September 8, 2021
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Visit to a Sausage Factory
The quotation, "Laws are like sausages, better not to see them being made,” has been attributed to several different writers and scholars over the years. Regardless of who said it first, that person had obviously observed law making and sausage making up close. Because of its messiness, there has been a tendency on the part of legislators to do the work behind closed doors without the public being able to see the trade-offs, the bloodletting, and the dealmaking that is so much a part of the legislative compromise inherent in passing complex legislation.

At no time has the reference to legislative sausage making been more relevant than in the constitutionally-mandated requirement that a census be conducted every decade and that the results of the counting of all the people be used to draw legislative districts that adhere to the Baker v Carr Supreme Court ruling of one person, one vote. Although the case was not decided until 1962, the abuses that occurred with the malapportionment of legislative bodies are as old as the republic.

In his definitive book on the subject, Gerrymanders: How Redistricting Has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia, (University of Virginia Press, 2019), historian Brent Tarter focuses on Virginia’s long history of gerrymandering. Tarter exposes practices going back to nineteenth century and colonial times and explains how they protected landowners’ and slave owners’ interests. The consequences of redistricting and reapportionment in modern Virginia clearly thwarted the will of the majority and held the state back in many regards.

I was in the House of Delegates in the majority party in some instances and in the minority in others for the redistricting of 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, before the redistricting that is currently taking place. In all those redistricting processes prior to the one underway, the decision making took place behind closed doors without public involvement. During those stressful events in which the future control of the legislature for the next decade was decided by the majority party, there were deliberate decisions to put legislators of the minority party in the same district to make them run against each other or to have one retire. There was much gnashing of teeth and figuratively bloody struggles as power was divided up. The absolute assertion of power of one group of politicians over another in rooms outside public view was at times horrifying. Both Democrats and Republicans were equally guilty. In almost every instance the action was appealed to the courts that often overturned the work of the legislature for its lack of equal protection of everyone.

The voters took charge of the process with the approval last year of an amendment to establish a commission to do the work of drawing legislative boundary lines. The major difference between the past way of doing redistricting is that the process, as complex and messy as it may be, is open to public view in every instance. There will be complaints as there always are that there are winners and losers as there always are. What will be missing are the domination of one party over another and strict partisanship as the guiding principle for the work that is being done. The result I believe when the grinding and stuffing carried out by the commission is done will be a better “sausage” with which to govern the Commonwealth.

Update on COVID-19 Investigations and Guidance
for Parents of School-Aged Children

Looking for Ways to Help the Afghanistan Evacuees?
Congressman Connolly's office lists ways the Department of State recommends the public get involved, as well as some information from the Department of Veterans Affairs for Veterans in our community for whom the past few weeks have been particularly difficult. Visit Helping Afghan Refugees.
 What's Happening with Redistricting in Virginia?
The Virginia Public Access Project offers information in graphic format explaining and summarizing the process of redistricting that is happening in Virginia.
The Virginia Redistricting Commission, a constitutionally created body approved by the voters of Virginia in 2020, will draw Virginia's congressional and state legislative districts in 2021. Members of the public are invited to attend Commission meetings in person in order to provide comments to the Commission live during the meeting. View or download Public Participation Guidelines.

Schedule of Commission Meetings:

  • September 9: 1:00 p.m.
  • September 13: 1:00 p.m.
  • September 26: 1:00 p.m.
  • September 27: 1:00 p.m.
  • September 29: 8:00 a.m.
  • October 4: 8:00 a.m.
  • October 11: 8:00 a.m.
This Weekend--Don't Miss It!
The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, presented by Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art returns for its 30th year! Join fellow art enthusiasts and over 200 artists from across the nation for three days of performances, activities, and family fun.
Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 12, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Share Your Thoughts at a Reston Association Listening Session
These meetings will allow the Board to engage with each district and listen to the concerns, comments, and suggestions members have for RA. Use the Zoom information below to join. 
Thursday, September 9, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Pesticide Disposal Program, at Merrifield Garden Center-Fair Oaks, 12101 Lee Hwy, Fairfax. Homeowners and other groups or businesses that handle or distribute pesticides are invited to participate in the 2021 pesticide disposal program that collects unwanted, outdated or banned pesticides and disposes of them in a safe manner. This free program is funded through pesticide product registration fees collected by VDACS-Office of Pesticide Services. Participants must register prior to the event. Learn more and register here.

Thursday, September 9; 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., Three Steps to Testify: Help Fight Plastic Pollution in Fairfax County (Virtual). Join this free workshop on how to make your voice heard in Fairfax County. Then, on September 14, you have a chance to help Fairfax County fight plastic pollution. Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing on a potential plastic bag fee at their meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 4:30 pm. This 5 cent fee is a great first step at cutting our addiction to single-use plastic bags. Testifying (either live in person, via the phone, or by pre-submitting a video) is the best way for your support for this fee to be heard. Learn about the three easy steps to testifying: Sign up, Write up, and Show up. RSVP. CONTACT: Renee Grebe at

Saturday, September 11, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Attract Pollinators To Your Garden, at Burke Centre Library. Attract pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies by providing an environment rich in plant diversity for food and habitat. Green Spring Master Gardeners guide you with plant lists and techniques. Age 12 to Adult. Register here.

Monday, September 13, 7:00 p.m., ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan Public Information Meeting (virtual), Registration required. The plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets and trails in Fairfax County. Learn more here.

Tuesday, September 14, 10:00 a.m., Gun Violence Awareness Vigil at National Rifle Association headquarters, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax. The vigil commemorates the anniversary of the day 26 children and educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Please DO NOT park in the NRA's parking lot. There is plenty of free parking in the office building lot on Fairfax Ridge Drive across Waples Mill Road. Signs and flags will be provided. Some protesters will drive past the NRA with signs taped to their car windows or doors; others will stand on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 15, 6:30 p.m., ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan Public Information Meeting (virtual), Registration required. The plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets and trails in Fairfax County. Learn more here.

Friday, September 17, In-Person Early Voting begins. Information on registration, candidates on the ballot and more is at Election.

Sunday, September 19, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Annual Plum Family Picnic, at North Hills Picnic Pavilion,1325 North Village Road, Reston. RSVP here.

Thursday, September 23, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Virginia Behavioral Health Summit (Virtual). “Coming Out of Isolation: Our Next Normal,” will take a holistic approach to the challenges and opportunities within behavioral health care. Learn more here. Free. Register here.

Saturday, September 25, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Reston Multicultural Festival, at Lake Anne Plaza. Free • All Ages • Rain or Shine. The annual Reston Multicultural Festival celebrates Reston’s rich diversity through song, dance, food and art. More is at Reston Multicultural Festival 2021.