Sen. Chap Petersen (D) and Gerarda Culipher are vying for the 34th District Senate seat, which will be decided Nov. 8. Patch sent in the same questionnaire to each candidate. The following are Petersen's unedited responses. Click here for Culipher's responses.
Local Editors Ask Local Questions
Q: The 2006 Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Study calls for multiple roundabouts, splitters, etc., along Hunter Mill Road, but it is unfunded. How much of a priority should this be for the community, and would you consider advocating for funds on the state level to accomplish it?
Funding for “secondary road projects” like the Hunter Mill traffic calming comes from VDOT. Actual spending is left to the discretion of the County. I would not change that. However, I would give the County more discretion to raise revenues, for “matching funds” to extend state funding.
Q: What are your thoughts on the tank farm on Pickett Road? How would you address its safety issues at the state level?
This year we succeeded in eliminating the “grandfather clause” and requiring the Tank Farm to meet state safety and environmental standards. That new law will require the oil companies to institute “double bottoms” on the tanks, line the containment ponds, and raise the pipes above-ground.. Hopefully, the cost of upgrading the facilities (estimated at $10 million) will incentivize the oil companies to eventually sell the site and find a location in a non-residential area.
Q: The portion of Centreville now in the 34th District used to be represented along with the rest of Centreville in just one district. As our new senator, how would you ensure Centreville’s interests won’t be overshadowed by the communities whose boundaries are entirely or almost entirely in the 34th District?
I spent the entire months of July and August knocking doors in Chantilly and Centreville, meeting thousands of new constituents. The best way to be responsive is to be visible: meeting voters at the grocery store, at the local school, at their house of worship. After I’m re-elected, I’ll continue to do that same thing.
Q: Vienna already has a major traffic problem. The arrival of more development in Tysons, and a lack of parking for the new metro stations there, is bound to make it worse. Do you find the congestion bad enough to advocate for funding from your position as state senator?
This question has the issue completely backwards. In the past five years, we have spent billions of dollars in the Vienna/Tysons area to create the “HOT Lanes” along I-495 and build the First Phase of Dulles Rail. These major systemic improvements are designed to keep up with the demand for jobs in the Tysons and Dulles Corridor. More spending and more roads is not going to “cure” congestion in Vienna or Tysons. The best means to reduce congestion is to stagger work hours, increase telecommuting and pedestrian traffic, and build a sustainable transit network.
Q: What do you recommend concerning the InSync Traffic Light pilot on Braddock Road? Would you advocate a permanent extension? If so, from where to where?
If technology works and is cost-effective, then expand its use. As with any technical issue, I would rely on the engineers to make that decision.
Q: In what ways do you plan to help revitalize small-town businesses in the 34th District?
End the accelerated sales tax requiring small businesses to “front” their sales tax collections to the state. Streamline bureaucracy so that business owners can obtain a business license, pay taxes and register their vehicles at one place. (That was my “one stop” small business legislation in 2011). In general, keep taxes low and simple, minimize red tape, and let owners figure out how to make money.
Q: We just went through a huge battle over redistricting, as we do every 10 years. The legislature is often criticized for choosing districts based on political gains, not what’s best for voters. Do you support a process in which a bipartisan commission, not legislators with a vested interest in the result, would draw up the redistrict maps? Why?
Sure. I voted for that bill each year in the Senate. We need to have an independent commission offering a template to keep districts compact and contiguous. This legal change would have to be through constitutional amendment. Otherwise, it would be just another law which could be changed by future legislation, i.e. the redistricting bill itself in a future session. No one voluntarily gives up power.
Q: Last session, the House of Delegates passed the Repeal Amendment, which would have given states the authority to repeal any federal law or regulation. The bill quickly died before getting to the floor of the Senate. What do you think of such an amendment? Would you support it if it reached the floor?
I voted against the bill in Committee and would vote against it again. Allowing state legislatures to “veto” Federal legislation would create anarchy in our country. Besides we already had one Civil War. That’s enough.
Q: What place do public libraries have in our community? Is there an obligation at the state level to ensure proper funding? Why?
Public libraries are a critical resource as a place where students and adults can read, study or just hang out in a safe environment. The state provides some basic funding for localities but it’s not a major expenditure. The biggest issue for us is removing the “population cap” on state funding which discriminates against Fairfax, which has the largest population of any locality.
Q: What long-term solutions are you advocating for commuting issues on Interstate 66? How will it be paid for?
Where to begin? We repaved I-66 this year and will begin spot improvements and widenings next year. In 2012, we will also open up the HOT Lanes and the associated ramps to improve traffic flow, especially where 66 and 495 converge. Those improvements are already funded through existing revenues. Long term, I am pushing for a “Bus Rapid Transit” service on I-66 which could use designated lanes and at-grade boarding to move commuters at a fraction of fixed rail. The BRT stations alone will cost $300 million in new funding. If we can’t get this money from the Feds, then we will need to raise it at the state level, either by indexing our current revenues or by tolling interstate traffic.