I established a district wide Visioning Task Force with the goal of identifying the future needs of the Mount Vernon District. We have been focusing on those recommendations by working to bring more public transit service on the Richmond Highway corridor, encouraging development in the Community Business Centers at North Gateway, Penn Daw, and Beacon Hill to revitalize these areas. Also, through collaborative Board initiatives, we are reducing homelessness, expanding youth recreational opportunities, and expanding senior citizen services, as recommended by our Visioning TF.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish in 2014?
A. * By working with developers in Lorton, Huntington, and along Route 1 at North Kings Highway, we can create more funds to provide artificial turf fields for all students in the Mount Vernon district.
Begin construction on the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse project. This is located at the former site of the closed Lorton reformatory and when completed, 78 acres of land will be converted into new townhomes and single family homes, 110,000 square feet of commercial space, and approximately 30.7 acres or 35 percent of the land will remain as open space. This plan makes this one of the crown jewels of development for the Lorton area.
Begin the construction of the North Hill Village, located on the east side of Richmond Highway south of Beacon Hill. It is a 33-acre site for a planned community to be developed in partnership with the private sector and the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority. It will include a large park, high quality affordable housing, and a diversified residential income mix.
I support a plan for a rail line along Route 1 that would go south from the Alexandria City line to Woodbridge. I also support locating a transit center on Richmond Highway. The currently underway State-financed Transit Study looking at this area is one of the most important transportation policy undertakings in decades for the Mount Vernon District and I intend to closely monitor and participate in the debate and recommendations which emerge from this study.
The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton is in need of financial assistance and we are working to design a new emphasis that will make it a more financially viable and attractive location for our residents and others throughout the region. For example, I support studying the feasibility and worth of creating an events center to include a theatre, a music venue, and/or a teen center. I am committed to help make the Workhouse Arts Center a successful enterprise.
Seven times previously I have urged my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to support a meals tax referendum. I intend to once again ask the board members to support placing it on the fall ballot. If the voters pass the Referendum I propose that the funds raised, estimated at $100 million, be dedicated to meeting the growing demands of our public education programs.
I support efforts to identify additional cell phone towers sites that would be supported by the neighborhoods where they would be located. The additional sites are needed to improve cell phone communications for our residents.
Q. What do you view overall are the major challenges and decisions facing Mount Vernon residents in the coming year?
A. * First, adequately funding the growing needs of our public schools. Top quality public schools are needed to prepare future generations for competing successfully in our increasingly complex technology-oriented society. Quality public education has been and continues to be the engine of our economy and the primary reason families choose to live here and businesses choose to locate here.
Second, it is essential that we deal effectively with the ever-growing traffic congestion in the district. Widening Richmond Highway is important, but not an answer by itself; it must be accompanied by a workable design that will accommodate mass transit along Richmond Highway from the Alexandria city line to Woodbridge.
Third, this coming year I will form a citizens’ Task Force to look at the options for reusing the building and grounds of what is now being leased to the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) on Richmond Highway. They will be relocating to the northwestern part of the county. The building was originally used as the Mount Vernon High School, and then a middle school, before it was leased to the ISA. A variety of uses have already been suggested, such as the Northern Virginia Community College, relocating human services agencies, using it as a Mount Vernon Town Hall, and possibly a new elementary school. I look forward to working with the Task Force to explore the options on this important issue.
As your Supervisor, I will continue to listen and engage the community as I have done for the past 26 years. In that connection you are invited to attend and participate in my annual Town Hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Mount Vernon High School.
DANIEL STORCK, Mount Vernon District School Board member, Fairfax County School Board:
Q. What were your and/or the board’s major accomplishments in 2013?
A. * We hired a new superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza, the first female superintendent ever to head up the school system.
All Mount Vernon District schools met federal and state standards for reading and all but one school for math. Based on SOL test results.
Approved changes in the students rights and responsibilities regulations including early notification and involvement of parents, and more age-appropriate discipline standards.
A State Efficiency Review Report confirmed our school system as a high performing school division with recommended changes potentially saving $2million annually.
Q. What are your and/or the School Board’s top priorities for 2014?
A. * Continue to find a way to maintain a high achieving school district by increasing funding over previous fiscal years; overcoming our projected $100 million budget deficit; meet the challenges of a growing student body (currently 2,500 students per year) who are increasingly lower income and non-English speaking; conduct school boundary studies to address overcrowding, build a new elementary school and renovate seven elementary schools; and promote expanded business-community partnerships with our school system and students.
Q. What overall is the state of elementary and secondary public education in Fairfax County?
A. * Mount Vernon and the county public school system continue to provide an excellent education. However, the challenges to maintain that quality of education with diminished funding resources continues. The influx of students who are low income and non-native English speakers place an added burden on the school system. Students now receiving free or reduced cost meals is 27 percent of all students and 32 percent of kindergarten students. County-wide limited English proficiency students represent 16 percent of all students and 38 percent of incoming kindergarten students. Education costs for these students are approximately 50 percent greater than average, thus posing an added challenge for the school system to maintain a quality of education for all students.
LINDA “TODDY” PULLER, state senator, 36th District, Virginia General Assembly:
Q. In your opinion what were the most significant 2-3 accomplishments of the General Assembly this past Session?
A. * Passing a transportation bill for the first time in 27 years that will bring real money to road repairs and improvements as well as new road and transportation projects to northern Virginia.
- Creation of a Commission to study expansion of Medicaid in Virginia in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. I support Medicaid expansion and will support its expansion in the 2014 budget. There are 400,000 uninsured Virginians covered by Medicaid. All of us will benefit in lower health costs because these uninsured people will have access to proper medical care and will not be forced to use the emergency services in hospitals as their doctor’s office. Expansion will bring 30,000 jobs to Virginia. Virginia has one of the lowest qualifying rates for qualifying citizens for Medicaid in the country. If we expand Medicaid we will improve the health of our citizens and our economy.
Q. On a more personal level what legislation did you sponsor that was passed?
A. * In the 2013 Session my bill, SB 829, to establish a program to reduce unemployment among Veterans, was passed and signed by the Governor. It will assist businesses to attract, hire, and retain Veterans.
- I also sponsored a budget amendment to provide funding for the Virginia Values Veterans program. This will fund an already successful program to work with employers who are committed to hiring veterans, and especially disabled veterans.
Q. What are some of your legislative priorities for the upcoming session?
A. Two bills introduced in the last Session which I will continue to work on for passage are:
A bill to allow military men and women serving in overseas posts to vote absentee by secure electronic means using their military email and CCard, which provides for encryption and a high level of security. The Virginia State Board of Elections and the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations supports this legislation.
I am the chief patron of a bill to ensure that all insurance carriers who do business In Virginia alert their customers when a prescription drug is moved from one price to another. This will help Virginia families to better budget for their health care needs.
SCOTT SUROVELL, delegate, 44th District, Virginia General Assembly:
Q. In the General Assembly Session this past year what was the most significant 2 or 3 legislative accomplishments overall?
A. * Including $2 million in the State budget for the Richmond Highway Multimodal Transit Alternatives Analysis study, and secondly, passage of legislation prohibiting texting while driving. The Richmond Highway study will hopefully resolve the questions about what our area of U.S. Route one will look like, and determine development patterns for the next 40 years.
Q. For the upcoming General Assembly Session what will your top 2 or 3 priorities be and why?
A. * I will focus on introducing meaningful ethics reform legislation, prohibit use of electronic textbooks without providing computers to every student, and introduce legislation to amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the goal to put more sunlight on the State Corporation Commission.
The experience with Governor McDonnell and his family’s acceptance of gifts from an individual who could gain from favorable Virginia state government treatment has highlighted the need for ethics reform in Virginia.
The Constitution of Virginia requires our school systems to provide free textbooks to all public school students. Aside from being fundamentally unfair, if a child’s family cannot afford a computer or broadband access we are not meeting our Constitutional requirement if a school system is mandating electronic textbooks.
The State Corporation Commission is probably the most powerful State agency in Richmond but has very little accountability to the General Assembly or the public. There is no excuse why the Freedom Information Act should not apply to them.
Q. Anything else you would like to comment on to our readers for the upcoming year?
A. The Virginia budget environment continues to be challenging due to a weak economic recovery, and the adverse effects of the automatic budget cutbacks that the Federal Sequester placed on the Virginia economy and services. Therefore, we should not expect any new major policy initiatives in the near term.
ADAM EBBIN, state senator, 30th District, Virginia General Assembly:
Q. What were your major accomplishments in the past General Assembly Session?
A. * Passed legislation to protect the privacy of absentee voters by removing certain information requirements from the absentee ballot application, such as religion, or an Armed Forces ID number which includes your Social Security number.
Passed legislation to allow election day staff to be transferred where the need is greatest and lines longest; this will help bring about improved election polling place efficiencies, and to reduce voters from being discouraged from voting by having to wait in long election lines.
Collaborated with Del. Scott Surovell to convince Governor McDonnell to reduce the new hybrid vehicle tax from $100 to $64.
Working with the McDonnell Administration, reduced the number of inmates in solitary confinement which will save the Commonwealth money and reduce the recidivism rate.
Q. What are your top priorities for the upcoming General Assembly Session?
A. Ethics reform; repealing the Hybrid vehicle tax; initiating mental health services at community colleges; reducing the victimization in the Latino community from legal fraud.
Expand transparency In State government; hasten the processing of sexual assault kits to better prosecute rapists; repeal the anti-equality Marshall-Newman marriage Constitutional Amendment.
Q. Anything else you would like to say as you head into the upcoming Session?
A. Accepting federal Medicaid funds will be critical for Virginia to help the working poor to achieve access to quality health care services.
I will be an advocate for promoting workforce development and the Virginia Preschool Initiative to ready children for public school.
Although our unemployment rate has dipped to a low of 5.6 percent we must continue to remain vigilant about how to best grow our economy and expand economic opportunities.