Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The New 10th CD Might Look Like This

Here's a picture of what the Redistricted northern Virginia map of Congressional seats might look like.


Tip-o-the-hat to my friend Tony who provided me a link to the image.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What District Are You?

Are you wondering what new Magisterial (Supervisor) District you're in? Loudoun County has made a tool available online from which you can drill down to your block and see!



Major kudos to the Loudoun County staff who put this excellent piece of public communication together!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

R.O.C.K. and SROs

At the Council meeting earlier this week, many residents came to speak out in favor of preserving the R.O.C.K. program. As mentioned earlier this week, the R.O.C.K. program provides after-school programming for at-risk kids here in Leesburg.

In other news, the Town and the County have also come to an agreement on a point of contention: funding for School Resource Officers (SROs) in Leesburg's schools. The County provides SROs from the Sheriff's office to the schools in Loudoun County, except in Leesburg where the SROs come from the Leesburg Police Department. The Leesburg school SROs are funded largely by the Town of Leesburg, a de facto subsidy from the residents of the Town to the rest of the Couny.
In recent weeks, the Leesburg Town Council has pressed the Board of Supervisors to contribute about $160,000 more annually to fund SROs in Leesburg schools. The county government has traditionally given the town money to offset the cost of placing Leesburg Police officers in town schools, although council members were requesting that these funding levels equate to 70 percent of the total, or about $463,000.

Council members have long stressed that this is one service the Leesburg Police Department can provide at a more affordable price than using the county deputies that are provided in other schools. On the flip side, if the county chose to staff the Leesburg schools with sheriff's deputies, the total price of the program would balloon to about $1.1 million annually, or $800,000 more than the county is contributing. - Leesburg Today
Councilmember Marty Martinez emailed me this morning to let me know that the Town and County have come to an agreement that will ensure that the County provide a more appropriate level of funding for SROs in Leesburg. As a result, the Town will be expending less of its own general fund budget on SROs in Leesburg schools, and that frees up general fund money for the R.O.C.K. program!
BOS approved full funding for SROs. This is great because it will give us the funding for R.O.C.K. The council is moving to do just that.
It is important that council direct staff to re-instate those dollars and fully fund R.O.C.K.

And that it is important that we as a community understand the value of the program and would like to see it protected from future budget cuts. - Email from Councilman Marty Martinez (reprised with permission)
It is inspiring to me to see our community come together to defend a program that does not serve the wealthy, or even the merely comfortable. It is inspiring to see the community come together not to defend a tax break for storm windows or complain about the placement of a traffic light, or a speed limit, but instead to speak out strongly and with one voice, for those who would otherwise have no voice.

The R.O.C.K. program has no beneficiary with a right to vote, as it serves children from the communities with the least opportunities in Leesburg. But it had an eloquent champion who made her voice heard in spite of her disenfranchisement: Amira Bray.
Amira Bray held up a sign in Council Chambers proclaiming her love for the R.O.C.K. program. Her mother, Adrianne, said her daughter, a student at Ball's Bluff Elementary School, had been a participant in the program since she was five years old. Adrianne Bray noted that many of the students in the R.O.C.K. program have been recipients of Good Citizenship Awards at Ball's Bluff.

"She's found a way to connect with her peers and her community," she said of her daughter. "We're seeing changes in these children." - Leesburg Today
We are stronger when we are connected as a community. Together programs like the R.O.C.K. and SROs are the left and right hand of community cohesion. The SROs provide a backstop against community destructive behavior among our young people in the schools, and the R.O.C.K. program provides those same kids with a path to enjoyment of the best opportunities our community can offer when the school day is done. By providing them both, Leesburg and Loudoun County say to our young people more than just "don't do that," but also, and more importantly, "you have the opportunity to do this!"

Let us all push to keep the R.O.C.K. program as fully funded as the SROs are, because neither one, alone, can provide the multiple, lasting, long-term benefits that they both provide, together. Because together, these programs knit us closer with all our neighbors as one Leesburg community.

(Incidentally, this post was originally title "R.O.C.K and SROll" but that was too awful, even for me.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Following Town Council

I've lived in Leesburg for six years, and during that time I've paid attention (as best I can) to what goes on with our Town government. I served on a Town commission, got involved in local campaigns and (obviously) started a blog focusing on politics in and around Town. When I started, I would spend time digging through the Town's online documents repository to review the minutes of Council meetings and reading the papers for quotes from our elected officials. In the past few years, however, the methods available to track what's going on with the Council have improved markedly.

Witness what may be the best development in Town Council transparency yet, the running Liveblog of Council meetings that Leesburg Patch's Christian Brown runs every month. It's one thing to read the news stories published after a Council session, but a running liveblog gives the reader a real sense of the flow of the meeting, which can help explain the nuances of outcomes that might otherwise go underreported in an article the next day.

And for those who really want to indulge their civic geekiness, there's Comcast Chanel 67, the Leesburg Government Channel. You can literally watch council sessions, live, on TV. It had been my plan to go to the Council meeting last night, to express my support for the R.O.C.K. program, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I couldn't attend. Instead of going to Town Hall, I watched the session live on TV. (Or, watched as much of it as I could before I had to go to bed to be up with the kids in the morning.)

In addition to these methods of following Council meetings, live, some members of Council have stepped up their personal online presences. For example:

And those are just the ones I could find with a quick search. I'm sure some digging will turn up others!

It's great to see the Town and it's Councilmembers participating in the wonderful electronic media that enable them to engage with Leesburg's residents frequently and fully, and it's nice to know that even if I am not at the Council meetings, I can still be part of the discussion, online.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Youth Job Fair Saturday

As a reminder, Supervisor Burk's second annual Youth Job Fair is this Saturday!
Second Annual Leesburg Youth Job Fair

March 26, 2011
12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.
Pro Jet Hanger at Leesburg Airport

Leesburg District Supervisor Kelly Burk will host the second annual student job fair on Saturday, March 26th at the Pro Jet Hanger at the Leesburg Executive Airport.

From 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. high school and college students will have the opportunity to apply for jobs at more than 35 local businesses. A variety of industries will be represented; from retail and banking to hotel/hospitality and transportation, to mention a few. Interview tips, resume pointers and other job-seeking skills will be provided by Inova Loudoun Hospital.

Last year Ms. Burk's event served more than 600 student applicants. It proved popular with youths of all ages and backgrounds. Both job seekers and businesses were pleased with the connections made.

Join Supervisor Burk and take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your skills and talents to all the companies interested in you and what you have to offer.
It should be noted that this is a youth job fair, focused on high school and college students. After all, it is that cohort who has been hit hardest by the Great Recession.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fund The R.O.C.K. Program

By now, you have probably heard that the Leesburg Town budget is undergoing some significant cuts. In fact, there will be layoffs among Town staff this year.
Two major headlines have emerged from the proposed budget: layoffs affecting 28 full-time town employees, in an effort to close a $2 million deficit, and Wells' stated intention to present an unchanged real estate tax rate for the next three fiscal years. - Leesburg Today
One of the programs that is on the chopping block is an amazing resource for underserved children here in Town, the R.O.C.K. program. The R.O.C.K. program provides after-school activities and mentoring to at-risk kids who would otherwise not have the opportunity to take part in the activities that so many other Leesburg kids take for granted. In specific Leesburg neighborhoods, many young people would not have the opportunity to participate in sports, go on field trips, or even interact with an adult mentor except for this program.

Programs like R.O.C.K. help prevent young neighbors from getting involved in anti-social, or even illegal, activities. They save our community money in the long-run by reducing the kinds of petty crime that consume police and Town resources, as well as creating a basis for young people to become participants in our community, with the benefits that come from their getting jobs, doing volunteer work and general civic engagement. And these are just the economic benefits. There is the more important moral aspect of this program. As one of the wealthiest areas of the country, it is our privilege, and obligation, to to right by the young people in our community who have not had the opportunity to participate fully in the cornucopia of Leesburg's prosperity.

If you believe that the R.O.C.K. program should be fully funded, please contact our Town Council, and tell them so. If you are so inclined the Council has a business meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday March 22nd), at the Council chambers in Town Hall, at 7:30pm. The public is welcome to come and share opinions and ideas with Council. I encourage people to come and tell Council, in person, that the Town's budget should not be balanced on the backs of our young people who have the most to lose.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One Leesburg District

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors approved a Redistricting plan for the County's Magisterial (Supervisor) Districts. That plan, a slight modification of the Miller 5 plan that has previously been discussed, was approved by a vote of 5 to 4. It looks something like this:
Leesburg Today explains the modifications that were made during the discussion before the Board yesterday.
Among the changes made to the published Miller 5 plan was to move the area north of Hamilton into the Catoctin District; move Hillsboro into the Blue Ridge District; and move the Oak Grove area from the Sterling District to a Sterling/Ashburn District. - Leesburg Today
Under this plan the Board maintained one Leesburg District that contains most, but not all, of the residents of the Town of Leesburg. It was impossible to retain all people who vote in Town elections, because the population of the Town (42,616) exceeds the maximum allowable for a single Magisterial District (39,039 + 5%). Some precincts at the southern end of Town that vote in Town elections will not be represented by the Leesburg Supervisor, but instead by the Catoctin Supervisor, as they are today. Some precincts that were part of Catoctin, but within the Town (for example, Balls Bluff) will be represented by the Leesburg Supervisor next year. It is not a perfect plan for Leesburg, but it is a lot better than the alternatives which were proposed, which would have cut up the Town much more severely. It is regrettable that some Town residents will still be unrepresented by the Leesburg Supervisor, but with the legal population limits imposed, that was unavoidable.

The bottom line is that our Leesburg District was maintained as unified with the Town insofar as that was possible. This is a win for all of us here in Leesburg.

Many thanks to Supervisors Burk, Kurtz, McGimsey, Buckley and Burton for listening to the people who spoke before the Board, asking them not to split Leesburg. Your attention and service is deeply appreciated.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Koffee with Kelly Tomorrow

If you'd like to have a conversation with our Leesburg Supervisor, Kelly Burk, she's holding a coffee with constituents tomorrow!
Dear Friends,

Tomorrow I am hosting another "Koffee with Kelly" from 10 am to Noon, at Burnett & Williams Law Offices, 105 Loudoun St SE, Leesburg.

Stop by for some coffee and donuts and an informal chat about town and county issues... or just drop by and say hi.

Spring is almost here!

Kelly Burk
Come out and talk with Kelly!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Have Sex

Now that I have your attention:

Go get a license plate.

Splitting Leesburg

Over on Without Supervision, Supervisor Stevens Miller's blog, there has been great discussion of the various plans, requirements and interests behind the Redistricting issue currently before the Board of Supervisors. One of the flashpoints that has come up is the issue of "Splitting Leesburg." In many of these discussions, parties are talking past each other because there is confusion over what it means to split Leesburg. For example:
I heard repeatedly yesterday at the hearing that Leesburg shouldn’t be split and frankly it was driving my crazy–Leesburg is ALREADY split into two districts. -Matt L.

Matt is correct, as currently configured there are residents of the Town who do not vote in the Leesburg Magisterial (Supervisor) District, but rather vote in Catoctin. This is an artifact of the lines drawn in the year 2000 that were not able to account for later growth and annexation, which changed the Town's borders without a concurrent change in the Supervisor District.

As I said in a comment on Without Supervision, those of us advocating for a united Leesburg district do not discount the fact that the Town is too large to fit within one Supervisor's District. Regardless of the outcome of the Redistricting debate, some current Town residents are not going to vote with other Town residents for the same Supervisor. That does not mean, however, that the County should abandon the oft-iterated goal of keeping as many Leesburg residents as possible together in the same District.

From the beginning of this process, the Town of Leesburg and its residents have asked to be kept together in the same District to the extent that is possible. The Leesburg Town Council respectfully made this request at the very first public input session on the Redistricting question. Since then, a wide variety of Town residents from all walks of life, and neighborhoods of Leesburg, have united to make this humble request again at each subsequent opportunity for input. In doing so, we have all understood the limitations that the Town's population places on the extent to which our wishes can be fulfilled. We're not asking for an exception, we're asking for consideration.

Scott Parker, Assistant to the Leesburg Town Manager, came before the Board of Supervisors to address the ambiguity over the question of how to shave off the necessary population of Leesburg, and provided as concise a definition of what the Town requests as I've yet read:
“Should the population be too large, we request that priority be given to precincts already in this districts to allow for continuity,” Scott Parker said. - Leesburg Today

So please, in discussions of Redistricting, understand that when residents of the Town speak of "Splitting Leesburg" we mean drawing District lines that cut more of us off from one another than is absolutely necessary. We understand some shaving of Town voters into another District will be necessary, we simply ask that it be minimized.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"I Make a Difference, What About You?"

For all my friends and family who are teachers.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to my cousin Robin, who is also a teacher.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Inspiration from Maddow

Feeling frustrated about Democrats? Take a little hope from our friend Rachel Maddow.

"Policies that help people who have to work for a living are popular."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(With a tip-o-the-hat to our friend Heather.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bay Act Histrionics

I'm not above a little political theater, let me say that right up front. But what happened at the Board of Supervisor's public input meeting last night went from political theater to theater of the absurd. Groups of children walking around with signs criticizing a highly technical zoning ordinance (and it is just zoning folks) joined their parents and a person dressed as a pig to make a scene in the lobby of the Loudoun Government center last night.
Carrying signs with slogans such as “Who is the board listening to,” “Hear us now or hear us in 2012” and “CBPO is for clean water or dirty politics,” protesters chanted “Just say no, CBPO!” in unison before the board’s 6 p.m. meeting began.

The board is scheduled to continue discussions on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance today, but a vote is not expected.

During the protest, Roy Jacobsen, founder of the Loudoun Environmental Council, a group formed last year during heated discussions about the ordinance, told onlookers that the proposed legislation was nothing more than “a land grab.”

“It’s got nothing to do with science. It’s got nothing to do with cleaning the bay. It’s got nothing to do with drinking water. But the [county] staff has presented it this way,” Jacobsen told the crowd.

Jacobsen claims that the science county staff used to justify the need for the ordinance was “biased, either through incompetence or fraud.” - The Loudoun Times
Mr. Jacobson's assertions are uninformed at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. First off, the CBPO is not a land grab, it can't be. The CBPO doesn't actually impact enough land to qualify as a land grab, and even if it did, it does nothing to change a person's right to own land (the definition of a land grab). Yes, it would require an extremely small number of Loudoun property owners to take some care with doing major construction around streams. Characterizing such a requirement, which is no more burdensome than requiring fire lanes be constructed in new developments (commercial or otherwise), as a land grab is so absurd as to be laughable. This is about long-term public health and the livelihood of our neighbors who make a living off the Chesapeake Bay.

Furthermore, the CBPO has everything to do with science. The science of riparian buffers when it comes to the quality of persistent waterways is well known and documented. The science of our degraded stream water quality is equally well known.

The CBPO has everything to do with cleaning the Bay. The health of the Bay is directly related to the quality of the water entering the Bay. Water from Loudoun, flowing in our streams (Broad Run, Goose Creek, Catoctin Creek, etc.) feeds directly into the Bay through the Potomac River. The CBPO seeks to improve the quality of the water flowing through our streams by reducing the amount of pollutants that enter that water in runoff. That's the whole point of the CBPO.

And as for drinking water, one could make an argument that it has nothing to do with drinking water, except for the fact that the Town of Leesburg, and most of our neighbors across the river in Maryland, gets their drinking water from the Potomac River, fed by our streams. So yes, cleaner stream water actually means cleaner drinking water.

The protest last night was simply about raw electoral politics. The Republican opposition in Loudoun is flexing their muscles and ginning up outrage over a false issue in the hopes of driving up the enthusiasm of their base going into the 2011 election season when they hope to retake a majority on the Board of Supervisors. They believe that they can win by demonizing those that are advocating for clean water. That bears repeating, they want to win...by demonizing...clean water.

Of course, buried in the excellent coverage of this story by Leesburg Today is an important salient fact of yesterday's hooplah that might otherwise go missed.
While those opposed to the proposed ordinance, billed as a way to keep Loudoun's waterways cleaner, dominated the evening with their protest, inside a majority of those speaking to the board on the issue urged supervisors to support the ordinance-and continue work to fix problems and address concerns such as the width of the riparian buffers and cost to property owners. - Leesburg Today
Yes, a majority of those actually testifying before the Board last night spoke out in favor of a well-considered CBPO.

It can be frustrating to actually need to campaign and fight for common sense, but if that's what it's going to take, we'll do it. The future of my kids, and even the kids holding signs they do not understand, is worth it.