August 23, 2014

Letters to the Editor

The Shenandoah Press is always interested in your comments regarding articles you’ve read as well as articles you’d like to see published.

At the outset, we are using a traditional “Letters to the Editor” format where readers send in their letters using the form below and the Editor selects a representative sample of letters to publish online. Other readers can then respond to the posted letters by sending a follow up Letter to the Editor using the same process. Although we will not publish every letter that we receive, we will read every one so we can benefit from many suggestions and get to know our readers better.

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Posted Letters

CHARTER  SCHOOLS:  A PANACEA FOR WHAT, AND FOR WHOM?

On August 1, 2012, the Loudoun Times-Mirror ran on their first page “Loudoun charter school application passes state board”.  That shouldn’t really be any surprise, because the State Board of Education as well as the Virginia State Superintendent of Education are made up of political appointees of the governor.  Governor McDonnell had campaigned on allowing more “school choice” and shortly after he was elected, he introduced legislation through his surrogates in the General Assembly that would, in fact, allow elected local school boards’ decisions to be overturned by the State Board of Education if local boards had the temerity to deny a charter school application.  The Virginia Senate, however, recognized the blatant attempt to disenfranchise the citizens of local school districts and their elected representatives and voted that the local school board should retain their right to make whatever decisions they felt were warranted in the interest of the students in their public schools.

Several current school board members seemed already on board with the concept of a charter school for Loudoun, whereas the school administration seemed cool to the idea. However, it seems quite appropriate, to me, for the senior staff of LCPS to have a bias in favor of the excellent school system we and they have built, and thus little enthusiasm for any charter school applications. In addition, it is very disconcerting to have school board members articulate a pro-bias for a charter school prior to seeing the application and/or getting answers to many basic questions.  The first question to be asked is simply, do we need what a charter school is proposing?  If some parents want more STEM education and they think what we offer, currently, is not sufficient, even with the varieties of opportunities afforded to students at the Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology, our Academy of Science at Dominion HS or on the campus of, Monroe Technology Center, as well as dual enrollment potentials that exist at NOVA and GMU and through on-line opportunities; then put pressure on the General Assembly and the Board of Supervisors for additional funding, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is what you would be doing by taking money from our LCPS to pay charter school planners.

 In my estimation, the same people who clamored years ago for tuition assistant grants from the public school coffers to attend private and parochial schools are now trying to further undermine the public schools with a strategy of divide and conquer. Taking badly needed funding, often reluctantly provided by politicians looking for reelection, from our public schools for an experiment that may or may not work or even be needed, but which could have severe consequences to the education of the 99% of the students not attending the charter schools.  .  If Charter Schools became the cause celebre among a group of self-described educational reformers, obliged to no one other than themselves with a self-serving agenda, the potential of luring the better students to charter schools through choice may create the same disastrous effect of de facto segregation, leaving behind those least able to advocate for themselves and most susceptible to falling through the cracks.  You can be confident that those students would certainly feel the effects of having had those funds siphoned off from the Operating Budget in many school districts.

In Loudoun County, we already have what is in essence a “charter school” in its fiscal impact on the school system by sending 208 students to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology which requires us to pay $13,000 per student to the Fairfax County Public Schools.  You can call it a regional public school, but it is operates very much the same, from a fiscal impact, as would a charter school. Additionally, the school system must also provide transportation, costing more than an additional quarter of million dollars adding up to about $3,000,000.  Let there be no mistake about it, charter schools are going to take much needed dollars from districts that can ill afford to lose these funds especially in this budget cutting frenzy brought about because of a downturn in the economy.

If Loudoun County were an inner-city school system with those overwhelming demographics that historically do poorly on standardized test, I would be interested in exploring what a charter school might have to offer, but we are a flagship school system that others hope to emulate.  Do we really want to risk that in Loudoun for the few.

About 3% of public school students attend a charter school in the United States.  Some have outperformed their non-charter peers, especially and most often in the inner cities, but many have had less than impressive results.  A 2010 study of 2,330 middle school students at charter schools in 15 states found that they performed no better in math and science.  And a Stanford University study in 2009 concluded:  “Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third (37%) deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student(s) would have realized had they remained in traditional  public schools”

I implore the School Board to be extremely cautious in reviewing any application for a charter school.  Citizens need to be vigilant during these discussions. 

Tom Marshall, former School Board Member, Leesburg District, 315 Ayrlee Avenue, NW, Leesburg

 

 

June 25, 2012

Dear Members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors,

Loudoun County has waited decades for Metro. It is time for that wait to end.

Generations of business and regional planning decisions have been based on the goal of bringing Metro access to Dulles Airport and into Eastern Loudoun. Numerous government entities and hundreds of commercial businesses have spent thousands of hours and countless resources considering and deciding how best to organize our community around that outcome. And the people of Loudoun County, ourselves included, have broadly and loudly expressed our expectation that you will listen to your constituents and move forward with bringing Metro to Loudoun County.

Enough waiting. Enough stalling. Bring Metro to Loudoun now.

Sincerely,

Sally Kurtz – Supervisor 2004-2011

Andrea McGimsey – Supervisor 2008-2001

Chuck Harris – Supervisor – 2000-2003

John Stevens – School Board 2004-2011

Bob Ohneiser – School Board 2004-2011

Priscilla Godfrey – School Board 2004-2011

Tom Marshall – School Board 2008-2011

 *********
I agree with Tony Fasolo regarding Metro to Loudoun. We need to continue to push for public transportation to minimize the suburban “cars and parking” vision too many have. We can choose to accept Loudoun County as primarily a bedroom community for eastern Fairfax and Washington, DC (with a continued high tax rate), or we can have the vision to see Loudoun as a jobs and wealth-generating area central to a booming Northern Virginia economy. There are always naysayers that can find reasons to say “no” to every forward-thinking idea. In this case, Supervisor Reid has always supported paving more of our County for roads and parking. This has been his constant theme. He’s certainly consistent. However, this is a paradigm that must change if Loudoun County is to become what it can truly be. I will use the Metro. Not every day, as I work in Sterling, but every time I go to D.C. It’s not fun battling traffic constantly, being stressed out when you arrive somewhere. Taking the Metro would be wonderful for so many of us. In a tactical sense, the cost of extending Metro from the airport to Ryan Road is minimum and will have great, positive impact for almost everyone. I would even support an extension of Metro to the Sycolin Road park-and-ride, a perfect place for those in Leesburg and west. Let’s begin to move away from the old, tired, focus on cars, acres and acres of parking, and more and more roads, and move Loudoun forward.
Dave Butler
  **********
I just read Malcolm Baldwin’s well-reasoned critique of how the current Republican Board of Supervisors has conducted business. They are definitely reducing taxes and spending but are they doing it in way that will hurt or harm the future of Loudoun County? Malcolm makes the case for the latter and I agree with him. The Republicans are reducing taxes without proper study. Instead of “downsizing”, they should be “rightsizing”. Fund the programs that are needed to make Loudoun County a vibrant place to live and work after an honest evaluation. If this means we have to raise taxes, be honest with us and do so.
–Tony Fasolo
**********

(The following email correspondence between Loudoun resident Tony Fasolo and Loudoun County Supervisor Ken Reid was forwarded to us by Mr. Fasolo.)

From: Anthony V. Fasolo [anthonyfasolo@msn.com]

Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 8:01 PM

To: York, Scott; Clarke, Janet; Volpe, Suzanne; Buona, Ralph; Williams, Shawn; Higgins, Geary; Letourneau, Matt; Reid, Ken; Delgaudio, Eugene

Subject: I support the Silver Line to Loudoun!

This extension of the metro is long overdue. We complain about the amount of traffic we have in northern VA and Loudoun County has done a lot to help ease morning traffic jams by providing commuter busses. The metro, in conjunction with the commuter busses, would also help alleviate traffic congestion and should be a no-brainer. It would also be beneficial to those of us who would like to visit DC but don’t want the hassle of driving and parking in DC. So it is a win-win situation. Please vote to extend the metro and also work to get the CommonWEALTH of VA to put up some of OUR WEALTH towards this project.

Thank you for your consideration.

Anthony Fasolo

From: Ken.Reid@loudoun.gov

To: anthonyfasolo@msn.com

Subject: RE: I support the Silver Line to Loudoun!

Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2012 15:11:12 +0000

Hi.

Thanks for the email.  I decided to respond because you are a constituent, although we are on opposite sides of the political fence.

It’s interesting you mention “put up some of our wealth” for this project.

As a good Democrat, are you not concerned about Dulles Rail being a transfer of wealth from lower to middle class residents to a wealthy few?  in essence, tolls will go up on the Toll Road to $4.55 each way next year and potentially $6 each way.  At least one estimate shows that Loudoun folks who use the toll road would be paying more than $3,000 a year in tolls to finance Metro to the benefit of a select few.

Taxes in Loudoun will have to go up at least 3 cents to pay the operating, maintenance and capital costs, unless the Board imposes a commercial and industrial tax – but that could discourage business from moving to Loudoun.

The beneficiaries seem to be a select few households in Ashburn, the  developers who own property at the two Loudoun stations, and in Tysons and Reston, plus the  few government workers or contractors who can use the system and get subsidized by their employers.  But the estimates show that  no more than 10,000 people are projected to use Loudoun’s two Metro stations — which is only 2% of the County’s population — but ALL of Loudoun, at this point, is subsidizing these folks.

Leesburg will lose $1 million in transportation gas tax funds, too, which means the town would have to raise the town tax to recoup that, or just scale back our transportation CIP.

Wouldn’t it be prudent if we just kept Metro out of Loudoun and relied on the Route 28 station , which Fairfax has to pay for, but which Loudoun will get a lot of density via a project approved by the Democratic board last year?  We also will save a net of $150 million on toll increases if the extension is not brought into Loudoun.

Also, I will say this — the politics in Richmond is such that we will NOT get any dedicated funding for Metro or other transportation for years to come.  So, would it not be better to spend the $265 million for this boutique Metro system to help our schools and road and express bus needs, which will benefit far more people?

What do you think?

Ken Reid, Supervisor, Leesburg District

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors

(703) 777-0203

Ken.Reid@Loudoun.Gov

www.KenReid.org

 

Subject: RE: I support the Silver Line to Loudoun!

From: Anthony Fasolo <anthonyfasolo@msn.com>

Date: Wed, April 25, 2012 7:41 am

To: “Reid, Ken” <ken.reid@loudoun.gov>

Thanks for your very detailed response Ken.  You make some very valid points.  Of course FUNDING is the big issue.  When I noted in my email that the commonWEALTH should give us back some of our WEALTH I meant that they should return the monies already collected here in northern VA to help fund this much needed and long-over-due project. Every person running for elected office in Richmond (Democrat or Republican) always says that he/she will get more money back to us to help alleviate our traffic congestion.

I no longer use the Loudoun Commuter Busses (LCB) since I stopped working in the Pentagon in 2002, but I did appreciate that service when I did, as I am sure others do who work in the Pentagon(a Metro station is also located at the Pentagon).  But for those who worked in DC itself I am sure they would like to have the convenience of using the Metro to get there and back and not have to depend on the limited schedule of the LCB.  In addition there are so many cultural (e.g. museums) and educational experiences (seeing our government in action) to be had in DC for ALL citizens, young and old, and the Metro would provide a very convenient way for people to get there and back without the hassle of driving and finding a parking place, so this is hardly a “boutique metro system”.

“Where there is a will there is a way”

 

Thanks again, Ken.

Tony

Anthony V. Fasolo

314 Whitney Place NE

Leesburg, VA 20176

703-779-7302

 **********

 Billboards and Lollipop Signs

One of the things that make Loudoun County a great place to live and work is the GREEN of its country side and its openness, unlike neighboring Fairfax County or DC.  So why are Republican Delegate David (BILLBOARDS ON THE GREENWAY) Ramadan and the Republican members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors so intent on messing it up?  Could it be that there is another GREEN in their thinking; the color of money GREEN from their campaign contributors?  How do the current members of the Loudoun BOS feel about billboards?

I was also disturbed to read that the Loudoun BOS decided to kill the (so called lollipop) sign removal volunteer program that had been in place for several years and yielded good results without injury or liability issues.  I was one of the volunteers and was well trained by the county staff.  I was given a safety vest and advised repeatedly to be careful not to remove signs from private property and when in to doubt leave it; which I did.  It was also emphasized to me during the training that SAFETY came first.  In fact one time, when I was with Bob Moses removing illegal signs on an early Sunday morning, we came upon a lady motorist and her child who had two flat tires.  We moved her car out of the roadway and made sure help was on the way assisted her thus ensuring her SAFETY as well.  I did remove Republican candidates signs, including those for David Ramadan and Senator Dick Black as well as real estate and, Democratic Candidates’ signs.  The county has a record of the number and types of signs that have been removed over the years and I was advised that the Loudoun BOS had the authority to levy fines if so desired.  So, if this is so, this would seem to be a WIN-WIN situation.  The county did not have to pay a cent for the labor involved and if they had fined those who violated the law, they would get some much needed revenue.  It might also help cut down on the number of signs littering the roadside and causing a distraction to drivers.  To expect the Commonwealth of Virginia to fund this program is to ignore the fact that they have not done so in the past when economic times were favorable so why would they do so now?  I would like to know from Chairman York what he plans to do now to make sure we do not become like Fairfax County.

I also urge Delegate Ramadan to abandon his efforts to put billboards on the Greenway for the reasons cited above and for the Loudoun BOS to reconsider their decision to kill the volunteer sign removal program and to instead encourage the spirit of Volunteerism that has been the trademark of this Republic since its founding.

Sincerely,

Anthony V. Fasolo

314 Whitney Place NE, Leesburg, VA 20176

703-779-7302

 **********

Your writer paints a very bleak picture about the possibility of change in way we produce electric power. I can only hope that his pessimism is not driven by knowledge of insider myopia, and, if it is, that it is possible to let the facts remove those blinders.

Yes, as a regulated state, Virginia’s utility companies can pass through investment costs to the ratepayers. However, they do have to defend those investment decisions as necessary to providing the ratepayers the best value. From a purely business point of view, nuclear plant expansion or retrofit of coal plants does not represent ‘best value’. Seventy percent of our coal plants and all of our nuclear facilities are more than 30 years old. 50-69 GW of the national coal fleet cannot justify additional investment. The rest will cost $70-$100 billion. There are better ways to spend our money and they won’t require a new PATH line.

The Mid-Atlantic States have made strong commitments to generating substantial amounts of Clean Power. Their strong policy measures can keep the demand for electricity level through 2030. It will also save the customers money. In Maryland alone $2.1billion would accrue to customers in 2020 and $3.6 billion in 2030, if the nine energy efficiency policies evaluated in Energy Efficiency in the South from Georgia Tech and Duke University were adopted.

DE, MD and NJ all have strong RPSs, or Renewable Energy Standards, requiring electricity production from renewable sources. In Virginia, our standard is voluntary. The average RPS is 20% by 2020. Some of that new power will come from Offshore Wind on the Mid Atlantic Bight. The Bight is a geological formation that runs from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras and is uniquely suited to offshore wind farms. Fully developed it is estimated to be capable of producing 85% of current electricity demand. A planned under water grid removes many of the old myths about the reliability of connecting wind power to our land grid.

Finally, rooftop solarPV can meet up to 86% of total US residential electricity demand. Considered too pricey, rooftop solar is expected to be competitive in many areas by 2015. In New Jersey, which ranks 2nd only to California in installed solar capacity, there were over 5,800 rooftop installations in place at year’s end.

The PATH line truly does represent old thinking and is only inevitable if we, and our legislators, ignore the amazing opportunities in front of us.

–Jane Twitmyer Ashburn, VA

 **********

Congratulations to SP and all of you who put it together on your launch. It feels like the sinews that hold a community together and strengthen it; Phil Hahn would be proud. John Flannery is a genius at describing his candidate subjects in an acorn shell. And I would add a hearty Yes, indeed! to Alan Letzt’s suggestion: DO discover the Valley League, and take your kids! Back when there were only eight teams in each major league I spent my summers watching semi-professional baseball in my home town, forty-two games in fourteen weeks, and I can still remember the smell of the grass always fresh-cut at Tanley Field. Our players were a mixture of local amateurs, teachers working on masters’ degrees at the local teachers college, and a few youngsters recruited for well-paid sinecure jobs by local businessmen. Of course, when the kids are just on their way up you don’t always remember the names, but the Merchants alone sent Bobby Will and Tom Masterson to the Cubs, and there was that tall slender black pitcher that the Rochester recruiters found in Omaha. It was said that he was only sixteen, but boy, did he get people out! I can still see ….. Well, you don’t need to be bored by my hoary tales, but go, and take your kids; you — and they — will see, and smell and hear and taste — things that you’ll never forget, but you have to be there.

–Will Dewey, Madison WI

 

 

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