About the Fredericksburg Chapter

Fredericksburg residents are continuing to push a large railroad companies -and the local city and county governments -to stop storing toxic chemicals in their residential neighborhood.  Many letters to the editor have been printed in the local paper, and Virginia Organizing members are planning community meetings and actions aimed at stopping the dangerous practices of the railroad company.

Fredericksburg Chapter Updates

Recent Chapter News: -On Thursday, 12/13, 10 people gathered at the home of one of our members to discuss the fiscal cliff and the various ways that we have to speak up about ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans and protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Everyone agreed to call their representatives and write a letter to the editor on an issue related to the federal budget. -On Saturday, 12/15, 5 volunteers staffed a "Let them eat cake" table in downtown Fredericksburg, offering cake and conversation to passersby about the need for our government to be in touch with real people throughout their decision-making process on the fiscal cliff. In addition to engaging people in discussion, we also had folks to commit to calling their representatives to share their thoughts on these issues. -On Tuesday, 12/18, Virginia Organizing, VA Consumer Voices, and the Virginia Interfaith Center hosted a brown-bag lunch event at St. George's Episcopal church. We had 80 attendees, and heard from Dr. Chris Lillis, Sister Mary Ellen (one of the "nuns on the bus"), and Jay Arbitrario, a local man and father of two who currently makes too much to qualify for Medicaid, but would qualify if Virginia implemented Medicaid expansion to cover people up to 133% of the poverty line.

Spotsylvania Mural Under Scrutiny

Icon March 10, 2014 - 22:01 Published March 9, 2014 BY JEFF BRANSCOME / THE FREE LANCE–STAR Spotsylvania County may expand a mural in its main government building in response to criticism of the piece’s lack of diversity. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will decide whether to move forward with a proposal to add panels to the mural of Spotsylvania’s history in the Holbert Building’s meeting room. The new images would include depictions of prominent local African–Americans and Native Americans. “When we tour our public buildings, we need to see a representation of everybody in Spotsylvania County,” said Roger Braxton, a native Spotsylvanian who was part of a Historic Preservation Commission subcommittee that studied the issue. In February, the commission unanimously endorsed the subcommittee’s proposal to expand the mural with six images. The images would be placed on two blank walls at either side of the existing piece behind where Board of Supervisors members sit. They would be drawn in a similar style as the current mural for a “seamless, timeless effect,” according to a presentation of the proposal. It’s unclear how much the project would cost or how the county would pay for it, though Braxton said he “couldn’t imagine that Spotsylvania would vote this thing down for a couple thousand dollars.” If the supervisors vote to proceed with the project, the county will have to solicit bids from artists. Supervisor Paul Trampe said he thinks the mural should be paid for with reserves because it is a one-time expense. “I am certainly in favor of having a more complete representation of Spotsylvania’s history, and I will support moving forward,” he said in an email. He said he thinks other board members will also support the proposal, noting that none had raised objections to him. The mural currently includes images of 19th-century navigator Matthew Fontaine Maury, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gov. Alexander Spotswood, Spotsylvania’s namesake. The county paid $12,000 to have it painted by the late Sidney King in 1989. King later added a small image of John J. Wright, who founded the first high school for the county’s black students. Residents had complained that the mural didn’t recognize the achievements of black Spotsylvanians. Then in 2011, Virginia Organizing, a statewide grassroots group, sent the county a letter about the mural’s lack of diversity. During county budget deliberations last year, Virginia Organizing and the Spotsylvania branch of the NAACP asked the Board of Supervisors to earmark $1,000 to expand the mural. Supervisors didn’t fulfill the request, but Trampe asked the Historic Preservation Commission to look into the issue. Helen Sanders, a local member of Virginia Organizing, said she’s excited by the recent proposal to expand the mural. “There are so many stories to be told and …it just was stuck in time,” she said of the existing piece. Braxton, who is a 1962 graduate of the then all-black John J. Wright Consolidated School and a member of the board of directors of the John J. Wright Educational & Cultural Center Museum, called the project a “labor of love.” “We need to fairly reflect who we are,” he said. Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402 SPOTSYLVANIA MURAL Spotsylvania County’s Historic Preservation Commission recently recommended a proposal to expand the historical mural in the Holbert Building’s meeting room. Under the proposal, six images would be placed next to the existing piece. They include depictions of: Joseph Despot, a minister and Spotsylvania native who was president of the Sunday School Union and an executive board member of the Mattaponi Association of Virginia. Jeannette Garnett Wright, who is one of the first black women in Spotsylvania to register to vote. She is the daughter of John J. Wright, who founded Spotsylvania’s first black high school. The 23rd United States Colored Troops with U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Brown, who was born in Spotsylvania and received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Indian Wars. The Colored Troops fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The Sylvania/FMC cellophane plant, the region’s primary employer for 50 years. Gold mining. Everyday life of Native Americans.


Icon January 14, 2014 - 02:52 By KATHIE BRAMLETTE Published in the Free Lance-Star WHILE I have never met William J. Howell, I would think he is of an age to remember when Medicare began [“Responsible alternative must be found to expanding Medicaid,” Viewpoints, Jan. 5]. There was outcry about “socialized medicine.” It was going to “break the country,” and it was not a good business model. Fifty years later, Medicare is a well-run government insurance program. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has had the same beginning as Medicare did all those years ago. It has been maligned by the media, by political parties and by others who want to see it fail. But it does not demonstrate that government-run health care won’t work, but that by allowing private-sector insurance companies into the mix, the game changes to allow those companies to make a profit. Had ACA been allowed a single-payer process such as Medicare and Medicaid, there would have been no difficulty with sign-ups. Mr. Howell, in discussing why the Medicaid expansion will not work, does not seem to have developed the alternative plan he so wishes for. While he states that Medicaid is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse, and is a broken program, he offers no solution for a state-run program. While the federal government provides funding to every state to support Medicaid, the program is run by each state. Some do better than others. What does he intend to do about fixing it? He poses no thoughts on that. Medicaid’s largest expense in any state is the payment for long-term care for the elderly. Women, children and the disabled use a much smaller part of that budget. Wellness and prevention are part of every Medicaid plan, although payment to physicians is usually smaller than a Medicare payment for the elderly. Because of the ACA, payments to physicians will be equalized. Many Virginia residents have applied for health care through the ACA only to find that they do not make enough money to qualify or for subsidies to aid in a purchase. Because there has been no expansion of Medicaid, they qualify for nothing. They will not owe a penalty because they make so little income that they do not file tax returns. If they need medical care, they will be further bankrupted by the bills they will incur, sent to collection or court for restitution. I would suggest that Mr. Howell consider what course his life would take if he had no health insurance for himself or his family. I would hope that in his heart he knows he is not doing the right thing for uninsured residents in Virginia to stand so strongly on principle without a solution in sight. Show us a solution, an alternative health care program for Virginia’s uninsured. It’s not right to make 400,000 uninsured residents wait any longer. Kathie Bramlette lives in Spotsylvania County.

Recap: Immigration Reform Gathering in Fredericksburg

Icon October 15, 2013 - 18:50 This summer, about 100 members of the Fredericksburg community gathered together in Hurkamp Park in Olde Town Fredericksburg to rally in support of immigration reform. Below is a video recap from that event. We thought it would be fantastic to share as a reminder of the support comprehensive reform has received from all over Virginia and the United States! The event started out with speakers Antonella Membreno, a dreamer, and Greg Smith, founder of LUCHA ministries, a faith-based community group. They were followed by representatives from the Spotsylvania NAACP, Madre Tierra, a feminist human rights organization, SINOVA (Spanish Information Network of Virginia), and Sandra A. Cook, Chariperson for Virginia Organizing. Our message to our U.S. Representative, Congressman Rob Wittman, was clear: Virginians want immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and we need it to pass this year! Special thanks to Carolina Contreras for her work on this project and creating the video! Enjoy!
See video

Explanation of New Health Plan Draws a Crowd

Icon September 24, 2013 - 14:04 By Kate Thisdell New health insurance marketplaces will be open for business in just one week.  On Oct. 1, the new federal marketplace goes live online as a virtual “supermarket” for shopping for health insurance policies. You’ll be able to compare policies under different companies in an apples-to-apples manner, said Dr. Chris Lillis, a Fredericksburg internist who spoke to a standing-room only crowd at a forum Monday evening on the Affordable Care Act. “For the first time, policies will be standardized,” Lillis said at the informational meeting held at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg. “You won’t have to read the fine print to see what’s covered and what’s not.” But while health insurance plans must cover certain things—such as preventive care, prescriptions, hospital stays, mental health care and blood tests—picking a level of care for an individual leaves many with questions. The marketplace isn’t for everyone, explained Lillis and Bill Botts, the new health care navigator for the city and 16 counties. He is tasked with explaining the law and how people should get insurance under it. Botts, a longtime attorney with Rappahannock Legal Services, and a team of volunteers, will open a Fredericksburg office on Oct. 1 as well, and is taking appointments. He encourages everyone to research options at, and not to rush a decision. The federal exchange is for people who don’t have insurance and can’t get it through work, can’t afford private insurance plans and don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Virginia chose not to have a state-run exchange. You don’t need the exchange if you’re eligible for Medicare or Medicaid; if you get insurance through your employer; if you’re paying for a private insurance plan; or if you’re in Tricare or veterans health programs. Tuesday’s forum, hosted by Virginia Organizing, focused on two groups—the uninsured and small-business owners, likely the two most affected, Lillis said. One in 7 Americans have no insurance right now, said Lillis, also a columnist with The Free Lance–Star. The Affordable Care Act is expected to put a “good dent” in the 40 million to 45 million uninsured, though it won’t help everyone at the start, he said. The lowest income bracket will still be covered by Medicaid; an expansion of the program is under debate by legislators. Lillis said a large gap will remain, leaving millions of low-income adults with no affordable options in the meantime. For those who make 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, coverage can be purchased through the exchange and, depending upon income levels, they will receive a subsidy from the government. That tax credit, which will be based on current income levels and will be paid directly to the insurance companies, can drastically reduce a person’s premiums. For example, a family of four that makes $50,000 could choose a plan that costs $924 per month. Tax credits would reduce the cost to $280 per month. Any changes would be reconciled in the next year’s tax filings. But Lillis and Botts said they couldn’t go through every example at the forum—that’s what the health care navigator is for. During the question-and-answer part of the two-hour forum, Lillis said that every individual’s circumstance will be different from the next, and even though the exchange goes live next week, it’s open for months. Coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014, and there’s a 15-day waiting period after a premium is paid before a policy starts. If you purchase by Dec. 15, your coverage will go into effect at the new year. But that’s not the final deadline. The exchange will be open for six months this year, meaning March 21 is the last day to sign up until open enrollment begins again, in October 2014.

Dr. Lillis: Culture Shift

Icon March 19, 2012 - 16:59 Originally posted on Progress Notes by Fredericksburg physican Dr. Chris Lillis.  

VIDEO: Fredericksburg Residents Call on Sen. Reeves to Oppose Voter Suppression Bills

Icon February 2, 2012 - 23:05 Twenty fours hours after the House of Delegates passed HB 9, one of many voter suppression bills, Fredericksburg residents gathered at the library to speak out against a slew of bills moving through the General Assembly that threaten voting rights and waste tax dollars. Residents called on Senator Reeves to oppose voter suppression laws. Senator Reeves just had one of the slimmest margins of victory in recent history and should appreciate the need to protect each Virginian’s vote.