Money in politics emerging as top issue in Virginia 2019 elections

By Abby Fox:

The heated topic of money in politics in Virginia drew a star-studded list of speakers and a large, boisterous audience to a forum on Nov. 28th at the Mason District Government Center.

State legislators, candidates and activists took turns detailing the corrosive effects of corporate money on politics throughout the Commonwealth, calling out Dominion Energy, the NRA, the Koch industrial family, tobacco giant Altria, and private prison company GEO Group, among others.

The speakers agreed that the topic is sure to play an important role in elections in Nov. 2019 in which all 40 state senators and 100 state delegates will be chosen.

Event sponsors included: People Demanding Action, the End Corporate Rule Issue Organizing Team of People Demanding Action, Progressive Democrats of America-Virginia, Our Revolution Northern Virginia, Our Revolution Arlington, American Promise – Virginia, Our Revolution Alexandria, Activate Virginia, and Loudoun Progressives.

(Photo: Yasmine Taeb says she will take a leave of absence for six months to wage an electoral battle for Virginia state senate)

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Get on the bus for ERA ratification

By Susan Laume:

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are sponsoring a 10-day bus tour across Virginia to urge legislators to make Virginia the 38th and final state necessary to achieve ratification. The bus stopped in several locations in Fairfax County on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, after visiting Richmond, and continued on to Fredericksburg.

The bus tour is run by VAratifyERA, a non-partisan, single issue campaign focused on this issue.  In Fairfax County, the third day of the tour, the bus stopped at George Mason University, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax.

At the Clifton stop, state Sen. George Barker (D-39) and his wife Jane were on the bus. Sen. Barker first introduced the ERA in the state legislature in 2012 and has been a strong supporter ever since. Mrs. Barker is co-chair of the Democratic Women of Clifton and Northern Virginia, and a leader in the bi-partisan effort to build a memorial to suffragists near the former Lorton Reformatory location where many suffragists were imprisoned.

Also on the bus were state Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2), Hala Ayala (D-51) and Kaye Kory (D-38).

From The Blue View

Fairfax Dems Mount Massive Latino Outreach

By Todd Thurwachter:

Ahead of the Nov. 6 election, Democrats have made a sustained effort to register and educate Latino voters in Fairfax County – who now constitute 16% of the population, and are heading higher.

The campaign has contacted tens of thousands in Fairfax and neighboring counties, led by the Voter Registration & Education Committee of Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC).

The project began last May with printing and distributing 5,000 voter information cards in Spanish, “Todo Sobre el Voto” (click here to view).

The cards, and other information in Spanish on voting, were also posted on the FCDC website. Also available in Spanish, for the first time, is the free Election Alerts service, which sends emails to subscribers before every election with key information including a sample ballot.

Committee Chair Janice Yohai also created and launched a special Latino outreach pilot program for Back-to-School-Nights in September. The committee targeted 16 Fairfax schools with over 50% Latino populations, mostly elementary schools, and recruited 13 Spanish speaking volunteers, who engaged close to 1,000 Latino parents of schoolchildren.

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Long-term NoVa immigrants in TPS program face expulsion

By Brad Swanson:

Organized labor and allies rallied Saturday morning against Trump Administration plans to deport an estimated 20,000 protected status immigrants from northern Virginia.

“This is a cruel and vicious attack on families,” said Virginia Diamond, president of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO. Many of these immigrants have been in the USA for a generation and have sunk deep roots into their communities, she pointed out.

Nationwide, the federal government plans to withdraw Temporary Protected Status (TPS) covering 400,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras in 2019 and 2020.

TPS was originally granted because of political turmoil and elevated violence levels in home countries but supporters say that after many years of living in America, TPS holders have become American in all but name – homeowners, job holders, valuable members of their communities. Moreover, 300,000 children, all US citizens, have been born to these families and raised in this country. Their fate if their parents are forced to leave is in question.

After hearing speeches outside the Northern Virginia Labor Federation office in Annandale on Saturday morning, rally participants dispersed to canvass for Jennifer Wexton, a Democratic state senator who is in a tight race against incumbent Barbara Comstock as representative for the 10th Congressional district – the second biggest region for protected status immigrants, after Long Island, New York.

“Comstock has been silent on the [TPS] program,” commented Jaime Contreras, vice-president of Service Employees International Union 32BJ. “Wexton has been a supporter of labor in Richmond.”

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Fairfax Young Democrats lead the charge

By Paul Davis:

You cannot miss the current enthusiasm of young people for a new political direction. Fairfax Young Democrats (FYD) is one of the most active and committed youth organizations in this movement.

Whether it is hosting speakers, canvassing, protesting or other displays of civic participation, FYD is there, representing the future — and many of the present — leaders within the Democratic Party.

Here is a sample of FYD activity:

  • Recently canvassed for candidate Abigail Spanberger in the 7th Congressional district, which extends from Culpeper south to below Richmond
  • Hosted panel on Criminal Justice Reform Sept. 26, examining how young people can effect change through legislative and other means
  • Will host Sen. Tim Kaine on October 17 for a discussion on policies and issues directly impacting young professionals in our region

FYD membership consists of individuals between ages 13 to 35 years old residing in Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax. FYD has partnerships or affiliations with state and national Young Democrat organizations, local high schools, George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College and Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

FYD organizes its activity around four pillars:

1) Elect Democratic candidates for public office, especially fellow Young Democrats

2) Widen and increase the interest and knowledge of young people in government and the political process

3) Train and develop young people for positions of leadership; and

4) Serve those in need in our community

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Time to vote for politicians who support gun safety

By Karen Kirk:

“VOTE THEM OUT” was the rallying cry of speakers and protesters as more than 100 people gathered outside of the NRA Headquarters in Fairfax Saturday in support of gun safety.

“This nation breathes the oxygen that is the promise of liberty and right now, our people are suffocating,” said speaker Micaela Lattimer, a 17-year-old Latina from Maryland. “We’re not free when gunshots pierce classrooms. We’re not free when people are criminalized just for being black or brown. We’re not free when gun violence in Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit goes ignored,” said Lattimer, speaking in English and Spanish.

“We point cameras to schools whose windows are shattered but muffle the voices who cry black lives matter. When black activists protested police brutality they were met with full riot gear and teargas,” said Lattimer, who helped organize the rally.

“To my fellow young people, it is now our job to actively urge those around us to vote and to lobby legislators and question authority,” she said. “Eternal vigilance is necessary to protect our freedom.”

“To elected officials, we the people are calling on you to develop and carry out policy that prevents a firearm from getting into the cold grip of a domestic abuser, policy that prevents the phone call telling a family their child was gunned down at age 16, policy that protects black youths from the shackles of criminalization and policy that keeps hateful people from committing a massacre. Most of all, policy that promotes humanization and education.”

“If you wish to stay in office, we demand that you actively protect our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Lattimer said.

Read the rest at The Blue View

New policy for police in Fairfax schools to focus on law enforcement, not discipline

By Matthew Dunne:

The policy governing roles and responsibilities of  armed police officers who patrol the hallways of every public middle and high school in Fairfax County is about to be improved, after a community panel submitted more than 50 pages of comments in a wide-ranging review.

Although universal agreement was not reached, the policy review, the first in several years, led to significant improvements, including establishing a bright line between school discipline and law enforcement.

[Editor’s note: Some panel members believe the policy should strengthen protection for immigrant students – read story here]

The revised policy is set to be voted on by the Fairfax County School Board this coming Thursday, and will take effect with the start of the school year on Aug. 28.

The policy review grew out of concern that the existing agreement between the Fairfax Police Department and the school board had led to disparate treatment of minority children. In response, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova appointed an ad hoc committee of community representatives to provide input on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the school system and the police.

Some parents and community members view armed police in schools, known as school resource officers (SROs),  as a necessary safeguard against the many dangers in our world. While violent crime remains at historic lows, gun violence, sex trafficking and gang activity continue to threaten the safety and security of our children in school.  From this perspective, SROs serve as the first line of defense.

Other parents and community members view SROs as the problem, not the solution. Dash cam, body cam, and cell phone videos have revealed a disturbing pattern of discrimination and violence against minority children across the country.

In Fairfax County, there are conflicting reports on SRO interactions with students. However, data compiled by ACLU People Power show that approximately two-thirds of those arrested by SROs are African-American or Hispanic, even though these groups together constitute only one-quarter of the county population.

Similarly, two-thirds of students receiving suspensions are African-American or Hispanic, even though these groups together constitute only one-third of the student population.

Led by Communities of Trust Committee Chair Shirley Ginwright, the SRO review committee engaged in a thorough review of the MOU, starting with its first meeting on July 2. The process was at times contentious because the stakes were high and the time was limited. The parties had to bridge serious differences of opinion and understanding on SRO activities within three weeks. The committee members submitted dozens of comments, which were compiled into a matrix exceeding 50 pages in length.

The draft reviewed at the final meeting on July 19 committed Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to “handle discipline within the school disciplinary process without involving SROs” and affirmed   “that school administrators and teachers are responsible for school discipline and that law enforcement is not to be involved with disciplinary action.”

Read the rest at The Blue View

Fairfax NAACP Recognized as Best Branch in the United States

By M. J. O’Brien:

The Fairfax County NAACP has been named the top branch in the country by the national organization. The branch will receive the prestigious Thalheimer Award, given annually to the branch with the most outstanding achievements, next week at the NAACP’s Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Kofi Annan, President, Fairfax County NAACP

“Fairfax County is the home of the best branch in the NAACP in the nation,” said Kofi Annan, president of the Fairfax branch in announcing the award. “We’ve always felt that way … but today it became official!”

Established in 1944, the Thalheimer Award recognizes “outstanding achievements” by local branches in “the implementation of the Association’s strategic priorities and goals.” These include “enhancing advocacy, civic engagement, economic and political empowerment, criminal justice, and educational equity.” The award is named for Dr. Ross Thalheimer, a psychologist who was executive director of the Community Guidance Service and also founder of the American Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

In its application for the award, the branch cited a variety of activities and initiatives, including the successful two-year “Change the Name” campaign that sought to convince the Fairfax County School Board to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. Name change proponents pointed out that naming the most diverse high school in the county after a Confederate general was a detriment to learning and an insult to students and residents alike.

In July 2017, the school board voted that the name of J.E.B. Stuart had to go and later in the year support coalesced around the name Justice High School. The school is being revamped this summer and will officially open with its new moniker next month.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Review group questions police role in Fairfax County schools

By Brad Swanson:

What should be the role of cops in schools? Should armed police officers even be allowed in schools?

These were among the issues that rose to the surface in a tense meeting Monday night of a community group charged with reviewing the terms under which police officers are assigned to high schools and middle schools throughout the county.

“Kids should not be consigned to hell because they made one mistake [in school],” argued Matthew Dunne, representing the Fairfax County Council of PTAs.  Dunne and 14 others are members of the School Resource Officer (SRO) Community Review Committee, appointed by Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to review the draft of a new memorandum of understanding between the Fairfax County School Board and the Police Department governing  the cops-in-schools policy.

The meeting was attended by about 50 members of the public, some of whom waved signs and heckled speakers. Bulova, Police Chief Ed Roessler, and School Superintendent Dr. Scott Braband bore the brunt of criticism as committee members questioned key tenets of the program and called for more time to complete their review.

Bulova defended her decision to fix an accelerated timetable of only three meetings for the SRO committee, pointing out that the new agreement had to be finalized this summer so it could take effect with the start of school on Aug. 28.

But some committee members pushed for a top-to-bottom review, and even questioned whether Fairfax should station police officers in schools at all.

“There are school systems elsewhere that have safe environments without the presence of armed guards in the schools,” said Sookyung Oh, a committee member representing National Korean American Services & Education Consortium. But Commitee Chair Shirley Ginwright, representing the Communities of Trust Committee, said the program of placing police in schools is a reality, and the question before the committee is how to improve it.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Photo Essay: Thousands rally in Washington, D.C., to bring families together

Tens of Thousands of demonstrators rallied Saturday in Washington, D.C., to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and separating children from their parents.

On a sweltering day in the capital, the crowd gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House to protest separating thousands of children from their parents at the border and the new plan to detain families together. Some 600 “Families Belong Together” rallies were held around the country.

The rally began with Sebastian Medina-Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation addressing the crowd in Spanish and English, reminding people that this is a nation of immigrants. Then he beat the drum.

Then Jocelyn, an undocumented immigrant who didn’t want to give her full name, told of how she was separated from her son when she came to the United States from Brazil last August and she was held at a detention facility in Texas. She said that she was told that her son could be adopted. It took 9 months for them to be reunited.

Celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash musical “Hamilton,” singer Alicia Keys and actress America Ferrera were among the rally speakers. Miranda sang a lullaby from “Hamilton,” Keys read a letter from a mother separated from her son and Ferrera talked about being a new mother, her Honduran roots and her duty to defend justice.

After the rally, protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel to the Department of Justice.

Read the rest at The Blue View