Students Are Top Priority

I would like to thank the voters of the Mercer District for your invaluable support, advice and counsel over the past months. When I announced my intentions to seek the Mercer District seat on the Loudoun County School Board last February, I did so with the hope that in today's sometimes poisonous political environment, one could actually win public office via an issues-oriented, non-negative and substantive campaign of ideas. We accomplished just that, and I am extremely proud of it! Together we have proven that there is a market out there for thoughtful, straightforward public discourse over issues which touch our lives on a daily basis.

More importantly, however, this electoral victory represents an educational victory for children. As you know, I ran because I believe that the voice and needs of children have been squeezed out of the public dialogue by a rising tide of partisan politics here in Loudoun. It is my firm belief that education should have nothing to do with party politics. Rather, it is about investing in ourselves. My campaign was centered upon the organizing principle of putting kids first, and I pledge always to keep that foremost in my mind. Come January, I will be the only teacher on the School Board. I intend, as I stated numerous times on the campaign trail, to use this office as a bully pulpit for schools and children.

I must remind everyone that the future is created, that education is the preparatory stage in life which in the end must form the lifetime habit of learning and good citizenship. Rarely has any nation called upon its schools to educate the children of every segment of society. This is an enormous and critical task in a country whose Constitution rests on the full participation of its citizenry. Education as a public endeavor should be thought of as the starting point from which all other efforts to restructure and improve civilization stem. Having said that, education must be treated in absolute terms as a matter of right and duty, not of convenience or circumstance. Education is a public good from which we all benefit when it is done right! Therefore, we must all rally behind our children, Loudoun's future leaders and guardians, and their schools so as to provide them with the tools and opportunities necessary for making their dreams come true.

I wish to offer again my sincere thanks for your genuine support in furthering the Mercer District's efforts to keep children and their future our future priority number one. The goal now must be to accomplish the greatest good for the greatest number. The goal now must be to provide for both prosperity and fairness. I can only promise that I will work hard to justify your trust and confidence. I look forward with anticipation to serving the children of Loudoun County over the coming years.

PATRICK CHORPENNING

South Riding

Wider Rte. 15 Not Enough

The Virginia Department of Transportation recently widened a small section of Route 15 north of Lucketts to St. Clair Lane. This 2 1/2-mile section of road was due to be repaved anyway, and we should give VDOT credit for deciding to add 18 inches of pavement to each side of the road. This is an improvement, but it did not eliminate the sight distance problems, deep ditches at the edge of the road nor the sharp curves, and it is too early to attribute any safety benefits to it. We hope this little bit of work does not give people the false impression that this is all we need to do.

According to the latest VDOT traffic count, between 5 and 6 p.m., 924 northbound vehicles pass through Lucketts, and between 7 and 8 a.m., the southbound count is 786. Any way you look at it, this is a large volume of traffic for a two-lane road. Some people complain that the recently reduced speed limit has made the congestion worse, even though they concede it has reduced the number of accidents and deaths. Speed limits do not increase or decrease the volume of traffic. All they do is affect the time it takes to go from Maryland to Leesburg. In the case of 55 mph versus 45 mph, it adds only a few minutes to the trip. Also, the number and kind of vehicles--trucks, buses, farm equipment--have a direct impact on congestion.

The long-term solution is to provide an alternate road and bridge over the Potomac to replace Route 15 as a commuter route. Our state legislators and Board of Supervisors need to make this their number one priority. They need to urge Gov. James Gilmore to get together with Gov. Parris N. Glendening of Maryland to work out the details for a new bridge and road because Route 15 traffic is already backed up for miles during peak traffic periods and especially on holiday weekends.

Reference the recent election, no-growth advocates shouldn't underestimate the frustration citizens harbor concerning the inadequate roads in the county. This includes the hundreds of miles of dust-choking washboard dirt roads, many of which could be paved, and existing paved narrow commuter roads. The growth is already here, whether we like it or not and, while people may support a slowing down of new building, the need for doing something about the existing inadequate infrastructure is high on their agenda.

ANDREW F. PITAS

Leesburg