Where It All Began

Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) blames the Virginia Department of Transportation for gridlock in Northern Virginia and calls for an audit. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-District 13) charges that VDOT is using too many consultants and proclaims that its middle management should be replaced. And Virginia Senate candidate Robert FitzSimmonds, along with Gilmore and Marshall, have signed the petition of one Grover Norquist, head of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, promising that they will not raise taxes in Virginia. The latter action is perhaps the biggest slight to Virginians who expect a little more independence in thinking from their elected officials and candidates.

Come on, Jim, Bob and Bob--we thought our governor, delegates and senators are supposed to work for Virginians. Where is your prized responsibility and accountability in this pledge? Grover isn't much help when we sit in traffic for hours on end to get back and forth to work.

If anyone should be replaced, it should be the folks in the governor's office who are not responding to the needs of us hard-working Virginia families. We have a debilitating transportation problem out there. And it will not be fixed by firing middle management, auditing it or studying it some more. The Business Roundtable of Northern Virginia has studied the problem a lot, and it wants action. And so do the rest of us.

The genesis of the problem was in the mid-'90s, when then-governor George Allen downsized VDOT by some 1,200 employees. Part of the proceeds of the downsizing was to be used to help to build the two maxi-prisons in downstate. The prisons cost $400 million.

Today Virginia is renting much of the space in them to other jurisdictions because we did not grow the number of prisoners that Allen projected. And VDOT ended up hiring back many of its former employees as higher-priced consultants. Governor Gilmore comes in and keeps cutting taxes. We all got a few free pizzas last year with the car-tax reduction while gridlock increased and many of our education needs went unmet.

The commonwealth and its localities cannot continue to pay their bills and at the same time provide for the future while cutting revenue sources every year. Virginia must invest more of its surpluses in programs such as transportation--the very programs that serve as engines for much of the economic prosperity that we have had in Virginia in recent years.

State Democratic leaders have put together a plan that would provide additional funding for transportation without raising taxes. Others have suggested additional taxes as a means of building roads faster. In either case, the programs will result in solutions to problems.

Former governor Gerald L. Baliles noted in a recent study that the inadequacy of Northern Virginia's transportation system is the single greatest threat to its quality of life, its prosperity and to the state government's own sources of revenue. He points out further that we are first in the nation in car-pooling and second in mass transit. And yet we have the second-worst traffic congestion.

County voters should look carefully at the candidates for office in November and consider which have records of creativity, independence and accomplishment--leaders who will lead and think for themselves, leaders who will not turn to Grover for guidance.

KEVIN M. RAYMOND

Dale City

Relocate Project

An open letter to: Eugene Rainville, newly appointed to Manassas City Council

From: the elderly residents in the Wellington area of Manassas.

Construction of elderly housing is a desire of all humans with hearts, minds and compassion. New construction of senior housing is underway at the Hastings Drive and Cloverhill Road intersection. I do not know the facts of this project but have concerns for the planned 50-some-foot-high complex to be developed on nearby Hendley Road.

The Wellington tract No. 25 is currently planned for this endeavor. These 7.3 acres contain one of the last stands of old growth hardwoods. Meanwhile across this busy street are more than 40 acres of cleared land that no one has developed in more than nine years.

To be realistic, multifloor buildings are cost-effective. But not in an area backing up to fairly expensive single-family homes; not to mention the "ugly" parking requirements and lights needed to "protect" everyone at night. Will it look like it fits into the neighborhood? I think not.

So, Eugene, I'm asking you to get involved as a City Council member because you were written up in The Washington Post as a member of the Elderly Housing Zoning Committee that "brought consensus out of chaos."

If the project was relocated across the street, say, in sections 12 and/or 21, the trees would buffer the facilities, the seniors would have easier access to the shopping center and the parking areas would not be offensive. And best of all for the developers, the cleared land would provide a much cheaper start-up cost.

And for the citizens of Manassas, we also saved the woods for another day!

DAVE CRITCHLEY

President

Waterford Village

Community Association

Manassas

A Place to Cool Off

I feel you have failed most miserably in your responsibility to keep your readers informed regarding a change in policy that affects their health and safety.

On July 17, the Prince William County Department of Social Services opened the first cooling center, which allows county residents to escape the high heat, high humidity and air pollution.

It is my understanding that when an "urban heat advisory" is issued, the cooling center will be opened. There is also the possibility that the center will be operated during the night hours to allow county residents to sleep in comfort when the high heat levels do not allow a cool-down period before the next dawn.

The cooling center is located at 14730 Potomac Mills Rd., next to the parking garage for the county bus system.

During the winter months, the building serves as a warming center and homeless shelter so county residents will not freeze to death during a winter storm. Since the building stood vacant for about six months each year, the county officials have decided to open the building as a cooling center during the "urban heat advisory" periods.

For more information on this program, call Debra Daniely of the Department of Social Services at 792-7500.

ROBERT K. PHELPS

Manassas

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