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a threat to native water plants, the ubiquitous nature of hydrilla enables it to choke off both! Of course, that is assuming you have a river that is hospitable to boat- ers and aquatic life. Back when the Potomac was functioning as an open sewer only the most robust organisms survived its mucky wa- ters and recreational boaters were crazy to ply the river without bio- hazard suits.
Exotic plants and animals will always find a way into our ecosys- tem however. The most recent and infamous example is the toothy Frankenfish found locally in Dogue Creek. But as hydrilla spread, surprisingly a number of benefits followed. Birds previously not seen on the river began to ap- pear. Species of geese, ducks and swans that had sense enough to bypass the river when I was grow- ing up began to make the Potomac their home. With clean water and plenty of hydrilla to eat, the only threat facing our feathered friends now is birdshot on Saturday morn- ings. Credited with stabilizing the river bed and serving as an avian welcome mat, hydrilla also oxy- genated the water and provided young fish a refuge from preda- tors.
But the redemption of the Potomac is not complete. One last event remains unfinished and it involves dealing with the steady stream of cans and bottles that flow into the river from storm drains throughout the region. Placing a nickel bounty on these items will help along with other efforts to mitigate the debris. We owe it to others before us, and the progress they have made, to fin- ish the task.
Thomas M. Beattie Mt. Vernon
To the Editor:
In the Jan. 14 edition of the Mount Vernon Gazette, Stratford Landing resident Elizabeth Martin suggests that Virginia “needs a beverage container deposit law in order to reduce litter waste, espe- cially in Virginia streams and riv- ers and the Chesapeake Bay.” As one justification for this proposal, Ms. Martin cites the commendable work over the past decade of her unincorporated association, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, picking up bottles and trash from Little Hunting Creek. But where
are those bottles coming from? Over 90 percent of the shoreline of Little Hunting Creek is either privately owned or is part of the George Washington Parkway Na- tional Historic Park. Residents liv- ing on the Creek are not throwing bottles and trash into their own backyard. The Creek is a tidal body of water connected to the Potomac River, most of which is in the State of Maryland. As one of those wa- terfront property owners, I note that it is a daily occurrence to see bottles and trash floating by as the tide comes in. Adding a layer of bureaucracy and expense where much of the problem comes from out of state will not solve the prob- lem. Moreover, the less fortunate will see the increased up-front costs of buying bottled beverages become one more expense they can’t afford. Fairfax County has an extremely effective recycling pro- gram. There are also laws against littering. They should be strictly enforced.
Michigan has been struggling with its bottle refund law with people from out of state bringing bottles in for refund where they didn’t purchase the beverage in Michigan. Since Northern Virginia is in close proximity to West Vir- ginia, Maryland, and the District
of Columbia, this is an issue that must be addressed. Making drink manufacturers provide special markings for beverages delivered to Virginia places a heavy burden on them. Only a handful of states provide refunds for water bottles. As reported by MSNBC.COM on Oct. 26, 2008, rather than benefit- ing the environment, Michigan’s bottle deposit law carries a $10 million a year deficit from people coming from out of state to obtain reimbursement for their bottles that they didn’t purchase in Michi- gan. Again, let’s let our current laws work and strictly enforce them.
H. Jay Spiegel Mount Vernon
Undermine Public Schools?
To the Editor:
Hats off to the Mount Vernon Gazette for its coverage of Fairfax County’s budget challenges. Your articles, editorials and letters to the editor help all of us make in- formed decisions.
Jay McConville’s Jan. 21 letter was less helpful. After a 2009 cam- paign promising unidentified “cre- ative solutions,” he now proposes to cut county employees’ and
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18 ❖ Mount Vernon Gazette ❖ January 28 - February 3, 2010
teachers’ salaries and benefits in a state where teachers’ salaries are already below the national aver- age and in a state that ranks ninth in per capita income.
A major reason Fairfax County has high-quality schools is that we offer salaries and benefits that at- tract and retain talented teachers. Everyone knows that a quality teacher is the heart of a strong education system. And being able to retain teachers is critical. Fre- quent teacher turnover can cause turmoil in a school and be very disruptive to children’s learning.
Mr. McConville again returns to his mysterious “creative solutions” mantra by calling for a “firm com- mitment to address the systemic problems in our budget” and he wants to “address the entire bud- get,” but he does not tell us what his other solutions are in a year that Fairfax County must cut nearly $1 million per school and $1,000 per child from the budget.
Del. Scott Surovell was elected in the Mount Vernon area to re- form state education funding for- mulas and fight for the state funds our schools deserve. He has co- sponsored both bipartisan legisla- tion and budget amendments to do just that in Richmond right now. Cutting teacher salaries and benefits would undermine our schools, not strengthen them.
Ron Brandt Alexandria
To the Editor:
In my letter to the editor pub- lished last week, I said that at the Jan. 12 meeting of the West Potomac High School PTA, Del. Scott Surovell had said he favored increasing the BPOL tax and add- ing a restaurant meals tax. This was based upon a report I had re- ceived from what I considered to be a credible source who had at- tended that meeting. I spoke with Delegate Surovell subsequently and he confirmed his support of the meals tax, but told me that he had not stated he favored raising the BPOL tax. Rather, he informed me that, during a discussion of the State’s contribution to our Board of Education based upon the Lo- cal Composite Index (LCI) that represents a locality’s ability to fund public schools and forms the basis for the State’s contribution, he had explained that the BPOL tax is one of the few revenue sources under control of Fairfax County. I thought it was only fair and appropriate to report what Delegate Surovell told me.
H. Jay Spiegel Mount Vernon