Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thought For Today

Going into the last week before the election (Vote November 2nd!), I thought it might be nice to share this thought from one of my favorite comic strip writers, and fellow Wahoo, Jen Sorenson.
I've always felt that humor was a more effective medium than anger. I tend to think that humor's more persuasive, and maybe even a bit trickier to do, more of an intellectual challenge. And so, you're providing more for the reader if you try to make it funny and it's not just a straightforward rant. - Jen Sorenson, Slowpoke Comics
If you're going to the Rally on Saturday in DC, have fun!

Everybody else, Get Out The Vote!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Moon Tree

Did you know that there is a tree in Loudoun County that was grown from seeds that orbited the moon in 1971? How cool is that!



Apparently, it is on land that is designated for a future park. I hope I'll be able to take my kids there some day.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Keith.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Cost of Getting Towed

Leesburg is a town of Home Owners Associations (HOAs). Of course, the town itself is not an HOA, like Ashburn or Reston, but we certainly have our share. One of the defining characteristics of HOAs is the debate over, and enforcement of, parking regulations. The HOA where I live, for example, has no assigned parking. It also was built at a time when planners included sufficient parking for the number of townhouses to be built. These factors make my neighborhood a great place to live. This doesn't mean that people from anywhere can park wherever they like for as long as they like, but it does mean that when we have visitors for a couple days, they do not need to worry about where to park.

That doesn't mean that people don't get towed. If a car is left too long in one spot, or is clearly not owned by someone who lives here, it will be towed away. I know that other HOAs are much more aggressive in their towing policies than mine. That brings us to the issue of towing enforcement and costs. As of right now, there are no rules on how much a towing company can charge someone to get their car back.
Ever accidentally park your car in an unauthorized space? Then you would know that exorbitant towing fees often ensue.
...
Towing fees normally total $125 with administrative or storage fees sometimes included. However, many Loudoun residents were facing towing fees of up to $600. - The Loudoun Times
$600 is a lot of money to be able to get your car back. Especially when that car is so necessary to simply live life in Loudoun. Luckily, our Board of Supervisors, at the behest of Leesburg's own Kelly Burk, is doing something about that. This month the Board voted unanimously to establish an Advisory Committee to look into and manage towing fees. The goal is to bring Loudoun more in line with neighboring jurisdictions when it comes to commercial towing.
If you’re one of the constituents who complained to Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) about the wide variance of prices charged by Loudoun towing firms – she and the rest of the supervisors heard your call.

The board voted at its Oct. 19 meeting to form a citizen advisory committee to ensure fees charged by towing companies in Loudoun are fair. The committee will include one towing representative, one government representative and one citizen.
...
Virginia code allows for two types of towing enforcement regulations: police tows, or law enforcement towing, and non-consensual towing, which is the towing of vehicles that have trespassed onto private property. Other regional jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, already have towing advisory boards. - The Loudoun Times
I am glad that the Board has established a Committee to investigate towing prices. Towing impacts people with low incomes quite harshly. A lot of towing happens in rental complexes and townhouse communities where the residents are often in the lower tiers of County income. Thus, high towing fees when these neighbors do get towed impact them more heavily than others who have more disposable income to work with each month. Also, people with higher incomes often live in single-family homes on private parking, and can park without any worries about towing. This is not true of renters or people in townhouse communities whose cars and trucks must be parked in community parking lots. Thus, people with lower incomes are not only more impacted by the cost of towing, they're more likely to be towed in the first place!

Lest someone think I am against all towing, please understand that I believe that towing is a perfectly valid way to enforce community rules. It can be critical for ensuring people get what they signed up for when they moved into a neighborhood. I am not against towing. I simply believe that the cost of being towed should be proportional to the infraction. If getting your car out of impound for an HOA parking violation costs 25-50% of your monthly mortgage or rent, that is not proportional, that's simply taking advantage of someone with no option but to pay.

It is great to see Supervisor Burk was able to get the unanimous consensus of the Board on this issue. There are very few things of substance on which this Board votes unanimously. (Indeed, it often appears that the Supervisor from Sterling votes "no" simply out of spite.) Supervisor Burk excels in heads-down leadership that focuses on getting things done, and it is this kind of leadership that leads to 9-0 votes.

So yes, the Board can make progress to get things done for the residents of Leesburg and Loudoun. Supervisor Burk has shown us how.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Interlude: Ignorance

The frightening thing is that this ad would probably work.

Tax Cuts, Job Growth

I've recently discovered that I have a new hero, Austan Goolsbee. This discovery is based almost entirely on the white board videos he is doing at Whitehouse.gov. These videos do an amazing job of explaining, simply and directly, the economic ideas behind the President's plans.

For example, the debate over tax policy, effectively explained in two minutes.



And the last three years, explained in four minutes.



And lest it be forgotten, some of the investments that Mr. Goolsbee mentions in the second video, the ones going to Mayors and businesses, went to us right here in Leesburg. The macroecononic policies implemented at the national level by President Obama and the Democratic congress preserved and created jobs at the microeconomic level here in Town.

Incidentally, Frank Wolf voted against a lot of those investments. Then turned around and took credit for them. After 30 years, does Frank Wolf really need to run on someone else's record? It is time to vote for someone who will stand up for the investments necessary to keep America and Leesburg moving forward, it's time to vote for Jeff Barnett.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leesburg Air Show This Weekend

This weekend, the Leesburg Airport is holding its annual air show. It promises to be a great time. Some of the details include:
  • Gates will open at 10 am and Air Show will run from 1:00pm-2:45pm
  • 2009 Open House was attended by 7,000. 2010 Air Show is expected to attract over 15,000.
  • Experimental Aircraft and other static aircraft on display in addition to local and national aerial artists.
  • Airport Businesses including aircraft finance, flight schools, petroleum helicopter (Air Care medivac) will be represented in addition to aircraft manufacturers.
  • The evening will end with the Annual 1940's Hangar Dance sponsored by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) at 5pm. Tickets to the Hanger Dance can be purchased here.
  • The Leesburg Airport is one of the great assets our Town has. If you've not done the tour and air show, it's worth checking out!

    (Thanks to Supervisor Burk's office for bringing this to my attention!)

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Eight Million for Cornwall

    The health care reform bill that passed earlier this year is having a direct impact on the quality of available health care in Loudoun county. Contained within the bill was a provision providing over $8 million to the Loudoun Committee Health Center, aka Cornwall medical center in Leesburg.
    The Loudoun Community Health Center found out Oct. 8 that it has been awarded $8.7 million in federal grant money to build a new facility.

    It is one of 143 community health centers across the country to be awarded funds to address pressing construction and renovation needs and expand access to quality health care.
    ...
    The Loudoun Community Health Center opened in 2007 in the old Loudoun Hospital on Cornwall Street in Leesburg in space donated by Inova Loudoun Hospital. It provides medical, dental and mental health care to those in need, regardless of age or ability to pay, whether they have insurance or not. Since opening, more than 6,000 patients have been cared for at the Loudoun Community Health Center, but with limited space, the wait list continues to grow.
    ...
    “In short, we have reached a limit that prevents us from keeping up with the overwhelming demand for our services.”

    Kenyon said the facility receives between 400 and 500 calls a day from patients and those wanting to establish care with the center.

    The new 25,000 square foot building plans include 18 exam rooms, 10 dental operatories, a full on-site pharmacy, optometry, mental health counseling rooms, patient education meeting rooms and prenatal services. It is anticipated that the new facility will enable the Loudoun Community Health Center to expand from its current annual patient base of 5,000 to more than 12,000 patients and will create dozens of jobs locally.
    - The Loudoun Times
    You may recall that earlier this year, Cornwall was awarded a grant under the Recovery Act. That means that under President Obama and the Democratic Congress, Leesburg and Loudoun have seen a significant $10 million investment in our local ability to provide health care to people who would otherwise not be able to get it outside of expensive (for us) emergency room care. And that's just the benefit of the services themselves. That doesn't count the jobs created and money spent by those employees that boost the local economy.

    Great news, and well done. Congratulations Cornwall! You've come a long way from being threatened with closure if BRMC was built.

    (Crossposted from Loudoun Progress.)

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Bullying Sucks

    Being a teenager sucks, but that's the point. - Harry, Pump Up The Volume
    Being teased sucks. Being bullied sucks. Being teased and bullied while trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world really sucks. I know, I was teased and bullied badly when I was young. I find this to be a true statement about many of my friends, and many of the more successful people I know in the world. The fact that we rose above that as we grew up, and got our revenge by living well does not make the moments we went through any easier or better.

    There are a lot of kids who do not survive their bullying and teasing. And with the advent of cyberbullying, there is no escape in going home. For some kids, the only escape is ending their own lives.

    I strongly recommend taking the 90 seconds it will take to watch Ellen's appeal on this issue, below.




    Pump Up The Volume, the movie I referenced at the beginning, is about the awfulness that is being a teenager. The disconnection and craziness of trying to figure yourself out. That movie remains a touchstone for me. It's message of survival, unity among misfits and even opposition to top-down media transcends time and place. If your kid is an outcast, it might be worth finding and showing him or her (warning, it contains boobies!).

    What is remarkable about Pump Up The Volume is that it was made in 1990, and three of the key storylines are about a disconnected "strange" kid who kills himself, a pregnant girl betrayed by her guidance counselor and a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality. In fact, this movie was the first thing I ever read or saw that treated homosexuality as something other than "icky" and wrong.

    The problem is that the message of "survive it" and "ignore it" only works most of the time. For some kids, the awfulness is too much, and they take their own lives.

    I do not know the answer. I can only sympathize with the victims of bullying, and their parents. This is a problem that has always existed, and isn't going away. I wish I could say more, do more, than "hang in there, high school isn't reality." But I honestly don't know what more to do.
    Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they're called misfits. - Why Nerds Are Unpopular

    An Interlude: Grunge Music

    Surviving the World is awesome. Thanks Doorbell Queen.

    P.S. Happy birthday (two days early), honey!