Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Two weeks ago, at 7:54 am on Sunday January 24 -- just as the massive snow storm was ending -- a Dominion Power electric transformer located on the corner of 18th and Fern Street in Crystal City (Arlington) failed, causing it to heat up rapidly. Pipes containing the mineral oil which normally cools this transformer leaked a massive 13,500 gallons of this mineral oil. Dominion reported the incident to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) almost 9 hours later at 4:40 pm.

I'm currently writing you from Williamsburg where the General Assembly met this weekend at the old Colonial Capitol. It was humbling to be part of this quadrennial tradition and to sit in the same location where Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many others unanimously voted for Virginia's independence from Great Britain in 1776.

Most legislation in the General Assembly is heard not in public view in the ornate historical chamber of the House of Delegates, but behind closed doors in committee and subcommittee rooms in the workmanlike General Assembly Building.  I plan to uphold what I call the Gold Standard of Transparency by directing my staff to video-record the proceedings on each of my bills as they come before subcommittee and committee. That way, every constituent can know exactly what was said and done on each of the 20 or so bills I introduce.

I believe constituents have a right to know what their elected representatives are up to, particularly with regard to legislation they introduce. Many liberal Democrats agree with me. But not only them. Newly-elected conservative Republican Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) also feels passionately about open government. So tomorrow at 4 pm, Senator Chase and I are announcing the formation of the Virginia Transparency Caucus. Our endeavor has already received some press attention in a major Virginia newspaper.

Thursday night, after the Arlington Public Meeting, I drove down to Richmond and arrived after midnight. I didn’t sleep too much, though. I got up early for my last pre-session Freshman Orientation and spent all day on Friday at the General Assembly Building and the State Capitol. I tried out my new desk (number 7) inside the House of Delegates and was pleased to see my name up on the voting board.