Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s Richmond Report

Squirming and Diverting

The Republican leadership in the General Assembly took withering criticism from the public for coming up with the idea of traffic "abuser fees" to raise transportation funds.

With an election for each of their members coming up in November, they have been working to get Virginians to forget about all of that. To try to find an issue that will help them at the polls, they have been holding a press conference a week. First they announced a package of bills

to address illegal immigration.

But, in their comments, it was difficult to determine whether they are targeting all immigrants. That becomes a problem for them in Northern Virginia where many immigrants have become voting Americans.

Desperate, But Flattering

The GOP press conferences in Richmond have lately focused on more positive issues. But, they seem to be imitating Democrats.

Last week, they proposed helping school divisions with construction funds. Of course, they opposed that idea when my Democratic colleagues and I worked on it in 1998.

This week, they said that local governments should be able to provide tax relief by allowing a 20-percent reduction in residential property taxes.

That sounds like the homestead exemption that Governor Tim Kaine proposed during his 2005 election campaign. I am a co-sponsor of the bill Democrats introduced to make it happen.

The legislation was in the form of a state constitution amendment that passed this year and needs to pass again in 2008 to be successful.

I guess it is like they say, "everything old is new again." I cannot wait to see what blast from the past the Republican leadership will propose next week.

Their Sacrifices’

I hope that you have enjoyed watching the first four episodes of "The War," the new documentary by Ken Burns for PBS, that concludes next week.

It is the story of World War II as described by seven veterans of that great conflict and their friends and family members.

The documentary interweaves footage shot by military cameramen during and after battles with descriptions by the veterans of what they experienced.

As with Burns’ award-winning 1989 production, "The Civil War," this documentary was created in conjunction with WETA, Channel 26.

I had the pleasure of being invited to a 45-minute preview screening of "The War" in June hosted by WETA at the Library of Congress.

The preview was part of a national community outreach effort by PBS that is financed by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The outreach is done in conjunction with the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, an effort to record the recollections of World War II veterans.

Many World War II veterans were in attendance, including my guest, Pearl Harbor survivor Frank Yanick, who participated in 20 major naval battles on the crew of the U.S.S. Phoenix.

Guaranteed Our Freedom

In comments before the screening, Ken Burns said that he and his production company spent six years preparing and producing the documentary.

He said that many people suggested he do a series on World War II after "The Civil War" aired, but he was reluctant to be seen as a producer solely of war documentaries.

Burns said that his view changed when his father, a World War II veteran, died in 2001and he learned that 1,000 of the over 6 million American veterans of the war die each day.

He added that he was also spurred to look at World War II after he learned of the results of a study of American high school students.

The study showed that a majority of them mistakenly thought that the United States fought with Germany against the Soviet Union during the war.

Burns said that he felt he needed to record the recollections of our aging World War II veterans and set the record straight while they were still alive.

I do not know what you think of this production so far. But, when the June preview was over, there were few dry eyes in the audience and the veterans in attendance received standing ovations.

In Memorium

Louise Dunn, the long-time cafeteria manager at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, recently passed away at the age of 93.

Born Mary Louise Anderson on a farm off Sleepy Hollow Road, she married Leslie Dunn of Merrifield in 1938, and they moved into a home next to the old Lee Highway Drive-In, now the multiplex theatre.

Mrs. Dunn started as a cafeteria worker in 1945 at the Dunn Loring Elementary School, moved to Sleepy Hollow when it first opened in 1955, and retired in 1984.