Residents at Falcons Landing wanted to know what state and local candidates think about controlling growth, lowering taxes and increasing state funding to the county.
The candidates for the 33rd Senate District, the 32nd House of Delegates District, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the Sugarland Run District Supervisor answered residents' question at the Falcons Landing Residents' Council Candidates' Forum 2003 on Oct. 6. About 400 residents and 60 students from Potomac Falls High School, who also had a chance to ask the candidates questions, attended the two-hour forum moderated by Buck Buckingham, Falcons Landing resident.
"It was a good discussion. There were questions from both the students and residents, so it was a challenge for the candidates because they had an audience of seniors and first-time voters," said Jerry Friedheim, resident and forum spokesperson.
WILLIAM "Bill" Mims, Republican incumbent and the only candidate for the 33rd Senate District, and 32nd District House of Delegates candidates Richard "Dick" Black (R), who is the incumbent, Patti Morrissey (D) and David McWatters (I) participated in the first round of questions on state funding, local taxation and other local issues.
The county receives 18 cents back for every dollar it pays to the state, said Morrissey, a Lowes Island resident. She plans to fight to increase that amount and said that less state funding results in property tax increases.
McWatters plans to help revise the state's tax structure, reduce the burden on property taxes and return more of the taxes paid to the state. "Our delegation is broken to the General Assembly. That's part of the problem," he said.
Black, a Sterling resident and delegate since 1998, said that the county does not receive enough transportation funding from the state. "I can't promise you I'll change the allocation formula, but I'll try," he said.
Mims, senator since 1998 and a former 32nd District delegate, asked the candidates what their views are on constituent services, since 10 months out of the year, they will be working in the localities they represent.
"I've had a life of public service. It's been ingrained in me since the military," said Black, who served in both the U.S. Marines and later the Army, retiring in 1994 from military service.
Morrissey sees constituent service enacted through being proactive and having links to the community. A mother of two daughters, she is a community advocate for youth and a youth soccer coach. "Part of constituent service has to be greater accessibility," she said.
McWatters mentioned his involvement on several county board and committees and said that being a delegate will be a full-time job for him. "We can try to get more people involved in the community to help us help you," he said directly to the residents.
THE CANDIDATES for chairman of the Board of Supervisors — Scott York (I), incumbent, Bob Gordon (R) and Alfred "Al" Van Huyck (D) — and for the Sugarland Run District — William Bogard (I), independent, and D.M. "Mick" Staton, Jr. (R) — participated in the second round of questions, which were addressed to some or all of the candidates. One of the questions concerned controlling county growth.
"I'm here because I wanted to continue the good work I've done and the board has done," York said. "I believe in the Comprehensive Plan."
The plan sets out to reduce $1.8 billion in school infrastructure costs and road usage while providing environmental protection, he said.
But the Board of Supervisors can do a better job of controlling the rate of residential growth, which brings about traffic congestion, the pressure to build new schools and gang activity, according to Gordon. "We need a better approach," he said.
"It's fine to talk about the control of spending. You also need to talk about the delivery of services," said Bogard, adding that he would like to see a tax referendum at the local level.
Staton said if the county cannot control its spending, it cannot lower taxes.
Another resident asked about the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, a county program started by the previous Board of Supervisors that allows the county to purchase development rights from landowners. York supports the program to invest in preserving open space. "It's appropriate for the board to jump-start the program," he said.
Gordon, who did not get the chance to answer the question, said at another forum that he is a believer in open space but has not found much support for the program among the Republican Party and from his door-to-door campaign. He was told about the perceived lack of public access and the perception that the properties included in the program already are planned for non-development, he said.
Van Huyck said the program was "off to a bad start" when it was funded through county funds. He supports the revised program that in the past two years provided funding from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds and focused purchases to properties that will serve the entire community, he said.
In closing, Bogard said, "Experience and dedicated leadership is going to be essential to the Board of Supervisors over the next four years and probably over the next decade."