Like the old adage “many hands make light work,” we figured many minds could compile a better Prince William County New Year’s to-do list than our staff alone.
So we put the question on Facebook: What should the county focus its attention on in 2019?
We’re happy to report that our faithful and brilliant readers didn’t disappoint. Over just a few days, we compiled a list of suggestions well worth our county leaders’ time. We can’t expect, however, for our leaders to tackle these alone. Getting things done will take the attention of the entire community.
And, as a side note, we were impressed by our readers’ positive, constructive tone. It’s easy to complain about what’s wrong but far better to offer solutions.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for making Prince William County better and stronger in 2019 and the years to come:
Chrissy Fauls, of the nonprofit Why, Incorporated, stressed the need for better communication about events where important issues are discussed.
“The only time you can see these is if you follow the right social media … or ask to be on an email list. I’m all for using social media but they need to actually use it. Our police department are the only ones that do it regularly,” Fauls wrote.
Also, elected officials should be “required to take training with local law-enforcement” to better understand the community’s needs.
“There is definitely a disconnect with what they think they know and what is really happening. They have to understand in order to help,” she wrote.
We couldn’t agree more. Understanding the county’s challenges takes breaking out of our collective bubbles. That goes for the county leaders and the rest of us.
Adelle LaRue Settle, a local attorney who has been working to raise money to pay off student lunch debt, has suggestions in line with that goal.
“Ensure every public school child gets a full, balanced, healthy meal on school days at breakfast and lunch regardless of their parents financial circumstances,” she wrote.
On page 1 of today’s paper, reporter Karen Chaffraix writes about Rippon Middle School’s effort to ensure all students who want to eat dinner after school have a free opportunity to do so. The program, fully funded with federal dollars, is open to all public schools where at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In Prince William, 43 schools qualify to serve free dinners, but only 10 do.
School division leaders: What can be done to get the program up and running at the other 33 schools?
Several readers chimed in about the need to recruit more companies that pay higher wages to the county. That’s been a long-standing goal of Prince William leaders, and we must note that progress is being made on that front. Consider Innovation Park. It’s slowly filling up with commercial entities that are bringing jobs to the county. Other firms are growing, including Micron, in Manassas, which announced a $3 billion expansion in August.
Kudos to the Prince William and City of Manassas officials who helped bring these achievements to fruition and to those who had the vision back in the 1980s to purchase the 500-acre farm we now know as Innovation Park. Let’s keep at it.
Another issue getting attention is the Equal Rights Amendment. Katrina Reid said the board of supervisors “needs to pass the ERA and join the 21st Century.” Mike Beaty called for the Virginia state legislature to do the same.
Passing the ERA has been on supporters’ to-do list for nearly 50 years. State lawmakers now have the opportunity to make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the amendment, which could be enough to add it to the U.S. Constitution (as long as the U.S. Congress or federal courts allow it to happen).
Is the ERA important to you? Now is the time to let your state representatives know.
Finally, Missy Ridge wants the county to “elect a more representative county board.”
“Replace Corey Stewart with someone who isn't a national embarrassment and who will work for all of his/her constituents without leaving the county to campaign for pipe-dream elections,” Ridge wrote.
Those who agree with Missy Ridge will have the power this year to make that happen at the polls, as 2019 is an election year. Stewart, R-At Large, hasn’t yet said whether he’ll seek re-election. Whether he will or won’t, however, is not as important as the opportunity – once again – to have the community’s voice heard.
But here’s the reality: In so-called “off-off-year” election years like 2019, less than 30 percent of voters typically make it to the polls. This year, let’s also put voting at the top of ALL our to-do lists.