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Comcast and City Leaves Reader Feeling Disconnected

To the editor,

Greetings!  I just received word that Comcast will be limiting Internet usage.  While some people in this area might have known about it, those of us who have just moved here were unaware of this – and signed up without knowing that, if we exceed the limit, we would lose Internet access.  Common sense dictates that if youre not happy with the service, go some place else.  Unfortunately, the city of Alexandria does not offer some place else.  In fact, here is the e-mail I received from Rose Boyd:

Mr. Prescott, the City is negotiating with Verizon to bring FiOS to Alexandria, and, hopefully, we will have some competition in the near future. Unfortunately, by federal law, the Internet is not regulated at the federal, state or local level.  Therefore, the city cannot dictate policy to Comcast. The practice was recently reviewed by the FCC.  You may wish to check with them and see if they can help.

My issue is this, how is it possible that a company can dictate its own terms and a municipality that created the monopoly in the first place (with a franchise agreement) provides no other alternatives?  It is possible that, in an advanced area like the D.C. Metro area that people will be disconnected from the WWW?  Where is the oversight?

Deric Prescott
Alexandria

Condo Cops-Out on Illegals

To the editor,

As a follow-up to my published letter of Sept. 18-24, 2008, by which I support a proposed policy resolution that Alexandrias Parkfairfax condominium proclaim itself as a non-sanctuary condo vis-a-vis any dealings with illegal aliens, I can report that adoption of the resolution was rejected by the Parkfairfax board of directors on Oct. 15, 2008.

This cop-out was led by the board chairman, who declared, This is not what we do (i.e., to formally issue such a politically charged statement).  By this decision to keep its head in the sand of denial, the board thus has declared itself a de facto sanctuary condo for the presence of illegals.  This shortsightedness puts the Parkfairfax community at risk of the growing crime rate associated with the illegals presence and at risk of unnecessary liability for failing to help fellow Alexandrians cope with other detrimental effects of illegal immigration.

During my attendance at the boards Oct. 15 meeting, I voiced my intention to submit a related administrative resolution that does indeed constitute, Mr. Chairman, what we do as regards to day-to-day Parkfairfax business.  Its language will be identical to that of the following proviso from the Arlington County governments management of contracted business:

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986:  the Contractor certifies that it does not, and will not during the performance of the Contract, employ illegal alien workers or otherwise violate the provisions of the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Despite the Parkfairfax managers assurance that his company complies with all federal immigration law as regards to the condo associations hiring practices, he has yet to furnish me any current contract-content wording comparable to the Arlington proviso; as I await receipt of that information, I shall continue to research and report upon this matter of governmental ethics and public safety.

Larry W. Bryant
Alexandria

Alexandria Needs to Wake Up to Substance Abuse Problem

To the editor,

Its easy to be lulled into thinking that youth substance abuse is not a significant issue in Alexandria.  But a recently released report, Substance Abuse Prevention Plan for Alexandria, provides a wake-up call for our entire community.  The report, written by researchers from George Mason University under the auspices of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria, paints a disturbing picture of youth substance abuse in the city, with alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use by some groups of middle and high school youth exceeding national rates. 

The report is based on quantitative and qualitative research findings conducted during the past year and a half, including data from the Alexandria Developmental Assets Report (March 2007), the Alexandria Youth Risk Behavior Survey (February 2008), and the Qualitative Assessment of Alexandria Youth Substance Use Report (Sept. 2008).  This research explored patterns and rates of substance abuse among middle and high school youth attending Alexandrias public schools as well as student, parent and community attitudes and opinions about use and abuse of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco among city youth.   

The findings are disturbing. Too many Alexandria youth use alcohol, marijuana and tobacco, and for several groups of young people, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use exceeds national rates.  For example, in high school, 81 percent of white youth report that they have consumed alcohol. Current heavy alcohol use (more than five drinks in a row at one time) for white (34 percent) and black (14 percent) youth in Alexandria exceeds national rates (30 percent for whites and 11 percent for blacks).

While national rates of marijuana use are 20 percent for high school students and 14 percent for middle school students, in Alexandria, higher rates of marijuana use are reported by white high school youth (25 percent) and by middle school Hispanic (19 percent) and black youth (16 percent).  As for tobacco, 15 percent of high school youth report having smoked a cigarette in the past month. Hispanic youth (56 percent), in particular, reported higher rates of lifetime cigarette use than their peers.

Why are we seeing these raised rates of substance abuse?  The research suggests some answers. Its a case of easy supply, few consequences for use, and lack of effective parenting skills, coupled with a need for more community-wide education about youth substance abuse.  The majority of youth reported that illegal substances are either sort of or very easy to get through family, friends, strangers, stealing, using fake ID cards, and marijuana dealers.  While 45 percent of youth said they would not be caught by their parents if they drank alcohol without permission, 35 percent said they would not be caught by police for alcohol or marijuana use. Parental attitudes towards youth substance abuse could also contribute to substance availability and use.  Some parents support youth substance abuse by turning a blind eye or by viewing substance abuse as a part of normal development.  What is the silver lining here, you might ask?  The community is concerned and is asking for more resources to prevent youth s
ubstance abuse.  Research shows that all sectors of the community report wanting more information about youth substance abuse.

As the familiar proverb says, It takes a village Addressing the problem of substance use and abuse among youth will take the entire Alexandria community.  We need the help of law enforcement, schools, local retailers, and other community memberswith parents and young people at the forefront of this effort. In one of our studies, we found that only 47 percent of youth would probably or definitely talk to their parents if they had an important concern about drugs, alcohol or another serious issue.   Thats less than half, so what about the other youth out there?  To whom do they turn? 

SAPCA recently received a federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) five-year grant for more than $600,000 that will support the work of the coalition in preventing and reducing substance abuse among Alexandrias youth.  This funding supports SAPCA as we engage the entire community in reducing youth substance abuse. Alexandrias young people need your help.   Together we can reduce the rates of
youth substance abuse in Alexandria. 

Allen Lomax
Chair, Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria; Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria

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