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2019-10-29

ASTROP – PIERCE ENDORSED FOR SUPERVISORS AND SCHOOL BOARD -- ZION AND NOTTOWAY DISTRICTS –

To the Editor:

Election season is fast approaching in a few weeks and we are less than 20 days to Election Day and a brighter more focused future is at hand!

On behalf of the City of Emporia and Greensville County Democratic Committee I write in full support of the candidacies of Mrs. Belinda D. Astrop for the Greensville County Board of Supervisors in the Zion District (District 1) and Mr. Drexel W. Pierce, Jr. for the Greensville County School Board Nottoway District (District 4). 

Fortunately, for our friends and neighbors in the Zion District, they will have a Board member that will represent them fairly and one which will unequivocally have their best interest at heart!  Rarely do you see a leader step forward and answer the call of her peers that is this well qualified, dedicated and excited…but Belinda Astrop is she!  As a member of our committee she sought our endorsement to run for the Greensville County Board of Supervisors from the Zion District under our banner to bring positive change.  In Belinda’s heartfelt plea seeking our support she clearly understands that the county is at a junction – we either remain idly complacent as the county implodes with ever increasing property taxes, no new major employers being attracted to the area, and schools that can’t attract and keep qualified teachers with decent wages.  OR…the Board of Supervisors and its leaders can seize the moment and address the county’s need for more viable and frequent efforts to incentivize Economic Development efforts to assist the county to grow.  She believes that it is time to insist upon productive intelligent conversations during board meetings about recruiting employers with jobs that can pay a living wage and take proactive steps to recruit developers that are willing to invest in the county.  Additionally, entrepreneurs and small business owners should be encouraged to grow and expand within the county.  When investment is encouraged and nurtured, new jobs are sought and created, the quality of our schools and their performance increases and in turn future generations will return home to seek employment and those recruited to our community will stay and continue to be a part of Greensville County’s future success story!

Mrs. Astropis an ardent supporter for after school and year round recreational opportunities for our children and youth.  She is a firm believer that governments place emphasis on the things which are of the utmost importance to them and for her that emphasis should be greatly shared with the future and hope of our community – our children. 

No less committed to the progress of the County and its school system in particular is Drexel Pierce. As a resident in the Nottoway District Drexel believes that the children inour community deserve the best possible environment to learn and grow in, while gaining a world class education. The safety and mental health of our children is at the forefront of his agenda.

Pierce strongly believes that a child’s educational experience is not just about curriculum, but that in order for them to flourish they must be in the safest, most inclusive atmosphere possible. We have the most capable and caring staff within our district, and they need our support and the proper tools to best serve our children at their maximum capacity. He stands to put our children and the Greensville County Public School faculty/staff first!

Drexel’s educational background and work experience offer a unique and fresh perspective as a school board member. If elected, he plans is to work with parents, teachers and our community to ensure that our students receive the exceptional educational experience they deserve.  When students feel safe, accepted and empowered, they succeed. Pierce states, “Together we can make that possible for every child at GCPS!”  Every Student Matters!  Every VOTE Matters!

There are no better qualified candidates that are well suited to stand and fight for this community and its citizens than Belinda and Drexel!  The two truly understand the needs of the county in both arenas to further the county government and advance its educational quality. 

I ask on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 that their fellow citizens for Astrop in District 1 (Zion) and for Pierce in District 4 (Nottoway) make your way to your respective polling place and cast your votes for Belinda Astrop for Greensville County Board of Supervisors and Drexel Pierce for Greensville County School Board!! The polls open at 6 o’clock in the morning and close at 7 o’clock in the evening – stop by and vote for Positive CHANGES in Greensville County!

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Emporia-Greensville Democrats,

George E. Morrison, III, Chairman

(Editor's Note: Your letters may not always reflect the views of Emporia News. Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@emporianews.com and must include your name. Letters that may be considered inflamitory in nature will not be published. Do not include profanity, racial ephitets, lewd, demeaning or disparaging comments. Letters may be edited for space, clarity and/or grammar.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS FOR EQUAL PAY

~ Herring joins coalition in filing an amicus brief to maintain data collection practices that are critical in combating pay discrimination ~

RICHMOND (October 28, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a nationwide coalition of state attorneys general and government agencies in fighting for equal pay by filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit that would maintain data collection practices that are critical in combating pay discrimination. In 2017, the Trump Administration announced that they would stop collecting pay data from certain private employers that would be used as part of the effort to address the wage gap between men and women and people of different races and ethnicities. In an amicus brief in National Women’s Law Center, et al. v. Office of Management and Budget, et al., Attorney General Herring and his colleagues explain how collecting that information is critical to tackling pay discrimination.

“It is inexcusable that such large gender and racial pay disparities continue to exist,” said Attorney General Herring. “Good data is key to identifying problems and crafting solutions, but instead of embracing the data, the Trump Administration is trying to stifle it. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and continue the fight for equal pay.”

Inequality in earnings between women and men and people of different races and ethnicities has been a widespread, persistent flaw of the American labor market. Although the gender pay gap has been slowly decreasing, in 2018 women still only earned approximately 85 percent of what men earned. Over the last 30 years, Latinos and African-Americans have been estimated to earn around 70 percent of what white men earned over the same period. For women of color, the pay gap has been consistently worse. For instance, in 2015, Latinas earned approximately 58 percent of what white men earned.

Federal law directs the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to work with Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA) to investigate and resolve claims of employment discrimination. The EEOC relies on pay data to inform its investigation and civil rights enforcement efforts, publish reports on pay disparities to help close the wage gap, and identify trends that help employers better evaluate their pay policies and practices to ensure their compliance with the law. As a result, the agencies’ efforts to address pay discrimination are directly affected by the Trump Administration’s decision to halt the collection of crucial employment data.

If you believe you have been the subject of pay discrimination in Virginia you can file a complaint with Attorney General Herring’s Division of Human Rights:

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Herring joins the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The coalition also includes state civil rights agencies including California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Maine Human Rights Commission, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Nevada Equal Rights Commission, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, and Washington State Human Rights Commission. Additionally, the coalition includes local civil rights agencies including the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, New York City Commission on Human Rights, and Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

2018 Report Found Nearly 7,000 Absentee Ballots Mailed Too Late

By Aliviah Jones, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia voters have already returned more absentee ballots in 2019 than in the November 2015 election -- the last time all 140 seats in the General Assembly were up for reelection. In the last few elections there has been an uptick in absentee ballots, but not all returned ballots are counted.

A Virginia Department of Elections 2018 post-election report found that 6,771 absentee votes did not count in the 2018 election because they were returned to the registrar's office after Election Day. Eleven were returned late in person and 6,760 were mailed late.

The VDE lists 2018 official absentee ballot counts as 287,763.

The VDE said in the same report that they would “work with general registrars in an attempt to determine if there are patterns that exist preventing the timely return of ballots.”

Ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, or Nov. 5, in order to count. The only exception, according to Andrea Gaines, VDE director of community relations and compliance support, is if voters are overseas or in the military.

The return date is listed on the absentee ballot application, but not the ballot itself, according to Gaines.
“There is no return date on the ballot itself,” she said. “When a voter receives an absentee ballot, they also receive instructions on how to properly cast that ballot in a manner in which it will be counted.” 

When asked how VDE worked with registrars to determine patterns preventing the timely return of ballots, per the 2018 report, Gaines said: "Our mission is to provide voters with the information and resources necessary to successfully cast their votes."

Zareen Farhad, a 19-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University, said she is voting absentee this upcoming election because she can’t make it back to Northern Virginia. Farhad said she has voted absentee three times and that the instructions on the ballot are sufficient, but that the VDE website could clarify when the ballot is due.

“I think that the Virginia elections website could be a bit more clear about exactly how to vote absentee and when early in-person voting is,” Farhad said.

Grant Fox, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the organization recently hired a full-time voter protection director to make sure every vote counts and voters are aware of their rights. 

Republican and Democratic candidates have highlighted the option to vote absentee.
John Findlay, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia said “we’re encouraged by the absentee numbers.” 

As of Monday, the unofficial return count for absentee ballots is 73,903, out of 123,459 absentee ballot applications, according to VDE. 

"Using absentee voting is a good indicator of potential turnout, and if you look at previous elections and compare it to today there has been an increase in this election and overall," said VDE commissioner Christopher Piper, in a previous CNS interview.

Stakes are high with all 140 legislative seats up for grabs for this first time since 2015, but also since Donald Trump was elected president. Several Senate districts held by Republicans have leaned blue in recent elections since then, and voters pushed Democrats into the House en masse in 2017. Republicans currently hold a slim majority in both chambers of the legislature.

According to an analysis posted by the Virginia Public Access Project, 54 House districts have already surpassed the number of absentee ballots returned in 2015. Of those, 22 are also key House races determined by a CNS analysis of competitive races, redistricting changes and recent voting trends on Virginia Public Access Project. The top five House districts that have seen over twice the number of return absentee ballots compared to 2015 are:

  • HD 76 – Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, facing Democratic challenger Clinton Jenkins.
  • HD 78 – Del. Jay Leftwich, R-Chesapeake, running unopposed.
  • HD 77 – Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, running unopposed.
  • HD 9 – Democrat Martha Mulger and Republican Colleen Holcomb are running for an open seat in a Republican-held district where Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
  • HD 66 – Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights faces challengers Democrat Sheila Bynum-Coleman and Independent Linnard Harris Sr. 

Twenty-one Senate districts have also had a higher return in absentee ballots than in 2015. Three of the key senate races identified by CNS have had higher returns this year than 2015. 

Residents who wish to vote absentee must apply for a mailed absentee ballot by 5 p.m. Tuesday through the VDE online citizens portal or their local voter registration office. The deadline to return absentee ballots to registration officers is Election Day at 7 p.m.

Celebration of SVCC’s 50 Years Begins

Photo from the day so many years ago when Bill Steed (Left) met with Dr. Kenneth Dawson to fill out the first application for acceptance into Southside Virginia Community College.

Fifty years ago, a ground-breaking event was held to begin construction of Southside Virginia Community College; a monumental moment in improving educational opportunities to area residents.  In celebration of the anniversary, the college hosted a kick-off event on October 9, 2019 on the Christanna Campus in Alberta to honor and remember the accomplishments of the college, key figures in its’  history and to salute the future

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, the sixth president to serve SVCC, welcomed those in attendance.  He also recognized the contributions of two former presidents, Dr. John J. Cavan and Dr. A. Allison Roberts.  He announced that a tree will be planted in honor of each to include a commemorative plaque recognizing the enormous impact of each on the college’s success. 

Beginning the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Southside Virginia Community College, President Dr. Quentin R. Johnson (Center) honored two past college presidents, Dr. A. Allison Roberts (Left) and Dr. John J. Cavan (Right).  Trees will be planted on the campuses to commemorate their valuable contributions to education in Southside Virginia. 

“It was truly an honor to have our two previous presidents, Dr. Cavan and Dr. Roberts, along with the very first student to apply to SVCC, join us for this historic 50th Anniversary Celebration! We were also honored to have our Local Board along with a host of SVCC faculty, staff, retirees and community supporters in attendance which helped make this celebration extra special!!”

Another honoree was Bill Steed of Warfield who was the first person to complete an application for admission to the college.  He was farming at the time in northern Brunswick County, but since the day was gray and cloudy, he decided to drive to Lawrenceville where the president of the college had an office in the Perkinson building.  With the help of the first President, Dr. Kenneth Dawson, Steed completed his application, was accepted and is a graduate of the SVCC class of 1972.

Bill Steed(Left) of Warfield, Virginia was the very first applicant to Southside Virginia Community College.  He was recognized at the kick-off event for SVCC"s 50th anniversary recently and is shown with his wife, Deborah (Center), also an SVCC graduate, and Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President.  Making it a family affair, the Steed's daughter Tori is also a graduate.

During the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary, items will be collected for placement in a time capsule to be buried and opened at the 100th Anniversary of the college.  Items will represent the years from 1969 to 2019. 

In 1966, the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation to establish the statewide system of community colleges.  Called the Great Gateway of Opportunity, for the first time, higher education was in easy and affordable reach to Virginians. 

In the 50 years in operation, a grand total of 14,882 students have received diplomas, degrees or certificates from SVCC. 

Dr. Kenneth E. Dawson was the first president hired to plan and conduct the opening of the college to students in 1970.  Since Dr. Dawson (1969 – 1974), the college has been led by some extraordinary men, Dr. Max Wingett (1974 – 1979), Dr. Bryan Brooks (1979 – 1983), Dr. John J. Cavan (1983 – 2014), Dr. A. Allison Roberts (2014 – 2019)a, and now, Dr. Quentin R. Johnson who came on board July 1, 2019. 

The Christanna Campus in Alberta opened for classes in the fall of 1970 and the construction of John H. Daniel Campus followed with classes being offered there in the fall of 1971.  Campus construction stalled until about 1999 when ground was broken for two workforce development centers on each campus.  Bulldozers arrived on the John H. Daniel Campus in 2013 to begin construction of the beautiful Learning Resource Center and in 2020, a new Student Services and Learning Resource Center will open on the Christanna Campus.

The idea of taking the college to the people due to the large service region (about 1,000 square miles smaller than  the state of Connecticut) initiated the establishment of outreach centers.  Campus Without Walls opened in an old bank building in Emporia in 1985, Higher Education Center started in a single-wide trailer in South Boston in 1986 with classes held at the high school, and later, moved into a Lowe’s building and in 2001 to the current Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.  Also in 2001, the first classes were offered at the Estes Community Center in Chase City, the Occupational Technical Building at Pickett Park officially opened in November of 2003 and that same year, the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center opened in South Hill.  The current Emporia facility, Southside Virginia Education Center opened in 2008. 

In the beginning, tuition was $60.00 per quarter for 12 credits or $5.00 per credit and today’s price is $156.50 per credit, which is still very affordable.  Innovative new programs have been added over the years to meet Workforce demands, such as Practical Nursing, the entire two years for Associate Degree Nursing, Truck Driver Training, Power Line Worker, Emergency Medical Technician, Information Technology, Machining, Advanced Technology, and much more, not to mention transfer guarantees to many colleges and universities in the state.

Dr. Johnson notes that the future is bright for SVCC as he leads the college into the next half century -  Panther Pride, Catch It!

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