manassas journal messenger 02/01/01



February 1, 2001




tax meets dead end


Alfred M. Biddlecomb




RICHMOND – Compassionate debate, threats of economic catastrophe and

even a little political gamesmanship couldn’t save a Northern Virginia sales

tax bill designed to pay for new roads.

Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison and other area lawmakers

could not convince the House Appropriations Committee to approve legislation

on Wednesday allowing a voter referendum in Northern Virginia for a 0.5

percent sales tax increase to fund new road and rail projects.

The bill met a strong road block in House Minority Leader Richard Cranwell,

D-Vinton, who rallied enough lawmakers against the plan to force a tie vote

keeping it from reaching the House floor.

The committee’s tie vote essentially killed the bill but a tricky maneuver

by Delegate Jack Rust, R-Fairfax, nearly sent the bill out of committee

to the House floor.

Twenty minutes after the panel’s 9-9 vote, Rust sent for committee member

Harry Purkey R-Virginia Beach, who had missed the original vote. Rust then

succeeded in getting the panel to reconsider it’s earlier vote on the measure.

With Purkey present and ready to cast the deciding vote, Del. Jackie

Stump, D-Buchanan, ran out and brought in his own ringer in the form of

committee member Joseph Johnson, D-Abington, to force another tie at 10-10.

The split vote on the measure puts Rollison’s bill to rest even though

the Woodbridge Republican feels it would have gained enough votes had the

public been able to decide.

A similar bill proposed by Delegate James Dillard, R-Fairfax, which

called for a 1 percent Northern Virginia sales tax increase, was killed

outright by the committee leaving area lawmakers little hope of finding

additional road and education funding during this General Assembly session.

Both Rollison and Dillard argued before the committee that a local referendum

on sales taxes would be the most democratic approach and would raise billions

in extra transportation money without placing a burden on the rest of the


“Let the citizens decide whether the need is great enough to tax

themselves,” Dillard told the committee. “We are not getting the

help we need from the General Assembly.”

Cranwell shot back saying that raising money for transportation should

be the will of the General Assembly rather than the fragmented approach

of relying on regional voter initiatives.

“We’re hiding behind a charade so we let the people decide,”

Cranwell said. “The only way we’re going to fix transportation is to

increase taxes or take it out of the general fund.”

Rollison’s bill, which would have put the measure on the ballot this

November, was intended to raise $2.1 billion in revenue and bonds over the

next two decades in order to pay for new projects that are delayed due to

the lack of money.

Dillard’s bill sought a similar tax increase that would have raised

the sales tax by 1 percent spending half on schools and half on transportation.

This measure gained support from the Fairfax School Board and a number

of regional chambers of commerce.

An attempt to fuse the two bills together allowing local residents to

vote for the 1 percent increase was voted down at the beginning of the meeting

leaving Rollison to argue his bill on its own merits.

Cranwell noted that existing law already allows the region to decide

on a similar increase in the income tax, but Rollison said that was not

a realistic option.

“Numerous sales tax referendums have been approved by voters throughout

the country, but we found no evidence of people voting for an increase in

the income tax,” Rollison said. “The economic realities in the

state is that the Northern Virginia region leads the way. If you don’t [approve

the bill] we are going to have to deal with the problems of the existing

streams of revenue and that’s inadequate.”

Cranwell insisted during the entire debate that he had nothing against

Northern Virginia, but felt the state needs to work together on transportation

even if it means a statewide tax increase.

“What this is is bad policy,” Cranwell said. “There’s

not a person in the room that doesn’t know what the problem is. We don’t

want to raise taxes because we’re afraid of losing an election.”

Appropriations Committee Chairman Harry Parrish, R-Manassas, voted in

favor of Rollison’s bill as did a number of other Northern Virginia committee


Following the committee meeting Rollison was upset but not surprised

at Cranwell’s arguments that contributed to the demise of the sales tax


“He brings it up every year, yet you never see him propose this

broad plan he says will fix everything,” Rollison said. “With

the support we had in the community for this bill, I think the referendum

had a good chance.”

Rollison had hoped his sales tax increase would have been used to fund

a Northern Virginia transportation authority which would decide on regional

transportation projects.

A bill proposed by Sen. William Mims, R-Leesburg, would form such an

authority without a funding mechanism in place. The Senate is expected to

debate that proposal this week.



Police disagree on roles


Caryn Goebel




Defining the roles and responsibilities of the county’s two law enforcement

agencies is a good idea, but Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen III remains adamant

– restricting or cutting back his department’s responsibilities is unacceptable.

Stoffregen said he took about 30 calls of support Wednesday in the wake

of a Public Safety Task Force report made public Monday which said services

provided by county police and the sheriff’s office were duplicated and a

burden to taxpayers.

The report also said Stoffregen is “becoming involved in areas

outside his responsibility,” a statement which heats up relations between

the two agencies that have felt undertones of conflict over the past five


The sheriff not only criticized the make-up of the 12-member task force

who drafted the report, but said the sheriff’s department was at a “disadvantage”

having only one representative in the study group.

Tasked by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors as part of

its four-year strategic plan, the public safety group met in 10 sessions

since August 2000 to draft goals in relation to resident public safety.

Each supervisor appointed a task force member from their district and

the county provided four members of its own staff. The end result was a

group made up of at least six members who had, or previously had, ties to

the county police department, Stoffregen said.

“Our representative continually kept coming back from these meetings

frustrated,” Stoffregen said. “We felt ourselves at a disadvantage

in trying to establish goals.”

The jabs against each agency came to a head Monday when the task force

presented its majority report during a supervisor’s work session. Based

on the views of six members, the task force recommended the county “through

fiscal management, define the role of the sheriff’s department in law enforcement


That didn’t sit well with Stoffregen, who said he doesn’t object to

defining roles of law enforcement agencies in the county, but to mandate

what each can do by withholding funds is wrong.

The sheriff’s department is state and locally funded to provide services

such as manning the county courthouse, transporting prisoners and serving

court papers.

Stoffregen admits to applying for, and obtaining, grant money that allows

the department to provide some of its secondary duties such as traffic ticketing,

radar operation and sobriety checkpoints, a move that some within the police

department say is overstepping his boundaries.

“If there’s grant money available and it doesn’t compete with the

police department, we’re going to go after it,” Stoffregen said.

Stoffregen said tensions flared between the two departments about four

years ago when deputies began conducting radar checkpoints, a duty widely

considered to be that of the police department.

“We did that at the request of two supervisors who asked us to

get involved,” Stoffregen said. “Apparently, there had been some

citizen complaints and they wanted help.”

The supervisors agreed to omit the strong wording “through fiscal

management” from the task force report, and ordered county executives

to coordinate meetings with management of the sheriff’s office and police

department to hash out each organization’s role in providing for resident


While it is yet to be determined when that meeting will take place,

Stoffregen said he’s more than willing to work together to improve the currently

hampered relations that are primarily felt on the management level.

“We can sit down and define roles and responsibilities,” Stoffregen

said. “But I’m not working on anything which restricts the authority

of the sheriff’s department.”

For task force member and Manassas resident Donald Cross, at issue is

the rapid growth of Prince William County and the need to use both agencies

where they’re needed.

Cross, who owns a lawn mower repair shop and says he has no affiliation

with either department, said that he and others in the minority opinion

didn’t agree with language in the report that could possibly “pre-judge”

the outcome for the sheriff’s department.



appeals $187M fine


Chris Newman




The president of Computer Learning Centers Inc. says his company is

fighting the U.S. Department of Education’s decision that the company is

financially ineligible for Title IV federal assistance and had illegally

used commissioned recruiters.

The Manassas-based company in a statement said it filed for Chapter

7 bankruptcy protection and filed an appeal with the department Jan. 25.

CLC President John Corse said CLC’s long-term debt was not adequately

taken into account in the department’s assessment of CLC’s financial health

and recruiters were not paid commission – salary increases were based on

periodic performance reviews, he said.

“They [the U.S. Department of Education] achieved their purpose”

and that was to close down the school, said Corse, in a phone interview

Tuesday. “Their action demonstrates a total indifference to the students.”

He said the department of education did not assist the school in trying

to find a buyer or anticipate the effect on students.

“We were trying to meet with them, so we could sell the business,”

Corse said. “They refused to meet with us … I have tried and tried

and tried … We have all been frustrated.”

Hurt by the department’s actions, he said, have been their 9,200 students

plus 1,200 who were going to start this week, as well as 1,600 employees

and 7,000 shareholders.

A U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman declined to respond on record

but said the department’s report spoke for itself.

According to the report, CLC violated a 1992 federal law that prohibits

recruiters from receiving commissions or bonus payments based on recruitment.

CLC officials in a statement argue that the education department has

failed to provide consistent regulatory guidance on compensation. Corse

said the company has been cited for not meeting standards set forth in private

correspondence – not publicly released rules – and the interpretations have

been inconsistent.

The report said CLC’s compensation plan was shown to take into account

performance factors other than recruitment – the 1992 law allows recruitment

to be a factor in conjunction with other factors – but CLC’s “other”

factors were not meaningful compared to those tied to recruitment success.

“The department’s review, which included a thorough analysis of

CLC documentation concerning this plan, showed that in practice, the only

thing that truly mattered in setting recruiter ‘salary’ levels was a recruiter’s

success in enrolling … students,” the report said.

Recruiters received large salary increases ranging from 10 to 78 percent,

the report said. All the Title IV funds received by recruited students –

$187 million – were therefore required to be returned to the federal government.

CLC also disputed the department’s assessment of its financial health.

“I continue to believe that CLC’s standing under the prescribed

financial responsibility assessment resulted in a score above the minimum

1,” Corse said in a statement. “CLC’s calculation is consistent

with the examples of calculations contained in the regulations… the entire

education industry is at risk if it cannot knowingly set its capital structure

to be in compliance with regulations when the definition of what constitutes

compliance remains a secret apparently known only to [education department]


CLC received a .9 rating, based on scale from -1 to 3.

In addition, the report said that last year CLC’s revenues declined

4 percent and enrollment declined 5 percent. CLC reported $10 million in

losses over the first nine months of the 2001 fiscal year. CLC is also facing

several state lawsuits that it misrepresented students’ job prospects and

did not provide promised educational services.

Corse said it was unfortunate the education department did not “exercise

sufficient oversight” on compliance and then did not allow CLC due

process, instead adopting “a draconian approach.”

Virginia education officials say upset students are calming down now

– 10 days after they arrived to find taped notes on locked doors stating

that classes were canceled – as teach-out arrangements begin to be finalized

and which could be announced as early as Friday.

· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected].


college offers on;ine degrees






MANASSAS PARK – There’s a bustling college campus right here in the

city, you just can’t see it.

That’s because it exists in cyberspace.

It’s the campus of American Military University, whose headquarters

are located just off Manassas Drive in a modest office/warehouse complex.

A small staff keeps track of student information, financial aid, university

relations and more for close to 4,000 students and 160 faculty who will

probably never see the place.

Nearly everything about the campus is in cyberspace, except the Manassas

Park location, the textbooks and the actual students and instructors.

Students, mainly military personnel, take their courses online. The

professors are scattered across the globe and teach their courses online.

Founder James Etter said he opened the school in January 1993 because

“basically I just saw a need.”

“I saw a lot of learning going on in the military and wanted to

put an academic hat on it,” said Etter, a retired Marine Corps officer

and Top Gun graduate.

AMU offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, catering mainly

to people in the military, but it has open enrollment.

The university started out small, offering correspondence courses through

the mail, but has been all-Internet since 1995, Etter said.

Etter said growth has been phenomenal. “We’ve gone from 18 students

to almost 4,000,” he said.

Undergraduate programs include degrees in military management, criminal

justice, military history, marketing and international relations.

Graduate majors include land, naval and air warfare; Civil War studies;

intelligence; and national securities studies.

“It’s really a best kept secret in Manassas Park,” said academic

Dean Michael Hillyard.

Military personnel can attend AMU for next to nothing, he said. Enlisted

men and women with a 2.25 grade point average can qualify for undergraduate

merit scholarships and book grants, whittling their admission price to zero,

he said.

AMU students are spread out in 30 countries.

Since book stores might not be at their disposal, AMU sends textbooks

out to students wherever they are.

Professors teach online, although most classes can be taken any time

of day, as long as the work is completed by a certain point in the semester,

he said.

“They go to class whenever they want,” he said of students.

Faculty members have advanced degrees and often are experts in their

field, such as one professor who lives in Austria, works for the United

Nations and teaches a class on terrorism.

The distance-learning program opens new doors for professors, who might

find an opportunity to teach something they might not be able to teach elsewhere,

he said.

All the professors’ training is done online as well.

“There’s a beehive of activity,” Hillyard said. “It just

all happens to be in cyberspace.”

Hillyard, who has a master’s degree from AMU, said the courses are not


Students must do a lot of reading and writing, speak with their professors

several times during the 15-week semesters and work hard for their degree.

“The heart and soul of (AMU) is the academic quality,” said

Bill Yamanaka, director of AMU’s university relations.

AMU received approval from the state to begin offering a doctorate program,

Yamanaka said.

The university has national accreditation and is working toward regional

accreditation, Yamanaka said.

For more information, log on to the university’s Web site at

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]



seeks patients in new location


Aileen M. Streng




MANASSAS – Since moving to a bigger and better location in November,

the Manassas Community Clinic hasn’t been as busy as it should be.

While the outside sign has been ordered, it has not yet arrived, much

less been erected out front.

Maybe people don’t know where it is.

“It’s really not hard to find,” said Ronda Wright, program

coordinator, of the clinic’s new home at 8428 Dorsey Circle, Suite 101.

“We want everyone to know, we want the community to know, that

we are here,” Wright said. “We want to spread the word.”

The clinic, sponsored by Northern Virginia Community College, had been

operating in the Georgetown South community since 1997. It is a free clinic

for those without insurance. Care is provided by a nurse practitioner and

NOVA student nurses.

The Manassas Community Clinic is among the network of community-based

clinics that were established by NOVA to provide its nursing students with

practical experience as well as provide a service.

“We saw a real need in the community,” Wright said. “There

are so many people who go without care because they do not have any insurance.”

Services provided include school and general physicals, blood pressure

and cholesterol screenings, pregnancy test, pap smears and treatment of

minor illnesses.

There are about eight student nurses and a nurse practitioner staffing

the clinic, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday. Two part-time

medical directors rotate through the clinic.

“This helps the students learn [about nursing] and learn about

the community,” Wright said.

The new site, for which Prince William Health System is donating the

rent, is much larger than the former location.

While at Georgetown South, the clinic was housed in a trailer, often

used for classes or community meetings. It consisted of one large classroom


“There was little room and privacy,” Wright said. “We

were limited as to what we could offer.”

Exams, for example, were conducted behind a chalkboard, Wright said.

The new location includes two examining rooms, a waiting area, a receptionist

area, a lab and a break room.

“It is wonderful,” Wright said.

Wright said she believes the clinic’s patient base will eventually find

the new location but she wants others to be aware of it and its offerings.

Health-care providers, for example, could refer patients to the clinic if

they knew it existed.

Additionally, given its limited resources, the clinic is looking for

a community corporate sponsor to help supply medicine and supplies.

For more information about becoming a sponsor, contact Ronda Wright

at (703) 323-3406.




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