Local Commentary

Senator Whipple

I’m supposed to be writing a column tonight but I am consumed with worry about a missing student at the University of Vermont. She is Michelle Gardner-Quinn, age 21, who grew up in Arlington and graduated from the HB-Woodlawn Program.

Her parents are friends of mine and her older sister is a dear friend of my daughter. They and I are members of the same church, Church of the Covenant Presbyterian on Military Road in Arlington.  We held a prayer vigil at the church this afternoon with many members of the church in attendance, praying for Michelle and her family.

Perhaps by the time this is published, we will have news of Michelle, with all of us hoping that it will be good news.

Somehow, legislation, and legislative commissions, and the failed transportation session fade in significance as we confront these agonizing situations.

And that is a good message for elected officials.  Nothing is as important as our families and our friends.  So what we should be striving to do is to make everyday life better for our citizens.

That’s why we need to have government services operate efficiently and effectively for people.  I can’t tell you the number of calls I have from constituents who are completely stymied by the new DMV rules requiring multiple forms of identification.  This seems to be particularly difficult for older citizens, many of them only wanting ID cards, who do not have access to birth certificates or marriage records.

That’s why we need to have housing that is affordable to families. Too many families in Virginia have to pay a disproportionate part of their income for decent housing.  The Virginia Housing Trust Fund needs a dependable source of revenue so housing can be made available to families at reasonable cost.

That’s why we need to provide assistance to persons with physical and mental disabilities in Virginia.  Too many aging parents are still caring for a middle-aged mentally-retarded or developmentally-delayed child who would benefit from a group-home setting if only it were available.

That’s why quality, affordable child care should be the norm.  State regulations need to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of children and an environment that will nurture them and set them on the path to achieving all that they can.

That’s why our long-term care facilities, whether nursing homes or assisted living or adult day homes, must ensure the safety of our frail elderly citizens and accord them the dignity they deserve.

That’s why our prisons should be about rehabilitation, not just incarceration.  Of course, people should pay for their crimes, but many have made a one-time mistake and will do better in the future with the right kind of support and education and training.

That’s why our environment is important, so people can breathe clean air and drink clean water and avoid exposure to toxins.

Let’s remember that our primary mission is to protect Virginians and assist in making their lives better.