Kenneth R. "Ken" Plum
One of the most thought provoking presentations at the recent Southern Legislative Conference in Williamsburg was made by former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. While I agree with few or any policy recommendations by current conference-circuit speaker Gingrich, I liked what he said about institutional change or as he terms it in a recent book, The Art of Transformation.
"Real change requires real change," Gingrich points out the obvious that is so often overlooked. So much of supposed change in the political arena is re-packaging or re-branding with the latest catch phrase. But as Gingrich paraphrases Albert Einstein, "Doing more of what you've been doing will not get you more."
Some other sessions at the Conference unintentionally made Gingrich's point about the difficulty of bringing about meaningful changes in government. A panel on K-12 education particularly illustrated the point. A speaker from one Southern state described the education reforms in her state that are producing grade level standards for their schools. Virginia went this route a decade ago and is now poised to move beyond competency to excellence for all students. States are sometimes termed "laboratories for democracy," but it seems at times that the wheel of popular movements is reinvented fifty times over. Another speaker on the same panel described the reforms in education in her state that seemed at best a repackaging of vocational education of the distant past and of career and technical education of the recent past.
The final speaker on the education panel clearly made the point about the difficulty of governmental change even though it was not her topic at all. She represented a large computer manufacturer. In talking about the use of technology in the classroom, she drew contrast between the world in which students live and the classrooms in which they study. The students' world is one of instant messaging, iPods, Internet searches, YouTube, blogs, and other devices and processes I cannot remember. The classroom is too often textbooks, chalkboards, and computer laboratories. We need to close that gap.
Questions from the audience of Southern legislators were directed to the first two speakers. They talked about the familiar. They were not talking about too drastic or too costly changes. Their presentations seemed safe enough. Only one question was directed to the third speaker: "How do we keep kids from looking at pornography if we put computers in their hands?" Do not be concerned about any drastic changes coming out of this group of legislators any time soon.
I did not support Gingrich's Contract with (or was it "on"?) America, but I do support his basic premise that significant changes may be necessary in the way we do the business of government if we are to realize our potential as a nation. My participation in the Southern Legislative Conference left me more convinced that real changes require real change.
Can you imagine if you were unable to read this newsletter, a street sign, directions on a bottle of medicine, or even a note from your child's teacher? Have you ever wanted to make a real difference in the life of an area adult? Volunteer with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia to help adults develop basic reading, writing, and English speaking skills necessary to be successful members of our community. Contact Belle Penaranda at email@example.com or 703.237.0866.
Help Reston Interfaith reach a goal of collecting 5,600 new backpacks to meet the need throughout our community. Pick up a backpack while you are out or organize a collection in your neighborhood, business, faith community, or civic group. Adult, youth and child volunteers can all get involved! For Drop Off: Now through July 31, 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. August 1-3, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. August 4, 9:00 a.m. to noon. Drop Off Location: 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, VA 20190 (the Cardinal Bank building). Contact Laura Purdy at Laura.Purdy@restoninterfaith.org or 571.323.9581.
Fairfax County is one of the top digital counties in the nation for jurisdictions with populations over 500,000 according to an annual survey by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties. Fairfax County received fourth place in the 500,000 or more population category, ranking in the top five for the third consecutive year. The county's award-winning e-government program has been successful in creating a 24-hour government without walls, doors or clocks. The program uses many ways to deliver information, including the Web, 25 interactive customer information kiosks, Interactive Voice Response via touch-tone phone and a cable TV government channel. To access the county's e-government services, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission's Bureau of Insurance reminds Virginians to review the details of their insurance policies before disaster strikes. The East Coast has already had two named storms this year, and predictions are for an active 2007 hurricane season. The Bureau of Insurance is Virginians' source for insurance information. It has specially trained staff to assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or TDD 804-371-9206.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently adopted a goal to cover 45 percent of the county with tree cover by 2037. This tree canopy goal is one of the most ambitious for any local government in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area and is part of the county's Tree Action Plan. Trees help to combat global warming as well as air and water pollution. To reach the goal, the county and the public will need to plant an additional 20,400 acres of new canopy, as well as maintain existing trees. For more information about the new goal or the Tree Action Plan, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/environmental/trees.htm.
On Wednesday, July 25, the Tysons Transportation Association, Inc. (TYTRAN) and the Dulles Corridor Rail Association will host a Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Update Seminar at Dulles Metrorail Project Headquarters, 1595 Spring Hill Road, Tysons Corner. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. with presentations 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Presentations will be by Sam Carnaggio, Project Director of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project and George Barker, Vice Chairman of the Tysons Corner Land Use Task Force. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.799.5394.
Accelerating Social Entrepreneurship in Virginia will host a luncheon and panel discussion with leading scholars and practitioners including Governor Mark Warner on Wednesday, July 25, noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Fairview Park Marriott, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church. To learn more, visit www.phoenixproject.org.
Attend RCA's "resTOWN" Workshop at the Reston Regional Library on Saturday, July 28, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information go to http://go-resTOWN.org; call 703.786.3672, or email RCABoard @comcast.net.
The 5th Annual Multicultural Business Conference is scheduled for Thursday, August 2, 2007 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Northern Virginia Community College's Ernst Community Cultural Center, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA. The theme is "Access to Business Success: Expanding Business Opportunities with State and Local Government Agencies for Small Business." Governor Timothy M. Kaine is scheduled to speak. For more information on registration, contact Lauryn Han at 703.538.7418, fax 703.237.3996 or LHAN@BDAG.org.
Virginia's second sales tax holiday is set for Friday, August 3, through Sunday, August 5. During the three-day event, certain purchases will be exempt from the 5 percent state and local retail sales tax. Sales tax will not be charged on school supplies priced at $20 or less per item, or on articles of clothing, including footwear, costing $100 or less each. The "holiday," approved unanimously by the 2006 General Assembly, will take place each year on the first Friday-Saturday-Sunday period in August. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved two additional sales tax holidays. A four-day tax holiday is set for October that exempts certain energy-efficient appliances. Another weeklong tax holiday will begin in May 2008 for purchasing equipment to prepare for hurricanes. It is estimated that Virginia taxpayers will save about $3.8 million for this year's back-to-school holiday. Visit www.tax.virginia.gov for information about the three tax holidays and answers to frequently asked questions.
This year's 4-H Fair and Farm Show will be a two-day event held at Frying Pan Farm Park on August 4 and 5, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. If you require assistance or special accommodations while at the 4-H Fair and Farm Show, notify Heidi Crocket, Extension Agent at 703.324.5353 or TTY 711 during business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Bring the kids out to see all the vehicles that Reston Association uses, including a dump truck, trash truck, back hoe, bobcat, mowing tractor and more on Friday, August 17, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. to noon at the Reston Association's Central Services Facility, 12250 Sunset Hills Road (next to the YMCA). No reservations are required, and this opportunity is free. Call 703.435.6530 for more information.
Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) of Virginia and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, along with ITS America, will be having a Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Technology Showcase and a VTTI/Smart Roads Open House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2007. If you would like to attend, RSVP by August 3 to ITS Virginia by calling 434.977.3716 or email email@example.com.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine will host a Campus Security Conference on Monday, August 13 at Virginia Commonwealth University's Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond. Participants will share information on campus security strategies, participate in panel discussions on security issues, and examine the latest products and services to improve campus security from a wide variety of venders. For more information, contact the Office of Commonwealth Preparedness at 804.692.2597.
Attend the Sully Quilt Show and Sale, "Stitches of Friendship - Quilts from the Quaker Community," on Sunday, September 9, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Show and Sale will be held at the Sully Historic Site, 3601 Sully Road, Chantilly. Visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/sully or call 703.437.1794 for more information.
The 2007 International Children's Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. There will be entertainment on four stages featuring over 20 performing groups form near and far including interactive art experiences. This event is fun for the kid in all of us!
This year's Commonwealth of Virginia Energy & Sustainability (COVES) Conference will be held on October 16-18 at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA. Visit www.covesva.org for registration and conference details.
The Aaron Burr Association (www.aaronburrassociation.org) will meet in Richmond on October 5 and 6 for the 200th Anniversary of Burr's trial. On Friday night, October 5, members of the association will return to the "scene of the crime," the Old House Chamber in the Virginia State Capitol, to witness a dramatization of the 1807 trial that pitted the most brilliant legal minds of their day against each other and against President Thomas Jefferson. On October 6 they will convene at Sam Miller's Warehouse Restaurant for lunch and a lecture by historian Charles Hobson, noted for his work as the editor of the papers of John Marshall. Contact association president Stuart Johnson at 301.641.0494 for more information about events and cost.