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Votes

Town Council Turns Down

Believing it could inhibit their free speech, Vienna Town Council members declined to include language in the Town's charter that would classify the Town Council and its activities as nonpartisan.

"You can't bind councils like this. You can't bind individuals like this," said Councilman Al Boudreau.

While the Council may make a more formal announcement of its decision at a future Council meeting, its action answers the concerns of several residents who had signed a petition or sent letters regarding two mailings that had endorsed Jeannemarie Devolites and Mike Polychrones last spring.

Already in Virginia Code, elections to the Vienna Town Council and similar local bodies are declared as nonpartisan races. As a result, candidates to the Council aren't identified by party.

But some citizens had wanted the Council members to refrain from using their political titles in campaign endorsements, because by endorsing candidates the citizens didn't favor, the Council members no longer appropriately represented those citizens' interests.

In response to their concerns, Councilman George Lovelace had drafted language that would limit the partisan identification of Council members but not limit Council members' political activity.

"I think it would give us the image of nonpartisanship," Lovelace said.

Councilwoman Maud Robinson and Vienna mayor Jane Seeman argued that whenever they had supported political candidates in the past, they did so according to what's best for Vienna.

While Robinson conceded that it would be easier to limit a council's response to a political issue, she argued that the situation becomes murky if a candidate becomes identified with an issue that's clearly against the town's best interests. That argument swayed the Council to decline to push the nonpartisan language forward.

"I feel that anything we do is a gesture," Robinson said.

Individual Council members added that while they wouldn't support a Council-wide endorsement of a candidate or a political issue, they would tread lightly whenever they would be called upon to endorse a candidate.

"I think it becomes a point of conscience between you and your constituents," said Councilman Sydney Verinder.

On a separate issue, the Council also heard from Don A. Deal, assistant director of the Real Estate Division for Fairfax County. When Seeman asked Deal why citizens whose properties are affected by the Chesapeake Bay's Resource Protection Area (RPA) can't get tax relief, Deal replied that the owners would have to show that the RPA on their property is impacting the sale of the property.

"If that area is impacting the property, it should show up," Deal said.

Deal also explained to Council that the drop in commercial tax revenue in Vienna was due largely to the vacating of the Tysons Page building, which saw an $8 million reduction in its property value.