Residents expressed concern about the area’s traffic congestion at a town hall meeting with local General Assembly representatives Wednesday night.
Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-52nd District, felt their pain.
“I apologize for being late,” Frederick said. “Traffic is terrible.”
In addition to transportation, education and aid for the mentally handicapped dominated discussion at this second of two meetings this week.
Most of Prince William County’s delegation heard from residents — and occasionally responded — on Tuesday in Manassas and Wednesday in Woodbridge. The delegation held these meetings in preparation for the 2005 legislative session, which begins Jan. 12.
County resident David Branscome wanted the legislators to use extra state money to pay off the Virginia Department of Transportation’s debt. The department could then spend its money to maintain roads and build new projects, he said.
“I believe Virginia should be a ‘pay as you go state,’ ” Branscome said.
He also opposed giving road maintenance and building responsibility to local governments, as some have proposed.
Virginia’s teachers need better pay, said Anita Jackson, treasurer of the Prince William Education Association. She thanked the legislators who voted in the past session for the tax increase that provided more funding for school programs like all-day kindergarten and technology education.
While teacher salaries could be improved in Virginia, they have come a long way, said Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District, whose wife teaches in Prince William County.
Resident Alex Morris asked for strict voter registration standards to prevent illegal aliens from voting. He also said schools have become bilingual.
“If these people are going to be in our country … they should speak our language,” Morris said. “Not that they’re not entitled to an education, but let’s do it on our terms, not their terms.”
Legal concealed weapons holders should be allowed to carry their guns in schools and restaurants, according to resident Mark Hjelm, who has two children attending local public schools.
“Sometimes it’s a real pain getting to the school if I have to stop by the house to drop something off,” Hjelm said.
Richard Baucom read a Manassas Journal Messenger/Potomac News editorial aloud to the legislators and audience members. The editorial, published Wednesday, dealt with the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health.
Baucom advocated better Bay protection, as well as photo red light cameras that catch speeding cars, education and homeland security.
“We’re talking about an issue that affects every committee in the General Assembly in some way,” Baucom said of the Bay’s condition. “It’s a phenomenal problem that must be dealt with, or we’re not going to have the money coming in for tourism or the quality of life.”
People working with mentally handicapped residents need higher wages, said Karen Smith, executive director of the Association for Retarded Citizens of Greater Prince William County. Especially in Northern Virginia, people serving those residents and the clients themselves who depending on government care, need a lot more money to deal with the high cost of living.
“You have to help us,” Smith said. “These are our citizens.”
Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District, told Smith he informed Gov. Mark Warner recently that this issue ranked among his top four priorities.
Mona Shaw told Republican Delegate Robert G. Marshall, who represents her in the 13th District, to stop pushing his religious views on residents, especially those who have different views.
“I’m terrified to have a delegate that’s going to decide my life,” she said.
Marshall supports laws allowing for differences of opinion between pharmacists and doctors in providing certain medications to patients. Marshall specifically mentioned some companies’ and organizations’ decisions to not distribute birth control pills, which he applauded.
And although Shaw has passed the stage in a her life where she would take such pills, she said she still wants Marshall to back off.
“You’re not a pharmacist, you’re not my mother, you’re not my father … you’re not God,” Shaw said.
“Not yet I’m not,” Marshall joked in response.