A Crucial Water Concern

Quite some time ago I wrote a letter raising the idea that the spiraling residential development in Loudoun may create problems with our area's water reserves. The current severe drought and continued growth have finally brought our precious water resources into the public's consciousness. The greatest concern I have is not over growth per se, rather it centers on our extremely limited knowledge of exactly how much water we have and how development is affecting the fractured aquifers and river sources.

We should not realistically expect developers to care too much about this issue. They are in the business of turning a profit, and as long as water exists at the time of a sale, their needs are met. If the water runs out down the pike, they have already banked their money. In addition, they are meeting all applicable building codes and laws. The onus of dealing with the water issue as it relates to development is on our government.

One would hope that local and state governments would be taking the prudent and responsible course and be out ahead on this crucial livability issue. However, when one examines the government's track record on such issues as transportation, the control of sprawl and education, we can't expect much speedy assistance from them. The next election is crucial for all of these issues, including water resources, and our duty as voters is to elect those officials who have definite plans to help solve or at least mitigate each problem. Officials promoting more roads, more unchecked growth and more everything as the solution have simply got it backward and need to move to a new area to despoil.

Recently, some of the giant technology firms that helped spawn the unchecked feeding frenzy that currently masquerades as progress have proposed a brilliant solution. Simply tax the residents more and use the money to? You guessed it, build bigger and wider roads ["Tech Firm Activism Worries Neighbors; Suburbs Angered by Push for Roads," A Section, Aug. 22]. Their demand that we pay more taxes for the problems they have helped create shows just how far past the looking glass we have sunk. I wouldn't be looking to their mainframe computers for any meaningful assistance with our water resources either. Their solution would undoubtedly be to add a water tax and turn much of western Loudoun into a lake.

I think Canada has been watching the United States and maybe our area in particular. That nation is moving fast to prevent America from tapping any of its precious water ["Canada's Spigot Not Open for U.S.," A Section, Aug. 22]. Our northern neighbor controls 20 percent of the world's total fresh water, and it looks like not a drop will ever be coming our way. They realize that water is the oil of the new millennium and that it should be protected. At least they have an idea how much water they really have; in Loudoun, it's anybody's guess.

So how certain are you that your well will be flowing tomorrow? Will the new houses up the street lower your water table so that the drought finally makes your water source fail? Will the Potomac River really be able to supply all the thousands of new homes and businesses if the current drought is just the start of a climatic change? We must demand answers to these questions from our leaders. We must make government sober up from its development binge and smell the dry wells. If Richmond can't act decisively on the growth issue, then the state legislature had better start saving for all the water and sewer pipes it shall be paying to install. For in the final analysis, our area has done a first-class job of growing badly. Our problems will only multiply unless we demand aggressive leadership in government and hold industry to the highest standards. Be sure to think very hard this election season before you cast that vote, as your next shower may be riding on the results.




Awareness Key to Gun Issue

I would like to make a slight correction to your Aug. 19 article about the Loudoun branch of the NAACP forum on gun control ["At NAACP Forum on Handgun Violence, a Heated Exchange of Words"].

The 270-acre Robinson family farm is in West Virginia, not Leesburg. It has been in the family for generations and provides me with a participation in the rural concerns for gun ownership. My point in letting the National Rifle Association representative know this was due to his assertion that those of us present who were expressing concerns about their knee-jerk opposition to proposed measures for reducing youth deaths by guns just didn't understand the rural culture. That is simply not true. My husband has championship awards in skeet shooting and has been a skilled and avid hunter (as were my father and grandfather).

My point is attitude. If children are getting guns, dying of gunfire and literally murdering each other, then we all need to come to the table with this tragedy as our overriding concern and at least look--with an open mind--at the ideas presented to stop this carnage.

So far, that has not happened. The NRA comment was that children die of many things, including household chemicals, etc.--implying that this is a "necessary sacrifice" to their cause. Certainly not--without making every effort to stop it!

It's a matter of awareness. When I was a young child in the 1950s, I rode standing in the front seat of the car, urging my dad and uncle to "drive faster!" And being part of a rural culture, I rode on the truck fenders and truck beds without restraint. Now we are socially educated and aware that these habits present undue dangers to young people, and we have accepted the cautions and special equipment to protect children.

Let's bring an open-minded awareness to the gun issue as well. We can protect our youth without giving up too much. We just have to be willing to care enough to engage in honest dialogue and examination.

That has not yet happened.



Judge's Life Inspiring

A few weeks ago, we lost an outstanding American, and the event was scarcely covered by the national press. Late last month, Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., one of the most courageous federal judges in the history of our country, died at his home in Montgomery, Ala., at the age of 80 after an extended bout with pneumonia.

Through his many years on the U.S. District Court in Alabama and later on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Johnson provided force and clarity in implementing the Constitution and the civil rights laws of our country. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus in accordance with a municipal ordinance, Judge Johnson struck down the ordinance as violating the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. A few years later, he issued the order, vigorously opposed by the Alabama state government, that allowed the famous Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march to proceed, and he ruled that the march was "a classic constitutional right: that is, the right to assemble peaceably and to petition one's government for the redress of grievances."

Still later, he issued rulings that led to the integration of the University of Alabama, struck down a state law barring women and blacks from jury service, and provided the intellectual and legal basis for the U.S. Supreme Court's "one man, one vote" rule. The Ku Klux Klan probably correctly labeled Judge Johnson as "the most hated man in Alabama." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also correctly labeled him as "the man who gave true meaning to the word justice."

Judge Johnson was also a Republican when such party affiliation in the Deep South was probably dangerous in it its own right. Undoubtedly, his party affiliation gave him many opportunities to hone his courage and gain an appreciation for the rights of all Americans to participate in the full bounties of citizenship. Today, the U.S. Courthouse in Montgomery, Ala., bears his name.

I hope that I can find the ability to instill in my son the kind of courage and respect for justice that Judge Johnson possessed in such great amounts. At a time when many citizens take for granted the system of justice we have in this country, the life of Judge Frank Johnson offers a wonderful tonic. Think about this the next time you walk past a courthouse.




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