A No for College Bonds

As an alumnus of Virginia Tech, I feel compelled to respond to Greg Merritt's letter ["Vote Yes for Education," Letters, Oct. 20] with a counter message: Vote no on the higher education bonds.

Even as the Northern Virginia chapter president, I am not sure where Merritt thinks he gets the authority to speak on behalf of the Alumni Association on this issue. No one asked me whether we should become the mouthpiece for the university administration.

Bonds are a tax increase, no matter what or whom they benefit. Voters should liken them to unsolicited offers for "free" credit cards you get in the mail. What you borrow, you must eventually pay. Bonds only put us and our children into debt.

At some point, public colleges must start running themselves as responsible institutions that hire and fire administrative staff to save money instead of penalizing students and stiffing the taxpayers. If public universities balk, we should cut them off and force them to survive in the privatized world. Either way, it's time to stop subsidizing institutional mismanagement in higher education, which is all that these bonds do.

Schools can offer their own bonds in which alumni can invest for some fixed return in the future. That is a far better system than forcing debt on the single mom on welfare. It is immoral to promote a system that involuntarily forces debt on the taxpayers by a vote of simply 50 percent, plus 1.

Doug Domenech

Virginia Tech '78

Round Hill

Teachers' Privacy Infringed

Creating yet another intrusive database on Virginia teachers ["Panel Aims to Keep Top Educators," Letters, Oct. 24] is not likely to help Virginia recruit and keep teachers.

Of particular concern are statements like that of State School Board Vice President Susan L. Genovese: "Right now, we maintain licensure information, so we'll have that information for a teacher, but then we just don't know where she went after getting her license."

Highly qualified Virginia teachers are valuable skilled labor, not simply cattle to be "tracked" by Genovese's database. Many school districts, such as Fairfax County, follow Genovese's lead and have established a teacher hiring culture that treats incoming teachers as al Qaeda-like security risks and refuses to consider new teacher applications until they can first run their own "in-house security" checks based upon pre-employment disclosure of the prospective teacher's Social Security number (SSN), a well-known violation of state and federal privacy and labor laws.

Regardless, all schools must require the teacher to fill out Virginia security investigation forms that include both fingerprinting and a request to the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS Form 032-02-151/5 2/02) to check the state database for child abuse "indicators."

Unfortunately, these forms illegally attempt to require the teacher to disclose his or her SSN, place of birth, citizenship and the names, dates of birth and sex of all current and former spouses, children and stepchildren. These state forms are, of course, in violation of the privacy and labor rights of teachers inherent in the constitutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States, as well as the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, the Virginia Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Most teachers are too intimidated by school districts to refuse to supply these confidential data, even though the data are not at all required to perform the security screening as directed by the Virginia General Assembly. It's about time that the State of Virginia and local school boards revised their policies and security forms to comply with privacy law and treat their teachers like valuable skilled human beings and not like cattle.

Mike Stollenwerk

Alexandria

A Question of Control

Sunday's Loudoun Extra (Oct. 27) contained a full-page advertisement from Citizens for Property Rights (CPR) that urges Loudoun landowners to call the Board of Supervisors to ask them why they support "jamming the density in the East." This does nothing more than continue CPR's tired tactic of trying to make a class issue over what is a sensible and valiant plan to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of western Loudoun.

Don't be fooled by their deceptive words, which conceal their real agenda -- the total buildout of Loudoun County. With their developer allies, CPR will stop at nothing to achieve this goal, to the detriment of everything we hold dear in Loudoun.

Ask yourself this:

* Do you want Loudoun to be a place that values the land, treasures our rich historical legacy and promotes the unique character of our communities? Or do you want more strip malls, poorly planned residential development, unending pavement and ever-worsening traffic? Look at what's going on around Round Hill and Purcellville and at what has enveloped Leesburg for good examples of what will happen elsewhere in western Loudoun if we follow CPR's vision.

* Do you want contrived, homogenous development foisted on us by out-of-town developers, or do you want sensible growth that respects what we in Loudoun hold dear? There are plenty of good examples of where development can be done in a way that respects the land and our heritage and still delivers excellent profits to developers.

* Do you want control over our development decisions, or do you want out-of-state developers and their patsy local politicians running things? We know what happened in the past when they ran the agenda, and we'll live with their actions for many years to come. Snob zoning, they say? The real matter is taking control of development, which is right for our children, our grandchildren and our communities.

Seems to me that this choice was made a few years back when we elected a new Board of Supervisors to address the issue of rampant development before it was too late. Let's support the Comprehensive Plan and give it a chance to work. We should continue to reject CPR's vision, which is but a recipe for disaster and unmitigated greed.

Steven M. Chase

Unison

Tax Hike Not the Solution

We should vote against the tax referendum. Here's why:

* Fifteen years ago it took 45 minutes to commute from Leesburg to Tysons Corner. In the last 10 years, we have seen Routes 7 and 28 doubled in number of lanes, the Dulles Toll Road doubled and the Greenway built. Despite all of this construction, the commute from Leesburg to Tysons is still 45 minutes or worse. Many mornings you can find the traffic backed up from Tysons back through the Greenway tollbooths. Obviously, doubling the road capacity has not been the answer, but that is exactly what proponents of the tax support.

* This bill practically ignores the other elements of infrastructure that can be key to reducing congestion. The top one is mass transit -- buses and trains. The New York metropolitan area moves more than 3 million people a day on its train system alone. That is more people than work in the D.C. metro area. So obviously trains are efficient yet are not a focus of this bill.

Well-planned bus routes between train stations and key business areas would also significantly reduce traffic. Yet only 22 percent of this tax is targeted for mass transit, and most of that is for adding train cars and stations to existing services, not for expanding the service.

* There are no guarantees that the money already allocated to Northern Virginia will not be pulled by Richmond for other purposes. Proponents of this referendum keep saying there are, but there are not. Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said recently that he felt confident this would not happen, as Northern Virginia and Norfolk had enough votes in the legislature to keep this from happening. That's not reassuring, as these are the same legislators who have let our tax dollars be spent disproportionately in other parts of the state.

* The regional transportation council that has been set up to manage the funds is not elected and has no responsibility to the people it purportedly serves. There is no accountability in this structure. Because of this, it will be susceptible to political influence from those making campaign contributions at many levels.

There is already evidence of this, as the development community has put more than $1 million behind the campaigns to push this referendum through.

This tax referendum is going to end up costing us direct tax dollars, and it will cost us tax dollars indirectly as money is moved to other jurisdictions, it has no accountability to the people who are going to pay for it and it is backing a plan that is already a proven failure.

Vote no! to the tax referendum.

Gene Gartner

Lovettsville

In the Name of Freedom

In the wake of many tragedies in our back yard, from Sept. 11 and anthrax scares to a serial sniper, Loudoun residents will again have the opportunity to make our voice heard, to vote for liberty and for the principles we cherish.

In my rush through life, I take far less time than I should to reflect on the democratic process that allows me to live the busy life that I enjoy. But it is imperative that we take the time before Election Day to examine the issues and to cast our votes for the candidates and positions that best reflect our values. Here in Loudoun, most of us cherish family, faith and freedom. We want a government that is strong enough to protect us from our enemies and limited enough to leave us unfettered in the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and our families.

Our Republican congressman Rep. Frank R. Wolf and Sen. John W. Warner are folks we can be proud of. Wolf serves our locality tirelessly, recently working to include more than $1 million for Loudoun County in the fiscal 2003 transportation bill. Wolf also fights against big gambling interests and advocates the protection of basic human rights around the world. Warner serves as the senior Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, where he works for a strong and well-equipped national defense.

Also on this year's ballot, we will see yet another attempt to confiscate our hard-earned dollars every time we get gas, purchase furniture or even buy school supplies for our children. The sales tax hike is supposed to give us more money for transportation, but supporter state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) says, "That half-cent [sales tax increase] doesn't even shorten your drive 10 seconds on the way to work."

The bottom line is that the sales tax hike won't improve transportation, but it will cost you about $300 a year. Maybe we should ask supporters of the tax hike why we should pay more when less than half the tax dollars we send to Richmond are spent in Northern Virginia and state spending has increased nearly 40 percent in the past four years. Politicians don't need more money, they need more accountability. We don't need to be taxed more. We need Richmond to spend our tax dollars on our roads.

On Nov. 5, take the time to vote for the values you cherish: Vote for Congressman Frank Wolf and Sen. John Warner and against the regional sales tax hike.

Eve Marie Barner

Between the Hills