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Alexandria Can Stop Global Warming by Starting at Home

To the editor,

Alexandria officials are bracing for a budget shortfall of $8 million this year.  The city could invest in more energy efficiency and have a win-win reduce greenhouse gases while cutting costs.

The world should reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change, say scientists.  Virginia produces more carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, than many countries, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center.

All sectors should start curbing emissions now.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research found that climate changes consistent with global warming are occurring now.  As emissions grow, temperatures in the Washington area will increase, vector-borne diseases will be more common and tidal rivers, like the Potomac, will rise.  We can expect more extreme droughts and increased storm intensity, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments reported recently.

Alexandria is transitioning to more energy-efficient lighting, building standards and vehicles.  We applaud their initiatives and hope to see more.

The city could examine their computer systems.  Most computers and data servers waste between 30 and 50 percent of their power demand in the form of heat, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Improving power management settings can save a state as much as $25,000 and 180,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity over three and a half years, says the National Governors Association.

George Mason University has cut costs and emissions with new fixtures, saving $235,000 annually.  Room occupancy sensors turn on lights when someone enters and turn them off when people exit, especially important in restrooms, conference rooms and stairwells.  New streetlights use two-thirds less energy.  Upgrading heating and cooling systems has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by over 32 million pounds, GMU officials say.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department installed nearly 3,000 light-emitting diode (LED) traffic lights across the state, which, over a 10-year life-cycle, saved the state more than 53 million kWh of electricity or $500,000 per year and prevented more than 85 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Making government operations more energy efficient can bring double benefits.  The city can cut both costs and greenhouse gases.

  J. Craig Heizer, President
Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

In 2008 Lets Put Our Children First

To the editor,

Monday, October 6, was national Child Health Day and this year it came less than 30 days before Virginias 2008 election. This presents an opportunity to ensure that Virginias candidates for office are aware that children are not just little adults, but instead have special developmental needs and concerns. Since children do not vote, they rely upon adults to pay attention to their needs. So, just how are children doing in Virginia?

Due to the current economic downturn, rising health care prices, and drastic increases in the price of gas and food, the health and well being of Virginias children is in danger of heading down a negative path. In fact, according to UNICEF, American children rank 20th out of 21 nations in measures of child health and well-being.  And with regard to infant mortality, one of the most basic and fundamental measures of how our children are faring throughout the world, the United States ranks near the bottom among industrialized nations.  Sadly, Virginias infant mortality rate is above the national average and continues to rise.

Worse, there are 187,000 children living without health insurance in Virginia, a fundamental need for all children to grow up healthy. Nationwide, 8.2 million children live without health insurance.

Over the past 40 years, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled, a growing problem that will likely lead to chronic and costly health problems as children get older.

And more than 242,000 Virginia children live in poverty, which we know jeopardizes their health and well-being.  Across America, more than 13 million children are living in poverty, and recent census data indicates that number is on the rise. 

Furthermore, more than 46,400 children in Virginia will lose their home as a result of the recent foreclosure crisis, which leads to disruptions that recent research has shown adversely impact a childs education as well as issues relating to their physical and mental health.

So, how have our nations leaders responded?

In just the last five years, Congress and the President have actually reduced the federal share of investments for our nations children by an astounding 10 percent. No comprehensive plan to combat infant mortality or childhood obesity has been adopted. Adding insult to injury, the President twice vetoed legislation that would have cut the uninsured rate for children in half.

Workable solutions have been put forth but are all too often ignored. Thus, on Child Health Day, we should ask Virginias candidates for Congress and the candidates for president to provide us with a real plan to address the needs of our nations children.

Children are one-quarter of our population but all of its future. They deserve far better than a ranking that is near the bottom of the worlds nations in nearly every major gage of how our kids are doing. Shouldnt our measure of success be doing right by our kids? In this election, we must elect candidates who pledge to return the quality of American childrens lives to among the best in the world. We cannot afford to shortchange our nations children any longer.

Bruce Lesley,
President of First Focus

A Two Wheeled Menace

To the editor,

It really doesnt matter how many times I talk or write about the numerous bicycle offenders in the Old Town area, because it is absolutely apparent that the city has not and will not take the corrective actions necessary to alleviate this problem. Just last evening, circa 5:45 p.m., as I was attempting to cross Union Street on Wolfe Street, a female bicyclist came through the stop sign at about 35 miles per hour. She neither looked right nor left as she zipped through. This is at least the third or fourth time this particular traffic offender has done the same thing. Blowing my horn at her gets no reaction as she is impervious to the law and her surroundings.

There is similar behavior by others along the entire Union Street corridor, which now is spreading to other streets, and has not been slowed down by any enforcement by our local police department. Last year they wrote some 84 warnings, but not one actual ticket wherein an offender was fined. If I went through a traffic sign or traffic signal in my car, the police would ticket me immediately. So who is fronting for the bicyclists so that they get a break on breaking the law? I see police cars in Old Town all the time; five vehicles parked by Union and King while the occupants have coffee in Starbucks; three in Wales Alley chatting away; two or three in front of the Boat Club and on and on. These officers could be stationed at intersections along Union Street and thereby would be in positions to enforce the law. It only takes a few tickets (with big fines attached) so that the word gets out among the chronic law-breakers. That in itself should cause a drastic reduction in bicyclists breaking the law.

 If the police department claims that they dont have the requisite number of officers to perform the aforementioned enforcement duties then perhaps the Sheriffs office could take over this function. Regardless, its time to get off the pot and do something!

Townsend A. Van
Van Fleet

Eisenhower D
octrine Back to the Future

To the editor,

I was only three when his last term ended, but still vaguely remember the Eisenhower Era.  For me, it was living next door to President Eisenhowers son John on Oakcrest Drive in Alexandria. The Eisenhowers were fun.

The secret service would wave to us as we went in and out to the grocery store, and at Christmas they helped Dad string long lights around the perimeter of the house.  They joined us as we played with the Eisenhower children running between our  yards.  My older siblings got to go to the White House for birthday parties and Mother and Dad were included in dinners in the family quarters there.  Mother always insisted her best recipes were from Mamie.

All I knew was living next to the Eisenhowers made us special: I liked Ike.

Later on I understood Ike in the context of history and American politics. The era brought the beginning of the Space Race, robust execution of Trumans Marshall Plan, the winding down of the Korean War, and the unqualified reliance on NATO as an effective body through which to negotiate the Cold War.

Elected on his military background, Ike had a knack for transcending it.  He galvanized political will  for a civil defense plan into an economy-changing interstate highway system. He was practical, optimistic and mostly realistic.  He signed the countrys first civil rights bills, and ordered the integration of the public schools in Washington, D.C. as a model for the nation.  Playing against type, the General President warned of the dangers of a military industrial complex that might prefer profits to peace.  Like any good grandfather he was a good steward, investing today to make lives better for the next generation.

This past weekend in McLean, I was reunited with one of Ikes grandchildren. Susan Eisenhower was in Northern Virginia to speak on behalf of Barack Obama at a gathering of mostly independent and republican women.  Susan has spent her life modeling her grandfathers public service. She is an internationally respected expert on foreign policy and nuclear non proliferation issues, has served the National Academy of Sciences, the NASA Advisory Council, and many other government boards and commissions. She has written about her proud family heritage, Islam and the threat of terrorism, and all manner of national security issues.

But to me, she is still Susan Eisenhower, the girl from the magical family next door.  We had both come a long way since playing in the yard – before television and blackberries, adjustable rate mortgages and derivatives.  Before 9/11 and shopping malls, before doctrines of pre-emption and shock and awe, before Abu Graib and Guantanamo, before hanging chads and intelligent design.

Our paths have been different, but started the same. When I got out of college, I identified with the Republican Party Susan describes as the one she grew up with:

In my grandparents time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of Americas interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and soft power; the advancement of civil rights; investment in infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future.

In 1979, a college graduate still looking for my first job, I worked as a volunteer to help Howard Baker win the presidential nomination of the Republican Party.  I saw in his candidacy and in the leadership of Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland, Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, in Senator John Chafee of Rhode Islandin so many of the Republican leaders at that time, the values Susan described.

But over the years, as many of these fine leaders retired or were voted out of service, I saw a shift. My support went from Republican, to Independent to mostly Democratic. The years had gone by, and lo and behold, Susan this year has made a similar transformation.

This summer, after endorsing Barack Obama for President, Susan Eisenhower announced she had changed her registration from Republican to Independent. She explains it in a historical context: Hijacked by a relatively small few, the GOP of today bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhowers party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. One can read between the lines that she laments the budget deficits, the unilateral international approach, the lack of investment in infrastructure, the blind eye to the environment and an inclination to put science behind ideology.

Standing at the podium on a pretty afternoon in McLean, she looked much like her mother, a more glamorous version of a 1950s June Cleaver. It took me back to the days on Oakcrest Drive. A time that lived up to every clich of the Eisenhower Era.  You could mistake it for simplicity, but it was, rather, clarity.  We were the leaders of the Free World.  We had obligations that went along with that. We thought the future would be Space Age, and we were supposed to sacrifice for it.

Susan and I felt at home in that world. We were.

Megan Beyer