Friday, June 22, 2007

Loudoun County York NVTA Hearing

Last night's hearing in Loudoun held by BOS chair Scott York, regarding providing input on NVTA's tax and fee response to House Bill 3202 (local taxation for local transportation) wasn't much of a bilateral ideas exchange, rather, it was mainly a one-sided display of builder/developer unity with a smattering of cautionary suggestions, and only 2 real "Vote No" proponents (out of a very meager audience of 50, with 30 public speakers). Supervisors Kurtz, Tulloch and Delgaudio were in attendance, along with House Delegate Bob Marshall and House Senate District 33 challenger Patricia Phillips.

The initial summary of NVTA's proposal yields up to 40% of $40 million per year to come back to Loudoun from local taxes and fees; the highest taxes to be paid by sellers of real estate (which the National Association of Realtors (NAR) representative vehemently disagreed with), with other fees levied on things like auto repair, transportation rentals, hotel stays. The other 60% of the money raised would be prioritized regionally by NVTA to service debt, help fund Metro and VRE expansions, and support what's sure to be significant administrative bloat (facilities, legal, bond consulting, technology, CFO, Marketing, etc.) around running a new organization responsible for raising and spending $400 million a year among public projects. The only Dulles South area project currently in priority this year to be assisted with funding from these taxes is improvements to the intersection of Rt. 606 and 621, all other Loudoun projects are around Leesburg or to the west. (Larger projects, like widening of Rt. 50 and Rt. 606 improvements, won't begin until 2013).

Speakers were a who's who acronym list of those organizations who aren't significantly impacted by the fees (which will mostly impact individuals), including the LCCC, DCRA, WATF, CFD, NVBIA, BAIOP, NAOIP, WTA, etc. All simply told York to vote 'Yes'. PEC offered a cautionary note on land development and land use environmental impacts, and Ms. Phillips offered an insightful cautionary note into the actual constitutional authority of NVTA to create bonds not actually approved by constituent voters. Delegate Marshall was a resounding and well-thought out "No" vote - focusing mainly on the fact that the NVTA tax and fee vote this July is far too soon to act without more information on what exactly would be funded, plus the NVTA's leadership is altogether too Fairfax-centric to have adequately considered Loudoun's priorities without significantly more insight and investigation. He asked York not to vote at this time for such a "transportation pot luck".

Dulles South Online and Dulles South Business Alliance's counsel wasn't provided orally, but internal statements by these organizations is to support the bill, if for nothing else than some progress absolutely must be made, even with the difficult hurdles to come.

York's concluding comments forecast a "Yes" vote from Loudoun if very specific questions regarding NVTA authority, bond issuance, funding priorities and other logistical issues can be answered fully by the time of the vote - otherwise, the vote will be a "No" supporting the few very illuminating speakers who counseled York that significant more time and introspection is required in this very important, and needed transportation funding opportunity (the first one in 21 years!).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dulles South Safety Center Requests Used Cell Phones

Dulles South Residents Asked to Help Secure the Call for Domestic Violence

The Dulles South Public Safety Center is the latest location for residents to drop off old or unwanted cell phones and help secure the call for victims of domestic violence. The program, a joint effort between the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office and the Victim/Witness Program in the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney, collects old cell phones and converts them into emergency service phones. The phones are then handed out to victims of domestic violence by the Loudoun County Victim/Witness Program.

Victims will not only be able to use the phone to dial 911 but it is also programmed to call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, which provides crisis intervention and support. The victims who have received the phones may not have been otherwise able to obtain a cell phone and are now able to call 911 in an emergency. "In some cases spouses take away the victims access to a phone," says Loudoun Sheriff Steve Simpson. "They may have physically removed the cell phone from the victim or canceled the service altogether and that is where we come in", he added.

The organization Secure the Call, a non-profit group in Maryland, assists in the collection effort and performs the work necessary on behalf of the agencies. The old cell phones are reprogrammed by the non-profit organization to only dial 911 even if it is not part of a wireless carrier's network.

Approximately 70 percent of the phones collected through the program will be donated to participating agencies so that they may be given to the people that need them. The other 30 percent will be sold to the recycled phones market to pay for the reprogramming of the donated phones.

(Thanks for the heads-up on this, DullesSouthNet Yahoo Group!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dulles South Logo Contest

Get your entries in by July 15th for the Dulles South Logo Contest! Why are we, at Dulles South Online, uniquely qualified and empowered to host such a ground-breaking contest? 'Cuz we thought of it first, that's why!

Friday, June 15, 2007

New look in the name of SEO

Just changed the look of "Gateway to Loudoun County" to a "classic template" configuration on Blogger, in order to take advantage of FTP publishing from Google to Dulles South Online, thereby transferring page rank and SEO benefits back into the host site.

Who knew blogging was so much more than just a daily brain dump, and how beholden we all are to the whims of Google.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mark Herring responds to business input

Mark Herring (D- Virginia Senate District 33) responds to some questions about how to attract more commercial (non-retail) businesses into Loudoun County, to help shore up the tax base and invigorate the business Dulles South Online News. We'll be looking for Patricia Phillip's answers, and more from Mark, in the next few months.

School the Lifeguards

Now that school's just about out, and many are heading to the local pools - be sure to not only keep an eye on your kids, but on the lifeguards - as a customer. Now's the time to quickly point out to pool management and staff weaknesses in the protections available to swimmers, as overseas employees and local teenagers begin what for many is their first Summer job, that carries an unfortunate level of responsibility with it. Most aren't trained at all, beyond instructions to "watch the front desk", "blow your whistle", "ignore your friends" and "can you swim?". (I know, I've been there, too, both as an untrained lifeguard, and a fully-trained one). Here's what I noticed on day 1, and pointed out to the supervisor -

1 - when clearing the pool, the guard should walk the perimeter and make sure everyone's out, before retiring to the pool-house gab-fest.
2 - always have the throwing ring or sling on your person (take a look at the Fairfax County Cub Run lifeguards - absolutely spectacular training)
3 - adjust your seats - just because your schedule is to sit in a particular seat, if all the kids are on the other side of the pool, walk around and be near them - this applies also to the "older" adult lap swimmers
4 - no cell phones or ipods on deck (it always amazes me to see this)
5 - can you really swim well? I actually saw a lifeguard swimming in the deep end, who could barely keep herself up, much less help someone else.
6 - be bold - you're in charge, not the raucus high-schoolers, don't just make them sit, make them leave if necessary
7 - police those swim diapers!
8 - keep food off the deck (it's just a total mess, plus attracts ants and bees)
9 - who's watching the 3-year old? Should be a parent always within arm's length, not over on the chair reading a book
10 - accept criticism, comment and feedback like a professional!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Loudoun and Tulloch: is this news?

Today's WAPO front page, above the fold, leads with the story "Official Tried to Exploit Contacts" - concerning Bruce Tulloch's (BOS, Republican, Potomac district) alleged ties and influence to developers and other financial stakeholders in the "22nd Century Loudoun County land grab". Is this really news, so much so that it deserves the front page (next to articles on Bush, Global Warming, Darfur, Spam King arrests and Dow Jones & Co. sale)? Why wasn't this covered in the previous day's Loudoun insert?

Here's the rundown on alleged illicit activities, that deserves front-page attention by WAPO readers the world over;

- conversations with developers, establishment of private "ties"
- unsuccessful spending lobbying
- voting for friends (not "improper" under VA COI laws)
- name-dropping
- a "home in common"
- major recent purchases after filing for bankruptcy (over 15 years ago!)

This attention and report is absurd, more relevant and interesting to the blogosphere (than the national news), and, frankly, simply another day in the life of many area counties, and most assuredly Loudoun. Is WAPO promoting a political year agenda, or simply trying to fill space with local news from a dry source (and perhaps unmotivated reporters)? Note the Loudoun County insert has, in the past 6 months, turned into the regional source for Fauquier County news, a republishing platform for WAPO-reporter supported blog entries from "Living in Loco", and a place to stick in all kinds of "regional" news, columns and advertisements (having nothing to do with Loudoun at all).

I think the local rags will likely provide the most appropriate and locally-relevant insight and material on these activities, events and allegations as they unfold over the year - WAPO's fallen down on this one (after such a good "breaking" story earlier this year, about Loudoun corruption!).