In Memory of Frankie Boa-Durgammah

I’m writing a brief post to commemorate my friend, Frank (“Frankie”) Boa-Durgammah who departed this earth on July 15th. He was nineteen years old and a recent graduate of W.T. Woodson High School.

There was a memorial service for Frankie today at the American Legion, Post 177, in Fairfax City.  I was lucky to say a few words.

The service was packed with family and friends, namely those who went to Woodson with Frankie, where he was captain of the wrestling team, or grew up with him in Boy Scout Troop 1887, where he reached Eagle Scout.

I’ve been to countless events at the Legion in my lifetime.  I’ve never attended one, where the parked cars filled up the lot and then extended  all the way down Oak Street.  That was the type of young man that Frankie was.

All the adult speakers noted that Frankie was “somebody they considered a son.”  The younger speakers considered him a brother.  He was honest, respectful and hard-working. He never had an unkind word.

I knew Frankie through my friendship with his older sister and mother.  I considered him a role model for my son in the way he approached work, school, Scouts and sports.  In fact, he starred at the “Order of the Arrow” ceremony for our Cub Scout Pack in which he donned an ornate Indian headdress, recited the Order challenge, and invited the young Cubs to join the Boy Scouts.  My son was awestruck

A year ago, Frankie approached us to do odd jobs to make money for school.  I gave him the chance to clean out my garage (look up “Aegean stables” in Greek mythology).  After a day’s work in the summer heat, I had to literally pull him out of there.  He would have worked for 24 hours straight.  He was the type of young person I’d hire in a heartbeat.

I don’t know why some people leave this life too early. It’s more than I can comprehend.

I’m only consoled by the words of John 11:25 (“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”) Frankie’s family has great faith.  They use every ounce of it.

We will miss you, Frankie.

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Silver Line Opens Today

Today, the Silver Line rolled into action, sending the first trains from stops in McLean, Tysons Corner and extending out to Wiehle Avenue (Reston).

I wasn’t able to make the first ride.  According to radio reports, about 10,000 passengers did ride the Silver Line today.  We’ll see how many return on Monday.  Regardless, it’s a big day for METRO.

It’s also a big day for Fairfax County.  For the first time, the County’s downtown (Tysons Corner) is connected with downtown Arlington and downtown D.C.  From Tysons’ epicenter at Greensboro Drive, it’s now a 30 minute train ride to Metro Center in the District.  Congestion be damned.

Of course, there are a lot of wrinkles with this new service.  First of all, the Silver Line still does not connect Dulles Airport.  That will take several more years.  Secondly, it’s overhead design is not really conducive to pedestrians  Third, it will put a tremendous stress on the Potomac River tunnel which already accommodates the Orange Line trains.   Those trains — which serve my constituents — will now be pinched by the limited capacity.

(note:  Prior to 2011, I represented a half-dozen precincts along the Dulles Corridor.  No longer.  Now the 34th Senate district goes straight west along I-66, which is a whole separate transportation dilemma.  And more on that later …)

Regardless, the opening of the Silver Line is a triumph.  A lot of politicians particularly deserve kudos for leadership in having the vision and obtaining the funds, particularly Gerry Connolly who was promoting this rail over fifteen years ago as Providence District Supervisor.   And, of course, the local property owners, taxpayers (and Toll Road drivers) actually wrote the check.   So they get the most credit

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Chillin’ in VA Beach

With two active teenage daughters and a wife that is wired into the community (btw, last show of “Pippi Longstocking” is tomorrow night at Lanier MS), it’s always hard to find time to get away.

Sometimes, our family vacations can be measured in hours, not weeks.  This weekend, we took a few days off from law practice, community theater and summer field hockey to dash down I-64 to Virginia Beach and book a room at the Hampton Inn on 11th Street, a few blocks below the pier.

After arriving, we had dinner Thursday night at “Waterman’s'” restaurant on 5th street, my favorite seafood place, then spent today at the beach.  (After the recent tornado, the weather was perfect).   Although it was technically vacation, I did manage to do my piece on Jon Frederick’s show this morning.

Tonight, we had dinner at Planet Pizza.  Afterwards, Sharon took the older kids to a local drama production on 26th street.  Meanwhile, I strolled the two year-old down the Boardwalk.  It was a perfect summer evening.

We stopped to listen to an oral historian describing “The Wreck of the Dictator” at a local park.  Apparently, “the Dictator” was a Norwegian trading vessel which broke apart and sank off the Beach, then a small fishing village, during a squall about 100 years ago.  Today, there is a statute on the Boardwalk which commemorates the Norwegians who went down with the ship, which included the Captain’s wife and son.

Up early for a morning run and swim tomorrow.  The water could not be nicer.

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Oyster Harvests Continue to Rebound

There’s a lot of bad news in the world today.  So let’s focus on some good news:  the miraculous restoration of Virginia’s oyster population over the past few years.

Today, the McAuliffe administration announced that the Virginia oyster havest had increased 25% since the past year and more than twenty times its nadir a few years ago.  This year, oystermen took over 500,000 bushels out of the Bay, with a market value of over $22 million.

In 2001, the oyster haul was only 20,000 bushels, almost nothing for a long-time industry.  At that time, it seemed like the oyster industry was dead.  There was even talk about introducing a foreign-bred oyster to try and stimulate the native species to action.  (Call it the mail-order bride solution)

We didn’t do that.  Instead, we left it in the hands of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission which used innovative methods, such as rotating harvest seasons and dropping artificial reefs into oyster breeding areas so the bivalves had a place to meet and mingle in a stress-free environment.  (“oystermingle.com”?)  The native populations survived somehow and began to breed again.  Now it’s coming back to toward its peak populations from the Seventies and Eighties.

The oyster has a long population in Virginia.  The earliest English settlers stayed alive by eating oysters, which they dug up from the banks of the James.  It’s the closest thing we have to a native food source and it’s back.

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A Few Thoughts on the Children’s Immigration Crisis

Many years ago, there was a flood of immigrants to our shores.  They were not from Europe or even Mexico.  They were from Vietnam and we called them “the Boat People.” By and large, they were fleeing the Communist government of Viet Nam.  Many of them were the wives and children of captured ARVN soldiers and government officials.

The refugees were picked up by the U.S. Navy.  Thousands were allowed to settle in the United States where they were adopted by various church organizations (most of the refugees were Christian, which was itself a reason to get out).  My church adopted a Vietnamese family which lived next door for a year (in 1979) in my Great-Grandmother’s house, currently “Choices,” in downtown Fairfax City.

As a sixth-grader at J. C. Wood Elementary, I walked two of the older children to school.  They didn’t speak a word of English and I didn’t speak any Vietnamese.  Basically, we communicated with hand signals and their mother rewarded me with some type of fish food, when I brought them home.  (My mom told me to be polite and eat it — so I did).

In this way, thousands of foreign kids were folded into our otherwise-homogenous community.   I lost track of that family, but I have no doubt that those kids and their younger siblings have become great successes in the USA.

I mention this in the context of the thousands of kids who are arriving at our borders in unprecedented numbers ….

1.  To the extent that these children or their families remain in the USA (and that’s debatable), I highly doubt that the Great Republic will collapse if these kids are kept here, either temporarily or permanently.  Eventually, they will be assimilated.  They always are.  I reject the concept that their presence is a “threat” to any community in America.

2.  A larger issue — and one I don’t brush aside — is the problematic theory  that any immigrant to the USA by any method is automatically entitled to benefits and protections and any attempt to repatriate is proof of (cue the word …)  “racism.”

We have always made a distinction between political refugees and economic refugees under law.  The latter can apply for asylum.  The latter cannot.  The Obama administration is bound by that Federal law, just like the rest of us.  If a child crosses the border illegally and is not covered by any legal exemption, then he has to be returned.  I have no objections to providing aid to these central American countries to feed its own population — but we can’t just absorb their surplus population.

So whither the issue of “immigration reform.”  The problem I encounter in my law practice is the delays and red tape in obtaining the necessary documentation for legal status.  I also agree that “DREAM Act” children raised in the USA, with a history of paying taxes, should be given a path to citizenship and state recognition.  (Ironically, the General Assembly last year was pushing towards a recognition of that reality, see HB 747). Any reform to me means streamlining and simplifying the process to legal status, while recognizing those persons who have spent a significant share of their life in the USA and deserve to stay.

That doesn’t mean that people are entitled to cross the border at will or that the Executive Branch should be scared to enforce Federal laws — even in the face of liberal opposition.  (Hey, if you’re afraid to make your friends angry, then you’re in the wrong business).

Regardless, if these children do remain in the USA, it will take individual communities and churches to step up and support these kids.  Just like what happened many years ago.

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