Principal Not Off the Hook

I was pleased to see that the topic of gang violence in Northern Virginia reached the front page of The Washington Post ["Herndon Teen Killed in Suspected Gang Attack," May 18].

It warrants front page attention. Gang-related activities are becoming more common and more violent, affecting all communities in Northern Virginia.

I was stunned, however, to read the statements made by Janice Leslie, principal at Herndon High School, that the homicide "is not a school issue. . . . This happened in the community" and that "the only connection is that this young man [the victim] attended the high school."

These statements warrant much scrutiny. The Herndon police suspect that the victim was a member of a rival gang. When gang members are students in our schools, gang violence becomes a school issue.

The parents of students who attend Herndon High School should not let their principal take a free pass on this issue. Unless the schools are willing to get directly involved, gang-related activities and violence will only become a more serious and pervasive problem in our community.

Susan Klimek Buckley

Sterling

A Logical Way to Go

I agree with Tom Campbell's letters supporting Leesburg Town Council member Robert J. "Bob" Zoldos and Andrew F. Pitas ["Another Transit Solution," Loudoun Extra, May 23].

A Far Western Corridor (FWC) along Route 15 through Lucketts would be a cost-effective, immediate solution to the north-south traffic congestion in Loudoun County.

The Loudoun County supervisors will -- despite the lack of support at federal and state levels, despite objections from the Town of Leesburg and with no place to land a bridge in Maryland -- put the Western Transportation Corridor (WTC) back on the books as "an option."

Thankfully, the WTC will never be built. But the tragedy is that the WTC option won't provide any pouring of cement for one inch of any road to solve one iota of our transportation problems. What Loudoun will be left with is no solutions, lots of talk and a line on a map that will be erased in four years. Fortunately, the FWC provides a workable, affordable and immediate solution.

A FWC could provide relief in one year at one-tenth the cost and in one-twentieth the time of the WTC. The reason is simple: The cheapest place and way to build a road and a bridge is where there already is a road and a bridge. Frederick County in Maryland has been pleading with Loudoun to build the FWC and has already started widening the road to the Point of Rocks Bridge. It is time to realize that Maryland has already chosen a spot for the bridge. They even went so far as to build the bridge and are only asking Virginia to help widen the bridge.

The town of Lucketts, with its aging demographics, mobile homes, gas marts, roadside food stands and one stoplight, would be revitalized and would see an Ashburn-like urban/rural development. With sound barriers and limited access, the residents and businesses of Lucketts would welcome the enhanced safety and quiet. Most important, we would be saving lives, as every year two to three people are killed on Route 15 (including two on Sunday).

I encourage the Loudoun supervisors to exhibit the courage and foresight to push ahead and enact the FWC so that we can save innumerable lives and provide a workable solution to our transportation needs. This bold approach is certainly more in the interests of the residents of Loudoun than endless planning for the WTC or the techway, which will admittedly only remain lines on a map. The residents of Loudoun County should expect fiscally responsible actions rather than the spin, nebulous plans and fuzzy agendas that we see now.

The FWC along Route 15 would save not only hundreds of millions but also the respect for our political leadership. I would recommend pushing ahead immediately with the FWC as it would preserve the lives of our citizens, which is certainly more important than preserving unworkable transportation options.

Ian Cunningham

River Creek Regional Homeowners Association

School's Strategy

Regarding my letter ["Questioning School's Role," Loudoun Extra, May 6], J. Randall Minchew has either misunderstood or wishes to distort my opposition to Patrick Henry College ["Apathy Is a Greater Threat," Letters, Loudoun Extra, May 16].

Attempting to cast criticism of PHC as misguided "fear" seems to be typical of apologists for the college. Nowhere in my letter do I express or imply fear of PHC students or their activities, yet Minchew has characterized my words as such no less than three times.

It would be more accurate to say that, as an American who values religious freedom, I am deeply offended by the mission of the college. I do not "fear" that the mission of PHC is to bring about a theocratic government. That intention is clearly stated on their Web site.

Government or law that deviates from what the college believes to be God's design is deemed "not legitimate" and "without authority." The school does not, as it claims, uphold democracy but instead hopes to create a society in which only its beliefs are codified in law.

The utilization of such a college to further the political aims of the organized religious right is a long-standing strategy now coming to fruition. Christian Dominionist leader Joseph Morecraft said in 1987 that, although the movement was small, there would be great advances in 25 to 30 years, "when those kids that are now in Christian schools have graduated and taken their places in American society, and moved into places of influence and power."

Equating the campaign labor provided to "social conservative" candidates by dozens of PHC students to the activism of University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor doesn't stand up well to scrutiny. The reason for PHC's existence is the training of students "to lead the nation and shape the culture" according to the "biblical worldview" articulated by Mike Farris, a world view that all students must endorse as a condition of their enrollment.

In contrast, the objective of most universities and colleges is to facilitate exposure to new ideas and enlarge students' view of the world. Whether on the left or right of the spectrum, the Michigan students did not go to college or become politically active to carry out a predetermined social engineering agenda devised by their adult mentors.

The only irony is that Minchew offers his opinion on the Michigan students' politics but neglects to say whether he is in agreement with the vision for our country being taught in the halls of PHC.

David Weintraub

Lovettsville

Opening a New Debate

At last! I think Jeffrey Morse and I have cleared away assumptions and can move beyond defenses ["Clearing Up Assumptions," Letters, Loudoun Extra, May 23].

He and I, conservative and liberal, have substantially agreed that we are both patriotic, God-fearing citizens who care about the poor.

Maybe now we can begin the debate that conservatives and liberals need to have. What then divides us if not false assumptions? Beyond the politics of identity, I sense that the dividing principle is public policy regarding the poor and especially the working poor.

In 1970, the largest employer in America was General Motors Corp., with 350,000 employees who earned an average of $17.50 an hour and had health insurance, vacation and sick leave. Today, the largest employer is Wal-Mart, which employs approximately one million workers at an average of $7.50 an hour and few or no benefits. And yet, the CEOs of Wal-Mart have increased their own pay 1,767 percent since 1995. The company shows literally billions in profit. Other employers, such as Sears and Kroger, are either forcing or urging cuts in pay and benefits to "meet the competition."

It is logically certain that a breadwinner who earns $7.50 an hour cannot provide for his family in any dignified way. Often, the breadwinner must take another job. This leaves children without the crucial parental involvement necessary to a productive future.

A growing population of low-wage workers with unsupervised children will undermine the very democracy we say we love.

In addition, is it morally right that a person who works satisfactorily at a job we say we need and want done not be treated with the dignity of a wage sufficient to provide for a small family?

How should public policy address this? I look forward to our discussion.

S. Ann Robinson

Ashburn