Two memorials and a new teaching position to support English-language learners at Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) received unanimous approval from the Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, November 3 regular meeting.
Skyline High School Athletic Director Bill Cupp explained to board members that the Shenandoah Valley Communitarians contacted his department to discuss funding a memorial at the school following the tragic death of Logan Cole Maiatico, 19, a 2021 Skyline High School graduate and star athlete who died in a car accident on October 4.
Together, they decided on Logan’s Bell as a memorial to honor Maiatico, as well as “the lives of all within the Skyline High School Community that have had their lives or the lives of loved ones cut short,” said Cupp.
The vision of Logan’s Bell is for anyone who rings the bell to take a moment in self-reflection of lives lost that are near and dear to their own heart, he said, noting that the 5-feet-tall, the permanent structure will be erected at the south end of the high school’s stadium.
The cost of the project, materials, and labor will be financed by donations obtained from the Front Royal community by the Shenandoah Valley Communitarians, which has a stated mission to inspire social responsibility by supporting local business people and working together to build a better community.
Members of the organization include Clint Pierpoint and Heidi Rutz of Next Home Realty Select; Amanda Kindall of Element Risk Management Insurance; Blake Pierpoint of Blake and Co Hair Spa; Ellen Aders with State Farm; Katrina Meade with City National Bank; Molly Llewellyn from CBM Mortgage; Brad Minardi with Artsii; Kelly Wahl at Lang Appraisal Services; and Front Royal Chief of Police Kahle Magalis.
School Board members Vice Chair Catherine Bower, Kristen Pence, James Wells, and Melanie Salins voted to approve the memorial. School Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during last night’s meeting.
Additionally, the members all voted to approve the Patricia Ann Hand Memorial Music Lover’s Scholarship with gratitude.
Hand played the clarinet in grade school and was active in music throughout her school years. She also assisted in community theater groups and attended many live musical performances. Hand worked at Skyline Caverns during high school and after graduation was employed by the local sheriff’s office. Later, she accepted a position with American Management Systems (AMS) as a computer programmer in Arlington, Va., a position that eventually allowed her to relocate to Newton, Iowa, until her retirement.
Hand requested that a scholarship in the amount of $25,000 be established in her name at Warren County High School, where $2,000-awards will be made yearly until 2033, or later, according to the information Fox read, “to a graduating senior who intends to continue their education in music.”
In another action agenda item before the School Board, members approved a request for WCPS to hire an additional middle school English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher through June 30, 2022, “needed due to increased ESL program enrollment,” said WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger.
As part of the motion, the board also authorized the superintendent to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors transfer $63,650 from the Contingency Fund to a specific instruction fund to provide the needed teacher’s salary. Ballenger said the school division wants to use contingency funds for the new teacher position because “this needs to be built into our budget,” he said, adding that “the numbers are rising every year, so we need this additional teacher.”
Ballenger said ESL student enrollment for WCPS increased by approximately 20 students this school year over the 2020-2021 school year. The division’s current ESL enrollment is 171 students total in elementary and secondary schools. At the same time, WCPS currently employs just six ESL teachers. Each ESL teacher has a caseload of between 26-32 students, with some ESL teachers having 42 students, Ballenger said.
The superintendent proposed adding one additional endorsed ESL teacher to serve WCPS middle schools. The position will enable identified students at the middle schools to receive their required minutes according to the schedule that works best for the students, not during a core class. Adding this position also will enable high school ESL teachers to push into classrooms to assist students and/or provide additional support and tutoring to beginning English learners, he said.
“As we approach June 30, 2023, we will review current enrollment and work to add this position into the regular school budget,” Ballenger said.
Lastly, the School Board also unanimously approved a WCPS calendar change that Ballenger said is much needed for students, teachers, and WCPS staff, who are facing an ongoing pandemic, as well as staffing shortages and student discipline issues.
At its May 19 meeting, the Warren County School Board approved the recommendation to move the start of school this year for students from Tuesday, August 10, to Tuesday, August 17. In doing so, several modifications were included in the approval, including one to change November 22 and November 23 from holidays to school days, Ballenger explained to board members prior to their vote.
“As this challenging semester has progressed, teachers and staff have requested additional time for planning and an opportunity to recharge from an extremely stressful semester under the current pandemic,” said Ballenger, who recommended that the 2021-22 school calendar be revised to reflect Monday, November 22 as a Professional Development Day for staff and no school for students, while Tuesday, November 23 would be a holiday for both staff and students.
Mountain Vista Governor’s School Director and Principal Kelly Huff provided a short presentation on the benefits of attending the school.
Superintendent Ballenger reported that there will be a November 10 vaccination clinic held for ages 5-10 years at a to-be-determined location. A letter is being sent out to parents this week with more information, he said.
The School Board also went into a closed meeting to discuss an employee personnel matter and student discipline issues, among other items.
The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank promotes food finder tool amid winter weather, rising food prices
Following another weekend of winter weather, many individuals and families across the region are experiencing hunger because they could not afford to both heat their home and buy food. For those facing this tragic dilemma, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has an online tool for people to find food assistance in their community.
Improved and re-launched in the spring of 2021, the user-friendly and mobile-accessible Food Finder tool can be navigated in 12 different languages and displays a broad range of partner and program sites (including mobile food pantries and more). Search results can be filtered by service type, days of operation, distance and even the availability of evening hours.
Compounding the hardships stemming from winter weather, food prices also continue to rise. Food-at-home prices (e.g., groceries) were up 6.5% in December 2021 from December 2020, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs rose 12.5% over the same period.
At least one in 12 people in the Blue Ridge area experiences hunger, with children and the elderly suffering the worst consequences.
“We are in the midst of the coldest part of the year, and with more winter weather on the way, many people are faced with the impossible question of, ‘Do we heat our house today or buy food?’” said Michael McKee, CEO of The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “We understand the gravity of these situations, and we are committed to offering resources to those facing these difficult decisions. We’ve already seen the positive impact of Food Finder, and we hope more across our service area can find help through the tool should they need it.”
For those interested in utilizing Food Finder, go to: foodfinder.brafb.org for more information.
About the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Verona, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is the largest organization alleviating hunger in western and central Virginia. The Food Bank serves an average of nearly 119,000 individuals each month across 25 counties and eight cities through distribution centers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Winchester, and Verona. Together with our network of 207 community partners and 187 program sites, we’re serving record numbers of Virginians during a prolonged pandemic and its associated economic impacts. We pledge to continue innovating and adapting to secure, store, and distribute more food to more individuals, families, children, and seniors experiencing hunger. The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a national food bank association that supports 200 food banks across the United States providing 6 billion meals to 42 million people through 60,000 partner pantries. For more information, visit www.brafb.org.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red-shouldered Hawk
Why are hawks so often hit by vehicles?
This Red-shouldered Hawk was admitted last week due to a vehicle collision. This hawk had a guarded prognosis on intake due to the severity of head and lung trauma.
This bird improved over the first few hours with supplemental oxygen and pain medications, but was quiet for a few days after admission. Over time, this patient’s breathing improved as did the head trauma.
Now, after a week in care, this patient has been moved to an outdoor enclosure. Though able to fly, there are still some coordination and endurance issues.
We are hopeful that this hawk will recover fully and be released!
We are only a couple of weeks into January, yet we have already admitted six raptors for confirmed vehicle collisions this year.
Why does this happen so often? And how can you help?
We all know that littering is bad. But it may surprise you that biodegradable items like banana peels, apple cores, and other food waste are especially dangerous to wildlife! Often, people will toss these items out of their car window thinking they are harmless and will biodegrade quickly. In reality, the food scraps attract prey species to the roads, and then predators, like hawks, follow.
Don’t give these birds of prey more of a reason to frequent roadways. Help wildlife by disposing of your trash properly!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Summary of the Warren County EDA meeting of January 14, 2022
The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority held the first board of directors’ meeting of the New Year via Zoom. The meeting was authorized under Governor Northam’s executive mandate for the health emergency.
The Board adopted two resolutions.
The first resolution the board unanimously approved was a one-year lease with a 60-day notice clause for 1329 Happy Creek Road. The house is part of a settlement on the Jennifer MacDonald bankruptcy.
The second resolution supports Sands Anderson, EDA’s legal counsel, in the lawsuits to recover lost funds during the Jennifer MacDonald tenure as executive director. The resolution authorizes the EDA Chairperson, Jeff Browne, to direct Sands Anderson in trial strategy as necessary regarding claims and defenses based on the EDA’s strategies.
Beginning with the January 14, 2022 meeting, committee reports are in writing and submitted prior to the meeting with the board report. The committee reports along with the agendas of each meeting will be posted on the website prior to the meeting. The January committee reports are posted. The committee chairs highlighted the items in the reports and answered questions.
Board Vice-Chairman and Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold discussed the long-term need for housing in the community to support businesses brought to the county in the future. Tom Patteson presented an oral report on the staffing for the EDA. Dr. Patteson expressed disappointment that several qualified candidates interviewed but took other positions. He recommended expanding the advertising for the Executive Director position to include the IEDC, an association of professional economic developers.
Dr. Patteson resigned effective January 31, 2022, at the end of his four-year term. The board as a whole and individual board members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for all his work on the board including serving as treasurer. Dr. Patteson provided a balance to the board, attention to detail, and business acumen.
As of January 31st there will be two open positions on the board. Jeff Browne emphasized a full board is needed especially now with the board managing much of the day-to-day operations of the EDA.
VDOT crews focus on secondary roads tonight – drivers should watch for refreezing and drifting
STAUNTON – (5:00 p.m.) Plow crews in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District continue with snow removal operations following a major winter storm on Sunday, January 16. With interstate and most primary roads now clear or in minor condition, work will focus on secondary roads. Crews will plow and treat roads throughout the night. If possible people should not park along the road so that plows can fully clear snow from the neighborhood and other residential roads.
With temperatures dipping below freezing, drivers who travel tonight and tomorrow morning may encounter damp areas of roadways that are frozen, creating black ice. Caution should be used when traveling. Ice is prone to form first on bridges, overpasses, and other elevated surfaces.
High winds are forecasted for the area. Blowing and drifting snow covering plowed roads may occur. Crews will continue to monitor and plow as needed. Travelers should be aware of possible snow-covered areas on previously plowed roads.
Here are the road conditions as of 5:00 p.m. in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:
Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany County. Clear conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.
Interstate 66 – Clear conditions in Warren County.
Interstate 81 –. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Frederick counties.
Primary roads – Minor conditions in Alleghany, Highland, Bath, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Clarke counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Warren, and Page counties.
Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Warren County. Moderate conditions in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull-down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.
On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).
The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.
The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
Road condition definitions:
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
Moderate – snow or ice on major portions of the roadway.
Minor – bare pavement except for isolated spots of snow, ice, or slush.
Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers address to the Joint Assembly
On January 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers to the Joint Assembly in Virginia’s State Capitol.
As prepared for Delivery
Standing here before you, and looking around this room, I’m struck by the history that’s been made in this place, the people’s house.
As well as the fact that the work you do here has great consequence for the people of Virginia. And so it is as we gather here today.
Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Lt. Governor Earle-Sears, Chief Justice Goodwyn, and Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Virginians, today we begin anew, all of us together.
After years of fractured politics, a deadly pandemic, lives and livelihoods lost, soaring mental health incidents and drug overdoses, rising crime rates, ever-increasing costs for housing, food and fuel, Virginians have sent us here to turn the page.
They came out in record numbers to make their voice heard. They chose a new vision for the future.
Today, I want to speak to that vision and begin our partnership to address the priorities of the people.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of the members of these two legislative bodies both Republicans and Democrats.
You have invited me to your homes. We’ve shared meals together. We’ve done community service together. And I thank you for that.
We’re all part of Team Virginia.
And as I shared on Saturday, we can take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life which we celebrate today and his words that “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
The work we have to do, we must do together.
And there isn’t a better example of people coming together on behalf of Virginia than the brave crews, the law enforcement heroes, and the first responders who worked during yesterday’s storm in the freezing cold, ice and snow to keep our streets safe, the lights on and our hospitals open.
Before I speak to the work ahead, I want to recognize someone who has traveled with me every step of the way.
She inspired me to live a life of faith as a younger man. She is an example of humility and strength not just to our children but to women across this great commonwealth.
She is the best partner I could ever imagine our First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin.
After a year of campaigning at diners, senior centers, schools, housing projects, courthouses…even pickup basketball games, I’ve taken the measure of our people.
I’ve found them to be resilient, optimistic, courageous. I listened to their hopes and concerns their dreams and fears. Their stories of inspiration and stories of tragedy.
Some cried on my shoulders. Some prayed over me. And some spoke bluntly maybe a little too bluntly at times.
Almost all expressed a desire for a Virginia worthy of the ambitions of its people.
I come here today to echo their clarion call for change.
To form a government that works for ordinary citizens. That’s a catalyst for opportunity and not an obstacle. And that addresses the kitchen table concerns of working families that are real and mounting.
It’s been said that all great change starts at kitchen tables across America.
You see, that’s where families talk about what matters to them. It’s also where parents discuss their worries stagnant wages in the face of rising expenses caring for an elderly parent and trying to find a way to save for their kids’ future.
I want to share with you something that we’ve all heard from voters.
They’re genuinely concerned that the cold halls of government are disconnected from the cold realities families face while sitting at their kitchen tables every day.
In that respect, we shouldn’t misconstrue record revenue for government as economic success for Virginians.
The view from the people, whose labor generates those tax receipts is quite different than the talk in Richmond.
They see an economy whose growth has stalled at less than 1% per year for 8 years. With household incomes stagnating over the last year — as the cost of living has sky-rocketed.
They see declining schools, they see violent crime reports dominating the news, they see record low labor participation, they see small businesses struggling, and they see government failures and encroachments on their liberties.
From the perspective of every day Virginia families times are tough. And the state of our Commonwealth is not what it should be.
Today we’re at the proverbial “tipping point” where the cash flow to the government from rising tax burdens is very high.
And yet the impact of high costs and high taxes, and an increased regulatory burden are clearly being felt in the real economy and the real lives of Virginians.
The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.
With current and projected tax driven surpluses we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families.
And make crucial investments in those critical pillars to the great Virginia promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.
To do that, I’m asking each of us in this body Republican and Democrat alike to come together.
To rise above the Richmond of divisive, special interest politics, the small and the parochial to usher in a sweeping vision of change
And to put this commonwealth on a pathway to prosperity.
On day one, we hit the ground running, signing 11 executive actions, and swearing in a full cabinet, outstanding individuals, who are qualified and share Virginia’s values.
As of today, we’ve worked with legislators to introduce 59 pieces of legislation to tackle our day one agenda.
And we’ll be submitting a package of 25 budget amendments to reflect our bipartisan priorities.
We’re addressing issues that are critical to the future of this commonwealth. And that every member in this chamber can get behind.
Virginians have given us a license to lead. They have charged us all to deliver on a Day One agenda.
We know on some issues there’ll be deep disagreement.
But I believe this chamber is big enough for us to talk through our differences. And there is more that binds us than divides us.
For we all share a common goal to leave a better Virginia for our children.
We’re going to start by investing in Virginia classrooms.
Education is the key to opportunity. The means by which all children and their parents can realize their greatest dreams.
Virginia schools have a lofty reputation. But lately we’ve not lived up to that reputation.
In fact, our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.
Unelected political appointees lowered standards which inevitably led to a decline in student performance.
60% of our students don’t meet national proficiency standards, including over 70% of Latino students, and over 80% of black students, failing to meet standard on the math NAEP tests. Remarkably, despite these dramatic declines noted by the National Center for Education Statistics only one Virginia school has been deemed failing
because accreditation standards were lowered.
Starting now we’re ending the accountability shell games intended to make us feel good but amount to the often stated “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Let’s stop cheating our kids.
On this we should join arms and purpose together so that when our time here is done we’ll collectively have raised education standards from the lowest to the highest in the nation.
I’m also calling for $150 million to help us meet our goal of starting 20 new charter schools.
Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools, or schools of innovation – it doesn’t really matter.
I don’t care what we call it I just care that we do it.
We’re joined today by the students of Green Run Collegiate Charter School in Virginia Beach. Green Run Collegiate shares a facility with Green Run High School.
They have an innovative curriculum. They provide access to every child in the school district to attend the collegiate program. They’re thriving and their parents are thrilled.
Please join me in welcoming these future Virginia leaders to our commonwealth’s capitol.
We’re going to build partnerships between the commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence.
It could be a lab school in Southwest Virginia in partnership with UVA Wise.
It could be an entrepreneurship or entertainment industry-focused school partnering with one of our amazing historically black colleges and universities.
Or a partnership with Old Dominion University for opportunities in offshore wind development or maritime projects.
When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay.
With the exception of a parent or guardian no one impacts the future of a young child more than a quality teacher.
We will attract quality professionals to Virginia schools. And we will pay teachers as the professionals they are.
We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents.
My message to parents is this,
You have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care.
And we will protect and reassert that right.
Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is enhanced.
I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum.
Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think.
That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race.
That’s also why I want to give parents the right to be informed before their child is exposed to sexually explicit materials.
Please, send me the same bill you passed on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and I will sign it.
The classroom environment must be safe, so children can learn.
I’m asking members of this general assembly to prioritize school safety by putting a school resource officer on every campus.
I also ask you to join me in protecting students from sex trafficking organizations that recruit them on and off campus.
Let’s train educators to see the signs of trafficking. And to stand in the gap for children at risk of being preyed upon.
Let’s also involve local law enforcement agencies in the approval of school safety audits.
And whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school — we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation.
No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.
Schools exist for the educational benefit of children, and for that reason they must remain open. I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and get the booster.
As we battle covid, its parents that should decide the health measures taken for their children.
That is why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt-out of mask mandates in schools. This is a matter of individual liberty.
Again, this body passed a law that protects parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their children.
And health care workers should get to make those decisions too.
And I will continue to oppose President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers as we continue to fight a crisis of staffing in Virginia’s healthcare system.
Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle we will protect lives and livelihoods.
That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday it means Virginia is open for business.
It also means the science since the beginning of the pandemic has not been static. We now have therapeutics better testing protocols and fortunately a less severe variant.
And of course, we have vaccines. It means, educating our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to get the vaccine and the booster.
There are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians today.
And speaking to you as your Governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.
The data is clear people who do not get the vaccine are four times as likely to be hospitalized.
The vaccine will not only help keep people out of the hospital, it will also keep people working, earning a paycheck and growing our economy, something that has to remain a top priority for us all.
Our Day One Plan will jump-start jobs.
We’re going to repeal needless regulations. We’re going to invest in job training. We’re going to foster innovation. And we’re going to win the competition for jobs and corporate re-locations.
I support a significant investment in mega-sites.
To make sure we don’t lose the next advanced battery manufacturing plant after seeing several go to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.
And while we’re at it let’s broaden the baseball stadium authority to include football. And perhaps we’ll get one of those too.
I want our rural Virginians to know we’re spreading prosperity far and wide. And rural Virginia won’t be left behind.
We’re not only bringing jobs, we’re bringing high-speed broadband.
Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority. This time we’re going to get it done.
We’re also going to make certain that key projects at our ports and our highways are completed.
So the message is clear, if your cargo container ships is stuck off the coast of another state come to Virginia.
We’re ready for your business. And we won’t make supply chain problems worse with regulatory red tape.
And let me be clear, I believe in the fundamental right to work.
If anyone tries to bring me a bill that creates forced unionization it will meet the business end of my veto pen.
The states around us have created more jobs, grown their economies faster, and took steps years ago that we must take now, lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, workforce development, and more.
This is a real competition, and to win, we have to “play to win.”
One of the other challenges businesses face especially small businesses is the high cost of providing health care for their employees.
Over the last three years, you sent the governor eight versions of an association health plan bill to make it easier for workers to get health care.
It was vetoed eight times. Pass that bill again and I will sign it.
Virginians are struggling with the high cost of living, in a commonwealth with skyrocketing housing costs, rising fuel prices, and the silent wage theft of inflation.
There are economic fundamentals we don’t control in Virginia – that must be dealt with at the federal level.
But Washington continues to fiddle in the face of real supply chain challenges. And allows our nation to be overly-reliant on China for critical goods and services.
But there is one vital thing we can do to help Virginians. And that is remove some of the tax burden — added on top of rising prices for groceries, gasoline and housing.
That’s why I support suspending the recent gas tax increase for a year and fully eliminating the grocery tax immediately.
There’s bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax. Together, we will give Virginians real relief.
We also need to give Virginians a real break on their personal income tax by doubling the standard deduction. And providing the largest tax rebate in Virginia history.
These tax cuts benefit the people who need it the most.
And represent the largest tax relief ever given to the people of Virginia $1,500 this year for the typical Virginia family.
But beyond the economic implications of this package, I believe we have a special obligation to a group of individuals that have served our country with distinction our military veterans.
Those who risk life and limb for country and community don’t do it for the pay. They do it because service is in their blood.
The care and support of our veterans, have always transcended partisan politics.
That’s why I’m asking this General Assembly to act on something long talked about.
Let’s eliminate the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay together.
Anyone who wears the uniform risks their life each day on the job. And this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, every first responder that keeps us safe.
We’re in a fractious era and no group of individuals is under greater scrutiny today than our law enforcement.
A culture of lawlessness has filled the void in Virginia with violent crime on the rise.
In November, Police Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department was violently gunned down by a vicious criminal.
Incidents like this are all too common today.
We’ll never know the depth of his loss to his family but we grieve with them and pray for them.
In Virginia, we must stand with our law enforcement agencies. And therefore, I’m asking you to fund our police to protect our communities.
Officer Michael Chandler’s widow — Natasha Chandler is also a member of law enforcement. She’s a Wise County Deputy Sheriff who even after losing her husband, insisted on returning to serve.
She’s watching this afternoon.
Please join me in recognizing the sacrifice that her husband, Michael, made on our behalf.
The budget submitted to this General Assembly includes pay raises for troopers, sheriffs’ deputies and corrections officers.
Those are strong first steps I know we all support.
But we need to provide more funding for our police departments. And more funding for training and equipment.
Together, we should dedicate $100 million in ARPA funds to a training and equipment grant program for law enforcement. And provide capital funding for a new state police training facility.
Furthermore, I’m asking you to dedicate $26 million in state funding for police departments. But only in localities that are increasing funding for their police departments.
We’ll also fund community violence intervention by dedicating at least $5 million to Operation Cease Fire.
It’s time to take down the temperature around discussions of policing.
The solution is constructive engagement and dialogue. Not inadequate funding which creates more lawlessness.
And when it comes to lawlessness, I want to be crystal clear.
If we won’t tolerate it in communities across the commonwealth then we certainly won’t tolerate it within a state agency.
On Saturday, I fired the entire parole board.
And I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there.
The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families, of victims about pending decisions to release murderers, were simply unacceptable.
We will not accept selective violations of our constitutional rights. We will protect all of them.
We don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we want to preserve and protect.
In order for our government to work for the people, we must also reform the institutions of government that fail to serve the people.
I’ll admit I’ve never run a government agency. But I know something about running a business.
And we’re going to bring business efficiency to government bureaucracy.
That’s why I appointed a Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer — to oversee government transformation.
We will make government more responsive, more efficient, and more transparent and we’ll start by fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.
Furthermore, we will be innovative in leveraging federal transportation funds to address the challenges of growth and gridlock.
In Virginia, we are going to build roads, bridges, rail lines and utility lines.
We are going to be better prepared for weather events that strain our highways and the electric grid.
And we will marshal our resources to make our infrastructure the most reliable in the nation.
As I travel Virginia, I remain in awe of the raw natural beauty of our Commonwealth.
The mountains, waterways, beaches, parks, farm land, livestock, vineyards, and natural resources testify to our Creator’s artistry.
I deeply treasure the natural beauty of Virginia. And my administration will dedicate itself to protecting and promoting it as a core principle of our service.
That’s why we will end the dumping of raw sewage in the James River once and for all.
I also support fully funding best management practices on our farms in order to protect our soil and water from the Chesapeake Bay to the Jackson River.
And we are going to see the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay to the finish line.
Coastal resiliency is critical to me.
And it’s critical to our nation because of our Port and military assets in Hampton Roads.
That’s why we’re going to create the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to battle rising seas and make sure the federal government does its part too.
Let me state our goal.
Let’s work together in partnership. To build a government as virtuous as our people. One that serves.
You don’t have to look too far to find examples of that spirit among the people of Virginia.
I met a veteran of our military on the campaign trail by the name of Natasha Barijon (BEAR-ee-un).
She’s an immigrant. And like so many first generation immigrants, she loves this country with a passion few can understand though certainly our lieutenant governor can.
Natasha knows what life is like in other parts of the world.
Which is why tears flowed down her face when she told me about her journey to America her pride in serving in our military and the hopes and dreams she has for her daughter to grow up in a better America.
Natasha represents the best of America.
She may not have been born here but she is every bit American as someone who was. Because she has lived the ideals of this great land.
Natasha is also watching today.
Please join me in recognizing her service to our country and her dreams for her daughter.
Virginia is home to heroes. Many living and many who lie in eternal rest.
I attended the funeral of one such hero last month, in Virginia Beach – the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 8, Brian Bourgeois.
Brian could light up a room with his laugh and he could put his subordinates at ease during the most tense moments.
He gave his life in service to freedom. And he left behind a wife, Megan, and five children. One of which – Barrett – led us in the pledge of allegiance on Saturday.
What price would we in this room put on freedom?
For some freedom is so precious they would offer everything in its defense.
Those of us who live in the freedom they so valiantly protect must live lives worthy of their sacrifice. Set aside petty divisions. Set aside ego and self-advancement. And join together to make this Virginia we love better, stronger, freer.
My friends in this esteemed legislature, I’m inspired to be with you this afternoon. And to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Warren County EDA faces 2022 with optimism while bidding farewell to one board member and seeking administrative staff replacements
After an hour-and-a-half closed session to discuss a variety of topics, including disposition of three cited properties, the civil litigation against Jennifer McDonald, refinancing of a First Bank & Trust loan, and personnel matters involving two EDA Board members, the Warren County Economic Development Authority received Executive, Finance, and Asset Committee reports; acknowledgment of the County Administrator’s Report included in the packet; and several old and new business matters.
That “Old Business” included updates on the development of the EDA Strategic Plan and Search Committee work in finding permanent replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson. The 9 a.m. Friday morning (Jan. 14) meeting concluded at 11:15 a.m. after a review of potential reallocation of Budget Line Items in its lone “New Business” topic.
A head’s up on one of the closed session personnel matters may have been given in open session when during his Executive Committee report, EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne acknowledged the pending departure of Tom Pattison at the end of the month as his four-year term comes to a close. Pattison’s retirement leaves the EDA Board of Directors two members short. It was observed that is especially problematic with the board chairman, among other members, juggling what would normally be staff responsibilities to help fill the gap as replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson are sought.
County Administrator Ed Daley joined Browne and his board in bidding Pattison a fond farewell and thanks for his work in helping the realigned EDA Board get adjusted to the evolving, post-financial scandal landscape they were entering in early to mid-2019. Daley was part of that board as chairman, along with current members Browne and Greg Harold. Daley pointed out Pattison had arrived on the board just a few months prior to the influx of new members during the post-financial scandal turnover.
“He was a terrific asset … you’ll be sorely missed. We appreciate everything you’ve done on our behalf and the County. So, thank you,” Browne said of Pattison’s role in getting the new board on track over the past 3-1/2 years in the wake of questions about EDA operations and contractual arrangements under the leadership of former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.
“Thank you for your kind comments,” Pattison responded, adding, “And I’d like to say that I’ve certainly been pleased to serve with such a fine board, conscientious and well-qualified, as well as the administration when we had (Doug) Parsons and others. I’ve also enjoyed working with the County and County Administration, and also with Sharon and her expertise and advice over the years (EDA attorney Sharon Pandak). So, I leave thinking the board is in good hands.”
However, Pattison wasn’t resting on his laurels, noting that he had some comments on staff recruiting strategies when the Search Committee Update portion of the meeting arrived under Old Business. Currently, the EDA is functioning with county staff filling the two EDA administrative staff positions on a part-time basis as permanent replacements are being sought after Parsons and Henderson left for other career opportunities, Parsons with the Fauquier County EDA and Henderson with the Northwest Regional Commission.
And following Daley’s acknowledgment of his submission of the County Administrator’s Report and Browne’s noting that once again there was no Town Manager’s Report, the Search Committee Update discussion was broached. Pattison told his colleagues that the county human resources department had reported that there have been “a paucity of applications” for the executive director’s position in particular. Discussion indicated one factor could be confusion over who the director would be answerable to.
Later during the discussion County Administrator Daley noted that the initial advertisement for the position was drawn up while the County and Town were still talking about a joint effort in reorganizing the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA. But as the subsequent town council decision, under the guidance of then-Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick, to litigate against the EDA for real or imagined losses, as opposed to engaging in offered “good faith negotiations” to establish exactly what was owed to whom from the financial scandal; not to mention the continued absence of a monthly staff report on Town efforts toward economic development, that is obviously no longer the case.
Pattison suggested removing confusion in that regard, along with new, broader sources in which to advertise the vacant positions moving forward. “One question for the person looking at it, is ‘exactly who am I going to answer to?’ I think it should be clear that it’s going to be to Ed (County Administrator Daley) and the board of supervisors … and it doesn’t make sense that they’d have to answer to the Front Royal EDA personnel.”
Daley concurred, telling the EDA board, “… that will be clarified that we will work with their (the Town) EDA, but will not be making reports to the town council or their EDA or anything like that.”
Pattison also suggested the list of qualifications be narrowed somewhat, with an emphasis on the marketing of properties, a current focus of the EDA in the wake of the McDonald executive tenure. That is due to some questionable real estate moves dating to McDonald’s executive directorship when it is suggested real estate transactions may have been used to cloak alleged misdirection of EDA assets.