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.
Call for Medicaid

Group sends a Medicaid message

Icon June 30, 2014 - 15:57   BY PAMELA GOULD / THE FREE LANCE-STAR June 30, 2014 Former Fredericksburg Mayor Lawrence Davies carried a poster-board sign as he joined about 80 people Sunday morning in a silent march across the Falmouth Bridge in support of Medicaid expansion for adults. The former pastor of Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church came out at the request of Virginia Organizing, a group that describes itself as “a nonpartisan statewide grassroots” organization but that local chapter member Ray Scher of Caroline County called “progressives.” Davies, one of the event’s speakers, cited Leviticus 19:9–10 as support for his view that expansion of Medicaid for adults is not a political issue but a moral one supported by God. Those verses call on people to leave behind some of their harvest when their crops come in each season so “the poor and the stranger” can gather the remainder. He said the Medicaid expansion for 400,000 low-income adults “is not a handout, it is a hand up.” Davies, in a two-piece suit and dress shirt, then joined in what Scher called a funeral procession as people walked from the parking lot in front of the Hard Times Cafe on U.S. 1 in Fredericksburg, north across the bridge to the law office of House Speaker Bill Howell, located at the corner of Gordon and Carter streets in the Falmouth section of Stafford County. The group left at Howell’s front office door a small, black wooden coffin with a message in white that read: “1,000 in Virginia dead per year.” That is the number of people the group claims would die annually without access to health care through the expansion, which is part of the Obama administration’s signature health care initiative known as the Affordable Care Act. Howell, a Republican, is at the center of the issue in Virginia because of his leadership role as the legislature is at odds with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Howell was out of town with his wife Sunday morning and learned of the visitors to his office from someone who texted him after seeing the activity. He said that “everyone is entitled to his opinion” on the issue and that many people disagree on it, but he feels a broader look is required to address it. He said that Virginia Organizing has brought him petitions before and he welcomes such action. “I understand where they’re coming from,” he said, but added, “I think you’re going to make the system worse, not better, by simply adding 400,000 people.” Howell said the next step to resolve the issue is to hold a special legislative session and he has promised to do that. “I think it’s irresponsible to think about adding 400,000 people when we haven’t fixed the underlying system,” he said. Virginia is one of 24 states not participating in the Medicaid expansion for adults as of April 1, according to the most recent report compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Fredericksburg resident Eunice Haigler, a member of the local chapter of Virginia Organizing, said she would benefit from the expansion and shared her story at Sunday’s event. Haigler, 63, said she initially earned too much to qualify for Medicaid and now is part of a program that requires her to have $2,000 in medical bills each quarter before she receives help. Acceptance into the Medicaid expansion program would enable her to get other medicines she needs and to quit relying on emergency rooms for her primary care, she said. Haigler marched after sharing that she has suffered from a pituitary tumor, a stroke and cataracts and is now blind in one eye, partially blind in the other and is on disability. Fredericksburg doctors Chris Lillis and Patrick Neustatter participated in Sunday’s event. Lillis, a primary care doctor who also volunteers at the Moss Free Clinic, said Fredericksburg and Stafford law enforcement were given advance notice of the group’s Sunday plans. He said the use of a coffin was dramatic but said nothing else had worked. Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Left a Coffin

Virginia Organizing holds march in Fredericksburg for Medicaid

Icon June 30, 2014 - 15:46 June 29th, 2014, 12:47 pm About 80 people showed up in Fredericksburg this morning to march across the Falmouth Bridge to House Speaker Bill Howell’s office to seek support for Medicaid expansion for adults. The General Assembly has refused to support the expansion. The group left a small, wooden box in the shape of a coffin on the front stoop of Howell’s law office in Falmouth shortly after 10 a.m. today. The black coffin was painted with the message: “1,000 in Virginia dead per year.” Beside the black coffin, they also left a box with post cards in support of the expansion and were to have left a petition signed by about 4,500 supporters. Virginia Organizing describes itself as a “non-partisan statewide grassroots organization.” However, Ray Scher, a Caroline County resident and member of the Fredericksburg area chapter, called the members “progressives.”
Photo Credit: Allison Brophy Champion

The Weight of History

Icon June 4, 2014 - 16:37 Published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on June 4, 2014 By Allison Brophy Champion A grassroots group of local citizens gathered in the basement of a Latin American tienda Monday night in Culpeper in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Charlottesville-based Virginia Organizing coordinated the event during which the short documentary, "The Dream is Now," was shown, advocating for a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented youth brought to the U.S. by their parents.   "For me, it's the civil rights issue of our time," said Virginia Organizing volunteer Pat Smith, a retired teacher and artist from Locust Grove.  "I grew up in the '60s when I was involved in that civil rights movement, too and when I was a child in the '50s I worked through my church with migrant workers so it's been a life-long thing for me."   Five years ago, she lived in Prince William County during a time when that locality had implemented local enforcement of federal immigration measures.   "I had to carry around my own passport because the police would stop anybody whenever they wanted, you had to show documentation," Smith said. "That was terrifying."   She supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers who are not criminals.   Jay-Bo Carpenter, of Orange County, attended Monday's event at El Rincon Hispano on East Street with about 20 other people because he wants to get the attention of his congressman, and help affect some kind of change.   "I've already been writing (Rep.) Eric Cantor (R-Richmond) trying to push for him to put this up for a vote," said 34-year-old Carpenter, who works with the family business at Baker's Store in Culpeper.   A pathway to citizenship wherein applicants would have to wait a decade to earn it, learn English and pay back taxes is what he said he would support. Carpenter said he knows immigrant families living in the U.S. for more than 20 years without the proper documentation.   "It's a human rights issue," he said. "I just feel we should all live and work here together instead of against each other."   Carmelita Carter, 30, of Orange County spoke in favor of citizenship for immigrant youth illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents.   "We certainly don't want to send back the children who have been here since they were 1-year-old or separate them from their parents or grandparents," said Carter, a student. "It's inappropriate. We all belong here. Years ago, people didn't want people who looked like me to be here," said the woman of color. "I t just doesn't make any sense that we are treating other people as though they are not as good as us because they look or speak a different way."   Culpeper resident Beth Boyd, a former English as a Second Language teacher for Culpeper County Public Schools, said it was a privilege for her to teach many of the young immigrant students who came through the program she started back in 1991.   "I'm just really concerned about the way Culpeper has treated its immigrant population and really want to do what I can to help change things," she said.   A Virginia Organizing leader who asked that her name not be printed in the newspaper said that one of the purposes of Monday night's gathering in Culpeper was to get Cantor to agree to a meeting about immigration reform.   Culpeper's congressman has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks about the hot-button topic with one side criticizing him for not bringing reform measures up for a vote on the house floor and the other side criticizing him for his continued reported support of policies that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants serving in the military and proposed measures allowing citizenship for children brought into the country illegally.   Carter, the student, declined when asked if she any message for Cantor, her congressman, on the issue.   "I don't even know what you could tell Eric Cantor. I don't really think he cares," she said. "I think all that matters to him is he gets reelected and he doesn't have to do much in this area to get reelected. No one puts any pressure on him."   Smith, the Virginia Organizing volunteer, said it's depressing that Cantor won't push for action in terms of citizenship for so-called Dreamers, undocumented young people living in America.   "Inevitably, something will be done, but people will claw tooth and nail to keep the status quo as long as they can," she said. "The cruelty is so horrendous that as people become aware of the real stories of what is happening to hardworking neighbors, more and more the weight of history is going to come down in favor of a pathway to citizenship."

Virginia Organizing's Fredericksburg Chapter Canvasses for Immigration Reform

Icon May 30, 2014 - 14:58 Virginia Organizing leaders in Fredericksburg canvassed the area for supporters of immigration reform over the Memorial Day weekend. As a result, 26 community members voiced their concerns about the lack of congressional action on immigration reform. Virginia Organizing is working around the state to mobilize Virginians to speak up for immigration reform. Immigration reform affects all Americans and there is national support for change that the U.S. House of Representatives has ignored since 2012.

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.