U.S. Rep. Thomas M.Davis, III, (R-11) announced he's all for major league baseball coming back to the Washington area. But, he also wanted to know when it was "coming to Baltimore."
That was one of the lighter responses to questions from his constituents in the Mount Vernon District last weekend during his first Town Meeting in this newly acquired area of the 11th Congressional District. The rest ranged from civil service parity raises to the impending war with Iraq.
Although the crowd was sparse for this hour and a half session held in Gunston Elementary School, there was no lack of probing questions posed to Davis.
Leading off with a short presentation about the federal budget, Davis noted, "Every budget everywhere is getting hit." He went on to point out, "Budget surpluses were projected to go on until 2011. So, Congress passed a tax cut figuring it was better to let you spend your money than have it used for more federal programs."
"But," Davis emphasized, "then came the economic changes. The downturn took the budget surplus projections in the opposite direction." He blamed the increasing federal deficit on two primary factors: "tax cuts coupled with extra spending and a much weaker economy."
In making reference to the war on terrorism, Davis said, "You don't do things on the cheap in the present environment." This brought forth his first question from new Mount Vernon area constituent, Laura Sonnenmark: "How do you feel about the tax cuts?"
Davis answered, "The first question you have to ask is should government do something or nothing in this economic situation. If something, then you have to stimulate the economy. I believe, one way to do this is by cutting taxes."
Davis explained, "Today people measure their wealth by two standards — their stock portfolio and their home's value. Eighty two percent of my constituents are now in the stock market. This is very different from the past."
Referring to the rising deficit, Sonnemark pressed Davis to explain, "If the first tax cut didn't work to stimulate the economy why do it again?"
Davis maintained, "I think it did work. But, the Iraq overhang is having a major impact on the economy." He also clarified, the original Bush tax cut amounted to less than one percent of the overall federal budget.
Sonnenmark continued on the growing federal deficit. "Are you at all concerned about the deficit," she queried. Davis predicted, "If this works [the proposed expedited tax cut] the deficit will decrease."
WHEN ASKED WHY the Bush administration is so much against France for their objections to initiating a war with Iraq, Davis expressed the opinion, "France is owed a great deal of money by Iraq. If a new regime is put in they are afraid they may lose that money," implying France is acting only in its own interest rather than from a global perspective.
He went on to add, "Seventy percent of the French population is now Muslim and they have to answer to their constituents." He predicted, "If we go in, France will be there to help with the reconstruction."
Davis insisted, "The natural instinct of the American people is to not go to war. And, that's a good instinct. However, Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction." That's why "Congress gave the President a lot of authority and that's how we got where we are today. There isn't one of us [in Congress] who doesn't have trepidations about this impending war."
Davis added, "Being strong in this world is important because it is a much more dangerous world than during the Cold War. When they [terrorists] bombed the World Trade Center the first time, what did we do?" he asked rhetorically. "We sued them. They don't respect that. They respect power and strength."
MOUNT VERNON DISTRICT Supervisor Gerald Hyland, sitting in the audience, acknowledged Davis' help on projects in the Mount Vernon area, particularly in securing the Lorton Correctional Facility for private development and the land trade pertaining to Meadowood Farm. Davis thanked U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8) and U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) for their roles in engineering the Meadowood transfer which expedited the entire Lorton Correctional rehabilitation to be known as Laural Hill.
Davis emphasized that he and Hyland, a Democrat, have worked very closely over the years dating back to when Davis was chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, prior to being elected to Congress. "In the case of Lorton, it was win/win for everyone," he said.
When questioned on the location of the proposed new U.S. Army Museum, Davis deferred to Hyland. "It's a moving target. It's now supposed to be built where we wanted it originally, just across from the main gate to Fort Belvoir," Hyland said.
ON A VARIETY OF other subjects, Davis stated:
*"Transportation is the number one problem facing Northern Virginia. That's the one issue I've been willing to consider for additional revenue. I was for the sales tax increase."
He specified that tax revenue for transportation should not be used for any other purposes. He noted that when the car tax was removed local governments where supposed to receive additional monies from the state. "They didn't," he said. "And, in addition to cutting the tax spending was expanded."
*As for representing the interests of federal employees, who comprise a large voting block in the 11th district, Davis said, "I'm very sensitive to the interests of federal employees. But, at the end of the day our obligation is to the taxpayers." He praised private industry's attitude of viewing employees as their most valuable asset. "Government doesn't operate that way." As the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Davis said government needs to take a private industry approach when assessing its work force and operating procedures. "We try to do too much by procurement" and "GSA contracting can be managed a lot better."
*On health care, Davis predicted, "This Congress will pass a prescription drug plan for seniors and a Patients Bill of Rights." He further predicted a cap on punitive damages for medical malpractice suits will become law.
*When asked by constituent Stewart McKnight about his views on major league baseball returning to this area, Davis acknowledged, "As part of that effort, I'm going to Phoenix with Governor Warner to talk about bringing the Expos here. I think the chances are very good. This is one of the largest media markets in the country. But, the real question is where do we put a stadium?"