Legislators to Take Local Concerns to Richmond

Legislators to Take Local Concerns to Richmond

40 residents raise issues ranging from DMV to second hospital.

Leesburg resident Susan Horne waited for five hours at the Leesburg Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office before she could get services.

“That’s totally unreasonable to expect someone to take that time out of a work day,” Horn told six representatives from the General Assembly.

Horn asked the representatives to work with other state legislators on reopening the DMV office in Sterling that Gov. Mark Warner (D) closed late last year. She was one of nearly 40 Loudoun residents to speak at the representatives’ annual town meeting, which was held in Leesburg last Thursday.

State Sen. William “Bill” Mims (R-33) and Delegates Richard “Dick” Black (R-32), Joe May (R-33), Robert Marshall (R-13), Thomas Davis Rust (R-86) and Gary Reese (R-67) hosted the town meeting before the legislative session began this week to hear residents’ concerns. The General Assembly convened on Jan. 8 and is scheduled to continue until Feb. 22.

“Loudoun’s General Assembly delegation meets with interested citizens to hear their thoughts and concerns before each General Assembly session,” Mims said, explaining that he and the other representatives at the meeting wanted residents to give them “their marching orders.”

Through redistricting of the House in 2001, the delegation representing Loudoun increased from three to seven representatives, giving Loudoun residents more “voting power,” Black said. “We’re looking forward to an interesting session.”

THE DELEGATION gave each speaker three minutes at the podium. They urged the legislators to reduce and change how taxes are collected and distributed, to continue funding human services and to support additional hospital services in Loudoun.

“It is unacceptable today that for every $1 that Northern Virginia sends to Richmond, its residents get 25 cents back,” said Matt Chwalowski, Leesburg resident. “Over the past 10 years, Virginia’s population increased by 22 percent, yet the revenue collected by the state increased by 80 percent with inflation running at 25 percent for the period. The additional money spent by the government instead of by the people resulted, on average, in lowering our standard of living. ... The solution of many of our problems lies in the free market.”

Other speakers supported government spending for certain services. The first four speakers, along with another dozen speakers, urged the legislators to continue funding mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse programs. Warner proposed a 10 percent cut to these programs to help recover a $1.5 billion budget shortfall in fiscal year 2003.

“The Governor’s 10 percent cut, in addition to the reduction of our local expenditures as required by Mr. Kirby Bowers, our county administrator, represent a total of $1.1 million,” said Linda Bailey of the Loudoun County Community Services Board. The cuts will result in a reduction of prevention services, inpatient psychiatric treatment and other such services and limit funding of group homes, she said.

Mary Young, a Loudoun resident who works with residents with disabilities, asked the legislators to increase the number of medical waivers provided for those residents. “We need more funding from our state government,” she said. “I don’t want to think the public wants to abandon our most vulnerable citizens.”

OTHER RESIDENTS spoke in favor of bringing on additional hospital services and opening the Broadlands Regional Medical Center in the Broadlands development near the Dulles Greenway.

“The hospital we have now is a fine hospital. We just need another choice,” said Don Descutner.

Connie Fletcher agreed, saying the expansion at Loudoun Hospital Center is not enough to accommodate the county’s growing population. “There is a need and demand for a second hospital,” she said.

Residents addressed other needs they identified in the county. For instance, Ken Reid of Leesburg said transit is needed in Loudoun and spoke in favor of adding bus service in the Dulles Corridor as opposed to heavy rail, which he said will cost 10 times that of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). “Virginia is about to spend tens of millions of dollars studying something that is not financially feasible,” said Reid, media coordinator for the Rapid Transit Action Committee. “Why waste these funds on a rail project that is not going to be funded when we have traffic congestion problems now. ... Taxpayers are going to get inpatient when BRT can be put in place now.”

Members of Citizens for Property Rights (CPR) also spoke at the meeting.

“I want to encourage you to send no money to Loudoun County. We’ve seen enough of how they spent money in the past three years,” said Jack Shockey, president of CPR, as he held up a sign stating, “Say no to snob zoning.” He said the Board of Supervisors passed up an opportunity last month to “hold up the Purchase of Development Rights Program,” which allows the county to purchase easements from property owners in exchange for protecting open space and the county’s resources, giving money to the rich, as Shockey claims.

“No matter how much you give the board, [it] will bankrupt the county,” said Patricia Shockey, CPR member. “When you get to Richmond, please protect our property rights.”