During the 17 years that I have represented the people of Northern Virginia, I have tried to adopt a policy toward media criticism that was best expressed by the late governor Frank Clement of Tennessee: "I really don't care what you call me, as long as you spell my name right."
However, since The Post's "Great Dictator" editorial (Sept. 28) contains errors that do disservice to my colleagues in Congress and my constituents in Virginia, I am compelled to set the record straight.
The editorial intended to suggest that the people of Fairfax County and their elected officials want the Coventry public housing project to be built in West Springfield and that I am blocking the project against their wishes.
In fact, the people of Fairfax County are overwhelmingly opposed to Coventry. So are most of their elected officials. The officials who have been planning the project for three years are the appointed members of the highly controversial Redevelopment and Housing Authority who have continued their plans despite objections from Fairfax residents who oppose the waste and extravagance of a public housing project where single-family homes will be built at a cost to the taxpayers of more than $100,000 per unit.
I have always believed it was my duty as an elected official to represent not my own views, but the views of my constituents. To do otherwise would show a lack of understanding of the meaning of the word "representative."
An apparent lack of understanding of the legislative process in Congress by someone in The Post's editorial department is the reason I decided to respond to the editorial regarding the vote in Congress for the Parris Amendment, which prohibited the District from using federal funds for the implementation of a personnel lottery for the hiring of police officers and firefighters.
The editorial said the Parris Amendment "forced this choice: either the lottery would be stopped or the District's budget would be stopped" and "members of the House casually accepted the terms of the budget package."
The Parris Amendment was just that--an amendment. It was not offered in the nature of a substitute for the entire D.C. appropriations bill. Members of Congress were clearly free to oppose the amendment and then support the final appropriations bill. However, 305 members of the House decided to support the amendment.
Why? Because Congress is becoming more and more aware of the fact that some District officials regard home rule as a method of obtaining all of the rights and benefits of statehood without assuming any of the responsibilities.
One of those responsibilities is maintaining adequate public safety standards not only for the residents of the District, but for the millions of tourists and commuters who venture into the District each year. For several years, the D.C. government has been systematically stripping the D.C. police and fire departments of the resources needed to maintain high standards of public safety. Now Congress has finally said, "Enough is enough."
Since more than 1,300 of the District's police officers and firefighters live in Northern Virginia and are my constituents, I'm proud of my part in Congress' efforts to make their jobs a little less dangerous and to make the D.C. government a little more responsive to their needs.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond. Please keep spelling my name right.