Gerarda Culipher (R) and Sen. Chap Petersen (D) are vying for the 34th District Senate seat, which will be decided Nov. 8. Patch sent in the same questionnaire to each candidate. The following are Culipher's unedited responses. Click here for Petersen's responses.
Local Editors Ask Local Questions
Q: The 2006 Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Study calls for multiple roundabouts, splitters, etc., along Hunter Mill Road, but it is unfunded. How much of a priority should this be for the community, and would you consider advocating for funds on the state level to accomplish it?
One of the great things about Hunter Mill Road is that it flows well and accommodates much neighborhood and commuter traffic. To calm that traffic, we do not need roundabouts or unfunded construction. Instead, I propose meaningful speed limits on Hunter Mill, enforced fairly and safely.
Q: What are your thoughts on the tank farm on Pickett Road? How would you address its safety issues at the state level?
Virginia’s natural resources, our waterways and our minerals, are rich indeed. We, as individual citizens, both use them and protect them---that is the responsible balance we strike. In our country and in our Commonwealth, court systems offer redress. Injunctive powers insist on equity and thus mandate behavior in a more legitimate way than de jour regulatory schemes that can be influenced by political whim. State law of tort and our courts of equity do identify, adjudge and stop demonstrable injury in our local communities. Our environment is too precious to be tossed about by politicians with a microphone in their hand.
Q: The portion of Centreville now in the 34th District used to be represented along with the rest of Centreville in just one district. As our new senator, how would you ensure Centreville’s interests won’t be overshadowed by the communities whose boundaries are entirely or almost entirely in the 34th District?
All voters in the new 34th share one, endemic struggle---our commute! Whether we are sitting on Rt. 28, Lee Highway, I-66, Chain Bridge Road, or Braddock, we are ALL SITTING. This is a shared struggle that defies zip code. As your state Senator, I will place a lazer-beam focus on Cutting Your Commute time. Legislatively, that means I will introduce my “Community Commute Tax Credit,” a bill that will incentivize direct donations from our business community and individual taxpayers, to help fund our profound road and rail needs right here in Northern Virginia. Politically, that means we must team up with Tidewater and other congested hubs, putting regional transportation funding as “the” not “a” top priority, when the Senate crafts its budget packages. As your Senator and the “Commuters’ Champion,” I will ask to serve on the Transportation Committee of the Senate, in order to be a strong voice for you, advocating for your daily reality. You and I are stuck in traffic and we are all in this together.
Q: Vienna already has a major traffic problem. The arrival of more development in Tysons, and a lack of parking for the new metro stations there, is bound to make it worse. Do you find the congestion bad enough to advocate for funding from your position as state senator?
YES! As a working mom who used the Orange line to get to work every day, I know firsthand what a lack of Metro parking means for our roads. I like to call this inadequate parking situation “Mere Metro”-- offering just the rail, with no parking for the commuter. “Mere Metro” is an example of poor planning and misguided political leadership. Imagine this: it is 7:15 on a Tuesday morning and you’re a commuter arriving at Vienna Metro to hop on the Orange Line to get downtown. Oh no, you just spent 8 minutes circling the garage and there isn’t one open space! Pulling out of Park & Ride, back on I-66 eastbound you’ve become just another part of the congestion and you shake your head in disgust. Commuters want very much to use Metro, because we want to have a peaceful train ride, to save money on gas, and to honor our environment. Since transportation infrastructure is a core function of government, we must offer enough parking at Metro stations. Adequate Parking = Budget Priority.
Q: What do you recommend concerning the InSync Traffic Light pilot on Braddock Road? Would you advocate a permanent extension? If so, from where to where?
Timed green lights that respond in real time to rush hour and event-related volume are a must! I heartily support effective light synchronization programs. We still notice the most intense backups from 7100 to George Mason and that is a sheer volume problem with Mason, the Judicial Center and folks trying to get to 495 without using I-66. Unless and until I-66 is no longer a pariah to the commuter, we will still backup on Braddock. In order to Cut Your Commute time, we need an arsenal of solutions that includes signal synchronization, fluid freeways and commuter parking at Metro.
Q: In what ways do you plan to help revitalize small-town businesses in the 34th District?
As Virginians, you and I can revitalize small businesses by patronizing them. As a candidate, I have exclusively used small- and women-owned businesses for my campaign needs; that is my personal preference. As your state Senator, I can get buyers and sellers to market easier and faster by improving traffic conditions. Just last week, I saw a storefront shop in my neighborhood with the following handwritten sign, “Please Note…. If we are not here by 9:00 a.m., we are stuck on 66 -- but we will be here as soon as we can!!” This is the reality for our small-town business owners; this is where a Senator Culipher is your Champion.
Q: We just went through a huge battle over redistricting, as we do every 10 years. The legislature is often criticized for choosing districts based on political gains, not what’s best for voters. Do you support a process in which a bipartisan commission, not legislators with a vested interest in the result, would draw up the redistrict maps? Why?
Gerrymandering is unsavory political reality, and yet it has a noble political solution. My opponent and his party contoured the very lines that will be their undoing—and you are the key. You retire gerrymandering, when you retire the incumbent. If you are annoyed and tired of politics as a game, vote Gerarda Culipher on November 8, 2011.
Q: Last session, the House of Delegates passed the Repeal Amendment, which would have given states the authority to repeal any federal law or regulation. The bill quickly died before getting to the floor of the Senate. What do you think of such an amendment? Would you support it if it reached the floor?
As your state Senator, I will be proud to vote for or against, legislation. Voters are sick of the lack of political courage in Richmond. We are realists enough to know that there will not be perfect political agreement on every issue. Nor should there be perfect accord in a free-thinking society like ours. I will offer you a clear legislative record of floor votes, not a maze of committee gamesmanship. Prior to the 17th Amendment, Virginia exerted herself very differently, staving off federal overreach politically. Nowadays however, we have to rely on Congress’ own self-discipline and/or the judiciary, to keep federal usurpation in check. The Repeal movement is another option and deserves a transparent, up or down vote in the Senate. I could support a Repeal bill that invites the states to recover powers properly vested to them. Because the U.S. Constitution articulates as supreme only a few powers—treaty power and immigration, for instance—the call for restrained government is legitimate. Except for discrete federal carve-outs, all other powers belong to the states.
Q: What place do public libraries have in our community? Is there an obligation at the state level to ensure proper funding? Why?
Our libraries here in Northern Virginia are places for access to the internet, primary resources, and community classes. Because libraries help educate us--and education is a core function of government-- they are worthy of our support and funding.
Q: What long-term solutions are you advocating for commuting issues on Interstate 66? How will it be paid for?
I propose authorizing VDOT to lift HOV restrictions on I-66 for long-term construction or traffic accidents. I also support using the shoulder lanes in a more agile way, responding to real time congestion. The shoulder lanes do not currently open up with a Green Arrow when there is a discrete traffic problem or with construction lane closures. We need to be realistic that heavy congestion often occurs outside typical “rush hours.” There is minimal, to no cost attached to these ideas.
Constructing adequate commuter parking at existing and future Metro stations is critical to Cutting Your Commute time. Garages will cost money, and so I propose a “Community Commute Tax Credit” for taxpayers and corporations who want to donate directly to regional infrastructure projects. Your boss, or a concerned citizen, could make a direct cash infusion to a local commute project and apply the credit against their Virginia income tax bill. Private companies can enter into a funding agreement with VDOT, and a state tax credit could incentivize such public/private partnerships. Notably, the Infrastructure Bank, established by Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly, is a creature of the legislature.
My long-term plan for relieving I-66 includes telecommuting centers for federal employees, located in exurbs such as Gainesville and Warrenton. With Congress’ Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, OMB has issued important guidelines that require secure lines for clearance-level work. As your state Senator, I look forward to working with our Congressional delegation to develop and fund this long-term goal for our federal workforce in Northern Virginia, thereby relieving the traffic on I-66.