Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sallie Mae Discriminatory Practices

"The James-Hoyer Law Firm recently filed a Class Action Suit against Sallie Mae alleging its lending practices discriminate against minorities.

If you are African American or Hispanic and have a private student loan with Sallie Mae, we'd like to talk with you. If you are a former Sallie Mae employee please contact us below. We are continuing our investigation as we move forward.

Please contact us using the form below if you believe you have been charged unreasonably high interest rates or fees, have been given unfavorable loan terms, or that Sallie Mae has otherwise acted unfairly towards you on the basis of your race. One focus of our investigation concerns allegations that Sallie Mae's private student loan underwriting process discriminates against minorities attending schools with a high percentage of minority students.

In addition to the case we have already filed, we are also investigating the following issues on behalf of all Sallie Mae student loan borrowers:

--Unfair collection practices
--Failure to timely disclose terms of loans
--No choice in selecting your student loan lender
--High or excessive interest rates
--Unexplained increase in the balance of your student loans
--Improper fees assessed on your student loans

If you have experienced any of these problems with your Sallie Mae student loan, or if you are a former Sallie Mae employee and have information regarding these issues, please contact us using the form below. One of our attorneys or investigators will respond to your e-mail promptly. Our law firm, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, fights fraud on behalf of consumers across the country. Click here: http://www.jameshoyer.com/problem_Sallie_Mae.html"

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is not a lawyer, nor does she work for The James-Hoyer Law Firm. The information above was obtained via their website.

See www.studentloanjustice.org for more information on students who have been hurt in the predatory market of student loans. Tell your story! Get help!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Help Us, Senator Webb!

Dear Senator Webb:

Thank you for your automated response. : ) However, I am a prior-borrower who was ripped off by an unethical institution. Last week, your office sent me the same message I keep getting over and over again from other agencies: a copy of a 2004 statement from the Department of Education telling me there is nothing they can do about my loans even though they investigated the school (Union Institute), as did the accreditors, and were mandated to make changes in the program and in their financial aid distribution.

While the legislation you refer to below might be good news for some current students, it does nothing for people like me who have no consumer protection and no access to attorneys.

One reason the default rate is so high is that students who have had personal tragedies, have fallen victim to educational malpractice or made bad loans have no way of rectifying the problem; the government doesn't provide options at any level through any agency other than default, which is not really an option.

While your intentions are good, I'm still stuck, as are tens of thousands of other prior borrowers.

I can give you dozens of good reasons why my loan should be discharged and even more reasons why Union Institute should be sued for every penny they have. But that doesn't do me any good, since I'm not a lawyer, nor do I have help from the Department of Education or North Central (the accreditors).

Please consider this when continuing to work on student issues.

Thank you very much!

Sincerely;
Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Bristow VA 20135
www.luxuriouschoices.net

P. S. I voted for you.

----- Original Message -----
From: mhtml:%7BFB7EFB9B-64DD-4A51-9E22-DD94EC019A4C%7Dmid://00000745/!x-usc:mailto:correspondence_reply@webb.senate.gov
Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 3:29 PM
Subject: Senator Jim Webb's response to your message

May 13, 2008
Mrs. Katherine Gotthardt
Bristow, Virginia 20136

Dear Mrs. Gotthardt:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding federal student loans. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views.

I share your concerns that students and their families are facing difficulties repaying student loans. You will be pleased to know Congress has been active in addressing the cost of higher education and federal student loans. On September 27, 2007, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (P.L. 110-84), with my support, was signed into law. This law made significant changes to the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (DL) program, the Pell Grant program, and the federal need analysis formula. Over the next five years, funding for Federal Pell Grants will increase by $11.4 billion, increasing the maximum Pell Grant from $4,310 in 2007 to $5,400 by 2012.

Furthermore, both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have passed the Higher Education Authorization bill (S. 1642). This legislation is currently pending in a Conference Committee where members from both the House and Senate are working on the final language. Both this bill, and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act will increase need-based aid for students, simplify the financial aid process, and, among other things, provide loan forgiveness for students who work in public service.

You will be pleased to know that the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (H.R. 5715) passed the Senate, with my support, on April 30, 2008, and was signed into law on May 7, 2008. This bill will increase loan amounts for unsubsidized Stafford Loans, increase the length of deferment for repayment for parent borrowers of PLUS loans, update procedures for lender of last resort loans, and authorize the Secretary of Education to purchase loans previously made under the Federal Family Education Loan Program until July 2009, to ensure the availability of loan capital to meet the demand of student loans.

Lastly, I cosigned a bipartisan letter on March 12, 2008 to the U.S. Secretaries of Treasury and Education requesting that they ensure continued access to student loans and liquidity in the market.

As the 110th Congress continues to address the rising costs of higher education and other important issues facing the United States, your views are very helpful to me. Please be assured my staff and I will closely monitor this issue and any pending legislation, with your specific views in mind. I hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us in the years ahead.

I would also invite you to visit my website at www.webb.senate.gov for regular updates about my activities and positions on matters that are important to Virginia and our nation.

Thank you once again for contacting my office.

Sincerely,

Jim Webb
United States Senator

JW:jb
Please do not reply. This is not a working email address.
________________________________
See www.studentloanjustice.org for more stories of students who have been hurt in this predatory system. Take action! Tell your story! It's time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bristow Commons: Just Say NO

Bristow Commons - Great Idea Wrong Location!

According to their website, “Bristow Commons is an upscale mixed-use lifestyle center that infuses up to 90k square feet of much needed retail and office in the vast expanse of residential developments in the Linton Hall corridor of Prince William County, Northern Virginia. Approximately 55-70ksf of retail & retail services and 15-20ksf of office space is envisioned”, ~ Bristowcommons.com

Do we really need another shopping center off Linton Hall and Devlin Road? Does traffic ring a bell to local commuters? Let’s face it one unique aspect of living in this side of Prince William County is the feeling of vastness and the open space. Regardless of what they say, Bristow Commons is another strip mall and potentially can be an eye sore to local residents, devalue homes because of the proximity to the future stores, and may adversely impact the surrounding neighborhood of Sheffield Manor, Bridle Wood Manor, Linton Hall Crest, and the Victory Lakes communities.

Did the developer(s) research the long termed impact or potential harm to the environment? Or better yet, do they even live in Bristow or Gainesville, Virginia? There is nothing wrong with any future business development expansion for communities in Bristow or Gainesville. The developers really need to sit down and think this through. The Linton Hall Road and the Devlin Road is not designed to take additional overflow traffic from Gainesville or Manassas, Virginia.
Bristow Common anticipates ground breaking in the spring of 2009. Local residents are encouraged to contact Wally Covington with regards to additional land use and commercial development off Linton Hall Road/Devlin Road. His address is:

Wally Covington
Brentsville District

8506 Wellington Rd. Manassas, VA 20109Office Phone: (703) 792-6190Office Fax: (703) 257-9792 wcovington@pwcgov.org

Date Published: 2008-04-30 06:38:20

________________________________________

K.M.G. says: IMO, it's not too late to turn this around. We can ask the BOCS to have another hearing, especially given that full disclosure was not made to residents at the time the developer marketed this to the public, many of whom had not prior knowledge of this proposal.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Because It's Not a Cause

For the past ten or twelve hours, I've been juxtaposing the definition of "compassion" one of my students used as an essay topic and the words, "You're not helping your cause" addressed to me by a blogger.

First, let me say, if you want to generate thoughts you can really gnaw on, try merging two ideas from completely different perspectives and contexts and have at it. It's the kind of creative synthesis poets and artists love. It's like scrap booking but with thoughts.

So a little about the original context of the ideas: my student elaborated on the word "compassion" for an essay using the "definition" rhetorical pattern. She explained that truly compassionate people don't look for rewards. They "do" because they understand and love people.

The blogger was commenting how my references to hate groups (which are, incidentally, grounded in research and labels from other groups and organizations and are not my own) didn't help "my cause." I suppose he/she meant I was detracting from the argument of the "side" he/she presumes I am on. This is interesting in itself, because I don't think of myself as being on a "side." My refusal to take "sides" is mixed in with what I gleaned from merging all this "stuff" last night. I suspect this is why I often wake up tired. My brain doesn't seem to respect the need for sleep.

So here's my own thesis: Causes are often superficial reasons for not-so-compassionate people to have something to do. Furthermore, truly compassionate people do expect to get something in return for their efforts: they expect to get the kind of world in which they wish to live. I don't work for causes, and I'm selfish. I want what I want, and that's to live in a peaceful world filled with beauty: a variety of people, nurtured nature, and art.

Don't get me wrong. Supporting a "cause" can work. Remember those little rice boxes you or your kids came home with for the purpose of collecting change to alleviate hunger? That's a cause. It's a good one. It helps kids learn the value of giving....sometimes. But too often, these "causes" just become competitions. Who can fill up the box the most and the fastest? Adults are no different. Who can give the most money and have the most pictures taken at ribbon cuttings?
You see these people all the time--politicians grinning over their latest good work that happens to enhance their public image as "the good guy." Too many of them care more about the image than anything else. The "cause" is just a vehicle for political motives. "Vote for me! I kiss babies!" You know, that kind of thing.

I've seen younger people take on causes as well not because they are particularly compassionate but because they are missing something. Causes become substitutes for having to make real-life decisions like, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" Jump on the "cause" bandwagon, and you have instant meaning to life. Or you might get the kind of family feeling you never had before. It could be saving the world or following the remains of The Grateful Dead, for all they care. They just need an identity and a group.

Please don't get me wrong. Causes can yield positive results and not everyone who "works for a cause" has such shallow motives. And young people who join causes out of need aren't bad people--they are just, well, needy. But I don't identify with such "causes" because.....I'm weird? I don't like the kind of unthinking "group behavior" that often erupts in cause-driven groups? I don't relate to people who are purely cause-driven? I already have an identity and a family and values? I guess it's all of these things.

People who join causes are presumed to be selfless, compassionate people. Well, I'm not that either. As I said before, I want what I want. When I get what I want, I'm happier. Fortunately, so are other people because my happiness entails their happiness and peace for all. I feel terrible when hatred and unbridled, counter-productive anger run amok. It's scary and uncomfortable.

People, animals and the world suffering under destructive forces makes me sad. I don't want to live in a world like this, and I don't want my children having to. If I don't help alleviate these problems, I feel like a lazy hypocrite who is not being true to self and family. So I do what I can do when I can do it. I can't over-do it, or I lose the very things I am fighting for. I have to pace myself.

I don't mind annoying people to get what I want if I think it will lead to positive change. I also don't mind telling people if I think they are wrong or they are doing something counter-productive. But I don't do it because I'm on a "cause" bandwagon. And I don't do it from selflessness. Yes, I am compassionate, but I do expect something in return---not political or social popularity or riches or fame but at least the knowledge I've tried to get what I want and what others want: the ability to work and live in an environment harassment and suffering-free.

It's never going to happen, of course. Life isn't like that. But most of us, I think, can feel better when at least 80% of the time we are left alone to live our lives the way we want to. I believe in this country we call that "freedom."

So, God Bless America.

"He" better because I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, which is bound to irritate many along the way.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Career Change?

I think I'm in the wrong field.

I think I need to work in Government Accountability or some kind of public bitching center. Except I don't think people get paid for that. And I suspect they get spanked quite a bit. I don't feel like getting spanked in order to make a living. Somehow, that seems wrong.

However, right now I seem to be doing it for free. That's kind of a spanking in and of itself, isn't it? It's a double spanking--you get people mad and you don't get paid. But I can't help it. I'm sick of democracy and justice being undermined in this country and in out county. Besides that, it's down right nerve wracking. How can we continue to function if we keep screwing our own residents over?

You can see I'm reverting to potty-mouth this afternoon. I'm giving myself permission. Potty mouth is sometimes good for the soul. When you read as much crap as I do, potty mouth becomes a kind of garbage-in-garbage out. Unfortunately, most of the "garbage in" comes from official statements by selected politicians and local leaders--liars.

I don't like liars. You can say a lot of things to me without my getting seriously offended, but don't lie. Lying demeans both of us. And don't make up stupid excuses that your mother wouldn't even believe.

I'll listen to a lot of things. I'll listen to things I don't agree with and I can usually even find some common ground. I'll let people ramble when I have time to hear it, and I'll read things that don't interest me when asked to do so. But please don't ask me to read lies and accept them. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. When you lie, you demean both of us.

I could give several examples of the dishonesty I'm describing, but I really don't want to get into it right now. That's no lie. Talking about liars all the time gives me "hueva." If you don't know what "hueva" means, it's probably a good thing. It's Spanish potty mouth.

It was different growing up where I did. The "bad kids" were really easy to spot. They usually smelled like pot or were sitting in detention. You could avoid them without too much effort, especially if you were like me, a quiet female who didn't rock the boat. It's not like that now. It's harder to spot the "bad guys." Pot and detentions don't signify much in this new grown-up world I live in. And I'm no longer a quiet female who doesn't rock the boat.

I've discovered it's easy to rock the boat. All you have to do is start asking questions out of pure curiosity or concern, and before you know it, you've caused a title wave. What's up with that? I don't mind if people ask ME questions. I guess that's because I have nothing to hide or to lie about. The world isn't that simple, though, is it? Not everyone is forthcoming or honest. Granted, some people are just more private and that doesn't make them liars, but that makes it even harder to spot a liar sometimes.

It's easier to spot a political liar, though. They do themselves in all the time. All you have to do is compare two different articles or reports and all of a sudden, poof. The veil is lifted. It's harder in other sectors where people don't leave as many footprints or paper trails.

Well, enough boat rocking today. I've got some household messes to clean. I have to go scrub my bathroom. I'm sure the toilet especially needs it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Please Help Our Student Borrowers & Families

Like home loans, student loans have become predatory because borrowers have no consumer protection from unethical lenders and/or schools that do not live up to their promises.

Furthermore, students who have endured tragedies in their lives have no options except default, which does more than just ruin credit: it ruins career choices and income potential because wages are attached.

I would appreciate if you would forward this to any consumer protection groups you might know of. We are looking for reform that will give students a chance to better themselves without risking their financial and personal futures.

We are also looking for attorneys who can help students (like yours truly) who have struggled through this system, one of the many broken ones in our nation.

Thank you!

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

www.luxuriouschoices.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Student Loan Justice
To: Student Loan Justice
Sent: Saturday, May 03, 2008 1:49 PM
Subject: Checking in: May 1st, 2008
Hey Everyone,

Hope all is well out there. Welcome to the new members. We have noticed an uptick in submissions over the past several weeks(particularly from people planing on leaving the country for some reason), and I expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. The downturn in the economy guarantees that student loan defaults will be increasing...possibly at an alarming rate depending on how bad it gets. Those of you who follow these updates will know that despite the rhetoric from the student loan industry that default rates for student loans are at historic lows, the opposite is true. Recent data suggests that about 20% of all student loans will end up in default, and this is probably closer to 25%.

Moreover, the amount of student loan debt out there is massive...about $500 billion. Compare this with the total amount of credit card debt ($900 billion), and you should agree that this problem is very large.

Now is the time for you all to take personal leadership for getting the word out about the uniquely predatory nature of student loan debt. The pressure that the industry is under due to recent legislation and the credit crunch have all but swept this under the rug, and Congress is cow-towing to the banks, predictably. The suffering that the astonishing absence of consumer protections for student loans is causing has been drown out by the cries (and lobbying) by the banks. This should concern you, and concern you greatly.

I do know of a few media pieces in the works that address this issue, but I have to say that with the exception of a few folks in California, I am not seeing much tangible evidence of action out there in the country to bring attention to this issue. Its not hard to pick up the phone and call a reporter. It's not hard print up some flyers and post them around the colleges. There are a million things that you could do. Just pick one.

Also, I want to make it clear that this site is not for the purpose of giving out personal advice to borrowers. This site is for galvanizing grassroots action to convince Congress to return the standard consumer protections to student loans. I would like, at some point, to be able to offer counseling services to individual borrowers, but we are not there yet.

Thanks, and please take some action.

Alan

Keep us posted-

Alan Collinge, StudentLoanJustice.Org
Please support the StudentLoanJustice.Org PAC

____________________________________________

email to Lou Dobbs

mhtml:%7BFB7EFB9B-64DD-4A51-9E22-DD94EC019A4C%7Dmid://00000434/!x-usc:mailto:loudobbs@cnn.com

Dear Mr. Dobbs:

I am writing because I am one of too many who have been injured in the student loan system. An "A" student who put herself through college, I wanted to pursue a Ph.D.

In the year 2000, I entered Union Institute and University’s Doctoral program, based in Cincinnati. UIU was running without licensure in Washington, D.C. UIU had unlicensed, Federally funded sites throughout the country. The school knew this for some time but never addressed it.When I brought up the licensure issue, I was involuntarily removed from my program. The Department of Education, the accreditation agency, and other agencies investigated the school and temporarily froze the school's funding. The school was made to make significant changes in their program, their administration, and in their delivery, including changing the way they structured their “semesters.”

The school no longer claims to have a D.C. "site." They got their money. But I was left with no credits to transfer, no degree, and now, after interest, more than $50,000.00 in debt.One attorney attempted to negotiate with the school so I could at least complete my program. The school responded that I would have to begin all over again and pay all over again. It was a clear case of retaliation.

I tried everything to resolve this issue at the school, agency, lender, and national levels. As a final attempt, I visited a bankruptcy lawyer who of course, wanted to be paid to bring the case to court. But really, he didn't think I would "win" and discouraged me from pursuing the case. I am thankful he was honest. Rather than put myself further in debt by trying to fight a case I could not win, I did not pursue bankruptcy. I am currently in forbearance, and the debt continues to grow.

Mr. Dobbs, I have disabilities and so do my two children. I work contract and have no way to afford an attorney to help. Mine is only one story.

Mr. Dobbs, the student loan industry has become as predatory as the mortgage industry. We have no consumer protection from unethical schools or lenders.

Please help. Do a story, contact the right people, whatever it is you can do.

We would appreciate your assistance as a highly recognized member of the media.


Sincerely,
Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Do Not Support Bristow Commons OR Housing on Devlin

For anyone reading my message in the bottle, please send this to your friends.

We can prevent businesses or homes being built on Devlin Road!

Since we are the home owners, we can go to the planning board and zoning. It doesn't have to be "homes or buildings." Developers like you to think there is no choice. We DO have a choice, especially in this economy when we already have so many empty buildings and struggling businesses.

The developers told me the land is still zoned "agricultural." We can prevent the re-zoning.

I told the developers if they lobby for a new park, then I will support them. Otherwise, I don't think we need new buildings or construction around here.

Do not support Bristow Commons or new housing in any of the areas on Devlin Road. Urge the Boards to get us a park instead.

Please contact the following people to get this turned around:

Wally Covington
8506 Wellington Road
Suite 101Manassas, VA 20109
Phone: 703-792-6190
Fax: 703-257-9792
Aide: 703-792-6191
wcovington@pwcgov.org

Planning Commission
1 County Complex Court, Woodbridge, Virginia 22192-9201
(703) 792-6830
Metro 631-1703, Ext. 6830
FAX (703) 792-4758

Zoning Commission
Public Works, Internet Comment Page
http://www.pwcgov.org/default.aspx?topic=010064000250001823

PWC Parks and Recreation
Prince William County Park Authority Headquarters
Contact:703-792-7060
George Hellwig Memorial Park Authority
14420 Bristow Road Manassas, VA 20112
TTY 703-791-4068
FAX: 703-792-4278
reception@pwcparks.org

Thank you. WE DO HAVE A CHOICE, AND WE DO HAVE A VOICE!

Friday, May 02, 2008

All Hail the Chief

I live in a surreal neck of the woods.

We have community leaders and county supervisors who support hate groups but castigate the Police Chief.

We have people who demand the law be upheld but criticize our officers for following policy.

And we have people who care more about long grass in their neighborhoods than they do about the safety, reputations, and careers of our service men and women.

One of the newest complaints about Chief Deane is that he has not "not done anything about the illegal problem" when he could have prior to the passing of the "Immigration Resolution". He could have had people suspected of being illegal aliens picked up off the streets. But apparently, he didn't do enough of that to satisfy this crowd.

Why wouldn't he do it?

Well, now, I'm not a cop. Neither am I a lawyer. But it seems to me Chief Deane had some obvious reasons for doing what some people are calling "failing to uphold the law." Let's look at some of these, shall we?

1. Until recently, the police had little to no immigration training. Without training, interrogating people about citizen status could easily be construed as racial profiling unless everyone was being interrogated, which no one had time or personnel for.

2. The police force has never had cameras to document arrests and ensure proper procedures have been followed. This has been a long-standing problem that continues to jeopardize the force and our county.

3. All along, the police have been arresting criminals and if those criminals have been found to be undocumented, they reported them to ICE. However, until recently, ICE has never been so directly involved with the county police department.

Let's remember that Chief Deane has been the Chief since 1988. Prior to now, there has never been such an outcry to have him removed. Who are these people who are suddenly so interested in the Chief?

Well, we know the leaders of the pack are relatively new to Prince William County. We know there are socioeconomic differences between the new comers and the residents who have lived here longer, between these people and immigrants. We know there are factions and hate groups that have influenced our BOCS when there have not been before.

What could possibly justify this rebellion against authority (because that's what it is) when the Chief

1. has decades of experience that most of these people don't have and/or don't understand(myself included)?
2. was the only one in the county with the foresight to spot weaknesses in the resolution that would put our county and residents at risk?
3. was concerned with residents no longer reporting crimes because of fear?
4. ran dozens of community workshops and meetings to explain the policy (which is more than the BOCS ever did after dropping this mess on our collective laps)?
5. listened to (and took a bashing from) people who thought the police were doing too little and people who thought the police were doing too much when they are really just following orders?
6. has helped reduce the crime rate over the past five years?

If anyone should be removed, it is the people who have not supported the Chief or his department for upholding policy and law as it was written pre- and post-resolution.

But I guess I live in an odd region where the real outlaws take the stage.

In any event, I thank the Chief for being reasonable, for being intelligent, and for analyzing the situation before he shot his mouth off like some other people we can name.

In appreciation of Chief Deane......

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Support the Libraries & Diabetes Association

The Second Annual Live Art Auction
at
The Winery at LaGrange, Prince William's only winery!
http://www.wineryatlagrange.com/
Sunday, September 14th 2:00 to 6:00 PM

Presented by:
The Prince William Public Library System Foundation to benefit the American Diabetes Association

The Live Art Auction is sponsored by ArtSouth who provides a fabulous selection of framed artwork including prints, lithographs, etchings and oil paintings.

Among the artists represented Leroy Neiman, Marc Chagall, Norman Rockwell, David Dodsworth, Dan Partouche, Yaacov Agam, Victor Shvaiko and many more.
http://www.artsouthproductions.com/experiencealiveevent.html

The Silent Auction sports memorabilia is sponsored by Grandstand Sports as seen on major television networks (Fox Network, CNN and CBS) for its expertise in the sports and celebrity collectibles market. http://www.grandstandsports.com/
_________________________________________________
The Big Spender PRIZES are BACK!
Live Auction Top Contributor prize winner,Carefree Boat Club membership http://carefreeboats.com/carefree/ ($5,000 value)
Silent Auction Top Contributor prize winner, tickets to the REDSKINS

15% of the proceeds from the auction will go to support the American Diabetes Association.

Please pass this notice on to the other groups and individuals you communicate with in the area. There is no ticket admission to this event, and later a $20 raffle of $250 value at Panino in Manassas will be offered. That makes a really special experience for Valentines Day or anniversary/birthday at our house! Let me know if you want raffle tickets or more information as this event draws closer.

Judy Anderson
Library Foundation Board
Prince William Public Library System
13083 Chinn Park Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22192
(703) 792-4660

Fight Student Debt that lasts a lifetime

Your activism has helped us make a huge impact on key economic issuesfacing students these days, including rising student loan debt andcostly credit card debt. This fall, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act will go intoeffect, so students will see lower student loan interest rates andrepayment options that enable graduates to take lower paying careerslike teaching. And right now, as a result of your work, many collegeadministrators and student governments are re-examining the marketingrules on campus to rein in aggressive credit card marketing by thebanks.

Despite these reforms, young adults are spending more on debt paymentsthan the previous generation. 25 year-olds spend nearly 25 cents outof each dollar on debt payments on average, which is double what babyboomers of the same age spent on debt payments in 1989.

Please join us at a major national conference on the economicchallenges facing young adults: "A Better Deal: Reclaiming EconomicSecurity for a New Generation." It's sponsored by Demos in partnershipwith the Student PIRGs and 20 youth and civic organizations. On May8-9, hundreds of young activists will meet in Washington, DC to learnabout the economic crisis facing our generation and start building amovement for a better deal. A better deal means new policies to helpyoung people afford to go to college, build careers and start familieswithout crippling debt.

For more information and to register, visit: http://www.abetterd ealconference. org. The conference is free andtravel scholarships are available.

Thanks for your participation, and I hope to see you at the conference!

Sincerely,

Sarah Clader Student Debt Alert Campaign

Student PIRGs

http://www.studentd ebtalert. org

Dumfries Political Forum this Sunday



Prince William political notes
From staff reportsPublished: April 28, 2008

Dumfries political forum is scheduled for Sunday Dumfries voters, along with any interested area residents, are invited to a Dumfries Town Council political forum on Sunday.

“This is open to the public and we hope to fill the council chambers,” said Dumfries Mayor Fred Yohey.

All six candidates have committed to the forum, which will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the Dumfries Town Council Chambers at the Dumfries Town Hall.

The League of Women Voters of Prince William County will host the forum.

Dumfries staggers the four-year terms of its six council members and its mayor.

The office of mayor is not up for a vote this year. However, the seats of incumbents Brenda L. Via, Stephanie M. Bradley and Rafael Lopez will be voted on during the election on May 6.
Via and Bradley are running for re-election.

Also running for one of the three open seats are: Dorothea D. Barr, Nancy H. West, Sean Robinson and Willie J. Toney.

Nichols, Barker meet with citizens Saturday Del. Paul Nichols and Sen. George Barker will be at the Chinn Library, 13065 Chinn Park Drive, on Saturday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

This will be the first of scheduled sessions giving the citizens the opportunity to meet with their elected officials.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Virginia’s Budget Woes: Explanation or Excuse?

By Pauline Wagner, SALT
Be patient, keep up your efforts, and wait for the economy to improve. That was the message from northern Virginia legislators to social justice advocates gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington on April 19. The annual Richmond Legislative Wrap-Up session—cosponsored by Social Action Linking Together (SALT), Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH), Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), and Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (V ACOLAO)—drew 10 state legislators and about 75 other participants.
Following an opening prayer by Rev. Gerry Creedon, St. Charles pastor and Chair of the diocesan Peace and Justice Commission, and remarks by Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, SALT Coordinator John Horejsi observed that none of SALT’s priorities for the 2008 legislative session was enacted. Among them were a pilot program proposed by SALT and VCEH to help working families move from homeless shelters to rental housing and a modest increase proposed by SALT in benefits to parents and children on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
TANF recipients have had only one 10 percent increase in their benefits since 1985, Horejsi said, and their benefits are now less than a quarter of the federal poverty level. Yet the TANF caseload is down 58 percent since 1995, while federal TANF funding to Virginia has remained constant. As a result, the state should have ample federal money available to fund SALT’s priorities, Horejsi argued, even given the tight state budget. He asked the audience to imagine the public outcry if Social Security recipients had received but a single cost-of-living adjustment in their benefits since 1985; yet year after year on this issue, SALT’s advocacy on behalf of Virginia’s neediest families falls on deaf ears, he said. “What more can we do?” Horejsi asked the legislators.
VCEH’s Sue Capers asked the same question with respect to the pilot rental assistance proposal. She noted that thousands of poor and unemployed Virginians are turned away from homeless shelters every year, in part because the shelters are housing families with working parents whose income is insufficient to afford the high cost of rental housing.
In response, legislators praised SALT and the other organizations for their advocacy efforts and encouraged them to persevere. Del. David Englin, who had patroned the pilot rental assistance program in the House, noted that Catholic social teaching has much in common with the values of his Jewish faith. Advocacy is valuable in educating legislators to those values, he said, even if the current budget climate makes it difficult to fund worthwhile initiatives.
Del. Brian Moran agreed. Quoting John F. Kennedy as saying “a rising tide lifts all boats,” Moran encouraged advocates to continue lobbying for social justice issues so that, when the economy improves and additional state revenue is available, the legislators will be familiar with the issues.
Del. David Albo and Sen. George Barker both noted that the 2008 General Assembly did manage to approve increased funding for education, mental health, and Medicaid. Sen. Barker complimented SALT on its willingness to tackle difficult issues, the breadth of its bipartisan outreach, and its persistence.
Sen. Chap Petersen told the advocates that he takes personal inspiration from the passage in Luke 4:16-21, where Jesus says that the Lord has anointed him to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives. Although he believes in appropriately punishing those who break the law, Petersen said, Virginia over-incarcerates its citizens, at great expense. The high cost of this approach diverts funding from basic human needs, he said.
Del. Vivian Watts described her efforts on behalf of a bill proposed by SALT and CURE to remove the lifetime ban on TANF benefits from persons convicted of a drug offense, once they have served their sentence and have been reunited with their children. Jean Auldridge from CURE noted that the ban ends up punishing the children for their parent’s mistake, even after the parent has paid her debt to society. Del. Watts attributed the bill’s failure both to its additional cost, although slight, and to the fear of some legislators of being accused of being “soft on crime.”
Delegates Al Eisenberg and Adam Ebbin appeared in support of our issues, though their remarks were brief. Delegate Margaret Vanderhye said that her own faith guides her on social justice including our rental assistance proposal, affordable housing and environmental issues.
Echoing earlier comments from VACOLAO’s Andres Tobar, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw described efforts in the Senate this year to prevent the passage of harmful legislation directed at immigrants. Sen. Saslaw also explained legislative efforts to reform payday lending practices in Virginia.
Horejsi concluded the session by thanking the legislators for their participation and the advocates for their attendance. SALT and the other organizations will be back at work next year on the same issues, he said, with renewed emphasis. For example, he said, the desperate need for a TANF benefit increase has attracted the attention of AARP, many of whose members are struggling to raise grandchildren on limited, fixed incomes. If adequately funded, such “child-only” TANF benefits would enable more children to receive care from a loving relative at a lower cost to the state than foster care or group homes.
________________________________________
This is to share an article covering our RICHMOND WRAP-UP by Social Action Linking Together (SALT)--and it's co-Sponsors. The annual forum focused on what happened during the Richmond General Assembly Session. Ten legislators from Northern Virginia discussed how well the General Assembly responded to social justice and human services needs facing Virginia and to answer questions posed by participants. This was an excellent opportunity to learn first-hand what transpired in Richmond. For more information, contact SALT Coordinator, John Horejsi at jhorejsi@cox.net or visit the SALT web site at www.S-A-L-T.org.
Social Action Linking Together---SALT is a network of advocates who are bringing the social and economic justice teachings of the Catholic Church to bear on public policy and legislation, especially at local and state levels. SALT’s active membership totals more than one thousand persons of faith.
We thank Pauline Wagner, SALT member, for this article and DeeDee Tosranoski, Bruce Neilson and Bob More for their collaboration.
Please e-mail John Horejsi at jhorejsi@cox.net if you have any questions about this event.
With thanks.
JOHN HOREJSI
SALT Coordinator
Vienna, VA 22181-3248
jhorejsi@cox.net

Brain Vacation

Ever give yourself a brain vacation? You know what I mean...do you do brainless things to shut off the the thoughts for awhile, or at least let them mix and mingle and wander at will without trying to corral them into something meaningful or coherent? Or is that an ADHD thing for people who think too much all the time?

My brain gets realllllllllllly tired sometimes. Ironically, to shut it off, I have to do something physical but brainless.

This weekend, picking up the trash on the HOA sponsored Community Clean-up Day did it for me. Sure, all kinds of ideas scampered through my head......like overthrowing the PWC Planning Board, taking back wide patches of land on University Blvd. and using them for trees, picnic tables and a co-op garden.......why do people think we can't do that if we're the ones who have to live here?........but those brain waves didn't get too much further than, "I bet we can get enough signatures...." Picking up trash is a relaxing endeavor.

That's not to say I want people to throw more trash on the ground so I can pick it up in order to relax. I suspect if there weren't garbage, I WOULD find something else to do, but litter collecting facilitates the brain vacation, the exercise, and the helpful kind of work people like me enjoy doing. When you think too much, when you are overweight, and when you feel you must do something meaningful as well, there's nothing like tossing burnt out fireworks into a trash bag.

That was a not-so-subtle hint to anyone who shoots off fireworks. Please collect them the next morning and put them where they belong : )

If you've ever participated in a clean-up, then you understand the way trash congregates in the grassy nooks and paved crannies of a community. We spent about an hour collecting just tiny bits of debris along part of the road, less than half of a mile. We picked up enough litter to fill a small trash bag. Yes, cigarette buts, flattened pieces of tissue and newspaper, crunched up bits of tin cans, plastic bottle tops......one trash bag full. Times that by the rest of the world......don't even add in the big stuff.....and you will understand that we are living in a self-inflicted garbage pit. No wonder we're all so unhealthy!

There's no substitute for solid, clean community action.

We can't depend on the county or some policy to keep our neighborhoods looking the way we want them to. We can't depend on the lazier side of our nature that says, "Someone else will take care of it." We can't go on believing the rest of the world will give us what we need and that the Earth will clean itself up. And we should never support actions that waste time and money instead of giving ourselves what we want and need--a great place to live.

I'm glad the HOA gave me the opportunity to rest my brain for a bit while I did something healthy for my body and the planet.

But as you can see, the brain vacation is over for now.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Save Our Communities!

I am writing to ask you to send an email, or speak at Citizens Time, 2:00 p.m. April 29th and to recruit others to do the same. This is our last chance so please take this opportunity seriously.

The emails I'd like you to send are intended for our elected officials in Prince William County, VA. This coming Tuesday, April 29th, our Board of Supervisors will be voting on whether to continue funding a policy that spends nearly $26 million over 5 years to enlist local police in enforcing immigration law using a "probable cause" standard that is certain to lead to racial profiling.

We have a segment of the population including legal citizens that are living in fear of undue scrutiny by local law enforcement. We don't want our taxes raised and we can not afford to defend ourselves against additional lawsuits that are inevitably to follow. Additionally, the "Immigration Resolution" is ravaging our local economy as this video shows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oiwJ-_BipU

Public officials here are greatly influenced by emails. They are being inundated with emails from around the country, organized by two anti-immigrant lobbying organizations based in Washington DC, both categorized as "Hate Groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBbjrk0QWqw

We are asking you to counter the efforts of anti-immigrant lobbying groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA, and write emails to our Supervisors.

Please visit http://www.pwcaa.com/ to automatically send emails to all Supervisors.

Thanks.

Alanna Almeda

Friday, April 25, 2008

Socioeconomics in Manassas

Okay, so I meet this lady while I am walking today in the Battlefield. She's really nice and strikes up a conversation with me. She tells me about this subdivision in Manassas off Lomond Drive (Sumner Lake). She says there's a really nice walking path, a fountain, ducks and geese and everything, that I should check it out. It used to be a farm, she says.

So I get all excited because this nice lady who must appreciate nature (I assume, because she likes walking in the Battlefield) gives me a tip on a new place to walk.

To get to this place, you have to drive all the way through Lomond Drive in Manassas. Now, I drive through those areas a lot, I've lived near there, and I've subbed at Stonewall a few times. So I know what the neighborhoods look like. They're cute. But since I haven't been there in awhile in daylight, I think, hmmmm....now maybe I will actually see some rot that they talk about on BVBL.

No lie...all the way there, all the way up Lomond, I see ONE house with overgrown grass. This ONE house needs a paint job. The rest of the houses are middle class places, 20-40 years old with yards big enough to make ME drool and enough mature trees to make me whine. And many, many are up for sale, just as they are in my Bristow town home neighborhood.

So I accidentally drive by Sumner and onto Stonewall which means I have to turn around, but before I do, I see some more affordable looking apartments and town homes. I see a group of minorities (mixed) playing basketball in the parking lot of their development. I see people pushing baby carriages and I see blooming spring flowers.

I finally DO make it back to Sumner.

OH MY GOD.

My idea of TOTAL HELL.

McMansions everywhere shoved next to each other, yes, a fountain, but a fountain stuck in the middle of this hoity-toity subdivision that would give me hives if I had to live there. And this is what they've done to it. To boot.....loads of homes for sale.

It occurs to me that some of the people who live in subdivisions like these don't appreciate their neighbors because the tenured streets look, well, too working or middle class. Developers will often come into older neighborhoods and "gentrify." Unfortunately, many of the "gentry" don't appreciate the original charm of the area and would like to anaconda-out anyone who doesn't earn at least three times the median income of the state.

So, no offense to anyone who might live there, but it's apparent to me why there are social tensions in Manassas. It's not just about race. It's about class.

If Stewart Wants a Revolution......

Among the other cuts proposed so the county can foot the bill for the "Immigration Resolution" that has much less expensive and less harmful alternatives, Stewart is proposing to cut 85 county positions.

Now, even if you love the resolution, I'm assuming you also like to remain employed. I know I do.

So I suggest every county employee show up in front of McCoart on Tuesday the 29th to protest the cuts and the irresponsible spending of our tax dollars.

Go ahead. Take the day off and sign up to speak.

Or if you don't want to waste your gas driving out to McCoart, write to the BOCS and just take a vacation day. It could be YOUR job you are saving either now or in the next few years.

If Stewart wants a revolution over his resolution, that's exactly what he can get.

Use your power as "the people" and stand up for yourselves.

Many of us will be waving the banner for you.

Once Again, Let's Cut Programs for the Elderly and Disabled?

Another cut proposed so Corey Stewart and John Stirrup can fund their costly "immigration resolution" instead of working out a more cost effective, fair, neighborhood and business-friendly solution that will not put our county further at risk:
___________________________________

On Tuesday, April 22nd, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously by straw poll to eliminate the Manassas Senior Day Program for special needs seniors from the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.

The final budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29th at 2 pm at the McCoart Building.

Please contact the county supervisors below to indicate your support for continuing the program.

Chairman, Corey Stewart, cstewart@pwcgov.org 703-792-4640
Coles, Marty Nohe, mnohe@pwcgov.org 703-792-4620
Brentsville, Wally Covington, wcovington@pwcgov.org 703-792-6190
Gainesville, John Stirrup, gainesville@pwcgov.org 703-792-6195
Occoquan, Mike May, mcmay@pwcgov.org 703-792-4643
Dumfries, Maureen Caddigan, mcaddigan@pwcgov.org 703-792-4645
Neabsco, John Jenkins, jjenkins@pwcgov.org 703-792-4668
Woodbridge, Frank Principi, fprincipi@pwcgov.org 703-792-4646
If possible, please also attend the meeting on April 29th at 2 pm at the McCoart building.

Please ask your family and friends to help us also.

courtesty, Friends of MSDP

_______________________________________

BOB MARSHALL--
YOU DEFENDED THEIR PROGRAM LAST YEAR. WE NEED YOU AGAIN!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wright is Right

Dear Supervisor Jenkins,

I have always respected you. I covered much of your work on behalf of the citizen of Prince William County when I published the Community Voice Newspaper. I regret not having the newspaper being published at this time because my voice could have been joined by so many others who are very concerned about the path of those who we have elected. It is not without trepidation that I must say it, but I am very disillusioned with the path our elected officials in Prince William County have embarked. I very strongly reiterate the voice of the gentleman, Aracely, whose letter to you has been sent to me.

Supervisor Jenkins the repercussions of the present climate created by the Immigration task force issue in PWC has gone even beyond that voiced in the letter below. My grandaughter, who you have met many times, and who Supervisor Caddigan also knows well, has been one of the many victims of supervisor decisions and county actions. No, she is not born of illegal heritage, she is an American who has been raised here in Prince William County since she was 2 years old. She is a student in one of our county high schools, she has had a Virginia ID card since elementary school, she has her learners permit and is a good student who is also active in church, volunteering but since Chairman Stewart's efforts began against Hispanics she has become a victim - a victim for no reason except her last name - which happens to be Hispanic. The prejudice stems from the county BOS actions and goes beyond the schools - it has spread into every aspect of my grandchild's life - such as the 3 days it took for us to get her drivers permit - despite legal status, PWC Court custody papers signed by Judge Molinari, a Virginia ID, a state of Georgia (USA) birth certificate and my frustration as an American Citizen at the prejudice that has poisoned our entire community.

Supervisor Jenkins my neighborhood has over 400 vacant homes - homes that are vacant for various reasons, but primarily affected by the immigration issue. I have always known you to be a man of conscious and intellect. I have always respected Supervisor Caddigan and former Supervisor Barg who also knows me and my granddaughter well. I only ask that the path taken by the BOS, a path that is worsening the financial situation of all families in our community, not just Hispanics but everyone, in many ways.

Supervisor Jenkins, I ask that you reconsider the decision about where our tax dollars are being spent and choose to spend the thousands of dollars Chairman Stewart chooses to spend to police immigration - which laws have allowed us to do prior to these measures - to be denoted to better spending on needs like the education of our children - schools, our needs of our senior citizens, housing, hunger and the revitalization of the "community" as a whole. How many homes, businesses, jobs and families must be sacrificed for such lunacy?

Sincerely,
Linda Wright

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Racism in Prince William Area

Racism
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. Example: "Help Save Manassas" (HSM) and John Stirrup communicating their need to "save OUR culture" from the "invaders" who don't speak our language and spread "lawlessness" and "disease."
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. Examples: the "immigration resolution" which reduces every foreign looking or speaking person to the category of "illegal," guilty until proven innocent. The BOCS cutting school budgets and declaring the policy a success because ESOL students have left the program. The BOCS taking its policy from a designated hate group (FAIR) and pushing it through to satisfy the agenda of Cory Stewart, John Stirrup, Greg Letiecq and many members of HSM which include Council members and other political figures.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. Example: residents who rejoice over empty houses and failing businesses because the exodus of means the "illegals" are leaving. Residents who tout, if the "legals" are leaving too, it doesn't matter and is good because they probably have "illegal" family members anyway. Residents who hate foreign music and use of foreign language. Residents who scream at children and persecute people from other cultures.

Racist

1932 as a noun, 1938 as an adjective, from race (n.2); racism is first attested 1936 (from Fr. racisme, 1935), originally in the context of Nazi theories. But they replaced earlier words, racialism (1907) and racialist (1917), both often used at first in a British or South African context.

We have such residents and leaders in the Prince William County area. We have a policy taken from a hate group and marketed by racist leaders with their own political agendas. Therefore, when I use the word "racist" or "Nazi," I do so to describe the actions of these community members who have begun, contributed to and continue to propagate racism in this area instead of finding legal, local, productive, just solutions that benefit every resident and instead of lobbying for national reform where the responsibility of immigration policy, law, and enforcement lie.

One of the greatest fighters of racism, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of equality for every human being in the face of a history that had determined African Americans to be inferior, to not be considered citizens, to be treated as owned laborers. "The tendency to ignore the Negro's contribution to American life and to strip him of his personhood is as old as the earliest history books and as contemporary as the morning's newspaper." The same has happened to the Hispanic, Asian, and other non-criminal documented and undocumented communities searching for a legal passage to citizenship. It is happening again and now in our county and surrounding cities. Our leaders have not heeded the lessons gifted to us by history.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Red Tide Incoming

Warning: this post contains references to menstruation. If female bodily functions disturb you, stop reading here.

__________________________

Well, I did warn you. If you're still reading, it's your own damn fault. Yes, folks, it's PMS week here in the Gotthardt home, and there is less rejoicing.

This month's PMS features impatience with children who lose their rain coats and think an umbrella and t-shirt are fine substitutions in a cold rain. Also this month, we have running-late-stress which in warmer, damper weather, causes increased heat intolerance and perspiration. Finally, this month we celebrate the usual sensitivity including overly sentimental memories of the children when they were babies and toddlers, resulting in an overwhelming craving to pick up and hug other people's babies who might not be so receptive to the whims of Aunt Flo's impending visit.

Please don't confuse this craving for wanting more babies. There's no relationship whatsoever. I'm done with diapers and midnight feedings and incoherent bursts of crying that always make you wonder, "What am I doing wrong that this baby is so unhappy?"

Post-partum, I used to cry when my babies did. Thank GOD my kids are older. They rarely cry when they are hungry, and obviously, they don't cry when they are cold because they disregard outerwear. I don't feel compelled to tear when they bawl over a playground incident or a hard day at school. Older children can usually communicate their feelings more, and that makes it much easier for parents who prefer actual words to gumless screaming.

PMS is something I've lived with for a long time. I've grown accustomed to feeling fat(ter), more teary, fatigued, and stressed at this time of the month. In the past ten years, I've learned to avoid making important decisions during PMS week. I've learned to expect some sadness for any or no reason.

My hormonal troubles began early in life, around age fifteen. On and off treatments have helped somewhat, but anyone who suffers from these special female problems can tell you it's a burden that's really not recognized by our society. We get dissed as "illogical" and "overly emotional," as if menstruation warrants ignoring our ideas and thoughts once a month or even until we pass menopause. My mind is just as active, analytical, and curious as it is the rest of the month, which gives no credence to, "Aw, she's on the rag. Don't listen to her." Tears do not equal lack of logic, even though hormonal patterns seem to defy logic at times.

I see this as a design flaw....poor planning on the part of the creator. Either that or it's an opportunity to demonstrate to the world once again that not everyone has to live the same kind of life or feel the same way, for better or for worse.

I want to be one of those Indian ladies who gets to run off with her girlfriends when she gets her period. They all hang out and work as a community (albeit a moody and bleeding community) until they feel better. That's what we need---monthly sabbatical for pre-menstrual and menstruating women.

I've also learned that as soon as I get my period, I feel better and have more energy. Organizational mode kicks in. House cleaning increases. I expect my family to follow suit by putting laundry in its rightful place and picking up after themselves more often than usual. It's a good time to be in my home if you are a visitor because the place looks better. It's a bad time to be in my home if you are my husband or my children. I can be annoying, especially because work tends to pile up more during the PMS week making post-PMS a time to catch up.

I have a feeling when my daughters start, it's going to be interesting around here, since women who live together tend to cycle together. I can just see us all impatient one minute, group hugging the next. We'll want to draw into this circle as many people, babies and pets as we can.

Maybe it's my husband who will need the monthly sabbatical.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MANASSAS CITY COUNCIL BUDGET MEETING

MANASSAS CITY COUNCIL BUDGET MEETING
April 21, 7:30PM

The Manassas City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, 21 APRIL at 7:30PM in the City Council Chambers for citizens to discuss and comment on the coming year's budget.

While as good citizens we are willing to pay our fare share of taxes, we expect our elected officials to use those funds for the betterment of our community, and not to promote their own political agendas. We expect our elected officials to reduce or eliminate the funding of none essential projects when there is an unexpected shortfall. We expect our elected officials to tighten up, just as we do in our own homes when we are short on money.

The Manassas City Council members are not planning to use our money wisely!

In Monday's Journal Messenger (14APRIL08), on the back of section A, the Manassas City Council and the City Manager outlined the new budget and all of the proposed tax increases. Of course, you have to be a CPA to decipher it, but it leaves out that political grandstanding programs were left in and are funded in this budget.

We know that funds derived from our local taxes are lower than last year primarily because property values have decreased so much. There are many reasons for that. But because of the decrease, the City will have fewer monies for planned projects. We need to know what those projects are because residents are feeling the pinch, too.

Some have taken out home equity loans and mortgages that now eclipse the value of their homes. Many two income households now run on a single income or less. And if you think, "So what, they deserve it!" You are not living in reality. Every foreclosed or abandoned home in your neighborhood affects YOUR property value. YOUR pocket.

The City proposes to raise the tax rates on real property (your home) 6.3% plus increase personal property taxes. Add to the those taxes, increases in electric, water, sewer and a host of other services and fees, ordinary citizens will have to struggle to keep their heads above water. And let’s not forget coming state increases and federal increases.

Please come to the public hearing to let the Manassas City Council know that while we will support the increase put forth to fund additions to the Fire and Rescue Services and want to support our schools, there are proposed items that we believe do not serve our community and do not warrant funding. There are numerous items that can be eliminated from the proposed budget or at least deferred till next year ... or later.

TELL THE CITY COUNCIL TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK!!

One item that stands out is the funding for the Section 287(g) program which is the ICE proposal that has us embroiled in a multi-million dollar lawsuit with the Equal Rights Commission (NRC). The cost to fight it, and the burden if we lose, will be borne by us, the residents.

We have witnessed the chaos ignited by the actions of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Do we want that for Manassas? Immigrants have already fled our city in massive numbers. We know this by the decreased enrollment in our public schools, the homes that have been abandoned and the number of unoccupied apartments and declining businesses.

The Help Save Manassas group's wish has been granted! The threat of racial profiling and intimidation has run many in the immigrant population from Manassas (illegal and legal). There is no need to fund 287(g). It is hoped that if we drop this proposal, perhaps the NRC will drop their suite and spare us having to pay over $2 million dollars.

JOIN US MONDAY at 7:30P FOR THE BUDGET PUBLIC HEARING. LET THE MANASSAS CITY COUNCIL KNOW THAT WE DO NOT SUPPORT THEIR RAISING OUR TAXES WITHOUT THEM DOING THEIR DUE DILIGENCE AND EXERCISING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Tell the City Council that 6.3% is too high. Tell them a 2.3% increase is all that's needed. We need them to stand against the politically motivated proposals and do what is right with our money. Do what is right for Manassas City.

We'll be at:
Manassas City Hall in Old Town Manassas9027 Center Street (see link)Manassas, VA 20110
http://www.manassascity.org/index.asp?NID=433

information courtesy EJ ScottChair, Manassas/Manassas Park Cities Democrats Vice Chair, VADC 703/368-4541www.ManassasCityDemocrats.com

Friday, April 18, 2008

Unitarian Universalism and Immigration



UUA for Compassionate Immigration Reform

Introduction: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Driven by the prospect of economic opportunity and U.S. businesses’ voracious need for cheap labor, undocumented immigration is on the rise. Approximately 12 million undocumented people live and work in the United States, trapped by a broken immigration system which creates an under-class of residents who are refused the dignity and civil protections that come with citizenship. Our current immigration system keeps families apart, both through a huge backlog in family-based immigration, as well as through the unjust detention and deportation of immigrant mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

We call for an immediate stop to federal raids that separate parents from their children and create a climate of fear and repression. We recognize that racism has blinded many Americans to what takes place in our own kitchens, workshops, and fields. For our nation to be whole, we must acknowledge that our lives of privilege are supported in thousands of ways by people whose labor is invisible and whose suffering is hidden. We call upon our elected officials to enact legislation that includes or affirms the following:

· The creation of an accessible and timely process for individuals in this country to obtain residency and citizenship;
· Reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
· Equitable treatment of all workers: the creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected;
· The right of non-citizens to due process, legal representation, and presumption of innocence;
· Safety of asylum seekers and an opportunity to prove they deserve asylum;
· Border protection policies that treat all individuals with respect, are consistent with humanitarian values, and allow authorities to identify and prevent entry of actual terrorists and dangerous criminals.

Unitarian Universalism and Immigration

Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to recognize that no one is "the stranger," to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and to support the use of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Many among us are immigrants and integral members of, and contributors to, our communities and our congregations; many of us witness the deleterious impact of the current unjust immigration system on the families and communities around us.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has supported fair and compassionate immigration practices since its inception: at our first General Assembly in 1961, we passed a resolution on the rights of immigrant workers. A 1963 resolution called for immigration reform, and subsequent UUA statements supported the humane treatment of immigrants. Recent UUA statements, including the 2004 statement on Civil Liberties, affirm our strong commitment to advocate for the right to due process of immigrants, refugees and foreign nationals.

In 2006, the General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness to Support Immigrant Justice, calling Unitarian Universalists to join people of many faith traditions in supporting the rights of our brothers and sisters who are recent immigrants to the United States of America. Most recently, at the 2007 General Assembly, delegates passed an Action of Immediate Witness to Support Immigrant Families—Stop the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Raids that calls for an immediate moratorium of all inhumane raids and resulting deportations.

1320 18TH ST NW, SUITE 300B (202) 296-4672 WWW.UUA.ORG/SOCIALJUSTICE
WASHINGTON, DC 20036 (202) 296-4673 FAX UUAWO@UUA.ORG
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE ASSOCIATION’S
W A S H I N G T O N O F F I C E F O R A D V O C A C Y

Take action: Contact your Senators and Representative!

Fax a letter or call your representatives; ask them to support truly comprehensive immigration reform. You can look up your Representative’s and Senators’ phone numbers online at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov, or call the Capitol Switchboard at: (202) 224-312. Ask to speak to the staff person working on immigration; identify yourself as a constituent and a person of faith, let the staff person know you support comprehensive immigration reform and ask if the Representative will do so.

Please note: Currently, there is not a bill on comprehensive immigration reform in either the House or the Senate. But it is still important for representatives to hear that constituents support the rights of immigrants and fair and compassionate immigration practices.

Talking Points on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

· The federal government must act now to address a broken immigration system which causes suffering in the lives of millions of people in the United States
· Comprehensive immigration reform is the most effective and humane approach, and includes:
· An earned path to legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship for undocumented
immigrants who fulfill reasonable criteria,
· Effective and humane border enforcement,
· Wider legal channels for immigrants to work in the U.S. with their rights fully protected,
· Enhancements to the family-based immigration system so that families are not unduly separated from their loved ones.

Further Resources
· Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform: This legislative campaign for comprehensive
immigration reform has extensive analysis of and up-to-date information on immigration reform legislation:
www.cirnow.org
· For You Were Once a Stranger: Immigration in the U.S. Through the Lens of Faith is a
comprehensive immigration toolkit developed by Interfaith Worker Justice that helps people of faith reflect on what their religious traditions say about immigrations and engage in meaningful action for creating a just and humane immigration program: http://www.iwj.org
· Rights Working Group: This national coalition of more than 250 community-based groups and policy organizations is “dedicated to ensuring that American commitment to liberty and justice is fulfilled;” RWG’s website includes in-depth information on immigration legislation: www.rightsworkinggroup.org
· Breakthrough TV: Immigration reform is one priority of this international human rights and media organization. Their guide: Restoring the Right to Due Process: A Toolkit for Immigrant Rights Advocates is available at htp://www.breakthrough.tv/
· The New Sanctuary Movement: This interfaith coalition of congregations pledges to open their
congregations' doors and hearts to immigrant workers and their families on the brink of deportation. Contact Susan Leslie (sleslie@uua.org) for information on UU participation in this movement, (see http://www.uua.org/news/newssubmissions/24058.shtml) and visit www.newsanctuarymovement.org to learn more.

For more information on UUA work on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, visit
www.uua.org/socialjustice or contact Lisa Swanson in the UUA Washington Office at:
lswanson@uua.org or (202) 296-4672 x 22

For more information on UU participation in the New Sanctuary Movement, please contact
Susan Leslie in the UUA Office of Congregational Advocacy and Witness: sleslie@uua.org or (617) 948-4607

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back from the HOA Annual Meeting

So I attend the annual HOA meeting. I'm walking out of the building and there are people mulling around some poster boards. On the poster boards are plans and blueprints. Three developer reps are asking people to look at their plans. Then they're asking people to support another retail plaza to be built by the corner of Devlin and Linton Hall.

Now, if you want to see me get my panties in a bunch, ask me to sign off on a permission slip to rip down more trees in this area.

Ask me to sign off on a plan to put in more "upscale" stores and restaurants.

Try to convince me that it's either stores or more houses, but one way or another, the trees are going.

Then, when I try to warn you that not only our neighborhood folks would go there but the Nissan Pavilion visitors will stop off for dinner as well, try telling me, "Well no, they won't know about it."

"It's a really green plan," I'm told. "We did studies."

Well, apparently those studies didn't include Nissan Pavilion traffic. And I doubt those studies included further backup of traffic on Linton Hall and Devlin from people turning in and out of the parking lot.

"We're going to preserve this section of trees," I'm told and showed a narrow strip up Devlin.

"Great. Turn it into a park."

"Well, it probably has to be a preserve."

Flash back to the HOA meeting where I'm asking if the developers are still planning to build thousands of homes right across the street from our subdivision (across Devlin on the opposite side of University). No one seems to know.

"Why can't we make all those woods a park?" After all, we don't have any parks in our neck of the no-woods.

No one seems to know.

So home come I telling my husband about the meeting and the various disputes over voting procedures, but the fact is, nothing ticks me off more than the way this county has allowed developers to rip our environment apart.

When I'm on my front steps, I look across the street, behind the other town homes, and I see an industrial park.

When I look to the left, I see a runoff surrounded by a chain link fence.

When I go on my back porch, I see dead trees, a graveyard of what must have been the original "Darton Woods." Except there are no woods, and if the county has its way, the rest of this area will end up looking something like the surface of the moon.

And now they want me to sign a petition to build MORE?

They want me to condone once again the ripping down of trees?

They want me to support increased traffic and pollution?

They want me to request listening to another year or more of construction (which, by the way, would create even more traffic during the process)?

I think not.

And I intend to let the BOCS know about it.

Two Important Meetings! One is TONIGHT!

The Board of County Supervisors is holding a meeting to approve 2009 budget items. It is crucial everyone in the county be heard, especially because the budget it so tight this year with the decline of the housing market.

We need people to speak Tuesday night, April 22nd, at citizen's time. Last time, we had to arrive at 6:30 to sign up. There is usually a line, so it's worth showing up early to get a seat inside. Citizens usually speak between 7:30 and 8:00.

What are we speaking about?

*the budget cuts to schools, libraries, fire, rescue, human services, ARC and other programs that cannot function adequately under the current budget;

*that we should have some say in what the priorities of this county should be, and right now, we don't because a vocal minority has monopolized the conversation and the attention of the BOCS.

The meeting will take place in the BOCS Chambers:

McCoart Administration Building

1 County Complex Court (Prince William Parkway)
Prince William, VA 22192

If you can't come to speak, please call, fax or email your concerns and budget requests to everyone on the Board of County Supervisors. Better yet, do all three! The information is below.

Thank you for helping remind the BOCS that we care about the democratic process in our community.

BOCS Contact Information
Chairman At-Large
Corey A. Stewart
McCoart Administration Building
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4640
Fax: 703-792-4637
Aide: 703-792-5626
cstewart@pwcgov.org

Brentsville District
Wally Covington
8506 Wellington Road
Suite 101
Manassas, VA 20109
Phone: 703-792-6190
Fax: 703-257-9792
Aide: 703-792-6191
wcovington@pwcgov.org

Coles District
Martin E. Nohe, Vice Chairman
4360 Ridgewood Center Drive
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4620
Fax: 703-792-4610
Aide: 703-792-4621
mnohe@pwcgov.org

Dumfries District
Maureen S. Caddigan
Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building
15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Suite 145
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Phone: 703-792-4645
Fax: 703-792-4622
Aide: 703-792-4648
mcaddigan@pwcgov.org

Gainesville District
John T. Stirrup, Jr.
Sudley North Government Center
7873 Ashton Avenue
Manassas, VA 20109
Phone: 703-792-6195
Fax: 703-792-7664
Aide: 703-792-6196
gainesville@pwcgov.org

Neabsco District
John D. Jenkins
4361 Ridgewood Center Drive
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4668
Fax: 703-792-4669
Aide: 703-792-4667
jjenkins@pwcgov.

Occoquan District
Michael C. May
2241-B Tackett's Mill Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4643
Fax: 703-792-4833
Aide: 703-792-4644
mcmay@pwcgov.org

Woodbridge District
Frank J. Principi
Dr.A.J. Ferlazzo Building
15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Suite 140
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Phone: 703-792-4646
Fax: 703-792-4993
Aide: 703-792-4647
fprincipi@pwcgov.org

Please copy and forward this message to anyone you know in PWC! The BOCS will vote on the final budget April 29, so make your voice heard before then!

___________________________________________
For anyone who lives in Sheffield Manor:

I received this message via email. Please pass it on.

Neighbor,

Please do what you can to attend the Annual Sheffield Manor HOA meeting TONIGHT. It will be at Victory Elementary Thursday April 17th at 7:30PM. The election of two board members will take place. Please attend and make your vote count. Blank proxy votes just go to the board to help re-elect themselves. If you made a blank proxy vote you can cancel it by showing up and VOTING AGAIN. Please come do your part and vote for a change.

TONIGHT!! (April 17, 2008)

Concerned Sheffield Manor Resident

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

For My Past and Present Students

Who you are makes a difference.
Thank you for making a difference in my life! You know who you are : )

http://www.blueribbonmovie.com/

Writing On Writing On Writing On Writing...

Someone recently asked me if I write every day, something I've been asked before. My answer: "yes."

I used to think writing every day didn't "count" unless it was something I could perfect or something I could call a journal. But blogging, email, and listservs have changed my perception of what "counts."

This idea of what "counts" and what doesn't is ridiculous of course. I mean, who's counting except me? Is there some kind of external writing tabulator marking my writing attendance? "Uh, uh, uh....she didn't write a journal entry today." A big red "X" goes into the box, one of billions on the giant grid paper representing my days on Earth.

Still, though, I like to answer questions honestly, and as with any other question, I tend to over-analyze what is being asked. I'm quite sure the people who have asked me this don't mean for me to slip into my, "Well, how do you define writing?" mode.

Emily Dickenson wrote on her wall. Various poets and authors have written on the backs of brown paper bags. I've jotted ideas for poems on sales slips, kids' school papers, and business cards. Who is to say this isn't writing?

This reminds me of my adult students who hated to read. "Read anything," I would tell them. I do this myself, my eyes automatically attracted to any kind of text no matter where it is. It's a habit I developed from childhood when reading the phone book still appealed to me.

"Yeah, but I hate books!" they would cry.

"I said, read ANYTHING! Read the backs of cereal boxes. Read signs. Read newspaper headlines and notes from teachers and..."

"Does that count?" They were incredulous.

"Well what are you reading right now?"

"Nothing."

"Well then it counts, right? It's more than what you are doing now!"

I'm sure there must be some mathematical statement that implies anything more than zero is advancement (I guess that would be called adding or a number line). My blog entries are more than zero. So are my emails and my comments to students and my feedback on news articles....these are all forms of writing in addition to the creative writing I practice (which comes much more slowly).

I always tell students (and others) that online classes in writing are the best kind because they force you to write all the time. If you have a question, you must learn to write it so the instructor understands what you are asking. You must complete assignments, write essays, and participate in discussions all through writing. It's like a total language immersion class in which students are not permitted to speak English.....except in online writing classes, students can't speak at all. Their writing must speak for them.

Sandra, my Barefoot Blogger Friend over at she says with a smile wrote something like, "you don't really know me unless you read my blog." This is true for so many writers. Unless you read their writing, you will never really get a sense of who they are, what they are feeling, how they process the world because, hello.....most of us are natural introverts. Sure, we might "play" at being an extrovert, putting on the garb for a time, but I would argue most writers are not born extroverts. Someone argue with me about this if I am wrong.

If you read my blog postings, my poetry, my fiction, etc. (which you would be loathe to do because it would be incredibly mundane, would be time consuming, and who really cares that much anyway) you would see an outpouring of ideas, emotions, perceptions, etc., a real catalogue of one human experience. My entries, comments, creative writing represent different moods. Sometimes, I'm putting fury to paper. Sometimes, I'm brain dumping. Sometimes I'm organizing my thoughts. Sometimes, I'm trying to put to words an otherwise wordless thought or joy. And right now, I'm masturbating my brain, writing about writing. I believe they call this "meta cognition," or thinking about thinking.

Scholars and historians who study great authors delve into the very lint of a writer's daily word attire. They examine every letter, every note, every text the author has written and analyze it until they get a full picture of who that writer was. Without their labors of love, we would never know as much as we do about the great thinkers of the world. And while I will bet it gets quite boring focusing on a single human being for that long, the researchers' tenacity can never be repaid for the wealth they have uncovered for us.

With that, I will leave off from my self indulgence for the morning. There are other things that need doing, and by gum, I'm going to do them! Happily, some of those things include writing.