In this week’s newsletter, I discuss our constituent services team, share upcoming community events, provide information from local and state partners, and other highlights. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
One of my most important responsibilities as a Virginia State Senator is constituent services, a responsibility that focuses largely on assisting residents of the senate district with a variety of concerns. My staff and I work with state agencies, as well as many community organizations, to address casework concerns, gather information, provide timely responses, and resolve issues. Examples of state agencies my office works with include the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS), and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). An easy way for constituents to reach out to my office for assistance is to complete this quick constituent services form. My staff respond as soon as possible and begin working with our partners to provide support.
“Fight Back Against the War on Public Education” Panel
This evening, I will join former Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, Senator Louise Lucas, Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Elizabeth Guzmán in a panel discussion, as a part of the “Fight Back Against the War on Public Education” discussion series. Our conversation will center on the review of the Commonwealth’s social studies and history standards, which have been delayed due to intervention by the Youngkin Administration at the eleventh hour, and the importance of providing a full and comprehensive approach to history in our public schools. Registration details for tonight’s discussion are available here.
Community Resource Fest
On Saturday, September 17, from 10:00am until 2:00pm, Councilperson Mike Jones and I will co-host a Community Resource Fest, an event focused on community, connection, and fun. The festival is open to everyone, and we encourage community members to join us to learn about services provided by state agencies, nonprofits, local businesses, and other community organizations. VCU Health, FeedMore, and Brightpoint Community College are just a few of our participating organizations. The event includes opportunities to enjoy ice cream, food, music, participate in children’s activities, and more. We will also be joined by other elected officials. We look forward to seeing our community members on September 17 at Broad Rock Sports Complex (4825 Warwick Road).
National Suicide Prevention Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time to highlight the prevalence of suicide deaths in America and educate the public about suicide prevention. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States and nearly 130 suicides are documented every day, with over half resulting from firearms.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) currently has a suicide prevention page dedicated to educating the public about the warning signs of someone contemplating suicide. More information can also be found on the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services’ (DBHDS) resources on suicide prevention. For those in need of immediate assistance, dialing 988, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), connects people to life-saving resources during mental health crises. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255, press 1, or by texting 838255.
“Banned books” are among the best of our literary traditions. Individuals and organizations seek to ban books that challenge accepted norms, rock us out of our complacency, force us to see the world through different perspectives, and make us uncomfortable. This week, I highlight a “banned book” that has been particularly impactful: Beloved by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Beloved examines the profound anguish of a mother who does everything in her power to keep her own children out of slavery. It examines the consequences of making terrible and impossible choices. On many levels, the novel is the retelling of the Greek myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and of the depths of a loving mother’s grief for her lost child. Beloved is a novel that ought to be read, digested, discussed, and never silenced.
Virginia Rail Safety Month
September is Virginia Rail Safety Month and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority is providing educational events and resources throughout the month to help Virginia residents stay safe near railroad tracks. For more information, see the VPRA Rail Safety Education page, which includes safety toolkits for the general public, commercial truck drivers, cyclists, and others.
Senate Page Program: Applications are Open
The deadline to apply to the Senate Page Program is approaching. The Senate Page Program is a remarkable educational experience for young Virginians who are interested in being a part of the annual General Assembly, learning about policy making, and engaging directly in state government processes. It is a tradition that has been in place for over 150 years.
Selected pages perform administrative duties, participate in team building, and help with day-to-day operations of the General Assembly. Pages are an integral part of the Capitol during the convening of the General Assembly. Pages live in Richmond throughout the duration of the General Assembly, visiting home on the weekends. The well-structured program provides time for Pages to keep up with schoolwork while also engaging in the direct experiences of government and policy making. More information about the program is available at the Senate Page Program.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2023 Senate Page Program, and the application process remains open until 5:00 pm, October 17. Applicants must be residents of the Commonwealth and either 13 or 14 years old on January 11, the first day of the 2023 session. The application is available here.
On Friday, I gave a presentation alongside Dr. Thad Williamson at the University of Richmond as a part of the university’s Perspectives lecture series. Together, we discussed the eviction crises occurring in Virginia with a specific focus on the Metro Richmond Area, which has consistently ranked as one of the top cities for evictions in the nation.
While visiting Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, over Labor Day Weekend, I joined local Democrats in Adams County to knock on doors and speak with residents about candidates Josh Shapiro, John Fetterman, and Marty Qually.
On Monday, I celebrated Labor Day with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at the annual Labor Day Picnic. We enjoyed good food, great company, and paid homage to the generations of workers that tirelessly fought for greater rights for the working class. I was joined by friends and members of the General Assembly, including Delegate Rodney Willett, Delegate Betsy Carr, Doris Crouse-Mays, Greg Ackerman, Pete Gibson, Sam Litchfield, and many others.
On Tuesday, my Legislative Assistant attended the Chesterfield DMV Select ribbon cutting ceremony at the Chesterfield Administrative Building. The addition of this DMV Select facility gives residents another DMV location that provides some of the most common services needed for Virginia motorists, such as title transactions, vehicle registration, and license plate procurement.
This Sunday marks twenty-one years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. In Virginia, the attack on the Pentagon was especially close and personal as friends, family, and colleagues were lost or affected. As we mourn and reflect on the change of our global landscape as a result of this tragedy, I hope that we unify around common, core values: community, hope, peace and healing.